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We've been going over a lot of information lately and I thought DM 17 was getting a bit long-winded. I'll start this off with a few blog links.



Scoble's Phone Call With Edelman







Homophily And Social Software Design


Nat Torkington has a great post on homophily and social software design.


The Washington Post has a brief article called "Why Everyone You Know Thinks The Same As You". In short, you hang out with people who are like you, a phenomenon known as homophily. This happens online, and indeed the Internet can lower the costs of finding people like you. But homophily raises the question for social software designers of how much they should encourage homophily and how much they want to mix it up.


He goes on to explore the tradeoff of fulfilling our desire to group with the similar and expose people to the different. I'd suggest considering that the most productive social networks have a dense core and a dynamic periphery, and strong ties don't come cheap, there is a role for both.


Nat suggests recommendations (if you liked X, try Y) are quick wins, but still within narrow interests, while Mavens-as-algorithms (people who liked X also liked Y) can serve as connectors. Personally I prefer designing in popularity indexes because it inspires productive gaming for participation. I also fear my Gmail thinks I am gay. But while you can automate some aspects of social discovery, they lead to weak ties at best. The answer may be more pivotal...


Another way to build in serendipity is to have pivotal navigation: tags, top ten lists, and Flickr's interestingness measure are all ways to break people out of whatever group they're in and take them to something new. Links are at the heart of this: we've all been lost in clicking our way through a drunkard's walk of the Internet at one point or another. Inspire that in people: build those links and the metadata behind them into your site from the get-go.


Links remove barriers to our abundant desire to share. Not only do we have a desire to be with people we like, we suffer from the problem of believing what we write and create is more valuable than it really is (cough). Some facet of our identity is just waiting to show off to strangers, not just in hopes of finding more people we like, but affirmation from even people we may dislike (deep down George W wants Kim Jong Il to like him, really really like him). We may want to be with people we like, but we have multiple facets of our identity, so we are like different people when we can get away with it. We also affiliate ourselves with people we would like to be, or objects that help express given facets of our identity.


More practically, people and the social incentives that drive them are incredibly diverse, and value accrues to people who bridge social network clusters. So give users tools to bridge divides and create new groups. Support ridiculously easy group forming. While many things drove Myspace into popularity, easy group forming around independent bands drove not only growth overall, but rich serendipity.


I believe people self-correct for homophiliy. Just yesterday in an internal blog, Kirsten Jones noted she realized has been so heads down at work that she was going to subscribe to some new feeds on the outside.


But I have one point for this post, it is that people are better connectors than algorithms and if you give them tools for it, their practices will exhibit emergent properties you couldn't predict as a solution for serendipity.


I'll end this post with an underscore, from IWB at IBM:


Through experience, we have learned the limitations in our ability to leverage IT to automate quintessentially human tasks, even many seemingly simple ones, no matter how fast our computers have become. I think that the key breakthrough that we have needed here is a cultural one - it is perfectly OK to integrate people in the design of our systems. A good, elegant design is one that lets machines do what they do best, and lets people do what they do best.








Homophily in Social Software


The Washington Post has a brief article called "Why Everyone You Know Thinks The Same As You". In short, you hang out with people who are like you, a phenomenon known as homophily. This happens online, and indeed the Internet can lower the costs of finding people like you. But homophily raises the question for social software designers of how much they should encourage homophily and how much they want to mix it up.


Consider sites like Findory, where machine learning techniques present news to you based on news you've said you liked. It's often been asked whether this filtering just encourages people to see the news that supports their prejudices and never see news that counters them. Indeed, people were saying this about Usenet killfiles in the 80s and 90s. As social software and recommendations engines become part of the fabric of Web 2.0, the issues of homophily become important.


Designers first need to decide whether homophily is a a feature or a bug. Life is easy when you're unchallenged: this is why people read the New York Times or watch Fox News or even just watch the 5pm news (the one with the deaths taken out) instead of the 7pm (the one that's all death). Do you accept that your audience wants to be around people like them and that your job is to make that as easy as possible? NYT and Fox News show that it can certainly be a path to financial success.


If you don't buy into homophily completely, what can you do? Recommendations increase your pool of interest in very short steps. To break homophily, recommend something for reasons other than "this meshes very tightly with your profile". This seems heretical at first: the whole logic behind recommendations is to guess at items the user will probably like. But it has to happen. For you to identify their complete region of interests, you necessarily have to show them things in and out of that region. If you prematurely narrow in, you'll end up only showing them stories about melting Antarctic ice shelves without connecting to the rest of environmental, travel, or scientific stories that they're really interested in. The best way to make those connections is to mix it up.


Doing this creates serendipity: pleasantly surprising the user. For example, don't show just the top 10 most similar items in your recommendations list, but show the eight most similar and two from the mid-range. Or call the "less relevant but also likely to be interesting" results out like you're advertising them: put a heading like "Take a walk on the wild side" or "Break out" on top and act like it's a feature you're offering, not a bug you're fixing.


Breaking out of the tight circle of self-similar recommendations is a feature. I tried pandora.com and listened to all the bluegrass music that was like the music I like, until Pandora had no more that I wanted to listen to. It was briefly a bit like a poker machine--I spent another fifteen minutes trying to find new music before I finally realized there was no jackpot to be held and left. Pandora never said "look, I'm out of music to recommend to you--perhaps you'd like to head off on these related jags?" Don't make your software an exhaustible pool of narrow recommendations.


Another strategy that works is to take a leaf from Malcolm Gladwell's "Tipping Point" and find the connectors--people who join homophilic clusters. This is a feature a bit like "people who liked this story also liked" but it specifically eliminates your personal history and preferences--the point is to use the current object (person/photo/music genre/news story/...) as a gateway out of your shallow meme pool. Pandora could say "the genres most liked by people who like this genre are", for example.


With social software, I think there's a lot of room to exploit profiles. Think of social software as software that connects people through activities. The activities are necessarily around some common shared interest but they function as walls around those interests. Let people build out profiles to express the full range of their interests and is start conversations about other interests. Look at MySpace profiles for examples of how keen people are shove every facet of their life into a text field, preferably with blinking orange text and accompanying 50cent soundtrack.


The methods I gave earlier for advertising interests ("Did you know ... Joshua Schachter also competitively whittles Persian cats") let you learn more about the people you already know. That's an important difference from the prototypical serendipitous recommendation: "you and X should become friends!" As Liz Goodman pointed out, we're grown-ups and have lots of friends already. What else can the software do for us besides making it even harder to keep up with all the people we know? People are conversational animals, give them more things to talk about.


Another way to build in serendipity is to have pivotal navigation: tags, top ten lists, and Flickr's interestingness measure are all ways to break people out of whatever group they're in and take them to something new. Links are at the heart of this: we've all been lost in clicking our way through a drunkard's walk of the Internet at one point or another. Inspire that in people: build those links and the metadata behind them into your site from the get-go.


Your challenge for this week: spot the social software features of a site you use that encourage homophily, and figure out two ways to break that homophily. Post your suggestions in the comments and on Friday I'll send a free book from our new releases list to what I think is the best idea (O'Reilly books only, sorry--my astounding freebie powers bounce off the kryptonite walls of Paraglyph, the Prags, and Syngress).


Tags: findory flickr pandora social software web20

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I work in student affairs IT at a university and we've been talking about just this thing. Facebook is obviously on our mind often, and I came up with a new feature for Facebook I call "The Stretch." Right now Facebook has lots of information about students in terms of what they like, their political bent, their ethnicity, etc. They also know what events students RSVP for. My idea was to develop some "likeness" score between nodes or groups of nodes on the network. The stretch would look at you, find a group of people a little different than you, and suggest events that are a little bit (but not very far) out of your comfort zone based on the people that are a little different than you. The idea is that it's easier to get someone to go to something a little different than radically different.


That's my idea.


Posted by: Kyle Johnson at October 17, 2006 04:28 AM


Livejournal. Homophily sets in when you're adding friends (they're your friends already, or friends of friends, both of which mean you'll have at least something in common.)


How about instead of searching for users that have the most interests in common with you, you search for someone that has absolutely nothing in common with you what so ever, and have a browse through their journal. There will no doubt be links and articles that you'd never had looked at otherwise. Just have a peek at them.


Or (secondly) join one of the many many debating communities (hopefully you can find one that isn't all shouting screaming flame wars!) but make sure that it's one on a subject you have no knowledge of. Then you can read all views and opinions and come to a judgement yourself, and maybe participate afterwards.


I think the main thing with homophily and how to break it is to just jump. Pick one thing, completely at random (flick through a dictionary or something) and just read about it, follow links etc. Chances are you'll find a subject related to the random subject you'll like.


Of course the questions is if you then become interested in the new subject or make new friends, does that just extend your own homophilic network?


Posted by: Ewan Gunn at October 17, 2006 04:33 AM


Designers first need to decide whether homophily is a a feature or a bug.


I think this viewpoint is very telling - and it illustrates the core challenge to designers of social software. That is, do we attempt to design software to our users that reinforces their social patterns, or do we design software that breaks these patterns or introduces new complexity into their social world.


For example, a person might have one bar that they frequent. They like this bar because they know the bartender, their friends frequent the establishment, they like what is on tap - they are comfortable with the experience. Is it the role of the social software developer to reinforce this positive experience, or to force the user to experience new contexts? If you forced the user to leave their bar and try new ones, they might like these new bars, but this action would be breaking the established social pattern this individual is accustomed to.


Humans are homophilic largely because we are movement-limited. We spend the first 18 years of our lives around a small, protected group of people. Once we have mobility, we largely choose to remain around people like our original group - it is homophily, but it is homophily because it is what we are used to. That is, our social patterns have constructed a value for homophily that consistently operationalize.


Of course, on the internet, there is no limitation to mobility. A person can be anywhere - but this new context doesn't mean we leave our social values behind. CMC literature shows that in online contexts, we will grasp at the smallest notions of similarity to find group identity. This desire to be in a like group, a carryover from our real-world, homophilc existence, is extremely strong. Furthermore, we will go to great lengths to bootstrap our existing social models onto the online contexts.


Without question, we use the internet to find new things. However, just like we don't expect that comfortable bar to be gone one day, forcing us to use a new bar, our social software shouldn't force us to break our existing social models.


Therefore, it seems to be useful to not think of homophily as a problem to be solved - indeed, homophily has negative consequence such as reinforcement of stereotype - but social software can't break this. Instead, we must think of ways to coax users to experience new contexts, operating within their social experience. Homophily isn't a problem to be fixed, per se, but rather an important part of human nature that must be designed around in social software.


Posted by: Fred at October 17, 2006 05:17 AM


yes yes yes and...


Immediately before reading this, I read Gary Stein's post called Clique-Through: Deep Reach Within Small Audiences.



Drilling deep into a small core group for a market foundation is now a proven strategy, and how to broaden the scope of these strong pools is a current question.


...my specific focus for some time has been on linking core groups through the places where they overlap the most.




Posted by: Vera Bass at October 17, 2006 07:32 AM


Anti-homophily and homogeny features will be most successful when they focus on unresolved user needs. The argument that homophily breeds narrow-mindedness is somewhat irrelevant if your cool meet-someone-new feature dies in obscurity. That being said, the time is nigh for web 2.0 user contributions to go beyond content and into service and support. Take a service like Netflix that could really benefit from some mold-breaking recommendation capability. As a customer, I could flag my profile as one that is looking for some personalized movie recommendations from other users. By rating how good the specific user recommendations I get are (e.g. "I've already seen it" vs. "ordered it and it blew me away�"), recommenders build a matchmaker quality rating, show up on leaderboards, etc. This reputation-style rating in turn is used to rank recommendations more highly if they come from certain guides, and one could imagine this going deeper in a number of ways (who's best at finding sleepers?). This concept also meshes well with the blurring of site user vs. site administrator phenomenon that seems to be unfolding as participatory services mature - take Wikipedia (bureaucrats) and Slashdot (admins) as two examples.


Posted by: Keith at October 17, 2006 08:05 AM


Books, music and reading material are one thing, but this issue is especially profound in the context of online matchmaking services.


I took a few small steps into the world of online dating a couple of years ago, but I met my current girlfriend in a very old-school, offline way. On the surface, we have very little in common. We come from different ethnicities and very different backgrounds. She's a techie. I'm artsy fartsy. Our hobbies and interests barely overlap. Where it counts, however, we are perfectly aligned.


It's unlikely that an online matchmaking service would have steered me to someone so apparently different.


Posted by: Shawn Smith at October 17, 2006 12:51 PM


Kudos for naming this long standing need in software. When I think of homo-/hetero-phily, I always go to Kai's Power Tools and its mutate function. It's one of the earliest software implementations that I can think of, and it gave the user the power to choose how similar or different they wanted their results.


Posted by: Beau at October 17, 2006 01:02 PM





See also:


Why Everyone You Know Thinks the Same as You


You can see it the next time you visit your office cafeteria or a nearby park: Whites sitting together with whites, blacks with blacks, young people with other young people. When individuals from these groups mix, it is usually because they share something else in common, such as a pastime.


Sociologists call this phenomenon homophily, a somewhat grand word to describe the idea that birds of a feather flock together. Thinkers from Plato and Aristotle onward have observed that people seem to be drawn to others like themselves.


But while the basic idea is simple, homophily has surprisingly complex causes and consequences. Three weeks ahead of a midterm election, for example, it is playing a powerful, but largely invisible, role in politics.


Studies show that most people interested in politics associate nearly exclusively with others who have similar political beliefs. In fact, research by sociologist David Knoke at the University of Minnesota shows that if you know whether a person's friends are Republicans, Democrats or independents, you can predict with near certainty that person's political views.


Homophily may help explain some of the bitter partisanship of our times -- when your friends are drawn exclusively from one half of the electorate, it is not surprising that you will find the views of the other half inexplicable.


"I often hear people say with absolute certainty that whoever they are in favor of is obviously going to do well because they haven't talked to 'anyone' who supports the other person" in the election, said Lynn Smith-Lovin, a Duke University sociologist who has studied homophily. She rolled her eyes and said, "Oh yeah, sure! That is a good argument."


While the instinct for homophily in politics and other areas seems hard-wired, technology may be fueling our nature. Cable television and the Internet have allowed enormous numbers of people in distant areas to form virtual groups that are very similar to what you see in the office cafeteria.


Smith-Lovin's research, for example, shows that homophily is on the rise in the United States on nearly every dimension of social identity. Ever larger numbers of people seem to be sealing themselves off in worlds where everyone thinks the way they do. No Walter Cronkite figure unites audiences today, the sociologist noted. We can now choose cable stations, magazines and blogs that see the world exactly as we do. If the research on homophily is right, those heavily e-mailed partisan screeds from the op-ed pages are largely talking to those who agree with those points of view to begin with.


But while people may choose blogs or op-ed columnists because they agree with those points of view, do they really choose friends the same way? When was the last time you met someone at a social gathering and quickly asked him his views on abortion, gay marriage and the war in Iraq before deciding to be friends? That does not happen, of course, so one of the most interesting puzzles about homophily is how it turns out that friends often end up having the same views on those subjects.


While beliefs matter, there are two other powerful but subtle factors at work, said sociologist Mario Luis Small of the University of Chicago: One is demography, and the other is shared experiences.


Take, for example, two mothers who become friends after meeting at a day-care center. Beliefs, especially about politics, may never be part of their explicit conversation. But the day-care center exerts a very powerful role in selecting people with similar demographic backgrounds and shared experiences. The mothers are likely to be about the same age, to face common child-rearing challenges and to have similar views on how to balance parenting and work. The fact that they are at this day-care center means they can afford it, which suggests they are in roughly the same socioeconomic class.


"It is not quite the case that I meet you and say, 'Oh my goodness, you also believe in the elimination of Roe v. Wade ,' " said Small. "Two years later, these guys are friends, but it is not because we believe the same things, but our experience and our demographics put us together in the first place."


What this ultimately suggests, Small and Smith-Lovin added, is that while organizations and schools and workplaces and neighborhoods and churches may seem to bring together broad mixes of people, they really do not. Organizations play a very powerful role in bringing together similar people and in creating homogenous views on a variety of topics. University professors, for example, are prone to believe in education, financial aid and research, but those views also lead to other beliefs about the importance of government and activism, Smith-Lovin said.


While there is nothing wrong with being around others who are similar to yourself, both Smith-Lovin and Small said that people and organizations pay a price for homogeneity. In politics, for example, the fact that people rarely have friends with different views makes it difficult to seek common ground or to examine one's positions closely.


"Most of us would be hard-pressed to provide clear explanations for our political beliefs," said Small. "If you ask the average person why they believe what they believe on Roe v. Wade , you are not going to get a coherent answer. We participate in settings where we don't have to explain ourselves because everyone else agrees with us. What this means is, 'I have no reason to challenge or question my own beliefs.' "









Web Analytics And Functionalism: Say Au Revoir


In an earlier post ( http://semphonic.blogs.com/semangel/2006/0..._planning_.html ) I talked about how there are lots of lessons to be learned from traditional retail - lessons in navigation, store layout and merchandising.


With today's Functional Page Class, Completers, I think there's another profound lesson to be learned. When I go into a bank and deposit money, my teller (and even my bank machine) routinely finish by saying something like "You're all set, here's a record of your transaction. Is there anything else we can help you with today?"


Now on most web sites, I can be pretty confident that when I purchase something I'll get part of this with the Thank You page. I'll get the record of my transaction (usually conveniently emailed to me). I'll get the "You're all set." Usually in the form of the Thank You. But how often do I get the "Is there anything else we can help you with today?" Not bloody often.


I've mentioned before that one of the guiding principles of Functionalism is that it should be able to analyze every single page on a web site. And Completers are the type of page that traditionally has been completely ignored. Completers, you see, are your "Thank You" pages - whether for a sign-up, a registration, or an order.


In the "conversion" paradigm, you can't do much with Completers. They are either 100% associated with orders or pretty close to zero percent associated (depending on how you want to look at it). Either way, you aren't going to find out much about your Completer page by looking at conversion percentages.


So what's a Completor Page for? Well, it has the three functions we've already talked about: confirmation that the visitor was successful, access to a record of a transaction and opening up a new dialog.


There are potentially measures for all three of these things - but the first two are almost always handled reasonably well. If you are looking for signs that your "handshake" with the customer isn't being understood, here are a few: a high number of refreshes on the "Thank You." Next steps to help, back into the process or Customer Support or order/account tracking pages. Calls from this page (use a unique 800 number please!). These are all danger signs - but they are rare.


So let's talk about "opening up a new dialog." Everybody knows that your existing customers are your most valuable asset. You've just created one. And you're just letting them go - with a page that says "Order Confirmed" and not much else. Why? Isn't there something you want to tell them?


Listen, this doesn't have to be - maybe even shouldn't be - a sales thing. You already had an opportunity to upsell in the cart and checkout. But wouldn't it be nice to point your new customer to how to get help, to product resources, to some related sites, to some helpful information, to something - anything - other than goodbye? And bad Completer pages are by no means limited to taking orders. Some of the worst I've ever seen are on pages taking leads or when I submit a request for a document. My lord, if I just asked you for your White Paper on dieting with chocolate cake isn't there something else you want to offer me (like a big spoon).


I definitely believe in the Long Goodbye. This isn't telemarketing. Your customers can go anytime they want. They aren't going to be upset by your offering them options on the "Thank You" page!


So the most important Functional measure for Completer pages is re-engagement with the site. We measure this in two ways - tracking against hard exits and tracking against offered routes. Why two ways? Many customers who are offered "Thank You" pages will break back to the Home Page or use other top navigation options. That isn't bad, but it means you haven't engaged them with your offers. So, like a router, you should measure re-engagement with the site via intended offers.


Part of the discipline that measurement provides is a formal process - we built this page, what do we want it to do and how are we going to measure that it's doing it? And by answering these last two questions, you can often come to a better understanding of how the page should work - even without doing the measurement! Unlike many Functional techniques, this one is almost a complete slam dunk - and it can result in a substantial payoff on many, many sites.








Store Planning, Anchor-Stores, Mall Escalators and Similar Arcana




Functionalism and Web Analytics


Part VI


Every shopping experience is framed by a specific set of navigational elements. This is as true in traditional retail as it is on the web. You’d probably be surprised at how carefully traditional retail has studied the problems of navigation at almost every level. Store planners have made considerable study of product groupings and aisle placements. It isn’t by accident that the two things you want are often at opposite ends of the store. Or that the ultimate impulse buy – candy – is sitting right next to the cash register along with reading material for your bored eyes. Retailers try to understand the various shopping basket mixes that drive shoppers – and how to place goods both next to – and away from each other – to promote maximum cross-sell. Impulse buys need to be next to common necessities. Common mixed baskets need to be widely separated to force shoppers to traverse aisles. Aisle endpoints are loaded with impulse buys. It all makes perfect sense, and it doesn’t happen by accident.


One level up from this, you can think about how mall escalators are often arranged. They aren’t positioned for maximum convenience – but to insure significant store traversal. Indeed, even the arrangement of a mall is a matter of considerable study. Anchor stores (the core shopping stores that draw visitors) are placed at the ends. Boutiques line the connecting ways – drawing in pass-by traffic and supplementing overall traffic by adding to the experience.


Every website faces a similar set of challenges about how to move people from one area to another, where to place add-sells, when the shopper needs to rest and when the shopper needs to move, and how to get the shopper to the area(s) of the store they want. And the Functional page type that does most of the heavy lifting in this regard is the Router page.


Here’s the basic idea as stated in the whitepaper: Router Pages are those whose primary purpose is to move visitors into particular sections of the site. The presumption is that there is fairly substantive information about what the visitor might be interested in and these alternatives are presented as navigational elements in the body of the page.


Probably the most common Router pages exist as "mini-homes" underneath the top level navigation from the Home Page. Go to most web sites and pick an area like Products or Services or Support and you get a page with lots of drives to various sub-sections of the site.


One of the things that defines this page-type is that the visitor – by arriving – has indicated some interest in the topic. That’s why the home page is not a pure router – and why Search is a special case of router. So if a visitor arrives on your Main Products Page, you expect that visitor to drill down to content about Products. Another aspect of the Router page is that the page itself is generally light in content to "Convince" or "Close" the visitor to buy. It is trying to get the visitor to the right "Convincer" pages – not sell them itself.


So how do you measure Routers? By how well they move visitors to the Content they are supposed to. That means that for Routers (unlike most other pages) the type of action you’re most immediately interested in is what happens next. Routers shouldn’t be measured against conversion – because they aren’t responsible for selling. They shouldn’t be measured for return visitors – because they aren’t trying to get visitors to come back. In other words, you don’t measure the performance of your escalators by sales – you measure how often they deliver traffic to each door.


