Friday, December 29, 2006

Not Top Searches from the Top Search Corporation?

It is December 29, the last working day of 2006, and I was just browsing the Google blog and found a new entry about their Zeitgeist list for 2006.

The posting is a rather curious study in verbiage. Take, for example, this sentence:
Instead, we looked for those searches that were very popular in 2006 but were not as popular in 2005 -- the explosive queries, the topics that everyone obsessed over.

By "explosive queries," does Google mean those search terms that dealt with explosives, such as bombings? Afterall, there seemed to be daily bombings reported in the news, so much so that we might not give them much more than a cursory glance now.

Or is Google using "explosive queries" to refer to those "topics that everyoner obsessed over"? The sentence construction makes it difficult to decipher exactly what is meant by the last part of that particular sentence.

And then there is this sentence:
Similarly, our "what is" and "who is" lists are not necessarily the absolute most frequent searches, but rather those that best represent the passing year.

What constitutes "those that best represent the passing year"? What does "administracion" mean for those of us who don't know Spanish? And how odd no definitions are found in English. Are there not people who have translated definitions from one language to another on the Internet?

Someone, somewhere, is going to point to this as a perfect example of how Google manipulates data to present its own picture, which is the same argument people have used against the media for years. Top searches are meaningless, then, according to Google, since they don't change year-to-year.

Still befuddled, I consulted the Google Zeitgeist section of its Press Center, a rather curious collection of information that seems to add weight to the argument of "Google Control" or "Google Spin." The result was a generalization that didn't clear up anything for me:
What you see here is a cumulative snapshot of interesting queries people are asking – some over time, some within country domains, and some on – that perhaps reveal a bit of the human condition.

"Cumulative snapshot" sounds like statistical jargon you'd use when then is no real answer. "Interesting queries people are asking" is a subjective answer open to interpretation, almost a political non-answer answer. Oh right. Google is a corporation playing politics. My bad. "Reveal a bit of the human condition." Now that is a scary thought. So how can we tell, from the almighty Google, if the human condition is deteriorating? Or if it is exalting in all its glory?

No doubt people are going to consult the Google Zeitgeist in the future in an effort to determine where things took a dive or a decidedly uncharacteristic spike.

Really. We are that fickle. And Google will provide indisputable evidence, in case anyone has any doubts.

So what will the Google Zeitgeist of 2007 show that aren't the "most frequently searched terms"? Will the terms of 2006 vanish? Or make a stellar comeback?

You, it's also curious to note that not one of the search terms listed relates to politics or the War in Iraq or the War on Terror. They deal with people and technology, for the most part. We really are a country unto our own, aren't we?

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

RFID Chips in Passports

OK. I found this article from WIRED on Digg and it gave me pause.

I'd heard rumblings awhile ago about RFID tags mostly used for tracking purposes for long-haul and retail businesses al la Wal-Mart and the possibility of using them in passports for security purposes. Naturally there was grumbling about a lack of privacy if RFID chips were included in passports, as well as guarding against hackers who enjoy a challenge.

So it was interesting to read this brief article in WIRED about how to disable the RFID tag. Or rather, a way that will most likely disable the RFID tag.

I'm curious as to how they tested this, or even if they tested it. There are quite a number of variations on RFID tags, or RFID chips, so it strikes me as odd that there would be a universal way to disable them. And if the RFID tag is disabled, wouldn't the government know about it? Wouldn't there be an indication of a disabled RFID tag, which very well might ignite a frenzy that another terrorist attack was in progress?

Course, that would mean that the government would actually have to have a means by which to track the activity of RFID tags, and an alert system that showed when on had been disabled.

It sounds like an imperfect system to me. Who is to say the owner disabled it? Or that it didn't happen when the person fell or landed hard on the pocket that contained the passport? Maybe the chip was faulty to begin with and disabled itself after being lightly bumped in transit.

If it is really that simple to disable an RFID tag in passports, as the WIRED article seems to imply, then what is the point of using them in passports?

