Biodiversity, Thomas Hardy, Instagram, More: Wednesday Afternoon Buzz, May 13th, 2015


ProQuest is going to create a digital archive of Harper’s Bazaar.

A new tool lets you create photo timelines that vanish in a day. “To capture and share a photo, you swipe up on the camera viewfinder – in fact, Rewind has filed a patent on this particular, unique interaction. You can only post photos you take within the app, too, so you won’t be tempted to edit photos from your Camera Roll prior to sharing.” I love the idea of using this for a business for unique events or happenings, like Record Store Day.

Want to know more about the natural world around you? Check out this new app, Map of Life. “Instead of sifting through hundreds of pages in a printed field guide, naturalists get a digital guide that is already tailored to their location. With a novel modeling and mapping platform covering tens of thousands of species — everything from mammals and birds to plants, amphibians, reptiles, arthropod groups, and fish — Map of Life presents localized species information via maps, photographs, and detailed information. The National Science Foundation and NASA provided initial support for the Map of Life. Google and Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung also have supported the project.”

A new online exhibit looks at fashion in the writings of Thomas Hardy. “The ‘Thomas Hardy and Clothing’ project will highlight the importance of fashion in Hardy’s writing by providing references to clothing in his fiction, poetry, letters and biographies. It will also provide a greater understanding of the historical, social and political context in which Hardy wrote and lived.”


IFTTT has a new channel for the iOS Reading List.

Google has launched its first Apple Watch app.


Yahoo is suing an ex-staffer, claiming she shared secrets with a writer.
“Yahoo claims that Cecile Lal, a former senior director of product management, broke a confidentiality agreement when she leaked proprietary information to the journalist that she learned during ‘FYI’ meetings with Mayer, according to a complaint filed in state court in San Jose, California.”

Instagram and Getty are teaming up for a photography grant program. “The first Getty Images Instagram Grant is designed to support photographers using Instagram to showcase ‘underrepresented communities’ worldwide. Images can be captured on any type of camera, and are not restricted to mobile devices.”

From The Harvard Gazette: saving the digital record. “Now, collections might come in with digital material that is already on the brink of decline. Digital degradation doesn’t follow a steady curve like books. Items can be fine for decades, and then quickly decline from perfectly accessible to completely useless. For some formats, experts don’t know what that plateau and drop-off might be, and it can even vary among individual items kept in the same condition. The situation poses problems for preservation, access, and collection development.”

A Google employee has an article on Medium about Google’s self-driving car program and how goony some people drive. “If you spend enough time on the road, accidents will happen whether you’re in a car or a self-driving car. Over the 6 years since we started the project, we’ve been involved in 11 minor accidents (light damage, no injuries) during those 1.7 million miles of autonomous and manual driving with our safety drivers behind the wheel, and not once was the self-driving car the cause of the accident.” Good afternoon, Internet…

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How Yahoo Stabbed Itself In the Heart in 2001

John Gruber at Daring Fireball has a few ideas why Yahoo has gone into decline. “I would argue that Yahoo lost its way early. Yahoo was an amazing, awesome resource when it first appeared, as a directory to cool websites. Arguably, the directory to cool websites. It was hard to find the good stuff on the early web, and Yahoo created a map. Their whole reason for being was to serve as a starting point that sent you elsewhere. Then came portals. The portal strategy was the opposite of the directory strategy — it was about keeping people on Yahoo’s site, instead of sending them elsewhere. It was lucrative for a while, but ran its course. And it turned out that the web quickly became too large, far too large, for a human-curated directory to map more than a fraction of it. The only way to index the web was algorithmically, as a search engine. And one search engine stood head and shoulders above all others: Google.”

I agree with this up to a point. I do agree that the idea of portals distracted and kind of knocked everything off-kilter for a while. Excite got a lot of attention, but there are only so many ways that you can display sports scores and weather, and unfortunately many of them involved pushy, annoying ads. Yahoo did get caught up in this madness for a while and it certainly didn’t help.

