Sunday, September 03, 2006

Moderators Required!

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Monday, August 21, 2006

Crazy Egg Launched - Visitor Clicks Visualized Now

Crazy Egg, the highly anticipated click tracking service from ACS, launched today. With Crazy Egg, users install a code on their website to track every click a visitor makes on links, forms, advertisements, and flash documents. Results can be displayed in either an overlay or heatmap form giving the user a visual on click activity around the website. This kind of data is very useful for website owners as it can help them learn how their visitors navigate their website and how they can improve and optimize its usability.

Before we get started, let me explain how Crazy Egg works. Crazy Egg can be setup on any website, whether it be a static or dynamic site (blogs included), and is to be used as a tool to test your websites click activity. When setting up a site, you set a length of time for your test session and Crazy Egg will then provide you with a code to insert in your sites body. The next time someone visits your site and clicks on a link, input to a form, advertisment, or flash document, Crazy Egg will record its position. You then can view the click reports during and after the testing session.

The first page you will see when logging in is the Dashboard (Note: numbers blurred in the above screenshot are from a master Crazy Egg test account and are not all in relation to my site). This is where you get an overview of all your pages that you are watching with Crazy Egg. It is also where you go to add a page to your account for testing. Each page listed provides you with details on when the page was last tested, how many tests you have ran, and its current status (actively running or not). Selecting a page from the list will make a new area slide down providing you with a screenshot of the site and basic statistics including number of visits and clicks during the testing duration. To get to the more detailed reports showing the overlay and heatmap, click on the “View Results” button of any page listed.

Viewing a pages report will bring you to a new section of Crazy Egg with a toolbar at the top and your site right below. At default, the overlay reporting method will be shown and if clicks have already been recorded, you will see colored markers around the site. These markers point out where the clicks have been made and will be colored based on the percentage of clicks (blue for low percentage, red for high percentage). Selecting a marker will border the clicked object and pop open a little percentage bar showing the amount of clicks made on that object. You can also open all markers at once by selecting the gear icon on the toolbar and clicking, “open all.”

The next reporting method is, List. Selecting the list button on the toolbar will have a box slide down that will show a table listing all objects that have been clicked. Sorted by the amount of clicks, each row will show the element clicked, what type of element it is (a, strong, span, etc.), the amount of clicks, and the percentage of clicks. Viewing results in the list format makes it very easy for you to quickly grab the names of the most clicked elements, or least clicked, and makes for a quick overview, which at times is easier to view then markers around the site.

The last method, and my favorite method, for viewing results is using the heatmap option. Heatmaps are commonly seen in usability tests and eye tracking tests where the site is overlayed with a grey layer showing high concentrated areas in bright colors ranging from blue to red. Crazy Egg decided to use the same technique to show what elements are most clicked. Blue colored areas have a low percentage of clicks, while red colored areas have a high percentage of clicks. Using the heatmap makes it very easy for you to see what elements around your site receives the most attention and what areas of your site may need some improvement.

Now, let’s say that based on the results from the reports, you made some changes to your website and you want to start another test. This is no problem and Crazy Egg makes this very easy for you. Head over to the Dashboard and select your page. You will see a link below the page name that says, “test a new version.” Clicking this will bring you to a form where you can enter the amount of time you want your new test to run and click save. You will then be directed back to the dashboard where you will see that your page has multiple tests. On the right, after selecting the page, you will see the most recent test on top with the older ones following below allowing you to easily view results for any test you have had under that page.

Crazy Egg offers four plans to choose from when signing up ranging from Free to $99/month. For some, the free plan is all that will be needed as it allows for tracking 5,000 visits/month with 2 pages, which I feel is plently for basic website testing. One downside with the free account is that statistics wont be shown in real-time (live reporting). On the other hand, it may get a little pricy but offering 25,000-250,000 monthly visitors and unlimited pages with live reporting.

All in all, Crazy Egg is a great product providing helpful data to any website owner. I’ve been anticipating its launch since I first learned about it on TechCrunch and Mashable back in March, and I must say, it was well worth the wait. I’m impressed with how simple Crazy Egg makes it for website owners to visualize visitor click activity. You can use Crazy Egg for testing new designs, structure changes, ad placement, page content, and more. Based on results, website owners can learn how visitors see their site and how they should improve it. I will definitely be using this for all future usability tests.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Windows Live Contacts Beta Launched

contacts liveToday George Moore, GM of Windows Live, announced the Windows Live Contacts Gadget beta at the Microsoft TechEd 2006 conference, in Auckland New Zealand (I'm here at the conference courtesy of Microsoft NZ). Live Contacts provides programmatic access to a user's contact list, providing secure access to 400+ M active users with 12B contact records. The user is in full control over their personal data, George said.

Here's the official word:

"Learn how, with nothing more than a little JavaScript, you can allow customers to use their Windows Live Contacts (Hotmail/Windows Live Mail and Messenger contacts) directly from your Web site."

For more, check out the developer info and two working samples. MS developer Danny Thorpe notes:

"The contacts gadget is client-side JavaScript that enables end users to use their Windows Live contacts (from Windows Live Mail/Hotmail and Messenger) with third party (non-Microsoft) web sites, conveniently and securely. The gadget works with any web server, most browsers, and doesn't require reams of license or partnership paperwork with Microsoft. You don't have to assimilate your web server into the Microsoft collective in order to play with Windows Live contact data."

You can also show your contacts on a map using MS Virtual Earth, as per below:

Windows Live Stats

George Moore also told the conference attendees some stats of the current MS active audience - 240M Hotmail users, 230M Messenger, 72M Spaces, 8M mobile subscribers. He tells the mostly developer crowd at TechEd that "this is the audience that can be reached by Windows Live services." He goes on to say that at any one moment, 20M people are simultaneously connected on Messenger and 5.7 Billion messages are sent per day. Also there are 300M F2F video conversations on Messenger every month. George said Spaces is "now the largest blogging service on the planet" (RM: so it's bigger than - it grew to 30M accounts in its first 6 months.

Source: Readwriteweb

Google developing social and interactive television applications for 'mass personalization'

Google Research has proudly announced it won “Best Paper” award for its Interactive TV work presented at the Euro Interactive Television Conference held in Greece recently. The Google research, “Social and Interactive Television Applications Based on Real-Time Ambient Audio Identification,” is:

focused on using broadcast viewing to automatically present relevant information on a web browser…how to sample the ambient sound emitted from a TV and automatically determine what is being watched from a small signature of the sound…The system could keep up with users while they channel surf, presenting them with a real-time forum about a live political debate one minute and an ad-hoc chat room for a sporting event in the next. And, all of this would be done without users ever having to type or to even know the name of the program or channel being viewed.

Taking this further, we could collect snippets from the web describing the actors appearing in a movie or present maps of locales within the movie as it takes place (no matter if users are watching it as a live broadcast or as a recoded broadcast).


The Google research, produced by Michele Covell and Shumeet Baluja, of Google, in collaboration with Michael Fink, of Hebrew University, presents four applications for personalizing broadcast content and making it more interactive and social:

  • Personalized content layers
  • Ad hoc social peer communities
  • Real-time popularity ratings
  • Virtual media library services, or TV-based bookmarks


The proposed framework for combining mass media with a highly personalized Web-based experience “listens” to ambient audio and connects the viewer with services and related content on the Web via three-components:

  • a client-side interface
  • an audio-database server
  • a social-application Web server

Will we soon see Google ITV? Join the conversation: "Talk Back" below to share your thoughts.

Source: ZDNET

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Blogger New Features

Customize your template
  • Create the blog you’ve always wanted with new page elements and font and color options.
  • Drag and drop page elements to customize your blog’s design in a snap.

Create a private blog

Want to share your thoughts with just family and friends, not the whole world? The new Permissions tab in Settings makes it easy to control who can view and contribute to your blog.

  • Add authors so multiple people can post to your blog.
  • Choose who can view your blog just by adding their email address.

Fresh new templates

We’ve added a bunch of new templates created by some of the web’s most talented designers.