Thursday, December 21, 2006

NBC is Breaking New Ground

I just saw this article on the NYT website and, naturally, couldn't resist checking out the video on YouTube.

NBC has apparently broken new ground, posting a sketch from its show, uncut, on the Web. Too saucy for prime time but not too sauce for the Web? Hmm....

So will this start a new trend, or maybe bring an underground trend to the mainstream, with uncut, uncensored, downright hilarious video on the Web?

Another example of so-called convergence?

Less Time Template Tinkering, More Time Writing

Google announced yesterday that Blogger is out of beta, and, like most blog posts on the Google Blog that of interest to the majority of people, links have accumulated and word has spread across the Internet.

Looking up at the top while I write this post, I see that it now says "" so it looks like the Internet is moving out of infancy and into adolescence. God help us all.

This link caught my eye though as it mentioned business blogging will now be easier. I wonder what type of businesses are using Blogger, or rather, how many of them have the Blogspot address. It is possible they are using Blogger it posts under their own domain instead of Blogspot.

Blogs I have seen, especially from media corporations who seem to have been the earliest adopters of blogging for the masses, use WordPress or TypePad.

Though you know, Blogger might make it easier to create a blog, tinker with the template and make it look professional, but it doesn't simplify keeping that blog up-to-date, which seems to be something with which corporations struggle to rectify. I talked a little bit about this already here.Few see the value, it seems, in having one or two staff member dedicated to blogging, and not just blogging for the corporation, but monitoring the blogosphere for info on or about the corporation.

We've heard it often enough already, that anything, good or bad, spreads like wildfire throughout the Internet. And it doesn't even have to be true, it just has to be interesting or juicy and it will take on a life of its own.

We'll save the issue of paying bloggers to blog about your company and products for another post. The Internet continues to compel greater transparency, in one form or another, to the praise and ridicule of many.

Internet Etiquette -- Is there Such a Thing?

David Pogue is a technology columnist for the New York Times, and he writes a blog called Pogue's Posts which I have started reading quite often.

A recent entry is called "The Netiquette Diaries," where he posts comments he received about a previous post on Online Etiquette, or lack there of. There was this little snippet from his recent post:

Blogger Michael Moncur ( responded to my own posting, noting that the percentage of nastiness climbs with the popularity of the blog:

* “What Pogue has probably noticed is that, as his writing presence grew from a tiny thing read only by techies to a mass-audience phenomenon, he’s getting more and more e-mails and comments from jerks. It’s easy to look at this and think that people everywhere are losing their manners…I’ve had the same thoughts more than once. But now that my wife and I run several different sites, we’ve learned that the smaller ones have less jerks, and different sites attract different sorts of audiences.”

There is an argument to be made on both sides of the coin. With the anonymity the Internet provides, people are more brazen or bold about what they say. If it is difficult, at best, to prove libel, slander and defamation of character through normal means, the Internet makes that near impossible.

I wonder if the lack of etiquette might be mistaken for passion. The Internet is teeming with passionate people, and passionate people aren't always the most eloquent or the most mindful of manners. Or is it just that the popularity of one particular blog brings out the Jerk in people? They feel the need to voice their opinion, however outlandish or ridiculous or bad-mannered it is?

Is there a direct correlation to be drawn between moving farther into the mainstream and thus into more Jerky waters?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Web Copyright Protection Tool

I originally found this article on Digg about a start-up company that has created a way to "scan the Web for violations."

The company, Attributor, another egregious spelling error despite the fact that it does get its point across, has taken on the monumental task of combing the Web for the kind of copyright violations we have become accustomed to hearing about when large media companies send letters and file lawsuits against websites like YouTube for copyright violations.

Certainly the big targets of violations are websites like YouTube, MySpace and a host of music sharing websites, but there are other, smaller targets, like websites that quietly copy content from other business and governmental websites either because they are too lazy to write it themselves or they think no one will notice. Google and Yahoo duplicate content filters can only do so much, and people have figured out how to trick them into thinking the content is original when it is not. So called "black-hat" tactics that go unnoticed. For content authors everywhere, this tool might be rather useful.

