You can already get hitched online, so why not webcast your funeral when you're dead and gone? More and more funeral homes have started offering such a service, making it possible for out-of-towners unable to make the trip to still attend a loved one's funeral, while simultaneously checking the latest sports scores in another tab (just the way Firefox envisioned it).
One such funeral home offering live (dead?) webcasts is Schoedinger Funeral and Cremation Service. The company first started streaming funeral services to families with relatives serving in the military, and now anyone can sign up at the any of the company's 11 locations. To prevent just anyone from watching the service, viewers must enter a password 15 minutes before it starts.
The Schoedinger funeral home says its webcasts have been popular and expects other funeral homes to follow suit. The practice has also attracted the attention of webcasting companies, who offer packages to funeral homes consisting of tripods, cameras with microphones, cables, and other webcasting necessities.
Hawaii residents can now visit their physician without ever leaving their home. It's not that house calls are making a comeback, but the 50th state becomes the first one to offer online physician visits. Available 24/7, ailing patients and hypochondriacs alike can spend one-on-one time with a doctor over IE7 or Firefox 2 and above, and even load up a webcam to show exactly what that nasty infection looks like.
Hawaiians insured through HMSA (Hawaii Medical Service Association, the state's largest insurer) are charged a flat $10 fee for a 10 minute online visit, while non-members pay $45. In return, doctors are instructed to apply the same standards of care and to address only issues that can adequately be handled over the phone or web. Prescriptions can also be written, if there's a definitive diagnosis during the 10-minute visit. But while this new practice will cut down the number of people cluttering emergency rooms, proponents warn that it's not a replacement for real emergencies.
"I don't think this situation can completely replace one-on-one doctor's visits," said Michelle Shimizu, a family practice doctor who has been helping test the system. "It's an adjunct to that."
For the most part, doctors receive $25 for each session, an amount which "has been received tremendously," according to HMSA marketing VP Michael Stollar.
Would you feel comfortable visiting your doctor online? Hit the jump and post your thoughts.
If you're trying to watch a YouTube video and can't get the sound to work, it could be by design. The Google-owned video sharing site has just implemented a new policy which won't remove a user's videos containing copyrighted audio, but it will mute the audio stream, allowing the offending video to play on sans sound.
The new policy comes as a result of YouTube's ongoing dispute with Warner Music Group. Last month, Warner forced YouTube to cut off access to videos containing copyrighted music, following a breakdown in talks over licensing agreements. The video sharing site appears to have found a workaround until those talks come to a conclusion.
"Music licensing can get very complicated, but we try to make your experience as simple as possible," YouTube wrote in a blog post. "We want you to have options when uploading videos with music in them. And if your video is subject to a copyright claim, you should have some choices too."
YouTube recommends that anyone whose videos have been flagged and muted to check out Audioswap, which is a library of pre-cleared music.
"In our world of customized online services, responsible use of data is critical to establishing and maintaining user trust," said Anne Toth, Yahoo!'s Vice President of Policy and Head of Privacy. "We know that our users expect relevant and compelling content and advertising when they visit Yahoo!, but they also want assurances that we are focused on protecting their privacy."
The new limit puts Yahoo well ahead of its competition. Earlier this year, Google reduced its data retention time frame from 18 months to nine months, and Microsoft vowed to cut its data retention policy to six months if its rivals did the same.
Yahoo will begin implementing the new policy next month and says it will be effective across all of the company's services by the middle of 2010.
So Microsoft isn't going to acquire to Yahoo, but it did manage to snag Qi Lu, a former search and advertising executive at Yahoo with 10 years of experience under his belt. Lu, 47, will serve as Microsoft's president of the Online Service Group and will report directly to company CEO Steve Ballmer.
"I am tremendously excited to welcome Qi to Microsoft,” Ballmer said. “Dr. Lu’s deep technical expertise, leadership capabilities and hard-working mentality are well-known in the technology industry, and Microsoft will benefit from his addition to our executive management team."
Lu will clock in for the first time on January 5, 2009 and begin work overseeing several groups, including the Advertiser & Publisher Solutions business. While Lu's experience should be a valuable asset in helping Microsoft become more competitive with Google and Yahoo in online search revenue, it's interesting to note that Microsoft has replaced the leadership role of its online unit about every two to three years since jumping into the internet business a little over a decade ago. And not everyone is convinced Lu will fare any better.
"Does this make Microsoft more competitive in search today? No," said Colin Gillis, an analyst with Click Capital Research in New York.
You can forget about the historic election (politics) or Bill Gates stepping into semi-retirement (tech), because according to Yahoo's search statistics, it's Britney Spears who ranked as the top search subject. The pop singer 'did it again,' topping Yahoo's search results for the fourth year in a row and her seventh time altogether. Other pop-culture celebrities making the top 10 list include Miley Cyrus at No. 4, Jessica Alba at No. 6, Lindsay Lohan at No. 8, and Angelina Jolie at No. 9.
But it wasn't just specific celebrities making the list. Wrestling apparently had a good year with WWE placing No. 2, one spot above President-elect Barack Obama. The rest of the top 10 included RuneScape at No. 5, Naruto at No. 7 ,and American Idol taking up the 10th spot.
