There are elements of the Internet that are broken and in need of repair. No this not about spam, web 2.0, connectivity, bandwidth or any of those Internet problems. These are problems of context. Unfortunately, the problems will get worse before they get better because most of them are caused by people. We need an Internet plumber to fix:
- Dates - WAAAAAY too many sites don't bother with dating their articles. It's helpful to know whether that terrorist attack article I'm reading is from today or 9/11, but often you can't tell. Not to mention, when dealing with technology, if this is a fix from 2002, it's probably not going to solve my Windows Vista problem. Tell me what year that IRS advice is from so I can tell if it's been superseded. Blogs help solve this problem. Almost all blog entries are dated automatically so if RSS sends me a month old post, I can check the date. Save my sanity and put dates on articles please.
- Headlines - "Gators trounce Ohio State" the ESPN headline said, but wait, that happened 3 times recently (basketball regular season, football championship, basketball championship). This particular RSS headline from ESPN was about college basketball just as Florida and Ohio St. were about to square off for a national title in football, but you can't tell that from the headlines. My favorites are the "Smith arrested for whatever" variety. Smith who and in what sport? Understand all the contexts your readers might see this in and use an appropriate headline!
- Search - If you want beat Google, solve contextual search. I know there are contextual search engines out there (Clusty for example). None of them are quite there yet. But more and more, specialized search engines are stealing little pieces from Google. (Think Technorati) If Microsoft wants to win at search it shouldn't take on Google directly but build lots of specialized engines that chip away at the search giant. How about a school search? Index items that are relevant for typical school projects. Exclude porn so breast (as in cancer) is in but large, heaving stays out. Make it so that if my kids are researching the Amazon, they don't have to wade through 4 million book listings.