Here's someone - actor Tony Goldwyn - who's not an investment banker or Bank CEO who's actually gonna make money from the Geithner plan.
|Tim Geithner||Tony Goldwyn|
He's gonna make a killing when the inevitable movies about Geithner are made.
But Goldwyn is already richer than Timmy. He's been a successful actor / director and he's the grandson of Hollywood studio pioneer Sam Goldwyn. You might remember him as the bad guy in Ghost, or - a bit more recently (and relevantly), a smarmy presidential aide in "The Pelican Brief"
Security researchers have created a rogue certificate that would allow them (if they were malicious) to perform man in the middle attacks on any website. I.e. They could easily pretend to be your bank and steal your login info, amongst other things.
If this seems shocking to you, it's regular stuff for security on the web. Don't read security alert news if you like to blithely use the internet, is my advice.
Anyways, the key to this vulnerability is that some Certificate providers were still using MD5 as a cryptographic tool when creating certificates. MD5 is vulnerable and these guys have now proved it. Cool.
But the fun thing is - they use a cluster of 200 Playstation 3 gaming consoles to do their computation. That's just so cool. Maybe we can all harness Xbox Live next week to break SHA-1?
Can you picture criminals now deciding to turn your network attached Playstations and Xboxes into zombies so they can launch cryptographic attacks from the cloud?
Question. How much did your proof of concept research cost?
Answer. It took a few months to design and implement our method, based on a lot of knowledge and skills that we have developed over the last two years. We spent about USD 700 on purchasing test certificates from a CA. The computations needed for our work were done on a cluster of about 200 PlayStation 3 game consoles in the cryptanalytic lab at EPFL.
Question. Why were game consoles used? What other hardware is suitable?
Answer. Game consoles use hardware specialized for the computational needs of the detailed 3D graphics in games. This hardware is also very suited for the basic arithmetic used in cryptographic algorithms and greatly outperforms general purpose computers on brute-force computations. We have found that one PlayStation 3 game console is equivalent to about 40 modern single core processors. The most computationally intensive part of our method required about 3 days of work with over 200 game consoles, which is equivalent to 32 years of computing on a typical desktop computer. Common graphic cards have been used by some for MD5 cryptanalysis as well.
Need a gift idea for a 30-something techie who has everything?
How about this: Mio Knight Rider GPS?
This GPS device talks like the car on the original 1982 edition of the show "Knight Rider." It will even address you as "Michael," or you can switch the device to another name.
I think that "address you as Michael" in KITT's voice part pretty much overcomes any rational objections anyone could have...
Apparently Free Credit Reports aren't REALLY free?!?
The people at SmartMoney clue us in.
Who could have known that something delivering zero-cost digital goods driven by tons of ad spending could be a rip-off?!
"Despite the consumer complaints and the ongoing investigation in Florida, the company and its clever marketing campaign march forward."
Thank god for clever marketing campaigns.
An unexpected side benefit of industries need to be seen as "green": Google has put up a bunch of pages detailing their datacenter infrastructure.
A long time ago on this blog I speculated about various things in Google's infrastructure:
Now, in the name of Green-ness, Google is telling you a lot about how their infrastructure works, how much power their data centers consume, how they build servers.
I think Microsoft and Yahoo and Amazon EC2 have all contributed to a lessening of the advantage that Google has in infrastructure, but something tells me that if Google is putting this info out now, they have other advances that they are not telling us about.
This year, I bit the bullet and got DirecTV Sunday Ticket, which allows you to watch ANY NFL game you choose on Sunday. They show them all.
I also got an HD DVR with the subscription, so I can record up to 2 games at a time. This is nice, because I don't actually get to watch any full game... too busy most Sundays, but this will allow me to catch the best parts.
Here's the problem: I have to plan in advance and set my DVR for the games that might be good.
So as part of my preparation, I'm planning to blog every Friday, and make a note of the 4 best games on the DirectTV Sunday Ticket schedule. Now only if my HD DVR had an API...
Anyways, here's what I want to record this Sunday:
|Jets v Dolphins||10am||705-1|
|Texans v Steelers||10am||707-1|
|Cowboys v Browns||1pm||713-1|
|Bears v Colts||5:15pm||NBCHD|
|Vikings v Packers||Mon 4pm||73|
BTW, this post is an example of one of the main benefits of blogging - writing things down so I don't forget them later...
Reportedly, NebuAd's and Phorm's ISP customers are slowing trials of their ad systems based on deep packet inspection. This is where devices are installed at the ISP which can track everything a user does when connected to the internet. The resulting data is analyzed and used to serve more targeted ads.
Except now that Congress and the privacy watchdogs are starting to awaken, apparently the ISPs are scuttling trials or at least slowing them down.
I think that it's likely that these companies will be the proverbial pioneers with arrows in their backs (a bit like DoubleClick, circa 1999). But this technology will eventually be adopted when people aren't so vigilant.
In fact, what company is the big winner if the ISPs can't monetize their packets so easily?
HINT: It starts with a "G" and ends with "ogle".
They have the data that the ISPs have for the most part, and they also have the technology to exploit it, and the marketplace.
So far, for the most part, they've decided they don't need to use that data, and NebuAds and Phorm's political travails mean that Google can defer exploiting ALL of their data for as long as they want to. Or they can deploy so slowly that people don't notice. Either way, they win.
Here's what the "recession" looks like on a lovely Sunday afternoon at the Apple store in Palo Alto.
I had to move from my old DSL enabled office, and I rented a new place which had just installed wiring for Comcast cable.
The cable guy comes to install the internet, and tells me I'm one of 3 guys using the system in the building, and that comcast just put it in, and it's really nice - "really just an extension of the plant - it's like your sitting on the head end". (That's cable-guy talk for INSANE BANDWIDTH).
