Archive for the Tech Category

Google’s Losing Hand in China

Posted in government, Politics, Tech with tags , , , , , , on January 21, 2010 by jwilhelmy

It took me a while to digest the situation that’s arisen between Google and the Chinese Government.  On the face of it you have the PR statements directly from Google’s official blog:

“We detected a highly sophisticated and targeted attack on our corporate infrastructure originating from China that resulted in the theft of intellectual property” and “we have evidence to suggest that a primary goal of the attackers was accessing the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists.”

Which, was followed by Google publicly calling out the Chinese Government and stating that they will pursue the operation of an unfiltered google.cn.

However, if the Chinese Government will not allow the unfettered access for it’s people to all that Google indexes then they will pull out of the Chinese market completely and shut down google.cn as well as the offices that the company operates in the country.

A Champion of Free Speech?

Huzzah Google!  But not so fast.

Regardless of the corporate slogan, “Don’t be evil” Google is a for-profit publicly traded entity that exists to make money.  Why would a company that actively cooperates with the Chinese Government by employing people whose sole job is to track down and eliminate disallowed content from the google.cn index suddenly change it’s tune and become a trumpeter for free speech?

Advertising revenue is by far the largest source of income for Google so why threaten the Chinese government in such a way that would deny your ad partners the chance to reach the 338+ million internet users in China?  On a stance of free speech the shareholders will not have it.

So what really happened?

What Really Happened

It’s important to understand what Google is really concerned with in its relationship with China.  The attacks that China made on the intellectual property of Google and at least 20 other western companies is the real key here.

It’s smart for Google to focus its media spin on the activists whose gmail accounts were hacked (using pure social engineering techniques, BTW), however, the reason so many of us use Google is because of its prowess in search.  Though ad revenue may keep the cogs going, if the search functionality was crap there would be no reason for people to use Google.

China’s attempt at co-opting the search algorithms potentially degrades the functionality of Google search. Big time – potentially.

The Search Algorithm, Not the Users, is What Google is Afraid of Living Up

Currently, estimates put Google’s China revenue in at around $300 million, or 1.6% of its total sales. Which is a rather small concession compared to what it would lose if say Baidu, the current king of Chinese search, were to get their hands on what makes Google such a worldwide search powerhouse.

A Chinese competitor using the Google IP could become a worldwide competitor in short order, leaving much greater Google losses in its wake.  I guess keeping enemies closer is a bit trite in the eyes of Google, but it looks like this is simply their safest bet.

The Chinese have no incentive to concede and Google can’t risk its golden goose.  The days of google.cn are numbered indeed. That is, unless China decides to stop their cyber theft ways.

But hey, China is already hacking into our very own government’s web systems and are the biggest thieves online at the moment, so I’d say that is not likely to happen.

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Washington Post Pulls a Fast One with Pundit Contest

Posted in entertainment, Politics, Tech with tags , , , on October 31, 2009 by Bitch Slap Poli

My condolences to all you normies who entered the America’s Next Great Pundit Contest put on by the Washington Post. I had my misgivings about the contest from the start. Being that I work in online media day in and day out I knew the reasoning behind the contest.

I knew what the Washington Post was hoping to get out of it and the upside was even bigger than I imagined it would be.

Online Contests Mean Increased Traffic (At Least That’s the Idea)

Any contest you see online will award a winner with some sort prize whether it be something tangible or simply notoriety, but the site conducting the contest is typically rewarded with much more – increased visibility and traffic. Ultimately, no matter how nicely they spin it, in the end they have to be getting something out of it to make it worth their time.

The Washington Post has put together a contest that I have to applaud. Many times sites will get a short term bump in their traffic numbers from contestants just before and after the contest as they eagerly check the site for updates. In the case of Washington Post there were about 4,800 contestants.

However, the Washington Post understands there’s a way to better capitalize on online contests. By making it partially interactive in choosing the contest winner from 10 finalists not only will they get a boost during the entry period, but they’ll also see a little more traffic during the voting period.

Not to mention they get a lot of free content from contestant entrants.

Normies Never had a Chance at Winning

I was skeptical when I first heard about the Washington Post Pundit contest on NPR.  But I was excited after going on the site and reading more about it. The Washington Post positioned it as a contest where Joe Anybody was given the chance to speak their peace, that those on Main street had valid, valuable points of view that should be heard.