For Router Pages, that means that the basic KPI you’re focused on is the percentage of visitors who followed appropriate routes versus the percentage who didn’t. We call appropriate routes Body Routes, since they are typically the routes linked in the main body of the page. In addition, we like to measure various groupings of "bad" routes including "sideways," "back-outs," and "exits."


Sideways routes are typically other top-level navigation routes. These aren’t horrible, in other conceptual schemes they wouldn’t raise an eyebrow. But if a router page shows lots of top-navigation next steps then it isn’t doing its job properly. Back-ups are another type of sub-optimal route – cases where a user goes from home-page to router and then back to home page. Again, this isn’t what you want of these pages. The last "bad" route is an exit – and, of course, an exit is almost always bad.


This grouping of routes is one of the cases where you have to do some extra work in the measurement. When you classify a page as a Router, you need to decide what the "intended" routes are. Grouping routes into the Intended, Sideways, Back, and Exit buckets makes for a great reporting template – one that meaningfully captures the comparative performance of each page as well as providing real information about how it may be sub-optimal.


The Functionalist KPIs also include a set of measurements for Re-Surface behaviors – cases where a visitor drills down on the Router Page as intended, then comes back up to the page.


We like to break-out these cases specially, because we’ve found that the performance for the page (especially for exits) is strongly effected by this behavior. Where sub-pages don’t do a lot of cross-linking, visitors may re-surface then exit. This can make a Router page look much worse than it is. In addition, re-surface behaviors may reveal useful information about where a visitor goes next and whether personalization of the page at this point might yield dividends. It’s quite possible that on re-surface views, a Router page should include a "Closer" element to try and drive the sale.


By far the trickiest aspect of router pages is measuring (and separating) re-surface from initial land behavior. This isn’t always an issue, and before bothering with a more complex analysis, the analyst should check and see the percentage of visits that contain multiple pages views of a Router.


One method for studying re-surface behaviors is to create segments based on visits with a single page view for the target page and those with multiple page views. By comparing the next steps for the single page view segment with the total, you can see the choices visitors made differently when re-surfacing.


Web sites, of course, aren’t like traditional retail in many respects. Visitors can jump will-nilly from here to there. They are more likely to be single product shoppers. Your competitors are always just a single step away. So you can’t expect to make the same choices as you might in a bricks-and-mortar world. But the lessons learned in traditional retail can help clarify your thinking about what you are trying to measure and how you think about the elements of your web site. You don’t measure your escalators by conversion – and you shouldn’t measure your Router Pages that way either!















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A Little Piece of the Google Algorithm - Revealed


My post last week on the Google algorithm gave me the crazy idea to actually attempt to write out a rough outline of what the formula might look like. I've taken softplus' suggestion and given it a go using a massively simplistic weight/factor expression:


GoogScore = (KW Usage Score * 0.3) + (Domain Strength * 0.25) + (Inbound Link Score * 0.25) + (User Data * 0.1) + (Content Quality Score * 0.1) + (Manual Boosts) - (Automated & Manual Penalties)


KW Usage Factors:


* KW in title tag

* KW in header tags

* KW in document text

* KW in internal links pointing to the page

* KW in domain and/or URL


Domain Strength


* Registration history

* Domain age

* Strength of links pointing to the domain

* Topical neighborhood of domain based on inlinks & outlinks

* Historical use & links pattern to domain


Inbound Link Score


* Age of links

* Quality of domains sending links

* Quality of pages sending links

* Anchor text of links

* Link quantity/weight metric (Pagerank or a variation)

* Subject matter of linking pages/sites


User Data


* Historical CTR to page in SERPs

* Time users spend on page

* Search requests for URL/domain

* Historical visits/use of URL/domain by users GG can monitor (toolbar, wifi, analytics, etc.)


Content Quality Score


* Potentially given by hand for popular queries/pages

* Provided by Google raters (remember Henk?)

* Machine-algos for rating text quality/readability/etc


Obviously, this isn't a perfect summation of the algorithm by any means, but I have a strong suspicion that if we were to see the exact algorithm in perfect form, we'd see that a lot of these factors are strongly reflected in the weighting. There would most likely also be a lot of the factors from this list, but for brevity's sake, I figured I'd keep this post short and sweet.


What do you think? Any big oversights or complete goofs in the above formula?


p.s. Yes - I do think Google is using manual boosts, particularly when the query is of a navigational nature and they'd like to place the source at #1, despite the fact that it might not be strong enough to rank there by itself.











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Training Link Developers on the Link Building Cycle


Better. Stronger. Faster. It’s important to constantly redefine link training techniques. Understand the full value of links. Simplify the link value technique. After you have the fundamental understanding of placing a value on a link (which you should constantly revisit) - here’s some information to simplify it even further. I knew someday I’d have the opportunity to reference Edward Deming’s quality management ideas from my business school days.

The Quality Management Link Building Cycle


1. Build a list of potential link request sites

I’m making the assumption you know about “link building starting points” - you’ve figured out how to identify potential places to buy, borrow, beg, or barter for links (comptetitor backlinks, google directory, hubfinder, linkharvester etc. etc.) Build a list of potential candidates to audit with the rest of the cycle.


2. Pick a site from the list.

Pick your first site, and start the cycle by clicking on the site.


3. Is it a scraper site?Yes, it is slathered with ads, and offers no real value - Return to step 2

No - Move to step 3


4. Check their backlinks - Are they legit?

**A lot of additional training time should be spent on this evaluation

1. Yahoo site explorer - handy extension


Yes, their backlinks are mainly on-topic, and there are more than a dozen decent sites linking to them. See step 4.


No, the site is brand new, has no links, or is a part of a ring of mortgage, real estate, or poker sites despite being about baby clothes. Return to step 2.


5. Outbound link evaluation.


Tool - Outbound link bookmarklet -

Installation - drag this to your browser toolbar.


Are there more than 150ish links?

Yes - Back to step 2 buddy

No - Next question


Are the outbound links on-topic?

Yes - Proceed to step 5

No - They’re all payday loans, viagra, and bankruptcy collectors - Back to step 2 chief.


6. Determine the value of the request - How much time is it worth for your e-mail?

Very strong link - take your time these are few and far between, and quite valuable. Do whatever you can to increase the likelyhood of a response, and/or successful link. Offer cash.


Strong link - Spend a little time on the site and personalize the message. Offer a donation.


Good link - Spend time on the site and personalize the message.


‘Meh’ link - You got this far, break out your link request draft and customize it for a quick send.


Send mail -


Back to step 2 buck-o.


Don’t Beat Your Employees


Now - if you’re an employer, please don’t expect your employees can keep up the 3 minute cycle for longer than an hour without jumping out of a 13th story window after a week. Teach them the process and reward smart people who pick it up with flex time - if you don’t, your young grasshopper will be jumping along quite shortly. There’s no shortage of jobs for good link builder/ SEO types at this point.


Let your employees spend A LOT of time reading about links and how to understand them better. The process is mundane, but the success rates improve if they understand the intracacies. Each of the six steps in the process can be studied with a level of detail that Deming would truly appreciate to improve the results of the process.


More recent link advice goodness:

Jim’s link commandments




See also:


Text Link Quality and Valuation Guide




The 5 minute Link Value Test - 6 Link Quality Indicators




Quality management




Scraper Sites and SE Ambiguity: What is Your Site’s Reading Level?




Blog on a Stick




Mr. Ploppy’s Monday Tool List - Volume XXVII - Bookmarklet Tools




The Google Gods Speak to Us about Link Building.











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Tailrank 2.0 is Live



Tailrank 2.0: We track the hottest news in the blogosphere!



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Virtual economies attract real-world tax attention


Users of online worlds such as Second Life and World of Warcraft transact millions of dollars worth of virtual goods and services every day, and these virtual economies are beginning to draw the attention of real-world authorities.


"Right now we're at the preliminary stages of looking at the issue and what kind of public policy questions virtual economies raise -- taxes, barter exchanges, property and wealth," said Dan Miller, senior economist for the Joint Economic Committee of the U.S. Congress.


"You could argue that to a certain degree the law has fallen (behind) because you can have a virtual asset and virtual capital gains, but there's no mechanism by which you're taxed on this stuff," he told Reuters in a telephone interview.


The increasing size and public profile of virtual economies, the largest of which have millions of users and gross domestic products that rival those of small countries, have made them increasingly difficult for lawmakers and regulators to ignore.


Second Life, for example, was specifically designed by San Francisco-based Linden Lab to have a free-flowing market economy. Its internal currency, the Linden dollar, can be converted into U.S. dollars through an open currency exchange, making it effectively "real" money.


Inside Second Life, users can buy and sell virtual objects from T-shirts to helicopters, develop virtual real estate, or hire out services ranging from architecture to exotic dancing. Up to $500,000 in user-to-user transactions take place every day, and the Second Life economy is growing by 10 to 15 percent a month.


"Ownership, property rights, all that stuff needs to be decided. There's just too much money floating around," said game designer Sam Lewis, who trained as an economist and has worked on games such as Star Wars Galaxies. He is currently lead designer for an upcoming game from Cartoon Network.


"The tax laws don't know how to behave because these are virtual items: ones and zeros on a database we're allowing you to play in," he said.


Even if it is inevitable, Lewis is not exactly looking forward to having real-life tax collectors enter the virtual world.


"I'm a designer that thinks any sort of boundaries or rules actually give you an interesting challenge to overcome, but I don't particularly want the IRS coming in," he said.


The rapid emergence of virtual economies has outstripped current tax law in many areas, but there are some clear-cut guidelines that already apply. For example, people who cash out of virtual economies by converting their assets into real-world currencies are required to report their incomes to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service or the tax authority where they live in the real world.


It is less clear how to deal with income and capital gains that never leave the virtual economy, income and capital gains that in the real world would be subject to taxes.


"Let's say the IRS decides they want a valuation of your assets. We don't have a stock market where we can as of the 31st of December, these assets went up, these went down," Lewis said.


Miller, of the Joint Economic Committee, who became interested in the issue when he began exploring some of the virtual worlds in his free time, said he has an open mind about how real world tax authorities should interact with virtual economies.


"We are starting with a blank slate and going through the various dimensions of virtual economies, and seeing where they might intersect with public policy," he said. Miller hopes to have a rough draft of a report done by the end of the year.


But first, he has to educate some of his colleagues.


"I found that talking about this issue with some of the other economists on the committee, they are not really familiar with what a virtual economy is. The idea of Second Life or World of Warcraft or some of these other synthetic universes, they have trouble wrapping their head around it," he said.


However, there are probably some on Capitol Hill who won't require much explanation. "I can almost guarantee that there are some members of Congress spending time in Second Life or World of Warcraft," he said.


(For more coverage of Second Life, where Reuters is opening a virtual news bureau, go to http://secondlife.reuters.com )







Reuters opens virtual news bureau in Second Life


Reuters Group Plc is opening a news bureau in the simulation game Second Life this week, joining a race by corporate name brands to take part in the hottest virtual world on the Internet.


Starting on Wednesday, Reuters plans to begin publishing text, photo and video news from the outside world for Second Life members and news of Second Life for real world readers who visit a Reuters news site at: http://secondlife.reuters.com/


Created by Linden Lab in San Francisco, Second Life is the closest thing to a parallel universe existing on the Internet. Akin to the original city-building game SimCity, Second Life is a virtual, three-dimensional world where users create and dress up characters, buy property and interact with other players.


More than 900,000 users have signed up to build homes, form neighborhoods and live out alternative versions of their lives in the 3D, computer-generated world. Players spend around US$350,000 a day on average, or a rate of $130 million a year. Usage is growing in rapid double-digit terms each month.


Players buy and sell goods and services using a virtual currency, known as Linden Dollars. An online marketplace allows users to convert the currency into real U.S. dollars, enabling users to earn real money from their activities.


Adam Pasick, a Reuters' media correspondent based in London, will serve as the news organization's first virtual bureau chief, using a personal avatar, or animated character, called "Adam Reuters," in keeping with the game's naming system.


"As strange as it might seem, it's not that different from being a reporter in the real world," Pasick said. "Once you get used to it -- it becomes very much like the job I have been doing for years."


Car maker Toyota, music label Sony BMG, computer maker Sun Microsystems, and technology news company Cnet are among the companies taking part in Second Life. Adidas and American Apparel sell clothes and accessories for people to dress their avatars. Starwood Hotels has built a virtual version of "aloft," a new hotel chain it plans to open in the real world in 2008.


Reuters will have journalists reporting and writing financial and cultural stories within and about Second Life as part of the London-based company's strategy to reach new audiences with the latest digital technologies.


"In Second Life, we're making Reuters part of a new generation," Reuters Chief Executive Tom Glocer said in a statement. "We're playing an active role in this community by bringing the outside world into Second Life and vice versa."


Second Life citizens can stay tuned to the latest headlines by using a feature called the Reuters News Center, a mobile device that users can carry inside the virtual environment. Stories will focus on both the fast-growing economy and culture of Second Life and also include links to Reuters news feeds from the outside world, ranging from Baghdad to Wall Street.


Pasick said Reuters was not bending any editorial rules to operate in a world that blends fiction with reality.


"Being unbiased, being accurate, being fast, all the things that Reuters strives for, they hold true in just about any environment in which you would want to report the news," he said.


Residents of Second Life who read a Reuters story that interests them can, with the click of a button, go to a community center called Reuters Atrium to meet others to discuss the latest events in both the real and virtual worlds.


(Read an interview with Pasick at: http://tinyurl.com/yfnswt)

















Publish and Share a My Yahoo! Page




Foley to reveal name of alleged abuser












Edelman & Wal-Mart: is the apology enough?







Blog marketing is heating up: bloggers need pitch policies






YOU GOTTA SEE THIS CARTOON over at the Gaping Void!!!

Fake walmart blog










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Edelman & Wal-Mart: is the apology enough?



Blog marketing is heating up: bloggers need pitch policies



YOU GOTTA SEE THIS CARTOON over at the Gaping Void!!!

Fake walmart blog







U.S. casino magnate gives Picasso's dream the elbow



Nora Ephron: My Weekend in Vegas



School bans tag, other chase games



Boy, 8, missing four days near Crater Lake



10,000 refugees from Burundi coming to U.S.



Impoverished Haiti has sugar to burn



Helping improve lives in developed countries



Device seeks to detect concussions during games






Four U.S. soldiers charged with rape and murder


Four U.S. soldiers accused of raping and killing a 14-year-old girl and slaying her sister and their parents will face courts-martial on murder charges, military officials say.


The commander of the 101st Airborne Division has referred murder charges against the soldiers for the alleged crimes that occurred in Mahmoudiya, south of Baghdad, in March. Two of the soldiers could face the death penalty if convicted.


According to a written statement, Maj. Gen. Thomas Turner made the decision after reviewing a report of the investigation and receiving recommendations from the investigating officer, the appointing authority who directed the investigation and his staff judge advocate.


One of the soldiers, 23-year-old Army Spec. James P. Barker, told an Army criminal investigator that after the killings he poured kerosene on the girl's bullet-ridden body, according to testimony in August at a military hearing. The girl's father, mother and five-year-old sister were also killed, according to military officials.


Barker said in an interview that he held the girl down while she was raped by another soldier, Sgt. Paul Cortez, 23, according to Special Agent Benjamin Bierce of the Army's Criminal Investigation Division.


Barker said he then attempted to rape the girl himself, before she was shot to death by former Pfc. Steven D. Green, Bierce said.


But, Barker added, he was not sure if he penetrated the girl, because he was having trouble getting an erection.


Bierce also testified that Barker admitted pouring kerosene from a lamp onto the girl's body, although it was unclear from the testimony who set the girl on fire.


Bierce's testimony came during the second day of a preliminary hearing in Baghdad for Barker, Cortez, and two other soldiers, Pfc. Jesse V. Spielman, 21, and Pfc. Bryan L. Howard, 19, who are also charged in connection with the killings in Mahmoudiya.


The hearing was held to determine whether there was enough evidence to proceed to courts-martial.


A planned brutal attack


According to statements given at an August military hearing, the soldiers were drinking whiskey, playing cards and hitting golf balls when Green brought up the idea of going to a house near the checkpoint where they were stationed, to rape the girl.


Barker described Green as very persistent, Bierce testified. The statements said the five soldiers -- Green, Cortez, Barker, Spielman and Howard -- then changed into dark clothing and covered their faces, before going to the house.


According to Barker, Howard was the lookout and was given a radio to use if anyone approached, Bierce said. The four remaining soldiers then entered the home, at which point the statements from Barker and Cortez about what happened diverge, according to testimony.


Barker told investigators that Cortez pushed the 14-year-old girl to the floor and made "thrusting motions" as Barker held down her hands; then they switched positions, Bierce said.


Sometime during the assault, Barker said he heard gunshots come from the bedroom, where the girl's parents and sister had been taken, and an agitated Green emerged and said he had killed them, Bierce said.


According to Barker, Green then put down the AK-47 he had been carrying and raped the girl, while Cortez held her down, and then picked up the gun and shot her several times, Bierce said.


Green then went into the kitchen and, when he returned, said he had opened the propane tank and they needed to get out of the house because it was about to explode, Bierce said.


However, in his statement to U.S. Army investigators, Cortez denied raping the girl, although he admitted holding her down while Barker raped her, Special Agent Gary Griesmyer testified.


Under questioning, Griesmyer testified there was no evidence Spielman raped or murdered anyone in the house.


Special Agent Michael Hood also said Spielman passed a polygraph test in which he denied shooting or raping anyone. However, in his statement to investigators, Barker put Spielman at the scene and said Spielman grabbed the five-year-old girl outside the house and took her inside, Bierce said.


After the alleged attack, Barker also said the soldiers gave Spielman their clothes to burn and that he threw the AK-47 in a canal, Bierce said.


A sixth soldier, Sgt. Anthony W. Yribe, has been charged with failing to report the alleged rape and killings, but was not alleged to have been a participant.


Also testifying at the August hearing was a soldier in the same platoon as the accused men, Pfc. Justin Watt, who said he began trying to find out what happened at Mahmoudiya after Yribe confided to him that Green had told Yribe about the rape and killings.


"I wanted to see if I could confirm my suspicions that there were more people involved," Watt said. "I believed there were American forces involved."


Watt said when he asked Howard about what happened, Howard revealed the plan to rape the girl and that his role was to be the lookout. "(Howard) let me know that he ended up seeing a Humvee and calling them back frantically," Watt testified.


Howard also told him that when the other soldiers returned from the house, "Their clothes were covered in blood," Watt said.


After piecing together the details about what happened, Watt said he reported his suspicions to a combat stress team. "If you have the power to make something right, you should do it," Watt said. "Investigation is not my job. But if something went down, something terrible like that, then it's my obligation to come forward."


However, Watt also described the conditions at Mahmoudiya as a "suck-fest," testifying that the soldiers were living in the basement of a "dilapidated, abandoned water treatment facility," and had gone 30 days without a shower.


He also said the ongoing violence, including the deaths of two soldiers in their unit shortly before the slayings of the Iraqi family, had affected everyone. "I was going to get a memorial tattoo of all the guys (who were killed), but there's not enough room on my arm," Watt said.


Soldier has "anti-social personality disorder"


Green, who was discharged from the Army and returned to the United States in May because of an "anti-social personality disorder," is facing rape and murder charges in a civilian federal court. He is being held in a Kentucky jail.


All six men charged are from the 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division, based in Fort Campbell, Kentucky.


There is some confusion over the alleged rape victim's age. Identity cards and death certificates of the victims, which were obtained by Reuters news agency, show the alleged rape victim was Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi, with the birth date August 19, 1991.


The mayor of Mahmoudiya confirmed her identity and birth date to CNN. The U.S. military had previously referred to the alleged rape victim as a "young Iraqi woman."


A Justice Department affidavit in the case against Green says investigators estimated her age at about 25, while the U.S. military said she was 20.












Dobbs: Fighting back in the war on the middle class




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Chris Rock's mom: Cracker Barrel discriminated


Rose Rock, the mother of comedian Chris Rock, claims she was racially discriminated against when she was seated but ignored for a half hour at a Cracker Barrel restaurant along the South Carolina coast.


Rock said Tuesday she planned to sue the Lebanon, Tennessee-based company. A Cracker Barrel spokeswoman said the restaurant chain was investigating and taking the complaint "very seriously."


Cracker Barrel has in the past faced numerous lawsuits and a federal inquiry over complaints of refusing to serve black customers, discriminating against minority workers and firing gay employees. The company has taken steps to rebuild its folksy image and reach out to minorities.


Rock, who is from Georgetown, said she and her 21-year-old daughter were the only blacks at the chain's Murrells Inlet restaurant in April. She said when she asked the manager about the delay she was told they could have a free meal.


"He never called over the waitresses and asked, 'Why did these people sit here for a half hour without service?' " she said. "The only thing he said was we could have a free meal and neither of us wanted to eat."


Cracker Barrel spokeswoman Julie Davis said the company doesn't "tolerate any form of discrimination."


"It has always been a violation of our policies and procedures and it is neither condoned nor allowed," she said. "We do not allow the type of behavior you are describing," Davis said.


Rock said she contacted the South Carolina Human Affairs Commission and was told her complaint would be handled, but "nothing ever happened."


The head of the commission, Jesse Washington, said Tuesday that after initial discussions, the complaint was finalized August 7 and his agency also was investigating. He would not comment on the complaint.


"We get thousands of charges coming through here in the course of a year," he said. "It's not out of line -- the time frame on this. It is being investigated and we will be in touch with her when we have a report."


The Rev. Al Sharpton will join Rock on Wednesday in South Carolina to announce that Sharpton's Action Network will finance the planned lawsuit.


"I'm getting reports from all over the country about Cracker Barrel," Sharpton said from New York on Tuesday.


He also said state officials are slow to act on such complaints.


"When people are talking about there is no more discrimination, a lot of it is because they are not following this stuff up," Sharpton said.


Cracker Barrel, established in 1969, operates 547 restaurants in 41 states, according to the company's Web site.


Georgetown is about 60 miles northeast of Charleston.










Has Being Married Gone Out of Style?

Blame how much money we have, not our lack of values, for the decline in married households








Space tourist hopes for return trip


Now that she's learned to walk in gravity again and her legs don't feel so heavy, Anousheh Ansari has some matters to take care of on Earth: things like developing a new company, promoting science and space travel, and spending time with her family.


But after a voyage to the international space station last month, one thing that has no place in Ansari's plans is a permanent stay on this planet.


