Archive for March, 2008

Google, by the numbers

March 19, 2008

After accidentally searching for 50 on Google and getting a link to 50 Cent, I remembered the Google Suggest single-letter test when it launched, which showed the top result Google Suggest would give when you pressed just one letter. I imagine this has changed over time, but I’m doing a different test – what are the first things to come up when you search for numbers, 1-50, and what does that tell us?In each case, I’ve included links to a few of the top links (removing similar links,  which Google sometimes gets right and sometimes doesn’t), and when the source isn’t obvious from the title (like VH-1 going to and is interesting, I’ve added source information.  Also note that Google inserts a bunch of viral videos with numbers in them from YouTube etc. as part of universal search – I’ve just skipped them.

Google, by the Numbers

1 January 1 (Wikipedia [Wp for short]), MPEG-1 (Wp), CSS Level 1 (, VH-1, Deep Space 1 (a NASA project)
2 XML Schema Part 2 & CSS Level 2 (W3), MPEG-2 (Wp), May 2 (Wp) , a Ruby on Rails Tutorial (Part 2)
3 3 (Wp), January 3 (Wp), 3Com, CSS Level 3 Draft (W3), Halo 3, NYC Subway Line 3
4 4 (Wp), MPEG-4 (Wp), NBC4 in Washington DC, NYC Subway 4, 4-H, Human Chromosome 4 (note: when I did this search earlier from my iPhone, I saw 4Chan)
5 5 (Wp), February 5 (Wp), NYC Subway 5, Babylon 5, US Internal Revenue Code 5, NBC5 Chicago, Perl5
6 May 6 (Wp), February 6 (Wp), Google Holiday Doodle (the 6 is in the URL), Motel 6, Big6 (a literacy initiative), Java SE 6, Perl 6 (three links)
7 7 (Wp), January 7 (Wp), 7-Zip, WHDH 7 Boston, ABC 7 SoCal, KIRO 7 Seattle, QuickTime 7
8 8 (Wp), January 8 (Wp), Human Chromosome 8, Channel 8 (MSDN), Super 8, 8 ½ (IMDB), 8 Mile (IMDB)
9 The 9 (Yahoo!), January 9 (Wp), Channel 9 (MSDN), May 9 (Wp), Human Chromosome 9, Form I-9
10 Channel 10 (MSDN), Powers of 10 (the website), NBC 10 Philadelphia, March 10 (Wp), ICD-10 (disease classification, Wp)
20 20 (Wp), September 20 (Wp), 20/20 on ABC, Human Chromosome 20, Top 20 2007 Security Risks, 20Q (2004 Toy of the Year), US Title 20, 20 Years of Perl
30 30 (Wp), 30 Rock, September 30, (then results for 300),  a php statistics app – no idea why it shows up here, WVIT 30 Hartford
40 40 (number) (Wp), 40 Principales (Spanish Top 40), 40 (year) (Wp), The 40 Year Old Virgin (IMDB), American Top 40, WD-40, 40 Ajax accessibility tutorials,
50 50 Cent (official site), 50 Cent (Wp), 50 (number) (Wp), 50 Cent (AOL Music), Lycos top 50, Z39.50 protocol standards

Some notes:

  • Wikipedia, unsurprisingly, dominates the results – numbers, dates, years. The summaries varied widely – sometimes the first sentence of the article, sometimes a random sentence below
  • Technology, especially web standards and Perl, are all over the place. Maybe this is a sign of the long tail of technology online – if there’s nothing else more relevant, technology rushes to fill the space.
  • For every commercial brand (WD-40), there’s a non-brand (Z39.50).

Only because I did well on the last page of the survey

March 13, 2008

I think this is still too high

Clearly I’m ready to get my Texas teacher certification, assuming I meet the Texas teaching requirements.

Links 2008-03-12

March 12, 2008

iPhone: the second generation is the first generation

March 9, 2008

When they write the final story on how Microsoft’s attempt to unseat RIM on mobile devices was foiled by the iPhone – and make no mistake, the plink of “pwned” was just heard all across Puget Sound – one overlooked facet will be the implied upgrade.

I replaced my Samsung Blackjack with an iPhone right around launch day, and when I did, I assumed that Apple would continue to improve my iPhone: that when I sync’d with iTunes, I would occasionally get new features, new applications, etc.

