Monday, December 29, 2008

Options for Celebrating the New Year

Have you ever spent the last day of the year on-line? Instead of partying, hitting the streets or freezing your privates out in the snow (this obviously rules out the people of the southern hemisphere), have you tried celebrating the New Year in front of your computer in peace and tranquility?

Well, before you call the men in white coats let me explain. It happened to me once, about 5 years ago if my memory serves me right. Surprisingly, I was not alone. There were quite a number of souls who were in need of psychiatric help apparently. I will go on and say - at the risk of being called anti-social, cynical, narcissist or a similarly appropriate term for the occasion - I enjoyed it very much. For reasons I will not go into, I had to stay home and rather than watching TV and testing the alcohol barrier, I punched the keys until the early hours of the day while the fan was humming gently in the background, trying to cool the system.

This is for those who will spend the evening of December 31 in front of their computers for whatever reason. You are not alone! Been there, done that.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Christmas Post

I sometimes come across in blogs an add-on which shows the mood of the owner, the song she listens and the book she reads at that particular moment. Now that Christmas is due and the New Year is imminent (apparently the economic crisis affected my vocabulary), if I had a similar plug-in, mine could as well read:
  • Mood: Gloomy
  • Listening: Sound of Silence
  • Reading: For Whom the Bells Toll
Still, in spite of ominous signs, tightened budgets, shrinking profits and accelerating unemployment, this is the time of year to hope, and to reflect. Capitalism, just like it does not distribute wealth equally, does not distribute peace, happiness and joy with a conscience.

Well, let me stop before this turns out to be anything but a Christmas post. I wish you all a merry Christmas and a happier New Year.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Most Popular Searches of 2008

It is customary to compile a list of events when the New Year is near. As most of you know, Google makes a similar list of popular searches every year on a country by country basis. I have taken the liberty of picking the most interesting queries among them. Here they are:
  1. "my" from Australia - This is definitely my number one. When you don't have a mirror, what do you do? Yes, you ask Google.
  2. "qq" from China - It probably means something in Chinese; then again, it might not.
  3. "you" from Chile - Another intelligent search item. Were they talking to Google bot? It was also the number eight of the Colombians and number nine of the Spanish. I am beginning to suspect you is a nick for a new drug.
  4. "danmark" from Denmark - Apparently the Danish like to see how many times their country is indexed by the search engines.
  5. "google" from Germany - I have nothing to say.
  6. "hong kong" from Hong Kong - The Danish were not alone.
  7. "uomini e donne" from Italy - Long gone are the days when godfathers gave the children their names. There is now a new godfather in town: Google.
  8. "네이버" from South Korea - The most popular search. I have no idea what it means; your guess is as good as mine.
  9. "trademe" from New Zealand - I am curious, now. I will go have a look.
  10. "104" from Taiwan - At last, we are getting smarter. What could it be? A number, a class, a flight, a room, a superman?
This concludes my top 10 searches of the year. Happy searches for 2009!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Boy Who Cried Wolf

You surely know Aesop's fable "The Boy Who Cried Wolf." The tragic ending of the shepherd boy and the flock is used to teach us not to lie. However, this short story has always irritated me: there is something wrong with the moral of it.

I do not know your experience, but here, in this lovely corner of the world, shepherds hardly own flocks. They are usually hired hands and the protagonist in the fable is also depicted as one. OK, the boy lied and got eaten, but so did the flock. Now, whose flock was it? By not believing him, whose property perished?

Whenever I hear cries of help from industries in trouble after the recent economic downturn, I can not help but remember Aesop's tale. Some scream and shout, some refuse to believe because they have been lied and ripped off so many times. Before rejecting help to those who are presumably in need, it is worth thinking about what happens to the flock.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

How Not to Make Money on Line

With no intention of upsetting numerous bloggers - some of which I closely follow and benefit - who advise on how to make money on line, Nassim Nicholas Taleb's The Fourth Quadrant: A Map of the Limits of Statistics that was recently published in Edge can be an eye-opener. In his analysis of the latest crisis of the banking system, Taleb says,

When I was a quant-trader in complex derivatives, people mistaking my profession used to ask me for "stock tips" which put me in a state of rage: a charlatan is someone likely (statistically) to give you positive advice, of the "how to" variety.