Attributor's tool has the potential to fill a void for companies, large and small, as well as the potential to create a backlash from the Web community. Some might see it as "Big Brother," watching what they post and where they got it, making some content producers more cautious and others more brazen. Media companies might see it as a saving grace: countless man hours can now be devoted to developing new ideas and building business instead of scouring the Web for violators and infringer's and defending itself against them.

Either way, Attributor will add another layer of complexity to an already complex debate. And it clearly won't spell the end of company names and catch phrases that seem to perpetuate the butchering of the English language.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

TIME Perons of the Year: You..and Me...and Everyone Else

TIME Magazine has chosen its Person of the Year: You. And me. And everyone else. The Internet population at large.

Indeed. 2006 saw the growth of the Internet in ways not quite conceived so long ago. Who would have thought millions of people would embrace blogging, from top executives to regular people like you and me? Or even the millions of people who read these blogs as they would read the newspaper or a novel?

Then there is the social networking phenomenon with places like MySpace, Friendster and Facebook. A new way to interact and communicate with people, all people, not just those you know. I have 34 friends on MySpace, a pittance compared with some, by my "social network" as it were, is somewhere around 2 million, simply by being associated with those 34 people and, by default, their friends. How curious. There are 2 million people whom I've never met but with whom I have this thing association, this one link in common.

The Internet really has leveled the playing field, and provided a pulpit for people to call out and keep watch on those around, from seedy politicians to child molesters to your next door neighbor and maybe even your kids. Would the Foley scandal have gone unchecked for a longer period of time if not for the Internet? Would we not all have a better understanding of world affairs if not for the Internet?

Would the millions of people who have something to say be heard, loud and clear, without the Internet? Would we all be able to learn something about a book we might be considering, or a movie we might want to see without the input from fellow fans? Hasn't the Internet simply made it easier for fans to communicate, collaborate and bring in more fans?

Really, the Internet has thrown the window wide open on the world.

Congratulations to us all for becoming TIME Magazine's "Person of the Year."

Friday, December 15, 2006

Google, Your Inexpenive, Secure, One-Stop Internet Spot

Imagine my surprise this morning when a blurb in the Tribune said "Google Gets Into Web Site Registration" and, sure enough, a posting on the Google Blog. I had to stop and think for a moment of what else exists that Google does not touch or attempt to touch...and I'm still trying to come up with an answer. Google has become the Internet equivalent to Wal-Mart, where everything you do that involves technology is related to Google in some fashion, just as everything you purchase from a store is related to Wal-Mart in some fashion.

So now, if your a small business, a start up or a corporation that needs a website, Google not only gives you tools for building the website, but now you can register your domain as well. All for just $10 a year. You can get email addresses, calendars, instant messaging and a whole host of other Google products too, and all for free.

What business, of any size or type, wouldn't want that? Not to mention the fact that Google doesn't turn records or information over to government officials or agencies, so you know your corporate information will be secure. From outside intruders, anyway. And it is probably a fair assumption that if Google were to be hacked, they'd know about it right away and would be able to fix it in such a timely fashion that you probably won't even notice.

Given the rash of data that has been stolen from government and financial institutions, and the recent hacks at educational institutions, I imagine plenty of business owners and others who handle sensitive information will rest easy knowing their information is protected under the Google umbrella.

Think the government will want to get Google Apps for its Domains?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Patent Searching a Snap....but What's Missing?

Praise the Lord! Thank you Jesus! Google and the United States Patent Office have gotten together to bring you Google Patent Search, as Google so nicely announced on its official blog. Finally, a piece of useful news!

Google has taken the USPTO patent search, a somewhat tricky, cumbersome process (though it does produce a nice list of information)and simplified it. A government process...simplified! Whodathunkit?

Granted there are only 7 million records in Google Patent Search, but hopefully it is a sign of things to come. And we'll all know if Google starts playing with the results so their information "disappears."