"I just love that feeling of freedom that you get from being in space, and I certainly got addicted to it, so I'm hoping to be able to repeat that experience again some time soon," the Iranian-born American entrepreneur told The Associated Press in an interview Wednesday.


Ansari, 40, spoke by phone after a ceremony at the Star City facility, outside Moscow, where she spent months training for her 11-day voyage as the first paying female space tourist.


"I loved being in space, and if I had a choice I would have probably stayed longer," she said.


Physically, the hardest part about being back was the gravity that pulls you down, she said. "When you come back you feel really heavy, and my husband kept telling me, 'You walk funny."'


Psychologically, the pull for Ansari is in the opposite direction: back to space.


"The only thing that keeps bringing me back to Earth is my family," said Ansari, who was seen off by about a dozen relatives when her ride to the orbital station -- a Russian Soyuz craft -- lifted off from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. "If I could have taken them up there with me, I probably would have just stayed forever."


Ansari's trip was a personal milestone for a woman who remembers gazing at the stars as child in Iran and wondering if there was somebody like her out there somewhere.


"My favorite view out the window was the night sky, because I always loved watching the stars, and on the station you basically have the perfect view of the stars," she said.


But it was also part of a push to promote commercial space travel, an effort she will continue to pursue.


Ansari, an electrical engineer who co-founded a family software company that was sold in 2000, helped finance the $10 million (euro8 million) Ansari X Prize for the first privately financed manned spacecraft to make a suborbital flight.


She said her family plans to play a major part in finding further X Prizes promoting commercial space travel, with the next one -- hopefully to be announced next year -- possibly rewarding a project for a lunar lander or for orbital flight.


Ansari also plans to give presentations at schools and create educational materials in hopes of sparking innovations by attracting young people to space sciences and promoting creative thinking.


"We need new propulsion systems, we need new innovations ... and I'm hoping the young minds that are going into this field will come up with revolutionary ideas for the future," she said.


Ansari will also develop a company launched the day she lifted off, Prodea Systems Inc., that is creating an appliance designed to bring Web access and Internet-based services into the homes of people who do not necessarily have computer skills.


Ansari, who lives with her husband near Dallas, Texas, had returned home after her rugged landing on the Kazakh steppe late last month. She was back in Russia briefly for the Star City ceremony, which featured a military band and a traditional Russian offering of bread and salt.


Wearing a white, flower-patterned Russian-style head scarf over her coat against the cold, she placed flowers at a monument to the first human in space, Russia's Yuri Gagarin.


Speaking Russian and choking back tears, she said that along with Iran and the United States, she now has a third country in her heart: "Russia, where my dream came true."


The commander of Russia's air force, Gen. Vladimir Mikhailov, praised Ansari's conduct during the trip, which reportedly cost her $20 million (euro 16 million).


"For such courage, we could have paid her the money," he quipped, "but in that case there would be a huge line of people hoping for space flights."


Ansari may be near the front of the line. She said she had a firm offer from the Russians to make a repeat voyage.


"They have definitely offered me the opportunity, and I'm certainly interested," she said.













Apple: Some iPods infected with virus

Less than 1 percent of video players made after Sept. 12 infected with virus affecting Windows users.




Feds: Threat against NFL stadiums not credible



Say goodbye to 'Runaway'



'So much drama' for Evanescence singer







Aquatic car drives with 'oooomph'


RIDGELAND, South Carolina (AP) -- It's not terribly easy to parallel park an automobile on a lake.


Now, John Giljam knows this to be as true as the highway is long, and for good reason: He's tried to park his car on a lake -- and on rivers, ponds, even the Intracoastal Waterway.


Giljam, in fact, has practiced not only parking on water; he's become quite adept at turning sharply on it. (He no longer gets drenched in a curtain of spume when cornering, he'll have you know.) And he's mastered the art of steering clear of critters -- geese, mostly, though gators have a habit of surfacing at inopportune moments.


It helps, of course, to learn these aquatic feats behind the wheel of his latest creation, the "Hydra Spyder," an amphibious car that cruises on H2O as easily as it does on blacktop.


With its snazzy snout, convertible top, Corvette V8 engine and jet "impeller" -- the stainless-steel cone protruding from the rear that propels it through water -- the Hydra Spyder is poised to become the first, mass-produced amphibious automobile in America.


"It's incredibly nimble in the water. The Spyder turns smoothly, docks easily," the 46-year-old inventor boasts.


It has one shortcoming, he concedes. On the water, "the parallel parking really sucks."


Giljam tingles at the idea of anglers taking their cars out on lakes for a day of fishing; of rush-hour commuters bypassing congestion by taking a river as an alternate route; of water-skiers bouncing along in the wake of a speedboat with four wheels.


"I honestly feel I've been born with a gift, and it was for creating mechanical things," he says. "It's what keeps me up at night."


Ten years ago, Giljam operated a Jet Ski rental company on Hilton Head Island. Business was brisk, he recalls, but one day two customers crashed into each other. Though they weren't hurt seriously, he shut the business down, he says. "I would not be able to function if something I owned and operated hurt somebody."


Which then got him to thinking: Could an aquatic vehicle be designed to be fast and safe?


By 39, he had invented -- and patented -- the world's first unsinkable bus and the world's first aquatic, luxury RV. Producing amphibious cars on a grand scale would be, as he sees it, a "logical" new endeavor.



His Hydra Spyder is not the first of its kind to crawl ashore. Civilian, amphibious vehicles have been around for more than a century, and European manufacturers have long dominated the trade.


Yet, while some models have been able to raise dust on a highway, nearly all have been agonizingly slow in the wet, where wheels create drag. One well-known washout was the "Amphicar," which was mass-produced in Germany from 1961 to 1968. On roadways, the Amphicar got up to 70 miles per hour but disappointed in the water, mustering a dash speed of just 7 miles per hour.


In the mid-1990s, Alan Gibbs, a New Zealand inventor-entrepreneur, founded Gibbs Technologies, of Nuneaton, England, with the aim of developing the first high-speed amphibious car. (Gibbs had a 194-foot yacht, which he enjoyed outfitting with aquatic "toys" -- meaning anything from a Jet Ski to a submarine.)


In 2003, after seven years of work with 70 British engineers and designers, Gibbs launched "Aquada," an amphibious sports car, a la 007, with retractable wheels and a jet drive that propelled it along water at a maximum speed of 32.8 miles per hour.


To the acclaim of the British media, it made its test-run at London's Docklands, scene of a high-speed boat chase in the James Bond film "The World Is Not Enough." Not long thereafter, the Aquada made the Guinness Book of Records for the fastest crossing of the English Channel by an amphibious vehicle. (Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Atlantic, planed across in 1 hour, 40 minutes and 6 seconds.)


At the time, Giljam's company, Cool Amphibious Manufacturers International LLC, which he founded with his wife, Julie, in 1999, was turning out amphibious buses, a dozen or so a year, at a factory in Rochester, N.Y. (Tour operators are the Giljams' main clients; eight "Hydra Terras" are currently in operation in New York City.)


The Aquada's big splash threw Giljam into creative overdrive. "I suppose," he told a reporter once, "we just wanted to answer the Brits." The amphibian he envisioned would have to be faster, tougher, and more economical than the Aquada, which retailed for $300,000.


And unsinkable. "Safety," says Giljam, a 12-year veteran of a rescue squad in his native Lakeville, New York, "means everything to me."


And so, he took to the drawing board.

History in the making


Today, the factory doesn't look like much from Interstate 95: a sand-colored, corrugated-roof structure on an 11-acre wedge of property covered in knee-high weeds and hemmed in by overgrown live oaks.


On the floor of this 20,000-square-foot building, though, amphibian history is in the making.


Near the far corner, the lemon-yellow, fiberglass body agleam, sits a Hydra Spyder -- the prototype, actually. It sold last November -- for $175,000. "This gentleman was insistent," says Julie, "and we needed the cash for the new plant."


A non-disclosure agreement protects the identity of the buyer, one of the wealthiest men in America -- a "Forbes Top-50 kinda guy," Giljam says -- and from the West Coast, who took delivery before the Giljams could test it at a motor speedway.


They did test the prototype in the water.


One afternoon, moments after rolling the Hydra Spyder smoothly off a dock in Bluffton, South Carolina, John Giljam remembers how "a lady came running pell-mell down the dock, screaming: 'Don't worry! We've called 911! The fire department is on its way!"'


John and Julie tried to explain what an amphibious vehicle was, even took the woman for a spin around the lake. Still, her expression seemed clouded as she walked away from the dock, muttering.


The Hydra Spyder "has that effect sometimes," Giljam shrugs.


On this day, the mystery tycoon's Hydra Spyder is back in the shop for adjustments: a new, 502 CID Chevy Race Engine that will boost horsepower from 400 to 500 -- one step below dragstrip capability -- and new, heavy-duty mufflers to subdue the motor's roar.


"Apparently," Giljam explains, "it was hard to hold a conversation with the engine running."


In an adjacent pod, welders and mechanics are handcrafting the marine-grade, aluminum hull of Hydra Spyder No. 2, which will have a racing transmission, "super chargers," and other high-performance features.


These help provide what Giljam calls "oooomph" -- which is something aquatic racers most desire after plowing their cars into a body of water.


To switch the Hydra Spyder into "marine mode," the driver simply presses a button, which drops the clutch, disengages the road drive, shifts the transmission into aquatic duty, and retracts the wheels. The jet-drive kicks in then, allowing the Hydra Spyder to plane across water like a speedboat at greater than 50 mph.


Oooomph does come at a cost: Base price is $155,000 -- to which can be added all kinds of extras, including heated seats ($1,000), a custom entertainment system for in-Spyder cinema ($5,000), Lamborghini door systems ($2,000), and teak interior trim ($1,500).


And though not intended for use on open seas, this amphibian can be fitted with a fishfinder.


So, even as Detroit automakers struggle to survive, the future looks bright for Cool Amphibious Manufacturers. The Giljams have 6 orders for Hydra Spyders. Within five years, they hope to expand their new factory and produce 75 Hydra Spyders a year.


Their top competitor, Gibbs Technologies, for the time being at least, has withdrawn from the amphibian automobile market. Steve Bailey, a Gibbs spokesman, says the company made 50 Aquadas, then stopped in 2005 because the engines used were discontinued when their maker went bankrupt.


"We are looking for an alternative engine to bring the Aquada back to market again," Bailey says. Still, he says, Gibbs Technologies doesn't plan to get in a dogfight with the Giljams.


"We'll be looking to license the technology out this time to other companies that might be interested in producing their own vehicles," he says. "We are a technology development company."


Which means the Giljams can focus on improvements to performance and safety.


As it is now, all cavities in the Hydra Spyder's "hull" are packed with flotation foam, approved by the U.S. Coast Guard. "You could flood the motor, knock a 12-inch hole in the Spyder's bottom, and still it would float."


And, for the record, how good is it on gas?


On land, somewhere around 16 to 18 miles per gallon of premium gas. (This amphibian can also run on an ethanol mix without modifications.) Not too shabby, Giljam says, for a 3,400-pound vehicle that is 18.6 feet long and a foot wider than the average landlocked car.


He adds: "When you put it in the water, you burn a lot more fuel and the odometer doesn't move. Tires don't rotate in the water, you know."


Which, perhaps, is why Julie Giljam always reminds customers: "Before you go into the water, fill her up."













What to ask in a Job Interview


CNN.com has a business partnership with CareerBuilder.com, which serves as the exclusive provider of job listings and services to CNN.com.


(CareerBuilder.com) -- An interview is meant to be a two-way street. The hiring manager is interviewing you to determine whether you're the best fit for the job. At the same time, you should be asking questions to determine whether you would be happy in the position or with the company.


But once nerves take over, it's easy to forget your role. After all, you're meeting on the employer's schedule in an unfamiliar office. After listening to the interviewer's monologue about the company and role, you're asked a barrage of questions about your background and future plans " all the while praying that you're delivering the "right" answers.


By the time the employer asks if you have any questions, it's easy to be so drained and nervous you can only stammer out, "Nope."


Not asking questions, however, is passing up a chance to stand out from the competition.


"This is a great opportunity to set you apart in a positive way from other people being considered for the job," says Eddie Payne, division manager of professional staffing for recruiting firm FGP International. "Employers say they are interested in candidates who ask quality questions and make intelligent conversation based on what they know about the organization."


Before the interview, prepare a list of questions that demonstrate your knowledge of the company and interest in the position. Some good topics to cover include:


The company Dave Stanford, executive vice president of client services for contingency and contract staffing firm Winter, Wyman Companies suggests asking:


# What do you see ahead for your company in the next five years?


# How do you see the future for this industry?


# What do you consider to be your firm's most important assets?


# What can you tell me about your new product or plans for growth?


# How do you rate your competition?


The position's history Asking about why the position is vacant can provide insight into the company and the potential for advancement. According to Annie Stevens and Greg Gostanian, managing partners at executive and career development firm ClearRock, good questions include:


# What happened to the last person who held this job?


# What were the major strengths and weaknesses of the last person who held this job?


# What types of skills do you NOT already have onboard that you're looking to fill with a new hire?


The department Asking about your department's workers and role in the company can help you understand more about the company's culture and hierarchy. Stanford suggests asking:


# What is the overall structure of the company and how does your department fit the structure?


# What are the career paths in this department?


# What have been the department's successes in the last couple of years?


# How do you view your group/division/department?


The job's responsibilities To avoid any confusion later on, it pays to gain a solid understanding of the position. FGP International's Eddie Payne recommends inquiring:


# What would you consider to be the most important aspects of this job?


# What are the skills and attributes you value most for someone being hired for this position?


# Where have successful employees previously in this position progressed to within the company?


# Could you describe a typical day or week in this position? The typical client or customer I would be dealing with?


The expectations To determine how and when you will evaluated, Payne recommend advises asking:


# What are the most immediate challenges of the position that need to be addressed in the first three months?


# What are the performance expectations of this position over the first 12 months?


# How will I be evaluated at XYZ company, and how often?


The next steps At the end of the interview, don't forget to ask: What are the next steps in the interview process?









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Boy, 8, missing four days near Crater Lake


CRATER LAKE, Oregon (AP) -- Searchers in helicopters and with rappelling equipment spent a fourth day Wednesday scouring the woods and embankments surrounding Crater Lake where an 8-year-old boy wandered off during a weekend hike with his father.


Park officials said they had not given up hope that Sammy Boehlke would be found alive and were expanding the search area.


"We're continuing to search for a live 8-year-old boy, focusing on concealed areas, areas under cover," Park Service spokesman Rudy Evenson said.


During a hike with his father on Saturday, the boy had climbed a rock embankment ahead of his father, Ken Boehlke, and disappeared into the woods, officials said.


Snow fell Sunday and Monday, but the weather improved Tuesday, allowing a helicopter to examine the lake's edge and rappelling crews from Yosemite National Park to work their way down the walls of the volcanic basin that forms the lake.


The boy had on a winter coat and has camping experience but no wilderness survival training, officials said. The temperature Tuesday night was in 20s.


About 145 rescue workers continued the search on Wednesday, focusing on wooded areas and looking "under rocks, logs and in small hiding places," Evenson said.


"We are holding out hope he might be in a place like that, where he might have sheltered for a few days."


The terrain varies from nearly flat to gently rolling, with house-size blocks of lava and woods filled with conifers. The crater was formed by the explosion of a Cascades Range volcano about 7,000 years ago. Snow melt supplies the lake with water.


Chief Ranger David Brennan said officials were treating the situation as a missing person case.


"There's absolutely nothing to indicate foul play or criminal activity," he said.












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Explorer shares his passion for the deep


Explorer Robert Ballard has spent most of his adult life exploring the ocean floor and combing the deep-sea for lost shipwrecks.


He's best known for finding the doomed ocean liner Titanic in 1985 and discovering the hydrothermal vents along the mid-Atlantic ridge in 1977.


He's currently president of the Institute for Exploration at Connecticut's Mystic Aquarium where he is working to turn the ocean floor into a archaeological museum of human history.


CNN.com Technology Producer Peggy Mihelich talked with Ballard about how technology is revolutionizing the way he explorers the deep and what new discoveries it may help uncover.


MIHELICH: How has deep-sea exploration changed over the course of your career?


BALLARD: It's changed dramatically. In 1959 I was 17 years old and I went on my first oceanographic expedition.


We had a bucket strapped on the side of the ship and you stood in the bucket and the waves crashed over your head and they lowered a wire and you put instruments on it. You then lowered everything to the bottom -- minus the person.


It was so archaic, but that was the way it was done. Everything was done from the surface of the ship with wires.


Then in the '60s I worked on ALVIN, the first manned submersible for the oceanographic community. ALVIN was just a primitive diving vehicle with very little technology. It would take us two and a half hours to get down to the bottom and another two and a half hours to come back up. We had a five hour commute to work. We'd cover one mile of a 40,000 mile mountain range. It was crazy.


So we developed towed vehicles -- our first one being a vehicle called ANGUS, which stands for Acoustically Navigated Geological Underwater Survey.


ANGUS had a camera system on it that you would turn timers on and after so many minutes it would start taking pictures underwater. We would tow it around banging it all over the bottom. We had a logo that said "takes a lickin' but keeps on clicken'."


Despite its crudeness it was ANGUS not ALVIN that found the first underwater hydrothermal vents (in 1977) and the black smokers two years later in 1979 because it could cover a lot of territory. It could stay down for hours and hours and take thousands of pictures.


MIHELICH: How has technology aided your efforts?


BALLARD: I went to Stanford University on a sabbatical in 1979. And I was over in an engineering lab and I saw something very interesting -- fiber optics. At the time we were using copper cables to run a video signal down to the bottom of the ocean and it wasn't very good; a slow scanning black and white image every few seconds -- far inferior. It had a bandwidth of 5 Megahertz.


The engineers said the future is not moving electrons through copper but moving photons through the most common element on the Earth -- beach sand. With fiber optics, bandwidth went from 5 Megahertz to 600 Megahertz.


This led me to another idea, "tele-presence." The idea was to replace physically going down (in a manned submersible) with robots. I set about creating a remotely operated vehicle system which I called Argo-Jason.


Argo-Jason would have everything that my submarine has but without my physical body; creating tele-presence at the bottom of the ocean, transporting myself down there like in "Star Trek." I created a vehicle that doesn't have to resurface. It could stay down 24 hours a day, work around the clock, work for weeks on end, never come up -- allowing me to explore more.


I used Argo-Jason to find and explore Titanic, the Bismarck -- for a lot of expeditions in the '80s and '90s. But I didn't broadcast to the beach, only to the ship on the surface. In 1989 I did my first live broadcast from the bottom of ocean to the beach.


Argo-Jason has now been replaced with Hercules, a second generation of underwater remotely operated vehicles.


MIHELICH: What project are you currently working on?


BALLARD: I'm serving for three years on the president's commission for ocean policy. I went to Congress and convinced them to give us a ship from the Navy, the USNS Capable. It's now been renamed, in a contest by a bunch of kids, the Okeanos Explorer, which is Greek for Ocean Explorer.


That ship at this very moment is in dry dock in Seattle being outfitted with $20 million with the most advanced exploratory technology that our country has. Next year it will come online and its mission is to go where no one has gone before on planet Earth.


MIHELICH: What will it do exactly?


BALLARD: Imagine this ship is now out in the Southern Hemisphere, in the parts where we haven't explored. Imagine the ship out at sea with the robots down at the bottom and a new discovery occurs. That ship is connected in real time to a building at the University of Rhode Island called the Interspace Center.


Inside is a huge telecommunication center similar to NASA's mission control in Houston. What they are seeing in the ship -- all the TV monitors, cameras, there's an exact clone of it is in the Interspace Center in Rhode Island -- with crews in both locations.


When a discovery is made, someone on the ship and the Interspace Center will be able to see it at the same time and can call up a directory of experts from anywhere in the world and have them get to a command center ASAP to check out the discovery. We'll have multiple command centers at different locations around the world.


What a gigantic change in my lifetime from lowering things on cables to having a command center next door to my office. I don't even have to go to sea! That is where we are at.


MIHELICH: What drew you to deep-sea exploration?


BALLARD: Captain Nemo in "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea." I fell in love with the mountain ranges and canyons in the movie. When I look at the ocean I don't see water I see mountain ranges and canyons.


MIHELICH: Have you seen the effects of climate change in your work?


BALLARD: I don't see it at all. I'm down deep. It's very insulated. We are so stable down there. It's totally dark, pitch black, high pressure, cold temperature. That part of the planet, which is most of it, won't know anything about global warming. It has seen it come and go. The deep sea is unaffected.


MIHELICH: What remaining deep-sea mysteries do you want to solve?


BALLARD: I have no idea. When you make a true discovery, like the hydrothermal vents, we didn't know they were there, we tripped over them. What ocean exploration does and will do is trip over stuff. I can tell you that statistically there has to be stuff there because we've only looked at a small percentage of the ocean floor, and look what we've discovered. There's got to be countless more discoveries to be made.


MIHELICH: You found Titanic, the Bismarck, the Scorpion, JFK's PT109 to name just a few. What has been your favorite discovery?


BALLARD: They all touch different parts of you. I've done 120 expeditions and lots of them were just as cool as can be. Clearly Titanic was cool and clearly hydrothermal vents was cool but so were a lot of other ones.


MIHELICH: Was finding Titanic a mixed blessing?


BALLARD: It had it's minuses, but mostly pluses. There is nothing that is perfectly wonderful. There were tough times associated with the Titanic. But I'm alright about it.


I remember when I found the Titanic my mother called and said "too bad" and I said "what?" She said "you know you're a great scientist, you've done great things, but now they'll only remember you for finding the Titanic."


Titanic was not the most important thing I ever did, but that is what it will say on my epitaph.


MIHELICH: But at least you've left a mark.


BALLARD: Yes, and I'm OK with it. But I think my best stuff is still ahead of me. And that's the way I look at it.


MIHELICH: Are there any ships out there that you still want to find?


BALLARD: Shackleton's Endurance would be cool. And Amelia Earhart's plane. There's a lot actually, but I'm more interested in the ships that I don't know are out there that are important -- like the ancient shipwrecks that will rewrite history.


MIHELICH: Any advice for young explorers wishing to follow in your footsteps?


BALLARD: Follow your passion. Chase your passion whatever it is. If you don't do what you love you'll never get where you want to be.














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Cult leader says he's too obese for execution







Defendant to witness: 'I'll meet you in hell'


WEST PALM BEACH, Florida (Court TV) -- A millionaire on trial for plotting his ex-wife's murder interrupted the proceedings Tuesday by loudly threatening the prosecution's star witness and calling him "despicable scum of the earth."


