Tag Archives: Youtube

DARPA/Google and Regina Dugan

One of my more recent (Nov. 22, 2011) postings on DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) highlighted their entrepreneurial focus and the person encouraging that focus, agency director Regina Dugan. Given that she’s held the position for roughly 2.5 years, I was surprised to see that she has left to joint Google. From the Mar.13, 2012 news item on physorg.com,

Google on Monday [March 12, 2012] confirmed that Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency chief Regina Dugan is taking a yet-to-be-revealed role at the Internet powerhouse.

Dugan’s Wikipedia entry has already been updated,

Regina E. Dugan was the 19th Director of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). She was appointed to that position on July 20, 2009. In March 2012, she left her position to take an executive role at Google. She was the first female director of DARPA.

Much of her working career (1996-2012) seems to have been spent at DARPA. I don’t think I’m going to draw too many conclusions from this move but I am intrigued especially in light of an essay about a departing Google employee, James Whitaker. From Whitaker’s March 13, 2012 posting on his JW on Tech blog,

The Google I was passionate about was a technology company that empowered its employees to innovate. The Google I left was an advertising company with a single corporate-mandated focus.

Technically I suppose Google has always been an advertising company, but for the better part of the last three years, it didn’t feel like one. Google was an ad company only in the sense that a good TV show is an ad company: having great content attracts advertisers.

He lays out the situation here,

It turns out that there was one place where the Google innovation machine faltered and that one place mattered a lot: competing with Facebook. Informal efforts produced a couple of antisocial dogs in Wave and Buzz. Orkut never caught on outside Brazil. Like the proverbial hare confident enough in its lead to risk a brief nap, Google awoke from its social dreaming to find its front runner status in ads threatened.

Google could still put ads in front of more people than Facebook, but Facebook knows so much more about those people. Advertisers and publishers cherish this kind of personal information, so much so that they are willing to put the Facebook brand before their own. Exhibit A: www.facebook.com/nike, a company with the power and clout of Nike putting their own brand after Facebook’s? No company has ever done that for Google and Google took it personally.

Larry Page himself assumed command to right this wrong. Social became state-owned, a corporate mandate called Google+. It was an ominous name invoking the feeling that Google alone wasn’t enough. Search had to be social. Android had to be social. You Tube, once joyous in their independence, had to be … well, you get the point.  [emphasis mine] Even worse was that innovation had to be social. Ideas that failed to put Google+ at the center of the universe were a distraction.

That point about YouTube really strikes home as I’ve become quite dismayed with the advertising on the videos. The consequence is that I’m starting to search for clips on Vimeo first as it doesn’t have intrusive advertising.

Getting back to Whitaker, he notes this about Google and advertising,

The old Google made a fortune on ads because they had good content. It was like TV used to be: make the best show and you get the most ad revenue from commercials. The new Google seems more focused on the commercials themselves.

It’s interesting to contrast Whitaker’s take on the situation, which suggests that the company has lost its entrepreneurial spirit as it focuses on advertising, with the company’s latest hire, Regina Dugan who seems to have introduced entrepreneurship into DARPA’s activities.

As for the military connection (DARPA is US Dept. of Defense agency), I remain mindful that the military and the intelligence communities have an interest in gathering data but would need something more substantive than a hiring decision to draw any conclusions.

For anyone who’s interested in these types of queries, I would suggest reading a 2007 posting, Facebook, the CIA, and You on the Brainsturbator blog, for a careful unpacking of the connections (extremely tenuous) between Facebook and the CIA (US Central Intelligence Agency). The blog owner and essayist, Jordan Boland, doesn’t dismiss the surveillance concern; he’s simply pointing out that it’s difficult to make an unequivocal claim while displaying a number of intriguing connections between agencies and organizations.

YouTube unleashes five science channels

Friday, November 11, 2011 (Remembrance Day), YouTube unleashed 100 new TV channels. From Rob Waugh’s Oct. 31, 2011 article for the Daily Mail,

YouTube is to take a dramatic step away from its roots as a user-generated video site – launching 100 new professionally produced TV channels in partnership with stars such as Madonna and Ashton Kutcher.

The channels will roll out from this autumn, and will be free of charge, supported by Google’s advertising system.

The move is designed to turn YouTube – already available via many internet TVS – into a rival to cable and satellite TV channels.

