Archive for the ‘General Commentary’ Category

Did TechCrunch’s Leaked Image Expose Their Google Informant?

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

I was lured into reading a TechCrunch story tonight which purports to expose a new social media utility called Google +1, and I happened to see that they had blurred out the Google username in the upper right corner, likely intending to obscure the identity of their informant who leaked the screengrab image to them.

When glancing at the leaked image fully expanded, it appeared to me that the blurring of the name was somewhat insufficient, and the letters appeared tantalizingly near to being recognizable. I couldn’t help but wonder: could the blurring be reversed?

With extremely minor image manipulation, I found that the blurred name indeed could be reversed, perhaps just sufficiently to make identification possible. Of course, the image could have been taken by a different employee, so I have redacted the altered picture.

[Image redacted upon consideration, because I do not wish to accidentally impugn a possibly-noninvolved person.]

Curious, I thought to cross-reference with LinkedIn, and indeed, I found a Software Engineer at Google whose name resembled the de-blurred pic.


Night Hotel: My Stay In A New York City Goth Theme Hotel

Saturday, October 9th, 2010

Night Hotel, New York, NYSo, this week I stayed at the Night Hotel in Manhattan while I attended the SMX East Conference. I’d registered too late to stay in one of the conference’s negotiated-price hotels (the Sheraton Towers), and I found the Night Hotel had similar pricing. (Besides, the Sheraton had a negative report in the Bedbug Registry, while the Night Hotel was gloriously free of such demerits!) I love all things Goth, so I looked forward to this opportunity!

The Night Hotel is one of Vikram Chatwal‘s luxury hotels, and it’s billed as having a Film Noire / Goth theme — very appropriate for “Gotham City”! I could easily see this being off-putting to many potential guests as potentially too disturbing or scary to be restful, while simultaneously being intriguing to many others such as myself. Also, it could easily be concerning, since a theme hotel could be high on concept and low on customer service. So, here’s my review of the place, along with pics!

The hotel is located at 132 West 45th Street, just off Times Square in Midtown, NYC. The exterior of the hotel is cool, with blackened windows and a giant gothic “N” logo banner that has slowly flashing backlighting.

Night Hotel Sign

I arrived, checked-in and went straight up to my room. I’m somewhat impressed by the room’s swipe card right off the bat, since it has a mini-map imprinted on the reverse side: (more…)

Artist Friend Margaret Withers’ New Blog

Sunday, September 26th, 2010

My good friend, Margaret Withers, has just launched her blog: Compound Artist Margaret Withers.

bacterial monster figure :: by Margaret Withers, 2010

bacterial monster figure :: © by Margaret Withers

I’m really quite proud of her — she is a do-it-yourselfer when it comes to marketing, and she’s got a fantastic instinct for it. Blogs are a great way to promote and represent one’s self, and a great way to create a dialogue with the online community.

I’ve often found that visual artists frequently avoid writing much, which is a loss to the community as a whole since it results in a sort of “silence” around their work as well as reduces the overall promotion benefit they might otherwise gain. It’s not surprising, really — most independent artists already have so many claims on their time, what with creating their art, schmoozing with gallery owners, operating small business paperwork, planning showings, preparing for showings, and more. Anything which reduces the time they can spend on creating art is often resented, and for many of them, writing falls into that category.

However, Margaret has always been effective at treating writing as yet another medium for art, and her infrequent writings involving art criticism (more…)

SuperMedia & Dex One To Cross-Pollinate: Precursor To A Merger?

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

This morning, Greg Sterling reports that SuperMedia and Dex One have entered into a distribution agreement, allowing listings and business content from Superpages to be displayed on DexKnows and vice-versa.

The first thought I had upon reading this was that it’s likely a precursor to a possible merger between the two companies, a little further on down the road.

SuperMedia, Yellow Pages publisher of       Dex One, Yellow Pages publisher of DexKnows and

I’ve been predicting some collapse amongst the players in the yellow pages industry for quite a few years now, and I’ve even stongly suggested (see: What Could Save The Yellow Pages? 10 Ideas) that some of the large YP directory companies might want to merge in order to reduce costs and improve their competitive strength.

There’s also been talk among financial analysts about how the hedge fund, (more…)

New Advisory Board Roles

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

I have recently joined the Advisory Board of Name Dynamics, the company which handles Universal Business Listings. (Press Release: Name Dynamics Announces Advisory Board of Key Search Industry Leaders)

I’ve also joined the SEO Advisory Board of FindLaw, a Thomson Reuters Company. (Press: FindLaw SEO Advisory Board)

I’m looking forward to serving both of these companies and contributing to their success!

Lighthouses Becoming Obsolete Due To Geolocation Technology

Monday, August 16th, 2010

I was interested to see in the New York Times this weekend that lighthouses and lighthouse keepers are becoming obsolete, in large part due to geolocation technology, such as GPS equipment on ships (probably due to cheaper radars, too).

It’s sort of sad to see an entire, specialized discipline and its iconic structures abruptly made unnecessary in this way, just from technological disruption. (more…)

Oh, Facebook – Why Must You Rehost Wikipedia?!?

