Monday, January 30, 2006

Correction: Google's informal motto is "Don't be evil"

In some of my writings I've been sloppy and represented that Google's "slogan" was "Do No Evil", when in fact "Don't be evil" is Google's "informal corporate motto."

See the Google Code of Conduct on the Google Investor Relations web page:

Our informal corporate motto is "Don't be evil." We Googlers generally relate those words to the way we serve our users – as well we should. But being "a different kind of company" means more than the products we make and the business we're building; it means making sure that our core values inform our conduct in all aspects of our lives as Google employees.

Alas, it still appears that this motto is a lot more lip service than actuality. After all, any debate about what constitutes "evil" is not likely to arrive at a consensus for any significant size of group of people.

-- Jack Krupansky

Blogger posting email posts out of order

My last two posts are displayed out of order with respect to the order that I emailed them to Blogger.

I emailed "The trouble with polls: Do No Evil" first, and then "What is Kinja and what are Kinja cards?", but the second post shows as being posted earlier than the later post.

Usually this would not be a problem, but if for some reason you want the posts to be in order, wait for the first post to actually post before emailing the second post.

Incidentally, 19 minutes elapsed between the time that I emailed the first and the second posts. Blogger shows a 2 minutes gap between them (and in the reverse order).

-- Jack Krupansky

The trouble with polls: Do No Evil

I like the concept of polls, but in practice they usually leave a lot to be desired. Take this poll question I just saw on the BusinessWeek web site:

Google is beefing up its search capabilities in China, but has to accept government censorship of results. What do you think?

Superficially, that sounds like a great survey question. One that I'd actually like to answer.

The problem is that none of the answer choices fits my desired answer. The choices are:

  • Good move. It needs to play by China's rules first. Reforms and Western-style transparency will follow
  • Bad move. Google is putting profit before principle
  • Not sure

I'm sure that it is a neutral move, neither good nor bad and everything depends how it plays out.

I can't agree with their rationale for a good move since "Western-style transparency" will not necessarily follow. It may, and I think that it will, but nobody has the kind of crystal ball to know that it will.

I can't agree with their rationale for a bad move since I don't think "principle" is necessarily involved at all. Besides, it's not clear that this so-called "move" will actually boost profits anyway. It may in fact be less profitable than other non-China deployment of Google assets.

The survey question asks "What do you think?", but does not give me an opportunity to express a choice that is consistent with what I think.

And that's just for me. Who knows how many other users were also unable to find a choice that even remotely captures their opinion.

Ultimately, I had no choice but to pick the lesser of evils and pretend that I was ignorant and pick "Not sure".

One problem with this question is that it bundles several distinct questions into a blended mish-mash, such that each user might perceive subtle differences in emphasis, rendering the results meaningless.

Ultimately, the problem with this poll question is that the author of the poll question is letting their own biases show through, and is maybe intentionally trying to make the question more provocative than enlightening.

My sense is that the intent of this question was to try to get at a simpler question:

Was it wise for Google to place business interests ahead of moral principles?

And even that question hinges on whether you believe that the slogan "Do No Evil" is simply a trite PR pitch or a core corporate commitment that is maintained by the majority of Google's shareholders. After all, it's that what Google is really all about? Or, do you believe that somehow Google insiders view outside shareholders as a necessary evil?

I'm all in favor of online polls, but I'd prefer that they be done a bit more professionally.

Of course, BusinessWeek has an up-front disclaimer: "Note: These are surveys, not scientific polls."

My bottom line: When it comes to poll questions... do no evil.

P.S. Please read Dave Taylor's post entitled "Google gets pragmatic and enters China."

-- Jack Krupansky

What is Kinja and what are Kinja cards?

If I do a Google search for the name of this blog, "Krupansky on Blogging", the first search results is labeled "Kinja card for Jack Krupansky on Blogging - Kinja, the weblog guide". So, what is Kinja, and what is a Kinja card? Honestly, I don't really know with certainty, but Kinja bills itself as a "weblog guide" and offers a collection of profiling features for blogs. Click on Kinja card for Jack Krupansky on Blogging - Kinja, the weblog guide and see what they seem to offer.

Anybody have any info or opinion on whether Kinja delivers a valuable service?

And then there is my standard Web question: What is their business model and how will they make enough money to recoup their invested capital and expenses?

-- Jack Krupansky

UPDATE: Size of the Googlesphere: fell back to 0.968E-90 googols, or maybe it really is still at 0.1122E-89 googols

My understanding is that Google hosts multiple copies of its database of Web pages, and that sometimes they get out of sync. That may be what we're seeing now.

My current test shows that Google has indexed 9.68 billion Web pages, but just yesterday the same test showed 11.22 billion. And tomorrow it will show... We'll see how many days it takes for the size to stabilize... before it changes again.

As of yesterday, the number of documents in the was 11,220,000,000 or 11.22 billion. That was up 1,540,000,000 (1.54 billion) documents.

These numbers are only approximations on the part of Google.

BTW, that's 0.1122E-89 googols (1 is 1.0E+100). The beavers at Google have a very long way to go to live up to their name. Or maybe they should blame bloggers for not generating new documents at a fast-enough pace.

-- Jack Krupansky

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Get paid to search the Web?

The MyPoints service emailed me a survey this morning which inquired as to my interest in them possibly offering a Web search feature on their web site for which I would earn points for each Web search I performed. The survey didn't give a lot of details and there was no committment to actually offer this service, but it was intriguing, to me.

I like the idea: being paid to search the Web.

I do keyword searches probably dozens of times every day.

I'm a subscriber to the MyPoints service (since 1999), which basically sends me a bunch of emails each week (maybe one or two or three every day or two) and I get five points for each offer that I click on. The points can be redeemed for a variety of products and services. For example, you can get a $25 gift card for Barnes & Noble for 3,250 points, which means that a 5-point click is worth about 3.8 cents or 0.77 cents per point. Occasionally there are surveys that give you ten or 50 points. Some offers give you extra points simply for registering on offered Web sites. And, you can earn larger numbers of points by actually buying stuff through the email offers.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to them offering this new service.

-- Jack Krupansky

Word of the day: persiflage

Today's Word of the Day from Merriam-Webster is persiflage, which is defined as frivolous bantering talk or light raillery. The example usage they give is:

When the cooking segment ran short, Greta and her cohost turned to persiflage to fill up the time left until the commercial break.

I'd adapt that to the blogosphere as:

When the blogger ran out of ideas for posts, he turned to persiflage to fill up the time left until his next great idea.

I'd personally never do that, but I suspect that some bloggers might.

-- Jack Krupansky

UPDATE: Size of the Googlesphere: 0.1122E-89 googols -- it jumped overnight

Google no longer reports the number of documents that it has crawled and indexed on it's opening screen. But you can deduce the approximate number using some tricks.

As of today, the number of documents in the is 11,220,000,000 or 11.22 billion. That's up 1,540,000,000 (1.54 billion) documents since yesterday (9,680,000,000 or 9.68 billion on 1/28/06).

These numbers are only approximations on the part of Google.

BTW, that's 0.1122E-89 googols (1 is 1.0E+100). The beavers at Google have a very long way to go to live up to their name. Or maybe they should blame bloggers for not generating new documents at a fast-enough pace.

-- Jack Krupansky

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Size of the Googlesphere: 0.968E-90 googols -- it's shrinking!

Google no longer reports the number of documents that it has crawled and indexed on it's opening screen. But you can deduce the approximate number using some tricks.

As of today, the number of documents in the is 9,680,000,000 or 9.68 billion. That's down 30,000,000 documents since a week ago (9,710,000,000 or 9.71 billion on 1/22/06).

The Googlesphere is shrinking! Well, maybe not. It's probably simply a statistical anomoly. Besides, these numbers are only approximations on the part of Google anyway.

