Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
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Saturday, June 07, 2021

If you can pull off a “windmill” on both the breakdancing cardboard and the chessboard, then I’m thinking WuChess is the online chess-playing site for you.

Me, I can’t swing either. But I still like the idea of Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA being enough of a chess freak to launch this uniquely-branded gaming site.

Maybe a little too unique:

…The pieces are designed using martial-arts and Wu-Tang symbols, which can make playing confusing. (Instead of a horse’s head, for example, the knight is a silhouette of a martial-arts fighter flying through the air.) [chesspark.com president Patrick] Mahoney said users would eventually be able to select from more traditional piece designs.

They need to infuse this effort with some of that Wu-Tang Financial cash.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 06/07/2021 05:18:09 PM
Category: Creative, Internet, Pop Culture
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Friday, June 06, 2021

This is interesting: The Amazon.com website has been down for at least the past hour.

Amazon’s homepage returned the message “Http/1.1 Service Unavailable” against a blank white screen. No reason for the service interruption was listed, and company representatives were not available for immediate comment. Shares of Amazon were down 2.7% to $82.25 in early afternoon trading.

Look for that stock price to plummet further was word spreads. Not to mention the amount of money the company is losing for every minute that the site is 404ed. Let’s hope it doesn’t take down the rest of the ecommerce economy with it.

If you really, really need to get on there, the secure-site https://www.amazon.com/ address works, somehow. I wouldn’t necessarily try buying anything, but you can always window-shop.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 06/06/2021 02:48:28 PM
Category: Business, Internet
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Remember the 2006 incident where an America Online bungle released thousands of archived search logs onto the Web, and a little legwork uncovered the identities of the supposedly-anonymous users?

Well, someone in Philadelphia did, and wrote a play about it, using the real log data from “User 927″ as on-stage source material.

The identity of User 927 is still unknown. But [director Michael] Alltop was fascinated enough by that subscriber’s freakish queries, including some disturbing sexual imagery, to commission a 90-minute play around the search log…

But the continued existence of the logs, and people’s interest in them, leads to the play’s key question: Are you what you seek?

Fictional investigators must grapple with that issue as they try to find the missing person by tracing User 927’s identity.

“This search log, to me, is a character,” Alltop said. “It’s like a guided tour through a polluted mind.”

Hey, if he wants raw material for Internet-delivered mind pollution, he should make an offer for my comment-spam Akismet logs. Repetitive to be sure, but I’m sure some sort of warped poetry could be formed out of it.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 06/06/2021 01:57:10 PM
Category: Creative, Internet, Society
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No, I don’t watch MTV’s “The Hills”, despite a New York Times highbrow seal of approval. If I should ever start following any reality show, it sure as heck ain’t gonna be some BFF-fueled drama queen contest.

But I’ll give props where props are due: Show participants (and mutual squeezes) Spencer Pratt and Heidi Montag win coolness points for naming their official joint fansite Speidiweb.com. Not only is it a cute mashup of their names, but it also nicely marries the old spider motif to the World Wide Web, and more than anything brings to my mind a certain Marvel Comics webslinger.

What does the future hold for Speidiweb? Given that Heidi and Spencer are budding Hollywood celebrities, they could cement their power-couple potential by getting married. After which, one or both will come to their speidi-senses, and subsequently file for a speidi-vorce. I don’t need to get spider-bitten to see all that coming.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 06/06/2021 11:22:00 AM
Category: Celebrity, Internet, Pop Culture, Reality Check
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Thursday, June 05, 2021

I like cats, and I really like…

Well, let’s just say there’s something I like about the “Cats ‘n’ Racks” category of the otherwise-supersugary Cute Overload blog. Part of that something could be a definition of “cats” that’s broad enough to include ferrets. (Oh, wait — polecats. Now I get it.)

Or maybe it’s the feline groping:

Who knew borderline bestiality could be so darn cute?

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 06/05/2021 10:49:59 PM
Category: Bloggin', Comedy, Women
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What you see above these words is Tom McMahon’s unique eulogy for the recently-departed Harvey Korman.

