What’s Wrong With Being Real?

Posted on September 8, 2009. Filed under: Commentary, Trends | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Last week I posted a piece about trends that are getting lots of attention. Which, in case you missed it, are real-time web, crowdsourcing and latent semantic indexing.

Another trend I thought about including is augmented reality.

digital visionA greater reality

If you break it down linguistically, there’s “augmented,” which according to the American Heritage Dictionary means “to make (something already developed or well under way) greater, as in size, extent, or quantity.” And there’s “reality,” defined as “the quality or state of being actual or true.”

Basically you’re making something that’s actual and true even greater.

007 would love it

One consumer-friendly version of this futuristic innovation applies to next-generation electronics, where if you point a device that’s augmented reality-equipped, it instantly processes what’s being viewed and sends graphics and text specific to that scene. Point the gizmo while standing outside a restaurant (for some reason restaurants are a common example to illustrate this advancement) and you get the skinny on the eatery; a view of the interior, menu, reviews and hours of business.

In another iteration, when you walk though a historic site, as you amble around, the apparatus continuously provides a video-version of what happened way back when, superimposed over the real environment.

The military is hot for augmented reality and there’s talk of serious applications for science.

A tracking device, too?

It’s a ways off till all this hits the market. And while clearly an intriguing concept, which I’m admittedly over-simplifying, augmented reality represents yet another means of digitally tracking our movements: One more instance where we’re giving up privacy for the sake of cool technology.

GPS systems are great, however details that get collected and analyzed in order to give us the information we want are also a record of our travels.

We acknowledge that there’s ultimately no privacy on the web. We can clean our cache and crumble our cookies, but the data remains on a server somewhere.

Give to get

Search engines accept our queries and then display ads based on our input. Our seemingly private emails are processed. I was both humored and surprised a few weeks ago after sending a message to a pal whose nickname is Beanie, when beside her reply, my gmail client dished up ads for bean bags and beanie hats.

One common defense for the latter intrusions is that search and gmail are free services. The quid pro quo is that they get to turn us into chunks of data to mine for advertising and other purposes. It’s out in the open. I get it. It still creeps me out.

Keep it real

The promise of augmented reality is exciting. The privacy trade-off gives me the willies. Makes me wonder, what’s wrong with being real?

– Deni Kasrel

Are you concerned about how new technology affects privacy? Your comments welcome.

Related post:

Three Fast Growing Trends You Need To Pay Attention To

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Three Fast Growing Trends You Need To Pay Attention To

Posted on September 2, 2009. Filed under: Search Engine Optimization, Social Media, Trends | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Future Street Sign - image by bigstock photoI enjoy listening to people postulate what will be the next big thing. These conversations make me feel like I’m in that scene from The Graduate where Mr. McGuire tells Benjamin Braddock he has just one word to say to him: “plastics.”

So what’s the word of today that’s got a great future?

Social media comes to mind (yeah, I know, that’s two words). But it’s really one of many trends that have broad implications for business and communications.

Here are three more to pay attention to:

Real-time web

This is so new there’s no agreement on a proper definition. It concerns the creation, search and conveyance of information in real time to enable instant interaction. Twitter is an example of the real-time web; which similar to instant messaging transmits back and forth almost asynchronously, only with Twitter the stream is made public.

Real-time web impacts the search industry. All major search engines employ indexing and there’s some lag time till information gets recorded and ranked. Meanwhile, Twitter offers real-time search. Analytics firms are venturing into the real-time realm to deliver instantaneous monitoring and metrics.

Crowdsourcing

A type of distributed collaboration that calls upon the collective wisdom of crowds. A company takes something that’s normally performed in-house, or by a third-party provider, and instead asks the public to do it.

Problems are announced in the form of an open call. Participants often create online communities, or crowds, to work on potential solutions. What’s interesting  is that those who successfully offer input need not be experts — they just need an idea that works. Non-technical individuals can solve computer engineering problems and an absolute amateur may have the best concept for your next product innovation.

