Monthly Archives: November 2011

Signs of Cyber-Plagiarism

For as long as schools have educated young minds, the practice of plagiarism has been a problem and a dirty little secret of otherwise sanctimonious institutions. Adding to the frequency and breadth of plagiarized work submitted by students, however, is the internet. As web access and amount of tech savvy students has increased, so too has the ease with which pupils gain access to and submit work that is not their own. Often referred to as “cyber-plagiarism” this practice is like the plagiarism of yesteryear on steroids. Students copy content and concepts found online without providing any attribution to a source. Cyber-plagiarism also involves attaining already completed papers (research, theses, whole DISSERTATIONS—whatever a student needs there is probably a way to download or buy it online) and handing them over to an unsuspecting teacher or professor as original work. This widespread cyber problem is especially affecting colleges and Universities and without the proper attention could lead to dire implications.

When initially reading a student’s work keep your eye out for the following “tells” of cyber-plagiarism:

1.         False sources-Students may make up sources to give the appearance that the information they are regurgitating verbatim is actually paraphrased content from a legitimate source. If a source looks suspect or you have never heard of it, a simple Google search will reveal if it is an actual book/scholarly article/etc.

2.         Changes in writing-If the writing style of a paper changes drastically during the course of reading it, it is possible that it came from multiple sources OR the student wrote parts of it and copied other parts. In this same vein, changes in the quality of the writing throughout the paper could be a red flag.

3.         Knowledge base-As the instructor, you know what information the student had access to as a result of your class and reading assignments. If the paper far exceeds this knowledge base it could be cause for concern.

4.         Not quite on point-The paper is quite good, well-supported and well-written, but not EXACTLY on the topic or question you assigned. It is possible in this case that the student found something online that was a “best fit” to their assignment and went with it.

5.         Strange sources-Their sources may be actual books and journals but if those books are extremely outdated or the journals are not accessible through your library or library’s online database, then it is highly unlikely that the student referenced them.

6.         Anachronisms-References to past politicians as “current”, outdated electronics as “brand new” or celebrity has-beens as “popular” could be cause for a more thorough examination.

7.         Format discrepancies-Just LOOKING at a student’s work can sometimes reveal questions. Varied fonts, different styles between pages, multiple bibliographic styles (Chicago, MLA, APA), American AND British spelling, could all raise suspicion before ever reading the actual text.

If one or more of these telling signs is present in a student’s work, NEVER FEAR—cyber-plagiarism can be combated through the very technology that ushered it in. Hop on the internet; go to a search engine and type in a key phrase from the assignment. When using this approach make sure to find a distinctive phrase, perhaps with multiple uncommon words in one sentence. Another option is to resort to a grammar checker, while the main objective of these tools is to check for grammatical correctness you will find that most feature a plagiarism filter.

This means of combating the issue, however, can be time consuming and many students take content from multiple sources to piece together a final product—so pin pointing ALL the plagiarized source material can be difficult. As such, plagiarism detection electronic programs and software have become a valuable resource for colleges and Universities. These programs allow the instructor to identify borrowed text from websites, online content and paper-mill databases.

If you or your organization is in charge of large amounts of content where originality and quality are imperative consider using Grammarly the best resource to remain in compliance with all grammar rules.


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Make Your New Job A Stepping Stone To Your Ideal Career

Whether you are just out of college or been working in your current job for 20 years, the fact of the matter is that every person has a dream job. The career that always seems just out of reach but is the one position that you believe you would be happy to work at for the rest of your life.

The problem though, as I just mentioned, is that this ‘dream job’ always seems unattainable – but it doesn’t have to be that way.
The majority of positions fit somewhere in a tier of positions with jobs underneath that allow you to work your way up to the higher positions and jobs above on the ladder for you to continue to grow into if you choose.

This is usually know as the corporate ladder and most industries and jobs have one – you just need to know how to use it to your advantage to finally land your dream job.

How To Use The Corporate Ladder To Land Your Dream Job

1. Get On The Right Ladder

If you are serious about eventually getting your dream job then it is important that you make the right first move. There is no point working 10-20 years in a completely different corporate ladder because it will get you no closer to your dream job. Finding work anywhere in the ladder below your dream job is the best first step your can make because it puts you in a direct line towards your goal.

2. Have A Strong Work Ethic

Before you go around sprouting that you want to work your way to the top you need to have the track record to prove that you have what it takes. Work hard and be great at your current job before you try and push for a promotion.

3. Let Management Know Your Intentions

Employers like hard workers but they are more than happy to keep people in their current jobs unless they have a reason otherwise. If you are not yet at your dream job then be sure to let your manager know that you are willing to take new opportunities and responsibilities.

4. Take Opportunities

And when these opportunities do arise, sometimes they can come at inopportune times, if you are committed to reaching your goal then you need to know that opportunities usually come when you least expect it – so be aware of new options.

5. Be Patient

Climbing the corporate ladder can be a long process, so don’t expect to land your dream job in your first year. Be patient, work hard and slowly climb that ladder until you find yourself in the position you have worked towards.

Thomas writes for QLD Mining Jobs, which is website that keeps you up to date with the latest news and information Queensland mines and the job opportunities available in the industry.


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The Best Methods for Preventing Fraudulent Chargebacks

Fraudulent chargebacks are becoming more and more prevalent in today’s modern society, and as a business owner you’ve probably been hit more than once with this specific kind of nefarious fraudulent activity. Whenever it happens you’re left slapping your forehead and wondering how you could have let that one slip by you. It’s nothing to beat yourself up about, and if there weren’t such unscrupulous people in the world today we wouldn’t even have to deal with them. Unfortunately, the fact of the matter is that there are people like this who will take advantage of every possible opportunity to swindle, gyp, and otherwise rip off honest, hardworking businesspeople.

