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April 16, 2008 - Spotting things you'll want to see today.

The feeding frenzy continues for RSS

Nine years ago a data format was born at Netscape named RDF Site Summary. Today it is an important component of the web's information architecture that you probably recognize by its populist name of Really Simple Syndication or, to its friends, RSS. Its potential remains so great that it is about to be given its own day -- May 1st will be RSS Awareness Day, as nominated by Daily Blog Tips and quickly seconded by E-consultancy. No longer just for news intensive sites, RSS is now an important consideration for anyone who has information to distribute online. Yahoo will place your RSS feed on personal homepages, Friendfeed can place all of your social networks on a single page while industrial strength aggregators like Yahoo Pipes can sort and filter just about anything into a single feed. Mitch Joel of Six Pixels of Separation quite plausibly envisions a world where RSS joins with desktop widgets to send the HTML browser off to join the VCR, the fax and the CD in the crowded museum of information history.
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Landing pages that really take off

Landing pages are where new web visitors become engaged users or disappointed transients.  A landing page is never as good as it could be, you can (and should) always tweak and improve.  Copyblogger has published an extensive tutorial/refresher that serves as a checklist for your landing pages with the steps you should take to open the door a bit wider to new users coming from a variety of sources. 

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  Reading habits worth considering

Matt Cutts held a top-secret clearance from the Defense Department before becoming a top-engineer for Google, a surreptitious background that seems unlikely to create a productive blogger.  But it did.  Many search professionals follow Matt Cutts: Gadgets, Google, and SEO for a hint of the Google mindset, for Cutt's thoughts about technology and for the sense of humor that has made him something of a cult hero. Cutts wrote Google's family safe filter and now devotes himself to minimizing the effect of link spam on Google's rankings.  He has been a worthy adversary for black hat practitioners but his blog shows an equal enthusiasm for helping web sites who seek recognition the old fashioned way.    His blog

Are social networks becoming the new search engines?

In the days when there was no 'internet' people relied on the collective wisdom of friends as a primary source of information. Now, something old may be new again. Online networking can provide a balanced information diet between the advice of people that we know and the listings of search engines that we use. It is a matter of trusted personal wisdom pitted against billion dollar algorithms that comb the known universe for the best answers. Social networks offer advantages but they also pose the risk of unequal and distorted distribution, the exact opposite of the egalitarian traditional search engine. An article in Popular Mechanics has sparked reaction from bloggers including Social Media Today's Nick O'Neil who defines the risks and benefits of mob rule on information gathering. Alexander Van Elsas feels that the search engines are quite secure, given the limitations of those pesky humans. Search Engine Land's Greg Sterling agrees and defends his turf while acknowledging that social networks will indeed play a role in the evolution of the way that people gather information online.
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Gatherings: ad:Tech San Francisco

ad:tech held their big (approx 10K attendees) SF show April 15-17. There was an upbeat mood with plenty of representation from new advertising networks, mobile platforms and non-traditional search engines.

  • Screenwork was involved in the talk on local search
  • Search Engine Watch covered the launch of Google Analytic's advanced 'Urchin 6'
  • Silicon Alley Insider looked for signs of a recession, unsuccessfully
  • Marketing Shift found that Wyndstorm can provide a virtual world without download via Flash
  • Bruce Clay blogged about "Digital Ad Networks: Are they safe for brands?"

The rush of a hand-held browser

The browser wars are still raging and they now include a fair amount of hand-to-hand combat. Silicon Alley Insider's Dan Frommer explains why Firefox is shrinking its open internet browser down to mobile size with the hopes of being preloaded onto the next generation of wireless surfing devices. Jason Harris of Web Worker Daily nicely surveys the considerable competition for a wireless future he feels has 'no where to go but up'. The emergence of these full powered browsers for hand held devices means that the age of mobile is just beginning, argues Michael Arrington in TechCrunch.

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Radar Screen: Google will now crawl forms

Google announced this week that their spiders will now attempt to fill out and submit user forms on web pages so that they can index the pages returned by the server. Some reaction to this new effort to penetrate the 'secret web':

  • Googlebot Crawls Through HTML Forms (ReadWriteWeb)
  • Google Now Fills Out Forms When Spidering (Stepforth)
  • Google Filling in Forms - security risks & marketing disaster (WebMama)
  • Google is Cracking the “Invisible Web” (Marketing Pilgrim)
  • Google wants to index your invisible content (e-consultancy)


Off Topic: A beauty pageant for a loyal old friend

It might best be described to American audiences as an episode of 'Dromedary Idol'.  10,000 camels from Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have headed to Abu Dhabi to put their best feet forward in the $9 million Mazayin Al Dhafra Camel Festival.  The event is more than just a festive gathering in a part of the world where, before the advent of the petro dollar, survival was often dependent on the strength of these ships of the desert.  Blogging in 'The Spitting Vessel', Durano Lawayan describes a cultural history that makes it easy to see why the beauty in these noble animals is still being celebrated.

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