Alltop v3 Launches

Alltop has a new version out with some pretty cool customization features, as well as the ability to claim a domain… the best way to see this in action is to go to Adobe’s Alltop news page. I setup my custom page but I couldn’t figure out how to get jnolan.alltop.com, it just keeps forwarding to the myalltop page I created, which only proves that it’s not foolproof, not that it doesn’t work as promised.

One feature that was most interesting to me was the search feature that delivered results as a topic page, as in content oriented to the search keyword organized by source. This is good but it’s not good enough as it relies exclusively on a taxonomy and dictionary based approach that maps to the keyword you are searching on.

So let’s dig into this and you will see why it quickly hits the wall. A search on “Ford” returns a suggested category of “autos” and that is correct, while a search on “cabernet” returns two possible categories, “dads” and “wine”. Why “cabernet” would return “dads” remains a mystery to me but clearly “wine” is a correct category, even if it’s a little broad… a search on “bordeaux” returned nothing at all. Similarly, a search on “Warren Buffet” returned a bunch of categories but none that would be topically relevant, such as business or finance.

You start to see the problem, the more specific the search the less likely to return a result, yet this is exactly how people will use a service like this. I may well want to visit the wine topic page but, at least in my view, the Bordeaux topic page would be far more interesting. The keyword approach to navigating a taxonomy is fraught with error because it’s unreasonable to build the deep dictionaries that would be necessary to do it well. Maybe Freebase’s model works here, I don’t know for sure but it seems like a logical strategy to overcoming this barrier.

The second big limitation of Alltop is that their approach to topic content is not post driven. Is my blog a tech, finance, politics and current events, clean tech, cars, or media blog? I have written about all of these topics in the last 30 days and do so with regularity so where should it be categorized? If I were categorized in all of those slots, would the Alltop page for, as an example, autos be “polluted” when my blog shows up with a bunch of finance topics? Yeah I think it would. I just don’t think you can do this kind of content aggregation at the blog title level, you have to do it at the post level and offer some clustering or organizing features as well.

In the final equation Alltop is one more service that attempts to deliver content aggregation, and with latest version they are delivering a namespace as well (which is actually pretty cool). The state of the art in this area is moving pretty quickly and while Alltop is pleasing to use for broad stuff, it is plagued by an approach that is fundamentally flawed and as they attempt to go out and sell this to brands and media (assuming that’s the plan) these shortcomings will put them at a disadvantage to other companies with advanced services that overcome the content selection and categorization challenges.

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Pelosi is “concerned” About Newspapers

Fercristsakes I really think that monopoly concerns should be thrown off the checklist of things to review when looking at newspaper mergers. The fact that Pelosi thinks that pressing the DoJ to be more lenient with regard to antitrust concerns about newspaper mergers is important indicates that she is way over her head when reviewing this issue.

“I am confident that the Antitrust Division, in assessing any concerns that any proposed mergers or other arrangements in the San Francisco area might reduce competition, will take into appropriate account, as relevant, not only the number of daily and weekly newspapers in the Bay Area, but also the other sources of news and advertising outlets available in the electronic and digital age, so that the conclusions reached reflect current market realities,” Pelosi wrote.

[From Pelosi goes to bat to keep Bay Area papers alive]

Sony Risks Losing Game Developers

Sony didn’t see this coming 4 years ago when they first announced the PS3. At that time the competitor was Microsoft and price points were footnotes on slides detailing world domination of the digital home, today the company has faltered so badly on the PS3 that not only are they are risk of continuing losses well into the future but 3rd party game developers may abandon the platform as R&D budgets inevitably tighten, which would put the PS3 platform into a death spiral that would be exceptionally difficult to overcome without a reset, a do-over, that takes them back to square one.   

Three years into the latest generation of game consoles, Sony is stuck in third place, data from the manufacturers show. The Tokyo-based company, once the dominant player, has half the worldwide users of Wii, even though the PS3 has earned praise for its processing power, graphics and Blu-ray movie player. U.S. sales of the PS3 have declined for three straight months.

“If they can’t meaningfully increase their install base, then you will likely see a capital reallocation,” Hickey said.

[From Sony Faces Heat From Game Publishers to Cut PS3 Price (Update1) – Bloomberg.com]

What killed the PS3? Two factors, the first being over confidence as a result of dominating the market with the PS2 for so long, which resulted in ambitious tangental strategies around home entertainment and technology adoption that were not linked to the gaming experience. The second being Blu-ray which pushed the bill of materials cost up beyond what the market would support and was responsible for critical delays in 2006 as Sony dithered around with DRM details unrelated to gaming which had the effect of giving Microsoft a full year head start in the market. More critically, the Blu-ray delay caused Sony to launch the PS3 during the Wii launch, literally a few days apart just before Christmas 2006, drawing contrast to the significant price delta between the two consoles.

While you can’t ever count Sony out of the game, the fact remains that the PS3 development and launch has been so badly executed that it could set the company’s game division back 5 years as they try to recover lost ground. The gaming market has long operated as a duopoly, if you are not in first place you are last, and right now the market dynamics are around Nintendo and Microsoft. As developers make hard choices about where to focus their limited budgets, it’s unlikely that Sony will retain the library of popular titles available on the PS3, much less grow it.

Sony has two choices and neither are good, they can subsidize the PS3 with a retail price that essentially gives it away and recover the losses from game royalties, or put the PS3 on life support and focus their resources on developing a PS4 platform that serves as the base from which to expand. The former is a defensive strategy and you don’t win by defending, while the latter is fraught with risk as it relies on completely unpredictable factors and a lot of luck.