Thursday, March 17, 2005

The Google Dance Syndrome

on SearchEngineWatch

I think I need a medicine to save me from Google madness.

In contrast, some search engine optimizers watch each index refresh intimately, trying to determine if it heralds a potential rise or fall their fortunes. For them, the changeover period that's come to be known as the "Google Dance" may reveal what seems like dramatic changes in Google.

For example, someone who has a page in the top results that's accidentally dropped from the index (as can happen with all search engines) could see a significant loss of traffic until it gets restored during next month's refresh. But for a typical searcher, the loss of that particular page might not even be noticed, assuming there are 10 other good pages in the top results, for their query.

Given the stress the Google Dance may cause some, I'd like to declare a new illness: Google Dance Syndrome. To suffer, you need to be a close watcher of the Google Dance who has been hurt by changes in the latest index.

Invisible Tabs ?

on SearchEngineWatch

This guy argues simply adding innumerable tabs to offer specialised search options is not a solution for the future.

Yahoo 360 coming March end

via SearchBlog (Technorati)

Yahoo Inc. (Nasdaq:YHOO - news) is preparing to introduce a new service that blends several of its Web site's popular features with two of the Internet's fastest growing activities — blogging and social networking. The hybrid service, called "Yahoo 360," won't be available until March 29, but the Sunnyvale-based company decided to announce the product late Tuesday after details were leaked to The Associated Press and other news outlets.

WorldCom’s cowboy bites the dust

on Economist

Mr Ebbers built WorldCom from modest beginnings into a firm worth over $175 billion at the height of the stockmarket boom by relentlessly acquiring telecoms assets and eventually masterminding a $37 billion merger with MCI, one of America’s leading long-distance phone companies. At the height of the boom his firm’s internet-backbone business carried 40% of America’s web traffic.

Revelations that he had borrowed hundreds of millions of dollars from WorldCom to cover losses from his purchase of company shares hastened his exit. By now, WorldCom’s market capitalisation had shrunk to $7 billion. Shortly afterwards, the firm admitted an accounting fraud and sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

At WorldCom, costs were simply reclassified as capital expenses to boost cashflow and profits. The firm’s bankers and shareholders were fooled by this—or chose not to care—while the good times persisted. As the boom ended, WorldCom’s financial chicanery was thrown into the spotlight.

Ironically, the manner of WorldCom’s demise has allowed creditors and shareholders to recoup a little of their investments through the courts. Investors in other once-high-flying companies have been left to rue “lost” paper fortunes that evaporated with the tech bubble’s bursting. WorldCom was a little different. It had real assets, revenues and profits. Perhaps it was this as much as Mr Ebbers’s hubris that encouraged the firm to employ accounting tricks to keep an illusory promise alive.

This rebirth has caused alarm among competing telecoms firms. They complain that the bankruptcy proceedings left WorldCom in an unfairly strong position. But MCI has failed to capitalise. In 2004 revenues fell by 15% and the company suffered an operating loss of $3.2 billion after writing down the value of its telephone network by $3.5 billion. MCI may soon fall prey to a competitor: it is currently mulling an offer of $6.8 billion from Verizon Communications, one of America’s largest local phone companies, and a rival $8 billion offer from Qwest, a smaller local phone firm.

No-TV campaign from Pepsi

on NYTimes

Oneify - Campaign website for Pepsi One.

The media strategy of forsaking television, so unconventional for Pepsi-Cola, is emblematic of efforts by major marketers to seek nontraditional methods of reaching increasingly elusive audiences. These approaches are often used to appeal to young consumers, who are as likely to be playing video games, sitting at PC's or sending text messages on their cellphones as they are to be staring at TV sets.

The campaign is "a smart thing for Pepsi to do," especially in trying to "capture more male consumers, because the big diet colas, Diet Pepsi and Diet Coke, definitely skew somewhat female," said John D. Sicher, editor and publisher of Beverage Digest, an industry newsletter based in Bedford Hills, N.Y.

Oil prices ignoring supply/demand ?

on NYTimes

The acting secretary general of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting countries, Adnan Shihab-Eldin of Kuwait, told reporters early in the month that $80-a-barrel oil was not out of the question if there were a sudden interruption in production. And an analysis from the Energy Department released last week said crude oil prices were expected to average around $50 a barrel this year.

Fadel Gheit of Oppenheimer & Company in New York compared behavior in the oil market to the run-up in Nasdaq stocks that ended five years ago. "The higher oil prices go, the closer we get to bursting the bubble," Mr. Gheit said. "At some point the circuit breaker will kick in and the price will come down. I would not be surprised to see oil come back to $30."

