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“Got kitesurfing on the mind, mixed with some search & classification tech, and a dab of political ranting”

Archive for August, 2005

Google on the brain…

Posted by direwolff on August 23, 2005

So I’m feeling like so many of my latest postings have been focused on various aspects of Google, but that company really has a way of making itself prolific in the news. Unfortunately, the news that strikes me about them comes from a very suspicious place. It’s a place that suggests that if they continue on their current rampage, privacy, personal security, liberties and freedoms of individuals are all at great risk, and most likely this will be upheld in the name of fighting terrorism or some other myth that our world governments will come up with. If you haven’t yet, you should read a book by Milton Mueller called ruling the root: internet governance and the taming of cyberspace …otherwise put, how cyberspace was politicized…and this could happen to Google or Yahoo! in due time.

I’ll submit that Google is on a path that will be too tempting for governments not to tap on when the time is right. Why do I think this? Well, the following two links will provide some background that’s worth understanding:

“So what’s the big deal?”, you might ask, “afterall, Yahoo! has some of these components too”. Well, Yahoo! doesn’t make me any more comfortable than Google for one. What worries me is that both of these companies have focused on providing their services through a centralized infrastructure which means that they can collect and correlate lots of information in ways that we will never know about. Though only a recent development, credit reporting agencies must make consumers aware of what information they have about them and allow this to be corrected. In this new data game that Yahoo! and Google are playing, there are no rules for engagement and for usage of the information they have collected. The recent ChoicePoint scandal certainly helped shine the light (for those who cared) on what little control we have about the data that is collected and used about us.

No, don’t fool yourself into thinking this is all but one of those silly “cookie” issues where there’s really no personally identifiable information. This is quite serious, and yes there is lots of personally identifiable information. Ever paid for anything on Yahoo! or bought anything from a Yahoo! store, well then they have your real name and address. If you have a Yahoo!Mail account, they likely have your real e-mail address as well. Google is being rumoured to be working on a payment system which should also provide them w/some of that valuable information. However, even without this payment information, the fact that both companies have toolbars that track your every move through the Web means that they can see and collect lots of personally identifiable information about you whenever you fill out a form of any kind. Include their desktop search products and now everything on your hard drive is open for them to review along side your clickstream and transactions (yes, they can see when you transact w/a site). Neither Yahoo! nor Google have had very much traction with their social networks, but Yahoo!’s IM product now ties in your friends into their web of information about you…hence why Google needs one of those too.

What better tools could be made available to governments to suppress people’s freedoms and privacy in and out of cyberspace? How will China require these services to be employed? Note what they forced MSN Spaces to do. The shortsighted among us might say that this could never happen in this country because we will all fight this. I submit that the Patriot Act and a number of other regulations that now exist in our country were just as unimaginable before 9/11, and that using terrorists and the security & safety of our children, as excuses has done more to wipe out the human rights that our country’s forefathers fought and died for more than any other single action since the formation of this Republic. It’s not inconceivable that this could go further as the pace of our government’s desire to take people out of the responsibility loop continues to gain momentum.

OK, all of this to say, consider decentralized tools, or at using different providers’ tools, not just leverage any single provider’s integrated offering. If you use IM from any of these companies, then consider not using their toolbars or other products so as not to provide them more information to correlate. I for one continue to use Yahoo! IM, but rarely if ever use e-mail, search, or any other of their apps. I use Google for search, news, and Gmail for non-essential e-mail. Copernic is my desktop search app and I use no toolbar. Be careful about buying into the integrated benefits these companies offer, as these could be the ones that one day come to bite you.

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Posted in Online Community, Public Policy, search & categorization, Technology | Leave a Comment »

FedEx Furniture…a unique opportunity blown by FedEx

Posted by direwolff on August 15, 2005

Check out what a creative individual and some of his friends did with FedEx boxes, and instead of getting the kudos and the gratitude that should come with such a creative application of some pretty dull stuff, FedEx goes after the kid claiming infringement under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA)…for pete's sake.  Way to flush a unique marketing opportunity down the drain FedEx.

