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Yahoo Becoming More Like Google

One of the first moves of new Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer is patterning the workplace to look like her former office, Google. (For the uninitiated, Marissa Mayer was a former Google executive who was recently hired as CEO of Yahoo). Her first order of business is to have a weekly Friday afternoon all-hands-on-deck general meeting at the search engine’s Sunnyvale HQ.

At the first meeting, her first change was to make available food at Yahoo’s URL Café in Silicon Valley for free for all engineers and employees. This has caused some ripples with the finance department, but this is how she envisions Yahoo for the next generation: much like her old office at Google. Other reported changes are to the layout of work spaces and buildings to make it more collaborative friendly, and upgrades to its current store shelves.

This focus on work culture at Yahoo is a known blueprint for Google in co-opting with the employees to produce not only sterling work but also a great work environment. The past few years for Yahoo have been more than dismal, with a string of layoffs, management changes and continued doldrums in market share and other business prospects.

According to one long time Yahoo employee, “It might be just a small thing, but people are thrilled.” These are but small changes, and CEO Mayer has more serious business to undertake, especially pushing for product innovation as the only means to have Yahoo survive. These include having better email, better Flickr, better search, better ad-serving or in a nutshell, being better in all that Yahoo has to offer. This is a tall order even for a Google savvy exec bent on search and innovation, which is where her vision lies in her new role as CEO of Yahoo.

According to one insider, “This is the sound of Yahoo becoming a technology company again. It will be all about platforms and products.” This translates to a big splashy tech innovation or product deals in the coming days, maybe even through acquisition of other media tech companies. On the menu are ad tech company Pubmatic and high profile product Flipboard.

In order to achieve this, the new CEO would need a team that shares in her vision and acumen. The question is, will all the new hires of the new CEO be given the green light as Google CEO’s Larry Page gave her during her tenure at Google? One such way that she seems to be moving forward is her asking all her direct reports for specific strategic plans in the next 45 days. While the old guard may leave CEO, many Google brethren are joining Mayer in Yahoo.

As many say, there are many Google changes in Yahoo.

The Web is Not Making Users Mad

The latest edition of Newsweek provides a less-than-accurate insight about the claim that the Internet is causing ‘extreme forms of mental illnesses’ in its user population. The lack of scientific research and the sweeping generalizations clearly serve not to help but actually further muddle the current issues involving the Internet.

One of the generalizations in the article states:

“The current incarnation of the Internet – portable, social, accelerated and all pervasive – may be making us not just dumber or lonelier but more depressed or anxious, prone to obsessive-compulsive and attention-deficit disorders, even outright psychotic.”

This kind of stereotyping and hyperbolic language does not suit a respected magazine such as Newsweek. Psychosis is a condition determined by the World Health Organization as the third most disabling health condition. These include schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, conditions that can disable an individual even in their best health. To characterize the Internet as contributory to psychosis of this magnitude is without basis but surely is a kind of science fiction that sells magazines.

The following are also similar discussions found in the article which misleads not only the science seeking to cure psychosis and the effect of the Internet on an individual.

“But the research is now making it clear that the Internet is not ‘just’ another delivery system. It is creating a whole new mental environment, a digital state of nature where the human mind becomes a spinning instrument panel and few people leave unscathed.”

“’This is an issue as important and unprecedented as climate change,’ says Susan Greenfield, pharmacology professor at Oxford…”

There are also shared conclusions based on dodgy scientific research, such as:

“A 1998 Carnegie Mellon study found that Web use over a two-year period was linked to blue moods, loneliness and the loss of real world friends. But the subjects all lived in Pittsburgh, critics sneered.”

The writer made this conclusion without even mentioning that the same research team, after a three year follow up study on 208 of these respondents found that the identified effects in the 1998 study dissipated in the long run. Clearly there is an angle to the story, because the simple naked search on Google would yield the same study identified in the article followed closely by the follow up study. Without reading or brushing up on the other knowledge about the topic, one may lead to the conclusions that the Newsweek article writer stated.

There are also neuroscience misconceptions that create more confusion. According to the article, the Internet ‘rewrites the brain’ – a concept that clearly is unclear as the brain continues to re wire itself until one dies. The effect of the changes is the release of dopamine in the brain.

