Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead

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I’m a huge fan of science…I have a degree in it. Way back when I was working for a tech company installing and training an editorial system at a news paper deep in the heart of Lakeland Florida I heard a night editor muttering to herself about “them making us run false stories.” Out of interest I asked what she had a problem with, it turns out the article at hand was about the discovery of a new dinosaur which moved the age that this particular species to a much earlier period. Not a very interesting story…certainly not more than a couple of column inches. Her problem was that she honestly believed the world was only 6,000 years old as did the vast majority of the other twenty to thirty somethings working in the news room. She thought the story was a plant put there by the scientific community to mislead the people. It was such a cognitively dissonant experience. Here was a room full of what appeared to be nice educated folk who drove cars packed with micro processors to work where they worked all day with complex design and assembly systems who had no problems with the laws of physics and electronics the product of which surrounded them had a problem with my part of science….biology.

It boggled my mind then and continues to boggle it that a nation which such a strong love affair with all things tech can think it’s just fine to pick and choose which parts of science they choose to “believe” in. The poster child for this anti scientific ‘just coz I say so” nonsense is Jenny Mccarthy. The ex nude model turned D list celebrity has managed to parlay her looks and marriage to Jim Carrey into enough juice to campaign against vaccination for children. I understand the pain and frustration of having a child “on the spectrum” (there are several in my immediate family) but that’s doesn’t give you the excuse to make science up. The mere fact that the single study linking autism to inoculation was subsequently proved to be a hoax which led to the Dr. involved losing his licence hasn’t stopped her and her fellow ignoramuses from campaigning against this important part of keeping our kids safe. The body count of preventable deaths sparked by her tomfoolery varies according to who you believe but it’s well on the way to 1,500…all kids whose deaths can at least indirectly be linked to her efforts.

So I was delighted to read today that she has been fired from The View. I have never seen the program but giving her any kind of platform is ridiculous and I’m delighted her short lived tenure has ground to a halt. Apparently everyone on the show hated her. I doubt we will be so lucky that she will now just fade into well deserved obscurity but we can hope. I actually have a theory about her demise. Her network is part of Disney. The attributable body count is about 1,500 and rising and at some point some smart attorney was maybe going to start a class action suit against Disney for allowing her a platform to hurt children. It’s a stretch for sure but I have been sued on more spurious grounds…anything is possible. Would the case prevail…probably not but it would be a PR nightmare for Disney so just maybe the lawyers are the good guys in this case and had her removed as a preemptive strike.

A Blast From the Past

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Back in the late middle ages when I was running a good part of one of the big search engines (before it was acquired by Yahoo) we had an interesting relationship with EBay. Back in these far off days they would send over vast lists of keywords which they routinely bid 5c on. These weren’t just obvious product lists there were exhaustive lists of terms which in many cased didn’t seem even remotely commercial. We used to joke that we’d always have one ad match for left handed Aardvark Taxidermists….as EBay would have it in their big pile of words.

So it was with some delight that I read a report today that not only had EBay continued their campaign of bidding on pretty much every word known to man and they were now using that research to attempt to discredit paid search as an advertising medium. Their conclusions were that paid search really doesn’t work because ads for left handed Aardvark Taxidermists aren’t very effective. Back in the day the E-Bayers claimed that their main reason for their strategy was acquiring new users.  That makes sense as how often have you found that the only place online you can find that special thing is Ebay.  Of course as the population of people who don’t buy on Ebay continues to fall recruitment can’t be as large a factor.

I offer you this story not because I necessarily agree with their findings but as an illustration of lengths that the behemoths of our new order will go to throw mud at each other and their respective business models. Of course Ebay would rather have you shopping direct in their ecology rather than clicking on Google or Bing or buying at Amazon. Collecting data from a decade of bidding on absolutely everything is fascinating…but it doesn’t account for the kind of real shopping searches targeted by advertisers and doesn’t take into account factors like ad copy or landing pages. So it’s probably all a bit silly…but still fascinating to watch.

Score One for Big Cable

Atlanta-AereoIn the same way any strategy which relies on your soccer team figuring out how to get past Germany to continue in the World Cup so any new media strategy which relies on the Supreme Court letting you loosely interpret laws is likely to run into difficulties. So is was with a real sense of sadness that I watched the Supreme Court finish of the Aereo business model with a crushing 6-3 defeat today…if that were soccer half the crowd would be gleefully chanting “slaughter” at the top of their drunken voices.

