Star Trek Google Doodle – the best Google Doodle ever?

Today’s interactive Star Trek Story as the Google Doodle is arguably the best Google Doodle ever.    www.google.com     Star Trek Fans will appreciate that they are showcasing one of the great episodes, where, on a far away planet, Kirk is battling hand to hand with an  Alligator Alien, using only his human cleverness and ingenuity to win.

And speaking of cleverness Google Doodles are always fun, but this one – with several interactive screeens – has got to be one of the best of all time.  

CES Wrapup – more CES press than you can shake a memory stick at….

Here from the official CES site, CESWeb.org, are several links to articles before and during the show.   I’ll follow this up with a list of some of my favorite articles about the themes at CES I found most interesting, to wit:

Rise of the Ultrabook / Thin Notebook / Hybrid Tablet

Slow but powerful ongoing convergence of internet with electronic devices of all types, especially mobile ones.

Does anybody really care about 3D TV?  Really?

Green tech skepticism is not a crime.

Internet TVs and YouTube keynote packed at the conference that hardly even talked about the social media and the internet 5 years ago.

—————-   More press about CES —————

From ZDNet, January 12, 2012

“CES 2012: 10 Facebook Platform integrations”

From PC Magazine, January 12, 2012
“Great Audio Gear at CES 2012″

From Tulsa World, January 12, 2012
“Thin ultrabooks trend at 2012 Consumer Electronics Show”

From Los Angeles Times, January 12, 2012
“At CES, TV makers show off lighter, sharper sets”

From San Francisco Chronicle, January 12, 2012
“CES’ Eureka Park shows cutting-edge products”

From USA Today, January 12, 2012
“‘Smart’ TVs and other products proliferate at CES”

From The Irish Times, January 12, 2012
“Show time for electronics as record numbers exhibit at CES”

From Forbes, January 12, 2012
“CES 2012: Camera Makers Fight Back With Smart Devices”

From CNET, January 12, 2012
“Post-show report: Big OLEDs dominate TV news at CES 2012″

From Huffington Post, January 12, 2012
“Carmakers Count On Tech To Transform Autos Into Companions “

From BBC, January 11, 2012
“CES 2012: Environmentally sound technology on display”

From The Washington Post, January 11, 2012
“CES 2012: New smartphones, ultrabooks unveiled”

From The Mercury News, January 11, 2012
” inShare Magid on Tech: At CES, a new golden age for cars is beginning”

From The Seattle Times, January 11, 2012
“CES 2012: Gallery of new TVs — big, thin and bright”

From The New York Times, January 10, 2012
“CES Gets Started”

From NY Daily News, January 10, 2012
“CES 2012: Tech companies go ‘All in’ for Las Vegas convention”

From Daily Tech, January 9, 2012
“CES 2012: Samsung’s Series 5, Series 9 Ultrabooks Bow in Las Vegas “

From Las Vegas Sun, January 8, 2012
“2012 CES: Celebrity list includes Bieber, Snooki, 50 Cent, LL Cool J, Overeem”

From USA Today, January 8, 2012
“Yahoo and Tom Hanks to announce Net video project at CES”

From The Huffington Post, January 8, 2012
“5 Big Gizmo Trends for CES 2012 “

From CNET, January 8, 2012
“Leak Week makes CES better (opinion)”

From EE Times, January 7, 2012
“Hot parties at CES 2012″

From TechRadar, January 6, 2012
“Why we’re crazy about CES 2012″

From The Denver Post, January 6, 2012
“CES 2012 preview – robotic blocks and the show’s new spotlight on startups”

From The Wall Street Journal, January 5, 2012
“Big Gadget Show Expecting a Blowout”

From The Huffington Post, January 5, 2012
“Eureka Park And Green Innovation Coming To CES 201″

From Variety, January 2, 2012
“Kudos cornucopia set for CES”

From CNET, December 30, 2011
“Eight things I’m looking forward to seeing at CES”

From PR Newswire, December 28, 2011
“Finalists Announced for Mobile Apps Showdown; Winners to be Announced at 2012 International CES, January 12″

