Eli Pariser: Internet's democratizing potential is derailed by invisible algorithmic personalization

"A squirrel dying in your front yard may be more relevant to your interests right now than people dying in Africa." - Eli Parser's paraphrase of Facebook's driving algorithm. 

I find TED Talks to be almost unfailingly signficant in some aspect of a given topic's presentation. That is the objective, after all, to use Internet power to inform the world of great ideas.

And, so, it's blunt non-irony to watch MoveOn's Eli Pariser calling the gatekeeping innovators of the Internet to task for having inverted that power. Instead, he says that a 'filter bubble' is fostering global myopia through a process that uses the hidden algorithmic analysis of individual web navigation patterns to personalize the websurfing experience.

Today's Google News

Google announces its new TiSP wireless broadband internet service:

Introducing Google TiSP (BETA), our new FREE in-home wireless broadband service. Sign up today and we'll send you your TiSP self-installation kit, which includes setup guide, fiber-optic cable, spindle, wireless router and installation CD.


TiSP in-home wireless broadband is:

  • Free, fast and highly reliable

  • Easy to install -- takes just minutes

  • Vacuum-sealed to prevent water damage

Interested? You can learn more about TiSP via the links below, or get started now.

Learn More:
Press Release   How TiSP Works   FAQ

Good-hearted Fun, With A Sinister(-esque) Google, By The Vacationeers

If you like a good mental twist on reality, you should check out The Vacationeers on YouTube. They've got a lot of good stuff, including a semi-sinister take on how Google's manifestation into almost every aspect of life could become - well, if not the stuff of nightmares, then the stuff of the Twilight Zone. Or maybe the Outer Limits.

Hat-tip NathanNewman of Daily Kos, whose diary You're Not Google's Customer -- You're the Product brings another, different perspective to the pervasiveness of Google.

Part 1, "The Googling" - Google Maps

Part 2, "The Googling" - Google Moon


Continued after the jump. Three more videos embedded...


Google, I forgive you

We've been waiting for it ... making phone calls from your gmail.  Google announced its release today:

If you have a Google Voice phone number, calls made from Gmail will display this number as the outbound caller ID. And if you decide to, you can receive calls made to this number right inside Gmail (see instructions).

When Google Goes Bad...

Remember years ago when the concept of "Customer Service" didn't exist and if you had a problem with a product and called the company, you got nowhere? Perhaps some of you have worked with products or services that came "as-is" and offered no additional feedback, and only token support -- no actual support, but a suggestion for "where to go" if you had a problem...and the alternate meaning for "where to go" was more likely the intent, as the actual "where to go" was nothing more than a relatively barren wasteland populated only by others searching for solutions to similar problems?

That's what I'm dealing with at this moment. The product is one that is well-known for ~not~ being officially supported. Problem is, the support forum that users are directed to appears to be wholly void of any Google-ish help beyond the basic FAQ information (at least for this problem).

The product? GMail...specifically, when a GMail account has been shut off for a "violation of TOS" when it's highly unlikely that any such violation occurred, and affected account is a one set up for a professional non-profit organization's headquarters.

Open Thread - ePluribus Media Blogger Causes 120 Million Dollars In Lost Worker Productivity

Ok... Maybe standingup isn't quite a Financial Weapon of Mass Destruction and only contributed a bit to that loss in productivity when posting the "Sunday Morning Photo and Open Thread" on the playable Google Pacman logo:

And a happy 30th birthday to Pac Man! Google stirred up quite a response yesterday when they replaced their logo with a google doodle celebrating the anniversary of one of the most popular video games ever. The twist on this doodle is the "Insert Coin" button which transforms the doodle into a live version of the video favorite. See for yourself, while it lasts at

Via the BBC we find out that a firm making software that tracks what workers do online, Rescue Time, estimates millions of hours wasted on playing the game:

Extrapolating this up across the 504 million unique users who visit the main Google page day-to-day, this represents an increase of 4.8 million hours - equal to about 549 years.

In dollar terms, assuming people are paid $25 (£17.50) an hour, this equates to about $120m in lost productivity, the firm said.

That amount of money also adds up to about 6 weeks of Google's payroll. FYI: The game proved to be so popular that  Google gave Pacman a permanent page where you can play it whenever you want - but don't tell your boss I sent you there from this Open Thread....

Open Thread: Thursday Tech Notes

Yesterday, two announcements in the tech world (or at least my little corner of it) got me very excited.  I grant you, it doesn't take a whole lot.  The first was a letter from the cable company.  They will soon be offering caller ID for the PC.  Yipee!!  I rarely watch TV, so having caller ID on the TV is not a big deal for me, but having on the PC ... now that is a big deal!  :)

The second piece of good news was from our benevolent overlord Google. 

Thursday Morning Open Thread: World Wide Web, Google Privacy Case Edition

A recent ruling in an Italian court has posed an interesting question regarding the responsibility and accountability of internet content providers in the global worldwide marketplace. From CNET:

Will an Italian court's decision to convict three Google executives of invasion of privacy have widespread effects on the Internet beyond Italian borders?

Google certainly thinks so, but it could take a significant change in thinking around the globe to prove Italy is not an outlier. Three Google executives, including head lawyer David Drummond and Chief Privacy Counsel Peter Fleischer, were convicted of invasion of privacy Wednesday by a court in Milan because a video of students taunting an autistic boy was uploaded to Google Video in 2006. George Reyes, who was chief financial officer but left the company in 2008, was also convicted.