BTW, that's 0.968E-90 googols (1 is 1.0E+100). The beavers at Google have a very long way to go to live up to their name. Or maybe they should blame bloggers for not generating new documents at a fast-enough pace.

-- Jack Krupansky

Friday, January 27, 2006

Great quote: The motivations of public corporations can be found in their balance sheets not in their mission statements

I was reading the Delving into Davos blog and ran across this great line in the comments to a post about Google and Microsoft entitled "The Semantics of Evil":

The motivations of public corporations can be found in their balance sheets not in their mission statements.

I'm not sure if that's a profound truth, unfortunate, or merely amusing, but it does seem to have a ring of truth to it. I'm not even sure whether the commenter considered this to be a positive or negative statement.

-- Jack Krupansky

Thursday, January 26, 2006

FeedBurner: who really needs it?

Seriously, who really needs FeedBurner, and how can they tell?

First, what exactly does FeedBurner do for you? If you didn't already know, their web site won't provide you with quick answers, at least not without some serious poking around.

What does the first screen tell you:

Publishers and Podcasters
FeedBurner helps you get a whole lot more out of your feed.

That tells me zilch.

It goes on:

Work with the company that understands feed management. (That’s us!)

Hmmm... "feed management", whatever that is.

They have an "About" button, so we click it and it starts by saying:

FeedBurner, summed up simply

FeedBurner helps bloggers, podcasters and commercial publishers get more value from the content they create. Our advanced feed management technology deftly delivers subscription services for publishers large and small so they can grow their reach, measure their audience and monetize their content. Founded in 2003, FeedBurner enables publishers to reach millions of subscribers in more than 190 countries across the globe. And that's a lot of folks. We are a privately held company headquartered in the very windy city of Chicago.

So, I get "more value" and "subscription services". People can "grow their reach", "measure their audience", and "monetize their content."

Still, that tells me zilch. The About page goes on:

Services for people who publish syndicated content

Whether you write a simple, personal weblog or manage a large industry content destination site, you probably have a vital interest in learning more about your readership over time. To date, understanding readership in your syndicated feed(s) has been a difficult challenge. However, by publishing your feed(s) through FeedBurner, you gain access all kinds of cool services to help you publicize, optimize, analyze and monetize your feeds.

Services for people who want to advertise in RSS feeds

Unlike Web site visitors, subscribers to feeds share one thing in common — a vital interest in the specific content of the feed to which they are subscribed. FeedBurner works on behalf of those publishers electing to monetize their content to reach their subscribers in a targeted way. Learn more about FeedBurner’s customizable ad program.

More nonsense, that basically tells me zilch.

Oh, FB lets me run ads in my blog feeds. Ah... that's finally some value. But why not tell me that up front? And why not call the service AdBurner, if that's the primary value I get?

But wait... they say "you probably have a vital interest in learning more about your readership over time." That's it, that's the key: FB lets you spy on your blog readers.

No wonder they're not up-font with their mission. It's sleazy enough to help publishers put ads in blog feeds, but to help spy on people as well is a little too much to disclose upfront.

Put simply, FeedBurner is SpyWare that happens to run on servers rather than the PCs of innocent users. As if that distinction really makes a big difference.

So, next time you are about to subscribe to a blog feed that is served up by FeedBurner, try to see if you can find the fine print about what information "they" (and whoever "they" are) will be collecting about you, and whether there is actually any legal restriction that prevents "them" (whoever "them" are) from using your usage information any way they choose.

In any case, I'm back where I started. Who really needs it? Is society really better off with this server-based SpyWare?

-- Jack Krupansky

Problems with Wall Street, Gary Weiss' new book and blog

Gary Weiss, a former writer at BusinessWeek has a new book coming out (Wall Street Versus America : The Rampant Greed and Dishonesty That Imperil Your Investments) and has a blog to promote it. He has a post entitled "BW BLUES", to which I wrote the following comments:

Gary, what on earth does this nostalgic rant about BW have to do with your book or Wall Street?

I mean, if BW didn't do hard-ball investigative stories on Wall Street back when they were fully staffed, why would anybody have any expectation that they would do any better or worse at half-staff or back up to full staff, or with less or more ads running in the book?

P.S., usually I don't make "anonymous" comments, but in your case it fits in with the conspiracy-theory attitude that you're promoting and cultivating (and craving?) with this blog.

P.P.S, I'm opposed to naked shorting, but simply because I'm opposed to so-called "legal" shorting as well. It's about basic fairness (equity, the social kind). Yes, Wall Street is a mess, but why not lobby for cleaning up the mess rather than this "line your own pockets rather than try to get the problems fixed" approach that you seem to *prefer*?

signed, "Anonymous" - another COWARD

He's moderating comments, so we'll see if he accepts and publishes mine.

Here's his book:

The Amazon listing bills the book as "A shocking appraisal that shows how Wall Street is intrinsically corrupt—and what individual investors can do to protect themselves". Their description starts out like this:

For several years high-profile corporate wrongdoers have been vilified by the media. Yet the problem, according to Gary Weiss, is not just a few isolated instances of malfeasance. The problem is in the very fabric of Wall Street and its practices that enable and even encourage corruption—practices that are so pervasive and so difficult to combat that they are in effect perfect crimes, with the small investor left holding the bag.

In this blistering report from the front, Weiss describes how the ethos of Mafia chophouses, boiler rooms, and penny stock peddlers now permeates all of Wall Street. Protected from investor lawsuits by laughably corrupt arbitration systems, Wall Street firms are free to fleece unsuspecting clients with little or no risk. But as this empowering book shows, ordinary investors can fight back and come out on top—if they learn to recognize warning signs, filter media chatter, and spot looming corporate meltdowns in advance.

Prepare to be surprised, get angry, and then get even. Wall Street Versus America is a wild ride you can’t afford to miss.

Click here to read more.

I'm not offering a recommendation on his book, yet, but I will leaf through it when it appears in my local book store.

My concern about the book is simple: What's new? What shocking revelations about Wall Street don't I already know? In my view, Wall Street exists for one purpose: to take as much money as possible from our pockets and put it in their own pockets. The SEC? I believe that the SEC should be renamed the Securities and Exchange Industry Protection Administration, privatized, and then prosecuted for racketeering and protecting Wall Street. So, how much is this book going to help me?

BTW, I do get a tiny commission if you buy the book after clicking on my link to Amazon.


Please read our Stock Market Outlook for 2006 and our Daily Stock Market Commentary.

-- Jack Krupansky

Off to check out the World Economic Forum at Davos

Oh? You didn't get invited to the World Economic Forum at Davos? Well, that's okay, because neither did I. I'm sure it was simply a clerical oversight that we did not get invited.

In any case, you can check out a little bit of what's going on over at the International Herald Tribune's Delving into Davos blog.

-- Jack Krupansky

A few more details on securities disclosures and press releases

Just to supplement my blog post entitled "Can we do away with traditional press releases?"...

Oh, and this is just a minor detail, but don't forget that each state has securities regulations of its own as well (remember that guy Spitzer from NY?). I don't know what degree of "harmonization" exists between the states.

And... there are also foreign countries and that thing called the European Union (and the European Commission as well). We do need to be concerned for our friends in Canada, don't we (even the ones that refuse to acknowledge English as *the* primary language)?

-- Jack Krupansky

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Can we do away with traditional press releases?

It has been suggested by some people, including Amy Gahran (see "Disclosure, Press Releases, and Life Support: Can We Pull that Plug After All?") that traditional press releases are obsolete and no longer needed now that we have all of this Internet and Web media stuff. It has been pointed out the financial disclosure regulations may require press releases, but it's not completely clear.

I did a little research of my own...

In addition to SEC regulation FD, a public company also has to comply with the regulations of any applicable SROs (Self-Regulatory Organizations, the stock exchanges). As the SEC commentary for reg FD notes: "we note that self-regulatory organization ("SRO") rules typically require companies to issue press releases to announce material developments. We believe that these rules are appropriate, and do not intend Regulation FD to alter or supplant the SRO requirements."

