Things for Which We’re Thankful

Happy Turkey Day Folks
I realize everyone that sees this post isn’t in the US, and Thanksgiving is just Nov 25th in many places, but here it’s a national holiday.

Granted we tend to celebrate it by gathering the relatives we haven’t seen all year around the table and arguing with the weird uncle, eating until we’re comatose, then topping it off by snoozing on the couch in front of a football game. Nonetheless it was established on the idea of the early settlers giving thanks for the fact that they had enough food to eat and hadn’t died in the privations of their rather unceremoniously austere little colony.

Sure it’s cliche, but here are a few things for which I’m thankful
There generally is something we should be thankful for, and occasionally we let that slip in the holiday rush. For example, the BOTW editor (Tania) that I mentioned had gone off in a uniform to foreign shores is now back safe and sound, and sporting a bronze star on her chest. For her safe return I’m thankful… and her folks edit for us too, and they are no doubt thankful.

Meanwhile, much of our senior staff just got back from a working trip (that’s their story anyway) to Vegas for Pub-con, and they as well as those of us here who were not forced to endure 4 days in a city known for 24 hour shows and entertainment can be thankful for a thriving internet industry that keeps us off the streets and gainfully employed.  Work is a good thing to have, and for this we are rightfully thankful.

On that same line, we can be thankful for the guys that put together networking opportunities like that, and for the friends we make in such venues. In the age of the net, it’s nice to put faces with names we see.

[Note to Rob Schmid, this post does not in any way ameliorate the fact that you didn't bring me back even a t-shirt, much less the showgirl I specifically requested.]

Personally I’m thankful for the techs that keep this place rolling 24/7, and for a team of editors that make us look good thru their hard work, both the ones on staff and the infamous Nerd Herd… the best team of directory editors on the net in my opinion.

Added to that, I’m thankful for the BOTW founders who had ownership of a vintage internet awards site and a vision of what it could become.

Saving the best for last…
We at BOTW are jointly thankful for the submitters. You make what we do possible.

Anyway, whether or not you are in the US and officially celebrating, I’d urge you to stop a second and thank someone that makes your life better. There’s no such thing as thanking them too often.

Hope you have a great holiday. ~ Rob Jones

BOTW UK & Ireland Directory Promo – Save 30%

Happy 2nd Birthday to BOTW UK & Ireland Directory
Best of the Web has enjoyed immense success with the growth of the UK & Ireland Directory in a relatively short time since it’s inception in 2008, thanks in no small part to the timely addition of a crew of editors in that same time frame who spoke the language and knew the terrain.

[Some things you just can't leave to the colonials ya know!]

From an editorial perspective there’s simply no substitute for boots-on-the-ground with local knowledge when dealing with a culture just similar enough to lull some folks into thinking they *might* be able to edit such a product from the opposite side of the pond. It might be done, just wouldn’t be done right.

Giving Credit Where Due
As we celebrate our second birthday for that directory I’d like to offer a huge “thank you” to the editors from that side of the pond who have poured countless hours and edits into making it possible (and to the techs that translated their vision into a reality… long as we’re giving credit where due, cause tomorrow I go back to pretending I had something to do with it).

The New Star in the BOTW Firmament
In a short timeframe the UK & Ireland crew has taken the framework of that section that originally existed in the original BOTW location and restructured it, fattened it up, and turned it into a thriving concern. Kudos to each of you. You pulled it off despite the occasional “help” the rest of us provided. :)

I also understand that one of the other well known UK directories out there (can’t bring myself to call ‘em “competitors”… lots of elbow room in the directory world) is pulling out of the UK Directory biz, so that’s probably a windfall for us. Hard to complain about it, so instead we’ll wish them well, and share the no doubt boundless wealth to come our way with the guys that make our jobs possible, the submitters.

November Promo: 30% Off UK & Ireland Directory
Starting immediately and running until the last day of November, BOTW is offering 30% off on all submissions to our UK & Ireland Directory. It’s currently one of the fastest growing products in the BOTW family… so take advantage of the discount and join today.

