23 junho 2009

IE8 Accelerators for Twitter, BackTweets and What the Hashtag?!

Today I stumbled upon this bit.ly Accelerator for IE8, which makes easier (and faster) to use of my favorite "shorten url" service (bit.ly).

If you don't know what are Accelerators (available only on IE8), the idea is pretty simple and the video bellow explains it better than I would:

So, after having a look on how easy is to create an accelerator, I decided to create a couple for some Twitter-related activities that I have to perform now and then, such as:

  • Search tweets containing a specific term

  • Get a hashtag definition

  • Check who else tweeted about an article

Search tweets containing a specific term

One of the hot words of the moment seems to be "real time search", with Twitter Search on the spotlight. But how do you usually search for something on Twitter? Let's say you are reading this article and want to find more about the term "real time search", for example, so you select this term, copy it, open a new tab, go to search.twitter.com, paste your text and click on "search". To do this is not really rocket science, but probably time-consuming if you must do it frequently.

So, using this IE8 Accelerator you can just highlight a word/phrase and, when you click on the accelerator icon (or right-click the word/phrase) an option ("Search on Twitter") will appear for you to search for this term on Twitter. If you click on this option, another tab will open directly with the search results for this word/phrase, as shown below:

To install the Twitter search accelerator, click here (select the option "Make this my default provider for this Accelerator category" if you want this option to be listed on the first menu that appears)

Get a hashtag definition

Similar to the Twitter Search above, with the difference that this Accelerator will use the highlighted term and search for its definition using What the Hashtag?!, an user-editable encyclopedia for Twitter hashtags (with more detailed information, related hashtags and statistics).

Not all hashtags will have specific definitions/statistics listed there, on which case it's you will probably want to use the "Search on Twitter" Accelerator and just search directly for all tweets containing that term.

Example of search for the hashtag #e2conf

To install the What the Hashtag?! accelerator, click here (select the option "Make this my default provider for this Accelerator category" if you want this option to be listed on the first menu that appears)

Check who else tweeted about an article

BackTweets is one of the most useful Twitter-related services that I have seen. It lets you do an URL search on Twitter, allowing you to get a list of tweets that contained a link to that URL (it even list those tweets that used a shortened version of the url - such as bit.ly mentioned earlier).

Due to its nature (links), this Accelerator can be used in two ways:

1) To check tweets linking the URL you are reading now: such as to find out who else found this article interesting, just right click in any part of the page and select the option "Search link with BackTweets", as shown below:

2) To check tweets containing a link that you see at the page you are reading now: such as to find out who else tweeted this link, just right click on the link itself and select the option "Search link with BackTweets", as shown below:

To install the BackTweets accelerator, click here (select the option "Make this my default provider for this Accelerator category" if you want this option to be listed on the first menu that appears)

Well, those are my 3 IE8 Accelerators for now. If you can imagine any other useful Accelerators for other web services that you would like, just let me know and I will try to create one and post here as well.

P.s.: If you are interested in building your own Accelerator(s), check out the Microsoft reference page on the topic and also this great article "How To Create a Custom IE8 Accelerator".

04 junho 2009

Comments about the new Search Engine Wars

(Disclosure: if you search through my previous articles, you will see that the company I work for - FAST - was acquired by Microsoft last year, so now I'm a Microsoft employee. With that said, my comments are mostly from the point of view of someone that works in the enterprise search market and who has been using/following these Internet trends over the last 10 years. I have no contact whatsoever with the Bing team.)

Mitch Joel posted this article today about the new search engine wars, where he mentions Cuil, the idea of a "Google killer", and Microsoft's new decision engine called Bing, among other things.

Two quotes on his article caught my attention, which I'll reproduce here.

One from Seth Godin (from a post on his blog titled "The Next Google"):

"Bing, of course, stands for But It's Not Google. The problem, as far as I can tell, is that it is trying to be the next Google. And the challenge for Microsoft is that there already is a next Google. It's called Google. Google is not seen as broken by many people, and a hundred million dollars trying to persuade us that it is, is money poorly spent. In times of change, the rule is this: Don't try to be the 'next.' Instead, try to be the other, the changer, the new."

And another one from Michael Arrington (from a blog post on TechCrunch titled "Apparently Bing Is Something Of A Hit"):

"Whether Microsoft ultimately succeeds or not in 'winning' the search war, the competition is very good for the rest of the Internet. Google needs to be pushed to try innovating new things (not this). And search marketing competition will ensure that Google doesn't get too greedy. We don't need Microsoft to win, but we do need to avoid a world with just one search engine that matters. Maybe Microsoft can win that lesser war, at least."

After reading the article (and quotes), I felt compelled to express my view on the subject, and my comment became so big that it's practically a post, so I'll reproduce it here in case you haven't read it there:

My first point is that I completely agree with Michael Arrington that no matter what the end result is, this will be better for the rest of the Internet. Competition forces players (even the big ones), to make changes, to adapt or risk losing its position.

In regards to Seth Godin's post, it seems clear that he was commenting just on the product *announcement* for Bing, before having a look at the product itself. And without trying it out, you just can't judge its impact on the "search engine wars".

I also have to disagree with the statement that "Google is not seen as broken by many people".

Does Google have 73% of search market on the Internet? Yes.

Is it an awesome product that people use and like? Most definitely.

Is everybody happy with every single search that they do there? No, and you don't even have to use Microsoft's research to see that. Just take for example the hot trend of the moment: real time web (and search).

Before Twitter, people were happy with their Google results, but they knew that to get fresh results for some recent news, they would have to go to Google News or some newspaper's website. And people just accepted that as a fact.

But what happened after Twitter came along, and most of all, after search.twiter.com came along?

People realized that there was a way to search for trends and recent news almost as fast as they happened, and they were thrilled by that.

People got so thrilled with it that they started to question why their Google results couldn't have the same info. So they built their own solutions to address that need and after a while Google realized that they *must* do something about it too, as Larry Page just recentely said (when asked about Twitter):

"I have always thought we needed to index the web every second to allow real time search. At first, my team laughed and did not believe me. Now they know they have to do it. Not everybody needs sub-second indexing but people are getting pretty excited about realtime." (http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/larry_page_on_real_time_google_we_have_to_do_it.php)

This is just one example, but if one takes the time to check Microsoft's research on search user behavior, you can see that there is a need for better "information" (not only search results), for some queries. And that's what Microsoft is trying to tackle with this iniciative.

So, I believe that the in the end, this is better for users, better for the market.

Just my (long) 2 cents.


What is your take on this (be it as a user or as a professional in this market)?