Monday, April 21, 2008

How Google Has Screwed Up the MySpace Deal

Myspace_2 Lots of smart people are trying to figure out how to monetize socialnetworks. It's no easy feat: Even if millions of people log on toFacebook twice a day, they aren't there to buy sneakers, they're thereto connect with friends.

"I don't think wehave the killer, best way to advertise and monetize the social networksyet," said Google co-founder Sergey Brin, on a conference call inJanuary. "Some of the things we worked on in fourth-quarter didn'treally pan out and there were some disappointments there."

Brinought to know. Google has an agreement with MySpace, which has proven mostly disappointing. Under the deal, Google will serve ads on MySpace through the second quarter 2010. In return for the privilege, it will cumulatively pay the social network $900 million as part of a revenue-share agreement. Here's the problem: If Google doesn't make enough money over MySpace to meet the minimum revenue-share requirements, it has dig deep and make those payments, anyway. And thus far, the deal has shaved roughly 1.5 percent off the company's gross margins, according to estimates from Bernstein Research analyst Jeffrey Lindsay.

So if Google can't make a buck off social networks, who can?

AndyMonfried thinks he can help publishers do it. Monfried, a executive and current CEO and founder of Lotame, sayshe's discovered the secret sauce for monetizing social networks -- andhe says Google's going about it all wrong.

"Youcan't put up contextual ads against user-generated content," Monfriedsays. "It's irrelevant, and advertisers don't want to risk their brandson user-generated content."

Lotame doesn't work with the big social networks (MySpace, Friendsteror Facebook), but it has partnered with 16 smaller social networks, from whichit has aggregated data on 30 million users. Monfried says Lotamedramatically improves targeting for advertisers by doing things such as identifying the "influencers."

Monfriedwas reluctant to disclose too many details on how Lotame's solutionvaries from Google's ad-targeting platform, but says his company isfocused on "verbs and actions." So instead of serving ads based on the text in users' profiles, Lotame focuses onusers' actions and demographic data -- such as when a 28-year-oldwoman in Southern California downloads a video on a social network.

"Googledoes a great job of monetizing intent," says Ray Valdes, an analyst atGartner Research. "It knows what I'm searching for and it can show merelevant ads. But social networks are not about intent."

Valdes argues that its unfair to slam Google's approach-- after all, the company's core business is search, not social media. And to be fair, Google said on yesterday's earnings conference call thatthey're trying new things -- including demographic targeting -- and that they've seen some progress.

Photo: Flickr/Kyle Jones

No One Wants To Be An Entrepreneur

Statistic: 90 percent of new businesses fail after 5 years.
This is not a new statistic. In fact, you've probably heard about this before. Naysayers (which often include everyone from your spouse to the convenience store cashier) have probably cited this to you millions of times.

Psychologically, it is difficult for people to become an entrepreneur because no one really likes risk--especially if they believe that they have high chances of failing. Sigmund Freud called the concept the "pleasure principle," which states that a person always drives to seek pleasure and avoid pain.

This is why most people perceive leaving your job to start your own business as not just inviting failure, but literally standing on its doorstep and banging down the door. The entrepreneur's worst nightmare is waking up and realizing that he's lost everything except the shirt on his back.

It's risky, scary, and you've heard so many horror stories about it. And it's not just that, everyone around you is saying, "No, don't do it."

And yet, some people do it anyway. Some win the first time. Others fail and fail repeatedly until about fifth time when they suddenly understand the magic formula.

A friend of mine thought her husband was crazy when he used up their entire life-savings to buy old antique bottles. He later made a killing on eBay, but for a while, she was worried that she was going to feed her kids some fried glass for dinner.

90% percent of businesses fail? The good news is that it's just probably just an urban legend like those safety signs in gas stations forbidding you to use your phone. No one really knows if it's true, but it's better to be safe than sorry.

The true picture in small businesses is that 50 percent of small business survive in the first five years. That's your half-full glass right there, if you ask me. And what's more startling is that most companies don't fold because they were failing, the close because the owners have lost interest in it already.

However, given the challenging year in store for America, what do you think? In the middle of the entire hullabaloo of the political fever, subprime meltdown, and the current recession, is now the best time to be an entrepreneur?

Or should you still keep your day job? Only you can answer that question.

Heart Ailment Diagnosis Could Be Just a Spit Away

Heart ailments have become a common problem over the recent years, most especially in developed countries. Unfortunately, most people find out they have heart problems when it’s already too late—particularly after they’ve already suffered from a heart attack. But this new development by The University of Texas at Austin could really improve save people in the nick of time. And yes, it only needs saliva.

The technology entails smearing saliva onto a credit-card-sized nano-bio-chip, which is then inserted into an accompanying analyzer. Within just 15 minutes, the results could be seen. The test could pinpoint if someone has a heart ailment and needs to get medical help soon, or even predict if a person has a high risk to have a heart attack.

