Scobleizer Weblog

Daily link Sunday, December 12, 2004

OK, I'm off, won't be back on the blog until tomorrow night. But you'll see me posting tomorrow over on Channel 9 (check at about 10:30 a.m.). Also, watch the MSN Search Blog for more news.

Others to watch? Danny Sullivan's blog. Andy Beal's blog. John Battelle's blog.

Between the three of them, they link to everything important in the search engine industry.

Oh, and if you're at Danny Sullivan's SES conference, and you're blogging it, drop your URL in my comments. Oh, forget that, I'll do a PubSub search and see ya that way.

11:56:15 PM    comment 

Hmm, I've been playing with a lot of desktop search tools. I imagine a lot of you have been too. And a lot more of you will jump in this week.

I'm not gonna tell you which one is my favorite. I'm biased. And, anyway, I want you all to tell me which one is your favorite and then I'll link to you.

But, here's some things to consider when trying out desktop search:

1) Give it time to index. Yeah, the "out of download experience" should be a good one and should let you get started right away, but all these things really need a bit of time to index all your files.

2) Know what it can and can't do. For instance, desktop search today isn't good at finding photos. Why? Because when you take a photo the only thing that the computer knows about that file is the name and some information that the camera puts into the file (like the date it was taken, the shutter speed, etc). And the file name is usually something like DSC0050.jpg so that really isn't going to help you search for it. Hint: put your photos into a folder with a name like "wedding photos" and then your desktop search can find your wedding photos.

3) Watch for comparisons this week on resources. Because all of these engines need to do a little work indexing your email and files during the day, they can sometimes take away some processing time. Translation: they'll slow down your machine. Hint here? Let the engine index your hard drive before judging it. A good indexer shouldn't hurt your performance, though, so let the world know if your machine is slowing down. That is a bug and the guys who write the engines can fix those problems if they know about them. Some engines will be nicer than others, though. I'd expect to see interesting comparisons by the end of the week.

4) User interface. This is where you'll see a lot of differences. Google's engine takes more of a Web-based approach than, say, X1 or Copernic. There are advantages to both. Write about which approach you like the best, and why.

5) Security/privacy. Watch which engines let your wife surf through your porn collections. Test all the engines out. Can you search your browser's cache? That is dangerous if you have multiple users on your machines (look for passwords, for instance, you'd be amazed what the search engines will let you search for). Does the engine let you run in non-administrator mode? Does it work with your corporate firewall well?

6) Does it play well with others? Does loading a new search engine on your machine cause another engine to crash or behave badly? Can you "pause" the indexers while you use stuff, like video games, that need all your processor? If not, report that as a bug. Not nice!

7) Does your favorite engine work well on one machine, but not well on another? Desktop search, because it's working locally should be fast! If it isn't, report it as a bug on your blog.

8) Does your engine have advertising? In what way? Compare that as well.

9) Does your engine integrate into the apps you use most often? For instance, if you use Outlook all day long, like I do, does your search engine force you to leave Outlook and go someplace else to do searches?

10) What's the price? What do you get for the money?

11) What's the download size? If one engine is a lot bigger than another engine, is it worth the additional download time?

12) How many file types does the engine index? How many languages does it support? The more, the merrier.

13) This one probably should be first, but how good an engine is it? Does it find what you're looking for?

14) How customizeable is it? Can you add shortcuts to the engine to make it easier for you to search for common things?

15) What advanced features does it have? Can you make it automatically launch applications, for instance?

16) How much space does its logo take up? Can you get rid of that kind of space-wasting stuff? How small can you make the UI?

What about you? Are there other things that reviewers should worry about when comparing desktop search?

11:09:20 PM    comment 

Does Beta mean anything anymore? Google calls everything beta. Heck, ICQ has been calling itself beta since 1996. I wonder what'll happen if they ever stop calling their download a "beta."

But, not all betas are the same. How can you tell? I don't know anymore. One way I tell is to watch what people say about the new download.

Do they say it is buggy? Do they say it runs slow? Do they say that it slows down their machine?

