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Who would you glitterbomb?

In the news recently has been the Australian site ShipYourEnemiesGlitter.com, whose owner has put the domain up for sale because he couldn’t cope with the demand for his novelty service.

The concept is as simple as it is cunning. For AU$9.99 you nominate a person to receive a piece of mail which, when opened up, drops glitter on the victim. Glitter as part of the decorations on cards has long been known as an irritation at the best of times because of it’s ability to get everywhere; your hands, the furniture, the carpet etc. This latest trend is a turbo charged version of that.

Well the inevitable has happened, and such a service is now available in the UK, accepting PayPal.

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sends out an anonymous greetings card to the recipient of your choice. Just £5 + £1 postage lets you deliver a neat package of spangly chaos to any UK address. The difference with this UK site is the added value of the greetings card.

A neat little joke in the card reads “They say you can’t polish a turd… but you can cover it in glitter”, implying that the recipient is akin to a waste product.

How long will the craze last? Well it’s only a week long across the globe and it’s only just arrived in the UK, so let’s just say there might be quite a few people getting redecorated. Whether they like it or not!

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A New Alternative to Google

There are several alternatives to Google, and it could be argued that many are as good if not better at delivering the core product to the end user. In Google’s case, they have developed an impressive suite of applications and it’s difficult to find another brand so comprehensively proficient in web tools. Let’s focus on their core product though, search.

A brief history of search

Remember the early days of the Internet, before Google became an everyday verb? The first mainstream search engines enjoyed a relatively even playing field, with Yahoo!, Alta Vista, Lycos and Ask Jeeves providing search to most early adopters of the web. These days, Google’s global market share is over 80%; with Yahoo, Microsoft’s Bing and Chinese provider Baidu scrapping over the odd 5% here and there. The rest is a ‘long tail’ of pretty insignificant and largely untrusted search portals.

The newest fighter to step into the ring is Samuru, from experienced SEO Brandon Wirtz’s company, Stremor.

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Is Samuru better than Google?

It’s certainly different. If you believe a well-written web page is more relevant than one which has more backlinks, then the principle of Samuru is a step in the right direction. The optimistic fan of the underdog would say it is better. The realist would say it may become better. The truth is, by Stremor’s own admission, it is still early days. Crawling the net takes months, and Samuru is starting from scratch using a brand new method.

So how is Samuru different?

Samuru uses qualitative rather than quantitative methods in its search algorithm, or ‘language heuristics’, as Wirtz calls it. Liquid Helium, the technology behind Samuru, focuses on the quality of text that is written. This includes factors such as bias, grammar, and tone; as well as implications in a search phrase.

Whilst Google looks at Page Rank, backlinks, keyword density and how established a page or domain is, Samuru considers relevance in a much more linguistic way. Samuru wants to personalise your search results according to the meaning of your search phrase. Google is inclined to see your search phrase either severally (results relating to each word in that keyword phrase) or collectively (searching for the instance of that exact phrase in a web page with high page rank).

The quality not quantity scenario also applies to the number of search results provided. Who actually wants to see several million search results? We are fooled into percieving value from those flagship figures in whatever fraction of a second they took to be decided upon. Samuru will list a page of up to 50 results, knowing that you really only want good information based on the query you submitted. Not a fanfare of numbers.

So?

Time will tell, but Samuru has the potential to be what Apple did to IBM; ie the choice for the clever minority. Whether it can muster up the marketing power to get close even to Bing and Yahoo, is sadly a tall order. Until then, tomorrow is just another day in the sun for the world’s favourite search engine.

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Sky high

I have made this argument lots of times, but I must keep on repeating it until the majority of my acquaintances have heard it at least once.

If you look at the main terrestrial TV networks in Britain, there are two basic models of operation. There is the BBC, which is fundamentally a subscription service; ie the license fee. Most of the license fee goes to the Beeb for their TV and radio programming. The other model is of course independent commercial content, funded by advertising.

However, satellite TV such as Sky exploit both income streams, and stretch the revenue so that the mugs who watch the content have a higher price on their heads.

It currently costs £145.50 for a TV license, which is about £12 per month. A basic subscription to Sky costs £20 per month, or £240 per year. Add sports and movies and you’re looking north of £672 per year.

My next argument is not easily quantifiable so I rely on others to back me up on this. The traditional 2-minute ad break has recently become more like 3 minutes, and on a terrestrial station you are likely to get 5 or 6 ads in the middle of a typical 30 minute programme slot. On satellite stations, however, you can expect about twice as many. Why should they get away with watering down the programming by extending the amount of ads?

So if you have a basic Sky TV package you are paying a premium AND having to sit through more adverts. £12 per month for award-winning British programming on a multimedia platform without adverts vs up to 5 times that for sports, imports and epic ad breaks. I know which one i prefer.

So next time you hear someone complaining about the license fee, give them a stern look.