Archive for July, 2010

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Google And The CIA Invest In “Temporal Analytics Engine”

[ Comments Off ]Posted on July 31, 2010 by admin in Technology

Saturday, July 31st, 2010

Google and the CIA may sound like strange bedfellows, but not in an era in which the ad industry is building “databases of intentions” based on your surfing habits. Learn how “harmless” sites like are tracking where you surf, and what you type while you’re there. And how to prevent it.

Love it or hate it (and in spite of occasionally hilarious results) the Google auto-complete feature can be uncannily accurate when guessing the rest of what you’ll type. So wouldn’t it be great if in the future, Google would know what you’re searching before you even search for it? If this sounds more like the movie Minority Report to you than reality, you should take a look into the kind of marketing and data mining methods that are in common usage on the web. For those of you who miss the “Big Brother” vibe of the Bush era and the Patriot Act, ponder this: Google and the CIA are both investing in a company called Recorded Future that “goes beyond search” to “visualize the future, past or present” using what Recorded Future calls a “Temporal Analytics Engine”. Although a disturbing alignment of interests, this isn’t so far from what other companies are already doing. Dig deep into the links in the recent WSJ feature What They Know to learn about who’s poking and prodding your browser, and which tracking technologies are at work. The days of simple cookies are over; these services use Bugs, Beacons and Flash Cookies (more on these insidious Adobe doodads below) not only to store information about which sites you visit, but even what you type while you’re there, or in the case of Flash Cookies, to re-insert the conventional cookies you’ve deleted without telling you! And we’re talking about “harmless” sites that you visit all the time, like and CNN. While one might argue that you’d be happy to be served up ads based on the things you actively look at – which is a big part of what the intention is with these technologies – there are a few problems with that line of thinking. First of all, for people like me, this is an utterly useless approach; I do a lot of research looking at things that really don’t interest me. So when I write a piece about the billions being made by Farmville, for instance, I then get fed a constant stream of REALLY dumb ads targeting people who play web-based games and shop at Walmart. Another problem is that these third party services are often based on predictive marketing, and attach your data in ways that really DO very nearly identify you specifically with IP addresses and other information. BlueKai, for instance, is “aggregating valuable shopping and research behaviors across the Internet” to build “the world’s largest database of intentions”. Yes. You read that right. A “database of intentions”. If this stuff doesn’t trouble you, try putting what these companies are doing in a real-world scenario. Imagine going to the mall, buying something at The Gap, and then having a little attendant walk up and say “I’m just going to follow you around and watch what you buy, so we can improve your experience here at the mall today”. That would of course be annoying and unsettling, but wouldn’t it be even creepier if you knew a team of attendants were doing it with remote surveillance techniques? Below are some basic tips for easily blocking these rather invasive marketing tools. Read the rest of this entry »

Did The iPad Kill The Kindle?

[ Comments Off ]Posted on July 30, 2010 by admin in Popular Media

Friday, July 30th, 2010

Not yet. But they sure forced a price drop. And changed a paradigm. Will YOU buy a Kindle now that they’re only 139 bucks?

My dream is that one day you’ll click
on my Amazon Kindle ads while
you read my writing on an iPad.

Amazon wants to rekindle their relationship with you. They’re really, really sorry they were charging you so much for just reading a book with them, so they want to offer you another chance at making things work. And this time they’re only charging you $139. That’s right, Amazon’s Kindle, which just last year was priced at $299, is now only $139. In spite of the press about how the Kindle’s sales accelerated last quarter, the fact is that the iPad made quick business of mopping the floor with the Kindle, and the only hope Amazon has is to do exactly what they’re doing, which is price-slashing. If you read that Business Week article, you might take note of the fact that while Amazon expects to sell over 3 million Kindles this year, Apple sold over 3 million iPads in just EIGHTY DAYS. We poked a lot of fun at the iPad this year, and even rounded up aspiring “iPad Killers”, but the fact is, if any of those devices really intend to do any killing, they’ll mostly be killing themselves by marketing themselves that way. In his seemingly unending genius, Steve Jobs made us think Apple was launching a new device, when what they really were doing was launching a platform and shifting a paradigm. Although I’m still anxiously awaiting a more full-featured iPad-like device from whoever builds a good one first, I’d buy an iPad hands-down over a Kindle for media consumption. But I don’t want to use an iPad or a Kindle, I want to be on them. As a media creator, this is possibly the most exciting new publishing channel since the web itself gained a wide reach, and I’m more excited than you could imagine about the possibilities; it’s the first time in a while that a platform with such broad potential reach is accessible to “the little guy”. As this Ad Age article about Virgin’s new iPad-only magazine “Maverick” points out, major publishers have their hands tied because they can’t charge less for an app than they do for the print version of their established magazines, so they have less incentive to get involved, because they’d potentially be damaging their own struggling profit model. Expect to see an explosion of new development much like iPhone apps, but with much richer content and easier distribution of content if you’re a media creator. And look for us there soon.

