The trouble with web searches

These days finding information on the web is tedious at best. You almost need to go in knowing the answers in order to judge whether the information revealed by your search is even close to the mark.

For example, searching for “west yorkshire lockdown” on Duckduckgo finds a piece from the Yorkshire Post which immediately throws up a cookie screen and is, of course laden with adverts. I have no issue with a newspaper site having adverts, my issue is why isn’t there de facto information available via the government and if it is, why isn’t that ranked higher up? Search engines throw you to the wolves aka the advertising media for any information on just about any subject, certainly anything general in nature.

Another search, something I never expected to need to know, is to find out if one can drive through a locked down area where your start and end points are both outside said area. Again, lots of media sites, none of which come anywhere close to answering the question.

gov.uk does have information, but even here it’s not as clear as it might be. For example, I know there are current local lockdowns in effect including Bradford but gov.uk offers only “Find out what restrictions are in place if you live, work or travel in the north-west area and other affected areas.” I presume here that West Yorkshire is ‘other’ – why not spell it out to make it obvious? Are they charged per word like old telegrams were? The resultant page does list Bradford but does not mention Ilkley and yet I gathered from Facebook that it is included.  Back to Duckduckgo and a search for “ilkley lockdown” brings up a newspaper site which immediately throws up a cookie page with non-functional option links! Reloading that cured the issue and then deleting the 30 cookies it set even after I rejected them all gave some solace. Finally, that website tells me that anywhere that pays council tax to Bradford is included, specifically adding that Ilkley and Keighley are locked down. That nugget is missing from gov.uk. I did check Bradford council’s website but gave up when it shoved some survey popup at me.

Little wonder then that the masses only work on mis- or poor information from media websites whose sole aim is to push their version of reality and make money out of it. Perhaps they need to start writing this on the side of a big red bus rather than the lies of the past!

Marketing

Politics has no place in this blog and that is not about to change. But something made me laugh today.

In days of old when techies ruled the web we’d use whatever domains we thought were best. But back then there were few, basically .com, .org, .net, .edu, .gov, .mil and a couple of others. Or course, everyone wanted a .com. Later we got country codes, thus .co.uk, .org.uk, .ac.uk and so on, and every other country did similar. And here we are today with zillions of domains, some restricted, others not so. At one stage I had a .museum domain but my project didn’t get very far and the domain costs were too high. To get that I had to fill in all sorts of proof.

A lot of my work in name and brand protection saw me acquiring domains which could be used against us, and domains which we could use for marketing in other countries. I had loads including permutations of our name as well as our actual name in other countries and regions. For example, I had China, Asia, Europe, US, may generics, and others in the organisation had India and Japan. I could throw domains up literally in seconds if we detected an issue, for example a name very close to ours but being used in a scam or some fakery. All were directed at relevant information or at our main websites or region specific parts thereof. These were all tools both for me in my work but also for marketing as we had them available for extraterritorial projects.

So it did amuse me to see that some party had purchased a .org domain but no others. Immediately someone else grabbed the .com and .eu versions of the same name and put up opposing views. Many others are also taken but are parked. An individual grabbed the .org.uk version and some enterprising person even grabbed the .party (one of the new TLDs) domain and parked that.

If you have an idea, a name, a party, or whatever, speak to your marketeers about it before anyone says anything. Listen to them but also advise them. It can save you, and them a lot of embarrasment.

Keeping control of your content

The Internet Society are hot on this and their new website follows the POSSE principle – Publish on your Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere. IndieWeb has more on this at https://indieweb.org/POSSE

Essentially, you acquire a home on the web, maybe your own server, a VPS, or shared hosting via wordpress.com or many others. The key thing is it is yours. Better still you purchase your own domain name and point it to your ‘home’.

At this stage it is little more than, for example a personal blog. But when it becomes the only place you publish content and when you syndicate that content out to other sites then it becomes your single source of truth. And you always have the original.

So, you publish a post and link it out to your social media channels. I can see this also helping with your Google rankings due to the backlinks. But it also means you do not need to worry about social media platform X being switched off because you don’t actually have any content to retrieve before it goes.

It’s more complex than I set out above – see the IndieWeb pages. But the Internet Society are making use of this method now, see https://www.internetsociety.org/blog/2018/03/building-new-website-posse-sharing-facebook-twitter-linkedin-google/

To me, this is has come full circle. When I started publishing on the web back in early 1993 if one wanted to publish something one found some Internet connected computer somewhere and put a web server on it. There were many such islands back then, some large, some small. Discovery was either by word of mouth or by fledgling search engines. Now with social media and the ease with which one can publish material and have it all searchable, keeping control of, and ownership of your own content is crucial.