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L023: Has Google been Naughty? Yes. Should the Government Get Involved? No

Read Vivek Wadhwa's thoughts on this piece, as posted to his blog, here.
Robert Scoble's response is here.  


By Jason Calacanis

Last week the LAUNCH team wrote a piece on Google being in a big of pickle with governments -- plural -- over its search results.

Now I am giving my personal perspective on the matter.

[ EDITOR'S NOTE: LAUNCH is written by a team with a shared byline unless otherwise noted (as in this piece -- which is me, Jason, and me alone). While I did contribute some knowledge to that piece, Kirin Kalia, who worked with me at the Silicon Alley Reporter, did most of the heavy lifting. She is an analyst here at LAUNCH, and she talked to a bunch of CEOs and founders we all know, as well as Google and the FTC. ]

The fact is government regulators are up in Google's algorithm, and it's having a bad impact on our industry. Any company as powerful and successful as Google is going to raise eyebrows from time to time, but a decade of Microsoft-like investigations is not good for anyone in the ecosystem.

Click to read more ...


L022: Good-bye, Copy/Paste -- Tout Tackles Repetitive Emails

Tout [ ]
LAUNCHER: Tawheed Kader, co-founder of HipCal (which Plaxo acquired) and formerly product manager/lead developer for a hedge fund.

SOCIAL PROOF: Got accepted to this summer's 500 Startups class after meeting Dave McClure at SXSW in March.

WHAT: Store and use templates for the emails you write most often, then see who clicks on them. This is a machine and a sniper riffle put together for sales people--or startups looking to flood AngelList members.

ALSO: Schedule your automated emails, and integrate Tout with popular CRM tools like Highrise.

WHEN/WHERE: November 2010 (beta) / New York.

WHY: Repetitive emails eat up precious time and there has to be a better solution than copy/paste. Adding CRM makes this extra delicious.

Click to read more ...


L021: BREAKING: Government Investigations Have Frozen Google's Manual Search Results

Editor's note: Matt Cutts of Google, in addition to refuting this story, pointed out in the comments that Google is still willing to take manual action on spam just as the company has done so for years. We regret that this point did not come out clearly in our original article.

by "the LAUNCH team"

Google’s search results have been "frozen" from anything but algorithmic changes due to multiple government investigations -- and possible investigations -- numerous sources have told LAUNCH.  

Google search results have always been primarily algorithmic. However, it has long been known inside the industry that some human "massaging" or "grooming" has occurred after the algorithm generated results. Sites that were good actors from Google’s perspective (read: Wikipedia, respected blogs, news sources) were moved up, and sites that were considered spam (or low quality) were moved down.

The human touch is not new, nor does Google deny it.

At Google’s founding, the human power came from Larry and Sergey, who created a ranking system that rewarded links coming from important sources and penalized those that did not. Those results fueled the PageRank algorithm, which Google still uses today to help determine search results (although to a much lower extent now that PageRank has been wildly gamed, and other signals of quality have emerged such as social sharing and time spent on a page).

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L020: Is Bitcoin the Wikileaks of Monetary Policy?

Discuss this post on Hacker News
Calacanis primer on bitcoin

By Robert Tercek

Cynics make the argument that complaints about the loss of privacy in the digital domain are pointless.  "If you use a credit card or an ATM machine, you're already living in the fishbowl," the wags say.   

Fair point. Financial institutions monitor where and when you withdraw cash and how you use your credit or debit card.   The transition to e-commerce has intensified their grip on your consumption pattern.   And the migration to the cloud will reinforce the power of financial institutions and the government to keep track of you and your data.

But it doesn't have to be this way.

Centralization Versus Diffusion

The struggle over the Internet's future can be summarized as a battle of centralized control versus radical decentralization.  This struggle has already played out across a dozen different industries, from content publishing to retail, from brokerage to software publishing.    

In each case, powerful incumbents fought hard to maintain control over their proprietary information asset.  They faced an existential challenge:  information asymmetry was their raison d'etre. That's how they controlled an entire marketplace.

Click to read more ...


L019: Bitcoin P2P Currency: The Most Dangerous Project We've Ever Seen

Solid discussions of this piece on, Hacker News, Slashdot and Reddit. Rob Tercek has a follow up to this piece here.

by Jason Calacanis and the LAUNCH team

A month ago I heard folks talking online about a virtual currency called bitcoin that is untraceable and un-hackable. Folks were using it to buy and sell drugs online, support content they liked and worst of all -- gasp! -- play poker.

Bitcoin is a P2P currency that could topple governments, destabilize economies and create uncontrollable global bazaars for contraband.

I sent the 30 or so producers of my show This Week in Startups out to research the top players, and we did a show on Bitcoin on May 10. Since that time the number of bitcoin stories has surged.

Click to read more ...