I admit I can’t quite figure it out. I mean, yes, I recognize the post title, “That Voodoo”, as referring to Korman’s brilliant turn in the brilliant Blazing Saddles. And I can even tell that the image is derived from Hedy Hedley Lamarr’s triumphant pose at the conclusion of his pledge-leading. Also, I recognize the tip of the hat to Cole Porter’s original lyrics.

But what’s with the abstract-pixelated representation? It’s ghost-like, which maybe is the intent. Maybe this is the end result of that voodoo to do so well.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 06/05/2021 06:45:56 PM
Category: Bloggin', Celebrity, Movies, Pop Culture
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Wednesday, June 04, 2021

SimpleViewer, a freebie from Airtight Interactive, is a neat little Flash-based app for showing off your pictures on your very own website. It works well with kitties, but I’m sure just about any photo images would look good on it.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 06/04/2021 08:34:54 AM
Category: Internet, Photography
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Tuesday, June 03, 2021

How inventory-bloated is today’s depressed real estate market? So much so that a southern California builder is throwing in an extra dwelling on every sale:

“We thought, ‘Why does it just have to be on Pop Tarts and restaurants? Why not buy one home, get one free,’” Dawn Berry of Michael Crews Development told 10 News in San Diego.

More: “Michael Crews Development is offering new, 2000-square foot cityscape row-homes worth $400,000 in Escondido for free — if you buy one Royal View Estate home in San Pasqual Valley starting at $1.6 million. ‘You know it’s a straight-up legit deal; no prices have been increased, there are no hidden costs. Michael is just giving away a free home for people that buy at Royal View,’ said Berry.”

Buy more house than you can afford and take on more house than you can handle. Such a deal!

Incidentally, this promotional gimmick is a step up for Michael Crews Development, considering it usually flexes its marketing muscle on planting fake customer-testimonial comments on its company blog.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 06/03/2021 09:42:19 PM
Category: Bloggin', Business
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Monday, June 02, 2021

More than three years ago, I pimped out this blog to Adagio Teas in their quest for tea-keyword supremacy, in exchange for some free tea.

Precedent thus set, I see no reason to not accommodate Golden Moon Tea in its similar request. To wit:

Oolong Tea, from Golden Moon Tea

That’s the link Golden Moon’s Partner (whatever that is) Jon Stout asked that I paste hereabouts, in exchange for some sample product from his joint. (”Stout”? As in, “I’m a little teapot, short and”? Must be a brand-reinforcing codename…) I’m guessing the online tea-retailer jockeying for high Google ranking continues unabated, and that freebies are far cheaper than AdWord rates. So be it.

Anyway, mission accomplished. Per Stout’s email, I should be receiving a sampler set shipment of Golden Moon’s Coconut Pouchong, Orchid Temple Oolong, Imperial Formosa Oolong and Sugar Caramel Oolong varieties. Although I prefer the full-caffeinated black tealeaf, I can do oolong; in fact, by coincidence I just picked up a box of Bigelow’s Chinese Oolong for the first time in ages. I’m betting Golden Moon’s versions will blow Bigelow’s out of the water.

Actually, I wonder if I should get greedy and request one of Golden Moon’s regular samplers, with the fancy brew-in-mug cup/infuser. Heck, I just dropped more than the requested amount of linkage back to them, didn’t I? We’ll see.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 06/02/2021 08:33:13 PM
Category: Food, Internet
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Sunday, June 01, 2021

Check it out: The no-nonsense BBC News has an online video player with a built-in volume-control slider that shoots past the usual maximum of “10″, all the way to “11″.

The significance of which should be obvious to anyone who’s ever seen This Is Spinal Tap. And just in case you’ve never seen that classic rock mockumentary, here’s the significant scene:

And that same scene, transcribed:

Nigel Tufnel: The numbers all go to eleven. Look, right across the board, eleven, eleven, eleven and…
Marty DiBergi: Oh, I see. And most amps go up to ten?
Nigel Tufnel: Exactly.
Marty DiBergi: Does that mean it’s louder? Is it any louder?
Nigel Tufnel: Well, it’s one louder, isn’t it? It’s not ten. You see, most blokes, you know, will be playing at ten. You’re on ten here, all the way up, all the way up, all the way up, you’re on ten on your guitar. Where can you go from there? Where?
Marty DiBergi: I don’t know.
Nigel Tufnel: Nowhere. Exactly. What we do is, if we need that extra push over the cliff, you know what we do?
Marty DiBergi: Put it up to eleven.
Nigel Tufnel: Eleven. Exactly. One louder.
Marty DiBergi: Why don’t you just make ten louder and make ten be the top number and make that a little louder?
Nigel Tufnel: [pause] These go to eleven.

