fire_026 A friend of mine’s house was struck by lightening Saturday. Luckily they were not home and the dog was outside.

Now they’ll know if you read their e-mail (USAToday)

DidTheyReadIt is a service that allows you to track the email you sent out. According to the website, you can tell whether people opened your email, how long it was open, etc.

Their website does not explain how they are able to do this, and I’m a little sceptical about how it could work. Is my system going to send an email back to them without me knowing it? I don’t think so! So what (and how) are they monitoring?

I’m not sure if this is scary or not, but it’s definitely annoying. If it’s doable and it becomes standard, I think you’ll find people setting up their email to automatically open on arrival.

I think it’s worth pointing out that in order to use their service, you have to send all of your email through them. Their Subscription Agreement says those emails will be “confidential in accordance with generally accepted standards of electronic mail usage” – what are “generally accepted standards”?

They have a free trial. If anybody tries it out, I’d be interested in learning how it works.


Slashdotters discussed this. According to them, DidTheyReadIt embeds a small image in your email. When the user opens their email, the email client downloads the image from the DidTheyReadIt website, and they know the message has been opened. This wouldn’t be the most reliable of tools.

Image downloading can be turned off in most email clients. Political Contributions

I was originally going to post about
because it has some cool maps, visual representations of the amount of campaign funds (colored according to party) donated by county, city, state, etc. Then I started playing with it and thought, “This is pretty scary!” I typed in my zip code and it showed all of my neighbor’s contributions along with their names, home addresses and company affiliation. I knew most of the names on there!

This has always been public information, but having it right at your fingertips, easily searchable and sorted, brings a whole new dimension to politics and privacy.

A New York Times article orginally pointed me to


Here’s a newsmap, kind of like the market map from Smart Money that I posted a few months ago. It uses google news and color codes news according to type and shades it according to time. Size seems to be related to number of related articles.

(I found this on the They Rule blog.)


Smart Mobs pointed me at this website, THEY RULE, which has to be one of the coolest tools I’ve seen in a long time. The websites objective, according to the website, is:

“They Rule aims to provide a glimpse of some of the relationships of the US ruling class. It takes as its focus the boards of some of the most powerful U.S. companies, which share many of the same directors. Some individuals sit on 5, 6 or 7 of the top 500 companies. It allows users to browse through these interlocking directories and run searches on the boards and companies. A user can save a map of connections complete with their annotations and email links to these maps to others. They Rule is a starting point for research about these powerful individuals and corporations.”

You can type in two companies names and find out how they are connected. For example, IBM is connected to Microsoft because John Brooks Slaughter, one of IBM’s directors, sits on the Northrop Grumman board with Charles H. Noski. Noski sits on Microsoft’s board:
IBM – John Brooks Slaugher – Northrop Grumman – Charles H. Noski – Microsoft

These are the people that have strong influence in America’s economy, politics and therefore society. Have fun!

P.S. A similar example of political networks that I found on the They Rule website is this map of who contributed to Bush’s campaign funding.

Political Friendster – Visualize!

Smart Mobs pointed me at this new tool: Political Friendster – Visualize!. This is a Standford tool, a paradoy on Friendster, called Political Friendster. Anyone can input people’s names and relationships. You can use the Visualize! tool to see a map (for example, the Bush family) and then you can add other people (like Author Anderson contacts or politicians like Arnold Schwartzennegger) and see how they are related. It’s fun!