Archives For Data

This summer, I went sightseeing in Florida and California— all while sitting in a cubicle. How did I do it? I spent my internship at WhitePages as a data entry specialist, working on a geolocation project. Geolocation is the identification of a real-world location on a digital map. I collected the exact longitude and latitude coordinates for hundreds of addresses in order to measure the accuracy of geolocation services such as Google Maps, Bing Maps or Mapquest. Once in a while, I stumbled upon spectacles like Ca d’Zan in Florida or Michael Jackson’s (RIP) Neverland Valley Ranch in California.

It’s tedious work finding the coordinates of all those addresses, but it’s also incredibly important for improving the accuracy of the maps used by Whitepages.com and WhitePages mobile apps.

WhitePages uses maps to show where businesses and residences are located. When searching for a specific business in a city, our website displays a map that pinpoints its exact location. A map also appears when searching for residential listings so you can easily find a friend or neighbor’s house. WhitePages does this by storing the longitude and latitude for an address provided by a geolocation provider.

By manually looking up various coordinates we are ultimately able to test the accuracy of a geolocation provider. And choosing the most accurate provider helps improve the quality of WhitePages.

To conduct our test, we created a reference set of coordinates and addresses. We researched rural, urban, business and residential locations in order to locate the actual buildings at these locations on a map. Then, we recorded the coordinates of the very center of those buildings. Once the data is collected, we can evaluate a geolocation provider by comparing their coordinates for any given address with our manually verified coordinates for a the same address.

Of the map servies tested, most were pretty accurate, though some would often place buildings in the yard or on the street. There are a few extremes where the service thinks the building is several thousand feet away from the actual location, however this usually only occurs in rural locations. Once our test is complete, we’ll have a definitive answer as to which provider can be trusted to make sure WhitePages users never get lost.

So next time your gas tank meter hovers above “E,” breathe easy knowing that you won’t end up stuck in an empty field without gas if you search for nearby gas stations on WhitePages.

The Semantic Web was first coined by Tim Berners-Lee in 1999 as the way the Web will transform from being a collection of individual documents (HTML pages) into a universal medium for the exchange of data.  An information world where machines “become capable of analyzing all of the information on the Web – the content, links and transactions between people and computers” to improve our daily lives.

Moving the semantic web

That was over 11 years ago and the fact is that we haven’t moved very far (yet).  Regardless of whether or not you use Google, Bing or another popular search engine, you still likely spend a great deal of time following basic links between websites searching for information, and rarely access specific information in a single interface sourced from multiple locations.

Desktop applications offer direct access to music, photos, documents and other structured content in silos; however, it will be a collection of rich internet applications in the future that allow all of this information to flow together.  This is the promise of Web 3.0 which will first require all publishers of the Web to ensure their content can be universally accessed in a structured and freely open way.

As the new web browser wars heat up (IE, Firefox, Safari, Chrome), a wave of innovation will occur that transforms our most popular web sites into immersive experiences housed within powerful browsers.   The future of web search and browsing will more closely resemble mobile applications of tomorrow than search engines of today.

These browsers will know where you are, where you have been and likely where you are going – both physically and virtually – to make your current web experience more personal and connected.

Searches on Bing result in lower bounce rates than searches on Google.

The key to making this happen is that the content across the web will start to include valuable metadata descriptors such as location, author, date, type, subject, person, place, product, … to weave together a smarter, and more tailored web browsing experience based on standard semantic formats. (See OpenGraph and RDFa formats)

Another benefit of using a semantic format is the growing attention that search engines like Google, Bing and Facebook (social engine) are paying to this structured data.  It remains to be seen how each of these major sites will leverage semantic data.  Bing is seeing success against Google by providing richer content directly within their results, like movie times, flight schedules, social links, videos and image galleries.

Just yesterday, comScore reported that Bing’s share of U.S. searches grew by 50% over the past year and many sites are reporting that visitors referred from Bing are more active and have lower bounce rates than Google visitors.  We are seeing similar trends on WhitePages.com.  Here is a breakdown of key visitor metrics from Google and Bing organic referrals:

Google and Bing referral metrics

The bounce rate of Google referrals are nearly 3x higher than Bing and the other metrics favor Bing users over Google with higher usage (pages/visit) and repeat behavior (% of new visits).   It is difficult to pin point what is driving this trend.  One theory is that Bing presents information from WhitePages in a more relevant way which leads to a more informed visitor to our site.  It is an interesting search trend that we will continue to monitor and optimize our site for the next wave of SEO and semantic markup.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jason_Milstead

WhitePages Android app featured in national "Droid Does Apps" campaign

The WhitePages Android app has been a hit – and we’re thrilled that it’s been a Top 10 App in the reference section, especially coming on the heels of news that the Android may even be outselling the iPhone. Not to brag, but we’re proud to have helped identify over 100 million calls to date with our innovative Caller ID feature (available exclusively on Android smartphones) and were even recently featured in Verizon’s nationwide “Droid Does Apps” campaign.