I also watch web forums like Channel 9, Neowin, and the comment areas of the developers' blogs. Are there tons of problem reports flowing in? Are people complaining that it won't install on their weird hand-built computer? Then it's probably a beta.

If all you see is "this thing rocks" then you know that the developers are just using the term like ICQ does: as marketing to make their product seem "fresh" or "hip."

What does Beta mean to you?

10:50:13 PM    comment 

I wish Memeorandum had a tech news site. This is freaking awesome. I get more and more addicted to Memeorandum every day. It's now my home page. What does it do? It shows you the major news headlines of the day and underneath it puts a selection of blogger's opinions on that news.

10:41:52 PM    comment 

How do I keep track of a fast-moving news story? I use these tools:

1) RSS search tools like Feedster and Pubsub. Pubsub is bringing back more results and better-formatted RSS results, but Feedster has a better Web experience. So, here I'll link to one I'm gonna be watching tomorrow. Feedster result for "Desktop Search."

2) Professional news sources. I watch Google News, Yahoo News, and MSN Newsbot. These sites sift through thousands of "professional" news sources like Associated Press, Reuters, BBC, and others. Here's a query for "Desktop Search" on Google, Yahoo, and MSN.

Update: Searching Google News for just "MSN" is bringing back better stuff about MSN. Shows that you gotta try a few searches to find the best term.

3) Inbound links. I use a variety of engines to track who is linking into a specific site. Mostly I care about bloggers here, because those will be the fastest to react to news and I care about what they say. For that, I use Technorati. Here's a Technorati cosmos query for

What other news tools do you use to learn about a fast-breaking news story?

10:37:49 PM    comment 

Om Malik, senior writer for Business 2.0, is freaked out about the coming merger of Sprint and Nextel and its impact on WiMax.

9:49:22 PM    comment 

Loren Heiny: uses OneNote with Skype on their Tablet PCs to work with his sister.

9:33:10 PM    comment 

John Morrison is working at an Apple store in New York and wonders how I deal with non disclosures. Hmmm.

I email the person in charge of a product and ask for permission to talk in public about it. I also have a vice president of our PR firm on my IM client. I also have email aliases that I can ask for help on. And most product teams have disclosure instructions on their intranet sites or internal blogs.

Translation: be very careful. I'd stay away from talking about rumors or other things like that. If you've seen Steve Jobs announce something at MacWorld, that's probably safe to talk about. Anything else I'd be very careful about.

9:08:11 PM    comment 

Hmm, all sorts of weird things happen on my Red Couch lately. Here Dana Epp writes a book review of Guy Kawasaki's "Art of the Start."

9:01:46 PM    comment 

Neowin is reporting: MSN Toolbar suite beta tomorrow.

Whatever happens tomorrow, I'll be reporting on the usual ugly, bad, and good comments.

And watch Channel 9 at 10:30 a.m. Pacific Time tomorrow for more.

8:11:07 PM    comment 

Mary Jo Foley: Microsoft to Launch MOOL Beta on Monday.

Hmm, that's TWO things that are being launched tomorrow, if Mary Jo is right (I don't know the MOOL team, gotta check into that tomorrow).

7:39:26 PM    comment 

Kevin O'Keefe: "Lawyers need not take the time of the Scobleizer."

True. By the way, Kevin, I do almost all of my blogging on my own time. Almost all of it is done at nights and weekends. Now, I'm paid a salary, so I guess you can say that Microsoft is covering my blogging time too.

But, this is what I love to do. The technology industry continues to change how we work, play, and do other things more than any other industry I see out there.

Translation: I'd do this whether or not I was paid to do it.

It does offer major benefits to my day job (which is doing the videos for Channel 9). I also do a lot of email during my day job that was generated by my blogging hobby. Right now I have 227 emails waiting for my attention. Sorry for not getting to those promptly.

There's no way I would be able to do Channel 9 if I didn't have the world's best readers. My readers actually put me in touch with people on various teams. It's really an amazing thing that I'm just starting to understand the power of.

My readers are the best. Period.

