Thursday, November 24, 2005

D.I.Y. Search II

As predicted in the first D.I.Y. Search posting the new services keep coming in this area, the latest being Yahoo! Shoposphere. This service focuses on Yahoo! Shopping content only but how does it compare to,, etc. ?

Setup: No need for the addition to the links or the installation of a new toolbar. A positive but that is because they only offer the service over their own content which is a major drawback in the medium and long term.

Clipmarks is the 'heaviest' toolbar to install with Kaboodle and wist using the familiar link URL option.

Collecting content: Shoposphere provide a + to lists at each product. Yahoo! Automatically captures all product data.

The other service provide much more choice here with Clipmarks boarder highlighting being a nice feature.

Adding your comments and ratings: All services provide the ability to add comments and most allow the addition of a star rating. Kaboodle make this easy to do in my opinion.

Comparison Shopping: Shoposphere impresses here with the selection and visualization of products and prices. The list of retailer links in order of price being another convenient feature.

The other service lack substance but I expect to see a lot of innovation in this area.

Social Community and sharing: Shoposphere does not do a great job here. Yahoo! are trying to link into their existing community/people profile/personal home pages but for those of us that choose to host our webpages else where this is a pain.

RSS and feeds: Keep tracking of your list or list from the community with a simple click to your MyYahoo! account. Again, it would be good to see a one click button posting to independent services. community is particularly well presented with the 'show tags' feature bringing big value to shoppers searching niche products.

In the next posting on D.I.Y. search, what can we expect to see from these services and other startups in the near future?

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Pre thought search engine

I read about PreviewSeek on techcrunch and they suggested Previewseek help support searchers to apply the right context to their search words. On my review of the service this proved to be limited but having the wiki dictionary link does add pre search education to users.

The most impressive pre search help I have come across has been from our friends at Google. Google labs have the concept of sets and a word predictor e.g. for use on froogle. also use this technique. Sets are a way for a searcher to express the thoughts in their head when they do not have an exact search word to look for. This is to help identify context I feel and this context can be used to provide better search results.

There is a lot more to value to be provided in the area of pre-search. I predict that the level of service creation in pre search will equal the amount of innovation that has and will continue to be invested in the technology when you press the search button.

I'll highlight what we can expect to see in pre search in a future blog.

Consumer Control with Service Flow

That is what we require from a consumer focused search engine. It should allow us to enter in a medium or format of our choice the search variables i.e. key words, thoughts, images etc. Providing education/support to help build the ideal search profile. The results should be presented in a medium/format that we have chosen along with a set of tools again that we have chosen to allow us to make trade-offs or decisions depending on the task we have set out to achieve. These should hold over time, that is be updated with fresh data and comparison to the original results highlighted, again if we so choose.

In future postings I will highlighting a range of search engines that are delivering on parts of the search engine profiled above.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Consumer D.I.Y. search

We have great entrepreneurs and teams building great search services for us consumers. Making life just that little bit more convenient online. Some of us, hopefully all with time will see the logic of searching by focusing on education pre, during and after a search experience. are equipping us consumers with an online service that enables us to stitch together our own comparison shopping experience. You use their service in harmony with your choice of search engine(s). However, once you have found information you want to remember or to compare against other products they allow you to save it to your own webpage. This allows us consumers to compare information independent of the source website. This is a big deal. As us consumers know for certain their is no bias in presenting this information as we have total control over what is included.

The power of this service takes legs when put in a social community context. Post your searches to the community and benefit from using searches from like minded souls from the community who have made posts to explore new search areas. Key to this is the visualization of trust of community members.

There is going to be a massive amount of innovation in this space I feel. Pre web 2.o days I prototyped a toolbar at to allow consumers to set up shopping templates and then to gather information from any website and then independent of any website the consumer can educate, compare or visualize the search results to assist them make informed decisions. I turned this idea into the concept of a ConsumerPlayer.

Education + Search

Building on the theme of pre-thought by the consumer pre-search. When shopping online this need becomes clear and so much so that this search engine splits their search service in two with research and shopping search buttons.

This just fits in naturally with the shopping experience. We all set out to find the best product or service to meet our needs or wants. But what product features are available and what are the pros and cons of these? By product feature I mean any attribute that either you or the manufacturer or retailer has choose to provide information on. In effect this is the consumer self educating themselves and are making it more convenient to undertake this task. This convenience extending to highlighting products that meet your shopping criteria.

The key consumer issue with this service is the independence of the links made between the research and products. Is the research biased by paying retailers or manufacturers to plug good reviews of their products? make it clear this is not the case and that their priority is to the consumer.

Monday, November 07, 2005

General Search

General Search
Google, Yahoo!, MSNsearch,

These services try their best to capture the whole universe of information. With every passing moment this becomes an ever increasing challenge. They provide a great service all in all.

What I feel is missing from the search engine equation are the steps taken by a searcher before typing in a keyword(s). That is to say the human typing in the keyword(s) own education, logic, thoughts and intellect pre-typing in the key search words has an equally important part to play. No matter how high powered the technology hardware, software and brains that put the search service online. Seconds of pre-thought can cut down search time.

I often used to find myself typing a generic keyword and then if the results were too diverse I would then add another pretty generic word etc. However, what I evolved to learn was to think about how I perceived the information I was searching for would look like. For example, if I was searching for a scientific medical report, my thoughts on language would be completely different from searching for a ski resort. (I am going to come back to this point when I have figured about a clearer explanation.)

I use search engines as the starting point to find the first island of new information that will help me find the next piece of information that will further refine what I am looking for. Search to me turns into island hopping to get to where you need to be.

General search is also not just about text, image searching I found can also be a great way to find text information.

