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Thursday, December 3, 2015

Doing business in Malta – IT companies Perspective

In recent years Malta has become a popular destination for online gaming companies, in fact more than 400 licenses have been issued, this represents more than 10% of the global online gambling market.  Some may argue that they chose Malta just because the Government grants corporate and personal tax breaks.  This is just part of the story, IT related companies today are looking to operate in a certain culture, look for expansion possibilities and local talent.   We have to keep in mind all this when promoting ourselves abroad to potential investors if we want to keep enticing I.T. companies to set up shop in Malta.  We have to identify and capitalize on what sets us apart.



Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Is the Sharing Economy hurting traditional businesses?

The late 2000s saw the introduction of the term “sharing economy” as social media started allowing clusters of self-minded people to discuss how they can better utilize resources. 


Car pooling was the first such idea to gain traction, it allowed people to save on fuel, maintenance and minimize parking problems.  It was just a great idea to save money and help the environment but then someone noticed a potential for money making as well and the Uber service, whereby anyone can become a taxi driver offering his own car to give rides to people for a fee of course, started being offered in San Francisco in late 2009.  Uber expanded internationally within 5 years and disrupted the entire small vehicles transportation business model.  


Sunday, September 27, 2015

Google becomes part of the ‘Alphabet’

Google is undertaking a massive restructuring process. Is Google aiming to consolidate it’s position as an industry giant and is it ready for the challenges ahead?


For most people Google is just a search engine.  It all started 17 years ago as a research idea by two Phd students, with their first servers set up hastily in a garage.  In all these years Google expanded, the company acquired other successful ventures such as Youtube, created analogous services such as Gmail and the Android operating system but also managed to diversify from virtual services into real world applications such as self driving cars, medicine and life extension technology. 



What is BYOD and why is it reforming the workplace?

Companies implementing a Bring Your Own Device policy are perceived as innovative and younger, but do the risks outweigh the benefits?



Many ICT departments, especially ones on low budgets, find it difficult to keep up with the latest hardware and technology innovations.  On the other hand, most tech-savvy employees especially the younger generation buy the latest laptops, tablets and smart-phones.  Some companies are introducing a BYOD, Bring Your Own Device policy at work to allow employees access over corporate servers using their own personal electronic equipment.



Friday, August 7, 2015

Is Malta on the road to become a testbed for technological innovation?


IT companies are increasingly looking for small communities, preferably slightly isolated but still technologically advanced and with a diverse population, to test their new technology and ensure that any research is conducted in a segregated area. Malta has a diverse population, actively social online and our geographical position is ideal for us to become a test-bed for research and testing of new high-tech products.





Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Reality of Hacking

We are no longer using padlocks or safes to protect our documents, instead we are using passwords to protect our finances, livelihoods and most precious information making us practically rely on secrets to protect ourselves.

Hollywood portrays Hackers as cool, mysterious and mostly nerds who speak techno-babble no one really understands and are able to connect to any computer system over a network, find a vulnerable entry point and steal all the data they require in a few minutes.


Monday, June 22, 2015

An evolutionary click


You power on the computer, a completely dark black screen welcomes you, a blinking grey box staring back, expecting you to type something.  No there is nothing wrong with your computer, just a quick trip down memory lane, if you remember this scenario as soon as you power on your computer, then you, like me, are probably over 30 and can probably better appreciate today’s operating systems which are light years ahead of the old systems.

Operating systems as we know them today, such as Windows or Apple’s iOS rely on a Graphic User Interface (GUI) system to interact with it’s human operators, using icons to represent files, compared to the old Command Line Interfaces (CLI) such as the Microsoft DOS which ran on most IBM compatibles and relied completely on specific typed-in commands to access files.


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Retail vs Online?

Borders group, a company that used to operate more than 500 book stores in the US and 150 in Australia and Singapore closed all it’s retail outlets abruptly in 2011, resulting in thousands of job losses.  The longest serving manager with this company affixed a sign to the store, before closing down it’s doors for the last time, stating “Thank you for shopping at Amazon”, clearly blaming the relatively young online giant for taking this company and many others out of business. 



In the last few years many more retail outlets continue to close down or at least loose business to online competitors.


