Lijit Nips at Google’s Heels

Lijit is popular, very popular. I’ve been running their search widget on my site for quite a while now and in watching the stats it is evident that people are using it. Same goes for ShareThis. As a blog author, this is what matters to me and Lijit delivers the goods.

200811101617.jpg Innovative search startup Lijit has done study of search widgets on pages around the web and says its widget is very close to becoming as popular as Google’s own “site search”. We think Lijit is quite interesting and we’re not surprised to find out that many other bloggers around the web agree.

[From Look Out Google Site Search, Lijit Says It’s Right On Your Heels – ReadWriteWeb]

Starbucks Still Looking for a Soul

Back in 2007 Howard Schultz penned a memo that would have been called the “peanut butter manifesto” if Brad Garlinghouse were not destined to write it a year later. In it, Schultz warns that the company had lost their unique soul in the process of becoming the success that they were at that time; with cookie cutter stores, products not related to coffee, and automatic espresso machines that any monkey could work.

Fast forward to today and Starbucks announces a 97% drop in earnings while under Schultz’s watch and what do they highlight? Fewer cookie cutter stores but still cookie cutter in nature, expanded non-coffee products like smoothies and pastry products, and replacement of old automatic espresso machines with new automatic espresso machines. Someone needs to send Schultz the memo he wrote… the crowd at is overwhelmingly negative.

Besides closing the stores, Starbucks has cut more than 1,000 positions — many of which were unfilled — and introduced a slew of new products, including Vivanno smoothie drinks and breakfast pastries.

The company also replaced aging espresso makers and launched new single-cup Clover brewing machines in some markets.

[From Starbucks 4Q profit drops 97 pct on closure costs: Financial News – Yahoo! Finance]

Government + Healthcare

This is what happens when governments decide to get involved in the business of healthcare.

The Immigration Department this week rejected Dr Moeller’s application for permanent residency, saying the potential cost to the taxpayer of 13-year-old Lukas’s condition was too great.

[From Chorus of demands to let doctor Bernhard Moeller stay | The Australian]

What great burden will Dr. Moeller, a specialist physician serving a town of 50,000 going on 2 years, put on the Australian government? What burden is so great that it should cause the government to deny him residency in the country he has been contributing to? His son has Down syndrome.

No person should be denied a visa or citizenship because they have a medical condition. Shame on the Australian government.

Pain Heals, Chicks Dig Scars, and Glory Lasts Forever

I feel like I’m in the locker room and Alan is giving the newspaper industry a rousing half time speech.

Newspapers need to get off their haunches, boldly pick their shots, and then rip the lids off their respective towns, turning themselves once again into confident and thundering voices delivering coverage that compels attention and delivers results.

[From Reflections of a Newsosaur: It’s time to rip the lid off]

I am reminded of a speech scribbled down hastily by Thomas Paine before the Battle of Trenton in 1776. It’s appropriate here as well because, well Paine is always appropriate but also because his point is that the value of something fought for is proportional to the price one pays in the process.

“These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.”

The history of the newspaper business is intertwined with the history of our country, now is not the time to shrink away to simply call survival success but rather reinforce the core values of journalism, made even more important following an election that featured some of the most biased and insipid coverage of current events that we have ever seen. If newspapers wish to recover economically then they must recover their reputations first.

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Keystream Inserts Ads Into Empty Spaces

This just seems like a really bad idea. Really really bad. I can’t imagine any circumstances where this would be a net positive from a viewer standpoint.

The ad is a small, IAB-standard size bug that when clicked on, pauses the video to launch the destination web site. You’d think that having logo pop up somewhere other than the bottom of the screen while you’re watching a drama would be distracting if not downright annoying, and that seems to be the reaction of some Brits to ITV’s implementation of Keystream’s technology.

[From Keystream Inserts Ads Into Empty Spaces « NewTeeVee]

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Dapper MashupAds Turn Your Website Into Contextual, Display Ads

This is a great example of what is possible when you enable widgets with a communication mechanism (as in communicating with other data elements) and take advantage of microformats. Great work by the Dapper team, this is a very novel solution (in all fairness, it is essentially what AFC is doing, so novel is subject to interpretation).

The most important ad for a company or brand is its Website. So why not use that Website to generate ads? Dapper, a startup that can create a feed from any Website, is applying its technology to generate contextual, display ads from the constantly changing content on an advertiser’s own site.

