Adultery and secure documents

I get an email from CertiPost, a daughter company of the Belgacom/Belgian Post, that bears the title “You had an unwanted visitor last night“. When one clicks on the link, one has to give the name of one’s partner, best friend and favourite sport. The result is a somewhat customized movie about a wife who cheats on her husband, or actually, your wife cheating on you.

This obviously is a trial to make a viral video. They’ve made some mistakes though:

  • You can only personalize the movie for yourself, you cannot forward a copy personalized for a friend. That would have really made it viral.
  • I fail to see why “Your wife is cheating on you” would make the subject want to buy a product/service, expect if it concerns lethal weapons or a private detective.
  • The contrast between a movie that is trying to be cheeky and a company that is anything but cheeky – an institution that tries to sell you security services – makes it untrustworthy


There are no Flash websites

Never say “we have a Flash website”; there is no such thing. You might say: we have a website and it features, amongst a lot of relevant information in HTML pages, a Flash movie and/or application. You might say: we did buy a domain and we decided that a real website would be too accessible for our customers, so it only has a Flash blob on the ‘homepage’.

Flash is to websites what airconditioning is to a car: you might call it luxury, you might call it indispensable, but you cannot call it a car. It’s just airco.

For some reason, people that have experience with creating Flash applications also think they can make websites. “Just throw some Javascript on the homepage and it plays beautifully”, right? Wrong! If you have never heard of proper markup, SEO, the limitations of Javascript and Flash, you should leave making websites to professionals. If you insist that your branding cannot be properly expressed with just HTML/CSS/Ajax, you can add a Flash object to your site. But on its own, it’s a sorry excuse for a website.

Case: Le Fabuleux Marcel de Bruxelles
Le Fabuleux Marcel de Bruxelles
Le Fabuleux Marcel de Bruxelles is a new brand of singlets (‘wifebeaters‘ in English, or ‘marcellekes’ in Bruxellois). The idea is good, the branding is beautiful, the advertising is top-notch (not surprisingly, since the founder is also one of the founders of the ad agency LG&F).
Continue reading There are no Flash websites

Yahoo! Toolbar is misbehaving

Eventhough it claims to help you detect and remove spyware, the Yahoo! Toolbar – now included/suggested in lots of freeware downloads (Flash,)- practically behaves as a piece of adware itself.

I subscribed to a Yahoo Group (for Flickr users in Brussels) and the first time I wanted to access the group’s homepage, I got an ActiveX popup for the Yahoo toolbar. I know I don’t need the toolbar to see the homepage, but I guess a lot of people will think they do, and click ‘Yes’ automatically. I installed it too to see how aggressive the toolbar would be afterwards.

yahoo toolbarThe toolbar shuts down all your IE windows after installation, and a new window appears with the new toolbar. It features spyware protection (with Norton security), multiple tabs, Yahoo! Search and Yahoo! Mail/Messenger integration. It tries to set your homepage and preferred search engine to Yahoo! but I did not allow that. The toolbar takes up quite a bit of screen real estate, with the tabs and all.

Let’s say you’re like me, and you’re not that impressed with the toolbar (I use Google’s toolbar and am quite happy with it). You would start with disabling the Yahoo! toolbar (View -> Toolbars). Much to your surprise, the next IE window you open, the toolbar would reappear. Even when you open a link in a new window: there’s the toolbar. Now that’s pretty annoying.

The best way to go is to remove it completely:
Start -> Settings -> Control Panel -> Add/Remove Programs -> Yahoo! Toolbar for IE

I’m not saying that Yahoo! is evil, but the way their toolbar is promoted and the way it keeps popping up even when you don’t want it to, reminds me a lot of ‘shopping toolbars’ and other malware. Certainly if they want to promote it as a tool to combat spyware and adware, they might do some effort to behave correctly too.

Adsense: The long tail of spare change

Google dollars

Last year, Google took in about $2.7 billion through ads on other people’s sites, accounting for 44% of its ad revenues. Most of that money probably came through big sites, but a decent portion must have come from the little guys. When you add up all the under-$100 AdSense balances earned by the Scott Karps of the world, the total must be a pretty impressive number. That’s free working capital for Google, or it can invest the stash and make even more money. It’s a devilishly good idea. via and

Nicholas Carr then goes on clarifying that if you have more than $10 on your account, and you officially terminate your Adsense account, Google will send you the money anyway. In any case, there are thousands of Adsense accounts with sleeping money that cannot be touched until they break the $100 barrier.


