Search Engines Scrubbing User Data

Post from iPhone:

In December, Yahoo announced they were going to reduce the length of time they retain user data to six months. Microsoft also jumped in and said they would do the same and urged Google to follow suit.

This is a pretty slimey, anticompetitive tactic disguised as “protecting user privacy”. See, one of Google’s main advantages is the data they can glean from user activity. Of course, Google can scramble the data as they offered to do in the YouTube lawsuit but that isn’t the point. Yahoo and MS are crippling themselves in an attempt to cripple Google. It is the same tactic used by retailers – “if you find a lower price, we’ll match it”. All this does is freeze any kind of price competition by eliminating any benefits of doing so.

This Yahoo gambit has been going on for a while, years in fact, but it just doesn’t seem to help. It draws privacy group attention and they always say it isn’t enough. Google either ignores them or scrambles the data. Usually if Google responds, it brings the attention of the privacy groups so you see less action on Google’s part.

New OS X Mail Behavior

Mail Delete Box

Mail Delete Box

This one caught me by surprise this morning as I was forwarding a message in OS X Mail. It seems if you have a threaded message (at least two levels deep) and you click within a nested level, a new delete marker comes up. Clicking the “x” on the upper left of the box will wipe out the nested threads. Never saw this before and have to say I’m pleasantly surprised.

The reason I’m blogging about this is to prove a small point. Whereas Windows seems to be out to get you, working against you at every step; OS X works with you and tries to help at every step. When asked why I use OS X, this is what I try to explain and this is just a small example of that in action.

A couple years ago I was talking to an executive in a fortune 500 company about this. The other day, I found out that I had converted him with this logic and he is now a die hard Mac fan.

Anyway, I have a couple big posts waiting in the wings that need a bit more research. Hopefully I’ll get one of those up today.

The Recent Google Knol Furor

Google KnolI’ve been sitting on this one for a while as I read countless reports on “Knol vs. Wikipedia”, “Why [Knol|Wikipedia] is dead”, “Knol has failed”, “Why Didn’t Google Kill Knol?”, etc.

I’m going to keep this one short as a) I see that a lot of people already have already come to conclusion I present below, b) I have a raging cold and want to get back to bed. Check out the comments on “Why Has Knol Survived Google’s Ophan-Killing Spree?“, btw I haven’t even read the article, just the comments.

So here is the deal with Knol:

1) Knol allows you to select New Yorker comics to insert into your Knol for free, WTF? If you are a Seinfeld fan, you’ll appreciate the comedy behing how cryptic these comics are. Well, it turns out Udi Manber is a huge fan. Who is Udi Manber? He is the Google’s VP of Engineering, Core Search.

2) Knol is Udi Manber’s 20%-time project. Udi Manber controls the levers operating Google’s empire, this is important stuff. What Manber wants, Manber gets so this project will never get killed (unless Udi kills it).

3) Udi Manber has a small little goal for Google – “human understanding and intent”. How is this done? Semantics and the semantic web. Manber has been involved in search for a long time and has published many papers and written many applications to harness the power of words/computing to make a better search experience.

4) So the point of Knol? Provide a corpus of structured knowledge to experiment with Manber’s search technologies.

So Knol is not about competing with Wikipedia, it is not about making money for authors or Google via adsense. Google couldn’t care less about these things, they (Manber) want to improve search. Once you can crack the “human intent” nut, search is yours for the taking.

image: Google

Bolting A Framework Onto WordPress

This took me about 10 minutes to figure out and implement. I’m surprised how easy it was. The first thing I did was create a new template and called it “dynamic”. Any wordpress page that wants to use the framework needs to be created with this template and the content left empty.

The dynamic template is then called and the $_SERVER['REDIRECT_URL'] is parsed and if the appropriate page resides within the framework, load it all up and serve the dynamic content. If not, throw some negativity at the user.

So the dynamic page acts as the entry point to the framework and passes off the directive in a switch type fashion. Pretty simple and works fine so far.

Has anyone else done something similar or is there a better way of creating dynamic pages? Am I being lame?

Added New Reading List Section

booksI’ve added a new “Reading List” section to the main navigation. These are books I’m currently reading and books I’ve recently finished. I’ve limited this to technical books so you won’t see the fact that I’m currently reading The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life by Alice Schroeder.

Lately I’ve been more into reading articles and that is where you will see the most action – I read several thousand blog/magazine articles a year and I’ve documented most of them. The political, non-PC, cracked, etc. aren’t listed for obvious reasons.

Also, I spend a ton of time watching lectures and documentaries. Most recently, I just finished watching the 200 or so talks on ted.com. There are a ton of mind blowing speakers in this collection and wish to some day attend. If I were to recommend a single video at the moment it would be Larry Brilliant‘s TED Prize video. Simply brilliant (pun intended).

Now I’m on to the Watergate Scandal for some reason. My mind wanders and I just follow it.