In the old days, wire service editors could easily keep track of which of their stories were picked up by the newspapers. That became a much harder task with the emergence of Web sites.
Now, however, there's a sort of digital clipping service that can keep tabs on which Web sites posted the articles and whether those articles were accompanied by ads or required subscriptions to view.
The technology is called Attributor and comes from a company by the same name. Attributor has signed contracts with two of the world's biggest wire services, Reuters and Associated Press, giving Attributor a good bit of street cred. The Reuters deal was set to be announced on Monday, while the Associated Press agreement was struck in May.
Reuters inks deal with Attributor keep track of its syndicated online content.
Basically, Attributor extracts essential elements of the text and images and then scans the Web for sites where that content appears.
"The technique is similar to fingerprinting," says Attributor chief executive Jim Brock, who declined to divulge technical details.
In addition to finding legitimate distributors of the content, the service will be able to find sites that might be infringing on copyright by posting the content without permission. Attributor will provide a platform for the content owner to either ask the site to remove the content or ask for a link back to the original content site. But that's not the focus of the business, Brock says.
"We don't consider ourselves to be any kind of copyright police," he said in an interview. "We let the original publisher control the outcome."
Instead, the best business case for Attributor is to help a publisher analyze how its content is being used, which individual articles or types of articles are published the most, and whether the content is being monetized. Attributor can also help get revenue-share deals with the sites using the content, and then figure out other earning potential, according to Brock.
Reuters, which syndicates news stories and photos, wants to "get a better handle on how Reuters products are doing in the marketplace" so it can better serve its customers, says Ric Camacho, vice president of digital syndication. "Reuters is driven by an interest in getting more business intelligence over our syndication practice."
A representative for Associated Press was unavailable for comment on Friday.
Controlling the rights to original content in the digital age has become a big issue for publishers because of the ease with which it can be copied, pasted, forwarded and modified on the Internet.
The Associated Press and Agence France-Presse sued Google for alleged copyright infringement related to its aggregation of their articles on Google News, but later settled and signed distribution deals with the search giant.
Green-building company Agilewaves and a California school have flipped the switch on a computer display that's meant to give life to the school's eco-friendly features and enhance its science curriculum.
The prekindergarten-through-eighth-grade Nueva School in Hillsborough, Calif., has incorporated a number of green features, including a 30-kilowatt solar array and a "living roof" of plants that lessens water runoff and insulates.Displays in common rooms show students the positive impact of a school's green features, including its 'living roof.'
Agilewaves makes Resource Monitor software, which can display how the building is performing as a whole. The idea is that creating a visual representation of the green building in action will drive changes in people's behavior and generally raise awareness of the environment.
In a statement, the school said the application will be valuable to facilities managers and to students as an educational tool.
Building monitors are still the purview of high-end green buildings and generally only viewed by facilities managers .
But there are a number of products being developed for homes. GE, for example, has developed an in-home display for new housing developments that is meant to give people a better idea of usage and their carbon footprint.
The late great front man to The Beatles is re-introduced as the iPod's true inventor in this clever video starring British comedian Peter Serafinowicz. It spoofs on the case of Apple Computer v. Apple Corps, in which a U.K. judge ruled the technology giant's iTunes Music Store in the U.K. doesn't breach a trademark deal. The agreement, made in 1991, prohibited Apple Computer from distributing music on physical media.
The video on YouTube showcases flawless impersonations of 1980s era Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr as they take us back to 1968, the magical year of drugs and free love when Lennon took a night course in computers and invented "The BeatleBox," a 363-pound converted refrigerator that played all of his favorite records.
Thanks to Marshall Kirkpatrick for catching this one. Mefeedia may just have launched the new front-runner in multimedia search. In a blog entry today, Mefeedia announced the release of their video search engine.
The selection of video sites that Mefeedia indexes is extremely impressive. Right now, they are claiming 15,000 video sources in their index. They put together the following sampling of offerings on their blog.
