Google loves nothing more than redefining vast tech industry sectors with a single stomp of its Godzilla paw. And in unveiling their latest creation today, a social networking and sharing platform for Gmail and mobile phones called Buzz, the Goog Monster has set its sights squarely on Facebook.
The Trend: Internet-connected energy monitors. They grab details on electric use from your wiring and send them to a Web site where you can analyze the data—and figure out how to save both watts and cash.
Why Now: Utilities keep promising “smart” electric meters that automatically provide real-time, online info, but most Americans still don’t have them. Now millions of stimulus dollars are inspiring companies to create and sell kits that add smart features to any ordinary meter.
Google wants to freshen up those static search pages for queries the latest sports scores, weather conditions or mass cultural happenings. The Internet giant plans to roll out changes over the next few days that include a real-time feed added to their standard results page with instant updates from Twitter, Facebook and other news sites and blogs for instant zeitgeist readings.
Groups of friends and strangers spent more than a month preparing for perhaps the greatest social networking competition in history. All wanted to be the first to find 10 red weather balloons scattered across the continental U.S. on December 5, and claim a $40,000 prize from the Pentagon's DARPA agency.
This photo was taken by Nonja. She is an orangutan. Like many of us, she is interested in keeping her friends up to date on what she's up to in her pen at the Schönbrunn zoo in Austria. She takes and immediately uploads photos to Facebook with her specially modified Samsung ST-1000 point-and-shoot (it dispenses raisins!).
UK netizens may find their online activities under ever-greater scrutiny in the near future. The UK government has pushed ahead with a proposal to require monitoring of Internet usage, including social networks such as Facebook and conversations within online games.
The new UK law would require communication firms to hold records of who contacted whom, rather than the actual contents of online conversation. About £2 billion ($3.34 billion) would go toward compensating the firms for the technical challenge of collecting the data.
Twitterati and other netizens should already know that their Internet musings are public and could potentially become fodder for intelligence analysts. But now U.S. spy agencies have officially invested in a software firm that monitors social media and half a million web 2.0 sites daily.
A pair of MIT students claim that they have created an algorithm that outs gay members of Facebook by analyzing the sexual orientations of their networks of friends.
The students first analyzed the networks of people who publicized their sexual orientation on Facebook. Turns out that statistically speaking, gay men have more gay friends than straight guys do. So then, they used an algorithm to run the stats on men who kept mum about their sexual orientation on the site. Their computer program was able to correctly identify 10 men whom the students personally knew to be gay in the real world but who hadn't shared that fact on Facebook.
So all that importance-of-social-media business you keep hearing about Iran? This should tell you something about the underlying truth, no matter how numbing the barrage from the media can be: When the U.S. State Department heard of Twitter's plans for an hour-long regularly-scheduled maintenance outage that would have denied daytime Twitter service to Iran, they stepped in and "urged" them to reschedule.
When I was little, I loved ice cream more than just about anything. But, as my mom tells it, I would sometimes get to Baskin-Robbins and be so overwhelmed by the many delicious options that I would be overwhelmed with indecision and take the easy way out: forgoing a cone.*
It turns out there's scientific evidence that my mind actually was paralyzed by too much information. The bonus in listening to this exploration of choice is worthwhile if only to hear Oliver Sacks describe forcing himself to eat 22 pounds of liver.
Also in today's links: what not to do while home sick, unanswered questions about "the hobbit," and more.