free html hit counter November 2005 - Page 7 of 8 - John Battelle's Search Blog

Amazon Mechanical Turk: Artificial AI

By - November 04, 2005


Kevin Kelly sent this my way, and it looked like a hoax, but I don’t think it is, nor does Kevin, and the b’sphere is all over it. Amazon Mechanical Turk. From the overview:

In 1769, Hungarian nobleman Wolfgang von Kempelen astonished Europe by building a mechanical chess-playing automaton that defeated nearly every opponent it faced. A life-sized wooden mannequin, adorned with a fur-trimmed robe and a turban, Kempelen’s “Turk” was seated behind a cabinet and toured Europe confounding such brilliant challengers as Benjamin Franklin and Napoleon Bonaparte. To persuade skeptical audiences, Kempelen would slide open the cabinet’s doors to reveal the intricate set of gears, cogs and springs that powered his invention. He convinced them that he had built a machine that made decisions using artificial intelligence. What they did not know was the secret behind the Mechanical Turk: a chess master cleverly concealed inside.

Today, we build complex software applications based on the things computers do well, such as storing and retrieving large amounts of information or rapidly performing calculations. However, humans still significantly outperform the most powerful computers at completing such simple tasks as identifying objects in photographs—something children can do even before they learn to speak.

When we think of interfaces between human beings and computers, we usually assume that the human being is the one requesting that a task be completed, and the computer is completing the task and providing the results. What if this process were reversed and a computer program could ask a human being to perform a task and return the results? What if it could coordinate many human beings to perform a task?

Amazon Mechanical Turk provides a web services API for computers to integrate “artificial, artificial intelligence” directly into their processing by making requests of humans. Developers use the Amazon Mechanical Turk web services API to submit tasks to the Amazon Mechanical Turk web site, approve completed tasks, and incorporate the answers into their software applications. To the application, the transaction looks very much like any remote procedure call: the application sends the request, and the service returns the results. In reality, a network of humans fuels this artificial, artificial intelligence by coming to the web site, searching for and completing tasks, and receiving payment for their work.

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Google AdSense Terms Updated

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There’s much AdSense news today, including a new affiliate program that lets AdSense publishers make money by referring folks into AdSense, and – surprise surprise – make a buck (literally) for everyone who might download and install Google’s Toolbar.

But what I find fascinating are the new AdSense Terms of Service, which I am just digging into (thanks Glenn). The industry seems focused on the new referral stuff, but it seems they have changed to redefine what Google finds competitive to their network – now that the company has image ads and site specific stuff, they need to start boxing out new kinds of competitors. Anyone out there fully grokked this? I plan to later this weekend….

Holy Smokes – 2000 Posts

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2000!I’ve been watching the number of posts on Searchblog gradually head up to 2000, but not till I saw that the last one was # 2004 – and this # 2005 – did I realize the milestone had been reached. And, Searchblog turned two years old last month, another milestone I forgot to note! Here is number 1, and here’s number 1000….

How Might Google Use That Desktop Search and Toolbar Info?

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PatentAndrew Goodman points to this patent, which is filed by folks who work at Google (though Google is nowhere in the filing…hmmmm.) From Andrew’s post:

Google sees its algorithmic thinking increasingly as applying to all “placed content.” This can mean organic search results, ads near organic search results, ads or related headlines near email, or ads on content pages.

Personalization potentially creeps into the way that ads are displayed, then. That’ll eventually have a dramatic impact on the opportunities available to advertisers, and the price they may pay to gain visibility.

From the Patent:

What is claimed is:

… A method of personalizing placed content, comprising: determining an interest of a user; accessing a user profile associated with the user; identifying a set of placed content that matches the interest of the user; and ordering the set of placed content in accordance with the user profile.

… A method of personalizing placed content associated with a search query, comprising: receiving a search query from a user; accessing a user profile associated with the user; identifying a set of placed content that matches the search query; and ordering the set of placed content in accordance with the user profile.

… A method of personalizing placed content associated with a search query, comprising: receiving a search query from a user; accessing a user profile associated with the user; identifying a set of placed content that matches the search query; assigning a score to each of the set of placed content in accordance with the user profile, a respective bid value for the placed content, and a respective click through rate for the placed content; and ranking the set of placed content according to their scores.

It goes on and on…the implications are rather far reaching, though not surprising to readers of this site….This is juicy reading….

Page and Brin's 767

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767The Wall St. Journal – which loves this kind of stuff – has a “their’s is bigger than yours” piece (reg required) about the pair’s new 767 jet – which they bought for personal use.

On the road, Sergey Brin and Larry Page have owned environmentally friendly hybrid vehicles such as the Toyota Prius. In the air, they apparently prefer something roomier.

Google Inc.’s two billionaire founders, both 32 years old, will soon be cruising the skies in a Boeing 767 wide-body airliner. They bought the used plane earlier this year, Mr. Page says….

Tech moguls delight in public one-upmanship and the Google founders’ 767 raises the bar. Microsoft Corp. co-founder Paul Allen owns a fleet of aircraft, but his flagships — two Boeing 757s — are smaller than Messrs. Brin and Page’s 767. It also marks a new level of consumption by the Google executives, who have shunned most trappings of the super-rich despite a combined net worth estimated at more than $20 billion.

The piece is fascinating for its obsession with detail about this purchase.

Google And the Mars Rover

By - November 03, 2005

Here’s fun with photos: Meetup’s Scott Heiferman was passing by the HQ of Honeybee Robotics – the folks who are helping NASA build the Mars Rover – and he noticed this welcome message (full photo here):


A passing curiosity, I am sure.

WSJ: Amazon Launches Publisher Friendly Online Book Access

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Jeff Bezos made a lot of money from his investment in Google (he was an early investor), and Amazon’s A9 builds on Google’s search service, but today Amazon announced it is “introducing two new programs that allow consumers to buy online access to portions of a book or to the entire book, giving publishers and authors another way to generate revenue from their content” (quote from the Journal piece, which is behind a paid wall).

Another tidbit from the story:

While Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos wouldn’t comment specifically on the Google Print controversy, he said, “It’s really important to do this cooperatively with the copyright holders, with the publishing community, with the authors. We’re going to keep working in that cooperative vein.”

Not to toot my pal’s horn, but if you want to see this model really working well, check out O’Reilly’s Safari service.

Meanwhile, Boing Boing has more coverage of the Google Print story, this one a rebuttal to the AAP’s Pat Schroeder.

New Yahoo Maps, APIs

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Yahoo late last night announced a new set of APIs for its mapping application, and a new beta of its Maps application. Yahoo is aggressively looking to expand its participation in the mashup world with these new hooks. Notably, you can hook into local search as well…and, presumably, the biz model for same as well.

Update: Thanks to SEW, here’s a good overview of Yahoo’s new offering. I’m heads down on a few things today…

Searchblog Survey Results

By - November 02, 2005

A whileback I asked you all to take a survey so I – and my new company FM – could get to know you better. The results are in, and I wanted to share them with you. Here they are. If you are like the typical Searchblog reader, you are in your early 30s, male, live in the US (on the West or East Coast), make more than 100K (wow!), have a really good job, don’t have any kids, and use the web a hell of a lot.