25 Mar

Are These Soldiers Asked to Pose for Pictures?

Looking at the three pictures of Marines in the side bar of this article (especially the picture at the bottom), these soldiers seem crammed very close to each other for a position taken in broad daylight nearby a road. Keeping proper distances between foot soldiers is key to their security (you still want to be able to communicate within your unit of course, and not lose track of where your people are). The bottom picture looks especially artificial. I had similar concerns about some pictures from the Afghan operations. I’m going to ask Getty Images.
Update: thanks to Kerry McCarthy from Getty Images who got back to me quickly:

"We never ask subjects to pose for pictures on breaking news stories such as this, "for visual reasons" or any other. We do not set shots up. What you see in Joe’s images are as they happened. I can not comment as to the lack of space between each soldier, even though what you say here makes sense."

Well, I wasn’t there, so I can’t question Getty Images and Joe Raedle’s integrity from my armchair. I’m a reserve officer (insert obligatory joke about the state of the French army, still what I’m talking about is pretty much a basic) and one thing in my training was clear: you don’t let your soldiers pack up close to each other if the visibility and terrain allow you to allocate proper intervals between them. Maybe the soldiers on this picture took it to themselves to regroup, maybe it’s an effect of perspective and distance (they really seem very close to each other though), or maybe at that time they were far from the enemy and didn’t really care (but then their ammo is loaded, which you usually don’t do at a picnic.) Here’s something about US infantry doctrine, it doesn’t detail proper formations, movement techniques or deployment guidelines though.
05/08/03 update: reader Michael Nosal wrote me this, with convincing examples to support his argument:

"I’m certain this is the result of the photographer using a long telephoto lens. Long focal-length lenses give the impression of compressed perspective – items look closer together than they really are."

22 Mar

“Peace” Demonstrators in Bordeaux Today

How surprising to see the same old extreme leftists (I saw CNT black and red flags again, like in April last year) demonstrating against the "imperialistic war." Thanks for protecting the right of the Iraqi people to be tortured and oppressed without foreign interference. That’s the kind of "peace" the left is notoriously rooting for. I’d gladly buy them one-way tickets to Iraq, to let ‘em enjoy the kind of "Hungarian freedom" the US has been protecting them from during the cold war.
This is the same bullshit they’ve been spouting since the sixties, some people obviously never learn. They preferred to be wrong with (Jean-Paul) Sartre than right alongside (Raymond) Aaron at the time, and sympathy for the dictator is showing its ugly face again. Saw a Kurd Iraqi writer confront a Socialist politician today on TV. (Let me paraphrase from memory) "you peace activists are well intentioned, but tell me how you propose to get the Iraqis rid of Saddam after all the deaths he’s already responsible of?" Of course he got no answer, simply because the "give peace a chance" side has none.

21 Mar

Google is Going to Email Targeted Webmasters to Improve Its Index

From this job description for a temporary Business Development Researcher:

"Research targeted 1,000+ website list. Research contact info of websites and send standardized email to targeted webmasters. Set up and follow up on phone calls with Contractors / BusDvp / TechTeam as necessary. […] 2-4 month temporary position."

So this campagin should hit targeted websites by the summer.

21 Mar

ODP/Google Has Been Updated Last Week

ODP Blog:

"Google, who is arguably our most widely-known data user, has updated its Web Directory. This means that all new sites added since the last update in September will now show up, both in the web directory itself and in searches.
Normally updates happen more frequently, however database problems at the ODP side have prevented new RDF dumps (the database files) from being generated."

20 Mar

Ebay’s Megalomania

Jeff Chan:

"Unlike Amazon, eBay is not an innovative company. Amazon has constantly improved the shopping experience by introducing useful features like collaborative filtering, personalization, book browsing, and web services.
eBay, on the other hand, appears to be coasting on its monopoly position, and not too smoothly either. The reputation system is not robust. There is no scaling of ratings by dollar amount of transactions nor any use of network flow algorithms, or even a two-level system that Amazon uses to rate reviews. The numerous service outages, which directly impacts their bottom line, reflect poorly on their technical management.
The listings are an abject mess once you drill down below the top-level categories. It is true that items on eBay are hard to categorize, but some form of filtering can be useful. For example, when browsing servers, I want to be able to filter by the number and type of processors, memory size, number and type of drives etc."

Browsing on eBay is so useless (at least in the product categories I’m interested in) that the only way I use the site is through My eBay and search. And everyone marvels at their request to pay to be able to use their web service.

18 Mar

French School Food: Not So Good

Jason quotes (apparently approvingly) a site that pontificates over French school menus and how they’re so superior to what’s served to children in America. Well, those menus sure sound impressive, but if you knew Montigny le Bretonneux for the drab suburb it is (though neighbor city Trappes is quite worse), you wouldn’t base too much of your argument on this fictional reconstruction of meals provided in French schools. We also have this ship that we dare to call an aircraft carrier. This is like learning about Paris by watching Am

18 Mar

Are there flaws in Google’s content based advertising?

David Galbraith:

"Google have the expertise to develop a concept based approach, possibly using intellectual property gained through their acquisition of Outride, but they certainly need to get their act together here or text ads advertising Hummers from suvssuck.com aren’t going to be that impressive.
This is particularly important when you consider the following: "While clickthrough rates might indeed be lower, Google claims that their tests show that post-click behavior (conversions to sales) resulting from content-targeted ads is similar to that seen with search engine advertising.""

Exactly what I’m thinking about this whole content/keyword-based advertising. Look at your referrer stats. Lots of queries your blog is totally irrelevant to. Content advertising is an editorial choice (i.e. advertisers handpick publishers that seem relevant to their pitch and the audience they want to reach), and frankly speaking, Google algorithms are still quite "stupid" if you look at what they fetch for you.
04/23/04 update: Tim Bray: On Search: Intelligence.

18 Mar

It’s Always Enlightening to Hear How People Defend Their Own Business

Tony Perkins, owner of AlwaysOn, displays the kind of arrogance we would find irritating from a winner, but given Red Herring’s track record, it’s downright laughable. Maybe Henry (disclosure: a friend and client of mine) was wrong in his assessment of AlwaysOn, and Perkins was perfectly entitled to chime in, but his tone is simply not professional.
If you want to feed your personal information to a marketing database handled by that kind of guy, it’s your free choice (privacy notice: corporate sponsors are authorized to access your "phone number, work history and educational background" unless you opt out by e-mail.) In that context, before I’d brag too much about the number of registered users I’d have collected, I’d count the Mickey Mouses first.
Then, you can’t opt out of AO’s promotional emails, so they basically grant themselves the right to spam you: "AO reserves the right to send promotional materials in the future." Note that you’re not allowed to use the service to spam, so that privilege is theirs only.
Plus, simply "using the site" will make you agree with any revision they introduce to their privacy policy. That, and the moving pop-up (on every page!) taken right from the porn webmaster handbook. I think I’ll pass on the blog publication taken to the "next level" thank you (stupid nobody that I am.)
03/26/03 update: Tony Perkins apologized to Henry.