The outburst came on the second day of testimony in the murder trial of Ronald Samuels, 58, who is accused of hiring four men to kill Heather Grossman on October 14, 1997.


"I'll meet you in hell, you son of a bitch," Samuels yelled at the witness, who is the admitted gunman. "I'll find you one way or another."


The witness Roger Runyon admitted firing a high-powered rifle at the defendant's ex-wife and her second husband, John Grossman, and was granted immunity in exchange for his testimony.


He responded to Samuels just as the jury was entering the courtroom.


"You're right," Runyon said. "I will go to hell, and you will see me there."


After the outburst, Judge Lucy Chernow Brown threatened to remove Samuels from the courtroom or to gag him in front of the jury. She also admonished Runyon for addressing the defendant.


As the prosecution's seventh witness, Runyon testified that a friend nicknamed Slim, whose real name is Eddie Lee Stafford, enlisted him to kill Heather Grossman.


Stafford told Runyon that the defendant had taken out a million-dollar insurance policy while married to Grossman, and Samuels could still collect if she died.


Runyon, a former marksman in the National Guard, and Stafford staked out the victims' workplace with Stafford before following them to a busy intersection. There, Runyon fired two shots. The main target was Heather Grossman, he said.


"I aimed for the headrest in the passenger seat," Runyon told jurors. "I pulled the trigger and she like disappeared, like she jumped down to the floorboard or something."


The bullet lodged in Heather Grossman's spine, leaving her a quadriplegic. She breathes through a ventilator and requires 24-hour care. The second shot grazed the driver John Grossman, who survived with only a minor injury.


From the stand, Runyon blamed his crack-cocaine addiction for his actions. The Indiana native testified that, at the time of the shooting, he was smoking the drug every day that "he wasn't asleep or in jail."


He had been living on the streets before Stafford allowed him to move in. In return, Runyon acted as a "do boy," helping Stafford, a fellow addict, with minor drug deals.


The marksman turned himself in after detectives contacted his mother in Indiana, where he was living. Runyon, who said he no longer smokes crack, declined legal counsel when he spoke to police.


"I don't need a lawyer," Runyon said. "I was ready to die for what I had done."


Stafford, who drove the car during the drive-by shooting, echoed Runyon's testimony Tuesday, blaming his involvement in the murder plot on his crack addiction.


Stafford was also reportedly given immunity for his testimony.


The self-described pimp and drug dealer said he met twice with Samuels, who was using the alias Tony Black. They met once at a Denny's restaurant and again at a Boca Raton food court to discuss the murder of Heather Grossman.


Like Runyon, Stafford said he never received payment for the hit and had been promised a car and $5,000 in cash.


"I was on drugs and the fact is that I knew I was going to get another little package of drugs," Stafford said.


Stafford is expected to return to the stand Wednesday.


Also Tuesday, jurors saw photos of the black Lincoln the Grossmans were driving when they were attacked. Crime lab supervisor, Cara Lee Daugherty, showed jurors the bloodstained seats covered with shards of glass. The rifle shots shattered the driver's-side and passenger-side windows, as well as the front windshield.


Samuels faces life in prison without parole if convicted of attempted first-degree murder.










Foley will divulge name of alleged abuser


Former Rep. Mark Foley plans to tell the Miami Archdiocese the name of the Catholic priest who allegedly abused him when he was a teen but will not file a lawsuit against the man, Foley's lawyer said Wednesday.


The comment by Foley's civil attorney, Gerald Richman, followed a Florida newspaper report that a disgraced priest knew the man who allegedly abused Foley.


According to the Palm Beach Post, the 69-year-old former clergyman, who resigned three years ago after rumors of sexual misdeeds with young boys surfaced, said he has spoken to the priest Foley has accused of abusing him.


"I know who did it," he told the newspaper. "But I can't say. Priests are not allowed to break the sacred seal of confession."


A spokeswoman for the Miami Archdiocese told CNN it cannot force the priest to divulge the name, but Richman and a Palm Beach County state attorney's spokesman said Florida law prohibits the church from claiming information is privileged in child abuse cases.


Florida law also states that even though priests must turn over such information, they cannot be forced to testify in court.


Richman said Wednesday that Foley was working with the Miami Archdiocese to reveal the priest's name, "so the archdiocese can then deal appropriately with the issue."


"We have no intention of filing a civil lawsuit," Richman said. "This is all about a healing process and what the archdiocese needs to do to protect the public from anyone else being hurt."


If the archdiocese chooses not to publicize the name, "we'll do what's appropriate," Richman said.


Foley and his criminal attorney, David Roth, who already knows the alleged abuser's name, planned to share the name with Richman in a Wednesday morning phone conversation, Richman said.


On Tuesday, Richman said there would be no lawsuit because the incident occurred 36 to 38 years ago.


"We've basically concluded that there's no basis to file criminal charges because of a number of legal obstacles, one of which is the statute of limitations," he said.


Foley will accept an offer of counseling from the Archdiocese of Miami, Richman said.


A spokeswoman for the archdiocese expressed disappointment in how Foley was handling the situation and urged the embattled former congressman to identify his alleged molester immediately.


"I don't understand how Representative Foley's attorneys feel that Mr. Foley can continue to heal himself with this still hanging out there," Mary Ross Agosta said. "This is not closure. And to dangle this information from press conference to press conference is truly unfair."


Ethics committee hears more testimony


House Majority Leader John Boehner is scheduled to appear Thursday before the House ethics panel.


Congressional sources said Boehner will testify about Foley's contact with teenage congressional pages and how House Republican leaders handled the concerns raised about the six-term Republican from Florida.


Boehner, R-Ohio, told Fox News on Tuesday that because the FBI and ethics committee are investigating the matter, he doubts there is much he can add.


"Everything that can be said at this point in time has been said," Boehner said. "The real issues in this election are the issues that people care about -- keeping the economy prosperous, making sure we have a sensible immigration policy that begins with enforcing our border, and then, thirdly, supporting the president, giving him the tools he needs to take on terrorists and to defeat them.


Paula Nowakowski, Boehner's chief of staff, spent nearly three hours in the ethics committee's hearing room Tuesday morning. She was followed in the afternoon by House Sergeant-at-Arms Wilson Livingood, a member of the House Page Board, which oversees the program that lets teenagers serve as messengers on Capitol Hill.


Neither stopped for questions from reporters upon leaving.


Sources told CNN earlier this month that former Foley chief of staff Kirk Fordham told the ethics panel that he raised concerns three or four years ago about a report that Foley showed up drunk at the dormitory that houses the pages. The Associated Press reported Wednesday that the ethics panel is looking into the allegation.


Fordham's successor, Elizabeth Nicolson, also went before the ethics committee's investigative subcommittee Wednesday.


The three House members who sit on the page board have all testified. Two of the three have said that the board's chairman, Illinois Republican John Shimkus, did not tell them about a 2005 e-mail exchange between Foley and a teenage Louisiana boy.


The teen reported what House leaders have called an "overly friendly" e-mail exchange with Foley in late 2005, according to an account released by Hastert's office after the scandal broke. The e-mails, which the boy called "sick," included Foley's request for a picture and a question about what he wanted for his birthday.


The boy turned the e-mail over to Rep. Rodney Alexander's office, leading to a private rebuke from Shimkus and then-House Clerk Jeff Trandahl.


Trandahl is scheduled to testify Thursday, and Alexander, who sponsored the boy as a page, appeared before the ethics committee Wednesday.


Alexander declined to discuss details of his testimony but said, "It's quite apparent from some of the reports out there that there are many people that know what we know and have known it for a lot longer period of time than we've known."


Alexander, R-Louisiana, also reiterated his assertion that the former page who received the e-mails knew nothing of the sexually explicit instant messages to other pages.


"He's been exposed to a lot of trauma," Alexander said. "His parents have been almost physically sick about the attention that he's gotten unfairly, and we just look forward to the committee continuing their investigation and hopefully this will come to a conclusion."


Poll: Other issues more important


Foley, who is currently in treatment for alcoholism, resigned September 29 as details of sexually explicit instant messages to teenage congressional pages became public.


The scandal has added to the concerns facing Republicans as they battle to keep their majorities in both houses of Congress in November's elections.


Only about a quarter of Americans, however, say the Foley issue will be "extremely important" in how they vote in November's congressional elections, according to a CNN poll released Tuesday. (Full story)


The scandal triggered a round of finger-pointing among Republican leaders in Congress and calls for Hastert to step down over his office's handling of the matter.


Boehner, who told a Cincinnati radio station earlier this month that Hastert was responsible for dealing with the concerns raised about Foley, told Fox News that he supports the speaker.


"He has done a marvelous job leading House Republicans under frankly very difficult circumstances and a narrow majority. If he had had any clue of these instant messages or the behavior Foley was engaged in, I have no doubt he would have drug him out by his tie the instant he knew about it," Boehner said.













Credit card fees head higher

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Google To Literally Corner Online Ad Market


Google is on pace this year to capture a quarter of all online ad spending, according to eMarketer, further increasing its dominance in the sector as the sector itself is projected grow at blistering rates. As Google snatches market share from Yahoo, online advertising in general will gain more ground against traditional marketing vehicles by 2010.


Of the total $16 billion expected take for US online advertising, Google is projected to bring in $4 billion for itself, 65 percent more than last year. At $2.86 billion for Yahoo - not exactly chump change - the 1.4 percent decline in market share (lost almost entirely to Google) is telling.


Last year, advertisers spent an average $71.51 per user, a number expected to increase to $88.28 this year, according to eMarketer's estimates, and to nearly $100 per user by 2010. That pushes the expected spend to $21 billion in 2008, and to over $25 billion in 2010. This is all good news for Google, if its trend of dominance continues.


That's a growth rate of about 30 percent per year, a trend industry experts expect to level off early next decade. The expected leveling is projected to be a discouragement to traditional advertisers to increase their level on Web-presence.


"In any other medium, executives would be delighted to see ad spending grow at those rates," said David Hallerman, eMarketer senior analyst.


"But when these rates are put into perspective - compared against the recent rates of growth - a number of commentators will start devaluing the online advertising market. But they will be wrong."


Hallerman expects a few distinct shifts to occur over the next four years:


1. Online advertising will be allocated a larger percentage of budgets, drawing most notably from broadcast television and newspapers.


2. Companies will become more comfortable with various online ad platforms and put more effort into the targeting the Internet provides.


3. Paid search, video and plain display branding will carry higher prices.


4. Online branding increases in relevance and larger portions of budget will focus on utilizing video.









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The Edelman Disaster


The Republican party and Edelman, the public relations firm, have something in common these days. Both are suffering a crisis of confidence of their own making.


In the case of the GOP, the habit of claiming the moral high ground on "values" has inevitably fallen victim to a series of scandals that has shaken the faith of some true believers. Democrats, of course, are subject to the same human foibles but are more insulated from voter disillusionment, in this cycle anyway, because they have generally avoided wrapping themselves in the mantle of rightousness.


The Edelman disaster is also self-inflicted and in ways that are similar. No other PR company has used social media and the web more effectively to cultivate an image of fairness, accuracy and transparency. Steve Rudel and Richard Edelman have been, until now at least, considered straight-shooters who built online reputations for embracing the openess and directness of the blogosphere and enjoyed the enormous wellspring of trust this kind of relationship with readers can build.


Now, a lot of readers feel betrayed because Edelman constructed a blogging buzz campaign for Wal-Mart and tried to pass it off as the real thing. I'm sure other PR firms has tried similar stunts and some of them have probably worked.


What makes it a particular disaster for Edelman, however, is that two of its most prominent executives have carefully and deliberately courted the trust of online readers and fellow bloggers over a long period of time and betrayed that trust for short-term gain. In so doing, they have wiped out months of hard work and goodwill and committed two of the cardinal sins of public relations-they have made themselves the story and they made their client look bad.


This is further proof that social media has the capacity to do extraordinary good things for a company's reputation, but only if it is honest about who is controlling the message.










Creating An RSS 2.0 Feed




Why Doesn't Naked CRM Work?













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Washington's Worst-Kept Secret: Changes Are Coming in Iraq Policy

Analysis: When the U.S. elections are over, the Bush Administration will hear some advice it won't like, from a White House-backed bipartisan panel that sees the present policy as unlikely to succeed



Exclusive Interview: Cheney on Elections and Iraq

The Vice President talks to TIME about why he thinks the G.O.P. will maintain control of both the House and Senate, and admits he may have been "premature" in saying "we were over the hump in terms of violence" in Iraq



25 Rules to Grow Rich By



Dow's 1st close above 12,000

Ends above the milestone number on anniversary of the 1987 crash; Google profits dazzle.



Report: Brown University should examine slavery ties



Number of ACT and SAT test-takers up - students likely taking both



Nudist resorts baring themselves to outside world



Inn love: 15 coastal getaways



U.S. to get 115 million flu vaccines this year, CDC says



White House rules out proposals to end Iraq war



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Microsoft releases new Internet Explorer








Man in critical condition after stingray attack in boat


LIGHTHOUSE POINT, Florida (AP) -- An 81-year-old man was in critical condition Thursday after a stingray flopped onto his boat and stung him, leaving a foot-long barb in his chest in an accident similar to the one that killed "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin.


"It was a freak accident," said Lighthouse Point acting fire Chief David Donzella. "It's very odd that the thing jumped out of the water and stung him. We still can't believe it."


Fatal stingray attacks like the one that killed Irwin last month at the Great Barrier Reef are rare, marine experts say. Rays reflexively deploy a sharp spine in their tails when frightened, but the venom coating the barb usually causes just a painful sting for humans.


James Bertakis of Lighthouse Point was on the water with his granddaughter and a friend Wednesday when a stingray flopped onto the boat and stung Bertakis. The women steered the boat to shore and called 911. (Watch to see the speckled creature's face, stringy tail and what's happened to the victim-- 1:25)


Doctors were able to remove the barb during surgeries Wednesday and Thursday by eventually pulling it through his heart and closing the wound, said Dr. Eugene Costantini at Broward General Medical Center.


He said Bertakis' case was different from Irwin's because the barb stayed in Bertakis' heart and was not pulled out. Videotape of Irwin's last moments shows him pulling the barb from his chest. (Watch the surgeon's demo of what happened to Bertakis' heart and why the barb went deeper -- 12:03)


Bertakis was apparently trying to remove the three-foot-wide spotted eagle ray from the boat when he was stung, police Cmdr. Mike Oh said.


Ellen Pikitch, a professor of marine biology and fisheries at the University of Miami, who has been studying stingrays for decades, said they are generally docile.


"Something like this is really, really extraordinarily rare," she said. "Even when they are under duress, they don't usually attack."










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Innovation, independence mark new breed of inventors


Six geeks + one laboratory + 24-hour workdays = success.


That's the formula at Squid Labs, one of a growing number of small businesses generating innovative new products for complex scientific problems. Working increasingly on small teams, companies like Squid Labs, Intellectual Ventures, Mom Inventors and Walker Digital are trying to turn training, intelligence and ingenuity into profits.


And many larger companies are only too happy to send them the business.


According to Fortune magazine, corporate demand for the expertise and imagination found in such small invention firms has risen to unprecedented levels of late, in part because many large companies have slashed their own research and development budgets since 2000.


Without outside investment, companies like these often have to rely solely on their wits and hard work to establish themselves. And yet the the challenge can be intoxicating. With just a handful of chemical, mechanical and computer engineers, the Squid Labs office in Emeryville, California, is abuzz with science and innovation at all hours of the day and night.


"We want to be considered a place that people can go to when they need a unique invention or new ideas," said founding partner Saul Griffith.


Growing up, it didn't take long for Griffith to break his holiday toys into pieces. "The legend in my family is that no Christmas present lasted past lunchtime, before I'd taken it apart and built something new with it," he recalled.


This obsession with deconstruction, understanding, and creation is fundamental to the Squid Labs culture, where team members are encouraged to experiment, think out loud, and try novel approaches to problems. Current company projects include a portable eyeglass-lens cutting machine that is fast and inexpensive, a rope that lets people know when it's about to break, a functional three-dimensional map, and a cartoon designed to give children hands-on experience with physical science concepts.


But this is not an easy business. The market for inventions is both international and fiercely competitive.


Of the record 409,532 patent applications filed last year, more than 45 percent came from abroad, continuing a steady trend that has seen U.S. inventors lose ground to their overseas counterparts. While fewer Americans are studying college science relative to the rest of the world, the study of science is exploding in the rest of the world and growing numbers of international high-tech experts are marketing themselves and their companies as inventors.


While international students who pursued degrees in the United States and remained after graduation may have once closed such gaps, this is changing. Emerging Third World markets and communication technologies that allow professional people to work together from all over the globe are leading many foreign students to go home after graduation.


Still, small American firms are leading the way in this new arena and Squid Labs, at least, plans to stay ahead of the curve."The list of people we want to associate with is long and growing," said Griffith. "We definitely want to attract the best minds to be able to take on the hardest projects."











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Police 'confident' slain neighbor didn't molest tot


Police have concluded that a 2-year-old girl was not molested by a neighbor whom the girl's father is accused of stabbing to death in rage, a police official said Thursday.


Jonathon Edington, a 29-year-old attorney from Fairfield, is charged with killing Barry James on August 28 after his wife told him their daughter had indicated James touched her inappropriately "in the starry night," police said.


Edington pleaded not guilty last week.


"We're confident this 2-year-old was not molested," said Capt. Gary MacNamara. "We are confident in our investigation that Mr. Edington did in fact kill Mr. James. We are as confident in our investigation that Mr. James did not molest the Edingtons' daughter."


MacNamara confirmed that investigators interviewed the girl but declined to release further details.


MacNamara also would not comment on whether the girl's mother would be charged. A molestation complaint was filed against James shortly after he was killed.


A telephone message left Thursday for Edington's attorney, Andrew Bowman, was not returned.


"The family of Barry James is adamant that Barry James was not a child molester, would never have harmed that child," Richard Meehan, the family's attorney, said Tuesday. "We fully anticipated and expected there would be nothing to corroborate this. I believe the complaint is untrue."


According to a police report describing the mother's account, the girl told her mother about the alleged molestation while the family was visiting relatives in Rhode Island.


The girl "explained that she did not want to go home because of Barry," police said in the report. When her mother asked her to explain, the girl said "that Barry puts it on her belly and her nose," the report said. When her mother asked her when James does this, she replied, "He comes to me in the starry nights."


Police say that after Edington's wife told him what their daughter said, Edington climbed through James' bedroom window and repeatedly stabbed him.









Ex-NYSE chief ordered to return part of $188M

Attorney General's office says 'tens of millions' of dollars ordered to be returned; Grasso to appeal.








Priest admits fondling Foley, says it wasn't abuse


A priest whom former Rep. Mark Foley reportedly accused of molestation almost four decades ago said Thursday that he fondled the lawmaker as a teen, but the priest said it wasn't abuse because Foley "seemed to like it."


"Once maybe I touched him or so, but didn't, it wasn't -- because it's not something you call, I mean, rape or penetration or anything like that you know. We were just fondling," Father Anthony Mercieca, 69, said in a phone interview with CNN affiliate WPTV from his home on the Maltese island of Gozo in the Mediterranean.


Mercieca earlier told The Associated Press that a Florida newspaper "exaggerated" the inappropriateness of his and Foley's relationship.


"He seemed to like it, you know? So it was sort of more like a spontaneous thing," Mercieca told WPTV, a West Palm Beach, Florida, station.


Mercieca, however, rejected the idea that he sexually abused Foley, saying, "See abuse, it's a bad word, you know, because abuse, you abuse someone against his will. But it involved just spontaneousness, you know?"


The priest also questioned the timing of Foley's allegations against him, suggesting the six-term congressman only recently became bothered by their relationship.


"Let's say it was 40 years ago, almost 40 years ago, so why bring this up at this late stage?" Mercieca asked. "Anyway, he will overcome it, with a psychiatrist you know. Mark is a very intelligent man."


Mercieca said he and the teen Foley were friends, "almost like brothers," and they went on trips together to the beach, rodeo and arcade. They also went out of town together to New York and Washington, where they visited museums.


Sources close to the investigation told CNN that Foley had named Mercieca as his abuser.


'Let bygones be bygones'


Mercieca apologized to Foley but implored the former lawmaker to remember the fun they had together.


"I would say that if I offended him, I am sorry, but to remember the good time we had together, you know?" he said. "And how really we enjoyed each other's company. And to let bygones be bygones. Don't keep dwelling on this thing, you know?"


Mercieca worked at Sacred Heart Church in Lake Worth, Florida, in the mid-1960s, which is about the time Foley alleged the abuse occurred, a source said.


Foley, 52, has said through attorney David Roth that he was molested by a priest when he was between the ages of 13 and 15, which would have been between 1967 and 1969. Foley was an altar boy at Sacred Heart, CNN has confirmed.


The allegation came after Foley resigned on September 29 as details of his sexually explicit instant messages to teen congressional pages became public.


Roth also told reporters at the time that Foley had entered a rehabilitation facility for alcoholism and that he was gay.


The Herald-Tribune in Sarasota, Florida, reported Wednesday that Mercieca -- in an interview from his island home -- conceded there were encounters that Foley could perceive to be sexually inappropriate.


Mercieca recalled for the newspaper massaging Foley while the teen was naked, skinny-dipping with Foley at a secluded lake in Lake Worth and being naked in the same room with him on overnight trips, according to the Herald-Tribune.


Mercieca also told the newspaper about an incident he couldn't remember because he had been taking tranquilizers when he "was going through a nervous breakdown."


"I used to take them all the time. They affected my mind a little bit," he said, according to the newspaper.


He reiterated that claim during interviews with WPTV and CNN's "Paula Zahn Now." But he told the station, "We didn't do anything dirty ourselves, you know."


According to the AP, which spoke to Mercieca by phone, the priest called the Herald-Tribune article "exaggerated" and said his and Foley's relationship was not sexual.


Matthew Doig, the Herald-Tribune reporter who interviewed Mercieca, told CNN's "American Morning" that Mercieca acknowledged having an inappropriate relationship with Foley, but said there was only one incident that would fit Foley's allegations.


"They went skinny-dipping together, the father talked about naked back massages, that type of thing," Doig said. "But again, nothing beyond that. But he said at some point there was an incident between the two of them that he blamed on tranquilizers and alcohol that probably led to the moment that Mark Foley is talking about."


Mercieca told Doig that he was taking the tranquilizers because he was going through a nervous breakdown after moving from Brazil to Florida, Doig said.


"He said he was having a nervous breakdown. That was pretty much what he was blaming it on," Doig said. "He was adamant that this was a one-time incident. In fact, our second source close to the Foley family had described it to us before that as a one-time incident."


