Google Surprised at Success of Chinese Cyberattack

(p. 268) Though the underlying issue of Google’s China pullout was censorship, it was ironic that a cyberattack had triggered the retreat. Google had believed that its computer science skills and savvy made it a leader in protecting its corporate information. With its blend of Montessori naiveté and hubris that had served it so well in other areas, the company felt it could do security better. Until the China incursion, it appeared to be succeeding.

Source:
Levy, Steven. In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011.
(Note: italics in original.)

Kerosene Creatively Destroyed Whale Oil

WhaleOilLamps2013-10-25.jpg “The whale-oil lamps at the Sag Harbor Whaling and Historical Museum are obsolete, though at one time, whale oil lighted much of the Western world.” Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

(p. 20) Like oil, particularly in its early days, whaling spawned dazzling fortunes, depending on the brute labor of tens of thousands of men doing dirty, sweaty, dangerous work. Like oil, it began with the prizes closest to home and then found itself exploring every corner of the globe. And like oil, whaling at its peak seemed impregnable, its product so far superior to its trifling rivals, like smelly lard oil or volatile camphene, that whaling interests mocked their competitors.

“Great noise is made by many of the newspapers and thousands of the traders in the country about lard oil, chemical oil, camphene oil, and a half-dozen other luminous humbugs,” The Nantucket Inquirer snorted derisively in 1843. It went on: “But let not our envious and — in view of the lard oil mania — we had well nigh said, hog-gish opponents, indulge themselves in any such dreams.”
But, in fact, whaling was already just about done, said Eric Jay Dolin, who . . . is the author of “Leviathan: The History of Whaling in America.” Whales near North America were becoming scarce, and the birth of the American petroleum industry in 1859 in Titusville, Pa., allowed kerosene to supplant whale oil before the electric light replaced both of them and oil found other uses.
. . .
Mr. Dolin said the message for today was that one era’s irreplaceable energy source could be the next one’s relic. Like whaling, he said, big oil is ripe to be replaced by something newer, cleaner, more appropriate for its moment.

For the full story, see:
PETER APPLEBOME. “OUR TOWNS; Once They Thought Whale Oil Was Indispensable, Too.” The New York Times, First Section (Sun., August 3, 2008): 20.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the title, “OUR TOWNS; They Used to Say Whale Oil Was Indispensable, Too.”)

Dolin’s book is:
Dolin, Eric Jay. Leviathan: The History of Whaling in America. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2007.

Beer Was Safer than Water

(p. C24) . . . what would beer be without water? . . . New York City, at least until the opening of the Croton Aqueduct in 1842, had no clean, reliable source. In fact, since hops have a preservative quality, and brewing requires boiling, “beer was once considered safer to drink than water.”

For the full review, see:
EDWARD ROTHSTEIN. “EXHIBITION REVIEW; A Tipple or Two? It Was Safer Than Water.” The New York Times (Fri., May 25, 2012): C19 & C24.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the review has the date May 24, 2012.)

Former Botswana President Won Prize for Ceding Power

MogaeFestusBotswanaExPresident2013-10-25.jpg

“Festus G. Mogae, trained as an economist, was Botswana’s president for two terms.” Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

(p. A10) JOHANNESBURG — A foundation dedicated to celebrating and encouraging good government in Africa awarded its annual prize on Monday to Botswana’s former president, Festus G. Mogae. He was honored for consolidating his nation’s democracy, ensuring that its diamond wealth enriched its people and providing bold leadership during the AIDS pandemic.

Mr. Mogae, 69, a man with a modest style, will receive $5 million over the next 10 years and $200,000 per year thereafter for the rest of his life. Over the coming decade, the foundation may also grant another $200,000 a year to causes of Mr. Mogae’s choice.
The award, the Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership, is bestowed by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, named after its founder, a Sudanese billionaire.

For the full story, see:
CELIA W. DUGGER. “Botswana’s Ex-President Wins Leadership Prize.” The New York Times (Tues., October 21, 2008): A10.
(Note: the online version of the story has the date October 20, 2008.)

