Category Archives: General

Spam Fast, Die Hard

Everyone has heard the expression ‘crime doesn’t pay,’ but spam used to seem so different; from the comforts of their home, spammers send millions of unsolicited E-mails hoping to get a bite from a small percentage of them and cash in on the results based on the numbers. Using a common affiliate program, they get paid $X for every transaction, so if they can convert N% of Y spam E-mails, all they need to do is send out enough spam E-mail to live the good life. The countries that spammers typically reside in make it a more attractive job.

In Russia, there has been a second case of spammer assassination – not to be confused with Spam Assassin. The first case was in 2005, when Russian spammer Vardan Kushnir was taken out of the spam scene. This article points to the death of Alexey Tolstokozhev, estimated to be responsible for 30% of all Viagra and penis enlargement spam E-mails, as the second case.

Note: Estimated conversion rates for spam are around 0.0036 (stated here and here), and Alexey Tolstokozhev was likely making more than $2 million a year.

Web 2.0 is Dead

That’s right. Finished. Over. End of Life. Move over Web 2.0; the next phase in the web, Web 3.0, the new “Semantic Web or the Intelligent Web” is here. Or is it? There is definitely a lot of blogging and articles being written on the subject. Articles about the Semantic Web, a term coined by Tim Berners-Lee (the man who invented the first World Wide Web), as being the next evolution, promising a more organized, easier to use, intelligently searchable web are popping up everywhere.

So is this the way to be able to take on Google – “Is Semantic Technology the Anwser?”. Companies like Microsoft and others are suggesting it is.  Even Scobeleizer has admitted that “I finally get “semantic” Web“. He does admit that attempts to read the various hypothesis were of no real help. It took someone like Nova Spivack of Radar Networks to demonstrate it is even possible. While taking a trip into the stratosphere in a MiG-25, Spivack was told when asking about the eject button:

Don’t worry about eet. At the speed you will be going, even if you could eject, first your body would explode into vapor, then the vapor would freeze into ice crystals, and then the crystals would burn up on reentry.

This is a great analogy for what he is attempting to do; break down and re-organize the cloud that is the Internet today.  He is trying to build a web that thinks the way people do, to get computers to understand and be able to differentiate between the nuances and relationships in information they encounter on the web. Hakia, has launched its meaning-based Semantic search engine, and is quickly gaining new believers. Another talked about company in this emerging new technology is San Francisco-based PowerSet; while they are yet to launch publicly, they have begun “invite-only beta testing.” However, it is Nova Spivack and Radar Networks, backed by no less than Paul Allen (as recommended by his favourite turtleneck), who is leading the way.

Couple this with the fact that, while Google is looking at the technologies, it is becoming increasingly pre-occupied by other interests outside of search. “That leaves an opening for upstarts – if they can provide users with a good enough reason to switch from Google’s powerful simplicity, said Greg Sterling of Sterling Market Intelligence. “These engines need to create incentives to change and reward people for their behavioral change,” he said. “If (semantic search engines) deliver, people will likely respond.” So there you have it. Web 2.0 is dead. Just not yet.

Hillary Clinton – The Most Powerful Person on this Planet?

Hillary ‘Soprano’ ClintonRecent polls show Hilary Clinton leading the Democratic race by a whooping 33% as recently reported by Fox News/ABC. This coupled with a recent Post-ABC News poll indicates that 53 percent of Democrats surveyed would vote for Hilary Clinton with 57% of women clearly indicating that they will vote for her.

So, are those who are less-than-happy with the Republican boot on the throat of the world ready to rejoice? I would caution against this. It is impossible to underestimate the might of the Republicans to still pull a rabbit out of the air. Speaking of which, Team Rudy Giuliani has been quick to report that Hillary can only win Massachusetts or Vermont – in a completely impartial analysis conducted by their team (right!!). Its “all in their maps,” but only if Rudy wins the Republican nomination. If it is anyone else, then she might win or definitely have a much stronger showing. To say they are likely color blind would be an understatement, but hey, everyone needs their fantasy (mine is – well I can’t say it here because my wife reads this). But back to reality and the reality is Hillary is the front-runner.

Still, it is heartening to those who want this to end; who want America out of Iraq and out of power. More importantly, it indicates that it’s possible America trusts a woman more to accomplish this. They also may trust a woman’s nurturing nature to strengthen the school system, increase public access, and improve healthcare; 3 very important issues in this coming election.

Bottomline, from all reports, we could be on the brink of history; the first woman to become the Most Powerful Person on the Planet (yes, it is still the American President), and also, the very first husband and wife who have both been President. How can anyone resist voting for this. It will be like the fall of the Berlin wall. We all would liked to have been there, so get out and vote or you will miss out on being a part of history.

