Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Sunday, July 29, 2021

It’s one thing to discover that the person behind a webpage/blog has suddenly died, as happened with Uppity Negro’s Aaron Hawkins nearly three years ago.

It’s quite another to troll through MyDeathSpace, and specifically target MySpace pages that are frozen tributes to their now-deceased authors.

I mean, I can understand the feeling that goes into providing a final chapter for people like Gayle Grosman, who succumbed to a debilitating disease. Even more pertinent is placemarks for unexpected deaths:

Army Cpl. Matthew Creed was killed in Baghdad Oct. 22. His MySpace profile keeps watch without him, counting down the time - days, hours, minutes - until he would’ve returned home.

His father, Rick, visits the page from time to time, but he was unaware that it had been archived on MyDeathSpace.

“What MyDeathSpace is doing seems respectful, though at this time I’m not sure what I think about it,” he wrote in an e-mail. What’s most important, he believes, is that the link between his son and this world be preserved.

But it’s not like the victims’ MySpace pages feature a linkback to their corresponding MyDeathSpace archiving pages (or “walls”) — much like Creed’s father in the example above, I’d bet most visitors to the lingering MySpace pages have no idea about the existence of MyDeathSpace. So this collection of death notices serves more of a one-way purpose, and I’m guessing it’s a pretty morbid one: Web voyeurs pondering death. Which gives the whole thing a decidedly creepy feel.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 07/29/2007 06:12:08 PM
Category: Internet, Society
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hearing footsteps
As Google continues to evolve toward an advertising-driven portal site, it’s indirectly making itself a target for challengers in the search space. In fact, with Google infiltrating its Universal Search results with links to other Google properties, the search engine’s very integrity is under question, and thus open to attack.

That attack might finally — and credibly — be here, from the world of Wikipedia. Jimmy Wales aims to apply an open-source/user-generated strategy toward Web search, via his Wikia service:

The new Wikia search service will combine computer-driven algorithms and human-assisted editing when the company launches a public version of the search site toward the end of 2007, Wales said in a phone interview…

Open search is part of Wikia’s broader push to promote the spread of free content publishing on the Web. Wales’ objective is to make explicit the editorial judgments involved in modern Web search systems. Proprietary search systems such as Google Inc. keep secret key details of how their search systems work to prevent spamming and for competitive reasons.

Wales’ entry signals actual business-based non-commercial efforts versus Google. That’s in contrast to sites like Clusty, which are pitching pure-play search but really aren’t positioning themselves as anything more than niche-hobbyist offerings.

This effort hinges on Wikia’s just-completed acquisition, from search also-ran LookSmart, of Grub, a search project originated on the distributed-computing model:

Grub, now open source, is designed with modularity so that developers can quickly and easily extend and add functionality, improving the quality and performance of the entire system. By combining Grub, which is building a massive, distributed user-contributed processing network, with the power of a wiki to form social consensus, the open source Search Wikia project has taken the next major step towards a future where search is open and transparent.

“In looking at the overarching industry, it has become clear that open is the business model of the future,” said Michael Grubb, Senior Vice President, Technology, and Chief Technology Officer, LookSmart. “We are pleased to collaborate with Wikia and believe that Grub will thrive under an open source license. We are happy to be able to assist in the movement to make search a more open proposition and look forward to seeing things progress from here.”

The surest way for this nascent Wikia engine to gain traction: Adding it to the Wikipedia site as the default search utility. Look for that to happen next year.

So, the building blocks are in place. Does this mean Google will soon fall by the wayside, following the doomed footsteps of former search leaders like Yahoo! and Altavista?

It really depends on how much Google truly values search as part of its business model. Publicly, there’s no question of that: Search is the proclaimed heart-and-soul of the company, and the starting point for everything that’s rolled out of Google Labs. For anyone in a Mountain View corner office to suggest otherwise would be self-defeating.

