Blog Postings for 2016

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Poems at my website

Posted: Sun, 14 Aug 2016 19:23:13

A few years ago, on a lark, I added a few poems to my website. I like poetry quite a bit and keep copies of favorites. Last year, I went to a weekend poetry reading. For many years, I've been translating Rilke's poetry.

I assumed few people cared about poetry, but I was surprised.

This morning, while checking my analytics, I looked at the data for the poems at my website:

I was surprised to see how many people looked for and read these poems.

Go ahead. Read a few poems. Some of these are very good. By coincidence, my favorites have a cricket and a grasshopper.

Technical SEO vs. Quality SEO

Posted: Mon, 22 Aug 2016 15:23:39

In general, there's two major forms of SEO: Technical SEO and Quality SEO. Let's look at the difference, how each one works, and how you can use these.

Technical SEO

First, what is Technical SEO? This is the method of modifying pages so the search engine algorithms will find the page, index it correctly, and show it in the search results.

Technical SEO works for concepts and terms that your organization owns: the name of your company, your name, your trademarked products or services, books, videos, and so on. It also works for organizations that are the owners of parks, museums, cities, etc. The web page is the authoritative page for the concept.

20% of searches are navigational: people are looking for the official page for something. They are looking for the webpage for Justin Bieber, Yosemite National Park, or Honey-Baked Ham. If technical SEO is done correctly, a navigational search will bring up this result in the top position.

Why does this work so well? Because if you're the owner of the concept, then your webpage should be the top result for a search. Competitors will never beat your page. (Of course, an organization may not bother to do technical SEO so you can show up higher than the organization, but eventually, either the search engines will figure this out or the organization will improve its SEO, and you'll be knocked off position #1. So if you're #1 for something that you don't own, don't count on it. The owner only has to wake up and your page will drop.)

(This is bad news if you're selling something for which you don't have the rights. If you're selling the Nike Airflex TornadoMax shoe, you'll never be #1 for it. Nike will get that. You might get position #5 if your company is Footlocker. Otherwise, you'll need to pay for ads in Google. It's much better to sell something that you own than to sell another company's products.)

Technical SEO is fairly easy (if you know SEO fairly well...). You do the following:

  • Make it obvious to the reviewer and the search engine algorithms that you are the rightful owner of the concept
  • Use the top keywords for your page
  • Use the TITLE and DESCRIPTION meta-tags
  • Use <H1>, <H2>, and <P> tags for content formatting. This also includes the position of keywords in those tags.
  • Add links (with meaningful content) to other pages in your site
  • Add links to relevant authoritative sites
  • Use XML sitemaps, which includes normal sitemaps, global sitemaps, image sitemaps, and video sitemaps
  • If relevant, use microformats
  • If you have images, use keywords in the image file name and add captions under the images
  • If you have video, follow the SEO guidelines for video
  • If you have apps, use ASO (App Store Optimization). See my ASO Book (at Amazon).
  • If social media is relevant to you, carry out SEO for social media to ensure your profile will show up in Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, WeChat, GleeBee (okay, I made that up), and every other relevant social site
  • If you've written books, make sure both your author name and your books show up in Amazon and Kindle
  • If you're selling products that are available on Amazon, make sure your products show up by name and concept in Amazon
  • If China or Russia is relevant to you, optimize for Baidu (China) and Russia (Yandex)
  • Review your web analytics. Look at the section for organic, paid, social, and referrer traffic. See where your visitors are coming from and optimize for those sites.
  • Tools include Google Adwords, Google Analytics, Google Webmaster Tools, and Bing Webmaster Tools

There are several more items, plus each of these has lots of details, but you can see that technical SEO can be a to-do list. The challenge is in the scope of the project: what if you have 50,000 pages? Technical SEO then becomes a matter of managing a bit of work.

Just to prove this works, I made a page for my cat. My cat's name is Anaximander Katzenjammer. Go ahead and search for his name. See?

Where are the problems? If your content is hard to find by crawlers (such as infinite crawl spaces), poorly formatted (such as text in DIV or SPAN), or impossible to index (such as showing text as an image), it won't get indexed because the search engine either can't find the page or can't deal with the text.

And just because your page gets indexed doesn't mean it will show up in the search results. There are 165 million .com domain names and easily several trillion web pages, but most of that is junk that search engines will never show.

Quality SEO

Okay, so what is Quality SEO? This is my name for the approach to making pages that will appear in informational searches.

What are informational searches? That's where people are looking to learn about a topic. 80% of searches are informational searches. Informational search results are terms that nobody owns. Nobody owns topics such as pregnancy, credit cards, publishing, and so on.

Informational search results will show the ten best pages for that topic. However, since nobody owns the topic, and there are lots and lots of pages for that topic, how are those results selected? A team of humans at the search engines select the ten pages for the query.

That last sentence baffles many people. They think search engines use algorithms to index pages. Yes, but for any topic, there are tens of millions of pages. For pregnancy, there are 261 million pages. Let's say 20% of those pages are garbage. That's 50m pages. Let's say 1% are very good. 1% of 261 million is 2.6 million. But we want the very best: the top 0.001%. That's still 26,000 pages. To get it down to the very best 26 pages, a search engine has to select 0.000,000,01% of those pages. Algorithms can use rules to find the top pages, but at best, they may find the top 0.001%, which still leaves you with 26,000 pages. So the search engines use algorithms to sort the 261 million pages into poor, okay, good, and pretty good, and then search engines use people to find the ten very best ones.

And it's not enough to be on page one. Your page should be at the top of page one. The first three or four links get 90% of all traffic for that topic.

Why? Because there are two ways when people make decisions. If it's under $200 or so, people often buy immediately (an impulse purchase), without further thought. Just click and buy. However, if it's over $200, they generally research the issue. They enter the buying cycle of research, consideration, and purchase. What can I get to solve my problem? Will this actually work? Is this the best product? Can I get it for less? The more expensive it is (several thousand dollars or more), the more time and research.

So... if 80% of searches are informational, and the first three links get 90% of clicks, then when people enter the buying cycle, the first few pages will heavily influence what they will buy. The value to companies is staggering. That's why the large companies spend hundreds of thousands of dollars for SEO work to be on at the top.

However, technical SEO has zero significance for quality SEO. As part of my SEO work for clients, I review informational search results pages. I've often seen items show up on page one where the page had no SEO work, not even metathe list.

That's the challenge. You're not competing against search engines. You're competing against millions of other very good pages. To get there, you have to convince a small team of people at the search engines that your page is one of the ten best pages for that topic.

If you want to get onto page one, your page has to be good enough to displace a currently-existing page. This can be very challenging: you have to write world-class expert content of a quality that attracts natural links from universities. It can take several months of research and writing to create such a page.

Common Objections

I've spoken at many conferences about SEO. Here are common objections and questions:

  • Q: But this is impossible! Humans can't evaluate tens of billions of pages!: A: That's true, they don't. They only evaluate the very best pages.
  • Q: It would take millions of people! A: If you estimate on the back of an envelope, it can be done with only a few thousand people. Google started with ten thousand workers, but later, they improved the process and it's now about 8,000.
  • Q: Google says no Google employee is doing this. A: That depends on what the meaning of "is" is. In 2005, it was Google employees. A few years later, Google outsourced this to another company. So the workers aren't hired by Google; they work for other companies, which are hired by Google.
  • Q: How can people in the US evaluate pages in German, Danish, and Tamil? A: They don't. Of the 8,000 humans at Google, about half are in the US. There are Google teams in Germany, Egypt, Denmark, and so on. They cover all languages, even Icelandic.
  • Q: Why is Google doing all of this? A: Because algorithm tools don't work very well at blocking spam/scam. Scams are very good at attacking the search engines. If a search engine is cluttered with junk or scams, people stop using it.
  • Q: What about Bing? A: All the search engines do this. Google, Bing, Baidu, and Yandex all have human evaluation teams. There are differences in details, but in general, they have the same approach.
  • Q: What about Google's new AI? A: Google is using its AI to offer better replies to questions. These are written by Google, not websites. If you have the latest version of Google Chrome on your phone, try talking to Google. Say "Okay, Google, what's the status on Southwest flight 2416?" "Okay, Google, will it rain tomorrow?" "Okay, Google, navigate to the nearest gas station." These aren't search queries for web pages. Google uses data from maps, airlines, weather, traffic, and many other resources to create one-time replies for you. Google collects every query, categorizes them, and looks to see which it can replace with its own own results.
  • Q: But practically no SEO book, website, or blog talks about this. A: Because they don't know. They focus on technical SEO because it's easy to do (just add meta>
  • Q: So how do you know about this? A: Because I started doing SEO before it was even called SEO. I've been building websites and working with search engines since 1994. I pay a great deal of attention to search engines; I know key people at the four major search engines. I was the head of Global SEO at Cisco (44 languages, 84 countries). I know about the internal tools they use, the companies that manage this for Google, how these people do the work, how much they're paid, and so on.

So What Should I Do about Google?

Use search engines to bring visitors to your site, but don't rely on search engines.

At Google conferences, Google VPs will say there are three actors in search: Google, the users, and websites. Google pays attention only to users. If users are happy, they return to Google. That's what matters at Google. To put it clearly, Google doesn't care about your website.

Note what I wrote above about Google's AI. Google is evolving from a search engine into an answer engine. This means if Google can replace your site with their answer, they will.

You must develop as many paths as possible for your audience to come to you: websites, search engines, apps, digital advertising, social media, video, images, books, and so on. Don't rely on search engines, because when Google changes its rules, they won't announce it and they won't listen. Your traffic can fall 60% in one day, and for many companies, that can put them out of business.

What Does It Take to Do SEO?

If you just do metametaour site.

If your website has more than several thousand pages, you need to see how much of your site has been indexed by Google. I've worked with sites that have two million pages but only 300,000 pages are indexed. I know about a site with thirty million pages but only two million are indexed. To solve this problem, you use enterprise-level SEO. Yes, it's possible to get all thirty million pages indexed.

If your organization is active in several countries and several languages, you use enterprise-level global SEO. That includes Google for the Americas and Europe, Baidu for China, and Yandex for Russia. You'll need to use relevant languages for each country.

This means proper SEO has become complex and expensive. Small organizations don't have the money, skills, or time to do this.

For More Information

  • Read my SEO eBook (free PDF at
  • Search Engine Marketing, Inc. by Mike Moran and Bill Hunt (IBM Press, 2014). This is the authoritative book on SEO.

Traditional Media vs. Social Media

Posted: Wed, 17 Aug 2016 15:19:42

Katherine Viner, editor in chief of The Guardian, wrote an essay about the impact of technology on the media. That's the summary; the long description is "how social media and the web destroyed traditional news (newspapers, TV news, etc.)".

It's a very good essay and if you care about journalism, the news, the truth, and so on, it's worth reading. Here is a summary and my comments.

But there's more to this. First, let me write about my experience in reading and writing:

  • I grew up in a home where we always subscribed to a newspaper. In high school and throughout college, I subscribed to the New York Time. In graduate school, more newspapers and I subscribed up to the early 2000s. But somewhere in the mid-2000s, I stopped subscribing and even stopped reading paper-printed newspapers. I had switched to the web for news.
  • I still subscribe to stuff on paper: The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, The London Review of Books, and Le Monde Diplomatique. I read one or two paper-based books weekly; I read another two ebooks via Amazon Kindle every week. (Yes, I read a lot.)
  • I also write. Some of you know that I've written twelve books. I wrote my first book in the late 80s, when book printing was done with heavy plastic sheets in printers as large as a train locomotive. For many years, I worked in technical writing both as a writer and a manager; we produced well over a hundred printed books in several hundred thousand copies. In the last few years, I've switched to Amazon publishing and have written three books for distribution via Amazon, both in print and as ebooks. I've also released a number of ebooks as PDFs at my website.

So Katherine Viner's essay is important for me. She discusses the impact of the web on traditional media and I've lived and worked in this.

Katherine argues newspapers are challenged by the web. The web allows far too much junk media (Gawker, etc.) and worse yet, most of the media on the web is based on clicks. Quite simply: the more clicks, the more ad revenue. So... that leads to click bait, which is junk content to get clicks.

That works... for a while. But clickbait kills itself. Because the number of clickbait sites and articles grows while the number of readers stays the same. Clickbait factories hire tens of thousands of writers (and some already use AI tools to generate clickbait). Since clickbait factories can make money, more people open up new clickbait factories. But remember, the number of readers doesn't increase, so each clickbait factory's share of readers will drop. See? When their share is smaller, each factory earns less, which makes them desperate to earn more (to pay salaries, rent, pizza, etc.), so they write yet crazier junk... until the big ones collapse and the little guys give up.

This isn't theory. It's reality. Because I lived through this. This was what happened in the 1995-2000 Dotcom Boom. At first, there were a lot of startups. Yahoo! hired Los Angeles media people, who immediately pivoted Yahoo! from a search site into a media company, which meant it made money via advertising. Others started media sites to make money with ads. That was fine in 1997. A company could make $25-45 CPM (revenue per thousand impressions). (They used impressions, not clicks, because the LA and NYC media people came from TV, where they measure the number of viewers). By 1999, there were thousands of sites. CPMs began to fall from $25 to $20 to $10... and by late 1999, CPMs were down to ten cents. Bad news for the media sites that started with $25 CPMs; they had big offices in big cities, big salaries, lots of staff, etc. Media sites could start with six people and within a year, explode to 500 staff. $25 CPMs could pay for that, but not $0.10 CPMs. So the dive accelerated until they all cratered in 2000. End of the dotcom boom. (That's why we called it the Dotcom Boom. In the end, it went "boom!".)

Okay, there were other factors that led to the crash, such as massive stock fraud, investor fraud, and so on. The crash in CPMs was one of the main issues.

This is happening all over again in social media. There are perhaps 5,000 social media sites in Silicon Valley (and easily more around the world) and practically every one of these is based on making money on number of impressions. Twitter, Snapchat, Periscope, Masquerade, etc. have sky-high valuations which are calculated with the VC formula Number of Users multiplied by the Value per User (VPU) = Valuation. So plug in your numbers: 100 million users X $10 VPU (which is an invented value) = ... whoa! ONE BILLION DOLLARS! Unicorn club! Whoohoo! Order that cherry red Ferrari!

And you, my dear reader, can see this is totally fake. That site isn't worth a billion dollars. What's its real value? It's losing $10 million per month. So what's it really worth? Zero. Because there's no such thing as negative ten million dollars. If a VC insists that is value, go ahead and see how many coffees you can buy at Starbucks with negative ten million dollars.

That's the reality of the social web. There's lots of cat pixs etc., but when the money runs out, it shuts down.

Okay, what about the Traditional News Media? How do the social sites affect the The Guardian, NYT, WSJ, ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, etc.? I kinda feel sorry for them because they're in a furious race against social sites that have a massive advantage: The NYT must have a skyscraper in Manhattan, must hire professional journalists, must print a paper-based newspaper... all of which costs tens of millions of dollars every month. Meanwhile, it costs practically nothing to create a social media site. Masquerade, which was sold for $100m, was built by three guys in two weekends. Total production cost was a few pizzas.

Summary so far:

  • Social media has close to zero production and distribution costs; traditional media must spend tens of millions every month to stay open.
  • Social media is based on clicks, but the number of social sites increases while the number of users stays the same.

Okay, some may point out that in the second point, the number of users will increase when Africa and India come online. Oh, yes, indeed it will. And there will be a flurry of activity around that. But that just kicks the ball down the street. The more social sites, the less audience share. Social media is a bubble, just like the dotcom bubble, and social bubble will pop, just like in 2000. It's only a matter of time.

And yes, there are more factors than what I wrote in the two points, but let's focus.

So here is my final point, which Katherine Viner missed in her excellent essay: Traditional journalism was large media companies (radio, TV, print). Those companies produced enough money to hire very good journalists who had the steady salaries and editorial support to do investigative journalism. That was the good part. However... any large company is embedded within its social fabric: it gets ad money because advertisers generally agree with the news site. If the newspaper criticizes the general economic model, it gets no ad revenues.

