Gina’s Blog

Tropic Thunder and The History of Blackface

Posted in News by Miss Me on August 13, 2008
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Surprisingly, I have heard a lot about the word “retarded” used throughout Tropic Thunder, but haven’t heard hardly anything about Robert Downey Jr.’s character being in blackface. Regardless of what others may think, I will be in the theater right after work (what do you mean, “You people?” What do you mean “You people?” :-).

The history of actors in blackface is an interesting topic, but it doesn’t signify today what it did 70 years ago. This podcast provides a general overview of blackface’s history, but so much more substance could have been provided. Check it out, and in case you consider heading to Blockbuster to rent some of the mentioned films, I recommend only watching Birth of a Nation if you’re looking to critique ignorance.


Obama and Reparations

Posted in News by Miss Me on August 5, 2008
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A recent article in USA Today highlights Sen. Barak Obama’s stance against reparations.


Although I was a little upset that the Federal Government was able to provide tax rebates to all taxpayers while the reparations issue still went unaddressed, I have to somewhat side with Barak Obama.  Reparations are not the answer.  We differ however, in the aspect of instead improving schools, health care, and the economy for all.  That money is best spent in the areas that are largely populated by African Americans to ensure that we get the bulk of the money intended to level the playing field.  If a check were to be distributed to all descendents of slaves for let’s say $5,000, it would help, but it would in no way compensate for the pain placed upon enslaved Africans and its residual effects on society and the African-American community specifically.


Hopefully, once Obama is elected, he will tweak his plans to compensate our Nation’s descendents of enslaved Africans.  (This issue will be brought up when I make my next donation.) 

Let Fashion Be Your Guide

Posted in News by Miss Me on July 16, 2008
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I am really excited to get my hands on the latest issue of Vogue Italia— regardless of whether I will actually understand any of the text.  Many people are already aware that this issue features all Black models acknowledging that Black models are too often discriminated against in the fashion industry.  After reading MSNBC’s article discussing the edition, which stressed the importance of more Black people working in fashion to help change the face of the industry, it tied back to another article I read in the Express this morning about breaking into the fashion industry, specifically from a DC perspective.


I know several people who are serious fashionistas and fashionistos who chose not to pursue a career in fashion for a variety of reasons, but mainly because they feared it was too competitive.


The most important thing I pulled from these two articles was best stated in a quote I found in the Express, “Don’t talk yourself out of it. You don’t need a business or a fashion degree,’ says Parkerson. Her sentiment rings true in her store’s motto: ‘It’s never too late to change.”  Too often, we grow up, reality hits us, and we forget that dreams can come true.  I used to think the key to success was belief, but after not believing in many of the things I have accomplished, I have learned that what is most important is not giving up. 


I am also guilty of giving up on one, two… or ten dreams, but today I have been reminded that you can’t fail if you don’t give up, so if you want something go after it and don’t stop ‘til it’s yours!

Obama’s Cover of The New Yorker Magazine

Posted in News by Miss Me on July 15, 2008
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I mean, really, granted the cover is not funny, but it really isn’t worth all the media attention that it is receiving either.  Rumors of Obama have been circulating for months that claimed he had Muslim ties.  Anyone with half a brain knows that they’re false.



It all goes back to a media theory known as “Third-Person Effect.”  (You should look it up; very interesting stuff.)  Everyone wants to believe that they’re somehow smarter than the average person, and no else could possibly see through The New Yorker’s mastermind scheme to keep Obama out of the oval office. 



People relax.  I hardly think this magazine cover is going to sway any voters to see Obama in a new light, but if anything, it should make people realize how silly all these rumors are in the first place.


Democrats and Republicans are calling a New Yorker magazine cover tasteless and offensive for its satirical depiction of Barack Obama as a Muslim and his wife, Michelle, as a gun-toting terrorist.

