Category Archives: Technology

Explain to me how these are ‘public relations director’ jobs

 

PR 2

As I’ve mentioned before, back when I was job hunting after being laid off, I signed up for a bunch of services that were supposed to send me tips on jobs that were relevant to my skills and experience.

I’ve continued to get those emails, and they are often entertaining.

This one service, The Ladders, which specializes in placing executive-level job seekers, regularly sends me messages with the subject line, “Public relations director jobs for you.” I especially like that personal touch, the “for you” part, don’t you? Just for you; I didn’t compile public relations director jobs for anyone else but you…”

I’m not sure how The Ladders decided that that was the only type job I wanted, but it’s really fixated on it. I get an email like this from them every week or two, sometimes more often.

Here’s the thing, though — not once have they sent a tip on an actual “public relations director” job. At least, not since February, which is as far back as I’ve been saving them.

In addition to that “Commercial Escrow Officer” gem above — which in no way bears any relationship to anything on my resume — The Ladders has in recent months tipped me to the following “public relations director” opportunities:

  • Sr. Electronic Engineer / Support
  • Air Compressor Technician
  • Executive Assistant
  • Supervisor Meeting and Special Events
  • Executive Director
  • Military Analyst Lead
  • Veteran Arabic Levantine Linguist Analyst
  • Veteran Arabic Iraqi Linguist Analyst
  • Video Production Specialist
  • Army Mission Command Program Analyst Senior

What makes this worse is that The Ladders is really selective in what it sends me. Other services send me lists of 25 or 30 job openings at a time, many (but not all) of them just as irrelevant. But The Ladders picks one or two at a time especially for me!

And yeah, I see the thing that advises me, “To improve your matches, consider editing your job goals.” But I have no idea what username and password I set up for that service five years ago, and would it really be worth it? It obviously ignores the input from me it has now.

This would all just be a hoot if not for the fact that there are algorithms just as bad as this one screening resumes and rejecting them before they are ever viewed by a human. I’ve had plenty of experience with that. When your last job, the one you held for many years, is “vice president/editorial page editor,” if the prospective employer is anything other than a newspaper, their algorithm isn’t going to have a clue what to do with you. It takes a human to think, “Hmmm, here’s a guy who knows his community, knows the movers and shaker in both politics and business in the state, and has writing and other communications skills that could translate well to what I need…”

So forgive me if I don’t laugh uncontrollably at the fact that these programs are even worse at matching me to a job than Netflix is at figuring out what kinds of movies I like…

Terrorists Got Drones! Open Thread for Monday, July 14, 2014

For years, various folks who question the morality of President Obama’s habit of waging war by drone attack, like Zeus hurling thunderbolts down on terrorists, have frequently asked, “What are we going to do when others, especially our adversaries, also have drones?”

Well, we need to come up with an answer to that pretty quickly, because the day has arrived. In fact, it’s official: Terrorists now have drone technology:

The Israeli military also intercepted an unmanned aircraft flown from Gaza, blowing it apart in midair just offshore from the Israeli port city of Ashdod, a spokesman said. The drone attack by Hamas added a new element to the week-old conflict.

The military wing of Hamas claimed on Monday that it had sent “a number of drones” flying into Israel on “special missions,” saying on its website that the aircraft were one of the “surprises” it had promised over the last week….

So, the future is here, and it’s unsettling.

Meanwhile, in case you’d like to have an open thread today, here are some other topics:

Psychological warfare by text — Not only is Hamas deploying drones, they’re sending out texts to Israeli citizens to sow fear and uncertainty. So they’re getting more sophisticated. Kinda. You can tell it’s Hamas disinformation when it’s really badly spelled, apparently.

World Cup win stirs German patriotism – Fortunately, it’s not of the national socialist kind. In fact, some of the most excited wavers of flags are Turkish rather than Aryan. But it’s an unfamiliar feeling for this generation of Germans. Der Spiegel posed the question this way: “We’re back, but as what?”

Bergdahl returning to active duty – Meanwhile, the investigation into the circumstances of his disappearance in Afghanistan is “ongoing.”

Or whatever y’all want to talk about…

 

NASA’s starship, the IXS Enterprise

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This is the coolest thing I ran into over the weekend. I think the info has been out there awhile, but it was new to me when I saw it at the WashPost site.

