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

Archive for August, 2006

Donald Rumsfeld’s interesting choice of words

Posted by direwolff on August 30, 2006

There’s been much coverage of Rumsfeld recent statements and comparison of Bush critics to Nazi appeasers.  I wonder if the irony of his comments here is lost on him given the Bush family’s long storied past doing business with the Nazis.  Hmmm…interesting.

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Posted in Public Policy | Leave a Comment »

Is Google trying to compete with God?

Posted by direwolff on August 28, 2006

What would you call a entity that today can track all users on Web, know the kinds of conversations many of them are having in e-mail or IM, beginning to help many of them manage their browser’s start page, busy schedules, as well as share and host their spreadsheets and written documents between associates, friends and family, and facilitating users ability to create their own Web sites, online stores, and organize interesting information that they find on the Web? Now what if this same entity then also enabled small companies or departments within large companies, to be able to quickly deploy IT infrastructure without having to do more than to give employees computers with a Web browser? Finally, what if this entity planned to allow you to store as much information as you needed to on their servers mostly for free, but with perhaps a small fee at certain thresholds? Now don’t forget, this entity could now know more about you than any government, and know more about your habits, your personal life and your business life, than even you do.

Hmmm…I think this is all certainly a shot across the bow of the Ever Knowing, God. I’m being facetious of course, Google is a company, but when a company reaches the point where it basically controls or has access to so many points in our lives, then we need to begin to worry about the issues of absolute power (not that worrying about this sort of thing helped us get past putting George W. in for a second term).

Google’s recently released office suite of services for free to businesses under their own domain name, is huge. How can any small business pass that up? Not just because of cost savings, but because of the speed with which they can be operational on the most mundane part of their business (the IT stuff), and start being immediatly productive.

Two things worry me here. First is the number of externalities associated with this move, which are far too numerous to name, but includes the impact this will have on the software industry as a whole. Basically, software companies are becoming media companies since they’ll have to find ways of making money from their “free” applications some how. Even where the model relies on users paying for storage at some point, before they get to that point the companies have to figure out how to stay in business. For those who do not make the transition to sponsorship/advertising models fast enough, certain death is around the corner which could put a lot of technologist on the unemployment ranks sooner rather than later. Same for IT departments of companies, whose skill set will have to be retooled to purely communications facilities management and no longer application support (that’s probably a good thing), this too could be a challenge. Perhaps we may start seeing the cost of programmers dropping substantially in a way that makes the U.S. once again a competitive place to have software development done.

My other and perhaps greater concern is the level and quantity of data that Google is now privy to (and will soon be privy to even more) by virtue of the richness of their offerings, that many people and companies will not be able to pass up. I firmly believe that Google’s greatest innovation has been their use of leverage of their AdSense business model to build a virtually untouchable powerhouse that is quickly moving into other businesses. By providing very useful end-user applications with no barriers to sign-up that builds the right kind of goodwill from the user base, even if their ultimate goal as a company is to monetize this activity in not so obvious ways. By providing an ad network that is self-serve and lets the little guys and the big guys effectively play together that builds goodwill from advertisers and publishers. The result is a richness in the information they begin to know about every one. The leverage has come in the fact that by generating their revenue on AdSense which has certainly reached ubiquity, they can now focus on other services that leverage that but get them into all sorts of other businesses. What’s interesting here is how they have continued to develop many other applications that provide them more and more data about users in ways that stress the value to users rather the economic models that keep the company sustained. Microsoft was smart about how they grew their business using the operating system as the point of leverage, Google is doing so by leveraging AdSense, and given that the true business of the Internet is leads, then Google certainly has found a sustainable model for hopping into other businesses as well.

As a side note, if I were TACODA, Revenue Science or Blue Lithium, I’d be getting worried and perhaps looking for an exit soon, especially there’s anything useful or truly worthwhile in behavioral targeting. I suspect that if there is, Google will launch the premier service in this area given how much information they already have to draw on from all of these sources.

Posted in Feelings, Online Community, search & categorization | 1 Comment »

Why do corrupt people love God more?

Posted by direwolff on August 27, 2006

Probably because they need God more.

It always seems that the more a politician invokes the name or image of God, the higher the likelihood that they’re involved in some sort of significant corruption. Well, this tune has been played over and over by so many GOP politicians that it’s almost overplayed, so this latest installment is just par for the course. But this time, it’s a case of what “comes around goes around” where the latest to succumb to this hypocrisy is none other than U.S. Representative Katherine Harris.

Of course, this story starts out of course where her deep convictions where she says:

Separation of church and state is “a lie we have been told,” Harris said in the interview, adding that separating religion and politics is “wrong because God is the one who chooses our rulers.”