Proof? Go start a revolutionary Islamo-Marxist newspaper. You'll sell two subscriptions: one to your poor mom and the other to the local FBI. And you'll sell zero advertising because if an advertiser even thinks of placing an ad, he'll get visits from the FBI, Homeland Security, IRS, etc. until he gives up.

Here's my third point:

  • Traditional media companies agree with their advertisers because they depend on their advertisers for ad revenue.

Again, this isn't theory. In the mid-2000s, the New York Times spent six months investigating how A Very Large Silicon Valley Company (VLSVC) was using lobbyists to secretly change state law in the US states, one by one, so they wouldn't pay sales tax. The VLSVC found out about the upcoming series, threatened to shut off advertising, so the NYT came to its senses and shut down the investigation (the NYT will deny this, but the journalist told me the inside story). Journalists can tell you plenty of similar stories, but nobody will put this in print. A newspaper can indeed publish investigations that annoy advertisers but the editors and publishers will consider how many advertisers they can afford to lose versus the awards they'll earn. (Social sites are also dependant on ad revenue, but in a different way.)

Which opens up a solution: Get rid of advertisers. If a news company isn't controlled by advertisers, it can do whatever it wants. It can publish real investigative journalism and it will have a loyal audience.

To do this, the news company must cut costs. Sell the landmark building. Move out of the city. Cut all possible costs. Publish on the web (because it's free). It can still print on paper if its subscribers pay for it. The New Yorker has 200,000 subscribers; The New York Review of Books has 100,000 subscribers; Le Monde Diplo has 100,000 subscribers; The London Review of Books has 50,000 subscribers. Yes, these are tiny numbers, but along with donations, grants, and its own endowment. they don't rely on advertisers and they can publish whatever they want. This is also why these are among the best journals and magazines in the world.

It also means news sites can get rid of clickbait article. The large newspapers often publish junk to attract and entertain readers.

That's my understanding of the media, both traditional and on the web. I really like Katherine Viner's essay: she explains clearly why clickbait sites are killing traditional media. But she doesn't go into the finances of media (both traditional and social), and that's where I think the real problem lays. Their work is colored by their dependence on revenues.

What about the Truth?

News media want to describe what is really going on. The Truth. With a capital T. In the 60s and 70s, it was widely considered that the NYT investigated and then published a correct and balanced account of events. (I know, some of you disagree, but at the time, the NYT was seen as the newspaper of record.)

Clickbait sites don't care about the Truth. They just want clicks, right now, to make money. Katherine writes that these sites knowingly publish lies because they see news as entertainment. But what about the Guardian, the NYT, etc.? Do they publish the Truth? Can they publish the Truth?

In July 2016, a person shot and killed five police officers in Dallas, Texas. While the shooting was still happening, we looked at CNN and various web news sites. 20 minutes into the shooting, none of the online newspapers were yet covering it. They couldn't write so quickly. CNN was at the scene because it had been covering the Black Lives Matter demonstration, but CNN kept showing the same two or three videos over and over and their journalists kept repeating four or five lines over and over.

After a few minutes, I opened Twitter on my phone. Over 700,000 postings in a few minutes. There were live videos every few minutes. Someone posted a live video of the shooter killing a police officer. Postings from people in the crowd, journalists, postings from Dallas police, etc. Even the shooter was posting to Facebook.

A few days later, another shooting of three police officers in Baton Rouge (Louisiana, US). And a few days later, an attempted coup in Turkey. The military shut down TV, but no problem: the prime minister used his cell phone to call CNN in Ankara and did a live video chat on TV. On the streets, people used Twitter, Facetime, and Periscope to broadcast live.

You saw the event, unfiltered and immediately, from every possible angle. No news organization can possibly compete with this. No news organization will throw its doors open to everyone, including the shooter, and the prime minister. That would admit complete loss of control.

This is the advantage of social over traditional media. Everyone can broadcast. The traditional media, which shows the official point of view of society's infrastructure (government, military, corporate), is not only outrun; it becomes obvious that it's just another group, and worse yet, its version is wrong. Authority loses authority. Who are you going to believe? CNN? The Dallas police department? The mayor? Donald Trump? The prime minister? Or the dozens of videos from people at the scene?

But that's also the disadvantage of social. It can show unfiltered videos but it doesn't offer meaningful summary or a balanced analysis. And as soon as the action is over, it jumps to the next riot, shooting, or disaster. Why was there a coup in Turkey? It takes a great deal of reading and knowledge of the country to understand the issue. It can take six months or more for senior journalists, professors, or topic experts to research and write to explain an event. Analysis can't be done in tweets, seven-second videos, and two-hour attention span.

Nevertheless, the seven-second news cycle has undermined the traditional news media. The last twenty years has been a series of news debacles: the reporting on the buildup for the Iraq War turned out to be cheerleading for White House lies. The news media didn't see the massive Wall Street fraud that led to the 2008 crash. News experts were confident Trump could never win the nomination. They didn't expect Brexit. And so on. They've missed every major story. Before, we would have never known because there was no alternative. Now, we share information despite their efforts. Social news prevents the traditional media's control over news.

How social is being used by people is interesting. In my book on Twitter, I wrote about the users of Twitter. Many people in Silicon Valley don't realize that Latinos and Blacks are very active on Twitter. They use Twitter more effectively than people in Silicon Valley. In Periscope (the video app), I'd guess that Blacks make up nearly half of the videos (whatever the percentage, it's a very large share).

There are several reasons for this. Blacks, Latinos, and Chinese use smart phones more than US whites (yes, look it up). They have deep family ties and often live at long distances from each other. So they constantly use video chat and text messaging to share, talk, and see family and close friends.

They also use these tools in a different way. If you search on the web "how to use social media", "how to use Facebook", "how to use Twitter", etc., you'll get hundreds of blog postings by corporate marketing people who explain how to use these tools to make money. But Blacks, Latinos, and Chinese aren't doing marketing. They understand and use the social tools much better than corporate marketing people. Black Twitter (yes, it's a thing) is entirely different from "white twitter" (that's not a thing). Because they're using it for themselves, instead of under the obligation to show the proper face of a corporation, they do whatever they want, which allows remarkable creativity.

So where's The Truth? We begin to realize that what was The Truth in the 60s and 70s turned out to be a carefully edited and tightly managed version of the news from one group's point of view. Social destroyed that.

But social didn't create something new and better in its place. What we have now is 700,000 postings within minutes and nobody can read or understand all of that, so Truth has evaporated. You pick your own truth, or, more likely, you watch today's events while forgetting yesterday. Yes, it's a mess, and no, it's not going to get better or people will figure it out. There's no future anymore.

100m Users... Really?

Posted: Thu, 18 Aug 2016 16:15:46

An app says it has ten million accounts and two million active users.

Is there a way to see the real number?

I look at the app and see 182 people are posting right now. During the day, the number varies between 200 to 350 users at any one time.

If there are ten million accounts, 200 active users are 0.001%. Is that possible?

There's a way to find out. The 1/9/90 Rule says that of the people in any activity (country music, skiing, surgery, etc.), 1% are the active creators; 9% are critics; 90% are passive observers. This has been well-studied in many fields by sociologists for 40-50 years. The actual numbers vary a bit: 1-3% for creators and 85-92% for observers, but in general, this ratio holds. (See Jakob Nielsen on Participation Inequality and Charles Arthur at The Guardian.)

If 200 postings are by the 1% active users, then there are 20,000 passive members. What if 200 postings are by 3% active users? Then the number of passive members is 6,700. So the number of active members is somewhere between 6,000 and 20,000 people, but not much greater (I seriously doubt it reaches 40,000).

This can be applied to just about any social app. Look at the number of actions (postings, videos, photos, music, game scores, etc.). Assume that's 1% and you can calculate the number of passive users (oh, okay: multiply by 100).

Jakob Nielsen makes a good point when he says the 1% are not representative of the group. It's a mistake to take their postings or actions as representative.

SEO for Small Business?

Posted: Mon, 29 Aug 2016 20:04:22

Q. Are there SEO freelancers or boutique SEO firms for a small business?

The issue is money. SEO's results can be measured in sales, revenue, and profits. Large companies can track this so they invest heavily in it. This means SEO experts work with large corps because these pay very good money.

This is a problem for the little guys. Small companies can't afford SEO experts, don't have the skills to do this themselves, and don't have the time to do this.

Any one who is good at SEO will quickly find out that it's valuable. The top people quickly start their own agencies. This also means people at most SEO companies aren't technically competent (if they were, they could double their income by leaving).

There is also SEO fraud. Some SEO companies have 100 sales people and two SEO people. The sales people are making wild promises, signing up customers, and nothing is actually done.

Two Kinds of Searches

There are two kinds of searches:

  • Informational Search: The user wants to learn about something. Google looks at a page's expertise, authority, and trust to find the pages with the best information. If you want your page to show up, it has to be better than the current ten pages that appear for the search term. That is very difficult for large companies and pretty much impossible for little companies. The only chance is a very small topic where there aren't good search results.
  • Transactional Search: The user wants to buy, get, download, or install something. Google gives preference to the manufacturer (maker) of the thing.

Let's say Nike makes the Nike Lebron High Jumper (a basketball shoe). If (that's a big IF) Nike makes it clear they are the makers of the shoe, then their page becomes #1 for that item. My mom's sneaker shop may get #1 for the shoe... but only until Google's human reviewers figure out that the shoe is made by Nike. At that point, Nike gets the #1 position forever. My mom can't do anything to rank higher than Nike, not even if she hires me. SEO works until Google figures out there is an official page for it.

It's very easy to get #1 for a product, name, thing, etc.: just be obvious that you're the official site for it. Tip: The vast majority of sites (I'd guess at least 80%) have done no SEO or minimal SEO. There are 165 million websites, so 130 million or so haven't done any SEO. However... around 163 million websites are trivial one-page sites with no traffic so they don't count.

What Can You Do?

  • Get Visitors: If you get 200-500 visits per month, Google's reviewers will notice you. Your ranking will improve. So get more visitors. Send a monthly email, use Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, etc. (whichever is relevant). The more traffic, the better your ranking.
  • Don't Worry about Keywords: There aren't magical keywords that will bring more traffic. Use plain, clear words that your customer use to describe your company, service, or product. (This article is for small business owners, so I'm not going to write about metai>
  • Your Small Local Business: On your web site's front page and contact page, include your full postal address (street, number, city, state, zip, and telephone number with area code). Include your name as the owner, manager, etc. Make sure you're registered in Google Maps . Go to and sign up. Use your full postal address in a proper format (street, number, city, state, zip, and telephone number with area code) and so on. Note: Google will send someone to drive by to verify that it's a real office.
  • Your Product: If you make something, then make sure your webpage shows that you're the official maker of the item. Handmade by you in Vermont, etc.
  • Someone Else's Product: If you're selling something that's made by someone else (you're a vendor, distributor, reseller, etc.) and the maker isn't number one for it, you could use SEO to get #1... for a while. When the maker improves their page, Google will make them number one. No amount of SEO work will change that.
  • Your Name: People should be able to find you. Get your own domain name ( and include your name, city, and email address. Make sure you show up in LinkedIn. Your profile should be as complete as possible.
  • Your Book: SEO for Google is fine, but you really need to do SEO for Amazon. Make sure your book is findable in Amazon. Fill out the author profile fully. The same in the description for the book. Look at best-sellers in your category and read their descriptions and profiles. You should also have information about yourself and your book in Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and whatever else is relevant.
  • Your Tweets, Video, Photos, etc: There's also SEO for Twitter, Youtube, Instagram, Pinterest, and so on. Every one of these tools has its algorithm to select what will show up. If these are important for you, look into them. But for most small companies, there's not enough time.
  • Use Google Adwords: For any transactional search, Google will show ads at the top. Most users don't realize or understand that the first three links are ads. Use Google Adwords to place ads in Google. You can use a small budget ($100-200 per month), low bids ($0.15), and use geographic targeting to limit that ads to your city. You can also use ads for your name.

Beware of SEO Scams

  • We Will Make You #1!: It's easy to make a page #1. If a page is the official page for something, it will be #1. Just to prove this, I made my cat #1 in Google... for himself. Go ahead and search for Anaximander Katzenjammer. See? That's the official page for my cat, so my cat is #1 in Google for himself. SEO scammers make you #1 for yourself, but Google will do that for you anyway if you make it clear that it's the page for that.
  • Don't Pay for Link Building: Ten years ago, Google counted incoming links. The more links you had, the higher you ranked. But that was easy to fake. Google now only looks at high-value, relevant links. If your site is a veterinarian for cats, then a link from CatFancier com magazine will count, but a link from The New York Times has no value. Do not pay for "link building services". That is a scam.

If I haven't covered your topic, let me know in the comments and I'll add it.

82 Social Media Sites

Posted: Sun, 04 Sep 2016 19:10:23

People often ask me which are the top social media sites. Here is a list of 80 social media sites for a global website (active in over 100 countries).

Since it's a global site, there are many social sites that are nearly unknown in the US, such as Renren (China), VKontakte (Russia), and so on. If your goal is global presence, you'll have to look into setting up in these sites. If you're only interested in your country, then use the sites that are active in your country. The data depends also on the type of site. For this site, Pinterest (#32 with 46,000 visitors) is fairly low in the list; for a shopping site, it would rank higher.

The data covers five years, from August 2011 to September 2016.

I sorted the list by page views. For example, Facebook sent 17.6m visitors; Youtube sent 8m, and so on.

Social Sites, Sorted by Pageviews

Facebook 17,647,444; YouTube 8,042,592; Reddit 3,308,103; StumbleUpon 1,792,342; Blogger 1,734,973; WordPress 1,254,277; Stack Exchange 1,132,292; Twitter 844,237; VKontakte 614,759; Quora 611,136; Stack Overflow 602,077; Renren 596,642; Tumblr 437,819; Naver 352,671; Hacker News 336,366; LinkedIn 323,081; Douban 243,367; Sina Weibo 236,121; Google+ 198,679; Yahoo! Answers 197,472; LiveJournal 175,128; meneame 160,634; Disqus 127,421; FC2 111,719; Taringa! 106,284; Ning 102,057; Digg 89,979; ResearchGate 79,713; Pocket 74,882; BuzzFeed 63,408; Weebly 54,954; Pinterest 46,499; Flickr 44,688; Delicious 38,045; TinyURL 35,026; wikiHow 35,026; Hatena Diary 25,967; Slashdot 22,344; Wikia 22,344; Askville 13,889; 10,870; Squidoo 10,266; Cyworld 9,058; Diigo 8,454; Care2 7,247; DZone 7,247; goo blog 6,643; Drugs-Forum 5,435; Pinboard 5,435; Netvibes 4,831; Meetup 4,227; Scribd 4,227; TypePad 4,227; Before It's News 3,019; Ravelry 3,019; Yahoo! Bookmarks 3,019; Cocolog 2,416; Facebook Apps 2,416; Multiply 2,416; Wretch 1,812; AOL Answers 1,208; Bitly 1,208; BlogHer 1,208; Instagram 1,208; Instapaper 1,208; Super User 1,208; Tuenti 1,208; YouSayToo 1,208; DailyStrength 604; Fark 604; Goodreads 604; Google Groups 604; 604; Odnoklassniki 604; Oshiete! goo 604; PengYou 604; Plurk 604; Posterous 604; SlideShare 604; Topix 604


Posted: Mon, 12 Sep 2016 17:21:20

Eight articles by Matthew Buckley, a theoretical physicist at Rutgers, describe the frontiers of contemporary particle physics.

Be Findable on the Web...

Posted: Mon, 04 Jan 2016 20:28:53

Part of SEO is, of course, to be reached. It's one thing if people can find you on the web, but the second part is to let them reach you.

