Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Is it "steak house" or "steakhouse"?

Is the correct term for a restaurant that specializes in steaks "steak house" or "steakhouse"? And why do I care?

Well, I care because when dealing with search engines like Google or Yahoo!, small changes in spelling can mean a lot. A search on Google for "steak house Prague" and "steakhouse Prague" yields different results, and the same is often true even when speaking just of plural vs. singular forms of the same word (e.g. a search for "mexican restaurant prague" doesn't show any results for Nelso, while a search for "mexican restaurants prague" puts Nelso on the first page of results, at #8). This is a limitation of using computer algorithms to parse the meaning of natural language queries - no human being would think of "Do you know any good steak houses in Prague?" and "Do you know any good steakhouses in Prague?" as being different questions. These would be taken as two forms of exactly the same question.

What do the American restaurants call themselves? There seems to be no agreement on the correct wording. The legendary Ruth's Chris Steak House uses the two word form, while the equally well-known Morton's Steakhouse spells it as one word. Black Angus Steakhouse splits the difference, calling the place a "steakhouse", but using the title "Black Angus Steakhouse - Black Angus Restaurant, Steak House" on the home page in an attempt to reach more searchers.

In the end, I'll probably change our current usage of "Steak House" to "Steakhouse" just to satisfy Google. A search for "steakhouse" on Google yields 17,700,000 results, while a search for "steak house" yields 9,230,000 results. In fact, a search for "steak house" on Google offers up the suggestion "Did you mean: steakhouse?". That's all the convincing I need.

Battle of the Contextual Ad Systems

Currently, Nelso generates 100% of its revenue from Google AdSense. We're fairly happy with the results so far, but in the interest of doing our homework, from today we're going to split the ad impressions on nelso.cz evenly between AdSense and Centrum's AdFox. That is, half the visitors to Nelso.cz will see ads from Google, and half will see ads from AdFox.

We'll check on the results after a month and see how they did.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Almost half of all U.S. restaurants serve hamburgers - not so in Prague

According to a recent article in Nation's Restaurant News, 44% of all American restaurants offer hamburgers on the menu. 14% of all restaurant meals are hamburgers, and 42% of those orders are for bacon cheeseburgers.

A good tour of the best burgers in the U.S. can be found in the book Hamburger America or on the author's blog about his travels tasting burgers all over America.

Despite a growing number of American restaurants in Prague, I haven't found many really great burgers here. Brewsta of the Czech Please blog wrote an article on the burgers of Prague in February 2008. I may take a tour of these places (and a few more) and see for myself where the best burger in Prague can be found.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Nelso Slovakia

We still have very few listings for Slovakia, but we've launched a version of Nelso in Slovak at Nelso.sk.

We'll go down to Bratislava in August 2008 to start collecting data, initially focusing on pubs and bars, restaurants, and hotels.

It's important to note that on January 1, 2009, Slovakia will join the Euro, which should give it a small bump in tourism. By that time we'll have complete listings for a number of cities in Slovakia and will be ready for the influx of tourists.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Travel.ru gives positive review to Nelso.ru

Travel.ru LogoTravel.ru did a nice writeup of Nelso.ru yesterday titled "Первый онлайн-поисковик по Европе на русском языке", which translates roughly as "First local search guide to Europe in Russian".

The Russian market is huge, and is one of the small number of markets in the world where the largest search engine is not Google (the largest search engine in Russia is Yandex.ru). We've been quite successful in getting our Prague listings indexed by Seznam.cz in the Czech Republic, so hopefully this article and any links in the future will prompt Yandex to index Nelso.ru more fully. Last time I checked, there was only one page from Nelso.ru indexed by Yandex (for some strange reason, the page for Sports Bars in Prague).

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Major European languages now covered

With the launch today of Nelso.fr, we now have all the major languages in Europe covered on Nelso. We have the site in English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, and Russian.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

20 most popular places on Nelso.cz for June 2008

The twenty most popular businesses on Nelso.cz for June 2008, in terms of page views, were as follows:
  1. Sahara Cafe
  2. Restaurace Kozička
  3. Směnárna
  4. Pivnice U Zlatého Tygra
  5. Cinema City Palác Flóra
  6. Change
  7. Olšanka Hotel
  8. Restaurace a Sportbar U Zábranských
  9. Cinema City Metropole Zličín
  10. One Love Tattoo shop
  11. John and George Café & Restaurant
  12. Bloody Blue Tattoo
  13. Poliklinika Revoluční
  14. Letňany Lagoon
  15. Darling Cabaret
  16. Restaurace & Bar & Zahradka Legenda
  17. Restaurant - Club Lisboa
  18. Tattoo Alien Studio
  19. Donjoy - Zdravotnická Prodejna
  20. Koupaliště Petynka

There are no less than three (#10, #12, and #18) Prague tattoo parlors that appear in the top 20. One often thinks of local search in terms of bars and restaurants, but only seven of the top 20 are in the "food and drink" category.

One distinct change in this list versus earlier in the year is the appearance of three Prague swimming pools on the list (I'm including the swimming pool at the Olšanka Hotel, as it's known more for its pool than its hotel). What will be the most popular winter spots?

Denmark is world's happiest country, according to World Values Survey

According to the U.S.-funded World Values Survey, Denmark is currently the happiest country on earth (Zimbabwe is the least happy country). Puerto Rico and Colombia also rank highly, along with Northern Ireland, Iceland, Switzerland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Canada and Sweden.

Of the countries in this list, Nelso listings currently cover only Denmark, although we do plan to cover Holland and Switzerland soon.

I've always been interested in providing listings for Iceland on Nelso (particularly Reykjavík), but unfortunately, neither Yahoo nor Google have street-level maps for Reykjavík. I have no idea why a country like Iceland would not be represented on Google maps; perhaps there are some legal issues to be sorted out?

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The downside to using Flickr photos on the Nelso home page

I went to the home page of Nelso.com earlier today, and was greeted with the page you see in the screenshot below (click the image to enlarge). Yes, that is exactly who you think it is looking out the window of Prague Castle at the city of Prague below.

How did this happen? Well, it's a result of the "interestingness" algorithm of Flickr. To place random images of a place on the Nelso city home pages, I make a call to Flickr for photos tagged with that place name and then sorted by "interestingness". Usually, this works very well, and returns great photos of Prague 8, or Berlin, etc. Unfortunately, it sometimes returns photos like the one of the very bad man that made it onto the home page of Nelso.com.

I may have to re-think my use of Flickr photos.