John Andrews is a Competitive Webmaster and Search Engine Optimization Consultant in Seattle, Washington. This is John Andrews blog on issues of interest to the SEO community and competitive webmasters. Want to know more?

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June 9th, 2007 by john andrews

Lawrence Lessig, Google, and Internet Commerce

Probably the last guy I want to argue with is Lawrence Lessig. The guy is clearly brilliant, and quite capable of making a case. And… he is known to be on the good side, behind major initiatives like the Creative Commons. But this time I have to disagree with Mr. Lessig and highlight what appears to be a lack of acknowledgement of one important way web publishing differs from traditional publishing. That one way also happens to be a primary source of revenue for competitive webmasters and Internet marketers.

I’m talking about search. And I don’t limit that to Google and Yahoo!. By search I mean the process of engaging in pursuit, using the Internet.

Mr. Lessig discusses the recent wierdness at BookExpo America. A Macmillan executive “stole” a few Google laptops, and suggested it was a demonstration of what Google does to book publishers when it scans and indexes their books online. Mr. Lessig says it’s not the same thing at all. Lessig, a foremost Internet writer on issues of intellectual property/copyright and the Internet, could have stopped after saying that the computers were physical property and one-of-a-kind. He could have stopped after this very good statement:

Google intends to index the books, and make them searchable. If a hit comes through the search engine, Google offers snippets of the text relevant to the search. The page includes links to libraries where the book might be borrowed; it includes links to book stores where the book might be purchased. And, I take it, if the “publishers” were to choose to publish the book again, it would also include a link to that publisher. Finally, any author who wants to be removed from this index can be removed. As with Google on the net, anyone can opt out.So vis-a-viz a computer sitting at a demonstration booth at a conference, is the “head honcho’s” action like Google’s? Obviously not.

But, he didn’t. He continued and said:

If the “head honcho” has Google’s computers, Google can’t use them. But if Google indexes out of print books, that does not — in the least — reduce the access anyone else has to the same property.

And there Mr. Lessig demonstrates that he is all about copyright, but missing a big point about the commerce surrounding copyright. The issue of Google stealing content to index and republish as snippets on the web is NOT as much about copyright as it is commerce. And that is where search comes into the picture. As long as brains like Mr. Lessig continue to focus specifically on old laws (like copyright), Google will continue to redirect valuable commerce by scraping, copying, and caching without permission.

Here is what Mr. Lessig notes about Google’s unauthorized use of copyrighted works:

If the computer was not sitting at a market booth, but instead was in a trash dump (like, for example, the publishers out of print book list), or on a field, lost to everyone, then that fits the category of property that Google is dealing with. But again, Google doesn’t take possession of the property in any way that interefers with anyone else taking possession of the property. The publisher, for example, is perfectly free to decide to publish the book again. Instead, in this case, what Google does is more like posting an advertisement — “lost computer, here it is, is it yours?”

No. That is not correct. The monetization of the content involves controlling the distribution of the content, not just the distribution of the physical copies of the content. Competitive webmasters know that it is the search that engages the consumer. It is the search process that initiates transactions which yield dividends for all of the (authorized) players in the supply chain. The user searching for a book online reveals data about himself that has market value. The user clicking on clues in the process of finding a book online is initiating financial transactions along the way, as clicks are paid and links are bartered and ad impressions are delivered. Anyone publishing a free ebook can tell you that the value of that pursuit often exceeds the value of the actual ebook. And Google is taking that value out of the channel… without permission.

Now of course in the market one does not have to be authorized to participate in the flow of revenue surounding the existence of a book. Write a book review and you earn eyeballs that might otherwise have gone to the book publisher, author, distributor, or other channel partner. Distract the consumer looking for Book A and show them a better option – Book B. All fair play in commerce. It takes effort, costs money, and enriches the consumer experience. But Google doesn’t play that way.

By indexing other’s content and serving it up in snippets plastered with advertising, Google is using those other’s work to steal away revenues from the market. Google didn’t write the book review. Google didn’t write catchy ad copy. Google didn’t lease billboard space in the perfect location along the highway, or rent prime retail space in the shopping district to catch shoppers strolling past. Google didn’t insert a circular in the Sunday Paper.

Google may not be technically violating copyright law, but if that is the case, we need brains like Mr. Lessig to figure out for us what new forms of copyright law we need to protect our original works for unauthorized exploitation. It’s not a theoretical exercise. It’s a means of protecting our right to the pursuit of happiness.

It’s no longer about stealing the book and leaving someone the lesser, Mr. Lessig. That ceased to be important when Google started advertising in search results. It’s now about monetization of the process of publishing original works. Perhaps the Macmillan executive should have simply copied the powerpoint slides from those Googlers, and displayed them at his booth to draw a crowd interested in hearing what Google was doing. Once in the Macmillan booth, of course Macmillan could deliver the Macmillan anti-Google message.

