Thursday, January 17, 2008

An open letter to Andrey Golub, Spock's #1 user

Andrey Golub, an Italian sysadmin Belarusian business analyst who is apparently the #1 user contributor to Spock, saw fit to engage me in a comment on the TechCrunch story on the Tinfinger launch. I presume he wasn't put up to it by the Spock boys, so I won't go hard, but I feel I need to defend myself and Tinfinger.

to Paul Montgomery

1) a general question- why it wasn’t enough Wikipedia? the project with proven record as a Web Encyclopedia, at least for those known and famous… It wasn’t enough Wikipedia for the NORMAL people, so here has arrived Spock. but nobody had problems I believe with the celebrities’ stories on the Web :)

2) about Spock:
- why did you decide that Spock searches ONLY on Social Networks? (as from your response to “Jason and antje”)
I think it was clear for everyone that Spock checks Web 2.0 for the Web 2.0 people, and of course it looks at the normal Web for the non Web 2.0 people!
a) as far as I know, wikipedia, the world’s largest DB about all known and famous people, have been already processed by Spock- that means Spock already has everyone listed on Wikipedia.

do you wanna say us Tinfinger will beat wikipedia first of all?

- you say this new Who’s Who can search the Blogs and so on- well, Spock can search everything that’s on the Web. If Google “knows something”- so also Spock will :)

do you wanna say us Tinfinger will beat Google after it beats Wikipedia?

hm… I have a doubt sincerely. About the mission first of all- it was probably enough Wikipedia for us + it was really needed to add the Web 2.0 part that has been done by Spock…

Well, good luck however!
Kind Regards,
Andrey Golub- find me on Spock

Okay Andrey, I sense that English is not your first language so I hope I understand your arguments correctly. I'll take your points in turn.

1. Why start Tinfinger when Wikipedia exists? You might as well ask why anyone would start any sort of publishing business. You might as well ask why start Spock when Google exists?! Just because there is a page about someone or something on Wikipedia doesn't mean it's the best possible page that anyone can write about that subject. In fact, many pages about people on Wikipedia are incomplete, inaccurate, stale or of poor general quality. I think it is possible to create an alternative which focuses more on quality, but still retains that openness for anyone to contribute. Plus, Wikipedia restricts itself to neutral encylopaedic articles, whereas Tinfinger will host many types of opinion articles, which makes the profile pages dynamic and worth visiting more than once over time.

2. I'm sure you know a lot more about Spock's systems than I do so I apologise for not acknowledging that Spock also has a general Web crawl. I read the other day that Spock has over 3 billion people data records. I didn't know that many people were on the Web... are there? ;)

2a. Okay, so Spock has incorporated Wikipedia data, as Tinfinger has. However, we have not and will not allow any Wikipedia articles to appear on our pages - we only used the names and some of the tags. I note that Spock includes the full Wikipedia articles about people on their relevant pages. That surprises me, because as I am sure the Spock boys know, that really kills a page's ranking in Google, because they mark PageRank down sharply for duplicated content. That leads me to believe that Spock doesn't care at all about ranking highly in Google - understandably so if the idea is to compete with Google - which leads to the question: how does Spock expect to grow traffic?

As for Tinfinger "beating" Wikipedia, yes, I would like for Tinfinger to eventually start beating Wikipedia in Google rankings for certain keywords, specifically names, and thus start beating them in traffic to those kinds of pages. It's a long-term goal of ours, but I think it's achievable if we concentrate on quality.

On Tinfinger beating Google: no. That's not our strategy at all, we say up front that we are not a search engine. Tinfinger is a human omnibus, a collection of articles from everywhere. People will find out about those articles through search engines like Google, and whatever comes after Google. We are a firm Google partner.

Finally, on the subject of the relative power of our search functions, I freely admit that our news and blog search is nowhere near as comprehensive and powerful as Spock's sounds like, from your words. However, neither is Techmeme's, and Gabe Rivera does alright with Techmeme. Our news and blog search powers 650 Techmeme-like headline pages, and that's all we need it for: a specialised product for a specialised use.

I wish you and the Spock boys luck in your efforts, Andrey. I appreciate your fervour in advancing the Spock bandwagon. I only hope that our users can become as passionate about Tinfinger.


Anonymous Jay Bhatti said...

Paul - I played around with tinfinger and think its a pretty cool concept. Anytime we see someone trying to organize information around people, we get excited as it validates that a huge space and opportunity exists in the people information business. I hope that you also get users like Andrey who are passionate and believe in the product as much as we do:)

4:29 pm, January 17, 2008  
Blogger Paul Montgomery said...

Thanks for responding, Jay. Perhaps one day we can meet and discuss some shared issues... have you talked to Kingsley Idehen about publishing any of your database back to the community as Linked Data? Given that we're all relying heavily on dbpedia and similar open data sources, it makes sense that we should contribute back to the community in some fashion.

4:37 pm, January 17, 2008  
Anonymous Andrey Golub said...

Hi Paul,
I couldn't miss responding here, right? :)

It's nice to read the open letters to myself :), my recent quite huge experience with the Web 2.0 and Social Networking was always about personal and direct contact, I love communicating directly with people. but it's OK. here I am anyway, viva Google Blogs Alert! :)

One easy thing before any other comments about Tinfinger, Spock and Wikipedia: could you plz correct my 'description' in the beginning of your article? It's strange for me how are you going to work with the PEOPLE's stories, Paul, if you are not attentive to the personal details...