First, there’s a guy at NASA, engineer and physicist Harold White, working on how to make a warp-drive spaceship, a true starship, a vehicle that can move at speeds exceeding the speed of light. Which, it is believed, may one day be possible.

Better than that:

And now, to boldly go where no designer has gone before, Mark Rademaker — who is collaborating with White — has created a CGI design concept for the “warp ship.” They’re calling it the IXS Enterprise.

Admittedly, the pictures are less about getting to the other side of the galaxy, and more about getting kids excited about pursuing STEM careers. But they’re a lot of fun anyway. You can see more images at Rademaker’s Flickr account.

White explains in detail how his warp drive would work in the video below. But for those of you who want the quick, oversimplified version, basically it works “by expanding space-time behind the object and contracting space-time front of it.”

A disappointing aspect of that is that it makes for a bit of a clunky design. In the photo above, I saw that structure around the ship and thought it was docked in a construction bay, or making a stop at a space station. No, apparently, that huge ring is part of the ship — an essential element to making the warp drive work. “The rings are most important as they will form the Warp bubble,” says Rademaker.

But maybe they can streamline them some before NASA’s ready to “boldly go.” Which is bound to be awhile, given that NASA currently has no operational spacecraft. We’ll see. Or our descendants will, anyway…

Burl, who is an expert, shows us how airplanes fly

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And if you doubt it, well, he’s the curator of the Pacific Aviation Museum in Pearl Harbor. What are your credentials? (He got the info from something called ScienceDump, which sounds credible as all get-out to me.)

I, of course, believed the diagram immediately, as it fit perfectly with my understanding of this phenomenon. Frankly, I have trouble believing they do fly. It may just be mass hypnosis that makes us think they do. If you think about it, that explanation actually taxes credulity less than the theory that those massive things actually do hang up there in the sky.

(Seriously, haven’t you ever looked up at a plane, way up in the sky, and thought, Oh, come on — that’s ridiculous!)

For you space buffs, a nice shot of Manhattan

Bm_TFbECUAIEyaX

This sort of image is fairly unremarkable in these days of Google Earth, but I thought it was worth reTweeting when I saw it yesterday.

A Japanese astronaut (I’m still adjusting to there being such things) shot this picture and Tweeted it with the simple observation, “Nice pass over New York City.

Yes, it was. Very clear. It would be cooler if the resolution were higher, but still nice.

And yes, in these days when Americans no longer have a means to get into space and have to hitch rides, there are still people up there, still grooving on the view…

Google Maps version

Google Maps version

Doug forms impression of Haley strength, Sheheen weakness

summit

Our own Doug Ross attended IT-ology’s Summit on Information Technology today, and this is his report:

Nikki Haley did the quick welcome speech to the crowd this morning.  Never had seen her before in person…   I was impressed with her energy and her ability to speak without notes.  She laid out what will probably be a theme for the next few months:  a growing economy built on encouragingcompanies to come to South Carolina.    What was more indicative of what’s in store for Vincent Sheheen was when Ed Sellers (Chairman BCBS – you probably knew that) got up after Nikki left and said that Haley and her team (Bobby Hitt and others) were the best administration  he had worked with in 25 years in terms of economic development.   Otis Rawl followed Sellers with more praise for Nikki.    If I were Vincent Sheheen, I’d drop out now… I don’t think he’s going to come as close as last time.
The mayor also spoke briefly and did a good job of selling Columbia as a place to grow technology business.   He was late so he wasn’t in the room when Haley was there.    My cynical self wonders if that was on purpose.

As I’ve said many times, Nikki makes a great first impression, and connects really well with a group of people.

I agree that Vincent’s in trouble, and not only because he’s not as good at connecting with a crowd. Four years ago, the state chamber (Otis Rawl’s organization) backed him, which was extraordinary for a Democrat. I had already seen indications that wasn’t going to happen again. This is another indication of that.

And when a guy like Ed Sellers goes that far in his praise, it’s important. But I suspect he really mostly appreciates Bobby Hitt.

Something is going to have to change for Vincent Sheheen to be as competitive as he was last time around, much less win. The incumbent has positioned herself well for another four years, even without the Year-Of-The-Tea-Party advantage she enjoyed in 2010.

‘Our pollster’ making SC biotech connections for SC in Poland

I’m jealous of people who get to travel for their work. Yeah, I know people like Doug and Silence will talk about what a grind it is, but I’m envious nonetheless. My trip to England three years ago was my first time out of the country in many years. In my newspaper job I used to bop up to Washington occasionally, or to a conference somewhere else in the country now and then, but never abroad.

And I enjoy travel. It doesn’t just broaden the mind; it stimulates it, generating thoughts that wouldn’t occur running on the usual, everyday fuel.

So today I’m feeling jealous of my good friend Emerson Smith, who tells me from his berth on the Queen Mary II somewhere in the South China Sea (I think — there’s no telling where he is at a given moment) that next month he’ll be back in Poland — another place I’ve never been.

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International Man of Mystery Emerson Smith

He’s one of two people who will be representing South Carolina at the BioForum 2014 (cebioforum.com) in Lodz, Poland on May 28-29, 2014, Emerson and Brad Goodwin from CharlestonPharma, speaking on how biotech companies in central Europe can create joint ventures in the U.S. and South Carolina.

“South Carolina is well known for having international companies from Germany, Belgium, France, Japan, China and other countries,” writes Emerson via email. “Most of these companies are large manufacturers. What we need to attract, in addition, are small biotech companies from Europe, which includes western Europe as well as central Europe, which can grow in South Carolina. Central Europe is historically known for its scholarship and science. Copernicus is from Krakow, Poland. South Carolina’s SCRA and SC Launch are always looking for opportunities to attract biotech companies from abroad and provide seed funding as well as assistance in dealing with state and federal commercial laws.”

Emerson is CEO and president of Metromark Research here in Columbia. He is also a sociologist, as he used to point out to us when we called him “our pollster” in the newspaper, which bugged him. He used to do our South Carolina Poll back when I was governmental affairs editor at The State. We did quite a bit of polling in those days. And while he didn’t like being called a “pollster,” he was a good one. His horse-race polls — the only kind where you get a real-world check on your accuracy — were always dead-on. Even multi-candidate primaries, which were notoriously hard to call.

So now, our pollster is working to grow the biotech sector in SC. Good for him. Even if I’m jealous that he gets to be an International Man of Mystery while doing it.

Hey, iTunes! Where are all of MY tunes?!?!?

iTunes panic

OK, I’m trying to suppress the panic here…

I was already pretty ticked off because the only tunes that showed up on my Apple TV were ones that I had “purchased” (either for money or by redeeming a free song from Starbucks or something) from iTunes.

Whereas, most of the music that was in iTunes on my PC laptop and my iPhone and my iPad were songs I owned before iTunes was invented — things I bought long, long ago, either on CD or vinyl (I have a turntable at home that hooks up to a computer and converts vinyl to MP3s). Stuff I had every right to. I liked that this music was in iTunes because it meant it wasn’t subject to the ravages of time and rough use as they affect vinyl and CDs — and they were available to me on multiple platforms, wherever I went.

The number of songs I had “purchased” from iTunes were insignificant. I mean, unless someone has given me an iTunes gift card, why would I spend money on something I could hear on Pandora or Spotify for free? (Especially, especially, especially if I had already paid for it once, twice or three times in my lifetime?)

Anyway, this state of affairs got worse when I got a new iPhone a month or so ago. Everything transferred over from my old iPhone just fine. But recently I noticed that all of MY music (the music I owned before iTunes, from vinyl and CD) was missing.

So today, when I connected the iPhone to my PC in order to transfer some photos, and iTunes automatically launched, I thought, “I’ll try to fix this.”

I did this by clicking on “Brad’s iPhone” in iTunes, scrolling down to options, and clicking off the button that said “Sync only checked songs and videos.” And then I clicked “Apply.”

I got a dialogue box that I can’t seem to get back again now, but I think it said something like “Do you want to erase the iTunes profile on your phone and replace it with the one on your computer?” I said “yes,” because that’s what I wanted to do. And I ran it.

And now, I still don’t have any of MY tunes on iTunes, and a bunch of them (but strangely, not all) have disappeared from my laptop as well! For instance, all of the Beatles albums — just gone!

They’re all still on my iPad. So now I’m scared to connect the iPad to the PC, lest I lose them. (And yeah, I suppose I still have copies of these things somewhere, in some form, but getting them onto iTunes represented a lot of time and effort.)

Any minute now, I’ll start freaking out.

Anyone have any advice?

