Examining Power Dynamics and Web 2.0

Conversation is ramping up about the dominance of white males in the emerging Web 2.0 world. Once place I’ve found the issues being discussed is over at the Mashable blog. What can be done? Here’s my two cents re steps that could help:

  1. Let’s prioritize bringing together the for-profit and non-profit worlds. There are so many proactive groups in the non-profit world working to shift power away from those with the most privilege. At the same time there are lots of people of color and women making careers both online and using the web as one of many tools. The folks over at are prioritizing bringing these two groups together. So if you’re in either sphere (biz or NPO) you might want to check them out.
  2. Let’s look to experts outside the “a-list” of bloggers to read, look to for advice, invite to speak and to provide assistance to. Mary Hodder’s great Speakers Wiki was created for just this purpose. It’s a directory of web folks from outside the white-male demographic.
  3. Search engines are notorious for reinforcing pre-existing privilege. While Google may have a huge index and powerful technology, check out social-recommendation enabled search engines like Wink. If we can find participants in ecosystems like that who have perspectives other than those of white men, then our searches will expose us to information that the dominant models might continue to marginalize. (I intend to write an in depth review of Wink later.)

Just thought I’d put in my two cents. I know I’m not interested in all these new web tools for their own sake, but for their usefulness in making the world a better place. I know that’s the case for a huge number of people online, including many readers of this site.

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Google’s Blog Search Thumps Yahoo!

In the last few days Yahoo! has unveiled their Blog Search Engine and lots of people have been talking about the decision to put blogs in a little box on the side of their news search results. That’s not nearly as important to me as the following:

  • Indexes: Searching for “Web 2.0” in Yahoo! blog search brings 1,300+ results. Google’s new blog search engine offers 18,000 results. Additionally, many of Yahoo’s results appear to be items from peoples’ social bookmarking archives. That’s good that those are included, but it also inflates the numbers, as both blog posts and their appearance in archives appear to be included in Yahoo’s results. Compare these numbers with Technorati’s 16,000+ results and BlogPulse’s 9,000+ results.
  • Inbound Link Search: Yahoo Blog Search does nothing to improve the disappointing state of inbound link search of the blogosphere.
  • Supporting Multi-Media: Yahoo Blog Search results under “see more blog search results” offers Flickr image results, but Technorati brings back Flickr images as well as Buzznet photos, Del.icio.us and Furl bookmark archived items. My personal favorite, Tag Central pulls from many, truly multimedia search sources.

So I’m not too impressed with Yahoo’s blog search engine yet. I’ll probably use it allong with Google Blogsearch, Technorati, PubSub, Feedster and BlogPulse, perhaps spliced together in one RSS feed per query via FeedDigest with duplicates removed.

I also think that Yahoo’s podcast directory is a bummer, if for no reason than that it appears you have to log in to a Yahoo account in order to download anything! You can listen through some proprietary Yahoo listener, but I’d like to put my podcasts on my “pod” – towards which they were cast. Much like Flickr’s new login procedure after being bought by Yahoo, it appears that the advertising we see upon visiting Yahoo isn’t enough – we must register to see even more ads. Users may as well just search inside the Libsyn directory and find plenty of easily downloadable podcasts.

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MSN Search Beats Google on Inbound Link Search, Destroys “Blog Search” Engines

The director of The Committee to Protect Bloggers (for whom I am a technical consultant) sent me an email tonight asking what the best way to find inbound links to their blog was. The results of my investigation were so interesting to me that I thought I’d post the email I sent in response.

How many inbound links total, like to tell people “we’re linked to by this many sites”? I am thrilled to say that the best way to find out is NOT to search in Google for link:http://committeetoprotectbloggers.civiblog.org (455 results). Strange as this might seem, I am happy to report that Microsoft’s search (MSN Search, http://search.msn.com) comes back with 15,525 results. And they look pretty damned valid. Update: As of the middle of the night MSN search is now up to 17,500+ results for this search.) Now I am certainly no fan of Microsoft, but it is a happy day for me when I can say that the best search engine for your particular need is NOT Google. Unfortunately, the “blog search” engines all suck…some so bad that I emailed them asking what’s up.

