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

Archive for November, 2005

Iraqi democracy getting to be almost as good as U.S.’

Posted by direwolff on November 30, 2005

Well you know the ol’ motto, “if it works you stick with it”, it does seem as though our administration and their enforcement agencies found so much success with a tactic they used in our country that they’re now using it in Iraq too…albeit perhaps in a more ludite sort of way.

Remember this story:

Prepackaged News Gets GAO Rebuke
Walker: PR Must Be Clearly Labeled

By Christopher Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 21, 2005; Page A25

The Government Accountability Office warned federal departments last week against using a popular public relations tool that already has landed two agencies in hot water for breaking federal anti-propaganda laws.

That was then, this is now…

U.S. Is Said to Pay to Plant Articles in Iraq Papers

Published: December 1, 2005

WASHINGTON, Nov. 30 – Titled “The Sands Are Blowing Toward a Democratic Iraq,” an article written this week for publication in the Iraqi press was scornful of outsiders’ pessimism about the country’s future.

“Western press and frequently those self-styled ‘objective’ observers of Iraq are often critics of how we, the people of Iraq, are proceeding down the path in determining what is best for our nation,” the article began. Quoting the Prophet Muhammad, it pleaded for unity and nonviolence.

But far from being the heartfelt opinion of an Iraqi writer, as its language implied, the article was prepared by the United States military as part of a multimillion-dollar covert campaign to plant paid propaganda in the Iraqi news media and pay friendly Iraqi journalists monthly stipends, military contractors and officials said.

I guess the lesson our government wants to teach Iraq is that democracy has to be built on lies…look, it worked in this country.


Posted in Public Policy | Leave a Comment »

Tribe Lenses, perspectives on content create value

Posted by direwolff on November 28, 2005

Every now and then, I get stuck in some free thought and like to put it down on paper.  Well tonight, I decided it would be interesting to put it down in my blog.  The workplace at Tribe offers an environment with lots of thought catalysts in the people and the ideas they share, and over the past few weeks that’s helped percolate some thoughts worth sharing, IMHO.

As I watch the developments and read about all of the emerging social bookmarking and social search services, I go back to a very simple working prototype that our Chief Technologist demonstrated at Tribe recently.  Some times, it’s out of simplicity that the most powerful ideas begin to emerge.

So what was this simple idea?  Well, he created a page that showed the latest bookmarks that all Tribe members with a module in their profile had tagged.  The page he created simply showed the member’s picture and the title of the tagged item.  That’s it.  However, for some reason this seemed like the coolest thing to me.  Why?  Because if he could show me what every one with a module was tagging then what would stop him from showing me only what those on my friends list were tagging.  Why stop there, why not be able to show me only what people in a tribe I participate in are tagging?  Nothing could stop him of course, and that’s the beauty of it.  Not only that, these bookmarks were actually really interesting to see.

This spawned the concept of Tribe lenses in my mind.  At the lowest level we have the “me” lens, the one that lets me or any one else looking at the content I’ve compiled, be it my bookmarks, my Amazon wishlist, songs/movies/photos I like, recommendations I’ve made, etc.  The next level up from here is the friends lens, which represents all of this information for all of those on my friends list.  The next lens could be seen as either one layer up or sideways, it’s the tribe lens which is composed of this information for members of a specific tribe.  One could get fancy here and also allow this view across a few tribes (though the value here only comes where there are several tribes on the same subject like the two South Park tribes).  Finally, there is the most macro view, the Tribe lens which encompasses this information for all Tribe members (like the prototype created by Tribe’s Chief Technologist).

Each of these lenses offers a different type of value in being considered.  While the value of the “me” lens, that of my friends, and the “all of Tribe” lens might have clear values to you, I feel a need to expand on the one I consider the most valuable of them all, the tribe lens.

The other day while perusing Tribe, I landed on the SF Restaurants tribe and I was really taken a back by the quality of the discussion and recommendations there.  These people definitely fall into the category of people fondly known as “foodies”.  They know their stuff and it’s a pleasure to read the detail of their reviews because they obviously care a lot about this topic.  At that point I began wondering to myself, if I was going to get a restaurant recommendation who would I rather get it from, my friends or the members of the SF Restaurants tribe?  You’ve probably figured out my answer here, the latter of course.  So a tribe lens for restaurant recommendations, showing me the recommendations of the SF Restaurant tribe would actually have more value to me than the friends lens.  If I was going to get snowboarding equipment recommendations, would I rather get them from my friends, only some of which are snowboarders or would I prefer to get them from members of the Snowboard tribe or the Snowboarding FREAKS tribe?  In discussing this with another Tribester, he hit the nail on the head, he described the difference between the lenses (friends vs. tribe members) as the difference between social-based needs vs. knowledge-based needs, where friends falls into the former and tribe members into the latter.