Skyping, as envisioned in 1910

France_in_XXI_Century._Correspondance_cinema

So, I was checking The Guardian for news, and saw this image, and, being a fan of Sargent and Whistler, et al., I clicked on it. That led me to this story about an exhibit showcasing Paris in 1900, which mentioned La Belle Époque, which caused me to wonder whether 1900 was properly considered part of that period, which caused me to go to Wikipedia. And then go find the English version of the page.

Where, for whatever reason, I found the above image of a French card (postcard? I don’t know; it just said “card”) from 1910, imagining telephony (or “correspondance cinema”) in the year 2000.

Skype wasn’t founded until 2003, but there had been for some time such a thing as videoconferencing by 2000. The drawing, of a gentleman talking to an elegant lady who’s waving to him, suggests a social call, though, and that suggests Skype to me, or FaceTime. So the card was three years off.

I love that they assumed there would have to be a tech guy operating a bunch of complex equipment to make such a call. I suppose the artist imagined that we would have personal tech assistants in the future, serving alongside our butlers, maids and valets.

They just couldn’t quite conceive of silicon chips and miniaturization, and why should they have? That we’re able to do this, plus thousands of other things, in a slim device that easily fits into a shirt pocket would have been the wildest thing of all about the future, to the people of 1910.

No, wait — I just thought of something wilder and harder to predict than that. Who could have predicted that in an age when we carry such marvelous devices in our pockets, we would increasingly choose not to talk by two-way TV, or even to engage in voice calls — but would increasingly rely on texting? Which is a throwback to the telegram, which was already your granddad’s mode of communication by 1910.

The other day, I heard a colleague dictating a text to Siri, which involved saying the punctuation out loud, just like dictating to the Western Union guy in 1910 (“HAVE ARRIVED IN OMAHA STOP CONTACT MADE STOP AWAIT FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS STOP”).

Which goes to show that reality is weirder than science fiction…

Another freaky photo makes the front of the WSJ

Turkey

Is it HDR? Was a lot of work done on it in PhotoShop? I don’t know. But there was another fairly freaky photo of unrest abroad gracing the front page of The Wall Street Journal today.

Maybe it was just a lucky shot, under unusual lighting conditions. But it comes across as either unreal or hyper-real, more like a painting than a photo (a significant factor in this impression is the amount of detail in the underlit face of the man at left). The image is grainier than the ones I noted earlier from Ukraine, which makes it seem even less like a photo.

I see that in this country, there’s a debate going on among folks who still have MSM jobs about the propriety of using High-Dynamic-Range images. (Near as I can understand, with HDR your camera takes several exposures of the same frame at the same time, with different exposures. Then you can take the best parts of each of those exposures to produce something that is more like what the human eye sees, if not better. With conventional photography, if you have a backlit subject, you have to decide whether to expose for the dark subject in the foreground — causing the background to white out in an explosion of light — or the background, which makes the subject in the foreground go dark. As I understand, HDR frees you from making the choice.)

Is the same debate going on among those who shoot breaking news abroad? Will we be told if they are using these processes? Should we be?

My very first Tweet was (allegedly) a sinful one

Twitter is celebrating its 8th birthday, and in connection with that has set up a website where you can find your very first Tweet ever.

Allegedly, this is mine:

first Tweet

First, I remember that Tweet. Weirdly, I was thinking about it during Mass this past Sunday. I was thinking about how it takes willpower to refrain from Tweeting during Mass, and I suddenly remembered a time when I gave in to the temptation. I sort of remembered where I was sitting. I also remembered that I had been to Starbucks that morning, and was still feeling a very nice first-cup buzz at the time. And I remembered that I mentioned that I was in Mass in the Tweet. (And the timestamp, 12:37 p.m., places it smack in the middle of the Mass I attend most weeks. And I checked — May 24 was a Sunday.)

Second, it seems highly unlikely that that was my first Tweet. I seem to recall rather clearly first trying out Twitter during the week, while sitting in my office in the Byrnes Building at USC. This was when I was on that 90-day consulting contract with Harris Pastides, right after I was laid off at The State. I had been talked into trying Twitter after a meeting in which some other consultants had given the university president and members of his communications team a presentation on social media. Tim Kelly talked me into it. I was reluctant to try Twitter, but he persuaded me that it would be a great tool for promoting my blog.

I remember trying it, sitting there in that office, and almost immediately becoming hooked on it. Which surprised me. I thought I would hate it.

