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Comment: Re:It's a plane, not a very good car. (Score 1) 56

It's a nice dream, but likely very unfeasible. The reason is that any malfunction or accident means both likely death for the occupants, and likely serious damage for people on the ground. I don't think it's likely the skies can handle hundreds of such vehicles at any given time.

Comment: Google's unbounded power (Score 1) 251

by RalphSlate (#45055055) Attached to: Google Cracks Down On Mugshot Blackmail Sites

Doesn't anyone find it troublesome that a private company (Google) is the one deciding whether this should be permissible? A private company, not democratically elected representatives, is deciding if this speech is protected or not? And that private company has the power to make or break the companies doing this?

Don't get me wrong - I don't think that posting booking photos should be legal, and I think that our representatives need to work on the issue of digital memories, where a stupid mistake made a long time ago can affect you for the rest of your life due to the availability of digital records. However what if Google quietly decides that it won't return valid results for people searching for certain computer algorithms which might let people compete with them? Or refuses to return results for certain colleges that it decides aren't good enough? Or decides to exclude certain authors from its index because generally speaking, people don't like them?

No company - unaccountable to the public - should have such power. Sure, you may like what they're doing with their power now, but they are already showing signs of turning their power away from what is good and onto what makes them the most money. Watch out.

Comment: Re:Corollaries (Score 1) 1255

by RalphSlate (#44736441) Attached to: Why One Woman Says Sending Your Kid To Private School Is Evil

I would argue that when both the rich and the poor alike used public schools, they were better.

I would argue that in places where more people use public transportation (look to Boston, New York, San Francisco, Europe), it is better.

I would argue that Social Security is a pretty successful and popular program.

Comment: Re:If I... (Score 1) 1255

by RalphSlate (#44736417) Attached to: Why One Woman Says Sending Your Kid To Private School Is Evil

You're missing the primary difference between democracy and capitalism. If you're unhappy with the public schools, you have a vote, and can cast it for change. If just over 50% of the people agree with you, change will happen.

In capitalism, you have dollars, and you can cast them for change. If 99% of the people want change, but just over 50% of the dollars don't, then change will not happen.

Democracy = 1 person, 1 vote.
Capitalism = 1 dollar, 1 vote.

The founders of this country did not set up a capitalistic government. They set up a democratic government. They recognized that capitalism cannot function as a system of government, that democracy was the way to do things.

Comment: Re:If I... (Score 1, Informative) 1255

by RalphSlate (#44736395) Attached to: Why One Woman Says Sending Your Kid To Private School Is Evil

You're posting misleading information about Social Security. Although general life expectancy was lower than 65 years old in 1930, those averages took infant mortality into account. 54% of men and 61% of women who survived to age 21 would survive to age 65 by 1940. Of that group, the average life expectancy was 13 years for men and 15 years for women.

You seem to think that if we didn't have Social Security, that people would plan for their retirement. But we've tried that experiment - before Social Security, people did not plan for their retirement. They worked until they died, or they were cared for by their children, usually daughters (who did not work).

Comment: Re:Surcharge (Score 1) 338

by RalphSlate (#43817083) Attached to: AT&T Quietly Adds Charges To All Contract Cell Plans

Here's the rub - even if it is a breach of contract, you can't organize a class-action suit because the Supreme Court ruled that it was legal for AT&T to put a clause in the contract that prohibits class-action suits. You have to sue AT&T individually for the 61 cents per month. Good luck with that!

Comment: Re:Look more closely at Google (Score 1) 303

by RalphSlate (#41677455) Attached to: Congressman Warns FTC: Leave Google Alone

No, my complaint is that:

1) Google should not base their search results on factors that affect the competitiveness or viability of other websites (i.e penalize sites that sell advertising, sell text links, or use/promote Google competitors).

2) Google should be more transparent about how it determines the worthiness/ranking of a website, especially when they are imposing penalties on sites. If Google is judging you unworthy, you should be able to get a rough idea why directly from Google so that you can improve.

3) Google should not take the position of "it's our really complicated algorithm's fault - there's nothing we can do about it". When their algorithm can make a company live or die, there should be a human review and an override feature. Algorithms are not infallible.

