Posts Tagged ‘startups’

Vultures love startups

Posted: 16 September 2011 in Uncategorized
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Million dollar startup idea

Posted: 1 April 2009 in Uncategorized
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Guaranteed to make you rich*:

  1. Create a bevy of stupidly obvious twitter bots
  2. Follow random users
  3. Make a catalog of those who follow you back
  4. Sell the catalog to people who want to build their followers quickly

* No warranty given or implied.  Use at your own risk.  May cause you to become a douchebag.

Cuil Fail

Posted: 28 July 2008 in Uncategorized
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The blagoblag is abuzz with word of cuil, a search engine launched by some former Google engineers.  After many hours of downtime, I was able to check it out a short while ago.  The unfortunate result:  it blows.  It’s so bad that it’s as bad as your brain can comprehend.  Supposedly there are three times as many sites indexed as Google.  Well, that’s because they have not filtered any of the spam sites out.  A search for “mendicant bug” yields multiple spam copies of my blog and some wordpress category pages on the first ten pages.  My blog is conspicuously missing.  A search for my name also yields pathetic garbage.  Multiple other searches all led to the same thing:  spam pages get the highest rankings.

If your goal is searching for spam, then try out cuil.  You might get lucky and get infected by some nasty spyware.  Otherwise, don’t waste your time.

If you follow news on the semantic web or new search engines, you may have heard of hakia. TechCrunch has done a small write up about their new semantic search API. TechCrunch is brutally hard on startups who aren’t fully operational, so there is a lot of criticism in that article that I take with a grain of salt. I like seeing startups open their services with APIs and I think they deserve some benefit of the doubt. Maybe I’m looking at it the wrong way, though, and the fact that TechCrunch does make such a stink ensures the startup will correct the problem asap, rather than farting around for a while. (more…)

Predictify!

Posted: 11 December 2007 in Uncategorized
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I wrote about Predictify a while back. It’s basically a website that pays users for predicting world events. When I first wrote about them, I presented the sample question: “How long will Michael Vick’s sentence be?” Well, the verdict came down and my prediction was very close. I predicted 24 months and the dirty bastard got 23. Total payout for me: $6.07. Not bad for 30 seconds effort.

The site appears to be doing well. Currently, there are 24 open polls with large cash payout potential. I was pretty skeptical it would succeed (and that still has yet to play out fully), but it would seem that the guys who predicted its success are going to be looking at nice payouts of their own.

Predict this!

Posted: 8 October 2007 in Uncategorized
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Predict the following:

  • How long will Michael Vick’s prison sentence be?
  • How many iPhones will Apple sell by year’s end?
  • How much will Hillary Clinton raise in funds during the fourth quarter of 2007?

How accurate is the crowd?  Futures markets have done a good job at predicting how the market will go for certain commodities.  This fact inspired DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) to create a project that sought to build a futures market around terrorism.  People would be able to bid on where and when terrorist events would occur (or be attempted).  The public backlash from this idea was enormous.  Senator Barbara Boxer raised quite the furor and demanded that the then Information Awareness Office director Admiral John Poindexter be fired.  He did lose his job over the affair, but like most Washington insiders, soon found a job on a board of directors.

I actually don’t think the Policy Analysis Market (as it was called) was such a bad idea.  It seemed that the three main critcisms against it were

  1. it would encourage bidders to actually encourage terrorist acts in order to earn payoffs
  2. it’s grotesque and immoral
  3. pure vitriol

As for point (1), I can kinda see where they’re coming from.  That would definitely be a bad side effect if it were to occur.  However, I think the fact that the government knows exactly who is bidding on what, it’s also very dangerous for that person.  Also, the thing had $8 million in funding.  Not exactly winning the lottery considering that that money had to be spread around creating the system and as a payoff for each particular security to be traded.  It was basically an advanced tip service that takes advantage of collective wisdom.  Point (2) I’m also not so sure about, since we’re only talking speculation here.  Is it immoral for me to predict that another soldier will die in Iraq tomorrow?  I’d argue instead that the market, if it did anything at all, would save lives.  And as for (3), the level of outrage coming from Senators Boxer and Wyden at the time (this all happened back in 2003) was disgusting.  You’d think that DARPA had suggested we start using our babies as a food source.

I could see a worst case scenario cropping up if such a market existed, though.  What would happen if this market suddenly predicted that Iran would launch a nuclear attack on American troops in Iraq (or a conventional attack for that matter)?  If the market had experienced success before and gained some credibility, this could be considered a justification for war.  That would be a very bad thing indeed.

So anyhow, after meandering way off point on a 4-year-old digression, let me come back around to my main point:  Predictify.  This is a new website that seeks to capitalize on crowd wisdom by predicting events ranging from the mundane to the presidential election.  Users can predict outcomes for free and premium users can post polls that collect extra demographics from the users.  Certain polls come with prize pots ranging in the hundreds of dollars.

After playing around a bit and making a few predictions, I’ve found it mildly interesting.  There are slight problems with the interface.  For example, if you’re browsing political predictions and submit a prediction, you’re presented with a link to go back to predicting.  This link takes you back to the main page rather than the subtopic you were just at.  I found this to be annoying since I had to go back to browsing the topic.  Also, the top polls on the main page are starting to get slightly spammy.  Predict the outcome of some motorcross race in Las Vegas this weekend for example.  Predict the yearly earnings of some company no one has ever heard of.  Predict how many speed dates SpeedDates.com will have by the end of the year.

I think Predictify will have to do something to prevent this sort of detritis from clogging up the site.  The interesting polls that will bring in the visitors are getting lost in the clutter of these junk pedalers.

In a recent press release, kannuu is claiming to have revolutionized text entry. They claim that you can now perform text entry with just your thumb at the same speed of a regular keyboard. Too good to be true? Here is their method, complete with Hype™.

“Advancing text entry exponentially, kannuu’s powerful and precise Partial Word Completion® technology enables users with a fail-safe text entry solution. The kannuu application appears on device, as a four-point diamond shape, comprised of the most popular letters in the database it is indexing, with the center kannuu logo leading to the next set of choices.”

They registered a trademark on the phrase “partial word completion”?? Blerg. Not only do they have an über lame web 2.0 name in lowercase, they gotta stop people from marketing a similar technology under their oh-so-not-original name. Why does this make me so angry? Anyhow, I’m running off sideways on a rant that is pretty insignificant.

The real point here is the potential for coolness. So here is the technology: you enter a letter, it presents you with a “diamond” shape and the most common letters or group of letters that follow the letter(s) you just entered. In this way, most of your everyday phrases will be right up at the top of the list of things you’re presented so you could potentially be entering words with fewer keystrokes and all with very little thumb movement. This could really revolutionize key input and maybe bring pocket computers to reality [source].

So here is what I think the technology is based on. A very common technique in language technologies is the use of n-grams. So they use a character-based n-gram model to predict the most common letter or letters that you would type next based on some corpus. This isn’t anything new. Cell phones already have a T9 input method that guesses the most common word based on the single letters you choose. This isn’t all that different. If they have done the interface well, that could be a serious improvement.

If you’re interested in character-based n-gram models, I go into them in more depth after the jump.

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