More feed options

We’ve added some additional feed options for our more advanced users. Now you can have a feed for all the comments on your blog, and even individual feeds for all the comments on each separate post. We’ve also added support for the RSS 2.0 and Atom 1.0 standards.

Updated Dashboard

The new Dashboard makes it easier to check your blog’s activity and gives you one-click access to the most common blog management tasks.

Instant publishing

Say goodbye to the dreaded “Publishing…” spinner. Now, when you make a new post or change any of your settings, your blog is updated and changes go live immediately; you don’t have to remember to republish.

YouTube and Google - monetize music

Music was the impetus for the MySpace explosion and now YouTube and Google are both getting ready to leverage music as well. YouTube says it’s aiming to put every music video ever made on its site, a move that would take it further from both its genesis as a site for home made clips and a magnet for copyrighted works. EMI and Warner have confirmed that they are discussing the prospect with YouTube, acording to Gigaom.

Presumably a stockpile of legal content would raise the price YouTube could command for advertisements on the site, but licensing the content could be an expensive gamble for a company already spending an estimated $1 million each month on bandwidth. The company says it wants to provide every music video ever made within one to two years. That could be very expensive.

YouTube has raised at least $11.5 million from Sequoia Capital. CEO Chad Hurley said yesterday that the site is already making “significant revenue,” and is more interested in brand driven advertising and mobile extensions than in search driven ads or combining ads and video clips.

I question whether music videos will have the driving power that viral video has for YouTube; staged, familiar footage seems likely to be watched once and unlikely to be passed on to others.

Meanwhile Google unveiled today their own music play, focused on analytics. Google Labs has launched Google Music Trends, a section of Google Trends tracking music listened to by users of Google Talk in iTunes, Winamp, Windows Media Player or Yahoo Music Engine. It’s an opt-in system that tracks both individually and in aggregate. The listings and search results are all accompanied by opportunities to purchase music. Google Trends was launched in May, along with the other projects like the Google Notebook and Google Co-op.

Recommendations seem likely in the future and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Google take Music Trends beyond Google Talk and challenge the business models of companies like Pandora,, MyStrands and others. . Users cannot currently listen to music directly through Google Music Trends.

To me the Google Labs experiment seems smart, while the YouTube music video strategy seems risky. It’s also not a sealed deal, or series of deals, by any means.

Tags: , , , Techonlogy

Google acquires Neven Vision

Google acquires biometric company Neven Vision

Google announced today that they have brought biometric and photo recognition company Neven Vision into the Google fold. Neven Vision has patents on technology ranging from photo analysis to face recognition in video files to several patents for facial capture for avatar animation. Sounds like a fascinating partnership. The company is heavily focused on mobile phones and also offers a product to deliver coupons to mobile devices, something I was hoping would be included with today’s Google Maps coupon announcement.

Google was previously interested in aquiring photo recognition company Riya, but in the end did not. Riya has since expanded its focus beyond facial recognition.

Google says that it will use the newly acquired technology to extract information from photos, though it says that facial recognition in particular may be available “some day.” Gigaom’s Lizz Gannes points out that the LAPD already uses Neven Vision’s technology to recognize gang members. Investors in the company include Anthem Venture Partners and Zone Ventures. The price of the acquisition was not disclosed.

Interesting update: as of midnight PST almost all the links on the Neven Vision site are now bringing up Google 404s.

Tags: , , , Technology

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Google Talk Birthday comes with an Music Trends

Google Talk, which is celebrating its first birthday with an upgrade, will let people easily transfer files and leave other people voice mail beginning Wednesday.

Now people who use the instant messaging and voice chat service will be able to click a "send file" button, choose which document, photo or other file to send, and transmit it through a chat window as a thumbnail that can be displayed in full size.

People also can leave each other voice mail by either initiating a call that is then unanswered or without initiating a call and going straight into voice mail. Users of Gmail, Google's e-mail service, can play the voice mail without having to download anything. But people who use other e-mail software will have to download the MP3 voice mail attachment to hear it.

Another new feature allows Google Talk users to indicate to their friends what music they are listening to via their status message. The new features will initially be available only in the English language version.