There are many other criticisms on the studies the article used but no appraisal as to their process and methodology. There was no assessment as to methodologies regarding internet addiction studies or the wide spectrum of prevalence of psychosis ranges between 1% and 66% of online users creates more issues that impact the public attitude and perception about mental illness. The only conclusion this article can lead its reader would be the Internet can lead to mental illness and psychosis when one relies in the perception of individuals that this is the effect of the Internet on the individual in the long run.

Facebook Polices Chats for Criminal Activities

Many social platforms, such as Facebook are now undertaking processes to monitor the chat activity of its user base to weed out criminality. Once they find such activity online or supect such activity is present, they can reach out to authorities.

This monitoring is done through software scanners that monitors chat exchanges for words or phrases that signal criminal activity, such as exchange of personal information or vulgarity. The focus would be those users that don’t have an established connection on the site together with some other personal information disparity between users, such as age difference. The scanning system also learns, using previous chat discussions of known felons and predators using the social media platform.

Once the software flags a dubious chat discussion, an email is sent to Facebook security employees who then determines if the police should step in. This may cause privacy advocates to turn on the purveyors of Facebook, as it must keep these scanned exchanges away from its other employees.

The new security measures from Facebook was mentioned in the interview of the company’s Chief Security Officer Joe Sullivan with Reuters News Wire. According to the report, at least one alleged child predator has been brought to court due to the efforts made by Facebook’s chat scanning software.

When asked for comment, Facebook gave a standard response, “We’ve never wanted to set up an environment where we have employees looking at private communications, so it’s really important that we use technology that has a very low false-positive rate.”

It further added, through a statement on the site, the company works with law enforcement where appropriate and to the extent required by law to ensure the safety of the people who use Facebook. It read:

“We may disclose information pursuant to subpoenas, court orders, or other requests (including criminal and civil matters) if we have a good faith belief that the response is required by law. This may include respecting requests from jurisdictions outside of the United States where we have a good faith belief that the response is required by law under the local laws in that jurisdiction, apply to users from that jurisdiction, and are consistent with generally accepted international standards.

“We may also share information when we have a good faith belief it is necessary to prevent fraud or other illegal activity, to prevent imminent bodily harm, or to protect ourselves and you from people violating our Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. This may include sharing information with other companies, lawyers, courts or other government entities.”

This has been done before, but is this a so-called public service?

Living with Panda: A Year of Complacency, Decisions and Recovery

In the past year, many website owners have been affected by Google’s roll out of its algorithm updates, codenamed Panda and Penguin. The new algorithms have affected how individual and company SEO strategies are implemented. Because of the confidential nature of the algorithm, it is hard to predict what should be done and what should not be done, but one thing is clear: the rules of the game has changed, and these updates are here to stay.

Even as some websites have been decimated because of the onslaught of Panda and Penguin, others have managed to recover their former rankings. The following are tips to consider when undertaking your own SEO plan on your website.

  1. Invest in valuable, fresh and original content. Rehashing content from competitor sites will not help your site overcome the new requisites set by Google. Google wants content that is interesting and unique, so the front page does not contain several paraphrased versions of the same content.
  2. Exercise restraint with SEO. It’s clear now that overly optimized sites will be penalized, which means keyword stuffing on pages or unnatural linking structures are things of the past. In fact, it’s probably safer to ignore what we think of as “SEO” altogether, and focus instead on writing your content and acquiring backlinks in a manner that’s consistent with what an average joe would think to do for his website. This means seeking out blogroll links from websites similar to your own, guest blogging, etc.
  3. Use social media for your own benefit. Google is now expanding into social media in determination of the popularity of a website as well as the links that work to provide benefits for SEO. Let’s face it: your users are on social media. If your website is not being liked, shared, and retweeted, this is a clear sign to Google that it isn’t relevent to your audience. Make your content shareable to many other individuals, and likely your search engine rankings will improve.
  4. Use tools for analysis, particularly Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools. Specifically, look at how users interact with your website. How long do they spend on your site on average? How many pages do they visit? Google is looking at these metrics to determine the quality of your site, and you should too. If your users aren’t taking the time to read your content, why would Google present it to them? Use these metrics to make your website more enjoyable to your users, and rankings will follow.
  5. Quality over quantity. Inbound links need to be quality driven and not quantity driven. You want links from authority websites with content that overlaps your own. Old tactics like buying bulk blog comment spam are now more likely to harm than help your website.

