I checked, it's not April 1st. This report on a use of prehistoric mollusk shells to estimate temperatures appears to be genuine. With a worldwide sample size of 26 such shells, it's not going to change science overnight, but it could prove informative in time. It also has multiple linguistic possibilities, leading to the informative but punishing comment thread on the post. Bonus points for the "shopped" illo, at least for those who follow AGW insider ball.
Waiting for VCs, or DHS, to knock. Outside of the probably excessive attention being paid to the amateur DIYBio movement, there are some serious folks working in minimal facilities. Rob Carlson documents one such, in an undisclosed garage in Silicon Valley. Whoever is behind it is attempting serious work - anti-cancer compound screening - but is lying low due in part to credible fears - documented by Carlson - of finding not venture capitalists but armed agents from DHS at their doors. There are legitimate issues of WMD proliferation here - Carlson himself has credibly proposed micro-brewing as a reasonable comparable to the potential scope and scale of low-rent bio-production. But an uncoordinated, antagonistic approach by bureaucrats toting guns is not going to lead to any sort of containment. It's more likely to cause the same swift proliferation of enabling knowledge as that sparked by the misguided Federal policies on cryptographic technology in the '90s.
The thug in the mouse suit. Back as far as the 60s, there's been a feeling that ugliness sometimes lurks behind the squeaky-clean, family-oriented facade at Disney. Maggie's Farm documents some of the recent questionable deeds of the mouse. You can choose from using the Federal government to extract fees from foreign visitors to help promote Disney parks, to suppressing politically uncomfortable content about 9/11, to getting a non-profit that exposed an ineffective Disney education product thrown out of its offices. And of course we all know about the 'copyright event horizon', ensuring that nothing created since the first appearance of Mickey will ever go out of copyright.
Here I should mention that sfgate.com is apparently - by admission of the author - within the letter of her contract by making this use of her work. That relationship, now terminated, was based on a level of trust that she feels has been abused, and made no explicit stipulations on how the content can be reused. The interest here is what this incident may say about the ongoing behavior of the MSM online, and its implications for the industry's business model.
This occurrence is not a one-off. The Violet Blue post also mentions the LA Times as creating similar ad-stuffed dead end pages, also with a list of multiple aliased domains. What caught my attention was that both the Chron's and Times' alias lists incuded subdomains of one common domain: perfectmarket.com. Perfect Market is an LA-area startup that claims to:
[help] newspapers, magazines, and broadcasters with a web presence and other online publishers grow their revenue with little effort and no risk. Our proprietary technology solution better fulfills the needs of intent users – people who arrive at their sites through keyword searches seeking specific information – with exactly what they're looking for in our customers' online content. Optimized content with relevant ads generates higher click-through rates for advertisers, and dramatically more revenue for publishers and their ad network partners.
That glowing description does seem to fit the prosaic implementation discovered by Ms. Blue, so it seems safe to conclude that Perfect Market is the technology and services partner that assisted the Chron and Times in stripping the original content into its SEO'd counterparts.
Perfect Market is a well backed venture. It has raised over $20m in venture capital, the most recent round closing in February and announced yesterday. Interestingly, this round was led by the bankrupt Tribune Company, parent company of the LA Times. Perfect Market also has solid backing from more traditional VCs, including Trinity, Rustic Canyon and IdeaLab. (Mayfield also has a board seat, though no publicized investment.)
Again, nothing to see here from a legal perspective. The company is selling a service and technology to its MSM clients, who bear responsibility for its operation against content that they have bought or licensed.
There are three business perspectives that do emerge. The first is the potential reaction of authors who find their work used in this fashion, and the consequent ability of MSM sites to work with those with an established byline. Ms. Blue has pretty much covered that by example, so I will pass.
The second is the reaction of the so-far-unnamed party to the transaction: the search engine. The keyword and ad-stuffed dead end pages apparently produced by Perfect Markets's technology are isomorphic, from a search company's point of view, to those created by more questionable tactics such as scraping. The intent is the same: to spam the index. This is the behavior that routinely gets questionable sites shoved to Google's back pages, or banished altogether. One has to wonder just how long this type of abuse will be tolerated, simply because it's being practiced by a recognized media outlet. (And we can note in passing that the irony of an MSM that routinely suggests that deep links are 'stealing' behaving in this fashion is thick enough to spread on toast.)
Finally come the implications for the businesses of the MSM sites themselves. While Perfect Market suggests that what they are enabling is an exhibit of MSM brand power, reality would seem to be the opposite. It should be clear that neither the potential reader nor the original author are going to be happy with the existence of a keyword stuffed, link stripped dead end page. The difference between these pages and those of a more prosaic SEO spammer is simply the brand attached to them, which might entice the reader to click through. It should be clear that the Chron, the Times, and other MSM outlets behaving in this fashion are doing no less than milking their brands to the detriment of long term trust and value. It is a subtle, but telling, exhibition of their desperation.
It looks like LA Times, Baltimore Sun, Orlando Sentinal, South Florida Sun Sentinal, Hartford Courant, Allentown Morning Call, Virginia Daily Press and the New York Daily News are all using this or looking to.
You know, at some point there has to be parity. There has to be parity between what is happening in the real world, and what is happening in the public sector world. The money does not grow on trees outside this building or outside your municipal building. It comes from the hard working people of our communities who are suffering and are hurting right now....
We need to understand we are all in this together. And you know, all of you know in your heart, what I am saying is true. You all know that these raises that are being given to public employees of all stripes, we cannot afford. You all know the state cannot continue to spend money it does not have. And you all know that the appetite for tax increases among our constituents has come to an end.
Yes. When the average wage in the private and public sectors are once again in line (and the unemployment rates ditto), then 'justice' will be served.
All Your Base Are Belong... A report on new gene sequencing product releases at a recent conference provides plenty of evidence that the Carlson curves are still running. Plenty of novel designs based on new science, given some clear evidence that that there are multiple possible paths ahead, some with interesting implications on the speed and reliability of sequencing, as well as diversification of the sequencing market into niches. Still lots of technological uncertainty here; plenty of potential for today's leaders to miss the next generation. If you've got a win, cash it in!