Virtual Reality

Posted in Digital Technology by Miss Me on November 27, 2007
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Play Money by Julian Dibbell dives inside the economy and camaraderie within virtual worlds and takes readers along for the ride.  Chapters 1-21 focus largely on Ultima Online, one of the first successful massively multiplayer online games (MMOG or MMO) with a virtual economy.  Through the author’s experiences, we learn a few tricks of virtual economies that help us to increase our earning potential while in the virtual realm.  Overall, we learn that more often, people are getting paid while playing MMOs.  Dibbell shows readers that this is not an easy process.  At a minimum, achieving success requires collaboration with other players, the ability to predict how the economy will shift, and an understanding of business. 

Although the thought of making money is enticing, there are negative aspects of this distant and impersonal means of conducting business.  Gaining trust from business partners is one important, but difficult to achieve aspect while online.  In virtual worlds, people are able to portray whatever image they like, and because of this, you don’t really know who you’re talking to, as Dibbell found that he had been allowing a teenager to live in his virtual home and give him business advice.  In the popular virtual world, Second Life, I believe that conducting business is a little safer than it was during Ultima Online’s peak.  Just today, I found a blog explaining multiple ways of making money on Second Life, and because the site does not rely on eBay to buy and sell goods, it can prevent some of the theft and fraud that was common on Ultima Online.

I actually logged on to MTV’s Virtual Worlds site while trying to enter Ford Modeling Company’s First Virtual Model Contest, and I was able to get a glimpse of what everyone is talking about.  I was a little turned off at first when I saw that I had to use my credit card if I wanted buy anything or change my image, but after logging off and logging back in, I saw that I was given $1000 to get started.  I had some technical problems and didn’t see much I liked, so I have only bought a tank top and necklace so far, but because of my low status, I noticed that no one would acknowledge me.  I first felt the desire to upgrade myself when a guy in a Jeep pulled up beside me, looked at me for a few seconds and drove away.  I suppose we all want to be admired… or at least acknowledged, which is part of what keeps people coming back for more.  Once people are compelled to climb the social ladder, a world of opportunity opens up for entrepreneurs.  Together, these components drive the virtual economy. 

Socially, virtual worlds help users to fulfill an innate need to achieve regardless of whether they have been able to achieve that in the real world.  Cars, houses, clothes, and other virtual goods allow users to establish status and gain admiration from other players.  Shortly after his first login, Dibbell mentions how he wondered who the people were that lived in the big houses and how he wanted to become one of them so that people would wonder about him.  This book really made me question if there have been studies conducted that examine who is most susceptible to getting hooked on virtual lives.  If a person’s life is gratifying in the real world, are they less likely to spend excessive amounts of time and money in virtual worlds?  Of course virtual worlds are not only a means of being admired, many people also seek out virtual worlds to play games and act out things that aren’t possible in their everyday lives.  The Washington Post published an article October 6, 2007, that discusses how avatars in virtual worlds have been proven to help disabled individuals to fight and possibly recover from their diseases and disabilities.  As this article proves, virtual worlds can be therapeutic, but I am sure that there are negative repercussions from this interaction as well.  Many MMOs allow users to commit crimes against people that would have offenders incarcerated for years in the real world.  Studies show that children who play violent video games are more aggressive in their everyday lives.  Regardless of age, we should all be mindful of the activities that we participate in while visiting the virtual realm.  Obviously, virtual reality holds powers that can carry over into actual reality.

The World As We Know It Is No More

Chapter 6 through the end of Wikinomics continues to discuss all the ways that people are collaborating to make the world a better and more efficient place.   

One of the main points that the author wishes to convey is that businesses are thriving by bringing in external talent.  IBM is one such company, which uses Linux software instead of making their own operating system.  Companies are now able to work with other entities for less cost to develop equally valuable if not better products.  Utilizing contractors versus permanent employees is also proving to be beneficial for companies not only because of outside expertise, but also because an employee with that skill set may not be needed on a long-term basis.  Companies are also relying more often on the public to contribute and provide insight, sometimes offering bonuses or rewards, but often these individuals are most pleased with knowing they played a role in the company’s development.  In order to receive assistance, a certain amount of company information must be divulged, so companies must know when to keep certain information internal; after all, if businesses gave away all their secrets, there would be no competition. 