Instead of beating yourself up, what you can do instead is further tighten your security measures to prevent this type of fraud from affecting your business. Every new chargeback is an opportunity to review your purchasing and processing model to make it harder for the scammers to slip through. Dealing with fraudulent chargeback in an online environment is infinitely more difficult than dealing with it in a “card present” business scenario, so the latter is what this article is going to focus on mostly. Here are the best methods for preventing fraudulent chargebacks in your physical business location.

The first and most obvious step is to obtain signatures, and compare the one given with the signature on the back of the credit card. If there is no signature on the back of the card, don’t even accept the charge. Kindly inform the customer that it’s against your policy to do so, and offer other methods of payment, such as cash or, if you offer it, check. Legitimate card owners will usually understand the need for this to happen, and if the customer is trying to make the purchase with a stolen or fake credit card you’re better off not dealing with him anyway. They may get angry or try to argue with you, but stand firm, and most importantly train your cashiers to do this as well.

When the customer signs the credit card receipt, examine the signature given one more time against the signature on the back of the card. Many people simply forget or neglect to do this, but it can be one of the best indicators that you’re dealing with a fraudulent transaction. Legitimate card owners will usually understand the need for this to happen, and if the customer is trying to make the purchase with a stolen or fake credit card you’re better off not dealing with him anyway. They may get angry or try to argue with you, but stand firm, and most importantly train your cashiers to do this as well.

Second of all, train your staff to be able to recognize all of the various security features that will be present on a legitimate credit card. They should examine each card separately to determine whether the card is valid. This is another obvious gesture but there are a lot of people who simply don’t do it. Fake credit cards are extremely hard to pass off under a discerning eye.Finally, take a second to double check that the number on the slide machine is actually the same number that’s on the physical card. These are things that only take a few seconds to do, but can save you a lot of time and money in the long run.

Rebecca is a multi tasking person offering SEO, online PR, web copywriting, media relationship management, and chargeback responses. Rebecca works directly with each client to increase  brand profile, and search engine rankings. She has headed a number of chargeback campaigns for large brands.If intrested in Rebecca’s chargeback initiatives or would like to know how to fight chargebacks visit her website.


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How to Start a Small Business and Become an Entrepreneur

In today’s world, it has become very difficult to find a job. It is becoming harder and harder to get in to the right job. There are many talented people in the world who are struggling for jobs even after completing their education for several years. For those, it is better to start their own business. Initially, one can start a small business and with sincere efforts, hard work, determination and will power one can grow into a successful entrepreneur.  Most of us think that starting a business is a mysterious and complicated process. But, if planned properly one can start a small business easily. Here are some steps to start a small business.

Firstly, choose what kind of business you want to start. Think of the areas in which you are interested and want to start a business. For example, acting, dancing, teaching, web designing, web hosting, programming, online data entry etc. It is very important to know your passions and personality before starting a business. Bring out your skills and talents and put them on the table. After this, write a business plan which is very important to start and operate your own business. This is one of the tough and time taking tasks in starting your own business. In business plan, one must decide how to generate a standard income, how to meet the expenses, how to fund your business, how to take over the competitors, and how to grow etc.

Initially, invest some amount of money. Every business needs some start-up investment. One must remember that it is difficult to start a business without investment. Give a name to your business. The right brand name will help to distinguish your business from other competitors. In other words, your business name behaves like an aid in branding your company. After that, choose a right structure for your business. Get all the necessary licenses, permits, employer identification number (EIN) and other paperwork. Find a good business location and set your office. Choose the office in such a place that your clients and customers can reach easily. Create a genuine and proper accounting system. Hire a good accountant who is aware of all the systems, taxes, trade services and other systems. If possible develop a small website of your business which contains information about your business, previous work etc.

One can even start a business with a partner. The partner should be a person having experience in the same field with different skills. Moreover, the partner should be reliable and genuine. It is advisable to start a business with a partner, as the partner will remind you of the business priorities and you can even share your initial investment with your partner which lessens the financial burden. Once you start your work, charge appropriate amount for the work done. Don’t undercharge and at the same time be flexible.

Proper pricing always makes the business lively and client will fell like hiring a right person for their work.


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Google: Bing Is Cheating, Copying Our Search Results


Google has run a sting operation that it says proves Bing has been watching what people search for on Google, the sites they select from Google’s results, then uses that information to improve Bing’s own search listings. Bing doesn’t deny this.

As a result of the apparent monitoring, Bing’s relevancy is potentially improving (or getting worse) on the back of Google’s own work. Google likens it to the digital equivalent of Bing leaning over during an exam and copying off of Google’s test.

“I’ve spent my career in pursuit of a good search engine,” says Amit Singhal, a Google Fellow who oversees the search engine’s ranking algorithm. “I’ve got no problem with a competitor developing an innovative algorithm. But copying is not innovation, in my book.”

Bing doesn’t deny Google’s claim. Indeed, the statement that Stefan Weitz, director of Microsoft’s Bing search engine, emailed me yesterday as I worked on this article seems to confirm the allegation:

As you might imagine, we use multiple signals and approaches when we think about ranking, but like the rest of the players in this industry, we’re not going to go deep and detailed in how we do it. Clearly, the overarching goal is to do a better job determining the intent of the search, so we can guess at the best and most relevant answer to a given query.

Opt-in programs like the [Bing] toolbar help us with clickstream data, one of many input signals we and other search engines use to help rank sites. This “Google experiment” seems like a hack to confuse and manipulate some of these signals.

Later today, I’ll likely have a more detailed response from Bing. Microsoft wanted to talk further after a search event it is hosting today. More about that event, and how I came to be reporting on Google’s findings just before it began, comes at the end of this story. But first, here’s how Google’s investigation unfolded.

Postscript: Bing: Why Google’s Wrong In Its Accusations is the follow-up story from talking with Bing. Please be sure to read it after this. You’ll also find another link to it at the end of this article.

Hey, Does This Seem Odd To You?

Around late May of last year, Google told me it began noticing that Bing seemed to be doing exceptionally well at returning the same sites that Google would list, when someone would enter unusual misspellings.

For example, consider a search for torsoraphy, which causes Google to return this:

In the example above, Google’s searched for the correct spelling — tarsorrhaphy — even though torsoraphy was entered. Notice the top listing for the corrected spelling is a page about the medical procedure at Wikipedia.

Over at Bing, the misspelling is NOT corrected — but somehow, Bing manages to list the same Wikipedia page at the top of its results as Google does for its corrected spelling results:

Got it? Despite the word being misspelled — and the misspelling not being corrected — Bing still manages to get the right page from Wikipedia at the top of its results, one of four total pages it finds from across the web. How did it do that?

It’s a point of pride to Google that it believes it has the best spelling correction system of any search engine. Google even claims that it can even correct misspellings that have never been searched on before. Engineers on the spelling correction team closely watch to see if they’re besting competitors on unusual terms.

So when misspellings on Bing for unusual words — such as above — started generating the same results as with Google, red flags went up among the engineers.

Google: Is Bing Copying Us?

More red flags went up in October 2010, when Google told me it noticed a marked rise in two key competitive metrics. Across a wide range of searches, Bing was showing a much greater overlap with Google’s top 10 results than in preceding months. In addition, there was an increase in the percentage of times both Google and Bing listed exactly the same page in the number one spot.

By no means did Bing have exactly the same search results as Google. There were plenty of queries where the listings had major differences. However, the increases were indicative that Bing had made some change to its search algorithm which was causing its results to be more Google-like.

Now Google began to strongly suspect that Bing might be somehow copying its results, in particular by watching what people were searching for at Google. There didn’t seem to be any other way it could be coming up with such similar matches to Google, especially in cases where spelling corrections were happening.

Google thought Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser was part of the equation. Somehow, IE users might have been sending back data of what they were doing on Google to Bing. In particular, Google told me it suspected either the Suggested Sites feature in IE or the Bing toolbar might be doing this.

To Sting A Bing

To verify its suspicions, Google set up a sting operation. For the first time in its history, Google crafted one-time code that would allow it to manually rank a page for a certain term (code that will soon be removed, as described further below). It then created about 100 of what it calls “synthetic” searches, queries that few people, if anyone, would ever enter into Google.

These searches returned no matches on Google or Bing — or a tiny number of poor quality matches, in a few cases — before the experiment went live. With the code enabled, Google placed a honeypot page to show up at the top of each synthetic search.

The only reason these pages appeared on Google was because Google forced them to be there. There was nothing that made them naturally relevant for these searches. If they started to appeared at Bing after Google, that would mean that Bing took Google’s bait and copied its results.

This all happened in December. When the experiment was ready, about 20 Google engineers were told to run the test queries from laptops at home, using Internet Explorer, with Suggested Sites and the Bing Toolbar both enabled. They were also told to click on the top results. They started on December 17. By December 31, some of the results started appearing on Bing.

Here’s an example, which is still working as I write this, hiybbprqag at Google:

and the same exact match at Bing:

Here’s another, for mbzrxpgjys at Google:

and the same match at Bing:

Here’s one more, this time for indoswiftjobinproduction, at Google:

And at Bing:

To be clear, before the test began, these queries found either nothing or a few poor quality results on Google or Bing. Then Google made a manual change, so that a specific page would appear at the top of these searches, even though the site had nothing to do with the search. Two weeks after that, some of these pages began to appear on Bing for these searches.

It strongly suggests that Bing was copying Google’s results, by watching what some people do at Google via Internet Explorer.

The Google Ranking Signal

Only a small number of the test searches produced this result, about 7 to 9 (depending on when exactly Google checked) out of the 100. Google says it doesn’t know why they didn’t all work, but even having a few appear was enough to convince the company that Bing was copying its results.

As I wrote earlier, Bing is far from identical to Google for many queries. This suggests that even if Bing is using search activity at Google to improve its results, that’s only one of many signals being considered.

Search engines all have ranking algorithms that use various signals to determine which pages should come first. What words are used on the page? How many links point at that page? How important are those links estimated to be? What words appear in the links pointing at the page? How important is the web site estimated to be? These are just some of the signals that both Bing and Google use.

Google’s test suggests that when Bing has many of the traditional signals, as is likely for popular search topics, it relies mostly on those. But in cases where Bing has fewer trustworthy signals, such as “long tail” searches that bring up fewer matches, then Bing might lean more on how Google ranks pages for those searches.

In cases where there are no signals other than how Google ranks things, such as with the synthetic queries that Google tested, then the Google “signal” may come through much more.

Do Users Know (Or Care)?

Do Internet Explorer users know that they might be helping Bing in the way Google alleges? Technically, yes — as best I can tell. Explicitly, absolutely not.

Internet Explorer makes clear (to those who bother to read its privacy policy) that by default, it’s going to capture some of your browsing data, unless you switch certain features off. It may also gather more data if you enable some features.

Suggested Sites

Suggested Sites is one of likely ways that Bing may have been gathering information about what’s happening on Google. This is a feature (shown to the right) that suggests other sites to visit, based on the site you’re viewing.

