Micah Kawaguchi-Ailetcher

This blog discusses current events and issues. Topic areas that are of interest include politics, media, California, and Hawaii.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Kosmix Draft

Conservative, Liberal, or Libertarian? Check it out with Kosmix.com

New search engine Kosmix.com is taking a different approach to the typical Internet search by the way it categorizes its results. Rather then presenting search results in a standard list form that can be thousands of answers long, the results are organized and sorted into different categories. For example, Kosmix’s U.S. Politics search engine categorizes its results as "Conservative", "Liberal", "Libertarian", or "Political News". The site currently hosts five different search engines: Health, Video Games, Finance, Travel, and U.S. Politics.

The goal, according to product manager Mark Johnson, is to provide better answers. By presenting the search results in categories, Johnson feels that they have an advantage by allowing the user "to see the data in a lot of different ways." In this way, they see themselves more as a "compliment to something like Google or Yahoo" rather than a replacement.

Kosmix started with its Health search engine. A querry in this engine, for example, for "breast cancer" produces results that are identified as "Basic Information", "Expert Information", "Message Boards", "Blogs", "Alternative Medicine", and over a dozen other categories. The right side of the results page presents Websites in the familiar search engine format which includes the individual Website’s category in Kosmix in addition to the Website’s summary so that a user will know before they navigate away to a web page, whether it is classified as a "Quiz" about breast cancer or as the findings from a "Clinical Trial". On the left side of the results page is a list of links that allow the user to display the search results by a specific category. For example, this can be helpful if a user only needs to view the results for "breast cancer" that are categorized as "Symptoms".

With its patent-pending algorithms, or as Johnson calls it, their "secret juice", Kosmix crawls the web and classifies different sites by the different "signals" that they provide. There is an amount of subjectivity involved in classifying sites as "Liberal" or "Expert Information," but once a classification is made, the algorithm moves on to classify new sites by looking at things such as what classified sites the unclassified site is often linked to.

"When you are dealing with a very nuanced subject, like politics, there are always going to be gray areas." These "gray areas" are exactly where Kosmix sees itself coming into play by helping the user to sort out the type of Website that they are looking for in the search stage. "In some cases, the algorithm can do a much better job than we can in figuring out [a Website’s] subtlety."

Kosmix hopes to add more categories to their search results. For the U.S. Politics engine, one consideration is a "Green Party" category. The Video Game and Finance engines are the latest additions to the site, but Kosmix is hoping to add more diversity to their search engines.

"The endgame is clear," says Johnson, "the goal is to categorize the entire Internet. Eventually, no matter what query you type in, we will have the categories that are appropriate for it."

Thursday, May 11, 2006


Yesterday, I visited E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) in Los Angeles which is the event for video games. Just as every other year, it was a full day of being herded through crowded exhibits all the while being in awe of the high end graphics displayed on the newest and most expensive screens run by the latest machines that I won't be able to afford until the next next generation systems come out. In short, it was a blast.

I was disheartened to see that my favorite from last year, Capcom's Okami, was still there and not in stores. But it was easily the most beautiful game there with a very Nintendo-like look for a Sony exclusive. In the game, you are a manifestation of a Japanese god and your 'weapon' of choice is a paint brush (hence the title Okami which means god and paper in different contexts [and can also mean hair]). Expect a lot of creative and artful puzzle solving.

Nintendo came out with a slightly different, and slightly improved version of their newest hand-held the Nintendo DS Lite. Of course, this is the same up-sell strategy used with their Gameboy Advance to Gameboy Advance SP to Gameboy Advance Micro releases so I would hold off on shelling out anymore money for a handheld that hey are likely to replace in a year.

On the other hand, Nintendo has also changed the name and color scheme of their next-gen console from the black Revolution to the white Wii. The Wii does still have those cool Nunchuck controllers with motion-tracking features which seems to be the way to go.

Sony has ditched last year's PS3 'boomerang' controllers for some PS2 look-alikes that are wireless and motion-tracking. Finally, my old habit of moving my controller in timing with my character will pay off and I won't get the jokes about looking like a four year old who hasn't grasped the concept of the jump button.

In bigger news for Sony, the price of the PS3 was revealed. There will be two different hard drive sizes: a 20GB for $499 and a 60GB for $599. The first release will have 2 million consoles world-wide, which, if tradition holds, will not be nearly enough consoles. So, you have until November 17, 2006 to save up and by a few if you can to resell on ebay and double your money.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

New Story

This story was finally published with the Annenberg Online Journalism Review (www.ojr.org). It's about StreetMessenger, an outdoor text-messaging based platform. The company, LocaModa got some props at the Demo 06 conference and they got another cool application that lets you use your cell phone like a remote control on computer screens in store fronts that have their StreetSurfer platform.

Here's the link to the StreetMessenger story, "Outdoor blogging technology: The blogosphere goes organic."

Saturday, May 06, 2006

The Courts are the Way to Go

An appellate court in Hawaii just reversed the decision that granted Makila Land Co. ownership of lands in Kauaula Valley above Lahaina (See this article in the Maui News for more information). This is good news for both the Kapu 'ohana (who claim rights to the land granted to their family with the Kuleana Act years ago), but also, to any Native Hawaiians claiming any lands. Though there is still a higher court to appeal to, at this stage, the decision indicates that Native Hawaiian families may be able to re-claim land through the courts.

In the bigger picture, courts are be becoming the most successful venue for the Native Hawaiian rights movement. Agencies (i.e. OHA) are a mess and are unreliable, or at the least, appear unreliable, which yields the same consequences with a lack us trust and an unwillingness to proceed through this venue. Furthermore, the actions in the legislative branch are idle (i.e. Akaka Bill). In the larger perspective of United States issues, the issue of Native Hawaiian rights is not urgent and there are hardly any incentives for legislatures to even look at the issue (as evidenced by Hawaii senators' teaming up with other small state senators in a 'you vote for my bill, I vote for yours' type of agreement). With the same issues existing in the executive branch, we are left with the courts as the choice venue for political action.

Taking this into account, the recent decision against Makila Land Co. may hold more clout in the long run because it sets a precedence that future courts will be looking back to. The decision is not so much important for the dispute that it resolves (save for the Kapu 'ohana) as it is for the policy that it establishes. This potentially begins a trend in Hawaiian law that can shift the balance from favoring land companies to a more sympathetic siding with Native Hawaiians.