Economics and a flashback to early ’90s internet

posted by Stal on 2010.03.12, under Stal

This was mentioned yesterday afternoon, but if you haven’t seen it yet, stop what you are doing Right Now and take a peek at Columbia economist Xavier Sala-i-Martin’s website. A brief recap of why this man is awesome:

In other words, Sala-i-Martin is an all-around badass muthafucka.

Go. Now.

In response to the “Google makes you dumb” crowd

posted by Diomedes on 2009.10.20, under Diomedes

There have been sharply divided opinions on this topic at the lunch table, so I figured I’d link this article spotted in Science Daily discussing the increased brain activity associated with internet usage. I realize this isn’t google usage per se, but they do explicitly mention internet searches as one of the stimulating functions.

The // in URLs

posted by Stal on 2009.10.15, under Stal

If you’ve ever wondered about the need for double forward-slashes in URLs, the man who designed him has now admitted that they are wholly unnecessary:

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the World Wide Web, has confessed that the // in a web address were actually “unnecessary”.

He told the Times newspaper that he could easily have designed URLs not to have the forward slashes.

“There you go, it seemed like a good idea at the time,” he said.

He admitted that when he devised the web, almost 20 years ago, he had no idea that the forward slashes in every web address would cause “so much hassle”.

His light-hearted apology even had a green angle as he accepted that having to add // to every address had wasted time, printing and paper.

[ Berners-Lee 'sorry' for slashes / BBC ]

Dickipedia: a wiki of dicks

posted by Philomela on 2009.06.18, under Philomela
18: is a parody collection of satirical biographies “about people who are dicks”  produced by comedy news provider Comedy 23/6. It is an unaffiliated spoof of the Wikipedia online encyclopedia, self-described as “a monolingual (English), Web-based, free content encyclopedia project with information about people who are dicks. The word “dickipedia” is a portmanteau of the word “encyclopedia” and the word “dick.” Dickipedia does not contain information about people who are detectives.”


posted by Stal on 2009.05.16, under Stal

…is now live. If you haven’t been following the development, this is a new computational search engine that gives answers to queries like “What is the GDP of France” or “number of internet users in Europe?” It does this by using structured data sets as its index.

From Wired:

Type in “Pluto” and Alpha calculates the dwarf planet’s distance from Earth at that very instant. Bang out a series of letters like “ACTCGTC” and Alpha recognizes it as genetic code and tells you what strand of DNA that particular gene lives on and what we know about it. Wolfram has licensed ― or created ― a whole library of databases and massaged them so the information is pliable. (To date, they include Wikipedia, the US Census, and “about nine-tenths of what you’d see on the main shelves of a reference library,” he says.) Combined with the near-­magical abilities of Mathematica, Alpha is a powerful computational engine that can effortlessly answer queries that no one has asked of a search engine before.

Consider a question like “How many Nobel Prize winners were born under a full moon?” Google would find the answer only if someone had previously gone through the whole list, matched the birthplace of each laureate with a table of lunar phases, and posted the results. Wolfram says his engine would have no problem doing this on the fly. “Alpha makes it easy for the typical person to answer anything quantitatively,” he asserts.

Whether or not this is new next “Google-killer” remains to be seen, however it is viewed as potentially being Google’s salvation from anti-trust regulators at the least.

The first query I tried: What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?

Video demo: Introducing WolframAlpha

Websites will charge for content

posted by Diomedes on 2009.05.07, under Diomedes

According to Rupert Murdoch, websites will be charging for content by the end of the year.

While I’m sure that some people would be willing to pay for the news (which is the specific context given) I just can’t see it taking off when you look at the value added by news stations. Unless you’re proposing banning every reporter from a news conference that’s not on a charge-per-content basis (and this sounds like businesses colluding in a sense that would make me scratch my head), there’s nothing you’re getting out of watching a press conference on Fox instead of any independent reporter with a camera (aside from some editing, insert snarky joke here).

What you’re getting is commentators and reporters who talk around the issue rather than covering the issue. These are people that certain news stations have an interest in >wanting< us to watch insofar as they potentially have the ability to swing opinions. So by charging for access to them, really you’re just going to be limiting the exposure of the platform that whatever station is trying to push. That sounds strange to me.

And isn’t he double dipping just a bit? Most websites now have ads both on the site and before/during/after their video coverage. Didn’t this method of profiting from content work just ducky for TV for sometime now?

I think that Rupert Murdoch somehow believes that people desperately want his product and won’t be able to substitute one news station for another. I find this unbelievable, but maybe he’ll prove me wrong.