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Wednesday 25 July 2007

The CNN/YouTube Presidential debate

Quite an historic event this week, with the CNN/YouTube joint Democratic Presidential candidate debate.

MSM certainly took note. As the Chicago Tribune's Steve Johnson put it, "it was a bad night for news anchors and Washington bureau chiefs, the traditional interrogators of would-be holders of American high office."

Carol Darr, Director of the Institute for Politics, Democracy and the Internet, said that for the first time, “the filter that mainstream establishment media plays in presidential races — ‘we ask the questions, we are the exalted panel’ — that was broken down.”

Jon Stewart introduces and sets the tone ...

"Video size is important to the debate .. only young people can see it."

And more from Jon Oliver — did CNN 'youthenize' the debate? ...

Note the 'Al qaeda' drinking game ..

TechPresident summed up the reactions.

It brought home the hollowness of much of our scripted political speech, since those candidates who could break through the rhetoric and talk with a human voice really stood out

And Huffpost has a good dissection of what actually happened - they followed the questioners.

YouTube themselves described the new debate format as “more democratic than ever.” Apparently, YouTube founder Chad Hurley is hot for Obama (as are a lot of Google employees).

And — this has got to be a good sign — White House Press Secretary Tony Snow asked 'Did [Bush] watch the debate?' answered 'I don’t think so. I don’t think he’s big on YouTube debates'.

Andrew Keen - he of 'The cult of the amateur', which bangs on about Wikipedia being unreliable - took a hit as many videos from the 'amateurs' were very well produced or showed the sort of cunning approach journalists have by picking a hole they figured producers would need to fill.

This is what young guy John Cantees did in addressing a candidate everyone else would ignore.

Though another way of looking at it is that the process ends up sounding not dissimilar to that employed by Endermol to fill the BigBrother House.

CNN didn't just "pick the questions." They identified contributors and in some cases worked with them to shape the video.


If the whole point of the exercise was to hear from citizens, it just shows how hard it is to displace the spirit of professionalism with another spirit-- even when one is trying.
And although there was a first - one woman on the stage - only 11 of 39 questions were from women - 70% were from men.

At this early stage, it's hardly surprising that videos like this one about Alzheimer's gets in — only 3000 video questions were submitted.

Noted that the documentation by YouTube is terrible. Here's that question on YouTube — see if you can find the answer here (it's the one below), on YouTube's main recap page. (The question was actually mashed in with others). One thing I've noticed recently as YouTube iterates its design is the navigation getting stripped too far back, so you get too much simplicity and too little complexity.

NB: and yes, you are reading CNN host Anderson Cooper right ..

POSTSCRIPT: Apparently, the Republican candidates think it's silly and that their base don't watch YouTube, so they aren't signing up for their version in September. The WashPost quotes Mitt Romney saying "I think the presidency ought to be held at a higher level than having to answer questions from a snowman." Republican blogger Andrew Sullivan says: "Ducking YouTube after the Dems did so well will look like a party uncomfortable with the culture and uncomfortable with democracy. But then, we kind of knew that already, I guess, didn't we?"

More error messages

Been on a bit of a technical error break myself, so this is kindof apt.

San Francisco had a power outage today and amongst those going down were ...

... note the varied error messages, Craigslist's one does the trick ...

Much better than 'pleaseeee come back .. '

Thursday 19 July 2007

Corporate social media tools

Eric Newman, vice president and general manager of Pluck, who've just done the brilliant social media rework of USA Today:

Techmeme has “go-to”

Techmeme has become one of my top 'go to' places - along with millions of others. Just been suggesting it to Simon Dickson, who really wants a UK 'breaking news' blog (good idea). Here's founder Gabe Rivera, quietly dishing Digg and Google News:

They also run a gossip version, US politics, and Baseball. Plus 'River' versions which are all the links, all the time.

Bytes · New Google Maps API - LongTail works - Metcalfe rewritten

  • Official blog: Google Maps Mashups 2.0

  • More BBC Free PR for big companies: MySpace 'passes 10m UK users'

  • TechPresident: Don't believe the Long Tail strategy works... Ask your friends...
    Via U.S. News & World Report, we find out just how valuable the Long Tail strategy has become:

    The Internet is now an integral part of every candidate's fundraising effort, and the numbers are impressive. Obama led the field among Democrats in online fundraising in the first quarter, netting around $7 million over the Internet compared with Clinton's $4.2 million and Edwards's $3.3 million. Republican Mitt Romney reported $7.2 million in online donations in the first quarter. Second-quarter Internet cash totals are not yet in.