Now I just watch HD videos all day and run speed tests. My best so far is 20Mbits. Usaully it's 18 or 19Mbits/sec. Crazy.
Now I also understand why sites like sports.yahoo.com are littered with images, and videos - it's because the web teams at Yahoo (and ESPN and CNN) all have crazy fast connetions to the internet, and they think everyone else does to. Now that I have insane bandwidth, those pages are actually usuable.
The internet is a whole new ballgame, a really fast whole new ballgame.
Here's a tip, in case you have a slow connection and are jealous: just browse the web with lynx all day, and pages will load really fast for you too.
Jeremy C. has a post about ad auctions. At the end he says something that you may have heard before, but never as clearly or succinctly put:
Let me give you a disturbing vision… Google is actually operating a CPM bidding system. Yup. Your bid position is a consequence of the value you give to Google, per thousand impressions - but quantised to a penny per click.
It's pretty important to grok this if you want to understand AdWords...
She's a new congresswoman, yet she upholds the traditional inability of elected officials to do math.
She cites figures from the Environmental Protection Agency’s website, www.fueleconomy.gov, that say gas mileage decreases rapidly after 60 mph. “If you drive a Ford Taurus or Toyota Camry, which averages 25 miles per gallon on the highway, the difference between driving 60 mph and 70 mph results in a yearly savings of over $250. For pickup truck drivers, that increases to $470 and if you own a full-size SUV like a Toyota Landcruiser, we’re talking about a savings in excess of $750.” These figures are based on national averages of 12,000 total miles per year, of which 45% are highway miles.
Jackie says that if we go from averaging 70mph (which is above the current speed limit in most places?) to averaging 60mph, we'd save over $250 / year in our Camry.
Let's go to Google calculator:
12,000 mi / yr * 45% hwy mi = 5400mi/yr on the highway.
At 25mpg at our supposed 70mph max, that's 216 gallons.
With regular gas at $4/gallon, it's $864/year.
Now if we save over $250, we'd spend $613/yr in gas. And that means we would have improved our gas usage by just over 29%! AMAZING!
Of course later in the press release we see this is impossible:
The EPA’s numbers show that fuel consumption rises dramatically at speeds faster than sixty miles per hour. The website claims: “While each vehicle reaches its optimal fuel economy at a different speed, gas mileage usually decreases rapidly at speeds over 60 mph. You can assume that each 5 mph you drive over 60 mph is like paying an additional 30 cents per gallon for gas.”
An April 2008 article in the San Francisco Chronicle cited Patricia Monahan of the Union of Concerned Scientists: “For every mile per hour over 60 mph, she said, fuel economy drops by an average of around 1 percent.”
Those two quotes both don't jibe with anything close to 29% savings. The top quote from the EPA site equates to about a 15% savings going from 70mph to 60mph.
Applying that bottom rule linearly would give us a maximum of 10% total savings (and actually, the current law is 65mph, so it *might* mean 5%.)
Of course, no one would actually drive 60mph, and fuel consumption in real world conditions wouldn't really be affected by more than 2-3% But hey, who am I to question Congressional ability to screw up simple math?
Funniest South Park bit since the World of Warcraft parodies.
Apparently the southpark guys now have their own video distribution, as well.
The internet naturally gives rise to nutballs - people who are so obsessed with some random hobby. This article sums up the personalities behind internet nutball-ism, even though it's about cars. And it's by Jay Leno.
You expect people to collect Duesenberg and Ferrari parts, because there's a lot of money in them. But the guys who fascinate me are the ones who collect parts for Cushman Scooters, Nash Metropolitans and Ford Model Ts. No matter what you're into, there's someone out there who's into it so much more than you are it's not even close.
Another insane Kafka-esque email from the Yahoo Search Marketing API team. I get about two of these a week (another example), and they remind me of Orwell or Kafka in their impenetrable bureacrat-ese.
Dear Valued Client,
We have encountered unforeseen circumstances from the maintenance on end-point https://ews11.marketing.ews.yahooapis.com/ Currently, we do not have an estimated time of resolution for the residual system slowness and delay in books closed time for Keyword/Ad reports. However, our technical teams are working around the clock to resolve this as soon as possible and we will continue to update you on the status of this delay constantly. We greatly apologize for the inconvenience and appreciate your patience.
[emphasis mine - on the stuff that's just pure obfuscation].
Yes, Yahoo search marketing (i.e. Panama), does have an API. But with Yahoo giving up in search, it's probably not worth your time to use it, and have to parse these maintenance emails.
At this point, what Yahoo search marketing needs most is a copy of Strunk & White.
Ugh. Sometimes the end does come with a bang and whimper at the same time.
Yahoo is giving up in search.
The stock lost 10% today, and will continue to descend to it's proper level of about $15 / sh. Until someone picks up the pieces for about half of what Yang was holding out for.
It's not just the shareholders - the search customers and Yahoo's regular users are all losers here. Not to mention the employees. It's not that fun watching a CFIT (controlled flight into terrain), which is what Yahoo! has been on ever since they hired Terry Semel.
Meanwhile, Google is up, and feeling good about the monopoly it has!
As Ash writes:
Microsoft offered $44.6B to acquire all of Yahoo! in early February.
Yahoo! Chief Yahoo spent 4 months trying to make that go away… today he settled for $800M in top line incremental revenue.
That means in some 50+ years (44.6B/$800M), investors will be indifferent. So net-net, “Jer”gets what he wants today, investors can go pound sand and come back in 2024.
Way to go, Jer.