What I think really cooked Yahoo’s goose, though, is the fact that their directory became very money-oriented. In 2001, as near as I can remember, Yahoo started requiring payments for expedited consideration. Check out the Yahoo Directory Submit terms of service. “Yahoo Directory Submit is a fee-based service that allows you to pay for expedited consideration of your web site for possible inclusion in Yahoo’s directory of web sites (the “Directory”). Inclusion in the Directory is not guaranteed. Subject to the terms below, and in Yahoo’s sole discretion, if your web site is accepted for inclusion in the Directory through Yahoo on or after December 28, 2001, then your web site’s continued inclusion in the Directory will be subject to an additional review each year and to the applicable, then-current NON-REFUNDABLE recurring annual fee (“Recurring Annual Fee”). A little further down in the terms of service the fee is denoted as $299 a year for non-adult sites, $600 a year for adult sites.

So you spend $299 to get the site considered, but a listing was not guaranteed. And even if it was accepted, you a) had to pay annually and b) had no guarantee of what your listing would look like at Yahoo: “Yahoo also reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to remove your site from the Directory, move the listing to a different category or subcategory, and change or remove any keywords, comments, or annotations at any time, for any reason, including but not limited to, a change in the nature, business, goods, or services or content available on the site.”


This blatant and in my opinion over-aggressive attempt to monetize the Yahoo Directory is what started its demise, because $299 (annually!) is a huge demand for a promise of basically nothing. Small, struggling startups are not going to pony up $300 in this case. People finding cool stuff (or making cool stuff) aren’t going to bother dropping their URLs in the black hole of Yahoo’s non-paid, non-expedited directory submissions.

Admittedly Yahoo did not just jump in with something this drastic. The effort to commercialize the Yahoo Directory started on a much smaller and more palatable scale in 2001. But by the end of the year, the money grab had gotten a lot more egregious. With this shift to paid listings and a focus on monetizing above everything else, Yahoo killed and ate its own soul. For the last seven or eight years the directory was just a carcass.

But the idea that there’s no place on the Web for a good directory? If the Web is just getting larger and larger and larger, isn’t that more of an argument for a good map? Google had the Google Directory (which drew mostly off DMoz, but that’s a whole other story) from 2000 to 2011. Zeef is raising money for a crowdsourced link directory. There’s got to be a way to either use the power of a busy social network to organically grow a link directory (could I trade a minute or two of categorizing the links I post on Facebook for the promise of further reach to my friends? Oh I think I could) or to use a busy, vibrant, not-necessarily-social-network community to crowdsource links into the proper categories (Reddit, Metafilter, etc. This might also be possible for something like LinkedIn if one wanted to develop a link directory.)

The last two really big directories on the Web were Yahoo and DMoz. Yahoo failed because it made an unwise attempt to monetize and imploded. DMoz had its own issues which would require an entire article. I have yet to see a thorough attempt, in the age of both crowdsourcing and social networks, to harness the interactivity that goes on in real-time now and turn that into an organically-growing directory of links and information. I do believe it would be useful, I do believe it could be viable commercially – and I do believe we’re still waiting for it.

Yahoo, Twitter Bots, NASA, More: Morning Buzz, August 16th, 2014

Catching up… Yahoo has a new Finance app.

A small selection of the University of Vermont’s College of Medicine yearbooks are now available online. The yearbooks are from 1952-1967.

When does Amit Agarwal do an article that isn’t handy and useful? How to transfer files between mobile phones and computers.

You know that handle Google Package Tracking tool? You can opt-out if you like.

Sometimes you say “bots on Twitter” and people will reflexively think they’re bad, pointless, etc. But check out this collection of river gauges on Twitter which tweet their levels twice a day but can increase communications in times of flood or emergency. “Users can visit the website to search by geographical location, river name, catchment area or status (normal level, below average or risk of flooding) and are also able to follow on Twitter any gauges that will be of interest to them. The website map features all of the Environment Agency river level and tidal gauges, and a unique Twitter account has been created for each of them. Twice per day, each gauge tweets its current status. For example, Teddington Lock now has its own Twitter account:”

Related: Are 8.5% of Twitter’s active users bots?

