Google AdSense: Can It Be Rigged?

I read Tim Bray’s post on how putting up ads from Google’s AdSense is starting to make him money. This made me think about the program.

Can Google’s AdSense be rigged by bloggers? Just as bloggers blogroll each other and (supposedly) ramp up each other’s PageRank, can a similar ring be set up with these ads. Now, there is a commercial interest too. Say, there are 20 of us. All of us agree to carry the Google Ads. (Cavaet: Google is filtering out personal pages from sites which are authorised to carry the ads, but that may not be too difficult a rule to circumvent.) Then, we each agree to click on the ads on each of the 20 sites. Assuming each ad makes 15 cents or so, 20 clicks can make me USD 3. Imagine doing this daily. Does Google keep histories of IP addresses to filter? Do the advertisers? I don’t know. But I can imagine outsourcing the clicking business to people in India, and splitting the money with them! Is there really a free lunch?

The reason I am speculating about this is for the first time the individual site owners now have a vested interest in gettings ads on their site clicked on. They make money directly for each click. I cannot imagine the advertisers being too thrilled about this. Let’s wait and watch.

On the same toopic, Don Park has an interesting comment: “popularity of RSS feed usage is on the upswing and will eventually lead to majority of blog news being consumed via news aggregators. This means Google will have to get into the news aggregator business (?) eventually. Sure, they can do this with from the server side, but to cover all the bases, Google will need a client-side aggregator as well.”

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The Sentient Office

The Economist writes about a coming world of sensors.

By adding sensors to today’s computing and communications technology, sentient computing seeks to take account of a machine’s environment in order to make it more responsive and useful. Sentient computing systems are always on, ubiquitously available, and can adapt to their users. In short, they seek to become real help-mates. To quote a European Commission report, the aim is to create convivial technologies that are easy to live with.

So, instead of having to turn the television on, the TV will know what you want by combining an understanding of what you say, your expression, your gestures and even how you walk. Ideally, the television set will also be aware of the contextsay, turning the sound down if you are on the telephone. And it can recognise you personally, remember what your favourite channels are, and which programmes to record. All this will happen in an environment where computing and communications are as invisibly available as electricity or water.

RSS and Echo

Jon Udell has an imaginary conversation between himself and Mr. Safe to explain all the ongoing developments in the RSS world (the effort to try and come up with an alternative to it called Echo). Udell makes a few compelling points about RSS, which is what I “echo”:

The magic is in knowing how to use RSS. Knowing what to read and write, and how, and when. Absorbing and transmitting awareness.

It’s not about the format, and it’s not about the tools. It’s about a new way of communicating, one that’s defined by personal publishing and subscribing, and that empowers writers and readers as never before.

It’s true that vast numbers of yet-to-be-written RSS applications need no more than what RSS already does, or can be extended to do using the mechanisms it sanctions. It’s also true that vast numbers of yet-to-be-written RSS applications will require RSS to evolve.

RSS is the real revolution – I’ve been saying it for some time. There’s a lot that can be done with it around the publish-subscribe concept without the need for any change. The change is required not in the standard, but in how we think about it. The need is to shift the focus from blogs to RSS.

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Agriculture and Development

Atanu Dey provides a tutorial on the role of agriculture in development: “What I maintain is that agriculture’s share in the GDP had better decline (but not a decline in the absolute value of the agriculture sector) if India is to ever develop. It is only very severely underdeveloped economies have high ag sector share of GDP…For India to develop, its share of the ag sector has to decline rapidly (with an increase in the absolute size of the sector). ”

Capitalism and Democracy

The Economist celebrates its 160 years of publishing with an editorial and survey on Capitalism and Democracy. Some excerpts:

In the 1840s the main task, amid the mania, was to try to get the doors of liberty open in the first place. Now the doors have at last swung thankfully wide. The task is to keep them open…Pressure is growing to push them closed againor, at least, to stop them from opening any wider. That pressure has many causes. Economic crises in the poor world have reminded people of capitalism’s inherent instability. Unemployment in the rich world has reminded people of its inherent tendency to create inequality and of the disruptive effect on existing jobs when poor countries such as China or India succeed in growing richer. Political tensions between America and Europe as well as between the few rich countries and the many poor, especially (though not only) in Muslim countries, lead many to doubt whether further international integration is viable. Some blame globalisation, some a lack of democratic control; others hope and pray that liberal capitalism has had its time in the sun and that now something else will be tried.

The main dangers to the success of capitalism are the very people who would consider themselves its most ardent advocates: the bosses of companies, the owners of companies, and the politicians who tirelessly insist that they are pro-business. At the intersection of these groups lies most of what is wrong with capitalism, and the best opportunties to make that system even more successful than it has been thus far.

TECH TALK: An Affordable Alternative Technology Architecture for Indias BFSI Industry

[This article was written for Dataquest.]

At least one of the top-selling banking software solutions works only on the MS-Windows platform. This means that banks considering the solution have to necessarily use an infrastructure which comprises of thick, new desktops and MS-Windows as the OS. Built into this assumption is the need for its customers to upgrade desktops every 3-4 years. Are there alternatives?

One of the large banks in India recently had a tender for a messaging solution. The tender was open only for IBM (Lotus Notes), Microsoft (Exchange) and Novell (Groupwise). Are there alternatives?

A large financial services organization is considering upgrades of its desktops all running the MS-Windows and MS-Office organisation. The total cost of ownership over a four-year period per user will work out to Rs 1,00,000 (USD 2,000), by no means a pittance. Are there alternatives?

Indias banking, financial services and insurance (BFSI) industry is the new cash guzzler. Technology is rapidly becoming the oil of the 21st century for India. Investments in hardware and software are being made in large quantities as organizations modernize and want to us IT as both the foundation for their business and for competitive differentiation. But in doing so, we do not realize the cost at which this is happening.

Given infinite (or large) resources, there is no question that organisations in India would want to use the best technology available in the world. Price is often used as an indicator of the bestness of a technology solution. So, the desire by Indian banking institutions to spend on putting a world-class IT infrastructure is understandable.

Unfortunately, this is not an ideal world and resources are not infinite. Indian banks earn in rupees and spend in dollars for technology. Most technology happens to be dollar-denominated, with the result that the Indian price points can appear seemingly quite expensive. Organisations are then faced with two options: either to go ahead with the spend without the corresponding dollar-denominated earning capability, or to limit technology investments.

If it was just a single bank, then it may not matter because customers would not have a choice. But there are multiple banks competing for business. So, as one starts spend on the best dollar-denominated technology, so does the other, and then the next, and so on. Who wins? The technology vendors. Who loses? The non-spenders. The IT-spending banks end up neutralising each others technology impact, and customers get lower returns on their monies in the bank since a portion of that is being used in an IT arms race.

No bank would like to compromise on the technology architecture that it builds, but are there alternatives which can create a comparable technology base but at more affordable price points?

The solution does not lie in not adopting technology. In no way do we want Indian banks to be behind or technologically inferior to their global counterparts. So, what then is the alternative?

The Indian BFSI players are of two types: the ones at the top of the pyramid that are big enough to be able to easily afford the dollar-denominated tech spends, and the ones who are not able to but have to spend to match up to the competition. The alternatives are needed more for the second category than the first.

Tomorrow: Part 2