Still a priest


The Herald-Tribune report quoted Mercieca as saying the encounter was an aberration and that he has never been accused of sexual misconduct during his decades in the priesthood.


A Web site for the Diocese of Gozo lists Mercieca as one of its priests.


Neither Roth nor Foley's civil attorney, Gerald Richman, had any comment on the revelation of the priest's name or the newspaper interview.


On Tuesday, Richman said Foley would not press charges against the clergyman because of the statute of limitations. Richman also said Foley had accepted an offer of counseling from the Miami Archdiocese.


The Palm Beach County state attorney's office says it cannot conduct an investigation because Foley has declined to press charges.


The Miami Archdiocese released a statement Thursday saying it received the name of Foley's alleged abuser from the state attorney's office but is waiting for the go-ahead to release it.


"The archdiocese has contacted the office of the state attorney to ask for their permission to release the name of the alleged abuser to the public," the statement says. "Once we have official confirmation of the name and permission from the state attorney the archdiocese will inform the public immediately."


Anyone who has been the victim of sexual abuse by clergy or church personnel should contact the archdiocese's victim's assistance coordinator at 1-866-802-2873, the statement said.


A Vatican spokesman said that if Foley's allegations are true, "we participate in the pain that this deplorable situation has caused."


"We trust in the competent ecclestial authorities to investigate and clarify the events that have been reported," said Father Federico Lombardi.










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How Blogs Changed the World


I enjoyed reading the survey of varied opinions about the usefulness of blogging by academics at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business.

While some profs are writings blogs to relay information to their students, others don't read them at all.


But blogs are changing how we communicate that will extend beyond the blogosphere. Here's my list of how blogging is good and bad for business and society.


1. Blogging holds writers accountable and is bi-directional. Enabling people to comment on posts enables incorrect information to be immediately pointed out, and allows other opinions to be part of the conversation. An error in a high-profile blog will get greater exposure than an error in a news article. Companies can talk directly with their clients and get feedback that was previously impossible to collect.


2. The language of blogging is more digestible. You can't write a blog like a press release, so the words have to be more direct, unscripted, and easier to understand. Bloggers who try to hide behind marketing-speak will be called out. Blogs are written in a narrative style that gives better insight into the author's thought process as events are occurring, unlike polished policy papers that have been sanitized.


3. Blogging breaks control of information distribution from the media. Allowing new voices is a positive, and it is changing the political discussion, critically assaying the media and government from all sides.


4. Blogs provide a filter that focuses on interests. If your interest is in Internet technology, shoes, or biodiesel, there's a blog for you, saving time scouring the universe.


On the other hand:


1. Reading blogs can be a huge waste of time. Productivity is lost during the millions of hours per week that workers are reading blogs instead of doing what they are paid to do.


2. It takes time to trust blog authors. Since everyone can publish, there are many untrustworthy sources spewing rumor, inaccuracies and propaganda and truth (just like TV!), so be careful whom you read. Professional writers at news organizations and experts in their field are the best sources to start with, but of course many bloggers have earned their stripes over time.


Blogging is changing the expectations of communication, focusing on immediacy, niches, and accountable. Corporate communications and news will never be the same.














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Amazon launches answers site







How Social Networks Can Make Money




Turning social network traffic into dollars


The most popular social networks haven't had trouble attracting millions of members, but the advertising dollars have typically been more elusive.


Sites like MySpace and Facebook have made progress with some advertisers by the sheer magnitude of their traffic and audience. But it's a work in progress, given advertisers' reluctance to associate their brands with sometimes-inappropriate user material.


High Impact


What's new:


Social networks attract plenty of visitors but have had a tougher time attracting advertisers who may be wary of associating their brands with inappropriate content.


Bottom line:


New technologies are being developed to help make social networks more attractive to advertisers.


New technologies are on the horizon now to help social networks appeal to these discerning advertisers.


http://www.RelevanceNow.com , for example, is an Australian start-up with a technology it calls "social intelligence," an analytics tool that can size up members of a community via their so-called psychographics, which classify people's attitudes and values, likes and dislikes. With the technology, a social network could segment groups of people based on details they've divulged in member profiles or blogs. The network then could target an advertisement appropriate for a specific group. The technology also could help identify people in the network with certain needs--vulnerable teenagers, for example--and then be used to invite those teens to a group on building confidence.


"Social intelligence understands users' interests even if they don't explicitly say (what they are)," said RelevanceNow CEO John Zakos, who previously helped develop search technology at the company Mooter.


This is no easy trick. On social networks like MySpace only a fraction of their millions of members participate in affinity groups, such as those that cater to motocross fans or sushi lovers, groups which could make it easier to target ads. But if the technology works as intended, a site might, for example, show an ad for a local sushi restaurant to a member of the sushi-lovers' group.


Such targeted ads typically garner higher responses from their intended audiences, and thus cost the advertiser more money. As it is now, general site-wide banner ads can dominate social networks, and those banners typically sell for lower rates.


"Those guys are getting such low CPMs (cost per thousand ads)--that's true of Friendster, MySpace and Tribe," said Paul Martino, the founding chief technology officer of Tribe.net He left to found a new ad-targeting company, Aggregate Knowledge, in 2005. "Not many advertisers want to be up on user-generated sites, because it's not where they want their brands to be. Having these affinity-based matches might be a way to bring in advertisers who are leery of social networks."


MySpace's hefty take


Still, MySpace, as the giant of social networking and one of the top five most-trafficked sites online, seems to be holding its own in the ad marketplace, drawing movie and food marketers that want to appeal to younger generations. MySpace commanded almost 15 percent of the estimated share of image-based advertisements sold online in September (not including sponsored links or search ads), according to Nielsen NetRatings' AdRelevance. That was up from roughly 7 percent in September a year ago.


Nielsen doesn't estimate sales figures, and MySpace parent company News Corp. does not break out advertising revenue for the social network.


MySpace has also increased sales of customized advertiser profiles for companies like Wendy's and Burger King. These profiles often feature fictional, company-created characters whose age, likes, dislikes and personalities fit in with those of prospective customers. In one example, a company-created member profile for "The King"--a character featured in Burger King ads--can sell for anywhere between $500,000 and $1 million, according to a company spokesperson.


Such advertiser profiles could get more sophisticated, too, with technology from RelevanceNow. The privately held company makes so-called chat-bot technology that could be used to create specialized virtual characters with which fans can have an instant message conversation. The technology platform, which it calls My Cybertwin, includes a number of set personality profiles, like "cheeky" or "happy," that RelevanceNow can customize into a character or corporate mascot. For example, it could create a Bart Simpson character that fans could chat with online.


MySpace could ultimately charge more for a corporate page by creating an embedded IM application for a character like Wolverine from "X-Men."


MySpace appears to be considering the idea. "We haven't offered one to date, but we have the capabilities and will explore the opportunity with clients in the future," said Ann Burkart, a MySpace spokeswoman.


RelevanceNow said it is in talks with more than one major social network in the United States and Australia, and its social intelligence technology is being used by several such networks already. Zakos did not divulge partnerships because of nondisclosure agreements.


Targeting practice Targeting online visitors can be difficult, too, if the audience isn't big enough. The challenge is to aggregate enough members and ad inventory to make it worthwhile for advertisers to buy.


Aggregate Knowledge in Palo Alto, Calif., which is still in stealth mode and is backed by Google investor Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, may also have an ad solution for social networks. Aggregate's founder, Paul Martino, discovered a technique for classifying affinity groups when he worked as CTO of Tribe.net, and has been developing the idea at Aggregate.


Aggregate has developed algorithms to determine what are called "affinity clusters" of people and, based on the personality profiles of those people, targets ads. It does this not by analyzing an individual's habits, but by looking at people's habits in aggregate. So if a group of people visit the sushi forum on Yahoo Groups, then go to Open Table to make a reservation, then turn to MySpace to talk about the experience at the restaurant, Aggregate has a general personality profile of that group, and can cluster people into it and target ads based on the affinity.


"We get around issues of scale," said Martino. "There are hundreds of other ways to skin a cat."


Portals such as Yahoo and MSN appear to be best positioned to sell targeted advertising in their social networks with technology that helps them analyze hundreds of millions of users based on demographics, psychographics and even time of day. What's more, they have the advantage of being able to analyze the habits of people across Yahoo and MSN's multiple properties, such as those devoted to finance and to sports, to garner more ad-targeting data. But their nascent communities--Yahoo 360 and MSN Windows Live Spaces--have yet to make a splash like others.


"It would be a technology challenge for newer (social networks)," said Wenda Millard, chief sales officer of Yahoo. "Not for us; we have such a huge platform, and we've been in the targeting business for such a long time."


MSN and Yahoo have experience selling corporate-mascot "chat bots," too. MSN, for example, offered a "Billy Bones" pirate character via IM that fans of the film "Pirates of the Carribean" could add as a buddy and chat with.


For this reason, Facebook teamed with MSN in September to sell Facebook's graphical ad inventory.


Earlier this year, MySpace also inked a deal with Google to display MySpace text advertising targeted to content on the page. That deal, according to a source, is about Google attempting to understand how to drive up ad response in social networks because revenue sharing terms, in this case, were not favorable to the search giant.


"Before we see sophisticated databases that are applying social mapping to ad display and selection, we'll see something much more basic, like funneling people into channels that advertisers already understand how to buy," said Mark Pincus, chairman and cofounder of social network Tribe.net.











AdSense Leading Google's Growth?






AdSense Leads Google's Drive for Dominance


If Google's earnings are on track this week, eMarketer estimates the company could take in about one quarter of U.S. Internet ad revenues for 2006.


A big part of what's driving that growth is the expansion of AdSense, Google's mammoth contextual ad network. While second quarter earnings pegged revenues on Google's own sites higher than on AdSense sites ($1.43 billion versus $997 million), AdSense has the larger reach, according to Kim Malone, director of AdSense online sales and operations.


"If you want to go to one place to reach audience, AdSense is the place to do it," she said during an interview in ClickZ's offices earlier this week.


Yet marketers tend to think of the AdSense network as a sea of text links sprinkled uniformly across the Web's long tail, heavy on remnant inventory and light on branded ad offerings. Google's now in the midst of a push to change that perception with strategies like embedding account reps in the offices of blue chip advertisers and trotting out impressive case studies on rich campaign deployments across the AdSense network.


Google views partnering as the easiest way for it to build traffic, as evidenced by the company's recent distribution deals with MTV and News Corp.'s MySpace, and its AOL deal earlier this year.


"It's almost like Mark Twain and Tom Sawyer getting kids to paint the fence for them and getting ads on the site, but not having to build traffic," said David Hallerman, senior analyst at eMarketer. "It's a very powerful means of revenue without, relatively speaking, doing much work."


For Google, the message to marketers is that AdSense is a great place to get both reach and customization. While the majority of campaigns on the network are run through Google's AdWords dashboard, customization and even on-one support are a growing part of the offering.


The AdSense team will work with larger advertisers to find niche sites that fit with the product or campaign messaging. But to what extent will blue chip marketers want those sites? "CMOs are really beginning to understand the importance of the long tail," said Malone.


But, she acknowledges, the company is striving to score ad distribution with blockbuster sites and content as well. "We're also really excited to work with MTV. It's going to be interesting to watch the interaction of blockbuster content and the long tail."


Malone describes a long-tail network buy in which an auto manufacturer with a sponsorship of a Texas county fair advertised specifically on sites related to the fair. Another advertiser, Saturn, used a combination of AdSense sites, Google Maps and video content to create rich, local experiences for regional car buyers.

In a third instance, the AdSense team broadened the scope of a campaign for a car insurance provider by targeting sites related to life-changing moments like parenting, graduation, wedding, and even divorce. In both instances, neither advertiser would have been able to reach the targeted sites without the targeting AdSense provides.


Despite all the talk about razor sharp targeting, behavioral targeting is definitively not in the cards. "Behavioral targeting is not something that Google [AdSense] will do," affirmed Malone.


Google's positive message about AdSense is somewhat undercut by the company's unwillingness to share particulars of general ad performance across the network. Malone declined to comment either on the average click-through rate across the network or on the percentage of AdWords marketers who will only advertise on search results – thus shunning the network.


Earlier this year AdSense added video to the mix. Malone hypothesized that with regard to TV ads, AdSense could eventually serve as a testing ground for creative, so advertisers and agencies can determine which execution to use in more expensive TV buys.


"It's good for users and advertisers," she said. "Advertisers can go beyond the :30 spot and ask questions."











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Become A More Effective Sales Person With Online Video


When marketing online there are some advantages and disadvantages. The main advantage is that you can completely automate the sales process and sell 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year without one smidgen of human input.


It can be a completely hands free business. That in itself is precisely the reason why I became an online entrepreneur and started my own business via the internet.


But selling via the internet also has some downsides, some restrictions that until now have been difficult to overcome. Here are just three (3) of these restrictions.


1) Lack of trust. For the success of a sale there needs to be a trusting relationship between both parties. On the internet this is extremely hard to achieve.


2) Lack of attention. With so many distractions online it is very hard to get your prospects attention to turn them into a customer.


3) Limited marketing methods. When it comes to selling online you are generally limited to copy and graphics, that's it. Yes audio is starting to make an appearance although on very few sites, but most online marketers are missing the biggest opportunity.


In a real world situation the salesperson would normally dwarf each of the above limitations and make the sale but not so when marketing online... your website is your salesperson.


Zig Ziglar writes in his book "Secrets of Closing the Sale"


"The professional understands that logic is aimed at and appeals to the eye. Emotion is aimed at and appeals to the ear. That is why, when humanly possible, we not only tell people what our merchandise or goods will do but we demonstrate at the same time.


We've been conditioned to believe what we see instead of what we hear. The eyes have truly been called the "windows of the soul" - the minds eye believes what it sees. The eyes are the only one of our sense organs which connect directly to the brain. For this reason, logically we accept more readily what we see than what we hear. However, we are moved into action by what we hear. Remember, our "feeling" brain is ten times as large as our "thinking" brain, so "tell 'em" and "show 'em" and your chances of selling them are greatly multiplied."


There you have it from the hand of one of the greatest sales people and teachers, the problem with marketing online. You can't "tell or show" your prospect anything via the internet, thus reducing your chances of making the sale, without using new video technology and the good news is the timing for this is perfect.


If you want to reach, right into your prospects brain then you must do it via the eyes and the ears and the best way to do this online is via streaming video. Using video you can explain the best parts of your product to your prospect as if they were right there with you but it can be done completely on auto pilot.


The problem is that putting video on your web site has been related to brain surgery because a lot of people have made it a lot more complicated then it really is.


Online video is the way of the future for marketing via the internet and the best time to start is now.





















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Ad Position And Bid Influence


This screen shot is from a test campaign I ran this week (to see full size versions of screen shots here, click on them). The drilldown on any ad group's bid or individual keyword bid allows you to project how bids will translate into ad positions and their expected click volumes in the upcoming month. This is just for a single keyword, "interior decorating."


Slide the bar over a bit, to find out what it would cost to generate double the number of clicks (686 up from 343) on this keyword. Interestingly, the average amount I'd have to *bid* to generate that number of projected clicks in a month on this keyword is well more than double the current bid - $2.70, up from $1.03. That would achieve 94% of the highest potential click volume, twice the 47% achieved with my current bid. By bidding another 35 cents higher than that, you'd eke out a little more volume, to fully 100% of the highest potential clicks, with an average ad position of near 1.0.


But get this: due to ad discounting and the behavior of other advertisers, my actual average cost on this keyword when bidding that high is only projected to rise by 21.5%, to $1.13. In fact, the tool projects an average actual cost per click of $1.13 even if you bid all the way up to the 1.0 average position, projected at $3.05. Leaving a moderately high bid "on" all the time could be at least as cost-effective as bidding very high and governing daily impressions with strict budget limits, and volume is gained without a huge ROI hit in this case (or, depending on conversion rates, ROI could turn out to be around the same, or much worse if you convert better out of lower positions). With ad discounting and complex rank algorithms, many AdWords advertisers have learned that actual average bids aren't nearly as scary as the max bids you enter into the system. It's the actual amounts that need to be considered when making projections.


Will playing around with this tool teach advertisers about the demand curve and about optimal ad positions for their purposes? Will it help them to understand that bidding properly is a form of budgeting to be used in tandem with actual budget limits (also built into Panama for daily and monthly amounts)? You bet. What it specifically teaches them about their own account strategy is up in the air, though. That's going to vary wildly by keyword and by business. All we can really say for sure is that a lot of changes are triggered by changes in bids.


On high volume keywords with a lot of competition, these projection tools are likely to be a bit out of whack. On low volume or geotargeted keywords, they'll be a lot out of whack. But as the system gathers more data for your account as well as for advertiser behavior in general, the projections will become more certain. You have to start somewhere, and this intuitive interface is a great start.


With a visual like this, will there still be advertisers who want to bid 20 cents on core keywords, and still generate as many clicks as possible (obviously, in a competitive environment, these are mutually exclusive goals, all other things like CTR being equal)? You would think that a picture here says 1,000 words to this type of wishful thinking.









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Write about things you love, avoid the fate of bloggers who sputter out


If you start a blog, it's likely because you have something you want the world to hear.


But what happens when you run out of things to say?


Don't laugh. Some people do.


"A lot of times, people go into it thinking that they will have a lot more to say than they end up having to say," says Maggie Mason, author of No One Cares What You Had For Lunch: 100 Ideas for Your Blog (Peachpit Press, $19.99). " 'I went to McDonald's for lunch' has become the blog standard of tedium."


Mason says she wrote her book "to give people entry points, to be a reminder of how much fun it is to sit down and create something."


Although bloggers -- basically people who keep Internet diaries to be read by a few or a few thousand -- can start off with a bang, many are soon casting about for something to write about. When they get so desperate that they are actually typing "I don't know what to write," then the party's over.


"That's sort of the quintessential last post," says Mason, "and then . . . crickets."


Remember: Passion sells


There are 5,000 new blogs started each day. And many of them are, well, pretty dull. So how do you keep from being in that group?


First, be passionate about your subject matter -- whether it's dating or films or bowling, Mason says.


"You can blog about anything. If you really like to watch TV, there's a huge audience who really wants to hear what you think of the new fall TV series. If you're way into bocce ball, then write about that," she says.


Orlando blogger Joyce Wiatroski decided to write about food. An avid cook, Wiatroski, 67, started a blog last year that focuses on fixing quick, healthful meals -- and occasionally veers into her other passions, books and politics.


Blogging comes naturally to Wiatroski. "I guess, like everyone else, I wanted to speak and be printed," she says. "I could only write so many letters to the editor."


"I'm impressed with a lot of other bloggers who have wonderful blogs," says Wiatroski. "But then I'll go to some that are just horrid. 'I don't know what to do with myself today.' I don't care to read that."


Picture you in a bad place


If you're interested in attracting readers, says Mason, say interesting things. Among her ideas? Make a timeline of your life -- including the fact that, when you were 6 years old, you were terrified that you would wake up and discover yourself at the top of a Ferris wheel. Or that, when you were 20, you were dating badly.


Instead of a list of things you like -- dogs, kittens, walking on the beach -- come up with something quirky, such as peanut-butter-and-mayonnaise sandwiches.


Write about universal feelings that others can relate to. All of us have been dumped -- and know how that feels. All of us have wished we could retract something we've said. Tell the world your horrible-roommate stories.


Thanks to http://www.myspace.com and http://www.blogger.com , it's easy to start a blog -- and pretty easy to post pictures. But for a real conversation starter, dig back into old photos, says Mason. Scan in photos of you in high school with a bad haircut or something embarrassing. "The more miserable you were, the more endearing you'll become," she says.


Of course, coming up with all this stuff can be time-consuming. Indeed 59 percent of bloggers, according to a national survey, spend just one or two hours a week tending their blog.


Jennifer Alvarado, a 20-year-old hospitality-management major at the University of Central Florida, is so busy with her classes, her job at a downtown hotel, her sorority and her work on a dance team that she rarely has time for long posts.


And when she doesn't have anything to say, she doesn't post.


"I'd rather not write anything than write something completely boring," Alvarado says.


Scott Crocker never worried about being boring. When Crocker began his blog -- focusing on race and faith and American life -- he worried that his blog wouldn't measure up to the others he had read.


"The first time I posted something, I thought it had to be so good," says Crocker, 33, an Orlando-based evangelist for Campus Crusade For Christ. He quickly realized that his opinions and experiences -- as a white evangelist who works primarily with African-American college students -- gave him a unique perspective. Now when he sits down to write, he feels more confident.


"I draw from my everyday life. I draw from my staff and student leaders around the country," he says. "I comment on the news."


Just do your thing


Bloggers can increase traffic to their Web sites by linking to other sites, but one of the easiest ways to attract more readers is to spread the word about your blog. Tell friends and family, then continue writing regularly so that they'll find a new posting when they check in.


But the most important tip: Bloggers should just be themselves, says Josh Hallett, a blog consultant from Winter Haven.


"What's weird about the blogo- sphere is, if you continue to do your thing, people who like your writing style will find you and stick with you," Hallett says.


There's no better example than Stephanie Klein, who began her blog as a therapeutic exercise after a divorce and a bad relationship. Within a few months, friends of friends were reading her blog. But her big break came in June 2004, when a London newspaper did a story about her Sex and the City-type blog, and dubbed Klein the "Internet Queen of Manhattan."


Now Klein has married, moved to Texas and is expecting twins. But she still has thousands of loyal readers -- and a deal to create a TV show.


"I wasn't one of these bloggers who was writing on other blogs to get traffic. I also don't write snarky things about celebrities. I don't write anything political. I write about myself," says Klein.


"It's a very narcissistic, self-involved blog. It always has been. People criticize me for that, but this is my diary. Of course it's all about me."











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Newsmaker: Taking 'Second Life' to the next level


For better or worse, one of the hottest names in technology these days is Linden Lab's "Second Life."


Over the last few months, the virtual universe has solidified its place as a media darling, appearing as the subject of a BusinessWeek cover story, an eight-page package in Wired and endless stories online and in newspapers around the world. Plus, an ever-growing roster of household corporate names have arrived in-world, including IBM, Sun Microsystems, Warner Music and many more.


Through it all, "Second Life" residents--963,212 accounts have been created as of this writing, 396,616 of them active within the last 60 days--have had to deal with denial-of-service-like attacks that have shut down the virtual world's main grid, as well as ongoing problems with lag, a difficult user interface and other problems.


Yet, the number of "Second Life" residents is growing rapidly, and in an environment where nearly all the content--landscapes, buildings, clothing, vehicles and much more--is built by users, Linden Lab estimates that participants are creating the equivalent of more than 5,000 full-time engineers' worth of content.


