29 August 2014

Search Engine Land: “It’s Over: The Rise & Fall Of Google Authorship For Search Results”

Today John Mueller of Google Webmaster Tools announced in a Google+ post that Google will stop showing authorship results in Google Search, and will no longer be tracking data from content using rel=author markup.

[…]

Mueller repeated in his conversation with Mark about today’s change that Google’s data showed users were not getting sufficient value from Authorship snippets. While he did not elaborate on what he meant by “value” we might speculate that this could mean that overall, in aggregate, user behavior on a search page did not seem to be affected by the presence of author snippets. Perhaps over time users had become used to seeing them and they lost their novelty.

Eric Enge

Another nail in the coffin for Google+. It’s reassuring that search relevance is still the top priority for – after all, it’s their biggest source of income. The removal of authorship based on the low value to searchers is a silent admission that social signals are not a solid indicator for quality (not on their own anyway, they can be just as easily gamed as other signals). But let’s not forget that the authorship markup was tied to Google+ profiles; its unsatisfactory performance could also imply that social activity from Google+ is simply to weak to reflect the quality of a page, despite Google’s best efforts to get everyone to use it.

I can’t help but wonder if we’ll see a similar article in 2-3 years about a more recent search ranking experiment. Low adoption among authors and incorrect implementation sound a lot like the challenges secure sites will face in the near future – and from what I’m standing, adding a couple a lines of markup to a blog is a lot easier than buying and maintaining security certificates!

28 August 2014

Wired Design: “Hyperlapse, Instagram’s New App, Is Like a $15,000 Video Setup in Your Hand”

The first screen has only a record button. Once you’re done recording, the only thing you can do is choose what speed you want your video to run—the slider goes from 1x to 12x. Once that’s set, you can share the video directly to Facebook or Instagram. This simplicity came early to the product. Chris Connolly, the designer that Dimson had rallied to his cause, recognized immediately that for all the fussy UI detail, one function mattered above all: replay speed. Fooling with that speed made some videos zippy that could be boring; others comic that could be dull; and others poetic that had once simply been neat-o.

Once you start using the app, you quickly see that replay speed itself becomes a novel, alluring tool: For pets and people, replaying at about 1x gives you the sense that you’re creating a tracking shot like that Copacabana scene in Goodfellas. The higher replay speeds work better for shooting the sky out your airplane window, the scenery scrolling past during a train ride, or anything else that’s moving slowly or at a distance. Where Instagram’s filters are all about changing color and light, Hyperlapse uses a simple speed slider as its main creative decision.

Cliff Kuang

Despite the bombastic title, the article is an excellent overview of a new app that managed to get me excited about shooting video. I’m more of a photography fan and I never saw the appeal of recording video clips when a well-timed photo would have a stronger impact. On the other hand I love timelapse – even though I don’t really have the patience or the gear to record them with my DSLR camera – and that’s what Hyperlapse is offering: a quick and fun way to create timelapse videos, straight on your iPhone. I installed the app almost immediately after hearing about it and tried it out the next day in the subway and with a water fountain next to my office building.

The interface is minimalistic: a full-screen camera with a single, round ‘record’ button. After playing around with  this initial screen, I discovered other subtle controls: taping anywhere on the screen serves as focusing and exposure point, similar to the native camera app. The thin ring around the recording button doubles as indicator about the ambient light: with sufficient light, the ring is rainbow-colored, mirroring the app icon. When it’s too dark, the ring turns black, and if you try to start recording you will get a warning that you can dismiss with another tap. I also noticed the view is narrower than the angle of view of the iPhone camera, an effect that was explained later by the engineering team.

24 August 2014

Mike Resnick - Kilimanjaro

in Bucharest, Romania

Mike Resnick - KilimanjaroÎn secolul 22, Lumile Eutopice sunt deschise colonizării pe orbita Terrei și oferite unor comunități religioase și culturale, pentru a‑și organiza propria lume ideală fără intervenții externe. Una din ele a fost Kirinyaga, populată de tribul african Kikuyu, dar care a eșuat sub conducerea neinspirată a lui Koriba. După mai bine de un secol, o nouă lume devine disponibilă pentru Maasai, botezată de aceștia Kilimanjaro, după muntele sacru pe care se spune că locuiește zeul lor suprem, En‑kai. Sub îndrumarea istoricului local David ole Saitoti, care este autorul acestei cronici din viitor, și conduși de Consiliul tradițional al Bătrânilor, coloniștii vor trebui să găsească cea mai bună metodă pentru a construi o Utopie și a nu eșua ca multe dintre celelalte experimente.

