Tuesday, October 30, 2007

BigString: No More Sender Regret

I saw the founder and CEO of BigString on CNBC's "The Big Idea" and thought, hey, awesome.

It's an email service, with a twist. Not only can you send and receive email, but you can also send "self-destruct" email, which is Mission:Impossible style email as they describe it on the website, recallable/erasable email and a variety of other means, including video email.

There have been numerous instances of emails being sent on the fly, causing mischief and mayhem as the contents were, well, less than civil. Emails fired off in the heat of the moment instead of taking a few to chill. And email sits out in the ether of the Web, stored somewhere and never really erased. There's always the possibility, however remote, that a particular email will come back to haunt you.

BigString, therefore, is on to something. The ability to make a troublesome email go poof is enticing, and removes any incentive to think before you type.

Too bad Enron didn't have such a service at its disposal, though it seems as if the White House does since emails are still, ahem, missing.

Anyway, it will be interesting to see how BigString and its email elimination business does. No doubt there is a market for it. And who knows what could be next. Now that people are understanding that the Web is public domain, plenty want information removed and have discovered that it is not quite that easy; information is never completely removed.

Perhaps this will lead to a solution, and more privacy and ethical battles are sure to ensue.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Why a Search Engine Company Needs to Fix LexisNexis

Most of us, at this point, especially people my age and younger, take searching on the Internet for granted. We've grown up with the technology, we have little issue with freely posting information (damning or not) for the world to see and generally assumed that if we type in keywords into a box, we'll get the results we want.

If you go to law school, you'll be given access to the well-known legal research tool called Lexis-Nexis, which will remain your archaic friend for as long as you pursue a legal career. And within your first few minutes of training, you'll discover that Lexis-Nexis is a horrible search tool by today's technology standards. You have to memorize a list of archaic commands, commands that used to be second nature when you had to use the library computer to figure out where on particular book was located in the millions of stacks. But, you have to string the commands together just right in order to get the result you want, which takes practice and lots of trial and error. And that is assuming you have started your search in the correct category.

Needless to say, finding anything in Lexis-Nexis is a time-consuming, tedious task. But as it is the definitive research tool used by the legal profession, using it is a necessity. And since technology permeates so much of the world today, and as the legal staffs of technology companies continue to expand, I am surprised that none of them, not even search engine companies, have done anything to improve the search capabilities of Lexis-Nexis.

If you think about it, Lexis-Nexis is a treasure trove of information. Any case from anytime, anywhere, is in Lexis-Nexis. Legal definitions. Statues. Ordinances. Any legal document at all, can be found in Lexis-Nexis. Now isn't that a database worth creating useful search algorithms? Think of the hours (as in $$) that would be saved by legal departments and law students everywhere if Lexis-Nexis had the search smarts of Google, Yahoo or even MSN behind it, not to mention how much more 21st Century Lexis-Nexis would be.

Everyone is on the hunt to organize information, which usually involves trying to talk various groups of people into sharing information so it can be compiled and indexed in one spot. Why not start in an area that already has the information complied and indexed, and improve the indexing process? What good is a wealth of information in one place if you can't easily find anything?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Semantic Language Search....

I stumbled upon Powerset while reading a post on the New York Times blog Bits. Naturally I had to check out the Powerset Blog where I was delighted to read posts from Marti Hearst, an associate professor in the School of Information at UC-Berkeley, and Doug Cutrell, a Powerset engineer.

Language has always been fascinating to me, and one of the things that has been frustrating with search engines is having to think through a series of search terms in order to find useful information. I got a crash course in search terms when I worked in online marketing, and after you do it enough, it becomes second nature. You start to wonder what is wrong with people who can't seem to find useful information on the Web. One word searches are out! It's the two, three, sometimes four-word phrases that bring up the results you want. The trick is to find the right combination, or search phrase.

Now working as a communications consultant, language has taken on a different meaning. Writing procedures requires being exact in language, directing the end user through a specific set of steps to achieve a specific end result. A systematic execution, if you will. Search, if you think about it, is random. You have an idea of what you're looking for, and type in words you think apply to the idea and continue doing so until you find useful information. Most people call that trial and error. With practice comes improvement, but in the end, it is still trial and error.

Powerset seems to me to be taking a more systematic execution approach to search, first by removing the guesswork involved and second by appealing to the natural use of language, as in full statements, questions, etc. instead of a random mix of keywords that may or may not produce the desire result.

Makes me wonder if the days of audio search, where I will be dictating a procedure and have to search for something online simply by speaking the phrase or sentence, is closer than originally thought.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Google Book Sharing Not the First

There's this post on the Google Blog about enhancements to its book search, namely the ability to create a "virtual bookshelf." That's all fine and dandy, and it being Google, undoubtedly the searchability is good.

But this isn't the first "virtual bookshelf" that you can share with others, and I doubt it will be the last. There is another website called Sheflari that lets you find, collect and share books in a "virtual bookshelf," and exchange comments, reviews and suggestions with other users. You can embed your Shelfari into your website, blog or online profile as well.

I've been using Shelfari to being a digital catalog of all the books I have read. It's turned out to be a bit of an undertaking as I have lists strewn about of the 100s of books I have read, and a journal of sorts I received as a gift to chronicle the books I have read, favorite passages, books I want to read, etc. There is something more gratifying about updating my Shelfari page and then seeing who else has read the same book, what they have to say about it and making a connection.

Google's addition to its Book Search has the same potential, and is yet another example of Google knowing anything and everything about you. Maybe you don't mind, but I have second thoughts about putting all my eggs, as it were, in one basket. That, and there isn't the information overload with Shelfari as there is with Google Books.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Time, Money and Resources

Google and the American Blind and Wallpaper Factory have settled the trademark infringement lawsuit. And then there is the article about news wires like the AP agreeing to license news feeds to Google.

All of this fits well with an article in The Economist: Who is Afraid of Google?

The answer seems to be no one. Google has demonstrated, on more than one occasion, it has enough time, money and resources to fight any and every lawsuit hurled at it. Google also has the time, money and resources to impose its will on governmental agencies, and play an increasingly larger role in the shaping of public policy to fit its own agenda, only under the guise of improving information flow for the masses.

There is its post on patent reform, its lengthy posts on the telecom spectrum, all of which sounds very much like running commentary on governmental policies that pertain to technology, except that the commentary is coming from a source that millions of people blindly trust.

This issue came up on the "L" ride home from class last night, and at a dinner party I attended over the weekend. My generation and younger have no qualms about freely posting information about ourselves to the Internet, or freely sharing information via searches with engines like Google. And, if you think about it, if you use any of Google's free services, Google has even more information about you. I have yet to read somewhere that says something along the lines of Google employees not being able to read your documents or your email or access Google Checkout account information.

Makes you wonder exactly what kind of security, if any, they use to monitor employees access to customer information, as it were. For all I know, a Google employee has been joyfully reading my email, and checking every so often to read the next chapter of my novel.

What it boils down to is that people in my generation and younger have decided to make a trade off: less control over personal information for convenient accessibility anywhere. Using something like Google Docs & Spreadsheets, or ZoHo (which actually has a much better interface, more options and is more user-friendly) gives me the convince of being able to work from any computer with a browser and an Internet connection, but in return, I have to provide what amounts to personal information to which ever online document client I choose.

With all the news in recent weeks about databases being hacked, such as Monster and Loyola University-Chicago, I wonder if a few of these aren't warm-ups, testing hacks to get at the wealth of information stored in search engines. Some might say no place is safe, and that it is only a matter of time.

Which makes you wonder, would search engines notify you of the possibility of compromised information, or are we really better off using Google Docs & Spreadsheets just to keep notes or reminders, and not to keep anything useful or important? Afterall, with Microsoft Word documents, you're major security concern is just your laptop, which is more often than not completely in your possession.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Delta's Blog: Under the Wing

I read about this first from the Freakonomics blog on NYT, and after performing a search on the Delta website, it's true.

