Excerpts from the blog Surprisingly, Zillow gets glowing compliments from the five workers who contributed to workplace gossip Web site...

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Excerpts from the blog

Surprisingly, Zillow gets glowing compliments from the five workers who contributed to workplace gossip Web site Glassdoor.com, a side venture of Zillow Chief Executive Rich Barton.

The Sausalito, Calif.-based venture, which opened to the public late Tuesday, lets people anonymously talk about their workplaces and share salary information. It’s led by Barton and other former Expedia executives, including Robert Hohman and Erik Blachford.

Salaries are Glassdoor’s Zestimates — the razzle-dazzle that’s supposed to make it really informative — but they may be less reliable since they’re based on anonymous user tips rather than the algorithms and public information Seattle-based Zillow uses for its home-value estimates.

With Barton’s marketing flair and workers’ growing angst about job security, the site may take off, but it gives me déjà vu.

A bunch of Web sites tried similar things during the dot-com days. Locally, TrenchMice made a stab at tech-workplace gossip a few years ago.

But it’s hard to compete with Vault.com, a New York-based site that’s been doing the same thing since 1996.

Vault doesn’t have the polished Web 2.0 community feel of Glassdoor.com. It actually became stodgy and dull as it morphed from gossip into a professional-career tool.

But it still has a workplace-information empire based on 2 million posts from users.

Pluggd to Delve

I never got to meet Alex Castro when his Pioneer Square startup, Pluggd, was building tools for podcasters, maybe because podcasting seemed a bit like a flash in the pan.

But now that Castro’s 12-person company has turned its focus to video search, it’s probably time to pay more attention.

On Wednesday, it announced a new name, Delve Networks, that’s less audio-focused and emphasizes its technology for delving into video content.

The system lets publishers automatically tag content within their videos with terms, so users can search through a news clip for mentions of “Iraq” or “Obama,” for instance.

For video consumers, it’s a nifty way to jump to a specific point in a clip.

But the business angle is even more interesting, especially if Delve has figured out a better way to make Flash video searchable and crawlable by Google.

Google search-marketing guru Matt Cutts last week mentioned video search is one of the hot areas to watch.

I think the difficulty of searching for content within Flash video is one reason Google lets people annotate YouTube videos, so users will add searchable text alongside their clips.

Delve’s system embeds a sort of annotation within the clip and adds a search pane to the player. When you search for a term, it displays a “heatmap” of probable spots where the term is used, so you can zoom right to them.

Pluggd raised $6 million last fall to develop the technology. That also enabled it to afford more vowels, Vice President Alex Alben joked.

“Now we’ve got funding, we’ve got two ‘E’s,” he said.

Stealing a scene

It seems too good to be true for Seattle Web startup Bag Borrow or Steal.

But the purse- and accessory-rental venture did not pay to get its name prominently mentioned by a major character in the “Sex and the City” movie.

“Actually it was a gift from the heavens,” said Mark Belanger, head of direct marketing.

Belanger couldn’t disclose precisely how much of a gift, but he said the company’s enjoying a big jump in traffic since the movie was released, putting Bag Borrow or Steal’s name in front of its target demographic.

After the company found out it was in the script, it did ink a marketing partnership with studio New Line Cinema that led to “Sex”-themed giveaways continuing on the company’s site.

Belanger mentioned that little bonus during a media briefing with Tom Leung, senior product manager of Google Website Optimizer, a service developed and run from the search company’s Seattle office.

Optimizer’s tools help site owners test and analyze different site designs and layouts.

Leung said his team worked with local startups, including Bag Borrow or Steal, to improve the service.

Belanger said his company used the tool to figure out sales increased when the site displayed a bigger variety of merchandise “above the fold,” leading to a change that increased transactions 27 percent.

Optimizer is part of Google’s effort to lure advertisers with a broader suite of tools and services.

The company is expected to announce today partnerships with content-management system vendors to preload the tool onto their systems.

Although Optimizer is a free alternative to professional site-optimization services, Leung said Google isn’t trying to undercut them and that there should still be a need for experts and custom projects.

“We like to think we’re increasing awareness for the whole category,” he said.

This material has been edited for print publication.

Brier Dudley’s blog appears Thursdays. Reach him at 206-515-5687 or bdudley@seattletimes.com.