Datacasting

News.com writes:

n essence, the technology involves inserting a data stream into a TV or radio broadcast and receiving it in a way that does not interfere with the primary audio-visual signal. The data can be combined with the audiovisual signal or sent along as a separate part of the spectrum, then transmitted to a special receiver tuned to capture the bits.

The economics seem irresistible: Transmissions can reach millions of people as easily as one, and provide steadily increasing margins as the viewership grows. Internet and cellular phone technologies, by contrast, create additional costs for every new connection.

Could be an interesting technology to look at for updates in remote/rural areas.

Microsoft v Linux

NYTImes has an interesting comment on Microsoft’s strategy to counter Linux:

Mr. Gates argues that Microsoft will retain its advantage over Linux by offering more on a feature-by-feature basis.

“They’re replacing their commodity leverage with a bundling strategy,” said Ted Schadler, a computer industry analyst at Forrester, and one of the authors of its recent Linux report. With the new software, he said, Microsoft’s business strategy is to integrate multiple applications — e-mail messaging, printing, Web page creation and the like — with its server operating system, but to charge for them separately depending on how extensively they are used.

More on Memex

I would have loved to attend this talk by Maciej Ceglowski and John Cuadrado on “Peer-to-Peer Semantic Search Engines: Building a Memex”. From the abstract:

Imagine searching through your own research notes, Google, and a set of your favorite weblogs all at the same time, the results coming back to you ranked in a meaningful order. Imagine getting relevant results to a search even when there is no keyword match, or being able to refine your search by selecting a set of good results and asking for more.

The presenters, who first met and discussed the concept at last year’s ETCon, have been working on just such a project: an open-source latent semantic search engine that lives on the desktop and lets users navigate and search their own writing – notes, articles, or weblog entries. Because it examines patterns of word use across many documents, the tool offers significantly improved search results, and can accept long natural-language search queries, including entire documents. By allowing documents to organize themselves into topic clusters, the tool also offers a macro view of the user’s data, in useful digest form.

Apart from its utility as a standalone desktop program, the prototype is designed to work as a web service, creating the potential for a distributed peer-to-peer network of individual search engines. This kind of network, which is the project’s ultimate goal, would allow users to send queries out over the Internet, decide where those queries should look, and receive collated results from a variety of different, complementary sources. Unlike other search aggregators, the ability to interleave results in a meaningful way is an organic part of the search algorithm’s design. Whether searching weblogs, research notes, article archives, or personal notes, users would have full control over what they searched, and an unprecedented ability to make their own work accessible to others.

Maciej points to a note on Semantic Indexing for more info.

This is a topic I began this week in my Tech Talk, and will be writing about for the next few weeks. We are also hoping that we can take the base infrastructure we have built in BlogStreet and use it to build a prototype of a personal Memex system.

Successful Internet Businesses

The titel of this Business 2.0 story – How to make Money on the Net – caught my attention. It was the subject of a seminar we had conducted in Mumbai in August 1995! The article discusses the strategies of 6 companies:

The Cross Selling Machine: Wells Fargo
The Deal Monger: Restaurant.com
The Opinion Catcher: Harris Interactive
The Entertainer: Skyworks Technologies
The Minimart: E-Trade
The Low-Cost Alternative: United Online

Successful Internet companies, Yankee Group analyst Robert Lancaster says, exploit the Web’s unique ability to attract and engage. “They’re building profiles of their customers, understanding what they like to do, and delivering a service.”

Yesterday, I received William Gurley’s latest newsletter about dotcoms that are working. His reasoning:

1. They werent bad ideas. In fact many were good ideas. Were there too many consumer startups? Yes! But there were also too many software companies, semiconductor companies, telecom equipment companies, and the list goes on and on. As we later learned, over-funding (i.e., too many startups with too much capital) was the key issue, not the particular investment category. Low-cost, high-scale marketplaces do in fact exhibit increasing returns. And these marketplaces have incredible “moats” (to borrow a Buffetism), that represent unprecedented barriers to entry.

