Kiam Choo’s Blog

June 17, 2009

Why Searchme needs to go back to kindergarten

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — kiamchoo @ 6:11 pm


Sure signs of a search engine that hasn’t focused enough on the basics: when I tried Searchme today (after a long absence), and was surprised to find that loading the homepage stalled for dozens of seconds–showing nothing–while the bottom corner of my browser announced that it was loading Google Analytics scripts.

Sure enough, looking at the source for their home page, the first thing that happens in the body is the loading of those Google Analytics scripts.

Response time is incredibly important in search, and I am really surprised that they haven’t done the homework to pin it down.   If you want people to use your search engine a lot, you need to make sure that the homepage renders quickly, and focus is set to the input box really quickly.


Hunch — The Ultimate Web 2.0 Search Engine?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — kiamchoo @ 6:03 am


Hunch from Flickr co-founder Caterina Fake is a “decision engine”.  After asking you some 20 questions to get to know you, you get to pick questions to ask it.  It then asks you a series of multiple choice questions to determine your preferences before giving you recommendations.  Examples of a top-level question (called topic on Hunch) are “Where should I go on vacation?”  and “What should I plant in my garden?”

The interesting thing is that all these topics are created by people — so in a sense it is the ultimate Web 2.0 search engine.   I found that it worked quite well in recommending designer suits for my wife and restaurants near my area.  Where the system breaks down is that it doesn’t take into account the fact that certain criteria are more important than others.  For instance, I played the topic “Should I get an iPhone or a Palm Pre?”  One of the questions was if I wanted to be able to multitask.  If this need completely outweighs all other considerations, then the answer is dead simple, and no other questions are needed.  But there is no facility for that.  So in its current form, it works best for “fuzzy” or subjective decision-making.

This puts it in the same market as Aardvark, which lets you ask real people subjective questions on IM, the difference being that with Hunch, the answers are pre-canned, and it is supposed to learn about your preferences as it goes.

June 16, 2009

Going Green on Twitter to Support Iranians

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — kiamchoo @ 4:48 pm

Lots of twitter users have turned their profile pictures green in support of Iranians over the current situation in Iran.  Best of luck of Iranians.  Is there a simple online tool that will turn pictures green?


May 20, 2009

Facebook blocks user for adding too many friends too quickly

Filed under: Uncategorized — kiamchoo @ 6:43 pm

My Coworker Chris is up in arms about Facebook.  They blocked him on Monday for adding too many friends too quickly…. blocked means he was unable to log in, and people sending him messages got their messages bounced.  It was as if he didn’t exist anymore no Facebook.  At 2,000 friends, Chris’s influence on Facebook has to be way above average, and now that he’s back in (after protesting strongly), many of his friends are getting to hear about Facebook’s bad behaviour.  It is OK to limit an application’s feature set up front if you have to work according to certain (e.g., technical) constraints.  But not being upfront about it, and then disabling a user’s account when he crosses some secret threshold, is not good.

I’m guessing they thought he was a spammer of some sort building up influence and thus a valuable Facebook account.  But if they would only dig more deeply, they would see that all his friendships are legit.  Bad algorithm.

May 18, 2009

Shen Yun performance

Filed under: Uncategorized — kiamchoo @ 8:45 am

Went to see the Shen Yun dance show at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts.  I guess I didn’t do enough research before going, but it turned out that this thing is funded by Falun Gong.  This is a religious sect that is banned in China.  I am not familiar with its teachings, so I’m not qualified to talk about the merits of this religion, but I was unpleasantly surprised to find that these people used an otherwise enjoyable and beautiful dance performance to preach their religion.  I was especially surprised when one of the MC’s said at one point that most of these traditional arts have vanished from China under its authoritarian regime.  Anyone who has been to China will be able to tell you that that is a blatant lie.  You can find those same or similar dances in China, and performed at a higher level.

It is great that the Shen Yun troupe is showcasing beautiful Chinese dance and culture to the world.  It is unfortunate that this is being done in conjunction with religious and political propaganda.  One of the dances depicted a Falun Gong practitioner being dragged off by black garbed agents with big red communist insignias on their backs (instantly raising the Pavlovian response in this audience of “Communist=Bad”).  He is brought back dead, but fairies and angels descend from heaven and take him into their midst.  I am not an apologist for authoritarian governments, but this sort of heavy handed cheese is really bad.

Then there was the male soprano who sang a song urging people to seek the truth with Falun Gong.  The lyrics were projected in both Chinese and English, and had obviously been dumbed down so as to have the widest appeal, but the dumbing down was disastrous–every line made me cringe.  That was all so horrible until I noticed that Gary had nodded off serenely beside me, while behind me, a fat, massive man was meditating to the song.  Now I really enjoyed that.  That was the highlight of the whole performance.

April 22, 2009

Tweets in Google Search Results

Filed under: Uncategorized — kiamchoo @ 9:40 pm

I’m not sure when tweets started appearing in Google search results, but today is the first time I came across one.


April 20, 2009

Google Similar Images

Filed under: Uncategorized — kiamchoo @ 11:21 pm

Google today released Google Similar Images:

Works really well.  A few of its false positives are entertaining though: for instance, among those similar to the first hit for Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi was another actress Zhang Jing Chu…not a bad way to gain some fame.  🙂


And how about this one. This guy is similar to Buddha…


The fact that they both have big hair proves that the algorithm is doing visual recognition.   🙂

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