Let’s see, thousands of small $ amounts that are blocked, that still represents tens (hundreds?) of thousands of dollars. Let’s see if we can come up with a business model to recover some of that money without breaking the Adsense Terms of Service.
Goal: fill the bucket, i.e. reach the $100 mark and then leave.
Continue reading Adsense: The long tail of spare change

Google moving into Interactive TV

Google is looking for a “Product Manager – Interactive TV”:

In this role, you will provide leadership on product vision and execution of projects that enable using Google’s search and advertising technologies to enhance users’ Television viewing experience.
These (trends) include but are not limited to the intersection of internet and Television technologies, video-on-demand, personal video recorders and emergence of next generation set-top-boxes with IP connectivity. You will then identify areas where use of Google’s search and advertising technology can enhance this user experience and define appropriate products to deliver these user benefits
from Google jobs

Google TV: with advertising?

Fewer people will be channel surfing, and more people will want to sit down and literally search for something to watch.
radioactiveyak via CNN Money

Continue reading Google moving into Interactive TV

Google files patents for contextual wifi advertising

registration patent
Google has filed and published the following patent applications:

(1) Method and system to provide wireless access at a reduced rate:
Methods and system for providing wireless access at a reduced rate. In one embodiment, access to a WAP is provided to an end-user at a rate subsidized by a first entity. The first entity includes advertisements in an end-user view.
which sounds like a Google (secure) proxy that modifies passing-though HTML

(2) Method and system to provide advertisements based on wireless access points:
Methods and system to provide advertisements in a view of an end user accessing a wireless access point. The advertisements are related to the WAP based on a predetermined criterion.
aka contextual advertising for Wifi

(3) Method and system for dynamically modifying the appearance of browser screens on a client device:
In one embodiment, a connection of a client device to a wireless access point is identified. Further, the appearance of a screen presented on the client device is modified to reflect the brand associated with a provider of the wireless access point.
aka the ‘captive portal’

on via

Continue reading Google files patents for contextual wifi advertising

Barcamp Brussels: May 2006

Barcamp Brussel
Last year we organised a fairly successfull blogger’s dinner in Brussels, and now we’re gonna try something different:
next May we will have a Barcamp Brussels event.


Barcamp NY
(photo by miss_rogue)

Barcamp was first organised in LA by Chris Messina and some buddies.

BarCamp is an ad-hoc un-conference born from the desire for people to share and learn in an open environment. It is an intense event with discussions, demos, and interaction from attendees.

It is not your regular conference:

  • No spectators, only participants: Attendees must give a demo, a session, or help with one. All presentions are scheduled the day they happen. Prepare in advance, but come early to get a slot on the wall.
  • No fixed agenda: talks, demos and topics are proposed by the attendees when they arrive on a central whiteboard.

Continue reading Barcamp Brussels: May 2006

Edgeio: edge aggregator

Michael Arrington has just launched his new baby: Edgeio, a classifieds aggregator. Edgeio will spider and index anyone’s feed and aggregate the posts tagged with “listing”. It then clusters the other tags in order to attach the post to the right classifieds category. The revolutionary thing here is that Edgeio does not require you to post your offer on their own site, they go and take it from yours. Edgeio clearly states that they start with classifieds as an example, a proof of concept for a concept that is much broader than that (that sounds like an echo from the Google Base launch).
As I understand it from their specs, they use the standard RSS <category>listing</category> categories from the RSS spec, no microformats (see further).


The pioneers of this type of aggregation are Technorati (specifically Tantek Çelik): they have been using the rel=tag microformat <a href="" rel="tag">music</a> (instructions for laymen and experts) since the beginning of 2005.
The people at Technorati also have created “Most Popular” pages based on the same principle:

  • Popular News: “The news stories people are talking about right now, ordered by new links to news sites in the last 48 hours.
  • Popular Movies: “The movies people are talking about right now, ordered by new links to the Internet Movie Database in the last 48 hours.
  • Popular Books: “The books people are talking about right now, ordered by new links to Amazon in the last 48 hours.
  • Popular Blogs: “The biggest blogs in the blogosphere, as measured by unique links in the last six months.

