The Dunn Phraser Gun: Ed Dunn of

Chief Technologist and President of Fooky, Inc. Ed Dunn shares his worldview of search technology and what he has to offer in the field that many pundits consider a closed frontier. We also get personal and look unflinchingly at what it means to be IT Africans in a society conditioned to see us more comical or political than technical.

Bryan Wilhite: What is your story in three paragraphs or less?

Ed Dunn: My name is Ed Dunn and I’m the CEO of Fooky, Inc. and Chief Architect of is an online intermediary that uses a phrase-based platform to connect users and web sites in the most efficient manner.

The mission is to help people find and market web sites through the use of phrases and our vision is distributed artificial intelligence as the true solution to information gathering and information services.

Our phrase-based platform consists of three technologies: phrase-matching, command phrases and conversational phrases. Phrase-matching involves the input of phrases that will match against meta tag information to retrieve highly relevant results. The Command Phrase is how partners with information services providers to deliver rich, dynamic content based on requests or commands. Conservational phrases enables users to dialog and educate with which will, in turn, relay that knowledge to other users.

Operating out of the Atlanta, Georgia area, Fooky, Inc. is a Delaware corporation founded in 2005. launched October, 2005. We are currently pursuing several financing options as well as creating an executive team to lead our goal of becoming the number one first destination site in 36 months.

rasx(): Where does the name come from?

ED: In 1999, I was looking for a new name for the web service that would succeed I actually wanted the name but it was taken. At that time, I knew the Asian version of pooky was fooky and I settled on that. That is the honest truth.

rasx(): I notice uses Microsoft technologies, specifically ASP.NET. Do you find any advantages here over open source tools?

ED: I’m a Microsoft web developer by profession so I’m comfortable using the Microsoft platform. The biggest advantage over open source tools that come to mind is the amount of support and documentation Microsoft and the Microsoft development community provides. Those advantages help me improve development time as well as ensure best practices are performed.

rasx(): How does your search technology position itself with respect to Google search? For example, do you “interpret” queries?

ED: Fundamentally, Google and other search engines believe in “text searching” while believes in “phrase matching”. Search engines pretty much go out and find text in web documents, returning what an algorithm considers to be most relevant to the human requesting the query. uses the phrases explicitly defined by the web site operator within the keyword meta tags to match exactly what is requested. Google believes they know what is best for the user typing in a search query; believes web site operators know what kind of audience they want to serve by the phrases that web site operator choose.

Phrase matching is more practical, relevant and scalable than the typical search engine. For example, a hair braiding shop on the south side of Chicago can use the following phrases in their meta tag “Hair Braiding, 60618, Chatham” and will create a unique combination that is highly relevant. But it gets better—now the hair braiding shop can promote their web site via word of mouth with these phrases instead of using a domain name. All they have to do is tell their customers or potential customers to search for “hair braiding, Chatham” and their site will be displayed. Phrases are a lot easier to remember and spreadable by word-of-mouth than domain names or phone numbers. Most women do not remember a guy’s name or phone number they just met but they will remember the phrases “tall, dark and handsome” which is what wishes to leverage.

Our indexing and ranking is completely different from search engines. grades web sites based on the meta tags. For example, a site with a <title> tag and meta tags for description and keywords will go into an ‘A’ class while web sites with just a <title> tag will go into a ‘D’ class. The ‘A’ class site will always be ranked higher on every search listing than the ‘D’ class web site if there is a phrase match that returns both classes. This means values web sites that properly identify who they are and what they are about more than the status quo assumption.

rasx(): Were you ever “head hunted” by the so-called “established” search firms?

ED: I actively avoided working at any of the search firms because it would be a conflict of interest with what I was privately working on—which was and purposely avoided them. I would definitely have had to sign a non-compete clause if I accepted an offer at a search firm so I pretty much stayed in the corporate intranet sector. I believe working on corporate intranets was more rewarding because I actually work directly for the businesses which helped me become more understanding of what businesses want. I do not believe I would have received that kind of valuable experience working at a search firm.

rasx(): Where is now?

ED: I shut down in 2000. The domain was given up and taken over by a phishing operation for quite some time. I simply put behind me because of the excitement of what I planned to do with

rasx():In about three paragraphs please respond to whatever you think is relevant in Guy Kawasaki’s “The Art of Bootstrapping.” Anything jumping out at you?

ED: The first thing that strikes me is how Guy started the article to say the end goal of a bootstrapper is to attract venture capital. As a bootstrapper, I can’t care less about attracting VCs as much as I would like to work with them and their resources. I remember when I wanted to get into the music business; the talk among my peers is, you have proven yourself once you were signed to a major label. But I saw talent like The Ghetto Boys, 2 Live Crew and N.W.A not signed to major labels but setting up their own distribution to get their music out to the people. They taught me that you don’t need a middleman to validate your stuff and make your own options instead of hoping someone give you an option. It’s nice if some venture capitalist is interested in and wants to help take it to the next level, but I’m of the mindset that I’m going to have to make my own options to handle what I’m set out to do.

