30 Apr

Business Insider – Can We Please Stop Pretending That Microsoft’s Bing Is Doing Well?

Microsoft’s Bing search engine is indeed gaining some share of search queries in the US market (globally, Bing is nowhere). But it is gaining this share at an absolutely mind-boggling cost. Specifically, Microsoft is gaining share for Bing by doing spectacularly expensive distribution deals, deals that don’t even come close to paying for themselves in additional revenue.

How much is Microsoft spending to buy market share for Bing?

Based on an analysis of Microsoft’s financial statements, Bing is paying about 3X as much for every incremental search query as it generates in revenue from that query.

What does that mean?

It means that for every $1 Microsoft generates from each new search query it buys, it spends $3 to get it.

(And that’s just direct costs–the costs of obtaining and processing the query. It doesn’t include sales and marketing, research and development, and general and administrative costs–all of which are subtracted from the -$2 Microsoft has already lost on every new query.)

Don’t believe it?

Let’s go to the numbers.

via Business Insider – Can We Please Stop Pretending That Microsoft’s Bing Is Doing Well?. Is Bing at this point helping or hurting Microsoft?

28 Apr

Overthinking It – Overthinking Star Wars: The Economics of Death Star Planet Destruction

What’s the economic calculus behind the Empire’s tactic of A) building a Death Star, B) intimidating planets into submission with the threat of destruction, and C) actually carrying through with said destruction if the planet doesn’t comply?

via Overthinking It – Overthinking Star Wars: The Economics of Death Star Planet Destruction. Not only is this article fun, but it’s interesting.

26 Apr

Marco.org – The iOS weather-app market

The problem here is similar to any other general app category with a lot of potential for customer dissatisfaction, like to-do lists and notepads: the features that I care about aren’t going to perfectly match the features that you, or anyone else, will care about. I could make my perfect weather app, but very few others would be satisfied with it. I bet even Craig and I would have disagreed on many of the details.

via Marco.org – The iOS weather-app market. My app that I keep wanting to build is a Delicious like service, Pinboard works well enough for me. But some software the level of customization that each user wants makes it really undesirable to enter that market.

24 Apr

Twilio Engineering Blog – Why Twilio Wasn’t Affected by Today’s AWS Issue

Starting early this morning, Amazon Web Services experienced several service problems at one of its east coast datacenters. The outage impacted major sites across the Internet. The number of high profile sites affected by the issue shows both the amazing success of cloud services in enabling the current Internet ecosystem, and also the importance of solid distributed architectural design when building cloud services.

Twilio’s APIs and service were not affected by the AWS issues today. As we’ve grown and scaled Twilio on Amazon Web Services, we’ve followed a set of architectural design principles to minimize the impact of occasional, but inevitable issues in underlying infrastructure.

via Twilio Engineering Blog – Why Twilio Wasn’t Affected by Today’s AWS Issues. Twilio on how to build a service that was able to deal with Amazon’s downtime.

24 Apr

Paul Graham – Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule

One reason programmers dislike meetings so much is that they’re on a different type of schedule from other people. Meetings cost them more.

There are two types of schedule, which I’ll call the manager’s schedule and the maker’s schedule. The manager’s schedule is for bosses. It’s embodied in the traditional appointment book, with each day cut into one hour intervals. You can block off several hours for a single task if you need to, but by default you change what you’re doing every hour.

When you use time that way, it’s merely a practical problem to meet with someone. Find an open slot in your schedule, book them, and you’re done.

Most powerful people are on the manager’s schedule. It’s the schedule of command. But there’s another way of using time that’s common among people who make things, like programmers and writers. They generally prefer to use time in units of half a day at least. You can’t write or program well in units of an hour. That’s barely enough time to get started.

When you’re operating on the maker’s schedule, meetings are a disaster. A single meeting can blow a whole afternoon, by breaking it into two pieces each too small to do anything hard in. Plus you have to remember to go to the meeting. That’s no problem for someone on the manager’s schedule. There’s always something coming on the next hour; the only question is what. But when someone on the maker’s schedule has a meeting, they have to think about it.

For someone on the maker’s schedule, having a meeting is like throwing an exception. It doesn’t merely cause you to switch from one task to another; it changes the mode in which you work.

via Paul Graham – Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule. I understand this feeling, I just never knew how to describe it.

24 Apr

O’Reilly Broadcast – The AWS Outage: The Cloud’s Shining Moment

So many cloud pundits are piling on to the misfortunes of Amazon Web Services this week as a response to the massive failures in the AWS Virginia region. If you think this week exposed weakness in the cloud, you don’t get it: it was the cloud’s shining moment, exposing the strength of cloud computing.

In short, if your systems failed in the Amazon cloud this week, it wasn’t Amazon’s fault. You either deemed an outage of this nature an acceptable risk or you failed to design for Amazon’s cloud computing model. The strength of cloud computing is that it puts control over application availability in the hands of the application developer and not in the hands of your IT staff, data center limitations, or a managed services provider.

