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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September 11th, 2008 by john andrews

Hacking the Nike+ iPod sensor interface

Nicholas Carr says in “Apple declares war on sneaker hackers” that Apple is pushing for a patent for DRM on the clothing/device personal network. He’s noting a New Scientist report of Apple’s desire to restrict pairing of sensor devices to “authorized garments“. An example given in the application describes “sneaker hackers” removing sensors from iPod-linked Nike+ shoes and using them elsewhere. The Apple patent application seems to want to make sure that those Do-It-Yourself hackers who read MAKE Magazine and shop at OEM.com to build toys they can brag about on Slashdot can’t continue to “inappropriately” toy with the Nike+ system

A commenter suggests that it is Nike, not Apple, pushing for this, and that Nike simply wants to secure the shoe sales.

I went into a local running shoe store here in Adventureland Northwest and was told quite directly that Nike sneakers are not really running shoes, but fashion shoes. I was told to stick to “real” running shoes for running, to avoid problems and get better value in “the long run”.

I’d say Nike has much bigger problems than Slashdot/OEM.com hackers fooling around with their Nike+ shoe sensors.

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September 8th, 2008 by john andrews

Google’s Figured Out Better Ways to Know About You

Things are heating up world-wide when it comes to Google, privacy and competitiveness, so it’s no surprise that the rhetoric delivered to Google critics has gotten harsher. These days if you say things questioning Google someone will call you a conspiracy theorist, and someone will call you out on “negativity” or otherwise make a move to distract from the real issue. The One Big Real Issue is that Google is the most powerful commercial entity ever known to mankind. If you doubt that statement, I suggest you look at the available power Google has garnered and try and come up with any other entity (government or institutional) with more potential power. Please limit your discovery to the planet Earth and non-fiction. Feel free to go way back, but I don’t consider the Holy Roman Catholic Church to be a commercial entity in this context (yes I know, I know).

With power comes opportunity to exploit that power. That’s what I look at, and not because I think I can “fight” something like the whole world adopting the Internet and giving Google massive commercial power.. don’t be silly. I just find it interesting. I really, really do.

When Google announced yesterday that they were voluntarily reducing the length of time they keep non-anonymized data from 18 months to 9 months, calling it “Another step to protect user privacy“, I hopped on over for a quick read of the announcement. Sure enough, down around paragraph 5, line 4 on my screen, I got the information I sought. Google can reduce the length of time they keep the IP data because — are you ready — they figured out a way to still know enough of what they want to know, without saving the non-anonymized IP data:

After months of work our engineers developed methods for preserving more of the data’s utility while also anonymizing IP addresses sooner. We haven’t sorted out all of the implementation details, and we may not be able to use precisely the same methods for anonymizing as we do after 18 months, but we are committed to making it work.

That’s no suprise to me. Google has partnered with the biggest and most aggressive information management companies in the world (including NASA and Acxiom, for example) in the past. If anyone knows or can learn and master information pairing, that someone is Google (information pairing is the process of putting data sets together to figure stuff out that didn’t exist in either set. It has other names). Remember Google owns Doubleclick now.
Apparently Google has proven internally that it doesn’t need that raw log (IP) data as much as it used to think, because it has figured out good enough use-based data reduction techniques, and redefined the term anonymized along the way.

That IP data is not as valuable to them as they thought. It’s not worth keeping the raw data 18 months now, especially as the costs keep increasing (in the face of the EU privacy complaints, for example). They note that the new definition of “anonymized” they will use for the 9 month data is not as strong as the previous definition they use for “anonymized” data saved after 18 months. Yeah, I know. The Evil is in the Details. They continue to ask us for a lot of trust in those details.

Nothing amazing in this announcement, just not a simple “wow they gave in and granted us more privacy” like some are suggesting.

If you’re about to comment that I’m a conspiracy theorist, or trying desperately to make another Google good deed look evil, please have a cigarette or take a walk or something. This blog is not for you.

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September 8th, 2008 by john andrews

Breeding Bad Domain Names

TechCrunch has been evaluating 1000 companies for a special “TechCrunch50″ list. They just published the 50 finalists, and I took a look at the domain names for these young companies. Wow. When I visit a web site and see a horrible or horribly-mismatched domain name, i wonder how that came to be. Now I know we actually grow them from scratch in incubators.

I figure this list is a gold mine for domainers offering portfolios in the domain name aftermarket. Virtually all of these companies are candidates for new domain names before it’s too late (or, in many cases, because it’s never too late to fix the problem).

I went through the first 20 or so, listed them here with the TechCrunch description (in italics), and offered my own stream of consciousness evaluation of the domain names.

Shryk- www.shryk.com Web-based financial software for children aimed at promoting financial literacy and good saving habits

This one should make some of the domainers shriek, which is a problem because this site is aimed at children. Children aren’t great at spelling “ie” words, plus they know and love a certain green troll named Shrek. There’s really little need to go further with this one… it needs to be replaced. Maybe something about money? Or savings? Or kids banking? I dunno. Even MySheckles.com would be better than this for bejeezus sake. Don’t you think? When I look at “shryk” I can’t stop myself from thinking “shrynk” for some reason.