    The median online donation is usually low—the Obama campaign said 9 in 10 of its online donors gave $100 or less this year—so the big Internet dollars go only to candidates with wide appeal among the Internet-savvy. The Federal Election Commission limits allow personal contributions up to $2,300 per candidate for the primaries, and another $2,300 per candidate for the general election cycle. So campaigns would like those small Internet givers to give again, and again, and will pester them to do so; most candidate websites even offer an option for automated monthly giving to their campaign.

  • Mark Cuban: Metcalfe's Law and Its Impact on Online Video:
    1. The more people that see content when it is originally "broadcast", regardless of the distribution medium, the more valuable the content.
    2. The greater the number of people that watch content simultaneously, the greater the emotional attachment of the viewer.
    3. The longer the period required for content to saturate viewer demand, the cheaper the cost of delivery.
    4. The shorter the period required to saturate demand, the more expensive the cost.
    5. The greater the number of content alternatives at any given point in time, the more expensive it is for any given piece of content to acquire an incremental viewer.
    · Metcalfe's law

  • Nielsen has shifted prime metric from page view to time spent on the site, massively boosting sites like AOL's at the expense of Google. As Scott Karp explains:

    Google, meanwhile, drops to fifth in time spent, primarily because its search engine is focused on giving visitors quick answers and links for going elsewhere. By page views, Google ranks third.

    The problem is that the web is not a monolithic medium. Reading a blog, using instant messaging, and using web search are utterly different — the idea that one metric can be used as a yardstick to compare them is absurd on the face of it.

  • First Search Marketing in the US Presidential Election Campaign: ClickZ reports that McCain is getting 'better bang for his buck':
    However in terms of visibility, McCain came out ahead, appearing prominently in searches for "stem cell research;" "pro-life;" "campaign finance," "electoral reform;" "ethics reform;" "government accountability;" "government reform;" "lobbyist;" "special interests;" "tort reform;" "DNC" and "RNC." Edwards' ads were highly visible only in results for searches on "Iraq" and "war in Iraq" ... candidates "are still really focusing on using search to solicit e-mail addresses and contributions." Therefore, many care only about targeting ads to keywords associated with issues that generate the most action for the least amount of money .. ads for Senator Barack Obama, whose campaign accounted for 4 percent of spending, appeared in searches for "Iraq" and "war in Iraq" .. 89 percent of voters using search engines to find election information have conducted searches on a relevant issue .. Democratic hopeful Senator Barack Obama was the most-searched candidate of all, prompting searches by over 50 percent of all people using search engines for election information, and 60 percent of Democrats in that group. Forty percent of all election searchers sought for information on Democratic Senator Hillary Clinton, and about 57 percent of Democrats in that segment did. Thirty-seven percent of all search engine users searched for ex-NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani, while 51 percent of Republicans in that segment searched for the Republican candidate. About 23 percent of all searched for McCain, and 28 percent of Republicans searched on the Senator's name.
    Jonathan Mendes looks more at the Search Engine Election.
    In this digital election the most important and most targeted opportunity to reach voters exists in the same places it does in all other media. Paid advertising.
    There's another use which Adsense can be put to, PrezVid documented in April:
    Who considers whom a threat (and who’s a threat to no one)

Wednesday 18 July 2007

“How to open a safe”

File under 'unanticipated use'

Colorado Springs Gazette: The two burglars had door keys, pass codes and combinations for the safes at a Colorado Springs indoor amusement center.

But when it came to actually opening a combination lock, they did what most of us do when we’re stumped — they called Google to the rescue.

The burglary at Bigg City, formerly Mr. Bigg’s Family Fun Center, turned into a comedy of errors early June 10. The burglars tried to disable a security camera by repeatedly spraying it with WD-40 — it only cleaned the lens — and spent an hour and 15 minutes trying to open three safes, apparently unaware that some types require the dial to be turned two or three times.

They finally did a Google search for “how to open a safe” and “how to crack a safe” on a computer in the next room.

“They’re not professional safe people,” said Colorado Springs police detective Chuck Ackerman. “No, they’re not.”