Surprisingly, no other political figures were represented in Yahoo's most popular search terms, despite being a historic and hotly contested election year. However, when broken down into subjects, Sarah Palin led the way behind President-elect Barack Obama in people of politics search terms, followed by John McCain, Hillary Clinton, George Bush, Ron Paul, John Edwards, Mike Huckabee, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Mitt Romney.
On the subject of economic searches, surfers were most interested in IRS stimulus checks, followed with oil prices, gold prices, gas prices, Dow Jones, Sallie Mae, stock market, AIG, foreclosures, and debt consolidation.
International management consulting firm Oliver Wyman released a survey last week painting a pretty grim outlook for technology and media sales, but that didn't stop shoppers from flocking online on Black Friday. According to comScore, consumers spent $534 million online on Black Friday, November 28th, up 1 percent from last year. Total online sales were up 2 percent for the combination of Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday, beating out expectations.
"Early reports suggest that Black Friday sales in retail stores were slightly better than anticipated in this depressed retail climate, and that performance apparently extended to the online channel, which saw sales on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday combined increase 2 percent versus year ago," said comScore chairman, Gian Fulgoni. "It's probable that on Black Friday consumers responded positively to the very aggressive promotions and discounts being offered in retail stores."
Despite the 2-day sales boost, e-commerce spending for the first 28 days of November was down overall at $10.41 billion, 4 percent less than what it was in the same time frame one year ago.
We've all used the web to research and help diagnose what might be causing that nagging ailment, whether it be related to sudden fatique or a new pain not associated with an obvious injury. But when you use the web in place of a doctor, do you tend to worry that your symptoms are indicative of a worst case scenario? If so, your real ailment might be cyberchondria.
Earlier this week, Microsoft researchers published the results of a study examining health-related web inquiries as well as a survey of the company's employees. The results of the study indicate that people who use search engines as a self-diagnosis tool often conclude the worst about whatever it is that ails them.
"People tend to look at just the first couple of results," said Eric Horvitz, an artificial intelligence researcher at Microsoft Research. "If they find 'brain tumor' or 'A.L.S.,' that's their launching point."
According to the study conducted by Horvitz, who holds a medical degree, and his fellow investigator Ryen W. White, a specialist in information retrieval technology, web searches for ailments like headaches and chest pain were equally or more likely to land surfers on pages describing dire conditions as benign ones. For someone who is suffering from a headache, search results would link the symptom to brain tumors just as often as they would with caffeine withdrawal, even though the chance of having a brain tumor is highly unlikely.
The researchers suggest that a combination of human nature to jump to worst-case conclusions combined with a reliance on web search rankings contribute to the tendency to be a cyberchondriac.
Does this describe you or anyone you know? Hit the jump and tell us.
In some respects, MySpace, FriendFinder, and every other social networking site could be considered a human flesh search engine. So could Google, Yahoo, and the rest of the online search portals, particularly when combined with incognito-based browsing. But in China, the seemingly sexual term takes on a completely different meaning than the first one that most likely popped into your head.
Instead, the term refers to vigilante cybermobs who collaborate online to hunt down who they perceive as wrongdoers deserving of the cybermobs' own brand of justice. Take for example of the case of Wang Fei, a former advertising executive. His wife posted several blog posts lamenting her husband's alleged infidelity before she committed suicide by jumping out of the couple's 24th--floor apartment. Following her death, cybermobs posted Wang's personal information on several forums, including his phone numbers, address, and national ID number. Someone painted a slogan on his door that read "A blood debt must be repaid with blood." According to Wang's lawyer, the harassment forced him to resign from his job after his workplace became the subject of abuse, and oftentimes strangers in the street would confront him.
Wang's story isn't an isolated one, though according to at least one expert, large-scale human flesh engines do appear to be unique to China, partially as a result of China's "ingrained tradition of 'people's war' tracing back to Mao."
Could you see this becoming a trend in other parts of the world? Hit the jump and post your thoughts.
As it turns out, teens might have a legitimate beef with parental controls limiting the time they spend online, as doing so could hurt their development. Or at least that's the pitch teenagers will soon be making to their parents while they quote findings from a new study released this week by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation at the American Anthropological Association's annual meeting.
The study, which observed teens for 5,000 hours over the course of three years, comes as part of a $50 million initiative to find out what effects digital media might be having on teenagers, specifically how they learn and socialize.
"When adults look at teens today, they think what they are doing is different and seem to be wasting a lot of time online hanging out with their friends or playing video games, and these are activities that can seem quite foreign," said Mizuko Ito, the report's lead author and a researcher at the University of California Irvine. "But when we look closely at what kids are doing, it's not much different than what their parents did. They are hanging out with their friends, finding romantic partners, and trying to identify their status and identity."
It took a 58-page report to note a generation gap in how parents and teens view online activities, with the parents viewing their teen's online time as a distraction, whereas teens are finding value with the time they spend online. The report also noted that while teens are honing their social skills, they're also not taking full advantage of what the internet has to offer.
Do you agree with the study's suggestion that, for the most part, teens' time spent online has a positive effect? Hit the jump and post your thoughts.