Search engine choices

The term Search engine covers a lot of ground so here I group together some services:

General Search
Google, Yahoo!, MSNsearch,

Comparison/Shopping search, Froogle, YahooShopping,,

independent consumer services
Kaboodle, ConsumerPlayer

Consumer choosing to make a purchase require a retailer to fulfill, Tesco

With each of these categories having niche or specialist players. I will devote future blogs to these innovative businesses.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Search engines

Search engines play an important role in connecting consumers with information. If it's your first time on the Internet how do you find a search engine? It's a great question because I believe the answer to this question goes a long way to explaining how we select information and then make decisions.

From my experience we don't have much choice. The PC or device that has been purchased will have made the initial choices for you. Choices made by a series of business to business deals that were necessary for the delivery of the PC to the consumer, the business with the biggest influence having the final say. Inherently this is not bad, the world is a better place with PC's? So, we inherit the choices of others and to some degree we will have trusted some business that enabled us to purchase the PC visa vie the other choices in the market at that time.

The browser provided is opened and a search engine will either be presented or a link. Or the consumer will have the information from an offline source that will have educated them the need to use a search engine, assuming they don't just want to live in a one URL online or that they already know all the URL's they will ever need to use! (maybe someday)

Next, how do consumers choose a search engine given a free choice?

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Practical Consumer Information

Ok, we have had a bit of theory but what are the information demands of consumers?

If we can believe Internet statistics then surfing for health information tops the polls followed by shopping and product searching. I'll come back to health in a later posting but for now lets focus on shopping info.

Shopping covers many industries/products, travel, music, groceries, etc, these example focused at the retail level. The (brand)manufacturers make the products or services e.g. food Mars, Hotels Hilton, music U2, etc. With the Internet evening up the access so that small, local or niche producers can be found, Food FoveranStore, local joiner (disclaimer, my parents business), niche music The Sundowns, etc.

With the whole supply chain of businesses on the web too. At the other end of the demand chain of information are what I class as information advisors, these cover an equally wide range of sources, e.g. news newspapers, consumer review Which?, Experts environment, fashion Glossy Mags , consumer themselves, blogs etc. All these competing sources online, also have competitors off line, family members, friends or professional advisors you trust.

Each online source aims to make life easy for consumers but consuming lots of 'easy to use' websites becomes complex. And how do we select or find the sources we trust or are willing to trust. The Search Engines come center stage, for the whole web Google, Yahoo!, product Froogle, products with research, Images, Blogs, music, video etc. I'll examine the role search engines play in the next posting.

To conclude, the consumers world of information is a complex universe which needs to be made simple and easy to consume. Future posting will highlight my views on who's doing what to deliver this goal to consumers.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The History of Information

Here's my take on how we've got to where we are today. . ..

To simplify greatly, well I suppose us humans used facial, hand and body movements to kick it all off.
Geoffrey Nunberg has an informative time line on his site. It is interesting to read, time and time again how each wave of information evolution is pulsed along by a never ending tug and pull created from the human need to communicate with each other and technological innovations that gives information wider room to expand into.

Thus giving the opportunity for information to become more freely and openly available. In terms of information volume I like to use the following metaphor to visualize how near the start we are: imagine the size of the universe a micro * ten to the power of -10000 of a second after
big bang and compare it to the size of the Universe today, in other words, hold a pea in your hand and compare it to the size of the Universe. So, we are at the earliest of days in my view.

Monday, September 26, 2005

What is Perfect Information?

A good definition is supplied by Wikipedia here. I want to highlight this sentence, 'perfect information would practically mean that all consumers know all things about all products, and therefore always make the best decision regarding purchase.' This is what I believe.

I also feel these traditional or historical definitions need evolving, consumer purchases are becoming less a series of one-off events but turning into a flow of services over time, derived sometimes by the supply of a product. I always stand in the consumers shoes, as that is what I am, to consider what a world of perfect information looks and feels like?

Lets examine the key ingredients of perfect information: It has to be visualized and by that I mean in its broadest sense, viewed by eye, listened to by hear, felt by touch etc. The point I need to state early on is that the consumer should have control over these 'visualization' options.

Trust. We need to trust the source of the information, who is supplying it? Therefore, visualization needs to extended over the source to give the consumer a way of identifying the author. On this a consumer can make a personal value decision. The consumers inherent people/social skills combined with their education or prevailing wisdom are important here.

Timing. Perfect information demands all information is up dated instantly another piece of information is authored or consumed. Increasingly consumers are also building in future expectations into their decision making thus the world of information is more than just historical or real time focused.

Visualization, Trust and Timing. The pillars of consumer confidence in perfect information. I am going to regularly come back to test these and I welcome comments and feedback to help in that process.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Consumer Information

My fascination with information really got started when studying Economics at The University of Aberdeen. I quickly realized the answer to the question that all economics starts with: How to allocate scarce resources? answer was to provide perfect information to the end point of consumption, I.e. to the consumer.

Before my University days I had started to think about how our small family business fitted into the wider economy and what impact it was having on the planet? I would spend holidays carrying hardwood mahogany into customers homes and then go home at night and listen to the news that another area of Amazon rainforest the size of Wales had been lost. Two separate world's, surely? However, with education and better information I quickly realized the connection. The rest of my University days and now entrepreneurial career are driven by realizing this goal of delivering perfect information to consumers.

We all have to consume? Food and water are the daily basics but beyond these rudimentaries of life our economy has expanded vastly to produce an enormous selection of goods and services. Before the act of consuming a product we all consume information but what information?

This blog is dedicated to exploring, questioning and providing practical help that will enable consumers to make real time decisions based upon perfect information.