So, add the SRO's to your search for "the truth" about press releases for public companies.

One question you'll have to answer yourself is whether you personally consider an SEC Form 8-K to be  "a press release", since a company is off the hook on reg FD as soon as they file a Form 8-K for the "material information."

A cursory reading of the NYSE disclosure "requirements" suggests a requirement for a press release: "News which ought to be the subject of immediate publicity must be released by the fastest available means. The fastest available means may vary in individual cases and according to the time of day. Ordinarily, this requires a release to the public press by telephone, facsimile, or hand delivery, or some combination of such methods." That's for the NYSE. NASD has its own rules.

Here's a non-FD example where the SEC requires a "press release" (Release No. 34-48108; File Nos. SR-NYSE-2002-46 and SR-NASD-2002-140):

An employment inducement award is a grant of options or other equity-based compensation as a material inducement to a person or persons being hired by the listed company or any of its subsidiaries, or being rehired following a bona fide period of interruption of employment. Inducement awards include grants to new employees in connection with a merger or acquisition. Promptly following a grant of any inducement award in reliance on this exemption, the listed company must disclose in a press release the material terms of the award, including the recipient(s) of the award and the number of shares involved.

Ultimately, it appears that there is some amount of flexibility in how "the press" (AP, Reuters, Bloomberg, et al) are actually informed, so it may be up to them whether the info has to be in a specific form that is recognizable as a classic, traditional "press release" or could resemble some form of "new media". In other words, maybe financial disclosure could be done with a simple blog post or even a podcast, but only if "the press" (as detailed by the SEC, NYSE, NASD, et al) were to agree that the information does in fact get into their hands in a timely manner so that they can disseminate it.

-- Jack Krupansky

-- Jack Krupansky

Why I no longer subscribe to BusinessWeek magazine

I used to subscribe to BusinessWeek magazine, but I dropped them two years ago. Why did I drop them? Here's why: I find their subscription policy to be very misleading and quite sleazy.

Two years ago, ...

I called the 800 number to renew my subscription. I placed the order and everything was fine. Then, they told me my "new" expiration date. Huh? I renew for a full year (or maybe it was two, I'm not sure), so all that should change should be the year. So I thought. How ignorant I was.

Instead, the "new" expiration month was about a month earlier (I don't recall exactly, but it was definitely earlier). So, I ask them: but I thought I just renewed for a full year? It says "the low annual rate". Doesn't "annual" mean "year"?? Next, I get "the story"...

First, it's no secret that the renewal is for 51 issues. That's clear, and I assumed that was simply because they have a double-issue at the end of the year. Ahhhhh... not quite.

To cut to the chase, here's the current "pitch" from the BW web site:

51 issues at the low annual rate of $45.97

That's what I'd expect.

Now, here's the current fine print from the BW web site:

BusinessWeek is published weekly, except for two double issues and one expanded special issue. The double and expanded issues count as two subscription issues each.

The first sentence is also expected. And my interpretation of the first sentence is that three times a year they "skip" an issue. That's where I went wrong. Or, I should say that BusinessWeek goes wrong.

Now, try reading that second sentence for its true meaning:

The double and expanded issues count as two subscription issues each.

Got that? Is that clear? Well, it wasn't to me. Let me explain...

First, I assumed that these seemingly simple English statements meant that I got an "annual" subscription that covered 12 full months.

To cut to the chase (again), in actuality, you only get 48 magazines. Got that? Oh really? If you didn't already know that, would a quick reading of the two sentences by a non-lawyer/journalist have quickly caused that 48 number to pop out? And, the fact that an annual subscription doesn't cover twelve calendar months?

To explain the specifics, yes, you get 51 issues, but that translates into 48 magazines over 11 months (not a year), 45 of those magazines count as 45 issues, but 3 of those magazines count as 6 issues. 45 plus 3 equals 48, and 45 plus 6 equals 51.

But no matter how you do the math [remember the recent BW issue on math, "Math Will Rock Your World"?], the so-called annual subscription cheats subscribers of an entire month.

Ah, but then BusinessWeek does offer a special deal: "Get Four Free Issues":

Send me 4 RISK-FREE issues of BusinessWeek, plus full BW Online access. If I like BusinessWeek and choose to continue, I'll receive 47 more issues (51 in all) for $45.97. That's an 82% savings off the newsstand cover price! Otherwise, I'll return the bill marked "cancel" and owe nothing. The 4 FREE trial issues are mine to keep no matter what!

Quick math test: If you accept that offer, how many actual magazines will you be paying for since 4 of the "issues" are "free"?

I just noticed... there is no difference in price between the normal subscription price ($45.97 for 51 "issues") and the special deal (4 free issues plus 47 "issues", a total of 51 "issues", for $45.97). So, these "free" issues aren't free at all! Unless you cancel your subscription. So, if you don't cancel your subscription, the 4 "free" issues are now suddenly no longer free. How strange.

Even now, two years later, this misleading and sleazy policy offends me. And it offends me greatly. I'm still furious that such a seemingly professional outfit could stoop so low.

Sure, there are probably any number of interesting and useful articles that I've missed out on over those two years, not to mention the coming years, but in a free and open market, we do have a democracy of sorts to cope with such injustices, and it's called your wallet. So, I voted with my wallet two years ago, last year, and am doing so again this year.

Message to BusinessWeek: stop this misleading and sleazy practice now. Don't offer any excuses. Just do it!

Can any of the BusinessWeek staff justify why BusinessWeek can't simply offer an annual subscription that actually covers one full annum?

For what it's worth, I never found any of the "double" or "expanded" issues to be useful enough to want to receive them in exchange for losing three weeks of normal coverage.


-- Jack Krupansky

Blogger glitch: Blogger email post failed: Error code: 6.13C4765

I had to email that last post to Blogger twice. After the first attempt, Blogger sent a stiffly-worded bounce-back message that started with:

Blogger could not process your message at this time.

Error code: 6.13C4765

Original message:

I simply re-sent the post and it worked fine, and promptly at that.

I attempted to do a Google search on that error code and got nothing. Now, at least, if someone searches for that error code in the future, they'll get this post which at least will tell them to simply "try again."

It may be that part of the error "code" is actually data, so that the "code" could be quite different each time even though the cause may be the same. If this is the case, I'd recommend that Blogger use hyphens to separate the elements of the "code" so that Google can do word matching on the elements.

Oh, and by the way, I do not consider Blogger's behavior here to be an example of or even . Words like "hack", "crock", and "kludge" come to mind.

-- Jack Krupansky

Which is more valuable, a notebook computer or the data on it?

I just saw a report on Dow Jones MarketWatch entitled "Ameriprise: Stolen laptop contains client info" which tells us that:

Ameriprise Financial Inc. (AMP) Wednesday evening said it has mailed notification letters to 158,000 clients whose names and internal Ameriprise account identification numbers were stored on a company laptop computer that was recently stolen.

Given the frequency with which notebook computers are stolen, I wonder if it has occurred at all to the thieves or those they deal with that the data on the computer may be worth a lot more than the computer itself.

I have no idea how much a thief gets for a $1,500 computer. Maybe $750 or maybe only $500? But I would imagine that a computer from even a mid-level manager from a Fortune 1000 company would have enough interesting data and presentations and email which might be worth thousands of dollars to a competitor or a stock market speculator looking for tradable information.

I also wonder whether a fair number of these "lost" computers may have even been sold for precisely that purpose.

-- Jack Krupansky

Visualizing failure: good or bad?

Here's an interesting thesis put forward by Dave Winer in a blog post entitled "Dan Gillmor’s story":

I’ve learned, through both successful and failed startups that the only times I’ve been successful was when I couldn’t visualize failure. ... The times that I have visualized failure, I did fail. The times I couldn’t, I didn’t. Hardly proof, but still a belief of mine.

