March 2008

Executive_biz Executive use of LinkedIn, Plaxo, Spock, SecondLife and Facebook
by Robert D. Gourley | March 11, 2008 | PDF of Article

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Recruiters Love Spock

by Jay Bhatti on March 21, 2008

In 2002 the PEW Internet Project reported that 52 million Americans used the Internet to search for a job, a 60% increase from 2000. By 2007, that number had nearly doubled with approximately 102 million or 51% of American adults using the Internet to look at job postings. Given a new resource to look at online resumes this behavioral trend has benefited HR Personal and Recruiters as well. With a viable new resource, the implications of online job hunting have meant more than just a decrease in newspaper ads and help wanted signs.

Among the many upsides of online recruitment are cost and reach. An SHRM study noted that the average cost per hire from an Internet recruiting strategy was $377 opposed to $3,295 from a major metro newspaper. With career and social networking sites such as Monster, Careerfinder, and LinkedIn supplying thousands of resumes in any number of occupations, recruiters now have access to a significantly larger pool of qualified candidates to pull from. In an interview with NPRMaureen Crawford-Hentz of Osram Sylvania noted, “Social networking technology is absolutely the best thing to happen to recruiting — ever.”On Spock, 7% of our daily traffic is from recruiters or employment based searches. With occupation being one of the top tags that people list, it’s no wonder that recruiters such as Monique Chin of iVedha have said, “I have to admit I use Spock everyday…for a recruiter competing with larger organizations, your site is an amazing equalizer”.

Recruiters aren’t the only ones who benefit from this online revolution. For those looking at a career change, social networking and career sites have an open market effect where a potential candidate can explore multiple opportunities.

Along with increased access to resumes, people search tools such as Spock enable recruiters and HR personal to find out additional information about a person. Execunet.com conducted a survey of 100 executive recruiters, noting that 77% used applications such as Spock to learn more about a person and 35% of those had eliminated a candidate based on information uncovered. ExecuNet noted that it has not only become common practice to look up potential employees, but also to search for coworkers. With social networking sites such as Facebook and Myspace providing a popular platform for people to post pictures and information, there have been a number of reports advising people to limit their Web presence. Because of those warnings many people now feel an overwhelming need to censor and restrict their Web activity.

While monitoring your Web presence for certain behavior is advised, there is a competing school of thought that increasing your Web presence is not only a good idea but also a necessity. By being on sites such as LinkedIn and Spock, it not only enables you to promote your strengths and interests, but also connect and network with others. As Monster.com notes, promoting your Web presence can help distinguish you from other candidates and give hiring managers insight about your personality. Thus, while you may want to shy away from sharing racy photos of your Bachelorette Party, a blog about fixing antique cars, or old photos from Halloween will often increase your chances of being hired.

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Ancestry On The Web For St. Patrick’s Day

by Jay Bhatti on March 15, 2008

The popular saying Everybody’s Irish On March 17th is perhaps more true in America than anywhere else in the world. Along with lots of green, shamrocks, and parades, St. Patrick’s Day is arguably the most celebrated ethnic holiday in America. With ethnicity being a characteristic that people often identify with, Spock took a closer look into just how Irish people are on March 17th.

In analyzing the claimed ancestry of Americans on Spock (both living and deceased), one of the initial findings was that most Americans claimed at least two ethnicities, meaning that more people were likely to claim themselves as Irish and German American as opposed to only Irish American. With America established as a proverbial melting pot of ethnic mixing, there’s little reason to believe this trend won’t continue. Using a sample size of several million, the top three countries of claimed origin were Italy at 16%, France at 21%, and Spain, where 25% claimed Spanish origin. One of the more difficult ethnicities to determine was English, where people who would otherwise classify as English, preferred to specify themselves as WelshScottish, etc. Other ethnicities that were prevalent were JapaneseChinese, and Russian at 6%.

Looking specifically at Irish Americans, who include people such as Conan O’BrienStephen ColbertBill Clinton, and John F. Kennedy, a surprising 1.5% claimed Irish ancestry. Thus, as a common identifying characteristic, there are far fewer Americans identifying themselves asIrish American.

While being Indian American or Italian American certainly doesn’t exclude you from enjoying a Guinness or wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day, you may want to consider wishing someone a happy Bastille Day next July 14th.

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Unique Names On The Web

by Jay Bhatti on March 13, 2008

Unless you’re friends with someone appearing regularly in People Magazine, then you’ve probably never met anyone named Apple, Zephyr, or Lyric.  It’s no surprise that celebrity couples have explored the conventional boundaries in naming their offspring.  But is it really celebrity’s being eccentric or is it the case that for every Banjo Patrick Taylor there are ten Stevens born?  Spock took a random sampling of 500 celebrity offspring and compared them to 5 years worth of lists of the most common baby names.

