Web publishing, online research, stats, webmining and search engines.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Broadband in Gas

A company called NetherComm want to do Broadband-in-gas. Internet through your gas pipe. I thought it was a joke but apparently this kind of thing is possible.

I'm gonna patent Broadband-from-beer-tap. They can cache the internet in kegs under the pub.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

FactBites on the up

Our FactBites site is enjoying growing traffic, and I've just read a great review on the blog of Matthew Hurst, Director of Research at Intelliseek:
The results that Factbites generates are still extracts from web pages, but they are of far higher quality than the summaries that main stream web search engines provide. By focusing the technology on passages that make statements about the topic being searched for, the user experiences a far richer response. It should be noted that this type of interface has the potential to change the way in which searches are performed as the search engine is now doing more of the heavy lifting and is not trying to guess the intention of the user.
The site also has an In The News feature now, linking to the recent topics.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Migrants: Let em know they're in for.

Some thoughts on Australian immigration, but would probably apply for any country.

Australian Prime Minister, John Howard is floating ideas around at the moment about making people sit a test in order to become Australian citizens. This was a response to Opposition Leader, Kim Beazley's proposal that new arrivals to Australia pledge their allegiance to Australian values.

But why wouldn't applicants just see these things as just another bureaucratic hurdle? And I can't say I'm entirely comfortable with parliament legislating what our values are (even with the help of polling and the mass media) and having the bureaucracy word it for our benefit.

What about something less divisive that's in the interests of all parties? Just let them know what they're in for. Give them information they really want, before they make that fateful trip to the other side of the world. Ask them what they imagine their life will be like and tell them how realistic it is.

It benefits noone when Australian life turns out to be letdown. It costs our social security system and criminal justice system when disappointment turns to sloth and/or resentment. And for the immigrants themselves, even when they have no choice but to leave their own country, perhaps another is more suited to them.

Having gone to a very mixed school, I got some insight into the migrant experience. Very often their expectations about the country are different to what they get. It's amazing how little knowledge their parents had before taking the plunge.

Migrants should be told the following things:
  • Whether your professional qualifications will be accepted.
  • If those skills won't be accepted, how hard you will have to work to attain an average standard of living.
  • Even once you've achieved that you'll have to pay high levels of tax, and how strictly enforced.
  • Australians will feel that your children have a right to marry anyone they see fit, including people of other races.
  • That your children may adopt western values more readily than you might think, and may not care for you in your old age.
  • Australians generally believe that religion is a personal thing and don't like seeing it (mis)used in the public sphere.
  • You may not feel so welcome when you return to homeland years later. They may view you as betraying the motherland, or not suffering along with your people, yet seeking to benefit when times are good again.
This is just a few pitfalls I came up with off the top of my head. They could have different ones for each ethnic group, and they could be based it on migrant surveys.

Imagine if all this was delivered in a documentary style video starring their fellow countrymen who'd make the move and in their own language.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Oh Tube, Mirror My World

I've been following the lonelygirl15 controversy like everyone. It's taken a lot of older people aback how popular this bedroom broadcasting medium has become. In fact, she is just one of many "vloggers" that have attracted audiences that some TV stations would envy. Yet most of what she says is actually pretty pedestrian and boring. What's going on? Don't people have better things to do on the net? Isn't supposed to be approaching sum of all knowledge?

When television first came out, they dreamed it would enlighten the masses, bringing far off civilisations and education into the living room. What ended up happening was families gathered round to watch sitcoms which were fictionalised mirrors of themselves - other families in domestic environments.

The internet was originally going to be the great educator, empowering everyone with all the world's knowledge. Now it's turning into a mirror too with kids watching other kids sitting in their bedrooms in front of their computer. And in the case of LonelyGirl, it's fictionalised too.