Hmmm... is there something to that?

It may be true, but Mr. Winer evaded the heart of Adam Green's thesis (in a blog post entitled "Dan Gillmor shares the lessons of Bayosphere"), which is that we need to consider the possibility of failure. That's not to say that we should obsess over it or try to force ourselves to construct artificial failure scenarios, but it is to say that if we haven't even considered the potential downside risks, we may be leaving ourselves open to risks we may not be willing and able to cope with should they arise. Even Mr. Winer actually acknowledges some of this when he says:

I remember trying to imagine what the last day at Living Videotext would look like, and I just couldn’t imagine it. I knew the day would likely come, but I didn’t see how I could lock the door for the last time, calling it a failure.

See, there, he did consider failure, and that was enough to verify that his gut feeling was worth relying on and that he should move on with confidence.

I'm sure there must be plenty of people out there who can offer personal stories on whether considering or not considering the potential for failure was a help or a hindrance or maybe a complete red herring.

-- Jack Krupansky

Who owns your personal information?

There are increasing concerns about who has access to information about consumers, whether it be marketing firms with their "targeting" based on your credit card usage, selling of cell-phone call records, or what keywords you may have used in a search engine. Just today there was an article in the New York Times by Katie Hafner entitled "After Subpoenas, Internet Searches Give Some Pause" concerning government efforts to force Google to hand over records of user search queries. Beyond the usual privacy concerns, my big question is this:

Who owns information about a consumer?

And I would suggest that the answer should simply be: The consumer owns all information about the consumer. It should not be Google's or any other vendor's property to do with as they please.

I've been working on a white paper that concerns how to use software agent technology to support the development of a quantum-leap knowledge-based web for consumers. It's still very rough with lots of work needed, but one of my tenets is that consumers own all information (knowledge) about themselves. Another tenet is that my envisioned consumer knowledge web is consumer-centric. Not merely consumer-oriented, like many services, but consumer-centric in a way that forces people and vendors and governments to accept the the consumer is the center of it all, not proprietary business interests.

You can find my draft white paper here: The Consumer-Centric Knowledge Web - A Vision of Consumer Applications of Software Agent Technology - Enabling Consumer-Centric Knowledge-Based Computing.

-- Jack Krupansky


Here's yet another new, curious, web-based venture: WisdomArk. I hear that they've just received $6.3 million in Series A venture capital funding from El Dorado Ventures, Venrock Associates, and Benhamou Global Ventures. Their web site doesn't say much, yet, simply:

WisdomArk is the developer of a new consumer web service for the collaborative capture, sharing, preservation and rediscovery of the stories of our lives.

That sounds potentially interesting, but you do have to wonder whether they will really be able to generate sustainable profits, or whether they are being "built to flip".

Oh, and an earlier version of their web site (courtesy of Google's cache) says the following:

WisdomArk is opening its MemoryArk Beta service to a select few people willing to explore an experience of self-discovery and expression in connection with friends and family.

MemoryArk is being created to help you capture, organize and share the formative life-events, personal experiences, and beliefs that shape who you are, and will keep these for generations to come.

MemoryArk aids the recollection of a loved-one's lifetime of experiences, simplifies the collection of images and music that reflect their personal history, and helps users discover and articulate the beliefs and values which guide their lives.

One aspect that intrigues me is precisely how they are going to be able to support the preservation of information. Simply putting information on servers at a start-up company doesn't seem like a reliable form of very long-term archival storage. Do they have a deal with Iron Mountain or some other archiving business that can give consumers an iron-clad assurance that their information is truly being preserved, far beyond the lifetime of a simple VC-funded startup?

-- Jack Krupansky

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Bayosphere withering away

Sad to see that it's true, but Dan Gillmor's much-ballyhooed Bayosphere blogging community appears to be withering on the vine. How could that have happened? Some thoughts...

  1. was too much of a "walled community". I never "joined" since I resented having to "join" to begin with.
  2. It was too much like a constrained "community" than an open, free-wheeling blogging experience. Kind of like taking a butterfly and crushing it in your hand.
  3. I enjoyed reading Dan's old blog, but there was little of Dan to be found in the daily fare of Bayosphere.
  4. Restricting the stated area of interest to the San Francisco Bay Area definitely excluded a lot of people.
  5. The odd thing was that even with that narrowed focus, a lot of content was not specific to the Bay Area.
  6. Worse, on the occasions that I did visit Bayosphere hoping to read about the Bay Area, the daily fare was not about the Bay Area.
  7. So, the question was one of focus. In my view, it was too narrow, but didn't have the richness of content to energize the locals, or to attract outsiders who were interested in the locale. I mean, who isn't interest in San Francisco, Silicon Valley, "The Bay Area", Marin County, and all of that?
  8. Maybe there were two distinct focuses that never should have been combined: a) blogging by Bay Area locals, who may have common interests other than simply the locale, and b) blogging about the Bay Area itself, which includes people from around the world. They seem distinct focuses, to me.
  9. It appears that they never had a sound business plan, but simply some hopes and dreams.
  10. They should have done a zero-budget, zero-cost prototype to get the concept tested before pouring money in and rolling it out as a big deal. Maybe the problem was that since they had such an extreme focus on a walled "community" that they needed an expensive and constraining infrastructure that was too constrained to let the butterflies be as free as they need to be.

Question: Why not do a "" which is simply anybody with a blog who tags their blog as part of this new Bayosphere. Ala Technorati, register your blog, not your name and then Bayosphere 2.0 could simply be an aggregated web feed that aggregates all blogs (bloggers) that "join". The individual bloggers would own their own content and comments and categories, but the "community feed" would still have a sense of a community to it.

Maybe Technorati could do this and call it .

Once again, there is the question of focus: is Bayosphere 2.0 about the interests of the locals or about the locale?

In any case, I hope Dan keeps blogging away and tries some new, even bolder experiments in the months and years to come.

-- Jack Krupansky

Monday, January 23, 2006

Blogger is unwilling to fix bugs and defects in their service

I've noted that there is a bug in Blogger's handling of long blog post titles on the comment page. Actually, these are not really long titles, but simply not short titles. See my post entitled "Liberation from search dependency is a strategic imperative for both websites and software vendors" for an example. Click on the comments link to see the problem with the title. Anyway, I submitted a bug report to Blogger and after quite some time I get the following blow-off message from them:
Hi there,

Thanks for your note. This is an automated update from Blogger Support.
Due to the tremendous amount of help requests from users, we're currently
unable to offer timely, personal assistance to everyone.

If you are still having trouble with your issue, please search or browse
Blogger Help to find answers to many common questions:

Note that widespread operational problems, if they occur, will be
addressed on our Status page to keep you updated:

Thanks for your understanding and continued patience.

Blogger Support

In other words, since they don't have sufficient support staff, they are unable to fix bugs in their service.

Of course, I am getting what I paid for... free service... no service.

And this is from Google, which is supposed to be one of the most successful  and cash-rich technology companies in the universe.

Go figure.

But, at least I tried.

If any of you readers know of anybody within Google who honestly wants to fix bugs in their service, please point them to this message.

-- Jack Krupansky

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Do my advertisers suck?

What do you think of the specific sales pitches each of the advertisers give in the Google AdSense ads that appear on this blog post (or this blog in general)? Do any of them actually appeal to you? Do they all suck really badly?

Please rate their overall quality (appeal to you, personally) on a scale of zero to ten, where "10" means you actually purchased something as a result of seeing an ad on this blog and "0" means you wouldn't have even noticed the ad(s) if I hadn't written this post to point them out.

-- Jack Krupansky

Truthiness: what is it really?

So what does this word really mean, in general, and to you in particular?

Is it really simply a joke, a euphemism for lying, a synonym for propaganda, a source of amusement, or does it in fact have deep resonance in modern society?

Let's hear your answers to these questions.

