How the Alec Baldwin ‘Rust’ shooting prosecution collapsed

The spectacular collapse of New Mexico’s criminal prosecution of Alec Baldwin in the deadly “Rust” movie shooting laid bare nearly three years of errors by state officials who were eager to prove themselves on a world stage.

Legal experts had long said it was a risk to charge Baldwin with involuntary manslaughter, a felony, for the 2021 death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, whom the actor accidentally shot while preparing for a scene with a firearm. Baldwin had been told — incorrectly — that his prop gun contained no actual ammunition.

New Mexico First Judicial District Court Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer threw out Baldwin’s charge late Friday following a day-long hearing in which defense attorneys alleged Santa Fe County deputies and a special prosecutor concealed potential evidence — a bag of bullets an Arizona retired police officer turned in after the incident — that may have proved helpful to Baldwin’s case.

Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer, center, questions special prosecutor Kari T. Morrissey, second from left, Friday in Santa Fe, N.M., about evidence not turned over to defense attorney Alex Spiro, second from right, during actor Alec Baldwin’s trial alleging involuntary manslaughter during filming of the movie “Rust.”

(Eddie Moore / Associated Press)

“If this conduct does not rise to the level of bad faith, it certainly comes so near to bad faith to show signs of scorching,” Marlowe Sommer said, directing her scorn at prosecutor Kari T. Morrissey.

Baldwin, who had been facing an 18-month prison sentence if convicted, sobbed as he heard the decision.

Legal experts were stunned at what they said was the prosecution’s botching of the case. “What a catastrophic end to this case for the special prosecutor,” said Santa Fe attorney John Day, who was not involved in the case. “It was a disaster — a complete train wreck.”

Three days into the trial, Baldwin’s high-powered legal team had successfully steered the case away from issues Morrissey wanted to explore, including evidence Baldwin may have pulled the trigger. They focused on an investigation that failed to answer a central question in the “Rust” shoooting: Where did the live rounds originate?

The Baldwin criminal case may have been doomed from the start.

Santa Fe Sheriff's Office Lt. Brian Brandle testifies during the trial

Santa Fe Sheriff’s Office Lt. Brian Brandle testifies during the trial of actor Alec Baldwin on Friday at Santa Fe County District Court in Santa Fe, N.M.

(Ramsay de Give / Associated Press)

Santa Fe County sheriff’s deputies arriving at western movie location Bonanza Creek Ranch near Santa Fe on Oct. 21, 2021, were rattled by the mayhem. Two victims lay bleeding on the floor of an old wooden church, Hutchins and director Joel Souza. Armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed appeared to be having a panic attack. Baldwin declined a deputy’s invitation to sit in a patrol car, saying he was smoking a cigarette.

Law enforcement officers were gobsmacked: How could two people filming a movie be shot with a prop gun held by one of Hollywood’s most famous actors?

As journalists from around the world descended on Santa Fe, the sheriff and district attorney projected swagger. The sheriff was preparing for a reelection fight. At a news conference six days after the shooting, Dist. Atty. Mary Carmack-Altwies was asked whether Baldwin might be charged. “All options are on the table,” she told the crowd.

Pressure quickly mounted after Baldwin told ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos that he didn’t pull the trigger. Gun enthusiasts howled, saying that gun model doesn’t fire on its own.

The set of "Rust" at Bonanza Creek Ranch has several buildings and vehicles nearby.

Bonanza Creek Ranch one day after Halyna Hutchins died on set.

(Roberto E. Rosales / Albuquerque Journal)

By year’s end, sheriff’s detectives had made mistakes that would haunt the case.

The movie’s prop master threw bullets from other actors’ weapons into the trash. The “Rust” prop truck, which held guns and ammunition, wasn’t searched for nearly a week. And it took another month before detectives showed up with a warrant at the Albuquerque prop house of weapons and ammunition provider, Seth Kenney.

The deputies found the military green ammo box they were looking for — Thell Reed, the armorer’s father, told investigators it contained live bullets that may have been the same batch as those on “Rust” — but it was empty.

Baldwin’s team asserted it was Kenney who co-mingled real bullets with dummies — an allegation that Kenney has denied, including while testifying Friday.

Adding another wrinkle, violent tests of Baldwin’s revolver at the FBI Laboratory in Virginia in mid-2022 fractured key gun components.

“I don’t think anyone would say this was a good, clean law enforcement investigation,” Day said. “And the prosecutors compounded the problems with their own missteps and poor judgment calls.”

After more than a year of investigating, the sheriff shipped the case to prosecutors so they could make charging decisions. The D.A. had hired a special prosecutor to help. It looked like a powerful team.

Carmack-Altwies was a progressive Democrat. The first special prosecutor, Andrea Reeb, was a Republican who championed gun rights.

But emails between the pair, later turned over to Baldwin’s team, revealed that Reeb had joked that prosecuting Baldwin could boost her state House campaign. To some, the disclosure made it look like Baldwin’s prosecution was politically motivated because many conservatives dislike Baldwin, who lampooned former President Trump on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live.”

Further, prosecutors blundered in January 2023 by adding a “gun enhancement” when filing involuntary manslaughter charges against Baldwin and Gutierrez Reed. The enhancement carried a mandatory five-year prison sentence but wasn’t on the books at the time of the “Rust” shooting, forcing prosecutors to scale back.

Reeb stepped down and Carmack-Altwies soon followed. That’s when Morrissey, a respected Albuquerque criminal defense lawyer, dug into the case.

Baldwin’s lead attorney, Luke Nikas, flew to New Mexico. He gave Morrissey evidence that he said showed Baldwin’s gun had been modified before arriving on set, according to court filings. With little time before a pivotal hearing, Morrissey dropped charges against Baldwin.

Attorney Luke Nikas rubs his eyes during actor Alec Baldwin's trial while other people are seated next to him.

Attorney Luke Nikas reacts during Baldwin’s trial for involuntary manslaughter Friday at Santa Fe County District Court in Santa Fe, N.M. The judge threw out the case against Baldwin in the middle of his trial and said it cannot be filed again.

(Ramsay De Give / Associated Press)

The “Rust” star immediately traveled to Montana to finish filming the movie. Meanwhile, Morrissey ordered more tests to determine whether Baldwin’s gun had a hair-trigger, as the defense team suggested.