Philip Rosedale


On Monday, Linden Lab CEO Philip Rosedale's avatar took the stage in CNET Networks' "Second Life" headquarters to talk about the metaverse's latest developments in front of an audience of several dozen residents.




Q: There's a lot of buzz right now about news organizations opening up bureaus in "Second Life": CNET, Reuters, Wired. What do you think of this phenomenon?


Rosedale: I think it shows that we are all collectively doing the right thing. The fact that news organizations want to be here is powerful because the value of news is in explaining hard things and making complex stuff more obvious. And that shows that there is enough interesting complexity here to warrant their attention. Which means this is all working.




Are you surprised to see so much mainstream media in "Second Life"?


Rosedale: Nope, not really. Increasingly, the profile of "Second Life" users is pretty broad and mainstream. It is as hard to describe the "typical" Second Lifer as to describe the "typical" New Yorker or San Franciscan. I think that "Second Life" is a kind of new language, as it relates to media, marketing and the like, and that this language is one that, as yet, no one really knows. So there will be a huge win for the early companies and people that experiment and learn to speak that language.




Talk about the new "Second Life" real last names policy (under which individuals can buy their own last name for $100 upfront and $50 a year and corporations can get unlimited accounts with the corporate last name for $1,000 upfront and $500 a year).


Rosedale: Lots of people are wanting to have their real names, including last name. So we've been trying to think how to best handle that. The idea of picking a new last name has worked really well, but obviously, sometimes people may want to be their real selves. So what we are thinking, in short, is that you can pay something if you want to get a specific first name and last name. If you are a company, and have an obvious corporate name, you will be able to purchase that company name as a last name. But we are being careful in thinking this through, to not make it too easy for names to be owned. Hence the prices and the inability to totally own a fixed last name, at least to start.




Steve Rubel, who writes the blog http://www.MicroPersuasion.com , pointed out that a real "Second Life" last name is far more expensive than a domain name. That seems a little odd.


Rosedale: There do seem to be strong similarities to the domain name systems, in terms of fair access to all, fees, etc. We started with that idea and have been trying to adapt it appropriately here.





Let's talk about voice support in "Second Life." Vivox is now doing a push for its third-party VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol) client/phone booth in-world. What should "Second Life" residents expect when it comes to voice support from Linden Lab?


Rosedale: OK. First, we clearly agree that voice can be very powerful in "Second Life" for many things. There is a critical feature--the ability to properly 3D-spatialize multiple people speaking in a room, that is going to allow meetings in "Second Life" between many people to blow away conference calls. This is a very powerful thing, and we want to get it working.







Rosedale: I have seen demos where three or four people could talk at the same time and I could understand them perfectly. So that is a huge potential feature. But not everyone wants voice all the time. And text (communication) is very, very powerful. For example, I can use (a translation tool) I am fond of, but that only works when, socially, we are using text and are therefore tolerant of a slight delay. So ideally, the implementation shouldn't push one over the other, or have everyone with voice "forcing" those without it or not wanting it to use it. So we are going to be careful with any built in capability, to make that work.





There have been several recent grid attacks and other security problems in "Second Life." What do you say to frustrated residents?


Rosedale: We are going to go through growing pains where people will attack the grid and we will have to design new systems for defending it. This happened with the Internet/Web, and is still happening in some ways. Look at early denial-of-service attacks, and look at spam today. Many people have called for us to do things that would be overly restrictive, like force everyone in "Second Life" to be credit card-verified. That isn't the right direction.




What is?


Rosedale: We need to build local and global tools that balance the tremendous individual power that people in "Second Life" have. I think this will take awhile, and I wouldn't promise smooth sailing for a while. However, it is definitely possible within the design of "Second Life" to strike a balance that works. One thing that will help is when attacks on "Second Life" are properly treated and prosecuted as cybercrimes, and we are working a lot on that.




There is so much media attention on "Second Life" and Linden Lab these days. Is it a distraction as you try to implement features, fixes and the like?


Rosedale: We probably spend a lot less time on media than you would think. Many of the stories happen without us knowing, or with the help of residents or some of the newly emerging consulting/services companies like Electric Sheep, Millions of Us, etc.





Howie Lament (from the audience) asks: How is Linden Lab going to avoid coding themselves into a corner? Isn't it tempting to do big changes that would break backward-compatibility with the old world?


Rosedale: The way we will stay "out of the corner" is by making "Second Life" heterogeneous. That means that we can try new features out on a small group of (simulators). We think we will get there in the next few months, in terms of the needed protocol and systems changes. This will allow us to deploy not only to preview, but to a small part of the main grid. Or to deploy a "beta" client, for example, that connects to the main grid.





Jonathan Sprawl (from the audience) asks: Is stability, security, and uptime Linden Lab's top priority, and are you willing to forgo new features and growth pursuits until it gets better?


Rosedale: Yes, security and scaling the main systems to handle capacity is our top priority. But that doesn't mean you will not see us do new or different things. If we didn't make steady progress on multiple fronts, we wouldn't be able to hire great people. Also, there are only so many people who can work at one time on specific scaling and security challenges.





Lastly, is there any likelihood of partnerships between Linden Lab and Sun Microsystems or any other big technology companies?


Rosedale: There really isn't anything specific we are looking for. It is of first priority that we keep "Second Life" a level playing field for all, meaning that there are many types of strategic relationships we won't do. But I think as we get bigger and more relevant there may be ways to get help in making "Second Life" work better or be more stable where we work with other companies.




Such as?


Rosedale: Well, any help where we effectively get great development teams working on problems. That is good.


















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Gourmet cheese aficionados finding their way in Vermont


GRANVILLE, Vermont (AP) -- The biggest investment Daniel Hewitt made on his sheep farm was a cheese plant that features a tasting room with a view -- visitors can watch the art of cheesemaking while sampling his European-style tommes and blue cheeses.


Hewitt's Three Owls Farm is located in the heart of the Vermont cheese trail, where artisan cheesemakers welcome visitors to their dairy farms in hopes of educating customers about their craft and drumming up business.


"It's important having people know where their food and local cheeses are coming from," Hewitt said. "The more educated people become about their sources of food, the more likely we'll get good food, I believe."


Visitors drop in from Boston, Quebec and New York. Some have downloaded the cheese trail map from the Internet; others wander in. When they time it right, they get to see cheesemaking. Other days, they can see the animals and sample the cheeses.


At Three Owls Farm, visitors can pay $250 to be a cheesemaker for a day -- a hands-on experience that includes milking the sheep.


"There's nothing like tasting the products, to sell people on them," said Jonathan Wright, of Taylor Farm in Londonderry. "This is one place where people can really come and see the process of cheesemaking, they can see the animals, they can make the real connection to how these products are produced."


Before the cheesemakers developed the trail, Vermont already was on the map in the cheese world.


The state has the highest number of cheesemakers per capita, said Catherine Donnelly, co-director of the Vermont Institute of Artisan Cheese in Burlington.


They produce more than 100 kinds of soft and aged hard cheeses using milk from cows, goats, sheep and water buffalos.


Most are made from raw milk rather than pasteurized milk, which cheesemakers say is more flavorful. And from farm to farm, the flavors and textures vary like wine.


"Taste can be altered by the temperature of the room in which you're working, the size of the holes in the mold in which you drain the cheeses, just the bacteria that are in the milk from your farm," Hewitt said.


That flavor earned Cabot Clothbound Cheddar -- produced by Cabot Creamery and Jasper Hill Farm in Greensboro -- best in show at the American Cheese Society's annual competition in July.


Zabar's, the famed New York food emporium, sells maple smoked gouda from Taylor Farm, cheddars from Cabot and Grafton Village Cheese Company, and a variety of cheeses from Blythedale Farm in Corinth and the Vermont Butter & Cheese Company in Websterville.


"We have a lot and more to come as they continue to make fabulous cheeses," Olga Dominguez, the store's cheese buyer, said of the state's cheese producers.


This year, Hewitt is focusing on a Pyrenean-style tomme, which is a cooked, pressed, slightly rubbed rind cheese. The cheese has been aging since May, when the sheep were first milked after grazing on grass.


"Basically you try something one year, see how it worked, try something the next year and see how it worked, and just keep working at it like that and in 300 years we'll be just like the Italians," he said.


Serge Roche, a French chef who sells Vermont cheeses at his Three Clocks Inn and the Village Pantry in South Londonderry, expects the progress to be quicker.


"Vermont could become the Napa Valley of the cheeses, there's no question about it," he said.









NASA: Greenland ice sheet shrinking


WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- The vast sheet of ice that covers Greenland is shrinking fast, but still not as fast as previous research indicated, NASA scientists said Thursday.


Greenland's low coastal regions lost 155 gigatons (41 cubic miles) of ice each year between 2003 and 2005 from excess melting and icebergs, the scientists said in a statement.


The high-elevation interior gained 54 gigatons (14 cubic miles) annually from excess snowfall, they said.


This is a change from the 1990s, when ice gains approximately equaled losses, said Scott Luthcke of NASA's Planetary Geodynamics Laboratory outside Washington.


"That situation has now changed significantly, with an annual net loss of ice equal to nearly six years of average water flow from the Colorado River," Luthcke said.


Luthcke and his team reported their findings in Science Express, the advance edition of the journal Science.


The ice mass loss in this study is less than half that reported in other recent research, NASA said in a statement, but it still shows that Greenland is losing 20 percent more mass than it gets in new snowfall each year.


The Greenland ice sheet is considered an early indicator of the consequences of global warming, so even a slower ice melt there raises concerns.


"This is a very large change in a very short time," said Jay Zwally, a co-author of the study. "In the 1990s, the ice sheet was growing inland and shrinking significantly at the edges, which is what climate models predicted as a result of global warming.


"Now the processes of mass loss are clearly beginning to dominate the inland growth, and we are only in the early stages of the climate warming predicted for this century," Zwally said.









SKorean scientists say cancer-killing virus developed


South Korean scientists have said they have developed a new genetically altered strain of virus which is highly efficient in targeting and killing cancer cells.


The new therapy developed by the team from Yonsei University uses a genetically-engineered form of the adenovirus, which normally causes colds.


The adenovirus was implanted with a human gene that is related to the production of relaxin, a hormone associated with pregnancy.


When injected into cancerous tumors, the virus quickly multiplies in the cancer cells and kills them, the team said.


The new adenovirus can target only cancer cells and does not harm normal cells, the team said.


Existing viral treatments fail to kill off all the cancerous cells.


"I believe we have found a way to overcome one of the great obstacles to finding a genetically altered viral cure for cancer," Yun Chae-Ok, one of the researchers, told AFP on Thursday.


Following three rounds of injections, more than 90 percent of cancer cells in the brains, liver, lungs and womb of mice disappeared within 60 days, the team said.


Clinical tests will be carried out early next year and last 18 months, Yun said.


The research results were published in the October 18 edition of the prestigious bimonthly Journal of the National Cancer Institute in the United States.









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Prosecutor: Suicidal, text-messaging teen kills woman


ATLANTA, Georgia (AP) -- A lovesick teenage girl drove into an oncoming car in a suicide attempt that she counted down "8, 7, 6..." in a text message to the female classmate who spurned her, authorities said. The teenager survived but a woman in the other car -- a mother of three -- died.


Louise Egan Brunstad, 16, was charged Thursday with felony murder. Prosecutors said they intend to try her as an adult. If convicted, she faces an automatic life sentence.


"She was actually counting down her imminent threat: 'Nine, eight, seven, six ... I'm going to do it,"' said Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard.


Authorities said Brunstad rammed her family's Mercedes-Benz head-on into a smaller Daewoo driven by 30-year-old Nancy Salado-Mayo, who was killed. Salado-Mayo's middle child, Lesly, 6, was in a child safety seat and was treated for fractured ribs and other injuries.


Brunstad, who was treated for an ankle injury, had told friends she planned to kill herself after another female student at Holy Innocents Episcopal School refused to have sex with her, Howard said.


Witnesses told police the girl never slowed as she crossed over a turning lane and into oncoming traffic on busy Roswell Road in Atlanta's Buckhead neighborhood on October 4.


"She was traveling at a high rate of speed," Howard said. "This is an intentional action."


The girl's attorney, Drew Findling, declined to discuss the allegations but expressed the family's sadness over the accident.


"This young lady and her parents are devastated by this horrible accident and by the death of Mrs. Salado-Mayo and the injuries of her daughter," Findling said. "They are praying for the quick and healthy recovery of her daughter and for the well-being of her husband and other children."


After a memorial service in Atlanta, Salado-Mayo's body was returned to her native Mexico for burial. Her husband, Mario Bibiano, a steel worker, was unable to attend the funeral because he remained by his daughter's bedside at an Atlanta hospital.


Brunstad was on crutches in court Thursday for a brief hearing on charges of felony murder and aggravated assault. Howard said she is being held at a mental health facility, and is wearing an electronic monitor around her ankle to prevent her from running away.









Harrison Ford: I'm still 'fit' to play Indiana Jones


ROME, Italy (AP) -- Harrison Ford says he feels "fit to continue" to play Indiana Jones despite growing older.


Ford, 64, said at the inaugural Rome Film Festival on Friday that he was delighted to team up again with directors Steven Spielberg and George Lucas for the film. Lucas co-wrote and executive produced the earlier films, which Spielberg directed.


"We did three films that stay within the same block of time. We need to move on for artistic reasons and obvious physical reasons," Ford said at a news conference. "I feel fit to continue and bring the same physical action."


"Indiana Jones 4" has been in development for over a decade, but the production has recently gained momentum. Lucas has said he and Spielberg, who would direct, are working on a script, though no details have been disclosed.


Ford played Indiana Jones in 1981's "Raiders of the Lost Ark," 1984's "Temple of Doom" and 1989's "The Last Crusade." In the last film, Jones' father was played by Sean Connery, who Ford said might also appear in the planned fourth feature.


"He's part of the emotional fabric of these films. I think there may be an opportunity, I believe that Sean is still willing and I'd be delighted if he joined us," said Ford.


Connery, who attended the Rome event last week, has said that no offer had been made.


Ford declined to provide details about a shooting schedule or film locations, adding that the directors were not yet finished with the script.


"I think it's a real opportunity to make a film as successful ... as the ones we've made before," he said.









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So having a licensing deal in place with the labels is good for GooTube, and they need to sign similar deals with the movie and television producers to avoid lawsuits. YouTube reportedly had to remove 30,000 videos made from copyrighted Japanese TV, and that's just the tip of the iceberg in copyrighted content.


YouTube also agreed to add technology for identifying copyrighted content, which will be a costly and time consuming endeavor. When you include the cost of monitoring the site, paying off the lawyers on both sides of copyright cases and the licensing fees, Google's tab sharply increases. And if the contributors start asking for a share of the ad revenue from when their videos are posted, YouTube's revenue stream could end up being a trickle.










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Do You Blog with Honor?


Blogging-buddy, Jim Kukral, sent me a link to an interesting initiative - an honor pledge for bloggers.


With less and less transparency in the blogging community, it can be hard to know if your favorite blogger has "sold-out" or not. The Blog Honor Pledge, is designed to help bloggers make a statement, including:


What does Blog Honor mean? It means I have chosen to pledge to you the following:


1. I will endeavor to continue to bring you the highest quality content that I am capable of


2. I promise to attempt to disclose or clearly mark any content or advertisements or other monetization attempts that help me keep my blog operating


3. I pledge to never write "fake" blog content solely for the purpose of trying to generate revenue without complete and clear disclosure. With exception, my blog may exist for business purposes, therefore I use it to talk about products & services that relate to my business, thus assisting me in generating leads & sales for me indirectly


So, am I signing on? I would, if I could confirm I'd always bring you great content, without selling out. Maybe if Jim paid me some cash to join, I would - oh the irony. :-)









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Edelman, Karma's Not Just For Earl Anymore


Fortunately, for all things pure and noble, this new free marketplace of ideas works as a circle - what goes around comes around eventually. Wal-Mart and Edelman, meet your blogospheric comeuppance, served with a side of cold irony.


Edelman, Wal-Mart's PR firm, had that music to face this week after it was revealed that Wal-Marting Across America was a PR stunt. Edelman decided it best to announce Thursday that there are a couple of other morally flexible (meaning fake) Wal-Mart blogs out there, once they looked up the definition of "transparency."


Working Families for Wal-Mart, a praise-singing "grassroots" advocacy group formed in December 2005, and its subsidiary, The Paid Critics blog, a forum for outing the union groups funding prominent anti-Wal-Mart critics, were both established by Edelman employees.


Paid Critics' main foe appears to be Brian McLaughlin, "an ally of Wal-Mart Watch" and "Wake-Up Wal-Mart," who incidentally (they really want you to know) fleeced Little Leaguers for $100,000.


That's a lot of booster money. I was lucky to get $10 in my half-a-milk-carton.


Paid Critics, once anonymous, now names Edelman employees Miranda Gill, Brian McNeill and Kate Marshall, whose clients include Working Families For Walmart.


In case your irony sniffer isn't working right. PR flacks are being paid to criticize those that are paid to criticize their clients at a blog called PaidCritics.com. That's irony so pure it rivals Ivory Soap.


It was very clear last summer that the anonymous ease with which a blog could be created would lead to crafty ne'er-do-wells pulling the equivalent of a PR sleight of hand.


Blogoriented.com is no more, but when it first arrived on the scene in Summer '05, the PR world was abuzz with ethical questions about the concept of fraudulent blogs to boost a company's or a product's image. Its absence to date is evidence of a few possibilities: it was a prophetic hoax; it was not profitable; or the founders finally decided they couldn't live with themselves.


Even from the launch, the supposed Chinese-based blog outsourcing self-doubting company founder was quoting the Bible:


For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?"Matthew (16:26)


This was the moral speed bump on the road to creating "standard" American blogs for generating product buzz. They even gave examples:


· A blog written from the perspective of a stray cat in NYC.

· A blog written from a 14 year old depressed Iowa girl.

· A blog about life as a math professor in a southern community college.

· A blog about being a plus sized model in Kentucky.

· A blog about being a weatherman in California.


And so the seed was planted as the less morally-restricted (or morally flexible, if you prefer) in the PR and marketing world began wringing their hands in anticipation. This is brilliant. The best medium ever created.


But what old media failed to teach them, and what they didn't quite have a handle on when they started, was that transparency in this new media world is the only protective cup there is.


Transparency is no longer an option, as when the blogosphere you've tried so hard to impress and connect with discovers there really is just a man behind the curtain (and they will, too), that image you've looked to promote is shattered right along with that porcelain façade.









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A Virtual World but Real Money


It has a population of a million. The “people” there make friends, build homes and run businesses. They also play sports, watch movies and do a lot of other familiar things. They even have their own currency, convertible into American dollars.


What impact will the interest of big business have on what some describe as virtual utopia?


Screen grabs from the Second Life universe, which is fast becoming a three-dimensional test bed for corporate marketers, including Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Sun Microsystems, Nissan, Adidas/Reebok, Toyota and Starwood Hotels.



Philip Rosedale, the chief executive of Linden Labs, the San Francisco company that operates Second Life. More than 30 companies are working on projects on Second Life, and dozens more are considering them.

Enlarge This Image

Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times


Catherine A. Fitzpatrick, 50, a member of Second Life who in the real world is a Russian translator in Manhattan. Her digital alter-ego is Prokofy Neva, who runs a business renting “real estate” to other players.


But residents also fly around, walk underwater and make themselves look beautiful, or like furry animals, dragons, or practically anything — or anyone — they wish.


This parallel universe, an online service called Second Life that allows computer users to create a new and improved digital version of themselves, began in 1999 as a kind of online video game.


But now, the budding fake world is not only attracting a lot more people, it is taking on a real world twist: big business interests are intruding on digital utopia. The Second Life online service is fast becoming a three-dimensional test bed for corporate marketers, including Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Sun Microsystems, Nissan, Adidas/Reebok, Toyota and Starwood Hotels.


The sudden rush of real companies into so-called virtual worlds mirrors the evolution of the Internet itself, which moved beyond an educational and research network in the 1990’s to become a commercial proposition — but not without complaints from some quarters that the medium’s purity would be lost.


Already, the Internet is the fastest-growing advertising medium, as traditional forms of marketing like television commercials and print advertising slow. For businesses, these early forays into virtual worlds could be the next frontier in the blurring of advertising and entertainment.


Unlike other popular online video games like World of Warcraft that are competitive fantasy games, these sites meld elements of the most popular forms of new media: chat rooms, video games, online stores, user-generated content sites like YouTube.com and social networking sites like MySpace.com.


Philip Rosedale, the chief executive of Linden Labs, the San Francisco company that operates Second Life, said that until a few months ago only one or two real world companies had dipped their toes in the synthetic water. Now, more than 30 companies are working on projects there, and dozens more are considering them. “It’s taken off in a way that is kind of surreal,” Mr. Rosedale said, with no trace of irony.


Beginning a promotional venture in a virtual world is still a relatively inexpensive proposition compared with the millions spent on other media. In Second Life, a company like Nissan or its advertising agency could buy an “island” for a one-time fee of $1,250 and a monthly rate of $195 a month. For its new campaign built around its Sentra car, the company then needed to hire some computer programmers to create a gigantic driving course and design digital cars that people “in world” could actually drive, as well as some billboards and other promotional spots throughout the virtual world that would encourage people to visit Nissan Island.


Virtual world proponents — including a roster of Linden Labs investors that includes Jeffrey P. Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com; Mitchell D. Kapor, the software pioneer; and Pierre Omidyar, the eBay co-founder — say that the entire Internet is moving toward being a three-dimensional experience that will become more realistic as computing technology advances.


Entering Second Life, people’s digital alter-egos — known as avatars — are able to move around and do everything they do in the physical world, but without such bothers as the laws of physics. “When you are at Amazon.com you are actually there with 10,000 concurrent other people, but you cannot see them or talk to them,” Mr. Rosedale said. “At Second Life, everything you experience is inherently experienced with others.”


Second Life is the largest and best known of several virtual worlds created to attract a crowd. The cable TV network MTV, for example, just began Virtual Laguna Beach, where fans of its show, “Laguna Beach: The Real O.C.,” can fashion themselves after the show’s characters and hang out in their faux settings.


Unlike Second Life, which emphasizes a hands-off approach and has little say over who sets up shop inside its simulated world, MTV’s approach is to bring in advertisers as partners.


In Second Life, retailers like Reebok, Nike, Amazon and American Apparel have all set up shops to sell digital as well as real world versions of their products. Last week, Sun Microsystems unveiled a new pavilion promoting its products, and I.B.M. alumni held a virtual world reunion.


