Just crossed the thirty Million weblog mark at BlogsNow tracks. Jason installed new memory, CPU and motherboard on the machine eight hours ago. I hope that the random crashes (MCE …4 ) it had are now a thing of the past. But it still could be the raid controller that causes the troubles. We will see.
Thirty million blogs! It’s online since almost two years, ran on three different machines in three different hosting situations.
There are about a quarter million web-pages in google with the term BlogsNow. popurls has roughly the same number. I think popurls started two weeks ago.
I find it very interesting to compare BlogsNow and popurls. The later one shot to internet fame instantly while BlogsNow only caters to a small and very slowly growing audience. Popurls is better than what I wrote in many many hours. The actual implementation of popurls would have taken me a week. Of course I did BlogsNow and not popurls. And also obviously I have hoped for instant internet fame when I wrote the fastest memetracker possible.
Technically I achieved my goal. BlogsNow’ performance is unsurpassed: It will reliably track _everything_ that people talk about. I still like it better than all others.
But let’s have a look why popurls got what BlogsNow wanted so badly and could never get. Popurl’s author is the first to say that the concept of a meta meta tracker is hardly new: diggdot.us paved the way into the mainstream, but I think there have been others.
The implementation of popurls works, it’s simple and nothings gets in the way. The design is what matters. It turns out that the idea of a meta-meta-track added with decent-design adds up to go over the threshold to become a meme in itself.
In the new attention economy you have to raise the interestingness of something above an imaginary threshold. It is almost impossible to push something there. Not even the biggest media buy will get you there. If your concept is not worthy then every person in the chain works against your piece (work, meme whatever it is). The resistance will become infinite. Many companies have wasted millions of ad dollars in the last years by ignoring this simple fact. If your idea raises above this threshold then it will attract more multipliers along the way. It’s too bad that ‘viral marketing’ became such a bad rep, since all agencies attached it to their failing attempt. Real meme’s do indeed work very much like a virus. The big difference is that every ‘host’ has the ability to alter the ‘virus’. We give those links, files and words new meaning when we pass them on. We comment them and make them our own. I could not say that from that last cold I got from someone and also probably gave to somebody else. The term ‘viral’ already contains the arrogance of agencies: They think they just can ‘infect’ the audience and then save their client some money in the media buy. Of course that’s now how it works: Most of their ideas are simply not good enough to compete with what is out there. There were some single incidences where commercials got some viral traction. None of them made room for a follow up. ‘Viral Campaigns’ by their definitions are one hit wonders. With the broadening of the tools and people getting more connected every day the odds move against the traditional marketers use of viral campaigns. Does this have anything to do with a BlogsNow vs. popurls comparison? Hardly. How did we get here?
Popurls became an instant ‘meme’, BlogsNow did not. I think in very simple terms I think it comes down to the fact that design matters. Popurls is an instant hit since it instantly communicates. The natural reaction is :”this is nice. I want to use this.” Within those 2 seconds a website has with a new visitor it is able to convey what is different about it. It tells it’s story well. The ‘elevator pitch’ of the internet must be over before the user blinks another time. There are always ten real and hundreds of potential other sites comparing with the one you are looking at.
My son is seven. He wants to write a computer game. He found google, and was very frustrated, that could not find ANY instructions how to make a computer game for seven year olds after he entered his request into google. I never told him to google it, or even to research it on the internet. His experience is that the internet might as well contain all the answers to everything. It’s this unprecedented amount of instantly available content that is the evolutionary pressure on every meme out there. The pace in that online (media) experiences grow in their quantity, variety and maybe even quality is equally unprecedented. So is the spread of the audience and their level of engagement: 1 person, 1 computer with internet connection, 1 hour. To say that the range of experiences is huge would be an understatement. It is awing. And spreading. We have the user on dial with internet explorer trying to get some news about balinesian dancing to the CEO on a laptop playing WOW while being on a plane. These are not the two extremes. These are two random points in an infinitely complex cloud of usage patterns. Hundred people watch a movie in the cinema. Their experience is pretty similar, they don’t even need to have seen it the same place or at the same time. Watching an old black white movie is almost a time travel experience. Hundred people what the movie on TV and the possibilities broaden. It used to be that the whole country watched the same stuff. There was the concept of a “Straßenfeger” in Germany in the 60s. It meant that a specific radio or TV series had such a big draw that it would ‘clean the streets’ (from people). There are only few events left that can obtain this mass attraction. Hundred people watching the same movie on TV might do so from a DVD, on the seventieth rerun, because their Tivo thought they should be watching it, or just because they are waiting for the show that follow this program. These hundred people might pay attention or might not. Since TVs tend to everywhere and just run after you turned them on, it is also one of the most ignored media outlets there is. Hundred people watching a clip that they got on a computer one way or another will have the most diverse media experience.
It is in this jungle of possibilities that the ability to communicate your idea between two blinks becomes mandatory. The idea needs to be decent, and then it needs to be easy to understand. Popurls instantly tells you that it’s a decent looking meta-meta tracker. Just when you think, ah so many links it kicks some pretty pictures your way. Your peaking ‘into it’ will be rewarded. By the time you have seen the entire page (2.5 seconds into your visit) you will have glimpsed over nine headlines, at least three or four are known items. popurls is a good mix of known and the new. All known is boring and will be clicked over quicker then you can say ‘boring’. All new is confusing. People are usually not curious enough to give new things the time to understand them.
The good design of popurls makes it work. As an engineer I thought that people would understand the aspect that BlogsNow is faster and more comprehensive than anything else. Even though it is, I did not manage to communicate this. And maybe it does not even matter. The first meme trackers got the webs attention, because they were a new concept. The fastest one is not a big deal. It’s functional difference needs repeated use an comparative analysis to understand. Memetrackers are not that important that people would do this sort of analysis. BlogsNow is a classic example for the fact that people and projects overestimate their own importance. Many web 2.0 startups think that they are Moses coming down from the mount Sinai. BlogsNow first goal was that it would keep me up to date with what is going on on the internet. And BlogsNow I can trust and, if needed, even tweak to let it behave better. Enough reason to let it keep going for next thirty million blogs. Popurls is not the first too and certainly not the last tool that will surpass BlogsNow in the amount of web attention it gets. It just is such a clear case that engineering does not really matter. The upside is that it was and is fun to code the fastest Memetracker there is. That, my constant use, and the fact that I have a neat copy of what mattered on the web in the last two years is enough reasons to keep it going. Despite the fact that nobody cares