The basic concept is: find a link type that identifies a topic/resource (e.g. for the movie “Brokeback Mountain”) and aggregate all blog posts that have such a link. Whereas for books it makes sense to use Amazon as principal link source for books, it is more difficult to find a good one for music CDs (Amazon? iTunes? CDNow? CDBaby?), TV shows, political candidates, theatre plays, …


  • I think Technorati, if it wanted to, could create a Edgeio-like spin-off in under a week. One small difference is that Technorati spiders sites (all HTML), not just feeds (post contents + metadata).
  • Google Blog Search certainly has the horsepower, but little experience in microformats. Then again, they have the worlds’ biggest war chest, they could buy talent and resources. And the PageRank reputation ranking could come in handy.
  • The ‘smaller’ blog search players: Feedster, Ask/Bloglines, IceRocket, … already have the content, but would still have to develop the service.
  • Feedburner could move in that direction too, but then only for their own burned feeds. Or they could sell a service to companies like Edgeio to bulk download changed feeds from all Feedburner feeds in one go.

Edge aggregator

The direction Edgeio and/or Technorati could evolve to, is a “generic edge aggregator”. In the end we don’t want 5000 different services all scraping our blog feeds for each little niche application. The ideal would be a handful of aggregators that provide APIs to data and aggregation services, either paid, or monetized through contextual advertising. Image a hypothetical ‘edge aggregation’ provider “GoogRatiO“.

  • GoogRatiO spiders and indexes ALL feeds of all blogs. Oh heck, it even keeps a cached copy of each post.
  • GoogRatiO allows anyone to set up a new project on a URL In the project settings, you can specify which URLs should be tracked, the importance of recency, frequency and reputation, and it would automatically show a hitparade of the top 10/50/100. E.g. the dance music site Juno could set up that tracks all…/ links in blog posts of the last month and shows an hourly updated Buzz chart of the top 20. GoogRatiO places contextual advertising on each page.
  • GoogRatiO has an API that allows a third party to use its database. It includes functions like Get_all_posts_for_URL_base("") and Get_aggregated_buzz_for_URL_base("..."). Below 1000 requests/day GoogRatiO is free. Above that: subscriber fee.
  • GoogRatiO also calculates a ‘reputation’ for each blog feed. This is needed to deal with splogs and other scam artists. So each link does not weigh the same. Compare it to Technorati’s “blog authority” or Google’s “PageRank”. For a company like Juno, a link from the Rollingstone blog is worth more than one from a Blogspot site a 14-year old fan just set up.
  • GoogRatiO will links blogs to actual sales (with money being paid and all). So it could come up with some inventive ways of redistributing affiliate fees

Imagine the ease with which applications like “Most Popular Youtube video“, “Most popular De Standaard newspaper article”, … could be created. The Long Tail at work!

Edgeio Buzz Timeline

As a professional reporter on Web 2.0 projects, Mike knows exactly how to plan the buzz for his new project:
Edgeio Buzz

  • 2005-10-07: Teaser: “Edgeio will give you the ability to do new and (we think) really exciting things with your blog” – Techcrunch
  • 2006-02-02: SDForum announcement “All Your Classifieds Belong To Us” – Jeff Clavier
  • 2006-02-09: “Teare spilled a lot of beans tonight at an SDForum online-classifieds event at the GooglePlex” – BusinessWeek, Dave Winer, Scobleizer
  • 2006-02-11: “We will be focusing on classified listings of any type to start” – 1st post on Edgeio blog
  • 2006-02-12: “Mike Arrington called me today and gave me a demo ” – Mashable (Feb 12)
  • 2006-02-18: “I was given a personal tour” @ TechCrunch NakedConversations Party – Dan Farber @ ZDnet (Feb 18)
  • 2006-02-20: Buzz acceleration – Buzzmachine, SiliconBeat, A VC
  • 2006-02-27: Official launch: Techcrunch, helped by Om Malik, Read/Write Web, WeBreakStuff

(There are obviously clear advantages in finding seed investors/business consultants/software developers/media buddies that are also A-list bloggers.)

This is certainly a project to follow!
PS: thanks to Bart and Francois for bringing Edgeio to my attention.


Adsense in all media: TV, cinema, sport, traffic

The other day I was talking with Francois on Google’s tests with providing ads in printed media, i.e. buying up ad space up front and deciding just before the actual printing what ads should go on which page. Adsense for print media, as it were.

In Google: Thinking about the future of TV ads , Garett Rogers tries to imagine what Google Adsense for TV could be like.