Microsoft does disclose that Suggested Sites collects information about sites you visit. From the privacy policy:

When Suggested Sites is turned on, theaddresses of websites you visit are sent to Microsoft, together with standard computer information.

To help protect your privacy, the information is encrypted when sent to Microsoft. Information associated with the web address, such as search terms or data you entered in forms might be included.

For example, if you visited the search website at and entered “Seattle” as the search term, the full address will be sent.

I’ve bolded the key parts. What you’re searching on gets sent to Microsoft. Even though the example provided involves a search on, the policy doesn’t prevent any search — including those at Google — from being sent back.

It makes sense that the Suggested Sites feature needs to report the URL you’re viewing back to Microsoft. Otherwise, it doesn’t know what page to show you suggestions for. The Google Toolbar does the same thing, tells Google what page you’re viewing, if you have the PageRank feature enabled.

But to monitor what you’re clicking on in search results? There’s no reason I can see for Suggested Sites to do that — if it indeed does. But even if it does log clicks, Microsoft may feel that this is “standard computer information” that the policy allows to be collected.

The Bing Bar

There’s also the Bing Bar — a Bing toolbar — that Microsoft encourages people to install separately from Internet Explorer (IE may come with it pre-installed through some partner deals. When you install the toolbar, by default it is set to collect information to “improve” your experience, as you can see:

The install page highlights some of what will be collected and how it will be used:

“improve your online experience with personalized content by allowing us to collectadditional information about your system configuration, the searches you do, websites you visit, and how you use our software. We will also use this information to help improve our products and services.”

Again, I’ve bolded the key parts. The Learn More page about the data the Bing Bar collects ironically says less than what’s directly on the install page.

It’s hard to argue that gathering information about what people search for at Google isn’t covered. Technically, there’s nothing misleading — even if Bing, for obvious reasons, isn’t making it explicit that to improve its search results, it might look at what Bing Bar users search for at Google and click on there.

What About The Google Toolbar & Chrome?

Google has its own Google Toolbar, as well as its Chrome browser. So I asked Google. Does it do the same type of monitoring that it believes Bing does, to improve Google’s search results?

“Absolutely not. The PageRank feature sends back URLs, but we’ve never used those URLs or data to put any results on Google’s results page. We do not do that, and we will not do that,” said Singhal.

Actually, Google has previously said that the toolbar does play a role in ranking. Google uses toolbar data in part to measure site speed — and site speed was a ranking signal that Google began using last year.

Instead, Singhal seems to be saying that the URLs that the toolbar sees are not used for finding pages to index (something Google’s long denied) or to somehow find new results to add to the search results.

As for Chrome, Google says the same thing — there’s no information flowing back that’s used to improve search rankings. In fact, Google stressed that the only information that flows back at all from Chrome is what people are searching for from within the browser, if they are using Google as their search engine.

Is It Illegal?

Suffice to say, Google’s pretty unhappy with the whole situation, which does raise a number of issues. For one, is what Bing seems to be doing illegal? Singhal was “hesitant” to say that since Google technically hasn’t lost anything. It still has its own results, even if it feels Bing is mimicking them.

Is it Cheating?

If it’s not illegal, is what Bing may be doing unfair, somehow cheating at the search game?

On the one hand, you could say it’s incredibly clever. Why not mine what people are selecting as the top results on Google as a signal? It’s kind of smart. Indeed, I’m pretty sure we’ve had various small services in the past that have offered for people to bookmark their top choices from various search engines.

Google doesn’t see it as clever.

“It’s cheating to me because we work incredibly hard and have done so for years but they just get there based on our hard work,” said Singhal. “I don’t know how else to call it but plain and simple cheating. Another analogy is that it’s like running a marathon and carrying someone else on your back, who jumps off just before the finish line.”

In particular, Google seems most concerned that the impact of mining user data on its site potentially pays off the most for Bing on long-tail searches, unique searches where Google feels it works especially hard to distinguish itself.

Ending The Experiment

Now that Google’s test is done, it will be removing the one-time code it added to allow for the honeypot pages to be planted. Google has proudly claimed over the years that it had no such ability, as proof of letting its ranking algorithm make decisions. It has no plans to keep this new ability and wants to kill it, so things are back to “normal.”

Google also stressed to me that the code only worked for this limited set of synthetic queries — and that it had an additional failsafe. Should any of the test queries suddenly become even mildly popular for some reason, the honeypot page for that query would no longer show.

This means if you test the queries above, you may no longer see the same results at Google. However, I did see all these results myself before writing this, along with some additional ones that I’ve not done screenshots for. So did several of my other editors yesterday.

Why Open Up Now?

What prompted Google to step forward now and talk with me about its experiment? A grand plan to spoil Bing’s big search event today? A clever way to distract from current discussions about its search quality? Just a coincidence of timing? In the end, whatever you believe about why Google is talking now doesn’t really matter. The bigger issue is whether you believe what Bing is doing is fair play or not. But here’s the strange backstory.

Recall that Google got its experiment confirmed on December 31. The next day — New Year’s Day — TechCrunch ran an article called Why We Desperately Need a New (and Better) Googlefrom guest author Vivek Wadhwa, praising Blekko for having better date search than Google and painting a generally dismal picture of Google’s relevancy overall.

I doubt Google had any idea that Wadhwa’s article was coming, and I’m virtually certain Wadhwa had no idea about Google’s testing of Bing. But his article kicked off a wave of “Google’s results suck” posts.

Trouble In the House of Google from Jeff Atwood of Coding Horror appeared on January 3;Google’s decreasingly useful, spam-filled web search from Marco Arment of Instapaper came out on January 5. Multiple people mistakenly reported Paul Kedrosky’s December 2009 article about struggling to research a dishwasher as also being part of the current wave. It wasn’t, but on January 11, Kedrosky weighed in with fresh thoughts in Curation is the New Search is the New Curation.

The wave kept going. It’s still going. Along the way, Search Engine Land itself had several pieces, with Conrad Saam’s column on January 12, Google vs. Bing: The Fallacy Of The Superior Search Engine, gaining a lot of attention. In it, he did a short survey of 20 searches and concluded that Google and Bing weren’t that different.

Time To Talk? Come To Our Event?

The day after that column appeared, I got a call from Google. Would I have time to come talk in person about something they wanted to show me, relating to relevancy? Sure. Checking my calendar, I said January 27 — a Thursday — would be a good time for me to fly up from where I work in Southern California to Google’s Mountain View campus.

The day after that, Bing contacted me. They were hosting an event on February 1 to talk about the state of search and wanted to make sure I had the date saved, in case I wanted to come up for it. I said I’d make it. I later learned that the event was being organized by Wadhwa, author of that TechCrunch article.

A change on Google’s end shifted my meeting to January 28, last Friday. As is typical when I visit Google, I had a number of different meetings to talk about various products and issues. My last meeting of the day was with Singhal and Cutts — where they shared everything I’ve described above, explaining this is one reason why Google and Bing might be looking so similar, as our columnist found.

Yes, they wanted the news to be out before the Bing event happened — an event that Google is participating in. They felt it was important for the overall discussion about search quality. But the timing of the news is being so close to the event is down to when I could make the trip to Google. If I’d have been able to go in earlier, then I might have been writing this a week ago.

Meanwhile, you have this odd timing of Wadhwa’s TechCrunch article and the Bing event he’s organizing. I have no idea if Wadhwa was booked to do the Bing event before his article went out or if he was contracted to do this after, perhaps because Bing saw the debate over Google’s quality kick off and decided it was good to ride it. I’ll try to find out.

In the end, for whatever reasons, the findings of Google’s experiment and Bing’s event are colliding, right in the middle of a renewed focus of attention on search quality. Was this all planned to happen? Gamesmanship by both Google and Bing? Just odd coincidences? I go with the coincidences, myself.

[Postscript: Wadhwa tweeted the event timing was a coincidence. And let me add, my assumption really was that this is all coincidence. I’m pointing it out mainly because there are just so many crazy things all happening at the same time, which some people will inevitably try to connect. Make no mistake. Both Google and Bing play the PR game. But I think what’s happening right now is that there’s a perfect storm of various developments all coming together at the same time. And if that storm gets people focused on demanding better search quality, I’m happy].

The Search Voice

In the end, I’ve got some sympathy for Google’s view that Bing is doing something it shouldn’t.

I’ve long written that every search engine has its own “search voice,” a unique set of search results it provides, based on its collection of documents and its own particular method of ranking those.

I like that search engines have each had their own voices. One of the worst things about Yahoo changing over to Bing’s results last year was that in the US (and in many countries around the world), we were suddenly down to only two search voices: Google’s and Bing’s.

For 15 years, I’ve covered search. In all that time, we’ve never had so few search voices as we do now. At one point, we had more than 10. That’s one thing I love about the launch of Blekko. It gave us a fresh, new search voice.

When Bing launched in 2009, the joke was that Bing stood for either “Because It’s Not Google” or “But It’s Not Google.” Mining Google’s searches makes me wonder if the joke should change to “Bing Is Now Google.”

I think Bing should develop its own search voice without using Google’s as a tuning fork. That just doesn’t ring true to me. But I look forward to talking with Bing more about the issue and hopefully getting more clarity from them about what they may be doing and their views on it.


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Should You Use a Staffing or Temp Agency?

In today’s economy, many businesses are hesitant to add permanent staff to their payrolls. However, businesses often have positions that cannot remain vacant. This leaves them with the following options:

  • Hire a contractor
  • Obtain a temp from a temp or staffing employment agency
  • Actually hire an employee for either part or full time employment

Many of the duties of your employees are onsite jobs. For example, you cannot outsource your filing as the files must be kept onsite and available for use. Other jobs require that the person performing them be accessible during business hours by you and your other employees. Therefore, outsourcing the work to a contractor is not practical. This is where you must make the decision as to how to obtain the necessary workforce to handle the job while remaining within your budget.

When hiring a permanent employee for either part time or full time employment, you make certain commitments to that employee in the form of salary, benefits, and an understanding that the employment will be long term. Upon being hired, your new employee will have expectations and make plans based on their new employment status. No employer wants to make promises that he or she might be unable to keep. Even informing the new hire of a probationary period will not change things. Many times your need for additional staff is short term, such as when there is a seasonal increase in your workload. At other times, business has picked up, but you are uncertain that the increase will continue. Perhaps you have hired people who appeared to be a good fit for your business but you later found out that they weren’t.

This is where using a staffing or temporary employment agency can be a lifesaver for your business. While the hourly rate for personnel from an agency will be higher, you obligation is to the employment agency, not the employee. This will allow you to fill temporary vacancies caused by employees on vacation or maternity leave. It also gives you the ability to hire additional staff as business picks up without making a long-term commitment. Many businesses in the past (and even more so now) have used temporary employees to fill positions. Upon obtaining additional staff from the agency, you will have the opportunity to assess the temporary employee’s abilities and how he or she fits in with your existing workforce. When you are sure that the position needs to become a permanent one, you will have someone already trained and doing the job. All you will need to do is to make a job offer to the temporary employee and negotiate with the employment agency.

The benefits of this system for your company are many. Such as:

  • Less time and money spent advertising, screening, and interviewing prospective employees
  • Agency employees are available to start work immediately, allowing you to get back to running your company with less down time
  • You can contract for temporary, long-term, or temporary to permanent staff
  • Agency employees already have the skills you need and will require little to no additional training

Obviously, this is an excellent solution for when you need to hire seasonal staff or are having what could likely be a temporary increase in your workload. When you need to hire a permanent employee, this is also a good solution. Too many times, employers have hired an employee who appeared to be a good fit for their companies only to discover that the new employee did not mesh well with the existing staff. Because you will have many opportunities to observe the agency employee doing their job and interacting with your current staff, you are less likely to hire the wrong person.

In one case, an employee of a staffing agency was actually a full-time employee of the agency. He received benefits from the agency. The staffing agency contracted him out to a textile company on a semi-permanent basis doing fireproof testing on airplane seats. In another case, staffing agency sent a woman to work for a major software company. Her job transitioned into a permanent job.

As you can see, using temporary or staffing employment agencies for your staffing needs can help you to solve a multitude of problems for your company. Even if you contract with the agency for staff on a semi-permanent basis, the agency, not your company will be providing the benefits. By using one of these agencies, your employee turnover rate should decrease; your staff will be more satisfied with their work, and their working environment. You will be better able to manage your costs.


About the Author: Cory Howell is a small business owner who regularly uses employment contracts when making new hires or partnering with a staffing agency. It is important to cover all of your bases using a legal business contract, especially when your hiring standards might not match up perfectly with those of the staffing agency.


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Five Tips to Help You Run Your Business from Home

If you’re a parent or live an otherwise busy lifestyle, working from home can make everything easier. Running your own business is never easy, but when you work from home, you’re able to make your own schedule, be available when your kids need you, and more – not to mention that this flexibility means you’ll have more time to spend with your family or doing hobbies since you won’t have a commute. Interested in taking the plunge and running a business from home? Here are five tips to help you get started:

Tip #1: Choose your business carefully.

There are a lot of scams out there that advertise specifically to stay-at-home mothers (and fathers). They take advantage of your wish to work from home, but unfortunately, you’ll never make any money with these scams and it is likely that you’ll even lose money. Common scams include data entry where you have to purchase a list, blogging where you’re paid per view rather than a base salary or per-post salary, and anything that requires you send a check or money order. You should never have to pay to work! Instead, look for legitimate opportunities that play to your strengths. This can include party-based sales (like Tupperware), freelance writing (where you’re paid per word or per project), taking surveys (make sure you research the company before signing up), and online community management or social media jobs.

Tip #2: Set up a no distraction zone.

Just because you’re home doesn’t mean you can stop everything and referee a fight between the kids or make your spouse a snack. Set up a zone in your house, like a home office, where you can do your work – and while you’re in this area, your family is not allowed to disturb you, unless someone is on fire of course.

Tip #3: Professional communication is key.

Working from home might have some potential clients raising an eyebrow. Make sure your communications are professional. Get a business line if you can afford one or at least make sure your voicemail message is professional. Put up a website where people can see your services. Use an email address from either gmail or your own domain, rather than Hotmail, Yahoo, or another service. If you want people to take you seriously, you need to communicate seriously.

Tip #4: Learn how to say no.

When you work from home, everyone will automatically assume that you can do things for them. Relatives and friends will ask for favors like dog sitting or picking up their kids all the time. They won’t know that they’re annoying you and hurting your business unless you tell them, so don’t be a doormat. Most people are mortified to learn they’ve been inconveniencing you. They just equate being home with having free time. If there is an emergency like a sitter that cancels at the last minute or a neighbor who’s car needs a jump, the great thing about working from home is that you can help out a friend. But in non-emergency situations, learn to say no.

Tip #5: Prepare for business expenses and taxes.

Just because you’re running your business out of your home doesn’t mean that you won’t have business expenses just like any other business. Make sure you budget for these costs, which could include business insurance, travel, office supplies, banking fees, and more. You may also have to pay for childcare some days when you have important projects to get done and your spouse is at work. Also, don’t forget to budget for your taxes! They won’t be automatically taken out of your paycheck like at a normal job, so you’ll owe a lump sum every quarter.

Allison works with, where you can go to find cheap business insurance if you need a plan for your work-at-home business.


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Penn State Scandal Timeline: Key Dates In The Jerry Sandusky Sex Abuse Case

What you need to know to execute this bastard – from the Huffington Post:

Penn State Scandal Timeline

The Associated Press   11/ 9/11 11:32 PM ET   AP

A chronological look at the case against former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, based on a grand jury report in Pennsylvania state court. Some key dates in Penn State football history are included. Sandusky has been charged with 40 criminal counts, accusing him of serial sex abuse of minors.


1969 – Jerry Sandusky starts his coaching career at Penn State University as a defensive line coach.

1977 – Jerry Sandusky founds The Second Mile. It begins as a group foster home dedicated to helping troubled boys and grows into a charity dedicated to helping children with absent or dysfunctional families.

January 1983 – Associated Press voters select Penn State as college football’s national champion for the 1982 season.

January 1987 – Associated Press voters select Penn State as college football’s national champion for the 1986 season.

1994 – Boy known as Victim 7 in the report meets Sandusky through The Second Mile program at about the age of 10.

1994-95 – Boy known as Victim 6 meets Sandusky at a Second Mile picnic at Spring Creek Park when he is 7 or 8 years old.

1995-96 – Boy known as Victim 5, meets Sandusky through The Second Mile when he is 7 or 8, in second or third grade.

