Archive for category Search

Google Is Dialing Wrong Number When It Comes To Phone Spam

It may not be the most polite thing to do, but we’re all guilty of it. The phone rings and some random number pops up on your screen. 10 years ago, I would have answered it, but now thanks to caller ID, whoever it is can go straight to voicemail. Of course when they don’t leave a message, curiosity inevitably gets the better of me, so it’s off to Google in order to find out whose call it was that I just bounced.

To Google’s credit, they have been pretty aggressive about fighting spammy search results from content farmers, but when it comes to your digits, they still haven’t found a way to filter out the spammers from the legitimate information. Take for example, a Google search for my own phone number

As you can see from the screenshot, Google is really good at finding any and all search results with this number in it, but most of the links presented are directing users to pages and pages of meaningless phone numbers. If you click on Google’s #1 search result for my phone number, it leads to a company named AllCallerDirectory.com. While this site does provide “reverse lookup” services, it will cost you $15 if you want to buy a report letting you know that it was Davis Freeberg who called. While my blog’s contact page does show up as the 2nd search result for Google, the remaining 467 results are all similar search spam of some sort.

By comparison, the same search on Blekko (who tends to use more aggressive spam filters) yields only 2 results, both of which are high quality hits.

It would be easy to blame AT&T for this problem, because I imagine that there are all kinds of data silos that surround our phone numbers, but when you consider the my number is actually a Google Voice number, there really isn’t any excuse for Google to be directing traffic to these paid services instead of my Google profile.

While I’ve never spent money on any of these reverse lookup services, I imagine that there are lots of people who have paid for information that they could have gotten for free. In an ideal world, I’d like to see Google partner with some of the telephone directories to improve these types of searches for consumers, but in the meantime simply nuking the “directories” that are gaming the system would be a positive step in the right direction.

Is Google Pulling A Bait And Switch On Their Users?

Search Spam
It’s no secret that newspapers have been challenged by the rise of the internet. Whether it’s pesky bloggers like myself giving content away for free or social networks redefining what a hot news story actually is, things have gotten incredibly competitive for traditional news organizations. As a result, we’ve seen everything from pleas for government assistance to blaming Google for directing massive amounts of traffic their way. While I’m sympathetic to anyone who is being displaced by innovation, as a consumer I’m also glad to have a ton more options for finding content.

I may have less brand loyalty to any one particular publication, but thanks to the magic of Google, it’s a lot easier to find a diverse set of opinions on topics that I care about. For the most part, I think that Google is the best thing since sliced bread, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t improve their product.

As the media landscape has gotten more competitive, I’ve noticed that publications are becoming increasingly aggressive at trying to monetize the eyeballs that they do get. This really started with the pop-up ad, but after the web browsers figured out how to turn this control over to the users, news companies seem to have switched tactics.

The latest trend is to insert an interstitial ad between you and the content. Usually, there’s some tiny link where you can bypass it or it auto-forwards after 30 seconds, but anytime I’m forced to watch an ad before knowing how good or bad the content actually is, it creates a lot of frustration with my web experience.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m actually a strong supporter of smart and innovative ways that advertisers can bring their messages to the public and I’m happier than most to support newspapers who are creating great content, but with so much bad content out there, I don’t feel that consumers should be forced to roll the dice, when there’s no payoff on the other end.

I could probably list a dozen major companies who are offenders, but my biggest beef is actually with Google. If I know that someone uses this type of aggressive advertising, it’s easy to quit visiting their site, but because Google is indexing billions of web pages, there’s no way to know which link is going to take me to real content and which link will take me to an ad.

As an example, if you search for the phrase “hardware spec for Microsoft’s pink phone” the first result is a story by ZDnet showing the first line of the blog post, but if you actually click on that link, it takes you to a page that is missing the content and only displays an ad instead. If you wait long enough you will be forwarded to the right destination, but isn’t this false advertising on behalf of Google?