* Major Video Sharing sites (YouTube, DailyMotion, Metacafe, Blip, Veoh, and many more. * Web Series Sites * Video Blogs * TV Sites * News Sites * Music Sites
Obviously Mefeedia has the content and that is what really counts in a useful multimedia search engine. However, I tend to agree with Marshall when I say that the interface needs some work. The layout and colors just don't quite flow well for me yet. The search results page for established shows like Heroes , for example, have a much nicer look than a standard results page, like this one for Super Smash Bros. Brawl .
Despite the less than perfect interface, Mefeedia has very good community features. Playlists and subscriptions allow you to track your favorite users or content through RSS feeds, which is nice for those of us who live in Google Reader . I think that Mefeedia has something really solid here. Mefeedia is definitely worth checking out if you're looking for content beyond YouTube.
After years covering shareholder meetings, I'm quite used to the characters who often show up at these annual get-togethers to gripe or otherwise parade their favorite cause in front of the microphone.Hey, I've got a question for you.
But even allowing for the usual quotient of self-absorbed nut jobs who flock to these events, Yahoo's long-awaited stockholder meeting on Friday deserves special mention. The inmates had been given a free pass for the morning, and guess where they headed for the day's entertainment?
The one common theme? There was no question too simple that these guys didn't stretch to two full pages of transcontinental, wonder-of-me bloviation.
Hard as it is to acknowledge, I actually felt sorry for Yahoo's board as it had to feign interest. Maybe the worst offender was the dude from Amnesty International. After stretching the meaning of word "tendentious" to such painful extremes with a pointless peroration, someone's bound to nominate his question as a YouTube classic on why authoritarian repression sometimes can serve a larger public good.
Then there was the guy who could have been Stuttering John's long lost dad, somehow getting two separate turns to ask his equally daffy questions
And let's not forget the peripatetic retiree from the University of California at Berkeley, who apparently is too rich for his own good. He hopscotches around the country to attend shareholder meetings at companies he invests in and demonstrate in public his galactic brilliance. Not.
At one point it got so bad that I briefly wondered whether the individual board members receive enough compensation for sitting through this circus. As I say, it was a brief moment of compassion considering the fat cat payouts Yahoo's awarded these folks through the years. Still, they earned part of their pay today.
Note to Dan Farber: If I get asked to do this next year, throw in a day's vacation as the quid pro quo.
Click here for full coverage of Yahoo's shareholders meeting.
BOGOTA, Colombia--In one corner of a massive warehouse, workers pick through bins of computers, keyboards, and mice, painstakingly cleaning each part.
There's a special room where peripherals such as mice go for washing and another where they go for drying. Once the hardware is reassembled, often with a few new parts added to the mix, the first set of testing takes place, to make sure all of the hardware functions as it should.Click here to read all of the stories in The Borders of Computing series.
In another area, the newly rebuilt systems get their collection of software--Windows 2000 and a several-generations-old version of Office. Then the machines go through another round of testing to make sure they are working properly, before being wrapped and packed in broken-down Styrofoam and being shipped out to destinations throughout the country.
Even printers are refurbished--and not just inkjet, but years-old dot-matrix printers that have long since been pushed out of the commercial market. It's all part of a project known as Computadores para Educar, which refurbishes thousands of computers each year for Colombia's schools.
Although the effort has given more than 9,500 schools their first PCs, some have begun to question whether the approach is the best way to go. Even the nonprofit agency itself has started to supplement the 20,000 or so computers it refurbishes each year with a separate manufacturing line that creates new machines.
One of the greatest strength's of the program is the rigor of its refurbishing process. Microsoft officials who toured the plant this week said the facility was among the best they had seen. Program officials say that a recent study found that the mean time before failure of their machines compares quite well against new machines, even though theirs are far older.
Among the criticisms is the fact that it costs about $160 to refurbish a PC. That figure is lower, say, than in Africa, but higher than in some other countries. It also is no longer so much less than a new PC, which can be had, sans software, for as little as $280.
One factor in the high cost for the program is the fact that the demand for the computers is so high that the program refurbishes nearly every donated PC that meets its minimum specifications--at least a Pentium II processor and 128MB of memory. As a result, the organization often has to supplement old parts with new. The parts that most frequently need replacement are system memory and hard disks, although new speakers and floppy drives are often needed as well.
