There’s no “I” in “Cool”

So there’s a new search engine on the block, Cuil (pronounced “Cool”) and it’s the latest to take a swing at the big G. It boasts a three-column interface, less reliance on popularity in it’s algorithm and a dedication to indexing more of the internet. Its founders have tried to latch onto privacy concerns by declaring that Cuil does “not collect any personally identifiable information, period. We have no idea who sends queries: not by name, not by IP address, and not by cookies”. As noble as this is I wonder if people actually care too much (yet!) about how other search engines manage to provide relevant results. If a piece of software is noting how I use it to provide me a more tailored experience, that’s probably ok. Of course if people stop and think about it, the amount of information search engines can gather about your life is truly frightening. But my gut feel is that a widespread tolerance of, or even apathy towards these techniques will continue to exist until people are personally touched by their consequences.

Now you can’t blame smart people for wanting to try and make search work better but I just get the feeling that there has to be a seismic shift in experience to move people away from their current Google-habit. Slightly better results, a different philosophical approach and magazine-style results layout don’t give me goosebumps.

Search isn’t something people love or even contemplate, it’s just there. Google manages the perception that it provides relevant results extremely well. If it’s not indexing the dark nets enough, or is dumbing down its results set based on the linking habits of the masses, is anyone really noticing? Possibly Cuil needs some interface tweaks to clearly demonstrate their difference in approach. But in Australia, with Google’s near monopolistic market share, it will take a lot more than that.

Gen Y gender split for online usage

We’re currently working on some creative strategy work for client wishing to reach 17-18 year olds. From a little bit of research, focus groups, discussions etc they’ve undertaken, there seems to be some key differences in the way the genders consume media and interact online.

The lads are massive downloaders of TV (both legit and not.. mostly not), addicted to MSN Messenger as it avoids any form of verbal communication, only really use MySpace because it’s where the other kids hang out (but don’t really enjoy it), hardly watch any TV at all, massive users of YouTube and have kinda outgrown gaming consoles (they’ll be back!). They tend to come across as a bit of a surly bunch.

The girls are (surprise, surprise) more communicative and mature. Firstly, they’re much bigger users of social networks, many using both MySpace and Facebook. They use MySpace to stay in touch with every day friends, whereas Facebook is for older, distant and less frequently seen friends (bit like an always-on passive address book). Some of them quite like having famous people as friends on MySpace and see it as a great way to stay in touch with what’s happening. They don’t use YouTube as much (having actually outgrown the skating dog years ago) and hardly download any illegal TV or movies (some claim the fear of being fined). They generally have multiple conversations going on at once across text, Messenger, Myspace etc – often with the same people at across different channels simultaneously!

I’m not saying that any of these findings are necessarily surprising, but it’s interesting to see the Mars/Venus thing play out in media consumption and socialising – I know if I could have communicated with girls as a teenager without having to actually talk, I would have been all for it (there are only so many pre-meditated conversations you can plan in your head). But it certainly makes for a challenge when to trying to invite participation with an idea across this demographic. Anyone else found similar?

Man as media

New media individuals are the emerging monetizable destinations of choice in the post-Mitchell dominated landscape. Can you supplement your property’s traffic with a blog about your newspaper? Maybe. But what about those people out there with an audience and a bunch of distribution mechanisms already built-in? If you’ve been blogging original comment and subjective opinion since day dot, chances are you’ve been read, followed, linked to, subscribed to, spidered and indexed for years. There’s a reason Scoble abandoned his Microserfdom for the media industry (hint: it’s not his lookalike physical form).

For a local example of this phenomenon, look no further than Ben Barren. If you’re Australian and at all interested in what’s what with blogging, RSS, social media, venture capital, enterprise 2.0 etc you will have stumbled across his missives at some stage. While other such commentators maintain a dry, higher-than-though position on emerging digitalia, BB peppers his presence with girls, cars, Melbourne FC and Kanye West.. just like any quality pop culture rag would do.

It’s worth decoding his Kerouac/McLuhan/Perez Hilton styling to apprise yourself of the story behind the blogosphere buzz. Go see.