Archive for July, 2008

Check out our new Video

July 31, 2008

Trovix has released a new video to help build awareness. I think it’s pretty cool.


Real Innovation in Search

July 22, 2008

Reading all the techie articles about semantic search vs. statistical models and semantic web vs. semantic search, it occurred to me that in one way, all that debate is besides the point. 

Consumers usually only search with two or three words.  If you pick two random words and google them, you’ll get tens of thousands of pages. 

With only two words to go on, the best search technology in the world is still going to have a really hard time understanding what the searcher wants.  That’s true if you have semantic search, statistical models, or the Head Librarian from the Library of Congress trying to get the “best” answer.

I think real innovation in search is going to have to come from creating user interfaces that get consumers to form better search queries.  For web search, we’ve had the single search box for more than a decade.  For travel sites, it’s still two cities and two dates.  For most job sites, it’s title/location.  (Not Trovix, though!)

Dating sites like eharmony figured out years ago that to get a person matched up with the best search result, you need more information.  Yet most search sites won’t let you spend three minutes to give relevant information, even if you wanted to.   

The technology on the back end can support more complex queries, so the bottleneck is the front end.  Trovix has a huge innovation in that it takes a full document and uses that to create a query. I suspect that other search technology companies will eventually follow this model.  The one-size fits search box is what we need to innovate away from.

Older Folks Staying on the Job

July 22, 2008

The Bureau of Labor Statistics is always a great place for a read when you want good news.  Today’s good news is a piece they’ve done on older workers in the workforce

Most impressive is that there are now 1.1 million people over 75 working. That’s almost double from a decade ago.

A few points of note.

One is that the number of workers over 65 is growing much faster than the workforce in general, and this has been a long term trend.  (Pre-baby boom retirement.)  Although the negative spin might be that they can’t afford to retire, I think the positive spin is that they can’t afford to retire. As people live longer, the idea of a 20 or 30 year retirement should seem ridiculous.  Especially for people who are physically and mentally strong.  If you can’t afford to play 36 holes of golf a day, maybe you should get a job.

More importantly, I suspect that 65 is the new 50.  Jobs are less physically demanding, and work places are more fun.  Being valued in the workplace makes people feel good about themselves.  Being unemployed and looking forward to years of day time television broadcasting must be a drag. 

Net net, I think it’s a good thing that people can and are working longer.

The Vertical Search Blender

July 17, 2008

I think someone needs to invent a new category of web site, because “vertical search” seems to be getting a bit crowded.  The Mercury News just did a write up on Center’d.  Center’d is described as a vertical search site at the beginning of the article, so I was interested in what vertical they were searching on.   But later, the article described the business as a mash up of Evite, Yelp, and social networking.  Which is a lot like what it looked like when I went there.  So what’s the vertical?

Center’d looks like it could be a pretty cool site, and I hope they do well. But they aren’t vertical search.

Zillow, also described as vertical search, is another good example. The cool thing about Zillow is that they tell you what your house is worth.  But that’s content generation, not search.

I think what’s going on is that Google is so successful that everyone wants to be the Google of something.  It’s like a Hollywood movie Pitch.  In Hollywood, you say “I wanna make ‘Raiders of the Lost Arc’ meets ‘High School Musical.'” In Silicon Valley, you say “We’re goona be like the Google of on-line pet food sales.”  These days, the first line of the pitch is always Google. 

The funny thing for Trovix is that we really are a search company, and we have really incredible search.  Most of the companies in today’s “vertical search” category don’t even do search.

Google for Job Search

July 14, 2008

According to Doug Berg, people ran more than 100 million job related searches on Google in June. The average month has 124 million searches.

Let’s have fun with math.  If each search took 30 seconds, that means on average, people spend more than one million hours a month job searching with Google. Ouch!  Talk about a tough way to spend your time.  When you do the kinds of searches he describes, like “Nursing Jobs New York,” you unlikely to get a job that’s even close to what you want. Yet 14,800 people ran that exact search. 

Are these people really job hunting? I think so.  33,100 people searched for “Construction jobs California,” but only 390 people searched for “construction jobs America.” If some people were looking for economic statistics, the America searches would be more common.  As it is, you’d think California is also too big to get the right results. But people don’t get that.