Sunday, April 19, 2015

A vote for Technology?

From Communicating the candidates' messages to electronic voting and predicting results, technology is leading the polls....


Free elections are the pillar and most important element of any democracy.  Advances in technology is today aiding the voting process itself and in some countries vote counting is also aided by electronic means.  The most important changes in the last 10 years were in the use of social media to deliver political messages and rally people to vote.


Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Brain Chip

The human brain has long fascinated scientists, some of it’s inner workings are still a mystery even today and some researchers have devoted their entire lives to studying how this organ works.  Many compare the human brain to a computer but in reality it’s like trying to compare oranges and apples, although some functions performed by both humans and computers, such as solving mathematical problems, lead to the same results, the processes and the internal workings are completely different.

A computer is composed of mainly two distinct functionalities, processing power and memory, this concept was created 70 years ago and remains basically the same today.


Sunday, February 15, 2015

Video Game & Social Media Addictions

Have you ever started a quick game of Angry Birds and thirty minutes later you are promising yourself that this is the last game you will play, only to notice an hour later that you are still playing that same game over and over again.  

First generation videogames, classics from the eighties era, such as Tetris and Pacman earned the nickname “Addictive undefeatables”, due to the fact that the levels were at times so difficult that they were practically impossible to complete and players took the situation as a personal challenge to try to finish all the levels.  In facts most of these games are still popular and addictive even today.
It is becoming more evident that video game developers and software designers are today using modern psychological techniques to get their customers ‘hooked’ onto their products, notable examples are Facebook, Snapchat or even playing a simple yet immersive game like Candy Crush.  Our brains yearn for continuous simulation, even if it’s just a simple reward.


Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Gamification of Marketing



If you have ever noticed how someone seems to be completely immersed and addicted when playing a video game then you can start to understand how marketers are today exploiting this type of addictive behavior when using games to promote their products.  

Thanks to the internet and smart phones, a new trend in combining games and advertising is taking place, it’s being referred to as Marketing Gamification.  We have had loyalty programs around for ages, on a simple level these schemes were leading the way to today’s Gamification of Marketing.  Loyalty programs used to reward users for brand fidelity such as receiving a coupon every time one shops at a particular supermarket and later using the accumulated points to receive a reward.  Such plans have now become exponentially more complex thanks to modern technology such as the internet and smart phones.  Increasingly games are starting to become an integral part of any elaborate marketing plan.
Marketers are today trying to utilize people’s natural desires for socializing and personal achievement by using rewards, such as awarding virtual currency for players who accomplish desired tasks as part of their marketing plan.  An added advantage of using such techniques is that companies are immediately able to quantify if potential clients are engaging with their brand due to the analytics-driven nature of the process itself.  Rewards received by consumers make them feel more incentivized to proceed with a purchase or continue with further engagement with the same brand.



Sunday, January 18, 2015

Unfair Competition? Is the sharing economy based on an alternative business model or just operating outside a legal structure?

In 1999 Napster started a revolution, sharing music not only turned out to be cool and cheaper than buying CDs but also allowed more choice.  Even though Napster turned out to be operating in a legal grey zone, the sharing model started a revolution which seems to have gained considerable traction in the past 5 years.

The traditional business model where a company employs staff directly and utilizes it’s own vehicles or buildings to deliver a particular service is quickly fading and is being replaced by a “sharing” mentality where resources are shared.  Sharing goods or services has long been a tradition between family and friends and in fact most of the companies operating under this business model started out between a group of friends who shared their resources and eventually evolved in huge social networks operating internationally.



Monday, December 1, 2014

Is Facebook Doomed to Fail?

Published on the Sunday Times (TechSunday) 7th December 2014

The post year 2000 dot-com boom saw a shift from static websites providing information and articles to interactive online social networks.  During July 2003 MySpace started a revolution and less than a year later both Hi5.com and Facebook, at that time called Thefacebook.com and available only to a select few university students, were launched as well.

In the local scene up to 2010 the Hi5 service was still quite popular, but today it seems that Facebook is the cool place to be, or is it?

A technical study published earlier this year by some scholars from Princeton University (see reference below) is using statistical models to compare adoption and abandonment of such social platforms and state that all online networks are bound to face their demise just as happened with Hi5 and Myspace which are practically unused nowadays.  This study argues that abandonment of a particular platform happens just like an infectious disease where contact between people who use Facebook may lead to their peers to join and people who abandon Facebook or start using an alternative may ‘infect’ their friends and pressure them to follow suit.



Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Dark Side of the Internet

Published on the Sunday Times (TechSunday) 16th November 2014



Edward Snowden, the computer wizard who disclosed illicit U.S. government surveillance, unknowingly helped popularize the dark web in recent months after it was reported that he repeatedly used this technology to communicate with journalists and managed to evade even the most sophisticated spying technology used by the United States.



Julian Assange, another controversial figure, founder of Wikileaks and considered as an enemy of the state by American politicians, who to this day has already spent two years living under asylum condition in the Ecuadorian embassy in the U.K. started hosting his website on the deep web in 2004 and no one ever managed to trace it back to him.  However in 2006 he decided to go public and that is when his problems started, nevertheless he still recommends to people who decide to reveal information about government wrongdoing to still use the deep web to communicate with him so as to be able to conceal their identity and avoid reprisals.


Search engines cache the web almost daily to be able to provide results according to the search keywords we use.  Nevertheless they are only able to spider a fraction of the entire internet.  There is even a larger interconnection of webpages lurking below the surface, most people have never been around the dark web even tough recent estimates are guesstimating that the Dark Web is actually a hundred times larger than the known-web we surf daily.  You cannot reach such depths when surfing using standard web browsers like Chrome or Explorer or just by using Google or Yahoo.


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Are we approaching the Tech bubble 2.0 ?

Published on the Sunday Times 26th October 2014. (Business & Finance supplement)


Friday the 10th March 2000 was a black day for technology companies.  The Nasdaq stock exchange opened as usual at 9am, stock brokers were already expecting a disastrous day as in the preceding week hundreds of tech companies started going bust.




Earlier that week as many twenty year-olds, who were already millionaires after setting up their companies in Silicon Valley, were already bust and were moving out of their multi-million estates back to a small room with their parents as their companies declared bankruptcy.



10th March 2000, noon, the Nasdaq-Tech listings were already down 55% and by closure time the figure went further down to 78% as hundreds of tech-related companies suddenly went bust.  It was a complete washout, Silicon Valley which just weeks before was buzzing with enthusiasm amid new businessmen and employees arriving from all around the world suddenly went silent.  Banks immediately sent their repossession agents to take over entire buildings in the hope of recovering some of their debts.  Over that weekend Silicon Valley was transformed into a ghost town.


Many experts had been warning about this for years.  It seemed that the tech bubble which started at around 1992 as many people started investing in fancy online companies, with investors pouring money in even the most stupidest of ideas came to an abrupt end.
Some major examples include an online company, boo.com, founded only 1 year before the bubble burst burnt 135 million dollars in advertising without ever registering a profit.
The first social network, theglobe.com was lauched in 1994 and essentially offered the same services Facebook provides today.  In 1998 this company offered shares to the public for $9 and by 1999 it’s shares were trading at $100 only to go down to around 5 cents per share in the week the bubble burst.


The website broadcast.com had an innovative idea at the time, to transmit radio and tv shows over the internet.  Investors were literally pouring money in this company and it managed to raise 5.7 billion dollars.  The founders’ business plan however expected broadband internet connection to be available worldwide by the year 2000.  Broadband connectivity only started entering homes around 2008.  The company burnt all the 5.7 billion it was entrusted with in a matter of months and nearly no one ever managed to see any tv show over their service at the time.


Most of the ideas mentioned in these stories have become a reality today, Facebook is the new social network taking over from theglobe.com and Ebay became the new boo.com whilst Netflix became the new broadcast.com.  One could argue that most tech companies went bust because their ideas were too innovative for the year 2000 but it seems that history really is destined to repeat  itself and the lessons learnt just 15 years ago weren’t enough to stop greed.


