New Google scam!

hmm.. Google is holding a contest to find the best new technology, run on a data set of about 900,000 web pages.

The winner gets: $10,000 hard cash, a “VIP” visit to Google, and the potential to run your idea on the entire data set of over 3 billion pages.

Google gets (fine print): “a worldwide, perpetual, fully paid-up, non-exclusive license to make, sell, or use the technology related thereto, including but not limited to the software, algorithms, techniques, concepts, etc., associated with the entry.”

Sounds like a good deal to me! Every single entry, including the losers, becomes property of GoogleCorp. With 50+ Ph.D’s on staff, you wouldn’t think that they would have to resort to these highly contractual contests. My advice? Go get your own dataset, make your technology, then sell it to Google for a heftier sum of money. (link: webvoice)

News diffusion

I’ve found a couple of interesting early citations on information diffusion. This from “Person to Person Communication of News,” by Bradley S. Greenberg, from Journalism Quarterly, 1960:

“It appears unwarranted, or at least insufficient to index a news event’s importance in terms of the number of persons who are aware of the event. This grants equivalence to the assassination of a President and the extra-marital ventures of film celebrities.”

He goes on to suggest two distinct classes of news that spread well through personal channels: big news, or breaking stories (e.g. the Kennedy assassination) which spread very rapidly, and reach high levels of saturation, and those that are perceived to have functional importance to a specific subset of the population (e.g. a teacher noticing stories topical to schools). The third defunct category of news are all other stories which are not spread at all through peer-to-peer communication. The boring stuff.

Weblogs, being tools of peer-to-peer communication seem to support this categorization, pulling both topical and “big” news items. I tend to favor an alternative classification based on context: for every interest a person has, there is an associated context. “Big” news stories are of the type that appeal to the most general context, that of being human, being from a particular country, or having a specific ethos. The “bigness” of a news story is simply related to the number of people that share a given context.

The illusion of diffusion

From “The illusion of diffusion in information systems research,” (requires acrobat) by Tom McMaster:

“An analysis of the citations from a sample of the literature suggests that claims that diffusion research is a mature domain of study may be wildly exaggerated. This contribution provides an alternative view of diffusionism as an amalgam of pseudo-scientific justifications for European colonial expansionism between the 16th and 19th centuries”

I’m thanking my lucky stars that Mr. McMaster’s analysis has not been the subject of mass diffusion, since that would make me an indirect supporter of colonialism.

Go Patriots. Yay.

i was “lucky” enough to be living in chicago when jordan drained a last-minute jumper to cap off the bulls dynasty in 1998, one of the most celebrated events in sports history. the result was utter chaos; after three days, the unchecked gun firing, car tipping and drunken driving simmered down, and chicago returned to former status quo.

somehow, i don’t think that boston will be the same, in the wake of the patriots unexpected victory last night. despite the fact that they have brought the first sports title to boston in over 16 years, the scene last night was far from out of control. at the height of the drunken excitement, reports were spreading around the local networks that a man had been arrested for climbing a tree in the faneuil hall area. yes, i think i can safely say that everything is going to be ok.