Search is about to Change

Searching the Internet has historically been a bit of an awkward experience, where you have to guess the best combination of keywords to find what you’re looking for and it usually takes some time to get it right. Over the past few years, search using Google and Bing has tried to become smarter by trying to interpret the meaning behind your search phrases. For example, typing in ‘Capital of  United States’ tells you the answer, a map, some basic information about Washington DC, as well as some points of interests, and then it lists relevant links. While this is a useful step forward, it still fails to understand the meaning of our searches and the relationships that we have that influence our search preferences. Facebook Graph Search is attempting to change that.

 

Facebook is by far the largest site as far as usage in the world, having north of 1 billion users, most of which are very active. Facebook allows us to express our thoughts, share content with our friends, and define ourselves to our network of friends. This creates an exciting possibility for Facebook to analyze what we share about ourselves and with each other to then provide search results that are truly relevant to us. Questions such as  ‘Restaurants my friends have been to in London,’ ‘Photos of my friends in New York,’ and ‘Cities my family has visited’ all are questions that this new Graph Search has the ability to answer. The possibilities for this are endless.

 

So what’s the downside to this new type of search from Facebook? Well, there are some serious privacy implications. The whole idea behind Graph Search runs on the notion that people are willing to share a large amount of information with their friends, and the public as a whole. Privacy and Facebook has a tumultuous history, and this new Graph Search looks to further strain the privacy relationship with users as Facebook seems to expect that everyone will allow a large amount of their information to be searchable. However, we haven’t actually seen Graph Search or been able to test it so we don’t really know what it’s going to be like. From the videos that Facebook has released for the service, it has great potential to connect our desire to search for places and things with the relationships we all have in our social networks. It remains to be seen if it works out, but given the user Facebook has, this has the opportunity to be the largest advancement search has experienced in the last decade. To check out Facebook Graph Search, go to facebook.com/about/graphsearch

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Facebook Graph Search Might be Search Finally Done Right

I think the new Facebook Search project/feature announced yesterday, “Graph Search,” might be Google’s worst nightmare. Facebook has increasingly been the place where millions (perhaps over a billion) people share content back and forth. Additionally, the information we all provide Facebook creates an exciting opportunity to analyze relationships between people, their geography, and their interests. It’s the personalized relationship data that Google dreams of touching but is walled off from.

Although it might be a little creepy and will force many to reconsider their privacy settings, the possibilities from analyzing the relationships between people and being able to understand our friends interests or recommendations is truly powerful stuff and I can’t wait to see where it takes us. Check out Facebook Graph Search here: https://www.facebook.com/about/graphsearch

Jefferson and the Progressive Tax

“The property of this country is absolutely concentred in a very few hands, having revenues of from half a million of guineas a year downwards… I am conscious that an equal division of property is impracticable. But the consequences of this enormous inequality producing so much misery to the bulk of mankind, legislators cannot invent too many devices for subdividing property, only taking care to let their subdivisions go hand in hand with the natural affections of the human mind. Another means of silently lessening the inequality of property is to exempt all from taxation below a certain point, and to tax the higher portions of property in geometrical progression as they rise. Whenever there is in any country, uncultivated lands and unemployed poor, it is clear that the laws of property have been so far extended as to violate natural right. The earth is given as a common stock for man to labor and live on.”

– Thomas Jefferson in a letter to James Madison

http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/index.asp?document=967

Even though this was written in 1785, this is especially relevant especially given the attempts by Bobby Jindal of Louisiana to reduce corporate and personal income taxes to 0% and implement a larger sales tax instead. Just think about the advantages for higher income earners and disadvantages for lower income earners … a Warren Buffet or Bill Gates most likely wouldn’t be able to consume an equivalent percentage of income to that of a lower income earner, thus the regressive tax. Additionally, much of our technology advancements, infrastructure  and research are publicly subsidized. Given that many of our wealthy such as Bill Gates gained most from utilizing these publicly subsidized technology, it should be that they are taxed a higher proportion that someone who hasn’t – and the same for corporations as well. These companies have gained from these publicly subsidized technologies, thus they should be paying their share into the system to create new technologies that can create new jobs for everyone. Jefferson knew this in 1785, it’s time we get back to this principal as a country and stop the war against government.