Delta has joined the blogosphere with Under the Wing.

The big problem, at least for me, was finding the blog on the website in the first place. There isn't a link on the home page, and none of the drop down menus were of any help. Neither was the Site Map. I had to perform a search using "under the wing" to find it. There isn't much up there at the time of this posting, but there is an interesting post on its boarding music. It never fails that I hear a song I like but have no idea the title nor the artist, and end up repeating a phrase over and over again so I remember it when I have the opportunity to sit down at a computer and search for the lyric to find the title of the song and the artist.

Delta, in its drive for better customer service, has created an iMix in iTunes for its boarding music. What an awesome idea. I check play lists of radio stations such as Q101 to figure out what song was playing, or what the name of a particular song is when I know the artist. Song titles don't always follow logic.\

The blog itself looks professional and adheres to the design sense of the Delta website. The blog is created using WordPress, which seems to be the favorite blogging tool for businesses.

It will be interesting to see if other airlines enter the blogosphere, if they haven't already. The constant string of poor airline customer service and just horrific airline travel in general has been buzzing around the blogosphere for awhile, certainly causing damage to online reputations.

We shall have to see what comes of airline blogs....

Friday, July 20, 2007

Brief Update

So it's been awhile since I've posted anything. Things have been rather crazy all the way round since my acceptance to the M.S. program in Information Technology Law at John Marshall. I forgot how much preparation goes into school, not mention the fact that it is graduate school so there is even more paperwork and stuff to do. And work has really picked up with large projects and roll outs happening.

Plenty has been going on, from the release of the long anticipated iPhone to the broadband issues (posted everywhere on the Official Google Blog and then the Google Public Policy Blog. Talk about duplicate content!) and the frenzy of media acquisitions. The Internet, for now, seems to be the only place where more than one voice is heard. Certainly not in newspapers or magazines since, well, they are all owned by Murdoch and 4 other people. Limited perspective anyone?

A guy I know said that Google should start acquiring large media giants so, at the very least, information is all in one spot, even if it ends up being the same information. He thinks Google will shift to being more of acquisition company and less of a technology company. As gigantic corporations continually demonstrate, why do the work yourself when you can buy people to do it for you? Or so he says.

Just as Google's slogan "Don't be Evil" is taken cum grano salis, so must its blah blah blah about search being its top priority. Isn't the company about innovation, which requires change and adaptation? To organize the world's information, won't it need to change and adapt?

Oops. Right. We're talking about Google. The world is supposed to change and adapt to it. My bad.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Google Public Policy Blog...with Comments!

I was reading The Caucus blog on the New York Times website this morning, and apparently YouTube's "redesign" has replaced user's picks with editor's choices, no doubt because of the flood of copyright infringement notices it receives every day. Editors have a much more discerning eye (we hope) for potential copyright infringement or potential lawsuits, so it only stands to reason that the glory of user-generated content would be muffled a bit by people paid to keep popular but illegal videos off the front page, as it were, and stash it somewhere in the back of the paper so people really have to dig for it. Given the short attention span of today, if it's not on page 2, it's of little interest.

Not surprising, really, as YouTube and Google have said they are working on filtering out copyrighted material. What better way to catch more of it than to remove the choice of the people?

Anyway, what caught my attention on the Google Blog while looking for some comment about YouTube's "redesign" was the Google Public Policy Blog. With articles in the news recently about immigration, and Google being a tech company it relies heavily on foreign workers, it doesn't surprise me Google has created such a blog. What surprises me is how long it took! Though, apparently, it was an internal blog and only recently went public.

The difference between the public policy blog and other Google blogs, however, is that the public policy blog allows comments. Comments! Interesting, don't you think? You can comment on Google's public policy. Not a hint of irony in that at all.

The blog touches on a range of issues you expect: immigration, censorship as a barrier to trade, the always popular debate on net neutrality and it's, how should I put this, unwillingness to support one candidate or party in this upcoming election. The Googleplex, as the blog makes readers know, has hosted both Mayor Bloomberg and potential Democratic candidate John Edwards. Sort of makes you think that Google will support a candidate, just before the election, who will make Google's policies law. Google's policies law, as in, for the USA.

Google and politics could turn out to be rather interesting. If you think about, big corporations always choose sides, and they always choose the side that best suits them. Little wonder that with a Republican president and, up until the this year, a Republican Congress, the broken up Bell companies are forming into one again. Mergers are occurring all over the place, giving big business back to the few.

Some see it as necessary against the onslaught of competition from abroad. Safety in numbers, as it were. Larger corporations have a better shot of staying competitive against overseas corporations than smaller ones, so it only makes sense to build up again. I believe the term for that is cycle.

At any rate, the Google Public Policy Blog ought to be very interesting, espousing the wisdom of Google and it tries to makes its public policy law. If it succeeds, I doubt those laws will stop at the US borders. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if international standards become more than a whisper, and other countries take Google's public policy at face value and adopt it as their own.

Hopefully people will stop and think, weigh the options, see if Google's policies will in fact be helpful rather than hurtful, but, well, that just might be asking too much now, don't you think? Why think for yourself when Google does the thinking for you?

Then again, with the comments enabled on the public policy blog, it gives the impression that people are still allowed to have independent thought. You don't agree with what has been posted, then, by all means, leave a comment. Google will take your comment into consideration and then figure out a way to spin the idea so that it sounds exactly like that you wanted to hear in the first place!

Maybe. Maybe not. Course, you can also think of Google's enabling of comments on its public policy blog as caving into its users who have clamored to comment on Google blogs but have been forced to do so in blogs like this one.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Of Camera Dectors and Cameras at Intersections

It is no secret, here in the city of Chicago, that the whole point of putting up cameras at "high risk" intersections to catch more people running red lights and breaking the law in order to write more tickets to meet whatever budget quota has been assigned to further stuff the pockets of politicians in this Windy City.

As a Chicago Tribune article today quotes Ald. Edward Burke (14th: "Revenue from the $90 fines at camera-guarded intersections "is budgeted in our annual appropriation ordinance," the alderman said. "That is why all these cameras are being installed. ... The reality is that people blow through these intersections and they are going to be caught and they are going to be fined. It has become a big revenue source, absolutely."

So it is of little surprise that he is in arms over a new device from Cobra Electronics that warns drivers of upcoming intersections that have cameras. Such a device has the potential to put a significant dent in the $19.8 million dollars collected in fines from drivers who run red lights.

Alderman Burke's insistence on a ban of such a device makes it clear that he is more interested in meeting a quota than actually helping to save the lives of his constituents. Never mind the cost to tax payers when accidents do happen, whether a fender bender or a fatality. Never mind people's blatant disregard for red lights and the cameras. As long as he gets hi $19.8 million plus, he's happy.

God for bid any piece of technology that would benefit drivers, pedestrians and cops prevent him from getting that $19.8 million plus.

And I keep expecting the next feature added to Google Maps to include the marking of intersections that have cameras. You can already add traffic, so why not include intersections with cameras as well?

Friday, June 15, 2007

Google Oogling...at You

I found this cartoon first on the editorial page of the Chicago Tribune and thought it was quite fitting. Went well with an editorial today from Steve Johnson called "Street View: The Creepy Side of Google." He says:
The transition for Google is now nearly complete.

The lovable Internet start-up with the "do-no-evil" motto and the cute, seasonably changeable logo has transformed into something more ominous.

Google is now keeper of our private search data, whether we want it to or not; chronicler of our hard drives, if we let it; exploiter of our newspapers; digitizer of every book it can get its hands on; and, now, photographer of our ordinary, on-street activities, from sunbathing to visiting a strip club.

It's this last, the recent arrival of the Street View feature as an enhancement of Google Maps and Google Earth, that has proved to be the tipping point, or, more accurately, demonstrated that a tipping point had already occurred.