Today it is estimated that nine out of every 10 new startup companies are failing, mostly because they grow too fast.  Some companies are having great success with one particular product or app launch and are expecting each and every product they launch to achieve the same profit levels.  The stock of King-Digital, producers of the hit game Candy Crush, is already dropping after the company failed to replicate the success they achieved with newly launched games and apps.  The same thing is happening to Zynga and Rovio, creators of Farmville and Angry Birds respectively.  It seems that these companies managed to have a lucky one time hit rather than a series of hits over the years which would be able to build a sustained business model.  These companies are simply not living up to the expectations when compared to their first hit.


King Digital’s IPO (initial public offering) price was set at $22.50 per share last April, and all shares were snatched immediately.  Today their shares are trading at $11, this means that investors lost half of their money in less than six months only because they expected that King-Digital to be able to replicate sales for all their games.


Other companies with absolutely no revenue, but just having a great idea are raising extraordinary amounts of money in venture capital, for example fab.com, an e-commerce company, recently raised $336 million, all this since launching in 2011 and without ever having registered a single dollar in profit ever since and having earlier this year fired 400 employees after it had to downsize as it couldn’t cope with the salaries being issued.
A photo messaging application developed by 3 friends during their summer break at university, Snapchat, which is also gaining traction in Malta, is being valued at over 3 billion dollars when in reality it has yet to register a profit.


Huge companies like Yahoo are once again starting to acquire companies for unrealistically high valuations just like it did in 2000.  Yahoo’s largest fiasco, back in 1999, was when it bought Geocities for over 3 billion dollars and never even recouped their initial investment.  Nevertheless just last year Yahoo bought Tumblr for 1.1 billion dollars, even though Tumblr is not expected to break even in the coming years.


Timothy Draper is a famous American venture capitalist who has in the past invested early on in successful companies such as Hotmail and Skype, before both were sold to Microsoft and earning him a thousand times his initial investment.  Draper was recently interviewed on the New Yorker where he stated that he believed that “Tech venture capital may have reached the top of it’s cycle once again”.


His theory is that after a recession, lots of people including intelligent business-minded youngsters lose their jobs, people notice it is easier to start a business instead of finding a job and millionaires with lots of extra cash suddenly find it more lucrative to invest in such startups rather than risking their money in the stock exchange or leaving it to rest in a bank with zero interest.  After some successful business stories are rolled out in the media people start thinking that they could replicate their success as well and investors start believing that anything they touch will turn into gold.  This leads to sloppiness and eventually to a market crash.


This is what happened exactly prior to the year 2000 crash and according to Draper we are now at a point where negligence is blurring business decisions once again, only to inevitably lead us to the unavoidable market crash.  Let us only hope that this time the cycle is broken before the inevitable strikes again.


Original Article Scan (from printed newspaper):
http://files.ianvella.com/techbubble26oct2014.jpg



Copyright notice : This article was written by Ian Vella and published on the Sunday Times of Malta.  Copyright may be shared between the mentioned author and entities.  Please do not republish without permission. 



Sunday, October 19, 2014

Bitcoin

Published on the Sunday Times (TechSunday) 19th October 2014



Bitcoin’s technical definition is a “peer-to-peer crypto-currency”.  This means that no particular central authority such as a banking institution prints money or tracks any of the electronic transactions that take place.  

This has a huge implication since Governments and financial authorities have no say or control on how this currency is operated.  An ever growing amount of online shops and now even some real-life stores are accepting Bitcoins as a payment method.
Bitcoin payments don’t need any third parties such as banks to process transactions, traditionally any online purchase has to be facilitated by a banking institution, credit card company or a licensed intermediary like Paypal, which normally charge fees amounting to between 2-3% of the overall transactions This is however not the case with Bitcoin as any payment is directly sent over the internet from buyer to seller.
The original idea was conceived in around 2009 by an individual using the name Satoshi Nakamoto, who wrote a paper describing how Bitcoin should work and created the first open source software.  Nevertheless it is not yet clear if this is a real person, fictitious character, or a group of individuals working under an assumed identity to avoid the pitfalls that popularity brings along.
The Bitcoin network needs a number of electronic data-miners to process and encrypt transactions that take place around the world, for this reason the system rewards such data-miners with a payment of newly generated Bitcoins which is set to reach the maximum milestone of 21 million bitcoins in the year 2140.
Individuals or companies using Bitcoin may opt to sign in for an online virtual-wallet or keep one on their hard disk.  An individual may hold an infinite number of such wallets and since transactions are encrypted and secure Governments may never know exactly what amount of Bitcoins is held by anyone.  This in itself has created a number of problems during the last years, as some shady characters used Bitcoin to deal in  weapons, drugs, gambling and other illegal services.  