-- Jack Krupansky

New Book: Let Go to Grow: Escaping the Commodity Trap by Linda Sanford and Dave Taylor

Linda Sanford and Dave Taylor have a new book entitled Let Go to Grow: Escaping the Commodity Trap which focuses on how to organize your mindset and development processes so that you con continually innovate in ways that will prevent your products and services from being commoditized.

The Amazon description starts out like this:

Deregulation, globalization, and the Internet are driving rampant commoditization in virtually every industry. To escape that trap and grow profitably, you must "let go" of traditional control mechanisms. In their place, you must build new models, relationships, and platforms that capture and deliver value from multiple sources, inside and outside the enterprise.

In Let Go To Grow, IBM senior executive Linda Sanford and long-time entrepreneur Dave Taylor show exactly how to do that.

Sanford and Taylor systematically review the On Demand Business processes, people strategies, technology shifts, governance practices, and leadership vision you'll need to maximize profitability in tomorrow's business environment. They introduce powerful new techniques for balancing and measuring three key drivers of top-line growth: productivity, collaboration, and innovation.

You'll discover how to gain unprecedented flexibility by constructing your business around components, platforms, and standardized interfaces. The authors demonstrate how to expand your growth space, liberate your cost structures, and build profits—not just revenues. Drawing on the experiences of companies ranging from GE to eBay, Toyota to IBM, this book focuses on practical implementation, offering a proven, start-to-finish approach for moving from vision to results.

Click here to read more.

BTW, I do get a tiny commission if you buy the book after clicking on my link to Amazon.

-- Jack Krupansky

Size of the Googlesphere: 0.971E-90 googols

Google no longer reports the number of documents that it has crawled and indexed on it's opening screen. But you can deduce the approximate number using some tricks.

As of today, the number of documents in the is 9,710,000,000 or 9.71 billion. That's up 30,000,000 documents since just over a week ago (9,680,000,000 or 9.68 billion on 1/14/06).

BTW, that's 0.971E-90 googols (1 is 1.0E+100). The beavers at Google have a very long way to go to live up to their name. Or maybe they should blame bloggers for not generating new documents at a fast-enough pace.

-- Jack Krupansky

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Test: permalink after title has been modified

The purpose of this post is see what Blogger does to the permalink URL for a post if you modify the title of the post after it has been published.

Blogger does what I believe is the right thing when initially creating the post and uses text similar to the post title as part of the actual URL for the permalink.

So, the question is whether the permalink gets revised if I revise the post title after the post is published.

First, I'll publish this post with the title "Test: permalink if title is modified."

Then, I'll go into Blogger's post editor and change the title to "Test: permalink after title has been modified."

My expectation is that the permalink URL will initially end with something like "/test-permalink-if-title-is-modified.html", and that the permalink will not change after I revise the post title text. That's my unproven theory.

Here goes...

-- Jack Krupansky

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Clue us in: what's wrong with this picture?

Now I get to defend a post by Stephen Baker over on Blogspotting. He had a post entitled "Pictures for blogs" about a source for free online photos suitable for blogs, but an "expert" photographer took him to task (see Mr. Baker's post entitled "Photographer pans Blogspotting pix. Got something better?") and called a sample photo "a really cheesy bad photo". Admittedly I know zilch about "professional" photography, but the photo sure looked reasonably good photo to me. So, could some of you expert photographers chime in and clue the rest of us in as to what exactly is so horribly wrong with this picture:

On a scale of 0 to 10, is it really a rock-bottom zero, or just not a top-of-the-line "10"?

Since I'm unaware of the nomenclature of professional photography, what exactly is a "cheesy bad" photo? What specifically about this photo makes it "cheesy bad"? What specifically is "bad" about this photo.

And most importantly, how exactly can and should a non-professional make the decision about whether a photo is reasonable or not?

Please be specific, but also feel free to give links to web pages that have either descriptions of the photo qualities that are "bad" and "cheesy bad" here, and give some links to "good" photos and elaborate what it is that makes them better than our "test" photo here.

Thanks. By putting in the effort to respond to this query/challenge you may be able to raise the quality of web photos dramatically.

So, have at it, and clue us all in.

-- Jack Krupansky

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Attention advertisers: What about me? Why am I not a "target"?

I read that Google has "announced it has agreed to acquire dMarc Broadcasting, Inc., a Newport Beach, Calif.-based digital solutions provider for the radio broadcast industry." The announcement tells us that:

dMarc connects advertisers directly to radio stations through its automated advertising platform. The platform simplifies the sales process, scheduling, delivery and reporting of radio advertising, enabling advertisers to more efficiently purchase and track their campaigns. For broadcasters, dMarc's technology automatically schedules and places advertising, helping to increase revenue and decrease the costs associated with processing advertisements.

Google's VP of Ad Sales tells us that:

Google is committed to exploring new ways to extend targeted, measurable advertising to other forms of media. (my emphasis)

So, my question, my eternal question is simple:

Why do so many advertisers have so little interest in effectively targeting me, in a way that is measurable?

I'm tired of hearing about all of these efforts at "targeting" that are "measurable". It's now just so much meaningless jargon.

Don't get me wrong, I do know what a "test and measure" marketing ad program is all about and it is a good idea, but I see so little of it, at least little that is done effectively.

Sure, I see tons of ads every sigle day, but so much of is is not anything I'm interested in buying or using at this time, or any time in the imagined future, and I hardly see any ads related to what little products and services I am interested in buying or using.

One exception is that Borders Books emails me a nice 25%-off coupon every couple of weeks (the last one was 30%-off) and I both appreciate and use those coupons, frequently.

I hear a lot of talk about "local" search, et al, but I see zero ads that reflect that I am personally spending money every single day in my locaility (Boulder) and nobody is targeting me, at all. For example, I need to buy a new pair of shoes, eventually, and some new pants, etc. I don't think that I'm unque in that sense, but instead all I get are ads pitching products and services that don't interest me. I do get plenty of traditional junk-mail flyers in my snail-mail box, but none of it seems targeted at me.

I see online ads pitching cheap auto insurance. Sorry guys, but I don't own a vehicle or even drive any more. The fact that I have only a Colorado Adult ID and no drivers license, which is a matter of public record, should be enough to clue advertisers (including Google and its "network") that anything related to vehicles is of no interest to me.

Targeting? Show me. Let's see it. Show me some evidence that you guys really know how to target me or anybody else who has their own collection of interests and is not simply part of some vague, broad, general demographic.

Hmmm... I'm willing to bet almost any amount of money (what little I have) that dMarc is targeting me (or at least attempting to target me) as I write this (or as you read it). Oh, the irony. Sorry to break the news to them, but I don't listen to the radio. I don't even have an iPod. That reminds me of an old joke parodying radio ad sales people: "We're #1 with people who don't listen to the radio."

My only hope is that Borders will start selling shoes and jeans and let me use those 25%-off coupons on clothing.

-- Jack Krupansky

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

New Book: The Search: How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed Our Culture by John Battelle

I'm actually quite anxious to take a look at The Search: How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed Our Culture by John Battelle.

The Amazon description starts out like this:

If you pick your books by their popularity--how many and which other people are reading them--then know this about The Search: it's probably on Bill Gates' reading list, and that of almost every venture capitalist and startup-hungry entrepreneur in Silicon Valley. In its sweeping survey of the history of Internet search technologies, its gossip about and analysis of Google, and its speculation on the larger cultural implications of a Web-connected world, it will likely receive attention from a variety of businesspeople, technology futurists, journalists, and interested observers of mid-2000s zeitgeist.

This ambitious book comes with a strong pedigree. Author John Battelle was a founder of The Industry Standard and then one of the original editors of Wired, two magazines which helped shape our early perceptions of the wild world of the Internet. Battelle clearly drew from his experience and contacts in writing The Search. In addition to the sure-handed historical perspective and easy familiarity with such dot-com stalwarts as AltaVista, Lycos, and Excite, he speckles his narrative with conversational asides from a cast of fascinating characters, such Google's founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin; Yahoo's, Jerry Yang and David Filo; key executives at Microsoft and different VC firms on the famed Sandhill road; and numerous other insiders, particularly at the company which currently sits atop the search world, Google.