Yes, Google's Street View seems to have made people rather uneasy. Since its launch, it has been covered extensively in the news and around the blogosphere. Seems we didn't have a problem with Google keeping our search history (and we already know it won't be turned over to the government. Google will fight such a request first, providing time to cover our tracks, so to speak), searching our hard drives for information we know is there we just can't remember where we put it, and why bother hopping from one news website to another when there is Google News that presents it all at once?

But being able to see ourselves on the street, through our apartment or office window, is unexpected. The novelty is quickly wearing off. But Mr. Johnson does make a valid point: "surveillance cameras blinking from above intersections and camera phones in many pockets" is making privacy non-existent. The next thing to expect is for law enforcement to use Street View in conjunction with its surveillance cameras, perhaps to strengthen a case going to court. It's not beyond the realm of possibility, now is it?

There will be little any of us will be able to do that won't be captured and posted on the Internet for the world to see, whether we like it or not. But just think, if Kevin Bankston, a privacy lawyer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, can be caught smoking, it makes you wonder who else you might be able to spot, whether it be Googlers, the founding members of Google or anyone else you've wondered about...oh wait....right....that information has probably been filtered out already. Silly me. I forgot. Google only wants to invade everyone else's privacy under the guise of "helpfulness in navigation," not their own. My bad.

Mr. Johnson closes by asking:
Whether Google ends up doing that will serve as a pretty good test for which Google it wants to be. Rich, but still, to the best of its abilities, a good neighbor? Or the kind of rich it's verging on already, the rich that forgets how it got all that money in the first place?

It stands to reason, considering most large corporations forget, that Google will continue down the path of the rich that forgets how it got all the money in the first place. But it's so good at keeping us all occupied with that right hand of righteousness, we'll feed the machine without giving it a second thought.

Really, what business today can survive without Google? Just like few that sell retail items can survive without the business it receives from Wal-Mart.

Somewhere, someone is paying close attention to signs of fractures in Google, just as someone, somewhere, was paying attention to fractures in Wal-Mart. After all, nothing lasts forever.

Monday, June 4, 2007

The Google Story: Google's Secrect Open to the Public

Google has many blogs run by its many fractured departments, and one of them is the Google Research Blog. Not kept updated nearly as often as the Google Blog, but it presented me with this rather interesting post on videos.

One of them is about "The Google Story", a book written by David Vise and Mark Malseed and published in August of 2006. I read in December of 2006. He was invited to Google to speak about the book and his reasons for writing it.

What struck me as funny, however, was at the beginning with Eric Schmidt is introducing him and saying the book is a "best seller." I couldn't help but laugh, and I'm willing to bet Mr. Schmidt said it with a good deal of sarcasm. The book is practically invisible on any bookshelf, which is a shame. It appears, however, more than John Battelle's equally interesting book "The Search: How Google and its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed Our Culture".

"The Google Story" is most likely going to be the only definitive inside look at Google. Mr. Vise is correct when he states the "Google knows more about you than you know about Google" and though his efforts to bridge that gap should be applauded, it still falls short when you measure the information in the book against the amount of information that Google collects on just a daily basis. He, like the rest of us (myself included to some extent), has been enamored of Google, and his book exudes praise that no doubt anger privacy advocates. It is not until you put his book together with Mr. Battelle's that you begin to see the bigger picture, all the pieces coming more into focus. Search is on track to fulfill the predictions made by Mr. Battelle, and Google is leading the way as Mr. Vise discusses.

It strikes me as odd that a company that receives so much publicity, both good and bad, has a book out on it that has not climbed as high up the Amazon ladder as one might expect, or even appear on the bookshelf in any prominent fashion. Sort of makes you wonder if Google has had a hand in this, not publicizing the book and not necessarily making it invisible either. I have argued more than once that Google wants to make all the world's information free to the public, except its own.

"The Google Story" seems to fly in the face of that argument, in a sense, as a great of information about the company is presented that you don't find anywhere else. The book is perhaps one of Google's best kept secrets that is open to the public.

So why haven't you read it yet?

Friday, June 1, 2007

Street Level -- Online Courtesy of Google Earth

Amazing what happens when you don't interact with the Internet for an entire day. I checked the news this morning, and low and behold, Google has created more controversy with its new StreetView feature in Google Maps.

The New York Times ran an article about a woman who saw her cat sitting in the windowsill of her apartment. The Lede chimes in with a host of things you can see using the new service.

The mention of seeing license plates got me thinking. If you can see the street view of anything, or almost anything, then what can you gleam from the Googleplex itself? License plates of the vehicles parked nearest the street? License plates of cars parked in front of the building? What companies make deliveries? Construction? Maybe, even, a glimpse of Googlers doing any of the things the company toutes so much on its website? Perhaps one of founders in the flesh?

And, no doubt, the papparazzi will take note of this new feature, and use it to help them spot celebrities, or catch people in the act of something that may or may not be what it seems.

Really. How ironic would it be to catch a senior member of Google in a questionable act using its own technology? And if not, then one has to question if Google is keeping itself off limits, removing or controlling information of itself in all areas of the Web.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, Google is all about making the world's information free, as long as the world's information does not include Google. And when the world is so enamored of a company, it can do no wrong.

I keep waiting for Congress to enact the "Google Laws" that will govern the Internet.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Posting from a BlackBerry

OK. I am waiting to meet some friends for dinner on this hot evening and thought I would try posting from my BlackBerry. It's pretty cool, actually, though if I could dictate instead of type, that would be even cooler.

Will Google come up with dictation technology for this type of thing? Who knows, but it would be cool. And maybe such a thing already exists.

I am a fan of the BlackBerry though. I had it out the other day and my boss said that I'm such a geek. A closet geek, I corrected. Slowly coming out and embracing T geekiness.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Google's Personalized Search: Are We Really in Control?

The esteemed Peter Fleischer, Global Privacy Counsel, posted this little nugget on the Google blog which, obviously, sparked my interest in his opinion piece for the Financial Times. Ignoring a few grammatical errors and quite a few spacing issues (we hope that have more to do with FT than Mr. Fleischer), the article does a fairly good job of quietly dosing the fire of privacy concerns that have arisen since Google's bid to acquire DoubleClick (for another ridiculous amount of money)and its change in its data retention policy.

Mr. Fleischer states that "the responsible way to handle this privacy issue is to ask users if they want to opt in to the service." He goes on to explain that when you open a Google account, you are giving your consent to Google Personalized Search, or "opting in" to the service. And just like email marketing campaigns, you can still "opt out." The point, however, is that the user is in control, which for some sounds a little odd coming from a company like Google. Control, by its nature, is a facade. No one is really "in control," some just manipulate better than others so the illusion of control seems all the more real.

I always think of that scene from "Jurassic Park," where Hammond and Ellie are sitting at a long table, trying to eat up the melting ice cream, and Hammond talks about the next time, "when we have control," to which Ellie points out "but we never have control." Giving the pace of technology, you have to pause for a moment and ask, do we really have control over our search history?

Google certainly wants to make that facade look real. After all, you can turn off the "Search History" function. You don't even need to "pause" it, just use the "Remove all" or "Delete all" function and once it erases your search history, it automatically pauses the service so no more search data can be found. But is it really gone? Has it really been erased?

If you're spent anytime in the online world, you know things aren't ever really "erased." Things still exist, somewhere. And some day, a curious, enterprising individual for reasons unknown, may want to find that information that you believed had been erased. Deleted. You remember deleting your search history, pausing the function and sleeping easier. After all, Google puts your in control of your search history, right?

On a final note, a little bit of humor found on Digg: "Google in 20 years".

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

"Information Overload"

I was reading this article in the New York Times today that discusses the "the postsearch wave, the Internet ad market 2.0" and it reminded me of two things. First, display ads are appearing more often now on websites like NTY, Chicago Tribune, PC Magazine and the like. Advertisers have figured out that pop-ups are annoying, so the ads appear within the page, the "close" button often blending in quite nicely so it's hard to find. Drop downs are gaining in popularity as well; those ads that when you roll over them, the bottom drops, presenting you with a complete ad. The graphics have come along way, some of the ads are kind of cool, but I'm starting to be more careful where I place my mouse.

