Friday, January 30, 2009

Google Bomb Linking Miserable Failure to the President Barack Obama

The terms Google bomb and Googlewashing refer to 
practices intended to influence the ranking
 of particular pages, in results returned by the Google search engine.

Wikipedia



Searches for Google Bombs came to the leading positions in the Google Trends, when that became clear that Barack Obama inherited them from the predecessor, George Bush. It is interesting to see, how easy it is to manipulate searches positioning if needed. Foxnews article below also has some political taste, which is just spicing the content, however I have to admit that the facts mostly support the offered assessment. Still, there are possible additional explanations on why the Obama clearance took much faster than Bush clearance. My be, Google has acquired recently new IP or developed new technology, allowing to eliminate Google Bomb threat much faster than before. Who knows?



***

A Google search of ’miserable failure’ now returns Web sites about the Googlebombs rather than the original pages that were returned.

It took four years for Google to address the "Google bomb" that was lobbed at former President Bush.

But it took the Internet behemoth only a few days to defuse the same attack on President Obama.

Four years versus a few days ... Some Googlers are asking why.

In 2003, President Bush’s detractors successfully gamed the Google search engine by arranging to have countless Web sites link the words "miserable failure" to Bush’s official biography on the White House Web site.






The result was that when someone typed the search term "miserable failure" into the Google search box, Bush’s bio rose to the top of the search results.

And that’s how it stayed until 2007, when Google developed an algorithm to detect what became known as "Google bombs" and re-directed the term "miserable failure" to non-political pages.






Unfortunately for Obama, "miserable failure" reverted back to his bio when he moved into the White House. The new president was also Google-bombed with the phrase "cheerful achievement."

But this time, Google stepped in quickly, rectifying the situation in a few days, instead of four years.






The difference in time did not go unnoticed.

"You let this go on for the entire Bush administration," a reader named w3bgrrl wrote on a Google blog. "But since you bought the White House for Obama, you don’t want your candidates harmed ... And your claims not withstanding, even liberals know you’re liberal."

But another writer, Mikkel deMib Svendsen, gave Google the benefit of the doubt.

"I do think many of [Google employees] are liberals but I am also 100% confident that the large majority of them are also very professional people that take the job of creating a good and unbiased search engine very, very seriously," he wrote.

Google itself said the reason it took only a few days to redirect Obama’s Google bomb was that, this time, it already had the algorithm in place.

"Though the spirit of change may be in the air in Washington, some things apparently stay the same," Google software engineer Matt Cutts wrote on a Google blog. "After we became aware of this latest Googlebomb, we re-ran our algorithm and it detected the Googlebomb for [cheerful achievement] as well as for [failure]. As a result, those search queries now return discussion about the Google bombs, rather than the original pages that were returned."

In another company blog, Google software engineers Ryan Moulton and Kendre Carattini wrote that the "pranks" aren’t a very high priority for the company.

"But over time, we’ve seen more people assume that they are Google’s opinion, or that Google has hand-coded the results for these Googlebombed queries," they wrote. "That’s not true, and it seemed like it was worth trying to correct that misperception."

Danny Sullivan, editor-in-chief of Search Engine Land, says Google could have acted even faster in Obama’s case, and that he was "disappointed" that the Internet giant did not act preemptively last week.

"They knew this was an issue before the inauguration, but it wasn’t until after it happened that [Google] finally got to it and said, ’We better re-run our system,’" Sullivan told FOXNews.com.

"I know there are bigger issues to worry about," he said. "But then again, people turn to search engines to try and find information and this is the kind of thing you want them to be paying attention to as part of an overall communication strategy."

Sullivan likened Google bombing to a "neighborhood kid spray-painting on your wall," and he said he expects these kinds of digital antics to continue.

"It’s probably going to be an inevitable fact of life for politicians moving forward to see themselves involved in these types of pranks," he said. "But you don’t want to go around reacting too much, either."

Asked if he thought Google’s reaction to the Bush and Obama Google bombs appeared to be biased, Sullivan replied, "I give them the benefit of the doubt. If you’re an Obama friend at Google, waiting until after he’s in office is not being a good friend."