I dumped my YHOO at $24.68 after MSFT pulled out. And I rolled it into GOOG. So I guess I can be thankful for that.
This is sad on so many levels. Back in 1995, I was the first employee of an ad serving company whose first customer was Yahoo!. It's sad to see Yahoo capitulate and march towards nothingness.
Oh, and did I mention that Jeremy Zawodny is leaving too. Need any more proof?
Maybe Yang and Decker can treat the remaining team to a premiere of "The Happening". Cause that seems depressingly similar to the nightmare Yahoo has committed against itself.
Windows Vista was officially released (after over 11months of delay) on Jan 30, 2007.
But here's what's so sad about this. Dell, one of Microsoft's biggest distribution partners is still promoting the fact that you can STILL GET XP. Yes, even though Dell "recommends Windows Vista® Business", you have until June 18 to buy a Dell laptop with XP on it.
This is the back page from a Dell catalog I just received. Man that's some cheap laptop!
And then there's this: Microsoft's Ballmer Touts Vista-To-XP Downgrade Program
Uh-oh. The surest sign that the decline of a tech-power is nigh:
Google is going to build a new HQ.
Or at least they are going to do a massive expansion at NASA in Mountain View, on land next to their current HQ.
This is an old Silicon Valley saw - when companies build giant new facilities, they tend to go downhill soon thereafter. It's a classic "market-top" signal. The litany of examples includes: Apple, Cisco, Intel, 3Com, BEA, Sun, SGI and many others.
And it makes sense - the companies that do this are generally getting too big and prospering in their mid-life. They plan a massive expansion and something happens - maybe the economy slows down, or maybe they lose focus. In any case, building the new HQ is usually done at the peak, and often portends bad times ahead.
Now I'm still bullish on Google, but planning for expansion like this worries more a lot more than anything Microsoft would do.
After the saga of Yahoo is over, many people will find reasons as to why Yahoo failed. I know the real reason: it's a boring, impersonal, faceless bureaucracy. Although Yang and Filo try to keep it culturally cool (free soda and coffee for all employees!), they have utterly failed.
The Yahoo brand has no identifiable or consistent "voice".
The amazing thing to me is that someone hasn't renamed Yahoo to:
Here's all the proof you'll ever need - an email from the people that run Panama (aka "Yahoo! Search Marketing".)
YSM-Tier2Support to me Dear Valued Client, We will be performing a routine system maintenance during the following time frames on Friday, June 6, 2008: 6:00AM PST to 11:00AM PST 7:00PM PST to Saturday June 7 2:00AM PST The following end-points will be unavailable during maintenance: https://ews11.marketing.ews.yahooapis.com/ https://ews12.marketing.ews.yahooapis.com/ https://ews13.marketing.ews.yahooapis.com/ https://ews41.marketing.ews.yahooapis.com/ Should you have any questions regarding this matter,
please contact your account manager directly or technical services at email@example.com. Thank you for choosing Yahoo! Search Marketing! Sincerely, Technical Services Yahoo! Search Marketing
Note how there's not a real person's name in the whole email - including mine. FYI, my actual name is not "Valued Client".
Look at the 4 deep subdomains that Yahoo forces on it's services. https://ews12.marketing.ews.yahooapis.com/. There's two ews's in there! No wonder I can never remember that URL to login to my account. Compare to say: http://adwords.google.com, or even adwords.com.
And WTF is a "end-point"?!?
Even the email addresses they use are robotic. Apparently, it's not a real Yahoo email unless there is a dash in it somewhere: firstname.lastname@example.org
But luckily, they recover from this unbranded, un-personal, techno blather form-letter email with the friendly closing:
Thank you for choosing Yahoo! Search Marketing!
Amazon EC2 is a hyped technology that is actually exceeding it's expectations. It's cloud computing, and when Amazon added recent features to enable datacenter level fail-over and cluster tools, it became the best way to scale any large internet service.
It now has over 60,000 customers, some using thousands of instances of virtual hardware. Combined, they use more bandwidth than all of Amazon.com. Companies like RightScale are examples of a blossoming 3rd party support and service eco-system growing around EC2.
Google is attempting to do something similar with Google App Engine, and Sun and IBM have cloud models as well.
But Amazon EC2 doesn't do Windows. You can't run the Windows stack on it (at least in any real way). You can run Linux, FreeBSD, Solaris and almost any other Unix you can name. But no Windows. Windows is gonna fall further behind as the internet infrastructure shifts to cloud models.
Windows isn't Cloudy.
In short Google shows that it's not doing anything to justify Facebook's holier-than-thou attitude. (Ever see how Facebook collects you Gmail contacts if you let it, or perhaps you recall Facebook Beacon on initial launch?).
Upshot: Google is revealing Facebook's hypocrisy, and doing it with the panache of Dan Akroyd finishing a faux-debate with Jane Curtain: "Jane, you ignorant slut."
Now that's proper use of a corporate blog in my book!
"Of the three major search engines, only Microsoft’s Live.com – if you want to call it a major search engine – returns much worse results..."
-- Philipp Lenssen, Google Blogoscoped
Why are all the apps on Facebook trivial, crappy or spammy?
Facebook originally launched the app platform with a lot of talk about how to create value out of the social graph.
Why hasn't that happened, with all the energy being spent on developing Facebook apps? Ben Rattray has a good answer - mainly because the structural incentives are all on creating virality.
The reason there are few and little use of utility-based applications is not because users don't want to use them or because app developers don't want to develop them, or even because Facebook doesn't want to encourage them (which they clearly do). It's because the means of distribution inside Facebook are structurally biased against them.