The second thing that popped into my head as I was reading the article was "information overload," a phrase that seems to be tossed around quite a bit these days. Information seems to be reaching that economy of scale, with hardware, software and broadband connections getting cheaper by the day so more and more people have access to tools and information, essentially giving everyone a platform from which to do what they please. The amount of information presented on the Web at any given time is staggering, and, unlike watching CNN which repeats the same news all day long, there is always something different.

It is difficult to NOT be informed these days, and find random nuggets of information that may prove beneficial down the line.

Economies of scale. It's no longer about leveling the playing field, but becoming unique. Everyone has the opportunity now, and can watch or read about others and learn. Information as at the finger tips.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

"I" in Front of Everything

OK. I'm not entirely sure of this phenomenon, though it seems to be catching on a little faster than tacking on "-ability" to the end of every word.

The letter "i," lower case, has become a staple in front of words that used to stand on their own just fine. There is the portal and search engine iWon that gives away cash prizes, giving some weight to the "iWon" name. The search engine has remained in relative obscurity, few taking notice of the "i" in front of "Won."

Then Apple came along with its "i" products, most notably the iPod and iTunes. Even if you just Google the letter "i," Apple's iTunes page is the first result. And let's not all forget the iPhone, the latest offering in the Apple "i" product line. Too bad there won't be "iTV." We have to settle for "Apple TV", but hey, can't win them all.

Apple, however, no longer corners the market on useful products that start with "i." Google has joined the mix with "iGoogle," the new name of the Personalized Home Page. Of all the companies overflowing with originality, I guess I expected a little more from Google. I figured Google to be a trend setter, not a follower.

On the surface of things, "iGoogle" does seem to follow a trend established and used rather effectively by Apple. The rest of the world rides the coat tails of Google, after all, so shouldn't Google be able to ride someone else's for once? But to leave it at that would do an injustice to language, the word Google and the letter "i," lower case.

Where Apple slapped an "i" in front of "Tunes," "Pod" and "Phone" for reasons that make sense to someone at Apple, Google's use of the letter "i," lower case, creates a sentence: "iGoogle," meaning "I Google."

Call it a declaration. "iGoogle" signifies that you, a user, declare Google to be your search engine of choice. And, generally, you search. Google, besides being an obnoxiously large corporation, is also a verb. Apple, however, is a fruit. You consume Apple. It's passive. Google, well, that requires thinking and typing and more thinking and typing until you find what you want.

Words are Google's business, falling under the more accepted term of "search," and what better declaration to make than "iGoogle."

The Position Angle

Surprise! As reported by the Chicago Tribune, and other media outlets, Google is fighting Viacom's $1 billion copyright infringement law suit against YouTube.

Google, not surprisingly, is arguing "safe harbor" under the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act, claiming "Viacom’s complaint threatens the way hundreds of millions of people legitimately exchange information, news, entertainment, and political and artistic expression." In other words, Google is positioning itself as the defender of freedom of information and freedom of the Internet while casting Viacom as the destroyer of those freedoms.

You have to hand it to Google's legal team for always positioning the company on the angle of freedom of the Internet, of information, etc. And since Internet law, is, well, murky at best, Google is on the verge of writing Internet law that we will all have to live with, whether we like it or not. You could almost say we've been brainwashed by Google, and lured into a false sense of security that will be sealed by "Google Laws" so we're trapped.

Contrast Google's growing legal track record of the "freedom position angle" against Microsoft, another gigantic technology company quite familiar with the court system, in more than one country. Doesn't seem to matter what angle Microsoft tries to present, it always comes out sounding like a control freak, and further cements its reputation as the "evil empire," or the corporation everyone loves to hate.

It would be absolutely fascinating to compare the legal teams of both corporations and see what is about Google's team that everyone seems to love, and how they are consistently able to cast the other party as the evil-doer, even when there is a gray area that casts a very dark shadow over the colorful Google logo. And what is it about the Microsoft legal team that seems to perpetuate the "evil empire" persona?

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Google Domination One Piece of Land at a Time

I saw a snippet on Digg earlier today and then took a break for a moment read and the full post at Search Engine Land. Google buying up chunks of land in out-of-the-way places in order to continue building its vast network of server farms is nothing new. What seems to be new, however, is the mention of these purchases, or even rumors of these purchases, in the media.

There is another story about Council Bluffs, IA, providing tax breaks to Google in order to entice it to build a server farm there.

Does this acquiring of land sound familiar to any other big corporation who also receives ridiculous tax breaks in order to build and provide jobs? Hmm...and how there is always a debate if the corporation really does provide jobs and an influx of dollars at the expense of local business?

Is Google becoming the next Wal-Mart?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

eBay Account Compromised. Surprise. Surprise.

I got this email today from eBay:
In an effort to protect your eBay account security, we have suspended your account until such time that it can be safely restored to you. We have taken this action because your password may have been compromised. Sometimes this happens when members respond to an email asking for personal information. Although those emails appear to come from eBay, they are really sent by people attempting to gain access to your account. Although we cannot disclose our investigative procedures that led to this conclusion, please know that we took this action in order to maintain the safety of your account.

Please change the password that you use on the EMAIL account that you have registered to your eBay account. Make sure that it is also different from the password that you use on your eBay account. By doing this we can ensure that you are the only one that can access any further communication we may have with you.

Once you have taken steps to secure your email, please contact our Live Help team for assistance restoring access to your account. You can reach the Account Theft Live Help team by viewing the page below:


Programs that block pop-up windows may prevent you from accessing Live Help. If this is the case, you may be able to temporarily disable the program or configure the program to allow pop-ups on the eBay site in order to use Live Help. Additionally, Live Help may not work with some web browsers. If you continue to experience difficulties, you may be able to use Live Help by updating your browser to the most recent version or by using a different program to access the eBay site.

If you are unable to contact eBay through Live Help after taking these steps, respond directly to this message to request assistance. We will contact you by email after we have received your response.

Please be aware that there may be a delay in responses sent by email. In order to handle your concern as quickly and efficiently as possible, we encourage you to contact us through Live Help if you are able to do so.


eBay Trust & Safety

I haven't used my eBay account in a long time, and I constantly get SPAM email that tries to be eBay in a Gmail account. I know, too, that it is SPAM, because no Gmail account is connected to my eBay account.

So I went to try and sign in. Couldn't remember my password so I tried to retrieve it but the answers I put in for security questions turned out to be incorrect. How that's possible, well, I didn't know at the time.

Turns out, when eBay suspends your account for whatever reason, the answers to your "security" questions become invalid. There is no way to retrieve your password and log back in without going through their LiveHelp. And if you haven't updated your account information, you're screwed.

And, if you've already tried to retrieve your password a few times, and you follow the instructions on the email eBay sends you, you can't. You're locked out.

Talk about a very annoying, tedious process. And I'm supposed to believe this is all for my safety and well being. Except eBay doesn't discuss anything related to the "breach" of security, so there is no way of knowing what happened, how it happened and what they're doing to prevent it from happening again.

You know, I'm starting to think Google is more trustworthy than eBay. Google, oddly enough, is more transparent about its efforts to combat SPAM, unauthorized access, etc. Not a whole transparent, but enough so that the perception that they are pro actively doing something is real.

So when is Google going to further step into the eBay pool?

Googling Boyfriend and Finding America's Most Wanted

I found this story on Digg this morning about a woman who Googled her boyfriend and discovered he was on the list for America's Most Wanted.

Law enforcement has turned to the Internet and to search engines from time to time in an effort to find information on fugitives, suspected criminals, spammers and every day citizens. It's a treasure trove at your finger tips and can yield useful information.

But now we can all be a little bit more aware of online selves, and perform those vanity searches from time to time. Corporations have started doing it to monitor online reputation, and with information gathered about you every time you log on, it isn't a bad idea to do it yourself every once in awhile. It's right up there with monitoring your credit score. Better to be proactive then to wait until something happens and fight the uphill battle of proving that you are, in fact, you.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Video Conferencing for Googlers First, the Rest of the World Later?

