This week’s blog sport – Scoble bashing

Now if there’s one person who doesn’t need my support it’s Scoble, as Kathy Sierra has said ‘Scoble can handle it.’ But this week’s attacks on Scoble have been interesting to watch since they say both good and bad things about the blogosphere.

Firstly, Scoble’s crime for those who don’t know, was to post a video where he argued that "Mahalo, Techmeme and Facebook are going to kick Google’s butt in four years". From what I can understand he is just plain wrong in some of the statements he makes (Danny Sullivan has a detailed long post on what’s wrong with his argument – he’s right, but he’s angry!). Secondly, he allowed his enthusiasm to be used as a marketing tool for Mahalo.

The response was quite vitriolic. If you don’t know much about search engines the level of rancour might strike you as slightly out of perspective, but software does that to people. Here are some of the responses:

There is a barely concealed element of schadenfreude here – Scoble is prominent, a blatant self-publicist and makes bold statements (and he worked for Microsoft). People have been waiting for him to trip up, and have jumped on it when he has. I confess, I like Scoble – I often disagree with him, but he provides insight into a lot of the tech companies, has strong opinions, is often insightful and (not to be underestimated) has a sense of humour. Scoble’s reaction has been interesting too – he listed most of the negative reactions, argued against some of them, and then admitted he had made mistakes.

The episode highlighted a few things to me:

i) Although there was a lot of vitriol in the responses, there was also a lot of considered thought and argument. It may be robust and confrontational at times, but this type of debate is what the blogosphere is about.

ii) Look how quickly the whole thing was raised, debated, assessed and then resolved. Less than a week. Academic publishing would still be reviewing the first article. It might not publish it on the grounds that Scoble was wrong, but that would remove a lot of the interesting debate from the public domain. I never knew I wanted to know about the particular workings of different search engines, but it turns out I did!

iii) I haven’t tried Mahalo, but I have installed Ligit, and it seems to me that the  core of Scoble’s argument, that human, social networked facilitated search will begin to compete with the automated power of Google. It may be that certain types of searches are better conducted this way, and I agree to say that these and Facebook will be a Google killer is pushing it, but nevertheless we should be thinking about different ways search will be performed. These will be determined by the type of knowledge we seek to find. For instance if I want to find a consultant to produce some Flash animations in education, I could use Google, but KnowledgeBook in Facebook, or a search in LinkedIn might be a better bet. 

iv) As I mentioned to an outsider the debate looks very technical and about small details (a directory is not a search engine), and all this is rather reminiscent of the very fine hair-splitting we see amongst religious sects. They may have 90% of their beliefs in common, but will argue (and sometimes fight to the death) over very small details. Proximity sometimes breeds contempt. Take football teams for example, Spurs fans don’t hate Barcelona fans because they have less in common with them, they hate Arsenal fans because they have more in common, and they see them every day.


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