If they know that someone’s browser is going to be hijacked, then why are they taking you to a different page instead. It’d be one thing if Google was trying to actively stop the process, but they’re actually helping publishers create more of these roadblocks on the web.

While Google is free to advertise (or link to anyone) that that they see fit, they should realize that this harms their own user experience while benefiting no one but spammy news publications. If a company like Bing or Ask.com were to come out with an interstitial ban, it would take me about a half a second to change my default search engine. It may be that this isn’t seen as a big enough annoyance to do anything about or it could be too late and is considered an industry standard now, but to show one search result and then take a user to an entirely different page (albeit temporarily) feels an awful lot like a bait and switch tactic to me. What do you think, would Google be better off banning these ads from their search results or is content from newspapers so valuable that it would do more harm than good to blackball offenders like Forbes and ZDNet?

How Real Time Search Could Drive Traffic Offline

More ShopsFrom the first moment that I tried the internet, I was instantly hooked. After signing up for a “free” dial-up AOL membership, I remember getting my phone bill and being shocked at over $300 worth of local toll charges. Being 15 miles outside of civilization, I should have known that I was paying by the minute, but honestly I didn’t really think about how much time I was online. After that, I was more careful, but still paid more for that connection each month, then I pay for broadband today. While it’s hard to pinpoint exactly where that time was spent, it was the ability to find information on topics that I really cared about that kept me clicking to all hours of the night.

When e-commerce started to become a reality, some were nervous about trying new companies online, but I had no reservations about being one of the first ones in online. While I still miss my Webvan and Kozmo.com deliveries, no one can say that I didn’t do my part to support the shift from bricks to clicks. Given my preference for the online experience, it would be easy to conclude that for traditional retailers, I’m a lost cause. Yet, recently I’ve been thinking a lot about one of the biggest weaknesses of the online experience. For as fast as all those ones and zeros move, when it comes to instant gratification, you still need to wait a few days to receive most purchases.

While I do tend to plan ahead, there are times where I’m willing to pay a premium to have something right away and while it’s easy to transport media over broadband connections, when it comes to physical goods, you typically have to wait for UPS or the post office to stop by. This is a huge advantage for traditional retailers, but it’s one that I don’t believe that they are leveraging enough. Certainly, they do their best to draw traffic into their stores, but if they want to court the internet generation, they’ll need to use technology to better highlight this advantage.

Recently, I was in the mood for a little bit of world domination, so I set my sights on a lengthy game of Axis and Allies. For those who aren’t familiar with the game, it’s a complex simulation of world war two that is a ton of fun and can take all night to play. While there are digital versions of the game, it can’t fully replicate the real world experience of the board game.

It may have only taken me 10 seconds to find a copy of the game online, but when it came to finding out which local retailers carried the game, it was almost impossible to find. After a half a dozen phone calls to all of the usual suspects, I finally tracked down a copy that was over 40 miles away :(

In this case, I was so motivated to play the game that night, that I begrudgingly made the long journey to get it that day. While real time search has seen huge improvements over just the last year alone, when it comes to searching retail inventory, it’s almost unheard of to be able to check availability before driving to a store (let alone to be able to get that information in real time.) Yet, many companies employ expensive sophisticated inventory management software, that allows them to know exactly what’s sitting on their shelves, what’s being delivered via truck and what needs to be ordered pronto, just so that it can be restocked in time.

Despite this wealth of information though, unless you’re an employee inside of one of these companies, the data more or less doesn’t exist to the public. While there may be some competitive reasons to keep sensitive inventory data out of the hands of the public, I think that retailers are missing a golden opportunity to use that real time inventory data to draw online adopters like myself, back into their real world stores.

In the case of my situation, I would have gladly paid 50% more for the game, if I could have found it within 10 miles. Instead of being to forced to compete by heavy discounting, local stores could compete using their greatest advantage, the instant gratification that the internet simply can’t provide.

