Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Monday, March 26, 2021

green like my bank account!
Take a stroll through the average neighborhood on the Upper East Side or Upper West Side, and you’ll see practically every dry cleaning store advertising its “organic drying cleaning” services.

Organic? What little I know about the dry cleaning business is that it involves some chemical stew that erases stains and stenches — and, probably, living tissue as well. Plus, you periodically hear about toxic residue bubbling up at long-abandoned dry-cleaning sites, attesting to the poisonous process.

And actually, given that reputation, I can understand the attraction to a greener alternative when tending to your dry-clean-onlys. The neighborhoods in question are probably doubly susceptible to the pitch: Not only are they affluent enough to need frequent visits to the cleaners, but they also have households that are ga-ga over the latest and greatest in organica.

Unfortunately, “organic” encompasses both good green and bad green, and in the case of dry cleaning, it’s the bad-green kind of organic:

The new cleaning fluid they are using, called DF-2000, is indeed very organic, as organic as gasoline and every major dry-cleaning fluid since the creation of the industry 150 years ago. After all, to a chemist, a chemical is organic if it contains a chain of carbon.

DF-2000 is made by Exxon-Mobil, those stewards of the environment who dumped 30 million gallons of crude oil—the precursor to gasoline and, yes, DF-2000—onto the shoreline of Alaska in 1989 and are still in court today bickering over the fine. How anything with the industrial-sounding name “DF-2000″ could be construed as organic in the “all-natural” sense is beyond me.

Not quite the farm-grown happy-feely cleansing the targeted clientele is expecting. I’m thinking everyone can save their bucks rather than paying a premium for a slightly less threatening strain of toxin.

So, better luck next time. I’m sure the technicians at the Jefferson Cleaners are working on a true-blue green solution.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 03/26/2007 12:17 PM
Category: Business, New Yorkin', Science
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Wikipedia, the lazy websurfer’s version of “research”, is getting some competition. Citizendium is an attempt to reboot the collaborative online encyclopedia concept, with the qualification of non-anonymous contributors to instill greater accountability.

I’ve been critical of Wikipedia from the moment I learned of it, which is about the time it started exploding in popularity. Since Citizendium, which just launched, is just another wiki-based attempt at reference compilation, I see it as being not much more reliable a source, even with the attempt to address its predecessor’s shortcomings.

In fact, because Citizendium’s birth comes amid a soap-operaish dispute over founder Larry Sanger’s cred as a Wikipedia co-founder, I foresee massive amounts of wiki-warfare between the two sites in the near term. That’s going to manifest itself in acolytes on both sides carrying out defacements on each others’ sites, in attempts to discredit the other side and generally keep the volunteer vanguard busy and pissy. Paradoxically, this wiki-knowledge competition’s going to wind up doing more damage to the concept, rather than reinforce any public confidence in it.

Moreover, ultimately neither Wikipedia nor Citizendium is going to have much control over which will emerge as the more popular site. The truth is that Google will.

How did the search behemoth get into this? Simple. A dirty little secret about Wikipedia is that its popularity and traffic have little to do with how relevant or reliable its content is. Rather, its search-engine optimization is disproportionately responsible for its pre-eminent position.

Consider the basic URL structure of a Wikipedia entry:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horse

It’s very straightforward: Domain name, a directory (/wiki/), and a direct subdirectory (/Horse). Pair that with matching pertinent content in the page’s body text, and you wind up with the top-ranked result on a Google search. And since the majority of Web searchers click on the top result, in a wishful thought that this represents the “best” information source, you get the maximum number of clickthroughs.

That’s the heart of it, really. Had Jimmy Wales devised a more complex URL permalink structure for his site — perhaps encoded in numerals — I can guarantee that Wikipedia never would have extended beyond a limited circle of enthusiasts. In a real sense, Google granted Wikipedia its ubiquity.

And that lesson isn’t lost on Sanger. He’s set up Citizendium’s URLs the same way:

http://en.citizendium.org/wiki/Horse

So Google will start assigning a high level of relevance to those permalinks as well. Wikipedia’s links will still come out higher in the short term, owing to their longer history and greater number of referring links (neither of which are deciding factors in Google’s ranking algorithm, but do carry considerable weight). But over time, that can even out. At that stage, whichever site ends up being more Google-friendly will gain the upper hand.

Upshot: All this will ultimately junk the wiki model for organizing online data. Can’t say I’ll be crying over it. I will be curious to see what supplants this mess, though.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 03/26/2007 10:06 AM
Category: Internet
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