[I]t is very difficult to achieve a viral coefficient of over 1 through word of mouth. Ironically, this difficulty is compounded inside Facebook because the proliferation of viral action apps inundates users with invitations and makes them less and less likely to accept anything – including invitations to utility-based applications. So the barrier for going viral increases even further
Ben also categorizes the kinds of apps that could be useful, and which ones make sense on a social platform. It's very useful to look at - if you are thinking of how the web will be shaped by increasing adoption of "social" techniques into websites.
Of course there are more types of apps, and the list of examples is thin, but it's useful to think about if you plan to adapt to the ever-increasing "socialness" of the web.
Malcolm Gladwell reports that Nathan Myhrvold assembles geniuses to create inventions, and it's working like crazy.
But then, in August of 2003, I.V. held its first invention session, and it was a revelation. “Afterward, Nathan kept saying, ‘There are so many inventions,’ ” Wood recalled. “He thought if we came up with a half-dozen good ideas it would be great, and we came up with somewhere between fifty and a hundred. I said to him, ‘But you had eight people in that room who are seasoned inventors. Weren’t you expecting a multiplier effect?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, but it was more than multiplicity.’ Not even Nathan had any idea of what it was going to be like.”
The original expectation was that I.V. would file a hundred patents a year. Currently, it’s filing five hundred a year. It has a backlog of three thousand ideas. Wood said that he once attended a two-day invention session presided over by Jung, and after the first day the group went out to dinner. “So Edward took his people out, plus me,” Wood said. “And the eight of us sat down at a table and the attorney said, ‘Do you mind if I record the evening?’ And we all said no, of course not. We sat there. It was a long dinner. I thought we were lightly chewing the rag. But the next day the attorney comes up with eight single-spaced pages flagging thirty-six different inventions from dinner. Dinner.”
I can believe it because this is how I feel about the internet - there are still millions of great ideas out there, waiting to be implemented.
Even Bill Gates is impressed by these guys - which partially explains why Microsoft is stalled. Microsoft's muse is simply more excited by other stuff...
Bill Gates, whose company, Microsoft, is one of the major investors in Intellectual Ventures, says, “I can give you fifty examples of ideas they’ve had where, if you take just one of them, you’d have a startup company right there.”
There’s this idea they have where you can track moving things by counting wing beats. So you could build a mosquito fence and clear an entire area. They had some ideas about super-thermoses, so you wouldn’t need refrigerators for certain things. They also came up with this idea to stop hurricanes. Basically, the waves in the ocean have energy, and you use that to lower the temperature differential. I’m not saying it necessarily is going to work. But it’s just an example of something where you go, Wow.”
If you want to see what a good old-fashioned internet rant looks and sounds like, Joel Spolsky unloads it for you.
He's talking about Microsoft, Ray Ozzie and Live Mesh. It's important to note that Joel used to work at Microsoft, and contributed to what I consider the single greatest app of the PC era: Microsoft Excel.
As you read through the crescendo of angst at Microsoft's over-engineered cluelessness, be sure to note the tell-tale long sentences at peak rantage. You can feel the pounding that the keyboard took when this was typed:
It's a whole goddamned architecture, with an API and developer tools and in insane diagram showing all the nifty layers of acronyms, and it seems like the chief astronauts at Microsoft literally expect this to be their gigantic platform in the sky which will take over when Windows becomes irrelevant on the desktop.
And later, more unimpeded flux from the keyboard:
It sort of bothers me, intellectually, that there are these people running around acting like they're building the next great thing who keep serving us the same exact TV dinner that I didn't want on Sunday night, and I didn't want it when you tried to serve it again Monday night, and you crunched it up and mixed in some cheese and I didn't eat that Tuesday night, and here it is Wednesday and you've rebuilt the whole goddamn TV dinner industry from the ground up and you're giving me 1955 salisbury steak that I just DON'T WANT.
Stick around for the end, cause Joel gives bonus ranting, and targets Google...
Mary Jo Foley nails why Microsoft is continuing to decline.
Foley: There's always been this dichotomy between "Bill's guys" and "Steve's guys." Steve's guys have MBAs and their roots are in sales. Bill's guys have been traditional technologists. The people who are more like Steve will probably get more power and will run the show, so I wonder who's going to be the tech champion for Bill's guys. I think that's going to be a big cultural and noticeable change once Gates is out from his day-to-day duties.
This effect has been going on for the last 3 years and has ruined Microsoft's future: over-dependence on MBAs, and loss of technology touch.
It's nice when someone as smart & connected as Foley says things you've always believed...
Marc Andreessen has a post praising dual-class stock structures. To me this means he's recommending that public tech companies create shares that enable management to control the voting rights of the company, even though they may own a minority of the shares.
His post is extensive, and he admits he's going over to a new view (previously, he believed in the corporate version of one man / one vote). However, I think it's crazy talk and unsupportable with the arguments he's making. I think the downsides and unintended consequences are far worse than he admits.
Andreessen spent the last half of 2007 posting a lot of sarcastic notes on how Wall St. bankers and corporate titans were basically lying about their exposure to over-leveraged debt & derivatives. He reveled in exposing these guys.
In short, the problems for Wall St. were caused by excessive leverage.
Now, Pmarca is arguing that to fight potential raiders, hedge funds, private equity and other Schumpterian-type attacks, Silicon Valley should adopt the same techniques.
I.e. they should LEVERAGE their stock voting power. Basically, give insiders stock that is 10-100X more voting power than what they sell to everyone else.
The keystone of his argument is that Google does this.
He proposes the following four "commitments" that should make it OK for tech companies to operate this way:
- The key leaders of the company -- typically the founders -- who will own the controlling Class B shares, are also major economic shareholders in the company. They own a significant portion of the company and are therefore highly incented to maximize the value of the company over time.