As it turns out, celebrities do tend to name their kids fairly uncommon names a majority of the time.  Spock found that 73% of celebrity kids had first names that did not fall under the top 100 most popular baby names.  However if you include middle names as a factor, such as the case of Coco Riley Arquette, then 41% of celebrity offspring have a very common middle name to go along with their uncommon first name.

One of the more notable trends for celebrity babies was to not only having more than two names, but also to have a much more common middle name.  Expanding the field further by looking at the Social Security Administration, Top 1000 Name Rankings, we found that celebrity offspring had an average name popularity of 794, yet their middle names took on a far more common 586.  This difference would likely to have been even greater had it not been for the fact that those who had common first names were 3 times more likely to have an uncommon middle name. Other than a mixture of an uncommon first name and common middle name, another trend was using uncommon spellings such as the case of Zowie Bowie.

While the benefit of having the name Pilot Inspektor Riegraf or Moon Unit can certainly be debated, the good news for celebrity offspring is that it’s likely that they would have at least one slightly more common name to go by.

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Alt_search_engines Why search is such an exciting business for startups
by Jaideep Singh | March 9, 2008 | PDF of Article

Guest Post Written by Jaideep Singh

A well known VC once told me “Every business has its pros and cons, you just have to pick your poison”. Search takes a long time and costs a lot to get right. But once you’ve got it right, you’ve built something utilitarian and of lasting value. This is in sharp contrast to many web social web applications that can get be built quickly and cheaply and get mass adoption.

Any company that truly becomes a utility also becomes very valuable. In software, this is the story of Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, etc. We use these companies daily to be able to do things that we think are basic needs. For the same reasons, telecom carriers and cable networks also are valuable utilities.

Yahoo (Overture), and Google have also proven that search monetizes better than other web applications. This is not a surprise, because the search utility tends to captures user intent well.

Just as directory based approaches gave way to general full text search as web content grew, now we are seeing the transition from general search to vertical searches such as people, product, travel, health, source-code, etc. These new category search engines can improve the user experience dramatically.

However, these business take time, talent, and investment to bring to fruition. They all start with crawling web documents, filtering for the category, extracting and disambiguating entities, and then building a rich user interface.

To attain success, any new search startup needs to think about 3 main things:

1. How can you build something defensible
2. How do you get distribution
3. How to attain maximum leverage given the high fixed costs

Defensibility

Technorati built a good blog search solution. It took them a few years to get it to work well, but at the end of the day as the market for blog search became clear, Google quickly implemented a good solution, thereby ending Technorati’s search ambitions.

The lesson is that competing with Google head-on and on technology alone is very tough. We say a similar fate for companies in the 80s and 90s that tried to compete directly against Microsoft.

On the other hand, Kayak took on travel search but built a custom application for finding and booking flights and hotels. Its model is somewhat of a blend between Expedia and Google, which gives them a unique core competence. The deep interfacing with ticket sites, and building a simple but custom search application on top of it not only provides users a rich and convenient user experience, the strategy is defensible.

The same is also true with Spock, a people search application that Jay Bhatti and I co-founded in 2006. Users can search for people and get the latest information and news on them. The search is also human-powered so that people can add information such as pictures, tags, related people, etc. that are not easily found on the web. This aggregated search result ends up creating the default place of record on the web for people information. Also the human powered search strategy is highly defensible while providing a great user experience.

Distribution

Startups have limited budgets and therefore can’t spend much to advertise their services. Thus, most successful web startups rely on zero cost viral growth. However, unlike social networks and other web applications, most search engines are not inherently viral. This makes distribution and growth a challenge.

In general, few users will discover a new search engine, and in the first few years growth will be slow.

Some search applications, especially in product search and travel have found ways to aggregate content in a way that not only is valuable to users, but also adds value to search engines like Google. Oodle and theFind are able to use SEO to grow. This can be a good early growth strategy for such search engines.

Leverage

Building a search engine has a lot of fixed costs. It is not possible to have a team of 10 people build something of value. Most search engines need 30 to 50 top notch engineers and at least 2 years to get to a reasonable place. In addition to talent one needs a lot of hardware to crawl, index, and serve up a large data set.

It is therefore important to limit the scope of the problem, go after low hanging fruit, and find a way to deliver a good user experience. This is how Google did it too. This is also the strategy that Spock, theFind, Kayak, Kosmix, and others have taken.

