Thinking Out Loud

August 20, 2017

Google Now Provides the Information instead of Referring

Like many of you, I couldn’t help but notice that increasingly, Google was giving me the answers I was looking for right on their results page, without my needing to make a second click. Appreciating the convenience I didn’t really pay much attention to this, until publishing and media watcher Tim Underwood linked to a piece at Mashable titled, Google is Eating the Open Internet.

The rather opened my eyes to the present situation: Instead of being a site which refers you to people who have the answers, Google is now seen as provider of those answers.

But the affect on the websites from which the information is culled — the creatives and researchers who do the actual work — is devastating. Example:

…Brian Warner, founder and CEO of CelebrityWorthNet.com, understands perhaps more than anybody the power of Google’s wall-building.

Warner started to notice the content from his site appearing directly on search results pages in 2012. Two years later, he got an email from Google asking to scrape all of his data, which he turned down. Another two years after that, Google did it anyway, and the impact was catastrophic.

“It was extremely painful, it was extremely devastating,” Warner said. “We got to a point where our traffic was down 85 percent from a year or two earlier.”

Search for the net worth of any celebrity at random today—let’s say, James Earl Jones—and you’ll get the number ($45 million) and a short biographical blurb pulled from CelebrityNetWorth.com with credit and a link…

And later, the broader application:

…There’s also a steady stream of more subtle indications of Google’s inward pull appearing every day—features like on-site hotel booking, restaurant menus, spa appointment tools, and dropdown recipes to name just a few.

These tweaks might sound minor, but Google’s position as the web’s central nervous system means they can have a big impact on smaller businesses that orbit it.

In the long run, though, there seems to be a pretty glaring hole in this plan. That is, as Google likes to reassure wary publishers, it’s not in the content business.

The company ultimately relies on reference sites like Wikipedia, IMDB, Fandango, and the CIA World Fact Book to compile and update the information it uses.

If Google continues to choke these sites out, what incentive will there be for new ones to come along? …   (emphasis added)

   Then early this morning I caught up with my Saturday print edition of The Toronto Star and columnist Heather Mallick was saying the exact same things about Facebook in a piece titled, Like it or not, Facebook Owns You. For her it gets personal:

…We donate to the Guardian to keep it free for everyone, but remember that we do this because former editor Alan Rusbridger made the numbers clear. In 2016, Facebook “sucked up $27 million (U.S.) of the newspaper’s projected ad revenue that year.”

Facebook was the interlocutor, the middleman who slipped between readers and journalists and siphoned off the money. When I step onto the thing for even a moment, I make money for Zuckerberg. I work for him, not the Toronto Star.

I wouldn’t mind being followed for weeks by ads for the hand vacuum (designed in England, made in Malaysia, which is why I despise Dyson) I ordered five minutes ago from an online retailer with no discernible connection to Facebook.

But I do mind that my salary was effectively lower this year because Facebook knew this, its targeting having destroyed the print and online ads on which the Star itself relied.

I take a dim view. With less money, I’ll buy fewer things advertised on Facebook, but it doesn’t care. It’s in the business of attention, not retailing. Its hands are clean.

Of course they’re not. They’re loaded with lucre, and they’re taunting people individually and en masse, damaging quality of life and eating freedom. You are owned…

For my Christian readership at this page, this is important. Obtaining the “answers” or “results” one is looking for without clicking through to see the full context of the page from which the mighty search engine derived them could be devastating, especially as the field of material offered grows to include things of religious or theological interest. At best, all of our online sites are somewhat subjective, including this one.

But I’ll have more to say about that tomorrow.

 

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February 3, 2015

We Need a New Search Engine

Filed under: blogging, technology — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:05 am

I don’t usually write about the tech side of my work, but I am increasingly convinced that we need someone out there to generate an entirely new search algorithm. I’m tired of being directed to news stories from 2002, sites that have been shut down or superseded, or an endless litany of sponsored sites trying to sell me things it thinks are related (so the search engine can report back that their ad had X number of views.)