When I do SEO for clients, part of the process is to make sure they can be contacted on the web. Often, they have webpages or accounts in LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter, but many people check those pages only occasionally, if at all.

You should put your email address on all of your social media pages, incl. your website.

What about spammers? It used to be a problem 10-15 years ago that spammers scrapped webpages to get email addresses so they could spam people. But Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, etc. have pretty much put an end to that. There's very little junk spam anymore.

My email has been visible on the web since 1995. I get only two or three spam messages per day. But I also get emails from potential clients, invitations to speak at conferences, long-lost friends, students asking for information and help, and so on, which far outweighs the few spammers.

If you use LinkedIn, be sure to fill out your contact information. Add an email address that you check daily.

Use a Tracking Pixel in Google Adwords

Posted: Thu, 14 Jan 2016 00:30:30

Q: How do I fire a tracking pixel in Adwords? -- Perplexed in Peru

A: Dear Peru; Way back in the late 1990s, there was indeed a pixel. A clear image was placed on a web page. It was a 1X1 image, the size of a single pixel, with a unique name (e.g., pixel.gif). Because it was clear, the visitor couldn't see it. You then looked at the hit counter (sorry, web analytics hadn't been invented yet) and saw that you had a hit on good ol' pixel.gif. Since it was clear and filled only one pixel, web companies filled the page with 500 pixels. Bingo! When you visited the page, that counted as 500 visits. Yep, they talked about hits. Funny, no? Conversions hadn't yet been invented either. The interweb still ran through steam pipes.

Nobody uses pixel images anymore because that was too primitive. Yet I still hear people talk about pixels. Whatever.

What you really want is Javascript. The following works if you want to track an event where a click doesn't open a new page:

  1. Look at your web page and find the button that you want to track, such as "Buy Now!".
  2. Open the HTML for your page, such as
  3. Find the following text string <a href="">Buy!</a> (Tip: use search to find the text in the button, e.g., "Buy!").
  4. Replace it with this new string: <a href="" onClick="ga('send', 'event', { eventCategory: 'sale', eventAction: 'account', eventValue: 10});">Buy!</a>
  5. Note: In the string, eventCategory is set to "sale". You can change this to "lead", "registration", "signup", whatever.
  6. Note: In the string, eventValue is set to "10", which is $10. You can set this to zero, but it's best to give it a value, such as the average value of a sale. If you want to track the actual value of each sale, contact your transactions tool's support and ask them for the code.
  7. Save the file and upload to your server.
  8. When someone clicks on your button, it'll show up as a conversion in Google Adwords. Cool, no?

What It Does: A bit of Javascript simulates a page event in Google Analytics. I could explain this, but it takes too long and you don't really care about the details.

Another Note: In most cases, you'll have to ask your web developer to make these changes for you (it's usually that 12-year girl in the computer department). Most sites aren't simple HTML anymore, so she'll have to find the button and change it for you.

Upgrading to Windows 10

Posted: Fri, 15 Jan 2016 16:41:00

After some 450 reminders from Microsoft to upgrade to Windows 10, I began to think about it. See? Advertising works :-)

So I'll document how I'll do this.

Tues, Jan. 12th, 2016: Will I Yes or Will I No?

I have Windows 7. The full name is Windows 7 Home Premium: Millennial Celebration: With Her Majesty's Kiss, Service Pack 1. Or something like that. They can't just say Home or Office, it has to be Premium, which of course implies there is Standard, Average, Cheap, etc., and none of these exist so it's just marketing blah-blah-blah to make you feel special. Which is why it's the Millennial Edition.

And it's not easy to know which version you have. You have to dig around. Click the Start button (lower left corner of screen), move the mouse over Computer, right-click, select Properties, and the message box shows your current version.

I use Word 2002, Powerpoint, and Excel. These are all the 2002 version (in each one, click Help | About).

So why upgrade?

  • Everything works. Stable, etc. And best of all, I own the software, so no subscription fees.
  • Someone asked me about security the other day. I looked into this and it turns out Windows 7 (and pretty much everything before Win10) is fairly hackable. Remember those clever gadgets that you could put on your desktop? Gone. Too easy for hacker to get into your computer. (If you're using desktop gadgets, get rid of them. Right-click the desktop, select Gadgets, right-click each gadget, click Uninstall.)
  • I use Powerpoint a lot. I give talks at conferences and events at least every month and often, several times a month. The new version of Powerpoint has much better features for layout.
  • The same for Excel, which I use daily. The new version is much better.
  • I really don't like the Ribbon in Office, but tools can remove Ribbon and make it look like Classic Windows tools.
  • If the new versions of PowerPoint and Excel save me even just a few minutes, it's financially worth it.
  • Windows 10 is free until July. After July, you have to pay.

Why should I not upgrade?

  • Let sleeping dogs lie. If it works, don't break it. It's a hassle to upgrade. Who knows what might break?
  • Why pay more? I paid for Windows XP and Office into 2002. XP was included with the computer. When I upgraded to a new computer in 2010, Win7 was included. As for Office, I upgraded it from Windows XP, so Office was $240 in 2002. It was a business expense, so a 30% tax deduction means it cost me $168. I've used it for 13 years which is $13 per year, a dollar per month, or a cup of coffee every month.

What if I don't like it? Microsoft assures me that I can revert to Windows 7 and Word 2002.

So the for-reasons are better than the don't- reasons (for: better security, better tools)(don't: the trouble of doing so), plus I can undo the mess. The aye-votes win.

Here's a fairly good review of what's new in Office 2016.

Thurs, 14th: Buying the Office Software

I went to the Microsoft Store at the Stanford Mall and bought Microsoft Office Home & Student 2016: Lady Gaga Galactic Tour; the Homecoming. They're still at it with the long names (okay, "Office Home & Student"? Three nouns? Why not "Office Home Student Bird and Bath"?). There are five or six versions of Office. Most of them are for five computers and you pay an annual subscription around $100 per year. I use one main computer. Yes, I have a laptop, but I rarely use it (and less and less, as I switched first to a tablet and then to a Samsung Note smartphone; I don't use a laptop anymore). So a $150 one-time payment for Office 2016 with Word, Excel, and Powerpoint for one computer (it includes OneNote, whatever that is, which I won't use). It's a business expense so I'll cover the cost in less than an hour of work.

I bought this as a product in a little box, which is actually just a little box with a playing card in it. The card has the license key (250 digits or so). That's all. No manual, no disk. You can pay online and download, but I chose a box because ten years from now, I'll know where the license card is (in the folder for important stuff, like the cat's vaccination records).

Why did I buy a card in a box? If you buy it digitally and keep your records as digital files, darling, I can guarantee you that in ten years, you won't know know where it is and you definitely won't have the computer or software to open the file. I've been working with computers since the 80s (okay, so it was an slide rule) and none of my files even from the late 1990s can be opened. Computers don't use diskettes anymore; new computers don't have disk drives; I have a box of Zip disks that are less useful than an Indian arrow head.

So I put more firewood in the computer and got ready to upgrade from Win7 to Win10. I did clicky-clicky on the button (little Window icon in the lower right corner) and promptly got a notice that my graphics card (ATI Radeon X1600) can't use Win10. First road block.

To find out if your computer can upgrade to Windows 10, go to Microsoft and click Upgrade Now. It'll install a small program. Click on Run. You'll get a message if it can't upgrade.

I need to replace the graphics card. I checked; a new card is $60. I'll pick it up tomorrow at Best Buy. For me, this is easy: open the computer, pull out the old card, insert new card, bingo. But many people will need to pay someone to do this ($50-100). Or worse, they have a laptop or one of those all-in-one computer+screen+toaster systems which means they can't open it so they'll have to buy a new computer ($250-500). (Yes, there are $249 computers. Helen's Mac was wearing out, so last year at the Microsoft store, we bought a complete system (Dell 3000 desktop computer, 20" large monitor, keyboard, mouse, ultrasound toothbrush) for $249. Amazing.)

So that's the situation at the moment. Back tomorrow, same Bat Time.

Fri, 15th: Upgrading the Graphics Card

Went to Best Buy. It turns out the ATI Radeon X1600's drivers can indeed be updated to Win10, but that requires editing drivers, toolkits, etc. It could take me several hours to learn how to do that.

Or just buy a new graphics card. The XFX Radeon R5 220 (named after the CEO's baby daughter) is $39 and has 4X the memory of the old card. Pull out the old card, put in the new card, five minutes tops. It sounds odd, but it's easier cheaper better to replace the card than update the software.

Next step: install the graphics card.

Sat. 16th: No Upgrades Today

I'm doing a presentation on the 18th, so I won't change anything until that's done. Back on the 19th.

Nevertheless, I made a full backup today. Just in case.

Tues. 19th: Another Graphics Card

I installed the graphics card (15 minutes). Same message: Windows 10 isn't compatible with the Radeon X1600 series.

Called AMD support. They say I need the R7 240 card.

Removed the card.

Back to Best Buy.

Got the R7 card ($90).

Installed R7.

Same error message. Called AMD. They say it should work. They say it's a Microsoft issue.

I sent a message to AMD XFX support.

Thurs. 21st:

No reply so far from AMD XFX support.

It's been a week and a half. I've spent perhaps six hours so far.

No progress on upgrading to Windows 10.

Thurs. 21st: Office 2016

On a good note, the upgrade to Windows Office 2016 was easy. Go to, register with the software key (it's the complete first chapter of Tolstoy's War and Peace) (in Russian) (tip: copy and paste). A few clicks and it downloaded and installed itself.

It's Upgrade Week. My website's hosting server is also being upgraded, so no email since yesterday. Several friends called, concerned about what was happening. I upgraded the server because the new version of Wordpress required an upgraded server (see? one upgrade causes a cascade of upgrades).

Mon. 25th: Windows 10

AMD, on its own, sent out a driver update this afternoon for the Radeon graphics card. I clicked Okay to update it.

I then clicked the Windows 10 upgrade button and it said the computer was compatible. Finally.

I clicked a series of questions (Yes, Okay, Go Ahead, Now, Yes, now. Really). Windows 10 took about ninety minutes to download and another hour or two to configure itself (and restarted four or five times). Finally, it asked me to log in with my Windows ID and password. That's it. It works now.

Next step is of course to see what it does.

Compatible Devices

The following devices are connected to my computer. Do they work in Win10?

  • Monitor: LG Flatron W2486L: Works
  • USB external microphone: Blue Snowflake: Works
  • Inkjet printer: Canon Pixma IP1800: Works
  • Speakers: Labtec: Works
  • USB camera for Skype: Logitech c920 HDPro: (Not yet tested)
  • Flatbed scanner: Canon CanoScan LiDE 700F: (Not yet tested)

You need to test all of these, especially the printer and scanner. Several people told that when they upgraded to Win10, the printer or scanner stopped working. They had to buy new printers. It doesn't matter if a webpage says it works; it works only if it actually works (see above on what happened with the XFX graphics cards: they're supposed to work in Win10, but didn't).

I found out that many people don't have printers. I thought everyone did (this used to be common). But... printers also used to be both easy and cheap to maintain. You can easily refill an inkjet printer cartridge (get a $10 refill kit at any drugstore, Target, or computer store) and it'll refill a cartridge perhaps 30-50 times. After a while, cartridges get clogged up, so buy a new cartridge. Laser printers look great, but they break down and refills are expensive. Perhaps the move from inkjet to laser printer also meant people stopped buying printers? Or perhaps the move away from desktop computers? A lot of friends now just use their cell phones or tablets at home. I've also noticed few people print at the office.

Anyway, if you have a printer or scanner, check before you upgrade if it'll work with Win10.

File Problems

Feb. 26: Over the last few weeks, the computer began problems with opening, copying, and saving files. When I click to open, it tries to save the file. OR the file opens in Read-only mode. I copy a file into another folder and later, find that the copy is an old version. I try to save the file and it won't save.

I talked with Microsoft and they said it might be a bad download. They said to uninstall and reinstall. I did this. Let's see if this works.

Configuration of Microsoft Office: Get Rid of Ribbon

Old versions of Office used drop-down menus. New Office uses Ribbon. But the location of items on Ribbon are illogical and confused; you end up looking through the Ribbon, page by page, to find things.

The best thing about drop-down menus are the accelerator keys (for example, press Control+C to copy). I've written perhaps 75 computer manuals, 14 books and thousands of pages for websites, FAQs, white papers, etc. I use the accelerator keys extensively. I've also changed the configuration of the keys to add new commands, remove commands, or change the keys for commands. Professional users of word processors do this. However, Microsoft Word got rid of dropdown menus and hid the accelerator keys because the vast majority of users won't use this. Microsoft wrecked a professional tool (that's why it's called Office) for the sake of non-professionals.

I found that Ubit Menu can remove the Ribbon. I'll try that, plus test whatever other tools can do this.

Remove Old Software

I uninstalled a bunch of programs:

  • Microsoft Office 2007: Replaced by Office 2016
  • Microsoft Office 2010 Primary Interop Assemblies; Not needed anymore
  • Microsoft .Net Framework: Not necessary anymore because Office 2016 uses XML
  • Microsoft Mathematics: Never used this
  • Compatibility Pack for the 2007 Office System: Not necessary anymore
  • Adobe PDF Reader: Not needed anymore, Word 2016 has a PDF reader
  • Adobe PDF Writer: Not needed anymore, Word 2016 can make PDFs

Fixing Netflix: 10 Ideas

Posted: Wed, 03 Feb 2016 02:41:47

Netflix (NFLX)'s $39B market is a lot of money. Maybe they should put a bit of that into fixing the site?

  1. Pop Quiz: What's the name of the company? Netflix, right? No. Look at your DVDs. It's actually, not Netflix. Why would a company not use its name?
  2. Look at the streaming site. Okay, that's named Netflix. And it uses the N in their browser icon.
  3. But the DVD site uses... a browser icon with the text "DVD".
  4. Look at app icon in Android. Now it's Netflix, but a different logo with red text on white. Are we looking at three different companies? Nobody agrees on the logo? Is there really nobody at Netflix in charge of branding? $39B and they can't find an intern to fix this?
  5. It's not just the logo. The search tool doesn't work. Incredibly, nobody at Netflix bothers to fix this. Try it. Go to Netflix in your iPad or Android. I searched for an actor and there were no results. So to check just to see if it works, I searched for John Wayne. He made perhaps 100 movies. What's the search results at Netflix/'s-Called? Three movies. Yep, three results for John Wayne. Total failure. Can it get worse? Oh, yeah.
  6. Search on the app for Moonstruck, the movie with what's-her-name who was married to what's-his-name. What does Netflix show? 16 movies... and none of them are Moonstruck. Yes, they have the movie; it's in the desktop site. But the app can't find it. Broken. One point out of ten.
  7. When search does work, it's generally terrible. Search for "burns and allen", a comedy duo from the 1930s. Netflix search results also include the documentary Death and the Civil War (This film explores how the American Civil War created a "republic of suffering" and charts the far-reaching social, political and social changes brought about by the pervasive presence and fear of death during the war.") That's a junk result.
  8. And why list a movie that isn't available? A bit of investor fraud by inflating the list to impress investors? SEC, anyone?
  9. What about the member's queue? Does that work? I have my queue list of movies. But I can edit the list only on desktop. Queues can't be edited on mobile?
  10. Hey, Netflix! That ringy-buzzy thingie in your pocket? That's a phone. People use those. 52% of searches at Google are on mobile devices now. Maybe (just maybe) Netflix should work on mobile devices? Hey, it's just an idea. Or did someone already suggest this at Netflix and get fired?
  11. Why do I have to wade through thousands of junk movies? Why not let me use my settings to say "Don't show me anything with less than, say, 3.5 stars"?
  12. And zombie movies. There's whole categories of movies that I'll never watch. Why can't I block categories? Or is the idea to just flood the users with junk to make it look big?
  13. What's with DVDs anyway? Look, Netflix has the disk. Why not just copy it and put it on the servers and stream it? And that goes double for classics. Soviet films, Danish silent films, etc., all major historical and valuable films should be streamed. Honestly, even though Netflix has $39 billion dollars, it doesn't work all that well.
  14. I've been using Netflix since it started in 1997. Did I get a ten-year T-shirt? Or a Christmas card? How about a text message? Anything? Is this customer management as taught by Trump University? Just shake 'em for the money? Does Netflix care at all about its customers? Nope.

All of these problems have been around for years and nobody at Netflix notices anything. Is there any management at Netflix? The easy way to find out: let's see if they're following #WeLoveDVD. They could fix all of this in weeks if they wanted. The clock starts now.

- Netflix often recommends ridiculous movies to me. Their vaunted recommendations system is mostly useless.

- I suspect they take a scratched DVD and ship it right back out again. Maybe when you return an unplayable DVD, put it in the envelope and break it.

Would you like to pay $100 a month for streaming? Because they would have to pay up massively to license all of John Wayne's movies and every other movie you want, like Moonstruck. If streaming everything was just a matter of copying it onto servers, don't you think they would have done that from the start? Whoohoo, that's a great selling point and who on earth wouldn't sign up for Netflix! Plus, it'd be much easier for them without dealing with mailing discs and damaged DVDs. There's a thing called content licensing, and it's expensive and limited. That's why things leave Netflix streaming - the license expires. Before you complain and demand that they cater to your whims, take a moment to research.

On the other hand, yes, their recommendations do suck. We can all agree that those do need to be fixed.

Is it a license issue? What about movies from the 1910s and 20s? F. W. Murnau's "Sunrise" is public domain by now. Why aren't these available via streaming? See? It has nothing to do with licenses.

I suspect Netflix is intentionally keeping movies on DVD to obligate members to pay for both DVD and streaming. If it all went to streaming, they'd lose membership fees.

Google Mappers

Posted: Mon, 22 Feb 2016 00:35:40

If you have a business, you can go to Google Maps and add your business. Just click, fill out a few text boxes, and add.

However, scams also use this to make it look as if they really exist. They add street addresses to their fake sites.

So Google has a team of people who visit locations to see if the business really exists. These people are called Google Mappers.

This is yet another example of how Google uses a manual process to verify the information in Google search results.

Google and Fraud

Posted: Mon, 22 Feb 2016 17:34:30

Homeopathy is fake medicine. Its theory is impossible. Studies show it doesn't work.

Yet Google continues to show ads for it, because it makes money for Google. They make money on fraud that may lead people to avoid medical help.

The Independent writes "A total of 57 systematic reviews, containing the 176 individual studies, focused on 68 different health conditions - and found there to be no evidence homeopathy was more effective than placebo on any." (, Friday 19 February 2016).

What's in homeopathic medicine? Water. Just water. Homeopathy's own theory shows it is water. By diluting a molecule 400 times, you would have to drink 6,600 gallons of water to get one molecule.

Here are search results at Google (February 22, 2106) which show ads for homeopathy:

Google and all ad distribution networks should stop showing these ads.

No More Right-Side Ads at Google

Posted: Mon, 22 Feb 2016 18:04:08

Google announced on Feb. 19, 2016 that they will no longer show ads on the right side of the search results.

Ads will appear only at the top and bottom. Google will make the change in all languages, all countries. See TheSEMPost and

I checked: if you're signed in with your ID, the ads are gone. If you're using Google without signing in, some ads are still appearing (Feb. 22). This may change in the next few days as the rollout is implemented.

Why Is Google Doing This?

  • Google is moving towards mobile search as the standard. There are no side ads in mobile. 52% of searches at Google are now on mobile devices.
  • Google is going to use the space on the right side for its Knowledge Graph, those boxes of information about search topics.
  • Google will continue to show PLA (Product Listing Ads) on the right side (see the ads in the red circle below). Large companies sign up for PLA to create these ads. These are generally consumer products.


  • Bid competition will increase. The only way to be in the top ads will be either Adwords optimization or increase bids. However, Adwords optimization is complex, so the vast majority of advertisers will increase bids.
  • Smaller advertisers will be forced out. They can't afford higher bids, don't have the skills to optimize, and don't have the time to do this.
  • Most advertisers don't pay attention to their accounts, so I expect there will be a flurry of activity by active advertisers to readjust and then it will settle down after four-to-six weeks.
  • Ads at the bottom won't matter much; few people scroll to the bottom of the page anymore.
  • As for the users, most don't realize the first three or four links are ads. They will click on the ads.


  • Some say Google is doing this in order to get more money for the top ads. But Google has consistently chosen to prioritize the user's experience (which is based on the quality of search results) instead of ad revenue.
  • I think it's an effort on Google's part to create a consistent experience in both desktop and mobile.

The Data

Instead of speculation, how about some data?

  • Here is the data for a large client (thirty thousand keywords, 41 languages worldwide). They had 16,000 clicks in the last 30 days:
  • Another account with 5,000 keywords in 14 languages. They had 63,000 clicks in the last 30 days:
  • Feb. 19: Google removed the right-side ads.
  • Feb. 29: Here is the week-vs-week data. Both graphs below show the past week vs. the previous week. Both graphs show Adwords clicks from desktop users. In week Feb 14-20, the ads were on the right side. In week Feb 21-27, there are no ads on the right side.
  • The first graph shows a drop in sessions from 3,413 to 3,091 (322 fewer sessions), which is 9.4% fewer sessions.
  • The second graph shows a drop in sessions from 12,237 to 10,764 (1,473 fewer sessions), which is 12% fewer sessions. (Click for a larger view.)
  • Google said the right side ads get about 14% of the clicks. By removing the right-side ads, clicks should drop 14%. That's fairly close to these graphs.
  • March 7: I updated the graph. Regrettably, I have only one graph for this week. In the other account, we increased the budget from $10,000 per month to $40,000 per month, which increased the Adwords sessions, which changed the data significantly. So let's look at this graph (which is an update of the previous graph with 53,425 sessions):
  • Data for the week Feb. 14-20 isn't good because Google made the change in the morning of Feb. 19, so the last two days for that week aren't full days. The best comparison is week Feb 7-13 vs Feb 21-27 and Feb 28-Mar 5. Those are three full weeks of data, global traffic (130 countries), 5,200 active keywords, no significant holidays. As you can see, data changed Feb 7-13 (12,785 ) vs Feb 21-27 (10,764) by -15.81%. For Feb 7-13 (12,785) vs. Feb. 28-Mar 5 (12,920), traffic increased by +1.05%.
  • Changes included increasing bids slightly, optimizing the keyword CTR , optimizing the ad CTR, adding more keywords, and A/B split testing of ads. Cost-per-click rose from $0.14 to $0.17. The budget stayed the same ($2,314 per week). As you can see, although the number of ads dropped from ten to three, the number of sessions increased +1.05.

Summary: Good for Top Advertisers; Bad for Weak Advertisers

What does this mean?

I expect a poorly-managed (or an ignored account) will suffer severely because 1) most of their ads were in the low positions, which no longer exist and 2) their ads were in low positions due to low Quality Score, CTR, etc.

In contrast, a well-managed account will see an increase in impressions, clicks, CTR, conversions, and sales. Efficient advertisers will get more clicks because 14% of clicks were going to those low-quality side ads. Those clicks now now go to the ads at the top.

I think Google made a good decision. They reduced clutter and got rid of weak ads. Both produce a better experience for users, which is Google's goal.

What You Can Do

  • Watch your PPC metrics: Look at bids, impressions, clicks, CTR, CPCs, conversions, CPL, and CPA. Look in analytics for trend changes in paid search. Go to Google Analytics and set the calendar span to the last six months. Go to Google Analytics | Acquisition | Channels | Paid Search. Also go to Google Analytics | Acquisition | Adwords | Desktop. Watch the trends.
  • Increase bids. This is the easy solution. If your ads aren't in the first three positions, increase the bids. However, the easy way is often the expensive solution. Higher bids lead to higher cost-per-click (CPC). You'll pay more.

    A friend met with Google, which said the 4th ad gets only 2.5% of clicks. Google's recommendation is to increase budgets (surprise surprise) for keywords with 4th position ads in case they hit budget caps.

  • Optimize your Adwords account. This is the hard solution. More ad groups, more keywords, keywords in various match types, better ads, and better strategy. Lots of work but you'll get higher ranking and lower CPCs. How much? As much as 80-90% lower. Really. A well-optimized campaign can bid lower and rank higher than competitors.

    For example, improve the information in your ad to get a higher CTR, which will increase the ad's rank and lower the CPC.

    You can also maximize the ad's vertical height. Use SiteLinks, which allow you to add links such as Products, About, Contact, and so on to your ad. You should also add your address (street and city) and telephone.

    If it's relevant, use PLA (Product Listing Ads). These will appear at the top right side.

  • Optimize the SEO: If paid marketing is too expensive, improve your SEO. If you can show up at the top, you get traffic for free.
  • Use social media: Don't rely on Google for your traffic. Increase your traffic from other channels, such as social, newsletters, and content marketing. Look at analytics and see which social sites are sending traffic. Improve your placement in those.
  • Use content marketing: Develop world-class content, such as books, ebooks, white papers, videos, podcasts, and so on. Your audience will share your material, which means it goes viral.

Don't rely on one channel. Try all channels, see which performs best, and improve those channels.

(Thanks to Maxime Dupuy-Chaignaud, whose suggestion about SEO led me to write this last section).

Another Penguin Update

Posted: Tue, 01 Mar 2016 18:02:05

Google is about to release Penguin 4.0, another algorithm upgrade. Here's the dire warning at SearchEngineWatch. What's my opinion? What will I do about Penguin 4.0?

Nothing. I don't care. Because Penguin goes after SEOers who use tricks. I don't, so it won't affect me.

The vast majority of SEO people believe the following three things:

  • Keywords: Find lots of keywords, because Google uses keywords.
  • Meta-tags
  • : Add DESCRIPTION, TITLE, and KEYWORD meta-tags
  • Links: Get lots of links from other sites, because Google counts incoming links.

Why these three? Because it's easy. It's easy to come up with 25,000 keywords (I can do that in 15 minutes).

The managers don't know what they're looking at. But they have to measure something. So those SEOers do stuff that can be easily measured: keywords, meta-tags, links.

The three bullet points above were true... way back in the early 2000s. But in the middle of the 2000s, Google began to move away from those. Why? For the obvious reason that it was done to spoof Google. Which also means it's easy to identify these tricks, which makes it easy to block them. Thus the Penguin algorithm changes.

If your SEO person (staff or contractor) bought a lot of links for you, you're in trouble. If your SEOer bought blah-blah-blah articles from content farms and then posted that junk as "guest postings" on blogs with a link back to you, you're in trouble. Google is looking for tricks like this. All that work, all of those high rankings, and all of that money will be wasted when Google blocks your site.

So what should you really do for SEO? Don't worry about Penguin updates.

Find out what your audience really wants. Offer the very best answer/solution. Google will rank your page highly, they'll find it, come to you, and tell their friends. It's that easy.

In Plain Words...

Okay, forget SEO and Google. What does this mean, in plain language? How do you get money for Saturday night on the town? It's easy: rob a gas station! But eventually the cops will catch you.

So what's the best way? Get an honest job and get paid. Long-term, slow, and steady.

Junk Content Is Junk Food

Posted: Sun, 10 Apr 2016 18:09:24

Ev Williams, co-founder of Twitter, talks about Twitter and content sites. He makes an interesting comment:

“If you look at feedback loops like likes and retweets, they’ve been very carefully crafted to maximise certain types of behaviours. But if we reward people based on a measurement system where there’s literally no difference between a one-second page view or reading something that brought them value or changed their mind, it’s like – your job is feeding people, but all you’re measuring is maximising calorie delivery. So what you’d learn is that junk food is more efficient than healthy, nourishing food.”

To put this in plain words, content is measured by clicks. Not quality, authority, etc. It's clicks.

Whether you click on an article in Granta or the idiotic HuffingtonPost, it's the same: one click, which is the only thing that the publishers and advertisers want. So "content producers" (i.e., junk writers) churn out whatever gets clicks and advertisers will place ads on it. Twitter, Medium, Gawker, HuffingtonPost, BusinessInsider, and hundreds of others, plus the "content farms", are junk content. Which means some may survive, but they certainly aren't worth their sky-high valuations.

It's April 2016, which means winter is coming. Yes, soon it'll be the year 2000 AD again. Many of you don't remember that year, and many of you weren't here for it. When the dotcom bubble popped, Silicon Valley was smoking ruins. Today, just like then, despite yet more money coming in, VCs are either not funding or they're doing down rounds. Down-rounds are great fun for VCs; they can force their startups to give up more for less. Yes, they funded and nurtured their startups and now it's time to rape them. How can they force a down round? The lead VC quietly mentions to other co-investors that he's not confident about the startup. Potential investors check with the lead VC and also hear that he's considering the startup's future. Whoops. No more money. But to survive, the startup needs another $100m, so... guess who's on top? The VCs can extort massive concessions from the founders.

Google Quality Rater Guidelines

Posted: Sat, 16 Apr 2016 01:56:03

The new 2016 edition of the Google Quality Rater Guideline (146 pages, PDF, 8.2 MB, March 2016).

I'll read this in the next few days and add notes. If you read it, add comments or ask questions.

The Google Answer Machine

Posted: Tue, 16 Aug 2016 16:18:58

Search Engines vs. Answer Machines

I've often said that in five years, Google won't exist. They're so used to search engines that they can't imagine it could disappear.

But they also forget search engines didn't exist until recently. Before the early 90s, there was no such thing as web-based search engines. Yahoo started 1993-4 but it was a directory (a list of links). Modern search engines started in 98-99 when software began indexing webpages. Search engines are now moving to the next step: instead of indexing pages, they are creating answers. Search engines will turn into answer machines.

What's the difference?

  • Search Engines: Search for "flights to Shanghai" and you'll find a list of pages by United, Korean Air, China Southern, Singapore Air, and other airlines.
  • Answer Machines: An answer engine creates the answer just for you. Google uses data from airlines, maps, weather, traffic, and other resources to create a reply just for you. The answer is written by Google, not websites. Someone else asks the same question and they may get a different answer, depending on their location, time, past behavior, and so on.

Go ahead and try it. If you have the latest version of Google Chrome on your phone, try talking to Google:

  • "Okay, Google, what's the status on Southwest flight 2416?"
  • "Okay, Google, will it rain tomorrow?"
  • "Okay, Google, navigate to the nearest gas station."

These answers are not from websites. The answers are created by Google (at the end of this posting, there are many more questions that you can ask Google).

Wow. Did Google invent this?

As with most everything at Google, other people developed this idea. Wolfram calls this "computable knowledge", which means information can be calculated by computers. Wolfram released Wolfram Alpha, its computational machine, in 2009.

You can use Wolfram Alpha to find answers. For example, ask for the distance from earth to jupiter at 10:42 am on april 21st, 2428. That question is impossible for any search engine (including Google) because search engines can only find an answer if it is already on a webpage by someone else, but nobody has created webpages with Jupiter's data for the year 2428. However, Wolfram uses astronomical databases to calculate the distance for any planet or moon for any year. It can also do this for hundreds of topics in chemistry, physics, history, and so on. Wolfram Alpha can generate local weather information. Ask it for a weather forecast in five days in Palo Alto. You can even use it to generate music at Wolfram Tones where every song is unique.

So What Does this Mean for Users?

This is great for users:

  • You get the correct answer
  • You don't scroll through lots of webpages to find what you want
  • You won't see junk, fake pages, scams, or spam

What Does this Mean for Everyone Else?