What is it and why do you care? Here’s why….this week my Verizon contract is up. I have Fios Internet and TV a DVR and three set top boxes and that costs a shade under $200 a month. I also pay for Hulu Plus, Netflix and Amazon Prime to the tune of another $20 per month. I can get pretty much all the TV I watch minus the live broadcast of the big 5  for just the $20 I pay to Netflix and Hulu Plus and Amazon.  With the smart antenna offered by Aereo i could plug that into a laptop get the big five over the air broadcast on the rare occasions I watch them and cut the cable bill down to  only $25 a month. All in I’d get pretty much all I watch for $50 total.

The supreme court ruled that Aereo was essentially turning an over the air free signal into a public performance which meant they would have to pay royalties. That shut the entire venture down. It’s a pity but given the lobbying power of the cable industry not much of a surprise. A time is coming when the ad soaked garbage put out by the big five will reach a point where many perhaps most of us will simply cut the cable and we will make do with the great independent programming and content we can get through places other than the big cable companies.  This decision has perhaps pushed that a little further into the future…but it’s coming.

Google Taking Its Aim at Domain Registration Services

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Google apparently has its eye on larger piece of the Internet. The search giant announced Monday it is testing a custom domain registration service called Google Domains. Google said it decided to launch the service, which still in an invite-only beta mode, after learning that 55 percent of small businesses did not have a website.

While the service will give people the ability to buy customized URLs, Google won’t provide the actual site hosting. Partners such as Wix, Weebly, Shopify, and Squarespace will provide hosting and website building services to registrants. A key factor for Google I imagine is the opportunity for them to bundle in packages which allow the business with the new domain the ability to rapidly integrate it with Google + and promote it with Google AdWords. These kinds of services have been offered by domain suppliers in the past but the relative costs have proved problematic. If a domain provider is only charging $20 per month for site design and hosting tacking on a marketing cost which might be 10 or 10 times that price which nets almost mothing to the folks promoting the service hasn’t historically sat well. If Google is in charge I feel confident they will make that case more compellingly.

Google Domains will offer services such as domain forwarding, customizable sub-domains, and no-cost private registration. In addition to offering access to hundreds new domains such as .guru and .photography, the service will create up to 100 email aliases based on the domain of choice

Google’s presence in the sector could prove disruptive, especially for leading domain registrar GoDaddy, which filed papers two weeks for an initial public offering that could be worth more than $100 million. While GoDaddy has 57 million domains under its management, controlling roughly 30 percent of the domain registrar market, the company revealed earlier this month that it had net losses of nearly $200 million on $1.13 billion in revenue in 2013.

The Great AntiFoot Hoax?

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Every so often you come across a marketing story which is so clever you really have to wonder if it actually happened. Such a story of sweeping through the media and chatterati of France. It’s World Cup season worldwide (everywhere except here in the US that is) and those very clever folks at Orangia have announced and claim to be selling the Orangina Antifoot…this has nothing to do with athletes foot I’m pleased to report.  The commercials show some boffins adding electronics to an Orangina can which allows the smart lady in the bar who doesn’t love ‘the beautiful game’ to surreptitiously turn off all the TVs in the bar. Such devices do exist…indeed a few years back when I was traveling a lot more than I do now and was tired of endless commercials and CNN news loop repeats being played at my poor head I did invest in such a device and it will indeed turn off any TV from 30 feet away..it’s a kind of universal off remote and yours for just $20.

What’s so clever about this campaign is that is that apart from the one pictured in the commercial nobody (that I have read about) has been able to get hold of the real thing.  It looks like it’s simply a very clever commercial hoax masquerading as reality.It’s technically feasible and makes for a hilarious commercial but the amount of adverse publicity it would cause if actually used …let alone the spontaneous outbreaks of mob violence against anyone caught drinking Orangina leads me to think that it never went into actual production or sale…which is a pity.

Would You Live in a 3D Printed House?

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Researchers from the University of Southern California have invented a 3D printer that is able to build a 2500 square foot house within a day. It is believed that this new technology will transform the construction industry. This tool will enable to erect skyscrapers without the team of builders and equipment. Though, the industry is very much optimistic about the potential of 3D printers, until now it is mostly used to produce small-scale objects. Soon, the days when you have to wait for months for your new home to be ready will be in the past.

In such a scenario a question remains, are the 3D printers effective enough to create an entire house? There is nothing to be skeptical about the capacity of this futuristic tool. A Chinese company utilized 3D-printing technology to create 10 one story houses within a day and proved that 3D technology has ultimately succeeded. The houses are cheaper and can be constructed within few hours. The printer that is used to build the houses in Shanghai is 10 meters wide and 6.6 meters high. Mixtures of cement and construction wastes are the raw materials and walls of the houses are created in layers using these ingredients.