According to an article by CNET News, the Obama "cheerful achievement" Google bomb was created by Montreal blogger Eric Baillargeon, who did not return requests for comment.

Obama spokesman Nicholas Shapiro declined to comment Thursday.

A Yahoo! search of "miserable failure," however, returns the official White House biographies of Obama and Bush, respectively. Company officials did not return a request for comment Friday.

***

While political Google Bombs are quite common, there are other types appearing here and there: commercial, promotional, competitive, and simply for fun.

Just look what you can get when you search for "French Military Victories"






PingPongPie created a list of the 10 most successful Google Bombs in the recent history:

10 successful Google Bombs that I’ve come across in recent years. Some of you may even remember them from when they were active. So in no particular order, we have:

1. “More evil than Satan himself” brought up the Microsoft homepage.
2. “Dumb motherfucker” linked to a site selling George W. Bush-related merchandise.
3. “Miserable failure” or “failure” on the 29th of September 2006 brought up the official George W. Bush biography.
4. In the run up to the 2005 UK election, “liar” linked to former Prime Minister Tony Blair.
5. A long-lasting and moderately successful bomb would be making the word “Scientology” link to Operation Clambake (www.xenu.net), an anti-scientology movement.
6. Another Scientology-related google bomb was born on the 29th of January 2008, when a google bomb linking the search “dangerous cult” to the homepage of The Church of Scientology was created.
7. Steven Lerner, the creator of Albino Blacksheep, created a joke webpage in 2003, which was titled “French Military Victories.” When searched for on Google, the top entry took you to a page that resembles google, but reads “Your search - French military victories - did not match any documents. Did you mean French military defeats?” This received over 50,000 hits in the first 18 hours of opening. Links near the top of the page lead to a simplified list of French military history. Even if you google “French military victories” now, it’s still the top result.
8. A bombing run targeting former US Senator Rick Santorum was embarked upon by columnist Dan Savage after the Senator made several controversial remarks towards homosexuality. The bombing was part of Savage’s plan to have the word “santorum” used for the combination of semen, lubricant and excrement that results from anal sex, and propelled the website created for that purpose to a high result for “santorum”.
9. Jewish writer Daniel Sieradski asked his blog readers to link to the Wikipedia article for “Jew” after he found that googling “Jew” returned the anti-Jewish website “Jew Watch” as the top entry. The bombing was a success and removed the site from the top result, but unfortunately Jew Watch still appears on the first page of results.
10. A search for “McDonald’s” was linked to the film Supersize Me, which was highly critical of the McDonald’s restaurant chain.

***

To understand how easy is to arrange the search engine steering to the wrong direction, there is simple instructions by Adam Mathes on how you can join the Google Bomb campaign, distributed on the web in 2001:

Here’s how you can join in the first ever international google bombing:

1. Get a web site. If you already have a web site, you can skip this step. If not, be a cheap bastard and go Geocities, Angelfire, Pitas, whatever. I don’t care. Everyone has something to say blah blah blah personal expression yadda yadda. Just remember the Google bombing.
2. Whenever you update your site, which should be approximately three to five times a week, be sure to include the following HTML at some point:

Andy <a href="http://www.ohmessylife.com">"talentless hack"</a> Pressman

3. Add your site to Google.
4. Wait for the magic to happen! Soon, whenever you type in talentless hack into google, you’ll see Andy "talentless hack" Pressman smiling right back at you.
-Adam Mathes, "Filler Friday: Google bombing," –¨ber: Better Than You, Daily, April 6, 2001

Bomb generation infrastructure is presented below:






Sources and Additional Reading:

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,485632,00.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_bomb
http://www.pingpongpie.com/2008/06/10-successful-google-bombs/
http://www.wordspy.com/words/Googlebombing.asp
http://scio-sphere.blogspot.com/2007/02/google-bomb-from-bang-to-fizz.html

Thursday, January 22, 2009

5,000 Employees to be Laid Off in Microsoft

Microsoft Corp. said Thursday it is cutting 5,000 jobs over the next 18 months, a sign of how badly even the biggest and richest companies are being stung by the recession.







The layoffs appear to be a first for Microsoft, which was founded in 1975, aside from relatively limited staff cuts the software company made after acquiring companies.

