Friday, April 30, 2010

I'm at WWW2010 in Raleigh, NC

I've been here at WWW2010 since Tuesday, but I've been using Twitter to post some of my thoughts on the conference and have been neglecting my blog (yes, I twoatted all over the place). This is only the second time I've attended this conference, and once again I've really enjoyed it. I'm leaving for Searcy in a few hours, so I'll quickly sum-up my impressions.

The keynote speakers were good, but I particularly enjoyed Carl Malamud's talk on being a "rebel". Carl didn't have a PowerPoint presentation, but he didn't need one; his stories about liberating tax-funded data and other exploits were very entertaining. "When I first saw Tim Berners-Lee's Web prototype, I thought to myself, 'That's nice, but it will never scale.'"

I also enjoyed a presentation this morning by Damon Horowitz of Aardvark, a social search engine that was recently purchased by Google. While listening to the presentation, I couldn't help but wonder, "Why didn't I think of that?" As Michael Nelson reminded me at lunch, the best ideas usually result in that response.

Other highlights include the panel Search is Dead! Long Live Search! that examined the future of web search and the Media on the Web developer's track which highlighted some incredible things HTML5 can do.

I'm excited to incorporate some of the things I've seen this week into the next offering of my search engine course. I'm even more excited to see my family again.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

George W. Bush speaking tonight at Harding University

Tonight our former President will be addressing a very pro-Bush Harding audience. Around 2000 students, 700 faculty and staff, and a few hundred other guests will be packed into the Benson Auditorium to hear Bush talk about...? My guess is Bush has a finely tuned speech for addressing college students, packed with jokes about Texas, Democrats, and how even C students can someday be President.


Although I wasn't able to attend last night's talk, I was told by many of my students that Bush came across very eloquent, knowledgeable, and by some accounts "inspirational". This might be a surprise to many who are more familiar with his public gaffs. My parents (who used my tickets) were also quite impressed.

When asked what was the most difficult decision he made as president, Bush said that it was sending in additional troops to Iraq ("The Surge").

Friday, April 16, 2010

When Twitter is gone, your Tweets will live on

The Library of Congress announced on Wednesday that
"Every public tweet, ever, since Twitter’s inception in March 2006, will be archived digitally at the Library of Congress."
That's right... every thoughtless, trivial, and crass remark you ever tweeted is now going to be made available for future generations (your tax money at work wink).

This is actually a very positive development because this corpus of short messages will provide invaluable to researchers and historians. My guess is some research on this corpus will likely be used to improve web search. I will certainly have my web IR course in the spring do some analysis on the corpus.

My hope is that some day the LoC will also archive all of Facebook. This will prove much more problematic as Facebook data is inherently private, and access to the archive will likely need to be restricted. But losing this treasure chest of bytes would, in my estimation, be far more of a loss to society and future researchers than losing a few tweets.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Bad idea: Using the same password on multiple websites

I just received an email today that reminded me why it's a very bad idea to use the same password on multiple websites.

A few days ago, some hackers compromised an Apache server which contained a hash of each user's account password. A brute-force approach will reveal a number of the weaker passwords which the attackers will then likely use to compromise accounts on other popular systems like Gmail. The email was warning me to change all my passwords on the other websites where I use the same username/password.
"We (the Apache JIRA administrators) sincerely apologize for this security breach."
At least they were sorry. wink

I know it's a real pain, but if you aren't using different passwords for different websites, start doing it now. It's much better than trying to clean up the mess after someone hacks your email, banking, and who-knows-what-else accounts.