Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Newsmap makes Google News a lovely headline cloud

After 9/11 Google turned its home page into a sort of a portal with information about the disaster, how to donate relief, etc. I chronicled the evolution of their home page in an article for First Monday in October 2001, The Effects of September 11 on the Leading Search Engine. I predicted that Google would get into the news business, but they'd do it with robotic crawlers and indexers, not human editors.

Sure enough, in April 2002, Google News was released in beta. And sure enough it chose categories and headlines based on robotic algorithms. Most of the time the robot does remarkably well, but sometimes it makes some pretty funny gaffes.

Since that t
ime the Google News interface and presentation have changed very little. For instance:

Now comes a critter called Newsmap, which transforms us from the boring text-only Google News to a cloud map of stories with headlines in proportion to apparent importance of each story. Check it out (click the image to see it full size):

A very cool graphical view. Wonder if Google will send a cease-and-desist letter, or hire the clever folks who devised this clever presentation?

Take a quick peek in case Googleshysters make it go away:

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Julian Bond, national media, get the Michigan primary story wrong

Over and over again, the national media get the facts wrong about the Democratic Presidential primary held on January 15.

Over and over again, the press reports that Hillary Clinton was the only candidate on the ballot. Blatantly false and misleading.

Over and over again, Julian Bond, a man I've admired since I was a teenager, speaks of "disenfranchisement" if the delegates are not retroactively blessed. Disenfranchisement occurred on January 15, when voters faced a ballot that listed Hillary -- and Mike Gravel, Dennis Kucinich, and Uncommitted.

But the actual ballot we were offered omitted major contenders Barack Obama and John Edwards, who asked to have their names removed from the Michigan primary ballot because the Democratic National Committee pressed all candidates to promise not to campaign in Michigan and Florida because those states violated DNC rules against moving the date of the primary earlier.

Hillary Clinton left her name on the ballot, and now, in desperation, she wants the Michigan delegates (and the Florida ones) seated at the convention. This is ludicrous; she signed a commitment that Michigan would not count, and now, as the only leading Dem on that ballot, she suddenly, and desperately, wants those votes counted.

Julian Bond claims that African-American voters will be "disenfranchised" if Michigan is not seated. ALL voters who might have voted in the Democratic primary were disenfranchised on January 15. No write-ins were allowed. Obama was not on the ballot. No black person in Michigan had a chance to vote for Obama that day. No one -- white, black, yellow, or any hue in between -- could have voted for Obama, or Edwards (or Richardson or Biden) if they so chose.

Therefore many Democrats either voted for Uncommitted, or, as is allowed in Michigan, they crossed over and voted in the Republican primary. They either voted for the candidate whom they found least distasteful -- probably McCain -- or they voted to spoil the race by voting for Romney or Huckabee.

Any plan that proposes to seat all or the majority of Democractic Michigan delegates for the "winner" is bogus. You can't have a race if you forbid leading contenders from lining up at the starting gate.

And now, we have national media outlets such as The New York Times, the LA Times, and NPR falsely reporting that Hillary Clinton was the only name on the ballot on January 15. Never mind that Gravel and Kucinich were on the ballot, and that in places such as Washtenaw County, "Undecided" actually won -- probably a proxy vote by frustrated voters for Obama.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Measuring Obama's popularity

One measure of a Web site's popularity might be how it melts down when you visit it. Web sites tend to fail in strange and mysterious ways when overloaded. If you visit the official Web site for Barack Obama right now, you see a very artful photo of Barack and his family. If you click through, you see this:

Warning: mysql_pconnect() [function.mysql-pconnect]: Host 'web10.colo' is blocked because of many connection errors; unblock with 'mysqladmin flush-hosts' in /home/obama/htdocs/ext/adodb/drivers/ on line 376Warning: mysql_pconnect() [function.mysql-pconnect]: Host 'web10.colo' is blocked because of many connection errors; unblock with 'mysqladmin flush-hosts' in /home/obama/htdocs/ext/adodb/drivers/ on line 376Warning: mysql_pconnect() [function.mysql-pconnect]: Host 'web10.colo' is blocked because of many connection errors; unblock with 'mysqladmin flush-hosts' in /home/obama/htdocs/ext/adodb/drivers/ on line 376Warning: problem running db_change: Host 'web10.colo' is blocked because of many connection errors; unblock with 'mysqladmin flush-hosts' in /home/obama/htdocs/config/ on line 25Fatal error: error on SELECT for config data - does table exist? in /home/obama/htdocs/config/ on line 258