Cuil Launches Today

Former Google executives and web gurus have gotten together – along with 33 million dollars in venture capital – to launch a new rival to the Google search engine, Cuil (pronounced “cool”).  Among it’s many boasts is that it contains three times the index, the total number of pages searched by the engine, as Google.

That might seem impressive at first, until you consider the fact that Google specifically banned a number of websites owing to the fact that they were either blackhat SEO honey pots or copyright infringers.  Take for example this search for “dragonflyeye,” Safe Search on, Safe Search off.  Neither yeilds the domain which bears the name.  There is, however, a ClaimID account I haven’t used in three years, some spam blogs and a bunch of comments I’ve made at  None of this is accurate to what one might expect to find when searching for my domain name.

So, they’ve got some room to grow.  It would be nice to have another competitor in the search engine market that provides something a little different, but relevant keyword searching is relevant keyword searching, and Google seems to have it down.  I do like the basic layout of Cuil and if they improve their back end, they might really have something.  Time will tell.


The Metered Internet: Where Has all the Bandwidth Gone?

. . . Long time passing.

A basic premise of the metered Internet plans Time Warner and other ISPs are cooking up is that there is simply too much bandwidth being used up by too few people. You know, the YouTube users and the downloaders. In order to be able to maintain – and presumably enhance – the network to accommodate such over usage, someone needs to pay for all that loss of bandwidth. As much as I vehemently disagree with the plan on a number of levels, I did at first take this root concept somewhat at face value.

But then, on my ride into work this morning, I happened to catch another one of those annoying Time Warner commercials for their “All in One Package” and it suddenly dawned on me: hey! Isn’t broadband phone service (VoIP to it’s friends) kind of a heavy-bandwidth activity? And aren’t people paying Time Warner extra money for use of said service?

Why, yes. Yes they are. And having now encumbered a fair amount of the overall network bandwidth with phone calls, Time Warner would like to charge Internet users extra to do what they were encouraged to do when Broadband Internet was a new and expensive novelty. I’d say that’s fairly close to “double-dipping.”

Does that sound fair to you?

Late Update: Ok, just for the sake of measurement, I checked the total download size of this video on YouTube.  It’s 13 delicious megabytes of the best comedy on television, and it’s five minutes long.  Longer videos are obviously bigger files.  Just for the sense of scale for those of you not as familiar with Ye Olde Internet Page of Weights and Measurements, if you watched this video 65 times a day – without doing a single other thing on the Internet, at all – you would fill up your 25 gig allotment for the month.  I’m not saying that’s a little, I’m not saying it’s a lot. I’m saying it’s a fact.


The Metered Internet: Have They Considered the Consequences?

I’ve mentioned this in a few blog posts in the past, and news about this issue has definitely made it to the DFE news ticker. I’ve also written at length about Net Neutrality, a hand-in-hand issue with this, on both this site and at the request of Phillip on TAP. But it now looks as though the eagle has landed in Texas. Get ready for the metered Internet, where your web usage is measured and charged for just like your cell phone:

Time Warner Cable tries metering Internet use: Financial News – Yahoo! Finance

On Thursday, new Time Warner Cable Internet subscribers in Beaumont, Texas, will have monthly allowances for the amount of data they upload and download. Those who go over will be charged $1 per gigabyte, a Time Warner Cable executive told the Associated Press.

Time Warner joins many other major Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in their complaint that bandwidth-hogging users and sites are driving most of the bandwidth usage. They declare their new metering system as a fair way to drive the billing to compensate:

T.W. Cont’d:

“We think it’s the fairest way to finance the needed investment in the infrastructure,” Leddy said.

But ignoring the issue of fairness for this one article, moving to a metered system of billing for Internet usage fundamentally changes the relationship between the ISP and the user in ways that create troublesome new issues that I do wonder if they’ve given full thought to. The current monthly charge model is a bit like renting an apartment: you pay to live there, however much or little you use the property does not matter. A metered system is more equivalent to your RG&E – or as they say in the article, like your cell phone – inasmuch as you are actually paying for a commodity. Commoditizing bandwidth, or the amount of data you’re able to download in a given month, changes expectations quite a bit.