As Tribe evolves, its use to its members will increase greatly, because while it can be difficult to build up friends lists (some times they just don’t want to join), tribes grow their member base on the basis of people who share passions wanting to get involved to discuss and engage others on these matters.  It is this value that Tribe will hopefully over time be able to open up to other services through their integration into Tribe and through the opening up of Tribe’s APIs to these services.  Tribe as the true community Web 2.0 service.

Well I can dream can’t I? :-)

Posted in Just Fun, Online Community | Leave a Comment »

The EFF, watching our backs against Sony

Posted by direwolff on November 27, 2005

If you’ve never donated to the EFF, let this be your calling to do so and to find out why it’s such an important organization in the digital age.  It’s tough for us lil’ people to fight large companies like Sony on our own terms, but fortunately, the EFF is right there watching out for the upholding of our digital rights both constitutionally and in the marketplace.

Check out the following post on the EFF site: An Open Letter to Sony-BMG

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All Tags were not created equal

Posted by direwolff on November 26, 2005

  Recently, I had a discussion with someone from one of the major RSS/blog search engines about tags.  Specifically, I wanted to explore with this person, the role of automated tagging technology and what role that would play in tagging content on the Web.  He became quite adamant that there was no role for automated tagging solutions.  He spoke with words like “folksonomy” and explained that as language changes only people could capture the true nuances of such in their tags.

For part of this conversation, my eyes glazed over.  In part, this was because a story about baseball 20 years ago, is still a story about baseball today, and will be so in 10 years from now.  Sure, language evolves, but in general, it does not do so and definitely not at a pace that negates all past meanings of the ideas and concepts once conveyed.  However, this did force me to think through the role of human versus machine tagging, in order to be clear on why these were each important in their own right.

During our conversation we talked about Riya, an image search technology that will actually go through pictures, recognize faces and words in the pictures, and tag content accordingly.  He lauded their effort as a very good tagging technology because it was able to do the mundane job of tagging pictures.  Of course, the lack of difference between tagging pictures and tagging legacy text seemed lost on him.

In considering Riya, I realized that as an automated tagging solution, it was basically looking at a picture and obtaining implicit information from within the picture in order to determine the appropriate tag(s).  In other words, if there was a person in the picture that it had been trained to recognize, then it would identify them and produce a tag of their name, but it would have no way of knowing that this picture was taken during my Christmas party or in New York or any number of things that are not implicit in the content it’s reviewing.

This is also what text automated tagging solutions are doing, they’re determining the appropriate tags from implicit information found in the content.  This reduces the need for human beings to focus their attention on applying implicit content tags.  Instead, it puts humans in position to focus their tagging on the explicit information, that which is not easily determined from the content, be it pictures or text.  For example, recently at the Web 2.0 Conference, bloggers were asked to tag their postings or pictures “web20”.  This would make the related content more easily discoverable by any one wanting to keep up with the conference.  This is the idea behind folksonomy.  It’s not something that would have been easy to determine implicitly from the posted content (unless, in the case of text, the author used the words “Web 2.0” in the posting), and hence not something an automated tagging solution could handle well.  However, if the Web 2.0 post was about search engines or “mashups”, this information could have been implicitly deduced by an automated tagging system and tagged accordingly.

While there’s still much work to be done in the area of automated tagging solutions, the ability for these technologies to play a role in tagging content remains very useful and even desirable so that content can be found in as many appropriate ways as possible, even when not yet tagged by a person.  One could argue that in effect it’s what Google does below the covers of their search engine and what Yahoo! has made explicit through their keyword tool (lets you determine which keywords will be used to match against ads for any Web page).

As these two modes of tagging come together, it will be interesting to see how much better search will become over time since humans tagging content will play such an important role in adding non-explicit context to information on the Internet.

Posted in Online Community, Technology | Leave a Comment »

Who’s calling who “reprehensible”?

Posted by direwolff on November 26, 2005

In the category of “I’m too reprehensible for my shirt” (to be sung to the tune of “I’m to sexy for my shirt”), our eminent VeeP plans to headline a fundraiser for none other than indicted Congressman Tom DeLay.  Someone please pinch me again, I’ve fallen into a dream and I can’t wake up…

As they say, “he’s innocent until proven guilty” or until he gets the judge he needs to see him innocent or until he’s found guilty and gets a Presidential pardon, or until some other miracle of justice takes place and finds him innocent of even having told a white lie, ever.  Sheeeesh!

Don’t want to call Cheney a hypocrite given that we all are at times, but I think he should get the Wikipedia prize and become the poster boy for that word.  Talk about embodiment…easy easy, DeLay’s not yet proven guilty.

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Bush Talked of Bombing Al-Jazeera

Posted by direwolff on November 22, 2005

I shed a tear along side Iron Eyes Cody as I watch what our President’s experiment in democracy is turning into.

Some times it’s best to let the events unfold for themselves without any assistance.  Hence, I’ll just provide this link for those who are interested in this to go see before we hear what will be another hailstorm of lies and accusations over this matter.

