Friday, November 28, 2008

Local Search: Every Brick is a Survey

One of my investors, David Carlick, is a pioneering thinker in online advertising. David was a founder of DoubleClick, and has been a leading proponent of behavioral advertising. He is fond of saying that "every click is a survey," and that pithy phrase captures a lot about how the aggregate of human behavior can be turned into knowledge.

I've been thinking about local for a few years now, and I'm increasingly obsessed with the kind of ranking intelligence that can be derived from the physical map of cities. Most of the features of cities - streets, buildings, transit systems - are not there by accident. Rather, they are the accrued choices of generations of human beings, a physical record of millions of discrete building and buying and selling decisions, made over decades or centuries.

In truth, every brick is a survey.

Here's a very simple example: What's the most expensive and valuable part of Vancouver? How about the part with the tallest buildings?


If you were told to a) choose a hotel for an urban weekend, cost no object; or b) choose a prestigious location for your multinational headquarters, you could do far worse than to point to the high point on the implicit value graph of the skyline and say, "here."

There are hundreds of other examples too lengthy to record at 6am UK time, which is when this urge to blog has struck me. Unpacking this latent ranking intelligence in physical reality is a very interesting and potentially lucrative search problem, one that I'm looking forward to working on for years to come.

No comments: