Monday, February 28, 2011

Google Takes on the Link Farms

It appears that Google is successfully taking on the link farms that have plagued us for the last several years. Their new algorithm has deprecated many sites, witnessed by the complaints at Google Help and other sites, and hopefully will put an end to the link-farm scourge.

Many of the changes we make are so subtle that very few people notice them. But in the last day or so we launched a pretty big algorithmic improvement to our ranking—a change that noticeably impacts 11.8% of our queries—and we wanted to let people know what’s going on. This update is designed to reduce rankings for low-quality sites—sites which are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful. At the same time, it will provide better rankings for high-quality sites—sites with original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on.
Finding more high-quality sites in search

As with many people I'm both excited about - and concerned about - the new Google Chrome Blocklist extension. Let's hope this extension is made availabe to other browsers and that it cannot to easily be used for evil as well as good.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Expectation of Privacy

A talk held by the EFF regarding the privacy of the information on your computer. It is a very interesting review of current US law regarding the 4th Amendment.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Cyber War, The First Phase Has Begun

It looks as if it is true: American and Israeli Cyber-Soldiers attacked the Iranian Nuclear Program by infecting them with worms and viruses.

The latest results of a Symnatec study concentrating on the Stuxnet worm revealed that its developers knew what they were doing - once finished, it took only 12 hours to infect the first target.

The study also concluded that the Stuxnet attacks can be dated back to June 2009 - more than a year prior to it being first discovered by security experts - and that its intial targets were five separate organizations that have a presence in Iran and most of which have been attacked at various points through 2009 and 2010.
Israeli general claims Stuxnet attacks as one of his successes

If you want to see a counter-argument see this video. It's long but raises excellent points.

The Cyber War Threat Has Been Grossly Exaggerated from Intelligence Squared US on Vimeo.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Two Important Principles in Designing for Mobile Devices

First, place less items on the screen. Only the most important content and features should be displayed. What’s normal for a 1024x768 + screen is overwhelming on a smaller screen resolution.

Second, use only one column. Eliminate what would otherwise be in the right column and place the navigation that might have been placed in the left column at the top and the bottom.

If you started designing websites in the 1990s this is a simple transition. For those who started designing after 1024 + screens became the norm … have fun. :-)

Friday, February 4, 2011

Facebook using Social Authentication

Facebook has introduced an "innovative way to verify real users rather than using CAPTCHAS. Using the Social Login feature (or Social Authentication as Facebook calls it), users will be shown a few pictures of their friends and then they will be asked to name the person in those photos."

The logic is that it would be harder for hackers to be able to identify your friends. This would work quite well against a program but I'm not particularly thrilled by this idea in practice. A group trying to hack a celebrity's or political figure's site would be willing to do the research so they to would be able to recognize a large number of the person's friends. Thus compromising the security measure.

It does remind me of a photographic password system that XEROX PARC (I think it was XEROX PARC) came up with several years ago. I wonder why it never took off - that idea seemed to be excellent. The photographic system would take a photo - show it to you and say THIS IS THE PASSWORD. It would then make, as for example, twenty-nine variations on a theme. The human being would easily be able to remember the correct photo but our language is not nuanced enough for it to be accurately described to another.

Obviously there was a flaw to the system otherwise the idea would have spread.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Women Equal Problems

Just found the above joke at

Nitecruzr is a regular at the Google Help Forums.

Oh, and please don't parse it too closely, it doesn't hold careful scrutiny - but it is funny.