- The key leaders of the company who own the controlling Class B shares have a long-term goal of building a major franchise, and the commitment required to execute against that goal.
- The controlling Class B shareholders have a commitment to treat Class A shareholders fairly and equally in all respects other than voting power.
- All public shareholders understand what they are getting into up front -- no bait and switch.
I think all four of these are impossible to hold management to, and about as likely to be judged in good faith as a politician's campaign promises.
Seriously, can Andreessen name ANY Silicon Valley founder who wouldn't believe that they would be able to satisfy all four of these "commitments"? Remember to ask them this at the time they are about to go public.
At a simple level, once most founders companies' go public, they have more frickin' money than god, and are not really that incented to maximize the value of the company. Is Filo that excited to do that (would he really know how?), or would he rather spend his days reviewing hardware purchases of Yahoo's teams?
As Bud Fox once said: "How many yachts can you waterski behind?"
Citing Google and Buffett as the "good" users of dual class structure is like citing Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant as good examples of why a kid should leave school early to pursue his NBA career - "Hey, it worked great for those two!"
Rather than go with Buffett, I'd lean towards Peter Lynch for the guidance: "Go for a business that any idiot can run - because sooner or later, any idiot probably is going to run it." Should those idiots have this leveraged control?
Should Terry Semel (who made about $500M from Yahoo in 4 years) really have had this kind of control?
For 95% of tech companies, which is more likely?
And really, are investors going to understand the implications of dual-class structures? Should they have to?
Andreessen is arguing for a great weakening of already weak corporate governance.
Would it have been good for Yahoo to have such a class structure? I don't know, but I'm sure Yahoo would have judged itself to pass with flying colors on all four commitments.
In fact, I'd argue that Yahoo is proof that companies don't really need the dual class structure to achieve control. They can simply do what they've always done and pack the board with yes-men and women who couldn't care less if the founders were presiding over a controlled flight into ground.
My belief is that this technique will become more common, and will hurt innovation in Silicon Valley more than help it. In general, the companies that do go public with this type of structure will look more like European companies of the late '80s and '90s, where management had almost no incentive to govern the company for anyone's benefit but their own.
And yes, the argument that Wall St. forces some companies to focus on the short term too much is true, but that doesn't mean founders should concentrate control so drastically. If the founders are magnanimous enough to be able to handle Andreessen's four "commitments", I'd think they'd be bright enough to run their franchise effectively without dual-class controls. After all, it has been done many times - eBay, Cisco, Oracle and many others seem to have done it.
Dual class structure would be an easy way out, and wouldn't promote healthy governance. It'd be yet more insulation from the real world for the management of most companies, and the temptation to abuse it would be huge.
I guess Andreessen doesn't think that Silicon Valley founders would be subject to that temptation, and they don't already derive enough benefits at the top of the tech-company pyramid.
Ask yourself: aren't their egos and wealth big enough already? Or do they need this leverage technique to compete with the East Coast mega wealthy in PE and on Wall St?
I don't think it'd be healthy to try.
Before making it easy for insiders to isolate themselves, I'd argue that if you want more public tech companies, and more innovation, make it easier to go public. Repeal big chunks of Sarbanes-Oxley (SarBox). I think that could help without weakening corporate governance too much.
If Marc wants to recommend this dual-class technique to Facebook, where he is apparently becoming a board member, I'd add one suggestion: Give the Class B power shares to all the employees and early investors.
Or, if that doesn't sound good - how about this: Stay private.
I rewrote searchamazonprime.com to make it better. It's designed to find products on Amazon.com that are eligible for Amazon Prime free shipping. To do this, it finds only products sold by Amazon.
The new site is redesigned to look better, and the back-end is much faster than the old one.
I've also added some nice features. It finds many more products than any other Amazon search site that I know of, and it shows them on one page.
There are sections of results by category, and you can hide categories you don't care about.
I wrote a spelling suggestion corrector based on product names. So now when you type in a misspelling or a typo, you get a suggested correction, like on Google.
Finally, you can now add searchamazonprime to your Firefox search bar. If you use the search bar in Firefox, you will get auto-completion style suggestions as you search.
It's really easy - and there's step-by-step instructions here.
So if you have Amazon Prime, or buy a lot of stuff from Amazon.com, try it out, and let me know what you think.
These cracked me up so much, I'm just gonna rip them right off Andrew's blog:
Here's Andrew's impersonation of John Battelle's Twitter stream:
Did you know the post office is selling stamps now for 41 cents that will continue to work after the rate goes up to 42 cents on May 12.
The cost of sending a first-class letter will rise by a penny, to 42 cents, on May 12. But the "forever" stamps -- currently selling for 41 cents -- will remain valid for full postage after the increase. The U.S. Postal Service estimates Americans are buying 30 million "forever" stamps a day.
Get some now and save yourself the hassle of dealing with the rate increase.
Business Week says that mobile phone usage will be Google's undoing. This could be right - a change in how people use the web. We know Google's not threatened by Microsoft or Yahoo.
But is mobile search adoption happening fast enough? Other than the iPhone, most mobile browsing simply sucks, and people don't use their phones to buy online.
That will slowly change, and Google will have to cope with less screen space for ads and search results.
But I do think that Google has many more years of people using large screens to do most of their shopping research and transactions. And they will adapt in time to increase mobile browsing usage.
Lately, they really make you *work* to get low-cost clicks. The complex quality-based bidding formula is not entirely profit-oriented, but some of the reason they’ve been so profitable during an economic downturn is because they’ve managed to squeeze higher prices out of the “low priced” keyword inventory. They’ve taken aim at “lowball bidders” in some categories, and made it harder to bid low, plain and simple. Either you pay more than you used to pay, or your ad doesn’t show up.
