Thursday, 29 July 2004

Analyzing popularity of online resources

TRN reports an interesting new method for analyzing popularity of online resources ("Online popularity tracked"). In a nutshell, a group of researchers from Cornell University and the Internet Archive have developed a method for determining the "batting average" of a given resource.

The item description batting average is different from just tracking the output of a hit counter, which measures the raw number of item visits or downloads, said Jon Kleinberg, an associate professor of computer science at Cornell University. "The batting average addresses the more subtle notion of users' reactions to the item description as it appears in the fraction of users who go on to download the item."

The researchers found that on the Web, popularity often changes abruptly rather than gradually. "For example, an item would be getting downloaded at a rate of roughly 38 percent, and then at exactly 8: 35 a.m. on February 20, it would drop to about 24 percent and stay there for the next several days," said Kleinberg.

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Topics: Technology

VoIP regulation debate brewing

The debate over VoIP regulation has been brewing for several years, and it can be a confusing cacophony for anyone tuning in late. The New York Times was kind enough to run a feature article by Stephen Labaton and Matt Richtel on the subject this week ("Battle Brews Over Rules for Phones on Internet"). The article does a nice job of summarizing the points raised by Uncle Fed, the States, the relatively young "pure VoIP" companies, and the established telecommunications behemoths.

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Topics: Politics, VoIP

Wednesday, 28 July 2004

Arlo uppercuts Jib Jab

The latest Flash cartoon floating around is a hilarious parody of the U.S. Presidential campaign. The animated creation of Jib Jab stars President Bush and John Kerry, dancing to the tune of Arlo Guthrie's classic "This Land Is Your Land" and calling each other names like "right-wing nutjob" and "liberal sissy."

Despite the dangers (see: Idiot's guide to combatting satire), the company that owns the rights to Arlo's song has sicced its lawyers on Jib Jab. (See this CNN report.) President Bush learned first-hand in the last election that nearly any attempt to suppress Internet-based satire will fail spectacularly. Even if you have forgotten the incident, you probably remember Bush's (in)famous quote: "There ought to be limits to freedom."

CORRECTION (28 Aug.): Two days after posting this, I realized that Woody Guthrie not his son, Arlo wrote "This Land Is Your Land." I meant to post a correction but, unfortunately, managed to leave it in "save as draft" limbo. Yesterday, a concerned neighbor of Arlo's emailed me to set me straight on the facts. She also said that Arlo was unhappy with the record company's actions and that he thought his father would be, too. Then she pointed me to this link. I appreciate it when people constructively (and politely!) point out my mistakes.

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Topics: Civil Liberties, IP, Politics, Technology

Will Florida be the next Florida?

The New York Times reports on one Florida county's inability to keep proper election records after installing expensive new evoting machines. The money quote: "This shows that unless we do something now or it may very well be too late Florida is headed toward being the next Florida."

The records disappeared after two computer system crashes last year, county elections officials said, leaving no audit trail for the 2002 gubernatorial primary. A citizens group uncovered the loss this month after requesting all audit data from that election.
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Topics: Politics, Technology, eVoting

Saturday, 10 July 2004

Political Science

How often does a soundbite elegantly summarize a complex problem? Rarely. But Dr. Kurt Gottfried, an emeritus professor of physics at Cornell University, did just that in a recent interview (as reported in the New York Times).

Speaking of President Bush's manhandling of the scientific method, Dr. Gottfried said, "You can destroy that in a matter of years and then it can take another generation or two to get back to where you were in the first place."

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Topics: Politics, Science

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