And it should be clarified to people that this is a search on PATENTS. Not trademarks. So if you want to see the early drawings of Edison's prototype light bulb, you'll find it. If you want to know if someone owns a trademark on the word "light bulb" or how many variations people have trademarked, you still have to go through the USPTO website and search under "Trademarks."

At any rate, something useful has been posted on the Official Google Blog, and they have actually proved a useful service.

So what's the line on how long it will take people to exploit this nifty new search opportunity?

And you know what is missing from the patent search results? Or have you not noticed?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Something is Missing....

I'm sitting here watching "Singin' in the Rain" on TMC, and it occurs to me that there isn't a movie that quite captures the radical changes that have occurred with technology, the watershed moment like "talking pictures" were for a whole generation.

Sure, movies incorporate technology, but there hasn't been quite the, what's the word...reflexive movie. Not that anyone could make such a movie on par with "Singin' in the Rain" but it would be interesting to see. There isn't a 20th or 21st Century Gene Kelly.

How would you make the 21st Century equivalent to "Singin' in the Rain"?

So are We All Employees of Google?

I saw a headline for it in the Chicago Tribune first and then noticed a link on Digg from the Google Blog. Okay. I'll bite.

We all know Google is an innovator in any category, and most famously in the area of search. Google made waves in the financial industry when it decided to do its IPO its own way instead of following standard conventions. Google didn't divulge standard information for IPOs, citing proprietary information but the SEC wasn't having it so Google had to make some concessions, but just enough to get the SEC to shut up and let the IPO proceed. If you want to read about it, pick up "The Google Story". That'll be the only deep look inside the company any of us are ever going to get now.

Anyway, so there is this post on the Google Blog about Google's new employee stock option change: transferable stock options. It details what Google employees can now do with their Google stock, and how Google strives to keep the best and brightest blah blah blah.

OK. Great. does this have to do with me, a consumer of Google, an average citizen but not necessarily a Google employee? Giving perks is great for Google employees, but why is that a piece of information I need to know?

Of all the cool things Google does, I'm not understanding this need to put HR-related information on the Official Google Blog for all the world to see. If Google is going to tell us about its new employee stock information, why not post the Google employee hand book? Why not give the rest of the world an update on its health care benefits, retirement packages (if it has such a thing) and other HR-related information? Wouldn't that be just as useful as the transfer stock options for Google employees?

Or, again, is this Google's back door way of challenging the status-quo of standard business practices? Sort of like the Teach-for-America blog post, letting the world know that life is great if your a Google employee, leading one to think that life must really suck if you're not a Google employee.

You know, if Google is going to be so open about it's HR, why can't it be just as open about other facets of its inner workings? Oh. Wait. Right. I forgot, Google likes to contradict itself. It will concede ground to the Chinese government without blinking, but it wouldn't hand over information to the US government, even when compelled to by a subpoena. Google will fight the US government, but it will concede to China?

So where exactly are Google's priorities? And is it going to be it's own nation-state, follow whatever rules from whatever country it decides it likes best at that particular point in time?

We all do seem to have a blind faith in Google. That will be one hard fall if and when the wool is removed from our eyes.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Idiot Proof Website -- What a Concept!

Found this on Digg and thought it was funny. This guy has a blog called Reality Wired, and there is this post about the Idiot Proof Website that immediately made me think of the technologically unsophisticated people I know.

Naturally, I had to check out this Idiot Proof Website. Apparently quite a few other people have as well, and I hope they've found it just as amusing!

I'm a fan of Digg. I go there to find interesting, out-of-the-ordinary news, as well as "real" news stories but I'm a fan of its user generated content. One of the better places to find information, something funny or just completely random.

I've become a Digger! And it was a little hard, but not at all surprising, to learn that ad agencies and PR firms are playing people to digg stories. Not surprising. How can advertisers in the digital age make any money without resorting to exploitation?

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Google Policy Made Public....Or A Challenge?