This is bad for companies, newspapers, apps, organizations, and writers:

  • Companies: Google could replace stores. Why waste your time in looking at Walmart, Sears, Target, etc., when you can ask Google "List of electric self-powered lawnmowers under $200"; it shows you a list; you pick one; you pay with Google Pay; it arrives within a few hours with Google Express. Google has the ability to do this now.
  • Newspapers: Companies are using computers to write news stories, marketing material, business reports, sports news, and more. Reasd abiout this at See more about this at
  • Organizations: Government databases are owned by the public which means Google will become the interface to that data. You'll use Google, not the Social Security Administration. This puts public information in the hands of a company.
  • Writers: People create webpages to publish their ideas, thoughts, and experiences. They make their pages accessible to everyone. But to find these pages, people use search engines. As Google evolves into an answer machine, search and webpages will fade into a minor field where few people go. The dream of the World Wide Web in the mid-90s allowed everyone to publish on a level playing field. But by 2010, nearly all of the web was dominated by only a few hundred companies. Netflix alone accounts for third of all web traffic. The top 10-20 sites have 90% of all traffic.

It'll get worse: Google can review search queries to see what can be replaced with its own results.

What Does this Mean for SEO?

SEO will shift from optimization into database creation and management. Instead of hiring SEO people, companies will use Google-compliant data formats to arrange data so it can be used by Google tools.

For example, an airline won't need to make its flight schedule available to the public. They'll only need a brochure site with a few pages with about the company. Flights, prices, etc. will be handled by Google.

Examples of Questions for Google

Here are examples of what you can ask Google. You can type these, but you should really try these by talking to your phone. Say "Ok, Google, set an alarm for 7am" and see how it works. See if you can discover more possibilities. I often use "Ok, Google, set the timer for 12 minutes." Set Your Calendar, Alarms, Reminders

  • Set an alarm for 7 AM
  • Set an alarm for every Friday at 7 AM
  • Set the timer for 37 minutes
  • Remind me to call John at 6 PM
  • Remind me to buy Belgian chocolate at Ghirardelli Square
  • Show me my SMS messages from Brian about dinner
  • Create a calendar event for dinner in San Francisco, Saturday at 7 PM
  • See your upcoming bills: My bills or My Comcast bills 2013
  • What's my day look like tomorrow?
  • When's my next meeting?
Phone Calls, Email, Text Messages, Posting
  • Call Lindsay Hampson
  • Call Mom
  • Text Jason that I'm running 5 minutes late
  • Send a Hangouts message to Bob
  • Start a Hangouts chat
  • Start a video call
  • Video call Jane using Hangouts
  • Send an email to Kristin, subject new shoes, message, I have a new cat, full stop.
  • Listen to voicemail
  • Post to Facebook/Twitter that I'm going to be in Seattle for the weekend
Music, Movies, TV, Books, Pictures
  • Play Macklemore
  • What's this song?
  • Play some music
  • What movies are playing tonight?
  • Where's Hunger Games playing?
  • Show me pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge
  • Take a picture
  • Record a video
Get Directions & Travel
  • What’s the status of Delta flight 1424?
  • Navigate to Safeway
  • Directions to 1299 Colusa Avenue Berkeley California
  • Where's the closest coffee shop?
  • What are some attractions in New York City?
  • Show me my flights
  • Where's my hotel?
  • Book a table for 2 at Cascal on Wednesday
Facts & Answers
  • What time is it in London?
  • Do I need a jacket today?
  • What's the weather like tomorrow morning?
  • Will it rain?
  • Where was Albert Einstein born?
  • How do you say turtle in Chinese?
  • What does gluttony mean?
  • What's 16 ounces in pounds?
  • What's the square root of 2209?
Change Your Device's Settings
  • Turn wifi on/off
  • Turn bluetooth on/off
  • Turn flashlight on/off
Other Apps for Google

You can say Ok Google with some apps on your device. You may see a Google Card in the search results with a button that will allow you to launch the app. If you request this action several times and tap the button each time, Google will learn that you prefer that app and will not ask you again.

  • WeChat: Send a message to Kate with WeChat.
  • Search in apps: Search for thai food on Yelp

Events and Calendars in Silicon Valley

Posted: Fri, 22 Apr 2016 15:30:44

A list of calendars for tech events and startup events in Silicon Valley from San Jose to San Francisco:

If you know of other calendars, add them in the comments! Thanks!

The Impact of Mobile on Marketing

Posted: Mon, 02 May 2016 20:00:11

Q. How is marketing going to evolve over the next ten years as a result of technological innovation?

A. The general technical trend will continue to develop into a wider social trend:

  • Cable TV lost 48,000 subscribers in 2015. They're on track to lose 600,000 in 2016. Cable is collapsing.
  • TV ads revenues are declining. People are discovering all of the possible ways to watch streaming video on digital devices. TV's collapse will accelerate soon. In five years, it will be a disaster; in ten years, TV will be a minor market only for a few elderly who never tried digital.

Both TV and cable will reach a point where their revenues (ads or subscribers) won't support the expensive distribution infrastructure, studios, directors, cameramen, editors, etc., plus of course the money that goes to ad agencies, etc. Their costs are fixed but their revenue is declining.

Google/Facebook together earn more today in ad revenue than all of the thousands of TV/cable companies around the world. That gives G/FB monopoly leverage and vast amounts of cash to enter, take over, and dominate every possible ad platform in every possible market, incl. Africa.

  • The basic feature of a digital device is the freedom to choose. A digital device can do just about anything, which gives the user a remarkable range of choice.
  • The technical innovation is the development of smartphones. This created a shift from desktop to mobile.
  • Mobile added portability. It fits in your pocket.
  • Mobile is also very cheap. A refurbished smart phone is $7. Around two billion people are mobile-first and mobile-only.
  • Mobile pocket devices let you text with friends, Skype with family, make, share, and watch videos, buy things, order tickets, manage your money, send emails, check the weather, plan events, follow the news, read books, use maps, surf the web, check the time, listen to music, take, share, and look at photos, look at stars, use a magnifying glass to look at bugs, call a taxi, set a wakeup alarm, and of course, play games. Oh, and every once in a while, make phone calls.

If the TV companies were to try to offer the same, they would have to abandon the basic concept of TV (as in, advertising beamed at a captured audience). Does TV has a chance? No. TV died when the iPhone came out on January 9, 2007.

So how will mobile affect marketing? From the early 1950s to 2009, TV advertising was the center of marketing. TV ads worked because they allowed nationwide distribution of advertising to a large audience. But mobile is primarily personal. Yes, you can indeed use unfocused, broad advertising in mobile, but it's wasteful. Personalized advertising (yes, to a single person) works better. Mobile will force marketing to evolve from mass marketing to personalized marketing.

This doesn't include the reach of mobile. TV networks are country-based. For many reasons, a US TV network can't enter South America, Japan, Kenya, etc. In contrast, mobile is global. A few months ago, I set up a client's campaign in 42 languages and 130 countries. I can do that in a few days. It would take thousands of people at an ad agency to do the same for TV and the cost would be in the tens of millions. I seriously doubt any worldwide ad agency has ever done a global campaign at that scale.

Wikipedia: Open Source Corporate?

Posted: Tue, 03 May 2016 16:11:45

An interesting article in Gizmodo about the evolution of Wikipedia from an open source editorial community turned into the worst aspects of corporate management.

You start with a decentralized democratic system, but over time you get the emergence of a leadership class with privileged access to information and social networks. Their interests begin to diverge from the rest of the group. They no longer have the same needs and goals. So not only do they come to gain the most power within the system, but they may use it in ways that conflict with the needs of everybody else.

As you can see, this also applies to many other systems, including the web itself. When the web started in the early 80s, everyone could set up a website. But over the years, the web became highly technical (which requires expensive experts, technologies, etc. which are funded by VCs, etc.) It's now impossible for the little guys to compete against large corps: small sites don't have the time, money, technical skills, or experts.

Google, Facebook, etc., celebrate "the culture of anarchy" (just like the HBO Silicon Valley show). Skateboards in the office, colorful beanbags, and free massage for dogs is just fun! This turns the ideology of anarchy into propaganda, and the purpose of propaganda, of course, is to cover up reality: we get dazzled by the dogs on skateboards and forget that Google, FB, and a handful of VCs control the web.

How Facebook Controls the News

Posted: Sat, 07 May 2016 16:25:12

What happens when large web sites hire journalists?

> (...) many former employees suspect that Facebook’s eventual goal is to replace its human curators with a robotic one. (They) started to feel like they were training a machine, one that would eventually take their jobs. (...) As one former contractor put it: “We felt like we were part of an experiment that, as the algorithm got better, there was a sense that at some point the humans would be replaced.” (

This is also going on at Google and other sites: they use humans to train their AI. At some point, they'll get rid of the humans.

The real problem however is the control of information. Facebook, Google, Twitter, etc. are using unknown, lightly-skilled people to determine what counts as information. These people are quickly replaced or fired. Information is turning into fast food: cheap junk. The large companies are placing tight controls over what we see on the web.

It is extremely dangerous when a few billionaires have control over information. Despite the colorful beanbags and free dog massages, Facebook, Twitter, Bing, Google, Microsoft, etc. aren't socially-responsible organizations for the public good. They are companies in the business of making money.

One Billion Domain Names!

Posted: Fri, 13 May 2016 17:03:04

Why is it so hard to find a good domain name? Because there are more than a billion domain names. Whoa!

However, only 168 million are active websites. Of that, all of the traffic goes to only a million sites. 167m sites could disappear and nobody would notice. Yes, 1.082B names could be erased and nobody would care.

These domains are hosted on 5.8m computers. A few, such as Microsoft, Amazon, etc., are hosting tens of millions of sites.

Note the spike in registrations around August 2010. That led to a spike in active sites by late 2011. This reached 190m sites and then declined to today's 168m (April 2016). I wonder if this is due to the shift towards apps? Or Wordpress/Wix sites (where millions of sites are subdomains, such as,, and so on)?

Marketplaces: The Next Direction of the Web?

Posted: Tue, 14 Jun 2016 17:36:34

June 10, Chicago -- I was at IRCE (Internet Retailer Conference and Exhibit) for three days. It's a large show for ecommerce on the Internet. There were 650-700 booths and perhaps 10-20,000 visitors. One afternoon, I walked up and down every aisle and looked at every booth to see what is going on in ecommerce.

I spend so much time on SEO and PPC (Google Adwords) that every once in a while, I look up and realize there are entirely new kinds of things on the web. That's one reason that I go to tradeshows: to learn new things.

The new thing is marketplaces. Some of you already know about these. But some of you don't. I talked with various friends in Silicon Valley this weekend and only a few knew a bit about these.

"Marketplaces" are large websites that allow other companies to set up shops within their website.

For example, you make shoes so you set up your shoe store website inside Amazon. The Amazon marketplace handles product descriptions, photos, the catalog, warehouse storage, ordering, transaction (payment), shipping, and returns, all for a small fee. You can use WooCommerce and other tools in Wordpress, Wix, Mailchimp, and so on to build and connect your store to the marketplaces. There are a bunch of tools and services, including agencies for this.

Marketplaces grew 19% in the past year and now account for 33% of all US ecommerce sales. Yes, they're big.

Where Do Companies Advertise?

US companies spent around $60B in digital marketing in 2015. Where is that money going? Here is data from eMarketer (Sept. 2015):

  • 40% Google
  • 13% Facebook
  • 5% Microsoft
  • 4% Yahoo!
  • 2% Twitter
  • 2% Amazon
  • 1% Yelp
  • 1% LinkedIn
  • 2% AOL

Google got 40% of the $60B. That's good, right? No, wait, that's not good.

How Do People Buy Stuff?

The issue is how people buy stuff. According to Bloom Research (2015):

  • 81% of US purchases start with online search
  • 44% of consumers start at Amazon
  • 34% of consumers start at search engines
  • 21% start at store sites

Do you see the problem? Only 34% of consumers start with a search engine. Google has 64% of the US market, which means Google gets 22% of US purchase searches. Not good. This means Google's 40% share of ecommerce ad spend is reaching only those 22% of consumers who go to Google.

Meanwhile, 44% of consumers go straight to Amazon: that $22B that was spent in Google didn't reach them. Google Adwords looks big but it actually has only half the reach of Amazon. Amazon Merchant Services accounts for 40% of Amazon's revenues.

There's more bad news.

How Big Is Amazon?

Amazon Prime is Amazon's member service. You pay $99/year and get unlimited, two-day free shipping, free unlimited movies, free unlimited music, unlimited file storage, 20% discounts on many new things, and more stuff. According to Internet Retailer Survey (April 2016):
  • 60% of US households are members of Amazon Prime
  • 50% of their shopping is at Amazon
  • 40% go first to Amazon
  • 30% buy only at Amazon and nowhere else

Whoa. 30% of consumers don't even bother to look at Google or go to a store? $22B in Google advertising isn't reaching them.

And yes, there's more bad news.

The Ten Largest Marketplaces

Amazon isn't the only marketplace. Amazon Merchant Services has two million stores with 365 million products (SKUs) and $224B in annual sales. eBay has 900m products and 25 million vendors. NewEgg has ten thousand vendors, 27 million products, and $2.9B in annual sales. Here's a table from Internet Retailer (April 2016):

The top marketplaces in April 2016. SKU = Stock Keeping Unit, or a product, which is pronounced "skew". Just so you know, a large supermarket has around 50,000 SKUs. Bluefly, the smallest marketplace with 100,000 SKUs, has twice as many products as a large supermarket. Jet is the size of 200 large supermarkets.

Look carefully at that list of the ten largest marketplaces. What's missing?

Yep... Google. Have you ever heard of Bluefly or Jet? They're bigger in ecommerce than Google?

Okay, a side note here. I knew that there were ecommerce stores in China. Merchants set up shops in Alibaba, Taobao (80m SKUs), WeChat, and so on. I knew this has been going on for five years or so, but I thought it was just one of those things they do only in China. I wondered why merchants could set up in WeChat but there was nothing like that in Facebook. We didn't notice it was happening in the US as well.

New kinds of companies are entering this space. For example, from Australia builds marketplaces for companies. If Safeway wants to start a marketplace, builds the infrastructure.

What This Means for Google

Okay, here comes a bit of search engine theory. Just take notes.

In the early 2000s, Altavista researchers found there are three kinds of searches:

  • Informational: You want to learn about something. Who was the president of France in 1934? What's the best way to clean a silk shirt? About 80% of searches are informational.
  • Navigational: You want the official website for a person, organization, company, product, city, national park, and so on. You want the website for Yosemite National Park, so you search for Yosemite. 10% of searches are informational.
  • Transactional: You want to get something. Either buy something or download a song, movie, book, PDF, app, software, and so on. You search for it and the search engine shows you the webpage that sells it. 10% of searches are transactional.

This three-part model of search is basic user behavior at all search engines.

You see now? Yes, a very big problem.

In 1998, Google was just a small startup that built a search engine which they wanted to sell so they could go on to do something worthwhile (really). They went around to the big companies and offered it for $1m. Yes, less than the price of a house in Palo Alto. And everyone turned them down. "There's no money in search engines."

Many people think this was crazy: of course there was money in search engines: Google makes $50B every year. Don't they?

But it's true: there's no money in search. Most searches are informational or navigational and Google doesn't make much money on those. Who cares about the president of France in 1934? There's little advertising for Yosemite or Justin Bieber. Any search engine just points to those. Which is why DuckDuckGo and all of the other search engines make very little money.

Google makes money on transactional searches, which is that ten percent of searches where people are looking to buy something. Only a few companies can get to the top of the search page, so to make sure they're at the top, they pay Google Adwords for advertising. Google makes money on ads, not the search. Google is not a search engine. Google is an ad publisher.

From 2002 (the beginning of Adwords) up to 2015, if you want to buy something, you Googled it, saw the ads, and clicked the ads. That made Google #1.

But no more. Amazon Prime is #1. More people buy at Amazon than search for products at Google.

Want to hear something funny? Amazon Prime was a lucky idea. In 2005, a staffer at Amazon suggested it and Amazon tried it. 30% of consumers now buy at Amazon and don't bother to look anywhere else, not in Google or local stores. Amazon memberships created tremendous customer loyalty.