1996-97 – Boy known as Victim 4, at the age of 12 or 13, meets Sandusky while he is in his second year participating in The Second Mile program.

1996-98 – Victim 5 is taken to the locker rooms and showers at Penn State by Sandusky when he is 8 to 10 years old.

Jan. 1, 1998 – Victim 4 is listed, along with Sandusky’s wife, as a member of Sandusky’s family party for the 1998 Outback Bowl.

1998 – Victim 6 is taken into the locker rooms and showers when he is 11 years old. When Victim 6 is dropped off at home, his hair is wet from showering with Sandusky. His mother reports the incident to the university police, who investigate.

Detective Ronald Schreffler testifies that he and State College Police Department Detective Ralph Ralston, with the consent of the mother of Victim 6, eavesdrop on two conversations the mother of Victim 6 has with Sandusky. Sandusky says he has showered with other boys and Victim 6’s mother tries to make Sandusky promise never to shower with a boy again but he will not. At the end of the second conversation, after Sandusky is told he cannot see Victim 6 anymore, Schreffler testifies Sandusky says, “I understand. I was wrong. I wish I could get forgiveness. I know I won’t get it from you. I wish I were dead.”

Jerry Lauro, an investigator with the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare, testifies he and Schreffler interviewed Sandusky, and that Sandusky admits showering naked with Victim 6, admits to hugging Victim 6 while in the shower and admits that it was wrong.

The case is closed after then-Centre County District Attorney Ray Gricar decides there will be no criminal charge.

June 1999 – Sandusky retires from Penn State but still holds emeritus status.

Dec. 28, 1999 – Victim 4 is listed, along with Sandusky’s wife, as a member of Sandusky’s family party for the 1999 Alamo Bowl.

Summer 2000 – Boy known as Victim 3 meets Sandusky through The Second Mile when he is between seventh and eighth grade.

Fall 2000 – A janitor named James Calhoun observes Sandusky in the showers of the Lasch Football Building with a young boy, known as Victim 8, pinned up against the wall, performing oral sex on the boy. He tells other janitorial staff immediately. Fellow Office of Physical Plant employee Ronald Petrosky cleans the showers at Lasch and sees Sandusky and the boy, who he describes as being between the ages of 11 and 13.

Calhoun tells other physical plant employees what he saw, including Jay Witherite, his immediate supervisor. Witherite tells him to whom he should report the incident. Calhoun was a temporary employee and never makes a report. Victim 8’s identity is unknown.

March 1, 2002 – A Penn State graduate assistant enters the locker room at the Lasch Football Building. In the showers, he sees a naked boy, known as Victim 2, whose age he estimates to be 10 years old, being subjected to anal intercourse by a naked Sandusky. The graduate assistant tells his father immediately.

March 2, 2002 – In the morning, the graduate assistant calls Coach Joe Paterno and goes to Paterno’s home, where he reports what he has seen.

March 3, 2002 – Paterno calls Tim Curley, Penn State Athletic Director to his home the next day and reports a version of what the grad assistant had said.

March 2002 – Later in the month the graduate assistant is called to a meeting with Curley and Senior Vice President for Finance and Business Gary Schultz. The grad assistant reports what he has seen and Curley and Schultz say they will look into it.

March 27, 2002 (approximate) – The graduate assistant hears from Curley. He is told that Sandusky’s locker room keys are taken away and that the incident has been reported to The Second Mile. The graduate assistant is never questioned by university police and no other entity conducts an investigation until the graduate assistant testifies in Grand Jury in December 2010.

2005-2006 – Boy known as Victim 1 says that meets Sandusky through The Second Mile at age 11 or 12.

Spring 2007 – During the 2007 track season, Sandusky begins spending time with Victim 1 weekly, having him stay overnight at his residence in College Township, Pa.

Spring 2008 – Termination of contact with Victim 1 occurs when he is a freshman in a Clinton County high school. After the boy’s mother calls the school to report sexual assault, Sandusky is barred from the school district attended by Victim 1 from that day forward and the matter is reported to authorities as mandated by law.

Early 2009 – An investigation by the Pennsylvania attorney general begins when a Clinton County, Pa. teen boy tells authorities that Sandusky has inappropriately touched him several times over a four-year period.

September 2010 – Sandusky retires from day-to-day involvement with The Second Mile, saying he wants to spend more time with family and handle personal matters.

Nov. 5, 2011 – Sandusky is arrested and released on $100,000 bail after being arraigned on 40 criminal counts.

Nov. 7, 2011 – Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly says Paterno is not a target of the investigation into how the school handled the accusations. But she refuses to say the same for university President Graham Spanier. Curley and Schultz, who have stepped down from their positions, surrender on charges that they failed to alert police to complaints against Sandusky.

Nov. 8, 2011 – Possible ninth victim of Sandusky contacts state police as calls for ouster of Paterno and Spanier grow in state and beyond. Penn State abruptly cancels Paterno’s regular weekly press conference.

Nov. 9, 2011 – Paterno and Spanier, one of the nation’s longest-serving college presidents, are ousted, effective immediately. Earlier in the day, Paterno announced he’d retire at the end of the season. In the end, he didn’t have that choice.


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How Learning Changes as We Age

If one thinks about the fact that a person matures with experience then we should be able to learn better as we age. However, that not the case since learning changes as we age and our capacity to grasp newer information and process the same in a quick manner also decreases with the passage of time. This can be mainly attributed to the fact that we become more susceptible to interference as we take on more responsibilities thereby hampering consolidation of new memory creation in our mind.