From PR Newswire, December 28, 2011
“Finalists Announced for Last Gadget Standing; Winners To Be Announced at 2012 International CES, January 12″

From Engadget, December 21, 2011
“CES 2012 to feature 94 startup companies in ‘Eureka Park TechZone'”

From CNET, December 20, 2011
“CES setting up its own startup alley”

From TechRadar, December 20, 2011
“CES 2012: what to expect Updated: Phones, cameras, computing, TV, gaming and more”

From CNET, December 19, 2011
“Faster phones and more Ice Cream Sandwich at CES 2012 “

From CNET, December 19, 2011
“CES 2012: The unlikeliest car show”

From CNET, December 19, 2011
“Clouds everywhere, voice control, home integration, and health: How software will bring it all together at CES 2012″

From Twice, December 19, 2011
“Home Audio: What’s Coming At CES 2012″

From CNET, December 19, 2011
“Predictions for CES 2012″

From Spike TV, December 16, 2011
“This Year’s CES Could Be the Year of the Tablet”

From CNET, December 16, 2011
“Better 3D, voice control, more apps: How CES 2012 will advance the TV”

From Spike TV, December 14, 2011
“The Greatest Celebrity Moments in CES History”

From EE Times, December 14, 2011
“CES: USB wall outlets power up consumer devices”

From Spike TV, December 13, 2011
“The Things We’re Most Looking Forward to Seeing at CES 2012″

From EE Times, December 9, 2011
“Top 10 CE innovation gadgets at CES”

From TechRadar, November 29, 2011
“CES 2012: Gary Shapiro talks tech”

From TechRadar, November 22, 2011
“CES 2012: what to expect”

From Mashable, November 18, 2011
“Ultrabooks Get Ready for Their Close-Up at CES 2012″

From PCWorld, November 16, 2011
“CES 2012 Gadget Preview”

It’s a Broadband World

Check out this great interactive graphic from the BBC showing how broadband has spread through the world since 1998.     Note the relationship between affluence / development and broadband use.     Although correlation is not causation, it’s clear for many reasons that one of the best ways for poor countries to get a bigger piece of the global economic pie  is to develop more robust broadband infrastructures in their own countries.

The BBC article attached to the graphic discusses Kenya as an example of this move to development via the use of technology – in Kenya’s case to work on the surging need for call centers to service customers in the UK and USA.

Google announces big winners in the “Project 10 to the 100th” contest.

Kudos to Google for sponsoring the Project 10 to the 10th contest which winnowed down about 150,000 ideas to five great ideas, all of which will receive millions in funding from Google:

Idea: Make educational content available online for free

The Khan Academy is a non-profit educational organization that provides high-quality, free education to anyone, anywhere via an online library of more than 1,600 teaching videos. We are providing $2 million to support the creation of more courses and to enable the Khan Academy to translate their core library into the world’s most widely spoken languages.

Enhance science and engineering education

FIRST is a non-profit organization that promotes science and math education around the world through team competition. Its mission is to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders by giving them real world experience working with professional engineers and scientists. We are providing $3 million to develop and jump start new student-driven robotics team fundraising programs that will empower more student teams to participate in FIRST

Make government more transparent

Project funded: Public.Resource.Org is a non-profit organization focused on enabling online access to public government documents in the United States. We are providing $2 million to Public.Resource.Org to support the Law.Gov initiative, which aims to make all primary legal materials in the United States available to all.

Drive innovation in public transport

Project funded: Shweeb is a concept for short to medium distance, urban personal transport, using human-powered vehicles on a monorail. We are providing $1 million to fund research and development to test Shweeb’s technology for an urban setting

Provide quality education to African students

Project funded: The African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) is a center for math and science education and research in Cape Town, South Africa. AIMS’ primary focus is a one-year bridge program for recent university graduates that helps build skills and knowledge prior to Masters and PhD study. We are providing $2 million to fund the opening of additional AIMS centers to promote graduate level math and science study in Africa.

http://www.project10tothe100.com/

I love the innovative spirit in contests and project like these, and also believe funding from deep pockets like Google is critical because I think in general innovations …. fail…. even in the for profit sector.     However in that sector we reward success hugely, so we get a fair number of entrepreneurial “players” who are looking to win the innovation lottery, and these players tend to spin out a few good ideas among mostly bad ones.