Arizona gun expert Lucien Haag rebuilt the revolver, and ultimately concluded the gun hadn’t been modified. He was also convinced Baldwin pulled the trigger.

By last summer, tensions between Morrissey and Baldwin’s team were growing. But Morrissey offered Baldwin a deal in October to plead guilty to negligent use of a deadly weapon, a misdemeanor, and receive a suspended sentence. Weeks went by with no answer. Then Morrissey learned Baldwin’s team had shared the plea details with NBC News and planned to sue the state of New Mexico. Baldwin also allegedly pressured a crew member to be interviewed in a documentary Baldwin commissioned about himself, according to an April court filing by the prosecutor.

Morrissey withdrew the offer, sending the case to a grand jury. Baldwin was indicted in January and pleaded not guilty.

The trial, which began Wednesday, was to be the most-publicized court action in New Mexico’s 112-year history. Legal experts saw it as a huge gamble by the prosecution.

“This case clearly should not have been criminally brought,” New York defense attorney Duncan Levin said Thursday. “The shooting was a tragic mistake but mistakes are not crimes.”

It wasn’t long before the case brought by Morrissey and fellow prosecutor Erlinda O. Johnson started to fall apart. Baldwin’s team filed a motion to dismiss the case after the second day of testimony. Marlowe Sommer called an 8:45 a.m. hearing Friday for the lawyers and told the jury to report by 9:30 a.m.

Spiro began Friday’s hearing by accusing Morrissey of signaling directions to her witnesses. Nikas then launched into a litany of alleged evidence violations, stemming from a bag of bullets that Troy Teske, a retired police officer who lives in Arizona, turned over to the Sheriff’s Office in March — potential evidence that was not disclosed to the defense.

Actor Alec Baldwin closes his eyes as he sits between his attorneys.

Actor Alec Baldwin, center, reacts as he sits between his attorneys Alex Spiro, left, and Luke Nikas after the judge threw out the involuntary manslaughter case against him Friday.

(Ramsay de Give / Associated Press)

Morrissey insisted the envelope contained nothing of “evidentiary value” because the bullets remained in Arizona — far from the “Rust” set.

“This defies everything they teach you in law school, and when starting out as a prosecutor,” University of New Mexico law professor Joshua Kastenberg said. “Prosecutors should never determine what evidence is relevant — that’s up to a judge.”

With a stern look, the judge donned blue latex gloves and opened the evidence envelope with scissors.

Marlowe Sommer directed crime scene technician Marissa Poppell to categorize the bullets.

Gasps rippled through the courtroom when it was revealed that three bullets had casings stamped with Starline Brass — the identifying marker of the deadly bullets on “Rust.”

Furious, the judge scrapped the day of testimony and sent home the jurors who had been waiting in a back room. Johnson, the new prosecutor, resigned from the case and took a seat on a bench reserved for the public.

Special prosecutor Kari T. Morrissey holds out her hands while standing and looking at a laptop screen in court.

Special prosecutor Kari Morrissey talks about evidence not turned over to the defense during actor Alec Baldwin’s trial Friday.

(Eddie Moore / Associated Press)

The two sides clashed over the value of the Teske bullets. Teske was a former friend of Kenney, the ammo provider, and a current friend of Thell Reed. Baldwin’s lawyers argued the bullets might show a connection to Kenney, one of Morrissey’s main witnesses.

Morrissey disagreed, saying the bullets only pointed to Thell Reed. She has alleged his daughter brought some to the “Rust” set.

The judge also was deeply troubled that sheriff’s deputies logged the Teske bullets under a different case number, not the one for “Rust” evidence, making it impossible for defense attorneys to find on their own.

Marlowe Sommer grilled the lead detective, Alexandria Hancock. The judge asked whether Morrissey had participated in discussions this spring about the Teske bullets.

“Yes,” Hancock said. Louder gasps were heard in the courtroom.

At the end, Morrissey took to the witness stand to defend her conduct in the case. The judge was not swayed.

“There was no excuse for what happened from a prosecutorial standpoint,” Kastenberg said. “The recriminations are just starting.”

Hilaria Baldwin speaks to husband, Alec Baldwin, and wraps her arms around his neck while he looks down.

Hilaria Baldwin, right, speaks to her husband, actor Alec Baldwin, at his trial Friday.

(Ramsay de Give / Associated Press)

“Rust” legal wranglings are not over.

Certain civil lawsuits against Baldwin and the producers, including from Hutchins’ family members, remain unresolved.

“We respect the court’s decision,” said Brian Panish, lawyer for Hutchins’ husband, Matthew, after the judge dismissed Baldwin’s criminal case. “We look forward to presenting all the evidence to a jury and holding Mr. Baldwin accountable for his actions in the senseless death of Halyna Hutchins.”

Actor Alec Baldwin hugs wife Hilaria Baldwin

Actor Alec Baldwin hugs wife Hilaria Baldwin after District Court Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer threw out the involuntary manslaughter case against Baldwin on Friday.

(Luis Sánchez Saturno / Associated Press)

Gloria Allred, who represents the victim’s Ukranian family, added: “The dismissal of the criminal case against Alec Baldwin is in no way, shape or form an exoneration of him.”

Others took a more charitable view, including LeAnn Brightwell, 80, who moved to Santa Fe two years ago from Palm Desert.

“I never thought he was guilty of murder; they shouldn’t have charged him,” Brightwell said. “What a horrific thing to know that you killed someone — that’s punishment enough.”

2024 Nissan X-Trail SUV To Get Panoramic Sunroof, ADAS & 3-Row Seating; Check New Teaser

The new-generation Nissan X-Trail 7-seater SUV will make its Indian debut later this month. It’s worth noting that the ‘X-Trail’ nameplate will make a comeback in India after a decade-long hiatus. The soon-to-be-launched X-Trail SUV will come to the country via the CBU route. Ahead of its official debut, the Japanese carmaker has released another teaser video of the full-size SUV. It gives us a glimpse of the interior and features onboard, confirming it will be a tech-laden offering.

The video also confirms an all-black cabin theme with a 7-seater configuration (2-3-2) wherein the second row is a bench seat, missing out on captain seats. Features on offer will include a dual-pane sunroof, touchscreen infotainment unit, a digital instrument cluster, dual-zone automatic climate control, wireless charging, electronic parking brake with auto-hold, and more. It will also come with ADAS. 2024 Suzuki Swift Scores 3-Star Rating in Euro NCAP Crash Test.

