Critical Section


Monday,  05/26/03  05:30 PM

Old GloryMemorial Day, 2003.  Today we honor all those who gave their lives defending America and in the pursuit of freedom and liberty everywhere.  Particularly poignant this year, with the recent actions in Afghanistan and Iraq.  I am personally am very grateful and proud of all the men and women in our armed forces, and especially those who've given their lives for our lifestyle.  Thank you all.

CNN: Canada, Taiwan wrestle with SARS.  I haven't been reporting SARS news - I guess I don't feel I add much to what's already out there - but this continues to be a worry.  The only real weapon we appear to have in this battle is quarantine; I was encouraged by the apparent progress in Beijing (still, with China you just don't know the real story), but Toronto and Taipei continue to report new cases daily.  The global death toll now stands at a little over 700.

I dislike SUVs.  I think they're ugly.  I do understand I'm in the minority on this (check out any nearby mall parking lot), and if you own an SUV rest assured this isn't personal; I would staunchly defend your right to purchase an ugly vehicle.  Okay, got that out of the way.

Although I'm not an SUV fan, I do think Arianna Huffington's Detroit Project is ridiculous ("drive an SUV, fund a terrorist").  Tim Blair points to a great column by Csaba Csere in Car and Driver which skewers the logic behind this in ten different ways.

Razib has posted a nice review of Matt Ridley's new book Nature via Nurture.  Overall he had a lukewarm reaction, perhaps because Matt tends to objectively review issues rather than injecting his own opinions.  Sounds like a nice read, I'll have to check it out.

Jeremy Zawodny says PageRank is Dead.  "PageRank stopped working really well when people began to understand how PageRank worked."  Hmmm...  The Heisenberg-ness of this is appealing, but I don't think many people have changed their linking behavior to optimize for Google.  Sure, you read about Google bombs but they're isolated incidents.  Now that Google is making serious money with their text advertising there may be pressure for them to do things differently, but they seem to be maintaining their integrity.  Recently there was a flurry of discussion about Google and blogs (I joined it myself).  The bottom line was that Google was concerned that blogs might be disproportionately weighted in their search rankings and they might take corrective action.  This wasn't to punish blogs, it was to optimized search results.  Part of the problem is that "authoritative" sources like newspapers often hide their archives behind a paywall, and/or don't link through their archives, so they are effectively under-weighting themselves.  A while back I suggested a mechanism for weighting links explicitly; this didn't seem to attract much interest (!).  However Google continues to weight links implicitly by their source, which is self-correcting.  I guess I disagree with Jeremy; there are challenges posed by Google's success (they are no longer merely an observer, they are a major influence), but the fundamental technique of using links to categorize web pages is still valid.

I've been waiting to see if Dave Winer replies to Evan Williams' comments on the blogger API.  He noted that he had to read it carefully, but so far he's withheld comment.  This matters because Evan and Dave are the authors of the two weblog APIs (blogger and metaWeblog).  It sure would be nice if there was only one, and/or if they were compatible.  Particularly if you were, say, building a facility to post email messages to blogs :)

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