29 Nov

links for 2009-11-29

28 Nov

Updates to Netflix for Books

As an update on my idea for a Netflix type system for books. I realized while discussing the idea with family members over the weekend that there is one important change that probably needs to be made.

To make this idea a viable business you would almost have to only allow for e-books. While you could rent physical copies of books, unlike a DVD the normal wear and tear for a book is a lot higher. This throws more weight to Amazon as they have released their Kindle app for Windows PC’s.

As a side note, I’ve downloaded the Kindle app along with a nice selection of the zero cost books listed. It’s actually quite nice. My most likely complaint of the book not being enjoyable since it isn’t a physical book, really didn’t seem to matter. Though admittedly I have yet to read a book the whole way through, once that happens I may have a different opinion.

28 Nov

links for 2009-11-28

  • "That said, there is no denying that right now, Twitter, the brand, is the winning channel for this new type of news consumption. It’s the Walter Cronkite for real-time information. And when the next major event happens, an increasing number of us will be huddled around our computer screens, watching." In here Twitter reported accurate details of the accident before CNN gathered from the police accident report.
  • "The law would create an online, publicly accessible database of all women who have sought or had an abortion, Carpentier reports. The database would omit names and addresses but would include answers to a 37-question survey stating women's race, age, education level, county of residence, whether they are a state employee and their method of insurance for the procedure, as well as the number of previous pregnancies, births, miscarriages and abortions. In addition, the survey asks the length of pregnancy and whether birth control was being used at the time of conception. The survey results would be reported to the Oklahoma Department of Health. The health department employees would then "aggregate the data into a searchable, sortable database and make it available to 'researchers' online," Carpentier writes." Essentially making the person publicly identifiable.
  • "A common programming problem: identify the URLs in an arbitrary string of text, where by “arbitrary” let’s agree we mean something unstructured such as an email message or a tweet. I offer a solution, in the form of the following regex pattern:"
  • "
    Conclusion: Kindle penetration is already three-fifths of the way to the crucial tipping point, where kicking out your publisher generates more royalties." Crazy.
  • "Why is this a good idea? The Turner-Brown proposal is a modern version of an idea originally floated in 1972 by the late James Tobin, the Nobel-winning Yale economist. Tobin argued that currency speculation — money moving internationally to bet on fluctuations in exchange rates — was having a disruptive effect on the world economy. To reduce these disruptions, he called for a small tax on every exchange of currencies. Such a tax would be a trivial expense for people engaged in foreign trade or long-term investment; but it would be a major disincentive for people trying to make a fast buck (or euro, or yen) by outguessing the markets over the course of a few days or weeks. It would, as Tobin said, “throw some sand in the well-greased wheels” of speculation."
  • "The government of Dubai, in a blunt acknowledgment of the severity of its financial position, said on Wednesday that it had asked its banks for a six-month stay on its schedule of debt repayments. The terse statement came in the middle of negotiations between creditors and Dubai World, the corporate arm of Dubai, which has led many of its most ambitious real estate projects, but is now struggling under the burden of $59 billion in liabilities."
  • "Government plans to roll out e-petitions across the UK could offer people a real say in the democratic process, a conference has heard. The legislation to make e-petitions compulsory for all councils in the UK comes into force in April 2010. It could result in a national e-petition scheme and force Westminster to take more notice of people power, thinks web guru Tom Steinberg. E-petitions allow citizens to raise issues with government. It also gives them a chance to have a say in political processes. " Very cool.
  • "The Netherlands-based file-sharing website Mininova has removed all torrents that enabled users to download copyright-protected material. The move follows a ruling in a Netherlands district court three months ago ordering the firm to remove links to illegal content. The court said that Mininova's notice and take down policy was insufficient to keep it operating within the law."
27 Nov