The US Department of Energy is making its researchers’ papers free. “The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today unveiled its answer to a White House mandate to make the research papers it funds free for anyone to read: a Web portal that will link to full-text papers a year after they’re published. Once researchers are up to speed and submitting their manuscripts, that will mean 20,000 to 30,000 new free papers a year on energy research, physics, and other scientific topics.”

And in the same vein, NASA is giving away free ebooks.

Congratulations to Search Engine Land, which has a new look! Good morning, Internet…

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Yahoo, Space War!, Font Town, More: Tuesday Morning Buzz, April 29, 2014

Sunday it was a zero-day Internet Explorer vulnerability, today it’s a zero-day Flash vulnerability. It has already been patched, so be sure to run your updates.

Alicia Peaker has a brief blog post on building digital exhibits in the classroom wih open source tool Omeka and a few various plugins. She also links to several examples.

Noupe takes a look at font site Font Town. “In the game since 2009, Font Town has recently created ripples . This is mainly due to the service enhancements implemented as well as the rapid growth to over 30,000 fonts and the redesign of their UI. All the fonts hosted are free downloads and the user experience can well be called intuitive, while the actual use of the fonts is not always that straightforward. We have taken a closer look at Font Town and checked whether this is the new world capitol of free fonts.”

Fortune has a quick roundup of 8 of Google’s biggest flops. I’d forgotten about Google Lively!

Yahoo has launched Yahoo Travel. “… an immersive digital magazine that makes those daydreams to getaways near and far a reality, with all the inspiration and information you need right at your fingertips.”

Meh. I’m much more interested in Yahoo’s announcement of Yahoo Live. “Beginning this summer, Yahoo and Live Nation will begin producing the largest collection of U.S. concert live streams on the web: one live concert, every day, 365 days a year.” There will also be additional music content and sports content as well. An intelligent and oblique way to attack Google’s YouTube dominance.

Parks Canada is considering a giant database for its cultural resources. “If the plan proceeds, members of the public would likely have online access for the first time to Parks Canada information about its 700,000 historical objects and reproductions, and 30 million archeological artifacts.”

From Forbes, an article on three Web sites which can show you if you’ve been hacked.

Did you know Wolfram|Alpha has cost of living information? A blog post shows how to use it.

Wow! For the true game geeks: Internet Archive now has Space War! Space War! is… “a 1962 collaboration of multiple students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Playing off the cathode-ray tube of a Digital Equipment PDP-1 (of which less than 60 were sold), this two-player space-battle game has been lauded as a major advancement in computer gaming for over 50 years.”

MyHeritage now has over 5 billion historical records.

Over at Search Engine Land, Will Scott asks: Does Google’s Review Count Inflation Give Them An Unfair Advantage In Local Search? “Next time you’re on a Google+ Local page, check for yourself: does the quantity of reviews boasted match the actual number of reviews? Anecdotally speaking, this seems rare.”

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Yahoo, AOL, More: Skinny Tuesday Buzz, April 22, 2014

Another good one from Social Media Examiner: How to use Twitter hashtags as a prospecting tool.

Yahoo continues to slip on its search share. “It would appear that Yahoo is continuing its long, slow, market-share decline and about to slip into single-digits for the first time. In absolute numbers, however, Yahoo search query volumes were up. So were Yahoo’s rivals.”

Zooniverse has a new crowdsourcing project: Condor Watch. “We need you to look at some photos of condors taken by our motion-activated cameras. By identifying the tag number of each condor and their behavior around the feeding carcass, we can judge if the bird’s eating or social problems can reveal lead poisoning.”

Looks like Pinterest has a big product announcement scheduled for next week.

Nice: 9 Free Books for Learning Data Mining and Data Analysis.

The things I miss working my day job: apparently there was/is an AOL e-mail spoof/hack thing going on. Interesting notes in the comments.

Just in case you need them: How to find stock photos that don’t suck. Good evening, Internet…

I love your comments, I love your site suggestions, and I love you. Feel free to comment on the blog, or @ResearchBuzz on Twitter. Thanks!