The method of construction not only decreases the time required to erect a building, it also means that the workers will be far less exposed to hazardous construction materials and working environment. Architects in Amsterdam are also using this latest technology to build a full-sized 3D-printed house. They are using a bio-plastic mix, which is industrial adhesive containing 75% plant oil and reinforced by microfibers.

This is may be only the beginning. Modern architects and designers are interested to put the process in test as 3D printing results in zero waste, reducing the transportation costs and that every piece used can be melted down and recycled- look for this to be the thing of the future revolutionizing of cities.

Driving US to Distraction

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Anyone who has glanced at this blog over the years will know that I’m no lover of our traffic police. That we the citizens of this great country have given a group of folks (whose salary we pay) the right to essentially lay in wait for law abiding citizens even more power over us is incredible to me.   The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is seeking to control the apps on our phones where those apps aid navigation. That might well prevent Google Maps or Waze from working on our phones as we drive. The justification (as always) is ‘safety.’  Our government is perfectly happy that any depressed or deranged high schooler can get hold of an assault weapon to take out his peers…that’s perfectly safe…but heaven forbid we run Google Maps through our blue toothed cars. This ridiculous provision is part of the proposed transportation bill working its way through congress. Giving the government oversight on which aps are or aren’t ‘safe’ to use in our cars is insanity…how would they decide which was safe and which wasn’t. Where would they find the software engineers to do a comprehensive job.  If I have Google Maps on my phone and I run it whilst I’m driving a car ‘illegally’ what would be my status if I use it while I’m the passenger or even riding a train? As far as the app is concerned it all looks the same… the only way to reliably regulate it would be to ban it entirely. Let’s criminalize every smartphone user. 

Not surprisingly the automakers are pushing for this regulation.  If they could persuade the government to essentially outlaw GPS navigation by phone that (I’m sure they think) will force more car buyers to pay the premium to get GPS in their new cars. My Google maps app is a much better GPS device than either of the BMW or Nissan navigation systems in my household.  I was recently sent about five miles out of the way when attempting to reach a location in downtown San Diego. If there’s and doubt I trust the Google app over the car every time.

What has clearly stuck in our overlords craw is a recent California case where someone navigating on their iPhone was ticketed for ‘phone use’ by one of CHIPs finest.  He fought the ticket that conviction was overturned. God forbid that any traffic conviction be overthrown based on fairness.  We have so many real problems to address why on earth would we waste tax dollars attempting to resolve a problem which doesn’t exist. How about we tackle mental health, obesity, gun control or even patent reform first.

GOAL!!! New Smart Watch Technology Being Used at the World Cup

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With the World Cup officially underway, new technologies have been introduced in order to help minimize those crucial missed calls. One of those new technologies uses multiple cameras around the stadium to help the referee make a decision. With thousands of fans screaming what they think should be the “correct” judgment, referees at the World Cup this year will wear watches that will vibrate and display the word “GOAL” each time a ball crosses the goal line.

FIFA officials has been discussing goal-line technology since the months following the 2010 World Cup. That tournament saw England denied a score in a match against Germany even though the ball had clearly passed the goal line.

FIFA began testing goal-line technology and approved its use in 2012. The device can be used only to determine if the ball has crossed the line, and referees must be notified within one second. Only match officials can receive these scoring notifications.

The buzzing watches serve only as a recommendation, and the referee still makes the final call on a goal. The smartwatches used in Brazil are made by a German company called GoalControl, which installs 14 cameras that track the ball around the pitch. It was first used in the FIFA Confederations Cup last year, a tournament that passed without goal-line controversy.

FIFA is also open to other types of systems that track the ball through magnetic fields created by underground cables, although these would require physical alterations to the ball itself. This has obvious downsides, given soccer players’ particular desire about the balls they use.

Searching for Genetic Answers to the Autism Puzzle

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I was pleased to read this morning that Google has formed a loose association with Autism Speaks to allow the scientific community better access to the massive amounts of genetic data around the condition. Essentially Google will house and apply data analysis tools to about 10,000 entirely sequenced genomes of sufferers of the disease. It’s a terrific idea to use the staggering large data storage and crunching power which Google has access to, to house and research the one million Gigabytes of data which that much DNA represents. Research in genomic medicine is intensely data driven. Way back in the late middle ages I graduated with a degree in Genetics with a strong focus on what was the molecular biology of that early era. To think that in the thirty years since then (jeez is it really 30!) we have come as far as we have is amazing at so many levels.

