Gongol.com Archives: January 2011
Brian Gongol

January 26, 2011

Business and Finance The manifesto of an angry investor
What's happening under the guise of "professional" money management is infuriating. There has to be a better way.

Humor and Good News Flavor Flav's Fried Chicken starts up in Clinton, Iowa
The rapper has opened the first restaurant in what he hopes will become a chain -- in Iowa. For real.

Computers and the Internet No more real estate listings on Google Maps
Too bad; it was a nice feature while it lasted. But the company says other options exist and it's too much work to keep up. That, if nothing else, says that Google can come up against competition it can't best.

Computers and the Internet Another attempt at a question-answering service that won't really take off
For all the information that's stored on the Internet, there's very little in the way of effective means of reliably obtaining answers to one's own questions, short of learning how to become a search-engine superstar. Now comes Quora.com, which attempts to combine the democratic style and flavor of Wikipedia with the question-and-answer format of Yahoo Answers. But let's be honest about this: This has been tried and tried again, never with any resounding success. On the Internet, speed trumps customization (if you have to try three or four different searches to get the answer you're looking for, it's still better than waiting three days for someone to answer your first question precisely), and it's really just not sensible to think that there's a lot of new ground to cover -- certainly not after even Google folded Google Answers. But that doesn't stop people from trying, even though it really isn't worth any individual user's time to become a regular participant. (And that, it should be noted, is why these sites are doomed in the long term: If I have a really good answer to your question, I want to get paid for it. So if I'm not going to get paid, why should I answer, unless I have some backdoor means of getting compensated? Thus, you'll find any number of people posing as credible experts on Q-and-A sites when they're not, either because they have something to sell, or because they can't establish their credibility elsewhere and find that answering questions online gives them some semblance of a feeling of authority.

News The cost of bad roads
A lobbying group says that bad roads cost the average Omaha driver $1,100 a year in accidents, vehicle wear, and wasted gas. Campaigns for better roads have been around for at least half of America's history, predating Teddy Roosevelt's time in the White House. But the recurrent problem is this: As with all infrastructure, people tend to notice only when it's falling apart -- not when it's working well and is properly maintained. Thus politicians have very little incentive to promote the adequate funding and upkeep of the infrastructure while in office, but do gain credit for "fixing" problems once the condition has deteriorated badly. It's not a well-thought-out way to manage essential public services like roads, sewers, and parks. The I-35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis on August 1, 2007, is a classic case study in what happens when neglect compounds over time.

Broadcasting Legendary BBC World Service to be cut dramatically
The organization is going to release 650 people from work -- 25% of its staff -- in an effort to deal with $80 million in government budget cuts. The result will be a considerable cutback in the service's global radio footprint, which raises a question: How much would that footprint (or any portion of it) be worth to a commercial sponsor?

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