"We are in the mode where the fundamentals of supply and demand really don't drive the price," Lee R. Raymond, the chairman and chief executive of Exxon Mobil, the world's largest energy company, said at a meeting last week with analysts in New York. "Oil is a commodity, and history tells us that commodity prices never stay high forever."

For every voice calling for moderation in the market, there are others putting forth reasons for oil prices to climb. The International Energy Agency said on Friday that it had increased its estimate for growth in worldwide demand for oil this year to 1.81 million barrels a day, a 2.2 percent rise from last year - putting global consumption of oil at 84.3 million barrels a day. Much of the output to meet that demand will have to come from Saudi Arabia, the largest producer, and other OPEC countries.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

MSN In Need of an Image Makeover?

on BetaNews

An internal debate began within Microsoft after veteran engineer turned Google employee Mark Lucovsky wrote in his Web log that Microsoft no longer knew how to "ship" software. He noted that work from Microsoft engineers could take years to reach customers while "software as a service" companies such as Amazon and Google deliver improvements overnight.
Has Microsoft lost the magic touch -- Is Microsoft software passé?

What to expect from Rincon (IE7) ?

on MicrosoftWatch

IE 7.0 has been code-named Rincon. For starters, you can expect the following :
  • It will be a tabbed browser
  • It will be integrated with an RSS aggregator
  • It will be integrated with its new Anti-Spyware

A9 OpenSearch

via SearchBlog

Last night at Etech Udi Manber gave me a sneak peek at what Bezos announced this morning - A9's "OpenSearch." A9 has always been more of a "remixable" search engine - with many columns on the right hand side that let you hack your search interface - you can create columns of image, reference, web, and many other types of searches. When I wrote up A9 last year, I imagined that those buttons on the right hand side may well augur a time when any content provider might become a button. Turns out, I was right. But I didn't imagine A9 would use RSS as the way to do it, it's a neat hack. As the tagline to the introduction of the new services states: "We want OpenSearch to do for search what RSS has done for content."

Yahoo Buzz !!

via SearchBlog

Over at its Research Labs, Yahoo today announced The Tech Buzz Game, in conjunction with O'Reilly Media. This is a search-driven marketplace creates a futures market of sorts predicting the popularity of various technologies. Very cool. You can even win prizes for best predictions.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

The Alpha Bloggers

on NewsWeek

The lesson is that there's a new force—spearheaded by people who work for no bosses and whose prose never sees an editor's pencil—that provides the water-cooler fodder for the larger high-tech community. Its power extends not only to high-tech cool-hunting but also to what's politically correct, geek style. (Open source... gooood. Onerous copy protection... eeeevil.) And the significance of this phenomenon has some important implications for the way opinions will be formed in the decentralized world of Internet media.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

End of Windows ?

On SearchBlog

Battelle on how web-based application could turn Windows Desktop obsolete, something like what Windows did to DOS.

The Economist Technology Quarterly

If you are mad about technology, grab a latest copy of The Economist featuring the Technology Quarterly.

These are the special articles featured :

Hunanoid Robots
Argues that humanoid form for robots might not be good engineering. But still designing humanoids might serve some purposes, especially since humans have designed their environments to match their form.

Describes the economics of Grid Computing and efforts by Sun and HP to help the technology mature.

Electronics, Unleaded
Talks about how a new EU rule restricting the use of harmful chemicals in electronic devices could pose problems for the entire supply chain. Especially, people like Dell. But, the rule makes sense looking at the number of obsolete devices getting dumped each year.

Phones with eyes
Eventhough picture messaging did not become as popular as text messaging, new camera phones are helping new innovations in making life simpler. For example, Amazon lets shoppers in bookstores scan bardcodes and lets them know if Amazon can offer a cheaper price !! Simple ?

Microstructured Materials
A new technology that uses rapid protoyping and genetic algoeithms could help people customise the physical properties of every cubic millimetre of a structure. This could lead to material structures that could show very useful, but unusual properties. An airplane bigger than A380 might not be a difficult task.

Chip-Based Speech Recognition
Researchers at CMU and UCB are working on chip solely devoted to speech-recognition that could deliver the ultimate solution to problems with software-based speech recognition.

The Tail of Software ?
A store called Softwide is innovating on a new model for selling software. This looks more like the "The Tail" featured on Wired.

Medicated Contact Lenses
A new technology could enable easy application of medication through contact lenses.

Spiritual Connection
"Spiritual" mobile phones are driving people crazy. Example, mobile phones can now show the direction of Mecca !!

iPod Killer ?
This article wonders if the convergence of many features into one device spells doom for dedicated devices. But surprisingly, such mating is just throwing up interesting offsprings, not killing the parents.

