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Little guy 1; big guy 1,000,000,000
Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Patents, similar to copyrights, are a good thing. They protect the little guy from intellectual thieves, and allow inventors to economically benefit from their inventions.

These are just a sample of the latest legal battles. Note the "big guy" name on the receiving end of claims of infringement.

Patent spat forces businesses to upgrade Office
    Microsoft has begun e-mailing its corporate customers worldwide, letting them know that they may need to start using a different version of Office as a result of a recent legal setback.
Google (the money model)
Newspapers take aim at Google in copyright dispute
    A group representing global newspaper publishers has launched a lobbying campaign to challenge search engines like Google that aggregate news content.
Patently absurd
    It's the kind of story even a careful newspaper reader might overlook. Tucked at the bottom of an inside page of The Wall Street Journal was a four-paragraph item beneath the innocuous headline: "Pager Maker Gets Patent for E-Mail Delivery."

10:02 PM | 0 comment(s) |

Google news is non-beta
Tuesday, January 24, 2006

A couple of days ago I wrote an entry about google-news and its beta status, and how annoying it is to find 50 results with the same title and content.

Well, google decided to remove the "beta" moniker. According to their blog:
    Google News has matured a great deal, and we're proud to see it graduate from its beta status. Much remains to be done, and as always, we have many exciting ideas that we intend to take forward. Meanwhile, as the saying goes, if you don't like the news, go out and make some of your own. Or just keep reading Google News.

Though it is no longer in "beta," there doesn't seem to be a revenue generator model in sight. In the past, I wrote that google news was in permanent "beta" because they couldn't make money off of it--I was wrong on that account: they made it un-beta even without the possible cash inflow.

It's a good model:
  1. Index all news

  2. ?

  3. Profit...

8:06 AM | 1 comment(s) |

Eating a ballot
Monday, January 23, 2006

It's time to elect a Prime Minister again, and one of the most pressing questions Canadians need answered today is: "Is someone allowed to eat a ballot?"

Surprinsingly, no. Go figure...

8:20 AM | 0 comment(s) |

Proper Sourcing
Thursday, January 19, 2006

I use a Montblanc Startwalker "writing instrument" for my daily note taking (some of us call it just a pen).

One peculiar aspect of this pen is its thickness and weight. The StarWalker metal and rubber is a heavy and thick pen. Because of this, I started wondering what the ideal thickness and weight of an ergonomics friendly pen is.

Thus, I started googling for "pen ergonomics" and found a couple of sites:

The basics of healthy writing - (local)

The basics of healthy writing - (local)

These two articles caught my attention because they are identical, however, only one of them is properly sourced.

Note that I am not implying that is using this article without permission. They probably have rights to publish the content in their site, however, it should be properly sourced.

After doing a bit of snooping around, it appears that Queen's Press takes copyright issues very seriously, so I'm guessing they actually own the rights to all their content. It is interesting, though, that this particular article was published in 2003, and their site's copyright notice says it only covers from 2004 to 2005.

I don't think many people pay attention to this small details. For example, my site's copyright notice still reads 2005--not because I didn't remember, but because I haven't updated my templates. I'll get around to it, with enough time.

By the way, I couldn't find anything on what an ergonomics friendly pen looks like. Does anyone know?

I should mention that I'm probably not the best person to point the lack of sources anywhere--this is just an observation.

11:40 PM | 0 comment(s) |

Original News
Wednesday, January 18, 2006

I am not in the news business, but I think I understand one aspect of their business distribution schemes: news companies buy news bits from a single source to publish them in their own publications--it's a form of outsourcing, as not every newspaper or magazine company has the resources to have correspondents in every place where something deemed to be news-worthy is happening.

In the past, when someone was looking for a specific news-worthy event (and found it), the redundancies among sources were not that visible, since we did not have google indexing every news distributor in the world (at least the ones that let google index their sites). However, in our connected times, it now looks odd when searching for something and finding a few google-result-pages with the exact same story, from countless of "independent" news sources, and the only difference being the shell around the text.

Hence, my question: should we expect news sources to write their own copy, instead of licensing the official version?

I don't want to get into the social ramifications of having the same "official" version distributed across the globe. A more pressing issue is the one of advertising revenue.

I was searching for a particular news item on, and I got three pages of results with the exact heading and content. Why would I, as a consumer of news, pick any of the bottom links when they are all the same and the first link-result on the list is the easiest one to click on?

All that revenue on advertising for the other dozens of sites will be gone once advertisers find out that their wares are not been properly displayed in front buying eyes. Thus, the investment of a piece of literary reality has been wasted (no advertising dollars equals decreased profits).