People who’ve been neglecting paid search trends also don’t realize all the amazing free and low cost tools that are now available to improve your ability to build, adjust, and refine campaigns on the fly. New advertisers look at the old paradigms (large keyword lists, lowball bids, bid management to ROI) and don’t see that the game truly is about relevancy today. Careful attention to user intent, and providing “scent” right through the buying process, is a big part of what drives successful campaigns.
That pretty much sums it up for the difference between 2005 and 2008.
This means that, very soon, web Advertisers will no longer be able to trust the data they get from publishers or these traffic rating agencies.
I lean to the first bullet: Blame Comscore. As some are pointing out, and as Comscore's aftermarket weakness is showing, this is turning into an acid test for Comscore -- and it's failing.
The funny thing to me is that ANYONE ever believes ComScore any more. Not only have they been demonstrably wrong on query counts, search share, and click growth before, but the people who run Google, Yahoo and other publishers have said as much.
Paid Clicks - Aggregate paid clicks, which include clicks related to ads served on Google sites and the sites of our AdSense partners, increased approximately 20% over the first quarter of 2007 and approximately 4% over the fourth quarter of 2007.
Here's Anand from datawocky describing comScore's methods.
ComScore sets a lot of store on their "panel-based" approach, which collects data from a panel of users, similar to Nielsen's method of collecting data on TV viewing using data from a few households that have their set-top boxes installed. ComScore has been in this business longer than anyone else, and has arguably the best methodology (i.e., algorithm) in town to analyze the data.
I don't think they have the best model, simply because it's been wrong many times before. Here are a few of the ones I've documented in my blog - not a comprehensive list of all of their mistakes, since I gave up whining about this in 2007...
You can find other bloggers who discuss comScore's data in 2007. I believe that comScore has never been very good at analyzing the traffic or click patterns of top 10 web properties like Google, Yahoo and MySpace.
comScore did release a press release two days before the earnings, which seems to provide some cover contra Kedrosky's off-the-cuff "blame comScore":
The data from Comscore, which was not released publicly but provided by Wall Street brokerages, was seen as welcome news for Google after a difficult month in which many financial analysts lowered their expectations for the search company's first quarter.
Comscore last month prompted concern among investors and analysts when it reported weakness in the number of consumers clicking on the Internet giant's search ads in February.
The explanation that the data "was provided by Wall Street brokerages" doesn't make much sense as written - probably comScore secretly provided a CYA set of data TO Wall St... who knows?
Just remember this the next time comScore reports on some key metric.
Gross revenue exactly in line with consensus--$5.2 billion, up 42%. Net revenue $3.7 billion, slightly ahead of consensus. Non-GAAP EPS of $4.84 blew away consensus of $4.52.
I was playing golf last week with a friend who used to be CEO at a big software company, but he's not a search geek. He asked what I thought of Google.
I said Google has at least 10 more good years. They are a powerhouse similar to CSCO and MSFT of the 1990s. Financially, what people underestimate is Google's level of control of their own business. Simply put, Google has an algorithmic way to produce money. This means that when they need to, they can control monetization and produce good results.
A simple example of this is the number of search result pages (SERPS) on which google chooses not to place ads. Google optimizes total site review better than MSFT or YHOO which tend to optimize page revenue. If Google needs to be more profitable, it has a fair bit of leeway to do it.
In addition Google still has macro trends in it's favor:
One thing people underestimate is the increasing importance of search. It's value is not declining, it's usage is not going down. Search is becoming more important to the average internet user than any other function - including email.
Similarly, as everyone well knows, ad budgets of large companies are slowly moving online in proportion to the amount of time people spend on line. Those ad budgets will be playing catch up for the next 5 years, and Google benefits.
Finally, Google's competition is incompetent. Microsoft and Yahoo are so far behind in search that Google's lead is still 2 or 3 years, and growing. It's not just quality of a SERP for a given query, but brand, traffic growth, international penetration, etc.
People will talk about unsustainable growth, declining click rates, the company becoming too big, etc. Certainly those are all reasonable objections, but they are not enough to stop Google from becoming ever more dominant for the next few years.
Google surprised Henry Blodgett and much of the punditry by not falling apart in a weakening economy. I'm not that surprised given the tremendous advantages Google has.
And I think it will keep out-performing for the next 5+ years.
Lots of startups fail, and this one never got product / market fit, despite a huge potential market.
The argument up to now has been simply that there are roughly 3 billion phones out there, and that when these phones get on the Internet, their vast numbers will outweigh PCs and tilt the market towards mobile as the primary web device. The problem is that these billions of users *haven't* gotten on the Internet, and they won't until the experience is better and access to the web is barrier-free - and that means better devices and "full browsers"
Something to think about whenever you hear that the mobile market is so huge - it's the next big thing. Maybe true, but Russell thinks that day is a ways off...
Let me say that again clearly, the mobile traffic just isn't there. It's not there now, and it won't be.
What's going to drive that traffic eventually? Better devices and full-browsers. M-Metrics recently spelled it out very clearly - in the US 85% of iPhone owners browsed the web vs. 58% of smartphone users, and only 13% of the overall mobile market. Those numbers *may* be higher in other parts of the world, but it's pretty clear where the trend line is now. (What a difference a year makes.) It would be easy to say that the iPhone "disrupted" the mobile web market, but in fact I think all it did is point out that there never was one to begin with.
Apparently the mobile market is still mostly a vertical app space (i.e. you should concentrate on a small slice like iPhones only, or perhaps SMS subscriptions in India...)
BTW, This reminds me - I can't wait for the iPhone 2.0 in June...
