Gongol.com Archives: September 2010
Brian Gongol

September 8, 2010

Computers and the Internet "Google Instant" starts trying to predict what you're searching for before you're finished typing
It's a rather bold move by Google, turning its search engine into a predictive tool. It's likely that many people will find the new feature useful, since it will probably shave off a handful of seconds a couple of times a day. But it will also end up becoming a brand-new target for the same people who think "search engine optimization" is a substitute for putting real, useful content on the Internet. They'll start trying to figure out what the most popular searches are on the Internet, then try to game ways to bump their subjects and links up high on the search strings that will come up first. Supposing that someone wanted to game a search for "Brian Gongol" -- they might try to game a high-ranking result for "Brian G". Never underestimate the efforts to which people will go to try to profit from the Internet without doing any real work ("real work" here being defined as creating something that people might deliberately want to see -- not something they'll stumble upon more or less by accident). Here's another risk: People will end up seeing unsavory things on the way to that for which they're actually searching -- they seem to have already anticipated that words like "assault" and "cockpit" start with words that might bring up some results that could upset people, but there will be other things they haven't anticipated in the same way.

Computers and the Internet Stupid things said on Twitter can and will come back to haunt
An Olympic swimmer from Australia is in hot water for making a homophobic slur on Twitter. The painfully over-hyped pop musician Justin Bieber got into a public spat over hacked accounts and personal phone numbers posted in public. People need to learn to take about three or four deep breaths before posting anything on the Internet -- especially considering how quickly anything can be misinterpreted and spread globally.

Computers and the Internet Almost everyone in Iowa could have broadband Internet access
That's the state of affairs, technologically speaking. But only 66% subscribe to it.

Business and Finance Happy people give generously to charity
And according to a study on the subject, the "Anglosphere" countries appear to be the largest share of the top ten most generous countries in the world. A third of the world's population has given money to charity in the last month. Related: The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has issued its annual report for its work in 2009, including its report that polio is almost gone from the planet and is a top priority for the foundation over the next few years. The Gates Foundation is sitting on $34 billion in assets to give away.

Computers and the Internet Plunging mobile-phone service prices in the developing world
A price war in Kenya is making phone calls get so much cheaper so fast that the country's inflation rate has been affected. More importantly, though, is this: The country has virtually no landline phones, but two-thirds of households in Kenya have mobile phones now. They simply leapfrogged the entire step of landline phones altogether. What will be remarkable is when smartphone prices plunge and Internet access via phone becomes commonplace there. Again, they could skip the entire stage of rolling out landline access to the Internet and just place much of the country directly into the "3G" era.

Humor and Good News Tiger Woods jokes are still funny
(Audio) What's on the golfer's voicemail?

Science and Technology MIT team tries to replicate the solar-collection properties of plants
Considering that photosynthesis and the mechanisms that support it are the result of millions of years of evolution by natural selection and random mutation, we should stand in awe of the fact that we're coming close to figuring out how to reverse-engineer the process synthetically.

Broadcasting Budget problems in Britain could lead to major cutbacks for the BBC World Service
The BBC World Service is the heir to a long line of work that traces its origins to Britain's former status as a world empire. The Empire Service was intended to reach the English speakers of the empire worldwide -- serving, in essence, the same role as the Internet today in keeping a world audience informed of current events. But with the decline of the empire, the service managed to enter a new role, and today is perhaps the most widely-used public-service news outlets in the world. But times are tough for all kinds of charities, and that includes the BBC's free services to the rest of the world. Obviously, Britain gains something from having a global presence -- just like the United States gains from funding the Voice of America, and other nations benefit from their own broadcasting services as well. But the BBC is unique in its reach and its capacities, so recovery from cutbacks isn't likely. That's unfortunate, since too much of the world still lives under authoritarian rule and thus has limited access to information about what's happening around the world. The United States has already done too much to scale back the Voice of America; similar cuts to the BBC World Service would be profoundly sad.

Humor and Good News Magic T-shirt protects fat kid from ridicule
(Video) The Onion delivers another high-quality spoof

Iowa The old train depot in downtown Des Moines could see passenger service once again

Water News EPA fines Nebraska landowner $30,000 for illegal dam

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