links for 2009-11-27

25 Nov

links for 2009-11-25

  • Social networking lets me resent more people.
  • "Cats don't do anything"
  • "Underscore is a utility-belt library for JavaScript that provides a lot of the functional programming support that you would expect in Prototype.js (or Ruby), but without extending any of the built-in JavaScript objects. It's the tie to go along with jQuery's tux."
  • "Greeting again from the heartland. Here is a quick plugin that duplicates one or more elements n times. This function is similar to the clone() method but will clone the elements multiple times placing them in the same collection." Nice.
  • "The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices on Wednesday recommended GlaxoSmithKline's human papillomavirus vaccine, Cervarix, for routine use in vaccinating girls and young women to prevent cervical cancer, the AP/New York Times reports (Stobbe, AP/New York Times, 10/21). GSK said the panel recommended routine administration of Cervarix to protect against cervical cancer in girls ages 11 and 12, as well as girls and women ages 13 through 25 who have not been vaccinated (Richwine, Reuters, 10/21). CDC will need to adopt the new recommendation to make it part of official advice to U.S. physicians (AP/New York Times, 10/21). FDA approved Cervarix last week for use in girls and women ages 10 through 25 to prevent cervical cancer"
  • "I need to remind myself of this sometimes. We are just getting started. There are must-haves and there are nice-to-haves. And the things that are burning in your heart to get into the product may not always fall into must-have." Something I need to remember at work.
  • "While I adore CakePHP and the things it lets you do simply by following convention — it’s very easy to get sucked into the “Best Practice” mindset, and waste a lot of time working on something that honestly doesn’t need to be tinkered with."
  • "Faced with a large-scale loss of professional news stories from its search engine, Google would likely have little choice but to begin paying sites to index their content. That would be a nightmare scenario for Google – and a dream come true for newspapers and other big content producers. Of course, for now this is all just speculation. The odds are that none of it will come to pass. The idea that newspapers might come together to pursue a radical and risky strategy seems far-fetched. Then again, maybe the time has finally come for newspapers to take a deep collective breath and apply the leverage they still hold. They don't have a whole lot left to lose."
  • "In the end, both reason and science have their place. When making a decision in a situation where taking measurements is difficult or impossible, the only thing you can do is follow your intuition. The early days of most startups are such an environment. If you’re doing something truly revolutionary, there’s very little you can measure in the beginning to validate your theories. In fact, introducing measurement at this stage can be extremely harmful, because you make what you measure. The measurements you choose (which will necessarily be somewhat arbitrary) will shape what you make, and you will most likely end up making the wrong thing. This is why the intuition-driven entrepreneur thrives in the early stages of a startup." Different but both usefull.
  • "A group of conservative Republican leaders is proposing a solution to the internecine warfare over what the party should stand for: a 10-point checklist gauging proper adherence to core principles like opposing government financing for abortion and, more generally, President Obama’s “socialist agenda.” In what was being dubbed a purity test when it leaked out to reporters on Monday, the proposal would require the party to withhold campaign money and endorsements from candidates who do not adhere to at least seven principles on the checklist." Beyond stupid.
  • "The World Wide Web Consortium has published a draft of an interface that browsers can use to manipulate files better, one of a series of steps aimed at gradually improving the sophistication and polish of Web site interfaces. The draft File API (application programming interface) defines a number of ways that browsers and Web sites can handle files better. One big part of it: being able to select multiple files for upload, such as on photo-sharing sites or Web-based e-mail, a task that often relies on Adobe Systems' Flash today."
  • "The US will announce a target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions before next month's UN climate summit, according to a White House official. The target is expected to be in line with figures contained in legislation before the Senate – a reduction of about 17-20% from 2005 levels by 2020. The absence of a US target has widely been seen as the single biggest obstacle to agreement at the summit. President Barack Obama has not yet decided whether to attend the talks. At the weekend, the hosts of the Copenhagen conference announced that more than 60 heads of state and government had pledged to take part in the two-week negotiating session."
  • "This year will be one of the top five warmest years globally since records began 150 years ago, according to figures compiled by the Met Office. The UK's weather service projects that, unless there is an exceptionally cold spell before the end of the year, temperatures will be up on last year. Climate sceptics had pointed out that the temperature rise appeared to have stalled in the last decade or so."
  • "A US census worker who was found hanging naked from a tree and bound with duct tape killed himself but made it look like a murder, authorities say." I guess that is sorta good news.
  • "The company said on Tuesday that it was creating a dual-class stock structure for itself, and converting all of its current shares into so-called Class B shares, which will have 10 votes each on matters of corporate governance. Class A shares, which would be sold in an initial public offering, would carry one vote. Facebook said it had “no plans to go public at this time.”"
  • "The most important new antidiscrimination law in two decades — the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act — will take effect in the nation’s workplaces next weekend, prohibiting employers from requesting genetic testing or considering someone’s genetic background in hiring, firing or promotions. The act also prohibits health insurers and group plans from requiring such testing or using genetic information — like a family history of heart disease — to deny coverage or set premiums or deductibles."
  • "Here in America, the philosophy behind jobs policy can be summarized as “if you grow it, they will come.” That is, we don’t really have a jobs policy: we have a G.D.P. policy. The theory is that by stimulating overall spending we can make G.D.P. grow faster, and this will induce companies to stop firing and resume hiring."
  • "Most economists I talk to believe that the big risk to recovery comes from the inadequacy of government efforts: the stimulus was too small, and it will fade out next year, while high unemployment is undermining both consumer and business confidence."
  • "We critics of FC question why people can apparently give speeches in public – via a keyboard and a "facilitator" – and go to college – similarly "assisted" – yet they cannot answer a series of simple questions under controlled conditions! Psychologist Daniel Wegner, professor of psychology at Harvard University and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science has stated that facilitated communication is a striking example of the ideomotor effect, and tests of FC show that it is a complete fraud, farce, and delusion!"
  • "A U.S. Navy serviceman was found not guilty Monday of sexually assaulting a prostitute at a brothel while on shore leave in Australia's biggest city. A New South Wales District Court jury cleared Petty Officer Timothy Davis, 25, of a charge of sexual intercourse without consent, with the aggravating factor of causing the woman actual bodily harm. The charge carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison." Right because he only held her down to have sex.
  • "In a controversial move, Lincoln University in Pennsylvania is requiring overweight students to take a fitness course in order to receive their degrees. The mandate, which took effect for freshmen who entered in the fall of 2006, requires that students have their body mass index (BMI) measured."
  • Repeating makes it true.
  • "Video on the Web is an intermediate case between broadcast video (TV) and page-based Web navigation. Preliminary data indicates that most Web videos should be short — typically 2–10 minutes — indicating a usage velocity between Web and TV, but closer to the Web's velocity of one user decision every 10–120 seconds. When you develop content, services, and designs for the Web, remember that this medium has a much faster velocity than older media, whether print or TV."
  • "Businesses are under no obligation to sign up to a paid account, but doing so will provide them with a "special layer of access", including feedback and statistics, said Stone. Many big name brands and companies have embraced Twitter as a way of communicating directly with consumers and engaging with customers. Personal accounts remain free."
24 Nov

