tomtolman's Articles, Page 1 of 4

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04 Mar 09

Information solutions for the microcredit industry

Under the circumstances, we really don’t know what we are talking about when we talk about microcredit. I think it is time we classify microcredit programs according to clear, consistent categories.” – Muhammad Yunus in Creating a World Without Poverty

Last month I heard Dr. Yunus speak at George Washington University. He talked about creating social businesses and microcredit. His speech was well timed – It just so happens I am working with a small team to build a Microfinance Resource System for lenders.

15 Jan 09
Newspaper finalizes top ten ideas today

On Friday, will co-host an event at the National Press Club in Washington DC to announce ten ideas and accompanying plans to form of a national advocacy campaign behind each idea. These 10 ideas will be selected after online voting closes tonight. So far there have been over 500,000 votes cast on thousands of different ideas. The popularity of has grown significantly. In fact, as I write this article it appears their servers are having trouble handling the surge of last minute voting. As they manage this growing demand, the mission of is to provide a “central platform informing and empowering movements for social change around the most important issues of our time.”

17 Sep 08

Market Emotions Cloud Judgement

Greenspan calls this a once-in-a-century crisis. The federal government rescued AIG with $85 billion bailout. Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy. On Monday stocks suffered the worst loss in seven years.

Many are shunning stocks based on the volatile financial sector. This is what one expert on CNN had to say about investing in stocks right now, "No. It’s not a good time to get in with brand-new money. I would let these markets kind of wash themselves out….Are you kidding? These are the markets that you just sit on the sidelines and wait on the sidelines and stay away from them until everything works out."

19 Jun 07

Prosper - eBay of Loans

Six months ago, on an OmniNerd poll, we discussed what were the best stocks to buy and hold. Of smcbride’s ten poll options, Apple was a heavy favorite followed by Google and Genentech. How have we done? Six months later Apple is up over 50%, Google is up 10% and Genentech is one of only three stocks to lose ground at -4%. There are plenty of smart investors on OmniNerd and I wanted to get your opinion on another relatively new investment option – lending through peer to peer networks.

Prosper, in many ways, is similar to eBay. People list and bid on loans. Lenders set the minimum interest rate they are willing to earn and bid in increments of $50 to $25,000 on the loans they choose to fund. Those wishing to borrow money build a listing showing how they intend to use the money. Examples include a soldier consolidating debt after two deployments to Iraq, an entrepreneur buying a franchise and an investor borrowing money just to reinvest in Prosper. Some lenders have invested nearly a million dollars in loans to strangers through Prosper.

13 Jun 07

Redshirting Kindergarten

Elizabeth Weil recently wrote an article for the New York Times titled, “"When Should a Kid Start Kindergarten?":” (reprinted here and here) where she discusses the advantages and disadvantages of starting kindergarten a year late.

In most states, kids will start kindergarten when they turn five. Generally, kids cannot start early but may delay a year at their parent’s discretion. Holding kids back a year so that they will be older, larger, and more mature is often called “redshirting” – a term borrowed from sports. Studies show that 6 to 10 percent of kids in kindergarten have been redshirted. In affluent communities, the averages are 5 to 6 times as high. Some argue that any advantage a reshirting child may have would disappear after the first few years of school. In contrast, a study in the Journal of Sports Sciences found that a disproportionate number of World Cup soccer players were older than their peers on youth soccer teams. Another researcher found that the relatively oldest students are 11.6 percent more likely to enroll in college.

20 May 07

iPhone Rumor Causes 4 Billion Dollar Stock Bounce

Ever since Apple announced the iPhone four months ago, there has been so much speculation surrounding the phone that Apple has even threatened legal action against bloggers. The speculation was heavy this week as Engadget incorrectly reported that there would be four month delay in iPhone’s release June to October. This caused ripples throughout the stock market and within 12 minutes Apple stock lost 4 billion dollars. Engadget based their report on an internal Apple email that was forwarded to them from a “trustworthy source.”

16 May 07

Click Here To Infect Your Computer

Security researcher Didier Stevens has been running a GoogleAd for the past six months which reads, “Is your PC virus-free? Get it infected here!” In addition, he hosted the ad on a .info domain since they are notorious for hosting malware. Over 400 users clicked on the ad. The ad campaign only cost him $23, or six cents per visitor. Stevens said, “I designed my ad to make it suspect, but even then it was accepted by Google without problem and I got no complaints to date.” Wired notes some may have “clicked on the ad because they assumed it was a joke, or because they simply misread it as an anti-virus ad.” Additionally users may have clicked because the ad was served on Google, which is a trusted domain. Either way, his experiment shows how easy it is to get computer users to click on nefarious links. According to recent Google research, one in ten websites may contain malicious code – yet another reason to read up on operating system vulnerabilities.

12 May 07

Best Online Spreadsheet

Data requirements are growing exponentially and much of that information is kept on Microsoft Excel spreadsheets. Recently there have been several companies that have announced web-based, collaborative spreadsheet solutions. The major Web 2.0 spreadsheet solutions are:

  • *"Dabble DB":
  • *"CogHead":
  • *"Zoho Sheet":
  • *"Wyaworks":
  • *"Google Spreadsheets":

The only one that I have used so far is Google Spreadsheets. While there are many things I like, the product can be greatly improved. I’m interested in harnessing OmniNerd’s brainpower to determine the best Web 2.0 spreadsheet solution from the current offerings.

