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Social Media Portal interview with Todd Hogan surchur.com

Staff (Social Media Portal) - 05 November 2009

Profiled - surchur.com - The real time search and discovery engine


An interview with Todd Hogan, founder at surchur.com, the real time search and discovery engine


The Social Media Portal chats with Todd Hogan building a real time search engine and the challenges of social media

surchur.com logoSocial Media Portal (SMP): What is your role at surchur.com?

Todd Hogan (TH): Founder, I oversee the full operations of Surchur.com

SMP: Tell us a little about surchur.com, what is it and what does it do?

TH: We like to call surchur the Ultimate Dashboard to Right Now.  We are a real time search and discovery engine.

SMP: What made you start surchur.com, and when did it officially launch?

TH: To be honest, I was first inspired by what popurls was doing back in 2007 and said this can be done but by keywords to enable real time search.  Of course this was well before the days of real time search engines being the topic of the moment.Photograph of Todd Hogan, founder at surchur.com

SMP: What was the most challenging part of building the service?


TH: We had to build a customized indexing and caching system that responded to the challenges of massive amounts of data on a tighter budget - we’re completely self funded and thus cash flow is king. We have come up with a custom API based system that uses Google inspired map-reduce-like principles to enable an index that is flat and responds fairly quickly with caching and updating.

SMP: Who are your target audience and why?


TH: We really see ourselves having a few core users: first, it’s the celebrity crazed teens who love to be ahead of their BFF on whose wearing what and who got married to who – they love the real time web and star watching. Then we have political junkies who love to scan the web for news. There’s also bloggers who use the front page and The Real Time Board to find what they should be writing about to have fresh in demand content. Finally I’d say journalists appear to use us to make sure they’re covering their bases – all of our tabs for search help them see that they haven’t missed anything when reporting on a topic. The bloggers and journalists are a smaller set but do more to promote us so we like to listen to them.

SMP: How did you initially attract users to your site / service, and how do you do it now?

TH: We reach out to influential members of the community with demos and share what we’ve got – we’ve pretty much grown entirely by being responsive to bloggers large and small who want to learn more.  We also like to embed easy sharing methods on the site.  A couple of years ago it was Digg and del.icio.us now we’ve started to emphasize Twitter and Facebook more.

SMP: What are the low moments of what you have been doing so far?


TH
: When two days before we launched in 2008 with what we thought was a fantastic serve, Addictomatic – to be honest a great site then, launched ahead of us.  They got the press and we had to push ahead without having the benefit of being seen as the ground breaker.  Of course since that time we’ve continued to add many features and rebuild our whole service entering entirely new areas, we’re just a different beast than we originally were.  I look at the first design and laugh that we ever went live with it (please don’t check out Internet Archives – we were Ugly ;-)

SMP: What are the high moments of what you have been doing so far?

TH
: Whenever we get a big review from someone who likes the site we’re thrilled.

SMP: Now that you are established, what do you see as your biggest challenges and opportunities?

TH: Providing a service that competes with the deep pocketed established real time search engines – Google, Bing, Twitter ... we do that by hopefully having great user input – thanks to our community.

SMP: What are the next moves for surchur.com?

TH
: Add more social features, enhance the community and add a 'friends of friends' feature.

SMP: What’s going to be the most interesting aspect regarding social media / technology throughout 2009?

TH: Managing the massive amounts of data coming from the social community in a reasonable way.

SMP: How important is search, real-time search and what impact is this having?

TH
: We see real time search has having a variety of components that all need to work well together – for example real time discovery is just as important as real time search. Being able to help users see what is popular (hence our Real Time Board) is as useful as giving them a great landing page with the best current content for a search on a topic they care about.  Search and real time search are critical – search is the gateway to users interests – the starting point for almost any time a user has an interest but doesn’t know some aspect about it and wants to learn more starts with that search. Helping smooth that experience and connecting them with what they want and often in a personalize fashion is critical.

SMP: What is your search service doing that is different (how do you see the future of real-time search and who are going to be the big players)?


TH: We have real time discovery in a much bigger way than other players – that is one key difference.  We also have a more community oriented play – we utilize data from Twitter, Digg other social sites to influence our results but our community is also directly able to influence what matters providing an additional filter to things that are sometimes spammy.  Our own proprietary anti-spam measures, we believe, are better than most. Of course we see ourselves as the big player. [smile]

SMP: Now the media is reporting the recession may be coming to an end, what impact do this think this may have on businesses like yours, and social media in general?

TH
: Actually I believe that in the midst of the recession social media was and will continue to be for the foreseeable future in a boom. This train just got started and has a lot of rails ahead...

SMP: How does this fit into plans at surchur.com?

TH: Let’s make sure we’re a key engine on those rails.


Now questions for fun

SMP: What did you have for breakfast / lunch?

TH: Granola and Trader Joe’s Yogurt

SMP: What’s the last good thing that you did for someone?

TH
: Ran a BSA Court of Honor just last night

SMP: How many hours to you work a week?

TH: 50-60

SMP: If you weren’t running surchur.com what would you be doing?


TH
: Running another startup OR travelling those small little places in the world I’ve always wanted to but not yet seen such as Easter Island

SMP: When and where did you go on your last holiday?


TH: Mount Rainier National Park just a couple of months ago

SMP: What’s the first thing you do when you get into the office of a morning?


TH: Find an inspiring video or story about what someone is doing to start the day off right – TED.com is a common start point.

SMP: If you had a superpower what would it be and why?

TH: Flying – I love to watch birds in flight, especially barn swallows – wouldn’t it be grand to move like they do.

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