On the other hand, the Google query apparently worked: The burglars haven’t been caught, and they did get about $12,000.

Bytes · Women online - Google seeding - cool videowall

TechPresident: Morra Aarons: Women Online: Facts, Figures, and the 2008 Election
  • After sleeping or spending time with family, the Internet is women’s favorite leisure activity (Yahoo/Starcom report 2005). But women surf around less than men: they like to frequent trusted sites and communities. This is important for campaigns to remember.
  • Even females who don’t self-describe as “political” organize and raise money: A recent survey by found that of the “mommy” blog readers surveyed, 46% have contributed to a cause or campaign.
  • Women talk differently online: "This is a huge generalization, but men use the blogosphere as a podium, e.g., 'This is what I think.' Women use it as a dialogue," Janet Eden-Harris, Internet firm Umbria's CEO, recently told the Denver Westword News. "The number of words that women use on a blog far exceeds that of men," she said. More later this week…
Anyone who follows politics knows this: For 40 years, more women than men have voted in elections .


As women go, so will the White House, which is why it is important to cover not only what campaigns and organizations are doing online to sway women voters, but also to observe what women say and do in their own networks, blogs, and online communities.

  • Dave Briggs points me in the direction of
    Similar in concept to (for photos) and (for videos) will be the online community for sharing all types of documents.
  • Something similar which I just discovered is SlideShare (I used it in an earlier post).

  • The World In One City is a great new blog:
    Our aim is to prove that London is the most cosmopolitan city in the world, by endeavouring to meet and chat to a citizen from every country in the world who currently lives and works in London.

    So far they've got 144. The Guardian did something similar in 2005:
    Altogether, more than 300 languages are spoken by the people of London, and the city has at least 50 non-indigenous communities with populations of 10,000 or more. Virtually every race, nation, culture and religion in the world can claim at least a handful of Londoners.

    London: the world in one city
    Interactive: Use our scrollable map to see which ethnic communities live where in London.
    View this map as a pdf
    Key to the map

    London by religion
    Map: Counting the capital by religion.
    London by religion: analysis

    London by ethnicity
    Map: Counting the capital by ethnic group.
    London by ethnicity: analysis

    What the maps don't show
    Factfile: Tower Hamlets has the lowest proportion of ethnic Indians of any London borough; 5.1% of Kensington and Chelsea's populatino are Americans. And many more facts and figures.

  • Sydney Morning Herald: The YouTube election
    That's John Howard on the right and ALP leader Kevin Rudd on the left
    John Howard's fake MySpace page
    A Little Beef - Howard/Bush mashup by Red Symons
    GetUp's ad starring Max Gillies as Howard
    GetUp's site for spoof election ads
    What's in the Box? (spoof ad)
  • Mark Tillison detects other motives in Google's extension of their hosted online office tools from educational to non-profits:
    · The educational sector is pretty communal, there’s lots of sharing of ideas and word of mouth, so plenty of organic growth.
    · It’s a very large, well defined sector that will create a large user base very quickly.
    · Most importantly, what do we trust most as users? We trust what we know. As human beings, we don’t typically like change. When we’re getting educated, we use the tools we’re presented with because we don’t know anything else. When we leave education, we want to use those same tools that we’re comfortable with.

    This strategy, often called ’seeding’, produces exceptional results in the medium to long term, but you need a lot of funding to survive the investment period (like Google, for example).

  • ~~~~~~~~~~~

  • 2008 Presidential Wire Videowall is a brilliant mash-up with Yahoo Pipes and Google Video by a former Guilliani advisor, Patrick Ruffini:
    The videowall aggregates all the latest YouTube videos about the ‘08 candidates in a full screen total immersion experience. I’ve found it very useful in tracking down debate clips, anonymous oppo hits, and other cool stuff I’ve missed. Voter generated content is mixed in with media clips and official candidate videos to provide a 360 degree view of the campaign.
    Does take time to load :/

Monday 16 July 2007

More po-faced Americans

Oh dear, Slate has a good ole go at the EU's new YouTube channel — 'Gasping in horror at EUTube':
Far more succinct, an animated piece called "Everyone Can Save The Planet" compresses a whole day's bad LSD experience into 41 seconds. This one kicks off when a housewife with a Marge Simpson beehive turns the thermostat down and then becomes a superhero, shedding her frumpy dress to reveal a get-up that Barbarella herself would surely find de trop. It ends when a man moving down the street with the aid of a walker finishes a canned beverage, belches, feebly tosses the empty can in a recycling bin, and then transforms into a turtle and, spinning in his shell, ricochets off a Dumpster. In between, you don't want to know.