Check out the new teaser video of the upcoming Nissan X-Trail SUV here:

The 2024 Nissan X-Trail will be a petrol-only model, so there will be no diesel powertrain. The SUV will draw power from a 1.5-litre, three-cylinder, turbo petrol engine paired to a strong-hybrid system with an 8-step continuously variable transmission (CVT). The mill will be tuned to produce 201 bhp of maximum power with a peak torque of 305 Nm. Globally, the SUV gets both 2WD and 4WD drivetrain options. Hyundai EXTER Knight Edition Launched.

2024 Nissan X-Trail SUV Teaser (Photo Credits: Nissan India)

The fourth-generation Nissan X-Trail is likely to be priced between INR 35-40 lakh price range, making it a direct rival to the likes of Mahindra XUV700, Tata Safari, Volkswagen Tiguan, Skoda Kodiaq, Toyota Innova HyCross, and Hyundai Tucson.

(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Jul 14, 2024 11:54 AM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website

OpenAI Is Testing Its Powers of Persuasion

This week, Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, and Arianna Huffington, founder and CEO of the health company Thrive Global, published an article in Time touting Thrive AI, a startup backed by Thrive and OpenAI’s Startup Fund. The piece suggests that AI could have a huge positive impact on public health by talking people into healthier behavior.

Altman and Huffington write that Thrive AI is working toward “a fully integrated personal AI coach that offers real-time nudges and recommendations unique to you that allows you to take action on your daily behaviors to improve your health.”

Their vision puts a positive spin on what may well prove to be one of AI’s sharpest double-edges. AI models are already adept at persuading people, and we don’t know how much more powerful they could become as they advance and gain access to more personal data.

Aleksander Madry, a professor on sabbatical from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, leads a team at OpenAI called Preparedness that is working on that very issue.

“One of the streams of work in Preparedness is persuasion,” Madry told WIRED in a May interview. “Essentially, thinking to what extent you can use these models as a way of persuading people.”

Madry says he was drawn to join OpenAI by the remarkable potential of language models and because the risks that they pose have barely been studied. “There is literally almost no science,” he says. “That was the impetus for the Preparedness effort.”

Persuasiveness is a key element in programs like ChatGPT and one of the ingredients that makes such chatbots so compelling. Language models are trained in human writing and dialog that contains countless rhetorical and suasive tricks and techniques. The models are also typically fine-tuned to err toward utterances that users find more compelling.

Research released in April by Anthropic, a competitor founded by OpenAI exiles, suggests that language models have become better at persuading people as they have grown in size and sophistication. This research involved giving volunteers a statement and then seeing how an AI-generated argument changes their opinion of it.

OpenAI’s work extends to analyzing AI in conversation with users—something that may unlock greater persuasiveness. Madry says the work is being conducted on consenting volunteers, and declines to reveal the findings to date. But he says the persuasive power of language models runs deep. “As humans we have this ‘weakness’ that if something communicates with us in natural language [we think of it as if] it is a human,” he says, alluding to an anthropomorphism that can make chatbots seem more lifelike and convincing.

The Time article argues that the potential health benefits of persuasive AI will require strong legal safeguards because the models may have access to so much personal information. “Policymakers need to create a regulatory environment that fosters AI innovation while safeguarding privacy,” Altman and Huffington write.

This is not all that policymakers will need to consider. It may also be crucial to weigh how increasingly persuasive algorithms could be misused. AI algorithms could enhance the resonance of misinformation or generate particularly compelling phishing scams. They might also be used to advertise products.

Madry says a key question, yet to be studied by OpenAI or others, is how much more compelling or coercive AI programs that interact with users over long periods of time could prove to be. Already a number of companies offer chatbots that roleplay as romantic partners and other characters. AI girlfriends are increasingly popular—some are even designed to yell at you—but how addictive and persuasive these bots are is largely unknown.

The excitement and hype generated by ChatGPT following its release in November 2022 saw OpenAI, outside researchers, and many policymakers zero in on the more hypothetical question of whether AI could someday turn against its creators.

Madry says this risks ignoring the more subtle dangers posed by silver-tongued algorithms. “I worry that they will focus on the wrong questions,” Madry says of the work of policymakers thus far. “That in some sense, everyone says, ‘Oh yeah, we are handling it because we are talking about it,’ when actually we are not talking about the right thing.”

Crypto Price Today: Bitcoin and Ether Remain Stagnant, Minimal Gains Seen Across the Market

The price of Bitcoin failed to record any notable changes over the weekend. At the time of writing, the most expensive asset on the crypto chart was trading at $63,200 (roughly Rs. 52.8 lakh) on foreign exchanges such as CoinMarketCap, after seeing a drop of 0.26 percent. On Indian exchanges meanwhile, the value of BTC is slightly higher at $68,540 (roughly Rs 57.2 lakh). Despite BTC’s prolonged lacklustre performance on the price chart, the asset has recently received appreciation from billionaires like Jack Dorsey and Michael Dell, the founder, chairman, and CEO of Dell Technologies.

Ether tumbled by 1.12 percent on Monday. With this, Ether’s price point has come to $3,171 (roughly Rs. 2.65 lakh), as shown on Gadgets360’s crypto price chart. The second most valued crypto asset after BTC, ETH is presently trading at $3,423 (roughly Rs. 2.86 lakh) on international exchanges.

Currently, the dominance of BTC and ETH on the overall market stands at 54.1 percent and 18.2 percent respectively, shows CoinMarketCap.

“As per the media reports, the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) is investigating Jump Crypto and it remains to be seen if CFTC will consider any charges against the company. The negative news showed immediate impact on the crypto market as BTC and ETH slipped in prices,” Shivam Thakral, CEO of BuyUcoin told Gadgets360.

Most cryptocurrencies logged losses on Monday. These include Binance Coin, Solana, Dogecoin, Cardano, Shiba Inu, and Avalanche.

Price dips also struck Polkadot, Chainlink, Near Protocol, Polygon, Litecoin, Cosmos, Stellar, and Cronos among others.

“The market is expected to remain choppy in the coming weeks owing to the uncertain macroeconomic factors,” Thakral added.

