Home Again Pet ID System? You call this appropriate technology?

Is it just me or is this due for the idiot invention of the year award?

HomeAgain® is an advanced pet identification and retrieval system. A microchip the size of a grain of rice with a unique identification code that is implanted between the shoulder blades of your pet. Then your pet needs to be enrolled with the HomeAgain® Pet Recovery Service. HomeAgain® maintains a national database that is available 24-hours daily, 365 days a year. If your pet is ever lost, they can be scanned at animal shelters or veterinary clinics. Your pet’s identification number is called in to HomeAgain® (1-866-PET-ID24), and you are notified immediately.

… For those interested I have a simpler solution. 1) Get your OWN phone number etched onto a $2-5 dog tag 2) Hang it on your pet 3) Send me $10 for saving you from the HomeAgain database fees for life.

OK, so if the pet loses his collar my system doesn’t work but how many people finding a lost pet with no collar are going to SCAN them?

UPDATE: Based on the rather overwhelming support for chips I’m admitting I must be wrong about this.

Thank you for Smoking

This excellent film humorously examines the character and foibles of a likeable yet morally vacuous tobacco company spokesperson.   Rather than wrestling with the contradictions he faces raising a young son while strategizing for increased tobacco use, this character rationalizes his every move as he unapologetically lobbies for more smoking and less clarity. 

The movie pokes fun at both the pro and anti tobacco lobby using clever sarcasm and good performances.  Aaron Eckhart is simply excellent as the smooth talking lobbyist.

People and/or/for/non Profit?

Time Magazine:

Last month Gates-funded scientists announced that they had created the technology to manufacture artemisinic acid synthetically. Within five years, the cost of a lifesaving supply is expected to drop from $2.40 to 25 cents. Lead researcher Jay Keasling says it would not have been possible without a $43 million Gates grant. "I had companies call me and say, 'This is great, but we can't give you any money. We can't make a profit on this,'" he says.

I tend to be in the crowd that says profit is a great motivator to get companies to do bigger and better things, in turn raising the standards for most people and societies that intersect with those businesses.    At first glance the quote above indicates that in this case profit was getting in the way of optimizing development of new drugs where it will do the most good – in the developing world fighting easy-to-cure diseases or conditions like dehydration that kill millions every year.   But why didn't the Govts of those nations pony up for this effort?    Since the pharmaceutical industry was NOT the beneficiary of this was it reasonable to expect them to bear the entire financial burden?

Since the $43 million from the Gates foundation basically started out as profits distributed from Microsoft to Bill Gates, who in turn funded this life saving effort, we need to be cautious about saying profits are the problem here since they were the solution here as well.   Thus one could argue, and I think I would, that without a capitalistic infrastructure to create this wealth it's unlikely we'd see this development at all.

But most important is this question – how do we find the MOST effective mechanisms to create innovations on this scale?   I think the new breed of corporate foundations are part of the answer because they apply many of the successful principles of business to development projects.  Combine this growing force with tax and other incentives for companies that use their brainpower and expertise innovating for the broad social good.

And as for us everyday folks?  What can we do?  We can stop looking so narrowly at our own little niches, and instead look to the low hanging fruit solutions such as increased support for global health care.  We can broaden our perspective to a global one and recognize that we have to make small sacrifices in an effort to save entire generations who are threatened with disease and starvation but for the lack of simple remedies.   Even the most selfish person should realize that the satisfaction that comes from helping those in need is generally a much more profound experience than almost any other.

Darfur and the media

George Clooney deserves a lot of credit for bringing the media back on track about developments in what is arguably the world's most newsworthy and troubled place – Darfur, Sudan.    Unlike Rwanda the media has not ignored Darfur, but as with Rwanda the dangers, complexities, and lack of interest in USA have led to under-reporting which in turn sends politicians a signal that they don't have to act.

However it does not reflect well on the media or on us as media consumers that all it took was a bit of Clooney star power to snap this tragic story back to the top of the news where it should be.

Today's development is encouraging.  The Government of Sudan has accepted the peace agreement that could bring an end to horrible violence between Government sponsored militias and rebel forces.    As with many conflicts there are millions of regular people trapped in violence between bad Governments and groups of fighters with questionable agendas.

Darfur Conflict at Wikipedia

News about Darfur

Clear and Present Danger

Another great movie I somehow missed until today.   This is a Tom Clancy "Jack Ryan" drama where Harrison Ford must pit wits, honesty, and incredibly lucky odds surviving legions of bad guys with guns, machine guns, and rocket launchers. Also working against his efforts are an incompetent president, machiavellian NSA director and CIA deputy director of operations.  

The film has the USA attacking Columbian drug lords with a covert and insider CIA operation Ryan must slowly uncover in his new role as CIA deputy director of information.

One must suspend some common sense as is usual with Tom Clancy works (as for most hollywood CIA thrillers such as George Clooney's brilliant "Syriana"), the highest levels are portrayed as far too ruthless, choosing to abandon soldiers or operatives in ways that 1) have essentially no historical precedents and 2) Simply would not work even if human lives were considered completely subordinate to political agendas.   Even Presidents can't keep secrets very effectively in the USA. 

That's a good thing.

Tipping point of choices leading to actions.

Malcolm Gladwell, the clever author of "Blink" and "The Tipping Point", spoke to Webmasterworld Boston. One observation was that having too many choices can inhibit our actions, as in the case where a company that offered FEWER retirement plans found this INCREASED participation.

Noting how many super applications Yahoo has been spinning out over the past few years I'm wondering if other users, like me, are simply overwhelmed with the choices and therefore NOT taking advantage of what appears to be the best suite of options in the online universe.