Other say the machines are just too slow. Among those with that view is Dario Montoya, who heads the national SENA job training program.
In an interview after graduating a new crop of students from its SENA's IT skills program, Montoya said the refurbished computers won't help the country get the software developers it needs to truly compete.
"At this very table six months ago, I had the minister of communication and the minister of education," Montoya said. "I told them that Computadores para Educar must change."
Although the program has distributed around 100,000 computers, he said that 60 percent are now more than 6 years old. "They are obsolete," he said. "We cannot continue to fool ourselves that was a good model."
Cecilia Maria Velez, Colombia's education minister, said she thinks a mix of technologies is best. "We think that it's very important for quantity to use refurbished computers but we think it is also important to have other kind of machines," she said.
The Internet question For her the question boils down to whether or not the machines can connect to the Internet. "The point is connectivity and capacity to use connectivity," she said. "That is the line."
Velez pushes back when she gets complaints that the machines are too old." I fight with them," she said. "Before you haven't anything; now at least you have this slow thing."
A teacher from the Funsa school, which has benefitted from the program, brought some students to see the facility here on Tuesday. Asked about the debate of old versus new, he said it all depends on the students. With elementary school students, he said, it's all about getting more time to interact with the machines. In those cases, more machines is better, even if they are older. By high school, though, he said the needs of students are simply outpacing the machines.
Maria del Rosario Guerra, an economist by training and now the country's communications minister, said she wants Computadores Para Educar to hit a critical mass of schools with their first computers in the next couple of years. "After that, Computadores para Educar must move to work toward new strategy."
A recent court case demonstrates, once again, the dangers of assembling massive police databases and trusting that law enforcement officers with access are paragons of virtue.
In this case, the unvirtuous Fed is named Rafael Pacheco, an agent with the U.S. Customs Service in Florida. And the database in question is the Treasury Enforcement Communications System, or TECS, which contains more than a billion records used by Customs and other federal police.
Pacheco was, to put it bluntly, a corrupt cop. He sold access to TECS for money.
He got caught when a Mexican man named Fidencio Estrada was nabbed by state police in a traffic stop near Houston. Estrada had Pacheco's business card with him, and the state trooper asked him about it. After receiving a suspicious answer, the trooper phoned Pacheco, who called back and said that Estrada was a "huge" confidential informant and demanded that the trooper "let him go now."
You can imagine what the truth was. The U.S. Customs Service, which was subsequently renamed Immigration and Customs Enforcement, would later say that Estrada was never a confidential informant. Instead, Estrada and his family had sent about $18,000 in Western Union money transfers to the Customs agent, who deposited the cash in his personal bank account and used it to pay off a vehicle loan with the Florida Customs Federal Credit Union. Estrada is, according to ICE , a drug trafficker.
In return, in February 2000, Pacheco accessed TECS to check for records on Estrada. He searched for Estrada under two aliases and looked up records for those aliases in the NCIC database, which lists outstanding warrants against a person. He also helped Estrada's family members in Mexico obtain visas.
TECS, by the way, is described in a Justice Department report as including a watch list mechanism and, more generally, is: "Designed to identify individuals, businesses, and vehicles suspected of or involved in violation of federal law. TECS is also a communications system permitting message transmittal between law enforcement offices and other federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. The database provides access to the FBI's NCIC and the National Law Enforcement Telecommunications System. The TECS database serves as the principal information system supporting border management and the law enforcement mission of the DHS's U.S. Customs and Border Protection and other federal law enforcement agencies."
So what eventually happened? Thanks to the happenstance of the traffic stop, the access-for-cash scheme unraveled, and Pacheco was convicted of receiving a bribe, hindering law enforcement, money laundering, obstruction of justice, and unlawfully accessing restricted federal computer databases. He was sentenced to 87 months in prison .
As for Estrada, a U.S. permanent resident, he was found guilty by a jury of conspiring to bribe a public official, conspiring to launder money, 5 counts of bribery, and 10 counts of money laundering. He was sentenced to 41 months in prison, followed by 36 months supervised release.
He appealed, claiming that there was insufficient evidence, that the convictions were based on inadmissable hearsay, and other technical grounds. But the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld his convictions last Monday.