The overall crypto market valuation dropped by 2.06 percent in the last 24 hours. The sector’s market cap is currently at $2.3 trillion (roughly Rs. 1,92,15,131 crore), as per CoinMarketCap.

Only a small number of cryptocurrencies managed to see profits. These include Tron, Uniswap, Leo, Iota, and Braintrust.

Market experts, however, believe that these stagnated prices for cryptocurrencies will not last long.

“In a significant development, Standard Chartered, a major global bank, is establishing a spot trading desk for Bitcoin and Ethereum. This move reflects the growing institutional adoption of digital assets, with major financial institutions expanding their crypto offerings to meet rising demand,” the CoinSwitch Markets Desk told Gadgets360.

Cryptocurrency is an unregulated digital currency, not a legal tender and subject to market risks. The information provided in the article is not intended to be and does not constitute financial advice, trading advice or any other advice or recommendation of any sort offered or endorsed by NDTV. NDTV shall not be responsible for any loss arising from any investment based on any perceived recommendation, forecast or any other information contained in the article. 

Affiliate links may be automatically generated – see our ethics statement for details.
Why Google prefers them and how to adapt

If you own a niche site, there’s a pretty good chance that you saw something like this happen between late 2023 and today.

This is Semrush’s report for one of my own niche sites. 

There’s not much to brag about these days on my site, but in 2022, there was. Google loved it. I ranked in the top 10 on my niche keywords and a wide range of related head terms. 

I was pulling in a few hundred dollars a month in affiliate revenue – not exactly money I could retire with, but certainly enough to incentivize me to continue to work on my site. 

How did I do it? I simply followed all the rules of white-hat SEO.

  • I chose a niche topic that no one else was covering very well.
  • I chose keywords that people were truly interested in.
  • I made sure that my information was original, up-to-date and accurate. I researched every article I wrote for weeks, sometimes months. When I checked the sites ranking alongside me in the top 10 on any topic, my content was always far superior to all of theirs.
  • I published frequently.
  • My users loved my content. My comments sections were active and my site was shared on social media. I received a lot of compliments from people telling me they’ve been looking for a site like mine for years.

And then it all came crashing down.

My niche site still ranks on extreme long-tail terms, but it’s lost just about all visibility for head terms. And my affiliate revenue is down to pennies.

What happened?

The long-tail shift from niche sites to user-generated content sites

You’ll hear a lot of speculation about what happened, but this report from Sistrix tells you all you need to know.

After the November 2023 core update, Reddit’s organic visibility increased by 23%. Quora’s organic visibility increased by 15.9%.

That is just the tip of the iceberg. In 2023, Reddit’s organic traffic increased by a whopping 253.3% between July 2023 and June 2024, according to Semrush.

Similarly, Quora’s organic traffic increased by 133.4%. The number of organic keywords that both sites ranked on increased by a similar margin.

Quora traffic over time

Other sites with user-generated content (UGC) also saw huge increases in the last year or two. YouTube saw an increase of over 450% in organic keywords.

You’ve probably seen for yourself for any kind of “how to” search that YouTube videos occupy an increasing amount of positions in organic search.

Amazon’s Alexa Answers site saw an 813% increase in SEO traffic before someone at Amazon decided to put a robots.txt exclusion, likely to keep their public content from being scraped to train other LLMs like Google Gemini (good luck with that, Amazon).

A typical Google SERP today

Here’s an example of a typical SERP today for a recent search I did. (For context, my 8-year-old daughter has recently gotten me hooked on playing Minecraft with her.)

Google SERPs - how do you defeat the ender dragon

A few years ago, you might have seen at least one or two accounts from independent bloggers.

No more.

Now, YouTube results take up the effective above-the-fold space that the first few organic results used to occupy.

The rest of Page 1 consists of user-generated content on well-established forum sites or well-known media sites.

Independent bloggers are pretty much wiped out, even though their content is arguably more accurate, more detailed and written with more expertise and zeal.

Dig deeper: How to survive and thrive in a Google helpful content world

Why is Google favoring sites like Reddit and Quora?

There’s a lot of speculation as to why Google is suddenly favoring forum sites. Since this is an opinion piece, I’ll share mine:

This is Google crying uncle.

For years, Google claimed that it could distinguish between good content and poor content. Every time there was a core algorithm update, they’d repeat the mantra, “Just produce E-E-A-T, and we’ll figure it out.”

Here’s the problem.

Let’s say I spend 10 hours every day researching a topic, writing and publishing content.

While I’m doing this, hundreds of unscrupulous publishers are scraping my original content, using AI to rewrite it and publishing it as their own – perhaps even using others’ content to improve on it.

They’ll do it all in a way that I can’t issue a DMCA takedown (nor even realize what they’ve done).

We’re entering a world where “expertise” and “experience,” particularly for head terms, will be so commoditized that it’ll be practically impossible for Google to discern them independently. 

We all saw the recent leak of Google’s ranking signals. One thing that immediately struck me when I went through that list was how easily so much could be faked.

This is forcing Google to place greater emphasis on “authority” and “trust,” even at the expense of everything else.

I don’t know any industry expert who would cite sites like Reddit or Quora as authorities on their topics of expertise.

Why is Google favoring them so much?

It all goes down to a new “A” word: authenticity. For all their flaws, when you go to a site like Reddit, you know you’re seeing real conversations from real people. 

Sure, you may need to take the scenic route to get to an answer, but the power of the crowd – along with platforms that foster free and open speech – usually gets you there.

The most powerful LLM won’t be the one with the best technology; it’ll ultimately be the one that is trained on the most useful data. 

That’s why Google paid $60 million for access to Reddit’s data, and assuming Reddit can continue to collect high-quality content, Google probably got a bargain.

How Reddit and Quora have succeeded where others failed

One question I hear often is, why doesn’t Google just build its own forum powered by crowdsourcing?

Well, they tried. Hard.

Do you remember Google Answers (2002), Google Questions and Answers (2007) and Google Question Hub (2019)? Yeah, neither does anyone else. 

These were desperate attempts by Google to use crowdsourcing to build its own library of knowledge. 

The lesson they learned is that people don’t come to to give answers; they come to get them.

Some old-time SEOs might remember that Yahoo Answers was once a darling of Google organic search, but as Yahoo lost its way, so did Yahoo Answers.