Go to a bookstore, and look at the business shelves: you will find plenty of books telling you how to make your first million, or your first quarter-billion, etc. You will not be likely to find a book on "how I failed in business and in life"—though the second type of advice is vastly more informational, and typically less charlatanic. Indeed, the only popular such finance book I found that was not quacky in nature—on how someone lost his fortune—was both self-published and out of print. Even in academia, there is little room for promotion by publishing negative results—though these, are vastly informational and less marred with statistical biases of the kind we call data snooping. So all I am saying is "what is it that we don't know", and my advice is what to avoid, no more.

You can live longer if you avoid death, get better if you avoid bankruptcy, and become prosperous if you avoid blowups in the fourth quadrant.
[...]
I used to give the same mathematical finance lectures for both graduate students and practitioners before giving up on academic students and grade-seekers. Students cannot understand the value of "this is what we don't know"—they think it is not information, that they are learning nothing. Practitioners on the other hand value it immensely. Likewise with statisticians: I never had a disagreement with statisticians (who build the field)—only with users of statistical methods.

I would like to draw your attention especially to the unpopularity of "publishing negative results" and "the value of what we do not know". Writing about how we failed is equally important as our success stories and it is information.

To give you a taste of the article, let me quote another part:

There are two classes of probability domains—very distinct qualitatively and quantitatively. The first, thin-tailed: Mediocristan, the second, thick tailed Extremistan. Before I get into the details, take the literary distinction as follows:

In Mediocristan, exceptions occur but don't carry large consequences. Add the heaviest person on the planet to a sample of 1000. The total weight would barely change. In Extremistan, exceptions can be everything (they will eventually, in time, represent everything). Add Bill Gates to your sample: the wealth will  jump by a factor of >100,000. So, in Mediocristan, large deviations occur but they are not consequential—unlike Extremistan.

Taleb's essay is a good read for bloggers and economists alike.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Ranking Systems and Vote Spam

As the number of social networks increase, so does their importance for bloggers in particular and businesses in general to promote their content through them. It is critical to understand the metrics used to use social media effectively. One particular industry that has high stakes in this is the search engines as social media sources provide an effective alternative to traditional web search by directly connecting users with the information needs to users willing to share the information. For example, users can post questions or new items, and rely on other users to comment or rank the content (e.g., sites such as Slashdot or Digg) or rank the popularity of users (like Twitter). While the responses could be excellent, the quality could vary greatly. Hence, user feedback, such as voting, or rating the content, has become a crucial aspect of the effectiveness of the community as demonstrated by the paper, A Few Bad Votes Too Many? Towards Robust Ranking in Social Media[pdf] by Jiang Bian[1], Yandong Liu[2], Eugene Agichtein[2] and Hongyuan Zha[1]. From the abstract:

On line social media draws heavily on active reader participation, such as voting or rating of news stories, articles, or responses to a question. This user feedback is invaluable for ranking, filtering and retrieving high quality content - tasks that are crucial with the explosive amount of social content on the web. Unfortunately, as social media moves into the mainstream and gains in popularity, the quality of the user feedback degrades. Some of this is due to noise, but, increasingly, a small fraction of malicious users are trying to "game the system" by selectively promoting or demoting content for profit, or fun. Hence, an effective ranking of social media content must be robust to noise in the user interactions, and in particular to vote spam.

According to authors there are two main types of vote spam in social media: incorrect votes and malicious votes. The user who gives the votes may not be an expert to the topic thread and related responses, therefore it is likely that its votes are incorrect. In another case, some malicious users intend to promote some specific responses within the community of social media, and they attack the social media service by creating a thumbs up vote to specific posts or responses.

The objective of the research is to introduce a machine learning-based ranking framework for social media that integrates user interactions and content relevance, and that is significantly more robust to vote spam compared to a state-of-the-art baseline as well as the ranker not explicitly trained to handle malicious interactions (emphasis mine).

Current research and experiments strongly suggest that what once worked in manipulating social network results will not work any more.