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/ROOT Markets is a Financial Exchange for Consumer Leads

Posted by direwolff on November 19, 2005

(Seth Goldstein with his partner and now Executive Chairman of /ROOT, Lew Ranieri)

A dear friend that I met back about 10 years ago, has just come out of the stealth closet so to speak. While word was slowly getting around about his New York start-up /ROOT Markets, in his blog post last Thurs, he really spells out what it’s all about in great detail.

In reading this piece, I couldn’t believe how much he had basically given away of the idea, most of which I’ve been under NDA not to discuss for months. But the reality was that he really wants to live up to his principles, one of which is the name of his blog, “Transparent Bundles”. In being reminded of all of the nuances of the business he’s entering, I was also reminded that the compilation of skill sets and the complexity of what he’s trying to accomplish here, will not be an undertaking that many lowly humans will endeavor. Why?…’cause it’s really hard! (The last paragraph of his blog post summarizes the status quo pretty well.)

Seth basically is espousing and effectively betting on, what the future of Internet advertising and lead generation (the latter being basically the real business of the Internet) will be. This takes great courage to not only say, but to start a company hedged on his belief, and investing big money into it. Not to mention writing a blog posting for all to see. From Seth however, I’d expect nothing less.

I had the good fortune of introducing him to his partner at Majestic Research, and as an advisor, watch the two of them build an impressive independent research firm, doing some leading edge financial research. Their work has made a lot of hedge funds a lot of money.

Having known Seth since SiteSpecific, and having watched him evolve as an entrepreneur, it’s safe to say that with this latest idea he is actualizing himself in amazing ways. Needless to say, I wish him much luck and success here, because if and when he tweaks this one right, it will yield significant opportunities for him and others, and at the same time help consumers have a part in how their information is used. This is one of those ideas that we should all be /ROOTing for (pardon the pun).

Posted in Entrepreneurship | Leave a Comment »

Oh yeah…and SURPRISE!

Posted by direwolff on November 18, 2005

I wonder when the explanation for why there’s still no accounting for the billions that went into the reconstruction in Iraq will be forthcoming? Two down, and surely several more to go…

Ex-Official Held in Bid-Rig Scheme
By Paul Richter, Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — A former U.S. contract supervisor in Iraq has become the first current or former American official to face criminal charges in connection with the multibillion-dollar reconstruction of the country, federal authorities said Thursday.

Robert J. Stein Jr., 50, a former Coalition Provisional Authority official in Hillah, Iraq, was arrested in Fayetteville, N.C., in connection with an allegedly fraudulent scheme to award construction contracts worth more than $18 million. Philip H. Bloom, 65, a New Jersey businessman, allegedly paid Stein at least $630,000 in kickbacks for his part in a bid-rigging scheme in 2003 and 2004, according to documents filed by the Justice Department in Washington.

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Here’s the government, the Red States voted for…

Posted by direwolff on November 18, 2005

…a House of Representatives that would stand in the way of educating its people lest the people see their way through the morass, the crimes, and the scams that have been perpetrated to their faces and in their names.  You’d figure that after being able to win an election despite the lies and mismanagement of the past 5 yrs, they would have little to fear from the educational system our young people are in now.  I guess government feels that some young people are starting to wise up, so it’s time to dumb’em down…
House OKs $14 billion in student aid cuts

…and don’t get me started on how we’re currently spending billions and billions of dollars on a war that should have never been.  OK, any time now the credits come scrolling down the screen and I wake up to find out that I’m still 18 and this was all a bad dream ;-)

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The $100 Laptop is something to rejoice

Posted by direwolff on November 17, 2005

Being the gadget geek that I am, while reviewing a news site this morning, my eyes instantly locked on a headline heralding the advent of the first $100 Laptop.  What I was expecting of course, was either a cool new gadget for me, or some cheap knock-off.  Well, what I found nearly brought tears to my eyes as it addressed a far nobler cause.

Finally, a tool for the Third World (see picture above), for communities where electricity is hard to come by, but education still needs to be advanced and communications with the rest of the world, fostered.  MIT’s Media Lab was responsible for its development and as you can see above, the design is quite elegant and well targeted for kids.  That yellow crank on the side is for powering the unit up.  Genius.

This is one of those causes that the wealth of Silicon Valley could really get behind even on the level of some sort of “Buy a Child a laptop” program, where you could imagine people donating for 5 to 10 laptops.

While it’s true that there are other more important basic needs that the folks receiving these gifts could probably use more (food and shelter for example), providing the tools to help get them out of their current predicaments, is also important.

The following articles provide some good overviews on this (note, the points of view are at all ends of the spectrum, so you may not agree with all of them):

– $100-laptop created for world’s poorest countries

– The $100 laptop moves closer to reality

– The $100 laptop – don’t get carried away

– Google News search results page

Posted in Technology | Leave a Comment »