When you use a cell phone, the phone comes with caller ID as part of the service. This enables you to make an intelligent, deliberate choice of when to answer the phone and when to use your minutes. There is a law on the books that prevents cold-calling marketers from using cell phone numbers. When you call or receive calls from your cellular provider, you do not get charged. In short, the amount you use your phone – and therefore the cellular bandwidth commodity you’re purchasing from your provider – is very much controlled by your own choices.

But on the Internet, it’s more complicated. Yes, you get to decide what websites you visit and what websites you don’t. But the website owner gets to decide who advertises and how, from large image banners to full-animation Flash banners. The metered Internet means that every visitor to the site is actually paying to be advertised too.

Do the ISPs expect to reimburse users for these advertisements? What about pop-ups? Do they plan to provide some way of knowing just how much data a given website will require a user to download, so that users can make informed decisions about where to surf? There is also the issue of viruses, spyware, Microsoft’s “helpful” updating services and other bandwidth-sucking programs that will deplete the reserve of the commodity you’ve paid for.

There will be those who say, “but you’ve got gigabytes of bandwidth per month! You’ll never go over that just because of advertisements.” Certainly, in most cases those people are right. But whether or not you go over your allotted bandwidth is irrelevant to the fact that you are now paying for a commodity and have a reasonable expectation that this commodity cannot be abused against your will.

Secondly, there is the issue of quality. When you pay to have a service which you can use whenever and however you want, there is an expectation that outages will occur, that maintenance must be performed, that there are in fact people using way more bandwidth than you today and the connection might be a bit slower. All of that flies right out the window the minute you consider each and every kilobyte of data to be a commodity you’re paying for. Especially since you’ve paid for x-number of gigabytes per month in advance.

If you’ve paid for them, you have a reasonable expectation that they be available immediately. And what’s more, there should be no reason to expect slow page loads as a matter of course. There is also a certain liability for network viruses and other pests that lurk within the system. If they infect your system and then “phone home,” you’re paying to have a virus.  Something you got from an email is your fault, but something lurking in the system (like, say the old MyDoom virus and others) is their responsibility.

And speaking of email, who gets to pay for all that spam you keep getting?  Yes, those are downloads, too.  While you may not know it, all that mail is going in and out of your ISP’s mail servers before it gets to you.  Why should you pay for spam when they could be filtering it on the mail servers?  Or even all that crap you get from your Aunt Helga?

Finally for this discussion and potentially most important, consider the education factor: there is a vast sea of under-educated users out there that make up the majority of the ISP’s clientèle.  Or to be more charitable, there is a vast sea of computer knowledge into which most people barely wade, but all of which bares on the decisions they make while surfing.  Lacking knowledge, many users do things on the Internet which have consequences they don’t often know about. You may scoff at these people and say they need to educate themselves, but when the ISP they use switches to metering such arcane computer concepts as “bandwidth” and “gigabytes?”.  That constitutes either an unfair prejudice against the computer neophyte or an expectation that the ISP will provide some sort of training that will educate their users.

All of these are potential pitfalls and highly-likely lawsuits borne out of this need to grab more cash and do an end-run around the two-tier system and the Net Neutrality proponents that stand in strong opposition. Really, did they think this through all the way? Was pissing on their customers really the only way?


Who’s Watching the Watcher You’re, er, Watching?

I remember getting a video pulled from my account by YouTube a while back. It was a video of The Daily Show, and so copyright was admittedly a bit murky: on the one hand, rebroadcasting clips of television shows is generally copyright violation, but since it’s a kind of current events show (some people actually learn more about the news from TDS than from their network news, big surprise) and since I’m a blogger who does the pseudo-journalistic thing, an argument could be made for “fair use.”

But as YouTube has become – along with many other social video services – a standard of presenting media on the Internet, more and more content has gotten pulled by YouTube for more and more questionable rationales. Free speech covers things like fair use, parody and other uses of otherwise copyrighted material. But with thousands of videos getting posted per day, the need to regulate copyright and the need to protect free speech in a large volume, rapid fire environment are highly competitive necessities.

Enter YouTomb, the MIT student project dedicated to cataloging YouTube video removals, their owners, their viewers and what reasons the vids get pulled for:

YouTomb Keeps an Eye on YouTube’s Graveyard | The Underwire from

Jansen says the site’s opaque policies spurred the YouTomb project.”We aren’t trying to be antagonistic at all,” said Jansen. “We understand YouTube has a business to run. But at the same time, we’re not sure where it ends.”

