Microsoft to Aquire Yahoo Search for 20 Billion… or not?


While the Times of London is reporting that Microsoft is close to announcing a Yahoo search aquisition at 20 billion with a slew of details suggesting they have a lot of inside information, Venture Beat is suggesting this might be a bogus report as they’ve been told by a key player in the deal, Ross Levinsohn, that he knows nothing of this.   Although it’s possible Levinsohn is … covering for the deal it seems odd he’d issue a flat denial if there was something to the rumors.

My wild guess is that the Times had a hot tip about one of the dozens of potential deals that are surely percolating around Yahoo as the stock (and thus buyout value) dips to very low levels, and that they ran with it rather than spend much time researching.   This has become a major pitfall of “real time” media, where there is increasing pressure to shoot first and hope your story is correct later.   Another possibility is that this is a carefully contrived rumor to pump and dump the stock on Monday – without more denials this is likely to spike Yahoo a few bucks or even more Monday morning.

Disclosure:  Long on Yahoo

Twittering Thanksgiving?


Like most folks who spend a bit too much time online, it’s always odd trying to explain things to folks who … don’t have an online life outside of the weekly checking of the email or surfing for a cranberry recipe.

Over Thanksgiving in Minnesota I was asked to explain what Facebook was and got in some trouble for suggesting that it’s more of a “coastal thing” which was in fact probably wrong anyway but also seemed to imply the heartland wasn’t up to snuff on digital happenings.    Interestingly though Craigslist was well known and loved by all even as the social networking tools were largely unrecognized.

I’ll definitely want to wait until next year to explain Twitter, but when I do I’ll have them read Tim O’Reilly‘s insightful post where I think he correctly observes that Twitter has moved from something that didn’t have obvious relevance or usefulness to an almost indispensable part of the work life of many onliners.

In some ways Twitter has replaced both email and blogging as the tool of choice for the digitally obsessed, and this has come about from it’s usefulness combined with the natural problems that have cropped up with email (spam, attachments, delays, lack of brevity, timing, etc, etc) and with blogging (surfing issues, navigation problems, wordiness, unequal playing fields, comment moderation, etc, etc.

Thanksgiving in Minnesota




Icicles at Sunset – Winter in Minnesota

Originally uploaded by DaffodilBlue

It has been my good fortune to visit my wife’s lovely family here in Minnesota for some 31 years – often around Thanksgiving. We’re here in Northfield, MN this year. Carleton College and St Olaf College are both here with pretty and historic campuses. Northfield is also home to the world headquarters of Malt-O-Meal and I am informed this is a great Minnesota retirement area.

Diana Ross, Jeopardy will be live at CES 2009


I’ll be reporting live again in January from CES 2009, the world’s biggest (and that means HUGE) and most influential Consumer Electronics Show.  The reports will mostly be over at Technology Report, my new technology blog project with a good friend of mine from California.

Pictured below is Noel Lee of Monster Cable, one of the music industry’s key players and host of one of CES hottest party tickets – the Monster Party.     Last year Mary J Blige gave an awesome concert after the Monster Retailer awards.

noellee

Jeopardy will be filming at CES as well, with 11 shows scheduled to be taped during the week of CES.    One of the challenges of an event this large is that you simply cannot see everything – there are thousands of exhibitors and events and sessions and the venue is so large it takes up all of the Las Vegas Convention Center and most of the Sands Convention Center.

Google Social Search Wiki Launches


Today’s tech blogOsphere buzz is about Google’s new wiki search feature that allows users to rank their own results.     This appears to me to be a splendid idea although I agree with some who say it won’t get used much.

However, for those who use this it may eventually allow a kind of search ranking we have never seen, where user defined preferences trump the mysterious algorithmic magic mistakes, gradually giving the user a great set of results well optimized to their needs.

I’d suggest that “perfect individualized search” may only require two basic steps – the first is a *discovery* part where you surface content relevant to your particular query and then plow through that manually to determine which sites best fit your needs.   Google does a pretty good job of facilitating that right now. However a second piece would allow you to build on those “personally filtered” results in various ways – some as simple as just listing them in rough order of relevance to you as Google is now doing.

Is this a good Google idea?    Yes!     Will anybody much use this?   Nope, because our habits as humans don’t incline us to be this organized.     I had a great conversation a few days ago with the developer of Reuters Calais semantic search – a brilliant tool designed to surface relevancy and meaning from massive document archives.    We were noting how difficult is is to simply break the habit of using Google search, even when it’s not the most appropriate tool for the job at hand.

Funny primates we !

