Monthly Archives: August 2007

Google’s future

The future of Google is the cover story on this week’s economist. Here’s the leader (no subscription required.)

The article discusses how quickly the company has grown and the growing pains they may soon face, such as anti-trust prosecution or increased public concerns over privacy.

In my previous post, I referred to their search algorithm as their “secret sauce.” From a search marketer’s perspective, this is certainly true. The Economist uses the term secret sauce to refer to Google’s method of networking hundreds of thousands of cheap (yes, very cheap) computers to form the world’s largest supercomputer. From a high-level, this really is their best kept secret.

Cat Puke Dispersal: Statistical Aberration or Malicious Intent?

For the record, I have traditionally been a dog person, but have grown to love many cats, including my friend Kiki’s late Kitty Roo and Poo, and also Revvy, who came into the family when I married Jen.

I submit Exhibit A:

I came home today to find that Revvy had thrown up on our kitchen mat. There are a mere three (3) rugs in our apartment that comprise less than 5% of the total floor space, and Revvy has now completed the Trifecta, having puked on all three. I haven’t formally quantified it, but my ballpark guess would be that about 40-50% of the total cat barf falls within that <5% of surface area.

Can one of the long-time cat aficianados out there please explain this to me? Is this a statistical abberation, or is her aim that good? Is she trying to tell me that she owns me?

How Google and Matt Cutts make the internet useful

Last week, Jen and I had dinner with our friends Sarah, Matt, and Sarah’s parents. Sarah’s father Roger is a mathematics professor in Morehead, Kentucky and has a keen interest in computers. As we loaded the dishwasher, he asked me a bit about the work I’ve done in development and interactive marketing. He then started to tell me about a friend’s son who was highly regarded in his field. Roger began by stating that this individual was a graduate student at the University of North Carolina but left before completing his PhD.

I cut him off mid-sentence. “Are you talking about Matt Cutts?”, I asked. Roger beamed in affirmation.

I would venture to say that anyone working in search engine marketing has probably heard of Matt Cutts, and if your search marketing team hasn’t, you might want to hire someone else. Matt is a senior engineer at Google and is in charge of web spam: preventing it, not creating it. Matt joined Google very early in the company’s history and has helped it develop and continually refine its search algorithm. So how has this changed your life and what’s an algorithm?

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Iranian Whitewater Paddlers train with US Coach

Today, NPR covered the Iranian paddlers we met when we attended the US Whitewater Slalom National Championships recently held at the Adventure Sports Center International in McHenry, Maryland. If you listen to the NPR audio, you can hear our friend Matt on the PA announcing “one of our guests from Iran.”

NPR: Iranian Women Learn Top Kayaking Skills in U.S.

Recap: 47 Minutes with the TSA

I had a birthday last week, and with it my driver’s license expired. I learned this at 6 AM Saturday morning at Dulles International Airport as Jen and I were trying to fly home to Chicago for a family reunion. While Jen moved quickly through the security line, the security contractor (non-TSA) marked my boarding pass for further security screening and took me all the way to the last security station.

I quickly realized I was in the terrorist suspect line. There were over 50 people in front of me in the line, and except for maybe 6 or 7 individuals, everyone else was either speaking in a Middle East language or wearing a head scarf. I’m absolutely not exaggerating. I counted 6 women with headscarves, and there were two or three groups of Israelis traveling together. Some others in the group appeared to be Pakistani or Bangledeshi, and a few Malysians seemed to be present as well.

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Whitewater National Championships = International Diplomacy

Last weekend we visited two of my oldest friends from Atlanta who moved to western Maryland last summer. Kieran is working remotely for IBM and Matt is managing the new artificial whitewater course at Adventure Sports Center International in McHenry, MD. They also manage four beautiful kids who keep them extremely occupied. After a long night of catching up, the kids woke us up early on Saturday for several hours of errands and field trips. I merely had to keep all four alive (harder than you think, and I can elaborate) long enough to give mom a quick break and then we were off to the race. Though officially opened a month to the day of the race, ASCI was hosting the 2007 US National Championships.

I was lucky to have Matt and Kieran indoctrinate me as a spectator long enough ago to have watched Matt qualify for both the Sydney and Athens Olympics. Whitewater slalom is the most exciting live sport I’ve ever watched and defies description. At first it really seems like controlled chaos. Paddlers either have a strong understanding of fluid dynamics (the science), a vocalized spirituality about how the water wants to flow (the art) , or both. Either way, they understand they can only go where the water permits, and maneuvering is about choosing the right line and hoping for the best.

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3 Year olds Prefer McDonald’s

Time Magazine is reporting a new study by Stanford researchers that states that kids age 3-5 statistically prefer a hamburger when it appears in a McDonald’s wrapper versus the exact same hamburger when it appears in plain packaging. Time’s argument goes that more regulation is required to protect children from the influence of corporate advertising.

On average, 48% of the kids said they preferred the taste of the McDonald’s labeled hamburger, compared with 37% who preferred the unmarked burger; 59% liked the McDonald’s branded chicken nuggets compared with 18% for the unbranded nuggets, and 77% said the French fries in the bag stamped with the McDonald’s arches and a smile tasted better than the fries from a plain white bag.

I do not doubt any of the Stanford study’s findings, and I do agree that children deserve extra protection from advertising’s influence. However, it’s not just the kids who are being influenced. I’m willing to bet that if you duplicated this study against any demographic having a positive or neutral impression of McDonald’s, McDonald’s will always beat the the plain packaging.

In Chapter 5 of Blink, Macolm Gladwell recounts brand marketers’ experimentations with packaging for margarine, soft drinks, and brandy and how the right package boosts perceived quality of the actual food items:

Cheskin was convinced that when people give and assessment of something they might buy in a supermarket or a department store, without realizing it, they transfer sensations or impressions that they have about the packaging of the product to the product itself… The product is the package and the product combined.

Advertising is about spinning a story, selling a dream, or appealing to our natural urges. For kids and parents alike, these are areas of great susceptibility.

Eddio O’Dea finishes 4th at U.S. 24 Hour Solo Nationals

Eddie O pulled a repeat of last year and finished 4th at Nationals! Last year’s race was punctuated by some of the worst conditions the sport had ever seen, with torrential downpours and tornadoes popping up across the Midwest. The trailer of 24 Solo actually uses that storm as its opening scene.

The top 4 places at Nationals have been the same for two years in a row:

  1. Chris Eatough
  2. Nat Ross
  3. Mark Hendershot
  4. Ed O’Dea

The first three guys all have full pro sponsorships with Trek, Gary Fisher, and Santa Cruz, respectively. After 2 years at #4, I have to think the big sponsors are looking really hard at Eddie.

Eddie’s race report