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Only in Japan – Thanks Tail

tail_car.jpgA polite society based on mutual respect and courtesy requires new tools for the road. You flash your brights when you sugget someone go ahead or if warning on-coming traffic of a speed trap but what to do to when you want to indicate thanks to those that let you into traffic? Thanks Tail is a robotic rendition of a dog’s tail that is controlled from inside the car and can be wagged as an expression of “thank you” to the car behind you.

I think this thing would get you killed in New Jersey.

Thanks Tail!

Update: featured on RocketBoom

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Hey You Potter!

For Tyler’s 6th Birthday we didn’t have a big party. He chose instead to redirect the birthday funds into a six disc DVD set of the first three Harry Potter movies. We’ve been reading the Potter books and Tyler has found a new world to explore beyond Thomas the Tank Engine. He picks up every piece of trivia, asks detailed questions, and is now studying the movies as eager as an acolyte.

Because her playmate is now entranced by the spell of Potter, Julia’s picked it up a bit as well. She hasn’t quite gotten the name of the the series down yet so she calls it “Hey You Potter” but she’s got the theme music down and both of them came to our bed this morning and greeted us with their renditions.

Affiliate marketing offline browser

People always ask me how they can make money writing a blog. The question is like someone back in 1870, a few years after the invention of the telephone, asking how someone can make money dialing a telephone call. With apologies to Marshall McLuhan, it’s the message not the medium.

Interactive advertising is playing an dangerous dance with the bloggers with initiatives such as Marqui that blur the independence of the writers. Affiliate marketing is something that is also unique to the internet and has the potential to tempt bloggers looking for a quick buck. Affiliate programs such as Amazon’s Associate Program pay for purchases that originate via a link on your site. It’s an great solution for spiffing someone that sends business your way but it can be abused at the expense of editorial vision.

There is a whole industry that is growing up around the work-at-home industry of affiliate marketing websites and now there is even a blogging client that will help you compose your text while inserting affiliate links as needed to stress your point and boost your revenue. One hopes that the search folks will keep their spiders groomed so that blatantly advertorial posts will fall off the bottom of the Google & Technorati rankings and keep things relevant but I’m afraid that the capitalistic urge to harvest click-throughs will prevail until we raise the cost of such behavior or the public ceases to buy into tangential links. The fact that there are still so many infomercial programs on television doesn’t provide much hope for any change in the public’s support of such behavior.

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Office

Yahoo to buy Flickr

In other news this weekend, Yahoo has confirmed that it has purchased online photo collaboration and folksononomy pioneer, Flickr. Major cred points for the folks in Purple and Yellow. Write ups from Jeremey Zawodny at Yahoo and Caterina at Flickr. It’s now really getting interesting!

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Current Events

Diller to buy Jeeves says New York Times

Barry Diller’s InterActive Corp is set to buy Ask Jeeves, the 4th largest search engine company (5th according to the WSJ lead) for $1.9 billion (Reuters confirms it’s $1.85 billion) in stock writes the New York Times.

Ask purchased Bloglines, the web-based RSS aggregator, last month. 70% of Ask’s revenues come from advertising served by Google so we might see this change as search results drive traffic to network commerce sites owned by IAC such as Expedia, Ticketmaster, Home Shopping Network, Match.com and CitySearch.

No word on the TypePad-powered Ask Jeeves blog at this time.

UPDATE: In a Reuters recap of a conference call, Diller is quoted as saying, “Global search is the gateway to everything.” Sounds like we’re heading back to the portal days of old and that search engines are once again the core to any portal. How many months before people start talking again about search engine lock-in and adding hooks to make a search engine more than just another bookmark?

Still no word from the Ask Jeeves blog or ask.com.

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All Grown Up

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John & Yuko Garrett, two old friends from Tokyo, were visiting San Francisco this weekend and brought a bunch of us together for a BBQ and to meet their daughter, Emma Peach. It was great to catch up with Tom Watanabe, his wife, and others from the Linc Computer crowd.

A couple of the people there are, like me, married to Japanese and are trying to raise their kids to speak Japanese. Two of the couples speak nothing but Japanese when at home which I admire. It’s not only good for the kids, it would be good for me. Izumi’s English is much better than my Japanese and, frankly, I’m too lazy and too easily slip back into English.

We also met Joshua (on the left) who is building a house completely powered by solar. He figures he will make enough energy during the daylight hours to sell power back to the local utility which will more than make up for any energy he has to buy from them in the evenings. The total cost for the system is about $20k but with various government rebates and credits, all in costs will be more like $13k. Amortize the loan over 10 years and it works out about $150/month which is about what he’d pay for power anyway. Once it’s paid off, it’ll just make money for him, especially when you think that the price of electricity isn’t coming down anytime soon.

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Office

code or developer, chicken or egg?

Found this by browsing the popular links page on de.licio.us. Google has countered Yahoo’s Search API page with a revamp of their own API page. Links out to sample APIs, documentation, and even a blog. One major difference is that they are also posting links to projects that they have released as open source.

The URLs tell you something about the two companies.

code.google.com or developer.yahoo.net

At Google it’s about the code, at Yahoo it’s about the developer.

PS. Six Apart has just launched its own version of the above. www.sixapart.com/pronet/docs/powertools so I guess that means we’re not about the code or the developer. It’s the tools and we hope you use ones that give you Power!

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Current Events

Microsoft RSS Reader, Start.com

I first heard about this from Richard MacManus’ Read/Write Web and only now am getting a chance to play around with it. The server-based reader is part of Microsoft’s experimental sandbox area and there are two versions posted. One is a web-based RSS reader and the other is an online bookmarks list. Unless I’m missing something, there’s nothing to earth shattering here. The reader doesn’t let you search or profile against any of the feeds and the bookmarks, once you upload them (via an ActiveX control), are there to stay.

I’m sure all this stuff will get worked out so when you try things like overwriting your bookmarks by uploading another version the browser won’t crash. It’s still the sandbox. What is more interesting is that this is the clearest indication yet that Microsoft views RSS as an integral part of any portal. It’s right there next to the Search tab so it’s only a matter of time before they extend Search to RSS feeds. Likewise with the bookmarks, the next logical step is to extend what’s on the page out to others in the MSN network as is done in de.licio.us.

I smile when I see that it’s called these efforts two flavors of a Start Page. I have a bit of a history with this moniker as I spent many long hours debating what to call a revolutionary new section of the Factiva.com product and we ended up calling it the very same thing, the Start Page.

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Current Events

Statistically Improbable Phrases

Via Paul Bausch is news of a feature in Amazon.com that runs analysis on books scanned into Amazon’s Search Inside index. From Amazon’s site:

Amazon.com’s Statistically Improbable Phrases, or “SIPs”, show you the interesting, distinctive, or unlikely phrases that occur in the text of books in Search Inside the Book. Our computers scan the text of all books in the Search Inside program. If they find a phrase that occurs a large number of times in a particular book relative to how many times it occurs across all Search Inside books, that phrase is a SIP in that book.

Yet another tool to hook you back to the Amazon mothership. Here’s a list of books that list the improbable phrase, thumb tribes.

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Current Events

Blogging and Meetup

I’m going local on you, I know but I just wanted readers in the San Francisco/East Bay area know that Ginevra and I have taken on organizational duties at two local blogging meetups and will be hosting events next month. If you’re in the area, stop by, we look forward to meeting you!

The San Francisco Movable Type Meetup – April 11th @ 7 pm
The Alameda County Weblogger Meetup – April 20th @ 7 pm