It seems highly unlikely that I would have waited until Sunday, while I was in Mass, to try my first Tweet. For one thing, if I hadn’t Tweeted before, how would I know that it was something I enjoyed doing, and therefore be tempted into doing it at such an inappropriate moment?

Still, it was interesting to suddenly have that indiscretion thrown at me today. It’s both a pleasant blast from the past, and a cause for a wave of guilt. But then, as Yossarian said to Chaplain Tappman, “I wouldn’t want to live without strong misgivings. Right, Chaplain?”

Latest reported NSA capability is pretty awesome

As y’all know, I’ve had critical things to say about Edward Snowden. But I have to say, sometimes we learn about some pretty cool stuff as a result of his revelations.

For instance, if we really have this capability, that’s pretty awesome:

The National Security Agency has built a surveillance system capable of recording “100 percent” of a foreign country’s telephone calls, enabling the agency to rewind and review conversations as long as a month after they take place, according to people with direct knowledge of the effort and documents supplied by former contractor Edward Snowden.

A senior manager for the program compares it to a time machine — one that can replay the voices from any call without requiring that a person be identified in advance for surveillance.

The voice interception program, called MYSTIC, began in 2009. Its RETRO tool, short for “retrospective retrieval,” and related projects reached full capacity against the first target nation in 2011. Planning documents two years later anticipated similar operations elsewhere.

In the initial deployment, collection systems are recording “every single” conversation nationwide, storing billions of them in a 30-day rolling buffer that clears the oldest calls as new ones arrive, according to a classified summary.

The call buffer opens a door “into the past,” the summary says, enabling users to “retrieve audio of interest that was not tasked at the time of the original call.”…

If you told Keanu Reeves about this, you know what he would say

Are things that ‘trend’ on Twitter really trending?

A blog over at The New York Times notes that making decisions on the basis of what’s trending on Twitter can sometimes miss what’s actually happening:

download (1)The greatest challenge of Big Data — especially social media — is separating the signal from all the noise. A study by the Pew Research Center, for example, found that Twitter users are more often than not negative. The study, which examined reactions on Twitter to news events, including Barack Obama’s and Mitt Romney’s presidential race, discovered that “for both candidates, negative comments exceeded positive comments by a wide margin.” More disturbingly, that reaction is not representative: “The reaction on Twitter to major political events and policy decisions often differs a great deal from public opinion as measured by surveys,” Pew reported. That is due, in part, to the fact that “Twitter users are not representative of the public”: They are younger and more likely to lean toward the Democratic Party. It turns out that what’s “trending” on Twitter may not really be “trending” at all.

Of course, some of us might say that Twitter users are swarming around what the rest of the public will be talking about in the future. But we won’t. In the meantime, be forewarned — to mine the wisdom of crowds requires some wisdom, some discernment regarding which data to study, and what conclusions to draw from them.

A worrisome national meme regarding SC’s Boeing plant

First 787 Takeoff In Charleston SC  K65673

Inaugural flight of first 787 Dreamliner built in SC./Boeing

We take great pride in our Boeing 787 plant down in North Charleston, and with good reason. It shows, as Bobby Hitt would say, that “we know how to make stuff” in South Carolina, including high-tech stuff.

So it is that I worry that it seems to be more and more routine for national media to say this one negative thing about the SC Boeing plant, as I have boldfaced in this passage from a story in The Wall Street Journal this morning:

Never overwhelmingly credible was Boeing’s threat to rip away its new 777X from its unionized Seattle-area workforce if local union members didn’t approve contract concessions, as they did last week.

Let us count the reasons: Boeing was already known to be dissatisfied with the dispersed plane-making that currently has the 787′s wing made in Japan. Boeing’s own new 787 plant with nonunion workers in South Carolina has been slow to get up to speed. A trained and experienced workforce, such as exists in the Seattle area, is not easy to recreate and Boeing is under considerable pressure from customers signing up for deliveries of the new 777X after 2020 to minimize delays and snafus like those that afflicted the 787….

Hey, I want them to take their time and do it right — I’d hate for SC workers to get the reputation of being casual and slipshod. But I hate seeing the word “slow” in connection with SC labor.

I’ve just seen that mentioned a number of times recently, to the point that it has started to worry me…

I’d like to have a Kalashnikov lawnmower

AK-47

For me, Mikhail Kalashnikov is one of those “You mean he was still alive?” people. I had not known he was still among us. But he was, until today, when he died at 94.