The AWS outage highlighted the fact that, in the cloud, you control your SLA in the cloud—not AWS.

via O’Reilly Broadcast – The AWS Outage: The Cloud’s Shining Moment. The article even goes through the process of what it would take to permit you to have stayed up through Amazon’s recent downtime.

21 Apr

BBC News – Jihadists use mobiles as propaganda tools

Islamic militants have developed sophisticated ways of spreading propaganda via mobile, a study suggests.

Researchers found jihadists were compiling packages of information designed to be received on smartphones.

They contained copies of videos, songs, speeches and images that followers are encouraged to pass on.

Some were using Bluetooth short-range radio technology to anonymously spread information to potential supporters.

The study was led by German researcher Nico Prucha who has spent seven years cataloguing the materials put online by Jihadists.

Mr Prucha said that without technologies such as the web and mobile phones, al-Qaeda may well have withered a long time ago.

"It’s the only way for them to remain part of the debate," he said. "Without it they would be isolated like they were in the 1980s."

Mr Prucha said that before the rise of the internet it was difficult for those interested in al-Qaeda or other militant groups to find information.

via BBC News – Jihadists use mobiles as propaganda tools. What a stupid article, if it was the 1980’s we would all be as isolated as if it was the 1980’s. Any technology can be just as equally used by terrorists or criminals, in the same manner as we use it.

20 Apr

Neon Tommy – Benton Harbor Public Workers Forced Into Concessions

On March 16, 2011, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed into law a bill that would allow the state to appoint an “Emergency Financial Manager” (EFM) to essentially take over a city within the state when it is deemed that the city is in a state of “financial crisis.”

This state-appointed official has the power to void union contracts, remove elected officials, and can dissolve local authority completely, replacing it with the authority of the governor through the EFM.

The first city has fallen — Benton Harbor, Michigan. A few days ago, the powers of the local, elected government were dissolved, and elected officials were replaced by a state-appointed EFM, Joseph Harris. Public workers are being forced into concessions on their unionizing rights.

The locals no longer have a voice in their own government. Despite numerous protests held by locals indicating that they do not, in fact, wish for their rights to a democratically elected government to be impeded, the policy has not changed.

via Neon Tommy – Benton Harbor Public Workers Forced Into Concessions. This is insane, to read about. It feels like something that shouldn’t, couldn’t happen in the US. Imagine if the President just fired all of the state governors, remove state legislatures, break state contracts, literally just crazy.

19 Apr

Yahoo! News – Armenia makes chess compulsory in schools

Armenia is to make chess a compulsory subject in primary schools in an attempt to turn itself into a global force in the game, the education ministry said on Friday.

"Teaching chess in schools will create a solid basis for the country to become a chess superpower," an official at the ministry, Arman Aivazian, told AFP.

The authorities led by President Serzh Sarkisian, an enthusiastic supporter of the game, have committed around $1.5 million (one million euros) to the scheme — a large sum in the impoverished but chess-mad country.

Children from the age of six will learn chess as a separate subject on the curriculum for two hours a week.

Aivazian said the lessons which start later this year would "foster schoolchildren’s intellectual development" and teach them to "think flexibly and wisely".

via Yahoo! News – Armenia makes chess compulsory in schools. This seems like a cool idea, and I imagine would create students more skilled in critical thinking and logic, all good things.

19 Apr

Official Blog of the American Civil Liberties Union – Just A Smack On The Ass: A Tale Of Sexual Assault, Vengeance And Nervous Swearing

I’m realistic. I knew they were never going to arrest this guy. But here’s the thing, and the point to this whole long, profane story. I know there are a lot of people who think it wasn’t that big a deal. But the truth of the matter is, what this guy did was sexual assault. "Forcible touching and harassment," if you want to get specific.

Sexual assault doesn’t always necessarily mean something as horrible as rape. And too often street harassment is unreported, and douchebags like this think they can get away with it because the girl is gonna be too embarrassed or too meek to do anything about it. Or they think it’s "just a slap on the ass." And that’s not right, you guys. I don’t know how other women feel about their posteriors, but you don’t very well get to smack the hell out of it willy-nilly because you feel entitled to do so. There will be repercussions.

To the NYPD’s credit, they did follow up, and the detective told me that if I really wanted to press charges, she would help me do that, even if it meant looking through a lot of surveillance tape and looking at lineups and all that stuff. I opted not to, figuring that they had this guy’s description, and if he did it again, he’d be in a lot of trouble. But something tells me he’s not going to. I think I scared him. Or as the detective said, "So you ran up and confronted him and screamed at him in a bank."

"Yep."

"…Awesome."

I know what happened to me could have been a lot, lot worse. But someone doesn’t have to be raped to be humiliated, violated and hurt. Sometimes, all it takes is a smack on the ass.

via Official Blog of the American Civil Liberties Union – Just A Smack On The Ass: A Tale Of Sexual Assault, Vengeance And Nervous Swearing. Just an awesome story of one woman going and confronting street harassment.