What this tells me is that a whole lot of people don’t really know how to use search tools like Google, and don’t really know how to job search.  Or maybe, they’re just so used to really crummy results when they search, that they’re happy with the kind things Google comes up with. 

Either way, a million hours seems like a lot of time to spend being disappointed.

A tip ‘o the hat to Bounty Jobs

July 10, 2008

Bounty Jobs just announced a raise of $12.5 million. Good for them.  They act as a broker between recruiting agencies and employers. I’ve used them, and the thing I liked most was that they helped me keep my recruiters in line, and also shut them off when they weren’t performing.  It’s a lot cleaner than working directly with agencies. 

There is a ton of money flowing into the recruiting space right now. I think the investment community has figured out that you can make a lot of money if you can help connect people with jobs.  Some of the investments seem totally nuts to me, while others are just crazy.  But Bounty Jobs is one investment that I’ll bet is going to pay off.

More Great News for Beautiful People

July 3, 2008

The world can’t shower enough love on the beautiful.  Check this out.  A congressman from New York has proposed creating a special visa category for fashion models so that they won’t have to compete with smelly ugly software engineers for the right to strut their stuff in the U.S. of A.  Sadly, he only wants to allow 1000 of them in each year, so there won’t be enough to go around.

Still, I think it’s important to recognize that what this country really needs is more thin women. 

Wait. Hang on. That’s not right. What this country really needs is a highly educated workforce with technical skills that can keep American companies ahead of the curve technologically.   

Here’s the visa I would propose: the “Welcome You Bright Shiny New Tax Payer” Visa.  If you can get a sponsored job that pays at least $100K a year, and you pay your income taxes and stay out of trouble for 5 years, you get a green card.  And it doesn’t even matter if you aren’t a super-model.

Microsoft buys Powerset. Great News for Semantic Search.

July 1, 2008

I for one was very happy to read that Powerset got acquired by Microsoft.  Rumored price was “roughly” $100M according to TechCrunch.  For those keeping score, that would be .37% of cash on hand for Microsoft, or 14 hours of revenue.  There are three important messages here:

1.  Better search matters.  MSFT wouldn’t be making this move if they didn’t think that a better search technology would help them compete against Google.

2.  Semantic search is real.  Lots of haters (including some folks at Google) like to say that semantic search won’t scale, or that you can’t build a big enough taxonomy or whatever. At Trovix, we know it works. And at Microsoft, someone with a big checkbook just voted that it works.  Semantic technologies are going to completely change the way people interact with data. Microsoft clearly wants to be at the head of that change.

3.  The time for semantic search is now.  The tech highway is littered with technologies that burned out on their own hype without ever delivering the goods.  Now, there are several companies on the cusp, or in Trovix’s case, already shipping products that provide a better user experience based on semantic technologies.  Semantic search can be demoed on applications available to consumers today. Microsoft bought Powerset because they can see a clear path to this technology being a competitive weapon.  They didn’t spend $100M to hire more researchers for the lab. 

On Babies and Work

July 1, 2008

The New York Times Magazine had an interesting article about the global baby bust.  The birth rate in very many countries is below the replacement rate. That means we’ll see shrinking, aging populations for decades to come.  It’s a global phenomenon.  (Perhaps everyone in the world figured out that diaper changing, sleeplessness and Barney aren’t as fun as booze, cash, and freedom.  At least the education system is working.)  

One theory in the article linked the number of babies being born to the openness of the job market.  More babies get born in countries where people are free to change jobs, or enter and leave the workforce.  That makes a ton of sense.

A lot of the labor markets in Europe are disastrous.  In some countries, getting a full time job can take years.  The problem is, once you’re hired, you can’t be fired.  So companies will do anything to avoid the risk of a bad hire, including hiring nobody. Even if they could hire only good people, when the economy tanks, a company with too many employees is doomed. So they hire for the worst case economy, which means fewer jobs.   

There is a certain irony that, in an attempt to make people feel safer about their jobs, some countries have made people feel so insecure that they won’t even have children.  I’m just glad that I live in a country where a service like can actually help people find the right jobs for them, and where even people with jobs can be thinking about their next best move.