Deși ideea ar fi promițătoare, rezultatul a fost complet neinspirat. Ce m‑a deranjat cel mai mult au fost așa‑zisele crize cu care se confruntă treptat noua societate; din primele rânduri, David ole Saitoti ne asigură că a studiat cu grijă istoria pentru a evita majoritatea problemelor, totuși conflictele care apar puteau fi anticipate și rezolvate cu mult înainte de stabilirea primilor coloniști: lucruri ca rata de schimb a monedei locale, statutul femeii, relația dintre ritualurile tradiționale și medicina modernă, organizarea politică, votul și constituția. Îmi vine foarte greu să cred că peste 200 de ani o comunitate pe jumătate urbană s‑ar mai confrunta cu exact aceleași probleme și ar găsi exact aceleași soluții – culmea, la un moment dat aleg un președinte alb, căzând poate fără să vrea în clișeul colonialist că triburile africane nu se pot guverna singure. Deși ar trebui să fie esența acestei utopii, cultura Maasai joacă un rol marginal și povestirea s‑ar fi desfășurat identic dacă ar fi folosit oricare altă societate pastorală. Tonul egal și detașat nu ajută deloc, nicăieri nu se simte o încordare reală, ci parcă doar indiferență, ca la niște actori mediocri care abia așteaptă să‑și termine rolurile și să se întoarcă acasă. Descrierea tehnologiei este practic inexistentă și nu se oferă nici o explicație pentru zecile de lumi care orbitează Pământul, nici o descriere a lor sau a dimensiunilor, care ar trebui să fie apreciabile pentru a găzdui două parcuri cu animale sălbatice și numeroase pășuni. Din păcate, după părerea mea, o povestire ratată pe toată planurile.

Nota mea: 1.5

disponibilă online pe site‑ul Subterranean Press

18 August 2014

EE & Me: “EE reveals 4G giving Brits back an hour a day”

Social media and messaging

The EE Mobile Living Index highlights a 14ppts increase in share of overall network traffic from social media, driven by the integration of video into major social platforms. The upload speed on EE’s mobile network, which is five times faster 3G, is also encouraging people to share special moments as they happen.

Tango’s free messaging service has surged in popularity, accounting for 16% of instant messaging traffic on 4G, compared to less than 1% last year. At the same time, WhatsApp, acquired by Facebook in February this year, has seen its percentage of overall 4G instant messaging traffic drop by 16 percentage points.

EE press

Interesting stats from one mobile operator in the UK regarding how their customers use the 4G network. While most people linking to this article were eager to point out the piece of information about Maps generating more traffic than Maps, I find the messaging section more telling: one app surging in popularity in just one year, another experiencing a significant drop. Whatsapp already starting to decline?

17 August 2014

Peter Watts - Blindsight

in Bucharest, Romania
blindsight n. [mass noun] MEDICINE the ability to respond to visual stimuli without consciously perceiving them, a condition which can occur after certain types of brain damage. Oxford Dictionary of English

Peter Watts - BlindsightÎn penultimul deceniu al secolului XXI, viața pe Pământ e ceva mai stranie decât ne‑o imaginăm acum. Biotehnologia a readus la viață vampirii, o subspecie Homo sapiens dispărută de sute de mii de ani, cu inteligență net superioară și simțuri mai acute, dar și o slăbiciune bizară pentru unghiurile drepte. Inteligențe artificiale raționează în concepte prea abstracte pentru muritorii de rând, așa că e nevoie de o nouă specializare, sintezist, un fel de interpret al concluziilor oferite de mașini. Oarecum redundanți, mulți oamenilor aleg beatitudinea iluzorie a Paradisului, o realitate virtuală în care‑și pot construi propriul univers, iar puținii care păstrează ambiția de a concura cu mașinile au nevoie de transformări radicale. A, să nu uităm, sexul în persoană e un obicei învechit, privit cu suspiciune și dezgust, acum că toate senzațiile pot fi reproduse artificial, amplificate și extinse, în timp ce partenerul se poate afla undeva de cealaltă parte a lumii.

Dar lumea urmează să devină infinit mai complicată atunci când într‑o zi – aproape de când aș împlini eu 100 de ani, în eventualitatea improbabilă că voi trăi până atunci – 65.536 de obiecte lovesc simultan atmosfera Pământului din toate direcțiile și se dezintegrează în decurs de câteva minute, trezind omenirea la o realitate neașteptată: extratereștrii sunt aici! După un asemenea salut impresionant, urmat însă de o liniște absolută cu mult mai neliniștitoare, era nevoie de un fel de răspuns. O echipă de elită este trimisă spre centura Kuiper la marginea sistemului solar, de unde au fost interceptate semnale legate de apariția „Licuricilor”. Unul din membrii echipajului lui Theseus, sintezistul Siri Keeton, este povestitorul romanului. Oficial, rolul lui este de a observa evenimentele și de a traduce informațiile complexe într‑un format inteligibil pentru spectatorii nerăbdători de acasă, printre care ne aflăm și noi ca cititori.