Outside of business, collaboration is being used by the masses to not for profit, but to help society.  After Hurricane Katrina, a group of individuals came together to create central database compiling the information scattered throughout various Web sites in order to help victims locate their loved ones.  What I found ironic is that citizens were able to self-organize and create a database before the state or Federal government.  It seems that Louisiana should have been able to develop a similar database before a few citizens who were concerned about the diffusion of information.  I suppose there is no need to point fingers.  Instead I am grateful that technology has enabled people to work just as effectively if not more than our government, which exhibits democracy at its best.

Wikinomics ties in to The Long Tail in the chapter entitled “The New Alexandrians,” which discusses how our society is working to bring information to one place, like the Library of Alexandria, the one place is, of course, the Internet.  The Long Tail explains how with this plethora of information, comes increased variety, which continues to shift how our civilization operates.  Previously, products were always forced to compete for limited shelf space or air time, but the Internet does not limit either, forcing less popular products out of sight.  The variety of products allows people to find more specific products that appeal to them versus the products that were once distributed to appeal to the masses.  These small divisions are termed niche groups.  Examples of online suppliers include Amazon and eBay, which sell tons of goods that would be considered too insignificant economically to carry in actual stores. 

Variety extends past the Internet to theaters, supermarkets, and other stores.  This variety lead to stores that follow “Wal-Mart model,” which are stores that carry many items for a low price.  Stores such as these are great when it comes to saving money, but I suspect that we may have started the ball rolling that will slowly eliminate “mom and pop” stores to be replaced by WalMart.  Of course small stores will exist, but judging by The Long Tail, they may only exist online.

The increased variety of movies and music has also drastically increased thanks to so many tools that allow almost anyone to create their own music and home videos.  Songs and videos that are created by the professional are also hit hard by variety. Songs that are hits now would not have even made the list a few decades ago because people are listening to various genres and subgenres that seem to develop almost everyday.  Also a factor of the lack of hits is the increase of piracy among citizens.  Before albums are released, they are often available through various online sites, which definitely hurts record sales.  Lawmakers are now actually working to make piracy a Federal crime.

Collaboration and variety are shaping our future society.  As future leaders, we must adopt these trends and learn the best ways to make them work for our businesses. 

Times Change

Smart Mobs was very informative, but I was quite relieved transitioning to Wikinomics, which is far easier for a novice, like me, to follow. 

The second portion (chapter 7 through the end) of Smart Mobs discusses wireless access, more texting, surveillance, and what technological advances are doing to our society.  All of which are very important when trying to understand the driving force behind smart mobs and how they operate. 

Wireless access has been a huge leap for mankind.  Enabling people in remote areas to have just as much access to the web as people in the inner city is remarkable.  Initially, it was not considered cost effective to give people in these areas web access due to the price tag associated with running lines to these areas.  Now these areas are not only equipped, but the system has also helped secure faster Internet access for people within the outlying areas.  Coffeehouses usually facilitate wireless access, but public places like parks are also hopping on the bandwagon, which encourages people to visit these locations more often, even if it is only to access the Web.  This concept could definitely help build social capital especially if it is paired into devices that help match compatible partners and friends.  This of course leaves room to discuss the security of these tools, but I suppose they exist because it is the adult’s choice whether to use the device.  All of this ties back into last week’s post which discussed tools for the common good. Overall, they are all tools that help make our society a more functional and fulfilling place to live. 

Throughout the Smart Mobs, Rheingold frequently mentions texting explaining how this is yet another tool created to better our society.  In this second portion, he spend a little more time on the stronger, more aggressive side of texting—netwars.  Overall, a netwar is a campaign to organize a movement through electronic devices.  The Philippines is known for one of the most effective campaigns, which led to the collapse of the government under President Estrada.  Netwars are an example of the power that technology can embody which used effectively. 

