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Executive Profile in Information Today Magazine

Information Today - Dec 2012

Information Today – Dec 2012

In the December issue of Information Today, you can find a short executive biography of yours truly.

Jamie Babbitt of Information Today distilled a conversation we had but if you are interested in a more expansive view, see below.

1. What does your new position as ecommerce manager entail?

As Alacra’s E-commerce Manager, I am responsible for the strategy and growth of Alacra Store and Alacra Premium. This involves working with clients and publishers to make research accessible and available to researchers, investors, bankers, librarians or anyone needing premium business information.

2. What challenges have you faced since beginning this position?

There is never enough information I can provide for users. Deciding on what users could benefit from most is tough from a technical standpoint and a business standpoint. I spend a great deal of time figuring out new ways we can extract more usefulness from meta data and speed up the process of obtaining premium information.

The search engines have been a challenge as well considering the Alacra Store ( is over 100 million pages, it can be a serious task to optimize for Google, Bing, Yandex and Baidu.

3. What do you hope to accomplish before the end of the year?

We just completed the first phase of a major overhaul of the Alacra Store. I am hoping to complete the second phase by the end of the year.
I have also been working on applying computer science tactics like machine learning and pattern recognition to help end users find the right information quickly as possible. We are still testing this but some of the initial results have been fascinating.

4. What are some of your long-term goals?Infomation Today - Dec 2012 - Page 6 - Benjamin Royce Executive Profile

I am currently working on my Master’s degree at Columbia University in Information and Knowledge Strategy. Armed with that, I see a future in bridging the gap between Information Science and Computer Science. I envision helping build a next generation organizational knowledge management department that could span the large gap between data and the cultivation, distribution and management of knowledge.

5. What is your take on the information industry today?

The information industry is in flux right now and understanding that with the rate of data being collected has outpaced our ability to glean actionable information. Publishers have a tremendous opportunity here and like many industries that have been transformed by the information age, the information industry needs to look forward and progress with innovation. The organization leading that charge will have a serious advantage. The last thing we should be doing is digging our heels in.

UPDATE: Columbia University also picked up the story.


6 Examples Of How Facebook Is Out Of Control

  1. Facebook vs Teachbook:Let’s say you’re a teacher, and you have some professional questions or would like
    Facebook Logo

    Facebook is getting a little too legal trigger happy

    to ask a community of fellow teachers about your issues. You know, check with your peers and such. Well that is what Teachbook is there for. It isn’t even a social network by definition either. But nonetheless, Facebook has sued them over the word BOOK. It might have held water if Facebook was a book of some sort, but alas, it is not.

  2. Facebook attempts to trademark “FACE”: Yes, it is true. According to the US Patent Office, Facebook has staked its claim to the word ‘face’.
  3. Facebook vs Lamebook: This one might be somewhat legitimate since Lamebook is a community blog about stupid Facebook statuses, but they aren’t filtering content via feeds or anything like that. They are screenshots of these statuses, with the names blurred out. Facebook has retaliated by sending a cease and desist, then Lamebook flat out sued Facebook.
  4. Facebook vs Faceporn: Since supposedly half the internet is porn, it was inevitable that Facebook would be locked into this one. They caved pretty quick stating, the site is “Forced to close down for a while, due to unforeseen circumstances. We’ll be back though. Better than ever.”
  5. Facebook vs StudiVZ: Even the Germans can’t escape the Zuckerberg wrath with Facebook suing StudiVZ because of the look and feel of the site. Funny that is coming from Zuckerberg who supposedly hi jacked the whole idea of Facebook from the Winklevii, but in Zuckerbergs defense (as if he needs my help) from the movie the social network: “A guy who makes a nice chair doesn’t owe money to everyone who has ever built a chair.”
  6. Facebook vs Peter Warden: A spider is a program that goes through the web sifting through information and cataloging it so that you can find it when you search. What made Google the best search engine of its time was their incredibly well designed spiders (aka crawlers) so that when you search for something, that something you are looking for, actually shows up on the page. That is exactly the thing that Peter Warden did, but he got a threatening note from Facebook lawyers telling him to scrub the data of any personal information. Not the point really, since it was from profiles that set their information to PUBLIC.