Although frustrating to many users, the recent Google updates have moved the search engine in the right direction. Whereas formerly we had to spend our time with SEO trying to improve our rankings, now all that needs to be done is concentrating on the delivering what your target audience wants. Produce great content and provide a good visitor experience, rather than using specific SEO techniques, and your site will not only rank better in Google — it will be generally more useful to your audience, and they’ll be more likely to share it in the first place.

Microsoft and Apple Still At It

Even if the main protagonists have grown older or has passed on, the divide between Microsoft and Apple still remains and is expected to continue well into the future. One sign of such division is the claim that Microsoft’s Surface may prove Apple to be wrong.

The Windows Surface Tablet is 3mm thick with a Touch Cover Keyboard. This is their latest assault on the claim of Apple that the wave of the future is the tablet. Microsoft’s new offering is the transformable tablet — a tablet and laptop in one. The whole article can be found here.

For its part, Apple returns to its roots, providing amongst the most powerful laptops in the world today. It has recently unveiled the Retina Macbook. This is again a reiteration of the Jobs philosophy, we define what people want. The full report can be found here.

Let the games begin.

Lack of Updates

Just stopping in to apologize for the lack of updates recently. This website is one of several I maintain, and it’s been a busy past few weeks. I sprained my ankle playing soccer and was bed-ridden for a good week and a half, and I’ve been overly busy working on Korea Job Finder. Not that any of that’s really an excuse for a month and a half of no updates, but still… Can’t blame a guy for tryin’, right? :D

Anyway, I have a few articles in the queue that I’m about to get started on, so that should end this blog’s almost 2-month dry spell. I’m thinking about expanding the topic of this blog to include technology news in general, since I love new gadgets, and news worthy of being reported on in the search-engine and social realm is not exactly frequent. Thoughts? The blog would still cover the same topics, but posts would be more frequent as it would cover other topics as well.

Anyway, expect more updates soon, and if you follow this blog, let me know what you think about expanding to cover technology news as well.

More Internet Addresses than Stars

On June 8th, 2012, the Internet made a major transition — and no one noticed.

This day marked the once-in-history “World IPv6 Day,” where major Internet Service Providers around the world made the change to permanently enable an Internet protocol called IPv6. A day after this change was made, CNN has reported that the Internet now has 340 trillion trillion trillion unique addresses or 340 undecillion (a number with 37 zeros).

IPv4 was the communications protocol being used to manage all Internet traffic. With the new protocol, the Internet is now able to support more devices through the increase of the number of possible addresses.

The way the Internet works is that it transfers data between hosts in packets that become routed through networks as determined by routing protocols. These packets of information require an addressing system to determine their source and destination. Each host, computer or other device on the Internet needs to have its own IP address in order to communicate and the exponential growth of the Internet demanded that more addresses be created. Under IPv4, 32 bits were allocated per IP address, while with IPv6, 128 bits are allocated.

The system was developed by the Internet Engineering Task Force as the IPv4 addresses available neared exhaustion, creating an expanded base for addresses for devices and users online together with greater flexibility in address allocation and routing traffic efficiency. It also removed the need for network address translation systems as a stop-gap measure in the IPv4 address exhaustion conundrum.

To put this new number in context that is graspable, 340 trillion trillion trillion is more than the number of stars in the universe, more than the number of cells in the human body and more than the number of gallons of water on earth.

The Information Superhighway suddenly became the Information Autobahn.

Google Launches its ChromeBox

Google, in partnership with Samsung, recently launched its Chromebook and desktop Chromebox. The “Chromebox”  is the first time that Google is installing the ChromeOS on a desktop machine, and is reminiscent of a Mac Mini, only with more ports.

The Chromebox is priced at a reasonable US$329. While PC enthusiasts may not be ready to move away from a Windows machine, it seems like something like this would be ideal for a business that runs a physical location with public computers. The cheap price-tag aside, imagine the cost benefits from not having to worry about system maintenance or users installing malware — ChromeOS is, after all, just a web browser. Google themselves boasts a number of ChromeOS success stories, including the savings per device amounting to US$4,500.

This latest update features a more Windows-like version of the ChromeOS for release. The features are termed as an “app-centric user interface” with a traditional windows manager, a jump from the previous single browser versions. The interface will be the default on the new ChromeOS devices and replace the current browser on existing Chromebooks.

