yet another blog about computer, technology, programming, and internet

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Scour - A Social Search Engine

Thursday, July 17, 2008 Posted by Ismail Habib 29 comments
Scour (currently in beta) is another web 2.0 hype tagged as "social search engine" intended to give user more authority to determine results from searching process. Scour aggregates result from Google, Yahoo, and MSN and combine them with the votes from users to decide the order of the results. Besides voting, Scour also allows users to leave comments for every search results. Sounds like another Digg? Another worth mentioning feature from Scour is the reward system. Users will get a certain number of points for every search or another contribution they make (voting, commenting, inviting friends). After several thousand of points, users are able to convert them into a visa gift card. While this pay-per-search idea is nothing new, I wonder if the social part of Scour will able to keep them surviving in the next few years given the fact that they will probably have to compete with Google (Google is developing their search engine with a similar idea to Scour, I bet without the reward system).

I have tried Scour for around three days now, and I'm sure they want to improve on several things (it's a beta anyway). Currently the results are limited to 3 pages no matter what keyword I use to do the searching. The search results are also lack of highlighting (updated: not anymore!). They have also included a browser-integrated search bar, which is good for me since I want to try it without having to change the way I use Google. However, every time I click on a search result a frame appeared in the bottom of the page which allowed the users to give vote or comment on the result (this frame didn't appear when I tried to open the search result on a new tab instead of clicking it). This might be a good way to encourage users to participate in the voting/commenting activities, but I found it a little bit annoying. Hopefully they will find a better way to do it.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Family Tree Builder

Monday, July 14, 2008 Posted by Ismail Habib , , 52 comments
1. I have a big family which keeps on expanding
2. I live far away from most of them
3. I have terrible memory (being old and things like that... you know)

Those are my top three arguments why I sometime (or often) forget about things related to my family. Some examples: the date of my parent's marriage, my brother in law's birthday, or even the name of my one year old cousin. Now I'd like to say goodbye for all those fake arguments by introducing a geeky way to keep all family-related information in a sophisticated way: Family Tree Builder.


Family Tree Builder is a genealogy software (for Windows only) which can be downloaded for free at http://www.myheritage.com/family-tree-builder. I like this software a lot, especially since it offers some nice features such as: integration with myheritage.com (allows me to share and let others review the information on the web, though without capability of multi-user editing), photograph for every family member (and events), event reminder (birthday, marriage, etc), and also possibility to input unsure information for date (i.e. birthday around January 1982).

Friday, July 04, 2008

Blogger Wish List

Friday, July 04, 2008 Posted by Ismail Habib 28 comments
Amanda celebrates Blogger Buster's birthday by arranging a nice competition to suggest some new features for Blogger. As a Blogger user myself, I couldn't careless about it, especially since it comes with a really nice incentive ;) Okay, so here are my thoughts about new features that should be implemented:

1. Give option to show only snippet of posts with "read more" button

...or using the Blogger term: "Show excerpts of my posts, with links to the full text". This is the most important feature that I think should be implemented ASAP by the Blogger team (other than in-post comment, which already introduced in Blogger Beta). This feature will allow me to show more posts in the front page and let the reader to pick the one he/she interested in instead having to scroll all the way to the bottom page and check for previous posts.

2. More variety of widgets

I realize that some really useful widgets are missing in the Blogger, especially "Top Commentators" and "Top Posts". Top Commentators should display the most active commenters in the whole blog along with a link to their blog (as an incentive for supporting the blog by actively commenting it). Top Posts could be based on number of comments, traffics, or (even better) by popularity of the post decided by several criterias such as comments, traffics, number of links, digg, technorati, etc. Another widgets that I could think of are "Recent Posts" and "Recent Comments" (It is possible but with limit of 5 entries only). Emm... am I asking too much here? :D

3. Possibility to create additional pages

I would love to have a special page for author, links, and archives. Yes, it is possible by applying some sort of hacks but still I prefer to have it as a explicit feature.

4. Shows "possible related posts" by category or content

One of the best way to keep the reader stay in our blog after finished reading a post is by offering them to read another related articles. It is very nice if related posts are shown in relation with the content but related posts by category is also good enough for me.

You can also suggest a new feature directly to the Blogger team here. I'm waiting for the good news! ;)

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The Limit of Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Tuesday, July 01, 2008 Posted by Ismail Habib , 24 comments
I always crazy about sci-fi futuristic movies. Humanoid robots, machines vs men (with the help of Arnold) wars, or robots taking over the whole earth and keeping men as batteries. Simply love them. Most of those movies introduced the existence of highly-intelligent machines. Sometimes they are shown as having a human-level intelligent, in other case they are even better. Well now the question is: is it even possible? To what extent the development of so called Artificial Intelligence (AI) will be?

Back in 1960 something, experts predicted that in 20 years machine would be capable of doing everything human capable of, which is often called as "Strong AI". With respect for those AI experts, we are now in 2008 and it's not even close. Strong AI is proven to be much more difficult and complicated to achieve. This misprediction has caused AI experts being addressed as a “liar”, and consequently being forced to changes the direction of AI research from “Strong AI” into a more short-term, specific domain of problem, which is called "Applied AI" or "Weak AI". However, the dream of “human level AI” will never cease, and debate about it is always interesting to follow.

There has been a great discussion about whether human level AI is likely to be achieved by a mere symbol processing like what most weak AI commonly use. By applying a huge collection of formal rules and in addition, scaling up processing capabilities and storage capacity, and there we are. This opinion is greatly opposed by some experts. As current system lacks of something that is called “understanding”, “minds”, “conscience”, or other things which is related to mental states. The argument based on the idea that there is something more than just behavior to call a machine have an intelligent comparable to human. For example, let say that a machine capable of translating English to French. Even if the machine did it correctly, it is arguably incorrect to say that the machine actually “understand” English (or French).

But who need minds anyway? Intelligent is all about behavior, and it alone is enough. To see it from a different perspective, I (and my ignorance) have a trouble to imagine what “minds” and “conscience” are. Are they just some terms used to express something unexplainable? Or perhaps it just simply does not exists from the very beginning?

I have a nice discussion with one of my friend about this matter, and his view is somewhat different from what I expect, but nevertheless very fascinating to be followed. His first thought is that, even if human are capable of doing it, creating a machine with human level intelligent is unnecessary. Life is difficult enough, why would you like to increase the competition among human by introducing some humanoids? Other thing he expressed is that there is no way human will be able to do such a thing. An inventor would not be able to invent anything equal or beyond itself, as human is not God.

p.s: I am not an AI researcher nor expert in this field. Just someone who has an interest in it.