With Adobe Acrobat Connect (formerly Macromedia and then Adobe Breeze) and WebEx (recently acquired by Cisco), it is really of little surprise that Google is putting its muscle into the online conferencing and collaboration arena.

They have announced the acquisition of Marratech, "which will enable from-the-desktop participation for Googlers in videoconference meetings wherever there's an Internet connection."

The interesting world here is "Googlers." That implies that only Google employees, commonly referred to as Googlers, will be using videoconferencing features from Marratech. That strikes me as a little out of the ordinary for a company bent on making the world's information accessible and free, not to mention its drive towards knocking Microsoft off of its Office pedestal. You can even argue that this particular post strengthens the case that the Google Blog isn't a blog as we've come to know, but rather a public corporate bulletin board.

Still, you have to wonder if Google is going to use its employees as test subjects to see how well this videoconferencing software works before opening it up to the public. You can bet that businesses everywhere will want to use this service, and that Google will offer it for free like its Docs & Spreadsheets and its forthcoming presentation capability that takes square aim, again, at Microsoft.

The day is fast approaching when the desktop Operating System as we know it will be obsolete. It won't come as a surprise is Google replaces Microsoft as the "Big Brother" everyone loves to hate. The next "evil corporation."

That identity, however, could very well depend on how Google dances around rising concerns of consumer/user privacy and data collection. Ever notice how there are always posts on hacks and bugs and other issues with Microsoft products, people demonstrating how to breach security and infiltrate the latest Microsoft OS? Yet there doesn't seem to be much on how to hack Google and get ahold of its treasure trove of data. Is it that no one has tried, or is it that many have tried and failed? Or has it happened but Google being Google, the information control freak, has managed to prevent an information leak?

All that data in one place has to make you ask yourself: what happens when all my data stored by Google is compromised?

Remember, there are only two certainties in life: death and taxes. So an information breach at Google, or any other company that stores vast amounts of data, is not completely out of the question.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

DoubleClick Acquistion All About Revenue

Surprise. Surprise. Google has acquired yet another Internet company: DoubleClick.

Ignoring the clear punctuation error at the end of the answer, this question and answer from Google's Q&A sums it up:
Q. How should this acquisition be viewed given Google's recent attention to alternate revenue streams? Is Google once again concentrating on its core advertising business?
A. The sale of advertising displayed on Google and on other sites across the web has always been the fundamental model for our business. This partnership is an obvious opportunity to expand our ads business and have a positive impact on our search users in the process?

Translation: a way for Google to make more money! There are no immediate plans to change the business model of DoubleClick, meaning there are no immediate plans to get rid of DoubleClick's profitability and turn it into another free product offering from Google.

Naturally, both Yahoo! and Microsoft are crying foul, and requesting the Federal Trade Commission look closely at this acquisition for possible anti-trust violations. And there is that ever-pressing issue of privacy.

Google and DoubleClick might very well corner the market, as it were, on user information. Of course, it is all under the guise of providing the best and most relevant ads to Web content publishers and advertisers. The Web has allowed advertisers to track audiences like no other medium, getting the goods on people that TV, radio and print could only dream about acquiring.

We all know Google flat out refuses to share information with the United States government, and fights the US government on everything. But Google also has been known to bend to the whim of foreign nations, and there is no guarantee that this growing treasure trove of information will remain secure.

Big Brother, it seems, is now a worldwide phenomenon. And has very deep pockets of information as well as money.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Where on the Web Is Matt Lauer, and the Benefits of TV Shows on the Web

I found this article in the New York Times today about Matt Lauer and his travels. NBC has developed an interactive Flash website devoted to following Matt around on the world on his travels.

The whole website is sponsored by Hyundai, and is pretty cool. There is even a game with is reminiscent of "Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?"

I must admit that I have turned more and more to the Web to watch TV shows. I am not home much during the week when TV shows I watch, like "Grey's Anatomy," "CSI," and "The Office" are on. I used to tape them and spend my Saturday afternoon catching up, but taping become a cumbersome task I stopped doing and fell behind. There was benefit in NetFlix, but by the time I catch up on one season, I'm behind two!

Then I saw a rerun of "Grey's" on a Friday night when I was one, and there was a blurb saying that you can watch the show online. I've been doing that ever since, and found that other networks also had shows on the Web. So now I don't have to worry about setting the VCR, I don't have to wait the length of a season to catch up on a season and I don't miss out on my favorite shows.

I simply turn to the Web, and all is well. And sometimes, I watch shows out of curiosity that I would normally skip to watch something else on TV.

Technology can be a beautiful thing.

Monday, April 2, 2007

To Infinity, and Beyond

BBspot is, indeed, a tech humor website. I came across this article, "Google Response to Yahoo by Increasing Gmail Storage to Infinity Plus One," on Digg. And though it is amusing, it doesn't seem that far from reality. It sounds outrageous enough, actually, to be Google, that to hear of it in the future wouldn't be so shocking.

Don't know if it's quite on the level of humor as posts from T.V. Raman, the Research Scientist at Google who is blind. He seems to have a very good grasp of visuals for someone not able to see, and takes very good pictures too, better than some pictures of people I know who can see.

Don't get the wrong idea. Nothing against the man, no offense meant. He is very insightful, but his posts often make me think he has help, more help than he lets on. He does good work. No one can argue that.

Ah. Check that out. John Hanke's post was fixed. It had just showed his name, which was odd since all the other Google posts show the author's name and his or her position at Google. You could pretty much guess that he worked with Google Maps, but was he just an engineer, a software developer, or did he hold a higher position within Google Maps? Turns out the man is the Director of Google Maps/Local/Earth.

That's a curious title. Director of Google Maps/Local/Earth. Is there a Director of Google Maps/Local/Neptune? Or Google Maps/Local/Venus? Or any of the other planets? Stars? Galaxies? Hmm...could there be somewhere in the cosmos that is still untouched by Google?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Lorem Ipsum Employment Law

A friend with time and money on his hands, spends his time trolling the Internet for random stuff. He found this while trolling and it struck me as funny.

It's the website of an employment law firm, and something must've gone somewhere since their page related to has placement holder text on it. Ha! A law firm, an employment law firm, has placement text on its live website. That's funny. And how embarrassing for the law firm, and the web design company, assuming they even know about it.

Sort of makes you wonder what else is a "place holder" on that website, doesn't it? And who exactly wasn't paying attention? The law firm? Or whatever company designed the website? I'd think twice about hiring either one!

Or maybe they've noticed by now and fixed it.

Anyway, it was a good chuckle. Thanks JJ!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Google the Internet Equivalent of Wal-Mart?

Yes, so, we're all excited about Google's new "privacy" initiatives. Even Google, who is "pleased to report [the] change in [its] privacy policy." The more I read about Google, the more it strikes me as a company made of contradictions.

So imagine my surprise when I saw "Google Is Reviving Hopes for Ex-Furniture Makers" in the New York Times this morning. A rather liberal use of the phrase "reviving hopes" once you read the article, and it made me think: is Google the Internet Equivalent of Wal-Mart? The promise of new jobs overshadows the enormous tax breaks and other incentives such companies are given just to move into an area. And then the article mentions commissioners going door-to-door to 35 homeowners, asking them to sell their land so Google can have it.

So let's see, Google is taking advantage of the following in Lenoir, N.C.,

1) Underused electric power grid
2) Cheap land (sold to it by residents of Lenoir)
3) A robust water supply

Hmm....perhaps Google has been closely watching Wal-Marts efforts to expand, and the roadblocks Wal-Mart has run into in recent years.

Well, if any gigantic public company is good at pulling the wool over the eyes of the public, it is Google. People are so fascinated by the right hand, they forget about the left. No wonder Google blazes trails everywhere.