Surveillance is a tool that also holds a lot of power.  Its biggest drawback is determining who will be able to gain access to that power.  Just the threat of surveillance has proven to be an effective means of gaining social control.  I hope that as surveillance increases we will see a decline in crime rates; however, as Sara mentioned in our class discussion this week, this may just encourage criminals to get smarter.  I suppose if the possible Do-Not-Track list  is established it would be that much easier for criminals to pass along trade secrets to avoid being caught by surveillance and other new technological advances.  It appears that everyone is collaborating nowdays.

Smart Mobs generally discusses open-source collaborations, giving praise that many users are better than one great user (possibly sending a hint to Bill Gates), but Wikinomics provides an in-depth look at the “wiki” world.  “Wiki” meaning “quick” in Hawaiian, refers to that way people are becoming more interactive with online content.  Technology falling under this umbrella includes:  social networking sites, open-source operating systems, sites allowing users to post pictures and videos, blogs, of course, Wikipedia, and  any other site that allows users to interact with the site’s content.  This new onset of contributing and collaborating is helping companies to save money and develop products faster and helping individuals to voice their opinion and communicate with society in ways that were impossible not very long ago.  (Sometimes it is hard to remember a world before we could add our two cents.)  Tapscott and Williams call people born between 1977 and1996 the Net Generation, and credit them as the group that will restructure the business world.   

The days of keeping business ideas internal are gone.  It is now about sharing your information to encourage growth.  The concept is still confusing for some, since it seems crazy to advertise ideas to the public that could earn companies a substantial amount of money, but there is a formula for doing it right.  An example of one company with the know-how is IBM.  They managed to use Linux to their advantage—saving almost one billion dollars a year by outsourcing rather than creating their own operating system in-house.  (It’s not all about giving out secrets.)  If you are looking for talent to work on a project, I am sure there are contracts that can be established to ensure intellectual property rights are protected.  I am surprised that this hasn’t been mentioned much in Wikinomics so far.  A few very popular products have come from out sourcing including:  Olay Regenerist, the Swifter Duster, and the Crest Spinbrush.

Collaborating and contributing are not just for business use.  Everyone is able to participate, and judging by the rapidly increasing numbers of bloggers, members of social networking sites, personal media (videos and pictures), and Wikipedia users, a lot of people are taking advantage of this opportunity.  It is true that with so many contributors, the Net is being flooded with content that many would perceive as unnecessary, but the Web must adhere to our Constitutional right to freedom of speech.  As acceptable as it may be to publish information that only you may care about or agree with, it is still important that users only post accurate information on site viewable by the public.  I am not sure how other sites monitor posted content, but Tapscott and Williams explain there are instances when inaccurate information is posted on Wikipedia, but the content is usually corrected within minutes by its loyal users and moderators.  Because anyone can edit a page, many are unwilling to trust information posted on the site when it means writing papers or winning a bet, but most of my friends admit to using the page to verify questions they posed to themselves. 

Smart Mobs provides the best closing thought for this week—how is technology affecting us?  Rheingold examines this question by what it is doing to our liberty, quality of life, and humanity.  Surveillance technology is trampling on the liberties that we once took for granted.  Now when you’re walking and you hope no one saw you trip, you can pretty much assume that someone did!  Those vacations you once had when no one expected to be able to reach you are officially a thing of the past.  Just because you’re on vacation no longer means that you can’t respond to work e-mails.  Our loss of humanity is described well by Putnam’s Bowling Alone.  Our society has lost the social capital the existed before television and other technological advances.  As much as we’re evolving, we all have to ask ourselves if we’re really becoming a better society because of it.

The Takeover

Posted in Digital Technology by Miss Me on October 30, 2007
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Within the first five chapters, Smart Mobs provides an overview of various forms of technology—their history, their present state, and their future.  Rheingold’s writing style isn’t quite as enticing as Scoble and Israel or Battelle, but again, writing books on technical topics is not an easy task.  The tie that binds this book’s many topics together is the creation of technology for the betterment of the world. 