Promo Code: uk30

Thanks again to all concerned, and Happy Birthday! Have a piece of cake, then grab a promo code and get your UK related site into one of the fastest growing directories of its kind.

Regards ~ Rob

Blekko Debuts New SE

Separating the Wheat from the Chaff
From the start in ’94 as an awards program that identified top sites on the web, it has been Best of the Web’s goal to help people find sites that stand out over others in their field. Before search engines, personal bookmark lists and human edited directories were the only way people had to easily identify sites that were worthwhile.

Human edited directories are still the most reliable screening tool and still play an important role in mapping the web, but encounter a physical limitation as to potential volume compared to search engine spiders. Search engines attempt to mechanically overcome the human factor, but even the best spiders can be tricked by patterns a human would easily spot. Early SE’s were extraordinarily easy to game, and it wasn’t uncommon to see the same site 10 times in the top 10 results for some set of keywords.

Then came Google…
…with the magic algorithm, rendering a surprisingly lower degree of garbage in the results pages than the engines it unseated from the top spot. Still, just as nobody goes to a physical mailbox without an expectation of seeing junk mail, we’ve grown accustomed to the fact that when we run a search on ANY engine we WILL see spam in the results, the only difference is how much.

The decade after Google’s introduction brought an escalating arms race between guys creating websites they wanted at the top of the SERPs vs guys writing equations to filter out slop. Spiders became increasingly sophisticated and Google largely became the standard by which others are measured. Bing has stepped up with the backing of Microsoft, Cuil entered with fanfare and faded out, and one of the original players, Yahoo!, recently dropped from the ranks of those returning their own custom results.

Into this fray enters Blekko
Blekko attempts to overcome limitations of both the directory and SE models by offering a blend… a search engine tempered by many many human eyes. Here’s a slice of the Blekko model as described by co-founder Rich Skrenta on his blog

We’re starting by letting users define their own vertical search experiences, using a feature we call slashtags. Slashtags let all of the vertical engines that people define on blekko live within the same search box. They also let you do a search and quickly pivot from one vertical to another.

Reviews by the Pros
There have been several in-depth articles on the new product. Some over at Search Engine Land on the topic, with Danny Sullivan providing background (Blekko, The “Slashtag” Search Engine, Goes Live) and Greg Sterling offering a heads-up comparison on how results fared against Google (Google And Blekko Head-To-Head: Blekko Lives To Fight Another Day). Additionally Aaron Wall wrote a prelaunch review at SEO World (Blekko Cozy Up to Webmasters, Offers Killer SEO Data Free) including interview with the founders, and there have been several stories over at Tech Crunch including Michael Arrington’s TechCrunch Review: The Blekko Search Engine Prepares To Launch.

Anyway, between those and others I’ll concede the technical explanations to the tech guys and stick with the user perspective.

Additional Features
Of course the prime force in the SE world, Google, has become far more than just a purveyor of search results, offering Google Analytics, the popular Gmail product, as well as advertising vehicles like Adsense and Adwords. Blekko is reportedly to offer advertising opportunities as well, offers their own toolbar, and has SEO tools that allow a user to compare sites, assess duplicate content, analyze links, etc. To reach those tools click on the “Help” button and click on the “SEO” tab.

The Human Component
As far as harnessing the public to set up slashtags, there’s always the chance an egalitarian move like that might start a budding industry in web forums where people offer slashtag services by the truckload. It could also mean results might simply be drawn down to the lowest common denominator, like having the President elected by a vote on Facebook. Social media and wide participation is a mixed blessing. I love Wikipedia, but can’t shake the nagging thought that the page may have been drafted by the kid that just bagged my groceries. That said, Wiki has turned out to be a good resource.

Then again, Blekko’s setup also includes automated components, and a search on “Great Americans /history” doesn’t include a single word about Britney Spears… so they must have some safeguards on the social media aspect.

Bottom line, Blekko shares our goal to help people find the best sites available for a given purpose by letting human eyes separate the the spam from the steak. It’s a tough market, but their founders are known for thinking outside the box. It will be interesting to watch this one develop. We wish them luck.