The European Central Banking institution and the US Government started trying to regulate the use of Bitcoin transactions, albeit somewhat unsuccessfully as the the US Government only managed to regulate banking institutions who offer the exchange from Bitcoin to US Dollars and vice versa.   The fact that Bitcoin is being utilized by some unscrupulous individuals for illegal trade does not make it wrong or means that it is intrinsically immoral, in fact various high profile individuals are backing the use of Bitcoins, for example Al Gore, US Vice president, Noble price winner (and president contender) during a Bitcoin conference stated “I am a big fan of Bitcoin… Regulation of money supply needs to be depoliticized”.   Many are of the opinion that Bitcoin is the next step in the evolution of our capitalist society since governmental control on currency and payment transactions will be brought down significantly, thereby leaving all trade under the control of market forces.
At time of writing 1 Bitcoin is equivalent to around 314 euro, this currency has still not stabilized and heavy fluctuations means that some people are afraid to start using it and are only investing small amounts at a time.  During 2012 one Bitcoin reached the record value of around 800 euro (per Bitcoin) and many started speculating in this currency.  Some early adopters of this currency became extremely rich, Roger Ver was an early investor and back in 2010 invested thousands of dollars when 1 dollar was still equal to 1 Bitcoin.  Today his capital increased dramatically making him a millionaire, he is one of the few persons who openly discusses his Bitcoin wealth and the Bitcoin community nicknamed him ‘Bitcoin Jesus’ because nowadays he actively promotes the virtual currency and has since also invested in many businesses related to the Bitcoin currency.
The website mtgox.com was one of the first and largest companies traded and held Bitcoin wallets for around 70% of users.  Earlier this year, this company based in Tokyo, filed for bankruptcy, as 850,000 Bitcoins went missing.  Ever since 200,000 bitcoins were “found”.  It is not yet clear what happened exactly but many are suspecting that a group of hackers might be responsible for the missing Bitcoins.  This means that Bitcoins are still vulnerable and can be ‘stolen’ in a high-tech heist even though this will involve different techniques than the typical bank robbery.  Many suspected that the Mtgox.com incident would result in the downfall of the Bitcoin network but to the contrary this incident sparked more interest and usage increased considerably this year.
Presently websites like overstock.com and newegg.com are accepting bitcoin payments and are selling brand items, sporting goods and electronics.  Earlier this year the Apple store unexpectedly started accepting Bitcoin transactions on it’s networks, this sparked high hopes amongst the bitcoin community and many are now eager to see Ebay following suit.  The Bitcoin currency would gain massive worldwide recognition and unprecedented popularity if this happens.  However at the moment no official statements have been released by Ebay yet and it is unclear whether one day anyone will be able to buy and sell merchandise using Bitcoin on Ebay.

The best way to learn more about the Bitcoin phenomenon is to get some and experiment.  You can check the live quoted prices on preev.com to see how much a bitcoin is worth in Euro/ USD at the moment and you can purchase Bitcoins on sites like anxbtc.com and safello.com


Extra resources:



Bitcoin news:

https://www.cryptocoinsnews.com/

http://bitcoinmagazine.com/

http://www.coindesk.com/

1BTC to euro: http://preev.com/btc/eur

bitcoin charts via cryptonews:  

http://bitcoincharts.com/charts/bitstampUSD#rg10ztgCzm1g10zm2g25zv

https://www.cryptocoinsnews.com/bitcoin-price/



Original article published on the Sunday Times (Tech-Sunday supplement) on the 19th October 2014:

http://files.ianvella.com/bitcoin19oct2014.jpg


Copyright notice : This article was written by Ian Vella and published on the Sunday Times of Malta.  Copyright may be shared between the mentioned author and entities.  Please do not republish without permission. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Rank It Up - Search Engine Optimization

Choosing the right SEO Company in today’s evolving online market

Published on the Sunday Times (TechSunday) 21 September 2014




It is a known fact that the higher a website ranks for related keywords on a search engine, the higher the traffic and this will subsequently result in higher profits or exposure for the company or organization owning that particular website.   Twenty years ago, in 1994 Yahoo started operating, website owners did everything they could to start ranking high in the search results after it became evident that most internet users were starting their virtual surfing sessions from search engines.