Coinciding with this release is Google’s new pricing for business and education management and support services. The current rates pay a one time fee of US$150 while schools pay US$30 per device to use the management console, 24/7 phone support and extended hardware warranty. Previously, Google sold the support package as a monthly subscription. One of the most anticipated features for ChromeOS would be offline Google Docs support.

As for the Chromebook, the most important change is its faster speed. The earlier versions used the Intel Atom chip and the latest version now uses the Intel Core chip together with 4GB of RAM, a high def camera, two USB 2.0 ports and 1280 by 800 display. The pricing of the WiFi only version starts at US$449.

Facebook to Face Rough Seas Ahead?

After being billed to be the biggest IPO stock for a technology company, the back alley discussions are now being put to the public light. These include charges of insider trading, overblown income projections, issues as to stock purchase confirmations as well as other issues are now being uncovered.

While these are in the now, the future, according to one hedge fund manager, is bleak for the company. According to Ironfire Capital founder Eric Jackson in an interview with Squawk on the Street at CNBC, “In five to eight years, they are going to disappear in the way that Yahoo disappeared. Yahoo is still making money, it’s still profitable, still has 13,000 employees working for it but it’s 10% of the value that it was at the height of 2000. For all intents and purposes, it’s disappeared.”

He points out that the emergence of the mobile web and Facebook’s inability to adapt to the new technology may be the cause for the eventual disappearance of this social media giant.

He adds, “The world is moving faster, it’s getting more competitive, not less. I think those who are dominant in their prior generation are really going to have a hard time moving into this newer generation. Facebook can buy a bunch of mobile companies, but they are still a big, fat website and that’s different from a mobile app.”

One of the recent moves of the company is the purchase of the popular mobile photo sharing application named Instagram for US$1 billion last April. The move was viewed as removal of a potential rival and together with the company’s recognition that mobile applications are a potential stumbling block for continued growth in the future.

During its IPO application, the company was required to identify thirty five possible “risk factors and complied with the requirement last February. In this list, the company admitted that its current ad-free mobile platform may pose problems in the future as more and more Facebook users as well as the web in general expands into the mobile realm.

Jackson categorizes Facebook as the second of the three generations of modern Internet companies. The first generation, with Yahoo and Google as main characters, were portals that categorized and simplified the access to the wealth of information available online. The second generation, such as Facebook and other similar sites, have made their mark capitalizing on the emerging social web. The third generation, according to Jackson, are companies that focus on leveraging and monetizing mobile Internet users.

He discusses, “When you look over these three generations, no matter how successful you are in one generation, you don’t seem to be able to translate that into success in the second generation, no matter how much money you have in the bank, no matter how many smart PhDs you have working for you. Look at how Google has struggled moving into social and I think Facebook is going to have the same kind of challenges moving into mobile.”

Facebook Offers New Options for Businesses

Facebook’s listing on the NYSE has made it the biggest IPO for a technology company in history. While there have already been bumps along the road, Facebook is furthering its efforts to secure its future by becoming the go-to social media platform for small businesses to interact with their customers.

The dizzying pace that technology has undertaken has left many small business owners overwhelmed and confused about what is required to be successful online. As a result, many companies have sprung up to provide consulting services for small businesses to gain traction in the Internet marketplace. But this in itself can be overwhelming for business-owners who aren’t familiar with online marketing and the different services offered by different marketing companies.

Facebook is making an attempt to change this. They have opened up its functionality to small business owners, attempting to cut out the contractors by providing marketing to companies for free. While these functionalities are not what these third parties provide, they allow the individual business owner greater freedom regarding their visibility and interaction with a larger customer base.

Some of the new features are as follows:

  1. Administrator Roles. Now, Facebook has provided new roles to assist the small business owner with their business page. These include management, which entails full control in post creation, ads, editing page functionality and apps, comment management, messaging, and Facebook insights. The owner can also review and analyze data regarding one’s traffic to their page.
  2. Scheduling Functionality. This involves putting up posts at given times on your page as if it were posted manually, but with the ability to automate these posts. This is a means to target the highest-traffic times on Facebook to reach the largest number of individuals with product and service offerings.

These two basic functionalities will help maximize visibility on Facebook. Even with all the issues besetting this company, it is still the biggest captured market online, thus one of the best ways to reach out to a captive audience for your goods and services.