In this scheme, how is google making money on their news site? Well, they aren't. There is a good reason google News is still on "Beta." My one guess is that no one inside google has found a way to make money off of their news indexing project. If you notice, "google news" does not have ads anywhere around the index's home page, nor the results'.

Why not? Again, my guess is that all content indexed by google news is actually copyrighted to the originator. Thus, google can't legally profit from other companies' copy. It's a catch 22 for google--if they add ads to these pages, news publisher will ask google to stop indexing them. And if google stops indexing them, obviously, there will not be a google news index.

I don't know why google doesn't start charging news distributors to localize their sites, thus making money for everyone involved. I.e., google already tracks where you are surfing from (via their "Local" service offered on their home page). So, it is very easy for google to limit results to news sites that are deemed local to the surfer, and hence streamline those wondering eyes and take advantage of those advertising dollars. Perhaps in the future...

And so the balancing act goes: google complies with copyright laws, but it keeps accumulating all that traffic on those pages, which is more valuable (at least for now), than the opportunity cost forgone by those ads.

From time to time, google gets the rare cease and desist letter from some news company that sells news bits to stop from benefiting from their material. Google complies, but it's hardly a problem to find other news sites to index.

In the mean time, while google is trying to figure how to make money off of their news indexing (and believe you me, they will), these distributors of information should trick google search results by becoming original and start writing their own insights into every piece.

It is easier said than done, of course. One of the main problems is very simple to identify, yet very complex to resolve, and perhaps too costly to even research.

The issue can be summarized as follows: how much revenue, from advertising, does a company need to generate in order to pay for original copy to attract more internet users? It's an issue of distribution of cost. For example, which story costs more to publish? In other words, which story generated more views for a certain advertising campaign?

As for news agencies, they face the same problems all for-profit entities do, i.e., they are businessness and subject to competition: there are countless of business out there that provide similar services, and these companies are competing for the same dollars, however, each relies on something that becomes the differentiator--the something we have come to call competitive advantage.

For news sites, the content is very important, however, the packaging can help differentiate news items from the other two hundreds companies that licensed the same content from AP (i.e., the insight of a piece). Note that if news sources are competing in a global market (now a days, which corporation isn't?), this unique perspective is very important to be different from each of the other 120 news agencies using the same provider. But of course, sometimes, just being local is a good enough differentiator--like in the good old days: B.G., granma and gradpa only read the local newspaper, which had "unique" content. (B.G. = before google.)

What was I looking for? I was searching for news on "Ronaldhino" and these are some of the results I got:

When I said there were three pages of google-search-results, I was not making it up--check out page 1, page 2, and page 3 of the results. I stopped at the fourth page, but I did see a few lingering results in more result pages (I sorted by date).

8:13 AM | 0 comment(s) |

Google rankings
Monday, January 16, 2006

A friend of mine pointed out to me that while searching for "Stupid JavaScript Tricks," he found my site as the number one result from google.

I then pointed him out to a second number-one-google-result: "Software Developer Resume." So far two number one ranked search results point to my web site:And yet I cannot find a way to capitalize on the results--unless you have contract work to offer me, of course, I will not see a cent made from all the traffic. I did try to get a google's AdSense account, but I was declined (I do not remember why).

BTW, google's ranking sytems should not be a mystery to anyone. It is all based on well documented mathematical algorithms. Check out: PageRank on Wikipedia.

BTW2, the growth of the web is organic, hence, pages like mine get highly ranked depending on popularity. Yet, there are services that cheat the system claiming to automagically place a particular site in the top google results--for a fee, these services spam the web with circular chains of links scattered all around to give certain web sites higher illegitimate page ranks.

6:37 AM | 0 comment(s) |

SEGA says you are too old to play video games
Thursday, January 12, 2006

SEGA's Condemned game web site thinks that you are too old to view their racy content.

Well, not you particularly--only someone borne before 1881.

I think its kind of cute that the site developers thought to check for age limits: you have to be over 18, but you cannot be over 125.

If it were up to you, would you remove the upper age limit?

For some reason, if it were my site, I would remove the upper age limit. The US is such a litigious society, I can easily see claims of ageism and legal action being taken against SEGA for limiting constitutional rights to surf boring web sites.

Assuming, of course, that there are humans this old, and that viewing copy righted material on the internet is protected by the US constitution (I am not from the US, so I do not know).

Wikipedia says that, so far, "the longest confirmed lifespan [for a human being was] 122 years and 164 days." Jeanne Calment would not have made SEGA's cut--she was borne on February 21, 1875.