While this wouldn’t be thought of a mere decade ago, the recent identification of blood serum proteins which are directly related to heart diseases made this possible. Basically, some of these proteins could also be found in human saliva, all the scientists had to do was find a way to take advantage of that. As with any new development in medical science, it’ll take some time before this technology gets out of the clinical stage process. So until then (and even BY then), take good care of your hearts!

Source: University of Texas at Austin

The camera behind Virtual Earth Birds eye view

In the recent months there has been good improvements in Virtual Earth's Birds eye view. One of the reasons this was possible was due to new camera used for these excellent high resolution images - Ultracamx. UltracamX is from a company (Vexcel) Microsoft acquired some time back. It supports very large image format available (216 megapixels: 14,430 pixels across track; 9,420 pixels along track) which means they do fewer flights to capture images. It has something like 13 CCD Arrays, each of them controlled by a dedicated CPU and instance of Windows CE Embedded and a 14th CPU for overall control.

Seating for Squares: The Box Bench ...

Not necessarily inviting unless you like testing your balance, the Box bench nonetheless offers some cutting-edge design and uncomplicated style. Designed by Cread Estudi for the Spanish firm Ferfor, this square-inspired seating might work best in public places where you know the wait time is short and you won't be gingerly balanced atop a thick bar for very long. Who knows? They might actually be comfortable (sure). Perhaps the designer incorporated the desired ergonomic angle for the perfect lean back (looks doubtful, though).

skinny miniskinny mini

Comfort aside, I think the gaping hole where support usually exists might need to be addressed for safety's sake, especially if kids are involved. They might just fall right through! As for the more cushioned booties, the scenario is equally grim. I can see this news of the weird now: "While waiting for their flight, passenger gets stuck in newfangled airport seating, with rear end dangling out one end, limbs flailing wildly through the other. Authorities are summoned with power tools for rescue..."

Regardless of my wild imaginings, this futuristic seating arrangement is definitely slick, but in terms of comfort the proof is in the pudding of testing it out.

Novate via the design blog

Brake-Lights of the Future

When a car's brake lights come on in front of you, especially at night, your mind has to process quite a few things. Are they coming to a complete stop? Are they slowing abruptly or gradually? Will I have enough space? A new design from Virginia Technical Institute takes almost all of the guess work out for you and should hopefully make the roads a little safer.

The new concept has been dubbed "Smart Brake Lights." By using a pressure sensor on the braking system, the computer can determine how hard you are applying the brakes. This information is the transmitted to the control unit for the light bar.

Only Image I Could FindOnly Image I Could Find

When you apply the "expected" amount of pressure on the pedal, the inside portion of the bar will illuminate orange. When a threshold of pressure has been reached, the outside portions of the bar will illuminate bright red. If you are making an emergency stop, the entire bar will flash red in an attempt to get your attention.

Team leader, Professor Mehdi Ahmadian, hopes to find a more cost effective way to produce the system and eventually see them standard on new vehicles. All I can say is, if everything does go through, driving at night will be much more fun.

Source : VirginiaTech

It's a Bird, It's a Plane ... No, It's a Camera!

If you see something that looks like four hula hoops attached together with some sort of weird contraption in the middle hovering in the sky, don't automatically assume that it's a UFO.

Sure, the aliens have probably been slowly infiltrating our unsuspecting planet for many years now, but for a moment, put that thought aside. That device you see buzzing about might just be the Aeryon Scout, a new product from Aeryon Labs of Waterloo that is actually a flying camera.

The Aeryon Scout

The Aeryon Scout

The device consists of four connected foam rings with a roter inside. Attached to its bottom is a camera.

Why would anyone make such a weird thing, you ask? Well, the makers of the Aeryon Scout say the intent is to fly the camera via remote control to take pictures of places where it's too difficult, dangerous or time consuming to go.

The company hopes to sell its invention to police forces, security companies and surveying and engineering firms. No doubt the paparazzi will also be lining up to buy the product so they can snap those hard-to-get photos of Beyonce or Salma Hayek. For the ladies, how about George Clooney or Brad Pitt?

Aeryon was founded by Steffen Lindner, 39, Dave Kroetsch, 28, and Mike Peasgood, 34. "I've always liked engineering and building stuff," Kroetsch, Aeryon's president, told The Record newspaper, based in Ontario. "As rewarding as it was to build chips for DVD players, it's not as fun as building something that flies around."

Source: The Record and Aeryon Labs

Brilliant Idea! A Cell Phone Defibrillator - Innovation for saving lives

Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is responsible for more deaths every year than AIDS, breast cancer, lung cancer and stroke combined. Sudden cardiac arrest means that, without warning, the heart stops beating. If the heart is not defibrillated (therapeutically shocked) within a few minutes, the victim dies. Imagine how difficult it is to reach the victims of SCA in time to save their lives. In fact, 95 percent of victims die as a direct result of SCA.

But suppose we all carried our own personal defibrillators? What if defibrillators became a feature of our cell phones?

Just that brilliant idea is addressed in Benjamin Sacketkhou's international patent application entitled "Wireless Communication Device With Integrated Defibrillator," published in December 2007.