While i don’t expect that we’ll see this void filled in the near term, I do think that the firms who sell real time inventory solutions could easily become the next Google, by negotiating to list their client’s information online. Not only would retailers be able to charge different prices based upon distance or availability, but they could allow consumers to reserve and purchase the item before they even got in their car. If one of these real time inventory firms could get just a handful of major players to participate, it wouldn’t take long before real time inventory software went from being an efficient. but expensive luxury to a lucrative revenue source for their clients.

Your Movie Wish Is Jinni’s Command

Suprise Ending

For those of you who are still not satisfied with the current crop of movie recommendation services, you’ll soon have a new choice available to you. Last week, I signed up for the private beta of Jinni and have been pretty impressed so far. Jinni is a new interactive movie rating website that is trying to do for movies, what Pandora has done for music.

While the site doesn’t stream any of the films that they recommend, they do offer convenient links to places where you can find the films online (Netflix, Blockbuster, Hulu, etc.) Apparently, the company has been live for a few months now, but I only just found out about them last week after seeing a review of the service on Read Write Web.

The site includes reviews, photos and even trailers for each film in their database, but their movie filtering software is the real bread and butter. Most of the content you’ll find on their movie description pages is pretty much available on any of the other movie sites, but their “movie genome” information is exclusive to them.

Through a process of human and computer intervention, they’ve categorized every film in their library using information from the movie’s plot, mood, genre, time period, critic reviews, story type, and attitudes. Viewers are then able to filter their search results by using these definitions.

For example, a search for the term bank brings up 134 movies, but if I filter this list by looking only at the “witty” films that include a heist in their plot and are set in the 21st century, I’m able to narrow my search down to just three films, Criminal, Inside Man and High Heel’s and Low Lifes. Since I haven’t seen any of these movies, it’s hard for me to tell how effective this really is, but by narrowing down broad based searches, it does enable me to discover movies that would have gotten lost in the volume of other search results.

On Jinni’s website you can find more information on the actual genome mapping process.

“The starting point of the Movie Genome is manual tagging by our team of film professionals. Each title has around fifty genes, among thousands of possibilities. Then, using advanced machine-learning technology, Jinni’s system learns from the manual tagging to begin automated tagging. This creates a level of consistency that creative human taggers can’t reach – especially important for similarity matches and recommendations, which won’t work unless you compare apples to apples and battles to battles as often as possible. Users who vote on genes, as well as the Jinni team, constantly check and improve the machine tagging.”

After playing around with the site, I was really impressed with the user experience, but I’m still on the fence about whether or not Jinni’s approach is the right way to go. On one hand, by creating “genome” fields around each film’s “DNA”, they’re able to accomplish a lot more with the data, but on the other hand, by restricting rating population to just their staff, it also limits the number of films that they are able to catalog. As an example, if I do a search for the plot Psycho, I get 270 results, but the same search on the user driven site Spout, gives me 509 movies. Now I’d be willing to bet that Jinni’s quality is better then Spout, but by not allowing their users to tag films, they may be giving up quantity through their process. Some people prefer quality over quantity, but I can’t help feeling like they are missing out on the wisdom of the crowds by excluding users from participating in the genome mapping process.

In addition to their movie filtering technology, Jinni also allows you to share more information about your own movie tastes and they provide personalized recommendations. While I haven’t tested the quality of their movie recommendation service yet, I do plan on putting them through my own blind taste test to find out how accurate their ratings really are. In the meantime, if you’re interested in trying the service, feel free to apply to their private beta or you can leave me a comment and I’ll be happy to share one of my invites with the first 10 readers to respond.

SnapStream Unleashes Godzilla DVR For Big Business

With access to four tuners and 1.5 terrabytes of storage, I thought that I had the ultimate DVR setup, but after seeing Snapstream’s Enterprise DVR in action, my home entertainment system suddenly seems wimpy. This DVR isn’t meant for the home market, but I can’t help being envious of its capabilities. I don’t know how much Snapstream is charging, but if money grew on trees, I would be all over this in a heartbeat.