So the other marketplaces are trying the same thing: Build a platform to allow hundreds of thousands of vendors to sell tens of millions of products.

MailChimp, Amazon, Wordpress, Adobe, IBM, FedEx, Visa, MasterCard, UPS, and many others were at the IRCE trade show in Chicago. But Google, Facebook, and Microsoft were not there.

Facebook has a chance in the game. They could set up a marketplace. Facebook has the audience, the advertising platform, and relations to companies. They had a marketplace back in the late 2000s, but they gave up on it. What about Google? Google could buy one, such as eBay or Etsy. eBay would be a good target: it fell 2% in a market that's growing 19% (yes, that's really bad). But this would put Google in competition with its advertisers which would kill its ad engine.

And then there are the Chinese. Alibaba is twice as big as Google and Amazon combined and will soon be the first trillion dollar company. WeChat has 600m users, which is twice the population of the US. These Chinese companies could buy the large US companies.

So, if you're selling products, look into marketplaces. Set up your store in all relevant marketplaces (not just Amazon). Learn about advertising in the marketplaces (for example, Amazon has its own ad platform).

What about SEO and Adwords? Keep doing them. After all, it still reaches 22% of US shoppers.

A New Web?

So what did I mean by "a new web"? I thought about why I hadn't yet noticed marketplaces. In Silicon Valley, we pay attention to search engines and social networks, i.e., Google, Facebook, and the social sites. The goal is to get many to make money on advertising. As for actually selling something? That's for other people.

So much, okay, too much, of the Silicon Valley web is clickbait: creating sites, pages, and stuff to get people to click. In the 90s, we called it eyeballs. Clickbait is junk. Just as the chase for eyeballs led to the dotcom crash, clickbait will also crash for the same reason: the number of people doesn't change, but the amount of ads and clickbait keep increasing, which lowers the value of the clicks.

Ecommerce however is based on reality: People pay real money to buy real products. Amazon's revenues for 2nd quarter in 2016 are around $30B. That's $120B per year, which is more than double Google's annual revenues. Google is big? No, Amazon is bigger. And Amazon sells real stuff, whereas Google is advertising.

So maybe we're entering a new phase of the Internet.

Will the Web Kill Languages?

Posted: Mon, 20 Jun 2016 15:50:35

Q. Will the Web kill languages?

A. I studied at Universitaet Heidelberg (Germany). It's the #1 German university. When I went to Germany in 1977, only a few students spoke English. Only two or three professors could speak a bit of English, and only at a low level. I did all of my university work in German (lectures, books, exams, thesis, etc.)

In the late 70s and early 80s, I was often in Paris, where people spoke only French. Even the person at the Information Desk at Gard de nord (the international train station) spoke only French. The same in Spain and Italy. This was good for me; I learned lots of languages quite simply because I had to learn in order to communicate.

Today, it's entirely different in Europe. Everyone under the age of 35 speaks excellent English. Scandinavians speak English better than Americans.

How did this happen? In the early 90s, the European Union decided they needed a common language and they chose English. German, French, and so on are becoming local languages. All business, etc. is done in English.

I've been to China quite a few times. In Beijing and Shanghai, many young people speak English. I know many Chinese in Silicon Valley; the young who recently arrive speak excellent English. But if you go to west China (Sichuan, Chendu, Chongquin, and the smaller cities), nobody, absolutely nobody speaks anything but Chinese. I know government officials, heads of companies, professors, etc., and they speak only Chinese.

It is astonishing to realize that Europe switched to a common language in less than twenty years. Simply teach it at all schools, starting in the first years.

What about the US? Could it switch to Chinese? Yes, of course. The Europeans switched to another language. But will the US switch? No. There's no compelling reason for US Americans to learn other languages.

In the last ten years, I've noticed educated South Americans (Chile, Argentina, Colombia, Brazil, Mexico) generally speak good English.

(By the way, English isn't my first language. I speak four languages fluently and read another four or five.)

For the Americans, note that a hundred years ago, French was the global language of business, military, and diplomacy, even in the US. No more. Latin was taught at all major high schools. No more.

I manage global digital advertising campaigns for several very large organizations. For one, I use 17 languages; for another, I use 42 languages in 130 countries. But in both cases, English accounts for 90% of the traffic. English is the global language.

It's nice to be able to live in one's own language. But science, industry, medicine, business, etc. function better when everyone uses a common language. Germany, France, Italy, etc. had to switch to English to compete in the global market.

What about Arabic? Arabic is tied tightly to Islam and Koran (Allah spoke only Arabic, so Koran shouldn't be translated). Which means Arabs who work in STEM use English as their work language. At University of Cairo, medicine is taught in English. This means English is the language of "the real world" and Arabic is the language of religion. Furthermore, there isn't one Arabic language. There are lots of dialects and they often can't understand each other. Although Iranians are Muslim, they generally can't read the Arabic of Koran. I've had many close friends from various Arab countries. Although every Muslim reveres Koran, few actually read it. Just as Latin is the language of the Catholic Church, and see what happened to that (and yes, I studied Latin in high school).

I wonder about Chinese (I'm trying to learn Chinese). The Chinese have 1.2 billion people and a vast internal market. The Chinese sphere is large enough to maintain itself without the rest of the world. Or will we have a bi-lingual world, where people speak both English and Chinese? I live in Palo Alto where Chinese is taught in the schools. Spanish is the second language of California and Chinese may be the third language.

Look, I'm not promoting US English. More Indians speak English than the population of the US. More Chinese speak English than the population of the US. International English is the global language.

Will the web kill languages? A better question: will globalization kill languages? Absolutely. No doubt at all. For me, it's not a question of studies, essays, national pride, etc. It's reality: I've seen it happen. STEM is in English and if you don't use English, you don't use STEM, which means your country, province, city, culture, etc. will be left behind.

Speed Up Your Computer & Google Chrome Browser

Posted: Tue, 21 Jun 2016 15:38:54

The Chrome browser uses a lot of memory. The more memory, the slower your computer will run. You can speed up your computer (and the browser) by reducing the browser's memory use. To see memory usage in Windows:

  1. Press Control+Alt+Delete
  2. Select Task Manager
  3. Click Performance | Click Memory
  4. Turn off a tab and memory usage will drop.
Shut down unused tabs:

It's nice to have 20 tabs in your browser, but each one is using memory.

  1. Close the tabs that you're not using.
  2. Yes, that's an easy one :-)
Suspend inactive tabs:

If you have twelve open tabs, all of them are active in memory.

  1. Put tabs in suspension.
  2. Use "The Great Suspender" extension
  3. Go to
  4. Search for "The Great Suspender"
  5. Click "Add to Chrome"
  6. When it's added, click the icon (upper right corner)
  7. Click Settings
  8. Set to 10 minutes (or whatever you want).
Turn off plugins:
  1. Go to the browser address bar.
  2. Enter "chrome://plugins"
  3. Turn off Widevine, Native Client, Adobe Flash Player.
  4. Turn off any plugins that you don't use.
  5. If the plugin is needed, Chrome will ask you.
Set plugins to "Click to Load":
  1. Go to Settings (hamburger menu at upper right)
  2. Select Show Advanced Settings (at bottom)
  3. Go to Privacy
  4. Select Content Settings
  5. Scroll down to Plug-Ins
  6. Select "Let me chose when to run plugin content".
Remove unused extensions
  1. Go to the browser address bar.
  2. Enter "chrome://extensions"
  3. Turn off extensions by clicking Disable
  4. Remove extensions that you don't use.
Use Google Data Saver:

Instead of fetching data from the website, get a compressed version from Google's servers.

  1. Use the "Google Data Saver" extension
  2. Search for "Google Data Saver"
  3. Click "Add to Chrome"

If you have more tips, let me know.

Find Intern Openings

Posted: Tue, 21 Jun 2016 17:46:51

Do you want to be an intern in Silicon Valley?

Before you start, really think about what you want to do and what you want to learn. Don't just get an internship with whoever accepts you. Here are my tips on how to find your right internship. Intern at a Big Company or a Little Company?

Companies use interns as a test to find good staff. If you do a good job, they'll often hire you. Sometimes, they've convert you from intern to staff right away (I know people who've done this). A large company will often pay you, give you meals, housing, travel expenses, etc.

However... the larger the company, the less you'll learn. Large companies have large bureaucracies and intense internal politics where all decisions are made by upper level staff. Mid-level, entry level, and interns have very little active roles.

If you intern at a small company (less than 100 people) or a startup, you'll likely be treated as staff. You'll be given a great deal of work and responsibility. If your manager is expert in what she does and is willing to teach you, you'll learn more in a few weeks than your four years of college. I've known interns who joined a company on Monday morning at 9 am and two hours later, they were put in charge of large projects for nationwide companies.

By the way, Google, Facebook, etc. are not startups. These have 30,000 or more employees. You'll have lots of fun and they have great food but you won't learn much. Use the Internship to Learn

Many companies treat interns as free workers. They assign heavy workloads and long hours. When you finish, they throw you out. And yes, I've known companies that intentionally did this. They laughed about it. "Hey, it's free workers! If they're dumb enough to work for free, why not take advantage of them?" You really don't want to work at a place like that, no matter how prestigious the name.

Your internship is an opportunity for you to learn about the company and the industry. Don't just sit at your desk. Go around and talk with all of the directors, VPs, and C-level. Ask them who else you should talk with. The good ones will talk with you and introduce you to others. Ask them what organizations you should join, what books you should read. Learn as much as you can. Learn about Your Manager

When you have an offer, research the manager. That person will be a major factor in your career for learning hands-on skills, learning about the reality of the job, and getting future jobs.

  • Look at the person's career. Has she moved up in her career? Has she focused on an industry? Has she been active in her career? Avoid people who jump around randomly or have been in the same position for more than five years.
  • Is the director/manager have a presence on the web? If she is a VP or director, does she have a web site? If he is in marketing, is he active in Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.? Don't work for someone who has no presence on the web.
  • Does the director/manager have credentials in LinkedIn? Went to a good school, active in associations, lots of connections?
  • Look at the person's Facebook page. Do they have lots of friends? Don't work for a loner.
How to Find Internships
  • Send an email to everyone whom you know and ask them if they know of an opening. Personal contacts is the best way to find something.
  • Find your school's alumni association and talk with alumni.
  • Make a list of the companies where you want to intern and contact them
  • Join your industry's association and volunteer. Get into the membership or events committee which will let you meet everyone.
  • Places to find internships and entry-level jobs:,,,,,,,,,,,…
The Best Idea...

Start your own company. You'll learn how to do everything. Super hard work, but it's the best way to learn.

If you have more ideas, let me know in the comments.

No Statistics in Adwords Editor

Posted: Tue, 05 Jul 2016 22:39:49

Another minor bug in Adwords Editor. Problem: Adwords Editor can't download statistics. Why: The date format in the statistics dialog box is wrong. This happens if you change the date format settings in Windows 10. Workaround: Change the date format in Windows 10. Description: When you try to download statistics in Adwords Editor, the OK button is grey. Statistics can't be downloaded. Check the date in the Statistics dialog box. If the date appears as "Monday, July 4, 2016", it won't work. The date format should be "07/04/16". How To Fix:

  1. In Windows 10, go to Start | Settings | Time & Language | Date & Time
  2. At the end of the Formats section, click "Change date and time formats"
  3. Set "Short Date" to MM/dd/yy
  4. Exit

This is a minor Adwords Editor bug. It should allow any date format from Windows 10, but it only accepts numerical values. Google should fix it.

Robots, AI, and the End of Work

Posted: Wed, 20 Jul 2016 15:49:40

My Notes on "When the Robots Rise", by Lee Drutman and Yasha Mounk

Robots, AI, and automation (RAA) are coming fast. It's already here in many forms and will expand rapidly in the next five to ten years. Ten years may seem a long time, but 9/11 happened fifteen years ago. RAA won't just change the way things are made; RAA will change our society completely.

None of the current political parties or politicians are discussing (or even aware) of RAA. Hillary Clinton's emails troubles reveal how clueless she is about technology. Trump and the GOP aren't much better. Trump can use Twitter like a teenager, but knows nothing about how the web works.

But those are minor issues: what matters is the overall implications of RAA for economics and politics. US politicians are locked in political arguments over the New Deal model (the pre-1970s model) or Neoliberalism (US policy from the late 1970s). After 40 years of neoliberalism, we see the results: it made the 2% very wealthy and ripped jobs out of the economy. Despite Trump's promises, it's impossible to go back to the industrialized economy of 1940s to the 1970s because the factories don't exist anymore and if they were built now, they'd be built in China.

It's clear that when RAA becomes widespread, US politics will change completely. There will be no more Democrats or Republicans, no more Left vs. Right, no more conservatives vs. liberals. Because all of those oppositions are based on obsolete economic systems of the 1900s.

Drutman and Mounk's essay makes the following point: "The current crop of politicians may talk up job creation—but polls also show that most Americans don’t like their jobs. As one recent Gallup poll found, nearly 90 percent of workers described themselves as either “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” from their work. A politician who would advocate unleashing the robots, promising a combination of generous welfare benefits, and a radically shortened workweek—or even a universal basic income—might quickly build a substantial following."

No one predicted Donald Trump would become the presidential candidate. No one realized he would carry out a hostile takeover of the GOP. The Washington GOP tried very hard to stop him, but he won the vote. Nearly half of the US population supports Trump and another 25% could easily switch to him because they despise the "Washington Consensus", the general term for what goes on in Washington: politicians at the national level (state governors, Congressional representatives, senators, etc.), Wall Street bankers, the US military, and Ivy League white collar professionals (lawyers, professors, etc.), which are the 10% who benefit from globalization, financialization, and technologization. This brings back that word we used in the 60s: The Establishment. Everyone else are Trump supporters.

That's why the experts could not predict Trump; they have nothing to do with anyone outside of the Washington Consensus. They assumed the GOP would use its power to block Trump. But unhappy GOP voters revolted against their Republican Party leadership.

The Democrat Party has the same problem. Bernie Sanders came close to upsetting Hillary Clinton. Democrat voters and independents will vote, but not for Hillary; they will vote against Trump. Hillary may win 2016, but she will have a very difficult time in 2020. I doubt any current Democrat politician will win 2020. The party will face the same revolt that happened to the GOP.

The same situation happened in the UK when Brexit voters chose to leave the European Union. Despite strong assurance from the pro-EU side (politicians, bankers, industry, academics, experts, etc.), the general population felt in their personal lives the EU was not in their interests.

Practically every Silicon Valley startup is based on how to get rid of jobs.

What will happen with RAA? Researchers estimate RAA will take over 48% of current jobs. The US population will be sharply divided into the groups: 50% or more unemployed versus the ultra-wealthy. The 2% will have 60% or more of all the wealth so they will own everything worth owning: every company, building, store, all of the large-scale rental housing, everything. What about those who will have jobs? Remember, 90% of workers dislike their jobs and companies. This happened economic situation happened in the mid-1800s and the politics became a fight of factory owners versus workers. The workers defended themselves by organizing. That's right: capitalists vs. communists. In that fight, the workers lost. We'll see what happens this time.

Adding a Room to Our House

Posted: Tue, 26 Jul 2016 21:07:23

We're going to add a bedroom to our 3-bed/1-bath house in Palo Alto. I think this will be useful to others around here (Palo Alto, Mountain View, Menlo Park, etc.), so I'll document the project. I'll write every week and add photos of the project.

Ask Your Questions

Go ahead and ask questions. Use the form at the bottom.

The Goal: A Room for My Mom

A simple goal: we wanted to build a room so my 84-year old mom can live with us. She is paying rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Palo Alto. That's $2,500 per month plus $XX in utilities and it goes up every year, which is $

ear. By building a room in our house, she lives rent free.