[1] College of Computing, Georgia Institute of Technology
[2] Math and Computer Science, Emory University

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

On the Metrics of Social Networks

Less and less things in life surprise me any more. But this new craze of "let's all follow each other on [insert your favorite network here]" has amazed me. Apparently there is still room for surprises and I have gladly taken it as "I am not that old after all." Fine! Let us dissect and analyze this 'following phenomenon'.

What makes the number of followers valuable as a metric? For instance, Matt Bacak of Twitter fame claims he has so many followers that he is the third tweeted??? man in the Tweetland. He thinks it is valuable so he markets it:

First Facebook, now Twitter. The Powerful Promoter, Matt Bacak, has taken himself to the top of the social media networks yet again, this time beating out 99.9% of the fastest growing site's members.
[...]
Turn your income-generating ideas into handfuls of cold hard cash.
[...]
By Matt Bacak, the Powerful Promoter and author of Powerful Promoting Tips newsletter. "If I could show you a proven, but little-known system to tap into your niche market, bring in more leads, sell more product and explode your Internet sales, would you be interested?" I'm not talking about some old ideas you already heard before. I'm talking about closely guarded secrets that I've only shared with a few select people.

First off, I must confess that reaching such numbers is a remarkable event on its own although some may argue how empty his life should have been for he had found the time to do all that tweeting and facebooking. But what does that figure say without the followers' data? Suppose 1000 of his followers also follow 500 others, another 1000 follow 200, third 1000 batch 100, so and so forth. How do you follow 100 people, let alone 1000? Has it any significance?

Unlike computers, we humans have tragically low thresholds. We can read limited number of books in a day, watch three or four movies in a row, etc. Likewise, we can visit 10-15 blogs and have 20 or maybe 30 friends that we communicate regularly. It is not that we do not want to do more, it is only that much we can achieve with our limited abilities in a shell of flesh and bone. So the significant segment of those followers is the ones following less than say, 30 people. These are the probably real followers of Mr Bacak.

I hope you have found my argument plausible. If you have, then you can bet the management of those social networks also agree with you, too. They will filter out those inflated numbers and track who really follows who and how many. After all, advertisers and marketing companies are not in the business of distributing cash for nothing.

Hence, we have two metrics, the one you see, a raw but inflated number which does not say much, and a hidden but real one. So, stop wasting your time and do something. Write a post or, I don't know!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Uploading Favicon to Blogspot Blogs

After visiting hundreds of sites, all with their shiny favicons displaying in your browser's address bar, you decided to use your own favicon in your Blogger/Blogspot blog. You designed and polished it and now what? Here are the steps you should follow:

1. Upload your newly created favicon to a free picture host and take note of the URL.

2. Visit your site and check your HTML source code by pressing CTRL+U (Firefox users).

3. Copy all the code after the opening head [head] tag up to the opening title [title] tag:

[some script]...[/script]
[meta content=...]
...

4. Back up your template.

5. Go to your dashboard and choose "layout", and then "edit html"

6. Delete this line from your template:

[b: include data='blog' name='all-head-content'/]
...

7. Paste the previously copied code in step 3 in lieu of the line you deleted in step 6.

8. Change the favicon URL to the one you got in step 1 like this:

[link rel='icon' href='yournewurl/favicon.ico' type='image/x-icon' /]
...

9. Escape the ampersand twins "&&" in the JavaScript adding "amp;" after each one without the quotes.

10. Save your template. If all goes well, you will see your favicon in the address bar of your browser.

All <> tags have been replaced with [] in this example in order not to confuse Blogger. If you have found this how to useful, design a favicon for me.

Controlling CSS Images in Blogger

Every now then we feel the urge to change our templates in our blogs. This can be out of necessity (we might need a bigger area to upload images), because we get bored with the previous template or upon discovering a new one which complements the topics we write about or our style.