Robert Wagner 2002
Robert Wagner 2008
Yes, I know he's old as dirt (born in 1930), but MAN! This guy was married to Natalie Wood in 1957 (and then again later on...)
He's been OLD forever - and yet he'd always looked the same. How did THIS happen?
The internet enables the arbitrageur. More and more people are going to make their living doing arbitrage.
Example: a guy who became proficient at acquiring Hermes handbags - specifically Birkin bags, which are scarce and expensive. They start at $10,000 and can be found on ebay as I write this for up to $60,000.
He managed to buy over 130 bags a year, even though there is supposedly a 2-yr waiting list. His book details the various methods he used. Then he'd sell them (mostly on Ebay) for profit.
I posted once that over 1.3M people make their living full-time from Ebay. And those are the people that deal in actual goods. There's probably another 1M internet arbitrageurs who deal solely with virtual goods or transactions.
Eventually a significant percentage of many people's income is going to come from arbitrage.
I've been planning to mess with Google App pretty soon.
This dude ported the Google App Engine SDK to Amazon EC2.
No question that Amazon EC2 is the thing you'd actually use to do anything real, but while Google's price is free (for now), it might be fun to mess with.
Update: Re-reading this post, I realize it'd be much more productive to spend time experimenting with Amazon EC2 more, and really develop something valuable on it. It can do everything Google App Engine can do, and a lot more. It's an open garden for production apps, while Google's is much more closed toy playground. I probably shouldn't get distracted by Google's.
How does he do it? He uses automated content generation on computers - he has a Windows program and databases, and Bayesian techniques to actually generate Word documents. His favorite topics are long-tail subjects like "the outlook for bathmat sales in India." The video below demonstrates his system at work:
He's also patented techniques to generate games (such as crossword puzzles in any one of 600 languages), quizzes and videos. An example automated game in the video: "A 3-D shooter, featuring a 'clever tomato' that can teach Spanish speakers English". I kid you not. It took him about 5 minutes to generate that game.
As far as I can tell, Parker is not using his technology to create rank-able spam affiliate sites. Most of my friends might say: "What? Why hasn't he created a spam blog empire as well? He'd make millions!" But maybe he's smart - he's staying under the Google spam radar :)
He does have a dictionary web site with automatically generated "word of the day" 3D animations (again featuring a 'clever' talking tomato). The domain names shows that Parker is not completely up on the latest in domaining or domain trademark law: http://websters-online-dictionary.org.
But he does have affiliate links and an interesting approach to a site map on that site...
The protesters trying to track down the Olympic torch in San Francisco used iPhones to get updates as the police re-configured the route of the torch.
Sometime around two o’clock I noticed something very odd happening on the outskirts of the protest. A few people — almost all of whom were visibly holding iPhones or similar electronic devices — began sprinting northward along the Embarcadero. I caught up with one man as he paused to scrutinize his iPhone, and asked him what was going on. He said that an underground text-message system had been set up by tech-savvy radical protesters, and if you knew how to access it, you could get minute-by-minute updates about the exact current location of the torch.
Also interesting in this chronicle the photographic litany of various type of people who are protesting China for one reason or another.
Ten works of art in Florence that will blow you away. Most of this art is in Florence due to the legacy of the Medici family, and is located in the Uffizi museum.
The height of Florence's power was the 1400s, as the Renaissance was breaking out. Prior to this, almost all Italian art was related to the church. Therefore, the bulk of art in the Uffizi is religious, and the museum is laid out chronologically so you go through about 7 rooms full of saints, martyrs and Madonnas with child.
This context sets up the mind blowing explosion of humanism that is the Botticelli room.
It's fairly insane how under-appreciated Botticelli is, given the colossal power of the paintings in this one room. Remember that Birth of Venus and Spring are both huge canvases. Room 10, Uffizi is all I'm saying. It only costs about 7 Euros to go to this museum, but it's a good idea to call ahead to get a reservation: Phone +39 055 238 8683.
Probably the only Madonna giving baby Jesus a Pomegranate you're likely to see in a while. (The pomegranate signifies passion).
A more classical mother & child.
Like Botticelli, Michelangelo's painting blows you away - it was probably the 16th century equivalent of the introduction of color TV. It's stunning and the image on the right, like all the images you see here, is a pale, pale imitation.
There are several paintings of Saint Sebastian's martyrdom, which you'll come to easily recognize by the arrows piercing his torso. Then all of a sudden...
Hard to believe that Titian's Venus would not be considered NSFW back in 1540. Mark Twain famously remarked on this painting:
It isn't that she is naked and stretched out on a bed --no, it is the attitude of one of her arms and hand. If I ventured to describe that attitude there would be a fine howl --but there the Venus lies for anybody to gloat over that wants to --and there she has a right to lie, for she is a work of art, and art has its privileges. I saw a young girl stealing furtive glances at her; I saw young men gazing long and absorbedly at her, I saw aged infirm men hang upon her charms with a pathetic interest.
This painting has such amazingly rich texture, you can feel the silk of his clothing.
Finally, you've got to go to the Gallery Academia to see basically one sculpture. Michelangelo, David, Galleria Academie, Florence
In fact, that's true for all of the works, you have to see them in person. Thank the Medicis when you go.
And that's not the end of it, Florence has at least 10 more of the top 100 pieces of art you need to see before you die. Rome has another 20 or so. You might think I'm exaggerating, but I'm not. It's just insane.
Finally, this post is dedicated to my high school art history teachers, especially Mrs. Gullickson.
When kids design a keyboard for a laptop, the important stuff gets it's own key.
And really, what keyboard shouldn't have it's own Google button?
