Once upon a time, a wise old man invented a wondrous electronic library which promised to store the world’s wealth of knowledge, commerce and culture. In the city of St Francis on the Bay, the townsfolk had run into a big, hairy problem. A problem with the invention, one that grew worse every day. The sheer popularity of the library grew as its reputation spread, beyond the city limits, as people from the four corners of the globe found they could connect and use the library.
It was a revolutionary idea that anyone could add anything they wanted to the library. Whilst the growing collection of cat photos was gaining popularity, the rash of bad poetry and surplus of 467 038 recipes for lasagna was overwhelming by early 1997. The problem was, that soon enough, there was so much information that finding anything useful was becoming increasingly tedious. The townsfolk were increasingly skeptical of the library.
Compounding this every day, exponentially as people from all over the world began contributing to the library was the advent of electronic commerce. Electric shops opened. Banks clambered on board. Red light districts too. In a short period of time, it was all very chaotic. There was no shortage of attempted solutions to these issues; some yahoos created endless lists, an ever-expanding directory. A butler named Jeeves tried to help. No one could get on top of the problem.
One day a pair of bright young students came to town and offered the townsfolk a way to solve their problem. They had trained a librarian to not only sort, but rank how useful the information was. It turned out that some lasagna recipes were more popular than others. In a brightly colored suit, the librarian began to sift through the mounds of records, and rank them all. The most popular pages rose to the top.
The people of the town, and further afield, began to start asking the librarian pretty much everything, and like an oracle, the librarian helped them to find what they were looking for, 9 times out of 10. No sooner than people had started using the services of the librarian, they’d forgotten about the work of the two young students, and went about their daily business, happy that they could now find ranked recipes for kale lasanga.
Realizing they had trained the librarian so well, the students knew that they could entice people who wanted to sell their wares to pay the librarian to also tell people about these wares when they were looking for something similar, they might be able to make a buck. The key to unlocking it all was to create a system where merchants could bid on words, and if it matched what someone was looking for, there would be a shop window for them too. As long as they willing to pay…
“So, what’s this got to do with UB40 mate?” interrupted Bob.
“Good question there, Bob – well, didn’t you have rat problem once?” I responded. Bob is a hard-working entrepreneur and over the years he’s launched a number of successful businesses, but he doesn’t have time for the minutiae of how a particular technology works. He has more pressing things to do, and I’ve been there to help out in a couple of tight spots.
“Oh yeah, that one… shipment of cheese on consignment – the counter party reneged on the deal and I ended up warehousing it on short notice. Dodgy part of town, rats everywhere, and I couldn’t wait to offload it fast enough. I was desperate – cold storage costs a whack.”
And I continued on his behalf, “… that’s when we ran a localized Google Ad campaign for you, targeting Italian restaurants and corner shop owners with a bulk cheese special that cleared the decks for you Bob.”
“Not the only time you’ve saved my bacon mate”, he chimed in, “I’d never realized until then, how quickly you could reach an audience without having to launch an old school ad campaign. The blog post about that story is still bringing in visitors to the website.”
“Good to hear it Bob, we wanted to make an impression,” I joked.
The views expressed herein are personal and do not reflect the views of my employer.