At the time it was quite straightforward to rank high, webmasters would just stuff their webpages with keywords that describe the service or product they provided, wait a couple of days and voila, they would get on top of Yahoo or Lycos, at least for a few days until their competition reaches up with them again.



Sunday, September 15, 2013

Open All Hours -Fifty billion apps in just five years. What's next for the App Store?

Published on the Sunday Times (TechSunday) 15th September 2013

Fifty billion apps in just five years. What's next for the App Store, asks Ian Vella. 


This year Apple is celebrating five years since the launch of its App Store. In these five years, an astonishing 50 billion apps were downloaded and used on Apple devices - this has generated a total revenue of $14.3bn, of which 70 per cent was paid out to developers.

Apple CEO Tim Cook described the achievement as "truly staggering' and, per-haps with a bit of gloating thrown in, said that the App Store fundamentally "changed the world". Apple launched the App Store on July 10, 2008, just a day before the iPhone 3G was made available to the public. At the time, only 500 apps were available and most were developed in-house. Five years later, you can download more than one million apps - that's no mean feat, considering that Apple uses stringent criteria including usability and reliability before allowing developers to upload applications or games on the App Store. , Apple also ensures that absolutely no adult material makes it on the virtual store after the late Steve Jobs, during the iPhone launch, proudly declared : "We do believe we have a moral responsibility to keep porn off the iPhone," before adding: "Folks who want porn can buy an Android phone."



Sunday, July 14, 2013

Getting a fake fan - Can money buy you friends on Facebook

This article written by Ian Vella appeared on the Sunday Times Tech-Sunday (14th July 2013)






Sunday, April 14, 2013

We like Facebook - Are the Maltese fixated with facebook?

The Maltese have always been a friendly nation. But are we getting too friendly on Facebook?

Article written by Ian Vella, Published on the Sunday Times (TechSunday) 14th April 2013



"53 per cent of Facebook users in Malta are always connected, even when they are away from home"


Although Facebook does not publish any official statistics about its used demographics, we can still get a good idea of how many Maltese are on this so-cial media platform by using Face-books advertising system. This online platform allows any-one to design an advert and target a particular demographic. Facebook can cater for such needs and will supply statistics about the amount of users that can be reached. Facebook advertising system can also be used to see how many people in Malta are on Facebook. 


The answer is astounding - 216,100 Maltese users are registered on Facebook. These are almost equally split into 104,120 females and 109,520 males - the remaining 2,460 do not specify their sex in their profile. With regards to age distribution, the younger generations are the most active on Facebook, with 25,720 Maltese users under the age of 18.



Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Internet Traffic

TRAFFIC

Published on the Sunday Times (TechSunday) August 2011 edition

The traffic we are going to talk about is not the one we experience every morning on our way to work, nor is it the trading of some illicit substance, but rather we will be talking about the importance of increasing the number of 'visitors' to a website and how to achieve this on a small budget.

It has already become a standard for every small business or self employed to own a website and display it's url on business cards and stationery.  Some of these websites may be quite elaborate and may have even cost the businessman an arm and a leg.  

However one has to pose the question - what good is a static website that receives only minor traffic.  The more traffic a website manages to attract, the more conversions (The amount of sales registered as a result of an online presence) it will achieve and the happier it's owner will be as his profits plummet.   However most small businesses do not understand this, they are more than happy to say they are also selling online but neither track how much sales they are achieving via their online presence nor they do much to attract more 'traffic' to their website.  

SEO is another buzzword which has found it's place in modern dictionaries, simply stated SEOor search engine optimisation can be defined as an effort to increase a presence in the search engine results such as google or yahoo.  Perhaps we can take an example to understand this better, let's imagine a small local shop owner who has invested in a website. 