You just know that a movie has hit the highest possible cultural plateau when the British Broadcasting Corporation starts integrating its elements.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 06/01/2021 12:15:16 PM
Category: Comedy, Internet, Media, Pop Culture
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Friday, May 30, 2021

I foolishly thought I’d be the only one to notice that Google snuck in a new-look favicon for themselves, apparently today. It’s a lower-case “g” with a shadowed background — fairly ornate for a tiny image, and very distinct from their old capital-G square.

My eye caught it this morning, while doing scads of image research. So I saw it applied on the Google Image Search and Google Maps sub-sites. However, it doesn’t appear to be on the default Google site; iGoogle and Google News also are left out. So maybe Mountain View is slowly rolling this 16×16 rebrand, on a trial basis.

I’m a big fan of using favicons, in all their subtle glory, as a fundamental part of good website design. Just because you can’t see it most of the time in Internet Explorer doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have it on your site; going without one comes off to me as amateurish.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 05/30/2008 03:25:10 PM
Category: Internet
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Tuesday, May 27, 2021

I hadn’t kept up with Penguin Putnam’s “A Million Penguins” online collaborative novel-writing project, despite making a note of it last year.

So I didn’t notice when the experiment came to an end earlier this month, and, well, the result sucked.

But there is a silver lining to the whole thing, from a business perspective:

After all, you release some trendy high-concept book, and for every person who reads it there are a hundred who just enjoy the concept and ten people who buy it just to put on the bookshelf. Hell, I had more to say about Freakonomics before I read it than after — I got the point by the time I’d read a review and half of the dust jacket. So if the book doesn’t have to live up to its publicity, why not come up with a clever idea and outsource the actual writing?

No surprise, as the entire concept was a marketing exercise to begin with. True, some academic collateral emerged as a byproduct, but ultimately it’s all about creating enough buzz to tickle the cash register.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 05/27/2008 08:19:04 AM
Category: Creative, Internet, Publishing
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Sunday, May 25, 2021

At this past Friday’s Jelly session (wonderfully hosted by Kara by the way), some minor debate cropped up about Twitter. Specifically, there was some doubt cast on whether or not “twitter” was a real word, or else some nonsensical URL string of letters.

I quickly quelled the debate by calling up the Dictionary.com definition of “twitter”, specifically this one:

2. to talk lightly and rapidly, esp. of trivial matters; chatter.

Yes, the microblogging dynamic pretty much fits this summation. Although the site’s liberal use of the bird motif tells me that the Twitter bosses are hearkening to the association with “birds a’twittering” figurative description as well.

From this, we pondered that the word “twit” might be derived from the above. Whether it is or not, the increasingly frequent Twitter.com outages (which also came up among Twittering Jelly-ers on Friday) will probably prompt more than one invocation of that British-ish insult term toward the Head Twits in charge. Unless “Shitter” doesn’t take hold first.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 05/25/2008 08:06:55 PM
Category: Bloggin', New Yorkin', Wordsmithing
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A year ago, T-Mobile reported that a surprisingly big chunk of the Web traffic on Sidekick phones was going toward social networking sites like MySpace. This suggested that mobile browsing had less to do with conventional Web research and entertainment and more to do with communications, i.e. more like a traditional phone chore.

Now, Opera’s just-released Mobile Browsing Report backs up that suspected trend, noting that 40 percent of Opera Mini browser users worldwide frequently hit social network sites (with the share jumping to 63 percent among U.S. users). Since Opera Mini has an installed user base of some 12 million (thanks to agreements with global wireless phone manufacturers and carriers), Opera has a pretty reliable base upon which to draw these conclusions.