Mobile phones have become one of the greatest technological creations to date.  Rheingold even goes as far as to proclaim that it will one day be a remote control to our lives.  They already provide valuable services such as text messaging and web access and serve as mp3 players, cameras, and camcorders, and some phones have even more capabilities.  I am sure that they will continue to evolve like every other aspect of technology, which makes the notion of them becoming the remote control to our lives extremely likely.

It is impossible to mention the benefit of cell phones without discussing text messaging.  Text messaging or short messaging service (SMS) is an example of the applications created for the betterment of humankind.  It is a formation of short messages that can be sent between mobile devices.  There are many advantages to texting, but privacy is its biggest asset.  You are able to converse practically anywhere without disrupting those nearby.  As the author points out, it just hasn’t taken off here in the U.S. like it has in other parts of the world.  We’ve all seen the commercial were the daughter is talking to her mom using text language, but teens here still don’t use texting to say “good morning” or “goodnight” to each other like teens in Tokyo.  Smart Mobs gives part of the blame to the way texting was organized in the U.S., and I totally agree.  The initial inability to send texts to other phone company subscribers was one cog in the wheel, but one of the biggest reasons even now is the cost of text messages.  If you don’t have a text message package included in your plan, you’re typically paying about 10 cents per message, which can really add up if you’re texting like people in Tokyo, The Philippines, Finland, and Stockholm.  Our culture also allows people to be less dependent on texting for privacy.  Many people in the U.S. are able speak more openly on the phone since the living area in homes here is larger than homes in many other countries.  Texting is a great application, but the process must be improved before we catch up with other parts of the world.

Before applications were incorporated in cell phones, there were only software applications on computers.  This week’s reading, “The Cathedral and the Bazaar”  and Smart Mobs, opened my eyes to the way computers were meant to be.  Like many people, I was afraid of open-source software like Linux and Firefox.  After becoming familiar with Microsoft, it just didn’t seem natural for everyone to be able to go in and change stuff, but in actuality, the originators of computer systems (also known as hackers) intended for people to work collaboratively to build more perfect applications.  However, along came people like Bill Gates, who showed the world the unimaginable income potential that the computers could provide, and naturally, the priorities changed.  Eric S. Raymond, author of “The Cathedral and the Bazaar” surprisingly mentions that he’s not opposed to “software hoarding,” but after reading Rheingold’s book, I can’t help but feel a little differently toward Microsoft.  I guess I can’t fault Bill Gates.  I would have made the same decision… play nice or become a billionaire?  Raymond discusses open-source versus closed-source software mainly in regard to his development of fetchmail.  Development of open-source software is obviously a labor of love project.  Contributors are typically volunteers who believe in the original software, but feel they can improve its ability to function.  Open-source software is dependent on their passion, which typically makes the application especially useful since it is created by genuinely interested developers/users versus developers who simply want a paycheck.  Of course the downside is if the developers lose interest, the application stops evolving.  The author believes that in the end open-source software will triumph, and I guess this depends on your personal definition of triumph.  If you are referring to making the better product, I totally agree, but if you are referring to becoming a billionaire, I would have to go with Microsoft’s blueprint.

After the development of computers came the Internet, which is arguably the most important aspect of modern-day technology.  The Internet evolved from computers linked together in one room to computers that communicated with nearby campuses to computers that connect to the each other all over the world.  Linking to other computers, which is referred to as peer-to-peer networking, first started to obtain additional power from computers that weren’t in use.  I am still not totally clear on how peer-to-peer networks operate, but after reading The Search last week, I assume they must carry some of the same principles as search engines.  This innovation played a key role in the development of Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI), climate change projects, and health research.  It also led to file-sharing networks, which continue to spark controversy.  Napster is of course the name that most often comes to mind when referring to file sharing, and although they were the mastermind behind an unbelievable amount of copyright violations, they have now accepted the terms set by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and are providing a legal file-sharing service to its users.  Peer-to-peer networks expose the Web’s biggest asset, which is the ability to share resources and information, and its biggest downfall, which is the inability to monitor the transmittal of information that for any number of reasons should not be shared.