Sudden cardiac arrest is caused by an interruption in the heart's electrical system, causing the heart to stop beating, or pumping blood. If the heart is not "jump started" within a few minutes after SCA, the victim will die. Automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) can be used with minimal training by most adults to restart the victim's heart, and many public buildings and transportation systems have them, but access to them may be too late.

Although many persons, including professional athletes in their seeming "physical primes," have no advance warning before an sudden cardiac arrest, almost half of SCA victims have had episodes of cardiac arrhythmia or heat attacks. Cardiac arrhythmias can be curtailed by defibrillator implants (formerly "pacemakers"), but they are not advised for all cardiac patients.

What Mr. Sacketkhou describes in his patent application is a GPS device, such as a cell phone, with a component part of an automatic external defibrillator, that a user could

1) attach, by electrical pads, to his or her chest to detect any occuring arrhythmia.

2) Such device would automatically check for the necessity of a therapeutic shock,

3) automatically deliver the therapeutic shock to the heart,

4) and automatically notify the nearest emergency professionals as to the victim's whereabouts though the cell phone (GPS system).

If the defibrillator wires are not attached to the victim, a passerby could observe the cell phone, quickly employ the defibrillator, and set the same system into motion.

When you consider that just a few minutes is all you have to revive an SCA victim, a portable personal cell phone/defibrillator is just what the doctor ordered... and fast! Mr. Sacketkhou, please develop this invention!

via Register Hardware. Sources: "Wireless Communication Device With Integrated Defibrillator," Sudden Cardiac Arrest Association, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

Great Invention Idea? A New Twist on Skating and Water-Sking

The advancements of the last thirty years have raised the invention stakes for everyone. What's wrong with that, you ask? Nothing, except that this often results in the less creative among us churning out mediocre or bad ideas when they could be doing something much more productive, like removing shopping carts from the parking lot at a local Wal-Mart! In my opinion, the following two patented inventions illustrate this point exactly.

The kneeling skates, designed by a fellow who loves to skate but was put off by the fact he couldn't wear his skates in restaurants or shops, enables skaters to enjoy their favorite activity and when the time comes simply stand up and walk into any establishment. As for shoes, you can wear any ordinary pair of shoes because the skates come with rubber pads to protect your shoes, which also serve as your brakes. Sounds good to you? Maybe. But I have to wonder why this clever guy didn't just outfit a pair of shoes to resemble those sneakers kids are wearing with the retractable wheels?

Not as Cool as Inline SkatesNot as Cool as Inline Skates

Of course, from a practical perspective I get the United States patent for Propulsion Sticks: these motorized paddles are used for water skiers who don't have access to a ski boat. The trouble is I've actually water-skied and I don't see how these things could ever really work. First of all, they'd have to go really fast to lift a skier out of the water. As a result, they'd have to be pretty heavy or the speed of the sticks would cause them to come out of the water and fly out of the skier's hands. And who wants to go to the beach carrying a couple of anchors anyway?

Looks like Ethel Merman, not Ethel MermaidLooks like Ethel Merman, not Ethel Mermaid

Besides, water-skiing is a social sport. It's something we do in groups. We all pitch in, get a boat and some beers, then laugh and make fun of the person bobbing in the water like a buoy because the person driving the boat has got a sense of humor! If you've got to ski solo it's just not worth it. And it's a little sad too.

Skating, on the other hand, is a solo sport. Although it can be done in pairs or groups, skating with equipment that makes you look like Tiny Tim in Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," practically guarantees the skater a solo status, which I suspect they are already accustomed to.

I admit, both of these ideas aren't bad, they just seem self-serving. What do you think?

Scientists Find Mixing is Key to Turning Manure into Biogas

Researchers have taken another step toward turning animal waste into biogas on a large scale.

Farmers have long called the odor of farm waste "the smell of money" in hopes of converting it into a practical energy supply. Animal waste can produce methane, which can be used directly for energy or converted to either methanol or a mix of hydrogen and carbon monoxide. This synthetic mix can then be converted to clean fuels.

In the new study, led by Muthanna Al-Dahhan of Washington University, researchers have found that the manure must be thoroughly mixed when being treated in large reactors called anaerobic digesters. In anaerobic digesters, bacteria is used to break down organic matter without oxygen. Lack of adequate mixing may be one of the main reasons why more than 75% of the 100 anaerobic digester facilities in the US have failed.

As Al-Dahhan explained, turning waste into energy could have a double benefit of minimizing the amount of toxic methane that enters the atmosphere. Methane is a greenhouse gas considered 22 times worse than carbon dioxide.

"Each year livestock operations produce 1.8 billion tons of cattle manure," Al-Dahhan said. "If it sits in fields, the methane from the manure is released into the atmosphere, or it can cause ground water contamination, dust or ammonia leaching, not to mention bad odors. Treating manure by anaerobic digestion gets rid of the environmental threats and produces bioenergy at the same time. That has been our vision."

The final goal, Al-Dahhan says, is to both scale up and simplify the conversion process in order to develop a system that farmers can use on-site for bioenergy production and farm waste management.