It's a set of basic tips (make sure you have a recent version of Acrobat, add meta-data, divide large files, etc.), but one important one is:
Step #2. Identify the text
You cannot manipulate the text in an image like text in a word processor. To do that in Acrobat, you need to open your image-based PDF and run “optical character recognition.” Go to the “document” menu. It will scan your document and translate the image-text into text that can be edited so search engines can read it.
Acrobat may not have been able to recognize all of your PDF’s text after running OCR, however, so some portions may be marked “suspect.” To find your PDF’s suspects and check their accuracy, click:
Document > OCR Text Recognition > Find all OCR Suspects
This will enclose all suspect words in boxes and allow you to check whether the translation is correct or whether it needs to be modified.
Now go out there and spam the world with those optimized PDFs!
Wow. Jeremy Chatfield is one of the few search engine marketers (SEM) bloggers who still publishes substantive research on Google Adwords, and today he rips Google for using search history and personalization in determining which ads to show.
Google’s success was built on delivering search results that matched user expectation. Once again, we see Google acting to enhance revenue, without any concern for advertisers. This time, however, they have screwed the pooch. Users see less relevant results, too. This is not a good idea, as it will decrease the value of the search results page *for users*, and that will inevitably weaken interest in using Google.
Pretty strong words - I mean if it came from Aaron Wall, well, we all know how he loves to hate on Google, but coming from Jeremy, it's pretty sobering. Jeremy also provides a detailed example of the decrease in ad relevance based on recent searches.
And perhaps its one of the hidden factors in Google's recent CTR drops (on the search side - the content side is easily explainable).
I think that the examples above make it clear why keyword search performance has dipped recently, reducing average CTR, reducing conversion rates and making the behaviour closer to that for content match. This is not the precision marketing tool that I was using last year. This is a weaker, more expensive and less precise tool that brings in a wider range of less interested users.
Overall, it's good to have Jeremy still posting real info. Most other SEMs have given up sharing any real info as the industry has become more efficient.
Levi at Wordze is giving away a list of over 100,000 keywords that are popular Google searches. It's an excel file with each keyword and it's rank.
Click here: for Google Keywords list and you'll be asked for your email. Then you'll be mailed the list.
The mail will also have a subscription activation link for wordze, which you don't have to click or complete. See my review of Wordze here - it's a valuable service for building keyword lists.
This renews my faith in American education. Plus it's hilarious.
I'm serious, there are some great experiments in there... ("Crystal Meth: Friend or Foe?" is not one of them however.)
There's a lot of press out there predicting that the incipient Microsoft takeover of Yahoo is doomed to fail. It's the dominant meme.
However, one set of potential users is rooting for it: People who buy search ads.
Andrew Goodman estimates at the London SES conference, attendees are for the merger at a 7-to-1 ratio.
When you look at it, it makes sense, and I've highlighted the key reason before:
Google market share in search is something like 60-65%, and in Europe, it's higher.
Yahoo's share is currently around 25%, and Microsoft is about 10%.
Put together Microsoft and Yahoo, and you have a decent #2 at 35% share.
Simply put, PPC buyers want to go to fewer places, and want a more viable alternative to Google.
Microsoft could throw away most of Yahoo, except Mail and the front page, and have hopes to turn this acquisition into something useful - simply because search is where the money is! Sure it's expensive just to compete with Google in search, but when you are Microsoft, you need to protect your cash cows from incursion by Google.
I think Ballmer's best option and natural tendency is to go after Google's cash cow. Yahoo's really the only way to do that.
I'm still pretty sure Microsoft's current management isn't the team to do it, but at least you can understand why it makes sense from a PPC buyer point of view.
If you don't know, Helmut Newton is a world famous photographer, who mostly takes sexual pictures of beautiful women. Anyways, here's how he describes his childhood:
I was sickly and fainted a lot and I masturbated like a world champion! My mother was always fearful of my health so I was driven to school by a uniformed chauffeur to avoid germs. I was not allowed to touch a railing or to handle money. I was spoiled, unbearable, and an awful coward.
He's from a time when people lived a bit more...
When you were 18 you fled Nazi Germany on a ship to Singapore. Yet your recollection of that time in history is “I screwed through the Mediterranean. I stuck with married women around 30 years of age.”
You must understand that for the Jews that ship was an island paradise because finally no-one could hurt us. Every evening there was dancing, drinking, f***ing. But I always found 17 year old girls less exciting than older women who were glamorous, sophisticated, and had sex appeal!
When you arrived in Singapore you had five dollars to your name, which you immediately spent in a brothel.
My sound financial sense told me there was no difference between having five dollars and being completely broke.
Note that he's been immensely successful in life:
Your about to be published autobiography stops in 1982. What have the readers missed?
Nothing! People who reach their goals are very uninteresting. What could I have written about the last 20 years? I met a lot of awfully boring Hollywood bimbos. I earned a lot of money. I fly only first class.
You don’t make it sound like much fun.
It would have been fun to say I f***ed her and I f***ed her, but my wife June and I have an agreement not to talk about such subjects.
Upshot: Don't worry too much about how much your kids masturbate.
This post is the first in an irregular series.
Seminal site of the day: here.
Feel free to suggest other historically important classic internet sites in the comments. Thank you.
Henry Blodget has been en fuego with his coverage of the Microsoft / Yahoo deal. Today he adds this little nugget:
Because of the overlap of Yahoo and Microsoft shareholders, many of Yahoo's largest shareholders also own even larger stakes in Microsoft. It is in the economic interest of these shareholders to have Microsoft keep its bid exactly where it is. Their interpretation of what is "best for Yahoo shareholders," therefore, may be different than that of shareholders who don't also own huge stakes in Microsoft.
You aren't reading that kind of stuff anywhere else.