Nebraska Teenager Becomes the “George Clooney of YouTube”

(p. 263) Google also became more aggressive in connecting sponsors for popular videos. A paragon of YouTube’s business model was “Fred,” a video channel created by a Columbus, Nebraska, teenager named Lucas Cruikshank. The teen pretended to be a six-year-old kid named Fred Figglehorn in a series of two-minute videos. “Fred is the George Clooney of YouTube,” says Hunter Walk. “He was the first one with a million subscribers. He uploads videos, and we put ads against them. Sometimes he sells product placement ads. Fred makes a million dollars a year. He just signed a movie deal.” The Fred videos– generally manic rants in which Cruikshank portrays a hyperactive, possibly brain-damaged child who speaks like one of Ross Bagdasarian’s chipmunks– often sported commercial messages for sponsors such as Samsung, the Food Channel, and Bratz on an overlay at the bottom of the window. Since he started in 2008, at age fourteen, Fred’s (p. 264) YouTube videos have chalked up over half a billion viewings. Though Fred’s success was solely a product of YouTube, people in the company never met the phenom. “We sent him a cake once,” says Walk.
YouTube helped Fred’s youthful creator not just by selling ads but by providing analytics, the same way it did for AdSense publishers. (This was a result of an initiative called the YouTube Insight project, developed by engineers in Google’s Zurich center.) Such data helped creators learn what was working and where. “They’re like, ‘Oh my God, I’m big in the U.K.! I never knew I had a London following!'” says Walk. Superusers such as Cruikshank were so successful in exploiting YouTube’s business initiatives that corporations such as Sony were studying their methodology and even paid some of them consultant fees to help them understand the digital world.

Source:
Levy, Steven. In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011.

Malcolm Gladwell Has High Praise for Michael Lewis

GladwellMalcolmDrawing2013-10-27.jpg

“Malcolm Gladwell” Source of caption and image: online version of the NYT interview quoted and cited below.

I have found the two books that I have read by Michael Lewis to be very useful. But I have found the five books that I have read by Malcolm Gladwell to be full of wonderful and important examples and thought-provoking insights. So I am a bit surprised by the level of Gladwell’s praise for Lewis. (Maybe the problem is that I have not yet read Moneyball or The Blind Side.)

(p. 8) What books, to your mind, bring together social science, business principles and narrative nonfiction in an interesting or innovative way?
. . . Bringing together social science and business principles is easy. Doing that and telling a compelling story is next to impossible. I think only Michael Lewis can do it well. His nonbusiness books like “The Blind Side,” by the way, are even better. That book is as close to perfect as a work of popular nonfiction can be.

For the full interview, see:
“By the Book; Malcolm Gladwell; The author of “David and Goliath” compares Michael Lewis to Tiger Woods: “I’ll never play like that. But it’s good to be reminded every now and again what genius looks like.” The New York Times Book Review (Sun., October 6, 2013): 8.
(Note: bold in original; ellipsis added.)
(Note: neither the print nor the online version of the interview identify the name of the interviewer.)
(Note: the online version of the interview has the date October 3, 2013, and has the title “Malcolm Gladwell: By the Book; The author of “David and Goliath” compares Michael Lewis to Tiger Woods: “I’ll never play like that. But it’s good to be reminded every now and again what genius looks like.”)

Fed Regulations Are “a Wild Card” Since “Regulators Have a Lot of Leeway”

(p. 1D) The president of First National of Nebraska, the nation’s largest privately held banking firm, said new federal regulatory and com­pliance efforts stand to cost the company as much as $30 million this year.
“It is a big uncertainty in the banking world,” said Dan O’Neill, speaking Wednesday at the com­pany’s annual meeting in Omaha. “They are not operating off of concrete rules. A lot of it is their interpretation.”
The federal Consumer Fi­nancial Protection Bureau was formed as a result of the federal Dodd-Frank laws passed in 2010 after widespread bank failures and bailouts using taxpayer money.
. . .
The bureau, he said, worries banks because there is not a “clear body of rules” from which the regulator is operating in eval­uating the fairness of a bank’s business practices. He said the agency’s regulators have a lot of leeway in deciding what to do af­-(p. 2D)ter examining a bank; penalties for running afoul include fines.
“So it is a bit of a wild card,” he said.

For the full story, see:
RUSSELL HUBBARD. “ANNUAL MEETING; First National Chief Says Regulatory Costs Mounting.” Omaha World-Herald (Thurs., June 20, 2013): 1D-2D.
(Note: ellipsis added.)