Regardless of the platform you use, be it Blogger, Wordpress, Evolution etc, switching to a new template is trivial. But, unlike for instance Wordpress where the images come in its own folder with the template, Blogger images are usually stored in free picture hosts. Pictures hosted at such places can cause you trouble in future:
  • Uploader's account can be deleted for any reason.
  • Such hosts often impose bandwidth restrictions and you can suddenly see warning messages in your blog, or no images at all.
  • Template writer can accidentally delete those images.
A good way and a neat trick is writing a post like this, uploading all those CSS images to your Picasa album and change the image addresses in your stylesheet at your convenience later. This way, not only you will have a back up of them, you can even improve the speed of your blog.

       

Sunday, December 7, 2008

What a Blogger can Do

Analyzing the crisis of journalism and whether blogging or independent on-line journalism can take the place of media reporting as we know it or not, are not easy issues to tackle. The difficulty stems from the fact that,
  1. public's right to access to information,
  2. ensuring public's safety,
  3. personal and privacy rights,
  4. safeguarding the bloggers and anonymity,
  5. upholding copyright and patent laws
 are all intertwined in a beautiful mixture of a soup we call Internet. Since the topics are huge and will provide enough material to write for many years, I am going to start at a random point. Unlike many though, I do have a proposition to solve most of the problems of today, but to present it gracefully requires time; so it will have to wait.

Today, I would like to give three seemingly unrelated news and want you to focus on not who is right or wrong but on the mechanics of them, i.e. how things operate or unfold.

First, we have the report of Committee to Protect Journalists, telling us 45 percent of all media workers jailed worldwide are bloggers, Web-based reporters, or on-line editors. On-line journalists represent the largest professional category for the first time in CPJ's prison census. CPJ's survey found 125 journalists in all behind bars on December 1, a decrease of two from the 2007 tally which does not include the missing and the abducted. Here, we see, 125 people have been picked up from their homes and taken somewhere (some locations are unknown), no questions asked.

Secondly, De Beers vs. The New York Times or rather De Beers vs. Joker.com, the domain name registrar case. De Beers, the South African diamond conglomerate, upon seeing a fake ad on a brilliant spoof of the New York Times, has attempted to shut down the site by putting pressure on what is often the weakest link in the on-line speech chain: the domain name registrar. The accusation? Trademark infringement.

Thirdly, we see Blogger deleting entire posts from music bloggers' websites without warning or adequate explanation. Rather than exposing itself to unnecessary risks by providing a free medium for people to express themselves, a financially strong company wipes away blogs.

So, that concludes our tour, the bloggers, the name registrar, the hosting company. Now, ask yourselves this question: Can a blogger or independent on-line journalist do much?

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Getting the Most from Social Networks

I have partially covered some of the social networks you can use. Now, let us focus on making the most of them. I will recommend a slightly different strategy for you to follow. After you have made your own experiment and decided on which networks you will concentrate your efforts, here are some tips for you:
  • Do not rush submitting your own posts
Do not try to game the system in vain. Instead, give your readers the opportunity to bookmark and/or submit them. This will be a new experiment with which you will measure what percentage of your subscribers take the time to bookmark and share your posts.
  • Think how you can improve the submission rates
Most probably, the initial results will be discouraging, that's good! Now, reread your posts and note how you could have written them better, especially the titles. Check if your bookmark links function properly and if they are clearly visible. Do you encourage your readers to share?
  • Use comments to your advantage
When answering a reader's comment, use your notes (see above) to add the things you forgot. Write a follow up post if necessary. This has nothing to do with social networks but it is a solid advice.
  • Traffic is NOT conversion
Although it is gratifying to see your article received nn many diggs, reddits, sphinns or whatever, it is a poor indicator of how many people actually read your posts. Do not let glamor and fame blind you. Check your logs!
  • Do not let networks steal your traffic
Search engines, especially Google, place great emphasis on freshness. If your article is relevant to the query, you can rest assured that you will be in the top 30 of the search engine results pages (SERP's)... for a day or two, I am afraid. Do not spoil it by submitting your articles early. You do not have the authority and PageRank to compete against social media sites.
  • You can submit your article after 2 or 3 days
If nobody has done it yet, of course. Now your article is not fresh and probably lost its ranking in SERP's. It is time to use the network's power to your advantage. For a relevant query, they will have the muscle to compete for the top 30.
  •  Rewrite the summary part
Most networks have a summary or comment area after the URL and title box. Use your notes and reword the summary. You can even include something you have completely forgotten like "... while it provides an insight to the mechanics of social networks in general, it fails to address the issue of ..."
  • Try to write a new article before submission
It is good policy to have a new article on your front page. When people come to read your article from networks, they may click on home/main page, to see if there is anything new, but rarely anyone will check previous posts or your archives. Try not to disappoint them.