With 10 tuners, you won’t need to worry about programming conflicts and with 2 terrabytes of storage, it would mean that you could record 10 different channels, 24 hours a day for at least 8 days before you would have to worry about archiving. Even, if you did need to save old content, the software allows you to back up your videos onto DVD.

While the specs started me drooling, the search capabilities were what I found most impressive. By taking advantage of the closed captioning system, SnapStream is able to search the transcripts of any program you record. This allows you to record a lot of junk and filter it for the information that you care about. Unlike the DVR in your living room, this isn’t limited to one monitor. SnapStream has designed the DVR to act as a server, which allows multiple users to search and stream videos from anywhere connected to the network.

In the video demoing the product, Snapsteam CEO Rakesh Agrawal mentions that they have PR firms, political organizations, schools and pro sport teams as customers. While I could see how all of these organizations could benefit from access to this type of technology, I was surprised to see Wall St. missing from this list. Being able to keep track of when an investment is mentioned in the media, would be a powerful tool for money managers. When you consider that Thomson is booking a billion a year in profits, by selling market data to businesses, you have to imagine that there is a market for searchable video intelligence. SnapStream may be tapping into a niche market, but it can be a lucrative one, if they attract motivated buyers. By helping businesses make better use of DVR technology, they are filling a market void and creating demand for an entirely new DVR product category.

SnapStream’s professional DVR may be well outside of my tax bracket, but it’s still exciting to see the company innovate. Considering the stiff competition in the consumer DVR market, it makes sense for them to diversify into the professional segment. You can read more about SnapStream’s enterprise ambitions in Brent Evans’ recent interview with Agrawal.

DivX Goes Shopping: Buys Fine Art And Search Technology


This amazing video was created by Mogcaiz. You can see more of his work at DeviantART.

Last week DivX released their 10-Q and while I was able to find the time to tune into their conference call, I didn’t get a chance to read through the actual document until this past weekend.

In the filing I didn’t find any bombshells or new lawsuits, but there were a few details on some of DivX’s recent acquisitions that did reward my curiosity. According to the filing, DivX made two purchases over the last quarter.

“In May 2007, the Company made an equity investment in a private corporation that aggregates and distributes art via its web community and facilitates an open forum where artists can exhibit their artwork and build community around that art in an effort to drive commerce. The Company’s investment consisted of $3.5 million cash for which it received certain shares of the private corporation’s Series A Preferred Stock and entered into an advertising and marketing agreement. The Company has preliminarily allocated approximately $650,000 of the investment to the advertising and marketing agreement, based on its estimated fair value, and the remaining $2.9 million will be carried as an investment.”

DivX doesn’t name the actual artwork site in their filing, but since I already knew that they had purchased a piece of DeviantArt, this one wasn’t hard to figure out. Originally, I had thought that they were only partially behind the $3.5 million investment, but according to the filing, it looks like they put in all of the cash. DivX doesn’t disclose how much of a stake they got for their money, but they do disclose that it is less than 20%.

Without knowing the details behind the acquisition, it’s hard to determine whether DivX received good value for their money, but from a strategy standpoint, I really liked the acquisition. There are a lot of websites that can build a lot of traffic, but the question is at what cost. Newspaper websites get a ton of hits, but take away their print business and the business model can’t support the cost of writers, editors, staff, etc.

The great part about user generated content is that because it’s built around community, the customers are the ones that provide the content. In the case of DeviantArt, they’ve built a very positive environment around people who love art and by connecting artists together in this way they’ve been able to develop a community where creativity thrives.

If DivX wanted to sell art they could have spent $3.5 million on Google Adwords and bought the traffic, but they weren’t interested in selling art, they wanted access to the artists themselves. Through their investment, they will not only get access to DeviantArt’s traffic, but they’ll get the right kind of traffic visiting Stage6, content creators who are looking for venues to showcase their digital creativity. The acquisition won’t do anything to bolster their bottom line, but it does further connect them to the larger web community.