The researchers have a mammoth task on their hands. Many diseases typically have a complex mixture of genetic and environmental causes.  Some are incredibly closely linked to very small areas of the genome…down to a single base pair error in some cases. Diseases as complex as Autism (with its famous ‘spectrum’ of manifestation) are typically caused by the interaction of multiple genetic and sometimes environmental factors. For example I have Asthma but I’m fine if I stay away from cats and some pollen. Tracking down exactly which combination of needles in haystacks is causing the problem then trying to figure out what therapy might impact it is a staggeringly difficult task. We have to hope that they have the same kind of success seen by French researchers recently where they found a relatively simple gene mutation which causes a break in a key enzyme pathway which is directly linked to Alzheimer’s. If they can fix that simple break maybe we can prevent that horrible disease.

This isn’t Google’s first venture into DNA. They were one of the original investors in 23 and Me a company founded by Sergey Brin’s clever sister. They allow you to have your own DNA mapped for the purposes of ancestry research. It also used to include data on markers for potential genetically based diseases but the FDA nixed that a year or more back ‘pending investigation’. I actually had mine done recently and it turns out that (much to my surprise) in addition to the bulk of by DNA being boringly British in origin…I’m also over 25% viking. Apparently this is a very common thing with us Brits…guess what costume I’m going in for the next Halloween party.

One last thought…if it takes the power and majesty of Google and the entire scientific community to come together to start to try to figure out the causes of autism…just where in the proverbial hell does a retired playboy bunny like Jennifer McCarthy (a dumb blond formerly married to formerly funny guy Jim Carrey)  get off telling parents who lack the time or attention span to check the facts, not to get their children vaccinated against deadly childhood diseases like measles because “vaccinations cause autism”. No dummy…vaccinations save children’s lives. The 1998 “research” which sent this blond idiot off on her damaging quest to harm our children was essentially falsified and has been subsequently completely retracted. There is no scientific link.  If we have seen a rise in autism it is much more likely ’caused’ by better diagnosis and early detection than by completely unrelated vaccinations. Her stupefying arrogance and ignorance powered by her D list celebrity and the sad gullibility of many parents has led to the re-emergence in this country of a disease only doctors over 60 will have ever seen outside of textbooks. This isn’t “The View” it’s science. I sincerely hope that much in the same way that those reptiles from the Westboro Baptist Church picketed the funerals of service men so the parents of children who were needlessly killed by this superstitious tomfoolery will invite Ms McCarthy to attend their children’s funerals.

Still Trying to be Forgotten

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I have just returned from a breakneck week in Europe (UK and France) and it’s always interesting to see the world through those that perspective. There are so many profound differences…it goes well beyond the entire continent is about to go World Cup crazy while we politely ignore the entire event.  In several discussions with both industry folk and ‘civilians’ there was a real resentment around the whole ‘right to be forgotten’ issue. Since the European ruling of a few weeks back Google has received over 40,000 requests to have information about various folk deleted from the index because that information is either “outdated or inaccurate.” The mere fact that a good number of these requests are reportedly from drug dealers, corrupt politicians and convicted child molesters did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of several folk I talked to about this topic. There is a feeling that Google has appointed itself judge, jury and executioner of our information age and it appears to be fairly widely resented. The review process is also shaping up to be controversial. The legal ruling was so broadly drawn and vague this was bound to happen. The first draft appears to be a star chamber of Google folk and third party experts who will sit in judgement on these issues…this arrangement already has privacy advocates up in arms. The scale the task is also daunting…at only 15 minutes per review it would take more than six years for a single panel to review the initial case load. Who pays for the process hasn’t been mentioned anywhere.

Google has made no secret of their objection to this process so it’s unlikely that they will be turning cartwheels to make if either fast or painless. However in the final analysis it may not actually improve matters for those seeking to be forgotten. In cases where Google has been required to remove copyright infringed content under the digital Millenium Copyright Act they have always posted a clear note to that effect, often with pointers to sites where that ‘censorship’ process is discussed in more detail. Given that Google.com in the  US is unaffected by this ruling where they are required to remove content about someone on one of their European properties it’s highly likely that they will simply leave a great big red flag in the results set to the effect that “We are sorry, but had to remove juicy information from these results under the “right to be forgotten” rulling.. but if you want to look at what we had to remove click here to see the uncensored results at Google.com” I can hardly imagine a more reliable way of sending the searcher to exactly the information which some body would like to be forgotten.