Who’s using the Search Bar anyway?

While browsing to Yahoo! this bar on top struck me. Click to enlarge:

Firefox Search Bar promotion by Yahoo

Apparently Yahoo! is promoting the Search Bar, which is standard issue in Firefox. Guess they want us to change the default Google setting. πŸ˜‰

This in turn made me think of the times I used that Search Bar. Probably once, the first time I installed Firefox.
Normally if I want to do a search I hit CTRL+T (new tab) and call up my homepage, which still is the Firefox branded Google homepage. (BTW, ALT+HOME gets you to the homepage.)
It’s an old habit. And you know what they say about old habits…

But thanks to Yahoo! who reminded that there was such a thing as the Search Bar. I’m wondering if and how I can remove it. πŸ™‚

In other news:

Other december 9 surprises

Besides the release leakage of GE for Mac.

Del.icio.us take-over
Like Yahoo! taking hold of del.icio.us. Just as LookSmart did with Furl.
Update: The take-over sounds a little strange to me as Yahoo! was working on it’s own del.icio.us/Furl with their My Web 2.0 BETA. Which can save ‘personal’ pages and tag them. We’ll see where this goes…

Portable Firefox
Portable Firefox is ‘dead’, long live PortableApps.com. Great initiative John! πŸ™‚
Now if you ever did care to walk around with your browser, office suite, media player, image editor, OS, *whatever you want*, on a USB Stick? take a look at this site. Most of it is *geek* stuff, but it’s an interesting development nonetheless.
BTW @John, did you ever have a chat with Bart Lagerweij? It seems to me you are both working in the same direction.

Yahoo! Local Maps Beta

Yahoo Maps Beta LogoYahoo! Maps is offering a Beta version which is based on Flash! – shock & horror – What were they thinking? πŸ˜‰

I do like it. It’s snappy, looks good and simply works. (hearing that MS?) Go see the Yahoo! Maps Beta for yourself.
For instance check out the ubiquitous “Pizza in Redmond” sample. Hover & click to see more info. Nice. Although at the largest zoom-level you won’t find anything.

Another nice feature is Live Traffic with which you’ll get up-to-date traffic info like congestions and construction work details. Now all they need to do is add the rest of the world and of course satellite imagery. Take a look at the features overview.

How about an API you ask? Here are the Yahoo! Maps Developer APIs.

Also see TechCrunch’s story on the Yahoo! Maps Beta and WeBreakStuff’s first look .

On a sidenote: Is it the time of the year or what? It seems everyone is releasing stuff like crazy.

Windows Live Beta. Don’t bother…

Windows Live Beta LogoAs the rest of the world is doing right now, I was going to drop my two cents on the new Windows Live Beta. But in this context Beta means Broken. Severely! It doesn’t work in Firefox, but worse, it also borks in IE.

If you ask me, it’s a rush job. Because the hotshots already had their little get-together planned. I can imagine a ‘Live Team’ developer’s first reaction: “They are going to do WHAT?!?!?!? %@^&%@$”. (Probably not far from the truth. ;-))

Just take a look at start.com and than at the all new launched live.com. See any familiarity?
That’s because they are, in fact, the same. Take a look at the page source… Hello Atlas. Looks like someone just did a ‘find & replace’.

So if I may roundup the current state:

  1. start.com = live.com = google fusion = my yahoo. A.k.a. a ‘portal solution’. I’m not up for this niche, but some might.
    Note the footer of start.com: this site is not an officially supported site. it is an incubation experiment and doesn’t represent any particular strategy or policy. Aha!
  2. As a plus you could, as a ‘customer’, build upon Windows Live with ‘gadgets‘.
  3. Scott doesn’t get it. As does Mark. But according to Robert this isnÒ€ℒt about just the portal. Its about search.msn.com, or how live.com is going to be the new Microsoft search. And a Microsoft ‘Adsense’. And webmail. And an online virusscanner. And …
    Someone found out that DNS changes aren’t accomplished ad-hoc and/or building a portal upon MSN Search with all the ‘Kahoona’ is not going to happen any time soon. (IMHO: overdemanding people who control the money and time… you cannot live without them… :-()
  4. There’s also an Office Live. More nothingness.
  5. There’s a new messenger. Windows Live Messenger. As if the confusion between Windows Messenger and MSN Messenger wasn’t enough.