Blah Girls- www.blahgirls.comBacked by Ashton Kutcher, Blah Girls is a gossip site that features a group of animated teenage girls who provide opinions on what’s going on in the world of entertainment

Nearly unpronounceable so expect confusion with word of mouth advertising. The Internet generation will confuse it with “bloggers” and “blog girls”, plus that double “g” is typo trouble.

Tweegee- www.tweegee.com A hub for tweens, Tweegee offers the youth market a suite of online tools for social interaction and organization

Tweegee… I find that to be a very odd name choice. “twee” is okay, because “tween” is a reference to 11 and 12 year olds who live between childhood and teendom (don’t bother checking – Warner Bros owns teendom.com, and one of you domainers owns tweendom.com). But “weegee” is not a vocabulary word for teens or the more likely tweenie participant. Wedgie certainly is… at least for the boys, but I can’t see a clever way to work that in without things getting, well, ugly.

To visualize the word of mouth issues with tweegee, just try and figure out a typo strategy for it. You can’t. Nothing seems to make sense (twigi, tweegy, etc) and that usually spells trouble for word of mouth advertising. Bottom line is this one either flies as a unique name or they need a better domain name.

Hangout Industries- www.hangout.net Blends social networking with virtual worlds by creating a 3D, online environment where 16-24 year olds can chat and share media

The dot net bothers me, even though as an online community it fits the bill for dot net. “hangout” is not a very positive term, and seriously – how does one pair “hanging out” with “beng industrious”? We’re bordering on oxymoron territory with that pairing. I’m not sur ehow much 16-24 year olds have in common with each other. If a 24 year old is “hanging out” with a 16 year old, well… I’ll try and stick to the naming issues here. Better yet, I’ll leave things right there. If you’re holding a good domain name for this one, they might be interested.

DotSpots- www.dotspots.com Tracks the memes spreading across the web, aggregates the content associated with them, and gives everyone Wikipedia-like control over that content

Clever, unique, alliterative name that doesn’t offend. Unfortunately, it also doesn’t impress at all. It has virtualy no meaning. It’s like one of those 4 letter domains that seeem so rare and thus valuable yet have no apparent value to any human (qxzq.com?). If you spend any time actually think about this name, it irritates your brain like a bad tune you lock onto in the morning and can’t shake all day. Is it “dot SPOTS” or is it “DOT spots”? Maybe “DOTspots”. Andif you bother to say the dot com part (dotspotsdotcom) you start to feel silly.

Angstro- www.angstro.com Lets you set up a feed of news about your friends, instead of news by your friends

This one reminds me that many physics and Engineering majors dropped out of college to pursue web fortunes. To them, this is cool… Angstom is a unit of measure. The “A” in Angstom is not an A but another character with a circle above it (Å), but that’s forgivable. What is not forgivable, is that only physics/math/engineering types will associate Angstro with Jonas Ågstrom the physicist. The other 4 billion people on this planet will think of Angst, which is negative. When you “set up a feed of news about your friends” and wrap it in a term like angst, I get a vision of a teenager on his way to school packing grenades and automatic weapons under his black overcoat, on the way to making history.

LiveHit- www.livehit.com Tracks the music, videos, and entertainment sites people are clicking on right now

“Live Hit” might work as a domain name. Especially for a Youtube-like site showing fight videos. Maybe it will work for a music site… I’ll let you guess that ust like they did.

FairSoftware- www.fairsoftware.net Creates virtual shares around software projects that gives each contributor a portion of any resulting revenues

FairSoftware.net sounds to me like software to manage a county fair. But when you read or hear that it is about helping coders get paid for their work, like the fair trade coffee concept, It makes sense. FAIR is a positive, upbeat idea and many programmers desperately need help in this department. Some how, I suspect FairTradeSoftware would be much better. I can’t imaging a domainer holding out for millions for that one, but if she does, there are plenty of alternatives that still carry the fair trade concept (permutatons with “code” and use of FT like in the farming trade, etc). I’d move towards things like JustCode (“justice”) and OpenProfits and such (JustProfits?). I’m not fond of the dot net here again, either.

Yammer- www.yammer.com A web application designed for businesses and organizations that asks its users to answer the question, “What are you working on?”

Let’s start with the fact that a business website should not be given a silly name like “yammer”. Let’s stop there, too.

Devunity- www.devunity.com A platform for writing code in a browser-based editor that doesn’t force developers to use a proprietary layer

Devunity is a tough one to call. Like “divinity” and “divine”, yet ithas that vu sound that reeks of “euro style”. You are practicaly urged to extend that vu- whenyou say it. In shops where I’ve hung out with coders, it would quicly become “divoooooonity” and that fun-ness might help them in their market. I wouldn’t bother pitching anyone over at Divunity.

OpenTrace- opentrace.orgTraces items through the supply chain and adds them together to show the impact of products on the environment

Oh my another one I wouldn’t challenge. Unexpected but welcome event. Moving on…

Burt- www.byburt.com Collects user data to tailor individual advertising campaigns and target users more effectively

That hope was short lived – this is another terrible domain name. Ever play Qbert? ByBert (or is it ByBurt, or BuyBert, or BuyBurt?) is odd but not in a fun way. Maybe it’s pronounced “bee burt”? I’m not enjoying this one, so I’m getting out of here.