Marketing yourself is easy, right?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Gate Peepin' and Misspelling Generator

Linda Hilfling, with her project Gate Peepin' and the Misspelling Generator, will be among the speakers of Speaking out Loud symposium of Netherlands Media Art Institute, to be held on December 18, 2008.

Linda works with the premises of participation and public spaces within media structures, with a focus on means of control (codes, organization and law) and their cultural impact. Her artistic practice takes the form of interventions reflecting upon or revealing hidden gaps in these structures.

Initially designed and coded in python and bash by her and also available as a Firefox extension thanks to Erik Borra, the Misspelling Generator intervenes directly within the Google search engine, allowing users to take advantage of the informational gray-zone of misspellings. And it does exactly what it claims:

Each query typed into the normal Google search-box will generate misspellings inserted above the normal Google results – similar to Google’s 'Did you mean', but now with 'Have you tried' instead. When hovering the mouse over the links, you can see the number of search results for each misspelling. Clicking the link will redirect you to the Google page with the results for that specific misspelling. It is a useful tool for creating simple cryptography, circumventing specific cases of censorship, or in general as a means of accessing the 'gray' side of the Internet, which otherwise is isolated by the rigid structures of 'corrective' info-culture regimes on search engines like Google.

Intrigued? Then, a new adventure awaits you, casual user and search engine optimizer alike. Take a look at the 'uncorrected' side and hidden layers of the Internet.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Tug of War Between Virtual and Real

Devil's Advocate reporting:
Time and again I read news about a cryptically named organization introducing a new device, technique or mechanism having an equally cryptic name that will limit or restrict unwanted use of a product throughout the Internet, and soon after, time and again, I am informed that same mechanism is rendered useless by a crack. For most, it looks like a game of hide and seek, played by thieves and the police, good and bad or you name it. Is it really so?

We often forget that this game is played in cyberspace, between parties with views wide apart. Back in 1964, Marshall McLuhan wrote in Understanding Media,

The telephone: speech without walls. The phonograph: music hall without walls. The photograph: museum without walls. The electric light: space without walls. The movie, radio and TV: classroom without walls. Man the food-gatherer reappears incongruously as information-gatherer. In this role, electronic man is no less a nomad than his Paleolithic ancestors.

He seems to stop just short of writing "Cyberspace: reality without boundaries,"[1] and detailing, 30 years before William Gibson, the role of the cybercowboy. As virtual reality theorist Marianne Trench[2] notes,

When William Gibson's visions were published, they struck sparks in the real world. Scientists and hackerture they couldn't wait to build... Never before had science fiction literature determined the way people thought and talked.

And hits the bull's eye. On one side we have the scientists and hackers who tried to build the Internet to realize a vision, William Gibson's vision of a new universe, a parallel universe created and sustained by the world's computers and communication lines, where the tablet becomes a page becomes a screen becomes a world, a virtual world, a common mental geography, built, in turn, by consensus and revolution, canon and experiment, the realm of pure information.[3] A place where our subconscious will emerge, our alter ego will transcend its physical boundaries, an extension of our selves. A place where information wants to be free.

On the other side we see the business, big and small, that belatedly discovered its potential, that wants to make it a utility, a huge on-line shop, an extension to their distribution channels, with rules and regulations imported from the real world.

I am the Advocate, and I speak the truth! True; shopping on-line, accessing all the products and services of the world in front of your screen has its merit, especially if you are in the middle of nowhere, in a small town, like me. But it is not the utility that makes me buy a high-speed connection. My mail was fully functional when I had that 14.4 kbps modem.

Hence, consider yourselves warned, whoever you are. Otherwise many will quit the Internet to join the hyper Internet.

