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Taking off my Tin Foil hat

Written by David Harry   
Monday, 17 December 2007 15:10

Getting to (Know, Know) Know You

Will this madness ever cease? I am just about ready to take this tin foil hat and throw it in the microwave to watch the sparks fly… I can tell you that. I mean really, there must be something else I can talk about right? Oh My God! I am being watched I tell you....But oh no, not Davey boy, he’s a UPM Addict and there is little hope.

As such allow me one more folly into the world of Search and User Performance Metrics;


Yesterday, I stumbled across a (2006) Google Patent relating to Ad Targeting named; Determining advertisements using user behaviour information such as past
navigation information

While touring around in there, I ran into these ;


‘navigation history information need not be collected by a toolbar. It can be collected using a proxy server, a browser helper object,
or by a custom browser implementation. One or more of these alternative
approaches can be considered. They are merely different ways of providing
the same functionality’

Ok, so we have many ways of watching you and it includes the GoogleToolBar, FireFox (whom they fund), or any other damn way we please. Sounds reasonable...


‘Alternatively, or in addition, information from previous user behaviour
other than user navigation history may be used when determining ads to
serve. Such previous user behaviour may include
previous queries submitted by
the user
, previous selections (e.g., of ads, documents, etc) by the user,

Oh...ok. This is all about ads? You are only watching my every move to deliver more relevant ads? While creepy, I can sort of deal with that.


‘Navigation history information to help select relevant content does not
need to be limited to browsed Webpages.
For example, navigation history
information can include recently read emails, recently edited documents, and
recently sent instant messages, etc.

Whaaattt??? You are reading my emails and other ‘documents’ with me? Looking over my shoulder to ‘help’ me to have a more ‘relevant’ experience? Ok, so this is limited to Ads and emails?


‘The principle of using navigation history information can be used to select
other kinds of useful content besides ads. For example, it can be used to
find relevant (not-for-pay) Websites, relevant email, and relevant people.
It can also be used to present coupons. For example, a user with a very long
history browsing for prices of a specific product may qualify for a coupon
offer that is not presented to a user who has not comparison-shopped as

This is where the rubber hits the road my peeps. These concepts of tracking user performance metrics and using them as a relevance signal are not limited to mere Ad Service implications. The door was left wide open for implementation across a wide variety services and applications.


Relevance through understanding User Engagement

Search engines are all looking at how relevance can be gleaned from user engagement metrics. This is a fact of life we should start to readily understand. And this is not limited to Google as just yesterday the venerable Wise man of search, Bill (Slawski) had a great analysis of a Yahoo patent that seeks to do many of the same tricks that we have been looking at with Google – How Yahoo May Use ToolBar Data to Refine Search results.

So finally… you can take off that tin foil hat and get on with the job at hand – optimizing for search engines.



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