Raising money is never easy especially when you need to raise more money than most consumer web initiatives. Be prepared to hear “why do you need to raise $7m when facebook only needed $1m” or “that facebook application only needed $100k”. You certainly need to assemble a strong technical team with search experience, and build a prototype for $1m, which is a very good way to start.

But you also have to prepare your investors. You’ll need to raise $25-$50m and spend a minimum of 3 years before getting to healthy profitability if you’re going after large fragmented categories like people or product. If you can find a way to dominate a smaller category quicker and cheaper (with a smaller end outcome), that is wise too.

With Google, Yahoo, MSN, and Ask, we’ve really only seen the first phase of an enormous and ever expanding field. The second wave of category-search companies have the opportunity to build large stand alone businesses that deliver tremendous value both upstream to Google and downstream to the category that they serve.

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America is viewed as one of the most influential, if not the most influential nation. There is perhaps no greater indicter of American influence than the attention that the Presidential election garners. With the exception of 2004, the upcoming Presidential election has already been pegged as the most anticipated in recent memory. Given the amount of media coverage both home and abroad, and the fact that Americans will have to wait several months to cast their ballot, the question remains as to which candidate appeals most to the rest of the world? According to the worldwide search volume of the three US Presidential candidates, it appears that Barack Obama has the most global appeal.
For example, in Canada, Obama‘s search volume is nearly 4 times as much as McCain’s, and over twice that of Hillary Clinton. The lone place another candidate besides Obama shows any advantage is in Australia, where both Clinton and Obama are tied in search volume. Other than Australia, Hillary Clinton only comes close to Obama‘s volume in Mexico, where historically the Clintons have enjoyed support from the Hispanic population. Yet even there, Obama has a healthy lead.
Obama’s most signficant lead in search volume comes from the Middle East and Asia. In some cases, like Hong Kong and Japan, Obama‘s search volume is so high compared to the other candidates that he is the only one who shows up on the charts!
Even with both democratic candidates sharing similar amounts of news coverage in the US and around the world, people still appear overwhelmingly thirsty for more information about Barack Obama.
In conclusion, Obama on a global scale has about 3x the search volume of the other candidates combined. While in the Middle East and Asia, his lead is over 7x the other candidates.

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This data was compiled looking at global search volume from all major search engines (google, ask, live, yahoo, spock) and the amount of internet chatter being generated about these candidates.

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Competition Garnered Over 1500 Entries Across all Five Continents   PDFLink

March 7th, 2008 – Spock, the leading people search engine, announced today the winners of the Spock Challenge. A six-person team of researchers, faculty and students from Germany’s Bauhaus University Weimar were awarded the $50,000 grand prize.

The challenge called for leading computer scientists, academics and engineers to solve one of the most interesting problems in computer science: Entity Resolution, or how to distinguish many people with the same name, e.g., Michael Jackson the singer from Michael Jackson the football player.

“With billions of documents and people online, we are now able to more precisely categorize and cluster web documents to unique individuals,” said Jaideep Singh, Co-Founder & CEO of Spock. “Mapping named entities from documents to the correct person was the essence of the Spock Challenge, and the team from Germany did a tremendous job,” added Singh.

According to Dr. Benno Stein, one of the team’s leaders, “It took us eight months of effort and trying numerous approaches to reach our results.”

“The techniques applied by the German team were very clever,” said Professor Chris Manning of Stanford University’s computer science department, a leading technical advisor to Spock and one of the contest’s key judges.

The challenge, held from April – December 2007, gained enormous interest with over 1500 participants from around the world.

For additional information, please visit: www.spock.com/do/pages/pr_spock_challenge_winner.

ABOUT SPOCK

Spock.com is the leading people search engine and its founders Jaideep Singh and Jay Bhatti are the experts in online chatter – They are available to provide analyses on stories you may be covering around what’s being said online regarding the upcoming elections. Be the first to see which candidate gains momentum online.

Founded in 2006 by Jay Bhatti and Jaideep Singh, Spock is a people search engine that organizes information around people to enable discovery and learning. With the vision of indexing everyone in the world, Spock is adding millions of people to its index everyday through its search engine technology and through community contribution. Spock is located in Silicon Valley and funded by leading venture capital firms.
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Miriam Brent of The Guardian takes a look at Spock and the world of people search.

One of the most common reasons we use search engines is for information on people. But standard tools such as Google will throw up literally thousands of results, often making you question exactly how you got from Jacques Cousteau to custard – which is where the dedicated people search engine Spock.com comes in.

Click Here to read more

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