We shall see how this Lenoir server farm deal plays out, and what plays from the Wal-Mart expansion play book Google will use to its advantage. Too bad it couldn't find acres of open land, like Disney found in Florida so many years ago to build its own country: Disney World.

Friday, March 9, 2007

SPAM on the Brain

It's been reported in the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, on the Google Blog and, of course, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission website: The S.E.C. is taking steps to curb those rather annoying stock SPAM email messages we all get. It's called "Operation Spamalot," and I'm waiting to see if there are going to be issues of copyright for the name "Spamalot" since it is also the name of Monty Python's musical.

With all the hoopla around spam and scams, it still baffles me that people take such email messages seriously, and the amount of money such spammers make off these deals. Seems like there is more money to be made in spam than in legit email marketing, but either way, you're selling something and the offer is only as good as the salesperson.

Google's toting of Gmail's superior spamming catching is interesting as well. I use the "Report Spam" feature early and often, yet I still see the same spam messages appear in my Inbox. Stuff on Home Loans, College Loans, going to college for free, being a guest on the Oprah Whinfrey Show, Medial Hair Restoration, the list goes on.

Not that much appears in my other email accounts with .Mac, and spam in Yahoo! comes from people spamming Yahoo! Groups.

Google does catch more spam than it did, evidence by the 400+ emails that are always in the SPAM folder ever day.

Just goes to show that there are smarter people still out there, able to manipulate code and fool email clients to get their message across. And to the tune of a nice profit, in some instances.

So what would happen if we all became spammers?

Monday, February 26, 2007

Google Building a Future Defense? Or Being Helpful?

How interesting to see this post from Google on Robots Exclusion Protocol. Anyone want to bet someone from legal said hey, we need to let people know about this so we have a defense against law suits from every which way about copyright infringement. So they next time media organizations sue them, they can point and say hey, did you do this?

Or maybe Google is just trying to be friendly and providing people everywhere with useful information how to prevent the illustrious Googlebot from indexing its pages.

Their motto is, after all, Don't Be Evil.

So what is the left hand doing now?

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton on MySpace

The Internet's impact on politics no longer goes unnoticed. We all remember bloggers being let in for the first time at the conventions, and though they were relegated to the rafters, their coverage was superior to that of the Networks and major media outlets.

So it has been of little surprise that Barack Obama has revamped his website and that Hillary Clinton has done the same. You'll notice similarities between them, as well as similarities between those websites and social networks like MySpace and Internet portals like Yahoo!.

And there there is this article in today's Chicago Tribune about campaigns creating pages on MySpace. Always curious, I went and did a search on MySpace, and sure enough, there is a Barack Obama page and corresponding group.

There is a Hillary Clinton page and, well, what looks like a humorous, spoof page.

So maybe this will be the year that the Internet plays a more prominent role in the election, and maybe, just maybe, it'll help bring out the younger generation who has so far been rather adverse to voting.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Obscure Reference? Subtle for the True Romantic? Or Just a Botched Sketch?

Found this post from Digg about the Google logo for this Valentine's Day and how it is possibly an obscure reference to Barnbe Googe, a 16th Century poet or of Debbie Googe of "My Bloody Valentine."

Google itself has weighed in on its Google Doodle, claiming "that those with true romance and poetry in their soul will see the subtlety immediately." Is that a defense for a botched Google Doodle?

Follow the link in my earlier post and there is a mention that the stem of the strawberry is supposed to be the "l" in Google.

Even if that is the case, it is still incorrectly placed.

It's not every day people question the Google logo, and the Web is certainly making the most of it. No doubt there are some people infuriated at the idea that Google believes they do not have any romance or poetry in their soul.

Which might beg one to answer: what does Google know about poetry and romance? And if they are all about making information free to the world, why are they unwilling, or reluctant, to share the meaning being the subtly of today's Google Doodle?

Then remember that Google wants to make information free to the world that does not pertain to Google. If you are watching the right hand, you'll forget what the left hand is doing.

I think this has generate more buzz than the closing and selling of the CitiCorp red umbrella, and proof that you can build and maintain a brand on the Internet. Just be careful what you sketch and post so as not to confuse users.

Business Jargon and the Economy

I was browsing the Chicago Tribune website and found this piece at the bottom of the Editorial Page.

As if the English language hasn't been bastardized enough, it seems to be perpetuated by people in high places and the Internet. Or so it would seem. People in high places often don't write their own stuff. They hire people, speech writers, to do that. And if you ever listen to people in high places speak, you often wonder from where they hired their speech writing staff. Convoluted University, perhaps?

Everything has to be softened, three and five-word phrases need to be used instead of one or two words. Simple sentences are replaced with run-ons and circular language.

There might be some truth to Ron Grossman's claim that "the further we advance into a world of poetic euphemisms and creative neologisms, the shakier our economy seems."

After all, We've heard the leader of today's free world speak. Watch the stock market the next time he gives a speech, and see what happens.

Google Spelling Issues Side Effect of Belgium Ruling?

Ha! I found this on Digg and then had to check for myself. Apparently Google has spelling issues today. The company name is missing a letter.

Maybe they are still upset about the ruling by a Belgium court that says that Google violated copyright laws. The post on the official Google Blog is a rather lackluster response. I like the "great value and provide critical information to Internet users" bit. I didn't know a news tease was critical information. Thanks, Google, for clarifying.

The other fun snippet is the "nearly universally accepted" standard of the robots.txt file. Except that the Googlebot doesn't always seem to follow info in the robotx.txt file. I always find it fascinating when they say it is the simplest way to avoid having certain pages or sections of a website indexed, only to find those exact pages or sections of a website indexed even though the robots.txt file says no. Of course, with Google's cache, it takes forever to get those pages completely removed, even when you make a request.

I'll agree that content providers need to ask for content to be removed, but I also think that going to the courts can be the quickest way to having the request fulfilled. We take telecommunications companies and others to court to get swift action, why not Internet companies like Google?

It will be interesting to see what happens to copyrighted content on the Web after this. Google has had its issues in China, and now it is running into walls in Europe. Understandable as there isn't universal copyright law, or universal enforcement of copyright law. No matter what, it is a slippery slope, and Google stumbled.

Will the company some day join the list of companies built on contradictions?

Feb. 2, 2007 UPDATE: An enterprising person by the name of "K" pointed out a spelling error: "snipet" is indeed spelled "snippet" and has since been corrected.

As for being a "Snarky chump," you can't know one until you've been one.

Thanks for the tip, K.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Jim Gray, Developer of Technology Behind Google Earth, Reported Missing

Saw this originally on Digg which reminded me of James Kim.

Let's hope for the best.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Google Video and YouTube Mutual Separation Marriage

Few people were surprised when Google bought YouTube in November of last year, though the sticker price raised quite a few eyebrows, made instant billionaires out of its founders and gave rise to a YouTube backlash on par with musicians "selling out."

So it is of little surprise that Google would take to its "blog" to try and bring some clarity to the Google Video vs YouTube acquisition challenge.

The two aren't exactly going to be married in the same may many people assumed: one would over take the other. Instead, it seems as if they agree to a mutual separation marriage. YouTube will continue to operate independently from Google and Google Video, but be given access to Google technology and support. Sounds more like a child from a poor family being adopted by a rich, have-anything family.

Clearly there are changes in store for Google Video, which begs one to wonder if Google has decided to surrender to YouTube and just make Google Video a video search engine powerhouse. At least, that's what this paragraph seems to be suggesting:
Google search results already include links to content that's hosted on YouTube. Starting today, YouTube video results will appear in the Google Video search index: when you click on YouTube thumbnails, you will be taken to YouTube.com to experience the videos. Over time, Google Video will become even more comprehensive as it evolves into a service where you can search for the world's online video content, irrespective of where it may be hosted.

YouTube results show up in Google Video, and clicking on the thumbnail takes you to the video on YouTube. So if you search YouTube, does that mean Google Video clips will appear? Or will there be the same video clip on Google Video and YouTube? What do you suppose to be used to determine if the YouTube video or the Google Video should appear first?

