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Current Events

Slow News Day in Japan

I just love the Crime column in the English language Yomiuri. It’s either about some extremely gruesome incident which makes you question how people can be raised to be capable of such things or it’s some totally mundane non-event that makes you feel sorry for the totally bored reporter that had to write the silly thing up.

Today was a good example of the latter.

A bus driver has been fined for stopping on the Hamada Expressway in Chiyodacho, Hiroshima Prefecture, to let a 76-year-old woman get off the bus, it was learned Saturday.

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Current Events

Marqui’s “Blogosphere Program”

Internetnews.com writes that Marqui is paying bloggers ($800/month) to mention their product:

We put no limits on what these paid bloggers can say about Marqui; we only require a badge on their site, a weekly mention of our product and a URL link in the body of their blog.  For their own integrity factor, if they want some sort of disclaimer on their blog, they’re more than welcome to acknowledge that we are paying them to blog with a frame, background, language, etc.

If bloggers paid by Marqui want to do more, whether offering criticism about our products and services or adding their personal endorsement, we welcome it. Criticism is helpful
in our development process and it is always better to be talked about than not.

This of course sparked a lively debate in the blogosphere to which they say:

Complete transparency (sic) is mandatory

The idea of paying bloggers is a controversial one, as it challenges some of the sacred cows of the journalistic publishing business. When we first started talking about this idea, an energetic exchange between people with traditional publishing backgrounds and bloggers erupted on the Web.

If Marqui can support these debates, helping the business community to better understand how to harness the power of the network — which is exactly what our products and services are designed to help them do successfully — we believe our sponsorships will pay huge dividends.

It will be interesting to see how the model will play out for them. It will certainly generate content around their URL and increase the Pagerank of their site over time, then it’s successful. After the hubbub around the ethics of this tactic dies down, they will hopefully get good product feedback this way as well. It’d be great if they provided a list of the 15 bloggers they have chosen as I’d like to read what they are saying about Marqui.

Another fun way to “game” the search engine rankings is what P&G Japan did with their trackback contest. They asked people to post stories about their run ins with tough stains and then trackback to their site for laundry detergent. I think they gave out prizes for every 100th trackback or something but the result was that many websites are now pointing to this page so that it’s become a top ranked page for those searching on tough stains and detergent – exactly what they were after!

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Current Events

Tokyo Storm Drains

This has absolutely nothing to do with media, technology, or finance but hey, it’s the holidays and these images are absolutely stunning. Pointed out by a colleague of mine who has a knack to uncovering all that’s weird and wonderful, these photos of a Tokyo sewer system are nested in a larger site that details the engineering behind a large public works project.

Just goes to show, that well engineered public works projects can be both functional and beautiful.

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Current Events

SuperDeluxe is the Best in Asia

Our friends over at Klein Dytham architecture have made Time Magazine’s Best of Asia list as a cool spot to hang out and catch the pulse of the avant-garde scene in Tokyo. Located in what looks like an old auto body shop in Azabu, SuperDeluxe has turned into the modern day equivalent of a Merry Prankster’s workshop; there’s always something interesting going on.

Hooray and congrats to you all! For a list of the latest events (the planned one anyway) check out the SuperDeluxe website.

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Current Events

Tim O’Reilly on Web 2.0

Richard of  Read/Write Web interviews Tim O’Reilly on the idea of Web 2.0 which, since the conference, has become the codeword for the web as a platform meme. Here’s Tim on RSS:

I mean it’s the classic example of Clayton Christensen’s innovator’s dilemma. When HTML came out everybody said “Hey this is so crude, you can’t build rich interfaces like
you can on a PC – it’ll never work”. Well it did something that people wanted, it kind of grew more and more popular, became more and more powerful, people figured out ways to
extend it. Yes a lot of those extensions were kludges, but HTML really took over the world. And I think RSS is very much on the same track. It started out doing a fairly simple job, people found more and more creative things to do with it, and hack by hack it
has become more powerful, more useful, more important. And I don’t think the story is over yet.

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Current Events

Tivo Sells Out?

The LA Times reports that Tivo will now insert advertiser logos onto the screen when you fast forward through commercials. PVRBlog says:

Now, I haven’t seen any actual demos of it in action, and this comment from earlier today claims to be from a TiVo employee and says it’ll be tasteful and unobtrusive, but I have a feeling this is a bad precedent and it’ll get uglier as companies pay more for the primo space.

Debate rages as to whether these new ads will remain tasteful and unobtrusive as the other things Tivo has done or if this is the first step towards selling out screen real estate until we get the mish-mash of banners that is the Comcast’s Digital Cable interface of today. Then again, it looks like Comcast and Microsoft are up to something that will change their whole TV viewing experience as well and it looks to be for the better.

Tivo or Comcast – which would you choose?

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Current Events

Guessing what you’re after

I just downloaded Firefox 1.0 this morning and with my Noia theme there’s a big blue lollipop thing right next to the address bar. Hover text says, "Type a location in the address field, then click Go"

It looks like it’s using the Google "I’m feeling Lucky" result which I stayed away from because of the labeling ("feeling lucky? nah, I’m here doing research!"). Once I tried it though, I was amazed at how many times it found exactly what I was looking for.

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Current Events

Google Desktop Search

In a move that took everyone by surprise, Google announced a new downloadable product that installs on your hard drive, indexes your email, Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and AIM chat logs and adds them to the Google Search results window. The expected move was that Google would launch their own, Google-centric browser but they have once again side-stepped popular wisdom and done something that new and fantastic.

You’ll do a double-take the first time you run a search after installing Google Desktop Search. Up on top of your results, right under the paid search ads, you see links to personal email and files that contain hits on your query. Instead of bringing the web to your desktop, by putting hits on your desktop files into the Google UI it now looks (and feels) like Google has put your desktop onto the web.

Rael Dornfest explains what’s going on behind the scenes:

What’s actually going on is that the local Google Desktop server is intercepting any Google web searches, passing them on to Google.com in your stead, and running the same search against your computer’s local index. It’s then intercepting the Web search results as they come back from Google, pasting in local finds, and presenting it to you in your browser as a cohesive whole.

John Battelle caught up with Marissa Mayer, Google’s director of consumer web products, and found out that the app is only 400k and runs on only 8 MB of RAM. She also says that the relevance algorithm obviously doesn’t use PageRank but does use 150 other proprietary variables (bolding, font size, etc) to determine relevance.

Danny Sullivan writes in depth about this new tool going on to say that the Google page that you see when you launch Desktop Search is not actually on the web but is being served up by the web server that comes with the app. This is apparent when you see the address of the URL [http://127.0.0.1:4664/&s=400994545] which is a local address.

Another benefit is the caching so that you can now quickly peek into the contents of a file without having to wait for Excel to fire up. If there are multiple copies in cache, there’s version history which can save you if you’ve overwritten a file using the same name.

It’s still in beta so I’ll forgive the fact that it only runs on Windows and indexes only AIM chat and Internet Explorer caches but other than that, this is a most impressive product that redefines its category.

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Current Events

Fear Monger

How do you win an election when you’ve driven up the national debt, sent 90% of the active military into harm’s way to neutralize weapons that don’t exist and ostracized yourself from the world community by ignoring them and mis-pronouncing the names of their leaders.

You scare the bejezus out of the electorate, that’s what!

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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.