Archive for April, 2009

Google Charts API

Saturday, April 25th, 2009

I’ve been looking at the Google Chart API recently, its an interesting service, and as far as I can tell, Google really gets nothing at all out of it.  I guess the good-will associated with this kind of service is priceless.  There’s even a PHP object wrapper for the Google Chart API. I guess its too much to ask to get embeddable charts like the ones they use for Google Analytics and Google Finance.

Here’s an example with one of the former slogans for the phdUS Perspectives blog – “Good, Cheap, Fast – pick any two”:

Maybe I’ll use this API to generate some charts for the Facebook Compulsion Inventory quiz results.

Facebook Compulsion Inventory Quiz

Saturday, April 25th, 2009

facebook-logoI read about a “quiz” by a psychology professional named Paula Pile in this CNN Health article.  Her Facebook Compulsion Inventory is basically a PDF list of questions that folks circle the answers to and add them up to get a score.  Then her prognosis is based on a range of scores.  I had some code for this sort of thing just hanging around in my code drawer, so I decided to put it to good use.  I take no credit for the content of the quiz, its Copyright Paula Pile 2009.  Lets see if I get a statistically interesting sample and break it down by age and gender. Name and Email are optional, I’ll use them to contact folks that leave them if and when a statistically interesting sample is actually analyzed.

Take the Facebook Compulsion Inventory quiz.

Once I’ve got a bunch of results, I’ll post some charts and such.

Tweets on 2009-04-24

Friday, April 24th, 2009
  • Astepro allergy spray tv ad donts: Alcohol, Sedatives, Driving and Operating Machinery – might as well stay at home and avoid pollen ;) #
  • Oh, and “if you’re allergic to Astepro, don’t use it”, didn’t they get any focus group feedback for this commercial? #
  • FAA Birdstrike database available online – http://bit.ly/rH9ko – 132 reports of collisions at JFK in 2008. No 2009 data? #

Tweets on 2009-04-23

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

Privacy and Anonymity vs. Authenticated Presence

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

1565920988_lrgMartin Zwilling (@startuppro) wrote about opportunities to tackle Internet privacy and I posed a question to him – “how do you authenticate an online something with an offline entity?”  The reason being that I’ve been thinking about privacy on the Internet as well, but from a slightly different perspective.  I’m not so concerned with things like the seemingly infinite lifetime of something said/posted to websites, or identity theft, or the resale of customer information that lots of shady companies and websites are engaged with.  Well, I am personally concerned about my own information of course, but not in the sense of the business problem.  I’m more interested in authenticating actions, statements, uploads and everything else an “offline entity” could do online.  By “offline entity” of course I mean everything from a teenager who’s friends post as him or her when they forget to lock their computer and ruin their reputation – to a public figure or celebrity being impersonated – to a corporate entity like CNN purchasing @CNNbrk (which some people thought was run by CNN in the first place).

Several things have prompted this line of thought for me.  First, a friend of mine asked me how to mitigate negative press about a design brand he runs.  He was asking if it was possible to get things off the first page of a google search about this brand.  Of course, thats not something that can be solved, but an authenticated coherent statement from this brand regarding bad publicity might actually help mitigate the situation.  There’s been several incidents of this type, for instance the Domino’s video prank incident and its effect on the value of the brand for instance.

Second, for a recent project I’ve been thinking about how to authenticate somebody that comes to complete and manage an online listing for an offline company.  In this scenario, listings are created for companies, the initial information is populated from an existing public records database.  These companies have a vested interest in expanding their listing and participating on the website.  However, how do you invite them to participate – who do you email or send a postcard to, and once they come to the site, how can you be sure that somebody appropriate at the company got that postcard and that its not a mail clerk from their building that’s signing up to destroy their reputation on this listing site?

I guess what I’m getting at is this – how do you know that something done by me online is really done by me?  Do we take PGP signing to the next level and set up a company that can authenticate a signed post online based on the assumption that only the real me has my private PGP key?  Do we set up a company that allows mailing of secret information to physical addresses that then authenticate an invitation to a website via this shared secret “token”?  I’m sure there’s opportunities to start a company that would do something interesting in this space.  Perhaps even tackling the problem Martin is talking about in the process – what if we could submit our private data to websites in an encrypted packet that can only be decrypted by entities that we give permission to?  Something that tracks how many times something’s been decrypted and used for instance, perhaps an intermediary or an escrow sort of service for information?

Any ideas? Its hard to resist signing this blog post with my PGP key, but perhaps a Wordpress plugin to authenticate posts that way isn’t that hard to make and maybe that’s a small step I’ll take in this direction sometime soon.



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