Tuesday, March 29, 2005

China on US Human Rights Record

The information office of the state council of China has released a scathing report on the human rights record of the US. I have mirrored it here, since the original site is quite slow. The facts in the Chinese report are mainly from the US media. It looks pretty grim. And half of the country (at least) isnt noticing? Do they have a response? New york times has corrected some grammar and summarized it.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Google misuses search for promoting Deskbar

Google wants you to use their deskbar. However their toolbar is way more popular. So what do they do? They manipulate search results for "google toolbar" to return the #1 link to point to Deskbar, http://deskbar.google.com/. The first result says:

Google Toolbar
... Pop-up blocker requires Internet Explorer 5.5+ More Information Automatic updates - no need to install upgrades. Learn more about the Google Toolbar. ...
deskbar.google.com/?promo=gdl-db-en - 8k - Cached - Similar pages

Trusting google, you click on something that says "Google Toolbar" and guess what, they got you pretty close to trying out their Deskbar. Furthermore, since AdSense is their baby, of course, the sponsored link/ad points to the toolbar:

Free Google Toolbar
toolbar.google.com Block popups and search the web instantly. Downloads in seconds.

Link structure is a pretty good heuristic, and I dont think many people are linking to the deskbar page and calling it toolbar. I would be pretty afraid to feel lucky. Do No Evil?

Screenshots here:

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Sunday, March 20, 2005

Audio input jack on dashboard

GM just announced that some its new 2006 line will have an audio input jack. Apparently this is the first time a car manufacturer has decided to do this. When people were going through all the trouble of the tape adapter thingie to connect their cd-players. And fm-transmitter adapters. Why did the car manufacturers take so long to do this? While we are on the dashboard, why isnt a compass a standard feature? GPS is good, but a compass can go a long way, is much cheaper, and might even look cool.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Thesis, again.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Tips on thesis writing: Working around the lazy reader

Rob Zubek is defending soon, and today we had a long chat about his dissertation and a little bit about dissertations in general. Correct me if I am wrong, but there is this unescapable question -- How much of a two hundred page document is going to be really read by people, esp the folks on the committee? Of course, every word of it, and twice so, I think. Cause I will say really important things. But there is the reality of two hundred pages and busy schedules. So here, is a set of tips to get your points heard, even if the reader is short on time, tired, or just plain lazy. These are things Rob and I conjectured, and we dont know much about how the world works, so any comments are welcome:
  1. The Chapter one, introduction, is the most likely to be read. So say everything you have to say in this chapter.
  2. Footnotes are exciting, so intersperse key ideas throughout in them. Footnotes with exclamation marks are extremely powerful, use those sparingly.
  3. Bullet points are hard to avoid, even when the document is casually being skimmed. Keywords with bullet points are a way to engrain important phrases in the reader's mind. A smart reader can understand by reading a small fraction of the prose that follows if they were primed with those bullet points. Hooks in the memory. Sophisticated learning science types call this scaffolding.
  4. Quotes draw attention, cause if you are quoting someone, they must have said something really cool and probably were many times smarter than you (or some poor guy who said something stupid, or funny, or crazy - nobody quotes the mediocre). Assembling an array of interesting quotes is an important part of sounding/being scholarly, and if your reader has any such aspirations, you have got his attention. Blockquotes are interesting -- they definitely are easier to spot, but are not so powerful since the amount of text in them can be daunting.
  5. Examples and anecdotes are interesting, too. Some people like to collect anecdotes and you get those. Plus if someone was seriously reading it, working hard, the example might help, well, illustrate.
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