After pointing out that government films tend to be boring (Go on! ... ) they finally get to the compilation of sex scenes promoting European film (viewed 3.5 m times on you-know-what, for embedded video see the next post):
"Grow up & stop acting like horny teenagers."

The video is the Gauloise-smoking double of the famed montage from The Naked Gun, with the flowers and the booster rockets and the oil drill. Searching for its identity, the E.U. has tried to go highbrow-risqué—and landed at Leslie Nielsen.
Yeah gods, they don't even get the Delicatessan reference ... !

Lawd knows what they'd make of DiscoSarko. Oh wait, this was their take:
This election cycle, French voters seem to be turning to the Internet in greater numbers. You can find YouTube videos full of "macaca" moments à la française. Smart blogs, including one written by the smoldering grandson of former Prime Minister Pierre Mendès-France, cleverly call out the candidates' faux pas, while this silly time-waster makes an animated Sarkozy disco on your command.
Whereas Hillary's Sopranos parody [also embedded in an earlier post] had:
A strong script, a stellar cast (note the cameos by Vince Curatola, who played Johnny Sack [and a Guilliani supporter!], and a certain former president who prefers onion rings to carrots), and excellent production values.
That wasn't at all 'silly' then?

As I put it before:
Not much buzz in the Valley about Disco Sarko.

Compare official disco-dancing with this and this and this and this [what's tops on YouTube for presidential candidates]. Contrast. What does YouTube do after DiscoSarko?
Sarkozy was smart, the EU are smart. And lawd aren't Slate po-faced?

NB: below was an official product of the Sarkozy campaign.

Bytes · Drag'n'drop directions - Tog heart iPhone - Our sexy EU

Google Maps have added a rather good new drag-and-drop feature for directions.


 Wall St. to JFK, New York (with live traffic)
California National Parks tour

Wall St. to JFK, New York
(with live traffic)


IBM Center for The Business of Government: "Bridging the Digital Divide for Hard-to-Reach Groups (1.2mb PDF)
  • Recommendation 1: Offer free computer and Internet access to targeted groups.
  • Recommendation 2: Provide long-term support to organizations seeking to reach targeted groups.
  • Recommendation 3: Create partnerships with other organizations to share resources and expertise.
  • Recommendation 4: Create strategies for long-term project sustainability.
  • Recommendation 6: Raise awareness of the benefits and encourage use of e-government services among targeted users.
  • Recommendation 7: Improve usability of the Internet and e-government services to targeted individuals and groups.
  • Recommendation 9: Create a comfortable learning environment and provide informal training opportunities to targeted users.
  • Recommendation 10: Involve targeted users by constant consultation.

Usability/HCI guru Bruce Tognazzini loves the iPhone, even though he can't use it - like lots of Americans - because his area isn't part of AT&T's network.

Jacob Nielsen is a little less excited, noting that the New York Times has reported download times of:
  • NY Times: 55 seconds
  • Amazon: 100 seconds
  • Yahoo: two minutes (!)
The impact of the network on the iPhone's total user experience is a good example of a general lesson: usability is a chain that's no stronger than its weakest link. Take e-commerce: navigation, search, product photos, product descriptions, the shopping cart, checkout, and site credibility all need great design. If any one of these fails, then no sale.

  • More from Tognazzini about why he loves the iPhone and Apple

  • ~~~~~~~~~~~

    ClickZ has been tracking where visitors to Presidential candidates websites go:
    Clinton's site visitors were six times more likely to check out country music content, while visitors to the other three candidates' sites were no more apt to go country than others online. Those on Richardson's site were 15 times more likely to check out current hits, and Obama's site visitors were seven times more likely to check out urban music. Folks on Richardson's and Giuliani's sites were twice as likely to groove on urban music content.