Facebook the Next Skype?

I never really thought I would be coming up with a completely original idea when I started writing this post, but to see a near-identical article posted on the famed Valleywag site just yesterday (when the idea for the post actually planted its seed) was a bit deflating. However, having read that article, I will chalk it up the same way writer Owen Thomas did when pointing to articles by Bernhard Warner and Kara Swisher: Great minds think alike. With the recent revelation that eBay paid too much for Skype (only by $1 billion dollars or so, by their estimates), it may cast a shadow of doubt on recent valutations of social networking site Facebook hovering around $10 billion. While there are arguments that the purchase of Skype may have been more profitable or advantageous for a company other than eBay, it’s difficult to make a similar argument with Facebook. Comparing it to other recent, similar acquisitions (YouTube and MySpace come to mind), the price seems significantly inflated. The MySpace team may have sold early, but could the price somewhere around 20 times the amount News Corp paid for MySpace and 10 times the amount Google paid for YouTube be realistic? Facebook has some legal issues that still need to be resolved and the site only seems to generate around $30 million in profit on $150 million in revenues (see Kara Swisher’s article).

I hope the best for the site and will follow the rumours of it’s inevitable sale, whether it is for a piece or the whole site. Hopefully this doesn’t become the next Skype, or worse, the next GeoCities.

Video Tech Support

I’m almost certain that long before the advent of the personal computer, the phone-in Technical Support team had been assembled – I can’t prove it, because I’m waiting on hold trying to confirm. Whether it’s the blue screen of death, a virus that’s taken over your system, or the darn thing just won’t start, we’ve all, at one time or another, ran into a computer problem that needed some more savy than ourselves to address. With more and more people using the computer and running into these problems, there were more and more horror stories from frustrated customers and humorous anecdotes from the Technicians that fielded the calls. Computerworld, a good mainstream resource for news and events in the Tech Industry, has released an article on The 10 Funniest YouTube help desk videos. From the article:

With some surveys showing that 20% of all help desk calls are password issues, one can understand the wrath that a technician may lob toward an unsuspecting user. On the other hand, with more and more help desks understaffed or sending work to overseas locales like India, where language issues can come into play, end user angst can rouse sympathy as well. […]

In our list of the 10 funniest help desk YouTube videos, the help desk grapples with befuddled users both in the U.S. and India and in a galaxy far, far away. In addition, ever wonder what the help desk does when they perhaps should be manning the phones? Tune in below to find out.

My personal favourites are the fourth, Medievel Tech Support for a Scroll, and the fifth, when an user frustrated with pop-ups takes his system to India to talk to Tech Support in person.

Kicking the Facebook Habit

Ok so you have been main-lining Facebook for months, maybe years. You have spent a significant portion of your life glued to your computer connecting with “friends.” You are becoming a Facebook shut-in.

I recently met a young lady on a plane flying back from a social marketing conference in Las Vegas, who stated, “I spend approximately 80 – 100 hours a month on FaceBook; time I could have been working for and billing clients. I put the cost somewhere around $5000 per month.”

Right, hundreds of hours wasted! Time better spent on many other more productive undertakings. Time you could have spent outdoors, taking up a new/old sport, reading a good book, volunteering for a worthy charity or actually spending time with “friends.” BUT you are hooked. You have become obsessed with getting to your computer, logging in and FaceBook’ing away your life. You are, admit it, a Facebook junkie – you are hooked! Your life has revolved around checking, updating or reading the latest update from your “friends” however the time has come to reassess your life. It is time to kick the habit. You need an “Facebook Intervention”, especially now that his loftiness, Steve Balmer, head honcho over at Microsoft (not to be confused with the other Steve who actually does know what he is talking about), has pronounced, “FaceBook may be a fad.”

Still, even if he is not right, perhaps it is time to re-think all this time being spent on a “fad.” So how does one kick the habit. Perhaps you do not need to go cold turkey. Or maybe you just need a “patch”; you simply need to prioritize your life a bit better. Think about what you really “need” from Facebook and go from there. Oh yes, and setting some defined time limits helps. Start with an hour a day and see if you can slowly cut back. You will find you do not need more when you really think about what you need vs what you thought you needed.

In the end if you can not control your urge to go back to main-lining FaceBook, if you are still wasting more time reaching out to “friends” than being with your friends, then maybe it is time to quit cold turkey. Delete your account and everything related to it (photos, groups, comments, friends, everything!).

Now go out and get a life!

P.S. Just don’t bother me while you are at it. I need to go update my Facebook album and see who has added me to their friends.