FOWA: The Future of Search (Tony Conrad) [en]

[fr] Notes prises à l'occasion de la conférence Future of Web Apps (FOWA) à Londres.

*Here are my live notes of this [Future of Web Apps (FOWA)](http://www.futureofwebapps.com/) session with [Tony Conrad](http://sphere.wordpress.com/), hosted by [Brian Oberkirch](http://www.brianoberkirch.com/). They are probably incomplete and may contain mistakes, though I do my best to be accurate. Chances are I’ll be adding links to extra material later on, so don’t hesitate to come back and check.*

FOWA 2007 24

Brian is the original Sphere groupie. Tony is one of the [Sphere](http://www.sphere.com/) founders.

Lots of blogs, but felt that nobody had made a really good job of making that content available to a more general public. => so with Toni Schneider, started Sphere in 2005.

Sphere had a promise: better, more relevant blog search.

Sphere bookmarklet: not link-based. Content relevancy. Something they threw in at the last moment, but a lot of their traffic came from there. *steph-note: if I understood that right.*

Day 8: OMG, we’re going to have to do something different.

Time contacts them to see if they can integrate context-related stuff to their articles. They loved it, but Tony didn’t like it: not a good user experience. People don’t want to go on a site called “Sphere.com” that they’ve never heard of. => little widget that would overlay on the page.

Ex. Reuters page. A-list publishers are getting very good at linking out, they understand the advantages (SEO + readership). Contextual link between mainstream media and social media (blogs). Widget works well for mainstream media and bloggers. (Long tail!)

FOWA 2007 27

FOWA 2007 29

The stuff in the left column and bottom of the page is generated automatically.

Overlay “window” with related content, also for blogs:

FOWA 2007 32

Over a billion article pages across the web in a year.

There is a widget now available for WordPress blogs, and one for TypePad in the advanced templates.

Issue: thinking about the scaling issues.

Different “client/users” have different requirements for what they want to filter out of their searches. Funny: CNN asking to remove the safe filter, and running lead story about “Pornification of American Culture” — Sphere did indeed find all the relevant results… and got an earful.

Publisher partners don’t want adult content.

Brian: lots of talk about how little it takes to bring a product to market, but this story is about what comes after… people scaling. 10 people now but not in the same office. *steph-note: Brian, not sure I interpreted correctly what you said*

Close to Automattic, which is a completely “virtual” *(steph-note: I hate that term)* company, meaning they’re scattered all over the place. Freedom to pick out the very best people for the job. Sphere communicate non-stop, always online, always on the phone, get together at 4-5 every Friday. At one point Tony had met 6 of the 10 people on the team, and he was the one who had met the most. So brought everybody in location in SF at some point, and it was awesome! *steph-note: Matt told me they had this happen at WordCamp for Automattic this summer.*

Tony: advocate of taking baby steps. Figure out an idea that’s going to be in a big space and nibble around the edges.

Brian: business model? how is this company going to make money?

Tony: Somewhat advertising-based (Brian notes there are no ads now).

Brian: is there an API?

Tony: to do an API right, and not screw people around, without conflicting with their ability to serve their partners the way they are today… *steph-note: sentence that never ended…*

Sphere’s focus is more at the publisher end than the long tail end (at least for the moment).

Testing people’s online collaboration skills is part of the hiring process.

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