The current USA system tends to dramatically reward success and ruthlessly kill commercial failure, which is probably a good approach to optimize business success.  A common mistake by those who argue that “innovation is golden” is to only look at the few innovative projects that have had huge success  (Apple Computer, Google, etc) and ignore the *thousands* of failed innovations, most of which most of us never hear about.      One of the big lessons that should have been learned from the internet and real estate bubbles is that innovation does NOT foster success – it simply fosters new ideas.     Most internet companies that were spawned during the bubble have failed where a few like Google have become global economic powerhouses.

But as usual I digress.   THANKS Google for helping to spawn new ideas to do good.   That’s cool.

Federal Trade Commission Chairman: Internet Privacy Policies “Don’t Protect Consumers”

In recent Senate Commerce Committee  hearings about privacy policies the talk was breathlessly serious but – as usual – much of the dialog and most of the legislation are clearly years behind the internet realities.

The *most important issue* in my opinion is generally overlooked, and that is the *fact* that what most of us believe to be “our private information” is now scattered across the internet, easily retrievable.   The privacy ship sailed long ago, so by far the major issues left are how to remedy *abuses* of privacy.

I would suggest that the abuses are generally caused by lack of transparency in terms of identities of business entities and that the solution should revolve around market driven sales transparency and legally driven identity transparency.

I personally don’t object to having all online sales activity legally required to disclose the name of the purveyor – either a registered business or an individual so they can be identified by the consumer and by authorities.   However there are probably various reasons – free speach and otherwise – to limit this disclosure to the ISP level.    But a huge mistake in my opinion is that we are not requiring enough responsibility on the side of ISPs, online advertisers, and (very importantly) the big online ad agencies like Google who are not required to disclose spammers to authorities.

This is a complex issue for many reasons, but we’ve erred on the side of letting non-disclosure trump common sense, and this has led to the massive level of online commercial abuse we see now all over the internet.      From legal scamming like overpriced self help books and ringtone sales to illegal phishing attacks, much of the trouble would disappear if Google, ISPs, and authorities simply made sure that  all legal online transactions could be traced to a legally responsible party.     e.g. if you sell online, you must be identifiable as an individual or business, much in the same way we expect any offline business to be accountable to a variety of checks and balances in place in the offline world.   Online efficiency has eliminated many of the normal “barriers to entry” for businesses.    That’s a great thing overall, but it means we need more in place than the current relaxed systems and standards that facilitate too much abuse.

Google and China

One of the highest stakes games in technology is playing out right now as Google decides whether it will continue to maintain major Google China operations or retreat to the USA where the rules regarding censorship and government control over content are considerably more … progressive.

Reuters Reports on the latest Google v China cyber conflict

Today the Chinese Government actually warned Google about conducting itself in ways favorable to China policy *even if they leave the country* in what presumably is a threat to block Google search, effectively ceding almost all China searches to Baidu, China’s search giant which very ironically has a far more capitalistic bent than Google search.    On Baidu, companies can buy their search presence without Google’s higher levels of separation of advertising and natural search results.

The opportunity here for Baidu, and perhaps Microsoft Bing, may be extraordinary as Google’s search presence has been unassailable in the USA where it now appears they may throw in the towel in China, leaving the world’s largest and most potentially lucrative search market up for grabs even though it should be noted that currently gaming is a much bigger online market than search in Asia.   Also that Asia search portals are not nearly as lucrative as in the USA.     However this is likely to change as China’s newfound influence and affluence blossoms.

Google Social Circle

Google labs is testing a very interesting new feature within the Google search results which lists and ranks content from people that have connections to your own social networks, websites, blogs, etc.   It’s called Google Social Circle and I think this approach has a lot of potential.

