October 15, 2007

Google and Random House Find Common Ground? [10:58 am]

Google, Random House move closer on book searchpdf

Random House, the world’s biggest book publisher, is considering joining a book-search project run by Google, once considered an archenemy by the paper publishing industry.

The two parties are talking to one another about the less controversial part of Google’s book-scanning project–its partner program–sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters at this week’s Frankfurt Book Fair.

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Another Look at Norms in a Technical Age [10:29 am]

Using hang-up calls to send a messagepdf

If you are in Sudan, it is a “missed call.” In Ethiopia, it is a “miskin” or a “pitiful” call. In other parts of Africa, it is a case of “flashing,” “beeping” or in French-speaking areas, “bipage.”

Wherever you are, it is one of the fastest-growing phenomena in the continent’s booming mobile phone markets — and it’s a headache for cell system owners who are trying to figure out how to make some money out of it.

You beep someone when you call them up on their mobile phone — setting its display screen briefly flashing — then hang up half a second later, before they have had a chance to answer. Your friend, you hope, sees your name and number on the “missed calls” list and calls you back at his or her expense.

[...] Unlike U.S. carriers, which split the cost of a mobile call between the caller and the person being called, most carriers elsewhere in the world place the entire cost of a mobile call on the caller, so receiving calls is free.

[...] Africa’s mobile phone companies say the practice has become so widespread they have had to step in to prevent their circuits from being swamped by second-long calls.

Beeping is not only about money. Donner’s “Rules of Beeping” suggests a social protocol for the practice.

“The richer guy pays,” he writes.

[...]

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Dataveillance Apologist [10:01 am]

Analytical firms use mouse clicks and search terms to track trends onlinepdf

We are what we click.

In an age where everything from friendships to financial planning has moved online, the pulse of pop culture, the ups and downs of the housing market, and even the subjects of fifth-grade homework assignments can all be measured by tallying search terms and mouse clicks.
“You can use online data to predict what consumers are doing across every facet of their lives,” said Stephen DiMarco, chief marketing officer of Compete Inc., a Boston firm that tracks Web traffic. “The Web is so mainstream and so ingrained . . . this is kind of like the dawn of a new age.”

[...] [T]he power of Web analytics extends beyond reality television, too. By tracking visits to state unemployment websites and search terms, Tancer created a tool to help predict the direction that the unemployment numbers will take - before they are reported by the US Department of Labor. By watching search terms like “homes for sale” or tracking building and construction websites, he has created tools to predict a downturn or upswing in the housing market.

With the intense attention given to such indicators of economic health, real-time insights into the market could be useful to the investors, banks, economists - even anthropologists.

[...] Marketers “understand you a lot better than you want,” said Robin Hanson, an economics professor at George Mason University. “Somehow, you think you’re on equal ground. You’re buying your third stereo - he’s sold 3,000.”

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