So if I’m understanding your question right, I’d say in this case to use MSN Search and tell people that the NEW CPB site has been linked to 15,525 times as of this most recent search.

If you look at the MSN results you’ll note that a large number of them are from blogs, so why do these supposed “blog search” engines not find these links? Is this related to the fact that my traffic monitor is a much better way to find who’s linking to me than are Technorati, PubSub and Feedster combined?

You know what the coolest thing is? There’s an RSS feed available for MSN Search results for web search. Who else offers RSS feeds of their search results – not of news, or of blogs, but of the whole web. Nobody I know. You have to use 3rd party, subscription based GoogleAlerts.com to get an RSS feed of Google web search results. If I can get this from MSN search, do I need Technorati?

I swear I really am cheering for Web 2.0, but I’ve been super frustrated with some performance issues lately. Just to balance out the complaining, I’ll tell you I’ve been having great experiences with Newsgator (for RSS reading), Blinkx.com (for podcast search) and Del.icio.us for rebound lovin’ post breakup with Furl.net, who hasn’t returned my email or blog post – despite some one from parent company LookSmart having a Firefox tab open on this article (Furl, I Can’t Take it Anymore!) for 5 hours today. But I’m not all about complaints!

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Technorati Acquisition? News or Just Query?

Quick note here, I’ve had two folks come to my site today via a Technorati search for “Technorati acquisition.” Both from users in San Francisco. Hmmm… Now I know that the Web 2.0 conference is going on in S.F. right now, and given the flurry of buy outs this week maybe it’s just a logical query. But you have to wonder. Who would you prefer, MSN or Yahoo!? Since the recent creation of Google Blogsearch that most discussed possibility appears out of the running. Sure wish I was in S.F. More than that, I sure wish these Web2.0 companies would be satisfied with their own success and continue creating a new web. If it’s all about innovation, what will the consequences be of a Web 1.0 buyout of Web 2.0? Or am I over reacting?

Update: There are some critical comments similar to the thoughts here over at PaidContent.org, the folks who broke the AOL-Weblogs Inc. story.

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Reputation Tracking and Inbound Links

Update: I’ve added a list of recent places I’ve been quoted over on the sidebar using the following tools: Furl.net to tag links as “citations” and FeedDigest to turn the RSS feed of that tag into a javascript-to HTML code snippet in my sidebar template. So now when I find places I’m quoted I can just tag them and they will apear here automatically. Pretty cool, huh?

I was excited to wake up this morning and find visitors coming in from News.com, where I was quoted in a story about the blogosphere’s reaction to the AOL purchase of Weblogs Inc. I think that’s testimony to the idea that stepping out on a limb to share your opinion about something can really be appreciated. I was concerned that readers would consider my take on acquisitions like that (“is independence no longer a viable business model?”) naive or silly. But I felt that way, so I said it, and apparently it sticks out enough in the discussion to have been quoted elsewhere. Fantastic. Admittedly I also stayed up too late last night reading about and writing that post, so early poster’s advantage might be part of it.

I thought I’d take this opportunity to share some links to a number of places I’ve been cited or linked to lately. This is the sort of thing that bloggers are supposed to be able to tell via blog search engines – technorati, pubsub, feedster, google blog search, etc. You search for your URL and then subscribe to the RSS feed for the search. I’ve created a separate folder in my RSS reader titled “Rep tracking” that holds all the above search feeds and lets me know (in theory) whenever anyone else links to me. It often does work, but just as often I find out first by checking my traffic logs and seeing where visitors to my site are coming from. Sometimes traffic logs show me first and the search feeds catch up hours or days later. A combination of both methods works best for now, I believe.

This is something I set up for all my clients who use RSS as well, and sometimes I track inbound links myself for clients who don’t use RSS and just notify them of anything interesting. The blogosphere is all about interconnected conversations and rapid response and this is a key way that happens.

So, who else has been citing me or linking back to this or my old blog lately?

That’s a snap shot of how you can use a blog to participate in online conversations. Linking, reputation tracking through search to RSS and traffic monitoring are all keys to that participation. But so is having something to say and not being afraid to say it.

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