4) Google should not use their search results to force sites to structure their content in a way that furthers a goal of Google (or a partner site) cannibalizing those sites in the future.

I don't want Google shut down, but that was to happen, the demand for search would still be there. It would just be spread across several smaller companies, thus making the chance of one dominant player using their might to unduly shape the playing field that much harder.

Comment: Re:Look more closely at Google (Score 1) 303

by RalphSlate (#41677265) Attached to: Congressman Warns FTC: Leave Google Alone

Nethemas, I suggest that you look into Google's recent foray into algorithms which involve penalties. Check out what is called the "-950 penalty", where a page will get dumped down to the 950th search result. I was hit by a penalty from April 24 until October 10. My site is very long-tail, catering to niche topics, many of which are only written about on my site. Yet when I searched for several of such topics from April until October, a lot of junk came up on the first couple of pages, a lot of spam results, empty pages that scraped my web site to build their content, and then finally my site - a direct match to the search - might show up on the 5th or 6th page - or maybe it wouldn't show up at all.

I realize that Google has to make value judgments when returning web sites in crowded niches. There are just 10 spots per page, and when there are 10,000 sites, yes, they have to be ranked somehow. But what purpose does Google have in making sites vanish from the results when there are no others to take their place? The only goal there is punishment, to try and deter people from certain behavior - behavior which they won't even completely describe. That's called authoritarianism.

Comment: Re:Look more closely at Google (Score 1) 303

by RalphSlate (#41676575) Attached to: Congressman Warns FTC: Leave Google Alone

I'm not asking for preferential treatment. I'm asking that when someone searches for "blue widgets", and if I have the only site that features blue widgets, Google shouldn't return zero relevant results because their algorithm has decided to penalize me, perhaps intentionally because I don't meet their ideals, or perhaps just because of a flaw in the algorithm.

And are you really going to try and argue that Google didn't build it's business on the backs of millions of web sites? That Google "built that" all by itself, and that it would have the same succes without those websites? Who is this? Mitt Romney?

Comment: Re:Look more closely at Google (Score 1) 303

by RalphSlate (#41676205) Attached to: Congressman Warns FTC: Leave Google Alone

Why should your philosophy of advertising impact everyone? Google is acting like the king, imposing its rules in the Internet. Would you rather not have the information you're searching for in trade for fewer or no ads? By blocking sites from the results, should Google be free to effectively tell you that the answer doesn't exist simply instead of showing you a site with a few more ads on it? What if the information you're looking for can't be produced for less than 4 ads per page, but Google won't show a site with more than three? You're comfortable letting Google make those decisions for you, punishing sites that don't conform to its vision of things, acting as the Gatekeeper based on their own maximization of profit? Why not make it democratic, so that the people searching can decide how much weight to give to the different factors? Google is currrently top-down Authoritarianism..

I realize that Slashdotters have a Libertarian bent; Google unchecked is the culmination of that, a billion dollar corporation that sets the rules, setting them in favor of making more billions.

Comment: Re:Look more closely at Google (Score 1) 303

by RalphSlate (#41676103) Attached to: Congressman Warns FTC: Leave Google Alone

This is like the Godwin argument for Google, the final argument for any bad behavior on Google's part is "they're sending you traffic for free so you aren't allowed to complain about them". Sorry, I don't buy it because While Google may not owe their success to a single website, they owe it to the collection of all websites. Google wouldn't exist without sites that people search for. They represent themselves as an unbiased arbiter that just returns search results, most people don't know that they're not.

Comment: Re:Look more closely at Google (Score 1) 303

by RalphSlate (#41674571) Attached to: Congressman Warns FTC: Leave Google Alone

Serving their customers does not give them carte blanche to break the law. If I own a restaurant, I can't refuse to hire black people on the premise that some of my customers don't want to eat where blacks are employed. It is anti-trust to force websites to cede their competetive position to be listed in Google, period.