Google labs writes:

We’ve taken steps to improve the relevance of our search results with personalization, but today’s launch takes that one step further. With Social Search, Google finds relevant public content from your friends and contacts and highlights it for you at the bottom of your search results. When I do a simple query for [new york], Google Social Search includes my friend’s blog on the results page …

Filtering the massive oceans of content is what Google has been doing so effectively for some time, but the social media explosion has created a new kind of relevance Google’s basic ranking system has not been taking into account.    The content of trusted friends and associates is often going to be more relevant to us than that of, say, internet marketeers in a foreign country.     If, for example, my pal has travelled to Morrocco I’m going to trust his stuff – and probably be more interested in it – than information from strangers.    Google Social Circle will incorporate that relevance into the search results, and I think by doing this they may succeed where Facebook and Twitter have pretty dramatically failed.    Facebook’s search system and layout – in my experience – makes it very hard to search for information.  It can even be difficult to find a person you know, let alone find content they have created that is relevant to your search.    Twitter lists are something of a step in the right direction of targeting for relevant information, but Twitter search is severely lacking and I don’t even know if they they are particularly interested in providing the kind of contextual content mapping Google is testing with Social Circle.

Another interesting – some would say sinister – aspect of this approach by Google is to create internet environments filled with “trusted online information sources” that have been endorsed by different networks of friends.    Clever use of the data flowing in will allow Google to better screen sites based on human input, which is much harder to spoof than manipulations commonly done as part of aggressive “Search Engine Optimization” tactics.

The Social Circle reminds me of an advanced version of “del.icio.us”, a tagging and bookmarking service aquired (and largely abandoned?) by Yahoo a few years ago.  Delicious allowed users to tag and label sites and content, creating link lists of things relevant to them and giving them the ability to share these links with others.    By automating that process and using their brilliant search algorithm to slice and dice individual information, Google has pushed us one step closer to the holy grail of search – a system that shows us exactly what we want/need to see even if we cannot clearly state exactly what we want or need.

Digital Nomads

Original by Joe for the Dell Digital Nomad Blog:

As a digital nomad myself I’ve found that despite the wonders of an “almost always connected” environment there remain challenges in the motivation and attention departments. The ability to do work on the road pretty much from anywhere andactually doing work from anywhere are not – exusing the pun – even remotely the same two things. In fact it is important to be mindful of one of the classic pitfalls of being a digital nomad which is using the power of the ubiquitous workspace to put off “until later” work that is best done from the office – e.g. work that may require paper or personal documents or information histories that are unavailable online.   The ability to work 24/7 should not distract you from the fact you cannot work 24/7, and need to manage your time effectively regardless of your work environment.

Yet the productivity pitfalls for the remote workforce pale next to the productivity advantages. A workforce of digital nomads can use downtime in airports and waiting for meetings to check email, make calls, and conduct other follow ups. Unlike their counterparts who are chained to an office desk at a single location, the digital nomad travels fully equipped to handle most if not all the demands of their job from pretty much any location.  A Customer complaint needs handling in real time? Call them and email follow up online information and links to support the troubleshooting.   Here the customer will be impressed with your “”From the road” response, knowing that you are there for them all the time.   Is a server down?  Remote reboot from a laptop with EVDO card or over coffee at a WiFi hotspot at the coffee shop or airport.

An example of a digitally nomadic benefit I experienced last year came while covering CES 2008 – the massive Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show.  I often worked  from the blogger lounge, using online tools and blogging combined with Treo picture uploads to cover several sessions and product launches almost in real time.  In some ways I was working faster and covering more topics  than most of the thousands of “old school” journalists at the event.

When GM CEO Rick Wagoner released the Cadillac Provoq on the Keynote stage I was one of the first – if not the very first – to have pictures online since I could take the shot and then upload and caption it from my second row seat at the Venetian Ballroom.

In summary I’d suggest that productivity is more a function of the worker and how they are motivated than which tools they choose to use, but certainly companies large and small should always look for the best ways to digitally enable their workforce, empowering them to work effectively … anytime and everywhere.