Alongside a screenshot of each clip deemed in violation, YouTomb lets users see who posted the offending video, how many views it got before being pulled, when it was removed and by whom (for instance at the request of the user, a media company or third-party).


What a Mesh

Microsoft is in the midst of a bid to buy Yahoo! Wonder why? Well, they’ve lifted the veil a bit on their newest product line, Live Mess Mesh:

BBC NEWS | Technology | Microsoft unveils its web vision

Live Mesh is designed to blur the lines between running software and storing data on a desktop and “in the cloud”.

You know? The last thing I want Microsoft to *intentionally try* to do is “blur the lines” between anything. How ’bout you folks work on establishing something clearly-delineated first, and work your way up? I remember working for Comcast as a tech support rep, patiently explaining to customers that they didn’t need to be connected to the Internet to view their Word documents. Trust me, the lines are already plenty blurred.


The Television / PC Divide

Kodak’s technology blog, A Thousand Nerds, has an interesting post about the changing nature of consumer entertainment demand and how that will affect the way content gets delivered to its audience. It may be that we finally bridge the Television / PC divide by eliminating both from the equation:

A Thousand Nerds: A Kodak blog about innovation

What does this all mean? The TV and Internet as we know it are about to undergo massive change. TV will be replaced by connected displays able to deliver a full range of multimedia output. Sitting in front of the computer clicking away will also be replaced by new ways of interacting with these connected displays as the interaction transforms from passive consumption to two-way interaction. You can also expect more changes within the industry as companies consolidate, form new strategic partnerships, and realign offerings around multimedia.

Not that PCs will go away, or televisions either. But after decades of attempts to somehow merge the two (Windows Media Center, WebTV, etc), its seemed very clear that the two do not go together. The problem is largely one of furniture, however: people sit at desks to use their PCs and lounge on couches to watch TV, neither of which providing a comfortable environment to swap roles.


Blogversation: Can I Play?

There seems to have been a very interesting conversation started among RochesterTurning, Fighting29th, Ontario Republican and the blog about the nature of blogging. Evan Dawson has been asking what the opinion of local bloggers is of blogging and journalism, and I just figured I’d go ahead and chime in. Hope that’s OK, fellas?

Evan asked the following:

1) Elmer writes on The Fighting 29th that blogs offer a real chance to find misinformation. While that might be true, doesn’t it seem that blogs are rising as a form of respected journalism?

To the extent that blogging is journalism – or rather, in those cases where it might be seen as journalism – the quality of the content does indeed have the potential to be quite suspect. Then again, the recent history of main stream journalism doesn’t leave traditional news outlets with much to crow about in the veracity department. Mr. Dawson points out the Fast Ferry debacle as one local example, but there are many others.

Actually, blog journalism and traditional journalism have a lot more in common than is generally acknowledged, and perhaps if traditional media considered blogging a return to roots, our democracy’s informed public would be much better off. If you look at many articles posted to the D&C or any other traditional print publication, you will find that the story that runs isn’t really original reporting by the paper in question, but rather a reprinting of an AP news ticker story with perhaps a bit of editing and a few paras thrown in about the local reaction to the story. The same goes for television and radio news, where reports by correspondents from outside the station are rebroadcast.  Additional local context or editorializing is done by the anchor before and after the piece. This is not one or two stories, but rather a consistent pattern.

Blogs do much of the same, though the ratio of original content is often opposite: we usually read a full article from a traditional source, quote a paragraph or two, link back to it and then add our own reporting, commentary or whatever along side it. I have often said that blogging might be thought of in many cases as “meta-journalism,” adding additional context to stories carried by mainstream media, or taking two or three stories and putting them together to paint a more complete picture that might get missed when reporting gets too far into the weeds.

So while traditional outlets often advertise themselves with pretentious tag lines like “the most trusted name in news,” or “digging for answers, reporting them first,” the truth is that they are rarely the sole source of information, they rely on collaboration and fair use as much as any blogger, and in fact they are at least as given to inaccuracy as the blogging community and more so.