Smarter Air Travel
IATA is trying to bring the airline industry back to the black by efficient use of modern technology, but with apparent challenges of integration, security and customer service.

Cost of Technology
This article explores the usefulness of high tech for poor people lacking basic amenities. It quotes Embalam, a village near Pondicherry. It quotes work done by people like MS Swaminathan and Ashok Jhunjhunwala (IIT Madras). The basic argument is you shouldnt be hungry while working on a computer.

Collaborative Filtering
Talks about different methods, privacy issues and practical problems. The basic idea is "Find Good Things."

Forensic Computing
On how criminals and crime-fighters do in the technology race. Some Keywords : "Web Bugs"

AI Law
On how AI programs could reduce legal costs in the future and the technological, ethical issues facing such systems.

Ray Kurzweil
This guy is amazing. An inventor,scientist, futurist, writer and many more, his vision for the future includes virtual interaction between people and immortality. He believes he is going to live forever. (He was the guy to invent things like OCR and electric piano.)

Saturday, March 12, 2005


A Google-Amazon Mashup !!


Transparansee has a new Discovery Search search engine. Looks interesting.

Example: Online Dating

Profiles on online dating sites are defined by many categories: height, weight, interests, occupation, age, location, and more.

Most dating sites only allow users to search across a very small number of categories such as gender, age and location. This is because a more detailed search would be
unlikely to return many results.

Transparensee allows users to drill as deeply as they like into a dataset. A request for a blonde, blue-eyed, 5’6, 30 year-old living at 53rd and 3rd might not return any perfect matches, but the Discovery Search Engine can still show users the ten, hundred, or even thousand best matches in the system.

When a user’s profile is viewed, Transparensee can display the ten, twenty, or fifty most similar profiles in the system. If you like the user you’re viewing, you’re likely to like the others you’ll be shown.

Once you see other users who are similar to the one you’re looking at you can browse them and, if one strikes your fancy, click on one to see their profile. You would, of course, then be shown a list of profiles most similar to this new profile, and you could use this information to browse on and select yet another profile. In this way the Discovery Search Engine gives users a better way to browse through and traverse the data in a system in a way that constantly shows them new results and is highly intuitive.

If, while viewing a user profile, a user types in a keyword such as “mountain climbing”, the Discovery Search Engine will display the profiles of users most similar to the one presently being viewed who also use the words “mountain climbing” in the essay they’ve written about themselves.

If a company wants to show off certain profiles more than others, they can give those profiles a “push” so that they’re more likely to show up in search results than they would otherwise be. This ensures that the most interesting profiles will tend to be viewed more frequently than they otherwise would.

The Long Tail in Search

via SearchBlog

This is the original post by Bnoopy.

His advice for Entrepreneurs :

So, my tip for entrepreneurs? It’s all about the long tail. Whatever business your starting, think about how to serve millions of markets of dozens instead of dozens of markets of millions. Serving the head isn’t a bad strategy. You can build a great business. But, figure out how to serve the tail of your market efficiently and you’ve got a blockbuster.

In fact, the frequency of the average query was 1.2. That means if you wrote each of the millions of queries on a slip of paper, put them all in a fish bowl and grabbed one at random, there was a high likelihood that this query was asked only once during the day. Of ten-plus million queries a day, the average search was nearly unique.

The most interesting statistic however, was that while the top 10 searches were thousands of times more popular than the average search, these top-10 searches represented only 3% of our total volume. 97% of our traffic came from the “long tail” – queries asked a little over once a day.

You know the real reason Excite went out of business? We couldn’t figure out how to make money from 97% of our traffic. We couldn’t figure out how to make money from the long tail – from those queries asked only once a day.

The Real Digital Divide

Mar 10th 2005 From The Economist print edition

Economist argues "Forget computing power, give mobile phones to uplift the developing countries"

... even if it were possible to wave a magic wand and cause a computer to appear in every household on earth, it would not achieve very much: a computer is not useful if you have no food or electricity and cannot read.

Rather than trying to close the divide for the sake of it, the more sensible goal is to determine how best to use technology to promote bottom-up development. And the answer to that question turns out to be remarkably clear: by promoting the spread not of PCs and the internet, but of mobile phones.

A new paper finds that mobile phones raise long-term growth rates, that their impact is twice as big in developing nations as in developed ones, and that an extra ten phones per 100 people in a typical developing country increases GDP growth by 0.6 percentage points.

they can have a dramatic impact: reducing transaction costs, broadening trade networks and reducing the need to travel, which is of particular value for people looking for work. Little wonder that people in poor countries spend a larger proportion of their income on telecommunications than those in rich ones.

Instead of messing around with telecentres and infrastructure projects of dubious merit, the best thing governments in the developing world can do is to liberalise their telecoms markets