By the time it was dissolved in 2012, it was a cesspool of spam and fake accounts.

Not coincidentally, around this time, sites like Reddit and Quora were taking off. How have these sites succeeded where others failed?

  • They screen for real humans. Sites like Yahoo Answers and Google Question Hub died a slow and painful death because they were unable to keep spam and fake accounts in check, eventually losing all of their trust and credibility. Google essentially ended up outsourcing the task of figuring out how “human” content is to other companies.
  • These humans have real conversations. Users on these sites are encouraged to engage in open and transparent conversation and dialogue. This opens up nuances and details of a topic that might otherwise not be covered on a site with static content. From a search and AI perspective, that opens up the extreme long tail that no one is covering.
  • These conversations use real words. On forum sites, you can always be sure that users are using words that your audience uses because they are the audience.
  • They’re constantly self-moderated. Sites like Quora and Reddit don’t employ hundreds of moderators who constantly monitor every conversation. Instead, they create communities that self-moderate. For example, each subreddit has its own set of rules; if a user breaks a rule, both the moderators and the users themselves will quickly call that user out.

Get the daily newsletter search marketers rely on.

If you can’t beat them… beat them

Reddit and Quora have done many things well, but they aren’t perfect. 

The biggest flaw in both of them is the same as their biggest strength: they’re both targeted toward a mass audience. This results in wildly inconsistent quality from one topic to another and one conversation to another.

Here’s the advice I give to every brand, large and small, that wants to be competitive in five years: Start your own discussion board or forum focused specifically on your industry niche.

Granted, you’ll get a lot of eye-rolling from people saying, “We tried that 10 years ago.” 

But the world – and the cost-benefit equation – is much different today than it was then.

Ten years ago, a well-designed forum might get you some organic rankings on the extreme long tail. However, whatever revenue came out of that traffic couldn’t justify the cost of screening users or moderating and maintaining content.

Today, from a cost perspective, you can bet that forum application developers are working hard to incorporate AI into their software to drive costs down. 

Tasks like screening users and moderating forums have traditionally required cumbersome manual work, but they are well in the wheelhouse of what AI can do.

As for the benefits of maintaining your own forum, there are lots more today than there were then:

  • Google’s sudden predilection toward forum sites isn’t going away. That means that good forums will rank not just in the long tail but at the head as well.
  • Through crowdsourcing, you can generate exponentially more high-quality content than paying an army of freelancers – at a fraction of the price.
  • If you can be the one in your industry generating authoritative content from your most influential and passionate customers, AI LLMs will fall over themselves to learn from the kind of information that your community is creating. 

All of these benefits will happen only if you design and run your forum correctly. 

Follow the best practices above

Have zero tolerance for fake accounts, overt promotional content and spam. 

Follow the “broken windows” theory – if spam is allowed to fester on a given post for more than a few minutes, that’s too long.

Focus on your specific audience

Do what sites like Reddit and Quora can’t do: be laser-focused on your audience.

The more precise, the better. 

“If you build it, they will come” doesn’t apply here. You need to put yourself in your audience’s shoes and ask, “What’s in it for me?”

You are asking them to spend their time and effort visiting, reading questions and writing answers. What are the benefits they’re getting in return?

Here’s where you need to be creative. 

  • Do you allow a certain amount of self-promotion for users who consistently provide value to discussions?
  • Do you do partnerships with well-known influencers in your industry? 
  • Will your audience be incentivized by aspirational intangibles such as “your expertise will help others”? 
  • If you operate a marketplace of some kind, can you provide greater visibility for those who contribute content?
  • Can you gamify the experience to make it “fun” to see and be seen? 

Dig deeper: SEO for user activation, retention and community

Provide definitive answers to the most common questions

Your customer service team can rattle off a list of the most common questions people ask, both branded and unbranded. Seed your forum with these questions (and when people ask the same questions, dedupe them).

Encourage open and transparent conversation, even if it’s about a touchy subject. If they aren’t having the conversation on your site, it’s happening somewhere else.

Go deep

Seed your forum with interesting questions you’re seeing on other forums or in search data, especially on hot and trending topics. Have your internal experts engage in the conversation as fellow enthusiasts and helpers.

Create an environment where your community’s conversations are richer and deeper than those at Reddit and Quora – to the point that users on those sites are citing the information they found on yours.

Make it the place the leaders of your industry want to come to be seen

There aren’t many experts who care to “be seen” on Quora or Reddit. If you can attract the top names in your industry (many of whom are probably your existing clients and customers) to view your forum, that makes it a lot more appealing for other influencers to take notice with an acute case of FOMO.

Own conversations about your own brand

If you’re a relatively well-known brand, try this experiment. Google the name of your brand + the word “Reddit.” 

Read the kinds of conversations going on about your brand. Then ask yourself: Why are these conversations going on on Reddit and not your own site? 

The answer is almost certainly that they trust the Reddit community to give answers that are more helpful, transparent and insightful than anything your company provides. Fix that.

HubSpot is a good example of a brand that has successfully built an active community in its niche.

Here’s what organic traffic and keywords to their forum look like.

HubSpot organic traffic over time

While the organic search traffic levels are a fraction of their overall traffic, it looks like they’ve been pretty successful in hedging against the loss of traffic to their blog that we’re all experiencing with UGC on their forum, following most of the best practices outlined above. 

Interestingly, HubSpot’s forum looks much the same as it did when it started seven years ago, during the initial forum boom. 

But as the economy soured and companies looked for places to cut, these were often first on the chopping block, citing too much cost for too little benefit. 

American Express and Home Depot used to have popular discussion boards and probably wish they could have some of that long-tail goodness back.

Companies that stuck with their forums and grew them will find themselves in an enviable position as AI becomes thirsty for deep content. 

Your ultimate goal: Make Google look silly

This is my conclusion to everyone who has seen their niche site plummet in the rankings in 2023. Make Google look silly.

If you’re a niche site and you’ve seen your rankings plummet, it’s not time to give up. Instead, double down on establishing yourself as the authority on your topic. 

  • Go onto forums like Reddit and Quora and offer your expertise (keeping it concise, helping their users, but pointing readers back to the most helpful content on your own site). 
  • Start a discussion forum of your own and attract a group of fellow enthusiasts to maintain it. 
  • Cover your topic with more enthusiasm, insights, and accuracy, which will make conversations on Reddit and Quora look like child’s play.