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

In a move perhaps inspired by Google Map’s adoption of Wikipedia content and Google’s overall preferential rankings of Wikipedia, Facebook has been testing out articles that are highly similar to Wikipedia’s. In fact, Facebook’s article pages have actually sucked in Wikipedia’s initial article content for topics in a great many cases I’ve seen thus far:

Wikipedia articles on Facebook

From my perspective, this sort of breaks one of the great benefits of hypertext that made the internet great: linking to source content. (more…)

Corporate Psychopaths First Go In & Shank The Strongest

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010
Lucrezia Borgia (1480-1519), infamous lady of the Borgia family who purportedly poisoned rivals.

Lucrezia Borgia (1480-1519), infamous lady of the Borgia family who purportedly poisoned rivals.

I’m periodically reminded of some of the worst people I’ve had the pleasure of working with in corporate America. While everyone’s worked with people who are merely negative or less-intelligent or annoying, the worst-of-the-worst people are downright evil and malicious.

We spend so much time at our workplaces that morale and enjoyment of the people you spend your life with becomes very important. If one of those people is a sociopath, it can really put a strain upon your workdays. Strange that I would still think about these people, but negative incidents stick with you a lot stronger than positive ones, in many cases.

Some of these psychopaths float from company to company, leaving destruction and casualties in the wake of their passing. You can identify them pretty quickly — I remember one woman who introduced herself to me via an email note that was a fairly blistering flame — truly awesome intro for a relative newbie who can’t possibly have the full context of what/how/why things are done at a company. I say that it’s easy to identify corporate psychopaths, because, when they arrive at a company, they often go in seeking to shank the strongest first, like the new alpha-male, entering a prison block! They’ll attempt to sideline and eliminate the high-performers in order to be able to manipulate and control the entire environment.

These people are pretty wheels-off, out-out-of-control in many cases. They are primarily out for personal gain with no regard to anyone else, and/or they are out for inflicting unhappiness upon others for the sheer enjoyment of it.

Oh, the stories I could tell — (more…)

Have Google Logos Jumped The Shark? Father’s Day Logo Illegible

Sunday, June 20th, 2010

Google’s special logos (“Doodles“) commemorating holidays and historical events have been successful at conveying a playful nature for the ever-growing corporation. As time has gone by, the special logo treatments have begun veering off from playful quirkiness and have perhaps actually crossed the line of legibility. The Father’s Day Google logo deployed today is perhaps the worst example of all:

Google Father's Day Logo

The neckties, intended to whimsically reference the letters spelling out “Google”, have become so abstracted that I think their resemblance to the letters in the name have utterly disappeared.

Graphic artists can certainly recognize and appreciate the rough symbolic shaping, but this sort of symbolic reference is really too vague for most of the public.

I’ve enjoyed watching Google play with their logo for years while dancing all over traditional corporate intellectual property law for how trademarks should be treated. I’ve long felt that Google was thumbing their nose at frustratingly conservative IP lawyers who anally force major corporate employees to follow logo use style guides mindlessly. After all, the name itself can be a trademark, regardless of graphic treatment, and trademark law certainly is flexible enough to allow some degree of logo variations. Google’s logo treatments have shown that temporary logo variations and nonstandard logo treatments can be effected without incurring risk of “losing control of the mark”.

The problem I see with today’s Father’s Day logo is that the humorous treatment has become way too subtle for its own good — the logo is illegible, and devoid of the website most reasonable individuals would be unable to see the company’s name in the treatment.

Have Google logos finally jumped the shark with this treatment? Has the joke worn thin?

The challenge for the Google logo artists has been continuing the thematic treatments without becoming a cliche. Recently, Google has experimented with enabling individuals to display custom background images on the homepage, and their “doodle” advertising the capability was so roundly criticized that they removed the feature. The background image treatment was so derivative of Bing’s changing homepage background images (which aped’s earlier treatment) that many thought Google was trying to immitate the feature.

I think the takeway from this is that Google should stick with what is working for them and avoid straying too far from successful formulas. Today’s doodle logo lost the “Googleness” that made the concept so charming to begin with.

I expect they’ll continue displaying special logos, but they need to make them resemble the standard logo more closely or else the charm will be lost permanently.

The Nazi Google-Bombing In Google Maps

Friday, May 21st, 2010

Barry Schwartz pointed out on SER a Google Places Help thread about a Jewish business owner who is complaining about receiving “Nazi” keyword traffic via Google Maps. Indeed, if you search for something like “nazi” or “swastika building” in Google Maps in San Diego, this man’s Balloon business is oddly listed in the search results:

Balloon Utopia

Now, you might wonder why people would be searching for those keywords in San Diego in the first place, and there’s actually a reason why, as Barry pointed out. In fact, I feel marginally responsible for this, so I delved into the business owner’s question to try to diagnose what might be happening.

Some years back, among all the reporting and documenting I do about what’s going on in Google Maps, I came across a unique building in San Diego — an old military barracks, as it turns out, which is shaped like a Nazi Swastika:

Swastika Shaped Building, Coronado Base, San Diego

I documented that in my Flickr account, and went along without thinking about it much.

Until it went viral.

At some point, some radio DJs glommed onto the story and also the Anti-Defamation League came across the picture and made the public more widely aware of the offensive shape. Even though the shape could only be seen from flying overhead or via online aerial photos, public outrage was sufficient to persuade the military to agree to renovate the exterior of the building in order to change the shape in birds-eye profile.

So, there’s reason why a lot of people are searching for “nazis” and “swastika buildings” in San Diego. But, to a lay person it may not be clear why a balloon business might come up as relevant to those searches within Google Maps.

After delving into this, I believe there’s an explanation, and a solution (more…)