Whalewatching - Fail whale sightings from June to October

After I saw the fail whale on Twitter again after a long whale-free period, I thought it was time to actualize my timeline of whale sightings. The first fail whale had been spotted last June. And after five months this meme is still going strong.

Some users feared that they would not be able to see the fail whale after Twitter announced having solved a lot of their uptime issues - but as you see in this chart, there have been whale sightings all through September.

The latest spike had been the Twitter redesign on 20 September which got the Twitterati puzzling whether their favorite cetacean had also been given a face-lift. Rest assured - this had not been the case.

Twittering the Oktoberfest

No time to go to the Oktoberfest in Munich? Well, I just finished a small Twitter aggregator that allows to read what your fellow Twitterati are reporting from the world’s largest fair. And, this has been quite a surprise for me, there always is at least one person around twittering from the Wiesn.


Financial crisis still doesn’t pass the bacon test

What is it that is really interesting for the Google population? The financial crisis? No, that’s what the media is interested in. People searching Google really are looking for cupcakes, sex toys and wizards. At least, that’s what Jonathan Stein found out when he compared the different search terms with Google Trends.

In the meanwhile the financial crisis has gathered a lot more search engine buzz as you can see in the following graph. But it still has not reached the level of buzz that bacon has.

When will this topic pass the bacon test?


Top Internet sites in Germany are losing visitors

A while ago, I compared the numbers for some of the big German websites and portals as measured by Google’s AdPlanner with the results published by the AGOF or Arbeitsgemeinschaft Online Forschung (Study Group Online Research).

Now it’s been one month and I did a short comparison of last month’s Google numbers with this month’s. The result is pretty impressive: almost every page did lose unique visitors in the last four weeks:

Mozilla did experience the greatest loss. I am not sure whether this is a measurement error due to the early release of Google’s application or a real downfall. Perhaps their all-time high on Firefox download day has something to do with this? But a look at the graph Google’s AdPlanner draws for German visitors to Mozilla.com does not suggest any dramatic drop:

3.5-4.5 mio Twitter users worldwide?

When it comes to the total number of Twitter users, nobody I know had ever been able to get some information out of Biz & Co. So we are left with informed guesses. I fine method of guessing the total number compares different location based subgroups of Twitter users on TwitDir and Twitter. Because location is one of the things Twitter allows to search. So, inspired by this blog post, I collected a few numbers to make a guess at the number of Twitterati right now.

If you search for “Germany”, TwitDir is able to find 8,095 users while Twitter reports 10,145. So TwitDir only knows 80% of the people Twitter knows who entered as their location “Germany”. On the other hand there’s UK. Here TwitDir reports even less: only 65% of Twitter users. The numbers for France or Japan are in between the both.

Now comes the delicate part. We only can guess that TwitDir also knows about 65-80% of the total users. Currently that’s 3,011,532. So the magic number of total Twitter users should be between 3,500,000 and 4,500,000. Use at your own risk.

How old are German Facebook users?

O’Reilly just published a short research item on the age distribution of Facebook users and especially the relative changes between May and now. The message is:

Among the major Facebook age segments, the fastest growing are teens (13-17) and young (26-34) to middle-age (35-44) professionals, with the growth in teens driven by non-U.S. markets. Also note the strong growth in the much smaller 45-54 and 55-59 age groups

So, social networking is not a teen thing anymore (if it ever was). Unfortunately, no numbers for Germany are mentioned in the article, so I took a quick look at Facebook myself and the result is the following:

So, while I have no earlier numbers to compare with, in contrast to the US, France and Turkey, the 18-28 age group in Germany is clearly below 50%. Additionally, the 13-17 age group is weaker than in the US or France, where it encompasses more than 15%. The German age distribution resembles the UK the most.

If you break it down in single years, you get the following distribution. The largest age class is 25. The high number for 65 probably should be an artifact.

Reading the Global Database of Wishes

Google’s new Insights for Search allows us to see what the world is looking for.

A few months ago, I wrote a post for my German blog that described Google as a global database of people’s will to knowledge and of their wishes (this of course echoes John Batelle’s famous phrase). In that particular post I then put forth a wish myself: that we receive some kind of API to access this global database of searches.

Google Insight for Search

Google Insight for Search

With Google Insight for Search (”Google Trends on steroids” as Andrew Chen calls it) the search company made a huge step in the right direction. Finally, they’re giving us back some of the information we type into the famous form field day on and day off. Our information.

We can now access information about what terms are searched for when and where. This cannot be underestimated. It’s not only possible to trace whether the global search population prefers red wine or white wine. It’s also a great tool for monitoring brands, especially with the possibility to show the headlines for data points that are somehow standing out of the general trends. It also makes comparing search terms within different categories a breeze - so is this interface to the inner workings of the noosphere a dream come true?

Some things seem unfinished yet. For example the algorithm that is used to match headlines to the graphs. When I’m displaying search terms for Austria, I get headlines from Germany that seem to have nothing to do with Austria. And when I’m analyzing search terms for Germany, I get a lot of headlines from the Netherlands which even is another language. I don’t know how this is done, but it can certainly be improved.

On the other hand, what I like about this service: it does not omit results for Google’s own projects as has been the case with Google Trends for Websites. It does not deny that Knol is not a serious rival for Wikipedia yet and that the distance between Google and Yahoo is not that great (besides: that’s a whole lot of people using Google to search for Google).