16 August 2014

Wired Science: “Why It’s So Hard to Catch Your Own Typos”

As with all high level tasks, your brain generalizes simple, component parts (like turning letters into words and words into sentences) so it can focus on more complex tasks (like combining sentences into complex ideas). We don’t catch every detail, we’re not like computers or NSA databases, said Stafford. Rather, we take in sensory information and combine it with what we expect, and we extract meaning. When we’re reading other peoples’ work, this helps us arrive at meaning faster by using less brain power. When we’re proof reading our own work, we know the meaning we want to convey. Because we expect that meaning to be there, it’s easier for us to miss when parts (or all) of it are absent. The reason we don’t see our own typos is because what we see on the screen is competing with the version that exists in our heads.

Nick Stockton

Interesting explanation! When writing, I also feel like I have the story or idea in my head and am struggling to shape it into the best written form. It usually helps to take a break, switch to something entirely different, then come back to the draft to iron out typos and rephrase it for better clarity and concision.

14 August 2014

Facebook ‘On This Day’ turns back the clock on your News Feed

Ever since introducing the Timeline, has constantly explored different ways of showing past updates, probably to highlight and enforce the connections people built over time, not only with their friends, but with Facebook itself, as medium for social interactions. One of them was the LookBack video launched for Facebook’s 10th birthday. Just yesterday I discovered one other, a feature buried in the News Feed that allows people to go back in time exactly one year ago, called ‘On This Day’. Amusingly, it was about one year ago when the big tech sites noticed this experiment, but I don’t remember reading about it. While it appears to have been mostly abandoned – the official page was removed on Facebook and I haven’t found it in the iOS app – it’s fun to explore just as well! Facebook On This Day header in News Feed

12 August 2014

Exploring CSS columns for blog designs

I haven’t changed the look of my blog in a long while, longer than a year, possibly even two, but I’m still experimenting with several ideas and am interested in new design options. I recently read a thorough overview about CSS columns and tried to see if I could use this to improve my blog. The advantages of columns are straightforward: with a simple syntax – without media queries and complicated breakpoints – it provides an easy way to create responsive designs. You only need to define the minimum width and the maximum number of columns and the browser will arrange the content to fit the available screen size. At the same time it provides a simple way to optimize line length for readability.

Unfortunately, reformatting large texts into columns has some limitations and drawbacks. The first that stands out, both in the examples on CSS-Tricks and in my own tests, is the undesired effect of splitting paragraphs into separate columns, with the beginning of a block of text at the bottom of one column and the ending at the top of the next. This interrupts the natural reading flow and can be very frustrating, especially on larger screens where columns are most effective. It would be more comfortable for readers if columns would only break between paragraphs, even if the content is no longer distributed evenly between them.

10 August 2014

Jonathan Strahan - Engineering Infinity

in Bucharest, Romania

Jonathan Strahan - Engineering InfinityAntologiile au fost dintotdeauna parte din cultura science-fiction, urmărind îndeaproape sau anticipând tendințele genului. Scopul colecției de față este de asemenea să reflecte starea SF‑ului hard la început de secol, să redeschidă apetitul publicului pentru ideile la scară mare, entuziasmul pentru explorarea spațiului, curiozitatea față de ce ne așteaptă printre stele, care a fost într‑un constant declin din zilele de aur ale science-fiction‑ului. Așa cum am constatat și în alte cazuri, povestirile sunt aranjate într‑un crescendo aproximativ, de la cele mai apropiate de zilele noastre, la idei grandioase și stranii, deși unele dintre ele nu au avut o legătură prea clară cu tema colecției.

Malak de Peter Watts se desfășoară în mintea unei drone avansate de atac care patrulează non‑stop deasupra deșerturilor din Afganistan. Dotat cu un algoritm sofisticat de alegere a țintelor, Azrael e în stare să ia singur decizii cu privire la oportunitatea atacului și să învețe din rezultate și din evaluările post‑atac ale controlorilor umani. La un moment dat, în software‑ul său este încărcat un upgrade experimental care ține cont de pierderile colaterale, încercând să se evite morțile civililor nevinovați. Dar introducerea eticii în ecuație duce la rezultate neașteptate, pe măsură ce Azrael constată că creatorii săi sunt la fel de vinovați de distrugerea țintelor neutre ca și dușmanii. Deși scrisă cu tonul egal, limitat, din conștiința artificială a dronei, povestirea acumulează o tensiune latentă care ține cu sufletul la gură până la punctul culminant din ultimele fraze.