[From Dapper MashupAds Turn Your Website Into Contextual, Display Ads]

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Corporate Taxes Are Killing the U.S. Auto Industry

Let’s agree that lowering corporate and capital gains taxes will result in more stimulus for U.S. auto makers than pouring taxpayer monies into them. The Toyota example may suggest an incongruent factor that disproves the thesis, but Toyota doesn’t have the UAW on it’s back either.

To make matters worse, the main competitors that are not Japanese all operate out of countries with much lower tax rates than the United States. When profits pile up in the good years, U.S. companies pay about 34 percent more in taxes than those operating elsewhere in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development–an international group of the richest nations. This drains cash reserves that are necessary for retooling when the bad times hit.

[From AEI – Short Publications – Corporate Taxes Are Killing the U.S. Auto Industry]

Nokia to Launch Traffic Network

I’ll be curious to see how this is implemented. Being able to syndicate the structural traffic network content (e.g. road sensors) to mobile phones makes a lot of sense but the user generated content piece is more suspect. First of all there is the input mechanism given that SMS is illegal while driving (and for good reason, as opposed to handsfree requirements), but more ominously, there is no way in hell they will get a critical mass of individuals to input data about traffic conditions in real time.

Based in part on the results of an earlier experiment, Nokia believes that a community of users with GPS-equipped mobile devices can help reduce traffic and the amount of time spent on the road. Providing real-time information about traffic congestion helps drivers make more informed decisions – such as whether to take alternative routes, public transport or reschedule their journey.

[From Nokia Research Center Puts Mobile Millennium in Gear to Help Reduce Traffic Congestion]

BTW, this is a Java app so the possibility of an Android version is real, however unlikely, but an iPhone version would be a significant effort. This may sound odd to suggest given that Nokia is the sponsor, but for the content network to flourish it would be essential to have a broad array of handset manufacturers involved, and considering that this project is funded in part by a grant from the Department of Transportation, the notion that it would benefit a single vendor, who is a foreign company nonetheless, is odious.

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The Revolt Against Traffic Cameras

I hate traffic cameras used for enforcement. Cities use public safety arguments to promote this electronic police force, yet highlight revenue goals as a measure of success because data simply doesn’t support the assertion that safety follows implementations of cameras. Furthermore, with cities like Union City over in the East Bay having been discovered for shortening the yellow light timing in order to boost revenue from cameras, the safety claims simply go out the window. The lowering of speed limits where cameras are installed is yet another example of the less than honest motives behind these cameras.

Mostly I object to third party contractors operating these camera systems on the grounds that they are acting as an agent of the government without the requirement for oversight and transparency to the public. When you get a traffic ticket, it should be coming from a police officer whom you can challenge in court, not a camera operated by a faceless and undisclosed company with a contract to the municipality you are in.

I predict we will see a growing revolt against these traffic cameras, it already happened in Texas, and most recently in Ohio.

Following this week’s successful voter referendum banning photo enforcement in Cincinnati, residents in two more Ohio cities are looking to oust red light cameras and speed cameras. The sponsors of the Cincinnati initiative are now exploring the possibility of putting ticket cameras on the ballot in Toledo. In Chillicothe, more than 17 percent of the city’s 13,000 registered voters has already signed a growing online petition demanding camera removal. “The undersigned will take action to elect new city council members therefore removing all those responsible for this unconstitutional act unless the said members make motion to remove and terminate this contract the city signed with Redflex Traffic Systems immediately,” the petition states. The possible consequences of the revolt were not lost on city leaders who are expected to discuss the issue at an upcoming city council meeting. One of the camera system’s main supporters, however, blamed residents for the program.

[From Ohio: Anti-Camera Voter Referendum Push Expands | The Truth About Cars]

Remembering Veterans and Devil Dogs

Tomorrow is Veterans Day but today we observe it. Veterans Day is set aside to honor all who have served in the armed forces (as opposed to Memorial Day when we honor those who have died in combat), so today is a good day to go over to Operation Shoebox and send a care package to a soldier. An interesting observation on the impact of technology in a soldier’s life, ink cartridges are highly requested items in Iraq and Afghanistan, you can get a recycle box from Shoebox and send in your old cartridges for reuse.

Today is also the birthday of the United States Marine Corps, which on November 10, 1775 was created by an act of the Continental Congress and since then the Marines have fought in every conflict the U.S. was involved with, including fighting Barbary pirates along the “Shores of Tripoli.”