Google Talk is a key piece of the search giant's strategy to make it easy for people not only to search for any kind of information in any location, but also to communicate with each other in various ways online.

"We are investing in a real-time communications platform. Google Talk is the first instance of that," said Mike Jazayeri, a Google Talk product manager.

Google Talk competes with popular chat applications from AOL, Yahoo and Microsoft. Last month, Yahoo opened its latest Yahoo Messenger with Voice, with nearly 200 plug-ins, to the public. Microsoft publicly launched its new Windows Live Messenger in June and added drag-and-drop file sharing and automatic contact updating.

As part of a $1 billion Google investment for a 5 percent stake in AOL, Google and AOL will make their chat services interoperate. Jazayeri said he could not provide a time line for when that might happen. Google is already interoperable with services that use the open XMPP, or "Jabber," chat standard, he said.

Meanwhile, Yahoo and Microsoft made their chat services interoperable last month.

Hooray! The new Google Talk features (file sharing, voicemail, and music status) have completed testing and are now available to everyone. Just use Google Talk normally, and it will auto-update to the new version over the next few days. If you just can't wait, you can download the new version directly. Each of the new features will be discussed here shortly, but I'm going to cover file transfer.

File and photo sharing (file transfer) in Google Talk works like you'd expect: Simple, fast, and fun. Simplicity means that you can drag and drop one or more files directly onto a chat window. As soon as your friend clicks 'Accept', the bits will start flowing. When the transfer completes, the recipient can open the file or find it on disk with a single click.

File transfer is fast. Google Talk makes a direct connection to your friend's computer whenever possible, enabling the fastest speed available. And even if your super-secure firewall won't allow a direct connection, we'll still get it there at a decent speed, because we're nice like that.

Photo sharing is fun! When you drop up to 10 photos on Google Talk, smaller previews automatically appear right inside the chat window, so you can chat about them right away. The previews adjust to the size of your chat window, so just enlarge the window when you want to see more detail. To view the images at full size, or to save them for later, click the 'Download Originals' link.

Google Music Trends

Google just added a new entry into their robots.txt file — "Disallow: /trends/music?". Well, that would naturally get me wondering what they are trying to hide. It turns out they have a new labs project — Google Music Trends.

Where does the data come from? Remember the new feature in Google Talk that lets users display what they are listening to in their status message? The new labs project proudly displays the text: "See what Google Talk users are listening to".

There is also a link that says "Participate in Music Trends" that doesn't have any content yet — but I'm guessing it will take you to a Google Talk download page eventually.


Google just released a new version of the testers version of Google Talk which explicitly asks your permission to share information with this new labs project. See screenshot below.


Thursday, August 10, 2006

Webshots relaunch

There won’t be tagging, but CNet’s photosharing site Webshots is adding a number of features reminiscent of Flickr and getting a whole new look. The relaunch will occur some time in late August, but an alpha site is up here. The site currently looks straight out of the 90’s, it will be interesting to see how established users react to the redesign.

The Webshots team told Premium users in an email today that at relaunch Webshots users will be able to comment on each other’s photos. Premium users will have their accounts increased from 5,000 images total, with the limit being bumped up 500 images each month in the future future. Photo quality will be improved, information about the type of camera used for each photo will be included and advertising space will be decreased. Users will also be able to see aggregate stats and comments on their personal Webshots pages.

Webshots was purchased by CNet from Twofold Photos, Inc. in 2004 for approximately $70 million dollars. Webshots reports having 26 million registered users posting 85,000 images a day in online photo albums. For comparison, Yahoo! Photos is reported to have 30 million users, Photobucket reports having 19 million users and Flickr approximately 2.5 million. It’s clear who’s the trendsetter here, though, and that’s liable to continue with innovations like Flickr’s rumored drag and drop geotagging in the works.

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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Google calls click fraud estimates overblown

SAN JOSE, Calif.--Google is fighting back against what it says are exaggerations in industry estimates of click fraud in its bread-and-butter pay-per-click advertising system.