Adgregate Markets- www.adgregate.com Brings online stores to consumers through a display ad that is a fully transactional widget

Quick – guess the exit strategy for Adgregate.com. Yup.. it has nothing to do with an IPO or anything requiring strong consumer affinity. How could it with a name that is virtually unpronouncable, elitist in a World Scrabble Championship way, and reminiscent of a college soil mechanics class?

Adrocket- www.adrocket.com Contextual text-based advertising for email; assigns keywords to each address depending on known demographic and contextual data

No worries here.

OtherInBox- www.otherinbox.com Provides an easy way to quarantine the spam and the messages you receive from online services

Again, no worries.

Tingz- tingz.net Offers a unified platform for delivering internet content across multiple devices including mobile phones and PCs

Um… okay, dot net again and somtingz bothering me about this one. I can’t place it, but I get funny odd feelings up my back when I see it and say it.

MIXTT- www.mixtt.com A group based social network/dating site that encourages real world interaction that’s more comfortable than the 1-on-1 format of most similar sites

Ouch. Seriously. This one is painful. No need to discuss it further, except what sort of strategy could you have for calling these guys and pitching another domain name? They already picked mixtt.com. That call could be a TON of work, and in the end, their happy with MIXTT?

Imindi- www.imindi.com Based on neuroscientific principles, Imindi’s Thought Engine tries to exceed human thought and help its users find new ideas, concepts, and questions on the Web

Imindi might work for these guys. The brief TechCrunch description sounds like it’s a fortune telling Ouija service, and of course we all know that in the 1950’s Americans thought everything central asian was mysterious. I’d check on emindy.com and eyemindy.com before it’s to late, though.

Popego- www.popego.com Surfaces the most meaningful information from within your social graph based on your interests and other factors

I really can’t comment on silly sounding names applied to web concepts I don’t understand.

PersonalRIA- www.personalria.com Allows users to shadow a professional investment advisor’s portfolio, automatically executing trades (which most brokerage sites cannot do)

Go ahead and try and convince me you didn’t stumble on that name and work through “personal IRA” issues as you did. I won’t buy it. And when you continued along reading the description and hit the “professional investment advisor” part, didn’t you backtrack once more to re-check if it was a typo? Sure you did. And so will everyone else.

Emerginvest- www.emerginvent.com Offers commentary and analysis on Emerging Markets and tools that provide you with information on how to diversify globally

I’m getting tired of this. Look, guys… it’s not that hard. YES the domain names you checked were not available for $8. But that’s no excuse for taking an $8 name that doesn’t help your business succeed on the web, is it? I mean, house prices went from $80k to $280k over 20 years time, but we still buy them instead of living in tents, don’t we? My grandpa’s shoes cost him a dollar in 1915. We don’t wrap our feet in paper today because we can’t buy shoes for a dollar, do we?

Nice try with emerginvent.com but it’s clumsy to read, clumsy to say, and it projects the wrong mental fuzzies for a service catering to emerging markets news consumers or investors. Visit a domain aftermarket site and spend a few hundred bucks on a domain name. Please.

ExchangeP- www.exchangep.com Dubbed a “fantasy stock market,” ExhangeP’s service allows users to sign up for free and start investing in private companies

This one will certainly get attention. “Exchange what??” Yes, “P”, like the letter P. Now go back and look at how it reads…exchangep.com if you didn’t think “exchange epp” you’re probably a very unique individual.

Me-trics- me-trics.com Lets you see how mood, weight, and goals correlate with other metrics, including web services like Facebook or RescueTime

More pain for domainers. Me-trics.com. Why not m-etrics.com or met-rics.com or metr-ics.com? They would have been just as bad as m-e-t-r-i-c-s.com.

iCharts – www.icharts.net YouTube for embeddable, interactive charts

Think about it for one second (that’s all you should need). Sometimes i-whatever.com is a great domain name. Except when it’s an exact match for a very common term like “eye charts”, which you don’t control. And if you settle for a problematic name and then can still only get the dot net…. nuff said.


There’s more… I did NOT select these as the worst, I just started at the top of the list and worked my way down until I go so tired I couldn’t stand it any more. Am I off base? Is it not amazing how bad some of these are, despite the fact that some of these companies already have millions in funding and have been in the works for years in some cases?Here’s a hunch… most domainers offering portfolios have websites that look like c. 1997 template sites. It does not appear to me that domainers are willing to spend more than $25 on visual design, while Web 2.0 is all about rasing the visual designer to god-like status (often at a cost of rationality or functionality or even common sense). If design is so important to them, perhaps they simply can’t stomach buying a domain name from a domainer who exhibits no “taste”?Maybe.. just maybe, the first web 2.0 looking domainer will make a killing when his rounded-corner, mirro-reflective web site offers domains only marginally better than Mixtt.com and me-trics.com. Who will that be?

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