The second acquisition in the 10-Q was a little bit harder to figure out. It’s related to improving the search functionality of Stage6, but DivX didn’t release a lot of details on whose technology they actually purchased.

“In July 2007, the Company acquired all of the assets of a limited liability corporation engaged in real-time digital video processing for the purposes of producing enhanced video search and discovery services. The total purchase price for the acquisition is up to $4.25 million comprised of an initial upfront cash payment of $2.0 million, which the Company made in July 2007, and subsequent cash payments up to $2.25 million upon the achievement of certain technology related milestones. The Company will account for the acquisition as an asset purchase and periodically review for impairment.”

Without knowing whose technology they bought, it’s hard to get a feel for how powerful their new search will be, but I’m glad that they are taking steps to improve their search functionality. Search on Stage6 is one of the many areas that is still in “beta” mode. Sometimes you’ll find what you want, but it’s usually more by luck than query. I’d describe the issues in greater detail, but Neillithan has made a video that addresses the deficiencies better than I ever could.

As Stage6′s media collection continues to grow, relevant video search will be crucial in helping to make sense of it all. Searching by tags and keywords works for now, but it’s far from perfect. I don’t think anyone has perfected video search, but EveryZing is the furthest along and even they still have high failure rates on their speech to text functionality.

One of the frustrating parts about finding details is that they rarely answer more questions than they raise. While I was pleased to find out more about DivX’s search solution, without knowing who they actually acquired, it’s hard to determine how important this could be.

I have a theory about who DivX may have picked up, but I have to qualify it as even more speculative than my normal unreliable gut feelings. It’s really nothing more than a wild guess based upon the criteria that they lay out. Still, I’ve never been one to be shy about speculating even when I’m probably wrong, so here is my wild guess on who DivX may have acquired.

Of all of the companies that fit this criteria, Veatros seems the most likely candidate to me. Their site went offline in July, but before it went down, I know that they were looking for strategic partnerships for their search technology. One of their former employees, has his resume up on LinkedIn and I thought it was interesting to see him leave around the same time that a DivX acquisition would be taking place. According to his LinkedIn profile, he describes Veatros as having the fastest video search ever developed.

“Startup technology company spinning out of the University of Kansas with the fastest video search technology ever developed. Veatros technology can identify a video clip of as little as 2-3 seconds in length from a database of tens of thousands of hours in real-time.”

Susan Gauch is the owner of Veatros and she would certainly have the expertise to implement video search on Stage6. Veatros is really a side project for her, during her day job,she is an accomplished professor at the University of Kansas. Her entire career has been dedicated to researching and improving search. Her research has already been referenced in several video search related patents.

There’s no way for me to be sure if my guess is right, but if it’s not Veatros, then I would suspect that it would a company with similar characteristics. Irregardless of who the mysterious LLC turns out to be, improving their search is something that I’m glad to see DivX focusing on. Better content filters, mean a better experience for anyone visiting their site. If they can personalize video search, then the content on Stage6 will keep getting better.

Neither one of these acquisitions is a major move on DivX’s part, but it does give us some insight into part of DivX’s growth strategy. The video search investment makes sense from a tactical standpoint, but the DeviantArt purchase is far more interesting.

The passive nature of the investment raises the possibility that DivX is developing a venture capital arm to their business. They’ve already incubated Stage6 and with steady cash flow coming in each quarter, Divx is in a great position to make private investments where they see opportunities. It’s too early to know how aggressively DivX will pursue this aspect of their business, but if they continue to invest in emerging technology, things could certainly start to get interesting.

Update – It looks like my wild guess turned out to be right, but I may have been wrong about how they plan on implementing it. DivX released a press release this afternoon confirming that Veatros was in fact the company that they had acquired. In the press release, DivX says that their plan is to integrate the technology into their connected platform. Interestingly enough, they don’t mention Stage6 once in the release . . .