Crowdsourcing can be cost efficient: Fees may or may not be paid for services rendered — prizes and recognition could be the only compensation — and even if they are, they’re usually well below the expense required to do the same thing in-house. Businesses also benefit by receiving ideas from many sources rather than from just within the organization. Jeff Howe is credited with coining the term for a 2006 article in Wired.

Latent semantic indexing

I wrote a post about latent semantic indexing in early August. The techy terminology relates to how search engines index and subsequently rank web pages.

LSI is important to understand for search engine optimization purposes.

Keywords are currently king with SEO, but they may need to share the throne with LSI, which is a way of scanning a page that takes into account both keywords and related terms.  For example, a web page about lighting fixtures might also logically include the words lamp, chandelier, dimmer, fluorescent and bulb.

The idea is for the search engine to take a holistic view of content and analyze it in a way that reflects real human thought rather than simply zero in how many times a particular keyword appears. One aim of LSI is to reduce faulty results that occur when searches are conducted for words with multiple meanings.

While search engine companies keep their special sauce (algorithms) close to the vest, word is that Microsoft’s Bing heavily relies on LSI.

For those who create web content, the takeaway here is that besides prominently featuring pertinent keywords, a web page must also include alternative and related terminology. Beyond creative writing skills a thesaurus comes in handy here.

– Deni Kasrel

What do YOU think of these fast growing trends that we need to pay attention to? What’s missing? Comments welcome.

Related posts:

Improve SEO Content Strategy By Thinking Beyond Keywords

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Improve SEO Content Strategy By Thinking Beyond Keywords

Posted on August 4, 2009. Filed under: Search Engine Optimization | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Keeping current with best practices for search engine optimization can feel like chasing a moving target. Search engines constantly adjust their algorithms with the goal of increasing the relevancy of search results as well as to thwart those who try to trick the system.

Keywords—words or phrases that describe the content of your site—remain a critical aspect of a successful SEO program. Your keyword list should comprise all the different word choices a person might use to find your product or service through a search engine. But keywords are not the be all end all.

The drum beat is growing for latent semantic indexing (LSI)
Lately a buzz is building over latent semantic indexing. A geek term if ever there was one, LSI is not new, but it’s becoming a bigger part of the SEO chatter.

You can explain LSI in complex terms—see the wikipedia entry— or Latent Semantic Indexing.com offers a simpler explanation:

“LSI, is a way for search engines to view and rank web pages in a more natural, or human, manner. Behind the scenes the LSI algorithms analyze pages not only for keywords, but also for synonyms and other related words which might be expected to be present.  For example, a web page about barbecues, when analyzed with LSI, should logically also contain such related words as “grill”, “patio”, “sauce”, “recipe”, “charcoal” and/or “smokers”.  In general, while we do not know the exact mathematical formula used for LSI, we do know that its real function is to determine if the content of a site is of value to the visitor or not.”

It’s the totality of the content that matters. For sure the search engine is scanning for keywords. But on top of that it’s looking for words and phrases with parallel meaning or contextural relevance (that’s what the semantic part refers to, which is defined as “of, pertaining to, or arising from the different meanings of words or other symbols”). With LSI a search engine is aiming to index in a way that mimics the response of an actual person. Think about it; when you read something and the same ol’ words keep appearing again and again, it tends to lose its relevance. It’s like, “Enough already, can’t you think of something else to say?”

Go beyond keywords
Admittedly, there’s debate as to whether or not search engines are capable of implementing sophisticated LSI. Still, there appears to be agreement that some level of LSI is currently being utilized.

Which means rather than duplicating a word or expression, it’s better to sprinkle in synonyms, complementary phrases and affiliated terminology. Yes, keywords are still vitally important for search engine positioning purposes and you should feature them prominently. But you must also think beyond keywords to offer a richer source of information.

This may take more creativity on your part but there is a payoff. Approaching web content in this way not only helps with your search engine ranking, it makes for more interesting copy. Interested readers stay on your site longer and are more likely to pay attention to what it is you have to say and to sell.

-Deni Kasrel

What do YOU think of this post? Comments welcome.

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