Simply put, everyone who has grown reliant on Google for organic traffic needs to face facts. The gravy train is over. 

Our number one job should be to run our sites in a way that delights users and explores aspects of our topics in new and different ways – which is what we should have been doing all along.

You want your site to become so authoritative for your topic that it’s cited on Reddit, Quora, social media, AI and anywhere else people research your topic. 

If Google figures it out and starts ranking you again, great. If they don’t, you’ll still be fine, but they’re the ones who’ll be in trouble.

Contributing authors are invited to create content for Search Engine Land and are chosen for their expertise and contribution to the search community. Our contributors work under the oversight of the editorial staff and contributions are checked for quality and relevance to our readers. The opinions they express are their own.

Is Xbox Game Pass No Longer The Best Deal In Gaming? | Spot On

Xbox has announced major changes to its Game Pass subscription and truthfully, they’re so muddled even I struggle with laying them all out. But let’s try.

Starting in September, new members to the Xbox ecosystem will not longer be allowed to subscribe to Xbox Game Pass for console. However, those currently subscribed will be allowed to maintain their subscription, which will include the program’s back catalog as well as day one game access, as long as they maintain their subscription. New Xbox Game Pass users, then, will get a choice of a few different subscription tiers, the first being Game Pass Standard. This tier will be priced at $15 a month and gives users access to a back catalog of games and Xbox Live Gold, which is now referred to as Game Pass Core. However, Standard will not include any day one releases or Xbox Cloud gaming.

Xbox Game Pass Ultimate’s features will not be changed and will still include PC Game Pass, but is seeing a price hike and will now be $20 a month. Similarly, PC Game Pass remains the same but will now be $12 a month. For those looking solely for access to online multiplayer, Xbox Game Pass Core (formerly Xbox Live Gold) will now cost you $75 a month. And, just for good measure, Microsoft has also implemented a new rule in which existing users can only stack up to 13 months of Xbox Game Pass for console, though users who have currently stacked more than that will not be effected.

If that sounds like a lot, it’s because it is.

From its console naming convention to its subscription service’s pricing structure, Xbox has a habit of making things overly complicated. But the big question we have is: Is this going to come back to bite them? On this week’s Spot On, Tam and Lucy go over the new pricing model and discuss if they think Xbox is making the right move. With thousands of layoffs and studio closures so closely behind them and a new Call of Duty and hot first party lineup ahead, is now the time for such a dramatic restructure and price hike?

Spot On is GameSpot’s weekly news show in which managing editor Tamoor Hussain and senior producer Lucy James talk about the latest game news. Given the massive video game industry’s highly dynamic and never-ending news cycle, there’s always something to talk about. Unlike most news shows, Spot On will dive deep into a single topic instead of recapping all the news. Spot On airs each Friday.

Groundbreaking study reveals insights into Alzheimer’s disease mechanisms through novel hydrogel matrix

Researchers at the Terasaki Institute for Biomedical Innovation (TIBI) have unveiled a pioneering study shedding light on the intricate mechanisms underlying Alzheimer’s disease (AD). The study, titled “Effects of amyloid-β-mimicking peptide hydrogel matrix on neuronal progenitor cell phenotype,” represents a significant leap forward in understanding the interplay between amyloid-like structures and neuronal cells.

Led by Natashya Falcone and co-first authors Tess Grett Mathes and Mahsa Monirizad, the research team delved into the realm of self-assembling peptide-based hydrogels, renowned for their versatility in mimicking extracellular matrices (ECMs) of diverse microenvironments.

AD presents an intricate challenge in neurodegenerative research. Traditional two-dimensional (2D) models have limitations in capturing the complexity of the disease. Through their innovative approach, the team developed a multi-component hydrogel scaffold, named Col-HAMA-FF, designed to mimic the amyloid-beta (β) containing microenvironment associated with AD.

The study’s findings, published in a recent issue of Acta Biomaterialia, illuminate the formation of β-sheet structures within the hydrogel matrix, mimicking the nanostructures of amyloid-β proteins. By culturing healthy neuronal progenitor cells (NPCs) within this amyloid-mimicking environment and comparing results to those in a natural-mimicking matrix, the researchers observed elevated levels of neuroinflammation and apoptosis markers. This suggests a significant impact of amyloid-like structures on NPC phenotypes and behaviors.

Dr. Ali Khademhosseini, the study’s corresponding author, expressed excitement about the implications of their findings: “This foundational work provides a promising scaffold for future investigations into AD mechanisms and drug testing. By bridging the gap between 3D hydrogel models and the complex reality of AD pathological nanostructures, we aim to understand this interaction on healthy neuronal cells so that we can accelerate the development of effective therapeutic strategies.”

The study represents a crucial step towards unraveling the mysteries of the b-amyloid-like environment which can be found in AD and marks a milestone in the quest for innovative solutions to combat neurodegenerative disorders.

Internship Opportunity at Pravah Law

Pravah Law is inviting applications for internship at Pravah Law in August 2024.

About Pravah Law

Pravah Law is a Delhi-based litigation chamber with practices in the Supreme Court of India, the Delhi High Court, the Central Administrative Tribunal (Principal Bench), and arbitral tribunals.

About the Opportunity

Pravah Law is inviting applications for internship at Pravah Law in August 2024.

Eligibility Criteria

Law students from the 3rd, 4th and 5th year are encouraged to apply.

How to Apply?

  • Applicants may send their CV and one writing sample with a crisp covering email to office[at]pravahlaw[dot]in. Long cover letters/emails are discouraged.
  • The email’s subject line should read “Application for Internship: August 2024”, failing which the application may slip through the cracks since we are using a mail filter.

Application Deadline

July 14, 2024



Click here for LinkedIn Notification.