Just review the documented occasions over the past decade when the company has trimmed jobs through reorganizations and other changes.

June 2006: 148 positions in the U.S. sales group, including 98 in Redmond, were cut to "better align a small subset of field and headquarter positions more closely with the needs of our enterprise customers and partners."

September 2004: 93 positions in the Windows Server group eliminated as the company automated more testing. 44 new positions were created at the same time.

August 2004: 76 positions were cut in the Xbox group as Microsoft closed its sports video game studio. It was part of a broader reduction of the company’s game creation efforts as third-party studios began developing more titles for the original Xbox.

June 2004
: 20 recruiting positions were eliminated as part of human-resources department restructuring.

January 2002
: 168 positions were lost when Microsoft pulled the plug on its UltimateTV effort. It was described at the time as one of the largest layoffs in Microsoft’s 27-year history.

January 1998
: 30 to 40 full-time workers at 10 Sidewalk city guides offices were cut as the company learned to operate the effort more efficiently, a spokesman said. The company planned to expand the online guides to more cities in subsequent years.

January 1996: 120 employees at a Bothell floppy-disk manufacturing plant were given layoff notices as more software was being produced on CD-ROM.

But also remember that during the same period -- 1996 to 2008 -- Microsoft has grown total worldwide employment more than 340 percent from 20,561 to 91,259 as of June 30. The hiring continued through the latter half of 2008, albeit at a slower rate. As of November, Microsoft counted 95,664 employees globally.

Based on the numbers and historical data, 5% workforce cut is a unusual business step for Microsoft, caused by unusually poor market conditions.






The company announced the cuts as it reported an 11 percent drop in second-quarter profit, which fell short of Wall Street’s expectations. Microsoft shares plunged 7 percent in pre-market trading.

Microsoft said it was being hurt by deteriorating global economic conditions and lower revenue from software for PCs. The holiday quarter of 2008 was the worst the PC market had seen in several years.

The Redmond-based company says profit slipped to $4.17 billion, or 47 cents per share, from year-ago earnings of $4.71 billion, or 50 cents per share.

It says total revenue edged up 2 percent to $16.63 billion, as software for corporate computer servers helped offset an 8 percent drop in revenue for PC software.

The results missed Wall Street’s forecast for earnings of 49 cents per share on sales of $17.08 billion.

Microsoft says the job cuts will reduce operating costs by $1.5 billion as it prepares for lower revenue and earnings in the second half of the year. The company says it is unable to offer profit and revenue guidance for the rest of the year, because of the market volatility. “We are planning for economic uncertainty to continue through the remainder of the fiscal year, almost certainly leading to lower revenue and earnings for the second half relative to the previous year,” said Christopher P. Liddell, the company’s chief financial officer.

Microsoft is not alone among the software giants who experience difficult times at the moment. Many tech companies are struggling. Intel recently announced plans to lay 6,000 people off because demand for personal computers has dropped. IBM, which yesterday reported better-than-expected results, also reportedly continues to trim staff. Google also is reportedly starting to pinch pennies, laying off 100 recruiters and closing some engineering offices.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Terrafugia Transition - First Flying Car

Have you ever dreamed that your car can fly? If you have not, you are an exception. Because when the fresh news about the first real flying car (or roadable aircraft) hit the ground, the search for flying car is steady in the top searches at Google.

Carl Dietrich not just always dreamed of building a flying car, but did everything to make it true. On the way, he realized that he has to modify it, however. The pragmatic inventor ended up creating what he calls a “roadable aircraft”, a plane that folds up its wings on landing and takes to the highway. In 2010, after three years of development, his vehicle, the Transition, will be available to customers for $194,000.

Terrafugia, the Woburn, Massachusetts Company behind the Transition, began as an extracurricular activity for Dietrich while he was completing his Ph.D. in aeronautics and astronautics at MIT. Dietrich, 31, knew from the start that the odds were stacked against his project. Since the time of the Wright brothers, there have been more than 100 attempts to build drivable planes or flying cars. All have failed commercially.

"The basic problem is simple: A car is heavy, a plane is light," says Lionel Salisbury, publisher of the Roadable Times, a Web site devoted to chronicling flying-car attempts. "The two don’t go together well."