But I’ve also done some additional thinking and have decided part of the problem is us. We want our search results now and we pay more and more for increased internet speed so we won’t be kept waiting.

Ask yourself, is it better to get 166,000 results in .03 seconds that are wrong or is it better to wait 30 seconds and get 8 results that are exactly what you’re looking for.

The bigger they are, the harder they fall.  I think it’s ironic that a company like Google has totally mastered the art of spying on us and knowing our every online move and all of our consumer preferences, but continues, day-after-day, to be a giant failure at the thing they set out to be in the first place: A search engine.

The future of the internet is indeed search. The company that builds a better mousetrap — and there most certainly will be one someday — will be heralded as the most significant enterprise to come along since the invention of computers and the internet themselves.

May 4, 2011

Wednesday Link List

You’re expected to follow the advice of the experts.  While this blog has been doing link lists for several years, next Wednesday marks 52 weeks of using the same title each week.  Sigh!

  • Tony Miano confronts Planned Parenthood.   Take five minutes to read what could be the best thing you read today.
  • Suffering from terminology confusion?  Here’s the 411 on the difference between “fundamentalist” and “evangelical” including two helpful terms outlining the difference between “theological fundamentalists” and “sociological fundamentalists.”  One of several related posts at The Wartburg Watch.
  • WAY-FM’s Brant Hansen took some heat for that article on tithing I linked to last week, so here’s the spot where he responds to the questions.
  • “Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice.”  Pete Wilson reminds us of the truth of Proverbs 24:17 in the wake of the death of Osama Bin Laden.
  • Meanwhile Carlos Whitaker throws the topic open, with over 250 reader responses to date.
  • “Perhaps the death of Osama Bin Laden has made this world more safe. I do not believe, however, that his death has made this world more beautiful.” — comment e-mailed to Brian McLaren.
  • With all the fuss over that book lately, Rachel Held Evans launches the Rally to Restore Unity, which is a kind of synchroblog thing you can still get in on.   (My contribution is below…)
  • A few days late for Easter perhaps, but this video from Lutheran Satire suggests that the disciples have to face their own instincts for profit motives from the resurrection.  HT: The Least Read Blog on the Net.
  • Our local Salvation Army captain has kicked off a new blog in style: Lots of good topics and an immediate following of faithful readers.  Check out il capitano inquisitore.  Especially the post which deals with Appointment Day, the day in which the entire organization finds out if anyone needs to start collecting cardboard boxes for a July move.
  • Here’s an idea if you’re a blogger with a tight schedule: My somewhat rushed quote collection on discipleship at Christianity 201.   You may also like yesterday’s post, Spiritual Cataracts, where I also tossed in some French worship music.
  • It’s spelled Roque.  It’s pronounced “rock-key.”  Our new artist of the week invites you to check out her story, and her song, Thank You.
  • I would definitely join a church that devotes a month to doing a series on the Theology of Food.
  • Monday was Election Day here in Canada and Google Canada celebrated with the usual graphic, except, as Bene Diction noted, they showed voting booths which are not used in Canada. (See above.) Oops!  We go behind privacy screens and mark paper ballots.  Pay no attention to the voter behind that curtain! (BTW, we elected a Conservative majority parliament, and for the first time a New Democratic Party official opposition.)

May 22, 2010

Pornography? Not on Apple Products

Steve Jobs has decided to swim against the current.   I want to re-post some large chunks here of an article that appeared on Monday at the blog, Grace City.

The CEO of Apple Computers has been getting a lot of negative press recently – some people don’t like the way he carefully controls the software and hardware worlds of his computer empire. The most public stir has been created over his refusal to allow apps in the apple store that use or were programmed with Flash. Jobs argues (rightly in my view) that Flash is a buggy, bloated program which slows down computers. Since Jobs is trying to create portable computers that last for 11 or so hours on battery, he wants to avoid Flash. Personally I am more than happy to never see another Flash video on my computer – I can’t stand the way Adobe make their software bloated to the point where it slows my computer down.