That said, there’s always room for improvement. We have been busy working behind the scenes to shine and polish the new WhitePages and WhitePages with Caller ID Android apps, and while there are too many updates to list them all, here are some of the highlights we’re most excited about:

Search results are ranked by proximity and popularity, and easily saved to your contact list.

-        Business Search:   Finding nearby businesses is now quicker and easier than ever.  Select from a list of popular searches with just a few taps, see your search results ranked with distance from your current location, and see more detailed descriptions for popular businesses.

-        Add to Contacts: A new and improved interface makes it simply to view and modify listing information before saving it to your phone contact list.

-        Call ID: Choose how and where to display a Call ID window during incoming calls.  Customize your Call ID to work with almost any Android phone.

-        Offline access: Use the Recent Results button to see your most recent searches – even if you’re in an elevator or tunnel.   Never be without the numbers you need!

-        Sharing: Send listings to your friends with easy sharing by email or text.

-        More Devices: We’ve made updates to make the app work even better on the many Android devices available like the Droid, Droid Eris, Nexus One, Incredible, CLIQ and Hero as well the original G1 and MyTouch phones.

New icons!

Most importantly (OK not really) – we now have snazzy new icons!
We think V3.2 of the WhitePages Android app is a big step forward, and hope you do, too!

Feel free to share with us how it works for you as well as ideas for continued improvements.   Send a link to your Android phone to download the new app.

Over the past few years, WhitePages has led innovation in many areas of the product development cycle including testing, engineering and marketing.  Some examples include agile product design, viral product design, rebranding, lean startup techniques, multivariate and AB testing, multi-platform mobile development and more.

We’ve benefited greatly from industry leaders and experts we’ve hired from places like Amazon, Expedia, Big Fish Games, Real Networks, LinkedIn, Nuance and Pivotal Lab  – and we regularly hold talks internally to share the knowledge across our teams. We also host talks, inviting groups like the Product Consortium Group and the Ruby on Rails group.

Now, we’re excited to be opening these talks up to everyone:  TechTalks @WhitePages

These talks will be a great place to meet peers in the industry, talk about ideas and participate in relevant learning…and have a beer or two on us after work.

Please join us on Monday, May 17th at 6pm for a presentation by social media experts Neil Patel and Adam Loving called “Twitter Seem Pointless? Learn How To Do It Right”.

Date:  May 17th at 6pm

Location:  WhitePages headquarters, 1301 Fifth Ave, floor 12

Head here to RSVP, or DM/@ us on Twitter: @WhitePages or @jheitzeb .

About Neil Patel:

Neil Patel is the co-founder of 2 Internet companies: Crazy Egg and KISSmetrics.  Through these 2 companies he has helped large corporations such as AOL, General Motors, Hewlett-Packard and Viacom make more money from the web. By the age of 21 not only was Neil named a top 100 blogger by Technorati, but he was also one of the top influencers on the web according to the Wall Street Journal. @NeilPatel

About Adam Loving:

Adam is a software developer and entrepreneur with a keen interest in social media. He has been a computer hacker since the 1980s, cited in Lotus Magazine in his early teens. Adam’s passion for viral user experience design led him to create Twibes, a popular Twitter application.  Adam was featured in Microsoft’s “A Startup A Week” documentary series, where he built a Facebook app to help Room to Read raise money for a computer lab in Cambodia. Adam is also the inventor of the Zuckerbuck (one of the first virtual currencies on Facebook). His Facebook app “Dumb Americans” won an overnight coding contest at the CommunityNext conference in San Jose. @Twibes / @AdamLoving

p.s.  If you have ideas or suggestions for topics you want to learn more about, or industry leaders you want to hear from, let us know. Stay tuned for upcoming Tech Talks @WhitePages on topics like…

  • SEO & SEM
  • LeadGen
  • Lean startup
  • CrowdSourcing
  • SOLR/Hadoop
  • Product design
  • And tons more…

As a mom, I have to say: I’m disappointed. But as a product owner for the most popular people search site on the Internet, I’m at least glad that we’re helping people to connect with confidence.

Beyond our expected growth rate, we saw a relatively significant bump in both unique visitors (+7%) and people searches (+10%) in the week leading up to Mother’s Day. Apparently, people don’t know their mother’s addresses and phone numbers. Nice.

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