It’s ironic that he survived so long, since his invention was the cause of the premature deaths of untold thousands around the world.

Mikhail Kalashnikov/www.kremlin.ru

Mikhail Kalashnikov/www.kremlin.ru

His AK-47 (and its variants) was made to supply soldiers of the Red Army with a reliable modern rifle, but it became the weapon of choice of “national armies, terrorists, drug gangs, bank robbers, revolutionaries and jihadists,” as the WashPost put it.

Kalashnikov was a former Red Army sergeant with little technical training, who ended up leading the effort to create a rifle that met the requirements of a weapon that was cheap to produce, easy to maintain and operate, and reliable. He was wildly successful.

He produced an automatic weapon that took next to no maintenance, and would work under the most demanding conditions. There are stories of Kalashnikovs found buried in mud under rice paddies in Vietnam that still fired.

The AK enabled almost anyone to put a tremendous amount of lead (30 rounds to a magazine) on a target in a big hurry. And by anyone, I mean anyone — it’s the ideal weapon for child soldiers in Africa because it takes relatively little upper body strength to use.

And so we have the paradox of Mikhail Kalashnikov — hardly anyone in the past century has produced a product of any kind that performed as well as his rifle, and was so universally sought-after and used.

But hardly anyone has been the cause of more death.

He noted the paradox of tremendous achievement vs. tremendous harm himself:

“I’m proud of my invention, but I’m sad that it is used by terrorists,” he said on a visit to Germany, adding: “I would prefer to have invented a machine that people could use and that would help farmers with their work – for example a lawnmower.”…

If he had, I definitely would have wanted one of those lawnmowers. It would have started immediately every time, run on very little gas, and you’d only have to clean the filters once a year. And it would have lasted a lifetime.

North Korea is so incredibly backward, it issues threats by fax

Now that Kim Jong Un’s uncle has been executed and he no longer has adult supervision, he’s issuing threats. And how is he doing so, on the verge of the year 2014?

By fax:

North Korea on Friday threatened to attack South Korea without any notice via a fax sent to South Korea’s National Security Council, the Ministry of Defence said in Seoul.

The fax made reference to recent demonstrations in which effigies of Kim Jong Un were burnt in Seoul on the anniversary of Kim Jong Il’s death, an issue that often aggravates the North.

South Korea reacted firmly to Pyongyang’s warning that it would “mercilessly” attack “without notice” by sending a fax back that promised “resolute punishment” to any attack initiated by the North….

I like that touch — fighting fax with fax. Like, if you shoot a medieval catapult at us, we’re gonna shoot a medieval catapult back at you.

It’s got to be unsettling in Seoul, being so close to an adversary so deeply irrational that he puts you on notice that he’s going to attack without notice, completely without irony. And does it by fax. And isn’t embarrassed about it…

‘What did the world search for in 2013?’ Google knows…

zeitgeist

Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald are feeling like pretty important guys (just ask ‘em; they’ll tell ya), especially since they finally got one federal judge to agree with their view of NSA surveillance programs.

But as far as Google is concerned, they’re not all that interesting.

At least, they don’t show up in the Google Zeitgeist list of top 10 global trending searches of 2013. Here’s what does:

  1. Nelson Mandela
  2. Paul Walker
  3. iPhone 5s
  4. Cory Monteith
  5. Harlem Shake
  6. Boston Marathon
  7. Royal Baby
  8. Samsung Galaxy s4
  9. PlayStation 4
  10. North Korea

There’s more — much more. From Google’s blog:

Every day, around the world, we search. We want to find out more about our heroes, explore far-away destinations, or settle a dinner table dispute between friends. And sometimes we just search to find out how many calories are in an avocado.

In our annual Year-End Zeitgeist (“spirit of the times”), we reflect on the people, places, and moments that captured the world’s attention throughout the year. This year marks our most global Zeitgeist to date—with 1,000+ top 10 lists across categories like Trending People, Most-Searched Events and Top Trending Searches from 72 countries.

As we get ready to turn the page to 2014, we invite you to take a global journey through the biggest moments from the past 12 months in our Year in Review video

And how did the largest number of users finish the query, “what is…?”

