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2007 is the semantic web

I am not an expert in the semantic web but Freebase looks like it to me. I am surprised more hasn't been written about it. It is absolutely amazing and head-spinning. I will have a hard time describing accurately, hence the headline.

For me, it seems like Freebase does what the Semantic Web guys have been talking about forever.

In Freebase's own words: " is home to a global knowledge base: a structured, searchable, writeable and editable database built by a community of contributors, and open to everyone. It could be described as a data commons. is enabled by the technology of Metaweb, which is described at" (from Freebase FAQ)

A mental image for Freebase that works for me is that it is a lot like Wikipedia with the major difference that instead of free form text and images that you see in Wikipedia articles you see semi-structured layouts in Freebase.

Semi-structured, that is, the information is structured via types: this is a person , that is a computer , this other thing is a country , etc. So for example, in the entry for BlogBridge (type is Software Product) , you see a description of the software, just like in Wikipedia. But now, in the section that says what platforms the software runs on there is a list of entries of type computer operating system. So when I am editing the entry for BlogBridge, and I want to correct or add to the list of computer operating system it runs on, Freebase already knows the list of known operating systems.

Interactively on the web, it's quite interesting, but it really makes your head spin when you contemplate what it means as an internet API. I mean we have specialized APIs to look up books (Amazon) and CDs (CDDB) and many other things. But here's a unified and communally editable pool of API accessible information.

Check it out. It is worth studying.

The Time Machine Works!

Check out this post from

Well, I can report that Time Machine (the new back-up & restore utility for Mac OS X) works. My 364 day old MacBook suffered a complete hard drive failure, only TWO hours after completing my first full backup. I hustled to the Apple store right away, so I didn’t miss my one-year warranty window.

(from: Involuntary test of Time Machine)

I will wait just a little longer before committing to Leopard. It's one of those, if it aint broke then don't fix it kind of situations…

Google is the universe

As you may have heard, I've been learning all about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) lately. I just came across this amazing little service called the DigPageRank Pagerank Checker. The story goes something like this.

Google assigns every single page in the whole internet a numerical score called the Page Rank (PR). It somehow says something about how important that page is and consequently how high it should appear in your Google search results.

Like Astrology , you can find lots of debate all around the web on how PR is computed, whether it means something or not. And when Google tweaks their algorithms so that a particular web page goes up or down in PR, then this is big news in the SEO community. It's a fact that where your site shows up in search results can have a dramatic financial impact on your business.

So it's a world of move/countermove - a veritable arms race as Google tweaks it's algorithm and web sites try to game the algorithm to raise their Page Rank. And back and forth.

So back to this site the PageRank Checker. Type in a URL you will see not simply the PageRank of said referenced page, but what the Page Rank is of that page according to dozens of separate Google data centers.

What I find so fascinating about this report is that it raises the lid on the unbelievably complex super-parallel-global-spanning-computer-brain that Google has become.

I had heard about these data centers, but that there are so many, and that the analysis of the PR of a certain page potentially yields different numbers is interesting. It means that the PR calculation is done somehow separately in these data centers, it says that probably the algorithm for computing the PR can potentially actually be different (presumably as a result of their update distribution mechanism.)

Maybe the Google brain will, like Colossus, "wake up" and become the global consciousness, hack into the military computers around the world on it's own initiative and black mail … oh forget it.

Does Death Penalty Save Lives?

Very interesting article in the New York Times discussing whether the death penalty saves lives,

"According to roughly a dozen recent studies, executions save lives. For each inmate put to death, the studies say, 3 to 18 murders are prevented.

The effect is most pronounced, according to some studies, in Texas and other states that execute condemned inmates relatively often and relatively quickly.

The studies, performed by economists in the past decade, compare the number of executions in different jurisdictions with homicide rates over time — while trying to eliminate the effects of crime rates, conviction rates and other factors — and say that murder rates tend to fall as executions rise. One influential study looked at 3,054 counties over two decades. " (from the New York Times)

It seems to me that there's a key flaw in that study and analysis.

Let's say there's a correlation between the number of executions and the crime rate. What if we randomly selected people to be executed in each district, no matter whether they were guilty of a crime or not. Would that also deter crime and 'save lives'? These studies imply that they would. It goes to the heart of one of the key arguments against capital punishment, which is the equal application of the law. (There are two additional really strong arguments against it.)

TechCrunch Boston

Two nights ago, Friday, I got to go to the TechCrunch Boston party at The Estate in Boston (which oddly enough doesn't seem to have a web site.) Those of you who know me will be 'surprised' that I had to miss the 'drinking-focused after party, held at an Irish pub, from 11:00pm on.

Lately it seems like every week there's another tech networking event in our area, which is great. This one was huge though, seemed like 500 or more people, elbow to elbow. Great fun!

Here's Don Dodge's write up on his experience at the TechCrunch Boston event. Don's a very diligent blogger as you can see from the post. Said Don:

"I talked to over 200 people at the event and saw another hundred or so with a quick wink or nod. It was a wild night. Startup entrepreneurs were everywhere. Off the top of my head I remember talking to…" (from The Next Big Thing, Don Dodge's Blog)

Now a couple of things, Don: I don't know how anyone can talk to over 200 people in one evening, especially if you aren't counting the winks and nods. And by the way, what's all this winking you're doing anyway? 🙂

BlogBridge 6.0 is out

We just released BlogBridge 6.0. It's getting really good reviews so you may want to check out what I've claimed is the most powerful blog reader out there.

One of the cool new things is the "What's Hot" feature, which is kind of a built-in meme tracker, but based on your own interests. For example, below is my report for today. You can see BlogBridge does a really good job culling the stuff that I care about most. Pretty cool eh?

BlogBridge meme

Check BlogBridge out!It's not your father's Oldsmobile - in other words, BlogBridge does lots of stuff that your current aggregator may not.

Best way to protect against identity theft?

I've come across these two services, priced similarly, sound similar.

ID TheftSmart - The name sounds like they are a smart way to commit identity theft, but I suppose this is not what they mean.

Lifelock - Their tag line is "Guarantee your good name" and one of their gimmicks is that the CEO has published his SSN for all the world to see which is fairly daring and clever.

Do you know anything about the pros and cons of services like these, or the specifics of either or both of these?