Google Blog reports on the new search wiki

Oregon Coast Bird Watching


This post falls squarely in the “SEO Experiments” category. We’ve had an informative but “plain jane” Oregon Coast website up for some time based on Oregon Coast magazine which is published by Northwest Travel Magazines.

The site has historically ranked poorly for “Oregon Coast” and related terms, probably in part because we had never done much to optimize it for search engines, and (I think) partly because quite ironically Google now struggles to properly optimize websites that have extensive internal cross linking. Ironic because extensive linking was a cornerstone of early web quality but fell out of ranking fashion as Google sought to kill off auto-generated websites that used that technique to boost their pagerank and thereby their Google rank for optimized query terms. This became a spam signal because it is so easy to create large database driven websites, but in the case of many sites it is also a good *quality signal* because the site may be very info rich, covering basically every mile of the Oregon Coast Highway 101 in good, objective detail. Google recognizes they’ve created a lot of collateral damage in this way but frankly they have not done much to fix the problem, basically feeling that there is enough “good content” that ranks well. This is wrong and unfortunate, and in travel it has led to a lot of mediocre results when better search would give detailed blog and website references to pages spawned, for example, by people who live in the place getting described and have extensive insider detail.

One part of the optimization has been to rename the site OregonCoastTravel.net and 301 redirect the old pages at 101MilebyMile.com to the new name, hoping to rank better for “Oregon Coast” and “Oregon Coast Travel” as we should.

I’m linking here to the Oregon Coast birding page because it is a straggler that has been 301 redirected to OregonCoastTravel.net but remains listed by Google at the old site. Also, it is an excellent resource page for that topic of Oregon Coast Birding. I want to see how fast this page will now be correctly reindexed.

How low can stocks go? DOW drops to 7997. Panic or just … Palindromic?


Answer:  Very low, though I wildly speculate (putting me in the same expert category as any expert you can name) that DOW at 7000 and S&P at 700 will be the bottom of this megabear market, after which we’ll continue to see major trouble with the economy continue for at least 2 years during which many businesses will die, successful ones will consolidate and just keep in the game, and a handful of nimble and clever new businesses will thrive and lead the new “post recession” economy forward, probably based on impressive technological innovations now testing in a handful of big company R&D departments and literally *millions* of small business efforts around the globe.

Thanks to the internet, the rise of highly social media, and the plummeting cost of powerful computing I remain optimistic that technological innovation will pull us out of this crisis and remain for yet another century the key force behind most socioeconomic progress.

What’s pushing things down in stocks?    I think the main factor is simply that the market, which is predictive rather than reactive, overvalued how fast technology would trump other considerations and continue to lift mediocre companies ever higher.    It’s not as if many companies were doing profoundly brilliant stuff out there – on the contrary the auto companies were up to the same old stupid nonsene they’ve been doing for decades.   Financial companies were gambling with Credit Default Swaps and fueling the mortgage crisis with fundamentally irresponsible and misguided profiteering.   Even high tech companies, home to many of the globe’s best and brightest working for Yahoo, Intel, [Google?], and MSN found themselves in huge battles to protect market share and profitability while containing the onslaught of online spam.    Google may be something of an exception here as their profitability and advertising brilliance has – until recently – kept them squarely above much of the fray and on the path to more innovation.

About eight years ago this foolishness led to the bubble of 1990 where the internet company valuations were out of line with their potential for innovation.    The commercial internet revolution was an amazing thing in the 1990s and remains the most profound new development in history, but the companies were not all that inspired and most companies were destroyed by the very markets they had convinced to fund them in the first place.

So a far better question than “why are my stocks dropping?” is “Why were all these companies valued so highly in the first place?”     We needed a contraction to square the values with the prices, and now we are watching that happen.

Why 7000 DOW and 700 S&P?    At that point the markets will have dropped just over 50% from the highs of a few years ago.    I see that as a significant practical and psychological milestone.    “half off” is a very accessible notion as we know from retail, and we already know there’s a lot of money waiting on the sidelines to buy into a “market bottom”.     It’s reasonable to assume that at least some, and probably many of the companies hammered by this have been penalized irrationally by the broader market downturn.  As prices drop to 5 and 10 year lows some of these bargains will be irresistable to those with cash on hand, and this buying should  stabilize the market.

Will it rise quickly from 7000?    I say no – I think the globalized chickens have largely flown the coop and many of the unfair advantages we have enjoyed as Americans … will be no more.      I see no major depression looming and I see the USA as the economic “safe harbor” and leader for at least the next decade, but the days of easy prosperity are probably gone for some time so … buddy …. can you spare …. a dime?