Lycos Loses ‘Home Court’ Advantage: Patent Trial To Be Held In Their Own State

The Battle Over Home Court AdvantageIt looks like TiVo, Netflix and Blockbuster will be packing their bags for Massachusetts, after they won the first of many legal scrimmages in their patent defense against Lycos. Lycos has asserted that all three companies have violated patents they own, on “information filtering technology.” The two patents that are at the heart of the case are related to the recommendation services that the companies provide.

After Lycos filed their lawsuit against the trio, ChoiceStream (the company that created Blockbuster’s suggestion service) filed a separate lawsuit, to have the patents thrown out.

In their lawsuit against Lycos, they argue that the patents are invalid because of obviousness and prior art. Because Choicestream filed their own lawsuit in the Massachusetts’ court system, TiVo, Netflix and Blockbuster sought to have their case transferred there as well. I’m not familiar enough with the legal subtleties to know why Lycos originally opposed the motion, but with Lycos’ headquarters in MA, the judge found the request reasonable enough and granted the motion.

While this development in the case, is only a minor footnote in the larger dispute, the legal filing did contain more background on the case, as well as a few interesting side details.

It turns out that Choicestream may actually end up playing a pretty important role in how this gets resolved. In the legal filing the judge writes,“ChoiceStream has employees in Massachusetts who possess information relevant to this action, and Lycos has indicated that it ‘may need to take some discovery from ChoiceStream.’”

I haven’t read ChoiceStreams lawsuit against Lycos yet, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they did end up owning some prior art. A year ago, they filed an application for their own recommendation patent, so it will be interesting to see what ends up coming out at trial.

It also appears MIT’s Media Lab could be called to give testimony. Part of their research was used to reject some of the original claims on one of Lycos’ patents. Believe it or not, they’ve actually been publishing research on “information filtering” since the late 80′s.

While it appears that this case is heading for trial, there is always the possibility of a settlement. Even though Lycos filed their lawsuit on Jan. 3, they didn’t actually serve TiVo, Netflix or Blockbuster until April 30th because they were engaged in “settlement discussions” with the companies. Since they now appear to be squabbling over who gets home court advantage, those talks have likely cooled off, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see either side at the bargaining table, especially if things start to look bad for them.

Why Pay FreeCreditReport.com, When You Can Get AnnualCreditReport For Free?

AndrewOver the last few months, I’ve seen a ton of freecreditreport.com ads on TV and on the net. I’m not sure if there is a seasonality to the credit business or if the ramp up in ads is just a new push by their parent company, Experian, but it’s clearly working. For the month of June, Nielsen Net Ratings estimates that FreeCredit had 3.3 million unique visitors.

On top of the number of unique hits, their average visit was over 9 minutes long. To help put these numbers into perspective, the site was able to generate 3 times as many unique visitors as Google finance and was able to capture 4 times as long of an impression as About.com.

Considering that they charge $40, for all three reports, this looks like a good racket to be in on. What I can’t understand though, is why anyone would pay anything, when the credit agencies are required by law, to provide you with a copy of your report anyway. All you have to do is go to ANNUALcreditreport.com, input your information and in less than five minutes, you’ll have easy access to your credit history. No messy credit card charges, no auto renewal, just one free copy on demand, from each agency, once a year.

When you log into the site, you’ll have the choice of looking at any or all, of the three credit agencies. If you are considering taking out a loan or making a big purchase, I’d definitely check all three. If all you want to do, is keep an eye on your history, instead of paying FreeCreditReport $12.95 to give you unlimited access, set appointments on your calendar, to check a different agency, every four months. This enables you to keep a quasi-close eye on your credit, without having to pay Experian $150 a year, to make sure that they don’t screw up.

If you haven’t checked your credit score in a long time, I’d take advantage of the real free report and make sure that things still look OK. There is a lot of identity theft out there and it’s important to fix things quickly, so that it doesn’t threaten your access to capital in the future. There are also many interesting little details in the report, that make it worth checking out.