I stopped using Yahoo 360 not because of problems – it's excellent – but because there are only so many routines to absorb when they are not part of your core set of work tools or interests.  Also, unlike Myspace, 360 did not seem to be creating an "exploding community" and thus time spent setting it up might have been wasted if it fell off the map as a community place.

I think I'm like many users who are not yet ready to tie into highly personalized programs though I'm getting ready for that now that I want to tap more effectively into RSS and the power of online communities.

Yahoo 360 (and my Yahoo) are such good tools that I'm planning to go back and figure out how to use each more effectively, but the trick as a user is to pick the best combination of quality and community.   Good applications that have small or shrinking communities are problematic for social reasons.  Bad applications with big communities have problems as well, though for different reasons.

Nuclear Power – More Needed ASAP

Even Senator Kennedy of Mass was on the radio a few days ago saying how we needed to take a new look at expanding the USA's nuclear power framework. 

Wow – when Kennedy starts talking nuclear power I think it should be the long needed wakeup call for the "head in the sand" crowd that continues to insist the dangers outweigh the benefits.  

They don't.  It's not even close.  Europe's electricity is mostly from nuclear plants, and they – tightly packed into small areas –  have a LOT more to worry about in terms of a meltdown than we well-dispersed Americans.   

Of course there is risk as there is with all power technologies, but it's been exaggerated by irrationality and "fear of the unknown".    China's consumption is rising and exploding.   This demand is unlikely to be met with even the most innovative alternative energy programs.

Ironically I think some of the same folks who are lobbying for greenhouse gas reductions are lobbying against more nuclear power.    They are letting politics and (largely faulty) ideas about the economy of capitalism prejudice good science and analysis of risk and reward.

Yahoo! It’s time to buy YHOO.

I've been waiting for a "sign" to buy Yahoo (well, some SHARES of Yahoo ) which seems due for a huge surge when their publisher network revenues kick in later this year. Yahoo has more traffic than Google but you sure wouldn't know it from the buzz, even among industry insiders. Capitalization lags Google big time for what appear to be no really good reasons.

My sign that Yahoo will do very well came last week as I signed up and used Flickr, which ranks among the most intuitive and brilliant applications I've ever used. Checking their Alexa stats Flickr is 85th most visited site and rising fast – proving that Yahoo can take a good idea, make it better, and expand a giant community almost overnight. A giant community that posts, for example, pictures from an Antarctica Science Voyage. Is Web 2.0 cool or what?

It's not that Flickr alone will increase YHOO profits.  What strikes me clearly is that Yahoo – far more than Google – is positioning itself as the front runner with big plans to grow and maintain the flexibility to fill many niche spaces created by the rapidly expanding Web 2.0 economy.

Yahoo's profit boost will come from online publisher revenues which now comprise about 43% of Google's revenue and will flow to Yahoo if they offer publishers a higher revenue share. Yahoo will be able to legally adjust profits upward very strategically using this technique and I'm guessing that they are now drooling at the thought of doing that.

Flickr is only one of many aquisitions of Web 2.0 companies by Yahoo, which is clearly the 2.0 leader.

Google's equivalent in the photo space? Hello? Hello? What the HECKo? It may be a good application, but I'll probably never know and almost everybody's using Flickr now, pulling others in every day.

People are very, very unlikely to switch away from a great application like Flickr once they start using it. This EBAY effect is powerful in some niches like online auctions or photos where the main barrier to participation is signing up and learning to use the service.

Contrast this with NO barrier but the admittedly powerful "habituation" to search engine use where it's likely people will flow to the 'best search' over time rather than the one they started with.   Now that Yahoo is equal to Google in relevancy this will tend to work in their favor as well.

Time to buy Yahoo! 

Deal or No Deal TV show reporting odds …. correctly


UPDATE: Ann's clever simulations indicate the odds are as stated on the show.

The TV Show "Deal or No Deal" appears to be a complex variation on the Monty Hall problem, but it's NOT.  I'm deleting my earlier *failed logic* which was wrong.

Apparently Monty's intentions matter in the 3 door game as follows:

Contestant picks door – this door will NOT be opened.

THUS there are 3 possible ways for the remaining 2 doors to be opened:

Empty, Empty
Empty, Prize
Prize, Empty

In Monty Hall, he KNOWS where the prize is and always uncovers an empty door.    However in a game where the host does NOT know and thus the prize CAN be uncovered, the game universe will EXCLUDE the Prize, Empty option.   This exclusion changes the odds, with each remaining option having a 1/3 chance of happening = equal odds whether you switch or not.

Jeremy’s paying attention to our lack of concentration

Jeremy Zawodny is having trouble concentrating.   I think he's speaking for a large and increasing number of people who suffer from the simply overwhelming and seemingly infinite amounts of information now available.

The barriers to massive amounts of information access approach zero in the online environment, a very different state of affairs than a mere 10 years ago when even simply answers required trips to stores or local libraries and good quality research on complicated or in-depth topics generally meant many trips to a university libary.

In the comments Tracy wondered if "Maybe technology is the downfall of humanity…

This is always a provocative notion. I hope the concentration problems mean we are not losing the tendency for good thinkers to spend long and reflective amounts of time solving complex problems when needed.
I'm still in the "pro technology" camp that says technology is far more likely to save us than bury us, but I'm not sure I'd want to debate that in light of the current state of global affairs and internet abuses and info overload.

If it wasn't a dispicably bad pun I'd suggest we have one of those open format conferences and call it "Concentration Camp"