“If you’re not electing Christians, then in essence you are going to legislate sin,” Harris added.

How’s that for the perfect set-up for the inevitable mud in her eye, as the article reminds us:

Harris has been trailing in recent polls and has also faced the resignations of campaign staff members.

State GOP leaders – including Gov. Jeb Bush – don’t think the 49-year-old Harris can win and tried to find someone else to run instead against Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson in November. Fundraising has lagged, frustrated campaign workers have defected in droves and the issues have been overshadowed by news of her dealings with a corrupt defense contractor who gave her $32,000 in illegal campaign contributions.

I guess her Judeo-Christian values don’t extend to illegal campaign contributions. Heck, given the fact that she’s not likely to win I guess I can’t blame her, but its the hypocrisy that really disgusts me here.

More ethical lapses by Harris can be found here.

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The Revolution of the Ants will be blogged

Posted by direwolff on August 25, 2006

OK, so I’m getting a kick out of seeing how the Valleywag is covering the Tribe story now, with absolutely no mention of their July 3rd rumor piece (so much for truth and journalism ;-)). No recanting or exposure of their so-called “tipster”. I guess Valleywag is really going for a more tabloid journalism approach, figuring that if they throw enough rumors up on a wall some are bound to be true. Also funny is Mike Arrington’s approach to this story on TechCrunch, with total reticense, wondering why Mark Pincus didn’t respond to him in an hour as promised. Me thinks Mike head is getting too big and forgot how he blew Tribe off on several occasions even after asking to be contacted, but hey that was then and this is now, and now he’s a big shot with cover stories of how rich he is in business publications.

Should be fun to keep up with this story as the speculation should run wild. It’s also interesting to see how little people actually have known about what was going on inside of Tribe. Even the first 9 comments (I’m the 10th, heh-heh-heh) below the TechCrunch piece really miss the boat, but it does provide some insight into a readership that thinks its well connected because they read that publication, really are out of the loop. Funny.

My first scoop though I have others to credit for this who shall remain nameless :-).

More links about this story on Tailrank

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Posted in Entrepreneurship, Online Community | Leave a Comment »

The Revolution of the Ants will NOT be televised

Posted by direwolff on August 24, 2006

Be careful what you read out there, ’cause even reliable sources aren’t often very reliable. Remember those rumors about NBC buying Tribe (here, here and here), well it looks like things aren’t always what they seem (or what they get reported in the blogosphere). Mark Pincus (co-founder of and Chairman of Tribe) blogs on Tribe about the latest change in the company’s status in an unofficial post. Really makes you wonder who you can trust when all of these reports keep up the pretense of “reliable sources” as a mainstay for saying things that are far from happening. We need a way to bring on a demerits system when reported rumors are found to be false.

The timing for this news of course couldn’t be better since Tribe is experiencing a jump in traffic as preparations for the upcoming Burning Man event always brings that group back home to Tribe to discuss their plans, their rides to the event, their chosen fashions and their joy to be getting together soon. Hopefully Tribe will once again be able to be home to this very passionate and artistic group of people with lots of love in their hearts.

One thing is for sure, Mark and the remaining crew at Tribe will have their hands full making lots of changes and undoing lots of mistakes for the past year. Good luck to all of them.

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Posted in Entrepreneurship, Online Community | 2 Comments »

Williams-Sonoma and reverse market pricing

Posted by direwolff on August 22, 2006

After procrastinating for a month now, today I decided to finally go to Williams-Sonoma to exchange one of the wedding gifts Lil’ Pinot and I received, a 14″ non-stick skillet, for something that would fit in our cupboards, a 12″ non-stick skillet. Actually, it’s the Calphalon One Non Stick Fry Pan. Today is also the day I learned all about reverse market pricing. If you follow the link and see the pricing for this item, you should notice that the 12″ pan sells for $135 and the 14″ pan which has a suggested price of $160 is selling for $99.95. So what do you think this meant for me? Well, in returning the larger size for the smaller size, I was also priveleged to pay Williams-Sonoma an additional $37.77 (tax inc.). So let me get this straight, the more popular size, which is the 12″ according to one of the sales people, costs more than the bigger size? Looks like my lessons in abusive market economics continue, or more importantly they should probably stop making 14″ pans, but I gotta tell you, this one is sitting with me nearly as well as the $2.75 6.5 fl.oz Sanpelligrino Aranciata I got at Pizza Antica.  Does all this whining make me cheap?  Hmmm…

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My take on one Privacy Argument