Comment: Re:Look more closely at Google (Score 1) 303

by RalphSlate (#41673423) Attached to: Congressman Warns FTC: Leave Google Alone

If Google is trying to reduce available advertising on websites in order make advertising on Google more attractive - by penalizing websites they label as having "too much advertising" without putting out a clear standard - or if Google is trying to kill off information-based websites so that it can then move into that particular niche - then Google is participating in anti-trust activity.

From what I've been seeing, this is within the realm of possibility. Google is not just search anymore, their tentacles are spreading into many sectors. They just bought Frommer's. Why? How will that affect Yelp? They bought Freebase - which is crowdsourced data-scraping. Why? How will that affect thousands of information-based sites?

Comment: Look more closely at Google (Score 3, Interesting) 303

by RalphSlate (#41671729) Attached to: Congressman Warns FTC: Leave Google Alone

I don't think the people who blindly defend Google have an understanding of what Google is doing with its search results. Let me give you my experience as a site owner.

I run a popular sports website. On April 24 2012, I saw a 30% decrease in traffic. I figured that maybe interest in my sport had cooled off because the season was winding down, or that it was a temporary situation. But the traffic didn't get any better. But then I noticed when searching Google that my site wasn't coming up as often as it used to. In fact, when searching for topics that were only covered on my site, my site wasn't being returned in Google. If I went to Bing, they came up right at the top, but Google searchers were left thinking that no such information existed on the internet.

I learned that on April 24, Google put in an algorithm that penalized websites for "webspam". What is webspam? They identified it very vaguely, but the examples they gave were egregious - people who put thousands of unrelated words on a page, or people who were running massive link exchanges designed to boost other websites' popularity in Google's results. But my site did none of that - yet Google cut it from appearing in the search results by about 70%.

Do you know what recourse I had as a site owner? Zero. Google doesn't have a customer service department. They have an online forum staffed by volunteers who are, quite honestly, arrogant and abusive. Occasionally an actual Google employee drops in, but they won't answer questions because they don't want people to be able to figure out their algorithms.

My story has a happy ending because last week, my penalty was lifted. No explanation, no communication, it was just something I noticed. Many others have not recovered, and there is always the threat of having the penalty applied again. To be clear, this penalty is applied by an algorithm, not by a human. There is no human ability to override it. That's just wrong, and scary too.

Some have speculated that Google's algorithm penalized sites in order to force them to purchase advertising on Google. Imagine that you're making $500 a day from your #1 Google spot. No need to advertise. But if Google demotes you, then maybe you'd spend $250 per day to get back to the #1 spot? It's speculation, but well-reasoned - before I learned that I was demoted by a penalty, I increased my advertising with Google to try and get traffic back. Google's advertising profits went up after they put this penalty in place.

Another reason that Google gives for penalizing sites is if they have "too much advertising". So they want sites to remove advertising. That itself is an antitrust problem - because less advertising on sites means more demand for Google advertising.

Google also penalizes websites that run affiliate programs that Google doesn't find "add much value". Let's say that you have a site that reviews books, and in your review you provide an Amazon link so that if someone buys the book, you get a commission. Google doesn't like that. They want to send the user to Amazon instead. They want to cut out the middleman.

Google may also be (or may soon be) penalizing or rewarding sites that don't mark up their data in a way that Google can interpret with an algorithm. But since Google has expressed an interest in cutting out the middleman - websites - when it comes to returning information, this could be an attempt to force sites to train their own replacement. They're already doing this - they pull data from Wikipedia (which Wikipedia editors have manually scraped from other websites) and display it right on Google's page. No need to leave Google for your information.

By applying penalties, Google has become like a credit bureau. Last I checked, credit bureaus were regulated in the USA because they have the power to do significant damage to people via things like errors and omissions. Credit bureaus have to give you a chance to correct your credit rating, to fix errors, and they have to give you a general idea as to what factors they use to rate you (Google allegedly uses 200 factors, but won't disclose them).

Google is a de facto monopoly. A website can't afford to ignore them. They should be investigated and there should be lines that they cannot cross because crossing them would be anti-competitive.

Take care of the luxuries and the necessities will take care of themselves. -- Lazarus Long

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