Another aspect of Job’s defiance of critics has been less commented on. Jobs has argued that he wants his portable computer devices to not sell or stock pornography.

When a critic emailed him to say that this infringed his freedoms, Jobs emailed back and told him to buy a different type of computer.

Steve Jobs is a fan of Bob Dylan. So one customer emailed him to ask how Dylan would feel about Jobs’ restrictions of customers’ freedoms.

The CEO of Apple replied to say that he values:

‘Freedom from programs that steal your private data. Freedom from programs that trash your battery. Freedom from porn. Yep, freedom. The times they are a changin’ and some traditional PC folks feel their world is slipping away. It is.’

The interlocutor replied:

“I don’t want ‘freedom from porn’. Porn is just fine! And I think my wife would agree.”

In the most revealing line, Steve Jobs dismissed the critic thus:

“You might care more about porn when you have kids.”

Pause for a moment and consider what the above emails represent.

The CEO of one of the wealthiest, most successful international companies, responds to the email of a customer. Business prospers on the mantra ‘The customer is always right.’ Business wants the customers’ money.

But in this case, over the moral issue of pornography, Jobs is happy to tell customers to buy a different product. He argues that children and innocence ought to be preserved – and that trumps the dollar.

Google (with their motto ‘Don’t be evil’) rake in billions through pornography. Ranks of employees spend their time categorizing and arranging advertising for pornography. (I know, I spent some time discussing the difficulties posed to a Christian who worked in their UK HQ) Pornography is huge business, yet here is the CEO of Apple telling the pornography businesses to take their dollars elsewhere.

Now Steve Jobs cannot actually stop pornography being accessed on the devices he sells – indeed you can jailbreak a device and run any pirated software on it. Neither can he necessarily set the ethical bar as high as a Christian may want it – but what he is doing is significant and commendable. He is taking responsibility for doing what he can. He is trying to not profit from pornography. Those deeds are important for the sake of his own soul. Matthew 18:7 comes to mind: “Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come!”

For the souls of other people, his public statements are valuable in that they permit consumers to identify with and commend his resistance to pornography. Our generation is saturated in pornography; a public statement from Steve Jobs resisting that, encourages others to believe that the secular-liberal-capitalist agenda is not the only show in town. Jobs’ comments are important for the manner in which they shape public cultural discourse.

Okay, so I actually copied the entire blog post.  I just couldn’t find a sentence to leave out.  I think Pete at Grace City, and Steve Jobs especially are on to something here.

Meanwhile,  the blog, Other Side of the World, notes that what is legal in the state of California becomes, by default, accessible around the world, in an article titled Die Pornography, Die!.

Freedom of expression and speech have often been used to defend some pretty vile things. On the internet obscenities are rampant, and produced as though it were legitimate business, when in fact it usually is not just illegitimate, but illegal. Many might be surprised to learn that California is the only state where it is actually legal to hire and pay people to have sex, and even there it supposedly requires a license. A new adult video is shot every 45 minutes, 24 hours a day, year round in California’s San Fernando Valley. Believe it or not, prostitution is still illegal in California. Not sure I’m clear on how porn production is not prostitution. Anyone remember the recent ACORN scandals?

Here is the strange part. On internet servers in virtually every state in the union, this illegal material exists. The peddlers will spam you, your parents, and even your children with provocative images and links in hopes of getting their hooks in, all the while the materials are actually illegal & virtually nothing is done to stop it. Even Google will boot your blog site out if you don’t update it often enough, but will thoroughly spider and reference thousands of pages that contain illegal content. Putting them right at the fingertips of any child who can type a bad word.