When I looked at my most recent report, it was really fascinating to look at all of the different addresses, of places where I’ve lived. In total, they are tracking 23 different locations for me, but I know that they are missing at least 2 places where I lived off the grid. Since I will be moving in 2 weeks, it should put my count at 26 shortly. Some people prefer to stay put in life, but my philosophy has always been that a rolling stone gathers no moss.

While AnnualCreditReport doesn’t get the sexy “free” domain name or the marketing budget of a company like Experian, it is a much smarter way to keep track of what businesses know about you. You may not be able to stop companies from reporting on your every move, but you at least have some rights for making sure they get the details right.

Davis Freeberg’s Site Of The Week

OperatorIf you’ve ever tried to contact a business for technical or customer support, then you know exactly how frustrating it can be, when you are trying to get a hold of a live agent. Sometimes, the automated phone systems may have the info. that you need, but 9 times out of 10, I’ve found that it’s easier to ask someone a direct question, than to navigate through a maze of options.

One trick that I learned to use, a long time ago, is to immediately hit *0 and sometimes it will take me to a live operator. Other times, it will disconnect my call and send me back to zero, so I always try this early on in the call and phone back, if I need to.

Mashing buttons into my phone, in order to get to the right department for a company, is a little annoying, but not as bad as the voice activated systems. Half the time, they can’t understand me and if you don’t use their keywords exactly, it’s easy to get reset back to the beginning of the menu. The other half of the time, the system will understand me just fine, but I don’t want to share my password and the last four digits of my social security number with other people in my vicinity.

As technology continues its march forward, this has been one area where consumers have been forced to take a step back. Luckily, this week’s winner of the site of the week can help consumers take back control over phone queue hell.

NoPhoneTrees.com
is a website that is devoted to tracking telephone numbers of live people at various companies. I’m not sure the total count, but they have contact information on everything from the California DMV to the Xbox customer support line.

In order to test the site, I decided to use it for a few companies that I’m a customer at. While I was able to get a hold of live agents who could assist me, a few of the times, I ended up in the wrong department. While it’s nice to have a hot line directly into a company like Schwab, it doesn’t really help me all that much, if my account information isn’t available to the person I’m calling.

With a little bit of research, I could probably track down the numbers directly, but having so many in one localized place makes it more convenient to go back to on a regular basis. Congratulations to No Phone Trees for making consumer’s lives easier and on winning this week’s contest. If you’d like to nominate a web page for site of the week, feel free to send me an email. The nominations for next week’s contest are listed below, please vote in the sidebar.

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Web 2.0 Name Generator

Fun Distraction

Profilactic Launches V2

Solving The Online Identity Crisis

I have to admit that the first time I heard about Profilactic, I was a bit skeptical. After all, I already belong to 50 different social networks, but only have time to interact with half of them. While I like checking out new sites, there are also a lot of things that I sign up for, but forget about later. I didn’t know it at the time, but having to manage so many different social networks, is actually what makes Profilactic so useful to begin with.

When Shawn Morton told me that the site was going to be a place where you could create a profile to show your friends, I thought he was crazy. I mean after all, just about every web 2.0 site has someplace for you to write a quick bio. In my case, I’ve even got a blog where people can find out all kinds of information about me. I couldn’t see a reason why I would need to create a profile on a web 2.0 site, just to showcase my other profiles.

What I didn’t understand about Smorty’s plan though, was that he wasn’t talking about a static profile in the traditional sense. The site is not about what you’ve done or accomplished, it’s about what you are doing now and who are today.

Before I saw Profilactic, I could only think of someone’s profile as a quick bio with some links. I never thought about a profile being multidimensional, but what Smorty built was a dynamic profile that could display all of your day to day social activity on one website.