    Top Content Segments Viewed by Visitors
    Content/Audience Segment Number of Times More Likely to Visit than Remaining Web Users
    Health Conditions, Asthma 169
    Sportscar (GM only) 47
    Sportscar 37
    New Auto Buyer, Sportscar 26
    Senior Travel 23
    Used Auto Buyer, Minivan 22
    Technology, Computers 19
    Technology, Consumer Electronics 18
    College Basketball 17
    Source: Tacoda, 2007


    • Can new technologies help in actually enhancing accessibility for certain user groups and help sites to engage with their audiences more effectively? In his post on Accessibility and Innovation, Brian Kelly gives a quick run-down of his talk The Accessible Web, which he recently gave at the Web Adept: UK Museums and the Web 2007 conference.

    • ReadWriteWeb:New Media Meets Old: A Look at Redesigned Mainstream News Sites
      Conclusion: 'USA Today has social media down cold'
    • Washington Post looks at online Reputation Management.
      "Google's not in business to give you the truth, it's in business to give what you think is relevant."

      The goal is to get Google and other search engines to seize on relevant sites that contain positive information on their clients and to downplay the rest.

    • The EU now has its own YouTube channel and it includes a video montage of movie sex scenes promoting the EU's support for European film-making. Defending it the European Commission spokesman Martin Selmayr said
      "The EU is not a bible belt. We believe in freedom of speech and artistic expression."

      You tell those Poles, Martin.

    Sunday 15 July 2007

    David Cameron 'excludes' my mum

    ITV News has just led with Cameron's dire poll ratings, and 'in an exclusive' interviewed Cameron going very, very big with 'the Internet'.
    • Note to ITN: it helps when you have one of these 'exclusives' to post it simultaneously online: t'was not a mention when I just looked.
    Lots of screengrabs of and Stand up Speak up, which is oozing web 2.0.

    Trouble is the concept - yes, my mum won't be one of those contributing from the other side of the Digital Divide so democracy isn't anything to do with it.
    Thank you for visiting our policy debate website, which provides a real opportunity for everyone in the country to get involved in shaping the next Conservative manifesto. The feedback we receive from this website will be reviewed by the Shadow Cabinet, whose decisions will be influenced by your views.
    Nowhere does it mention any other route to contribute.

    He has the nerve to call this the 'end of top-down, we know best politics'.

    The execution is terrible too. It looks glossy at first glance but the initial video is depressing, the process confusing (untested) and way too complex. Needless to say, it's also not accessible. Have a look at the straightforward messaging of US Presidential candidate websites for a stark contrast.

    Shock! Government websites 'hard to use'

    'Whitehall Webby' Jeremy Gould posts about a new report from the National Audit Office showing most (central) government sites failing with usability, findability etc.
    • Website search engines “often fail to work satisfactorily”.
    • Nearly 25% of departments do not know who is using their sites, or how much they cost.
    • Some sites are difficult to use, too “text-heavy” and filled with policy material that irrelevant to the visitor.
    • between 2001 and 2006 in terms of quality one in six sites had got “significantly worse”
    This comes on top of other reports showing that basics like use of metrics is rare.

    Public Sector Forums reported last month in an expose about the supposed cull of central government websites that Directgov is giving advice to the Americans. They found minutes from a meeting in January which outlined the strategy.

    The amusing thing is that the minutes came from the Webmaster's University wing of US government and the UK has b****r all like it. In other words, there is no mechanism to spread knowledge and information about the very failings the report highlights.

    This is why usability isn't front row and centre - all of the 'guidance' sits somewhere unpromoted and unloved and commercial lessons aren't transferable because they're usually not seen as relevant (and there is zero traffic between the Web World and eGov). The gaping hole in UK eGov where Google should be is filled in the US.

    I had started going through the minutes to point out all the daft bits but, to be honest, I can't be arsed. Here's one blinding example from someone who's obviously never heard of the 'long tail':
    Q: How did you use web metrics—analyzing how visitors were using government websites—to support the initiative?

    A: Yes, web metrics were taken into consideration. For example, if a site has high traffic, we need to be careful about how to move content since it will effect a lot of people. But more than specific data, we asked higher level questions, like: what content is on the site, what is the purpose of the site, who are you talking to? Answers to those questions were the most important factors in helping decide whether content should reside on the DirectGov portal, stay on the corporate departmental website, or be taken down.

    Government in the Age of Web 2.0

    IBM Center for The Business of Government today: The Blogging Revolution: Government in the Age of Web 2.0 [ 7mb PDF] by David C. Wyld, Associate Professor Southeastern Louisiana University Department of Management.