I refer to the two basic things- 'sysadmin'- where did you get this information? :) I have no idea of how to master the networks and -NIX hosts, I am an abstract level and business analyst, my best 'language' is UML but the plain text e-mail and Skype I love even more :), and then 'Italian'- Oops! again- I am not Italian, I live and work in Italy now, but...
My Spock profile ( could give you all the answers, Paul. I am sorry about that, it's not an approach to make new friends :) believe me, I am a co-founder and VP of a Business Networking Club here in Italy, that counts 3500+ members, so I know very well the importance of attention to the PERSONAL details (profiles/web references) and to the PERSON in complex (character, friends, etc). Having told this...

OK, now about your information:

I think it's all VERY CLEAR now, Paul. About the value proposition for your Project, about the niche you target, more or less about your strategy. I think this was a very direct, clear and informative posting!
I'll just make a small summary of what did I learn from it.

* your answer for 'Why start Tinfinger when Wikipedia exists?' <- abs. clear, 100% agree. The more good projects we have- the better is for the health of the whole Social Web!

* 'You might as well ask why start Spock when Google exists?!' <- here it's :lol: Google is just a classical Web Search Engine (the best one from its kind!). I think it HAD to be upgraded to support a Web 2.0 search part of it TIME AGO, but it still not here. Instead, Google is now approaching the Mobile Market, develops Android, takes care of being a middle-ware/ glue for Social Networks with its OpenSocial. it's cool, but Google is still and old good Search Engine 1.0. But the Web is not only the Web 1.0/1.5 anymore, it's a combination of Web + Web 2.0, and the Semantic Web is coming soon, so I think in a few years we'll have also 'Spock 2.0' :), that will be a combination of Web, Web 2.0 and the Semantic search/ knowledge sharing etc! Today Spock is EXACTLY what it was expected! it's a PEOPLE search engine, it's a Search Engine 2.0 'coz includes Folksonomy as one of its input channels, and it's pretend to save us from headache of managing our online reputation- Spock is a SINGLE place of concentration for the info all about a person (normal person first of all) on the Web and Web 2.0. I think Spock has nothing to deal with 'competing Google'- Google is a 'partner' for it in this situation- it helps to Spock finding the information needed for a person/ profile generated by Spock. It's just another channel, as Social Networks and as the Spock Community. I hope it's clear. Spock is not gonna compete with any Search Engine 1.0 and it has not sense from any point of view- it's completely different thing, a Web/ Web 2.0 aggregator with Community acting as verifiers of that info.

* now Wikipedia: I think the Spock's vision was different, Spock is not gonna compete with Wikipedia as Tinfinger I think is going to. For Spock Wikipedia is just another great channel of information. In the logic of aggregator- Wikipedia is another 'partner' for Spock, the same as Google :) and the same as your project will become I believe. Spock brings it all from everywhere and then asks community to check and complete this information. Easy enough, right? :)

* 'I am sure the Spock boys know, that really kills a page's ranking in Google' <- I think you are right, but I am sorry I have no idea what to answer to you about this :) I just love Spock, for me it's a PEOPLE search Engine 2.0 the tool I extremely need and use in my every day's life... but the technical issues about what's better for Spock itself and what's worst for it- you should ask the Spock CTO. I can only speak about what's good in Spock for me [for social networkers] :)

* Instead for this question I think I can easily answer: 'which leads to the question: how does Spock expect to grow traffic?'<- Look, Spock is NOT A WEBSITE, that needs much higher ranking to be found ON GOOGLE :) Think of Spock as about 'Google 2.0'- it's A TOOL, that will be used DIRECTLY! Here I think is the biggest difference b/w your approach for Tinfinger and the one of Spock. The guys have created a Web TOOL, People Search Engine 2.0, a very cool and useful tool from my point of view. And they expect another people will use it DIRECTLY, also because it's a Social Network with lots of new cool SN features expected soon. How do you use Google? Do you go to Yahoo! and search for 'search engine' there? :) no, you go to and from there to everywhere! but Oops! not exactly everywhere! you won't go directly from Google to a place where there is EVERYTHING about Mr. X. From Spock you can- you go to and type 'Mr. X'. Too ambitious vision? for me- not so much!

* 'On Tinfinger beating Google: no. That's not our strategy at all' <- absolutely clear, that was a provocation, you are not going to create a new Search Engine :) let's leave it to the Search Engine geeks! Here we speak about the PEOPLE search, not page parking, Adsense and another things of the big Google.

* 'As for Tinfinger "beating" Wikipedia, yes' <- absolutely clear your strategy, your approach, your concurrents. so GOOD LUCK to Tinfinger! It's nice to know this your new project guys is not gonna be a competitor of Spock, but only it's 'partner'- another [great] channel for the useful and structured information for Mr. X- celebrity! I wish you the best success, the great supporters, admirers and evangelists as well :)

Kind Regards,
Andrey Golub- always available on Spock:

10:31 pm, January 17, 2008  
Blogger Jay Bhatti said...

hi paul - we make our data freely availalbe to everyone in the world via - however, i agree that we could do more to make sharing and transfer of data easier amongst social sites and partners.

you can always reach me at - lets think of a time to chat.

4:41 am, January 18, 2008  

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