[1]Mick Doherty, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY.
[2]Marianne Trench and Peter von Brandenburg, producers; 1992, Cyberpunk. Mystic Fire Video: Intercon Productions.
[3]William Gibson, Neuromancer, 1984, Ace Books.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Optimizing Blogger for Speed

No, I am not obsessed with speed if you have mistakenly got the impression after seeing this post and how to design an efficient blog. I live in an unfortunate area with an Internet connection averaging around 8 Kb per second, which is 1/13 of those who live 10 kilometers to the east and west of me. The tel-co will supposedly make some infrastructure improvements only after January, 2009. Well, at least that is what they claim. I can handle a slow connection but it is really annoying to wait for my own blog to load for 40 seconds. So I decided to make it leaner for my own sake.

Before writing this post, I pulled down various statistics of the site (home page only) to help me improve a bit:

Total HTML: 19,899 bytes, compressed;
Total images: 53,785 bytes;
JavaScript: 230,649 bytes;
CSS: 8,417 bytes;
Total CSS imports: 4.

Looking at the above figures, it is apparent that there are only two areas I can make some improvements: JavaScript and CSS imports. I focused on cutting back the scripts without losing too much from functionality, leaving CSS imports to some other time.

There were nine of them before writing this post and the heaviest ones being:

blogger-widgets: 131,819 bytes;
jquery: 55,774 bytes.

It would be absurd to get rid of the widgets script as it provided core functionality to all blogger sites, so jquery had to go despite the fact CommentLuv was one of my favorite plug-ins (I am planning to reinstall it if Tel-co proves worthy of its promises, though). For some reason, the syncing of the comments did not work and the comments made so far disappeared. I will work on it, or in the worst case write them myself. Meanwhile, I encourage you to input your last post manually, as this is a great way to discover new and interesting content.

One site that you can check the speed of your blog is Web Page Analyzer. It will show you potential problem areas and thereby guiding you to provide your readers a better experience. I strongly suggest to all blogger users to take a look and make a few adjustments.

While going through all this trouble, I changed my template to a more stylish (hopefully) one. I hope you will like it.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Social Networks: A Partial Wrap Up for Bloggers

A common concern for all bloggers new and old is reaching a wider audience. They start with their family members and a few friends, and they write their feelings, thoughts, experiences etc, hoping to gain more subscribers in the wild wild web. Sooner or later, they direct their attention to the so-called social networks as getting traffic from search engines is difficult, at least initially. I will briefly touch upon my experiences with some of them and sincerely hope you will find this review useful.

Before we go on, however, I want you to ask yourself a simple question:

Do you enjoy using them?

Your answer to this is the KEY CONCEPT here. If you think a particular network will bring you readers just because you manage to throw in a post or two, or any number of them, you will soon discover you are wrong. The buzz word is, and has always been the user experience, and you are one of those users. If the network(s) of your choice helps you find interesting blogs, good articles and valuable resources, then it is the right network for you and your blog. Keeping that in mind, here is my incomplete list:


Del.icio.us

I rarely look at the front page of Del.icio.us as it is truly a social bookmarking site rather than a network. I search for a tag, and then a related tag, and another related one, and bingo! Swift and painless. You will not get too many visitors from it, but when you do, a good percentage of them will subscribe to your blog. Think for a minute or two before tagging your posts and choose the ones that are descriptive.

Digg

Spammed to death. I have truly no idea how a post makes it to their front page. If you are expecting some benefit from Digg, found a clan or join one, and waste half of your day by digging other clan members' articles so that they can digg yours. I log in, submit, and log off (once a week usually). First thing I will do when I have the time is removing the diggit button under the posts here.

Technorati

For historical reasons I keep it. Some say the Technorati rank/authority is important, so be it.

Entrecard

A good place to find blogs to your liking. An added advantage is you can advertise at the member sites with Entrecard currency. Some might argue there is little value in running ads this way but I disagree. Think long term. As the community collectively makes progress, so does the value of your ad.

Reddit

I like their front page policy which is a healthy mix of popular, recent and interesting articles. If you like to be informed of what is going on in blogosphere, it had better be Reddit.