Watching the Music Dance de Kristine Kathryn Rusch ne duce în mijlocul unei familii disfuncționale, în care micuța Suze se refugiază în lumea virtuală a muzicii ca să evite certurile constante dintre părinții ei. În cursul divorțului lor iese la iveală obsesia mamei ca fiica lor să devină un talent muzical. Pentru că îmbunătățirile genetice în afara trăsăturilor moștenite de la părinți sunt strict interzise, ea îi face rost pe ascuns de aplicații nerecomandate la vârsta ei, care cauzează o dependență emoțională periculoasă pentru dezvoltarea viitoare. Ideea de a restricționa modificările genetice e interesantă, un compromis echilibrat între pozițiile care se întâlnesc de obicei în literatura speculativă, dar ca ton și stil povestirea e mai puțin reușită. Alternând între lumea fetei, la limita realității, și cea a tatălui copleșit de griji, tonul e sec și distant, nereușind să transmită compasiunea pentru copilul chinuit de un părinte prea sever.

08 August 2014

Official Google Webmaster Central Blog: “HTTPS as a ranking signal”

Heartbleed

For these reasons, over the past few months we’ve been running tests taking into account whether sites use secure, encrypted connections as a signal in our search ranking algorithms. We've seen positive results, so we're starting to use HTTPS as a ranking signal. For now it's only a very lightweight signal — affecting fewer than 1% of global queries, and carrying less weight than other signals such as high-quality content — while we give webmasters time to switch to HTTPS. But over time, we may decide to strengthen it, because we’d like to encourage all website owners to switch from HTTP to HTTPS to keep everyone safe on the web.

Zineb Ait Bahajji & Gary Illyes

It seems like most of the online community has jumped at the chance to applaud this measure to encourage better security online, but personally I’m rather apprehensive about it. For me as regular person browsing the Internet this doesn’t bring any tangible improvement; I need privacy and strong security when doing sensitive transactions like online shopping and communicating, and, as we saw in the recent huge security breaches like Heartbleed and NSA tracking, a secure connection guarantees neither.

As mini-publisher on my blog this introduces further complications; most of my traffic comes from search engines and specifically , so ignoring this recommendation will result in reduced visibility over time, especially if this signal will get stronger, as the announcement politely threatens. On the other hand, even though I’m far from clueless when it comes to technology, I have no idea how to choose and set up a secure certificate. I don’t make money off the blog, so paying for a certificate would be just extra costs with no revenues. What’s more ironic here is that , where I write my articles currently and the solution Google itself uses, doesn’t even offer secure connections for articles! I suspect most small bloggers and businesses will find themselves in the same situation: with little to no time and resources to spare for such a questionable advantage.

07 August 2014

Quartz: “Google is stealing away Microsoft’s future corporate customers”

Among the Fortune 50, only one company—Google—had its mail records pointed at Google’s servers. Among the mid-size companies, almost 60% host their email with Google, including corporations like Twitter, Dropbox, Box, Airbnb, Square, Uber, and Etsy. And among the Y Combinator startups—mostly very small companies with some funding, but often tight budgets—92% host their email with Google.

This says two things. First, Microsoft and other vendors like IBM still have a tight grip on the largest companies. Gartner analyst Tom Eid—who predicts that enterprise email alone will be a $5 billion global industry this year, growing about 10% from last year—confirms this. He estimates that Microsoft still commands 75% of the market’s spending, versus about 3% to 5% for Google.

But Google is capturing Microsoft’s future customer base. Perhaps this doesn’t hurt as much now, but as today’s smaller companies grow into tomorrow’s leaders, will they eventually switch to Microsoft products? Or will they stick with Google? (Or, also possible—but less dramatic—both?)

Dan Frommer

Here’s a perfect example of misleading chart, of manipulating data to sustain a conclusion chosen beforehand:

  • first of all the sample is too small and there’s no mention of how the companies were selected, of the methodology.
  • secondly, this is just a snapshot of the current situation, and you cannot draw any valid conclusion about future trends from a single data point. Also, without methodology, even a longer time series would be questionable, since we can’t know if the samples have changed over time, thus influencing the collected data.
  • last, comparing Fortune 50 companies with startups is hardly relevant; a single corporation from the left side of the graph is likely employing more people than all 50 startups on the right combined.