No doubt these are just a few examples… Post your own (with links) to the comment section below.

HP and Autonomy

  1. Great article from 2011 by @owenleslie about how Autonomy’s IDOL might be more marketing than substance.
  2. Hewlett-Packard Q4 2012 Earnings Conference Call Transcript: Nov 20, 2012.
  3. Hewlett-Packard $8.8 billion charge off of Autonomy is credit negative.
  4. Former Autonomy CEO Mike Lynch’s open letter to HP regarding accounting allegations.


How to Fix WordPress ‘wp-admin not found’

Recently I’ve been running all sorts of little mini projects off the back end of this site since it was easy. But just recently I found that WordPress’ wp-admin feature wasn’t working on my self hosted site.

Queue freakout.

Luckily the architecture of WordPress is smart enough where you can replace the entire administration directories with the newly updated ones via FTP and it will retain all your site’s carefully (!) crafted content.

This is brilliant information architecture and I wish I could kiss the developer that designed it that way. I was up and running again within minutes.

Smart move WordPress!

Best times to post to social media sites

Anniversary of the Google Panda Update

Google Panda Algorithm Infographic

SEM Infographic by SEO Book

Evolution of Google

How To Deal With Google Autocomplete Ruining Your Reputation

Scenario: Someone searches for your business and Google has taken the liberty of appending your business name with something not-so-nice.

Recently a local business owner (who I won’t identify because it would make things worse) was referred to me about how to remove an autocomplete result in reference to his business. eg. ‘Long Island Tennis Tournament Referee Bribed’

How does autocomplete work? Google claims that it is mostly driven by actual user searches but may have a combination of actual user searches, past search history and rising popular searches. We have evidence that it combines terms that are not necessarily adjacent and does filter out terms like ‘scam’. For more information on how autocomplete works, see this Search Engine Land article.

Some factors:

  1. Volume of searches
  2. Click through rate (CTR)
  3. Volume of results of nearby searches

First of all, be honest. Is the autocomplete actually referencing the truth? eg. Was a referee for the Long Island actually bribed? If not, then go find out what the sites that are showing up for that term are actually using for content. Is it computer generated garbage? Is it a forum of disgruntled customers that you need to deal with? If so, then it is a bit tougher.

Can I manipulate Autcomplete results? Yes. But it will cost you. Last year Brent Payne, former Chicago Tribune SEO, used Amazon’s Mechanical Turk to manipulate a search term of his own and got himself banned from autcomplete mostly because he pissed off Matt Cutts (Google’s head of Web Spam) for good reason.

Reputation management firms are quick to fix the problem by burying the bad term with artificially boosting a nicer term by using similar methods and writing content for it. The problem is that (much like Rogaine) you have to keep paying to keep the bad term away.

Sometimes the term is replaced by a more recent or popular term naturally. Other ways to accelerate this effect can be publicity stunts or viral marketing.

What is Google doing to help?

Despite some legal requirements in various countries, Google has apparently had enough of business owners freaking out over suggestions and has removed ‘scam’ in some autocomplete results and has removed piracy related terms like ‘bittorrent’. For a time the term ‘lesbians’ was blocked too.

Second, ask yourself what you are willing to do. If you have the resources to write multiple versions of content about a replacement phrase and distribute it cleverly across multiple domains that have pagerank and actually have ‘dofollow’ links, then maybe it is worth the time. It could be the online marketing kick start you should have done years ago.

If you don’t have those crazy resources, hire them out, but ask important questions. Reputation management firms will most likely have a two prong approach 1) They will tell you, or hopefully write themselves, a lot of content for the web that creates a new phrase that will hypothetically (and temporarily) bump the bad phrase down with a bunch of innocuous phrases that don’t alarm prospective customers. 2) They will get these phrases popular on the user side by making various users and robots (like Brent Payne did above) do the preferred search term that will be corroborated with the content they wrote. This simulates a ‘trend’ and will hopefully replace the nasty suffix. This will not be permanent as they need to keep the search volume up and the content fresh by continuing to write about this artificial trend to keep ahead of the offending theme.

Be sure to get complete answers to the following questions:

  1. What happens after the campaign is complete? Are the effects permanent and why or why not?
  2. Does this run a risk of having my site penalized by Google?