But does Google’s main revenue generator — syndicated advertising via AdSense/AdWords — really rely upon proprietary search mechanisms? If Wikia/Grub’s approach does create a transparent search structure, there’s no reason why Google couldn’t exploit process, the same as any other player. AdSense metrics can be tied to any measuring tool for site impressions, just like any advertising syndicate. In a sense, Google’s ad business is search-agnostic — it just hasn’t made any sense to uncouple it from the company’s own industry-leading search algorithms thus far.

Ceding search to Wikia’s open-source model would seemingly put Google on a level playing field with others. However, timing would be key: Google’s market heft would give it an early advantage, and assuming they embrace Wikia’s search, they could shape it to the point where Google’s advertising content (and content in other channels) would dominate. Google would effectively outsource the down-and-dirty search algorithm work to a public engine, without formal ownership but with de facto control. The end result could very well be a Wikia search that’s open, but paradoxically co-opted by Google.

All this relies upon Google willingly changing gears. I don’t see that happening right now, as the company’s fundamentally reliant upon proprietary search processes. Pressures from the stock market, not to mention corporate culture, would prevent this wholesale change in approach. Sadly, I see the old portaling-pattern continue to unfold for Google, and any shift will come much later — maybe too late.

With all that said, I’m not completely convinced that Wikia’s idea will succeed. Distributed volunteer search-vetting sounds rad, but we’re talking about a massive scale of content to process, much greater than what Wikipedia has to filter. And it’s much more of a target for manipulable rank-rigging, especially if the engine becomes a search destination of choice. Relying upon the traditional content flood via wiki, then regulation once the databases have been filled, might not work against the need to establish the site early as a trusted Web search tool. It might never get off the ground.

We’re at the start of the start, really. The dynamics are in place for some interesting jockeying in the search realm over the next five years.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 07/29/2007 03:44:15 PM
Category: Internet
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Apparently, all it takes to rile up a bunch of Brooklyn brownstone watchers is the appearance of white paint in the landmark Clinton Hill neighborhood.

Make that white primer paint, restored to the proper brown in short order. As originally planned, without awareness of the Web-confined tempest.

So much for the wisdom of crowds…

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 07/29/2007 01:16:25 PM
Category: Bloggin', New Yorkin', Society
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Ah, you’ve gotta love this whole Internet-blogging thing. It offers you so many things. Like porn, and…

I’m drawing a blank.

Oh yeah: Free giveaways, sometimes with no strings attached. As exemplified by this post on Seth’s Blog, offering two free movie DVDs just by asking, via email.

I jumped on it, and lo and behold, Seth emailed me back to tell me that he’ll be mailing his extra copy of A History of Violence in the near future. Score!

So thank you, Seth. Nothing like getting a free-and-clear freebie to make me giddy.

I never did catch Violence when it came out in theaters, nearly two years ago, nor have I been sufficiently motivated enough to seek it out afterward. It looked plenty compelling though, as only a David Cronenberg opus can. So I’m glad I lucked into this.

This little episode actually has inspired me to do a likewise blog-giveaway. I’d done it once or twice in the past, so I’m overdue for a repeat. I have plenty of clutter lying around that could use a better home. Stayed tuned for the first offer, later this week.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 07/29/2007 12:35:21 PM
Category: Bloggin', Movies
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trekkie
How is it that Globe Trekker TV host Megan McCormick is not a big-time TV star yet?

I mean, look at her. She’s cute as all get-out and the camera loves her. Plus, apparently she’ll eat anything. All the ingredients for a television celebrity!

Globe Trekker is obviously positioning her as the main draw for the series. I admit, I’m fairly hooked on the show — but pretty much only when she’s the host. Her segments have a underlying comedic touch half the time, a real fish-out-of-water quality that’s engaging. In fact, her interactions with the exotic locales she highlights inspire me to take a stab at a full-fledged comedy series about a blunter ugly-American travelogue show, featuring deadpan un-PC behavior by a clueless on-camera personality.

Not that that should detract from McCormick’s charms. I like her way more than, for instance, that spastic Amanda Congdon. If we’re comparing New York-based niche-video personalities.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 07/29/2007 10:24:45 AM
Category: Celebrity, TV, Women
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