Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Refocusing of Others Online to Behavioral Targeting and Computational Advertising

On the work/professional front Others Online is going into a bit of a transformation.

A rethinking exercise demonstrated that what we do best was connect people with content based upon implicit attention streams (this can be anything, click streams, blog posts, twitter, searches). That content was other people (social referrals), content (web pages & blogs) and ads.

Optimizing the process of selecting ads for individual people/groups and context rather than broad categories is what we'll focus on for a while, particularly me as concentrate on being the computational advertising guy at OO.

As for the social networking part of the software, we're refocusing on adding value to existing community and topical sites and other like groups that tend to connect people around a specific topic or geography.

Personally I think the refocusing on computational advertising and targeting is a great choice. When was the last time a web advertisement was really relevant to you? Do you really want to see noisy advertisements for mortgage refinancing and Viagra-like products? The key to all of this is to be socially responsible and give users complete control so that we don't fall into the Facebook-Beacon backlash.

Well, that and some clever algorithms to do the learning.

Dual Purpose trip to Germany

I was recently in Germany for two purposes. The first was for the 'Theory of Evolutionary Algorithms' conference at Dagstuhl Castle in Saarland Germany. This was a joy as I was able to focus nearly entirely on my PhD research and dissertation progress. At this point I'm in the home stretch.. I think I have two provable theorems sketched out and a set of new tractable items to explore to finish off the meat of the dissertation.

The second week in Germany was a beer tourist adventure through Bavaria and Bohemia. We hit Munich on day one and drank expensive tourist beer, then took a train to the Czech Republic to see Plzen (home of Pilsener beer) and Budweiss (Ceske Budejovice - original home of Budweiser beer). Plzen was very interesting and Budweiss was an adventure of train & bus travel. Two days later we took a train back into Germany to Bamberg. Bamberg is stunningly beautiful and is the home of a wide selection of locally crafted smoked lager beers. More on this trip in future posts.