So again, phone Web access is more about staying tethered to your MySpace crew instead of, say, checking movie start times or the nearest Italian restaurant. That behavior should be key in how phone companies push their forthcoming mobile Web offerings.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 05/25/2008 05:55:57 PM
Category: Internet, Tech
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go the distance
I’m so glad to see one of my old favorite Flash gamelets, Penguin Baseball, get a Stanley Cup-inspired revival. The Detroit Free Press invites Red Wings fans to whack-a-pen as a show of team support.

It’s as addictive as it ever was. My best swing for the fences was 322.9 feet. Beat that!

I’d imagine Pittsburgh’s media would retaliate, perhaps with another game selection from YetiSports. I can’t find any sign of it, though.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 05/25/2008 03:01:10 PM
Category: Comedy, Hockey, Internet, Videogames
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Saturday, May 24, 2021

Yes, John Dvorak regularly produces a muddled mess of a column for MarketWatch, and this week’s edition is no exception. He jumps haphazardly from some fabricated speculation about AltaVista re-emerging as a search player (maybe he’s not aware that Yahoo! swallowed it up ages ago, and is now steadily erasing the AltaVista brand?) to how much Vista sucks, and back to search via how Google might someday buy Microsoft.

But read down far enough, and you’ll uncover a good nugget:

What is really needed are new and better search engines. To be honest about it, Google, Yahoo and Microsoft all stink.

We all know this is true. Sure, you can find the major and obvious sites with any of them. But seriously try and find, for example, the best knitting site.

Go ahead: Type in the keywords “best knitting site” into Google and tell me which site, out of the 300,000-plus results Google returns, is really the best knitting site. It cannot be done, despite the fact that there must be a best one. A group of knitters might know, or maybe not.

It’s getting more difficult to find anything with a narrow target using any of these search engines. Recently, I was searching for a Barack Obama citation for an article and could not find it on Google; there were too many results to be useful.

While the Google mechanism works great for selling millions of little ads, it’s old-fashioned and already dead, as are the rest of these search engines, which basically are all based on decade-old Web-crawling technologies combined with massive caching.

To do its job, Google has to maintain up-to-date and redundant copies of the entire Internet on its servers. It’s a ridiculous idea.

Even this quickie analysis contains a major flaw: Google doesn’t store “the entire Internet on its servers”. Last stat I saw was that Google’s entire cache could hold only about a third of the Web at any one time — still a very impressive mass of information, but nowhere near everything. (Not to mention that it doesn’t do much to plumb the depths of the Deep Web.)

But other than that, he’s right. Search technology isn’t particularly robust, and that’s because it runs on a primitive concept: Text recognition. Search engines can’t do squat unless a page/site is loaded up with keywords, and accurate keywords at that. That still does the job most of the time, because the Web is still overwhelmingly a written form of media. Even sites that specialize in non-written content are forced to include tags and other text-identifiers in order to be searchable.

The problem comes with SEO techniques, legitimate and not-so-much, that attempt to game the system. The focus on words as flags for what a webpage is “about” makes that system relatively easy to manipulate, and all the algorithms that Google et al devise ultimately can’t get past this fundamental shortcoming.

So what’s the solution? It’d be a neat trick to devise an automated system that can recognize more substantive content than just text. Efforts at digital photo recognition and such are good moves, but to me they seem to lead to the same dead-end focus: One element of what’s on the Web, instead of a way to recognize qualitative Web content. And really, maybe the very structure of the Web prevents the development of better Web search. For now, we’re stuck with what we’re stuck with.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 05/24/2008 06:46:38 PM
Category: Internet
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Friday, May 23, 2021

A few days back, while chatting with a fellow laptop-lugger at *$, I encouraged her to check out my online thang by telling her I had a blog.

She looked a little confused. “A writer’s blog?” I thought I heard her ask.

“Yeah,” I replied. “I guess you could call it that.”

“There are books that can help with that problem,” she offered.

Um. Granted, I can get a little too engaged with this site, but I’m not sure I’d label it as a “problem”.

But then, I realized what was going on, and I clarified: “No no — it’s not ‘writer’s block’. It’s a blog.”

I guess I should work on that enunciation. English was her second language though, so I’ll assign her partial blame for the momentary misunderstanding. Besides, it’s not unheard of for blogging to lead to blockage.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 05/23/2008 04:38:32 PM
Category: Bloggin', Wordsmithing
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Wednesday, May 21, 2021

Whizzed off when your favorite YouTube video suddenly gets pulled due to copyright infringement? Now you can zero in on the who and why of the KO with YouTomb, a research project out of MIT via the local chapter of Students for Free Culture.

