The Global Search continues for a great Local Search

Techcrunch reports that Insider Pages, a local search, has been aquired, probably for just a little more than it’s initial investments of something like 8.5 million.

For about 2 years now there’s been a huge amount of talk about how important local search will be to the search landscape, yet no local search really stands out as a great tool. Even Google’s local search leaves much to be desired and I think was recently listed as a Google project that has failed to live up to early expectations.

Perhaps part of the problem is that local information best rests in the hearts and minds and “word of mouth” of locals. It’s not clear to me that a critical mass of local “voices” is available yet to tell the local story, which is often more nuanced than, for example, the type of descriptive information that is easy to find.

For example it’s easy to map Chinese restaurants in Chicago, but hard to determine which one has the best Kung Pao chicken, let alone which of these restaurants are the best. For that, ideally, you’d be able to interact with locals who frequent Chinese restaurants in Chicago.

Yelp is having some success in Bay Area but I’m not convinced their “virtual+real social networking” model is scalable to the whole country.

So, the search for great local search continues.

Orthotics !

After  having a lot of trouble with foot pain in the arch of my foot I decided to look into Orthotics.  The word sounds like a major geriatric bone condition, but actually Orthotics refers simply to supportive shoe inserts.    Orthotics are a premium LIFE HACK for people who have foot problems, and I think there is not a need to invest in the big expensive or “As seen on TV” orthotics.

I’m a little flat footed, and had heard about “Arch Support” and orthotics (inserts that support the heel and arch) but it was only recently I decided to check them out after several months of pain – perhaps due to more walking than I have in the past.

Wow, the Orthotics I got, which were just Dr. Scholls off the shelf ones for $8 a pair, worked wonders and I’m enjoying pain free walking and Table Tennis at our Table Tennis Club.

Speaking of Table Tennis the site is first for Ashland Table Tennis as it certainly should be, but we should also be first for all these terms because we are to my knowledge the *only* organized Table Tennis game serving Medford Oregon Table Tennis.

My dad has also had great results with his deluxe $20 custom made orthotics where they actually took a mold of his foot.    I’ll go that route if I have future trouble, but for now I’m saying bless Dr. Scholls, bless Wal-Mart, and please pass the Orthotic ammunition.

Bald Britney Spears busts out of Britney Spears rehab

Some time ago I was testing how terms are getting ranked by search engines here at the blog and I noted that blog traffic spiked from a simple post about Cicarelli, a famous model.   Time to test Britney Spears which is often at the top of all the world’s internet searches.

This is testing what happens when I mention Britney Spears in a blog post.   I apologize – sort of – to those of you who actually carefully follow Britney Spears news on a regular basis.  I’m not immune to the prurient interest in Britney that has captivated *billions* worldwide, but it really is a sad commentary on the state of our cultural well-being that Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, and Lindsay Lohan garner far more news time than, say, Global Health …

….. gee whiz Britney Spears, you’ve done it again!

Britney Spears Shaves Head, scream the headlines, and then in the small print if at all… millions die from lack of oral rehydration therapy.

We should be ashamed of Britney Spears, and ashamed of ourselves.

Larry Page – Artificial Intelligence attainable.

Over at Battelle’s there is a good AI discussion. I’m always amazed by how reluctant we humans are to realize that our intellectual abilities are neat, but generally overrated. In the evolution debate you see folks unwilling to recognize the obvious fact that humans are *almost certainly* an evolutionary extension of simpler organisms. In the AI debate even many who agree that humans are the product of evolution seem reluctant to assume that machines will ever attain consciousness.

Sure, there are significant computational and possibly biological hurdles in the quest for a fully conscious machine intellect, but there’s little reason to think these can’t be overcome within at most a few decades and hopefully sooner.

Hey – maybe I’m just sucking up to the intelligent machines so they’ll like me when they start reading the internet stuff written before they were conscious. Shame on me!

Page to scientists – get marketing, PhDudes!

Google Founder Larry Page spoke to the American Scientists Friday and encouraged them to market science projects better and also to look for solutions to pressing problems.    Good advice indeed.    I’m frustrated to see so much of the innovation and brainpower of American science go to the study of obscure or abstract things when it would be put to better use solving the pressing problems of out time like global health, infrastructure improvements, etc, etc.

Come on PhDz, let’s move those intellects into practical problem solving gear!

Mardis Gras a billion dollar tourism event? I’m skeptical.

CNN just reported that New Orleans’ Mardis Gras can bring a billion dollars in economic benefits to New Orleans, though they implied it would be less this year with “only” 700,000 visitors to Mardis Gras this year.

I’m initially very skeptical of both these numbers. I was in New Orleans a few years ago and it sure didn’t look to me like the French Quarter could sustain anything approaching that number of people.

I’ll check up but I’m guessing this is a bogus statistic based on unreasonably large multipliers. It’s a common trick in tourism metrics used to justify budgets and ad campaign results, and greatly confuses analysis of the tourism situation in various regions.