Posted by direwolff on August 22, 2006

In the debate over individuals’ right to privacy, one of the recurring arguments by government entities and others who would hope to quash these rights, is the issue of the balance between privacy and security. This balance accordingly is generally made to side with security, because afterall “if you’ve done nothing wrong then you have should have nothing to worry about”, or so the defense of this argument goes. This argument works because most people no longer have an innate sense of what should be private. Well, that got me thinking…(oh boy)

Most people and governments agree that voting should be private (yes, I know, you’d hardly know it based on the reported research and evidence on electronic voting machine tampering and still local governments insist on deploying these). Why? Afterall, if we are to make the balance of privacy vs. security argument, this too would fail in favor of security. Imagine that a crime syndicate colludes with the people in a city or township to get them to vote for the syndicate’s preferred candidate, even if one could demonstrate that payoffs to voters were made, short of seeing their actual votes, how could the violators (the syndicate) be prosecuted for fixing the election? At least with any certainty. Does this mean that voters’ choices should not be private in the face of the needs of law enforcement in this matter?

Something to think about, though I’m likely outside of my area of expertise here, as there may already be case law that shows that people’s voting secrecy can be violated in certain instances. However, there are lots of cases that we can find out there to justify violating the Constitution to meet the goals of law enforcement (though one could question whether at that point it would still be law enforcement since the Constitution would need to be violated), but if you read the framers’ intent and learn about the times in which the document was written, you quickly realize that they foresaw the situations we have now and still landed on the side of the Constitution, it’s Amendments, and the Bill of Rights. The recent court opinion on the unlawful wire tapping by the NSA so ordered by the President goes into great detail about many of these issues and makes for a good read on the subject.

Posted in Security/Privacy | Leave a Comment »

Read my lips…”damn, it’s taken!”

Posted by direwolff on August 20, 2006

After having read yet another politician’s comments that I could tell was the opposite of something that they had previously espoused, I decided that it might be time to create a site, that similarly to how Jon Stewart occasionally shows what a politician said in a press conference and contrasts this with some previously recorded statements, the Web site could show the reference and counter-reference from local and national newspapers right there. I’d regard this as just another tool to address the rampant hypocrisy of our elected officials.

So as I began stewing on this idea I thought “read my lips” or readmylips.com would make for a great service name and URL. “Yeah, that’s the ticket, I’m a genius for thinking of that URL”. And just like that, I was stopped in my tracks. After typing in that URL to see if it was taken, an organization called Ladies Initiating Prosperity & Success (aka. LIPS) has written a book titled, you guessed it, “Read My Lips” and they own that URL. Dang! Well the story could have stopped there, but I decided to look over this site and a few things immediately struck me. The most provocative thing about this site is that the organization describes itself as empowering “everyday women to transform their lives from the feeling of living everyday, ordinary and even repetitious existances, to fun, exciting, fulfilled, extraordinary and prosperous lives!”, but if you look at the cover picture below you should notice one thing…

…I guess the women they’re taking about should be white and blonde. What’s wrong with these people and how could they be so shortsighted about their demographic, WOMEN! Perhaps the other perspective here is that LIPS figures all women want to be white and blonde so that should be the representative group they show on their HOME PAGE!!! Who knows’em?!

The book’s cover is only marginally better since they at least concede that women have other hair colors though they are still all white…

 

Not a hispanic, Asian or African American woman in the bunch. Well so much for political correctness. At this point I started getting a kick out of their rhetoric since at every pause I felt the need to add “so long as you’re white and most frequently blonde”. Here’s a sample of that rhetoric with my emphasis added:

“Written by 8 businesswomen from Australia , New Zealand and America , this book is a practical and essential guide for [white, mostly blonde] women of all ages who have always dreamed BIG and felt they had more to offer and achieve, but have never known how to go about it.”

…and…

“‘Read My Lips’ provides strategies and practical solutions covering life’s bases on how to achieve life, health, wealth and career goals and success [for all of you women who are white and blonde or wishing you could be].”

…and my favorite…

“There is no fluff and puff in this book – it’s full of REAL tips used by each author to reap positive, successful and profitable results from. It’s a book that inspires women (and men) [who are white and most frequently blonde] to ignite their own dreams and fulfil their life’s passions, [but you’ll just need a little hair coloring and some damn good make-up if you’re not already white and blonde].

Now, I don’t want to come out and call these people outright racists, afterall it was written by 8 businesswomen from Australia, New Zealand and America, and who knows what their backgrounds are (though I suspect most likely they’re white too) but let’s just say that short of racists we could call them pretty darn insensitive considering that at least in America, the majority of women are more likely non-white and non-blonde. So I guess all I can say at this point is “all you white and blonde women or those of you that are not but wish you were, here’s the perfect book for you”.  Given that they’re based in Australia, perhaps in marketing there this sort of thing is considered acceptable and not even noticed.  It should be interesting to see if they start to realize that marketing on the Internet is more than marketing to local constituencies.