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June 7th, 2007 by john andrews

Choosing a Projection Screen

It’s time to install a home theater and video game projection screen. I’ve been projecting against a white wall for a few years now, but the kids are spending more time at other kids’ houses and starting to complain about my less-than-stellar “projection wall”. I looked online and now I am starting to appreciate the high-end home theater consultants working the market. There are a LOT of options when choosing a projection screen, and they can get expensive.

Whenever I look at one-time purchases like a projection screen, I ask my peers what they have done. Or at least this *should* be a one-time purchase (unless I get the wrong one!). So before I hit the forums, how did you choose your projection screen, which one did you pick, are you happy, and what would you do different next time?

From my initial research I there are popular home theatre forums:

And some tutorials with advice on choosing a projection screen:

And some of the projection screen companies offer excellent online resources:

BUT those are obviously biased. The online projection screen vendors also seem to avoid addressing many of the common concerns when choosing a projection screen, such as white screen or grey screen? What level of “screen gain” is appropriate for my room and my projector, and what effect will viewing angle have on image quality? I understand why they would avoid some of that, because it complicates a purchase decision that has a high barrier for return (shipping a projector screen is not a simple matter). But then again the local home theater specialist is a TON more expensive than Internet shopping. Someone should be able to be the Zappos.com of projection screens, but I haven’t found them yet.

So I wonder, would you buy a projection screen online? Would you build one yourself? Or would you hire a local home theater consultant? I am considering since I will get to see actual products before picking one. I also don’t see any clear winners in the home projection screen market, based on consumer reviews.

My set up:

  • Projector: older InFocus DLP projector, like this 750 lumen one but sub-1000 contrast. I will buy a new one soon, but not right away unless that is really important for choosing a screen.
  • Room: not a theater by any definition, it is a living room. Light colored walls, high celings with skylights, light colored carpeting. About 25′ x 16′ “theater” area.
  • Environment: I live WAY NORTH, so it stays light until 10 o’clock pm in the summer, and the summer is some 17 weeks long. Yes, obviosuly the skylights and wall colors are becoming an issue for me. Yes, of course there are picture windows as well. Lots of them. Hey, it’s beautiful out there!
  • Use: Projected games and DVD movies. I don’t subscribe to television, so it won’t be used very often compared to your typical American home projection TV room.

There are more than a few manufacturers of projection screens, whcih makes buying one all the more difficult:

  • 3M
  • AccuScreens
  • Adeo Group
  • Arisawa
  • AVers
  • Beamax- check out the videos http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4EfYwRwXnTo and Beamax dealers
  • Carada
  • Celio
  • Custom Display Solutions
  • Da-Lite
  • dnp Denmark
  • Draper
  • Dukane
  • Elite Screens
  • Euroscreen Bjurab
  • Goo Systems
  • Grandview
  • HoloDisplays
  • Hurley
  • Large Screen Displays
  • LP Morgan
  • Meler
  • Optoma
  • Planar
  • Projecta b.v.
  • RP Visual Solutions
  • Saaria
  • Screen Innovations
  • Screen Research
  • Screen Tech
  • Projector Screens list
  • SCREENMAXX
  • Severtson
  • Stewart Filmscreen
  • The Airscreen Company
  • The Screen Works
  • Vutec

Google says I should also look for

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June 6th, 2007 by john andrews

Bodum Pavina: Today’s Cure for Desk Boredom

Bored? Staring at yet another day of SEO from your desk or laptop, and less than thrilled with the idea? To much grunt work awaiting, so no time to explore and refresh the curiosity brain cells, yet feeling less than stellar in the productivity department due to that blah-zay boredom? Yeah, me too.

Truth is, obligation stifles creativity. But creativity drives productivity for many SEOs like me. The thrill of a “brilliant idea” can spawn highly-productive spurts of activity that outperform competitors, even when they spend weeks buying links. In SEO, the smart strategy outperforms and outlasts all but the most aggressive brute-force methods. So how to you break free of the doldrums while remaining productive? The little things count.

For me today it is my new coffee glass. A simple addition to my desk… it’s a Bodum Pavina thermal goblet. Winner of European design awards, it is elegant and simple. It’s a double-walled, clear thermal glass made of the same high-termperature silica quartz I used for materials testing back in my first engineering job out of college. Light as a feather, it feels like a wine goblet in my hand. It’s cool to the touch, yet filled with steaming hot coffee.

Did that sound like promotional copy? Suspect a “sponsored post” ? Nah. I paid full retail ($20) at a local store I shall not name. I have no connections at all to Bodum. How could something so simple be so motivating? That doesn’t really matter, does it? It feels good, and it’s just for me, and that’s apparently what I needed at the moment.

Related info: I only drink french press coffee at home. I have a Bodum french press, and have had several of them over the years. Starbucks sells Bodum french presses, but not the Pavina glasses. I found them at a local high-end home store… look for a place that sells things like Reidel stemless stemware (another great feel-good addition to the home, by the way).

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John Andrews is a mobile web professional and competitive search engine optimzer (SEO). He's been quietly earning top rank for websites since 1997. About John

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