Disclaimer: Charging money from students for internships or from job applicants is an unethical practice and can lead to blacklisting. Facing concerns? Please email us at [email protected]

Weekly Tarot Card Readings: Tarot prediction for July 14 to July 20 | Astrology

ARIES (Mar 21-Apr 20)

Love: The Lovers

Read on to find out your Tarot reading for the coming week.(Unsplash)

Mood: Devil

Career: King of Coins

Embrace your inner strength as you confront the challenges of the week. Recent successes may boost your confidence and morale. By mid-week, you could see significant improvements in your social status and financial situation. Despite any tensions at home, maintain harmony with your romantic partner to preserve your relationship. Engaging in festive celebrations can foster joy and unity within the family. Plan your week with a focus on healthy habits to address any weight loss concerns. Be prepared for unexpected financial challenges that may arise. Students pursuing medicine or engineering studies are likely to find success this week. Get creative to save money on your travels. Avoid involvement in property disputes to safeguard your investment capital.

Lucky Number: 1

Lucky Colour: Brown

TAURUS (Apr 21-May 20)

Love: Seven of Coins

Mood: Page of Wands

Career: Three of Swords

You can expect a prosperous and fruitful week in their careers and finances. New opportunities may arise for you to advance in your field of choice at the workplace. Success in financial endeavours brings a sense of fulfilment. This week is perfect for holding a religious ceremony or celebration at home. The chance to mend fences with a romantic partner may present itself to some. Some people may not exercise as often as they should because of time constraints at work. Moderate exercise can help you keep your mobility intact. Your company may be required to endure a tiresome trip. There’s a chance you could get a favourable discount on your house rent or lease. A high score on a crucial exam could mean acceptance to a top school for students.

Lucky Number: 22

Lucky Colour: Light Blue

GEMINI (May 21-Jun 21)

Love: Five of Cups

Mood: The Sun

Career: Two of Swords

Brace yourself for a week where each stride forward marks a triumph. Engaging in constructive feedback loops may foster a culture of ongoing enhancement. Relief from persistent discomfort and health issues may be on the horizon this week. Stay resolute and avoid making impulsive decisions to earn substantial gains. Cultivating love in various forms can deepen emotional bonds. A stable home environment can contribute to improved mental well-being. Some students may be tempted to squander time this week; seeking guidance from mentors is advisable. Last-minute booking issues may necessitate a reevaluation of your travel plans. Some individuals may find themselves able to expedite their relocation to a house or property sooner than anticipated.

Lucky Number: 2

Lucky Colour: Light Grey

CANCER (Jun22-Jul 22)

Love: The Chariot

Mood: The Hanged Man

Career: The Star

Prepare for an exciting and vibrant week ahead. Family gatherings may foster a sense of togetherness and joy within the household. While some individuals may see progress in their careers, it’s important not to set overly high expectations. Couples may strengthen their bond by pursuing common interests during this week. Prioritize saving for future financial security rather than reacting impulsively to immediate threats. Putting in dedicated effort can lead to improvements in your health conditions. Visiting distant relatives can contribute to maintaining harmony within the family. Students in creative fields have an opportune moment to focus and complete their tasks. You might come across suitable shared accommodation options.

Lucky Number: 18

Lucky Colour: Pink

LEO (Jul 23-Aug 23)

Love: The Magician

Mood: Judgement

Career: Ten of Coins

Prepare for a week where your hard work pays off beyond your wildest dreams. Engaging in meditation might bring about a clearer mind, promoting a sense of tranquillity. You may experience increased productivity in your professional endeavours as you efficiently handle both new and ongoing projects. Seeking advice from family members could offer valuable insights for tackling challenging issues. While financial progress may not be as rapid as anticipated, it’s likely to be steady. Love may unexpectedly blossom, bringing warmth to your heart. Don’t panic if you forget essential items during a holiday; stay composed to find a solution. Prospective students may find success in gaining admission to their desired schools. Any legal disputes concerning family property can be resolved amicably.

Lucky Number: 5

Lucky Colour: Green

VIRGO (Aug 24-Sept 23)

Love: Page of Cups

Mood: The Hierophant

Career: King of Wands

Brace yourself for the opportunities that lie ahead in the coming week. Romantic gestures are poised to be met with warmth and gratitude. Family connections may offer solace and support during this time. Prioritizing kindness and understanding in your relationships can help mend any rifts. Make the most of your leisure time by pursuing activities that bring you happiness or help you achieve your goals. Business collaborations might encounter obstacles, leading to potential conflicts. Balancing work and personal life demands effective time management and setting boundaries. An upcoming trip may be demanding and taxing. Student’s dedication to exam preparation could yield excellent results. You may stumble upon the perfect plot of land to realize your dream home.

Lucky Number: 4

Lucky Colour: Magenta

LIBRA (Sept 24-Oct 23)

Love: Two of Coins

Mood: The Hanged Man

Career: Eight of Wands

Get ready for a week filled with abundant blessings. Your workplace challenges will require ingenuity and inventiveness to overcome. Consider investing in the stock market to enhance your financial prosperity. Opt for activities that bring joy and fulfilment to enrich your life experiences. Family commitments may demand much of your time and attention, leaving little room for other pursuits. Reconnecting with old friends or acquaintances alongside your romantic partner is a possibility. Combat stiffness and discomfort by avoiding prolonged periods of inactivity. It’s wise to heed the advice of peers regarding property matters. Don’t let academic criticism discourage you; stay focused on your goals. Prioritize reliable transportation options for stress-free and punctual travel.

Lucky Number: 8

Lucky Colour: White

SCORPIO (Oct 24-Nov 22)

Love: Ace of Swords

Mood: The High Priestess

Career: Three of Swords

Prepare yourself for a week brimming with potential at every turn. Romance may be in the air, bringing luck and excitement to your love life. Whether you’re single or in a committed relationship, memorable moments await with new connections or cherished experiences. Financial worries could fade away as favourable opportunities arise, allowing you to invest in your future confidently. Keep a low profile at work this week and be prepared to seize opportunities strategically. Strengthen family bonds as you navigate challenges together, fostering resilience and unity. Despite the week’s energy, prioritize maintaining healthy habits and exercise routines. Stay focused on your academic goals, and don’t let distractions deter your progress. Consider exploring real estate opportunities this week, as it may lead to lucrative returns. Take time to indulge in activities that bring joy and relaxation, surrounded by friends and loved ones.

Lucky Number: 17

Lucky Colour: Maroon

Love: The Empress

Mood: Two of Coins

Career: The Star

Expect smooth sailing all week. This week, your dedication may start to yield rewards in the form of promotions or recognition. Rather than keeping your money idle, consider exploring lucrative investment options. It’s an opportune time to nurture relationships with young ones or siblings at home. Pay attention to your body’s signals and prioritize self-care practices for overall well-being. While some romantic encounters may bring challenges, remain optimistic and open to new possibilities. Students can anticipate significant developments and opportunities for growth this week. Those with aspirations for international travel may find opportunities to pursue their dreams. Be cautious about excessive involvement in real estate flipping, as it could potentially jeopardize your financial stability.