In addition to the celebrity-driven channels, YouTube is also launching a number of science channels. From the James Grime Nov. 11, 2011 posting on the Guardian science blogs,

Google is investing in education and science, with five new YouTube channels dedicated to mathematics, astronomy, chemistry, physics – and spectacular demonstrations.

The five channels will be hosted by Brady Haran, Numberphile (mathematics and mathematicians) and Deep Sky (astronomy); Hank and John Green (brothers and vloggers) each with one science channel  (Grime was not able to offer details); and Steve Spangler, well-known for his coke and mentos experiment, and the director of National Hands-on Science Institute in the US .

I’m glad to see the interest in science and a little sorry to observe the lack of female-hosted science channels. For the record, I think the lack of female involvement is due to the fact that very few women have created science-oriented video channels and I believe it’s time to change that.

Space contest for teenagers

I caught this Oct. 10, 2011 news item (Google and Hawking seek space mad teenagers) on the BBC News website,

YouTube has enlisted the help of Prof Stephen Hawking in the hunt for budding young scientists.

The site – which is owned by Google – is launching a competition for teenagers to create an experiment that could be carried out in space.

Two winning ideas will be tested by the crew of the International Space Station.

Ravi Mandalla’s Oct. 11, 2011 article for ITProPortal provides more detail,

The competition, titled YouTube Space Lab, will allow students aged between 14 to 18 years to submit a 2 minute proposal on YouTube. The entries will be reviewed by a panel of judges comprising of astronauts, NASA scientists and Stephen Hawking. The winners will see their experiment streamed live from space as the astronauts perform it on the space station.

The BBC News item offers  a more complete list of the judging panel,

Alongside Prof Hawking, the judging panel consists of former Astronauts Leland Melvin, Frank De Winne, Akihiko Hoshide and noted “space tourist” Guy Laliberté. [emphasis mine]

Guy Laliberté, space tourist, is also the Chief Executive Officer for the Cirque du Soleil (founded in Québec, Canada). Professor Hawking also has a Canadian connection, he holds the position of Distinguished Research Chair at the Perimeter Institute (news release announcing Hawking’s appointment), located in Ontario, Canada.

Getting back to the contest, here’s how Google describes the contest (from the YouTube Space Lab contest webpage,

Your experiment, 250 miles above Earth, for the world to see.
What will you do?

We’re asking you to come up with a science experiment for space and upload a video explaining it to YouTube. If your idea wins, it will be performed on the International Space Station and live streamed on YouTube to the world. And we’ll throw in some out-of-this-world prizes, too.

Can plants survive beyond the Earth? Could proteins in space reveal the mysteries of life? Science in micro gravity can help unlock the answers. The countdown’s begun.

Good luck!

ETA Oct. 13, 2011: There’s an Oct. 11, 2011 article about this contest, which includes more information and a video, by Nidhi Subbaraman for Fast Company,

The lucky teenagers who win will have their experiments flown into space, carried on board an ISS-bound rocket, and could find themselves catapulted into YouTube stardom. Their winning entries will earn a joyride to the International Space Station, where astronauts will perform their experiment while being live-streamed on YouTube. It doesn’t end there. They’ll get to pick between one of two grand prizes: a trip to Japan in summer 2012 to see their experiment take off, or, when they turn 18, a chance to participate in the astronaut training program at Russia’s Star City. The four other regional finalists will be given a Zero-G ride, courtesy of Space Adventures, and laptops from Lenovo.

NISE Net’s Youtube channel

Dexter Johnson at his Nanoclast blog noted in an October 13, 2010 posting that NISE Net (Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network) has placed a number of nanotechnology-related videos on its own Youtube channel. From the Nanoclast posting,

I haven’t really looked at a wide variety of videos that NISE has collected, but the ones that come from a DVD NISE Network produced called “Talking Nano” contains some real gems. In particular, I enjoyed a seminar George Whitesides gave educators and journalists back in 2007 at the Museum of Science in Boston on what they should know and consider important when relating the subject of nanotechnology either to their students or their audience.

Whitesides, of course, is a renowned scientist at Harvard University, and someone who I’ve come to appreciate for his unique perspectives on how nanotechnology will develop.

Dexter features part 1 of the Whitesides interview which he recommends. I haven’t had time to check the video out yet, although based on the pleasure of seeing some of Whitesides’ collaborative work with Felice Frankel in book form, I too would recommend it.