Why more so? Because the very nature of the Internet – let alone blogging – is collaborative and based on collective assent. Open Source software, for example, relies on many programmers to write code and check each other’s work, and only when that work gets accepted by a plurality is it included in the project. This here blog is proudly powered by one of the greats of Open Source: WordPress. Similarly, bloggers have the ability to spew off whatever ignorant or factually incorrect garbage they want to, but in order for there to be a general consensus of fact, many blogs, bloggers and readers have to agree that what is being said is factual. That’s not as easy nor as prone to mistakes as you might think. Come to think of it, Elmer, the reader from whence the question originates, is a notorious fact checker.

You don’t earn readers by making statements you can’t back up. You don’t earn respect in the blogging community without linking back to where you got your facts from. Obviously, some of us have a few anonymous sources and avenues of finding information that we can’t always disclose. But by and large, debating an issue without proving you are right with external verification is a losing proposition on the Internet. Hence, hyperlinks and quotations become sort of an inline bibliography from where you back your reporting up. No such vehicle exists or ever has existed for traditional journalism.

The tremendous advantage that MSM sources do have is resources. This is the primary reason that large media outlets are not likely to go away: having a plurality of journalists – some hired, some freelance – all covering one story for your paper means you get access to stuff we bloggers don’t get. Having a television station that reaches an entire constituency means getting interviews and access we bloggers don’t enjoy.

But having those advantages also means having tremendous responsibility as well.  That responsibility is not always lived up to, and so blogs also perform the job of fact-checking the media from time to time.


Hey, Cool!!

A friend of mine hipped me to the newest Rochester social networking site,  Go check it out, it’s kind of like a MySpace for the Wedge.

Uncategorized Phishing Scam

Folks who read this blog know: when I find them, I report them.

There seems to be a new attack on users, both employers and job seekers, aimed at spoofing their name for whatever purposes. I got the email in my mailbox today and will be dutifully informing CB of the problem once I’m done posting this to the blog. The email redirects to a address.


Dear employer

Due to a recent security breach in the Careerbuilder computer system, a new set of terms and conditions has been issued.
In order to guarantee the security of your Careerbuilder account , we need you to login over a secure connection and confirm your user and password,
by clicking the link below.After the process is completed, your account will be secured as stated in the new terms of use.

Please click on the link below and login in order to accept the new terms and conditions that have been issued ( Online Access Agreement Update ) :>

After completing this process, you will be redirected to our new terms of use.

Thank you

�© Careerbuilder Limited. Use of the information contained on this page is governed by federal law and is subject to the disclaimers which can be read on the disclaimer page.


“Openness” as Defined by Verizon

Verizon plans on holding a developer’s conference in mid-March to show developers what can be expected of Verizon’s new “open” network rules. Those of you watching this story may know that, while the move to open the network was widely lauded, the details of that openness have been modified somewhat.  Existing customers (all 64 million of them) will not be able to unblock their phones for use win that brave new world, for example.

And of course, even the most optimistic of observers realize that the move to open the network came as a response to Congress’ new broadband rules requiring networks operating on the new 700mhz bandwidth to be unrestricted. These rules, by the way, are the same as those that are forcing television stations onto High Def signals.  In our increasingly wireless world, Congress and the FCC are trying to free up bandwidth, but in doing so, they are also imposing rules to increase competition and information freedom.

I know that a lot of my readers will find all this remarkably unimportant, with everything else that is going on right now.  But consider the fact that we all write and read the blogs of our choices on an inherently open system called “The Internet.”  That Internet’s content is increasingly being viewed and written on wireless systems such as Verizon, AT&T and Sprint control.  It is very much in the interest of the blogging community to keep information flow free.


Oh, They’re Paying Attention Now

I’ve been watching and following the Subprime story for a while now, and when there was news to report, I’ve been faithfully reporting it back here.  This evening, I thought I’d check to see where the rest of the Internet was on this whole thing, so I checked Google Trends.  Even just in the last thirty days, the change has been enormous.  Betcha a lot more people will know the name Ben Bernanke in a month or so.


Use FireFox

If you need still further evidence that Internet Explorer is a losing bet – if better standards compliance, superior plugins, great skins and overall better performance don’t sway you – check out The Beeb’s latest article on yet another Windows virus propagated through IE on malware sites.