Social Networking as a “Hive Mind”

Via this Forbes article we hear from Joshua Michel-Ross at Oreilly Media that the internet is transforming social activity into what he calls “The Rise of the Social Nervous System”.     It’s a provocative concept that is appearing more and more in the technical and sociological literature.   Although clearly part of the comparison of the collective mental activity to a “hive mind” stems from Science Fiction such as the Borg in Star Trek, it’s also true that human social relationships are of profound importance to the species.   Online social networking has clearly reached a high enough level of use and social interactivity that “virtual socializing” is poised to eclipse “real socializing” in terms of how many hours we spend with each in a day.   Although I’m sure on average we still spend more “real time” than “virtual time” with friends and family, I’d predict this will change within a decade or so, in part as passive TV viewing habits shift  to more interactive online social activities.

As I noted over at my personal blog, Twitter is very important as its simple intervace and explosive growth bring millions of mainstream users into the social media maelstrom.    It’s certainly not clear when all this socializing is going to take humanity, but I’d argue it’s already clear that human relationships are undergoing one of the most significant transformations since the rise of the types of social interactions that came about as cities began to replace rural living, and associating with others of like interests became more important than associating with your neighbors.    On balance these changes are not necessarily good, but I think they are inevitable as people tend to flock most easily to those of like mind who share the same general sensibilities about the world.   Ironically the very technologies that are theoretically connecting us to billions of others may also serve in part to advance our tendency to practice “group think” and only associate with the niches that suit us.   On the optimistic side we may find that the global  social network and ubiquitous interactivity will – for the first time in history – present us with opportunities to collectively solve problems we could not possible solve alone.    As with most technologies it’s up to us how we choose to use the power, so let’s use it wisely.

New CEO Bartz on Yahoo “Look for this company’s brand to kick ass again.”

Only in Silicon Valley could a CEO get away talking about their brand “kicking ass”, but Yahoo’s in Silicon Valley and Carol Bartz is their new tough talking CEO, who today wrote in Yahoo’s official blog “Yahoo Anecdotal” that Yahoo is “Getting our house in order“.  Among other thing Bartz says she is :

….rolling out a new management structure that I believe will make Yahoo! a lot faster on its feet. For us working at Yahoo!, it means everything gets simpler. We’ll be able to make speedier decisions, the notorious silos are gone, and we have a renewed focus on the customer. For you using Yahoo! every day, it will better enable us to deliver products that make you say, “Wow.”

When former Yahoo CEO and co-founder Jerry Yang (Yahoo was co-founded with David Filo) left the company a few months ago Carol Bartz stepped in aggressively, presumably tasked by Yahoo’s board to either turn the company around or prepare for a sale of Yahoo Search, or perhaps even the entire company, to Microsoft.

Given that turning Yahoo around is considered by most to be extremely challenging and long term,  I think we should assume Bartz is working the Microsoft sales angle even though much of the tough talk is more along today’s lines of restoring the second most recognizable internet brand to at least a shadow of Yahoo’s former glory.     Note though that even assuming a sale to MIcrosoft is in the goal, it’s probably in Yahoo shareholder’s best interests for Bartz to talk and work towards shoring up the brand, hoping to encourage Microsoft to offer more of a premium over the current share price than they might if they knew a deal was inevitable.

We can get some insight into what Carl Icahn – one of Yahoo’s largest shareholders and board members –  is looking for in this deal thanks to this excellent report on his stock holdings and pricing.   With an average share price is in the neighborhood of $20-25,  I would argue that Icahn wants Microsoft to come in somewhere north of that for him to agree to a sale.     Microsoft offered $31 officially last year before the stock meltdown and most fell they would have paid about $34, but clearly that deal is long off the table. However given Microsoft’s lackluster online performance and the chance for a crack at Google’s dominance, look for Microsoft to make an offer soon.  Look for Yahoo to probably take it.

DISCLOSURE:   Technology Reporter Joe Hunkins is long on YHOO