The Search is not exactly the corporate history of Google. At the book's outset, Battelle specifically indicates his desire to understand what he calls the cultural anthropology of search, and to analyze search engines' current role as the "database of our intentions"--the repository of humanity's curiosity, exploration, and expressed desires. Interesting though that beginning is, though, Battelle's story really picks up speed when he starts dishing inside scoop on the darling business story of the decade, Google. To Battelle's credit, though, he doesn't stop just with historical retrospective: the final part of his book focuses on the potential future directions of Google and its products' development. In what Battelle himself acknowledges might just be a "digital fantasy train", he describes the possibility that Google will become the centralizing platform for our entire lives and quotes one early employee on the weightiness of Google's potential impact: "Sometimes I feel like I am on a bridge, twenty thousand feet up in the air. If I look down I'm afraid I'll fall. I don't feel like I can think about all the implications."

Click here to read more.

You have to admit that the prospect of learning about what makes Google and the other pioneering search engine companies tick is quite fascinating indeed.

Oh, and there's a typo in that Amazon description. "Sandhill road" is supposed to be "Sand Hill Road".

BTW, I do get a tiny commission if you buy the book after clicking on my link to Amazon.

-- Jack Krupansky

New Book: Ambient Findability : What We Find Changes Who We Become by Peter Morville

The title of this book, Ambient Findability : What We Find Changes Who We Become by Peter Morville, is rather intriguing, but a quick review of its description leaves me a bit confused about whether it lives up to its promise. In any case, it won't cost you a dime to read up on it yourself.

The Amazon description starts out like this:

How do you find your way in an age of information overload? How can you filter streams of complex information to pull out only what you want? Why does it matter how information is structured when Google seems to magically bring up the right answer to your questions? What does it mean to be "findable" in this day and age? This eye-opening new book examines the convergence of information and connectivity. Written by Peter Morville, author of the groundbreaking Information Architecture for the World Wide Web, the book defines our current age as a state of unlimited findability. In other words, anyone can find anything at any time. Complete navigability.

Morville discusses the Internet, GIS, and other network technologies that are coming together to make unlimited findability possible. He explores how the melding of these innovations impacts society, since Web access is now a standard requirement for successful people and businesses. But before he does that, Morville looks back at the history of wayfinding and human evolution, suggesting that our fear of being lost has driven us to create maps, charts, and now, the mobile Internet.

The book's central thesis is that information literacy, information architecture, and usability are all critical components of this new world order. Hand in hand with that is the contention that only by planning and designing the best possible software, devices, and Internet, will we be able to maintain this connectivity in the future. Morville's book is highlighted with full color illustrations and rich examples that bring his prose to life.

Click here to read more.

Personally, I learn toward the philosophy that we should be doing things to help information find us, rather than focus so much attention on navigation.

BTW, I do get a tiny commission if you buy the book after clicking on my link to Amazon.

-- Jack Krupansky

Monday, January 16, 2006

I hate folklore

Yet another post by Stephen Baker over on Blogspotting is worth commenting on. His post entitled "Does Google's Adsense pays 78% to everyone?" repeats a piece of folklore that suggests that somehow some set of Google AdSense publishers (which could include me) are getting 78.5% of the money spent by advertisers on each Google AdSense ad click. This dubious statistic comes from a NY Times article entitled  "Google's Shadow Payroll Is Not Such a Secret Anymore" which claims, without any source, that: and the company's foreign search sites contribute more to Google's bottom line than AdSense, because for every dollar the company brings in through AdSense and other places that distribute its ads, it pays roughly 78.5 cents back to sites like Digital Point that display the ads.

Guys, what we all need is lots of more verifiable facts, and less rumor, gossip, and unsubstantiated claims. No more folklore, please.

I personally run AdSense ads on my web sites and blogs and I honestly have no clue what percentage Google keeps or gives to me. It is not a number that is disclosed to us AdSense publishers.

I read all sorts of wild claims about the percentage, ranging from this claim of the NY Times to a claim that the percentage claimed by NY Times couldn't possibly be correct.

So, what's the truth here? Who knows, but making unsubstantiated claims one way or the other is completely counterproductive, although in the case of the NY Times, it might help them sell more advertising. But even that suspicion amounts to mere folklore as well.

-- Jack Krupansky

Google AdSense for Feeds (AFF)

In my previous post I lamented that I don't get many ad clicks for my Google AdSense blogs, but a big part of that may simply be that people primarily read my blog posts in a web feed aggregator such as Bloglines or NewsGator, so they never even see the ads that run on my actual blog web pages. Google does have a new program for placing ads directly into web feeds ( or AFF) and Blogger even makes it easy to do so, but unfortunately AFF is in beta and Google is not accepting any new applications to enter the beta program. Oh well.

-- Jack Krupansky

On Google's shadow payroll

There is an article in the NY Times today entitled "Google's Shadow Payroll Is Not Such a Secret Anymore" which talks about people, like me, who make a rather modest amount of money by running Google AdSense ads on their blogs and web sites. The article makes a big deal about a software company, Digital Point Solutions, which rakes in a cool $10,000 a month. I assure you that I don't pull in anywhere near that amount. My average daily "take" wouldn't pay for a cup of coffee at Starbucks. It does pay for the tea bags that I use every day, but not by much, and some days not at all. Also, for whatever reason, the ads on my blogs are very rarely clicked. Virtually all of my AdSense ad clicks are for my non-blog web sites. I suspect, but cannot prove, that most of my clicks come from my Daily Stock Market Commentary.

So, in some sense you can say that I'm "on Google's shadow payroll".

But, rest assured that the very modest revenue stream from Google in no way influences anything that I may write online. In fact, I'm desperately waiting for Yahoo and Microsoft to offer AdSense-like advertising programs for us smaller "publishers" so that the competition for us will heat up and our per-ad revenues will be boosted. I have no loyalty to Google and would just as soon switch to Yahoo or Microsoft if they'd offer a sweeter deal.

-- Jack Krupansky gets $6 million in VC funding

I'm not sure why the mainstream financial media thinks this is a big deal, or maybe it's just a slow news day with the federal holiday, but MarketWatch (now part of Dow Jones) reports that, "a blogging Web site founded by a dot-com exec from the 1990s" has gotten $6 million in VC funding.

See: gets $6 million in funding - Allen & Co., ex-Lotus exec line up behind blogging site.

It's not clear to me how Gather is that different than any other blogging network.

Maybe it's simply that they are raising it to a whole new level of hype. For example, check out this posting on their site: The End of the Literary Industrial Complex. Yeah, that's cute and clever, but... show me the money. I mean, just like in the traditional literary world, a relatively small number of superstars make the big bucks, and a vast secondary tier of wannabes get a pittance that hardly pays them minimum wage for their writing efforts. So, if you really have some blockbuster content and blogging ideas that have the potential to rake in big bucks, why not just start your own blog and promote your work yourself? Is Gather really going to do that much more for you?

-- Jack Krupansky

Blogging our stories would change this blog--for better or for worse?

I hate to be a parrot, but over on Blogspotting, Stephen Baker has a post entitled "Blogging our stories would change this blog--for better or for worse?", in which he lamely tries to explain why it wouldn't make sense to blog about development of a story that will appear in the print magazine. I don't buy it.

Mr. Baker says "For six months a good part of my half of this blog would have veered off from its declared turf of business, blogs and media, and into the land of applied math", but I think it wouldn't have to turn out that way. Blogspotting readers and commenters are more interested in the story development process and how it intersects ("collides") with the world of blogging. The subject matter details (math) don't matter so much. Sure, a few subject matter details would spice up the story a bit, but the point is that the blog would be more about people and organizations and how the story development process unfolds, and less about the gory details of specific mathematical techniques.

