Cnaan Liphshiz, Getting Google to work for us, Haaretz, June 27, 2008
Young innovators show how they’re changing the world.
A communications overload brought down the internet connection on Tuesday at Jerusalem’s Hebrew Union College. The surge came from room 104, where the summit’s 20 computer fanatics were trying to simultaneously connect their laptops to the Web to demonstrate their online inventions. After finally connecting, the computer lovers pitched ideas on how to eclipse online anti-Semitic content, use Anglo blogs to have fun in Jerusalem, help organizations maintain a more professional-looking online presence, and use computer animation to get African-American rap singer and retired drug dealer 50 Cent to teach about Passover.
The session was part of the Third Annual ROI Global Summit for Young Jewish Innovators – a week-long conference for 120 people from 28 countries deemed to be “engaged in projects with potential to change the face of the world,” as stated in the invitation.
On Tuesday, organizers at the U.S.-based Center for Leadership Initiatives (CLI) set up seven work groups based on participants’ fields of expertise, such as Youth Programs, Arts and Culture, Environmentalism and even Jewish Technology. Group members presented their innovative projects to their peers.
Speaking before the Jewish technology crowd, Dr. Andre Oboler, an expert in combating online anti-Semitism, gave a straightforward presentation stressing search optimization. “Google, which everybody uses to search online, displays only 10 results on its first results page,” the British-born computer science Ph.D said. “Most people never bother to click on the second page. If we optimize content to be easily picked up by Google, we will have knocked off other content.” He explained that through Google-oriented optimization, he has had success in making Israel advocacy sites pop up in search results that could otherwise yield content which he deems anti-Semitic or anti-Zionist.
After tweaking with the projector for a little while, Harry Rubenstein presented his recently-launched blog for Anglos in Jerusalem: Jerusalemite (www.jerusalemite.net). In it, the U.S.-born blogger from Modi’in constantly updates readers about developments and cultural activities in English and Hebrew in the capital. “Most English-language sites about Jerusalem are concerned with the conflict or religion,” explained Rubenstein. “The ones that aren’t tend to be out-of-date.” He asserted, “With Jerusalem’s Anglo community on the rise, there was a need in the market for a blog where people can see what small cafes are hosting which jazz players tonight, which restaurants have opened and which have closed, etc.”
The online animation that computer consultant-turned-cartoonist William Levine from Brooklyn put on for the group featured a computerized 50 Cents saying Chag Sameach – followed by a lewd obscenity. The animation sequence, which uses rap to teach Jewish kids about Passover, also featured a skullcap-wearing robot called “Shabot 6000″ and a perplexed rabbi with a rare talent for rapping.
Ori Neidich of Los Angeles said his business uses automation through internet software to paint a more professional face on websites, particularly those that belong to poorly funded organizations and NGOs. “With a bit of careful programming, you can make a low-budget site, run by one guy, update itself so often that it looks like it’s managed by a staff of ten,” he said.