The Pebble and the Avalanche

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Current Revolutions in Business and Technology

by Dr. Moshe Yudkowsky,

author of The Pebble and The Avalanche: How Taking Things Apart Creates Revolutions


Thu, 2006-Jul-20, 11:02

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Next-Generation Search Engines

When Google returns several hundred thousand answers that's almost worse than no answers at all; wading through page after page of results isn't very productive. While I continue to use Google, I've kept on the lookout for next-generation search engines — search engines that are smarter than Google, or that provide useful strategies to improve search results. Here's an article that summarizes how several next-generation search engines help you find the answers you're looking for. It's fascinating to see how the various different "components" of search — the basic index, the interfaces, the search strategies, ideas from elsewhere such as "tagging" and "social networking," and still other innovations — combine in different ways to provide very different search services.

Wed, 2006-Jul-19, 16:05

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Google the Utility

Designed for kids but useful for adults, a web site that's devoted to education has put together a list of different search engines and what they're good for.

One lesson from this educational web site: Google isn't everything, but it is most things. Many search sites use Google as a base and add additional features. But the list also shows that there's a "Deep Web" that isn't indexed by Google, information that the web site owners restrict to their own site. The existence of the "Deep Web" implies that new business models will be needed to take that information out of the confines of the restricted web sites, and I wonder what those business models might be — because someone will become rich by discovering them.

Mon, 2006-Jul-10, 10:35

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Microsoft: The Hospital

Imagine if Microsoft ran a hospital. In most other hospitals, infectious patients are isolated from other patients to keep disease from spreading, and instruments are kept sterile for each patient. In Microsoft's hospital, everyone would be in one big ward, regardless of the spread of disease. And it'd be up to the patients to force the doctors to wash their hands and don clean surgical gowns before each visit. And they'd have to figure out how to sterilize the equipment themselves — assuming they knew enough to ask for sterile equipment in the first place.

I bring this up because a bit of complete nonsense just popped up on Red Herring, regarding a recent security flaw in one of Google's services. Google fixed the problem, but in the meantime we received another rendition of the tired old excuse about how Microsoft's problems with viruses stem from its position as the Number One operating system. Red Herring pushes the idea that Google will "become" a magnet for hackers.

Clearly, Red Herring is far, far behind the times. They seem to that think the world's largest search engine — one that generates zillions of dollars of revenue that sloshes around the Internet, in great part via poorly-authenticated "clicks" — isn't already a target for hackers.

Well, no. Google is a target for hackers, but they're far more secure than Microsoft because Google runs a tight ship. Microsoft's problems with viruses stem from its poor design; in no small part because they deliberately refuse to disaggregate their software into separate modules to limit the spread of infection.

Fri, 2006-Jul-07, 07:37

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Cut Some Slack for eBay in the Google Checkout Fracas

EBay won't allow its customers to use Google Checkout, the recently-announced rival to PayPal. While some are calling for eBay's head on a pike for monopolistic behavior — and I admit that was my first reaction, too — after reading the arguments for and against eBay's action I believe that eBay should get the benefit of the doubt.

While eBay does have a vested interest in protecting its PayPal online payments system from Google's new offering, it's not unreasonable for eBay to take a slow approach to Google Checkout. Google Checkout is out of "beta" testing, but until it's been in use for a while, eBay has every right to be wary of how well Google Checkout will work in practice.