IMHO: Rounding up the roundup. Live is the new XP. It’s a marketing word. Everyone keep their pants on. We won’t be seeing anymore of it this year. Maybe in 2006. My guess it’ll be all revealed at launch-time of Windows Vista.

So there you’ll have it. My two euro-cents… πŸ™‚

Yahoo! Site Explorer Beta

Site Explorer Beta is open for public:

Why is this search different?

Site Explorer allows you to explore all the web pages indexed by Yahoo! Search. View the most popular pages from any site, dive into a comprehensive site map, and find pages that link to that site or any page.

Now if someone can explain me how to view the most popular pages from my site, please do! Furthermore I’m a little underwhelmed, because I’m not sure what this form of search could be usefull for.

Just a thought.

The present: Most people come to you via a search engine (probably through Google, although Yahoo! is on the return). Some people come via Technorati, Bloglines or other RSS feed engine. And some are family, friends, co-workers, affiliates, … the people you meet in real life. All 6 of them. πŸ˜‰

Given the state of current search engines, they’re stumbling over one another for the largest and fastest index, and the state of the ‘distributed web’ via RSS services (*cough web 2.0*). Does it really matter whether your site is in ‘shape’, a.k.a. designed? What matters these days is crawlability and indexability. In fact with add-ons like GreaseMonkey you cannot even be sure that your visitors will see what you’ve intended. Shuther to think what you’ll break when you update your site for someone running a GreaseMonkey script.

The future: Here’s my thought. What if? I’ll just revert to HTML 2.0. Google & Co understands it very well. And instead of chronological blogging or filling my web space, I’ll just put up thoughts and keep on writing on them totally visibly for you.

Hold up. That’s called a wiki!

Yes. πŸ™‚ But think of it. What’s so different from a blog? Blog (and forum) people put up ‘updated’-tags in their posts to signal a change. So what if I don’t have to care about that? I’m thinking cross-over wiki/weblog. Just let me write, note, jot, expand, figure out, take a sidestep, draw, video-tape it or just delete. And you, my audience, all 6 of you, could comment in the proceedings? You know, just like a weblog. You’re probably saying OPML? No, from what I’ve seen it’s not what I want.

Come to think of it. It’s much like building your own personal Wikipedia, pinging around whenever I press a button (feeds), having a sitemap so search engines (G. Sitemaps) are filled with their hunger, put up an OPML to keep mister Winer happy, put up a webservice/API so every webdeveloper can rehash my content on their mobile, … Who cares about my site? It’s about distributing it.

Like I said, just a thought.

Yahoo! Finance & Corporate Egosurfing

Yahoo! Finance now offers Company News via RSS. Great for some Corporate Egosurfing. πŸ™‚

Just go to the Yahoo! – Company News via RSS page, enter your stock symbol or symbols and cut & paste the generated feed in your aggregator of choice.

See also: Corporate Egosurfing, or how to get market info for free.

Corporate Egosurfing, or how to get market info for free.

Keeping track on what is being said in the media is somewhat of a luxury for big companies. They can afford to allocate people and time in special departments (PR, Communications, …) to track the news, journals, internet, measure campaign effectiveness, etc. Smaller family run companies don’t have that kind of resources. Their time is mainly consumed by running their businesses. There’s hardly any time to stop and look what is being said about them (positive or negative).

Enter the internet anno 2005. I know many of you type their names into Google, hence the term Egosurfing, to see what is known about you. You may want to go over to Yahoo, MSN or Altavista to check what’s being said there. But running around all those sites is time consuming. And time is something some people don’t have. Now, with some RSS-magic and a little time to set-up we’ll automate this task and spare ourselves some valuable corporate time. Best of all, it costs nothing!

