Friday, October 27, 2006

The Northwest Airlines Boarding Pass Generator

Now comes one Christopher Soghoian who wants to raise awareness of a major flaw in airport security: TSA visually inspects your boarding pass, but does not use a scanner to verify online that the document is valid.

So Chris now offers the Northwest Airlines Boarding Pass Generator, which creates a valid-looking boarding pass that you can print at home. For instance, here's a first class seat I've generated for Ronald McDonald:

  1. Long before 9/11, I wondered about allowing people to print boarding passes at home or office. Since Christopher has demonstrated how easy it is to spoof a boarding pass, expect to see TSA adding scanners at the security checkpoint.
  2. After the recent liquid explosives scare, the TSA has relaxed rules a bit to allow you to purchase a bottled water inside the secure area. Now that this raises the question of whether the secure area is secure, Christopher's demonstration may cause a lot of dehydrated passengers.
  3. The ads Google is serving up on Christopher's site are for X-ray scanners.
  4. It's good that Soghoian is an uncommon name; fortunately, few people will be inconvenienced when TSA adds Christopher to their watch list.

Understanding related searches: a colorful approach

Recently when trying to better understand patterns of searches at Michigan State University I color-coded related search terms and analyzed 13 months of data. Not too surprisingly more people seek football tickets in the fall, bookstores at the beginning of the school year, and information on academic probation after grades are posted.

This is a pretty basic approach, one that wouldn't work well for folks with color blindness. I'd love to have a tool that learns related terms and clusters them for you.

Lou Rosenfeld and I are working on a book explaining the value of search analytics; you can find more information about seasonal clustering and a link to my color-coded spreadsheet.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

One of those crisp Fall days

Friday was one of those crisp Fall days that football announcers proclaim "And it's a beautiful day for football!" Sadly the prospects for a happy football feeling in East Lansing on Satuday are not propitious, so here's some Fall color to cheer folks up a bit:

More photos of the Red Cedar stroll are at:\

There are some photos of the Spartan Marching Band practicing as well.