Third, deal with it head on. This is more of a PR strategy than an SEO straegy, but time and time again we see that SEO and PR cross paths at the worst times. If the suggestion has a drop of truth to it, you may wish to work on the SEO for that term. Get to the top of the results for the high CTR nasty term and do your best to control the message, explain what happened, how you fixed it (hopefully you did), and why it isn’t an issue any longer.

Other reading:

How have you dealt with Google Autocomplete?

Comment below!

Why Five Second Video Ads Are The Future

A few months ago YouTube reported that ads were up 50%, and the marketing world went nuts about how web video was finally paying its way. Marketing people often miss the boat in technology often thinking they still have the one way communication of television and print. YouTube just pumped more 15 – 30 second ads onto users who were expecting something else. That is bad user experience and ultimately is not a long term option.

Nothing drives people up the wall than having to watch a poorly targeted video ad prior to the real video they were linked to, let alone a 30 second one. 30 seconds online is like 30 minutes on TV. That’s why the future of web advertising in the video sphere will be micro length ads like this Adidas ad for the New Zealand All Blacks.

It’s brilliant because it loads quickly, gets to the point and is on-brand. First there were books, then there were magazines, then there were blog posts, and now there’s Twitter. Video works the same way and making your point in 5 seconds or less is probably the future.

I’m not alone:

MTV Finds Most Effective Video Ad Unit is 5 Second Pre-roll

What is your favorite short ad?


A Restaurant That Gets Social Media – And Monetized It: AJ Bombers

I’m writing this from AJ Bombers, a relatively new restaurant (almost 2 years old) in the famous and entrenched Water Street neighborhood of Milwaukee’s downtown. For those of you that don’t know of Water Street, it is the magnificent (half) mile of drinking, and specifically beer. It is usually populated by Marquette University students and tourists who come for Milwaukee’s beer brewing history.

The ever-updating Twitter board at AJ Bombers

The ever-updating Twitter board at AJ Bombers

So why would I bother to write about a bar/restaurant? Especially since I despised this neighborhood when growing up here.

AJ Bombers is the mecca of social media. They get it. The owner says that their popularity was built almost entirely on Twitter and Facebook, a fact that the employees love to tout. Plus, they’re unusually friendly and upbeat, which is rare in this neighborhood considering how friendly Wisconsinites are reported to be.

If the World War II bomber theme doesn’t hit you right away, it might be the elaborate peanut dispensing flying bombs with targets along the wall. Or it could be the stenciled phrases on the walls and doors. Or the beer bottles hanging from parachutes above the submarine periscope-like silos of peanuts (spelled p-nuts on the sign.)

The 40″ flat screen displaying the latest tweets and retweets from the owner (@AJBombers) is pretty neat too. But before I even got my award winning (Travel Channel) cheeseburger, the Milwaukee Burger, I found out that I was already second degree friends with half the staff. By the time my drink arrived, I had 3 new followers, all of whom happened to be standing in front of me.

The P-Nut delivery system at AJ Bombers via WWII era bombs

The P-Nut delivery system at AJ Bombers via WWII era bombs

Just take a look at the activity and prowess that AJ Bombers has on social and you can quickly dismiss the more uptight naysayers of social media, if there are any left.

Steve, an employee at AJ Bombers says that they are different because they interact with locals in a personal way before, during and after they come in for burgers and beers. It is well exhibited too, I knew of the place well before moving back to Milwaukee via the Tweetup notifications all being held at the bar/restaurant. It’s not just mantra, it is the way these people operate. Even the bartender is a PR graduate and stated openly she was quite happy working at such a PR savvy place.

Even the wifi network SSID is “DontForgetToCheckInOnFoursquare”. Brilliant.

Most restaurants just blast out specials like ASCII diarrhea but in the parallel universe of social, it seems that being more human, not less, builds business relationships. Not anything new to people on Twitter at all, but it is still rare in the restaurant business.

Congrats, AJ Bombers, you get it.  And yes, the Milwaukee burger is worthy of the hype.

AJ Bombers
1241 N Water Street
Milwaukee, WI 53202
(414) 221-9999
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