Monday, January 25, 2010

Searching when there is no content

What's a search engine worth when there's little content in your language? Or on topics of interest to your region? That's a problem for Google because if there's no incentive to search for something that's not there then it has fewer eyeballs to sell to advertisers.

As reported in the New York Times, Google is working on that:
The company is sponsoring a contest to encourage students in Tanzania and Kenya to create articles for the Swahili version of Wikipedia, mainly by translating them from the English Wikipedia. The winners are to be announced Friday, with prizes including a laptop, a wireless modem, cellphones and Google gear.

So far the contest, Google says, has added more than 900 articles from more than 800 contributors.

“Our algorithms are primed and ready to give you the answer you are looking for, but the pipeline of information just isn’t there,” said Gabriel Stricker, Google’s spokesman on search issues. “The challenge for searches in many languages for us no longer is search quality. Our ability to get the right answer is hindered by the lack of quality and lack of quantity of material on the Internet.”

Sitting in a Google cafeteria, Mr. Stricker outlined all the ways information eludes the search engine — wrong language, not digitized, too recent, doesn’t exist but should. Feeding the maw is clearly an obsession of Google’s.
Another example is lack of content in Arabic.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Abu Dhabi's bailout of Dubai

Less than previously advertised
Dubai has revealed that half of its $10bn (£6.1bn) bail-out from Abu Dhabi was actually from a previous deal.

Abu Dhabi lent the money to its United Arab Emirates neighbour in December, averting a potential default that had severely rattled financial markets.

Dubai now says that the total included $5bn raised from Abu Dhabi in November.

The statement may raise further questions about the levels of transparency and disclosure from governments in the Middle East.
Ya think?

Read it at the BBC.

See, also, the Wall Street Journal's coverage:
The disclosure Monday cuts by 20% the funds that analysts had assumed Abu Dhabi, the capital of the U.A.E. and its financial powerhouse, had committed to Dubai over the course of last year.
Dubai has been criticized for a lack of transparency around the debt restructuring. In response, it announced earlier this month a new media office to coordinate the emirate's communications strategy. Ahmed Al Shaikh, director of the new office, wasn't reachable for comment Monday. A spokesman for the federal government in Abu Dhabi was unable to comment on the matter.
Dubai has engaged in such double counting in the past.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The logic behind the bizarre Emirati borders

Dubai, the next Emirate to the north of Abu Dhabi, is the second largest and occupies 5% of the land of the UAE. Dubai’s territory is basically unified in a neat block, with the only exception being the Oman border town of Hatta.

The remaining five emirates occupy less than 10% of the land, and their borders are a collosal mess, containing enclaves, narrow bands of territory, and disputed tracks of wasteland that look chaotic. It’s a wonder this messy border situation survived—but has was it cr
eated and why does it still exist, almost 40 years after the UAE was founded?
A map and further explanation here. Recommended, especially for those new to the UAE.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Wind towers

Aren't solar updraft towers an idea that have been employed in Dubai and elsewhere for many years?

These new ones would be nearly as tall the Burj Khalifa.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Most expensive naming rights in history

Pride takes a fall:
The last-minute switch carries a symbolic weight in light of the billions of dollars oil-rich Abu Dhabi has poured into Dubai in order to cover its debts. Once the most pridefully autonomous of the United Arab Emirates, Dubai’s financial troubles have made it more dependent on Abu Dhabi and likely to be drawn closer into the federation.

“Dubai not only has the world’s tallest building, but has also made what looks like the most expensive naming rights deal in history,” said Jim Krane, author of City of Gold: Dubai and the Dream of Capitalism. “Renaming the Burj Dubai after Sheikh Khalifa of Abu Dhabi — if not an explicit quid pro quo — is a down-payment on Dubai’s gratitude for its neighbor’s $10 billion bailout last month.”

The National (Abu Dhabi state-owned newspaper) - "Fanfare is for Sheikh Mohammed, too"

The Australian
There has been speculation for weeks about what Abu Dhabi might extract for the financial lifeline. Few expected the price to be so public. Minutes before the tower's official opening, Dubai's hereditary ruler, Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, dedicated it to the head of Abu Dhabi's ruling family - who did not grace the ceremony with his presence.

Dubai's Declaration of Dependence:
The newly named Burj Khalifa is now a symbol of Dubai's loss of independence. But by swallowing his pride, Dubai's Sheik Mohammed may have guaranteed his emirate's economic future, and given anxious investors owed more than $80 billion by the city-state reason to breathe easier. ...

Now, Dubai seems to have acknowledged reality: The United Arab Emirates is one country, dependent on Abu Dhabi and its vast oil wealth. Investors must hope that Sheik Khalifa, in allowing his name to be attached to the new tower, also has acknowledged Abu Dhabi's new reality, and that his support for his troubled neighbor is now nailed down.

Dubai's Decline Gives Way to Abu Dhabi's Rise
Abu Dhabi's plans also have the benefit of a direct pipeline to one powerful ruling family. Dubai's Sheik Mohammed has to share wealth with the emirate's influential merchant families to rule.

The new relationship between the two sheikdoms is based on Dubai's subordination to Abu Dhabi, analysts say. "Abu Dhabi views political dominance of the UAE as an important goal, and sees its current pre-eminence in the federation as permanent. Dubai's leadership, however, still views Abu Dhabi's dominance as matter of short term expedience," Sabra of Eurasia Group said.

Gulf News (Dubai influenced paper):
By renaming the Burj, the most prominent milestone in Dubai's long list of achievements, after President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, reminded the world, and the residents of the UAE, of the basis on which this country was founded — seven emirates, but only one people.
Dubai has given the UAE and the world a new landmark.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Didn't see this coming

Burj Khalifa?

I've been saying there would be a price to pay, but I didn't expect this. Surely, if Abu Dhabi was buying naming rights it should have chosen the name Burj Zayed.

The story as reported by The Times:
Burj Dubai becomes Burj Khalifa as Emirate loses out on crowning glory

It was heralded as Dubai’s crowning achievement but the cash-strapped emirate was forced to swallow its pride yesterday and rename the world’s tallest building after its financial rescuer — the ruler of its oil-rich neighbour.

The humiliating announcement was made by Dubai’s own leader at the dazzling launch of the $1.5 billion (£930 million) Burj Dubai, which will now be known as Burj Khalifa in honour of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates.