Although it’s fun to attend conferences like SES you can learn an enormous amount reading the many folks who are live blogging the sessions here in San Jose. If you read this and I haven’t added your blog please do so in the comment section.
Last year they had “Candy Bars” where you could fill a bag with all sorts of great candy. I brought one home for my daughter who now dreams of going to a Google party.
The Google Dance has been going on for several years as part of the SES Conference series. Held at the Googleplex the party features a huge buffet, food, wine, and beer stations all over the Google commons. For those who can’t separate work from leisure (which would be most tech folks), there are demonstrations of new technologies from Google and a “meet the engineers” face to face talk that is always very enjoyable.
I’ll be covering the big Search Engine Strategy Conference in San Jose – SES San Jose – again this year. SES San Jose is August 18-22 and is always a fire hose of interesting information, though the highlight is often the enormous party at the Googleplex with a buffet dinner and “meet the engineers” session.
This is the world’s top Search Engine Conference started many years ago under the guidance of Danny Sullivan who is now working his own search conference series, SMX.
There is a great summary at Business Week of the remarkable rise and pending fall of Silicon Valley’s newspaper – the San Jose Mercury News. They note that in many ways the Mercury News saw it all coming, but still failed to position itself to profit from the migration of offline info to online info.
Although the article does not make this point, to me the failure supports the idea that paradigm shifts do not come from old systems evolving into new ones even when the old systems “get it”, rather they come from new folks thinking out of the old boxes and building the next generation of innovative solutions basically from scratch.
Obviously new technology rests on the shoulders of old technology, but it seems reasonable to assume that the next big things are not going to come from the previous big things, they are going to spring up from the harsh, quirky, and shifting sands of technology and innovation. I would suggest that IBM might be an exception to this notion but clearly Microsoft, then Yahoo and Google, now YouTube, Myspace and Facebook all fit this model of major changes coming more from scratch than from a slow simmering of existing ideas. This also helps explain the challenges of Venture Capitalism in finding “the next big thing”, which may right now only be known by the glimmer in a college kid’s eye.
Some of the most lively debate and controversy at search conferences surrounds the issue of Google ranking rights. At Search Engine Strategies in San Jose the most interesting (and confrontational) session involved Michael Gray taking Matt Cutts to task on Google’s aggressive stand on commercially driven linking.
The stakes of the “right to rank” question may become even higher in the context of a recent Microsoft v Google case, where MS is suggesting in their court brief against the Google Doubleclick merger that the merger will create something like monopoly conditions in the online advertising space because (according to Microsoft’s sources) Google+Doubleclick serve more than half the world’s online advertising.
Although I don’t think MS is attacking Google ranking methods directly here it’ll be interesting to see if Google claims that since their algorithm does not rank the free “organic” listings on a commercial basis the suit has less merit than it would if they *did* favor sites in the organic listings.
This would, of course, beg the key point that Google’s ranking power is now so high that it can make or break companies – offline as well as online – depending on how they rank in the organic “free” listings. This confers on Google an obligation that IMHO they still do not take seriously enough – the obligation to minimize the collateral damage and maximize the correct rankings using, if necessary, more human intervention. In short I’m saying that until the results are *so good* that only highly subjective opinions are coming into play Google needs to do *more* than is currently done, based on the principle that “with great wealth comes great responsibility”. Ironically I think Google’s success has to a large extent insulated them from the growing criticism in the webmaster community. Some of that criticism is self serving, e.g. spammers who are unhappy their tactics now fail, but much of the criticism is coming from users and newly minted webmasters or mom and pops who are frustrated because they can’t seem to get ranked properly for even the most obvious queries. Google blames the spammers for this, but it’s a dynamic process and more transparency from Google – perhaps with stronger forms of site and webmaster ID for “official” or clearly white hat sites – could go a long way to solving the transparency problems.
Over at Matt Cutts’ blog he makes this point about a recent ASK court case decision in favor of a search engine’s right to rank as they see fit. This point lies at the heart of the right to rank debate:
Again, it makes sense that search engines get to decide how to rank/remove content in their own index…
I replied over there:
Matt …hmmm….wouldn’t you agree that this has some clear limits? What would you call crossing the line on this freedom to rank however you see fit?
If Google pulled what Yahoo did some time ago and essentially forced sites to pay for inclusion or be excluded would that fall within the sensical realm?
MSN is claiming (somewhat ironically and hypocritically, but correctly) that Google’s ad power is becoming close enough to a monopoly that remedies are in order. Historically there has been trouble when a single company or country controlled more than half a resource – why no problem here?