1:38:06 PM    comment 

Frans Bouma: WinFS delayed again: corporate politics or incompetency?

Frans asks why Reiser can get something done while Microsoft can't.

It's an interesting question. One I ask myself everytime I go around the campus meeting with folks.

Yesterday, for instance, the Hotmail team announced they had upgraded all of their users in many major markets to have 250+ MB of storage (Channel 9 will have an interview with the Hotmail team up soon). Now, seems like Google has kicked their behind, right? (Google offers 2 GB's of storage for their Gmail users). But, Google had no installed base (and, I'm hearing in the hallways that Hotmail is still adding new customers at a faster clip than GMail is). Hotmail has hundreds of millions of users.

Upgrading an installed base is a LOT harder than coming out with new technology that no one has built on top of yet. Think about the engineering problems there. Does Photoshop run on Reiser? Yet it'll need to run on WinFS cause the market expects that of Windows apps.

Here's another one: soon you'll meet part of our user testing lab and see more about how Microsoft develops products (Channel 9 will have an interview up soon with one of the guys who is doing user testing for Longhorn). We don't have the luxury of just hacking out code, putting it up on the Internet, and seeing if users like it or not. When something goes into Windows it must be tested. And tested. And tested.

If a user has trouble finding even one file with the new system, it goes back for more work. Why? Because imagine the tech support costs if we get this wrong -- imagine the bad PR if hundreds of thousands of users have trouble using the new technology. Imagine what'll happen if something doesn't work right, or worse, if your data gets corrupted.

Oh, and, yes, there's security. It is slowing us down, but we MUST nail anything new we put out there. Particularly when it comes to the file system. Imagine all the new attack vectors in a database-based file system. It keeps me up at night. And I'm sure that to someone like Michael Howard (our chief security guy) it terrifies him.

OK, regarding time to market.

Everyone lately has been saying "Microsoft is slow" or "Microsoft can't react to Google" or "Microsoft has lost it."

Oh yeah? Come back on Monday. Remember last Sunday when I said I had seen something that left me speechless? Well, in the videos I filmed (and I filmed more than 1.5 hours worth with nearly the entire team working on the thing that's being shipped into beta on Monday) I am heard saying "that's wicked."

The really wicked thing, though, is that this team (the one shipping a beta on Monday) did not exist before last April (and, most of the team didn't join until June or July, which is when they really started their work).

On Monday you'll hear how this team -- in less than seven months -- designed, built, tested, and delivered a pretty darn cool new product.

Can Microsoft move fast? Is seven months fast enough? We'll see.

Oh, how did they move so fast? Because there was lots of already-working code from other teams and from Microsoft Researchers.

Translation: don't count us out yet. We might not be first to market. We might even be last. But we'll among the first to deliver a technology that hundreds of millions of people are able to use.

A note to myself: this is why you don't set expectations about dates and whether something will ship or not. In seven months the entire world can change. For better or for worse.

Update: I screwed up on the Hotmail numbers. Turns out that the upgrades haven't been completed worldwide. So there are still users that haven't been upgraded. Here's a Presspass article on the Hotmail upgrades. I have corrected this post to reflect the new information I now have.

1:19:25 PM    comment 

Ahh, the very deserving Engadget is gonna win the "best tech blog" contest. Contest ends tonight.

As my wife told me this morning: "you're on the 'g' list for 'goofball blogger.'"

Hope you're having a great Sunday. I was thinking of going over to Microsoft's main campus to buy some stuff on sale, but Adam Barr wrote about the long line yesterday and so I'll probably skip that idea.

12:52:01 PM    comment 

Yeah, it's anecdodtal. It is only one guy. But Jackie Goldstein demonstrates how blogs can sell product.

12:37:33 PM    comment 

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© Copyright 2005
Robert Scoble
My cell phone: 425-205-1921
Are you with the press?
Last updated:
5/11/2005; 1:00:38 AM.

Robert Scoble works at Microsoft (title: technical evangelist). Everything here, though, is his personal opinion and is not read or approved before it is posted. No warranties or other guarantees will be offered as to the quality of the opinions or anything else offered here.

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