    This is a very comprehensive report researching a wide range of public sector, corporate and other blogs with lots of common-sense and clear advice. It includes a very long list of links to blogs by Fire Chiefs, politicians and CEOs.

    Wikis, blogs, video, and audio files that can be distributed for free in seconds to millions —these collaborative tools may make possible a future that one observer has noted “will require the greatest change in management thinking since the likes of General Motors invented the corporation in the early 20th century” (Maney, 2006, n.p.)

    More and more, as one wanders around the local coffeehouse, the local university, the park, city streets, or your own offices, we see living proof that more and more of our lives are being spent online. thus, to be an effective leader today, we must wander online.

    Blogging Options for Public Officials

    • The Travel Blog
    • The Blow-by-Blow Blog
    • The Personal Blog
    • The Team Blog

    Blogging policy
    A good example of such is the IBM corporate blogging guidelines (IIBM, 2005), which were developed internally through a wiki involving bloggers within IBM (
    Other prominent organizations that have published blogging guidelines for their organizations and employees include:
    Bev Godwin of recently stated:“Some rules about government information apply to blogs as they would for any information the government distributes. ”

    Get ‘Dooced’ for Blogging
    What does getting “Dooced ” mean?Well,in the blogosphere,this is the term used when workers are fired by their employer for their blogging activities.the origin of the phrase comes from Heather Armstrong, who blogs under the pseudonym “Dooce” online at (

    Blogging Can Be Kryptonite
    Take Kryptonite, for example. Based in Canton, Massachusetts, the company, which makes locks for bicycles, is a subsidiary of Ingersoll-rand. In 2004, Kryptonite found itself in the middle of a blogstorm. Bloggers posted videos showing how, using a ballpoint pen, one could easily break open a specific model of Kryptonite bicycle lock—which was true. However, bloggers also spread erroneous information that all Kryptonite locks had this vulnerability and that the company was covering up the problem. the company spent millions replacing locks and countering the negative publicity over the past year. Steven Down, Kryptonite ’s general manager, said from experience: “A blogger can go out and make any statement about anybody, and you can’t control it. that’s a difficult thing” (quoted in Lyons, 2005, n.p.).

    10 Tips for Blogging by Public Sector Executives
    • Tip 1: Define yourself and your purpose
    • Tip 2: Do it yourself!
    • Tip 3: Make a time commitment
    • Tip 4: Be regular
    • Tip 5: Be generous
    • Tip 6: Have a “hard hide”
    • Tip 7: Spell-check
    • Tip 8: Don’t give too much information
    • Tip 9: Consider multimedia
    • Tip 10: Be a student of blogging

    Second Life pisstake

    Los Angeles Times: Virtual marketers have second thoughts about Second Life
    Firms find that avatars created by participants in the online society aren't avid shoppers.
    On its website, Second Life says the number of total residents is more than 8 million. But that counts people who signed in once and never returned, as well as multiple avatars for individual residents. Even at peak times, only about 30,000 to 40,000 users are logged on, said Brian Haven, an analyst with Forrester Research.

    "You're talking about a much smaller audience than advertisers are used to reaching," Haven said.

    The Science of Gaydar

    Gay men are more likely than straight men to have a counterclockwise whorl.

    New York Magazine has a fascinating feature by David France about The Science of Gaydar.

    France details all the traits which, according to research, distinguish gay men and lesbians. Very odd things like finger-length and hair swirl and even penis thickness.

    He quotes Simon LeVay, one of the originators of the gay gene theory:
    “These are all part and parcel of the idea that being gay is different—that we are different animals to some extent. Hirschfeld was right. I support the idea that we’re a third sex—or a third sex and a fourth sex, gay men and lesbians. Today, there’s scientific documentation behind this.”
    France says that research is pointing at biological causes with immunology currently the favourite:
    We know from a string of surveys that in any family, the second-born son is 33 percent more likely than the first to be gay, and the third is 33 percent more likely than the second, and so on, as though there is some sort of “maternal memory,”
    Because many of these newly identified “gay” traits and characteristics are known to be influenced in utero, researchers think they may be narrowing in on when gayness is set—and identifying its possible triggers. They believe that homosexuality may be the result of some interaction between a pregnant mother and her fetus. Several hypothetical mechanisms have been identified, most pointing to an alteration in the flow of male hormones in the formation of boys and female hormones in the gestation of girls. What causes this? Nobody has any direct evidence one way or another, but a list of suspects includes germs, genes, maternal stress, and even allergy—maybe the mother mounts some immunological response to the fetal hormones.
    There has also been a lot of research into homosexual behaviour in animals, which is finding it extremely prevalent.