Lucky Number: 3

Lucky Colour: Golden

Love: The Magician

Mood: The Tower

Career: Two of Swords

Get ready to embark on a week filled with opportunities for personal and professional growth. This week holds the potential for significant advancements in your career journey. It’s time to summon your courage and take decisive steps towards your goals. To maximize your financial potential, consider devising a strategic plan for better money management. For those deeply committed, the prospect of marriage may be on the horizon. Your dedication to wellness and fitness will yield steady progress and noticeable results. When it comes to family matters, it’s wise to tread carefully and avoid unnecessary conflicts, especially with older relatives. Listen to your intuition and prioritize rest when needed. At present, investing in real estate may not be advisable, as it could tie up your funds. Students may find success in securing admission to esteemed academic institutions.

Lucky Number: 1

Lucky Colour: Silver

Love: Two of Coins

Mood: The Moon

Career: The Fool

Embrace the anticipation of a week filled with opportunities waiting to unfold. It’s likely that your week at work will be fruitful and rewarding. You might finally discover a solution to that lingering issue you’ve been grappling with. Focusing on balanced nutrition and regular physical activity is advisable this week. Your siblings may require your support or assistance with certain matters. Your positive and supportive demeanour could reinvigorate your interpersonal connections. Your marital bliss seems poised to continue uninterrupted. Committing to healthier dietary choices may result in noticeable improvements to your well-being. If you opt to further your education, your previous efforts in the field are likely to pay off. While on vacation, prioritize rest and companionship over comfort. Prospective home seekers may find improved prospects on the horizon.

Lucky Number: 5

Lucky Colour: Peach

PISCES (Feb 20-Mar 20)

Love: The Tower

Mood: Ace of Wands

Career: Ten of Cups

Certain individuals may reach their objectives through perseverance and commitment. The encouragement and support of family members can greatly boost your motivation. Every choice you make carries weight and could influence your future trajectory in the professional sphere. Investors may find themselves presented with an array of opportunities that hold the potential for substantial returns. If you and your partner are eager to expand your family, promising news may arrive early in the week. Exercise caution when considering trendy diets or extreme fitness regimens. Students may attain the academic achievements they’ve been striving for. By week’s end, you may finalize the sale or purchase of a home, signalling progress in that aspect. The prospect of international travel may materialize for select individuals.

Lucky Number: 22

Lucky Colour: Cream

(Astrologer, Tarot Card Reader, Numerologist, Vastu & Fengshui Consultant)

Contact: +919650015920

FDA’s lab-developed test rule could be first test of agency’s power post-Chevron

The recent U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn the Chevron doctrine could open the door to more challenges of Food and Drug Administration regulations, including the agency’s controversial rule on lab-developed tests.

In late June, the Supreme Court voted 6-3 to overturn the decades-old Chevron deference principle, meaning that courts no longer must defer to a federal agency’s interpretation of ambiguous statutes passed by Congress. The cases, Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo and Relentless Inc. v. Department of Commerce, were about monitoring requirements for fisheries, but they could have sweeping effects for all federal agencies.

“This is a broad decision that will come up in all sorts of ways, many of which are not foreseeable,” Jeff Gibbs, director at Washington, D.C.-based law firm Hyman, Phelps & McNamara, said in an interview with MedTech Dive.

Gibbs added the decision will affect the medical device industry, and that ongoing litigation challenging the FDA’s final rule on lab-developed tests, or LDTs, could be “something of a bellwether” for how Chevron’s reversal could affect the agency.

An FDA spokesperson said the agency remains confident in the legal underpinnings for its regulations, guidances and decisions.

“We will continue to take actions that are guided by science and consistent with federal law and our regulatory authorities,” the spokesperson wrote in an email.

The court’s decision is “very significant for FDA,” former agency Commissioner Scott Gottlieb wrote on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. Courts will still defer to the FDA on product review decisions, Gottlieb wrote, but some areas could be affected immediately, including the agency’s final rule on LDTs.

LDTs an ‘early indication’ for Chevron effect

An early indication of how the Supreme Court’s Chevron ruling will be applied is expected in the regulation of LDTs.

For decades, the FDA treated LDTs with enforcement discretion, meaning it did not require most tests developed in a laboratory to comply with regulations for medical devices such as premarket review, device registration, labeling standards and adverse event reporting.

That all changed on May 6, when the agency published a final rule that greatly expands its oversight of LDTs, bringing the tests under the same framework as other in vitro diagnostics. The FDA forged ahead with the plan, despite strong opposition from the lab industry, because officials believe the risks associated with the increasingly sophisticated and widely used tests have grown since the agency first adopted the less rigorous approach to regulating them.

Critics of the new regulation have accused the agency of overstepping its statutory authority in defining LDTs as medical devices. Less than a month after the final rule was issued, the American Clinical Laboratory Association sued the FDA in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas to have the rule vacated. Congress never granted the FDA the authority to regulate the provision of testing services by clinical laboratories, argued the ACLA, whose members include Labcorp, Quest Diagnostics and other test developers.

The Supreme Court’s decisions in Loper and Relentless overturning the Chevron deference standard will now shape the court’s review of the ACLA’s challenge, legal experts said.

“I certainly expect that Loper and Relentless are going to be a big part of the current litigation,” said attorney Rebecca Wood, a partner at Chicago-based law firm Sidley and former chief counsel at the FDA. “It doesn’t mean that the agency necessarily will lose, but it certainly would get a lot less deference than it would have before those decisions.”

FDA’s positions on scientific, technical and regulatory policy issues will continue to command respect, even with the Chevron precedent overturned, said Wood. However, the ruling could make it harder for the agency to win such court cases.

Whether testing companies and organizations will bring further legal challenges against the LDT regulation in the wake of the Supreme Court’s action remains to be seen. “They may just prefer to allow it to play out in that particular case,” Wood said.

Some think the FDA will face more pushback on its decisions overall, particularly those that involve interpreting the scope of its authority under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.