Elite British Photobomber Paul Yarrow

[ 2 Comments ]Posted on July 29, 2010 by admin in Lifestyle & Culture

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

We really need a better term than “photobombing” for the weirdos that insinuate themselves into the background of news broadcasts.

Paul Yarrow’s Mentor, Rollen Stewart

About a month ago someone sent me a link to this site, where they were pondering the identity of a “mystery man” who was constantly popping up in the background of live British newscasts. At the time, I blew it off; to me, a few of the shots looked Photoshopped, and I thought it suspicious that there were plenty of screen grabs, but no video. Well, it turns out there was a mystery man, and he has a message. In his words: “I could have a valid point about something but the microphone is always passed to the person alongside me. The point I am making is that the more you push me aside, the more I’m going to be determined to make my presence known.” Well done Paul, glad you finally got the mike so you could share that. Just don’t become the next Rollen Stewart, who – after becoming a regular fixture in sport broadcasts wearing a rainbow wig and holding up signs reading “John 3:16″ – ended his “career” with a kidnapping and standoff with the police in 1992. While you have to give Yarrow some credit for his media savvy, you shouldn’t give him too much. While there have been hundreds of streakers over the last few decades, only one of them had the sense to cut a deal with the internet casino, the casino best known for spending $28,000 on a decade-old grilled cheese sandwich. Unfortunately for GoldenPalace, they paid him to streak at the same event at which Janet Jackson had her wardrobe malfunction. We really need a better term for this kind of behavior; the term “photobombing” doesn’t really capture the meta-significance of a fat man devoting his life to appearing in the background of a newscast. Suggestions welcome. Read the rest of this entry »

Candidates That Make The Tea Party Look Like, Er, A Tea Party

[ 2 Comments ]Posted on July 28, 2010 by admin in Politics

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

A quick roundup of 2010 political campaigns fueled by Jesus, 9/11 conspiracies, and a poorly guaged Lithium prescription.

Vote for Basil Marceaux, and he’ll
“immune you from all state crimes
for the rest of you life”

I was recently lamenting the seriousness of American politics, but it appears the Patron Saint of Crazy has smiled upon us. The other day we talked about Alvin Greene, who campaigns as a Democrat for the US Senate when he’s not busy being an unemployed felon that lives with his mom, but it seems there’s a veritable epidemic of viral-campaign-ready loonies out there, with the infectious epicenters currently located in Tennessee and Michigan. In Tennessee, we have a heated gubernatorial race between Basil Marceaux, whose main pitch is “VOTE FOR ME AND IF I WIN I WILL IMMUNE YOU FROM ALL STATE CRIMES FOR THE REST OF YOU LIFE” and James Reesor , whose Feet On The Street Reesor Sign Tour is built on a “95-county Grassroots campaign through Fast-food restaurants and car lots”. We won’t bore you with more copy that just regurgitates these candidates’ platforms; their slickly-produced videos deliver their messages much more eloquently and efficently. Video below. Read the rest of this entry »

The 80′s You Remember Never Existed

[ 4 Comments ]Posted on July 27, 2010 by admin in Music

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

When you think “80′s Music” you probably think of bands like Tears For Fears, Depeche Mode, New Order, or the Pixies. Think again.

Luckily, your selective memory has
protected you from things like this

In a vintage fern bar somewhere in some small Florida beach town, there’s a forty-something couple in matching white polyester pants and Hawaiian shirts, bombed on Slippery Nipples and dancing to Olivia Newton John’s “Let’s Get Physical”. These two people are probably the only people alive who remember and enjoy the “real” music of the 80′s. I love it when people start reminiscing about all the great music of that decade, and proceed to name bands like Tears For Fears, Depeche Mode, New Order, the Pet Shop Boys, or the Pixies. Because that simply was not, in reality, the music of the 80′s. Although it may have been in some people’s reality, particularly those people whose reality was shaped by dark dance floors and copious quantities of alcohol and other drugs. But in the real reality, things were much different. A fact that is overlooked even in the erudite commentary of a piece like Justin Erik Halldór Smith’s Against Eighties Music, which features a picture of The Cure’s Robert Smith and references Stereo MCs, who didn’t really even break until 1993. No, the fact is that if – like me – you readily remember an endless stream of masterful electronica and epically brilliant alternative bands, you were probably doing what I was doing, which was hiding in a club behind a drug haze to escape the horror of the pop music that was REALLY dominating the airwaves and record sales. Below is a year-by-year look at the best-selling music of the 80′s. No wonder we stayed out all night dancing to the club music most of us remember, and then slept all day. We were just trying to avoid accidently hearing this crap by accidently turning on the radio or something! Read the rest of this entry »

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