    Many societies, such as Polynesia's, accept gay sons and lesbian daughters and there are theories about the role homosexuality plays in evolution — throughout history priests and shamans have often been 'gay'. Richard Lippa, a psychologist from California State University, has found cross-cultural confirmation that gay men and lesbians tend to job and other stereotype.

    But many other societies have not accepted. Of course the scary outcome could be biological interventions aimed at prevention — and in a world whose [sci-fi] imaginations of the future don't tend to include lesbians and gay men, it is indeed scary.

    • Village Voice: Born to be gay (about gay kids)
      Nothing about Joseph seems notably feminine, until he holds up a doll dressed in a bright pink dress. "See my Barbie?" he says, proudly.

    Bytes · Google's everyday firsts - Singapore - South Korea

    • According to YouGov 'folksonomy', is the most disliked web term followed by 'Blogosphere'.
    • Max Levchin, a PayPal co-founder, told the recent Supernova Internet conference, that the going rate for addresses and credit card numbers for fraud is $14.

    • Udi Manber, vice president of engineering for Google, told the same conference that 20 to 25 percent of the queries Google fields every day have never been entered before.

      Maybe this might have something to do with the integration of Google Search much more easily in online research through browser extensions, like the one I have in Firefox which allows me to select any block of text and right-click then search from it, cropping back to find what I want quickly.

    • Google Spreadsheets (which have been dramatically overhauled) now have Live Data linking to Google's lookup feature. The whole suite has been enhanced with folders - an interesting and apparently user-driven choice over tags.
    • Clipblast is a very good new video search engine - especially for news.
    • Playing with mash-ups and using every device, the Beeb is trying a Web 2.0 experiment with journalist Ben Hammersley covering the Turkish elections.

    • Children of the Web: where globalization meets Web 2.0 [MPEG]
      How the second-generation Internet is spawning a global youth culture--and what business can do to cash in:
      "The idea isn't done somewhere in particular. It's just done. And it suddenly just happens. There are no borders. You can't control who sees it and comes to it."
    • Following various court cases over Google News linking to and profiting from their content, newspapers are negotiating a new mechanism called the Automated Content Access Protocol which will allow search engines to recognise the terms and conditions of specific newspaper websites. Google doesn't like this, arguing that robots.txt exclusions are enough.

    • Video: Singapore Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts Dr Lee Boon Yang describing their amazing ten-year tech plan. Nearly half a million are already on free wireless.
      "By 2010, we target to have at least 80 percent of SMEs using broadband and having Web presence."

    • Skrentablog: Are network effects getting weaker?
      MySpace is a tired social network that may have a ton of traffic but it has peaked. It doesn't have mojo anymore. Like AOL in 1999, it will take years before people realize it.
    • Video: John Shepherd-Barron talking about his invention of the Cash Machine forty years ago. The machine used cheques that were impregnated with carbon 14, a mildly radioactive substance. The machine detected it, then matched the cheque against a Pin number.
      "I later worked out you would have to eat 136,000 such cheques for it to have any effect on you."


    OurKingdom covers the Open Rights Group's damning report on the e-voting trials during the May local elections.
    Even if some thought that others were talking in code it looks like ORG’s message, that we simply cannot endorse the results of the e-voting/counting trials as being fair and democratic, is being taken on board. It was a shame we had no representatives from the vendors. They avoided the argument here but will undoubtedly be intensifying their lobbying following this report.

    Simon Bureau, managing director of business development consultancy Vectis International, told the recent CommunicAsia conference that the success of South Korea's broadband market provides important lessons for countries that are trying to promote broadband adoption.

    Highlighting the role of the South Korean government as a key driver of broadband services, Bureau said the government has been aggressive in spearheading broadband adoption since the 1990s. "They've put in large amounts of money, not just in infrastructure but also in applications and content development," he noted.

    The government has also adopted other creative ways to boost broadband adoption, including a system that rates buildings based on the availability of broadband services to households. "If you meet certain criteria and your building is qualified, you get tax breaks and your apartment prices will also get higher," Bureau said, adding that South Korea's high population density has also made it cheaper and more efficient to build broadband networks.