Yes, I’m bitter about them taking my great URL, but at least there was entertainment value (and a little sadness too) in seeing this absurdity.

 

Posted in Just Fun | Leave a Comment »

Google-MySpace deal could be bigger than it looks

Posted by direwolff on August 17, 2006

What I love about the MySpace-Google deal is that where so many put down the ability for social network sites to generate real revenues, all of a sudden the economics of this deal has really put a different face on the value of community sites. But more importantly, this deal got me thinking about some other facets of this relationship and as part of that I also tested a hypothesis to see if indeed some of these other benefits were already beginning to pan out.

One of the areas that I believe is already benefitting from this deal is Google’s indexing of MySpace pages. In thinking through this, I randomly went to an accessible member’s (public profile) page, looked for a fairly unique sentence that they might have used on their page, and typed it in quotes into three search engines, Google, Yahoo! and Ask. As it turns out only Google came back with a response and it was a dead on hit to that member’s profile. Talk about opening up real-estate for Google ads. Especially when you start to see all of the commercial advertising opportunities that can be derived from that member’s profile. As it stands today, advertising is already supported on members’ profile pages, so this becomes an instant bonanza for Google.

The second opportunity lies more in the area of behavioral advertising versus contextual advertising. The value proposition that behavioral ad networks like TACODA, Revenue Science and Blue Lithium bring to Web publishers is the ability to place ads for things that their visitors are interested in because they have followed those consumers’ behaviors across other sites. For advertisers, it’s a way to get their message in front of the right consumer regardless of what site they happen to be on. If you’re a visitor to a site that sells cars, chances are you’re interested in buying a car so why not put a car offer on a gossip site if they know it’s you visiting there, since the ad network knows of my interest in cars, or so the behavioral targeting proposition goes.

In contrast with this, you have Google’s AdSense, that are more focused on contextual advertising (other ad networks like Kanoodle are also more focused in this area). Here, relevancy is determined by what content is on the site or page that the visitor is on. Hence, if you’re reading a story about football, you might see a pitch for a book about football or football gear from a sporting goods site. The way context is determined has been getting better, but initially it was simply tied to a keyword that best described the content present on the page so as to match that with advertisers who have bid on that keyword.

With the MySpace relationship, Google is perhaps the first ad network that could viably begin to experiment with both contextual and behavioral advertising to see which works better. Not only that, it could also begin tweaking its campaigns to see if at a user level there is an effect in moving from one method to the next. Given the amount of profile information that can be mined on MySpace member profiles, there’s a wealth of data from some 100 million members that can be leveraged for behavioral targeting.

I’d say that with the $900M as a guarantee, Google got off cheap (even if we were just to buy member profile info for $9 each). I expect that they will be able to generate quite a bit more than this from this information, and even if there is a revenue share agreement for revenue generated beyond the guarantee, it’s still more than worth it since they’ve not only gotten new valuable inventory for advertising (especially given the target audience), but also they now have a richness of data from which to hone their advertising targeting skills going forward.

The bottom line is that is that I believe there are anciliary benefits to this deal that make it more powerful than what seems to be the case at first blush.

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Posted in Online Community | Leave a Comment »

Pizza Antica, nice pizza, abusive drink prices

Posted by direwolff on August 17, 2006

Pizza Antica is a new restaurant that recently opened in the Strawberry Village mall right between Tiburon & Mill Valley, CA. It’s a nice open and well lit space w/a wine bar playing itself up as a high end pizza establishment (in other words, not your typical “by the slice” pizza place, think rustic).

While the average small pizza is in the $8.95 to $9.50 price range, no small cost for a one person meal, that isn’t too upsetting given their play on quality. But where I can accept such pricing for their pizzas (it was yummy), it’s their drinks prices that felt insulting. While they were certainly premium priced there was nothing overly surprising about that, but what added insult to injury was that their Sanpellegrino Aranciata and Limonata were the 6.5 fl. oz. bottles and priced at $2.75!!! That’s right, not only would such a price be outrageous pricing for the 12 oz can, but for the 6.5 oz bottle it’s a freakin’ crime. All I know, is that where I was willing pay up for ‘za, I felt like I was bent over on the drink. A damn shame I tell ya. I’m all for a restaurant making a buck, but this method just goes a little too far and puts this restaurant in the category of restaurants I won’t be visiting any time soon. If you decide to visit this restaurant, definitely blow off the soft drinks and go for the wine.

Posted in reviews | 3 Comments »