Though some critized the Washington Post for excluding those who had already written or contributed for a major publication, I thought it was genius. In this online world we’re starting to see the power of public opinion and that regular day people can provide insights that are extraordinary. (though a lot of insight is fairly shortsighted as well)

Still, in the back of my mind was nagging suspicion. It’s kind of like in The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy shows up to the Wizard’s joint and is told to pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. Well, once you’ve worked behind the curtain there’s no way to ignore what you know is going behind the scenes even though you can’t see it as it’s happening.

After reading the bios and posts of the 10 finalists it seems to me that entrant’s credentials was the biggest determining factor in who made the cut. Don’t get me wrong all the contestants seem intelligent and some of the posts were good. But normies never had a chance. Despite excluding published pundits high credentials still seemed to be qualifying factors.

Courtney Martin must have read the same Time magazine report on women in the workforce as I did. BSP has a post in the works that examines how this shift in society has affected violence against women. I agree with the comments.

Burton Richter is a Nobel winner so, yeah. I like the facts, I’m big on facts so thank you for this piece.  While the whole ethanol boom has helped some of our nation’s farmers, it has also been a bust overall. Another example of business overriding science.

Darryl Jackson

Jeremy Haber

Kevin Huffman’s piece was a let down in that there’s a lot of important issues needing discussion and  political jabbing helps drown out the conversation. He does get a few points for creativity.

Lydia Khalil

Maame Gyamfi

Mara Gay

Mark Esper

Zeba Khan

Did the Washington Post Cave to Criticism?

Those who saw the online Q&A with Wa Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt a week before the end of the entry period probably remember he caught a lot of flack about not giving professional pundits an opportunity to enter.  They questioned the quality level and qualification level of those the Washington Post was willing to feature in their paper and online.

The Washington Post certainly fooled them. They made sure the majority of the 10 finalists had accomplishments that answered the question of whether they could hang with the big media big leaguers. After all, they have a reputation to uphold.

Would I have done anything differently if I were the Washington Post? Probably not, at least not much.

Politech: Obama Isn’t Going to Eat Your Internet Lunch

Posted in obama, Tech with tags , , , on September 2, 2009 by jwilhelmy

Last Friday, Declan McCullagh whipped the internet up in a frenzy about a proposed bill that would allow the President to disconnect private sector computer from the internet. Reporting for CNET news, McCullagh asserts that S. 773 will give the White House the ability to declare a national security emergency relating to cyber security.

In which, the President would then be able to basically flip a switch to shut down the internet. This is, indeed, a very scary proposition. Scary enough to prompt Faux News to say this bill would be used by the administration to choke off industry and civil liberties.

We know that those dems are up to something bad when the Drudge Report fires up the warning siren. You may remember McCullagh from around ten years ago when he spread the false rumor that Al Gore claimed to be the inventor of the internet.

So where is this magical switch that would somehow shut down the internet? There isn’t one. A majority of the internet backbone is owned and operated by just a few large telco’s and we already know how willing they are to bend over backwards for the White House.

Considering that they’ll hand over your call records without a warrant, do you think that they’ll think twice about turning off your Facebook for a while? That’s right, the Government already has this power and what this bill is talking about doing is setting up a procedure that can be followed in a situation where our national security has been compromised via the internet. That’s a good thing, it’s called preparedness.

We only need to look back to CNET to tell us why we’re so vulnerable to attacks from the internet. Back in April, they reported about how much more at risk our nation has become since a large portion of our electrical grid is now managed online.

The truth is that shutting down electric service (or water, gas, etc) is a much more enticing proposition for the nasties of the world since you can touch most everyone in our country by interrupting those services.

And not only could they interrupt those services, but imagine if they were bent on releasing the flood gates on the damn upstream of your children’s school.

Or perhaps someone wants to log onto the controls of the nuclear power plant and overload the reactor and cause a meltdown, putting a procedure in place to halt these attacks doesn’t seem like such a bad idea anymore. But, if we want to talk about taking power away from the President, let’s talk about his ability to wipe out humanity with the nuclear weapons he controls.