I am a software developer slash web designer living in Oklahoma. Here you will find some of my articles on and notes related to life, creativity and technology. You can also find me on Twitter and Flickr

It Gets Better

Thursday April 14, 2011

For anyone that has struggled with depression, loneliness, or self-doubt as a child or as an adult, this video is a stirring reminder that it, indeed, does get better.

[Update: Several other videos from Adobe, Google, Pixar, and many more.]

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I Need to Write More

Monday January 10, 2011

Every year I make a pledge to myself to write more and then proceed to spend the year reading more of what others write than keeping to my resolution. The problem is that my areas of interest are so well covered by those content authors that I follow, leaving me with without a reason to put my own thoughts to bits.

Once again, this year I’ve made a similar pledge. However, instead of pledging to write more, I have made myself a promise to find pleasure in writing again. To reignite the love of creating words, not just reading them.

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On Algorithmic Bias

Tuesday November 16, 2010

In a recent article, Hard-Coding Bias in Google ‘Algorithmic’ Search Results, Benjamin Edelman details what he believes to be hard-coded bias in the manner Google displays results for certain searches:

Search for a stock ticker (example: CSCO), and the three most prominent links on the page — the large-type all-caps ticker symbol, the large price chart, and the left-most details link — will all take you to Google Finance. Google Finance isn’t the most popular finance site; according to ComScore, Yahoo Finance claims that title, and indeed ComScore puts Google Finance in position #60 (as of April 2010). Nonetheless, the three most prominent links all promote Google’s in-house finance service.

Edelman goes on to cover searches for health terms, airport codes, movies, and patents and how each — when searched for using a specific format — result in Google giving preferred placement to its own or partner properties. By this, he comes to the conclusion that Google is abusing it’s power and is in violation of their “we do not manually change results” promise:

Indeed, Google’s use of hard-coding and other adjustments to search results gives Google an important advantage in any sector that requires or benefits from substantial algorithmic search traffic… I am concerned that Google has made inaccurate representations to the public including to users, publishers, advertisers, investors, and regulators. Comparing Google’s “we do not manually change results” and similar promises to Mayer’s quote and my findings, I can only conclude that Google’s promises are not true…

The mistake Edelman has made is in confusing the results that are returned as part of Google’s search algorithms and those that are specific to what Google has determined is the user’s intent; i.e. for what the user is actually searching.

If someone enters a stock symbol, it’s very likely that the current state of the stock is the desired result. Given that Google has their own finance service, it makes sense that they would use it as the source for this data. When Google lacks an internal source for this information, they tap into the services provided by their partners.

From a service standpoint, this is beneficial to Google and their users. By controlling the source of this data, Google is better able to ensure its availability. It wouldn’t make sense for them to rely on the ability other content providers to do the same, especially in the absence of formal partnerships. Users win because the information they were most likely interested in surfaces to the top — no further action required.

In most cases (movies being at least one exception), Google does provide outbound links to other content providers. These links appear to be “hard-coded” to a specific set of trusted, popular, or otherwise well-known sites. Yes, Google’s own properties appear first.

Edelman’s own findings make it is apparent that the display of these search “results” is based on very specific search input formats. I have no insider knowledge of how Google handles this within the larger set of search results; they could be algorithm-based, hard-coded, or a mixture of the two. Regardless, it does appear to be the case that this promoted content is in-fact separate in some manner from the standard search results.

Perhaps Google would do well to make the promoted nature of these content blocks more obvious, but their failure to do so should not be taken as an indication that they breaking any promises or being “evil.” If we are to take Google to task for how they display this content, then other search engines should be as well.

The question is, are users better served or harmed by promoted content within search results when that content has a higher potential to meet their immediate needs?

Comment

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Kurosawa

Tuesday March 23, 2010

Zatoichi meets Yojimbo!

John Gruber on the birth of Akira Kurosawa (黒沢 明) — master Japanese filmmaker — a century ago:

A giant was born 100 years ago today.

Couldn’t agree more. I have been watching his body of work over the past few months; films I’ve seen several times and others I never had the chance to experience before. What I’ve found is that Kurosawa’s films are more than watchable decades after their release, even in comparison to Hollywood’s greats from the same time periods.

Yojimbo (用心棒) would be my favorite for all its quirky humor and the perfectly composed score by Masaru Satō (佐藤 勝). I have a feeling Barebones Software might agree.

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On Nexus One Sales

Wednesday March 17, 2010

John Gruber recently linked to a comparison published by, mobile app analytics company, Flurry showing 74th day sales estimates for the Apple iPhone (1G), Motorola Droid, and Google Nexus One. From the Flurry article:

Inspecting the graph, it’s immediately clear that Nexus One sales continue to pale in comparison to iPhone 1G and Motorola Droid, with each besting Nexus One sales by roughly 8 times over the same time period.

Gruber believes that the sales aren’t all that bad considering that Google likely never intended the Nexus One to be a high-selling device:

I don’t think Google ever intended the Nexus One to be a high-selling device; it’s pretty clear from Apple’s experiments with iPhone pricing that subsidized pricing drives sales.

That seems like a plausible assumption given that the whole manner in which Google is selling the phone seems to be an experiment in changing the way in which we buy these devices. As others have noted, the low sales figures are probably a result of a side-effect of this experiment: the inability for most consumers to try out the device before purchasing.

Add to that the device’s use, in the U.S., of the T-Mobile specific 3G band and a single subsidized-price-plan option. Given that the device has limited appeal to anyone not on T-Mobile’s network — you buy a smart phone like the Nexus One, you want 3G service — the potential market is already going to be reduced significantly from that of the iPhone (AT&T) or Droid (Verizon). How many of those potential T-Mobile subscribers don’t already own an Android-based phone like the G1, MyTouch 3G, or Motorola Cliq? How many of these are still in two-year contracts? None of this adds up to readily exploitable market potential.

The Nexus One is (supposedly) going to soon be available for both the AT&T and Verizon networks, which should give a better indicator of how the device does against the iPhone and Droid on their “home turfs”.

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