Recent news has been full of coverage of the new immigration law in Arizona. President Obama has called this law “irresponsible”. However, let’s just think for a minute. What did they actually do? Well… they decided to make it a crime to be an illegal resident of Arizona. What does illegal mean? How does official enforcement of the law qualify as irresponsible and lack of enforcement qualify as responsible?

That’s the problem with the internet, or any other kind of pornography. There are plenty of things in the US that are illegal, and pornography produced in any state but California would qualify as illegal, however I would submit that failing to enforce the law is the irresponsible part. Our federal government is legislating our socks off, but selectively disregarding major problems that are already matters of standing law. Recent legislation really seems much more focused on facilitating power and control instead of protecting legitimate liberty. Illegal pornography creation, consumption, and public distribution does not qualify as legitimate.

I hope and pray that this porn peddling can get under control. There are existing laws as well as precedents that make a strong case of legal question & the first amendment has faced this issue before. The current precedent at the supreme court level being the “Miller Test” that states:

  • Whether the average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest,
  • Whether the work depicts/describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct or excretory functions specifically defined by applicable state law,
  • Whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.

While there is still clearly a matter of interpretation to be discussed, the courts have consistently required strong merit on the matter of artistry. In short, they consistently find pornography to not be protected under the first amendment. Scholarly consensus also requires regional variation as “community standards” denotes. So California might be off the hook for deciding that their community standards condone such behavior, but for the rest of the United States this stuff still violates legal precedence and the spam, uncensored advertising, and other tactics these peddlers of perversion employ violates our liberty.

No, Mr. President, your definition of irresponsible is quite inverted. What Arizona’s state legislature did was took responsibility and did their duty to those they serve. You, on the other hand, seem to be serving someone else. Pouring your efforts into expanding some Federal Government empire bent on dissolving state sovereignty. Sovereignty that is guaranteed in our Constitution.

Calling all States whose citizens in general find pornography patently offensive (offensive in a clear and unambiguous manner): Please dismantle porn peddling, it is, after all, still considered by most “community standards” to appeal to prurient (Arousing or appealing to sexual desire) desires. The Supreme Court has consistently defied claims of artistic value, with very little remaining defense it is virtually the definition of obscenity. It’s production is illegal in nearly every state in the union. Please, some state, take a stand against this destroyer of families and take steps to end its production and distribution in your sovereign territories.

God, please help us.

Finally, here’s a third item for your consideration, but don’t look for a link for this one.

Playboy magazine has exhibited a rather disturbing trend this year:  First the magazine ran a cover featuring animated character Marge Simpson.   More recently the magazine ran a special issue using a pair of 3-D glass supplied with each issue.

What’s the connection?

In a world where anything pornographic is available on the internet, Playboy desperately wants to keep market share and future market share.   The latter is guaranteed by hooking younger readers.   But with an animated character cover and 3-D glasses, the magazine may actually be trying to interest very younger readers.

You won’t see that suggestion on many blogs or newspaper editorials, but there’s no denying that both recent “features” identify heavily with an audience that is too young to purchase the magazine legally in some states and provinces.

But it’s something that needs to be said.

The author of Thinking Out Loud is also the author of The Pornograph Effect: Understanding for the Wives, Daughters, Mothers, Sisters and Girlfriends.  You can presently read version 1.0 of the book online for free, just click here.   (It’s a reverse-blog; pages come up in book sequence, ‘older entries’ actually yields later chapters.)

If you got here from a internet search tag and this article (and blog) were a million miles different from what you expected, but you have continued to read this far, please know that there is another way of living.   With God’s help, you can quit — cold turkey — in a single day, and I believe you can somewhat  ‘de-toxify’ your brain in as little as a single week.   Find encouragement at XXXChurch.com

HT for Steve Jobs & Apple blog post – Tim Chester

I apologize for the length of this post, but history tells me that many readers don’t do the “continue reading” jump, or click on the links, and this issue is simply too important to not make it easy for the maximum number of blog visitors to read it all.   To the original bloggers of the two articles:  Remind me I owe you some traffic.


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