Another question, who really posts real birth dates in these input boxes? I tried "Jan 1, 1333" and I was shocked to be rejected entrance--I guess I will never know what is so condemnedable in that condemned web site.

I, for one, will not let a piece of JavaScript code question my 673 years of existence on this Earth.

12:36 AM | 0 comment(s) |

Statistical Democracy
Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Over the holidays, I had a chance to discuss the incumbent Canadian election for Prime Minister with a few friends.

These conversations led me to start thinking about statistics and survey theory and concluded in my theory on Statistical Democracy.

First of all, Statistical Democracy doesn't exist. It is something I invented over the last couple of days--perhaps invented is too strong of a word. It is more of an after thought after a good dinner.

Statistical Democracy would work like this:
  1. Get a sample population, for every election, that is representative of all Canadians.

  2. For each election, school the sample population on the various platforms that are available.

  3. Have the "schooled" sample population elect a governmental head of state.
Before anyone objects, we should try to understand why we even have democratic elections--leave aside the two thousand years worth of history, and the struggles our brothers in arms in the greater part of Europe suffered to overthrow feudalism, oligarchies, and kingships out of the window. Essentially, we have groups making decisions because research has shown that groups of people "think" better than individuals do, and, in general, come up with better solutions to difficult problems.

Choosing our leaders in a free democracy does not require creativity, where individuals come up with better solutions, hence we elect our leaders with the idea that a "whole" population will do a better job at electing a representative that speaks for the majority of the people--sometimes, this is even the case.

However, there is a fallacy in our democratic process. The problem is, what I call, "uninformed democracy."

Speaking from personal experience, I don't consider myself well equipped to choose the next leader of our country, as I am not well versed with all the intricacies of each Candidate's political promises. I, then, wondered if the average Canadian is in the same boat I am (for all intent and purposes, I consider myself an average Canadian). Thus, I conducted a little survey: I asked unknowing participants (my friends) to explain to me why one candidate's stance on a particular issue was different to the other candidate's stance (the details are not important), and the response was the same: "I'm not very familiar with the issues."

It appears to me that we can't all be experts in the details of every platform; and we have our own bias when it comes to political thought. In other words, our irrationality leads us to elect our new leaders without any objectivity in the process, and, I would even go as far as stating that we, never vote with the greater good in mind.

Overall, our system depends on the law of averages: the more votes there are, the closer we will get to a true average, and perhaps the correct choice for the majority of the population.

My system of Statistical Democracy proposes to school a random sample population to make the decision for the whole country. Thanks to statistics, we can almost be certain that the sample population we select will be representative of every Canadian within a certain percentage error (something we call Confidence Interval, and it has this funky looking formulas that allow us to calculate such things). Therefore, in this mind experiment, my sample population will make a better decision, not because of the complete number of voters (which never happens anyway), but because the sample population will be extremely well versed on each candidate's platforms and will make an objective selection, based on facts, that will benefit the majority of the population depending on the current needs of the country.

In this particular case, knowledge will be power and the sample population will chose a better leader because it will fully understand why Mr. X is the best choice to be the prime minister.

There are many issues that can come up with a system like this, however. For example, corruption could take hold of the process as lobbying of these voting citizens could lead to coerced results; the sense of empowerment of the actual voters could lead them to think of themselves a different class of citizens (perhaps better); resentment could arise, as not everyone would agree with the election results--but this already happens and yet we just deal with it; I can think of endless doom scenarios where anything like this could go terribly wrong--i.e., the anti-utopian utopia--so I'll stop. But I do think there could be ways to mitigate problems as they arise. In addition, the sample population will be anonymous, and the election should be carried out as a one side blind type of experiment: everyone (or whoever decides to vote) votes, but the sample population's vote are the only ones that count, and no one knows who the real voters are--except of course, the citizens who were fully and objectively educated with the different options.

I always argue that Statistics is the most applied of all Mathematics. I don't see why we couldn't use it to get a sample representation of our population and have them study the platforms thoroughly in order to exercise an objective, educated suffrage. I think it would yield a better leader, and everyone would probably benefit--even the ones who don't currently vote.

By the way, I am not saying that we should not have democratic elections or that I do not believe in having an individual voice of my own, on the contrary, we've come too far to just let go of the best system our societies have come up with in our written history, but I think it can always be improved for the betterment of the majority--of course, if everyone took the time to know everything about every option out there, I wouldn't even think of such dumb ideas of Statistical Democracy.

11:01 PM | 0 comment(s) |

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