This week, the performer Ben Folds is to promote a new album with two virtual appearances. At one, he will play the opening party for Aloft, an elaborate digital prototype for a new chain of hotels planned by Starwood Hotels and Resorts. The same day, Mr. Folds will also “appear” at a new facility his music label’s parent company, Sony BMG, is opening at a complex called Media Island.


Meanwhile, Nissan is introducing its Nissan promotion, featuring a gigantic vending machine dispensing cars people can “drive” around.


And some of this is likely to be covered for the outside world by such business news outlets as CNet and Reuters, which now have reporters embedded full-time in the virtual realm.


All this attention has some Second Lifers concerned that their digital paradise will never be the same, like a Wal-Mart coming to town or a Starbucks opening in the neighborhood. “The phase it is in now is just using it as a hype and marketing thing,” said Catherine A. Fitzpatrick, 50, a member of Second Life who in the real world is a Russian translator in Manhattan.


In her second life, Ms. Fitzpatrick’s digital alter-ego is a figure well-known to other participants called Prokofy Neva, who runs a business renting “real estate” to other players. “The next phase,” she said, “will be they try to compete with other domestic products — the people who made sneakers in the world are now in danger of being crushed by Adidas.”


Mr. Rosedale says such concerns are overstated, because there are no advantages from economies of scale for big corporations in Second Life, and people can avoid places like Nissan Island as easily as they can avoid going to Nissan’s Web site. There is no limit to what can be built in Second Life, just as there is no limit to how many Web sites populate the Internet.


Linden Labs makes most of its money leasing “land” to tenants, Mr. Rosedale said, at an average of roughly $20 per month per “acre” or $195 a month for a private “island.” The land mass of Second Life is growing about 8 percent a month, a spokeswoman said, and now totals “60,000 acres,” the equivalent of about 95 square miles in the physical world. Linden Labs, a private company, does not disclose its revenue.


Despite the surge of outside business activity in Second Life, Linden Labs said corporate interests still owned less than 5 percent of the virtual world’s real estate.


As many as 10,000 people are in the virtual world at a time, and they are engaged in a gamut of ventures: everything from holding charity fund-raisers to selling virtual helicopters to operating sex clubs. Linden also makes money on exchanging United States dollars for what it calls Linden dollars for around 400 Linden dollars for $1 (people can load up on them with a credit card). A typical article of clothing — say a shirt — would cost around 200 Linden dollars, or 50 cents. As evidence of the growth of its “economy,” Second Life’s Web site tracks how much money changes hands each day. It recently reached as much as $500,000 a day and is growing as much as 15 percent a month.


On Tuesday, a Congressional committee said it was investigating whether virtual assets and incomes should be taxed.


But many inhabitants simply hang out for free. For advertisers worried about the effectiveness of the 30-second TV spot and the clutter of real world billboards and Internet pop-up ads, Second Life is appealing because it is a place where people literally immerse themselves in their products.


Steve F. Kerho, director of interactive marketing and media for Nissan USA, said the Second Life campaign was part of a growing interest in online video games. “We’re just trying to follow our consumer, that’s where they’re spending their time,” Mr. Kerho said. “But there has to be something in it for them — it’s got to be fun; it’s got to be playful.”


Projects like the Aloft hotel, an offshoot of Starwood’s W Hotels brand, are designed to promote the venture but also to give its designers feedback from prospective guests before the first real hotel opens in 2008.


The new Sony BMG building has rooms devoted to popular musicians like Justin Timberlake and DMX, allowing fans to mingle, listen to tunes or watch videos. Sony BMG is also toying with renting residences in the complex, as well as selling music downloads that people can listen to throughout the simulated world.


Sibley Verbeck, chief executive of the Electric Sheep Company, a consultancy that designed the Aloft and Sony BMG projects, said the flurry of corporate interest stemmed from the 10 to 20 percent growth in the number of people who had gone into virtual worlds each month for the last three years. Though exact numbers are difficult to come by, the figure should top a few million by next year, he said.


The spread of these worlds, however, is limited by access to high-speed Internet connections and, in Second Life’s case, software that is challenging to master and only runs on certain models of computers.


“If it doesn’t crash and burn then it will become real,” he said. “So now’s the time to start experimenting and learning ahead of your competition.”


As part of that process, businesses are learning that different rules apply when they venture into an arena where audiences are in control. “Users are the content — that’s the thing that everybody has a hard time getting over,” said Michael Wilson, the chief executive of Makena Technologies, which operates the virtual world There.com and helped build Virtual Laguna Beach.


For example, Sun Microsystems kicked off the opening of its Second Life venue with a press conference online hosted by executives and Mr. Rosedale of Linden Labs. But by the time the event was in full swing, several members of the audience had either walked or flown onto the stage, where they were running roughshod over the proceedings.


Even Mr. Rosedale got in on the act: he conjured a pair of sunglasses that he superimposed on a video image of a Sun representative talking on a screen behind the stage. (In virtual world lingo, such high jinks are known as “griefing.”)


Some corporate events have been met with protests by placard-waving avatars. And there is even a group called the Second Life Liberation Army that has staged faux “attacks” on Reebok and American Apparel stores. (The S.L.L.A. says it is fighting for voting rights for avatars — as well as stock in Linden Labs.)


Companies in this new environment have to get used to the idea that they may never know exactly who they are dealing with. Most of those in Second Life have chosen their names from a whimsical menu of supplied surnames, resulting in monikers like Snoopybrown Zamboni and Bitmason Pimpernel; males posing as female avatars and vice versa are not uncommon.


Another issue companies have to contend with is that their brands may already be in these virtual worlds, but illegally. Henry Jenkins, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab, said one Second Life habitué created a virtual reproduction of the Ikea catalog to help people decorate their digital pads.


Mr. Verbeck of Electric Sheep said copyright infringement was rampant. His company runs an online boutique where Second Life residents sell each other pixelized creations of everything from body parts to home furnishings to roller skates — many of them unauthorized knockoffs.


So far, the boutique has not had many requests to stop selling fake products. But “we did have a request from the Salvador Dali Museum — which was great,” Mr. Verbeck said. “Second Life is so surreal that it was perfect.”


















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Column: Blogs, sites aid small business


NEW YORK - The Internet has become more than just a critical tool for small businesses — for some owners, it's a way of life.


A reporter's very informal survey of several small business owners found that some of the most useful sites include those that help them network with other entrepreneurs. They also favor sites that help their companies communicate, either internally or with other businesses, or that help get tasks like teleconferencing done, sometimes at low or no cost.


The blogs that are growing in popularity in an Internet society are also being embraced by small business owners.


Marc Hedlund, chief product officer at Wesabe, a personal finance startup based in Berkeley, Calif., said blogs have been a great help as the company prepares to launch.


"For pretty much any kind of business, there's someone who's writing about getting that business to work and what works for them," he said.


It was through a blog that Wesabe found a site to help it with project coordination and to set up an online chat room for its employees, http://www.37signals.com . "It replaced e-mail for us," Hedlund said.


Hedlund noted that Web sites, like any other service that a small business might use, need to be tried out and compared with one another. So while 37signals.com worked for his company, it might not be as helpful for another business that supplies similar services; some shopping around and perhaps some trial-and-error are called for.


Christina Carathanassis, president of New York-based ChristabellesCloset.com, swears by Web sites that help businesswomen network or that help business owners find resources.


One of her favorites is http://www.ladieswholaunch.com , which, like other business networking sites, allows owners to post profiles and connect with each other. "You can ask for advice from other women who have had a similar experience," said Carathanassis, whose company is an online designer resale boutique. She also uses http://www.theswitchboards.com .


The beauty of networking sites and blogs is their ability to bring many business owners together from not only around the country, but around the world. So an owner in a small town or rural area isn't isolated; the Internet can function as a sort of virtual chamber of commerce, continuing education resource and business-to-business matchmaker.


Carathanassis noted that portals like Yahoo have what are called groups, sites that bring together people with similar interests and concerns. She's used them to get in touch with other business owners.


Alicia Rockmore, CEO of Buttoned Up, an Ann Arbor, Mich.-based company that makes products to help people organize their lives, likes Web sites that help get work done. She noted http://www.efax.com , which makes it easier to send and receive e-faxes. Again, there are other sites that can help you accomplish these tasks. She also uses http://www.freeconference.com , which provides conference calls at little or no cost, and http://www.tradepub.com , which helps professionals get free trade publications.


This does beg the question, what's the best way to find sites that will do such tasks and help you run your business? You could search through Yahoo or Google, but, Rockmore said, "word of mouth seems to work the best." In other words, find the right Web site for you in much the same way that you choose an accountant or human resources consultant — by asking other small business owners.


Here again, the blogs can come in handy. You can also find them via word of mouth, but Hedlund said he's found them through search engines.


Obviously, this is just a smattering of the kinds of help small business owners can get. There are government and private sites dedicated to giving small companies information on running their companies and managing employees; the Small Business administration's site, http://www.sba.gov and Inc. magazine's http://www.inc.com are just two. There are many government and industry sites that supply information that can help with market research, including the

Census Bureau's http://www.census.gov and Advertising Age's site, http://www.adage.com .


These sites are easily findable through searches, but again, if you want a sense of how helpful and user-friendly they are, ask around — those blogs and networking sites can help you with that too.









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Atlanta residents warned: John Mark Karr lives here


A neighborhood group is warning members that the man who was briefly a suspect in the slaying of JonBenet Ramsey is now living in the community with his father.


The Chastain Park Civic Association sent an e-mail Thursday to its 2,000 member homeowners announcing that John Mark Karr had moved into his father's home in the well-to-do Atlanta neighborhood, where houses sell for more than $600,000.


The e-mail noted that Wex Karr's house is about three blocks from a playground.


John Mark Karr has "brought a lot of attention upon himself in the media, which is really ... frightening neighbors," said Jim King, president of the neighborhood association.


The elder Karr's home has a small "No Trespassing" sign in the front yard. The younger Karr has been spotted outside the house and walking down the street, King said. A man who answered the phone at the Karr home declined to comment and refused to identify himself.


After John Mark Karr was released from a California jail on October 5, he said he intended to live with his father in Atlanta and possibly return to teaching.


Karr has not been convicted of any crime that would require him to register as a sex offender or restrict where he can live or work.


"I understand he is a free man, but everything I've read about him seems a little unbalanced," said Kim Berry, a mother of three teenagers who lives several houses away from the elder Karr. "It's not a good situation."


Soon after taking a teaching job in Thailand, Karr was arrested in August and brought to the United States after he claimed to have killed JonBenet, the child beauty queen found strangled in her home in Boulder, Colorado, in 1996.


Authorities later said DNA evidence showed Karr confessed to a crime he did not commit.


After being cleared in the slaying, Karr was sent to California to face charges of possessing child pornography. But the case was dropped and he was released October 5 because investigators had lost crucial evidence.








Church seeks other victims of Foley's alleged abuser


WEST PALM BEACH, Florida (AP) -- The Archdiocese of Miami has asked priests at eight Florida churches to speak with parishioners about whether a retired Catholic priest accused of molesting former Rep. Mark Foley may have molested anyone else.


The archdiocese on Friday also barred the Rev. Anthony Mercieca from all church work while it investigates the allegations.


"Such behavior is morally reprehensible, canonically criminal and inexcusable," the archdiocese said in a statement.


Archdiocese spokeswoman Mary Ross Agosta said pastors at each of the churches where Mercieca worked between 1965 and 2002 will talk to parishioners to uncover any other accusations against him.


Mercieca, 69, now lives in Malta in the Mediterranean, where church officials opened an investigation after he admitted fondling Foley and being naked in saunas with him when Foley was a boy in the 1960s.


Foley, 52, resigned from Congress last month after the release of sexually explicit computer messages he sent to teenage male pages. His lawyers later acknowledged he was gay and said Foley had been molested as a boy by a clergyman.


Agosta said Foley should speak to church officials to help the investigation. She said if the allegations are true, Mercieca could be forced from the priesthood.


"An apology is due to Mr. Foley for the hurt he has experienced," the archdiocese's statement said.


Foley's attorney, Gerald Richman, said he did not know if the Florida Republican would cooperate in the church's investigation. The former congressman entered a 30-day rehabilitation program for alcoholism on October 1.


"You can't predict what's going to happen when he gets out of treatment," Richman said. "There's no immediate plan."


Mercieca, who lives on the Maltese island of Gozo, has denied having sexual intercourse with Foley, but has given different details about the encounters in interviews.


A spokesman for the Gozo diocese said Mercieca does not serve in any parish on the island, but he regularly celebrates Mass and hears confessions.










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Know Who To Introduce First


The basic business etiquette when introducing one of your business associates is to first introduce the person of higher corporate standing. If there is no person of higher status, the rule to follow is to introduce the person you know the least first. By doing so, you will bring that person into the conversation without playing favorites.











6 Tips For A Proper Handshake


Understanding the proper way to shake someone’s hand can mean the difference between success and failure in the business enviornment. Positive or negative reactions are almost instantaneous in the marketing setting and almost always based around first impressions. This is why the firmness or weakness of your handshake, understanding whose hand you’re shaking, your dominance, and your eye contact all play an important role.


A limp handshake might make you appear weak or hesitant. An overpowering handshake can stamp you as a manipulator or over dominant. The best handshake is sincere and firm with a confident smile and good eye contact.


Be aware of power distance relationships when meeting someone for the first time from a different geographical or culture than your own. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. Let the person you’re meeting determine “space distances” for you. It’s always better to be safe so approach with a hidden sense of caution to let the person you’re meeting “take the lead” and determine how close or far to come to you for a handshake. Below you’ll find several excellent tips that I’ve been able to jot down over the years.


Proper Handshake Grasp:

In the business setting, whether your a man or a woman you have to express confidence and “shake it like a man”. When interlooping your palm and fingers with another individual, be sure to grasp your palm with their palm. Never interlace your fingers with theirs without touching the palm. Be sure your palm grip is firm but not too tight. You can practice your grip with a friend and strangers. Your friends will give you their opinions on your handshake. The best part of shaking a stranger’s hand is that you can judge how someone you never met will react to your handshake. Judge their eye movements, their smile (or lack thereof), and body language. Keep working til you get it right.


Shaking Hands Is Not A Contest:

Decades ago, being able to practically break the hand bones of another person when shaking hands was viewed as a sign of strength and confidence. In today’s business enviornment, you might send a person to the hospital if you treat shaking hands like a contest.


Shaking A Woman’s Hand:

Keep in mind that shaking a woman’s hand should be treated the same as shaking a man’s hand. You should clasp palms and match their grip with your own.


Say Something:

Never be afraid of the person you’re meeting. For example, if you’re meeting your future boss and you want to make a good impression say something such as; “Nice to meet you” or “A pleasure to meet you” will do just fine.


Forgetting The Name:

If you forget someone’s name and you still want to make that super first impression there’s a simple trick. Approaching the individual, extend your hand and offer a warm handshake. Say “(Insert Your Name), glad to see you.” By saying you are glad to ’see’ them and not ‘meet’ them you are actually playing a clever mind game that often works to your advantage. Having met you before, by saying ’see’ instead of ‘meet’ you’re not implying you forget them entirely. In addition, by offering your name you open a door for them to reciprocate your offering.


Sweaty Palms:

When you release your grip, pause briefly before continuing the conversation. If you believe your hands became sweaty from the palm exchange you should never rub them off on your pants or suit jacket. The other person will think you believe they have sweaty palms and feel offended. Instead, if your palms get sweaty try touching things randomly as you walk around the office or restaurant. For example, you’re in the hot seat for an interview. You shake your potential new boss’s hand and it’s just wet as a dog. Keep that smile pearly white and say how excited you are to meet them. As you sit down, grasp the armrest of the chair and let some of the sweat soak into the upholestry. You can also try putting your hands on your kneecaps and lean forward as-if you were very intriguied with every word they had to say. Then, slowly let your hands rub themselves off your pant legs.










Handling Constructive Criticism


If you’re ever been in one of those situations in which someone in the business setting was looking to give you a first full of constructive (or counter-constructive) criticism you are commonly better off not apologizing for your actions. It is important to remember that we all say and do the things we do with confidence. When another criticizes our actions, we commonly resort to apologies. People in higher power status positions then our own create a sense of dominance over us.


We also accept almost all criticisim from those in higher positions with a sense that they must be right. Instead of immediately apologizing here if the proper way to handle constructive criticism.


- “Thank you for your feedback!”

- “I appreciate your concern and I will take your suggestions into consideration!”

- “Thank you for your comment!”


Burrowing A Deeper Hole

When you’re criticized, rather than stumbling on your words it is often better to first thank the person. Overexplaining, excuses, apologies, and changing the subject will land you in even more trouble. Admit your faults while retaining that sense of your best possible foot moving forward. When an apology is over, let it be over. Don’t resort to bringing up an argument or fault of your own days, weeks, or months down the road to put blame somewhere else.


Turning The Attention Around

When you’re stuffed with criticism, turn around and thank the person and follow it up by saying “Thank You, it looks like I can learn a great deal from you.”


Asking For Help

When you need help on something, simply ask for it. If you cannot find it from your superior, then find a close friend. Even if you’ve already made an error, being a human and admitting your faults should not keep you from asking for help. It will be for the benefit of the company, your boss, and yourself for not hiding the problem under the desk.


Putting It All Together

All of the responses above are much better responses to constructive criticism than simply saying “I’m sorry”. Many people out there might remember when they were children and your teacher would follow up your apology with “I’m sorry just won’t cut it mister!” I was a trouble maker when I was young. As I grew older and learned tips like this, I could get myself out of any jam. Hopefully this tip will help you succeed in business and leverage out the confidence perceptions your managers have of you.










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An Alternative To Wikipedia







MSN Search Continues Downhill Trend



Technorati Tackles "Blog Claiming"




Stanford Says You're Hooked On The Net




MusicNation: Major Labels Try to Buy Friends




Google Acquires SpaceShipOne?



Getting Down To Business: YesNoMayB






If You Use PhotoShop, Check Out Paint.net







Scrybe Could Set a New Standard In Office Apps





Scrybe - the online productivity suite I'm dying to try



links for 2006-10-21



Device that reads road signs, and more



Pumping up the space industry



Lunar landers disappoint in the desert



Up, up and away at the X Prize Cup



CNET News.com Extra




Google: Can't Stop This Train

The company is improving on its ability to match ads with search results, fueling optimism the tech giant will finish the year strong




RSS: Uses and Learning









Phantom Bloggers, Real Companies

Anonymous bloggers are giving readers regular doses of insider information. The media will never be the same.


IT companies, watch out. Lurking among your employees could be an anonymous blogger revealing conversations and emails about your company to the public that you would rather keep private.


Apple has become the latest target of an anonymous blogger. Less than two weeks ago, a new blog written by The Masked Blogger ( http://www.activeconversations.com/mask/ ) started a conversation about Apple’s products and the transparency in the company.


The move could hurt Apple, which has been fanatical about controlling how its employees speak with customers or the media. Other IT giants, including Microsoft, Intel, and Electronic Arts, also have anonymous bloggers writing about them.


Even Web 2.0 players haven’t been spared. Dead 2.0, a blog that existed until recently, offered readers a skeptical take on Web 2.0-focused startups.


So far, companies like Microsoft and Intel have ignored the bloggers, but Apple may take a different approach. They don’t have a choice because their image and public relations effort are increasingly at stake, said Robert Scoble, a former evangelist for Microsoft who has an immensely popular blog called Scobleizer ( http://scobleizer.wordpress.com/ ).


“The problem with anonymous blogging is that if you don’t like your employees talking with customers in the public eye, you let anonymous people control your PR,” said Mr. Scoble.


Anonymous bloggers can have a huge impact on a business. In 2004, gaming company Electronic Arts faced a class action lawsuit partly stemming from a post by an anonymous “significant other” of an EA employee claiming that the company was not paying overtime wages to its employees.


The idea with an anonymous blog focused on Apple is to bring about greater corporate transparency and add a voice to often one-sided conversations, said the Masked Blogger.


“The conversations are raging online,” he said. “Participation and raising the standard of those conversations is the goal.”




One World, Two lives


Anonymity is also a great equalizer, according to the blogger behind MiniMSFT ( http://minimsft.blogspot.com/ ), a blog that writes about the problems that Microsoft is facing. “You can get your message out and let it stand on its own and not be judged by who the message is coming from,” he said.


Started in 2004, MiniMSFT is probably the longest-running anonymous blog focused on a big IT company. The first post, said Mini, as he likes to call himself, was a “blastoff” outlining concerns that Microsoft had become too big, too bureaucratic, and too slow and was headed toward the wrong business and technology decisions.


“It was two worlds colliding—extreme concern over the direction of the company and seeing this anonymous medium was getting attention,” said Mini.


Leading a secret life as a blogger isn’t easy. Bloggers have to make sure their digital trail is covered and that they don’t slip up at work when colleagues discuss their blog.


Mini, for instance, said he doesn’t ever write or even check blogs, in general, from work. And he takes care never to put truly sensitive information on the blog.


“I am not looking to cross the line,” he said.


Mini also makes sure he covers his tracks online by using services that don’t keep logs, and using proxies. “At least I make sure my outing will take days, not minutes,” he said.


It’s not that easy. Case in point: Dead 2.0. A few weeks ago, the Dead 2.0 blogger was outed in the blogosphere. Though his name wasn’t bandied about, personal identifying information about him was posted on a few blogs. That information included the fact that he was the vice president of marketing at a Web 2.0 startup.


That eventually forced Dead 2.0 to shutter the blog and leave the company. Though there’s a sign on the blog that says it will be back soon, it is unclear if Dead 2.0 can work under the cloak of anonymity again.




A Positive Influence?


When Mini started out in 2004, there was no clear online dialogue about Microsoft’s problems. Mini raised issues about compensation, the bureaucracy in the company that was eating away at employee productivity, and some of the disorganization around strategic initiatives at the company.


“I believe it has had a positive impact,” said Mini. “The big change is that more employees are having greater transparency of how things are run, the review model is clearer, and there’s greater organizational flatness now.”


Some of Mini’s posts resonated with employee bloggers like Mr. Scoble, then an evangelist for Microsoft. “Has he done some good for the company? Absolutely,” said Mr. Scoble. “Has he got issues out there that haven’t gotten discussed? Yes.”


That’s exactly the role Apple’s Masked Blogger wants to play. “Change agents, hopefully for the better,” is how he sees himself.



The Price of Anonymity


One reason why Mini has been able to stay anonymous is because Microsoft hasn’t come after the blogger, admitted Mini and Mr. Scoble.