Technological developments often fall into the category of information that comapnies chose not to share, but Smart Mobs provides a sneak peek at the innovations companies are working on that are soon to be part of our everyday existence.  Rheingold mentions that Gartner Consulting, tech industry analyst, predicts that wearable computers will be worn by 75% of teens by 2010….  I guess they’re on their way.  It’s a very cool idea, and I would be one of the first in line for a wristwatch that can search and whatever else developers have in mind.  CoolTown is another very cool idea brought to us by Hewlett Packard.  This is basically a sample version of what the world will be like once microchips have been placed in virtually everything.  We will be able to access all information on an object or place by simply using our cell phones.  We are already able to pay for items by waving our card, which is mentioned in the book.  I am sure the companies’ other ideas will be presenting themselves soon.

As important as technology may be, many believe that reputation and cooperation are actually the driving forces in our society.  It is only logical that they are closely tied into the way technology currently functions.  A prime example of these two forces coming together is eBay.  This Web site allows users to buy and sell goods, but requires cooperation from both parties in order for the system to work effectively.  Reputation plays a role in whether a person will even chose to do business with the other party.  If a person has a history of failing to ship or pay for items, more than likely people will be hesitant to trust that person.  Our decisions to trust and sacrifice for others is based on different factors, but what I found to be fascinating was the motivating factors for people who are willing to take big risks showing great acts of kindness or generosity.  All this time I assumed that they were just giving people, when they really just wanted a little extra acknowledgement.  Apparently, they are more motivated by the benefits that stem from their actions, including respect, “future political power, economic partnership, or sexual attention,” (Rheingold, 2002, p. 128) which are not so uncommon desires among all people.

Most people also share a passion for technology, even if it is just our attachment to our cell phones.  In a loose sense, I suppose we’re all part of Rheingold’s smart mob.  This movement has captured us all, and even those who don’t want to come along for the ride are being dragged right along with us.  Cell phones and especially the Internet are tools for life now.  Without them you’re limiting your employment opportunities, friendship and romantic possibilities, and access to other beneficial information.  It’s obvious that smart mobs are taking over, and like it or not we’re all forced to participate.

The Search is Over…

Posted in Digital Technology by Miss Me on October 23, 2007
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The Search does an excellent job of explaining the history of Google and a very good job of explaining the history of search engines as a whole.  Considering John Battelle’s purpose was to discuss Google, I’d say he completed is mission with flying colors.  I never thought I would say a book about search engines was a page-turner, but I guess I have joined the ranks of the geeks Battelle mentions throughout the book.

Contrary to popular belief, search engines go beyond allowing us to locate information.  Thanks to this application, our lives are very different.  We have become wiser consumers, better researchers, more informed parents, and so much more.  In addition to those great things, Battelle explains that as long as information posted on the Web is stored and retrieved, it gives immortality to the author and the content.  Although there is no permanent storage for modified or erased Web pages, knowing that as long as a page exists, that author and that information will live on should give at least some comfort to Web users concerned with the inevitable.

The PATRIOT Act was established to help the U.S. respond to terrorism after 9/11.  Since that time, it has allowed the Government access to very private information, including our Web habits.  Without our knowledge, the Government can request our search history, clickstreams, and visited IP addresses.  The illusion of privacy that users had in the early days of the Internet is slowly fading.  Reverse directories is another area that everyone should be wary of regardless of whether they have ever used the Web.  Search engines, phone companies, and other sites now have the ability to give out your address, name of the account holder, and even generate a map to your house with just your ten digit telephone number. I was also sent a link to a site allowing me to bring up Maryland court cases simply by entering a person’s name.  Battelle makes a good point.  This information was not necessarily impossible to attain prior to the Internet, but it sure was a lot more work!  Sitting in the privacy of your home scouring the Web for stories on your neighbor’s dog fighting rink is much easier than sitting in the local library for hours trying to find articles related to his arrest.  Plainly stated, search engines make it so much easier for us all to become private investigators.

