Archive for 21st March 2007

I Broke My RSS Feed Because I Stupidly Decided to Hack it

Sometimes, I am too much of a hacker for my own good. Note the distinction: I am not a good hacker, apparently.

This morning, I had this wacky idea of making the default RSS link for WordPress (my blog) point to my FeedBurner link. But I didn’t want to change the code in WordPress because I didn’t want to have to do it again later when WordPress got an update. So I opted to use the .htaccess file. For those of you curious, the code was (this works):

RewriteRule ^feed http://feeds.feedburner.com/MichiKnows [L,NC]

In non-nerd terms, it meant all default blog software accessing my website would be automatically forwarded to FeedBurner. This is good because it centralizes my reader base so I can track how many I have. Unfortunately, I was dumb and forgot that FeedBurner scans my RSS feed to generate its version of it.

That meant after about six hours, my feed completely broke when I made FeedBurner go in an infinite loop. :(

I’ll take a second shot at this problem later, but for now, I’ll concede and put things back to the way there were. Thanks J.M. for pointing out this issue!

Update: My friend pointed me to this plugin. It is very easy to install, so I’ll leave my hacker ambitions alone for this task and use it instead.

Google Beta Tests Click Fraud Killer

Google has finally started a public beta for a pay-per-action ad model. I already explained how important Google sees these types of ads. For text-based advertising, this is where Google will focus its attention next. These types of ads are much harder to cheat because actual actions (such as a purchase) must occur before an ad pays out. This destroys the click fraud industry that has plagued Google. While there is a form of fraud associated with pay-per-action, it is much more difficult to pull off, and relatively easy to spot (My previous employer was this type of ad agency).

As this beta rolls out and the mainstream launch nears, I firmly believe you will see even more active promotion of the Google Checkout application. As I mentioned before, Google checkout is a critical edge in Google maintaining any market share it steals from the current top pay-per-action companies. In short, Google Checkout kills a variety of potential loopholes that exist in the pay-per-action ad model. Since Google controls the payment processing, they can track:

  • Valid vs Invalid payments. Sometimes a payment is invalided later, such as when a credit card is reported stolen. These are lost revenues for the publisher since they’ve already paid the ad broker (Google) money to place their ad. The ad broker also gets shafted sometimes because the advertiser would withhold payment, causing problems down the chain with the publisher who displayed the ad. With Google Checkout, such events can be properly tracked and all parties involved can be refunded or credited as necessary. 
  • Refunds and chargebacks. This is the same issue as above, but involve abusive or fraudulent customers. Again, this is otherwise lost money to the advertiser, which is of course the single most important entity for Google to make happy.
  • Actual sales volume, instead of what is reported by the publisher. In regular pay-per-action ads, there is a big incentive to cheat the tracking of sales and conversions (which is done with cookies and embedded images). This is to reduce payments owed to the ad broker. Google Checkout makes this much more difficult since Google knows exactly how much an advertiser has made. There will still be hurdles to overcome, but it definitely will make things more transparent for everybody.

Like I said, Google Checkout isn’t done yet. Google will fight to the bloody end before they let it languish in obscurity. It’s a vital part of their text ad strategy, moving forward.

Gosh, a lot of Google news lately, huh?

Google Pooh-poohs on the Google Phone – It’s Not Real

First, there was that rumor about the Google Phone. I stated my clear disbelief for the idea. Then Google “confirms” the story, so I corrected myself like any man with honor.

Now Google is saying the Google Phone is not real, citing – as I like to put it - reality:

The search giant said it was more logical to form partnerships with existing handset makers instead. … “At this point in time, we are very focused on the software, not the phone,” … Google was keen on porting its search and other technologies to mobile devices, but it was not interested in entering the crowded handset market, as Apple has recently done with its iPhone.

Exactly. You aren’t going to see Google pissing off its mobile handset partners any time in the future. This is a critical time for Google since the mobile Internet market is still in its infancy and a totally new king of the hill could be born if enough partners get annoyed with Google.

Mobile search is probably going to be another big cash cow for Google once it becomes as pervasive as it is in Asia.

What about the hissy-fit Larry Page threw the phone plans first leaked? Was it because his top secret project was now exposed? Hm, perhaps a better explanation is because he knew it would irk Google’s mobile partners, and the rumor is absolutely false? I mean, I’d be mad too if my partners thought I was going to stab them in the back based on a completely fabricated product announcement.