Dietrich’s early sketches envisioned a plane that would be driven rather than an automobile that took flight. At every step of the process, he was guided by the need to create something to be used in today’s world, not tomorrow’s.

So he and his team designed the Transition with regular car tires instead of aircraft tires. When the wings are folded up, the craft can park in a typical home garage, and it even runs on premium gasoline rather than aviation fuel. "We knew we could build it," Dietrich says. "The question was, ’Can we make money on it?’ The key was not to base the business plan around a market that is not real."

Transition’s design team studied the history of similar machines and the inventors who failed to bring their concepts to market. The most notable was Moulton "Molt" Taylor, a former Navy pilot who designed his first Aerocar in 1949, launched it in 1956 and produced a grand total of six vehicles.




Terrafugia concluded that the Aerocar failed because it was too difficult to convert from plane to car. "You had to unbolt the wings and reassemble them into a trailer," says Anna Mracek Dietrich, Carl’s wife and the company’s COO.

Terrafugia doesn’t lack for competitors. In Los Angeles, Icon Aircraft is currently marketing a towable light aircraft that is amphibious (price tag: $139,000). In Alvin, Texas, LaBiche Aerospace has developed a flying sports car, which is classified as an experimental aircraft, and is taking orders for the $175,000 kits. Milner Motors, a father-and-son team based in Vancouver, Wash. and Bethesda, Md., is working on a prototype for a drivable plane that it expects to sell for $450,000. Publicly traded Moller International (MLER) in Davis, Calif. has designed a personal aircraft that takes off and lands vertically. There are others as well, but Terrafugia appears to be further along than most in bringing its product to market.

Terrafugia plans to manufacture the Transition in-house for now, although the Dietrichs aren’t opposed to partnering with a larger manufacturer in the future. Meanwhile, they’re negotiating with the Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. Department of Transportation to settle on a design that satisfies both aircraft and auto regulators. That doesn’t even begin to address the substantial insurance challenges.


The FAA gave Terrafugia a boost in 2004, when it relaxed structural and maintenance requirements for ultra-light planes by adopting the Sport Pilot and Light-Sport Aircraft Rule. This allowed experimental aircraft designers to push the technological envelope.

The Transition is powered by the same 100bhp engine on the ground and in the air. Terrafugia claims it will be able to fly up to 500 miles on a single tank of petrol at a cruising speed of 115mph with two people and their luggage onboard. It will also come with an electric calculator (to help fine-tune weight distribution), airbags, aerodynamic bumpers and of course a GPS (Global Positioning System) navigation unit.

Terrafugia Transition - First Flying Car


Anyone can drive it as a car; however, you will need a key code to make the wings unfold. You can only get this key code if you have a pilot’s license, so that’s good for safety’s sake.

In the next five years, Dietrich hopes to sell a few hundred Transitions, mostly to wealthy private pilots and professionals who need to make short but regular flights. As FSB went to press, Terrafugia had gathered 40 deposits and its order backlog totaled more than $8 million.

While the company doesn’t anticipate mainstream adoption of the Transition, Dietrich does expect an envy factor: "You see it in your neighbor’s driveway," he says, "and you realize that he has a freedom you lack."

Videos:

Transition landing: from the skies to your garage…




Transition video tour at AirVenture Oskhosh 2008 Show





Sources and Additional Reading:

http://money.cnn.com/2008/12/02/smallbusiness/flying_car.fsb/
http://www.slashgear.com/terrafugia-transition-is-drivable-airplane-0918737/
http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/industry_sectors/engineering/article5489287.ece
http://news.cnet.com/Flying-car-ready-for-takeoff/2100-11389_3-6040007.html

Monday, January 5, 2009

Third-Hand Smoke: True or False

Readers of this blog who still smoke (as I am) should be ready to the tougher restrictions and wider limitations. You can still smoke in your house, or in your car (if no small kids present), but may be these privileges will be removed soon. So, enjoy your last cigarettes while you can. And read a fresh article published January 2, 2009 in New York Times (Author: Roni Caryn Rabin).


A New Cigarette Hazard: "Third-Hand Smoke"

Parents who smoke often open a window or turn on a fan to clear the air for their children, but experts now have identified a related threat to children’s health that isn’t as easy to get rid of: third-hand smoke.