Although some users are becoming more mindful of sites they visit, searches they conduct, and information they divulge to others, countries such as China, have chosen to take on the role of guardian.  I suppose this dramatically decreases the need for the government to attain your Web history.  If all the Web sites China discourages are banned, there is nothing for them to request.  It’s obvious that many people in the U.S. are still unaware of the Government’s ability to attain our search history and visited sites, or else far less people would conduct searches for questionable and illegal material like child pornography. (Am I the only one watching Law & Order: SVU?)  Although I believe the power should lie within the people to chose which Web sites they visit, I understand China’s policy.  I also understand Google’s decision to provide its service adhering to the country’s rules.  Schmidt was right, who is Google to waltz into a country telling them how to operate?  Providing China with some Google service is better than no Google service.  One of the company’s missions is to provide the best results possible.  In China, that means providing “safe” sites, but it is better nothing.  If Google put their foot down, more than likely the Chinese government would have gone about business as usual.  No tears would have been shed, and no policy of theirs would change.  The country simply would have relied on other search engines that already functioned within the country.  By Battelle’s account no one really seemed to make a fuss over the search engines already operating in China.  I guess this supports the theory that Google really is held to a higher standard.

 Considering Google started as a company that did not want to include advertisements, they sure have helped people generate a lot of business.  So much so that when Google has changed their algorithms or business practices in way that did not favor a business’ needs, companies have gotten quite angry.  American Blinds is one such company mentioned in The Search.  With the help of Google, the company brought in over $100 million each year.  The company advertised using Adwords, but noticed other related companies were also purchasing their keywords.  Google revoked other companies’ ability to use the keywords temporarily, but reinstated the function not long after.  I cannot blame Google one bit.  Yes, they’re making more money by allowing more advertisers, but it all goes back to Google’s mission—better results.  Battelle doesn’t seem to believe this at all, but I think Google is on the right track.  If I submit a query for American Blinds, I would appreciate being given links to Next Day Blinds and any other company that may be able to give me a deal.  I think Google would be doing the consumer a disservice by eliminating the competition.  They may be lining their pockets, but they also are keeping the promise (providing the best service) they made to their users. 

As a result of their excellent service, Google has grown remarkably fast.  Battelle mentions that Deloitte Touche, an accounting firm, named Google the fasted growing company ever.  To list Google’s achievements since its onset could take a day to explain, but one measurement of their success is the company’s earnings, which have continued to shock people.  From a stock that started at $85 and rose to $100 within the first day and is now worth over $400 only three years later, it obvious the company’s potential is limitless.  (Yes, I am very sorry I didn’t invest back in 2004.)  They may be growing, but I cannot say the company doesn’t have room for improvement.  I guess the company feels that if isn’t broke, no need to fix it, but I found Yahoo’s inclusion of a human in the search process as quite logical and useful.  There are certain topics that a person can grasp far better than a machine.  If it weren’t for Google’s variety of applications, it is quite possible that Yahoo could be leading the industry.  In order to grow, Google may want to take a closer look at what humans could add to the search process.

 The future of search is beyond our imagination.  The goal is to make searching perfect.  As the author mentions, search has only fulfilled about 5% of its potential.  I look forward to the day when tools like WebFountain are available to the general public.  Imagine being able to query, “I need articles from California local papers discussing 9/11 that do not mention the twin towers.”  Eventually, this will be reality, and we will even be able to pose questions and receive answers back in essay format.  (Universities will be much different then, I am sure.)  My favorite invention mentioned is the phone with product scanning capability.  Being able to scan a product and compare prices at local vendors will definitely change consumer behavior and vendor pricing.  So many products are discussed that could better our lives, but they brought to mind how search is already playing a role in our lives through Global Positioning Systems.  Already, cars and cell phones are coming equipped with locator devices, and you can even get them implanted in your pets.  The future as we imagined it is quickly approaching.  Who would have thought that the ability to search would mean so much to our society’s advancement?

Google’s Not Evil, But It’s A Common Misconception

Posted in Digital Technology by Miss Me on October 16, 2007
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 “I once was lost, but now I’m found!”  The Search by John Battle gives you everything you need to know about search engines—how they began, what they’re for, how they operate, who’s who in the search engine industry, etc.    