Still, an anonymous blog is “cowardly,” said Mr. Scoble. “I think that it’s duplicitous and hypocritical,” he said. “If you believe something, have the damn balls to stand up and put your fricking name on it. It’s about integrity and credibility.”


Mr. Scoble may have a point, said the Masked Blogger. “But sometimes demonstrating value and challenging the status quo requires compromise,” he said.


So far, MiniMSFT hasn’t faced credibility issues. That’s because the blog has never tried to act vengeful, said Mini.


“If I do something really boneheaded, if it looked like I was on an agenda to destroy the stock or if I started being super negative about everything, then it would have been easy to lose momentum,” he said.


Red Herring could not verify Mini’s identity as a Microsoft employee, but in an interview with Businessweek last year, Mini says he proved his credentials.


Apple’s Masked Blogger too has faced attempts to out him. So far, he has been able to continue blogging without bringing Apple’s wrath down on him. “Hopefully they will see value in the exercise,” he said. “There is mutual interest here and I have no interest in releasing confidential information.”


It’s not clear how long the Masked Blogger will keep up his gig. But Mini is ready to pack up over the next year. That’s because the issues around Microsoft are getting resolved faster, he said.


Maybe he will switch to playing poker, a game that he has avoided so far, he said.








Add-Ons for Internet Explorer







IBM breaks ground in Second Life


IBM is using the virtual world of Second Life as the next best thing to being there for corporate meetings.


The venerable computer maker has established at least one virtual island in Second Life where it has hosted employee meetings.


Earlier this month, for example, IBM held a virtual block party were people milled around a space called the SkyPOD. For screenshots of IBM's virtual presence, click here.


But this isn't the work of teenage gamers interning at IBM. Researchers are looking at the potential business impact of virtual worlds and massively multiplayer online games.


After attending IBM's Hursley labs in the U.K. last month, Irving Wladawsky-Berger, IBM's vice president of technical strategy and innovation, said that virtual worlds and massively multiplayer online games remind him of how IBM embraced the Internet and ebusiness a decade ago.


"Once more we have the very strong feeling that this will have a huge impact on business, society and our personal lives, although none of us can quite predict what that impact will be," Wladawsky-Berger wrote in his blog.




Wladawsky-Berger's blog:


Transforming Business through Virtual Worlds Capabilities – it's Déjà Vu All Over Again


Last week I was in London. One of the main reasons for the trip was to meet with members of the press to discuss our new initiatives focused on the impact of massively multiplayer online games (MMOG) on business, in particular those games that are truly best thought of as virtual worlds or virtual environments, like Second Life. Joining me for the press briefings were some of my colleagues in IBM who are experimenting with these new capabilities. Some were physically with me in London, but most were distributed around the world - in the US, India, Canada, Australia and the UK - and joined as part of a virtual meeting conducted in Second Life.


For awhile now, I have felt that one of the most exciting areas of innovation is to recast our interactions with computer applications in terms of the humans that use them rather than the machines and software that run them. In particular, since our brains are basically wired for sight and sound, it is not surprising that the more visual an application, the more intuitive and human oriented it is likely to feel.


I first became sensitive to the importance of highly realistic visualizations some fifteen years ago through my involvement with scientific and engineering applications. In these fields, visualization is used extensively to represent the natural or engineered objects being modeled, simulated and analyzed. As the costs of visualization technologies have dropped precipitously, the cutting edge of visualization is now taking place in the video game world, especially around the new generation of gaming technologies like Microsoft's XBOX 360, Nintendo's Wii and Sony's PS3.


About two years ago, a study conducted by the IBM Academy of Technology concluded that technologies and capabilities from the gaming world would have a very strong impact on all aspects of IT, and made a number of recommendations for follow-on activities, which we have proceeded to implement.


To learn what is required in a practical way, we have been using the Second Life platform to conduct a series of experiments, such as holding virtual meetings on a variety of subjects with groups of various sizes. The meeting participants are represented visually by their individual avatars or personalized icons in the virtual world. We are very interested in understanding how best to conduct such virtual meetings. We have learned that many of the visual clues from the physical world should be embraced in the virtual world. For example, meeting participants should be seated facing each other, as they would normally do in a meeting, and whoever is currently speaking should gesture with his or her arms.


Many, many aspects of conducting effective meetings in the virtual world remain to be investigated. Will we have different avatars for different kinds of meetings - perhaps using fairly realistic, more formal representations of ourselves for first time business meetings, and more casual, fanciful representations for meetings with colleagues and friends we know well? How should one best represent the resources used in the meeting, be they presentations, live video feeds, demos, and so on?


Another exciting area of study is e-commerce in the virtual world. The original, and now very successful concept of e-commerce, is built around the metaphor of a catalogue, which fits the page content notion of the Web and of browsers very nicely. But in the emerging, highly visual virtual worlds, commerce could be conducted in virtual stores, the allure of which would be limited only by the imagination of the virtual store designers.


We started to experiment with commerce in the virtual world during the Wimbledon tournament. We built a site on Second Life that looked like a tennis court. Visitors could follow the path of the ball in the virtual tennis court, and merchandise like Wimbledon towels were available for sale. We have also built links to other commerce sites like amazon.com to show how easy it is to link virtual worlds with the more conventional Web world.


An important area we need to understand is how processes of all sorts from the “real” business world can best be depicted in the virtual world. For example, in India we are experimenting with how best to inboard new employees using resources from the virtual world to complement the existing physical processes.


I believe that using such virtual, highly visual capabilities to help us design, simulate, optimize, operate and manage business activities of all sorts is going to be one of the most important breakthroughs in the IT industry over the next decade. Today's commercial applications, especially those involved in enterprise resource planning (ERP), are very complicated, monolithic and static, and often end up frustrating their users. I am convinced that dealing with such business applications in a kind of SimBusiness fashion, - that is, the application feels like a realistic simulation of the business and its operations, - will not only transform IT but business itself. Perhaps for the first time, we will be able to understand what is really going on in a business and its various processes, and then systematically improve and optimize them in multiple dimensions.


As Yogi Berra might have said, this feels like deja vu all over again. When we started our Internet efforts in IBM about ten years ago, the Internet was already being used by millions around the world, and we had a very strong sense that it was going to have a huge impact on businesses and institutions of all sorts, but we honestly were not quite sure what that impact would be.


We started to use the Internet and the Web for various projects within IBM and to study what others were doing out there. We learned by conducting a series of experiments. For example, we built a web site that would for the first time enable people from around the world to follow the chess match between Deep Blue and the then reigning chess champion Garry Kasparov in February of 1996. Later the same year, we undertook the then really ambitious project of putting the whole 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics online. We learned a lot from these market experiments, and they helped us considerably in organizing our very successful e-business strategy.


So, here we are in 2006, once more facing a set of fledgling technologies and capabilities -- massively multiplayer online games and virtual worlds – that are already being used by many millions out there. Once more we have the very strong feeling that this will have a huge impact on business, society and our personal lives, although none of us can quite predict what that impact will be. It will be fascinating to see where this ride takes us in the future.








Spam Trojan Installs Own Anti-Virus Scanner


Veteran malware researcher Joe Stewart was fairly sure he'd seen it all until he started poking at the SpamThru Trojan—a piece of malware designed to send spam from an infected computer.



The Trojan, which uses peer-to-peer technology to send commands to hijacked computers, has been fitted with its own anti-virus scanner—a level of complexity and sophistication that rivals some commercial software.


"This the first time I've seen this done. [it] gets points for originality," says Stewart, senior security researcher at SecureWorks, in Atlanta, Ga.


"It is simply to keep all the system resources for themselves—if they have to compete with, say, a mass-mailer virus, it really puts a damper on how much spam they can send," he added.


Most viruses and Trojans already attempt to block anti-virus software from downloading updates by tweaking hosts file to the anti-virus update sites to the localhost address.


Malicious hackers battling for control over an infected system have also removed competing malware by killing processes, removing registry keys, or setting up mutexes that fool the other malware into thinking it is already running and then exiting at start.


But, as Stewart discovered during his analysis, SpamThru takes the game to a new level, actually using an anti-virus engine against potential rivals.


At start-up, the Trojan requests and loads a DLL from the author's command-and-control server.


This then downloads a pirated copy of Kaspersky AntiVirus for WinGate into a concealed directory on the infected system.


It patches the license signature check in-memory in the Kaspersky DLL to avoid having Kaspersky refuse to run due to an invalid or expired license, Stewart said.


Ten minutes after the download of the DLL, it begins to scan the system for malware, skipping files which it detects are part of its own installation.


"Any other malware found on the system is then set up to be deleted by Windows at the next reboot," he added.


At first, Stewart said he was confused about the purpose of the Kaspersky anti-virus scanner.


"I theorized at first that distributed scanning and morphing of the code before sending the updates via P2P would be a clever way to evade detection indefinitely," he said, but it wasn't until he looked closely at the way rival malware files were removed that he realized this was a highly sophisticated operation working hard to make full use of stolen bandwidth for spam runs.


Stewart also found SpamThru using a clever command-and control structure to avoid shutdown.


The Trojan uses a custom P2P protocol to share information with other peers—including the IP addresses and ports and software version of the control server.


"Control is still maintained by a central server, but in case the control server is shut down, the spammer can update the rest of the peers with the location of a new control server, as long as he/she controls at least one peer," he said.


Stewart found that the network generally consists of one control server (running multiple peer-nets on different ports), several template servers, and around 500 peers per port.


There appears to be a limit to how many peers each port can effectively control, as the overhead in sharing information between hosts is fairly large, he added.


"The estimated number of infected hosts connected to the one control server we looked at was between one and two thousand across all open ports," Stewart added.


The operation uses template-based spam, setting up a system where each SpamThru client is its own spam engine, downloading a template containing the spam, random phrases to use as hash-busters, random "from" names, and a list of several hundred e-mail addresses to send advertising.


The templates are encrypted and use a challenge-response authentication method to prevent third parties from being able to download the templates from the template server.


Stewart also found that the Trojan was randomizing the GIF files—changing the width and height of the images—to defeat anti-spam solutions that reject e-mail based on a static image.


"Although we've seen automated spam networks set up by malware before, this is one of the more sophisticated efforts. The complexity and scope of the project rivals some commercial software. Clearly the spammers have made quite an investment in infrastructure in order to maintain their level of income," Stewart said.


During his analysis, Stewart found that SpamThru was being used to operate a spam-based pump-and-dump stock scheme.




Trojan SpamThru-B




E-Week Security Center




Larry Seltzer's Blog










How to Catch a MySpace Creep


Six months ago, Wired News launched an investigation of MySpace with the goal of comparing the company's 120 million user profiles against public sex offender registries to see how many matches we could find.


The project began when Wired News contributor Jenn Shreve found a handful of matches based on a random search. How many would you find with a software script that systematically went through those records and compared them all?


We decided to find out. I wrote a series of Perl scripts and began sifting the data.


The technique was crude, like searching for a needle in a haystack. When I began checking ostensible matches by hand, false positives registered in the thousands.


Nevertheless, after several weeks of part-time work on the project, I was led to one suspect whose behavior was so disturbing I contacted New York's Suffolk County Police Department for comment. The suspect, Andrew Lubrano, was arrested earlier this month on attempted child endangerment charges.


Some 700 other matches were also confirmed, though none of those individuals could be linked by public MySpace posts to actual evidence of wrongdoing.


Today, Wired News is releasing the code used in this investigation (click here to download the gzip file). Anyone is free to take the software, look at it, validate (or invalidate) the methodology, discuss, tinker and improve the code.


We're releasing this code completely and utterly unsupported, under a BSD license. We'll happily link to open-source development efforts that pick it up for adoption, if notified.


Warning: These scripts were developed for a one-off project and all admittedly could use a thorough scrubbing.


It's also worth noting what this code is not.


First, it is not a plug-and-play application for average parents or concerned citizens who want to protect specific children who have MySpace accounts. To use it, you'll need to have a web server, a MySQL database server and some rudimentary knowledge of Perl.


Nor is it a fully automated find-a-perp program. Rather, this code is a starting point for human reporting.


It's of paramount importance to realize that the vast majority of matches produced by this method are false. I backed my automated search with an eyeball inspection of the candidate profiles, comparing photos, ages and, in many cases, birth dates and other biographical data available on MySpace and in the offender registry. This software makes those comparisons relatively easy, but they still have to made by hand.


If you do make matches after careful visual review, don't go all vigilante. The state Megan's Laws that created the registries also generally proscribe using the data to harass ex-offenders. Another important legal point: At the time that I ran this code, neither MySpace nor the Department of Justice had any prohibition on automated searches of their data. That could change at any time.


Now, to the code.


Finding sex offenders on MySpace is a three-step process. First, you need the list of offenders. I put together the first script, scraperps.pl, in late April. From a list of ZIP codes, the program simply fills out the query form on the DOJ's registry, maxing out the query by running five ZIPs at a time. Then it stores the results -- name, ZIP, city, county, state -- in a database, within a table called `perps`.


My first run quickly got me temporarily blocked from the site. It turns out the DOJ server doesn't like you running a lot of queries back-to-back. When the ban was lifted (never let it be said that the Justice Department is unforgiving), I incorporated a 30-second pause between queries, which seemed to satisfy the server. That raised the run time to over 71 hours.


While that was under way, I went to work on screen-scraping MySpace. When you register for MySpace, you're prompted to provide your full name and your ZIP code. That information doesn't appear in your MySpace profile, which may help explain why so many offenders felt comfortable providing it. But MySpace's search engine lets you search by name, and restrict the results to within five miles of a particular ZIP code. That made it a natural match for the sex offender registry.


The MySpace scraper, myspacebot.pl, performs this search for every entry in `perps`, and loads the result into a table called `myspace`.


Easy in theory, this code still wound up far more complicated than the DOJ scraper. It underwent a lot of tweaking, and it comes to you in need of a thorough cleaning. Like all the code, it was written for one-time use; comments are scarce, variable names like "$foo" and "$bar" are unhelpful. I almost used a GOTO.


MySpace servers are unpredictable. Searches fail, producing blank pages or error messages. One search will respond instantly, then the very next will drag on for half a minute. For that reason, the code is persistent. It'll keep trying, over and over again, until it runs the search. You can run multiple threads at once. To stay polite, I ran only four.


At one point, noticing that very long load times invariably ended in failure, I shortened the client's timeout to 10 seconds, which dramatically sped the process. But that afternoon it just stopped working. I realized it was because teens were getting home from school and logging on in eager droves, dragging the servers and turning my short timeout into a fool's pipe dream. I boosted it to 20 seconds, which seemed to do the trick.


Once I had the potential matches, another script, lookup.pl, went back to the DOJ to gather the direct links to the state offender page for each potentially matching perp.




I put a lot of thought into the third step in the process -- manual analysis. This is where I'd be spending the most time.


I settled on a CGI script, msresults.pl, that presents each potential match, one line for the offender information, one for each matching MySpace profile. Name, last login time, reported location, age and the profile's default photo are all displayed above the bare-bones information from the sex offender site and a link to the offender's rap sheet. Direct links to the MySpace profile, comment page, photo page and friends list are also presented.


There are fields for notes, and check boxes to flag a profile for follow-up or hide it from view once you've excluded it. There are options -- set in the code, or in the URL -- to hide profiles with no default photo (I used this), to show only profiles flagged by the user as a match, or to present a printer-friendly version of the final results, among other things.


I quickly learned that browsing around MySpace is hazardous, both to one's sense of aesthetics and to Firefox, which often chooses suicide rather than processing the hodgepodge of dodgy JavaScript, streaming media and insane HTML.


So I wrote another script, friendbot.pl, to try to ease the process of auditing a suspect's friends list. This is optional, and you needn't run it.


friendbot.pl failed to work reliably, possibly because of the intermittence of MySpace's servers. But when it works, the program crawls the friends lists, loads the profile for each friend and grabs the vital stats, most relevantly the friend's age. That all goes into the database, and it can be presented through friend.pl, another CGI script that can serve as an alternative to the actual, MySpace-hosted friends list.


You might use the data gathered by friendbot.pl to try to pull out candidate profiles with an unusually high number of underage friends.


age_filler.pl counts the number of friends under 17, the number who are exactly 16 and the total number of friends, and load that profile's entry in `myspace`. This data can be displayed by msresults.pl.


You'll see how in the code.



















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Scientists: Wood makes plastic stronger

The eventual result will be materials that would degrade in a landfill


SYRACUSE, N.Y. - Scientists at the State University of New York's College of Environmental Science and Forestry are developing a way to add wood fiber to plastic to make it stronger.


The process focuses on extracting nanocrystals of cellulose out of woody materials, like trees and willow shrubs, and mixing them with the plastic.


The eventual result will be strong, lightweight plastics that would degrade in a landfill, said William Winter, a chemistry professor and director of the college's Cellulose Research Institute, where the process is being developed.


"By adding an ounce of crystals to a pound of plastic, you can increase the strength of the plastic by a factor of 3,000," Winter said. "And in the end, in a landfill, it's just carbon dioxide and water, which can be taken up and made into more biomass."


In addition their use as strengtheners in plastics, the nanocrystals can be used in ceramics and in biomedical applications such as artificial joints and disposable medical equipment, Winter said.


"All plant materials contain a minimum of 25 percent cellulose," Winter said. "Wood from trees is a little higher, between 40 percent and 50 percent."


Using cellulosic nanocrystals to strengthen plastics has advantages over the glass that is often used. Glass is heavier, harder on processing machinery and therefore more expensive to work with, and it stays in the ground for centuries.


The cellulose nanocrystals will break down in a landfill in less than 90 days, he said.


Winter and his team work with a reactor that can process up to 500 grams — about a pound — of material at a time. That is a significant increase over the 5-gram quantities that are typically used in laboratory settings.


First, the scientists purify the cellulose to remove substances such as wax and gluey lignin. The cellulose then goes through a homogenizing process, similar to the one used with dairy products. The cellulose is shredded into tiny particles under high pressure, producing nanocrystals — which are measured in billionths of a meter.


A viscous, white liquid is produced that goes into a microcompounder, where it is mixed with plastic under high pressure.


Winter's team is currently working on refining the surface of the crystals so they adhere better to the plastic and disbursing the crystals throughout the material to achieve the best results.


The next step will be to scale the process up to a commercial level, he said.












Making the web accessible for all


Despite many efforts to move away from those most traditional interfaces - the ubiquitous computer keyboard and mouse - they remain the bedrock on which nearly all computer interfaces rest.


But for those who find it difficult to use a standard computer there is a raft of user-friendly add-ons and upgrades to help things go more smoothly.


We live in a world that demands us to communicate in many different ways, usually with the computer at the very heart of it.


For millions, the home office has become a reality that allows us to benefit from flexible working; online shopping is simple, and I cannot even remember the last time I stepped into a real bank.


'Fill in the gaps'


In theory it is all very simple. But stop and think for a moment. If you could not see the screen, use a mouse or a standard keyboard, how much of a challenge would it be to stay connected?



For some people, when they acquire a disability it is imperative that they learn how to use technology to help fill in the gaps in their lives that their disability has created.

Pamela Hardaker, http://www.AbilityNet.org


AbilityNet is a charity based in the UK that helps people with different disabilities to get online.


Clients range from people with severe paralysis to those dealing with dyslexia, repetitive strain injury or just the effects of getting older. After an initial assessment, experts advise on the use of specialist hardware and software.


"Only 13% of people are born with their disability, the other 80% - in this country, and I presume it's similar worldwide - acquire their disability," said Pamela Hardaker of AbilityNet.


"So for some people, when they acquire a disability it is imperative that they learn how to use technology to help fill in the gaps in their lives that their disability has created."


Speech recognition


David Morris is the senior policy advisor at the Greater London Authority, advising the London's Mayor on accessibility issues.


He has Spinal Muscular Atrophy and uses a number of technologies to get on with his busy schedule. His favourite is voice recognition accompanied by a Bluetooth headset.


It's really inaccessible to me as a one-handed, left-handed person, with the stupid jog wheel, which is really difficult to use

David Morris, Greater London Authority


He has been using speech recognition software for almost 10 years, and currently uses Dragon Naturally Speaking.


"Voice activated software enables me to compete on an equal basis. In fact it probably gives me an advantage, because those people who are smart, know that voice-activated software has now reached a point where it's very functional."


Speech Recognition software generally needs a bit of training before it can be used which puts most people off, but the recently released Dragon Naturally Speaking version nine claims that it has overcome that hurdle and now can be used straight out of the box.


The Blackberry is another bit of kit that David has in his bag. Although he likes the great functions, he believes the design could be improved for many people, both the disabled and the left handed.


"For the first time in a long time I can access a keyboard, but it's really inaccessible to me as a one-handed, left-handed person, with the stupid jog wheel, which is really difficult to use.


So I have to turn it upside down, which is a strange way to access emails, but it's still very important."


'Life changing'


For pretty much everyone using a computer is liberating, but for some, including Darren Carr, who is paralysed from the neck down, it is life changing.


Virtual keyboard


Virtual keyboards can be projected on to any surfaces.


One of Darren's proudest moments was when he got his degree from London School of Economics.


"I've got a friend who lives in Australia. We chat over the internet and I also use Skype and things like that. It makes communication and things like that a lot easier for someone like myself.


"I can keep in touch with my friends via IM (instant message), and also by emails. It's so much easier than having the phone held up to your ear."


Darren uses a headset and the Wivik virtual keyboard. A signal, transmitted from the control unit, is picked up by sensors on the headset.


By comparing the signal strength from each sensor, the system determines the position of the head and moves the cursor. To click he uses a suck and blow tube.


Eye control


There are newer, more sophisticated technologies out there. MyTobii is one of the few systems using eye tracking technology.


Using high resolution cameras in the monitor it tracks your eyes and follows your gaze. All you need to do is look at wherever you want the cursor to go.


This tool is most effective when used with its sister application, The Grid, which works to simplify the Windows environment.


It can also enable people to interact with their environment by switching on lights, the TV and answering the phone.


"Voice recognition is certainly getting to the level now where people would chose to use it, they wouldn't just use it because they had to," said Pamela Hardaker.


"It is so effective that people would want to use it because it's much easier to do your work that way.


"It wouldn't surprise me if the eyegaze technology doesn't go that way eventually as well. So we have the eyegaze built into our computer and we just look at where we want to click on the screen, and that happens for us automatically."


So what of the future? Will we see more technologies specifically designed for people with disabilities?


Or perhaps it is more likely, as some predict, that all of us see the ease of use and functionality as something desirable.









Ethanol cars explode on Pa. rail bridge


















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