With the word, “twerking,” that’s how. Really. We’re serious. Even if the rest of the world wasn’t. It was “twerking,” not, say, “metadata.”

Somewhere at The Guardian, there’s an editor weeping right about now. Probably the one who keeps leading the paper (or at least, the Web version) with Snowden/NSA stories

Fascinating NYT piece about Google Maps

maps

I continue to believe that Google Maps is, next to HTML code itself, the most amazingly absorbing thing I’ve ever encountered on the Internet.

This NYT piece, headlined “Google’s Road Map to Global Domination,” gives an extended glimpse into what Maps is all about, and the implications for the future. An excerpt:

 Where-type questions — the kind that result in a little map popping up on the search-results page — account for some 20 percent of all Google queries done from the desktop. But ultimately more important by far is location-awareness, the sort of geographical information that our phones and other mobile devices already require in order to function. In the future, such location-awareness will be built into more than just phones. All of our stuff will know where it is — and that awareness will imbue the real world with some of the power of the virtual. Your house keys will tell you that they’re still on your desk at work. Your tools will remind you that they were lent to a friend. And your car will be able to drive itself on an errand to retrieve both your keys and your tools.

While no one can say exactly how we will get from the current moment to that Jetsonian future, one thing for sure can be said about location-awareness: maps are required. Tomorrow’s map, integrally connected to everything that moves (the keys, the tools, the car), will be so fundamental to their operation that the map will, in effect, be their operating system. A map is to location-awareness as Windows is to a P.C. And as the history of Microsoft makes clear, a company that controls the operating system controls just about everything. So the competition to make the best maps, the thinking goes, is more than a struggle over who dominates the trillion-dollar smartphone market; it’s a contest over the future itself….

 

Jeff Bezos tantalizes us with drone delivery


I meant to mention this yesterday, but didn’t get to it.

The first thing I saw about Amazon’s tantalizing “unveiling” of drone delivery of packages — within half an hour, we’re told! — was a piece on Slate pooh-poohing it:

In an infomercial hosted by Charlie Rose on CBS’s 60 Minutes this weekend, Amazon announced that it plans to deliver small packages via drone in the near future. Many media outlets have credulously repeated this claim, just like they did with the beer-delivering drone and the taco-delivering drone.

However, the technical, regulatory, and logistical challenges of autonomous flight in crowded American urban airspace are far more profound than Bezos allowed on TV. As he said, the FAA is now revising its rules regarding autonomous flight. The FAA roadmap is complex. But it bluntly states (on Page 33): “Autonomous operations are not permitted.” There is an exception for line-of-sight operations for small UAVs. But Bezos’ vision of autonomous delivery in a city is not, according to the FAA roadmap, in the cards in the next few years….

Well, to be fair, Bezos did tell Charlie Rose it would be a few years. (But if the writer had Slate had really wanted to mock the media’s gee-whiz, boosterish reaction, he should have commented on the breathless “making of” feature about their Amazon scoop.)

In the spirit of scoffing, I thought about writing a post headlined something like, “Why doesn’t Bezos promise us teleportation while he’s at it?”

But truly, this is pretty much of a gee-whiz idea — little flying robots gently dropping stuff off at our front doors, and NOT taking the stuff back because we’re not there to sign for it? Who couldn’t love that.

Of course, I hope my libertarian friends will now stop insisting that the private sector is the place where innovations that make our lives better originate. I mean, the government’s been using drones for years, with deadly effect. And delivering payloads WAY bigger than five pounds, baby. It just shows how lame the private sector really is that we get excited over something that’s such a “been-there, done-that” to government.

Sorry, Doug. Couldn’t resist.

Seriously, folks, this is exciting. And we communitarians must admit that the one barrier to doing this is government — that is, the FAA. On the other hand, count me among those grateful that the FAA won’t automatically approve thousands of mini-helicopters buzzing around the yards where our kids play.

Someday, we’ll have this. Just as someday, we’ll have self-driving cars — once the liability issues are worked out.

And I like that Bezos is straining at the limits, getting out there, breaking molds, challenging assumptions, yadda-yadda.

It’s stuff like this that makes me hopeful that he’ll come up with mold-breaking ideas that save the newspaper industry, now that he’s in that business. I’d love a chance to help him do it. It would be wonderful (not to mention tremendous fun) to be on the technological frontier as a part of forging the salvation of the Fourth Estate.

Maybe we could even work drones into it…