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for more than ten years, you’re familiar with search and the fact that it retrieves the information that you’re looking for.  If you’re like how I was last week, you are clueless about how they operate.  Battle explains that search engines are composed of three parts, including the crawl, the index, and the query processor.  The crawler is a software program that sends requests out to the Web in order to gather information to be indexed in its database.  The index keeps a file on all sites gathered by the crawler.  Lastly, the query processor takes the information entered into the search box (the query) and uses it to gather appropriate results from the database, finally returning indexed links (search results pages) to the user.

But how did it all start you ask?  People have been conducting searches since humans created a symbolic language, but it has surely evolved.  (I wonder if they still teach the Dewey Decimal System in school?)  Searching (also known as Information Retrieval) started around the time the printing press was established and has grown into the ever changing and growing force on which we have come to depend.  The very first search engine was established in 1990 by a McGill University student.  The system was named Archie after its ability to search archives.  It was structured fairly similar to today’s search engines—a crawler developed an indexed list and users were able to retrieve a listing of relevant material.  The difference was that the index didn’t connect you directly to the documents like today’s search engines.   

Over the life of Internet, many search engines have come and gone, and a few have managed to evolve and stay in the race.  Excite, Yahoo, and GoTo set the foundation for the tools that we use today.

Larry Page and Sergey Brin were the brains behind the monster known as Google.  The way I understand it, it initially started as the BackRub project.  Page developed a crawler with an equation that started at Stanford’s home page and was set free to ravage the rest of the Web; their theory being that all sites will eventually connect to each other.  (I see it a lot like the once popular game, Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.)  What made this engine different was its unique ability to determine the sites that were most relevant to the query.  Linking to other pages played a large role in sites that were deemed most popular or most relevant—sites with the most links directing to their site were among the top performers.  The site started as an internal Stanford site, but expanded extremely quickly.  After scrounging up resources, monetary and otherwise, the duo managed to get off the Stanford Web site in 1996 and announced their new name, Google, to the world.  Google was a play on the word googol, which is 1 followed by 100 zeros.  The logic behind this name was that as the Web grew, they knew that the tool would continue to grow as well and the search engine would be that much more useful.

Its growth has been one of the most astonishing factors in the company’s success.  Page and Brin’s first office space was in a recent graduate, Susan Wojcicki’s home, but the company now resides on Bayshore Parkway in Mountain View, CA on a campus that is envied by employees everywhere—free lunch prepared by chefs, dentists, childcare, scooters…. I don’t want to talk about it anymore.  Aside from my own envy, the company has been surrounded by so much animosity from potential employees that were upset about Google’s highly selective hiring process.  However, there is obviously something to the company’s selectiveness.  Their formula has enabled the company to transition from days of asking for $50,000 for start-up money (actually getting $100,000) to generating gross revenue of about $100 million! 

Speaking of money, it was recently announced that Google controls almost 40% of online advertising.  Obviously, whatever they’re doing, they’re doing right.  To help reassure everyone that they aren’t just some money-making giant Google makes it a point of giving back.  The company’s blog recently discussed one of their latest causes (one that Scoble and Israel would surely appreciate),’s Blogger Challenge, which allows blog readers to contribute to projects at high-need public schools that the Blogger lists on their page.  Google will add an additional $500 to winners in each of the eight categories.  See, Google really does care.

So far, the book is a witty explanation and depiction of search engines.  Before reading, I was a little nervous that the book would provide a long technical definition of what search engines are and how they operate along with neat and clean details about its evolution.  Well, I was surprised in a very good way.  The technical aspects of search engines are explained in a way that you don’t need a computer science degree to understand, and I soon learned that the growth of search engines has not been neat and clean at all.  I’m still trying to get over Google’s adoption of GoTo’s advertisement model that the company once shunned.  The book also reminds us that it’s okay to dream.  With a lot of perseverance, they can come true.  Not only is this a great guide to search, it can also serve as encouragement to all who have encountered stumbling blocks trying to pursue a dream.

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