Imagine the possibilities… You are watching Google Satellite TV through your “internet ready” Google DVR:
1) You receive a new Gmail and it pops up automatically on your TV (if you choose to see new messages of course).
2) A ticker at the top of the screen shows recent news that interests you… or better yet, it shows new items from my Google Reader!
3) A more personalized TV experience which will serve up relevant commercials on commercial breaks based on your interests.
(also see the NYT article)

But those are just 2 examples of where Larry and Sergey are heading. Let’s see where Google could go when it decides to attack ALL media channels with contextual advertising:


  • Adsense on they started by putting advertising next to search results (on their own pages)
  • Adsense for Content allowed any webmaster to give Google a certain spot (‘real estate’) on their site where ads could be placed
  • Adsense for Gmail puts ads within email messages (on their own pages)
  • Adsense for Search allows for rebranded search within a domain and the possibility to disallow ads from competitors (on their own pages)


  • Adsense for newspapers: as mentioned above, Google reserves X cm² in each edition of a newspaper, that it can fill with whatever ad seems the most appropriate. Contextual: based on content of the page, demographics of the newspaper audience, date/time of publication
  • Adsense for magazines: similar to the one above, but the life cycle of a magazine is different. A newspaper is ‘hot news’ for a day and then becomes irrelevant and gets thrown away. A magazine might linger on cofee tables and in waiting rooms for ages. Contextual: content of page, demographics of audience. Once magazines could be printed on-demand, or even better, read on a paper-like electronic screen, the ads could be even more targeted.
  • Adsense for books: imagine an effort like the Bookmobile on-demand printing of Brewster Kahle. But instead of it costing $1 to print, the book is now free, because Google can put an ad in it just before printing. Or even if a book is printed in thousands of copies, but digitally, Google could add a mix of different ads on each copy. Contextual: content of the book, demographics of the average audience or even this specific reader.
  • Adsense for TV: a TV channel, or an individual program even, rents some ‘real estate’ (time-delimited, e.g. the first 150 seconds; space-delimited, e.g. the lower 10% of the screen; or a combination of these) to Google. Contextual: based on program contents, audience demographics and time-of-day.
  • Adsense for radio: if it can be done on TV, it can be done on radio! Contextual: based on program contents, audience demographics and time-of-day
  • Adsense for Wifi: they’re gonna cover the world with free Wifi, you connect through their secure wireless proxy, but now they also know exactly where you are (in a 500m radius) – the wet dream of localised marketing. This could be Adsense for Content on speed. Contextual: content of visited page, user demographics (language), user location
  • Adsense for cinema: it would be bad news for the Screenvisions of this world, but imagine Google using the 10 minutes of trailers/ads before the main feature? Contextual: content of the movie, location of the cinema, demographics of the audience
  • Adsense for movies: why not take some ‘real estate’ in movies? Why not even customised product placement? Imagine the lead character driving by local stores, and Google can choose for each city/country what brands to feature there. Contextual: content of the movie, location of the cinema, demographics of the audience.
  • Adsense for video-on-demand: Google provides the bandwidth and in exchange can put some ads before/in each movie. Contextual: content of the movie, demographics of the user, usage profile (previous movies).
  • Adsense for ticketing: while we’re at it, why not print ads on the movie tickets the moment they are printed? And on concert tickets, that are bought sometimes months before the event and cherished for years afterwards? Contextual: type of event, demographics of the audience, time before the event (if the ticket is bought 2 days before the concert, you would want to put ‘act now!’ ads on it.)
  • Adsense for billboards: most of the boards in Europe are ‘static’, i.e. printed in paper, but imagine the screen-based billboards like on Times Square and in Japan showing content that is picked out for that occasion. Contextual: location of the billboard, time of day, maybe some demographics This is basically what Clearchannel Outdoor already does to some degree, but it could just provide the real estate and let Google pick the advertisers. Main issue here would be: how do you measure effectiveness?
  • Adsense for phone/GSM: imagine Google buying a competitor of Skype and offering you full phone service for free – even international – provided you listen to a short ad just before your conversation. Contextual: demographics of caller and receiver, time of day. God forbid they base it on the content of the conversations you’ve had before…
  • Adsense for fax: free international faxing and/or fax-via-email, but with a Google cover page or Google ads in the footer. Contextual: demographics of sender and receiver, content of the page (some quick OCR, how hard can that be)
  • Adsense for road traffic: the LED screens on top of cabs, the back and sides of trucks, trams, buses, all connected through Google’s free Wifi and adapting their displayed ads on-the-fly. Contextual: location of display, time of day, type of support.
  • Adsense for sport: the shirts of football players and cycling athletes, a logo overlay on the center circle of the basketball field, or even replacing the ad panels around the field (so the same ad space is sold twice: once for the people attending, and once for the TV audience – no science fiction). Contextual: type of support (shirt, bath cap, speedo, …), location/type of event, time of day

Any Big Brother scenario I forgot?