Planning vs. Construction

One of the first things you'll learn is to spend more time on planning than construction. Construction takes two months but we spent eight months in planning. We didn't really understand all of the possibilities, implications, options, and limits of what we wanted, which means we really didn't know what we wanted. In vague terms, yes, but in details? No. Sunroom or bedroom? Bedroom or master bedroom? Contractors?

Every time I asked a question, I got five more questions. It's like when you're in a restaurant and ask for water. Flat or bubbles? Bottle or tap? Imported or domestic? Glass or plastic? Ice or no ice? The best contractors didn't just listen; they asked questions and explained options.

That also meant three of us (my mom, my wife, and myself) had to understand and agree. And not just an "okay, sounds good" agreement; everyone had to really understand the options, limits, and agree on the final decisions. And there are lots of items: size of room, flooring, tiles, toilet, sink, shower, lights, windows, electrical outlets, heating, cooling, and so on. Each one of these could take several pages for me to explain. It took months to understand each item, learn the options, discuss, and decide.

Because there are so many issues that you'll have to understand and decide, I recommend The Owner-Builder Book by Mark Smith (4th ed.), whether you decide to work a contractor or do it yourself. Get it at Amazon.

Addition or Sunroom?

There are two possibilities: an addition or a sunroom.

  • Addition: When something (bedroom, office, bathroom, etc.) is added to an existing house, it's called an addition. We wanted a bedroom with its own bathroom, so that's called a master bedroom Any bedroom with its own bathroom is called a master bedroom; a house may have five master bedrooms. Bids ranged from $100,000 to $150,000.
  • Sunroom: We could also install a sunroom. There are two-season, three-season, and four-season sunrooms. A four-season sunroom has sufficient insulation so it can be used all year. These are pre-fab (pre-fabricated, just bolt the pieces together), $20-40,000, and can be built in a few weeks. However, city building code doesn't allow a bathroom in a sunroom. Because the sunroom is on a concrete foundation, you can't install a bathroom afterwards (and if you install the pipes before pouring the concrete, the building inspector will see that). Although sunrooms are cheaper and easier, they weren't enough for what we need, so no sunroom.

General Contractors or Owner-Builder?

We met with a foreman for a construction crew who knew how to build houses. At one point, he said "why don't you do owner-builder?" We had already met with five or six general contractors and none of them had mentioned this.

If you own your house in California, you can be the general contractor for your construction. You don't need a general contractor license, etc. You can do it yourself. (You should have liability insurance, workman's comp, etc.) Get a building permit from the city and start building. You can hire the same construction foremen and crew which work for the general contractors (assuming you can find them).

  • General Contractor (GC): The GC takes care of everything: the permits, the drawings, the architect, engineering, the construction crews (concrete, walls, plumbing, electrical, roof, floor, paint, finishing, etc.). He manages everyone, keeps them on schedule, and pays the bills. Your only job is to sign a check.
  • Owner-Builder: If we used owner-builder rules, we would do all of that ourselves. The cost would be half (we'd save perhaps $40-50,000) . However... we have no experience in construction so the mistakes would also be ours. Mistakes also create delays and the crews move from project to project, so a mistake can break a schedule and you end up with weeks or months of no workers. Furthermore, we don't know where to buy lumber, bulk supplies, etc. We'd have to set up a small corporation (for liability issues), buy insurance, sign up for sales tax permit, workman's comp, and many other legal and financial issues.

After looking into this, we decided to work with a general contractor. If you're doing multiple projects (flipping houses, etc.), then you can use owner-builder rules. Otherwise, too much work.

However, it's still a lot of work: you have to look into dozens of issues and make decisions.

Getting the Bids

The project is simple: three walls and a roof. No cantilevered overhang, basements, second floors, etc.

Bids ranged from $90,000 to $150,000 and every step in between.

We chose the contractor who had a good bid, was capable, and was likeable. If we're going to spend four to six months with him, we should get along.

On Tuesday, July 19: We signed the contract and paid $1,000.

City Permits

Do you need permits? Yes. City building inspectors are constantly driving around and checking on projects in process. They'll notice construction and they'll check to see if it has a permit. If you do construction without a permit, you have to tear it all out, apply for the permit, and start over.

A friend told me about another friend who built a bedroom, office, and other additions without a permit. But when he wants to sell the house, his city will notice the changes. He'll have to tear out those additions.

So, get the permits.

Working with the Architect

The city building office requires a layout of the addition to approve the project. The architect draws this and submits the plan.

  • Thursday, July 21: Meeting with the architect. Before the meeting, we sketched a floor plan. In the meeting, that was discussed and many items were moved or modified, based on their experience and advice. The architect planned a small window to the yard, but we pushed back and insisted as much window as possible. Frankly, if the wall was entirely glass, from top to bottom, that would have been fine. It's a nice yard and view.
  • Wednesday, July 27: Meet with architect to review the draft plan.
  • Friday 29th. My mom finally admits that she had agreed because everyone else was agreeding. It wasn't at all what she wanted. So we went to Ikea on both Saturday and Sunday and looked at the display bathrooms so she could see layout, size, materials, and so on. It took about two hours each time, plus several additional hours to discuss and draw. Sunday night, 10.45 pm, sent the new sketch to the architect. Lesson: Even when people agree, they didn't really agree.

Chaos Monkeys: The Book

Posted: Mon, 01 Aug 2016 18:00:32

Antonio Garcia Martinez at Books Inc., Mountain View, Aug. 2016

Chaos Monkeys” by Antonio Garcia Martinez (hereafter, AGM) worked as a quant at Goldman-Sachs, came to Silicon Valley in 2008, did a small startup at Y-Combinator, and joined Facebook, where he worked on the advertising engine. He describes his experiences in his book.

Four friends emailed me (thanks!) to tell me the book came out (June 28, 2016) so I bought it, read it, and discussed it with a few friends. Here are my comments about his book, Facebook, and Silicon Valley.

FB, Ads, Metrics

For me, the best part of the book was AGM's insider info (starting at p. 257) about Facebook (FB). When AGM arrived at FB, revenue numbers were abysmally low. I know this is true because throughout the 2000s, I ran two digital marketing agencies and in 2009, I was the director of Acxiom’s digital agency. We did extensive tracking (with an alphabet soup of KPI metrics such as CPL, CPA, LTV, CM, etc.) and saw that Google ads worked well but FB results were poor. AGM writes that FB’s ad team, starting with Mark Zuckerberg (CEO) and Sheryl Sandberg (COO), plus the ad management team, ignored advertising and revenue. The FB ad tool was junk and they didn’t care. They didn’t know what they didn’t know; they didn’t understand what they had; they didn’t understand their clients or competitors (see pages 279, 392, 394-5, 435, 446, 489).

Thousands of social startups and every social media VC, expert, blogger, and pundit said social data was important. “Wow, look at all those postings! All those likes! It’s gotta be valuable!” So their strategy was to get lots of users and somehow later monetize the data.

But AGM writes (298) that social data has no value because you can’t make money with it. Facebook (nor anybody else) has yet to figure out how to turn social data into revenue.

So what was FB selling? Promises. Dreams. Junk. Sheryl Sandberg (COO) was also on the board of McDonalds and got them to buy $10m of FB advertising (p. 362, 368, 370, 451) as “brand advertising”. AGM gets vicious when he describes how FB executives told nonsense to NYC ad agencies, which shoveled truckloads of their clients’ money at FB, and nobody had any idea how to measure the results. Everyone was making so much money that nobody cared that it didn't work.

At p. 328, AGM reveals a major Silicon Valley secret: FB buys data. Yep, despite those trillions of likes and postings and all that wonderful Big Data, FB buys data from Acxiom (AGM mentions Acxiom four times at pages 384-9). I knew this in 2010 because at Acxiom, we sold big data to FB, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, and many other companies (see more on this in the postscript at the end of this review).

So… if FB advertising didn’t work, is FB dead? No, FB is actually a huge success.

Which happened by accident.

In 2013, people switched from desktop to mobile. I remember many of us thought mobile was bad news for digital marketing. When users moved from Google on desktop to Google on mobile, ad revenues collapsed by 90% because on desktop screen, there were ten ads but on a tiny mobile screen, there were only three ads. People don’t click ads when they’re playing games or watching cat videos. FB dragged their feet for more than a year to keep users from switching to mobile. (Remember that? FB kept saying, “we want to ensure a good user experience” but in reality, they were delaying as long as they could.)

Here's a bit of data that strikes terror in the hearts of Google, Facebook, etc. Mobile CPCs (cost-per-click) are generally less than half of desktop CPCs. Look at the table, especially the bottom three recent quarters: CPCs are less than half. When users switch from desktop to mobile, you make less.

But the oddest thing happened. AGM writes that nobody at FB, not Zuck nor Sandberg nor the heads of advertising predicted it. Users switched to mobile… and revenues went up!

How did that happen?

FB’s app has 1.7 billion users who are addicted to it for five hours a day. FB allows companies to place ads on primo real estate and charge beaucoup bucks. Ka-ching! That's ad-sales critter talk. How much? FB’s Q2/2016 is $6.4B which will be +$25B for 2016 and growing 63% over last year.

What if the 14-year old kid next door invents a better Facebook? FB’s market cap is $364B (July 2016) so they just buy her app, her house, the city block, and her city.

FB isn’t the only one to trip over a gold mine. The same happened to Google when they added advertising. Apple too. Steve Jobs was fanatically determined there would be no apps on the iPhone (yep, read the Isaacson bio).

Is there Innovation in Silicon Valley?

AGM’s book makes a general point that few understand and none of the other reviewers noticed. Many people think Silicon Valley is about technology and innovation.

No, it’s not.

From the early 1900s to the mid-90s, Silicon Valley was indeed a place for innovation and technology, where Fairchild, HP, Varian, Loral, Intel, and many other engineering-led companies built oscillators, electronics, accelerators, satellites, transistors, semi-conductors, integrated circuits (chips), data storage on hard disks and RAM, and so on. Engineers could measure performance to see which device performed better.

But that’s over. What is Silicon Valley now? More than 95% of revenue at Google, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, Youtube, Pinterest, Instagram, etc. comes from advertising. These aren't tech companies; they're ad-driven media companies.

  • Advertising isn't technology. It’s just ad management which is easy to build. It only took a few months for three FB engineers to build an ad tool that made $100m/year.
  • Advertising can be measured, but only in certain cases. Where it can be measured, it can be quite profitable. But there are many areas in advertising where it's not possible to track results.
  • To measure advertising, you have to set up conversion tracking, but most advertisers don't (as many as 80%), because they don't know how or it's not in their interest to show that it doesn't work.
  • If there are no metrics, it becomes a matter of persuasion. The winner is the one who lies the most, pretends the loudest, has the most money, drowns out others, or spends money in self-promotion.

Silicon Valley is now a place where speculators (venture capital, investors, etc.) and entrepreneurs (people who want to get rich quick) use advertising and marketing to pump up valuations. Whether these companies actually do anything or even make money at all is irrelevant; the "wealth creation" or "value creation" (the motto of every Harvard MBA) is in the financial speculation. 150 unicorns have a total $500B in valuation and none make money.

That's why much of upper management at nearly every large Silicon Valley media company spends their time in political intrigue, “managing upwards”, and backstabbing. They have little understanding of what is happening or how their own companies work. Or they know the company is fake so they're looting as much as they can before it sinks. Look at how Yahoo collapsed. What about Twitter? Zuckerberg calls it a clown car, which is very funny and totally right.

There are indeed companies in Silicon Valley that build innovative technology. But they don't turn into companies with $50 billion valuations, so nobody pays attention to them.

Okay, that's the interesting part of the book. What else? Right, there's AGM as a person and writer.

The Author as a Person and Writer

It’s hard to read this book because AGM is deeply angry about his employers (Goldman Sachs, Facebook, etc.), his father, his university, women in general, his girlfriends in particular, his children, executives, managers, co-workers, staff, and clients. The author betrays nearly everyone. AGM despises NYC, SF, and Silicon Valley. He races through small towns at speeds over 100 mph. He whines his $500,000 per year isn’t enough. In the end, he ends up alone on a sailboat somewhere off the coast of the Pacific Northwest. He thinks that’s cool; it’s pretty sad. What will his children think when they read what he wrote about them?

AGM adds irrelevant quotations from classical literature, which shows someone can be exposed to learning without learning anything. He uses so many vulgarities (including a few that I’ve never heard before) that he even starts using British spelling.

Do you need to be a jerk to succeed in Silicon Valley? No. I know many successful people and they’re nice. A few jerks stand out, but Silicon Valley is mostly cooperation and collaboration.

A number of reviewers think the first half (up to page 274) is interesting because he writes about how he built a startup at Y-Combinator. But others have written better books. For example, “Founders at Work” by Jessica Livingstone (co-founder of Y-Combinator) is a series of interviews with founders. If you’re doing a startup, you must read it. “The Business of Venture Capital” by Mahendra Ramsinghani (a VC) is an essential textbook on venture capital. “Zero-to-IPO” by David Smith, who has done several startups, is a definitive guide to building a startup. “Patent Practice Skills & Strategies” by Britten Sessions (Silicon Valley lawyer and a professor of law) covers IP law.

Does AGM’s book describe what it’s like to be in Silicon Valley? No, because he barely talks about actually living here. He mostly attacks people.

AGM writes there was no analytics or conversion tracking before he arrived in 2008. Yeah, right. Clicktracks, an analytics tool, came out in 2003. Urchin Analytics also appeared around that time and was soon bought by Google, which was renamed as Google Analytics. All the major analytics tools (Coremetrics, Omniture, Unica, Google Analytics, plus many others) were available by 2005-6. The same for conversion tracking: Google Adwords started in 2002 (I have one of the first accounts) and added conversion tracking soon thereafter. AGM makes this mistake because for him, something exists only if he knows about it.

If you work in startups, social, or digital marketing, you should read AGM’s book. Skip the first two parts (a summary? Part 1: Wall Street sucks. Part 2: Everyone is an idiot). Read Part 3 (“Facebook sucks”). Ignore his attitude and look at the business of Silicon Valley. The book is overall good because of AGM describes how FB was focused on the wrong issues yet blundered into success, which is the general business strategy at a number of large Silicon Valley companies.

Postscript (Extra Stuff)

Okay, you can stop reading. The review is over. Go back to your work.

Here's a bit of extra stuff.

Several people asked me "but why would Facebook (and Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, etc.) buy data? Don't they have enough? Isn't their data valuable?"

Every day, FB collects 63 kinds of data from you. Multiply by the apps on your phone. You're broadcasting more data than NASA satellites. That's why your phone battery dies so fast.

Is there more data? What magazines do you read? Newspapers? What TV shows? Radio station?

Oh, we're just getting started! What mail order catalogs do you get? What do you buy from those catalogs? How often? How much? What computer do you own? Air conditioner? Dishwasher? Clothes dryer? Blender? Color and year for each one? What credit cards? Bank loans (and history for each one, including every single late payment)? Credit card activity? Purchases? Stores? Where do you live now? Last address? The address before that? And every address for the last 25 years? Every phone number you've ever had? When did you buy your car? How did you buy it? Loan or cash? Type of car? Color of car? Miles per year? Has it been paid in full? What's your driving record? What kind of car insurance do you have? How often you rent a car? Do you own your house? How many people live in your home? How many children? How much is the loan? Pay rent? How much? How many places have you lived in the last 30 years? How many pets? How did you do in high school? Grades in college? What is your job? Work history at every company you've ever worked for? What about your criminal history? Every arrest?

That's 61 types of data. Acxiom has 1,500 types of data on you and every person in North America, South America, Europe, the Arab world, China, Japan, and just about every where. It's a staggering amount of data.

None of the social companies, not even Google (or the NSA or the CIA), have this amount of information (for a number of reasons). So they have to buy it from Acxiom.

By correlating their tiny set of data with Acxiom rich data, they can build profiles of their users, which allows advertisers to place better targeted advertising.

