Archive for December, 2006

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Bessed Versus Wikiasari

December 28, 2006

So there’s been a big hubbub this week about Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales getting ready to launch a new search engine, thus far dubbed Wikiasari, although that will not be its name in the end. It’s unclear exactly what Wales envisions for Wikiasari, in fact he doesn’t seem quite clear on it himself, but the obvious conclusion is that he wants to get volunteer users to help create search engine results in the same way that volunteers now create Wikipedia.

With Bessed having just begun and having a different but still-in-the-ballpark model, I thought I’d look at what we are doing in comparison to what Wikiasari may be doing, and the pros and cons of each.

Bessed is built on WordPress. We “seed” topics/keyword phrases with a few good sites and invite site visitors to add more sites, dis the listed sites, or just add their two cents via comments at the bottom of the search page. If we haven’t yet created a topic, the visitor can suggest it and we will go ahead and start the new topic. There is no charge to be listed.

Bessed is not a wiki; visitors can not physically make changes, but their comments are publicly made and publicly responded to. In the end, however, our editors make the final conclusion about what should be included and how the sites should be ranked.

Bessed editors are paid, either as employees or as freelancers. We feel this helps us maintain objectivity—no one is adding or not adding sites based on a personal interest in the search results.

On the plus side, Bessed offers: objective, human-powered search that encourages visitor participation but keeps spam out of results. Webmasters can get their sites listed free, and visitors can suggest additions, subtractions and modifications to the results, helping us improve the site continuously over time.

On the minus side, Bessed will have to deal with the issues of scalability. Simply put, a human-powered search site can not cover all the topics a robot-based search engine can, and it has the potential to be expensive to produce, especially in the ramping up phase. No one has been able to solve this challenge—Yahoo started with a Web directory and eventually gave it second-tier status while charging high inclusion fees. The Open Directory tried a volunteer-driven model, which has devolved to a state where no one can get a site listed and there are constant accusations of Dmoz editors holding topics hostage for their own personal gain.

For a startup like Bessed, the money/scalability issue is a huge challenge. Using paid editors versus volunteers is more expensive, even if it yields better results.

Now, on to Wikiasari.

Wikiasari will likely use a format in which visitors can manually make changes to search results, with the thought that this will help the cream rise to the top. This means that the site will rely on volunteers to create the vast majority of its service. As we have seen with Wikipedia, this can be done fairly well. And it completely solves the scalability issue, as you have thousands or even millions of people contributing to it. But can it be done as well with a search service as it has been done with an online encyclopedia?

Maybe, except for one thing that I believe is a huge factor. Wikiasari is a project of Jimmy Wales’ for-profit company Wikia. Wikipedia is non-profit. Are volunteers going to be interested in using their spare time to build a search engine that drives profits to Wikia, while they get nothing?

Jimmy Wales says that the recent cash infusion Wikia got from Amazon is not a factor here, but I have to wonder if Wikiasari is going to use some sort of mix of paid and unpaid editors to build the site out. After all, as a volunteer it’s a lot more interesting to help write an encyclopedia page about Lucille Ball (a la Wikipedia) than it is to make a list of Volvo dealerships in New Jersey (presumably a la Wikiasari). Trying to create a human-powered engine with unpaid volunteers who create and/or edit boring yet useful topics is going to be difficult, especially when it’s being done to build the revenue of a for-profit endeavor.

The hype this week has been about Wales building a competitor to Google. I don’t know if that is Wales’ goal or not, although he took some shots at Google in the original article discussing the launch of Wikiasari. At Bessed, our goal is not to compete with search engines but to complement them. We can’t do what a search engine does, but they can’t do what we’re doing, either. From where I’m sitting, Wales would be foolish to position a human-powered search service as competition to Google, but rather as a more intelligent yet less comprehensive alternative.

All in all, though, Wikiasari is a good thing from where I’m sitting because it gets more people talking about the possibilities of human-powered search, which gives me more opportunities to toot Bessed’s horn.

e-mail me: adam@bessed.com

Adam Jusko is founder and CEO of Bessed, a Web site promising “search without spam”, thanks to human-edited search results and ongoing visitor feedback. Do a search, offer your comments, submit your site–help create the “bessed” search site in the world.

