April 1, 2010

Google funniest joke of the year (that I’ve noticed so far)

I just noticed a subtle and really funny Google joke. Look at where on the search results page it tells you how long the search took. They’re screwing around with the units of time (and in some cases substituting actual measures of speed).  So far I’ve noticed figures in units of:

I haven’t tried to check or estimate the conversion factors used.

Related links

April 1, 2010

April Fool’s Day highlights

It’s April 1, and hence time for jests, online or otherwise. Highlights this year include:

Edit: And more being added as I find them:

Related links

March 29, 2010

Google’s version of an old joke

Search Google for “recursion” and it helpfully offers a link to let you search on — you guessed it — “recursion.”  The joke has been implemented in German as well.

This idea is not, to put it mildly, new. I first saw the definition

Recursion: See recursion

in the glossary to Intellicorp’s KEE documentation, in 1984 or so. And I’d guess the joke is actually a lot older than that.

For another variation of the same idea, see this link.

March 28, 2010

A new attitude toward online reputation?

Michael Arrington of TechCrunch stirred the post today with a post titled Reputation Is Dead: It’s Time To Overlook Our Indiscretions. The premise is:

If anything, Arrington understated the case, by focusing on two kinds of disclosure:

That overlooks two other threats:

I.e., Arrington was even more correct than he seemed to realize.

Fred Wilson responded by suggesting that the key issue is making sure that enough good things are said about you to more than compensate for the bad ones. I emphatically agree with that too, as per my 2008 online reputation dictum:

The internet WILL tell stories about you, true or otherwise. Make sure your own version is out there too.

Where Wilson fell down a bit is in suggesting that you should get so many good things said about you they should completely crowd the bad ones off the top page of search engine results. First, this is difficult. Second and more important, if somebody is checking you out for a job or whatever, there’s a good chance they’ll click through to the second page of the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). But otherwise his thoughts are spot-on.

To paraphrase Andy Warhol, everybody is a celebrity for 15 minutes, or to an audience of 15 other people. And for many of us, you can tack a few 0s onto those figures. So there’s no reason to expect any more privacy than celebrities have — but there’s also no reason to expect any less tolerance for our failings than is shown to them.

Related links

September 20, 2009

Data marts in the world of text

CMS/search (Content Management System) expert Alan Pelz-Sharpe recently decried “Shadow IT”, by which he seems to mean departmental proliferation of data stores outside the control of the IT department. In other words, he’s talking about data marts, only for documents rather than tabular data.

Notwithstanding the manifest virtues of centralization, there are numerous reasons you might want data marts,  in the tabular and document worlds alike.  For example:

Bottom line: Text data marts, much like relational data marts, are almost surely here to stay.

Related link

July 8, 2009

Google declares total war on Microsoft

Google blogged Tuesday night about a new project, the Google Chrome Operating System. Highlights include:

Obviously, Google Chrome OS is a direct attack on Microsoft — even more so than Google Wave, which I’ve predicted will “play merry hell with Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft SharePoint, and more,” or for that matter than Google Mail and the rest of Google Apps. Taken together, Google’s initiatives suggest that an all-out Google-Microsoft war is coming, in a conflict that many people have been expecting — and analyzingfor years.

So how will this all shake out? Well, let’s start with some basic points:

Read more

May 30, 2009


The newsletter/column excerpted below was originally published in 1998.  Some of the specific references are obviously very dated.  But the general points about the requirements for successful natural language computer interfaces still hold true.  Less progress has been made in the intervening decade-plus than I would have hoped, but some recent efforts — especially in the area of search-over-business-intelligence — are at least mildly encouraging.  Emphasis added.

Natural language computer interfaces were introduced commercially about 15 years ago*.  They failed miserably.

*I.e., the early 1980s

For example, Artificial Intelligence Corporation’s Intellect was a natural language DBMS query/reporting/charting tool.  It was actually a pretty good product.  But it’s infamous among industry insiders as the product for which IBM, in one of its first software licensing deals, got about 1700 trial installations — and less than a 1% sales close rate.  Even its successor, Linguistic Technologies’ English Wizard*, doesn’t seem to be attracting many customers, despite consistently good product reviews.

*These days (i.e., in 2009) it’s owned by Progress and called EasyAsk. It still doesn’t seem to be selling well.

Another example was HAL, the natural language command interface to 1-2-3.  HAL is the product that first made Bill Gross (subsequently the founder of Knowledge Adventure and idealab!) and his brother Larry famous.  However, it achieved no success*, and was quickly dropped from Lotus’ product line.

*I loved the product personally. But I was sadly alone.

In retrospect, it’s obvious why natural language interfaces failed. First of all, they offered little advantage over the forms-and-menus paradigm that dominated enterprise computing in both the online-character-based and client-server-GUI eras.  If you couldn’t meet an application need with forms and menus, you couldn’t meet it with natural language either. Read more

May 29, 2009

Google Wave — finally a Microsoft killer?

Google held a superbly-received preview of a new technology called Google Wave, which promises to “reinvent communication.” In simplest terms, Google Wave is a software platform that:

If this all works out, Google Wave could play merry hell with Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft SharePoint, and more.

I suspect it will.

And by the way, there’s a cool “natural language” angle as well. Read more

May 23, 2009

TechCrunch offers to pay a source’s legal expenses

A recent TechCrunch post recapitulates its dispute with CBS and Last.fm, reiterates its confidence in its accusations, and closes with

And to the CBS employee who was fired and threatened based on this story – we believe certain U.S. Whistle Blower laws may protect you from retaliation from CBS in this matter. We’d like to provide you with legal counsel at our cost.

That’s a remarkable offer to make, one that is very rare for traditional media to match. As such, it’s a strong (albeit very partial) answer to the ongoing handwringing about the future of investigative journalism. Read more

May 17, 2009

Monetization strategies for the New York Times

In his remarks about my recent post that he aptly characterizes as “A Consumer-Centric View of Business Models for Publishing,” Daniel Tunkelang notes that I didn’t directly address the premium/freemium strategy he favors for the New York Times, namely monetizing community. As Daniel puts it,

But community can’t be copied. Even if you mirrored all of this blog’s content and put someone else’s name on it, the comment threads would still live here. You could copy those too, but only the readers who came here could participate in the conversation, and I believe that would still draw most of you.

Frankly, I don’t think that would work. Good blog commenters are precious, generously donating their own time and thought to build up your content. Could one charge people to read that? Maybe. But charging people to write great content for you seems like one barrier too many, and I’m not sure how to charge them to read without also charging them to write. That said, various forums (i.e., message boards) offer premium forums, so at least for some lifestyle business owners the approach seems to be worth pursuing.

Other strategies to consider include: Read more

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