Hmm...things to ponder....and it still remains to be seen if the legal troubles with YouTube start to diminish. YouTube is reaching out to the TV and film industries, trying to ink deals to distribute content and negate the mounting copyright lawsuits. Keeping YouTube as a separate entity, an "independent subsidiary," has its legal justifications and pitfalls, but makes sense.

We shall see....as the sage continues....

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Funny "Apple's New Product" Contest

From the Poguemyster at NYT, a blurb about a contest at Worth1000.com that is asking for designs for Apple products that don't exist.

Take a look at it here.

Some of them are really funny and quite clever, with a good play on words or phrases. Some are overdone and get rather redundant.

My favorites include the "iSuck" vacuum and the "iRol."

And yes David, the "iRon" is also good. And so is the "iGlu" but enough. See for yourself. Entertaining stuff!

Monday, January 22, 2007

"Time for Me to U-Turn"

Found this on Digg.

Depending on what you read from the comments, it's either quite accurate for driving around Jersey or one of a few amusing flaws in Google Maps.

Google Maps is fun to look at, but not very helpful in terms of giving accurate directions. I still think Yahoo! Maps is better, even more so than MapQuest. I have yet to get lost following Yahoo! Maps directions, which is more than can be said for Google Maps or MapQuest. I've used them all, and Yahoo! Maps just gets me there. Granted, none of them always choose the best route nor do they take into account road construction, which is the season that follows winter around here, but at least I know I won't be lead astray.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Google Earth for Something Good

Google Earth is a rather nifty product, and Google continues to update it with new features, no doubt more is coming with its NASA deal.

Certainly it has come under fire, like Google Maps, for providing a means by which terrorists and other angry people can locate government installations in an effort to destroy them. Or even find the dwellings of celebrities in order to better stalk and harass them. There are probably plenty of articles and blogs on the Internet related to that particular topic.

But Google Earth also gets used in the corporate world. I've seen it used on the Weather Channel and on CNN, providing a more enhanced image of areas I would not otherwise see.

And then there is this, which I originally found on Digg and found absolutely fascinating. We've heard year in and year out about the destruction of the Amazon rain forest. I can remember sitting in science classes in grade school and hearing about the destruction and looming danger because the Amazon produces a fair amount of oxygen for the planet.

The destructiveness never quite registered in my brain until I saw those images.

So Google Earth can, in fact, be used for something good and bring a more concrete understanding to something we have more than likely tuned out by now.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Pogue Humor

From David Pogue's Blog, Pogue's Posts, on the New York Times website:

Ode to the R.I.A.A.

Worth sharing, and just in case you haven't seen it yet, or don't read his blog to begin with, in which case you should start!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Terrorists Using Google Earth? Shocking

John Battelle has a post on his blog about a NY Post article and a more detailed one at the Telegraph about how terrorists are using Google Earth to locate British bases.

This part of the Telegraph article I find rather amusing:
A Google spokesman said the information could be used for "good and bad" and was available to the public in many forms. "Of course we are always ready to listen to governments' requests," he said.

"We have opened channels with the military in Iraq but we are not prepared to discuss what we have discussed with them. But we do listen and we are sensitive to requests."

"Always ready to listen to governments' requests." Interesting phrasing, wouldn't you say? Sure. They'll listen. Hell, anyone will listen. But would they do anything? I mean, c'mon, they listened and more than likely read subpoenas for search queries from the US government, but didn't fork anything over. They listened, quite well clearly, to the demands of the Chinese government and complied in order to launch Google in China and listened but didn't pay much attention to the backlash they received for giving into China.

Also, if a product like Google Maps can be used for "good and bad," doesn't that violate the Google policy of "Do no evil"? Or are they going to hide behind the thinking that once the produce is out there, they are not responsible for how people use it?

Seems as if technology, especially at a company like Google, will push ahead and deal with legal ramifications later and in the process set a rather dangerous precedent.

So would the lack of net neutrality limit the ability of terrorists to use Google Earth?

CAN-Spam Act Conviction

From the New York Times: Man Convicted Under Antispam Law.

It is possible to get a conviction under the 2003 CAN-Spam Act, something most people probably didn't think was possible. After all, spam is so prevalent these days, clearly violating the CAN Spam Act but all you ever hear is that spammers are getting more intelligent so better defenses like filters and firewalls are needed. I think people are starting to tune it out, and have gotten used to deleting the hundreds of SPAM emails every day.

Even Gmail isn't perfect. I still get SPAM in the Inbox, even when I have clicked the "Report Spam" button. Spammers always seem to be a step ahead, tweaking just enough to get into Inboxes around the world, and even tricking people into money scams. I'd argue that such a profession is akin to fake pharmaceuticals: low risk and high pay.

So maybe this conviction will give pause to some, and inject some much needed energy into the tracking, finding and prosecuting spammers.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Email vs Letter Writing

The Lede, a blog on the New York Times website, has a curious entry from yesterday called "Whither the Historians of Science in the Age of E-Mail?", has me arguing with myself over the pros and cons of email vs. the seemingly lost art of letter writing. I have written a few letters in my time, and rarely think to make a copy (who needs more paper, after all) so when I get a response, I can't quite remember what was in the original letter. Reading the response becomes sort of a treasure hunt, pouring of the words for clues as to what I had written about and most of the time there is enough evidence to piece it all together.

That is not a problem with email, especially with email clients like Gmail that create threads for each message you send, assuming you don't always create a new message when responding to an email. I often which text messaging was the same. It is rather frustrating to get the txt msg shrt hnd and not know to what the message is referring.

However, as has happened to me, once you delete an email, from the Inbox or Sent Message box, it is gone. There is no getting it back. And such actions must be done in order to create space, which was an issue before Gmail existed. So who knows what emails I have deleted from my other email account that might prove useful in crafting a story say, or researching a topic of interest.

Then again, paper is not immune to disaster either. It is quite combustible, after all, but you can decide on whether or not you want to keep it simply by scanning the contents instead of guessing by the subject line whether or not you want to go through the trouble to read it and see if it is worth keeping.

On the other hand, email doesn't quite disintegrate over time like paper. Email doesn't yellow at the edges or require gloves to handle it. But there also isn't the same feel you get from reading email that you get from holding and reading a letter.

So is one really better than the other? Will future historians lose out on something by having to read through email more so than letters? And won't future historians be so used to technology anyway that the idea of letter writing will seem, how to put it, archaic?

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

New Life for Net Neutrality? Wait and See

There is an article in the New York Times today called "Congress to Take Up Net's Future." Seems as if the concessions made by AT&T in order to complete its purchase of SBC has lit a fire underneath the new Democratic Congress. They see an opportunity to bring the issues of net neutrality to the forefront again.

Naturally, the Internet portals and content providers of the world are happy, and the telecommunications and cable companies are not. But since there are so few telecommunications and cable companies remaining, the idea of net neutrality takes on new meaning. AT&T is slowly putting itself back together into the behemoth it was under the Bell name, along with additions like Cingular so it keeps a foothold in the cellular arena. When you put it all together AT&T offers cable, telephone, Internet and wireless service, all avenues for content delivery. No doubt they would prefer to have control over the content delivered through their various channels, and be able to charge more for it.

Which, of course, is the source of much debate that swirls around net neutrality. There still seems to be something missing, however, on both sides. The debate is more philosophical than one based on hard evidence, in support of or against net neutrality.

So maybe the "two-year moratorium on offering any service that 'privileges, degrades or prioritizes any packet' transmitted over its broadband service" will provide some hard evidence, a means by which to see if AT&T can still improve itself network while people like you and me can still publish content on the Internet without incurring an extra cost.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

A Very Exciting Day for Web Technology

Everyone has picked the AP article on the new Apple iPhone. Someone by the name of TheX even posted images on Flickr, from the MacWorld Expo, complete with a slide show. The post has raced to the top of Digg today, along with a post from Engadget about the wide screen video iPod and Apple's iTV.