Check out his site and the on-going saga w/FedEx at:
http://www.fedexfurniture.com/index.html

More on this story on Wired News at:
http://wired-vig.wired.com/news/culture/0,1284,68492,00.html?tw=wn_tophead_2

You can see pictures of his home built furniture too…not really my taste, but definitely creative.

Posted in Just Fun, Public Policy | Leave a Comment »

FCC’s recently hired advisor – get to know her…

Posted by direwolff on August 15, 2005

Well, I guess it had to happen soon given how active the various Christian coalitions have been within the different branches of our government. But as it relates to decency standards, it's not about moral relativism, it's about Biblical standards, and as one who grew up Catholic my impression has always been that it's a standard that has only served those with a desire to control other people's lives, not one for those who have tried to make others' lives better. It's not an inclusive standard, it's an exclusive one, having more to say about what you *can't* do than what you can.

All this serves as a prelude to something that has depressed me all morning, and the more I've looked into it the sadder it has made me. I won't go into the details of Penny Nance's background here, but will place a couple of links that provide a richer picture than I could ever draw on my own for her. But all you need to know is that she has been hired as an advisor/consultant to the FCC. One thing is for sure, if you thought that recent decency regulations bordered on draconian, now you know the ilk from which they came. Oh yeah, and all you homosexuals and nuclear disarmament activists better watch out, 'cause you're next ;-) When will this madness end?!


Read on…

Note: in doing a picture search for her in Google, 3 of the 15 pics for her were of churches. I'm not anti-Christian, but I sure am anti-in-your-face Christianity which this lady most certainly engenders in every way imaginable.

Posted in Public Policy | Leave a Comment »

“Do no evil”…wha-wha-what?!

Posted by direwolff on August 9, 2005

Having met Eric Schmidt on a few occasions, I've always thought of him as a smart, respectable and honest guy, with a high level of integrity.  Well, either he or the kids on his block have decided that that behavior can no longer be tolerated, time to start acting like all big companies, like a bully.  With their current market cap they've earned it, right?

So much for Google's well repeated and espoused line ("Do no evil") that even made it into their S1 filing when they went public.  This latest incident with them banning CNET content has got to be the most ludicrous display of a company's childish behavior that I have seen in a long time.  What's worse is that they have raised every fear that people have had about them doing things to control the content in their search engine.  They can no longer claim that they're just a search engine run w/spiders and algorythms.  It's now become a serious issue, the fact that they also will physically tamper with content and willfully exclude a provider of non-offensive content.  This little fiasco they have created for themselves may yet have much larger repercussions than they may have intended or realize…oops, looks like they may now ban me too…doh!

Read more about this… Google says Cnet went too far in googling

Posted in Public Policy | Leave a Comment »

Yahoo to launch blog ad network

Posted by direwolff on August 2, 2005


You can find more about this announcement on CNET at:

http://news.com.com/Yahoo+to+launch+blog+ad+network/2100-1024_3-5815551.html

What actually troubles me with this story is that it appears that Yahoo! will have issues in scaling this service. Consider the last paragraph of this story:

"Yahoo's new service will differ from Google in that it will add human editorial judgment to the selection of ads for content pages. In comparison, Google's service relies on technology."

…they may have well just said, "won't scale like Google". I'm actually surprised that Yahoo! has not yet cracked the technology relevance barrier. Actually, Google got this as "gimme" when it acquired Applied Semantics which is where they got their AdWords service which was quickly evolved to AdSense. Applied Semantics had also built a relatively sophisticated semantics network which enabled them to get pretty good at determining relevance. It's not light technology given that size of the semantic network they have to process against (150K words…ouch!), but given their horse power they could probably make it trudge right along.

Anyway, seems to me that Yahoo! needs a technology like this to play ball. Now, if they'd just read some old posts of mine to get a hint on who they need to talk to ;-) Here's one post that skirts the issue…

…and here's an even earlier posting that also reveals some info…

Let's see if Yahoo! comes-a-calling now :-)

Posted in Technology | Leave a Comment »