My perspective is that bootstrapping is really the only option for most African-American owned ventures since we have limited access to capital. I also feel if someone has to read Guy’s bootstrapping article and take notes, they are simply not cut out for entrepreneurship. The bootstrapping mentality should already be there and cannot be learned by reading a Guy Kawasaki article. I grew up in an environment where one had to bootstrap just to get food on the table, so most of the points Guy stressed are pretty much survival skills I had to acquire to not go hungry. Everything Guy says I already know because being broke with dreams teaches you that stuff as you come up.

Pretty much if you follow exactly what Guy is saying and proven yourself, then I beg to ask, ‘Does one really needs to bother with venture capitalists?’ If you can bootstrap successfully to get to a sustainable level, then debt financing would probably be a better long term option. To me, venture capital activity appears to be for startups who spend their time giving presentations or rubbing shoulders and need seed money to make up for their lack of a true hustle.

rasx(): What’s your view of Omar Wasow’s and

Omar Wasow ED: Where can I start with this? Let’s start with Mr. Wasow and Mr. Ellington—bougie and superficial. I thought they were too bougie and walked around dressing too eccentric to be taken seriously in the tech game. To me, they both were the epitome of the dotcom era of business-orientated people running web site operations that where more style than substance. I just never believe they could convince Black people overall to accept their offerings. They might have had the mainstream press propping them up as thought leaders of African Americans online, but I knew the bougie presentation won’t win over the African American community at large.

In regards to, I personally didn’t like them because did not really embrace linking relationships with or even acknowledge the existence of other Black-orientated sites. had this really uppity, bougie atmosphere about them on their site and I wasn’t feeling it.

They also had this “we’re first” snobby attitude as if that really means something. I actually started in 1996 because I wanted to do what was not doing which was promoting the existence of Black-orientated web sites during that period.

When launched, I didn’t care about it. A brother could easily hookup with women on Yahoo Personals back then and pretty much had a bunch of young brats that wanted to showoff than wanting to network. Brothers got pictures with their bare chest and sisters showing off their butt on the profile photo were not classy at all. was cute but failed to stay competitive and found themselves losing out to newcomers like and And now they are losing out to Craigslist and Facebook.

Both and proved a valuable lesson to anyone that wants to launch a web operation—you got to know this web technology on a technical, architectural level just as well as the business level. My web site, was 100% coded by me from the ground up. I learned how to code all the solutions I need for I’ve studied web portals, search technology and developed a passion for the craft. This is what helped me create the phrase-based platform for and I can say with confidence can out-scale and outperform what Google, Yahoo and others are offering.

rasx(): When I first began as a contractor, I assumed that the Atlanta area would be more welcoming to Blacks in technology. But I failed to understand that Black power in Atlanta is largely confined to politics. What’s your Black-Enterprise-magazine view of IT in the Atlanta area?

ED: Right now, I would say Atlanta IT scene is pretty much ok. IT opportunities in Atlanta are not booming like Washington DC but it’s not receding either. I think pretty much most of the Atlanta big corporations are outsourcing their IT departments which make contracting opportunities more available. I tell everyone that want to move to Atlanta that they need one thing—experience!

Atlanta is not a city you just move to after you graduate from college or have less than five years of experience. There are a lot of people moving here to Atlanta with years of talent competing for IT jobs so people wanting to find an IT job better come to the interview with their A-game.

In regards to, I personally didn’t like them because did not really embrace linking relationships with or even acknowledge the existence of other Black-orientated sites. had this really uppity, bougie atmosphere about them on their site and I wasn’t feeling it.

rasx(): How would you respond to the concern that using Microsoft technologies don’t “scale well” in terms of “total cost of ownership” compared to “free,” Linux-based solutions?

ED: I don’t believe that Linux-based solutions are more scalable or have a lower TCO than Microsoft platform solutions. Any professional developer worth their salt will tell you the platform is irrelevant because what really matters is the maintainability and scalability of the software code. If you have to deal with crappy code, it will be expensive to maintain and difficult to expand regardless of the platform.

rasx(): Many Linux people I run into implicitly assume that I chose Microsoft over Linux. What these tech people fail to understand is history. I was in college before Linux existed. Using a Unix system required special privileges almost exclusively confined to computer science majors. I was studying applied science that featured laboratory work almost exclusively confined to the Wintel PC. Are you a Microsoft guy for similar ‘historical’ reasons?