The judge ruled that Google had a duty to make sure the video didn't violate Italian privacy laws before it was displayed on Google Video, and since Italian law allows individual employees of a company to be held liable for the actions of their corporations, the individual executives were subject to trial. The obvious implication of the decision is that Google employees are now personally liable for all the content hosted on its site in Italy, forcing the company to either ban user-generated content from its sites or carefully review each submission.

Since the Milan decision could impact "the policy of the U.S government to support Internet freedom around the world," the ongoing developments around this case should prove to be quite interesting.

What's your take -- how do you see the Internet, and where do you stand on how the policies and practices of other nations should impact the availability and access to information? How does this impact the concept of net neutrality here at home, and what other implications do you foresee?

Add your thoughts in the comments; let's see where this takes us. And remember: This is an Open Thread.

Open Thread -- Morning Mental Gymnastics, Alpha Google Edition

OK, here's a bit of news and some mental gymnastics for crossover fans and the reality challenged -- ready? Good.

It all started when I read that a potential challenger to Google as the king of search engines now appears to be more of a supplement than a "Google Killer," according to Christopher Dawson of ZD Net.  The application? Wolfram Alpha (the site isn't live at the moment, but I provided the link for completeness).

Going off on a small bout of free-association, "Wolfram" reminds me of Wolfram and Hart from Joss Whedon's Buffyverse, and Alpha draws up a swatch of mismatching data reference points: Memory Alpha, a Star Trek wiki; the phrase "alpha and omega" -- used in Biblical and other reference material ad infinitem, particularly when dealing with apoloclysms and savior scenarios; Terminator: Salvation (indeed, the entire Terminator franchise) and a weird melange of Omega Man and the Cylon race of Battlestar Galactica, which is not to be confused with Cylon of Athens or the bloody coup where the followers were all wiped out.

...still with me so far?  Hope so...'cuz we're not done yet.

"...standing on the shoulders of giants..."One remaining thread of the frayed free-associative thought process derives from the word nehalem, which my eyes swept across on the same page as the original article (remember the Google killer that is now more of supplement that started all this?), and a few other tidbits blew into focus: the definition of nehalem per the Salish language ("the place where the people live"); a Native American tribe called the nehalem (same link); a mental misdirection (brain fart?) that summoned up the Hebrew word nephilim which is somewhat clumsily translated as "giants" and oft defined as the offspring between humans and "the children of God"; a free-associative offshoot of nephilim that summoned forth the phrase "They Might Be Giants" (from the film, not the band) and the quote "standing on the shoulders of giants".

In the midst of all this, of course, and ignoring the growing background noise as multiple cross-references through ancient history, literature, religious texts and scholarly works both various and sundry began to collide in a growing cacaphony, the concept of angels (via the Bilibical references and the nephilim disconnect) and demons ("Wolfram and Hart") gave rise to Angels and Demons and led back to The Da Vinci Code, conspiracy theories and the deeply embedded human mythos of humanity intermingling (and interbreeding) with "the Divine" (either Christian-Biblical, or Pagan, or Greek Mythos, or any of the other associated myriads of sociological and cultural belief systems).  Along the way, the history remnants of memories about how religions and religious movements impacts history -- often violently -- kept sloughing off and falling to the side of the growing torrent of informational cross-references.

Now, to round everything out, touch-back to the reference point above where my eyes had initially scanned "nehalem" on the page with the article about the Google non-killer-now-likely-supplement (remember that?).  Following up on Intel's advertising campaign for the nehalem components, they stress the advanced intelligence of the chipset -- re-evoking and underscoring both the Teminator and Cylon (BSG) reference points.

How's that for a bout of morning mental gymnastics? 


Oh, well.  Maybe next time.  In the meantime, this is an Open Thread.

Why we Google

I love my gMail and would hate to ever be parted from it.  I moved away from using MS Outlook because I simply could not control the SPAM.  I hate SPAM (both the email kind and the canned artificial meat kind).  gMail has all but eliminated the SPAM and I don't have to worry about saving my PST file so I have it when I have to reformat my @#$@#$ VISTA laptop.

In Search Of -- Environmentally Safe Search Features

Here's a distressing tidbit, via Kula of DailyKos:

...I could singlehandedly be destroying our environment:

Performing two Google searches from a desktop computer can generate about the same amount of carbon dioxide as boiling a kettle for a cup of tea, according to new research.

While millions of people tap into Google without considering the environment, a typical search generates about 7g of CO2. Boiling a kettle generates about 15g. “Google operates huge data centres around the world that consume a great deal of power,” said Alex Wissner-Gross, a Harvard University physicist whose research on the environmental impact of computing is due out soon. "A Google search has a definite environmental impact."

Aw, maaaaaannn, do you know how many simultaneous Google searches I do during an average computing session...?


Net Neutrality -- In the News And On the Edge, Or Not?

Is Net Neutrality now in danger, endangered by some of its former advocates? According to Scott Nichols of PC World and Dana Blankenhorn of ZDNet, no. But other might think so, based on a recent WSJ story where the lede misleads: Google Wants Its Own Fast Track on the Web

According to Nichols,

The Wall Street Journal today posted an article claiming that Google, as well as other Net neutrality advocates, were abandoning or softening their views on Net neutrality. The Wall Street Journal specifically attacks Google's OpenEdge project as a means by which Google can have its own content given bandwidth priority over other web sites.

Nichols has a harsh assessment of the WSJ as a result:

It is a simple matter of a publication favoring fear mongering over actual news.

Ouch.  And that's not all...