July 2005

Jargon watch

According to a Data Memo by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 29% of online Americans have a good idea what phishing means, 13% what podcasting is, and only 9% know what RSS feeds are. Over half knew the terms adware, internet cookies, spyware, firewall and spam.

Of course, the real question in my mind isn’t whether people know what phishing means, but whether they know that regardless of what it’s called the 22 “You must change your PayPal password!” emails they have in their inbox are attempts at fraud. Still, it’ll be interesting to see how these terms spread in the next six months or so.

(Thanks to Rowan for the link.)

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Powerhouse Mechanic
“Power House Mechanic” (1920) by Lewis Hine

The New York Times story on PhotoMuse.org, a collaboration between the George Eastman House and International Center of Photography Alliance. (The site is currently overwhelmed, but they’ve got a sampler up at the moment.) From the article:

While there are now dozens of growing digital databases of photography on the Web, many – like Corbis and Getty Images – are commercial sites that do not allow the public unfettered access to their collections. The Photomuse site will join others, like the digital collections of the Library of Congress, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television in Bradford, England, that are beginning to create what amounts to a huge, free, virtual photography museum on the Web.

Anthony Bannon, the director of Eastman House, said one of the biggest hurdles encountered by the project – after overcoming the initial cultural resistance of both institutions to share their collections and expertise – has been converting the images of both Eastman and the center. onto a single computer system. (So far, he said, Eastman has digitized almost 140,000 of its photos and center about 30,000.)

“It’s not just like pushing a button and the images slide over,” he said, adding that copyright issues with many photographers could also keep many images off the Web for years. “Some are generous and understand the positive result by having the images seen on our Web site but others are worried about losing opportunities for revenue,” Mr. Bannon said. “All of us are still learning about how the Web can be used, I think.”

It’s nice to see traditionally conservative institutions opening up to the idea that on the Web, sharing your art, knowledge or expertise freely often pays you back far better than hording it.

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Japanese graphical search engine

MarsFlag is a new search engine in Japan (went live in March) that provides links as thumbnail images of returned results instead of text, with larger-version pop-ups when you rollover with the mouse. Supports full-text search (e.g. this search on wearable computer) as well as pictorial topic areas like movies, fashion magazines and motercycles.

According to Internet Watch [JP → EN], the search engine at least in part determines results ranking using bookmarks kept by the 35,000 subscribers to the Mark Agent web-based bookmarking service that the company also owns. MarsFlag claims this helps thwart attempts to gain page rank by creating link farms, a process called search engine optimization. (Presumably that’ll only work until SEO companies start generating fake Mark Agent accounts…)

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Panasonic shows off color eBook prototype

Tech-On reports that Matsushita (Panasonic) showed off a new prototype color eBook reader with a 5.6″, 210 points-per-inch display at the NE Technology Summit 2005 event held in Tokyo yesterday. Given that their current grayscale Σ book uses a bistable display made by Kent Displays, I would hazard a guess that their prototype is using Kent’s new color ChLCD display (but that’s just a guess). Bistable displays like the ChLCD and eInk‘s microcapsule display (used in the Sony LIBRIé) take power to change an image but not to maintain it, so they’re incredibly low power for low-framerate applications like eBooks.

(via engadget by way of Steve)

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Location-based apps

The theme for NPUC this year was The future of portable computing, so naturally there was a lot of talk about location-based applications. Ian Smith‘s talk on social mobile computing especially focused on using location. Personally I’m getting more and more skeptical about location-based apps. They’ve been right around the corner for a good decade now, and I’m starting to wonder if location-based apps are like video conferencing — something that sounds like it should be a hit but once they’re implemented nobody seems to care.

That said, I think if there’s ever going to be a successful location-aware application (outside of the ubiquitous museum-tourguide app) it’ll be one that uses location as an excuse to socialize. I’m not sure whether the final winners will look more like Dodgeball, GeoCaching, moblogs, or a cross between LiveJournal and the geospatial web (or all of these), but I’m pretty confident that when you scratch the surface the real point won’t be location, it’ll be human-to-human interaction that just happens to use location as the medium.

That also fits my general rule of thumb: The killer app is always communications. (That or sex, which is really a subset of communications.)

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