ED: One of my first job assignments was working as a webmaster using the Microsoft platform. The Microsoft platform made the job a lot easier than if I have perform the same duties with Unix so I stuck with Microsoft technologies ever since.

rasx():One racial incident stands out to me. When I was a college student some old white lady told me what my major was—she was asking me for name rank and serial number at some library help desk and she, with the smug irritation of the silent majority, told me what my major was instead of asking me. She told me I was Black studies major. When I told her I was a physics major she fell silent. She was not pleased to be wrong about me.

Similar experiences later in life with whites and negroes, suggest to me that she was so prepared to meet a Black studies major she was actually angry with me because she was wrong. In fact, based on similar experiences with others, I would not be surprised to find out that she would be pleased to discover somehow that I was lying. For many with this mindset, you can make their entire “new world order” fall apart simply because you exist. It follows that it is easier for these people to ‘pretend’ you do not exist—to fall silent. Do see something similar in your life?

ED: Personally, I can relate this same experience to To be honest, it depends on the person’s knowledge of my capabilities to see their reaction. I can tell my close friends and family I’m starting a search engine and they are very supportive of me because they personally know I been doing this Internet thing for over a decade. Past co-workers who worked closely with me definitely know I’m capable of creating a search engine because they worked with me on some very complex web projects. But most tech journalists or a venture capital principal who never spent five minutes or five seconds with me appear to react very crazily after finding out the main player behind is a Black man. I’m not talking about the Mr. Ellington or Mr. Wasow kind of black man, but a Black man out of the ’hood that is not ashamed of where he came from and not afraid of where he wants to go. And that is when I see them do what I expect them to do—they simply snub me altogether. It’s the kind of snub that appears to communicate the message that even if I’m as good as I claim, they’ll be damned if they help me in any kind of way. There are no comments or feedback—just a straight, blatant snub. But I don’t think they can ‘pretend’ anymore like they used to. The Internet has pretty much level the playing field where African-Americans can pretty much promote ourselves if we have to and there are more financing alternatives than venture capital for a tech startup. I’ve learned to just leave them in their place and come back and visit them once I got what they tried to deny me—just to remind them that things have changed. Phrases rasx(): Does learn from searches? Or does its dependency on meta/header information dominate?

ED: learns from every input into its database and is routinely taught about the phrases it received. Queried phrases that do not return search results are immediately stored in a cache to be analyzed offline for further action. The offline process of is actually the most complex part of the operation as we teach various things. For example, if no search result for iPod is displayed, will report that to us and we can teach that an iPod is a portal music player and will be able to recommend buying iTunes for example during future conversations and searches on the topic.

rasx(): Are there any crawlers out there gathering information for and sucking it into a giant database?

ED: uses two web crawlers called ScorpionBots to go out and find web sites worthy of being listed in There are two ScorpionBots out there, ScoutOut and TheScorer. ScoutOut actually visit recommended web sites and verify if the web site is worthy of inclusion into repository.

If the site is worthy, then TheScorer goes out and review the site. TheScorer scores the site based on several factors such as the presence of meta tag information or if the site uses pop-ups or other annoyances. Once a score is generated, phrases are generated from the meta tag information and indexed in our repository.

Our repository is different from traditional search engine database because it is organized by datasets of phrases, which is a fairly new concept. We currently have over 30 million phrase datasets and in each of those phrase datasets, sites are ranked by the score they received from our ScorpionBot crawlers. Having phrase datasets allow faster searching and display of search results. If a user enters multiple phrases into, multiple datasets are combined to find phrase correlations to return highly relevant search results.

I would like to add that our crawlers are crawling sites all over the world and creating phrase datasets in every world language. This allows to easily become international when we are ready for the world.

rasx(): Since is “phrase based,” I notice that entering ‘90045’ returns one record while ‘get weather for 90045’ returns “No weather data available for location provided.” Can’t this type of performance play into the hands of critics who insultingly suspect you of playing the Will Smith role in Six Degrees of Separation?

ED: I never saw Six Degrees of Separation. The critics you mention appear to judge on the standard of a search engine platform and they are misguided in their critique. Using your example, ‘90045’ is simply a phrase to We can teach that ‘90045’ is a United States postal code but that is the only way will know what it means. is just an intermediary of the phrase and that is where the magic comes in.

The phrase ‘90045’ should be used by a web site that wanted to target users who queried for that phrase. The goal is to bring that user and web site together. Now the phrase “get weather for 90045” means exactly what it says and understands that command explicitly. The reason why weather forecasts are broken for the zip code ‘90045’ have little to do with as is retrieving that information from an external web service providing weather forecast. If detects that the web service is having trouble providing data, will politely respond that it cannot retrieve the information requested. Web service unavailability should be anticipated in a service-orientated architecture and I believe has responded appropriately in that event.

Google and other search engine operations do what I consider ‘search result appeasement’ which make assumptions about the query and throw everything plus the kitchen sink as the results, hoping the user figure it all out.