Requirements

  • A browser.
  • An hour or so to set things up.
  • An aggregator.
  • A whole lot of feeds, more on that later.
  • A few minutes a day to check up on things.

So here we go.

Step 1: Get a browser

If you are reading this, you have browser. What kind doesn’t matter. So step 1 is taken care of.

Step 2: Get an aggregator

For this ‘Corporate Egosurfing’ to work you’ll need an aggregator. Say what? An aggregator! It’s a tool that lets you collect several sources at once and quickly scan through the latest news.

BloglinesFor this example I suggest you sign-up for a Bloglines account. Bloglines is an online aggregator so you don’t have to install anything, its available on any pc you work on and best of all it’s free. (http://www.bloglines.com/)

Once set-up your account is empty, apart from the ‘Bloglines | News’. Next we’ll add some feeds to go ‘Corporate Egosurfing’. You can add feeds using the ‘Add’ link on your ‘My Feeds’ tab. Bloglines offers some ways to easily add feeds, but for this example we’ll find and add our own feeds.

Our Company

For this example let’s say we are a small family run company that builds custom motorcycles. Or choppers as we call them. Our name is ‘Orange County Choppers‘. We have some internet-presence, even had a documentary on the Discovery Channel. πŸ™‚

Step 3: Add Yahoo! News

Yahoo! NewsGo over to http://news.yahoo.com/. Enter the name of your company or see our result.
Now the important bit. In the right sidebar you’ll see ‘View as RSS’ with an orange XML button. Click on it and don’t be scared. You’ll see a lot of strange code in your browser. This is what a feed looks like on the inside. Now go to the addressbar and copy the URL.

Go over to your Bloglines and click on ‘Add’ under the ‘My Feeds’ tab. On the right hand side paste the copied URL in the ‘Blog or Feed URL:’ and click on ‘Subscribe’. On the next page click ‘Subscribe’ again and your set.

Congratulations! You’ve added your first egosurfing feed. Everytime you’ll login to your account you’ll see the latest additions. You can scan the headlines, read some summary info and/or click on the headings to see the original article.

Step 4: Add Google News

Google NewsOn to the next one. Google. There’s one problem with Google. It doesn’t offer any feeds. πŸ™
But no problem, there is this other site that does what Google doesn’t. πŸ™‚

Go over to http://www.justinpfister.com/gnewsfeed.php. Enter your companyname and press ‘Create RSS’. Next you’ll see another page with the same ‘weird stuff’, so did we. Just copy the URL from the adressbar and add it to your Bloglines account. Just like we did with the Yahoo! News feed.

Step 5: Add MSN News

MSN SearchGo over to http://search.msn.com/news/. Again, enter your companyname. You’ll be presented with a normal search result set. (Our result)

Now go hunt for that orange RSS/XML icon, yes it is on the bottom of the page. The page you’ll see when you click on the button is something we haven’t seen before. Instead of a lot of ‘weird stuff’ we’ll be presented a nice page. MSN offers a direct link to add this feed to your bloglines account. Just press the grey/white ‘sub bloglines’ button. That’s all. πŸ™‚

The nice people of MSN Search also offer feeds for their normal search. So go back to the normal results and click on the ‘Web’ link on the top of the page. Now go to the bottom and click on the ‘RSS’ button. Just add this feed using the ‘sub bloglines’.

Step 6: Sit back and relax

Now you’re set with the top 3 search engines and you’ll be up to date to what’s being said in the ‘press’. Now close all your browsers and come back to your Bloglines account tomorrow. You’ll find it pretty easy to be kept up-to-date with just one visit instead of three.

Or don’t stop here! There are many, many more sources out there that you can add. All you have to do is when you find a nice orange ‘RSS’ or ‘XML’ button on your favorite site, remember to add it to you account.

Or how about keeping a track on what’s happening with the competition? Like for example those West Coast Guys. Just repeat the steps above but with a different companyname.

Now you have a free, custom built, news service about, well, you! How’s that? There’s more, but I’ll save it for later I guess.