While conceptually, I couldn’t understand the appeal, after seeing it in action, I now have a different appreciation for how powerful Profilactic’s tools really are. Everytime I Digg a story, it lets people know. When I upload a video to YouTube or fav a photo on Zooomr, I can include that in my feed. Whether you are a MySpace fan or a Facebook user, Profilactic can take your identities there and fuse it into a more cohesive picture of your interests. It’s like Digg Spy, only for all of your social networks.

For every story that I blog about, there are at least 10 that I miss. Everyday, I find great content, but don’t have the time to give it the attention it deserves. Sometimes I will comment, sometimes I’ll bookmark or Digg the site hoping to come back and write about it later. Sometimes, I just find strange tidbits that I’m not really sure where to file.

Normally, these stories would fall through the cracks, but Profilactic allows me to set up a feed, so that people who are interested, can see other parts of my online life. Not everybody will be interested in what I’m doing, but for those who care about what happens away from DavisFreeberg.com, you can now track the various sites and links that I come across online.

As a blogger, I’m probably more interested than the general population in expressing myself online, but I recognize that a lot of people would rather listen in the shadows than stand in the limelight. While I can appreciate being able to build a central profile to share with my friends, there are also a lot of people who have no interest in sharing information about themselves.

While on the surface, you wouldn’t think that Profilactic would appeal beyond the exhibitionist crowd, it’s ability to track other people’s social movement is actually very appealing to my voyeuristic side. The data feeds that you can create allow you access to information that would normally be impossible or pretty time consuming to get at. While I’m not sure if this is a good or bad thing, if you want to cyberstalk someone, I know of few resources that offer more information about what someone is up to.

Intellectually, I know that nothing I do online is a secret, but sometimes it’s easy to forget how much information you really give up. Forget about needing someone’s social security number, with Profilactic, the user name is what’s most important. In an information age, this is both exciting and terrifying. On one hand, I could see this being very useful for keeping tabs on certain key people or even as a social network filter for certain topics or companies that I am interested in.

On another hand though, I’m not sure how comfortable I would be, if someone I didn’t get along with, was using it to track me. While I like having the ability to watch other people’s social activity, when it comes to actually being watched, I feel differently about it. It’s not fair to have a double standard, but it’s part of my human nature I guess.

Even though all of the data that Profilactic uses is public, I’m not sure that I’d want an ex-girlfriend to be able to watch all of my social activity or see that I had set up an account on HotorNot.com. People already freaked out when we saw tools introduced, that could notify you if your MySpace crushes became single. Profilactic can take this to a new level.

If you actually think about the amount of information that you give away online, it’s a little bit scary. If I upload a photo to Zooomr and geotag it, someone will know the date, time and location of where I was when I took the photo. If I bookmark a recipe, then it would be easy to guess about what I’m having for dinner and whether it’s taco night with the guys or a romantic dinner. While most of this information is pretty harmless, in the context of a bad relationship, it could be a little awkward.

It took me a while to reconcile the part of me that sees Profilactic as an excellent data mining tool with the part of me that is concerned about it being a not so good date mining tool. Eventually though, I realized that all of this information is already out there and that part of being in a social community, means that for better or worse, people get to see what you are doing.

If I’m not comfortable with Profilactic, than I shouldn’t be anymore comfortable with Digg, Del.icio.us or Pandora, but all of these sites are valuable resources and sometimes sharing what I’m doing is the best part. When you combine these various web 2.0 services with Profilactic’s ability to filter and aggregate this activity, you can get a much more comprehensive look at someone’s personality. If I have a problem with something showing up there, than I probably shouldn’t have dugg some drunk stripper orgy story to begin with.

At the end of the day, Profilactic’s technology may be a little unnerving, but only because it shatters the false illusion that you actually have privacy and anonymity to begin with. There is a saying that if you can’t beat them, join them and in this case, I’d rather take advantage of the social networks than to hide from them. If Profilactic can make finding and sorting this information easier, than I am a fan, even if I do end up embarrassing myself once in a while.