Current Events

Mexed Missages?

Phew! The first presidential debate is over and President Bush grasped to his single flip-flop theme like a mouse to a reed in a stormy sea. Bush kept coming back and accusing Kerry of changing his position on issues, over and over with such regularity that I began to think this was all he had in his bag of tricks. As one pundit said on the local TV station here, “It’s one thing to have conviction in your ways but you can’t pound the pulpit for 90 minutes and say the same thing.”

Towards the end, in exasperation, Bush blurted out, “You cannot lead if you send mexed missages.”

You could almost hear the groans from the Bush green room.


Google News Forever in Beta

Why has Google News been in Beta for three years? Because as soon as they try and place ads on the Google News pages to monetize the traffic, they’ll be hit with a barrage of cease & desist letters from publishers around the world says Wired’s Adam Penenberg.


Improving RSS

In response to the growing popularity of RSS and it’s increasing demands for bandwidth, Bloglines has announced a new web services API which they are making publicly available.

In other news, the redesign of My Yahoo is all about leveraging RSS feeds as the preferred method of integrating content into the portal. With the daily promotion Editor’s RSS “Picks of the Day” it’s sounding like 1995 all over again.


Big Blue Masala

IBM will release a new corporate search engine, the “DB2 Information Integrator” (code-named Masala) tomorrow reports CNet and eWeek.

The information integrator is able to do this because it can search rapidly across multiple databases, including relational and non-relational databases and structured and unstructured data such as text files, word documents, Adobe Acrobat files, video or audio files, according to Jones.

“To gather this information up today, they might have to use multiple searches,” Jones said. DB2 Information Integrator can replace all of these searches with a single search that gathers all of the types of information to answer a single question, he said.

Sounded like a pretty tall order to me. I’ve heard of connectors that can search the closed-caption text of a video but audio has no such meta-data. A scan of the IBM website for Masala doesn’t help either. I then happened upon this IBM Research site that shows early attempts to automatically categorize images on MPEG-7 video files. Once categorized, you can then query the meta-data attached to each image.

Some further work is needed to iron out the kinks. In the example, looking closer you can see that both Janis Joplin and Peter Jennings were tagged as “animals”



Michael Karp, our new friend in Alameda, took Tyler and I up for a spin around the Bay with his son. Tyler was glued to the window as we took off and circled over the Golden Gate but then fell asleep for the landing. Just another flight for him I suppose but for me it was an great perspective on the San Francisco Bay.

Click here for photos.


The Political Bias of Algorithms

In a review of the Google and Yahoo news sites in Online Journalism Review, Ethan Zuckerman puts forward a very interesting theory as to why the alternative news sites bubble up to the top of the relevance ranking algorithms at Google News.

“I think what you’re seeing is an odd little linguistic artifact,” said Zuckerman, former vice president of and now a fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society who studies search engines. The chief culprit, he theorized, is that mainstream news publications refer to the senator on second reference as Kerry, while alternative news sites often use the phrase “John Kerry” multiple times, for effect or derision. To Google News’ eye, that’s a more exact search result.

A second possible factor, Zuckerman said, is that small, alternative news sites have no hesitancy about using “John Kerry” in a headline, while most mainstream news sites eschew first names in headlines. The inadvertent result is that the smaller sites score better results with the search engines.


They Came From Hollywood


I had to post this magnificent screen shot from a game that I can’t wait to play. The game is currently being developed by two San Francisco game designers and will be sold independent of any major publishing house. The detail on the screenshots page is mind-boggling and their description of the project shows that they also have a great sense of humor:

They Came From Hollywood is a real-time strategy/action game in which you take on the role of a giant B-movie monster in your own cheesy B-movie. Ravage cities while fighting off the military. Eat people. Eat cars. Punch holes in buildings, knock down billboards and kick over every newspaper stand in ten blocks. Everything is destructible: buildings topple, dust rises, fires spread, cars explode, broken fire hydrants shoot streams of water. Pick up any mailbox, street lamp, light pole, and throw it — or any unfortunate human, for that matter.

Big is good, little is bad…and you’re big, baby, city-threatenin’ big. TCFH is currently in development here at Octopus Motor and planned for debut in 2004.

I know…you’re thinking, “yes, that’s all well and good, but where are the bullet points?”

So here’s where we fire off a volley of bullet points all John-Woo style…mind the flying cartridges.
Yes, Frank, I’m dumping you.

* Play as one of twelve unique giant monsters
* Customize your monster
* Destroy six great U.S. cities
* Cities are totally destructible environments
* Take on worthless humans in four different time periods
* Utterly ridiculous backstory

Okay, I’m kidding about the backstory. There’s no backstory. There’s no front story, either. We may have wedged a little story in there sideways somewhere, but you’re not gonna be able to get it out unless you have one of those really small metric screwdrivers. We hope you enjoy the game anyhow.

They even are creating an interface for Dance Dance Revolution pad so you can control the game monster by stomping your feet. They are also taking solicitations for screams that, if they pass muster, will be sampled and used in the game.


iPod Scroll Wheel


Ask any iPod user what they like the most about their device, and most will probably mention the scrollwheel. Here’s the story behind the company that makes it (hint: it’s not Apple).


This story has legs

This week’s Time Magazine has Dan Rather on the cover with the title, "Who Owns the Truth" which should be a page-turner for anyone in the blogging industry. Previously and editor for The New Republic, now a brand name blogger, Andrew Sullivan writes a piece in which concludes that the ecosystem of old media and the "pajamahadeen" bloggers is really a beneficial one:

Does this mean the old media is dead? Not at all. Blogs depend on the journalistic resources of big media to do the bulk of reporting and analysis. What blogs do is provide the best scrutiny of big media imaginable—ratcheting up the standards of the professionals, adding new voices, new perspectives and new facts every minute. The genius lies not so much in the bloggers themselves but in the transparent system they have created. In an era of polarized debate, the truth has never been more available. Thank the guys in the pajamas. And read them.

Current Events

Surfing One Huge Wave

The site that hosts this video tries to pawn this off as a shot of someone surfing Hurricane Ivan but the comments seem to agree that this 70 foot plus monster was off the coast of Hawaii at a place called Jaws and that the guy did make it after all. Still, the video has to be seen to be believed – you don’t really realize how big the wave is until it begins to break.