Concrete Thoughts …

DuckDuckGo–the Search Engine You Should Be Using



The original version of this post is available at ARLIS/NA Multimedia and Technology Reviews. I am very grateful to Emilee Mathews, whose editorial work contributed immeasurably to the readability of this article.

DuckDuckGo is a Web search site that competes with Google, Bing, and other major players. DuckDuckGo’s premise, and its major competitive advantage, is its commitment to user privacy—and backs up that commitment through its powerful, accurate, and flexible searching capabilities.

DuckDuckGo ensures privacy for users because it does not do the following:

  • collect any personal information
  • log any CGI data that identifies your computer
  • save your search queries
  • share your search terms with the sites you visit from DuckDuckGo’s results pages.

What are you watching?

[Edit: this turned out to pretty much be a red herring.]

Let’s say a lot of people follow this blog. A lot of them probably wouldn’t remember when cable TV was rolling out in the 70’s and one of the BIG DEALS in their marketing rhetoric was how they don’t know what we’re watching and the cable doesn’t send info about what we’re doing back to them. It was the first time it was possible, and privacy, apparently, was important to TV viewers.

Now lots more of what we do is recorded, analyzed, and shared. What I was wondering is, now that we’re all sick of cable (we are semi-cord-cutters in our house, and mostly watch streamed shows), what do our Internet-connected TV set-top devices know about what we watch?

News about the “Simian Selfie” is missing the point.

There’s a lot of talk this week (nice haranguing article in El Reg) about the unfortunate photographer, David Slater, who got a black macaque to take a great picture of itself a few years ago, and how Wikipedia editors can’t agree that the photo should be copyrighted to Slater, since it was actually taken by the macaque.

The tension in the story lies in the fact that Slater takes a lot of pictures but makes money off of relatively few of them. If you’ve used a camera since about 2001, you know what this is like: since the death of film we all can take zillions of pictures and some of them come out great. Slater tries harder and is making a career of it. He claims that the fact his most popular picture is being treated as a public resource is costing him tens of thousands of pounds annually.

What zoos’ websites could be doing for them

Museums, especially art museums, have made tons of progress in figuring out what it means to be a museum in the internet-connected world. All significant art museums now have most or all of their collections online, engaging social media strategies, and effective email marketing programs. And all these efforts are all fundamentally content-driven (i.e., they use the art as the draw), serving the mission at the same time they drive visitorship.

I would draw a contrast here between museums, on the one hand, and zoos and aquariums on the other. Zoo and aquarium sites are heavy on marketing–though without always being savvy about fundraising–and usually provide pretty good visitor information. But they do almost nothing to serve their missions online.

Poor local broadband; no choices

Sent 17 May, 2014.

Dear State Senator Espaillat,

I’m writing to ask you to make the improvement in access to good-quality broadband Internet services a priority in your work and in your campaign for Congress.

I live at 804 West 180th St. in Washington Heights. I have very few choices as far as broadband Internet service: Time Warner Cable, and Verizon FiOS. TWC claims to offer either 15Mb/s or 20Mb/s, depending on your plan; but they guarantee no specific minimum. I have their 20Mb/s service but the average download speed I achieve is around 1Mb/s. Which is to say, I’m paying for 19Mb/s that I don’t get. (I’ve called TWC to ask if they can guarantee a higher floor for extra cost, and they won’t.)