May 8, 2007 SDF People Search

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On May 8, 2007 at Google’s Mountain View Headquarters, SDForum Search SIG presented a panel on People Search. Michael Arrington of TechCrunch moderated the panel with Bryan Burdick of ZoomInfo, Jaideep Singh of Spock.com and Michael Tanne of Wink.com.
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Michael Arrington started off with an article from the Wall Street Journal about how parents are starting to name their kids so they will be easier to find online. Personally I wonder how neurotic these people are. These are the folks who worry about finding the right daycare so they can get their kids into Harvard. Now they will look at their potential partners and say, “Well, he has a good resume, but his name is too common.”

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Bryan Burdick of ZoomInfo focuses on business contacts like LinkedIn. They have 35 million profiles showing the relationships between people and companies. Most searches are free. They make money through subscription. If you want a list of every VP of IT in Silicon Valley, you can subscribe for a hundred dollars a month. If you want a sales lead, this is the place to start. ZoomInfo makes a lot of money this way.

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Jaideep Singh of Spock.com gives summaries of the famous and not so famous. Many search results give lots of duplication. They try to give concise summaries of what people are saying about other people on the web. They hope advertisers will take advantage of the demographic information they put together. The most troubling is that verified individuals only get enhanced voting power about what people say about them. Arrington thinks the possibility of lawsuits is great.

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Michael Tanne of Wink.com focuses on searching for names and geography with indexes on a 175 million people. It can find all the listed Ramones fans in a fifty-mile radius of New York City. They crawl on new media like MySpace for groups of common interest and make their money from ads and partnering with companies like Reunion.

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Afterward I talked with Lucian Beebe and Steve Ganz of LinkedIn about the issues not addressed at the meeting. I thought the meeting was about finding high school sweethearts but it was really about controlling your identity and how that information is used. It is important to create and control your own profile, just like a company would protect its image. No one seemed to address the possibility that people might want to disappear off the web. None of these companies had a way of removing tags.
What if a battered spouse wants to be de-listed? All of this technology to find people on the web ignores the business opportunity of people who don’t want to be found.

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Also attending was Dave McClure of 500 Hats.

Copyright 2007 DJ Cline All rights reserved.