Another metafeed of interesting tidbits

Saturday, February 10th, 2007

The number of posts queuing up waiting to be written has exceeded the threshold once again, so it’s time for another metafeed of interesting tidbits.

  • Technorati’s algorithms for ranking blogs seem to be wholly based on the number of incoming links from other blogs. This ends up having a biasing effect. For instance, personal LiveJournal/Xanga-type blogs’ importance will be over-estimated because they typically have incoming links from lots of their friends’ blogs. These blogs only tend to be interesting to personal friends and have less importance than the number of incoming links would suggest. Compare that with other blogs that are oriented at a much-larger audience and receive dozens or hundreds of incoming Google search result hits every day, but because they aren’t intimately personal blogs, they lack the freebie incoming links from friends’ blogs. Technorati’s algorithms are thus only one factor that should be taken into consideration when considering the impact of a blog.
  • Automobiles lack a sufficient number of signaling lights. All we have are left, right, and brake. There should be a light for acceleration (I believe some proposals in the past have suggested a blue light on the front and rear of the car). This would be useful when trying to make a turn onto a road to more quickly be able to gauge if an oncoming driver is actually planning on letting you in or not. Also, when following a car on a highway and coming up from it behind, whether it is accelerating will give you a good idea of whether you should be accelerating. Another useful signaling light would be a double turn-arrow. I’m not sure how it would be implemented, but it would be used to signal an imminent and unexpected turn (almost like the flasing emergency lights). For example, my house at University of Maryland is located along a divided highway, and the driveway is the last turn before an intersection with a road. I always make sure to use my turn signal, but people seem to expect I’m turning at the next road rather than at the driveway, and thus they don’t brake quickly enough. I’ve nearly been rear-ended several times. An extraordinary circumstances turning signal would help alleviate this risk.
  • The future of television is not TiVo, it is true video-on-demand. I have a TiVo-like device at home, and although it really is useful, it is not a revolutionary step above programmable VCRs. It’s very successful because it is easier to use to VCRs, but it really doesn’t add any revolutionary changes above and beyond programmable VCRs. If you don’t program your TiVo in advance to record something, you’re still hosed. Now compare this to true video-on-demand, which I emulate using BitTorrent. I don’t even have to care about television schedules or worry about pre-programming recordings at all. I can just go look at a huge list of episodes and pick and choose which ones I want to download. Mark my words, this is the future of television. I just wish there was an RSS feed equivalent for television shows on BitTorrent. It’d have an interface like iTunes’ podcasts: you just go in, setup some subscriptions, leave it running in the background, and it automatically downloads all of the new episodes of your favorite shows as they hit the net.
  • eBay is being overrun by scammers. Since eBay doesn’t allow auctioneers to filter bidders by feedback, scammers are making thousands of new accounts and using them to totally muck up auctions. For instance, they’ll extort money or product out of you, and if you don’t go along with it, they’ll use their accounts to bid your auctions up to insanely high prices, with no intent of ever paying, and stick you with exorbitant eBay auction fees. The linked article has some horror stories of people running multiple auctions for the same item because they kept getting ruined by scammers. And eBay isn’t doing nearly enough to solve the problem.
  • Could adaptive optics telescopes be improved? The current generation uses an array of servo motors beneath a flexible main objective mirror to adjust the optical properties hundreds of times per second, thus canceling out the atmospheric perturbations as measured by an optical guide laser. But what if a telescope could be made using the same plenoptic technology that has recently been developed for cameras? Could this technology be used successfully to cancel out the atmospheric perturbations without needing the very expensive deformable objective mirror and hundreds of servos? I sure hope someone in the field of observational astronomy is looking into this technique.

That’s all for now.