Category Archives: Special

State of the Net, Udine 2008

So what is the state of the Internet in Italy in the year 2008? Armed with an ambitious, varied agenda spanning two days, speakers from Italy and abroad tried to answer this question during the conference STATEoftheNET, held February 8 and 9 in Udine.

State of the net badgeWe didn’t need to wait long for an answer. Stefano Quintarelli, in the first session, noted that only 22% of Italians are using broadband Internet, by now a requirement for full participation in the world of Internet. This compares with 55% in the United States, not to speak of countries where the broadband penetration is even higher. Effectively 78% of Italians are cutoff from everything the Internet can offer, from basic information retrieval to active discussion of current events. Some are cutoff due to the lack of a universal service mandate – they cannot get broadband access (the so-called digital divide). The majority of the cases are probably due to people who don’t perceive sufficient value in all that Internet can offer.

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Social media to solar power: RomagnaCamp offered it all

Fresh back from this weekend’s RomagnaCamp, I’m taking a brief break from a “posting hiatus” to report on the event.

RomagnaCamp Logo After a quick touristic visit to Ravenna on Friday, I caught the bus for Marina Romea. This turned out to be auspicious as I was able to met Giuseppe Lamuraglia of e-net, a company which distributes small solar energy power supplies. Italy has a strong history of renewable energy generation; it was the first to generate electricity from geothermal energy in 1904.

Friday afternoon was dedicated to informal discussions (including wind power with Marco Fabbri) just meters from the beach – a nice transition from the summer holidays. The weather was appropriately windy; despite the sun, most of us were under-dressed.

Notable presentations on Saturday included Nicola Mattina on defining social media, a fairly balanced look at Marketing in Second Life and Lawyer Antonino Attanasio on Informatica e diritto: casi e questioni. Livia Iacolare was probably the best speaker, presenting the soon to open Italian edition of

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Google ever present in Desktop Search with release for Linux

More than two years after Google launched its Google Desktop Search for Windows application, limited initial support for the Linux platform is available. Of the top three major search engines which offer desktop search software (Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft), Google is the first to try to win the hearts and minds of both Macintosh and Linux users. Yahoo and Microsoft solutions are both limited to Windows.

For Google, search is strategically important, wherever it happens.

Why are the search engines offering free desktop search software?

Desktop search is strategically important to search engines. Personal computer users searching for information with a desktop search application are just one click away from seamlessly integrated web search.

Controlling desktop search means controlling traffic to a web search engine – a very lucrative business as demonstrated by Google’s economic results.

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Google rolling out much improved Google Analytics V2

Google is in the process of releasing a significant update to the free web analytics tool it launched to wide acclaim in November 2005.

Although we’ve appreciated the professional feature set in Google Analytics, especially given the cost, the user interface was cumbersome at best. As time went on, Google Adwords features were continually patched on, making it difficult for even an experienced web analytics practitioner to navigate through a sea of somewhat repeating, redundant reports.

Google Analytics Reloaded

In version two, the Google Analytics user interface has been completely overhauled. Big bold fonts, similar to those used in feedburner’s statistics, and vibrant colors make key data points and trends much more intelligible. Report and date range selection has been simplified.

The at a glance dashboard is now customizable – sections can be added, removed and reordered. Once this is done, the dashboard can be scheduled to be e-mailed on a regular basis.

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Blog statistics with BlogBabel at ZenaCamp in Genoa, Italy

Expats in Italy need to stay on top of professional and daily happenings locally while still engaging in the wider world. This task is made difficult by the vast quantity and quality of resources available in English (my native language), as exemplified by the BBC. Unfortunately, their Italian equivalents, such as the ad-infested public broadcaster RAI, just can’t compete for my attention.

It doesn’t get much easier on the web marketing front. The primary search engines in Italy are the US based Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft Live and Ask, sometimes found in their rebranded skins: Arianna (enhanced by Google) and Virgilio (listed by Google as a customer). Inevitably, most of my web marketing reading is English language centric.

As a side note, Google commands a percentage of the market in most western markets that most politicians can only dream of. Yet the search market remains very dynamic and innovative.

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Internationalization of Web Sites at ZenaCamp, Genoa (Genova)

At yesterday’s ZenaCamp in Genova, I gave a presentation on the main issues that are frequently encountered when creating sites for an international audience:

A particular focus was made on user issues, such as providing a page in the right language to a site visitor while allowing them to override the choice – and remembering their choice upon successive site visits.

Search engine optimization was also discussed as there are several techniques which can be used to help search engines correctly identify a web page’s language.

If you’d like a copy of the presentation, please contact me.

Gianfranco Chicco captured several happy campers right after lunch!

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Unofficial documentation of Ask’s Web Search API

In part one of this article, we set out to document the little known Ask web search API by providing background information. In this continuation, we’ll look at the actual API details.

Note Update: Ask disabled access to their API on 6 March 2007. We are working on obtaining additional information. Write us if you would like to be notified of further developments.

NoteThe following information was determined by observation and conjecture. Write us if you want to be notified when we update this page with more complete information. We are assuming the reader has already worked with REST queries and is familiar with parsing XML data.

Request URL

The request URL is formed by adding query parameter and their values to a base URL using the format query parameter=values. Successive parameters are added using a & before each parameter.

Base URL:

Request URL parameters should be URL encoded.


Decrypting Ask’s Web Search API

In this article, we set out to document the little known Ask web search API available at

One of the many aspects of successful search engine optimization (SEO) is the periodic measurement of how well a site is performing in a particular search engine. Dimensions to measure include the number of pages in the engine’s index, the number of other web properties citing the site and the site’s performance for the strategic keywords linked to business objectives. Once raw data is collected, each of these data points is compared with other data to evaluate aspects such as page freshness.

Note Update: Ask disabled access to their API on 6 March 2007. We are working on obtaining additional information. Write us if you would like to be notified of further developments.

The first SEO practitioners resorted to writing rudimentary programs which simulated an internet search, capturing and processing the resulting data for analysis using spreadsheet or database programs. This process is known as scraping.


Former Urchin Web Analytics Reporting Service now free as Google Analytics

Google has made its on line web analytics reporting service, Google Analytics, available free of charge to website owners. The service, bought several months ago from Urchin, previously cost a minimum of $2400 / year.

The service uses small snippets of code embedded in each page of a website. When the page is requested by an Internet navigator, a call is made to Google’s servers which track basic information such as the page, the time, the browser, the user’s host IP address and referring URL if any.

There are some strings attached. Sites will be limited to tracking 5 million pages a month unless they also participate in Google’s AdWords. Thus, the free, no-strings attached offer is effectively limited to smaller sites filling niche markets and needs.

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Howto – AWStats Enhancements and Extensions

AWStats Logo This area focuses on resources to enhance the functionality of the web analytics tool AWStats.

These resources have been developed based on our client needs. As a contribution, we offer them here. Some may even make it into a future version AWStats!

WarningThe information here is provided on a „worked for us” as-is basis for your testing, verification and potential adoption.

ExtraSection Samples

AWStats has an excellent custom report syntax called ExtraSection which enables an organization to both extend standard AWStats and add organization specific reports. Below we offer ExtraSection samples useful for sites involved in search engine optimization web marketing and / or monitoring of traffic from external sites.

WarningWeb server log analysis can be memory and CPU resource intensive. AWStats documentation notes that each ExtraSection reduces AWStats speed by about 8%. Proceed with caution.