Four short links: 24 December 2009

Minds for Sale, Heat Death of the Web, Handheld Wireless Magazines, Joking Computers

  1. Jonathan Zittrain on “Minds for Sale” — video of a presentation he gave at the Computer History Museum about crowdsourcing. In the words of one attendee, Zittrain focuses on the potential alienation and opportunities for abuse that can arise with the growth of distributed online production. He also contemplates the thin line that separates exploitation from volunteering in the context of online communities and collaboration. Video embedded below.
  2. Anatomy of a Bad Search Result — Physicists tell us that the 2nd law of Thermodynamics predicts that eventually everything in the universe will be the same temperature, the way a hot bath in a cold room ends up being a lukewarm bath in a lukewarm room. The web is entering its own heat death as SEO scum build fake sites with stolen content from elsewhere on the web. If this continues, we won’t be able to find good content for all the bullshit. The key is to have enough dishwaster-related text to look like it’s a blog about dishwashers, while also having enough text diversity to avoid being detected by Google as duplicative or automatically generated content. So who created this fake blog? It could have been Consumersearch, or a “black hat” SEO consultant, or someone in an affiliate program that Consumersearch doesn’t even know. I’m not trying to imply that Consumersearch did anything wrong. The problem is systematic. When you have a multibillion dollar economy built around keywords and links, the ultimate “products” optimize for just that: keywords and links. The incentive to create quality content diminishes.
  3. Magplus — gorgeous prototyping for how magazines might work on new handheld devices.
  4. Glasgow’s Joking ComputerThe Glasgow Science Centre in Scotland is exhibiting a computer that makes up jokes using its database of simple language rules and a large vocabulary. It’s doing better than most 8 year old children. In fact, if we were perfectly honest, most adults can’t pun to save themselves. Q: What do you call a shout with a window? A: A computer scream. (via Physorg News)
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