Throwing millions of search results at a user is how Google and others competed to boast their index size and we are not interested in pursuing that strategy. believes in matching exactly what the user request so we are not into the number of search results as a metric of relevancy.

This is what the critics are used to and naturally expected this same behavior from If you look at future direction which is artificial intelligence you can talk to while you are in your car or on the phone, you will see why we want users to express the phrase ‘get stock quote for msft’ rather than just express the phrase ‘msft’.

rasx(): When actually does feature a “new” and “cool” Web site, many times the site can’t load because this young, hip startup does not have enough server power to handle the load. Many can argue that was saved from its own success when it was bought by Yahoo! because so many people were complaining about how slow it was before it sold out a company with massive server resources. Google spends hundreds of millions on server farm electric bills. Are you concerned about this?

ED: When I launched back in October, I stopped sending out press releases after finding out some scalability issues. I knew can easily dip back under the radar because tech media is traditionally and passionately reluctant to give a Black-owned venture any kind of press coverage. Once went under the radar, I used that opportunity to work on the scalability issues.

Most startups do not have high-level experienced architects which are expensive for a startup. My advantage to this concern is I’m not some business suit claiming to run a web business. I have experience working in corporate America with some of the best web developers/web architects around building highly scalable web projects. So I became proficient in understanding the best practices and how to scale out a web site operation with growth.

Google and other search engine operations do what I consider ‘search result appeasement’ which make assumptions about the query and throw everything plus the kitchen sink as the results, hoping the user figure it all out.

In terms of scalability, I’m not overly concerned because the phrase-based platform is highly scalable than what Google, Yahoo! or even MSN is doing. I know those firms are seriously concerned about us because they already know is operating on a distributed processing, service-orientated, dataset platform that is more scalable and even worst—a heck of a lot cheaper to operate than what they are currently maintaining.

rasx(): Are you concerned about showing off the latest Web 2.0 trends like AJaX to woo interest among the fashionable and influential?

ED: Our priority is to solve the basic problem of connecting online users to web sites and information services in the most efficient manner possible, which is through the use of phrases. If other web ventures want to focus on simulating the desktop environment with fluff like drag-and-drop content boxes, let them go right ahead. This is why I’m wary of these venture capital firms that invest in that kind of crap. I have to evaluate if those types of VCs can really help help the Internet community or if they are solely interested in trying to make a quick buck off something cute.

rasx():Recently, Edgeio appeared on the scene. This new startup asks Blog writers to include the tag “listing” in their RSS feed. This sounds like a one-phrase pony compared to Does read RSS metadata?

ED: headline service does read the metadata currently on RSS but for internal indexing purposes. I was going to request RSS publishers add a <keywords> section to their RSS feeds to accommodate our phrase-based platform. Although this would make sense, we felt it was beyond our reach and felt the best we can do is make a recommendation to the W3C or a similar consortium. However, I believe bigger players are already making this recommendation and we just plan to let them spend their money and lead that effort.

I don’t think tagging is practical for Blogs. I definitely do not have time to tag every entry on my personal Blogs and really care more about the patrons and subscribers that spread the Blog via word of mouth rather than getting picked up on a Blog search. There is technology already out there that can correlate subject matters (semantic) and this is what I’m more favorable to for a solution for indexing rapidly generated off-the-cuff Blog content.

rasx(): Like me, you are quick and bright to say that that you come from a place where the police department was only so far away from trying to kill you. I found that being anti-social actually saved my life because socializing with violent drug dealers does not always produce a rap album. Now that you have “made it” out of “the ghetto” do find that the same anti-social skills that saved your life work against you in the ignorant-ass American world of soulless suburban white kids of all colors? You know they outnumber us right? You know that want you to “fit in” out of fear and luxuriant poverty just like they did—right?

ED: At the age of 17, I created a “get out of the hood” scheme that involved taking on several daunting tasks. I had to join the Army to get the college fund, attend Southern Illinois University on a veteran scholarship and graduate. I accomplished all of those steps because I always thought about that kid that had no lunch money, only one pair of pants and payless gym shoes to wear in high school. All my adult life, I wanted nothing more than make that kid be happy knowing he turned out to be something. I say this because I focus on being the best, overcoming obstacles and reaching for the stars because I owe it to that 17 year old kid who wanted a better life to look forward to. That is the skill or mentality I used to get to where I am today and it still works for me dealing with the mainstream lifestyle.

I feel the mainstream lifestyle is non-threatening as people appear to be obsessed with their iPod or having a mobile phone on their ear all the time, not paying attention to the world around them. People like to drive in cars instead of walk so the sidewalks are pretty much empty. I feel very relaxed walking down the street knowing almost everyone around me is distracted by personal technology. So in a way, I find this mainstream society to be subdued and non-obtrusive while I plot out a future of artificial intelligent entities that will take over their jobs and control the distribution of information and media.