That’s the term being used to describe the invisible yet toxic brew of gases and particles clinging to smokers’ hair and clothing, not to mention cushions and carpeting, that lingers long after second-hand smoke has cleared from a room. The residue includes heavy metals, carcinogens and even radioactive materials that young children can get on their hands and ingest, especially if they’re crawling or playing on the floor.

Doctors from MassGeneral Hospital for Children in Boston coined the term “third-hand smoke” to describe these chemicals in a new study that focused on the risks they pose to infants and children. The study was published in this month’s issue of the journal Pediatrics.

“Everyone knows that second-hand smoke is bad, but they don’t know about this,” said Dr. Jonathan P. Winickoff, the lead author of the study and an assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School.

“When their kids are out of the house, they might smoke. Or they smoke in the car. Or they strap the kid in the car seat in the back and crack the window and smoke, and they think it’s okay because the second-hand smoke isn’t getting to their kids,” Dr. Winickoff continued. “We needed a term to describe these tobacco toxins that aren’t visible.”

Third-hand smoke is what one smells when a smoker gets in an elevator after going outside for a cigarette, he said, or in a hotel room where people were smoking. “Your nose isn’t lying,” he said. “The stuff is so toxic that your brain is telling you: ’Get away.’”

The study reported on attitudes toward smoking in 1,500 households across the United States. It found that the vast majority of both smokers and nonsmokers were aware that second-hand smoke is harmful to children. Some 95 percent of nonsmokers and 84 percent of smokers agreed with the statement that “inhaling smoke from a parent’s cigarette can harm the health of infants and children.”

But far fewer of those surveyed were aware of the risks of third-hand smoke. Since the term is so new, the researchers asked people if they agreed with the statement that “breathing air in a room today where people smoked yesterday can harm the health of infants and children.” Only 65 percent of nonsmokers and 43 percent of smokers agreed with that statement, which researchers interpreted as acknowledgement of the risks of third-hand smoke.

The belief that second-hand smoke harms children’s health was not independently associated with strict smoking bans in homes and cars, the researchers found. On the other hand, the belief that third-hand smoke was harmful greatly increased the likelihood the respondent also would enforce a strict smoking ban at home, Dr. Winickoff said.

“That tells us we’re onto an important new health message here,” he said. “What we heard in focus group after focus group was, ‘I turn on the fan and the smoke disappears.’ It made us realize how many people think about second-hand smoke - they’re telling us they know it’s bad but they’ve figured out a way to do it.”

The data was collected in a national random-digit-dial telephone survey done between September and November 2005. The sample was weighted by race and gender, based on census information.

Dr. Philip Landrigan, a pediatrician who heads the Children’s Environmental Health Center at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, said the phrase third-hand smoke is a brand-new term that has implications for behavior.

“The central message here is that simply closing the kitchen door to take a smoke is not protecting the kids from the effects of that smoke,” he said. “There are carcinogens in this third-hand smoke, and they are a cancer risk for anybody of any age who comes into contact with them.”

Among the substances in third-hand smoke are hydrogen cyanide, used in chemical weapons; butane, which is used in lighter fluid; toluene, found in paint thinners; arsenic; lead; carbon monoxide; and even polonium-210, the highly radioactive carcinogen that was used to murder former Russian spy Alexander V. Litvinenko in 2006. Eleven of the compounds are highly carcinogenic.


Don’t you think that is pretty scary picture? You do want your kids to be healthy, aren’t you?

To be honest, I am still not completely justified that the threat is so huge, that I should quite immediately. And I am not alone in this skeptical approach to the report. Reaction to this report on the Chicago Tribune Web site has been decidedly negative. Commenters mostly feel that many aspects of life can be harmful and that third-hand smoke is a scare tactic.

Good Grief writes "DIRT is bad for kids if they ingest enough" and Cadillac says "I think we should be more concerned with World War 3 instead of 3-rd hand smoke!"

Fox News’ Greg Gutfeld does not believe the report, calling the research "junk science." He writes, "This research is geared toward one end only: The banning of all smoking on private property - including your home."

The interest to the topic raised the third hand smoke inquiries to the top Google Searches today.