A few uses for Google Insight for Search that immediately crossed my mind:

  • Monitoring Brands and Corporations
  • Analyzing where people using your product live
  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Meme tracking / Buzz monitoring
  • Calculating relationships / Semantic Web
  • Tracking a person’s reputation
  • Looking for seasonal trends

What else could this be used for? Please add your suggestions in the comments below.

See you later, Regator

Here’s another competitor in the market for more or less intelligent blog aggregators: Regator. While Technorati has become nearly unusable in the last few months, this new startup not only looks very neatly design - well, we could argue about the crocodilealligator, because in Germany, we once had a very infamous hit by “Schnappi, das Krokodil” - but also seems to deliver the right amount of pseudo-intelligence I’ve been missing in lots of other aggregators.

Regator Screenshot

Regator Screenshot

The screenshot displays how Regator shows the two latest posts on this blog. If you click on “Kinda related” (doesn’t sound too obvious btw), Regator shows a few entries that are also on this topic. And they definitely are more than just “kinda” related.

For example, my recent entry on McLuhan is connected with other blog posts that connect McLuhan’s thoughts with the recent developments in social media and one or two of those entries really gave me new thoughts, I would have liked to have known before I wrote the article.

Other features that are nice for this kind of service: you can rate posts up or down, there’s a list of hot topics, you can comment on the posts, you can create a hot list of your favorite blogs or channels etc. The only thing Regator does not offer is social network functions. You can’t add friends. Or rather: You don’t have to worry about reconstructing your network of friends on yet another platform. I like that. But it also means that there is no way to weighten ratings by people you trust.

Marshall McLuhan’s premonitions about the Internet

Every time I reread Marshall McLuhan, I am anew surprised how exact his forecasts from the 1960s were. Take for example the mind blowing “The Medium is the MASSAGE”, he published together with Quentin Fiore, a collage of short texts and images about the changing mediascape, which only had been fully materialized in the 21st century - with social media. There is also a download of a digital rendering of the LP with the same title on UbuWeb.

Here are five short quotes that describe some core notions of present time networked life but perhaps are a little less known that his famous “global village”. Only recently with Google and Archive.org it became clear for most of us that in the Internet nothing will be fizzling out. The famous slogan is: “Google never forgets“. But McLuhan already knew this in 1967. Isn’t it a very precise description of the Internet as an

electrically computerized dossier bank - that one big gossip column that is unforgiving, unforgetful and from which there is no redemption, no erasure of early “mistakes”.

This makes clear that the change is not only about a new way of researching information, but about new forms of connectivity and sociability. The fact that many things you do online will be archived for a very long time is not about information or knowledge, but could change the way we think about ourselves and the way we act.

Maybe this next quote sounds a bit bold, but I also believe, that the Internet and especially the change that started with the popularization of social software will have revolutionary effects. In McLuhan’s words this sounds like this:

The medium, or process, of our time - electric technology - is reshaping and restructuring patterns of our social interdependence and every aspect of our personal life … Everything is changing - you, your family, your neighborhood, your job, your government, your relation to “the others”. And they’re changing dramatically.

We are not only using social software, but social software is using us. While it appears to us, that using those services and tools to perform our tasks better and more efficient than before, there is some kind of “meta-change” happening. It changes the way social change happens and the way we are influenced by technology.

Isn’t the following very much to the point in describing today’s experience of the new media scape with blogs, RSS feeds, Twitter and Friendfeed?

Electric circuitry profoundly involves men with one another. Information pours upon us, instantaneously an continuously. As soon as information is acquired, it is very rapidly replaced by still newer information. Our electrically-configured world has forced us to move … to the mode of pattern recognition.

In this quote, McLuhan can be read as pleading for a new media education, which seems to be a field of growing importance nowadays. What happens when our children are not only educated by people they are able to interact with face-to-face, but who are mediated by digital technology?

Character no longer is shaped by only two earnest, fumbling experts. Now all the world’s a sage.

And of course, he stresses again and again the need to develop new tools for understanding today’s world and the infeasibility

to do today’s job with yesterday’s tools - with yesterday’s concepts.

Unfortunately, whenever I’m looking for example at academic sociology, nothing much seems to have changed. Too many people trying to examine the networked reality with the old concepts of mass society.

Map of connections between Web 2.0 companies and investors

Here are two new maps I created with Pajek (which unfortunately cannot display graphics as nodes) using the Crunchbase API. This time they are about the connections between a number of Web 2.0 startups by their common investors and between these investors.

If, for example, the same financial organization or person is investing both in Twitter and Tumblr, there is a link between those two companies. In this case there are even two companies, Union Square and Spark Capital investing in both of them (click to enlarge).

Connections between Web 2.0 companies

Of course, investments are made out of many different reasons. But I guess, with caution, you could interpret the map this way: people who believe that startup A has a great vision and could be successful, also feel the same way for startup B. What do you think?

If you look at the same data the other way around - best thing about two-modal networks is that you actually have two networks to examine -, you get a map of the connections between the investors. Two investors funded the same startup? Let them be connected by an edge (click to enlarge).

Connections between investors in Web 2.0 companies