Todd Rokita Voted Against Hurricane Sandy Relief?

I was truly embarassed today to learn thay my representative in the House, Todd Rokita, was one of 67 House members, all Republican, to vote against, the $9.7b aid package to help with the recovery efforts after Hurricane Sandy. I find it unconscionable and reprehensible that someone could vote against disaster relief, but unfortunately it has become somewhat of a common theme with this brand of ‘fiscal conservative’ Republicans.

Im sure Representative Rokita will give the usual fiscal conservative/ Tea Party mantra of ‘we need to offset new spending with cuts..’ While we can debate the implications of taking that hardline no-compromise position when considering and discussing new legislation, the fact that this was used to deny US citizens in New York and New Jersey recovery funds is absurd to say the least. People are without power, infastructure, and some necessities and
are truly struggling, yet we are still playing politics. For the record, the relief bill was passed unanimously in the Senate.

I can’t wait until 2020 when I’ll be eligible to run for office because I can’t stand this no compromise hardline ideological stance, and I can’t imagine many of those Representatives constituents can either.

Entrepreneurship Out of Control

I recently came across an article by Dan Lyons titled “Let’s All Shed Tears for the Crappy Startups that Can’t Raise Any More Money” and I found his argument really compelling. In it, he rips into the startup culture and specifically how entrepreneurship has divulged from building world changing  for the better solutions to todays problems, and towards simple gimmick products that are trying to get flipped for a quick buck. More critically, Lyons makes a great point about education and what this euphoria about entrepreneurship has done to the talent pool for research & development for real world problems;

 

“In my dreams I imagine them leaving the Valley and going off to accomplish something meaningful. Using those brains to do medical research, develop new drugs or eradicate poverty. I imagine them teaching in public schools, providing health care to poor kids. Joining Tesla or SpaceX. Pushing AI a few steps forward. Solving big problems, the kind that can’t get solved in three days on a StartupBus.”

 

For those who don’t know, StartUp bus is a 72 hour bus trip that challenges a group of strangers to conceive, build, and launch a startup en route to SXSW. In my opinion, this mentality is exactly what’s wrong with entrepreneurship / startups today. It’s the idea that being a part of a startup is a quick, easy, and fun experience with a pot of gold at the end. While being a part of a startup is a lot of fun, it isn’t for everyone. The hours are long, it can be turbulent, and the reward isn’t always in sight. The true handwork and commitment of real entrepreneurs has been somewhat undermined by these gimmicks, and it’s causing a brain drain of smart and talented individuals from science and engineering fields leaving what I fear could be a sizable research and development gap during these years of startup craze. I highly recommend reading Mr. Lyons article and thinking about the implications of the current startup culture and perhaps consider doing your / our part to curb this startup euphoria and turn the focus back to studying science and engineering as well as undertaking real research and development to create real solutions to real problems.

Here is a link to the article: http://readwrite.com/2012/12/03/lets-all-shed-tears-for-the-crappy-startups-that-cant-raise-any-more-money

Change We Can Believe In

After having some time to digest the so called ‘solution’ reached by Congress regarding the fiscal cliff impasse, it’s really disappointing to see how much bipartisanship has broken down in Congress, and now the Executive Branch. It goes without saying that the friction between the Republican party establishment and the Tea Party Republicans created a huge problem not only for Obama but also House Speaker Boehner, but what transpired is just absurd. Just hours before the deal was to be done, President Obama came out in a Pelosi-like finger pointing / grave dancing campaign stop complete with middle class working props, and almost derailed the deal that the people needed to avoid these sudden austerity measures.

While what has happened to the Republican Party is upsetting as far as this rebellious corp of Tea Partiers who seek obstruction and a “My Way or No Way” mentality, the entire culture in Washington is depressing at the moment. Both Parties and many levels of government seem more interested in assigning blame before even getting a deal done in the first place. I wrote a post earlier about the need to elect doers instead of idealists. Well as this Congress has shown us, perhaps we should add maturity to our consideration of our candidates and reward those who exhibit maturity and leadership instead and punish those who don’t (And many Congressional members haven’t), instead of not being involved in these Congressional elections / straight ticket voting down the line on either side. We give Congress a deservingly poor approval rating, yet the re-election rate of Congress is north of 90%. It’s time for change, and it starts with a more involved electorate.