Sesam and privacy

The leading Norwegian media group Schibsted will launch its new search engine Sesam soon. Some interesting news in Dagens Næringsliv: Links to articles from Retriever’s news archives (also Schibsted-owned) will be included in search results. The story actually opens more questions than it answers, so I’ll get back to this part later. Sesam CEO Mikal Rohde says the news websites will receive money each time a user arrives at a story from a search at Sesam. A Google News where the sources get paid per click? More information, please!

Less enigmatic, but intriguing: According to the newspaper, searching for a person’s name at Sesam will return not only web pages, but also address, phone number, overview over the person’s board memberships (!), photos of the person and articles about him or her in Norwegian newspapers the last 20 years (enter again the Retriever archives)! I can imagine the guardians of personal privacy over at the Data Inspectorate will be very interested in this feature. In his excellent book “The Search”, John Battelle builds a whole chapter around privacy concerns:

Did you know that Google knows where you live? Worse yet, did you know that Google will give out your address to anyone who asks? Who the hell does it think it is?

But Google seems innocent compared to Sesam’s plans. Indeed, what Sesam is planning is a feature that looks a lot like an automatization of CNet’s googling of Eric Schmidt – which (inexplicably) caused CNet so much trouble with Google.

Battelle is right in pointing out that “soon everyone will be googling everyone else”. It’s already happening – Norwegian news media recently told about employers googling candidates and finding unflattering party photos.

There isn’t a way back to innocence here – that is, to a situation without personal information available online. So far I haven’t seen a better answer than Anil Dash’s privacy through identity control. You need to be aware of what kind of information is available about you, and take control: “That’s the future. Own your name. Buy the domain name, get yourself linked to, and put up a page.” Still, only few people are there yet, so expect some noise around that Sesam feature.

What is also lacking in the news about Sesam is hard information about the international coverage the search engine will offer. Some search will always be local, some will be issue specific, but will users really scrap Google if Sesam doesn’t deliver high quality international results?

The best Norwegian blogs

Dagbladet has launched “Gullbloggen” (The Golden Blog), a competition for the honour of being called “Norway’s best blog” in different categories. An overall winner will also be chosen. I was invited to sit in the panel together with jilltxt and Dagbladet’s Bente Kalsnes. Our job is to make a shortlist from the readers’ nominees, then the readers will elect the winners. The panel will also choose the overall winner.

The start looks good – the competition announcement has been read over 10.000 times already, according to Dagbladet’s public statistics. And nominations keep pouring in.

30.000 and counting

At Mandag Morgen we published a story today claiming that there are now at least 30.000 Norwegian blogs (sub. req. for full story). We arrived at the number through a combination of population survey, numbers received from Norwegian blog hosting services and a qualified estimate (Blogger and Typepad do not give out their number of registered blogs). We also researched the broader concept of personal publishing, including blogging, updating of private websites, uploading of photos etc, updating of dating profiles. Here the population survey resulted in the quite high number of one in three Norwegians engaging in one or more of these activities weekly.

Dagbladet did a piece about our story today.

Related – an interesting new initiative is Norske blogger, a collection of links to Norwegian blogs, built around tagging.

Conference watch

I have in vain been looking for a reliable website tracking relevant forthcoming media, journalism, blogging conferences and seminars in Europe, preferably those held in a Scandinavian language, English or German. Haven’t found one yet. So here’s what I’ve uncovered so far:

I’m sure there must be more. Tips welcome. (I’ll need a wiki or calendar tool or something to do this properly. Let’s see). – a real eye-opener

With, Adrian Holovaty demonstrates something it’s so easy to forget: We’re not at the end of the road with innovative journalism on the web. Probably only at the beginning. From a Holovaty interview:

I don’t see newspaper Web operations as particularly innovative. (I’ve considered leaving the industry a couple of times, for that reason, but a passion for journalism and freedom of information keeps me coming back.) My advice to newspapers is to hire Web programmers — particularly those with a journalism background. A Web site without programmers is like a newspaper without pressmen. I may be off on this analogy, because I don’t know much about pressmen, but it seems newspapers don’t skimp on pressmen because they realize how vital pressmen are to running the operation. It doesn’t make sense to skimp on programmers. To innovate, it’s important to know what’s possible, and it takes technically minded folks to know what’s possible.