According to the running stats, some familiar corporate faces are among the DMCA invokers: Viacom, NBC Universal and plenty of other TV/movie producers. Not to be outdone, sports entertainment entities like the NFL and WWE also regularly swat down unauthorized vid-clips.

One of the more unusual rightsholder-requestors: Funny or Die, the Will Ferrell-led online comedy collective. I guess the jokesters want to ensure all their rightful traffic flows their way.

I absolutely agree with rightsholders being able to get their stuff off of any channel they don’t want it appearing on. For me, it makes me generally think twice before embedding any YouTube video on this site, as I’d hate to revisit the post permalink and find the video removed, thus making my work here look sucky. (Not that the threat of such always stops me.)

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 05/21/2008 11:58:41 PM
Category: Internet, Media
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Unable to bolster its moribund position in Web search now that its attempted Yahoo! purchase has died, Microsoft has rolled out Plan B: Live Search Cashback. It’s an incentive designed to encourage user loyalty for all e-shopping comparison-pricing research.

Basically, Microsoft is so desperate to make up ground versus Google in this space that it’s willing to pay people to use its search services.

It’s not a bad idea, especially since consumers are so familiar with the concept via credit-card cashback/points schemes. But I wonder if it’s not targeting a relatively dead spot in the search spectrum.

Pure product-search engines aren’t all that popular compared to general search portals. Even Google stumbled in this arena: Its former Froogle dedicated-search portal underperformed so badly that it was quietly shunted to secondary status and rebranded to the bland “Google Product Search”. People seem to prefer starting out at their usual one-size-fits-all search portal, and then refining from there when comparison shopping. Given that, it’s iffy that they’ll be drawn to a specialty search interface.

But maybe that’s the opportunity Microsoft identified: A relatively unoccupied territory, and a potentially lucrative one since real ecommerce was involved. Juicing it with token amounts back to the e-shopper (I’m guessing pennies per purchase) might be enough to prime the pump.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 05/21/2008 10:30:46 PM
Category: Business, Internet
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Tuesday, May 20, 2021

Odd couplings don’t get much odder than that of online dating community BigChurch and porn-mill Penthouse Media Group. Via its acquisition of the FriendFinder Network of dating sites, PMG finds itself to be the corporate parent of BigChurch.

Business is business, but try telling that to the BigChurch members looking for good, clean Christian lovin’. Actually, don’t bother, as competing Church-mate services and other Bible-thumpers have already put the alert out.

Strange bedfellows for sure, as BigChurch is under the same tent (and, presumably, server-space) as sites like AdultFriendFinder and Bondage.com. And turning the outrage inside-out: Who’s to say that the pervs on those sites wouldn’t take offense if they knew BigChurch was a sister site?

As invisible as these shared financial underpinnings may be, you can bet that marketing synergies will, inevitably, lead to inappropriate cross-promotion:

[Penthouse CEO Marc] Bell promised that no adult content would appear on the site. Nonetheless, BigChurch users may have had their suspicious [sic] aroused by an offer to become an affiliate member with large bonuses on offer for signing people up to other FriendFinder sites. Another reward was a trip to Las Vegas, promoted as “a whirlwind weekend in Sin City with gorgeous Penthouse Pets at your side”. It is a far cry from the traditional Sunday School outing.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 05/20/2008 08:56:48 PM
Category: Internet, Publishing, Society
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Monday, May 19, 2021

How weird is this:

Just as I was sitting down for lunch earlier today, Will Truman and his blog Hit Coffee popped into my mind. For no particular reason, either. True, he’s left many a comment in this space, but not recently; nor have I visited his site lately.

A few minutes later, after putting away half my meal, I pulled out my iTouch for a routine check of email, as well as goings-on at PopStat.

And what do you know: Just as I was checking, Will left two comments on this site.

How did I sense not only commenting activity on my blog, but also the identity of the commenter? Beats me. I’m hoping it was just coincidence, and not some unholy Web-mind meld.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 05/19/2008 08:52:42 PM
Category: Bloggin'
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