11 May 07

2007 Web 2.0 Awards Announced

SEOmoz has announced the results of the second annual Web 2.0 Awards. The awards include over 200 websites in 41 categories, a significant increase over last year. According to Rand Fishkin, SEOmoz CEO, the awards were “less about a site’s prominence at Technorati, PageRank or accumulation of links, but rather, on whether it truly rocked at what it did.” The winning sites were selected by a panel of more than two dozen judges and include industry heavyweights Digg, Craigslist, Flikr, and YouTube as well as less known start-ups such as Yelp, PEERtrainer, and Care2.

07 Apr 07

Japan Bans Candidates From Using YouTube

Japan has requested that YouTube delete candidate speeches in an effort to “ensure the fairness of the election.” This is in response to a fringe candidate, Koichi Toyama, who has garnered much attention due to his eccentric, confrontational style. According to Japanese election laws political speeches are only allowed to be aired by public broadcaster NHK.

Meanwhile, in the United States, YouTube may be a major player in the 2008 Presidential campaign. Some think it may be as or more important than broadcast networks. For example, a video promoting Barak Obama titled Vote Different, created by a once-anonymous ParkRidge47 (Phil De Vellis), has already received millions of views and captured the attention of mainstream media. Other videos capturing major attention include a two minute video of John Edwards combing his hair and Hillary Clinton singing the National Anthem. YouTube has created its own political channel and almost all the presidential candidates have accounts and are posting video. In addition, YouTube just launched CitizenTube where the general public, as opposed to politicians, can post videos arguments about the political issues important to them.

26 Mar 07

Twitterpated with Twitter

Twitter. Once upon a time, a twitter was the sweet, high-pitched sound of a bird. Now, it’s more likely associated with the electronic pings hitting you through IM, your phone and the web via the new aptly named web company-Twitter. Although Twitter has existed for a year, over the past couple weeks it has seen explosive popularity and created quite the blogosphere buzz. Twitter is a cross between instant messaging, text messaging, and microblogging with messages that are limited to 140 characters and can be sent and received via phone or the web.

25 Mar 07

Media's Mission: Entertain or Inform?

Recently, PowerPointSamurai and others complained about the endless news coverage of Anna Nicole Smith that seemingly trumped “more important” headlines. Facing criticism that the news was over-reporting minor news on Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, Anna Nicole Smith and other celebrities, the Associated Press went as far as to quietly ban any stories on Paris Hilton for a week.

Although it seems like lead headline news items – having bigger headlines and pictures – would capture the most traffic, that does not seem to be the case. I have noticed that CNN’s top headlines are rarely their most popular headlines. For example, the headline story at the time I wrote this was Large quake off Japan kills 1, injures scores but the most popular story listed was NASCAR’s Car of Tomorrow gets first test. I decided to observe the news for a while to see if the headline stories matched the most popular stories. Here are the most popular stories (Monday – Friday) from the last two weeks:

22 Mar 07

NBC Partners With AOL, MSN, MySpace and Yahoo To Create YouTube Killer

The battle for the Internet video market keeps getting hotter. Two weeks ago Viacom sued YouTube for $1 billion claiming massive copyright infringement. Now, NBC Universal and News Corp. have announced a partnership with AOL, MSN, MySpace And Yahoo! to create an online video site. According to the press release the site will contain "full episodes and clips from current hit shows, including Heroes, 24, House, My Name Is Earl, Saturday Night Live, Friday Night Lights, The Riches, 30 Rock, The Simpsons, The Tonight Show, Prison Break, Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader and Top Chef." Peter Levinsohn, President of Fox Interactive Media feels that the partnerships will be key to the new site’s success, “By delivering the new site’s content to our more than 65 million users, we can build on MySpace’s position as a leading destination for online video, and enable content creators to tap into the power of social networking.” There is no word when the site will be launched. Michael Arrington of Techcrunch is skeptical, "I think this will get a crazy amount of attention, then probably launch very late. Joint ventures are notoriously difficult to manage, and adding third party distribution partners to the mix will add complexity."

18 Mar 07

ISPs Sell Browsing History

Last year, AOL created an uproar when they released millions of search records to the general public for research purposes. This data was not as anonymous as they thought, and several people at AOL lost their jobs after the New York Times showed how the data could be used to identify individual searchers. Apparently not just search data, but entire user clickstreams are being sold by ISPs.

14 Mar 07

Google Will Anonymize Server Logs Over Time

Search engines have been under fire in the past for releasing search information to the government and the general public. Google has just announced that they will make the data they collect "much more anonymous, so that it can no longer be identified with individual users, after 18-24 months." Currently, Google stores an individual’s IP address, data and time of the query, the requested URL, browser and operating system, and the user’s cookie. Google now plans to change part of the IP address and the cookie information in their massive database. They say they are "busy working out the technical details" and should implement the policy within a year. Google admits the changes will not guarantee complete anonymization but should make it very unlikely that anyone could be identified as happened when AOL released their search data to the public last year.

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