The Business of Algorithms – Blogorithms

A must read: Burningbird: The Business of Algorithms – Blogorithms:

Algorithms are big business. Recently I’ve seen several jobs where the company wants someone who is “good with algorithms”. Microsoft is competing with Google is competing with Yahoo to hire the best algorithm wranglers (which evidently, according to the article, does not mean women). IBM is releasing it’s unstructured data architecture (UIMA), including it’s concept-based search algorithms into open source by year end. Even within weblogging the debate, and the race, is on to find the best algorithms to mine us, otherwise known as the higher income people without lives.

Suddenly, the hip and cool kids on the block can “do� algorithms.

With all this interest, though, is a lot of confusion and misunderstandings, starting with but not limited to, the very concept of algorithm – concept which is now taking on such mystical properties that those who can “do” algorithms are being vested with an almost god-like prescience. It is time, and past time, to put the brakes on the hyperbole surrounding algorithms.

Starting with the basics: what is an algorithm.

…Now that weblogging has established its credibility (i.e. can be used to make money) and there are millions of us (â€?over 14 million served dailyâ€?), the interest in creating algorithms to make use of all the rich, seductive unstructured data we generate is very strong. Understandably so.

However, unlike previous research projects such as Dr. Marr’s, current weblogging effort seems to focus on the algorithms rather than the goal. Because of this, we’re measuring every last bit about ourselves, but not coming up with anything useful. By focusing on the tools rather than the end point we’re mixing search with popularity, marketing with discovery, and then we’re throwing in a little structured data–just to make things interesting.

Sociology + marketing + data mining + statistical analysis = ?

Two from Harpers make it a must buy

I’m not a typical Harpers reader, but this week, two articles got my attention….

Harpers: The Christian Paradox:

Three quarters of Americans believe the Bible teaches that “God helps those who help themselves.” That is, three out of four Americans believe that this uber-American idea, a notion at the core of our current individualist politics and culture, which was in fact uttered by Ben Franklin, actually appears in Holy Scripture. The thing is, not only is Franklin’s wisdom not biblical; it’s counter-biblical. Few ideas could be further from the gospel message, with its radical summons to love of neighbor. On this essential matter, most Americans-most American Christians-are simply wrong, as if 75 percent of American scientists believed that Newton proved gravity causes apples to fly up.

Asking Christians what Christ taught isn’t a trick. When we say we are a Christian nation-and, overwhelmingly, we do-it means something. People who go to church absorb lessons there and make real decisions based on those lessons; increasingly, these lessons inform their politics. (One poll found that 11 percent of U.S. churchgoers were urged by their clergy to vote in a particular way in the 2004 election, up from 6 percent in 2000.) When George Bush says that Jesus Christ is his favorite philosopher, he may or may not be sincere, but he is reflecting the sincere beliefs of the vast majority of Americans.

And therein is the paradox. America is simultaneously the most professedly Christian of the developed nations and the least Christian in its behavior. That paradox-more important, perhaps, than the much touted ability of French women to stay thin on a diet of chocolate and cheese-illuminates the hollow at the core of our boastful, careening culture.

This Catholic says AMEN. This article would act as a kick in the head to most Christians I know, if they read it with an open mind.

Harpers: None Dare Call It Stolen:

You may remember being surprised yourself. The infamously factious Democrats were fiercely unified—Ralph Nader garnered only about 0.38 percent of the national vote while the Republicans were split, with a vocal anti-Bush front that included anti-Clinton warrior Bob Barr of Georgia; Ike’s son John Eisenhower; Ronald Reagan’s chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, William J. Crowe Jr.; former Air Force Chief of Staff and onetime “Veteran for Bushâ€? General Merrill “Tonyâ€? McPeak; founding neocon Francis Fukuyama; Doug Bandow of the Cato Institute, and various large alliances of military officers, diplomats, and business professors. The American Conservative, co-founded by Pat Buchanan, endorsed five candidates for president, including both Bush and Kerry, while the Financial Times and The Economist came out for Kerry alone. At least fifty-nine daily newspapers that backed Bush in the previous election endorsed Kerry (or no one) in this election. The national turnout in 2004 was the highest since 1968, when another unpopular war had swept the ruling party from the White House. And on Election Day, twenty-six state exit polls incorrectly predicted wins for Kerry, a statistical failure so colossal and unprecedented that the odds against its happening, according to a report last May by the National Election Data Archive Project, were 16.5 million to 1. Yet this ever-less beloved president, this president who had united liberals and conservatives and nearly all the world against himself—this president somehow bested his opponent by 3,000,176 votes. How did he do it? To that most important question the commentariat, briskly prompted by Republicans, supplied an answer. Americans of faith—a silent majority heretofore unmoved by any other politician—had poured forth by the millions to vote “Yes!â€? for Jesus’ buddy in the White House. Bush’s 51 percent, according to this thesis, were roused primarily by “family values.â€? Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, called gay marriage “the hood ornament on the family values wagon that carried the president to a second term.â€? The pundits eagerly pronounced their amens—“Moral values,â€? Tucker Carlson said on CNN, “drove President Bush and other Republican candidates to victory this weekâ€?—although it is not clear why. The primary evidence of our Great Awakening was a post-election poll by the Pew Research Center in which 27 percent of the respondents, when asked which issue “mattered mostâ€? to them in the election, selected something called “moral values.â€? This slight plurality of impulse becomes still less impressive when we note that, as the pollsters went to great pains to make clear, “the relative importance of moral values depends greatly on how the question is framed.â€? In fact, when voters were asked to “name in their own words the most important factor in their vote,â€? only 14 percent managed to come up with “moral values.â€? Strangely, this detail went little mentioned in the postelectoral commentary.[1]

The press has had little to say about most of the strange details of the election—except, that is, to ridicule all efforts to discuss them.

Sad how the election and ideas of election reform have dropped from the news – especially when now is an opportune time to be active in fixing things.

Devastating article – Iraq: “shedding the unreality” and lowered expectations

Lets see, it was WMDs, no it wasn’t. It was a free and secure Iraq. Now it isn’t.

Washington Post: U.S. Lowers Sights On What Can Be Achieved in Iraq:

The Bush administration is significantly lowering expectations of what can be achieved in Iraq, recognizing that the United States will have to settle for far less progress than originally envisioned during the transition due to end in four months, according to U.S. officials in Washington and Baghdad.

The United States no longer expects to see a model new democracy, a self-supporting oil industry or a society in which the majority of people are free from serious security or economic challenges, U.S. officials say.

“What we expected to achieve was never realistic given the timetable or what unfolded on the ground,” said a senior official involved in policy since the 2003 invasion. “We are in a process of absorbing the factors of the situation we’re in and shedding the unreality that dominated at the beginning.”

…The ferocious debate over a new constitution has particularly driven home the gap between the original U.S. goals and the realities after almost 28 months. The U.S. decision to invade Iraq was justified in part by the goal of establishing a secular and modern Iraq that honors human rights and unites disparate ethnic and religious communities.

But whatever the outcome on specific disputes, the document on which Iraq’s future is to be built will require laws to be compliant with Islam (emphasis mine).

…”We set out to establish a democracy, but we’re slowly realizing we will have some form of Islamic republic (mine again),” said another U.S. official familiar with policymaking from the beginning, who like some others interviewed would speak candidly only on the condition of anonymity.

…”We didn’t calculate the depths of feeling in both the Kurdish and Shiite communities for a winner-take-all attitude,” said Judith S. Yaphe, a former CIA Iraq analyst at the National Defense University.

…”We’ve said we won’t leave a day before it’s necessary. But necessary is the key word — necessary for them or for us? When we finally depart, it will probably be for us,” a U.S. official said.

The NYTimes planning an aggregator?

OJR: NY Times explodes wall between print, Web

At the Times, Nisenholtz has ambitions to super-charge the Web site and take it beyond the realm of newspaper sites and into the top tier of news sites online. He told me he envisioned multimedia reports going from two to three reports per day to 30 or 40 reports daily, while also building out a new aggregation service that would take on Google News.

“Google News was the fastest growing news site in the first six months of the year,” Nisenholtz said. “So we have to be as good as anyone else at doing that and meanwhile put in our own Times special sauce — which is our journalism — that will always differentiate us. If you look at those as the two pillars of our future, you can think about how we’re approaching this next phase. Weblogs are great, they’re part of the information universe, and people ought to have access to them, and we should make that access as seamless as possible.”