links for 2009-11-24

23 Nov

links for 2009-11-23

22 Nov

Netflix for Books

The tweet that spawned this post

The tweet that spawned this post

Netflix in case you haven’t heard of it is system whereby you give them money and they send you movies by mail that you can keep for as long as you want. No late fees, no extra charges on your account. Mail back the movie in their pre-paid envelope and a new movie is on your doorstep, in a few days.

What makes Netflix stand out against any other system with the same feature set is their super intelligent prediction system. After you view a movie, they ask you to rank it on a scale of 1-5 stars, and over time they make guesses what you would like to watch.

As a side note, Netflix just finished a campaign gathering independent teams to compete for a $1 million to beat their internal algorithm by 10% or better. While it doesn’t sound that hard, it took a long time before a team was able to be declared the winner.

What I really want I realized tonight, is a throw back to my days as a kid and visiting the library but modernized. I loved checking out and renting all those books that I would never have been able to afford to buy (and still wouldn’t). I read a lot back in the day and checked out so many books for pretty much a single reason, about 1/4 of the books just weren’t worth my time to read and would go by the wayside.

Applying Netflix or Amazon’s prediction algorithms to my reading list and let me put books in a queue to rent, add in Netflix’s keep out for as long as needed and deliver when available electronic copies of a book when available and I would be in heaven.

The idea is purely stolen from Netflix, but the majority of what is needed Amazon already has:

  • Relationship with publishers — √
  • Storage facilities and mailing system for fast delivery of books — √
  • Electronic version of books — √
  • Software and delivery platform for these ebooks — √
  • Queue of books to read – that’s a sorta they’ve got the Wish List but it’s for items to buy little bit of work and converted, better than half way there
  • Rating system — √
  • Prediction algorithms — another mostly there, their algorithms are good but sometimes get fooled by stuff that you buy on a one shot deal

Get working Amazon (or anybody for that matter) and I’ll sign up and buy more books in the process.

22 Nov

links for 2009-11-22