Tracking online conversations

Tom Foremski wrote this morning about a presentation that included some possible future products from Technorati. I won’t comment on future products, but it’s interesting to take a look at some of the underlying issues some bloggers are worried about.

Commercial Use

Can another company make money off of your content? I currently receive a lot of referral traffic from a variety of search services such as Google, Yahoo!, and MSN. Each search company sells advertisements alongside an excerpt of my content. I have no problem with Google, Yahoo!, and MSN making money off of my content because they also send me enough traffic for me to make money by reputation or by my own advertisements.

Each company benefitting from my content should provide me a way to opt-out without me resorting to banning IP addresses. Lack of exclusion my main complaint about services such as Ping-o-Matic RPC or Feedmesh.

Who is listening?

Technorati is offering services that will help companies control their corporate message by identifying those blogs and their social network, that have posted around the “wrong” message. Then, I would imagine, some sort of corporate “SWAT” team could parachute in and engage those off-message bloggers.

I expect any alert service or intelligence product would have uses for good and evil. Many people currently subscribe to ego searches in blog search engines and news searches through Google News alerts allowing you to watch millions of sources for mentions of the terms of interest any many companies act on those data today.

A service such as Google or Technorati does not interpret a message as right or wrong, but a person interprets the conversation and may choose to take action or simply listen. I know many small software businesses tracking online conversations around their products. If I mention NetNewsWire or Ecto I might attract the attention of Brent Simmons or Adriaan Tijsseling after they receive a news alert about their product. I like being engaged by Brent and Adriaan and it definitely keeps me more honest. Brent and Adriaan both have blogs but they also engage their users, answer questions, and join in the conversation across the blogosphere. I expect companies that want to understand online content and use the content as a focus group and a feedback loop to be good actors or learn along the way.

Thoughts on the future

I continue to believe content rights will be a huge point of contention this year. There will be advertisements alongside the full content of the content you publish to a feed service, an e-mail service, and even perhaps desktop search. Browsers such as Opera display advertisements for every page rendered by the free version of their software. I discover new uses of my content with each new user-agent. I continue to publish, ban the bad actors, and explore new ways of interacting with data.

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