Wednesday, February 28, 2007

what does Google know about me

A friend recently had her Google account access blocked for a day and a half. And watching her have withdrawal symptoms made me realize how heavily dependant I am too on Google for everything web.

Most of the internet services that I use regularly require a Google sign-on. Other services are used but definitely not at a multiple-times-a-day frequency.

Here’s an estimate of what Google might know about me.

Let’s start with people first – email, chat and a social network. This pretty much covers almost all the online interaction I have with people. Where the people are, strength of connections, context of each connection isn’t very hard to figure out. What Google knows about my friends, it can try and infer about me.

The internet is like a broad tree with depth of one and the root is Google Search. All content is accessed directly through the root. Search history coupled with me being signed in to some Google service or the other most of the time can easily provide a macro as well as micro view of what I’m doing and where my interests lie.

Next, Google Analytics. Used on various websites, it tracks clicks and other information (browser, country/city, ISP etc) about the user for that website. This data is private to the website owner but Google has the data for all the websites that use Google Analytics. And I’m mostly signed in to some Google service. So it becomes even easier for Google to narrow down my interests.

I use the internet a lot - most of my activities have an online element. I would have checked out movies on IMDB (one service I use very often that is not Google!) before renting them or hunted around for reviews of a tennis racquet I wanted to buy.
All this data and some smart deductive reasoning ought to make it very easy to predict what I’m going to do next.

As I think about it, what would I do with so much information?
Set up the world's biggest marketplace. Where anyone can sell anything. And anyone can buy anything. That's the best place to leverage the data.

And I think that is exactly where Google is headed with its advertising platform.

Friday, February 23, 2007

thousand pictures and a word

Embracing Constraints

I have come across similar artwork earlier. And I have found it impressive but not particularly striking. But I came across the above in the context of a post titled Embracing Constraints. Made all the difference in how I saw this particular picture.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

on learning

It's an oft used word these days. Learning. It is a virtue, an entire career, a course in schools at all levels, heck, it's a bloody one-liner! However you feel about your work (and the pay), if you can say you're learning, everything else becomes secondary.

I used to feel the same way once. But now I disagree.

I'm beginning to think learning ought to come in small parts. It's difficult to continue learning at a stretch for more than six months. One learns. Then one must be able to apply that in a visible manner - see the results of learning coupled with hard work. And appreciate what would not have been without it. This is the test. After the test is the period of rewards. It must be both at a personal and an inter-personal level. Without this cycle, learning ceases to be have much value. Without any one of stage of the cycle, the next stage cannot arrive - at least not without making its self and the cycle immaterial.

I think the lack of this is what makes the education system largely unsuccessful. Exams and grades are but a feeble excuse of real tests or results or rewards. These have been put in place for the self-satisfaction of those who run the system. Sadly, it causes the value of knowledge to cease until we become immune to what we are taught as well as what we can learn.

Coming back to the cycles mentioned above, we are in multiple such cycles simultaneously. Each one is of different lengths. What I like about the longer ones is that they are the most abstract and that you never know what you have been learning until the learning stage is over and then it suddenly strikes you.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

first post

The obligatory first post.
I'm coming over from

Stick around, there's more in the offing.