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Quaintness in Salt Lake

(This is the script for a piece I did for the BBC World Service. Posted here by request. Podcast here.) Something rather quaint is going on in a Salt Lake City courtroom. A company called Novell, who you’d be forgiven for not having heard of, is suing Microsoft over a product called WordPerfect, which you also may not have heard of, which it says was hobbled from running on something called Windows 95 to protect its own product, called Microsoft Word. To be honest, you don’t need to know the ins and outs of this Microsoft law suit; nor do you really need to knowContinue readingQuaintness in Salt Lake

Getting Paid for Doing Bad Things (12″ version)

This is the extended version of my earlier blog post. The BBC finally ran my commentary so for those of you who want more info, here it is: Think of it as product placement for the Internet. It’s been around a while, but I just figured out how it works, and it made me realise that the early dreams of a blogging utopia on the web are pretty much dead. Here’s how this kind of product placement works. On the Internet Google is like a benevolent dictator: it creates great stuff we love, and with which most of the net wouldn’t work. But it alsoContinue readingGetting Paid for Doing Bad Things (12″ version)

Getting Paid for Doing Bad Things

I have recently received half a dozen offers of placing links in my blogs to reputable companies’ websites. Think of it as product placement for the Internet. It’s been around a while, but I just figured out how it’s done, and it made me realise that the early dreams of a blogging utopia on the web are pretty much dead. Here’s how this kind of product placement works. If I can persuade you to link to my product page in your blog, then my product will appear more popular and rise up Google’s search results accordingly. Simple. An ad wouldn’t work. Google would see itContinue readingGetting Paid for Doing Bad Things

Hundreds of Facebook Groups Hacked

  (Update UTC 2100: I’ve received a reply from Erik Hjort af Ornäs, the registrar of the site itself, and have included his statement below and in the comments, as well as that of Facebook. Both deny any hacking took place) A hacker, or group of hackers, has found a back door into taking over Facebook groups, and is now doing so, claiming it to be a public service. It has taken over up to 300 different Facebook groups so far. This is an example of one: On each of them the group name is changed to Control Your Info, the group logo changed andContinue readingHundreds of Facebook Groups Hacked

Driver Phishing II, Or Who Is Trentin Lagrange?

I’m fully awake now, and doing some digging on who is behind the Driver Robot “driver phish.” The digging has introduced me to a whole level to the software scam industry. The company that sells it is Victoria, BC, Canada-based Blitware (“or Blitware Technology Inc.,  to be precise,” as its website urges us). Nothing gives on its Who Is page, nor on the driverrobot.com website the software is hosted at. But a clue to the possibility that this isn’t just some cute little software developer is back on the LogitechDriversCenter website, which carries some named testimonials, among them this: “I got a new graphics cardContinue readingDriver Phishing II, Or Who Is Trentin Lagrange?

The Heatline of a Story

Google, apparently prodded by the ground covered by twitter news, has introduced a feature on its Google News search results that indicates what one might call the ‘heat’ of a story—how many sources are covering it over time: As with Google Search Trends, the stories below the chart are linked to the graph via letters (although one can’t click on the letters.) The chart appears to the right of any news search: I think it’s clever, and a good way of merging two different Google services (and a third: the images in the bottom right hand corner.) A note at the bottom explains the placementContinue readingThe Heatline of a Story

Encarta’s Passing: Harbinger of Redmond Doom?

Microsoft has announced that Encarta, its digital encyclopedia, will be dead by year’s end. First off, hands up who thought it had died long ago? Secondly, and before we get on to the whole Wikipedia thing, I’d like to make a more general comment about Microsoft: its online stuff is awful, and Encarta is no different. There are already plenty of people musing on why Encarta died, but I’d say one good reason is that it’s hard to access and get your mind around as pretty much every Microsoft online property. What worries me is that this isn’t a small problem anymore. It seems indicativeContinue readingEncarta’s Passing: Harbinger of Redmond Doom?

Sponsoring Theft

Are companies like eBay knowingly peddling stolen goods? Surely not, but I wonder about their advertising strategy. I get confused about how sponsored results work. You know, those textual ads that appear alongside search results or on a webpage. I mean, I thought I knew how they worked: someone buys a word and when that word appears they get their ad next to it. But when I look for “laptop stolen” on Yahoo! Answers, I get this: So what keyword are eBay, DealTime and Shopping.com sponsoring here? Or do they really have good stolen laptops for sale? And if so, wasn’t I told? Or theseContinue readingSponsoring Theft

Shrines to Frustration

It’s depressing that two gripes I’ve posted, both at least a year old, continue to get comments which push both posts to the top of the search engines. My grumbles about accessing Xdrive, an online storage service bought by AOL, comes out top if you search for xdrive problems on Google. Search for cancel napster and my post about how hard it was to cancel the service comes as the next result below a couple of official Napster sites. Both posts got more comments in the last few hours. I’m not particularly proud about this; I’ve already written a column about Napster’s poor cancellation process,Continue readingShrines to Frustration

Has PR Taken Over The Conversation?

Here’s the hot news for a Monday: PR firm Edelman has teamed up with Technorati to develop localized versions of their offering in German, Korean, Italian, French and Chinese. Edelman’s PR teams worldwide will retain exclusive use of these sites as they are being developed, beginning with French this summer. These localized versions – which will include keyword/tag search and more – will evolve into more robust public-facing sites that everyone will be able to access beginning in the first quarter of next year. Interesting. And, I have to say, puzzling. What is a PR firm doing developing content for what is basically a blogContinue readingHas PR Taken Over The Conversation?

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