All this news on the same day that Yahoo! has announced its own mobile search, called oneSearch. A rather useful post about oneSearch, and that keyword is in there: "vertical integration."

A very exciting day for Web technology indeed.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Of Botnets and Security

There is an article in the New York Times today called "Attack of the Zombie Computers is Growing Threat which sheds more light on the issue of botnets and bot attacks and how far more advanced they are becoming. It is frightening how advanced these networks have become, and how quickly they have adapted to changes and used email as a means to build larger and larger networks.

There have been quite a few instances of stolen data, from government agencies to universities, which has brought information security to the forefront of everyone's mind. Many people try to downplay the idea of identity theft, until it happens and they discover first hand just how difficult it is to prove you are you and that your identity was in fact stolen.

This brings to the light the fact that everyone, from consumers to SPAM protection companies to ISPs seems to have been caught off guard, or simply stopped paying attention. Course, why would you pay attention when people so willing purchase your protection software even though the protection software doesn't seem to be doing any good.

And you know, spammers have gotten even smarted than just building better bots that create better (undetected) networks. They've started to use the brand identity, what people associate with protection and security, so that it is even more difficult for the consumer to figure out which is real and which isn't.

They've got the best of both worlds: almost absolute anonymity, low risk and a large income no doubt tax free.

I wonder if it would be cheaper for corporations and all of the security software firms to hire these people to create security software that will actually protect. And what sort of offer could corporations and security software firms offer that is better than what the hackers are getting?

Would such a move cut down on operating costs and turn the tide of this battle? Are there even hackers out there who would switch sides?

What, really, is the best way to deal with this problem?

Friday, January 5, 2007

A Blog More Useless than the Google Blog

There has been a fair amount of debate over the Official Google Blog about whether or not it is a blog. I think Wednesday's post on jobs in Kirkland, Washington, tips the balance in favor of the "company bulletin board" camp, but I actually found a corporate blog that is far worse than anything I have seen so far.

There is an argument to be made that it is not a blog at all, but rather an attempt to generate revenue since the first 3/4 of the blog, as it were, are nothing but AdSense ads. Aside from its title, "iz zizzle blog," you wouldn't even know it was a blog in terms of what we have all come to expect from a blog. CORRECTION: It is a SPAM BLOG.

Once you get the past list of AdSense ads, if it were an actual corporate blog, you'd expect a post on something interesting, but instead you get snipets, snipets of old news stories about something call Iz. A Google search (yes, I really did use Google) for "iz" turns out not to be helpful, but a Google search for the "iz zizzle" turns up a toy company, of all things. Judging from the licensing agreements they have with companies such as Disney and Marvel, the company seems reputable. And "Iz," it turns out, is an animatronic DJ, which makes you wonder if the toy company employs former Disney Imagineers. Still, you wouldn't know that from looking at the "blog."

Wonder if the SPAM blog generates much revenue from all of the AdSense ads. Or do people just see all the ads and leave? And a fine example of Google not really weeding out the junk on the Web, which makes me wonder how many people actually find this SPAM blog.

And you know, it doesn't allow comments either. So does that make it more of a SPAM "billboard" than a SPAM blog?

Jan. 5, 2007 6:18pm UPDATE: A comment from someone named J:
Are you sure it is the corporate blog? With a web address of finddatabase.org it doesn't appear to be a company's webspace. (Alsp see http://baby.finddatabase.org/)

Which only illustrates that Google profits from automated blog farms.

Check here for the real website.

No, J, I'm not sure it is the corporate blog, but that's the point, right? It's not a blog, corporate or otherwise, but merely a web page stuffed with links, as you have already observed.

Which raises the following question: does the company know that Google and someone else is making money off of its company name and product? Or have they sanctioned it? And if so, then it sounds like there is a goldmine of opportunity that would be difficult for Google, and everyone else, to ignore. And it doesn't seem like people mind too much. Not Google. Not the Zizzle company. Win-win for all, assuming the thing gets any traffic.

Jan. 8, 2007; 10:39pm UPDATE: A comment from Elliot:
Thanks for that comment, j. That's really good insight. creativeliberty, I disagree that's the point you were making. The new information actually changes the idea significantly. In your post, you directly labeled that spam blog as "a corporate blog," which is extremely misleading. In my opinion, it's totally useless to compare the Google Blog (which is official) with a spam blog which represents a sample of the huge amounts of crap on the web. It may not have been what you meant, but your post is easily misunderstood. In fact, I misunderstood it, thinking that you were actually saying that *corporate* blog is far worse. No, you're wrong. That's a spam blog. It's trash.

I stand corrected. I did refer to it as a "corporate blog" and have hence made a correction. I wonder if there are SPAM Google blogs, blogs that aren't exactly "official Google blogs" but very much look the part to the unsuspecting visitor.

I completely agree, Elliot, that the SPAM blog is indeed a sample of the junk that is found on the Web, and junk Google continues to index, no doubt because they get something from it. Sort of makes you wonder, doesn't it?

In the big scheme of things, isn't a SPAM blog far worse than even the most meaningless corporate blog?

Thanks for the comments!

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Net Neutrality Making a Come Back?

There is an op/ed piece in the New York Times today called "Protecting Internet Democracy" that argues for net neutrality, and rightly so. With the Democratic Congress, odds are good net neutrality will make more than a passing appearance. AT&T has already made concessions on the issue in order to will approval of its acquisition of BellSouth. No doubt there are some loop holes, which AT&T will try to exploit in the name of profit, though it will say it is necessary in order to maintain its vast network of cables.

The news of the AT&T concessions and the possibility of net neutrality law made rounds on Digg as well, which fans the flames of curiosity and determination on both sides of the issue. Seems net neutrality is starting to move to the forefront again, making a little more noise along the way.

Time will tell at this point if it will be heard long and clear by all instead of the politically and technologically savvy groups. Wonder if it will become an issue in the next presidential election...

Google's Comment Aversion

It seems as if the Google Blog post about "A Year in Google Blogging" has attracted some detractors, people who think the Google Blog isn't a blog at all, not very helpful and almost a complete waste of time.

It seems to have started with the Apogee Blog, whose author raises the question about why Google doesn't allow comments on its blog, which raises the question of whether or not you can consider the Google Blog an actual blog. Dominic Jones from IR Web Report makes a valid argument that the Google Blog is really a company bulletin board while the blog Adding Understanding argues it is up to the market to decide what is and isn't a blog. Then there is the blog Marketing Nirvana, who pretty much declares the Google Blog lacking in relevant information.

Curious about the comment debate, and whether other corporate blogs are more or less company bulletins and not actual ways to engage consumers, I checked a couple I have browsed a few times, and some I have heard of but not really read. Already know the Yahoo! Blog provides useful information, and allows comments, though some argue it lacks the personality of the Google Blog. And it occurs to me that the Google Blog itself isn't very helpful in providing useful information, but its AdWords Blog is, sometimes. And that makes sense when you consider that AdWords is the only consistent revenue stream for Google. Really, if you want to find out any information, you have to look at the particular product blogs. Well, the product blogs that have been around for awhile. Which makes me wonder if it is Google policy to have a blog for each product line...

Anyway, back to the comments issue. So Yahoo! allows comments. GE allows comments on its blog. The New York Times and Chicago Tribune allow comments for its blogs.

So why is it that Google doesn't allow comments on any of its blogs?

Someone will no doubt argue that when they want feedback, they post an email link, which suggests they would rather get emails than comments, making them seem more like a passive corporation than the active one they often claim to be.

01/03/07, 10:30pm UPDATE: The link to the Disney Blog was incorrect. Thanks to Mr. John Frost for pointing out my oversight and setting me straight. Thanks, too, Mr. Frost, for creating such an awesome spot to find Disney information. It's so much easier to navigate than the Disney website itself, though I hear that is changing. Keep it up dude! And for those of you who are curious, check it out. It is worth a look.