FryUp: Ungodly hours

Microsoft in funny, witty ad shocker; a Windows 7 dawnbreaker; and, sigh, more broadband

Microsoft in funny, witty ad shocker

Wow, the Windows Mobile peeps may have been cut loose to drift by Microsoft, but their promo vids beat the pants off the rest of the group.

Inside Microsoft Apps Labs

It’s out now

So disappointed in Microsoft... Australia gets hi-po Redmondians like James to come over to DeBragga about Win7 and parties and stuff. We get a rugby player at an ungodly hour in the cold and no party. What happened? Why was New Zealand struck off the first out of the gate, party party party list? We wanted a Bonk-Eyed Ballmer Boogie!

Ballmer Monkeyboy iPod mashup

Check this out - the Japanese slapped together a Win7 whopper:

What did we get? Not even a steak sandwich. Very poor show.

Windows 7 debuts in NZ

Contest the incontestable

That broadband ball is rolling with the government formally asking potential partners to come to the party (not the Win7 one, obviously). The invite looks fairly solid and it’s great to see the speed’s picked up after some initial fumbling by Joyce on how to proceed. As observed earlier and confirmed in the government’s Invitation to Participate, Telecom’s in a limbo at the moment, as its current vertically integrated business model doesn’t fit in with societal goals to be achieved by building new network infrastructure. This is not to say that Telecom won’t play a part in the Ultra Fast Broadband rollout, and I suspect there’s some serious horse-trading going on behind the scenes already. Take those roadside cabinets for instance, agreed to as part of Telecom’s legally binding Undertakings: in a few years’ time they may very well end being overbuilt by the UFB and become worthless if all they supply is DSL. Telecom can’t be very happy about that. Worth noting in the document too is the performance specification of the UFB. It’s supposed to deliver 100Mbit/s downstream and 50Mbit/s upstream of dedicated bandwidth to each customer. Not shared bandwidth in other words. This is something to bear in mind when certain parties advocate VDSL2 as being sufficient as it can supply up to 50Mbit/s of shared, contested bandwidth, if you’re lucky enough to live close to the DSLAM. Government invites broadband partners Opposition says government and Telecom are talking separation

XKCD More accurate

Cartoon: www.xkcd.com

Robert X Cringely This blog has NOT been brought to you by an algorithm

Online content factory Demand Media has a new way to generate blogs and videos, using software and a network of human drones. Welcome to your web nightmare I read a chilling story by Wired Magazine's Dan Roth last night about the future of online media, and I'm still trying to keep my breakfast down. It's not pretty.

Roth's story is about a company called Demand Media, which has introduced factory farming to the blogosphere. The company churns out 4,000 articles and videos every single day based on ideas spit out by a computer algorithm. The algorithm analyses the keyword frequency from major search engines and the ad revenue that each of those keywords returns.

Its goal: to find the topics people search for most often that also provide the most pennies per click. The algorithm then spits out a series of keywords that are manipulated into a fortune cookie-style headline by a pair of humans (at 8 cents a pop). That headline gets tossed out to Demand's cadre of hungry freelance writers, who get paid $15 a post to generate a few hundred words of drivel. Demand runs the post through a plagiarism detector, pays $2.50 for it to be copyedited and (maybe) another buck for fact checking, and then voila — instant content, delivered at a tidy profit. This is similar to a tactic that has long been used by sleazy SEO companies. They commission bogus, link-rich articles about a product or website, then post them online hoping to fool Google into thinking the particular product or site is more popular than it actually is. The problem here is that Demand Media is being used with increasing frequency by legitimate sites, like eHow, LiveStrong and Cracked. Want to crank out a video on that topic? No problem. You can make a cool $20 for that. Doesn't have to be in focus or anything. According to Roth, YouTube loves Demand Media because — unlike 90 percent of the stuff people post — it produces videos that are easy to sell ads against. Here's an obnoxious YouTube video describing their services, which appropriately enough comes with an ad for cheap car insurance attached to it. And now the really chilling bit. Per Roth:

"Demand is already one of the largest suppliers of content to YouTube, where its 170,000 videos make up more than twice the content of CBS, the Associated Press, Al Jazeera English, Universal Music Group, CollegeHumor, and Soulja Boy combined. Demand also posts its material to its network of 45 B-list sites — ranging from eHow and Livestrong.com to the little-known doggy-photo site TheDailyPuppy.com — that manage to pull in more traffic than ESPN, NBC Universal, and Time Warner’s online properties (excluding AOL) put together."

The result: Reams and reams of crapola filling the Net. Even worse than it already is, if you can believe that. But hey, if that's what the people want.... The brains behind this scheme? Former eUniverse/Intermix CEO Richard Rosenblatt. In 2005, Rosenblatt's company paid $7.5 million in fines to then-New York AG Eliot Spitzer for distributing spyware. Intermix also happened to own MySpace at the time, which put social networks on the map when News Corp's Rupert Murdoch bought it for $580 million. (Later, former Intermix exec Brad Greenspan sued News Corp, saying MySpace was really worth $20 billion and that Murdoch had parked spies outside his house to sniff his wi-fi network. No, I'm not making that up.) Before the big cashout, the company made money via bottom-feeder content like low-rent dating sites, recycled ink jet cartridges, pet photos, and the "hilarious videos and cartoons" at BigFatBaby.com. It seems little has changed. Demand Media is the MySpace of online content, but with less class. Its stuff is about as mindless as BigFatBaby and as insidious as spyware. Obviously, I have a vested interest in this story. If Demand Media's methods become the way most websites generate content (and ad revenue), professional writers will effectively disappear from the Net. It will be just like when that meteor hit the earth 65 million years ago, wiping out the dinosaurs and leaving nothing but rodents. But when publications are unable or unwilling to pay professionals to write stories or generate videos, we'll end up with two kinds of content: the dreck that Demand Media is producing, or higher-quality content that serves the aims of the people who can afford to pay for it — corporations, powerful individuals, governments, and so on. So it's either amateur hour or propaganda. Take your pick — not a very pleasant choice. And when they figure out the snark algorithm, I'm history. What do you think? Does the Net need professional content, or is it time for the old pros to crawl off into the tar pits? Post your thoughts below or e-mail me: cringe@infoworld.com.

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