In a report released Tuesday, the search giant disputes claims made by third-party companies that sell services designed to combat fraudulent clicks--clicks that aren't from legitimate Web surfers seeking information from a given ad. Those companies have estimated that the proportion of advertisers paying for fraudulent clicks is as high as 35 percent.

But in a report titled "How Fictitious Clicks Occur in Third-Party Click Fraud Audit Reports," Google says the figures are often inflated because the companies are counting clicks that were never made on Google AdWords advertisements. (Google's 17-page report can be accessed on the company's Inside AdWords Blog.)

For example, a single AdWords click may appear as five clicks in some reports, leading to the reporting of five fraudulent clicks, according to Shuman Ghosemajumder, business product manager for trust and safety at Google. Ghosemajumder referenced the Google report during a panel on click fraud at the Search Engine Strategies conference here.

Counting of fictitious clicks can happen when a Web surfer browses more deeply into an advertiser's site and then hits the back button, presses the browser reload button on the landing page or opens a new browser window, causing a reload of the landing page, Ghosemajumder said.

In addition, Google said it found evidence that the third-party reports were inaccurately "counting one advertiser's traffic in another advertiser's report, even if the advertisers span different ad networks," from, say, Google and Yahoo.

The Google report also criticized the third-party reports for using small sample sizes in their analysis, which Ghosemajumder said prohibits advertisers from being able to cross-check the data.

Part of the problem with determining an accurate click fraud rate is that auditors need to see both the traffic conversion data at the Web site and at the search engine company, which Google doesn't provide. Not having both sets of data "makes it difficult for us to marry it all together," said Tom Cuthbert, chief executive of Click Forensics, one of the auditing companies mentioned in the Google report.

"I will stand behind our methodology," Cuthbert said in response to his company's data being criticized in the Google report. "You are Goliath and we are just David down here trying to do what we can...You and I are never going to agree on the methodology."

Google's Ghosemajumder replied that the report does not dispute the methodologies used but concludes that the third-party reports are overcounting clicks, which results in unrealistic estimates of click fraud.

Like the representatives from the other anti-click fraud companies, Jessie Stricchiola, founder of Alchemist Media, said she had not seen Google's report. She pointed out that it took several class-action lawsuits to spur cooperation from Google. "The gloves appear to be off at this point," she said, referring to the contentiousness of the session.

A judge has given final approval to a $90 million settlement of a click fraud lawsuit filed against Google, and a settlement between Yahoo and advertisers is pending.

Stricchiola asked Google what percentage of its AdWords customers it gets data from on advertiser conversion data, a measurement of how many people who click on an ad take a particular action, such as make a purchase. Ghosemajumder said Google does not publicize that information but provides free conversion tracking tools that enable customers to provide that data to Google.

Ghosemajumder and John Slade, senior director of global product management at Yahoo Search Marketing, said the search giants would commit to abiding by third-party independent audits after standards for defining click fraud are enacted.

Google, Yahoo and others announced last week that they are working with the Interactive Advertising Bureau and the Media Rating Council on standards for defining and measuring click fraud.

Abhilash Patel, director of Internet Operations at substance abuse treatment center Passages in Malibu, Calif., complained that he sees a "significant amount" of traffic coming to his site from "garbage Web sites" that are created merely to drive traffic to ads or to accomplish other fraudulent purposes, using a practice called "arbitrage."

Patel estimated that 15 percent of the clicks on his organization's ads are fraudulent.

The Google and Yahoo representatives said they kick Web sites off their ad networks if they violate the ethics policies.

Lori Weiman, director of KeywordMax, said that of a small group of customers, her firm found estimates of click fraud in the 8 percent to 10 percent range, but rates as high as 28 percent existed on the extreme end. KeywordMax data was not included in the Google report.

FBI calls for hacker help

LAS VEGAS--The FBI needs help from hackers to fight cybercrime, an agency official said Wednesday.

"We need your expertise and input as we develop strategies to battle cybercrime in the 21st century," Daniel Larkin, a unit chief in the FBI's cybercrime division, said in his opening address at the annual Black Hat security conference here.

As cybercrime has continued to become more sophisticated and organized, federal agencies have increasingly sought to partner with the private sector. Earlier this year, FBI Director Robert Mueller used the RSA Conference to send out a similar message.

"The people we're going after are not just the script kiddies anymore. These people are making a lot of money," Larkin told the Black Hat audience of hackers and security professionals. "I am a recovering technophobe; I used to be really afraid of you all. But I realize that you all are really important."

Black Hat draws an increasing number of attendees from law enforcement agencies. This year, Larkin estimated, one in 10 attendees might represent federal agencies, he said. "Be nice to them. They are here to help you; they are here to team up," he said.

Although the government is trying to be nimble, others might know about potential threats before federal agents do, he said. "Critical information on terrorism and cybercrimes could be in your hands and might be in your hands before they reach ours," he said.

The FBI's call for help confirms that it is not equipped to deal with cybercrime, said Tom Thomas, a security consultant from California who is attending Black Hat.

"It is not reassuring," Thomas said. "It confirms what we already suspect. There is great technical inadequacy, if not downright ineptness, at the FBI. Therefore they are, perhaps desperately, seeking help from almost anyone."

To make cooperating with law enforcement worthwhile, the FBI is offering to share information in exchange for help. The FBI has been criticized in the past for going completely silent after a report was filed. "We realize that we need to give back information," Larkin said.

As examples of information sharing, Larkin said that the FBI is working on identity theft with Internet service providers and with merchants on shipping fraud. That way, all players get a better picture of the actual threat, and the FBI can cross-reference data and build better case data, he said.

Google, Yahoo! agree to independent click fraud audits

As the outcry by advertisers grows louder than the assurances from Google that click fraud is not a substantial problem, representatives from Google and Yahoo! publicly stated today that they would accept independent click fraud audits. Of course the true independence of any audit will need to be closely watched. The pay per click advertising business is a monster - with billions of dollars exchanged annually. Yahoo! has made more than $9 billion since 2004 from all of its online advertising, Google more than $13 billion since 2001.

The day began with Google releasing a controversial 17 page report on click fraud, alleging that many outside observers were over estimating the extent of the problem because of browser behavior. Earlier this week, Google, LookSmart, Microsoft and Yahoo! publicly formed a working group with the Interactive Advertising Bureau to establish a set of Click Measurement Guidelines.

At today’s session at the Search Engine Strategies conference in San Jose titled “Auditing Paid Listings & Click Fraud Issues,” ZDNet’s Donna Bogatin asked point blank whether the search engines would agree to independent audits of the click fraud inside their systems.

Bogatin reports that both John Slade from Yahoo and Shuman Ghosemajumder from Google committed to independent audits in the future. When pressed on a timeline, Slade said such an audit would follow the creation of the Click Measurement Guidelines. Update: If that’s supposed to mean that the industry group that these search engines are participating in is both drawing up the guidlines and providing the independent auditing - that’s obviously not acceptable. I can’t imagine that these companies would be so cynical as to think that anyone would accept that - I can’t imagine that some other party won’t be doing the auditing.

Both Google and Yahoo! are currently dealing with legal action from buyers of advertising that allege they paid for fraudulent clicks on ads. Google has offered to pay $90 million to settle a class action suit. Yahoo! may provide refunds to thousands of customers and pay almost $5 million in attorney fees.

Today’s public acceptance of independent audits shouldn’t come as a surprise given the pressure building, but it may go down as an important turning point in this industry.

MySpace Will Use Google For Search

News Corporation and Google have reached an agreement in which Google is the exclusive provider of search and text ads for Fox Interactive Media's sites, that include MySpace. "The agreement calls for Google to power web, vertical and site specific search for and the majority of Fox Interactive Media properties. Google will be the exclusive provider of text-based advertising and keyword targeted ads through its AdSense program, for inventory on Fox Interactive Media's network," informs MarketWatch. The pearl of the crown, MySpace, has more pageviews than Google in the US, according to a Hitwise study.

" is a widely acknowledged leader in user-generated content and incorporating search and advertising furthers our mission of making the world's information universally accessible and useful," says Google's Eric Schmidt.

Well, sometimes the quantity is more important than quality.