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Monday, September 11, 2006

Google refines the art of content spamming...

Not to be mean, as Google's tools are well-intentioned and actually neat. But I find that more and more Google stuff is geared toward helping people create mashups (Web pages consisting of gizmos supplied by other Web sites). The Web went through a mashup movement in the late 1990s, and it was not a very pretty thing to see.

In fact, you could say that in some respects Xenite.Org is The Web Site That Mashups Built. You name it, I put a third-party service on Xenite at one time or another: forums (through frames), Internet TV shows, Internet RPGs, Internet radio (I still miss my Xenite NetRock, NetCountry, and NetJazz services), scrolling/blinking/flashing news, comics, polls, and stuff I cannot even remember.

I love the creative environment one finds on the Web, but one day as I went looking for free content for Web sites, I realized that all the free content sources I was finding offered the same stuff, which had by this point pretty much become garbage. The Internet TV and radio services shut down or were sold; I installed UBB and later VBulletin so I could run forums off my own server (actually, I started with forum scripts from Matt's Script Archive); comic artists stopped updating their strips.

And science fiction and fantasy news was pretty much absorbed by No one else could really turn it out fast enough. A few fan mega sites produced their own feeds -- and I once actually had the largest science fiction news resource on the Web -- but people got tired of writing news stories. They stopped updating their RSS feeds. The RSS-to-Javascript tools I used went offline.

Today, Xenite.Org relies more on original content than it ever did before because I simply got tired of yanking pages that no longer worked. You cannot rely on other people to keep the feeds coming, not unless you pay them. And I just don't think there are enough unique services for everyone to provide truly unique mashups.

So, when I see that Blogger now lets you draw images from Flickr, I think, "Okay, that's cool but still pretty tame." It would, in fact, be nicer if they could fix their image upload problem (because I haven't been able to upload any images).

And when I looked at Google AdSense's plug for Google Related Links, I wanted to say, Been There, Done That. Related Links aren't all they are cracked up to be. A lot of times, you get one cheesy video that has nothing to do with your topic. I know darned good and well there are a lot of Lord of the Rings videos available on Google video. Why do I get only 1? And why does only 1 headline show up in the News?

That is just so...lame. I'm supposed to impress people with this stuff? What would happen if I stack Related Links boxes on top of each other?

On the other hand, I noticed how Colin Colehour suggests using Google Base to upload genealogy records. Now, that could be kind of cool. My father sent me a family genealogy a few years ago that one of my uncle's sister's cousins's mother's brother's son's something or other did up. The history goes back a fair number of generations to some guy named Martinez who jumped off a ship near California.

But the last time I looked at Google Base, you could only post something for 30 days. What is the point, guys? I don't want to have to devote the rest of my life to logging in to Google every 30 days just to renew a genealogy listing. I'd feel so Lost doing that.

So, while Google has introduced some neat ideas, I don't think any of them really go far enough. Here are a few suggestions that I would recommend:

Google Base should let you download W3C-compliant HTML code that you can place on your own Web site (better yet, let Google Base push it to your Google Pages inventory). I realize people want to be found in Google Base, but after that first 30 days, a lot of us are going to say, "Eh. Not worth the trouble." It would be great if we could say, "At the end of 30 days, create this page at Google Page with this content."

Related Links should allow you to design a custom channel that displays 1-4 listings in the box where you can qualify the sources by domain, keyword, or something more detailed than just on-page content. Especially if your on-page content is a mashup (and my Lord of the Rings news page is now a mashup because -- surprise! -- I got tired of writing original content).

What Google really needs to do is create a Google Channels service where you can create a mashup-in-a-box combining content from all over the place. And allow people to make the channel distributable. I mean, let me add it to an inventory of predesigned channels that other people can subscribe to and add to their own Web pages. That's what was so great about Netscape's RSS-driven MyNetscape. They allowed us to create channels that people could add to their start pages. It was just so righteous.

I'd still like to feature up-and-coming comic artists on Xenite, but I'm tired of looking for them. Google, while you're adding services just to please me, let's see Google Comics, a combination between Google News Search (fed by preselected channels) and Google Base (timed content contributed by people who care enough about their work to jump through all the hoops). You might be able to use the Google Coop technology to produce it. I'm not sure. When I signed up for Google Coop and saw all the rigmarole I had to go through to produce a mashup, I immediately became depressed and closed the browser window.

It's got to be simple, smooth, and provide an immediate reward. By allowing people to distribute their content to other Web sites, the Google Mashup Express will stay fresh and innovative. It will blow the old free- and pay-syndication content services out of the water.

And when you've destroyed the competition, Google, you can monetize Google Channels. I hereby confer all rights to the trademark to Google, Inc. provided they deliver on my eensy, teensy little request and give me the service.

NOTE: Today is September 11, 2006. Five years ago, Osama Bin Laden proved he has no love for God or Man and no future in Paradise.


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