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User-Generated Okdork

December 28, 2006

Noah Kagan has been generous enough to open his blog up to outsiders for the past couple months, and yesterday I got my chance to add a few words.  Go to Noah’s Okdork.com to read my ideas on How to Be Fearless.

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What Venture Capital Might Get You

December 19, 2006

Via Business Pundit I came upon this post by Matt Winn talking about how much a company founder might expect to come away with if he/she teams up with venture capitalists to build a business.

Winn quotes Tim Janke of the Inception Micro Angel Fund as saying first-time entrepreneurs might end up with only 7% or 8% of the company by the time it is sold or goes public. Those who’ve been through previous startups and presumably have more to offer in the way of seasoned management expertise might get 20% to 25%.

For the entrepreneur, that’s something to think about, because taking on venture capital really means that to get anything out of the company in the end it really has to sell big. After all, in order for you to get anything out of it, the VCs are going to demand that they at the very least get all of their money back in a sale, so you really have to grow that sucker.

On the other hand, I guess I’d offer a variation on a well-worn theme: Seven to eight percent of $25 million is a lot better than 100% of nothing.

Interestingly enough, while I was writing this, Matt Winn added a follow-up post to his earlier post, in essence agreeing that those who go the VC route are generally in it to win it, or, as he says, “Go big or go home.” So, for them, they’d rather give up the stake in the company in order to go for the jackpot and take their reduced share than bootstrap for years on a business that eventually might fail. This makes sense, too. I guess it depends on what type of entrepreneur you want to be (and of course the whole discussion is moot if no one is interested in funding you in the first place).

e-mail me: adam@bessed.com

Adam Jusko is founder and CEO of Bessed, a Web site promising “search without spam”, thanks to human-edited search results and ongoing visitor feedback. Do a search, offer your comments, submit your site–help create the “bessed” search site in the world.

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I Call B.S.: Jetrosexuals

December 19, 2006

The Fast Company blog has a “report” on so-called jetrosexuals who travel worldwide in search of fashion bargains, for example hopping cheap flights to Asia to get cheap knockoffs made of high-end brand fashions, then quickly hopping back on a plane home.

The blog post calls this a trend yet offers not one example of an actual person that does this.  I don’t believe this is a trend at all.

Almost every other reference I can find to the term jetrosexual is associated with a Virgin Airways promotional campaign that defines jetrosexuals loosely by a set of “commandments” that define them as savvy world travelers.  Hopping off a plan to buy a cheap Marc Jacobs suit is not mentioned anywhere in association with this.

I call B.S. on Fast Company. Am I right?

e-mail me: adam@bessed.com

Adam Jusko is founder and CEO of Bessed, a Web site promising “search without spam”, thanks to human-edited search results and ongoing visitor feedback. Do a search, offer your comments, submit your site–help create the “bessed” search site in the world.

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The Horror of Once-In-A-Lifetime Purchases

December 19, 2006

Seth Godin hit on an interesting topic this week:

Many businesses cater to individuals and corporations that are making a once in a lifetime purchase. Whether it’s a DJ for your kids sweet 16 or a company that pours tar on the roof of your factory, it’s unlikely you’re an expert when you go to buy the product or service.

Godin’s post is about what these types of businesses can do to make customers feel more confident in them, as it is often difficult for the customers to gauge beforehand whether the company is good, unless of course they’ve gotten a referral from a trusted friend/relative.

An example that quickly comes to mind for me is moving companies.

The first time I made a major move from one metropolitan area to the next, I had no good way to judge beforehand what company to use, as most people I knew who’d used movers hated theirs and had no recommendation. I ended up having a horrible experience, as these movers carried half my family’s possessions around in a humongous truck for a week without any guarantee of when or if we’d see our things again, just repeated lying reassurances that our stuff was showing up “tomorrow”. When our things showed up, numerous pieces of furniture were handled roughly and had chips or pieces broken off. Our complaints to the moving company went unheeded and there was just enough damage to be infuriating but not enough to bother suing.

It’s a bad feeling to need something and be totally at the mercy of someone else, especially when you had no trust in that someone else to begin with.

There is a huge opportunity for some moving company to completely dominate that market if it could gain a reputation as a trustworthy, decently-priced operation. But no one does.