Mesothelioma: Fake Story

Posted: Mon, 08 Aug 2016 23:20:26

You will often read that "mesothelioma" is the most expensive keyword at $100 per click.

Mesothelioma is caused by asbestos. Lawyers can get million-dollar settlements for asbestos lawsuits. No wonder they'll bid so much.

But do they really bid $100?

Nope. Not true. After hearing this so many times, I tested it. I posted it in Google Adwords at $1 (one dollar) and got impressions and clicks at $0.32 (thirty-two cents). And if I optimize for it, I could probably get clicks much cheaper.

You may be wondering, why would some pay more and others pay less for the same keyword? It's all about optimizing in Adwords.

Bad Trump/Good Trump

Posted: Wed, 10 Aug 2016 19:48:00

(This isn't about Trump's politics. I'm posting this to show how analytics can be used -- andreas)

So it turns out that Trump's tweets differ by time of day.

- Morning tweets come from an Android phone

- Evening tweets are posted from iPhone

And it turns out that Trump uses an Android and his staff use iPhones.

Evening postings are "nice postings"; they talk about event times, venues, etc. and don't cause uproars, diplomatic incidents, and resignations. Obviously, these are tweets by his staff.

Morning posts, however... whoa. That's Trump being Trump. Run for the hills.

Linguistic analysis of 6,000 Trump tweets show that Trump's tweets use 40-80% more negative words, including “badly,” “crazy,” and “weak" and evoke sadness, fear, anger, and disgust. iPhone tweets are more likely to express anticipation, trust, and joy.

His staff now accounts for nearly 75% of current tweets as they try to project a better message.

Read more about his tweets at The Atlantic.

Origins of Google

Posted: Thu, 11 Aug 2016 16:11:21

Barney Google and his horse Spark Plug, 1923. Note the title is copyrighted and patented. Signed by Billy DeBeck.

Here's one of those convoluted stories. A hundred years ago, in June 1919, Billy DeBeck introduced the comic strip Barney Google and Snuffy Smith. It was very popular and appeared in 900 newspapers in 21 countries. Barney Google rode a horse (see above) named Spark Plug, (nicknamed Sparky). Kids loved Barney Google and Spark Plug and kids who really liked Spark Plug were often nicknamed Sparky. Charles Schulz, creator of Peanuts (Charlie Brown, Snoopy), was known all his life to his friends as Sparky.

In the 1930s, Columbia University mathematician professor Edward Kasner came up with a number that had a hundred zeros. He asked his nine-year-old nephew, Milton Sirotta, to suggest a name for the number. The kid suggested Google, after his favorite comic strip. The professor changed the spelling and named it googol. He also invented the name googolplex, which appeared in his book, Mathematics and the Imagination (1940).

In 1998, Page and Brin, two computer science students at Stanford, built a search engine that could index lots of pages. Since they knew mathematics, they chose the word googol, but when they registered the domain name, they misspelled it... as Google, which brought it back to the original.

When you deal with Google people, they often say something is googly (which means it fits into Google's vision). Where did that come from? The 1923 hit song Barney Google (with the Goo-Goo-Googly Eyes) with lyrics by Billy Rose which you can hear on Youtube. Google's headquarters is also named the Googleplex.

Snuffy Smith continues as a cartoon character with occasional appearances by Barney Google. There are also animated cartoons with Barney Google as a billionaire (with his Google Building and jet airliner) and Spark Plug (1963)

Billy DeBeck, creator of Barney Google, came up with many phrases and words, including "sweet mama", "horsefeathers", “heebie-jeebies”, “hotsy-totsy” “doodle bug”, “great balls o’ fire” and “time's a-wastin'”.

As I pointed out above, Barney Google was both copyrighted and patented in 1923, which gave Billy DeBeck protection for 95 years (to 2018). Google the company was founded in 1998. I wonder if they paid to use the name?

Fixing LinkedIn: Ten Ideas

Posted: Mon, 30 Oct 2016

What about LinkedIn's stock price, the Wall Street analysts, and the market valuation? It's projections of earnings, based on past earnings. You see the problem right there: they're looking at numbers based on numbers, but not reality.

  1. Dating site
  2. Database for recruiters
  3. The only reason people go to LinkedIn is to look for a job. If you have a job, you don't go. How to increase visits by members? If they did the Google model (take super good care of people), then they'd get more traffic, which would make it more valuable to recruiters. A sort of Facebook for professionals. But no, they focus on recruiters and pretty much ignore people. So there's little reason to visit.
  4. Link to few or to many? LinkedIn says you should link only to ones you know. But the more links, the higher your ranking. So link to everyone.
  5. Messaging
  6. Newsletter
  7. Social networking
  8. Content marketing: Inability to showcase what you've done. A LinkedIn profile should allow you to post books, articles, PDFs, white papers, images, etc., everything about your skills.
  9. Career: There is very little career advice or help at LinkedIn. What they offer is bad advice: they tell you how to be a cog for recruiters and companies. That's a job, not a career. LinkedIn could hire the very best career coaches to offer free books and videos on how to create and manage your career to your benefit, not to the benefit of recruiters or employers. Again, take care of the members and they will come to the site.
  10. Mostly West Coast mid-level tech employees. Few CEOs, very few investors, no blue collar. I'd hate to see how low the numbers are for black women. But... it has what recruiters want, or to put it the other way, it doesn't have what recruiters don't want. This means LinkedIn has a significant share of the blame for low diversity in the workplace.
  11. Tip: Update your resume on Sunday night. Switch two words. Fresh fish. And if you know what that means, that's what you are to recruiters.
  12. Recruiters have learned to pump-and-dump: their goal is to place people and get the fee. So they don't care if its the right fit for you or the company.
  13. What's Your Number? Can't see that anymore. Just sign up your cat and you could see the number of users. Hide the user number.

These problems aren't new at LinkedIn. It's been this way from the beginning. They tried a few times to fix things, but it's so much work and they're making $100m a year anyway and recruiters are the ones who pay so there's no reason to fix anything. That's why LinkedIn hasn't changed in fifteen years and it's not likely to change. Nobody cares.

Which means there's a great opportunity for someone to build a better LinkedIn. Use the Google model. Users will leave, the fresh resumes disappear, and LinkedIn turns into a graveyard of dusty resumes.

  1. They keep taking away free services. For example, now you can’t find anybody in groups unless you pay for Premium Service ($60 a month).
  2. Many people think that if they pay for Premium Service, the recruiters and hiring managers will be able to find them. But Premium Service is a tool for you to find people, not to be found.
  3. How many links do you need to reach everyone in your field? Just a few hundred. If you can get the top 2% of the people in your field, the entire field may see you because they also follow the top 2% people.
  4. LinkedIn messages and pop-up notices encourage you to upload your Google address book. But it doesn't tell you that your lifetime invitation limit is 3,000. If you upload your Gmail address book that has 2,900 names, you'll only be able to invite another 100 people.
  5. Based on the business trend at LinkedIn, they will eventually charge a fee for anything beyond a basic profile.
  6. LinkedIn says it has 400m users, but people only visit the site when they're looking for a job. If the unemployment rate is 10%, then active users may be only 40m people.
  7. If you're active on LinkedIn, you're talking mostly with unemployed people. But what's the point of networking or interacting with unemployed people? Many of them don't have the social network or social skills to stay employed.

Linking at LinkedIn

Should you link to other people? LinkedIn tells you that you should only link to people whom you know. Your links are a sign of approval.

But... it doesn't work that way.

LinkedIn's ranking system is based on the number of links. The more links you have, the higher you appear on the list when recruiters search for candidates. If you are cautious and you have only a few links, you will be low on the list.

But there's a limit. You can only link to 3,000 people. If you try to link to #3,001, LinkedIn tells you that you have too many links. This prevents people from trying to link to too many people.

However, there is no limit on links from others to you. If 15,000 people want to link to you, accept them all. It doesn't matter who they are. The more links, the higher you rank. And the higher you rank, the yet more links you'll get. You'll get useless links but also good links.

So accept every link.

If you have 2,900 outbound links, be careful with new links. Save those 100 links for people who matter.

How to find out how many outbound links?


Patrick Moore wrote a good analysis of LinkedIn.

Why don't people update their LinkedIn profile? Patrick offers the following reasons:

  • “I am not looking for a new job”
  • “I am looking for a new job, but I don’t want my manager to know I am looking.”
  • “I just got a new job, and I don’t know if it is going to work out so I am not putting it my profile until I know that it will.”

So when exactly will someone update their LinkedIn profile? The nature of LinkedIn is to create profiles of what you have done in the past. These are called tombstones because it's like the information on a tombstone: he was born on July 19, 1824, died on May 5th, 1897, was a doctor, and had a wife and two children.

Tombstones state the past but tombstones don't help you to prepare for the future.

Patrick asks the following questions (I rewrote a few and added a few):

  • What skills will you need for the next five years in your current profession?
  • Are you at risk because you're stagnating in experience or skills?
  • Which of your skills are obsolete?
  • Are the new careers that you should consider?
  • What skills do you need to make a career change?
  • Which companies/careers offer better financial reward, job security, or quality of life?

These excellent points go to the heart of the problem with LinkedIn: LinkedIn should be a tool for the person, but instead, it has become a tool for recruiters (who definitely don't care about workers).

Microsoft Buys LinkedIn

Microsoft bought LinkedIn for $25B in cash. I assume this is the result of bidding competition between Microsoft, Google, and Facebook. I also assume Google and Facebook offered much more, perhaps $50B or more, but in stock. LinkedIn's board took Microsoft's offer because it was cash (note that they did not accept it in Microsoft stock).

Why did Microsoft buy it? It makes no real sense for them. Again, I assume they bought it to keep it out of Facebook's hands. If Facebook had it, they could quickly tie it into their system. Along the same reasoning, there was no real value for Google; they probably also bid for it in order to keep it away from Facebook. So it's likely that Facebook offered $50 or $75 billion in stock, but lost to Microsoft.

Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, & Reality

Posted: Fri, 13 May 2016 23:38:40

There's lots of talk of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) as the Next Big Thing. Is this possible? What could it do? Is this new? Are there other forms of VR and AR that haven't been developed?

First, what are these?

  • Virtual reality (VR): You put on a pair of goggles (usually part of a small helmet). You appear inside a world where you can look in all directions (incl. up and down). In better versions, you can move around in the space. The quality of the image (sharpness, clarity, shadows, etc.) depends on the power of the computer: in the low versions, it's like being in a cheap video game. In high-powered versions, it's like being in a Hollywood animated movie such as Toy Story.
  • Augmented reality (AR): You hold up your phone and using the phone's camera, you look at a street. Signs hover over buildings.

Example of End Space, a VR game (available for Oculus and Cardboard viewers)

But VR and AR Have Always Been Around

If virtual reality means an artificial representation of reality, then folks, guess what? We've had this for a very long time.

Like, 40,000 years. That's exactly what Lascaux cave paintings in France are: paintings of things that aren't actually there. This is 2D virtual reality that uses paint to represent reality. Look at the word represent, which re-presents reality. It presents reality again.

Paleolithic Virtual Reality. The Lascaux cave paintings are 17,000 years ago. There are other paintings from 35,000 years ago.

What about 3D virtual reality? Daguerre made the first diorama in France in 1822. You entered a large room and looked around at a 180-degree landscape. These were popular throughout the 1800s. Today, there are several in Shanghai. One is in the Saudi Pavilion at the site of the Shanghai World Fair. You enter a multi-story spiral building and pass through spaces that show landscapes and people of Saudi Arabia. It's a remarkable experience. Another is in the China Art Museum, also in Shanghai. The Qing Ming River Festival, a panorama scroll painting, was made in the 1100 (yes, 900 years ago). For the Shanghai World Fair, it was used to create a digital animated version The scroll is 128m long (420 feet) and fills the wall of the art museum (you can watch it in a Youtube video). The original scroll is China's most important work of art and the digital scroll is a spectacular experience.

The Qingming River Festival Scroll as a Digital Scroll

What's new is digital 3D virtual reality (instead of physical virtual reality). Digital technology allows an unlimited virtual space. Not just a city or a river, but an entire country or even the Earth. You can use Google Earth in the Cardboard viewer to travel around the world to visit thousands of cities or natural sites such as the Grand Canyon, Waimea Canyon, The Great Wall of China, and so on. It's only a matter of creativity to be able to fly around the Moon or Mars. Digital 3D VR also allows the creation of unlimited fictional space: walk on planets around distant suns, enter the worlds of Star Wars, and so on.

What about augmented reality? That's so widespread that we don't notice it anymore. We have physical augmented reality. Look at your street intersections. Signs pop up to tell us things. Roads are marked for our navigation. In an airport, signs give us directions to gates, show us the arrival for airplanes, and mark where to find food.

Physical Augmented Reality: Street signs, traffic lights, road markings, turn signals, brake lights, store signs, and so on.

What's new is digital augmented reality, which lays digitally-generated information over the visual world. This opens new possibilities: people can see markers based on criteria or need; digital markers can offer personalized information; digital markers can be updated immediately; and so on

You look through a screen at the world. Augmented 3D reality overlays information onto that world.

There's also another kind of virtual reality. Just like we don't think of street signs as augmented reality, it's a form of virtual reality that we take for granted.

Yes, literature in books. When you read a novel, the experience can become as real as the world around you, where you feel strongly for the characters and their situations. Novels such as Independent People by Halldór Laxness or Proust's In Search of Lost Time are astonishing literary creations.

Virtual reality within a novel

There are many other forms of virtual reality: we call these the arts. Painting, sculpture, theater, dance, TV, film, and more are ways of creating artificial realities. It's easy to name excellent examples in each of these genres that create powerful visions. If you think about it, you'll notice these are visual virtual realities. You see these with your eyes.

What about virtual reality for your ears? That's music, of course. It's an audio virtual reality. Recorded sound, whether it's voice or music, re-presents sound. The most-widespread form of audio virtual reality is so common that we've forgotten that it is artificial: stereo music is audio virtual reality. It creates the audio sensation of musicians in 3D space.

The spoken word is also audio virtual reality. We tell stories which create worlds. These stories can be a type of literary fiction such as folk tales and jokes, but these stories can also become so powerful that we forget it's just a story and we fall into it. By this, I mean of course the narratives of religion and politics. Hundreds of millions of people live their entire lives within stories from religions and politics. For the sake of stories, wars are started and millions of people die who never question that these are created realities.

There is tactile virtual reality: recreations of reality for your sense of touch. Fake leather for purses; fake fabrics that feel like silk, fur, or wool; fake plastic that feels like wood. These re-present other things. What about your cell phone's vibrations? That uses touch to relay information.

These are all virtual realities of the senses: visual, audio, tactile, and so on.

Are there non-sensual forms of virtual reality, that don't present realities to the senses?

Of course. How about mathematical virtual reality, such as economics and finance? Banking and Wall Street are massive multiplayer virtual realities. Modern physics, especially quantum mechanics, quantum field theory, high-energy physics, cosmology, and relativistic physics are based entirely in numbers. Instead of only four dimensions, there are multi-dimensional databases that use 1,500 dimensions. Technical digital marketing (which is what I do) is also based in numbers. I developed KPI formulas to calculate CPL and CPA. I manage perhaps 500,000 keywords daily and I do it entirely based on formulas, statistics, and numbers.

The Future of VR and AR

At the moment, many VR/AR tools are games, mostly violent, and nearly always only visual. That's a pity because so much more is possible.

I think the future of VR/AR is in the past. Digital VR/AR should look at the forms of artificial realities that humans have been creating for 40,000 years.

Along with hiring young guys to design yet more shooting games, digital virtual reality companies should also bring aboard novelists and painters who understand how to create characters and narrative. Stories aren't just the mindless acquisition of gold and under-dressed women. Stories in literature let you interact with fictional characters to learn about them and oneself; this can be used in digital virtual reality.

Theologians could use virtual reality tools to create spiritual virtual realities.

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