Let’s run some fuzzy math here: The main thing at Mardis Gras is drinking. Let’s assume drinks reflect half the economic impact of the event and cost an average of $5 per drink. That would suggest that during Mardis Gras 1 million people drink …. 100 drinks each!?


New Orleans CVB Economic Development report says 300 million impact of Mardis Gras, 5.5 Billion Annually from 10.1 million tourists. This is less than a third what was quoted by CNN for Mardis Gras, but still is a pretty unbelievable $545 per *person* per visit so I’d like to see where they are getting these numbers.

Battle Robots + AI = Trouble?

Although I’m very confident that artificial intelligences will be complimentary to humans and extremely beneficial to humanity it did give me pause today to combine the following two news items:

1) Larry Page of Google notes that he feels the brain’s algorithms are not all that complex and seemed confident that the Google folks now working on AI will have a quality intelligence developed soon.

2) Pentagon funds semi-autonomous battle robot project at Carnagie Mellon.

I wouldn’t want to have that robot’s machine gun staring down at me on the day when the robot decides humans are too irrational to deserve the planet.    Of course for this project the robot will drive itself but a human will be operating the gun.

“hey, says the battle robot, would you mind plugging me into the network jack over there … for just a few minutes ? ” 

Jobs to bad teachers: You should be out of JOBS!

I’m still digesting Steve Jobs comments about educational reform that will likely prove to be controversial. My first reaction is to say amen – he’s talking good stuff and I can only hope educators listen up. Jobs is suggesting two key pieces of educational reform. One is the elimination of textbooks in favor of free online content, regularly updated by experts in the field. Gee, I’d have to say that one is pretty much a no brainer, though I’m worried this won’t be clear to many teachers, too many of whom fear the online educational cornucopia rather than embracing it. This idea is more provocative than it appears at first. Textbooks are part of the insulation we have between the “real world” and school. Online interactive instruction would break this down in very positive ways, not to mention save money and bring unprecedented levels of expertise to students. Textbook: $55. Getting nobel prize winners to interact in real time with high school students across the country? Priceless. I say bring it on, Steve!

The second suggestion is to make it easier to fire bad teachers. I certainly and strongly agree with this in principle, though I’m not sure in practice this style works well in the public sector because it can reduce the morale and productivity of the good teachers and I’m not convinced there are a lot of “bad teachers” out there, especially in the K-12 programs. I’m the son of two teachers, the spouse of a teacher, and friend and relative to perhaps a hundred teachers across the country (I have a very large extended family). Teachers, in my extensive experience, are a good group of hard working folks who almost to a person are primarily and overwhelmingly interested in helping kids.

So, will firing the few bad apples help or hurt? In my talks with teachers it is always striking to me how different the perceptions are of good, hard working folks in the public sector compared to those of us in the private sector. Like Steve Jobs I’m gung ho on the benefits of kicking some major ass when needed. Incompetence should be “rewarded” with a swift boot out the door. However the private sector has this expectation where the public sector does not. Bringing the fear of firing to the education sector could bring unintended consequences such as forcing the good teachers to process more paperwork to “prove” their worth and thus diminishing their ability to teach. I’d want to see proof that “firing bad teachers” will do a lot of good before we go to far in this direction, though clearly we should help put pressure on *all* systems to allow for dealing with incompetence swiftly and mercilessly. That is not ruthless at all because the alternative is far worse as it lets a single bad worker ruin hundreds of children’s lives or thousands of products.

Polish Poets to Google: A domain by any other name won’t smell … as sweet.

A group of Polish Poets are holding out their domain name from the Google legal juggernaut. I’m torn between 1) seeing this for what it most likely is, where the poets saw a great opportunity to nab a name that would become a key part of the Google Mail branding strategy and did it and 2) the more entertaining view which is that “do no evil” Google is bulldozing poetry websites to make way for gmail parking lots.

Obviously the best way to resolve such disputes is a poetry contest. I submit this entry:

The Polish Poets, silently
Sat on their small domain

Then mighty Google shouted

Na zdrowie! Said the poets, raising high a glass of beer
This ain’t no joke, solemny spoke, the Google legal tier

“But we all think it’s funny”, said a thousand blogging fools

Get off your Google ass
Give them some Google cash
And call it all … just … cool


Meanwhile, back at the Plex, Google says “Good relationships are built on good communication”. Heh – as long as you don’t use any POETRY!

Phil’s got more and a fine choice of title.

Dell Ideastorm, a great idea!

Today Dell announced a social networking / Digg style site that they’ll use to collect ideas for new products.   I think it’s a great idea.   Not clear to me yet if Dell is going to use this for collective troubleshooting as well, which I think would be far more helpful than new product ideas.    Typically in my experience user forums are VERY cumbersome to use and I find it’s better to simply do Google searches and hope you bump into some expert commentary about a problem.  However with DIGG like content evaluation and better organization a sort of DELL FAQ / Troubleshooter would be great.