How many people do you know who type URLs into their search bar or a search engine (if it's their default home page) instead of typing it into their address bar? The answer is probably "too many." So many, in fact, that it just isn't worth correcting them anymore. So now imagine telling these same people that they can not only conduct sophisticated searches in that search engine text box, but they can use a system of slashes to refine their searches on the fly. Yeah. Good luck with that one.
This, however, is the basis for Blekko, a new search engine that entered public beta today. Here's a video explaining how it works:
Blekko actually has great features and has managed to make search not only social but customizable. The built-in sort and prioritization syntax from their "slashtags" crank out good search results, just as advertised. Even making the slashtags customizable and social is a cool feature.
And it's a feature that only about 1% of Internet users, the geekorati, will get and use. Because let's face it: Google does a pretty good job of telling you what you care about anyway. Google automatically builds a profile and even a tolerably formed search query will give the average user a decent set of results. Why would 99% of the users on the Web bother creating custom hash tags that they can share with their friends? You can even hook Blekko into your Facebook and Twitter accounts, but can you really imagine sharing with your Aunt Tilly that you just created a super-cool new search tag for Blekko and telling her that she should really check it out? No, I don't think so.
This is an example, with Blekko founder, Rich Skrenta's Sun Engineering pedigree, Silicon Valley venture capital, and Michael Arrington's glowing review, of plenty of geeks not thinking like consumers. This is one company, however, that Google should snap up right now, take advantage of their IP, implement some of their more useful features like spam flagging and advanced syntax for power users.
Christopher Dawson grew up in Seattle, back in the days of pre-antitrust Microsoft, coffeeshops owned by something other than Starbucks, and really loud, inarticulate music. He escaped to the right coast in the early 90's and received a degree in Information Systems from Johns Hopkins University. While there, he began a career in health a...
Christopher Dawson is the owner and principle consultant for tekedu.net, formerly 6geeks.net, formerly 2D Business Services. Obviously this little company has evolved over the years, first as a side job consulting for local biotechs and ultimately becoming an umbrella for consulting and writing work related to educational technology. He spent 2 years as Vice President of Business Development for WizIQ, Inc., heading up US operations for the Indian company; he still consults for them. He has worked for his local school district as a teacher and technology director, for the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health, and for Biogen, Inc. (now Biogen-IDEC, Inc.). He has also consulted with STATNet and Cytyc Corporation and retains close ties with X2 Development Corporation (now part of Follett Software, the supplier of the student information system he administered for several years), including occasional activities that involve some sort of honorarium. However, he promises that if he writes about anything interesting they do, it's because it's interesting and not because they tossed him a few hundred bucks a while back.
He regularly purchases and/or recommends Dell hardware. This is because Dell makes good hardware and has truly committed itself to education in innovative ways, particularly with their "Connected Classroom" initiative. It isn't because he has had dealings with the company through his role at WizIQ (which he has) or because they have provided him with long-term loans of a variety of equipment for in-depth testing (which they have). HP gets nods from him, too; they have similarly provided him with equipment on long-term loan and their workstations rock out loud, so they deserve the coverage.
He actually buys Apple equipment because they don't send him free stuff and he has a nasty Apple habit that he can't help feeding occasionally.
Intel (reference designer for the Classmate PCs he has implemented in his local schools) has provided him with long-term loans of Classmate PCs for testing, as as has Lenovo with its educational offerings. Intel paid all expenses for his attendance at the 2009 Intel Classmate PC Ecosystem Summit which he attended as the sole representative of the technology press. He was invited to attend in 2010 but his wife would have killed him if he spent 3 days in Vegas geeking out and left her home alone with a new baby.
And Google? Well, he has more than one Chromebook provided as preview units and runs his consulting business with Google Apps (in fact, he has 5 different domains tied to Google Apps, one of which he actually pays for to use Google Apps for Business).
Acer provided him with a 50% discount on an Aspire One netbook in early 2009 after he tested it for 30 days through their educational seed program. He liked the netbook at the time but it has since broken and sits unused in his office. Canonical sent him Ubuntu lanyards, t-shirts, and mousepads for his kids. He stole one of the lanyards and proudly hangs his keys from it and occasionally features his 8-year old wearing an oversized Ubuntu t-shirt on his Facebook profile.
Gunnar Optiks sent him a pair of computer glasses to evaluate for a holiday gift guide. He is wearing them now as he types this because they never asked for them back and they rock out loud, too. Seriously - they work brilliantly and make it much easier to spend 20 hours a day staring at an LCD. If they ever asked for them back, he would fork over the $99 and buy a pair.He even convinced his mom to buy him a pair of their sunglasses for his birthday.
Microsoft gave him 2 free copies of Office 2010 professional, a desktop clock, and a useless book on Office 2010 when he attended the launch of Office/Sharepoint 2010. He occasionally uses the SharePoint lanyard they gave him instead of the Ubuntu lanyard for his keys, but feels dirty afterwards.
Blackboard paid him to be a keynote speaker at their 2012 Developers Conference but then went and bought a bunch of open source companies, bumped him from the program so they could explain why they would do such a thing, and he got to keep the cash, all for covering the event for a day. It was bloody hot and humid in New Orleans, so he earned every cent.
Adobe has given him lots of software and more than a couple free lunches at various conferences. Like the Gunnars, he would actually buy a Creative Cloud subscription if his free licenses on CS6/Creative Cloud run out because he couldn't do his job without them and CS6 (yes, I'm going to say it again) rocks out loud. Seriously. $50/month for Creative Cloud is a third of what he'd be willing to pay for it. Which is saying something, because he's actually pretty cheap.
Any other companies wishing to send him cool things to evaluate, wear, or otherwise adorn his kids are more than welcome to; he promises to disclose it here if he keeps any of the stuff.
And speaking of free stuff, Tuf-Luv has sent him enough free stuff to cover just about every tablet, phone, and laptop he's ever owned. That said, when his dog destroyed one of the cases and the Motorola Xoom inside it survived without a slobber mark, he went out and actually bought a new one. Same goes for an iPad he gave away as part of a contest he ran with WizIQ - he (meaning his corporate Amex) actually bought a Tuff-Luv case because (you guessed it) they rock out loud.
He may report on any of these companies as his experiences with them have direct bearing on educational technology, Google, cloud services, etc; positive reports are not necessarily an endorsement and he receives no direct financial compensation from these companies or any others.
He's pretty sure that's it. If he thinks of anything else, he'll be sure to tell you all about it here. By the way, he also writes for lots of other publications, but pretty much just about SMB stuff, so it doesn't really much matter. The writing and broadcasting he does for Edukwest (not surprisingly, ed tech-related) usually gets cross-posted to ZDNet, so that's all good too.