Godin:

Most of all, I think it’s essential to acknowledge internally that your job is to turn naive, fearful new prospects into confident spreaders of word of mouth.

Exactly. If I’m in uncharted waters and your company can hold my hand, reassure me that it will all be OK, and then deliver on that promise, you won’t be able to shut me up in my zeal to tell others how good you are. In a world full of letdowns, those who deliver on their promises are worth my time to evangelize.

e-mail me: adam@bessed.com

Adam Jusko is founder and CEO of Bessed, a Web site promising “search without spam”, thanks to human-edited search results and ongoing visitor feedback. Do a search, offer your comments, submit your site–help create the “bessed” search site in the world.

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Latest Bessed, December 19 2006

December 19, 2006

It’s been a week since I looked at new additions/updates to Bessed. Here’s what’s making news and what our visitors have requested:

Now that Tara Conner is officially keeping her Miss USA title, we can all go back to not knowing the name of Miss USA, or that they even still do that Miss USA thing.

Rocky Balboa is the sixth and final Rocky movie, and despite the implausible story of a 60-year-old boxer stepping into the ring, the film’s getting plenty of good reviews, with many saying it’s the natural sequel to the original Rocky.

We’re certainly not above lowbrow humor, so excuse us for the addition of Justin Timberlake’s latest video on Saturday Night Live, affectionately known as Dick In A Box.

Some tech/Internet companies added this week include Mywaves, Quantcast and Jaxtr. And let’s not forget Amanda Congdon starting her new gig with ABCNews.com.

Allen Iverson‘s still looking for a new home.

By request we added these topics: Whitewater Rafting, Caribbean Food, Fathers’ Rights, T-Shirts, and DVD Distributors.

And, just for the heck of it, Ben Casnocha, Candy Cane Cookies, The Founders Fund.

Got a site that needs attention? Add yout URL to Bessed. Find your topic and tell us about your site. Don’t see a place where your site fits? Let us know—we’ll build the category you request and add your site to it.

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Book Review: The Adventures of Captain Cur and Wonderflea

December 18, 2006

There’s nothing fun about being a stinky mutt with no family and no prospects in the love department. In fact, it can be downright painful to sit outside the dog park and watch the happy frolicking going on inside. And when finally given the chance to join the fun and meet the object of your affection, to be chased out by a toothy rottweiler… humiliating.

That’s the situation Dog finds himself in as the kids’ book The Adventures of Captain Cur and Wonderflea opens. His one shot at the perfect 10 poodle May destroyed, Dog finds himself on a bridge, staring down at the water, thinking the world would never miss a flea-ridden pooch like him when, lo and behold, he finds there is someone who would miss him. A flea, of course. But not just any flea—Wonderflea, who not only would miss feasting on Dog but also sees something in him that others don’t. Wonderflea dubs him Captain Cur and together they set out to make the world better for outcasts everywhere.

And they live happily together in their symbiotic relationship until the day Dog gets a chance to make the ultimate rescue, pulling his beloved May from the midst of traffic in the nick of time. Captain Cur’s hero status wins him a home with May, but an impending date with a flea bath. Who will he choose? His new love or his new flea friend?

The Adventures of Captain Cur and Wonderflea is a fun story for kids in the early grades, maybe kindergarten through 4th grade (Amazon.com shows an age range of 9-12; I think the higher end of that range is too high). I read it to my 5-year-old son, who loved it, although it was obvious that certain lines were over his head. My 3-year-old daughter wandered away; the illustrations kept her around for a few pages, then she was off to other pursuits.

The book is written by Joel Cohen and Alec Sokolow, two of the writers of the movie Toy Story, so you could say it has a bit of a pedigree (I couldn’t resist), and the illustrations of Damian Ward are colorful, expressive and fun. A portion of the proceeds from book sales go to the non-profit Cygnet Foundation, which raises money for UNICEF as well as animal-related charities, so adding this to your home’s book collection is good for your kids and good for other kids (and animals), too.

e-mail me: adam@bessed.com

Adam Jusko is founder and CEO of Bessed, a Web site promising “search without spam”, thanks to human-edited search results and ongoing visitor feedback. Do a search, offer your comments, submit your site–help create the “bessed” search site in the world.