I don't know what to make of this post on the Google Blog. Great for Google bringing attention to Teach For America, a program that doesn't get enough attention outside of academia, and it often found on the wrong side of arguments (by no fault of its own) in educational politics and reform.

But why should anyone, except Google employees, care that Google is willing to give deferrals to people who accept jobs offers from both Google and TFA? That sounds an awful lot like a company policy than "Googler insights into product technology news and our culture."

Or is Google making a challenge to other corporations, saying hey, we'll let future employees defer for two years if they join TFA because we value the experience and believe it creates better employees. What about you?

A very curious blog post. Very curious indeed...

Corporate Blog Ruminiations

I found this originally on Digg, and went looking for blogs that haven't been updated. They do exist, which is surprise and not so surprising. Blogs take more work to keep up than people realize, especially if you want to make some money off of it. Creating the content isn't the hard part. The hard part is getting the blog out there and getting people to come back on a fairly consistent basis.

There is WebAbility that started off okay but hasn't been updated in over a year. From his profile, you can guess that he has very busy dealing with IT issues at whatever university currently employs him. It is a personal blog, and personal blogs often falter when things get busy. You'd think the same would be true of business blogs, and possibly even more so. Yet business blogging doesn't seem to have taken off quite as much as people seem to think.

We all know Jonathan Schwartz's blog and might even consider him a pioneer of business blogging. He has, afterall, called for business information disclosed on a blog such as is to be an official public statement. And if we want to continue down that route, we can consider him, like Google, as making up his own rules regarding the Internet since, well, there aren't rules, exactly.

The newspapers have gotten into blogging as well, which is pretty much having columnists blog instead of write out columns, or blog in addition to writing their usual columns. A Garrison Keeler blog would be hilarious!

Then there is Leven10, and their blog The Level10 Buzz Report which is updated fairly infrequently.

I wonder if there is a trend here, that large corporations have embraced blogging either as a way to communicate better amongst themselves or communicate better with customers and the outside world to better build and promote their brand. If you logged onto MySpace when the Superman DVD was released, all you saw were promotions for the DVD. They even did the background of the homepage to reflect the cover the Superman DVD.

So does the size of the corporation really have an impact on whether or not that corporation blogs, and how well that blog is kept up? Someone, or a group of people, need to be responsible for adding content (and useful content, we hope), and there need to be people out there populating the blog on the Internet, other people tracking the progress and then if anything comes from it, if that is of any concern.

Do large corporations have better writers at their disposal? Marketing and tech savvy people? Sort of makes it a little trickier to argue that the Web is a level playing field huh?

Or does it come down to one's desire and drive to post, distribute, track and watch what happens? And do such people just not exist in smaller corporations?

Apparently there are quite a few factors that dictate the success or failure of a corporate blog, which might be why there aren't that many just yet. Plenty of blogs about corporations, just not quite as many written by the corporations themselves.

Anyone think that will change in the next 2-5 years?

Friday, December 1, 2006

And Addemdum to Paging Dr. Google...

Yesterday I posted about Google playing health care specialist by serving up different options for terms it deems to be medically related, like "sore knee" or "depression" and so on. Today I came across this article in the Chicago Tribune about a study done, called "Googling for a Diagnosis" that was published in the British Medical Journal. BMJ also devotes an editorial to the idea of using a search engine like Google for diagnosing illnesses. The editorial introduces a word that has been tossed around Web 2.0 forums and over coffee tables at cafes where you find linguists in heated arguments. The word: semantics.

If you've done much search engine optimization, you know that search engines have slowly incorporated LSI agreements into algorithms. Most see it as a way to weed out much of the junk found on the Web by making grammar count. Part of that all-encompassing goal of generating the most relevant results for any given search query. The BMJ editorial builds on that idea, challenging search engines to "identify which words in a document represent symptoms, diagnoses, drug names, or parts of the body, let alone reason about these concepts."

Certainly would beat looking things up in the PDR now wouldn't it?