It’s not obvious why I thought that would happen. My Mac doesn’t get free upgrades. My iPod gets firmware updates occasionally, but they don’t add new features. Steve Jobs didn’t say anything, there were no press releases, legitimate leaked reports, or anything else. Oh, and one other thing: phones don’t upgrade. We’re used to them being hotfix-for-emergency-only, like your printer or your HDTV.

When I talked to others, they were sure of it too. They were waiting for the announcements of this or that new feature, and we all assumed that our phones would get it. Why did we all think our phones would be upgraded? Something “told” us that. Maybe it was the unconscious reaction to the iPod firmware update process inside iTunes; maybe it was a belief that Apple “got it”; maybe since this was more like a computer and computers get free upgrades… but they don’t. For some reason, we believed in an upgrade.

Well, we were right. Over the last nine months, we’ve seen minor improvements to a bunch of applications, new features like customizable home screens and web clips, and the rollout of the iTunes store. This week, Apple announced and made available the beta of the iPhone 2.0 software, with the features necessary to make the phone enterprise- and developer-ready. It seems reasonable to assume that the 6,8,10 million iPhone owners will have the same software as anybody who buys the phone one year later. For those who didn’t want to buy the iPhone because they wanted to wait until the “second generation,” well, it turns out that for the most part, the second generation is the first generation. (This is especially true since the hardware has proven to be quite reliable.)

Compare this with the Samsung Blackjack. The Blackjack released in November 2006 with Windows Mobile 5 (WM5); Microsoft had already pre-announced features of WM6 by then, and released WM6 in February 2007. (Wikipedia compares the versions; major differences included Office Mobile, Exchange address book support, & HTML email.) There were hundreds of threads at places like Howard Forums with people building hacked versions of WM6 for the Blackjack (and similar devices like the T-Mobile Dash and Motorola Q), speculating on when it would be available, which carriers would allow which versions of WM6 for which phones and when, etc. Microsoft and AT&T (the Blackjack carrier) said nothing for months. It took until January 2008 – 2008! – for the Blackjack to support WM6. In the interim, dozens of phones were released with WM6.

So basically, you buy a Windows Mobile phone, that’s the phone you have. They make the OS better, you probably have to buy a new phone (or just wait a long time). WM phones, like iPhone, are mini-computers with mini-OS’s – making them non-upgradeable as the default plan of record was just one of Microsoft’s mistakes. (It looks like WM6 added Windows Update, but we don’t know if that’s just for hotfixes or for actual improvements.)

Apple got this right – the iPhone is a living, breathing device, improved consistently. When inevitably that stops – market pressure, hardware limitations, or impunity – we will still have seen more during the first 12 months of this device than any previous mobile phone.

With Twitter, You’re Always On the Record

March 5, 2008

In the last few months, Valleywag has integrated an interesting reporting technique – using public Twitter updates as first-party sources (and entire article topics). Examples include Yahoo’s Fire Eagle (screenshot below), Jimmy Wales plans quieter life, and the Twitter CEO’s upcoming big week. Here’s the first one:



This is one of the clearest crossovers between semi-private communication channels with “friends” and making public statements. Individuals use Twitter for sharing time-based nothingness with people they care about (and random stalkers). If you don’t lock down your Twitter stream – and it seems like very few people do, and you certainly can’t get “discovered” by friends if you do – anything you say suddenly becomes quotable. When you answer “What Are You Doing?”, you’re telling everyone. (I haven’t found any clear examples of anybody taking advantage of this – placing content in their Twitter to get picked up by Valleywag.)

Facebook is different, because since Facebook really does lock down the privacy of people’s profiles, the content that’s made it from Facebook to Valleywag etc. is always leaked by someone with access to the data – a more traditional way of getting unknown information.

There’s a legit case to make that this isn’t really article-worthy – what technologist launching a new product wasn’t cranking out bugs a few hours before a public release? – but that’s Valleywag’s MO, and you can’t fault them for using Twitter to do what they would have already done. It does place possibly-public figures in a bind, but it’s a bind of our own culture’s making. This wouldn’t be a problem for a generation earlier: they’d just say STFU. They’re probably right.

(Useless disclaimer: Owen@Valleywag helped me out with something once, and I still appreciate it.)