Saturday, August 21, 2010

Wikileaks and Conspiracy Theories on the Internet

This article written by Ian Vella appeared on the Sunday Times Tech-Sunday 14 Aug 2010

Although the Internet has become a place for serious research and business, it is often an unpredictable and wild place. This is because the Internet is a free medium — a place where anyone can publish just about anything. There are hardly any restrictions on what can or cannot be published or leaked and subsequently viewed by the general public.

Take, for instance, the multitude of conspiracy theories that flourish on the Internet. Just Google “conspiracy theories”, and you are sure to come across thousands of them, many of which are incredibly absurd.  Elvis is still alive many would claim! JFK was assassinated by the Vatican, the US president is controlled by aliens and the music industry is planting subliminal messages in the minds of listeners.

  These are just a few of the most evident examples!
Others talk of secret medical examinations and experiments on unsuspecting patients by villainous doctors. Many of these conspiracy theories have become extremely popular simply because people like to read about them — there’s a kind of thrill that they get out of them.

The fact is that, most of these theories are quite ridiculous and most are evidently false however since WikiLeaks.com has been launched in January 2007 conspiracy theories took a somber turn of events.  Wikileaks is a website similar to wikipedia and wikitravel in concept, whereby the website itself is user edited and the content may be uploaded by anyone in the world.  The owners of wikileaks.com describe this website as a “Multi-jurisdictional public service designed to protect whistleblowers, journalists and activists who have sensitive materials to communicate to the public.  WikiLeaks endeavors to civilize private companies by exposing uncivil plans and behavior. Just like a country, a corrupt or unethical company is a menace to all inside and outside it.”  This means that someone can submit a theory and others continue building on it, either approving or disapproving it.  Most of time the editors request supporting documents before publishing any story.  Wikileaks is controlled by a non-profit Swedish organization and today counts in excess of 1.2 million documents on this website.



Sunday, February 28, 2010

The World is Mine - Can you imagine the world without Google?

From a simple search engine, Google moved on to e-mail, mapping, web browser and now, mobile phones. Is Google set for world dominion, asks Ian Vella. 

 Published on the Sunday Times (TechSunday) 28th February 2010


Almost a decade-and-a-half ago, two Stanford PhD students set up Google as part of a research project. Since then, it has become one of the world's most powerful ICT companies, thanks to its crown jewel, the Google Search Engine. The latter changed the way we search for information, the way we study, and the way news is delivered to us. Then in 2000, Google introduced simple text advertisements alongside search results - the huge profits helped the company's top executives realise what real potential Google held. 

Four years later the company went public and started offering its shares at $85 each. In 2010 the stock is trading at around $630. Eventually, Google not only became the world's most utilised internet search engine but also started expanding its operations to offer other online services like Gmail and Google-Docs. This move put them in direct competition with other 1CT giants, especially Microsoft. Despite its widespread use, Google is harshly criticised by privacy advocates. Most of the attacks are directed against the fact that Google records unique IP addresses, the daily 200 million search queries from around the world, and all e-mails passing through its network.

This information is stored on Google's servers for an undefined period of time. Google defends this approach by stating that such information is later analysed in order to improve user experience. Google also insists that at no point does it sort its data based on a particular individual use of its services. This may put some minds at rest, that although it is theoretically possible for Google to see what you have been searching for in the last years and what e-mails you received, the Big G - the name many privacy activists use to refer to Google, with an obvious Orwellian reference - wouldn't do so. 



Sunday, October 25, 2009

Analyse This - Times Article

Google Analytics is a powerful tool for building a web presence. 
Ian Vella directs the traffic.

Sunday Times - 25th October 2009



For the average user, Google may only be a search engine. Yet the industry-savvy know Google is investing heavily in other ventures such as consumer internet, software, hardware and even health care solutions. Google also provides webmasters with online tools to help them build a better web presence. One of these, Google Analytics, is powerful, easy to use, and free.

Google Analytics tracks incoming visitors from all referrers and lets you determine if they are coming from organic search engine results, from paid traffic advertising programmes or even from links in .pdf files.