Day of the Google

Clean it up

Trust, its a funny concept isn’t it? It rates quite a lengthy entry in Wikipedia and its nature is described ‘the subtleties of trust are a subject of passionate debate’. It can take years to build up and a moment to lose it.

Two things struck me in a couple of articles that I had read regarding Internet search and trust. The first was the reaction from the blogosphere that Google’s Zeitgeist is not the most frequently searched terms over a period. Bloggers like GigaOM were bending themselves out of shape.

Off course it isn’t, when I was at Yahoo! we got around the issue that Zeitgeist has with a more abstract concept called the Buzz Index that looked at levels of increase in a search term over a period of time. We also had our Finds of the Year which were found via an editorial process. You can find the one that I ran here and this years one being done by my former colleagues here.

Ultimately these measures Zeitgeist, Buzz Index; call it what you will are a bit of fun, water-cooler fodder – harmless PR fluff. If Google and the rest of the search engines revealed a straight most searched for list three things would stand out:

  • We are base creatures of habit, very little would change over time; especially our collective obsession with excessive materialism and pornography in all its myriad of forms
  • We are surprisingly illiterate; there would be countless misspellings – there is a reason why Google puts that ‘do you mean _____’ option right under the search box when you misspell a word
  • We are clumsy and, or stupid: we often miss the web address bar in the browser and will put a URL directly into the search box instead, and then search for it

An unhappy outcome of putting this unadulterated information in the public domain is that it would provide SEO companies and less scrupulous operators with an ideal tool to decode the search engine secret sauce and pollute search terms so that they become meaningless.

That would mean far more dishonest results from Google than just a bit of Zeitgeist fluff.

The second one about search and trust came from author and former journalist Frederick Forsyth.

I grew up with Forsyth’s books; when I started secondary school Forsyth was a kind of modern-day Robert Louis Stevenson for me. His first book: The Biafra Story was a serious piece of reportage on the Biafran War was one of the few pieces of truthful writing about the conflict.

In his PR efforts to promote his latest novel The Afgan, Forsyth did an interview with Der Spiegel.

Forsyth admitted that he did not own a mobile phone or a computer, having a distrust of technology. He finished the paragraph with “I also don’t use the Internet for searches because frankly I don’t trust it.”

Forsyth’s skepticism is interesting because he is genuinely fascinated with how government and Islamic extremists use technologies to further their own ends. It is not a generational issue because he is obviously well-versed enough to get on and use the technology if he wanted to (or pay for someone else to teach him). The reservation seems to come from the rigorous approach of his private research.

And there is some merit in his standpoint: when modern publications and research techniques show both bloggers and journalists up, whilst more traditional journalists like Matt Drudge and Seymour Hersh get the real stories the old way.

Google and other search engines will only produce what they find, whilst there is some editorial input used in selecting sources for news search – verifying the truth of information unearthed on the web is currently far beyond the most optimistic hopes for the semantic web.

The Host

I finally got around to writing a review of The Host (Guimul). A product of the Korean film industry, which seems to be on creative fire at the moment. The Host has been compared to The Royal Tanenbaums and Godzilla or Tremors.The film also has a subversive tone questioning the relationship that South Korea has with the US and the suppression of citizen interests for the betterment of big business.

The performance walks a tightrope between humour and tragedy without the heavy-handed humour in many Hong Kong films.

Get out and see it if you haven’t had a chance already.

Links for 2006-12-08 [My Web 2.0]

Holloways of Ludlow – anglepoise reseller

Rumour has it… Guide to gossip sites and blogs

Developing world demands high-tech handsets – Mobile & Wireless – Breaking Business and Technology News at silicon.com

instructables : Homemade instant oatmeal

WidSets Beta

Main Page – Fab @ Home

A special edition of Jargon Watch brought to you in association with Research In Motion: makers of the BlackBerry

BlackBerry Orphan – children who suffer from mental neglect because their parents are continually occupied with their mobile email device

Adult pacifier – mobile email device

Is Jim the most evil man on this planet? One of BlackBerry’s biggest defenders, Jim Balsillie, the chairman of Research In Motion, says children should ask themselves, “Would you rather have your parents 20% not there or 100% not there?”

I can’t believe that he went on record with that quote.

Thanks to Wall Street Journal: BlackBerry Orphans by Katherine Rosman (December 8, 2006).

Game Theory


There’s been some interesting things being said about Sony and its inability to get things right with the PS3.

Pros

  • Its an impressive, if flawed piece of engineering. It has been said that the PS3 platform is designed to last up to ten years. However, Sony’s hand may be forced to refresh much faster by the deeper pockets of rival Microsoft
  • It is a great platform to seed Blu Ray into the marketplace
  • Disaffected customers have been purchasing PS2s and PSP devices – which demonstrates strong brand loyalty, rather than a total rout by rival console makers
  • Sony’s ability to run Linux and powerful silicon may open new markets and partners beyond its existing eco-system
  • Sony can’t afford to fail, as Bill Gates said during the 1997 turnaround of Apple; a near-death experience can be a great motivator

Cons

  • The PS3 has underperformed in the marketplace, Nintendo and Microsoft are hitting target numbers
  • Sony has been outinnovated by Nintendo with the Nunchuk, providing consumers with a new way of interacting with games. In a war of polygons versus playability – playability wins
  • Sony game development is too expensive: the graphics elements of a PS3 game costs 8.6 million USD to develop, and 500,000 units are need to be sold in order to be profitable. This is roughly twice the price as a Nintendo game
  • Sony has ventured into Uncanny Valley with its latest graphics engine. (The dip in postive consumer attitude as the character better mimics human life is the Uncanny Valley.) There is a paradox of realism – after a certain point, the closer to reality that the gaming experience gets in terms of graphics and player experience; the harder it is for the game to seem real. This inability to believe makes it harder for the players to fully engage in the game.

ImpactSony is going to live or die by its software, out of all the consoles Sony’s is the most expensive to develop for and has the smallest user base. This is likely to be the case for the next 12 months at least. From a games developers point of view the chance of break even let alone success is least with the PS3 and probably greatest with the Nintendo Wii.

Couple these business factors with Sony’s distain for its developer community and you may see an exodus of developers to Nintendo.

Sony’s failure will be a breach of trust with large developers and will adversely affect an entire games industry eco-system. Electronic Arts is already taking corrective action; developers run a risk in the rush to get on the Nintendo train that quality slips as they try to get into the Wii market faster with mediocre products that will sit on the shelves.

The less games that sell on the PS3, the greater the loss that Sony suffers on each box. The more fanciful have speculated that massive hardware sales and low games sales could bury Sony. Its sophisticated engineering could be the biggest waste of smarts since the Maginot Line.