Blogging about some of the business and media issues that came up along the way would also open up opportunities for the process to inspire reader contributions which might further enhance the quality of the eventual story.

In summary, blogging about mainstream story development in the Blogspotting blog would definitely help rather than hinder the process of exploring "Where the worlds of business, media and blogs collide." That, by the way, is the Blogspotting tag line. Mr. Baker's post seems to suggest that he would rather avoid that collision. Yes, his closing sentence is "Or would you rather that Heather and I stick closely to the collision of blogs, business and media?", but I would suggest that you can't make much sense of any collision without closely exploring the trajectories of the vehicles that all so abruptly arrived at the collision.

So, my advice to Mr. Baker is simply this: When in doubt, blog on, and on, and on, and then blog some more. Do keep each post short and succinct, but keep them flowing.

-- Jack Krupansky

Why the mainstream press keeps secrets

Over on Blogspotting, Stephen Baker has a post entitled "Why we keep secrets in the mainstream press", in which he lamely explains why he couldn't blog about his recent cover story on math. I don't buy it. Even given all of the constraints, he could have blogged about the process that the story was going through, and that would be of interest and relevant to Blogspotting readers (and commenters). Leave the subject matter details out and focus on process and management could have their cake and we could eat it too. In fact, the absence of subject matter details would also serve to heighten interest in seeing the eventual story.

Finally, none of the excuses about wanting a non-familiar cover story in any way excuse the lack of after-the-fact blogging of the process or evolution of subject matter details.

In fact, why not simply do an internal blog to capture the chronology and feelings of the moment as they happened, and then publish the internal blog at the moment that the the cover story breaks?

-- Jack Krupansky

The Dark Side of Blogging: Are bloggers against hate, or feeding it?

There is an interesting article in Monday's St. Petersburg Times (Florida) by S.I. Rosenbaum entitled "Are bloggers against hate, or feeding it? Blogs dedicated to protecting America against terrorism are troubling the Muslim community." The article talks about Joe Kaufman's Americans Against Hate blog and notes that it is "only one of a constellation of blogs with names like,, and that are dedicated to the surveillance of American Muslims." Mr. Kaufman's blog links to both the St. Pete article and a "response" from a Mr. Robert Spencer on the Jihad Watch blog in a post entitled "A notch above child molester."

I'm certainly not advocating for or against any position in any of those blogs or the St. Pete article itself, but it is instructive to know about what's really going on in this "community" known as the .

-- Jack Krupansky

New Book: Podcasting: Do It Yourself Guide by Todd Cochrane

Personally, I don't "get" the big deal about the podcasting craze, but this book does seem like the kind of introduction I should consider looking into. It's called Podcasting: Do It Yourself Guide by Todd Cochrane. Check out the Amazon page for it.

Yes, I do get a tiny commission if you buy the book after clicking on my link to Amazon.

-- Jack Krupansky

Sunday, January 15, 2006

New Book: Naked Conversations by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel

The new book by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel, Naked Conversations : How Blogs are Changing the Way Businesses Talk with Customers, is out or will be shortly. Check out the Amazon page for it.

Yes, I do get a tiny commisssion if you buy the book after clicking on my link to Amazon.

-- Jack Krupansky

Ongoing broadband myths

People continue to make all sorts of bizzare and misleading statements and claims about broadband internet access. Today I was reading an article in the NY Times by Randall Stross entitled "Hey, Baby Bells: Information Still Wants to Be Free".

First of all, the article's title is misleading. The writer's rant is not about information per se, but internet access to information. It's also misleading since it's not about traditional "information" (e.g., text, news stories, papers, articles, the Wikipedia, graphics, photos, etc.), but about non-text media such as audio and video, particularly media that requries significant bandwidth, both for the content itself and the large numbers of users who may access it. And finally, information has no life of its own and hence can't be said to "want" anything. This continued mindless ranting about "information wants to be free" is simply mindless nonsensical hype. If there are underlying facts at issue, by all means let us uncover the facts and issues, and cease clouding them with such mindless hype.

To be clear (again), I am in fact opposed to the concept of your internet service/access provider (ISP or IAP) charging based on the specific content or source of the content. Whether the content comes from my own web site, a government web site, a major mainstream content publisher, or Google or Microsoft or whoever, the source URL should not be an issue. This is what I think "network neutrality" is supposed to be about.

But... I am a strong proponent of fair economic compensation for the transport of those bits, regardless of their source.

There are still a significant number of socialists out there who think that all services, including internet access, should be provided by the governement at no charge, and these people will continue to push the socialist agenda in any and all forums.

Okay, so the socialists want information access to be "free". Sorry, but the answer is "No". Actually, that's not quite true since you can walk into a lot of libraries and actually get free internet access, and I do think that is a good idea. But I believe that Stross is really talking about free delivery to the private home.

Here's a myth that Stross used to just before the close of his article:

IN his debut keynote address at the Consumer Electronics Show two weeks ago, one of Google's founders, Larry Page, credited the "dreamers in universities" who had had the foresight to create a network system without gatekeepers, which made it "maximally flexible" to permit the unplanned appearance of the World Wide Web. That, in turn, had made possible the unplanned appearance of Google.

His claim that the Internet was a system "without gatekeepers" is completely false, and complete nonsense. There are and have always been all manner of "gatekeepers". Originally, only the annointed elite at universities and labs and government agencies were even permitted to have access at all. You call that a lack of gatekeepers? Domain name management, domain name registration, web hosting, etc. -- you call that a lack of gatekeepers? And when the Internet was opened to the general public, people immediately ran into yet another form of gatekeeper, the internet service/access provider (ISP/IAP). In short, there have always been gatekeepers for "the net". But, importantly, none of these gatekeepers have ever prevented a Google or even me from setting up a web site and pursuing our "dreams". And, just as importantly, nothing that the so-called "Baby Bells" have proposed to do interfere either. Nothing that Verizon, et al have proposed to do in anyway interfere with any "unplanned appearances". If Google wanted to re-run their original start up plan for their search engine today or under Verizon's new "rules", none of the gatekeeping functions being proposed would in any way get in the way of their "unplanned appearance". Stross' comments in that paragraph are both misleading and simply irrelevant to starting up any new Internet service.

The simple truth that Stross does not disclose is that the network architecture that the so-called visionaries put in place back in the 1970's and 1980's and 1990's simply wasn't designed for high-volume, high-demand, non-text media content. That's where the problems lie that are the proximate motivation for the initiatives of the big carriers.

In summary, and just to be clear, I am in favor of true "network neutrality", but I also believe that the communications carriers and ISPs need to be appropriately compensated for actual economic costs of servicing the bandwidth required for very high-volume and high-demand audio and video content and the costs of building out a newer network infrastructure that can more readily handle high-bandwidth media content.

Stross' closing paragraph is as misleading as his entire article:

More unplanned appearances will follow - but only if the ecosystem is protected from tromping telephone companies that are genetically incapable of understanding "maximally flexible."

To repeat: "unplanned appearances" are not threatened by anything the big carriers are proposing. Moreover, we shouldn't feel that we should be expending enormous energy protecting the existing ecosystem, but we instead should focus on establishing and promoting a new network infrastructure that can support both the existing ecosystem as well as enable a new ecosystem of bandwidth-intensive, rich, high-volume, high-demand non-text media content.

In final summary, yes, let's protect network neurality, but let's also assure that network bandwidth expansion can be funded in an economically sensible manner. The narrow-minded approach put forth by Stross serves no useful purpose, other than help him sell his books, and maybe not even that.

-- Jack Krupansky

Truth is optional

I was reading a little more commentary this morning on the James Frey "scandal" and I find it truly appalling how many otherwise reasonable people feel that what Frey did (fabricate and pass it off as a "true story") is really "okay". Not just okay, but even admirable.

