Archives for July 2008

Get your search fix with two videos

I was going to wait until part 2 was posted, but I’ll point people to part 1 now. The video from the SMX Advanced keynote is now live, so you can watch the first 25 minutes of questions and answers. Read the intro here, or just watch the video:

And Juliane Stiller from Google’s German Webmaster blog stopped by the Googleplex for a more fun interview. Read the intro in English or German or just watch the video below:

Thanks for setting this up, Juliane! Note to self: wear a different shirt for my next SEO video interview. I happened to wear the same polo shirt for both interviews. 🙂

Idea for an Android/iPhone app: Call Me a Cab

I still like my last start-up idea about converting MP3 music collections to be legal and cleaning up mangled/ugly filenames. As Amazon and others start to sell MP3s, a startup could easily offer some interesting services. For example, I just saw that a new product called TuneUp will clean up your filenames, metadata, and cover art. That’s cool stuff that fixes a real problem a lot of people have.

Ready for another idea? This one is simple. Make an Android or iPhone app for people who need a taxi. Imagine: you’re in another city, and you just learned that from your hotel to dinner is not walkable. You’re standing on a street corner. What do you do? WHAT DO YOU DO!?

Answer: you fire up “Call me a Cab” on your app-enabled phone. Your phone automatically senses your location and (anywhere in the world) gives you 3-4 suggestions for local cab companies, with phone numbers. That’s the base functionality, but that’s still a huge step forward. When you’re standing on a street corner you don’t often have a page like this in front of you:

Example snippet of a directory of taxi cabs

Now how would you make the app even better? In some places (like, say, these cities) the app would show you where the closest cab is, call it, and get an “estimated time of arrival” as you watch the cab get closer on a map. Something like this page, but on your phone:

Ride finder

How would you make money? Maybe you sell a premium version of the app that does more (more features, or checks for buses or other public transit nearby). Or maybe taxi/cab companies would be willing to advertise in the app just like they advertise in the yellow pages. Maybe you’re a taxi company and you offer this app for free to make your cabs more efficient or to build a brand (most people think of taxis as a commodity right now). And it doesn’t always have to be about the money, you know. Maybe you do it to build awareness about your software startup and unlock future opportunities down the line.

Once you get GPS + cool sensors + the ability to run an application on a phone, there’s a ton of exciting apps you could write. Sure you could find nearby friends, but why not write a GPS-enabled celebrity spotter? Or an “Am I Speeding Right Now?” app that you can use in your car.

If you need other good ideas, I recommend reading through Paul Graham’s list of suggested start-up ideas. I’m a big fan of #3 (finding “New News”), #13 (online learning), and #28 (fixing email overload). Or for that matter, just think about things around your house or business that are messy or annoying and solve that problem.

What are the best iPhone applications?

Here are some of the applications that I’m trying out right now:

My iPhone 3G applications

What applications do you like on the iPhone 3G?

Generic Toolbar Indexing Debunk Post

Sometimes people think that the Google Toolbar led to Google indexing a page. Here’s a recent such story, for example, which speculates how urls with the substring “mms2legacy” got indexed. Here’s where I started to disagree:

The reason for this [supposedly unlisted urls getting crawled –Matt], explained Ken Simpson, CEO of anti-spam company MailChannels, is that one’s Google Toolbar may be configured to pass URLs that one visits to Google for indexing. “If you run Google Toolbar, it knows pages you visit,” he said.

Sorry, but if Ken Simpson is implying that the Google Toolbar led to these urls being crawled, then he’s mistaken. Let’s take the first result from the [inurl:mms2legacy] query given in the article. The first url in that result set that I saw was . Well, if you take the string F1ABCF6D326A3F65 from that url and search for that then you’ll find multiple references to that url. In the cases I looked into, we found these pages via someone publishing a link on or other places around the web. I can definitively say that all the urls I looked into were discovered via crawling regular old links.

Folks with great memories may remember that I’ve talked about this before. Back in 2006, both Philipp Lenssen and Google OS did controlled experiments by visiting unlinked deep pages with the toolbar, and both concluded that the toolbar did not lead to those urls being indexed.

It’s good to reiterate this every couple years though, especially as Google has gotten better at finding new pages as it crawls. We get questions like this often enough that we have an FAQ answer about it:

Why is Googlebot downloading information from our “secret” web server?

It’s almost impossible to keep a web server secret by not publishing any links to it. As soon as someone follows a link from your “secret” server to another web server, your “secret” URL may appear in the referrer tag and can be stored and published by the other web server in its referrer log. So, if there’s a link to your “secret” web server or page on the web anywhere, it’s likely that Googlebot and other web crawlers will find it.

Security through obscurity is not a great way to keep a url from being crawled. If you don’t want your content in Google’s web index then we provide a ton of advice on how to prevent that content from getting into Google.

Two Cats One Laptop

The new iPhone 3G camera seems to work pretty well. Here’s a test shot with me, two cats, and a laptop:

Ozzie and Emmy at rest

The iPhone 3G still doesn’t work great for close-ups on very small stuff, but it seems to work well in the four to six foot range.