2. Rationality set in first. As the first to fall, consumer Internet companies were the first that were forced to recognize that money is not in fact cheap, but expensive, and that profitability is the real goal to the game. As such, these companies adjusted and learned lessons earlier than most. The results are apparent.

3. Quick capacity reduction. Unlike many other sectors, capacity adjustments come quite quickly in the consumer Internet space. There is no such thing as a web site that is selling ads at a discount just to help offset fixed costs. There is also no heavy “infrastructure” that negatively affects the industry dynamics.

4. Internet growth is systematic, not cyclical. Consumer spending may be down 5%, but online spending is still such a small percentage of overall consumer spending that growth results from the continued increase in online usage. With IT expenditures already at 50% of corporate capital expenditures, the opposite is true for traditional information technology spending.

Gurley’s last line says it all: “Perhaps being a dot-com isnt so bad after all.”

SixApart Developments

SixAprt, the creators of MovableType (the software I use for this blog), have announced they have raised venture capital (one of the investors is Joi Ito’s VC firm), got Anil Dash on board and launched TypePad, as an “an upcoming hosted service providing powerful tools for creating full-featured weblogs.”

This combination of development is almost as important in the world of blogging as Google’s purchase of Pyra a few months ago.

TECH TALK: Constructing the Memex: Googles Domination

Google has barely spent any money on advertising. It has focused on search and providing the best results fast and free of clutter. It is a rare breed of companies that has put technology above everything else. It launched when a category was seemingly stagnant. Wired (October 2001) takes up the story:

Everyone loves Google, and therein lies its dilemma. The phenomenally popular search engine – it now performs more than 100 million searches a day – achieved much of its early success by being resolutely uncommercial. As other search engines were selling banner ads and turning into portals to make a buck off what had become a commodity service, Google just did search. Its stripped-down interface (only three elements: a text-entry box, a Search button, and an “I’m Feeling Lucky” link that takes you straight to the top-ranking result) trades looks for speed. And it does search brilliantly, using a unique technique that ranks pages by how many other pages link to them.

To understand Googles success, it is important to first understand its PageRank technology. Its site has an explanation:

PageRank relies on the uniquely democratic nature of the web by using its vast link structure as an indicator of an individual page’s value. In essence, Google interprets a link from page A to page B as a vote, by page A, for page B. But, Google looks at more than the sheer volume of votes, or links a page receives; it also analyzes the page that casts the vote. Votes cast by pages that are themselves “important” weigh more heavily and help to make other pages “important.”

Important, high-quality sites receive a higher PageRank, which Google remembers each time it conducts a search. Of course, important pages mean nothing to you if they don’t match your query. So, Google combines PageRank with sophisticated text-matching techniques to find pages that are both important and relevant to your search. Google goes far beyond the number of times a term appears on a page and examines all aspects of the page’s content (and the content of the pages linking to it) to determine if it’s a good match for your query.

Adds the New York Times:

Google’s rise initially flowed from a single software innovation: a formula to retrieve pages ordered by their relevance to a Web surfer’s request.

The basic idea, known as “link analysis,” was not new. But in 1996, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, then graduate students in computer science at Stanford, began applying it to the global links that connect Web pages. Their idea was to exploit existing human intelligence by tracking the popularity of billions of different Web pages. Two years later, the two men would found Google.

Applied to the explosively growing thicket of electronic pointers that make up the World Wide Web, the approach simultaneously being explored at an IBM research laboratory in San Jose created a technical breakthrough.

Google now employs 800 people, yet it handles 200 million searches of the Web each day, a staggering one-third of the estimated daily total. To keep up with that torrent, Google has essentially built a home-brew supercomputer that is distributed across eight data centers.

The result of Googles innovative algorithms was that the most relevant pages, as perceived by analyzing the link structure of the web, started showing up on top when we did searches. We suddenly found sense in search even though the results still showed a huge number of matching pages, more often than not the information we were looking for was more likely to be found in the first few pages listed in the results of the Google search. This relevance focus (along with the simplicity of its design) has helped Google occupy centrestage in our lives. Search has come back into fashion. Perhaps too much so.

Tomorrow: Googles Domination (continued)

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