Sad to say, but it does seem that truth is optional these days.

In fact, too much truth appears to be a distinct negative.

Dishonesty does in fact pay.


Click here to visit the Amazon entry for another James Frey book, "My Friend Leonard". I do get a slight commission if you buy through that link. Hey, if dishonesty is going to pay, why shouldn't people who are honest get a little piece of the action too?

And click here to visit the Amazon entry (and buythe Frey book, "A Million Little Pieces".

The Amazon page for the Leonard book also lists "James Frey's List of Books You Should Read" and Frey's answers to Amazon's Significant Seven questions. I especially enjoyed this one:

Q: What is the worst lie you've ever told?
A: No way I can answer that.

I wasn't able to tell if that Q/A was done before or after the scandal broke.

-- Jack Krupansky

Saturday, January 14, 2006

AOL Journal: Poli Ticks

I'm still experimenting a little over on AOL Journal with a blog I named Poli Ticks, for my political ramblings. I just wrote a post on Iran and it's nuclear ambitions entitled 'Iran, "nuclear ambitions", and the "War of Words"'.

-- Jack Krupansky

Size of the Googlesphere: 0.968E-90 googols

Google no longer reports the number of documents that it has crawled and indexed on it's opening screen. But you can deduce the approximate number using some tricks.

As of today, the number of documents in the is 9,680,000,000 or 9.68 billion. That's up 10,000,000 documents since just over a week ago (1/6/06).

BTW, that's 0.968E-90 googols (1 is 1.0E+100). The beavers at Google have a very long way to go to live up to their name. Or maybe they should blame bloggers for not generating new documents at a fast-enough pace.

-- Jack Krupansky

Jack Krupansky's Theory of Truth

I was just reading a blog post about the James Frey fraud (by VC Brad Feld entitled "James Frey Should Not Be Hung Out To Dry"), and decided to check to see how sales of his book were holding up. His book, A Million Little Pieces, was at #1. Brad's post and the top Amazon rating convinced me that my theory of truth may in fact be true, so I've decided to formalize it (see Truth and Stories):

Jack Krupansky's Theory of Truth: most people would much rather hear a "good" story contrived from half-truths or worse than listen to boring, factual truth.

Incidentally, if you click here and decide to buy Frey's book (A Million Little Pieces), I will actually get a very small commission from Amazon. Thanks. All in the name of "truth", or at least a good story.

BTW, I do think that James Frey should be hung out to dry. Letting him off the hook will only encourage copy-cats. Of course, even by my own theory, there are plenty of people out there who won't mind one bit.

-- Jack Krupansky


Truth and stories

After reading some media stories on a book author who wasn't particularly truthful in his memoirs, I dredged up a few thoughts I had composed on the topic of Truth. Here they are...

Truth? It is my firm conviction (well, suspicion) that most people in America today (and maybe elsewhere as well), would much rather hear a "good" story contrived from half-truths or worse than listen to boring, factual truth.

The taller and wilder the tale, the more eager the audience will be to hear it.

Much of what we call "truth" is rather subjective anyway, with different constituencies emphasizing different aspects in their own mythology of the actual facts. Hard, cold, objective "truth" is both hard to come by and frequently difficult to accept, or at least boring to hear through all the minute details.

I suspect that for many people, truth is anything that confirms and reinforces cherished beliefs.

Me? Give me facts, give me data, give me the raw data, with as little subjective analysis as possible. Let me figure out and decide for myself what The Truth really is.

Sure, you can give me your opinions as well, but give me at least a few references to the actual data.

-- Jack Krupansky


Friday, January 13, 2006

Please DO NOT link to me! -- He didn't listen to me

I wrote a post entitled "Please DO NOT link to me!" in which I told you about an email I sent to Steve Rubel who was lamenting in a post on his Micro Persuasion blog entitled "Finding a Path to Blog PR Bliss" that "lately I have been getting a lot of please “link to me” emails". In my email, I explicitly said not to link to me, and even refrained from giving him a link, but he linked to me anyway. Thanks Steve, but you didn't have to. At least I know that he reads his email from us mere mortals.

-- Jack Krupansky


Trying to blog in print

Although I wasn't too keen on the content of the article by BusinessWeek's Stephen Baker entitled "Math Will Rock Your World" (see my post), I was intrigued by his blog post entitled "My secret life: keeping the math cover story out of the blog", which chronicles some of the difficulties he encountered with his editors while attempting to use a blogging-style of presentation in a traditional print magazine. He says he "wanted to write it in a looser more conversational style, like the blog." His editors gave him some simple feedback: "Less me, more clarity." Too bad for all of us.

It's a real shame that he wasn't able to go the blog-style route. It's even a bigger shame that he couldn't blog about the whole process while it was unfolding. I'd also like to see his notes for the process.

In any case, I did enjoy his blog post and hope he goes into more detail. Maybe he'll even come up with a revised strategy for taking another shot of modernizing the magazine's approach to writing style. Hope does spring eternal, so they say.

-- Jack Krupansky

Online content publishing opportunity

I just ran across the name of this business and haven't even had a chance to check it out myself, but you may want to do so yourself. It's called Associated Content and is headquartered in Denver, Colorado and has a corporate development office in New York City. They bill themselves as a "user-driven information portal."

They just got some funding, and their press release notes that:

Associated Content, a media company, is a web and wireless content publisher and provider. The Company is developing proprietary publishing technologies and organically building a collection of talented multi-media Content Producers that use the technologies to produce text, voice and video content. The Company’s media assets are unique because they are user-focused and optimized for discovery and revenue generation. The Company makes its content available to licensees and to the public at Associated Content is headquartered in Denver, Colorado and has a corporate development office in New York City.

SoftBank provided them with $5.4 million in funding.

-- Jack Krupansky

The role of math

BusinessWeek has a cover story article in the January 23, 2006 edition by Stephen Baker entitled "Math Will Rock Your World" which reports on an alleged "math revolution" revolving around the use of powerful mathematical techniques for analyzing business data. As far as I can see, there isn't much new here. The use of math for analyzing volumes of data has been quite common for quite some time.

I suspect that the real news should be not how much can be done with math, but how little of durable value has been accomplished with so much effort and expense.

And the big, yawning issue will remain how well managers and executives really comprehend the math upon which the operations of their organizations and their very decision processes depend on techniques which may be beyond the comprehension of all but a very, very few elite technicians.

One of the most critical issues will always be the set of assumptions which are made whenever real-world non-numeric data (e.g., text, customer opinions, etc.) are converted to numeric form. That conversion is almost never a clean, error-free process. How many managers and executives really have a handle on what those assumptions might be? And the assumptions get very, very complex once you get into fuzzy logic, one of the most important approaches that will yield important results in the future, but isn't even mentioned in the BW story.

The article doesn't even mention the Semantic Web, ontologies, or a lot of other important research that will drive the organization of data, information, and knowledge in the coming years.

The core problem here is journalistic bias. A couple of times the BW writer has let slip that he believes there are two kinds of people: word people and number people. He has failed to recognize that there is at least a third important category: symbol people. They are the ones who will be figuring out how to make the Semantic Web, ontologies, fuzzy logic, etc. really work well in the coming decades.

The bottom line: math was the story five, ten, fifteen, and even twenty years ago. There used to be a name for it: "rocket science". The BW article even referred to a term that was quite popular a number of years ago: Quant.

Yes, math is still around and is still worth covering, but as a cover story that seems to imply a breakthrough? That makes no sense.

Symbol manipulation, including concepts, ontologies, the Semantic Web, etc., will be the big story going forward, except for journalists who don't have a clue.

To be sure, there is also the intersection of math and symbols and quite a few of us have worked in that mixed world for many, many years, with little recognition. Yes, math does have a role, but we should be careful not to overplay that card.

-- Jack Krupansky