Changes in sleep patterns, increase in responsibilities, and different type of stresses play a crucial role in diverting the thought process thereby cluttering the mind in such a manner that it becomes difficult to focus on the learning part. That’s why older adults need to adopt different type of learning strategies so that they can counter the problems associated with such interferences and continue with their learning process. This would then help in allowing time for new information to settle in and widely space learning of different things by following a better learning schedule.

As children we are supposed to learn, that’s what our parents and teachers expect us to do. We tend to build our learning over the years from being a wide eyed baby to someone who talks like a genius and does things that would have been otherwise impossible to comprehend as a child. That’s how we tend to mould our mind to learn new things and grasp newer concepts as we grow up thereby allowing us to work on the area of our choice as we enter adulthood.

However, the question is to what extent does our learning change as we move from being a child to a teenager and finally an adult. It is true that our minds also change as we age. Due to this reason the loss of mental function is one of the most feared aspects of aging in adults. The inability to process information quickly or lack of interest associated with learning also tends to wear down our quality of life. This is because we start to believe that our mind has started to slow down with our age. The truth is that such fears about our learning as we age stands groundless due to many different reasons.

One has to understand that the ability to learn for a person is not just limited to certain duration of their life. In fact only our learning patterns change as we age. There is no change in our ability to learn unless we show lack of interest in the process itself. As children we do not need to worry about lot many things in life. That gives us an advantage in the sense that our focus is clearly fixed on the learning process. Our brain also tends to develop as we age allowing us to grasp information in a better manner as we age. However, as we get older there is a need to bring in more discipline in learning activity since more effort and time is required in a dedicated manner.

Learning changes as we grow older because then we tend to avoid learning things that does not make sense or appear rewarding to us. The reason being that we value time and money more than the need to learn things and develop our knowledge in broader terms. For older people learning is limited to certain task based activities that keeps the body fit while avoiding putting too much stress on the brain. This type of learning changes takes into account the reaction time along with the intelligence of that person with age. It has been found that overall intelligence is supposed to remain the same throughout life since there is a tendency to value correctness as we age. Experience and maturity teaches us a lot about many things in life that teenagers and children do not have any idea about. Therefore in simple terms learning changes as we age due to several factors that come into the picture.

Read more articles on education at Learn how to speak Italian or the Korean language.


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Customer Service, the Old Fashioned Way

I was born a while ago, back when your handshake was your word, your yes was a yes, and there were implied warranties in everything you purchased.  There was no “built in obsolescence” and no need to put the words “built in America from American parts” on anything because that was the norm.  “Made in Japan” used to be something outsourced, and therefore kind of cheap.  That was 50 years ago.

With the passing of Andy Rooney, an undeniably grumpy old man, we have lost an icon.  His ranting for years on 60 minutes provided a kind of benchmark, a watchdog function, which will not soon be forgotten.  There have been few that have had as much impact, on me anyhow, for not sitting still for the cheapening of the American expectation.

“I’m a moron, and this is my wife.   She’s frosting a cake with a paper knife. Everything we got here is American made, it’s a little bit cheesy, but nicely displayed…”
Fresh Flakes – Frank Zappa

You might think that since we have become a nation that really doesn’t make anything; at we would get the “service” part of “service industry” right.  I would seriously challenge anyone who thinks we have a great track record lately to listen to the song behind the link above and maintain that they cannot relate.  Our Technical support has been offloaded or outsourced, to India; our technicians cannot afford to work on a simple appliance any longer, we don’t bother to fix anything anymore, we just replace it.

This could be turning around.  With the advent of the social media, and sites like yelp, we now have a chance to see someone’s track record before we interact with them.  Last Saturday I was determined to install a dishwasher.  It was a relatively simple operation, any five year old with a wrench can do that, right?  Not so fast.   The house is 60 years old and the builder put the dishwasher in with hard copper lines.  The new dishwasher was just enough different (yes, it was American made) that after 45 mins of banging my knuckles under it I gave up and called a plumber.  Not wanting to be a victim, again, of Mr. Zappa’s Flakes, I actually started reading reviews of local plumbers and found a reasonable one.  The kid came out and did what I was trying to do in about 15 minutes.  I was still charged an amount equal to some Midwesterners house payments, but at least this kid was bright, friendly, spoke English, and got the job done.

My wife has a classic old Audi TT. She likes to keep it in Bristol shape.  Good for her.  We have been driving 45 minutes each way to have it serviced at the dealership where she bought it.  Ii think their shop rate is $135 an hour, and if you complain about how long it takes to pick your car up (after they told you it was ready) they reset the codes in your radio so you have to go through an army encryption class to reset them.

Again, on the internet, I found and researched a local mechanic that specializes in Audi’s and charges us less than half of what the big dealerships do.  It has also somehow miraculously helped for me to take the car in to be serviced.  I guess they don’t feel quite so free to push unnecessary repairs off on a guy.  Our tune-ups and services are running in the $300 range instead of $700, and the amount of “suggested” bull has dropped down to zero.

The last time I was in for a part to be replaced, they had to order it and I had to come back.  When I did come back, they put the part on and it didn’t fit.  They had to do some modifications to the old car, and it took almost an hour.  When they were done, I went to pay the bill – no charge for the labor, and I had already paid for the part.  “Just come back to us again…”  Well thank you Fred’s Garage of Redwood City California, I will.

The Prius I have needs servicing about every 5000 miles, and I go in and they drive me home.  I bought the contract, so I don’t have to pay a dime.

I went into a paint store to grab some sandpaper and a couple of paint paddles the other day, and they were busy so he told me to just take them.

I don’t know if it’s just that I am becoming a bit mellower in my old age (finally) but my service karma has seemed to be improving of late.  Maybe there is something to all this twitting and yelping we are doing after all.


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