Sphinn

Some will disagree to inclusion of Sphinn here as it is a niche network of Internet marketing and search engines, but those are the two topics about which every blogger has to have a passing knowledge at least. Never spammed and always on topic.


This concludes my partial wrap up but I would like to emphasize one more time: if you enjoy a social network as a user, it is the right network for your blog.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

On December 25, a Savior was Born

isaac newton christmas card

On the outside it reads:

He revealed eternal Truth, bringing Joy to millions.
He astonished the world with His command over Nature.
He changed history forever.

Now that Christmas is close, you may wish to send one of these cards John Powers designed to your loved ones ;-)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Thought Experiment on Do Follow Comments

Einstein was a great scientist and without exception all physics students new to his work are introduced to his use of Gedanken Experiment or thought experiments. Gren Ireson, a lecturer at Loughborough University, UK, where his research interests include quantum philosophy, physics of sport and learning and teaching physical sciences, contests that a thought experiment has three requirements [PDF]:
  • It is carried out in the mind (however one cares to define 'mind').
  • It draws on experience.
  • It allows the experimenter to see what is happening (perhaps a better term to use than 'see' is 'imagine' or 'form a mental image').
 I see a lot of blogs announcing they do follow comments lately, so I will humbly use Einstein's technique to shed some light on do follow commenting today. Let us start with a definition first. Google's Matt Cutts speaks:

The nofollow attribute is just a mechanism that gives web masters the ability to modify PageRank flow at link-level granularity. Plenty of other mechanisms would also work (e.g. a link through a page that is robot.txt'ed out), but nofollow on individual links is simpler for some folks to use. There's no stigma to using nofollow, even on your own internal links; for Google, nofollow'ed links are dropped out of our link graph; we don't even use such links for discovery. By the way, the nofollow meta tag does that same thing, but at a page level.

The rel='nofollow' attribute is an easy way for a website to tell search engines that the website can't or doesn't want to vouch for a link. The best-known use for nofollow is blog comment spam, but the mechanism is completely general. Nofollow is recommended anywhere that links can't be vouched for. If your logs analysis program shows referrers as hyper links, I'd recommend using nofollow on those links. If you have a wiki that anyone on the web can edit, I'd recommend nofollow on those links until you can find a way to trust those links. In general, if you have an application that allows others to add links, web spammers will eventually find your pages and start annoying you.

In layman's terms, if a link on your page has the nofollow attribute, search engines do not follow that link and do not consider it a vote for the site. In the absence of it, search robots will follow the link and count it as a vote for the target link from the owner of the page.

And now the experiment:

You are heading a team in charge of designing and calibrating the web crawler, i.e. the search robot or bot, the more popularly used word. Based on the bot's hard work, your algorithm arranges search results. It is so smart that it can even factor the links, i.e. a link from an authority site on a subject carries more weight than others.

A new trend appears, people start letting others comment on their pages without the nofollow attribute. So far, so good. The bot would eventually discover the existence of those any way. Maybe this way, indexing could even be faster. There is a catch, though. Your infamous algorithm considers each of those links as a vote, but here in this case, the candidates vote for themselves, not the other way around, and for multiple times.

What would you do?
  1. Nothing! The commenters will eventually get bored and everything will return back to normal.
  2. Modify the program so that it would follow the links but will not count them as a vote.
  3. Factor those links negative so that each link actually depreciates the value of the target site.
  4. Not follow those links, at all.
Let us go back to the requirements of the thought experiment. I fail to fulfill the second one, the experience. I have not designed a bot or a search engine algorithm before. Although I am pretty sure about what I would do if I had that know-how, I have not. So I am asking you.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

La Performance and Ballet Pixelle Open Season

the nut by ballet pixelle
I have seldom been to Second Life; not that I do not like the idea but because of my unstable and slow Internet connection, which turns the experience to a misery. I am aware that some people are not easy with the idea of an on-line 3D world created by its virtual residents' wild imagination but to tell you the truth, it can be fascinating. Let's see if I can change your mind, too.

According to Second Life Herald, the always-fairly-unbalanced e-zine founded by philosophy professor Peter Ludlow, two virtual world ballet companies premiered new productions on Sunday, November 23, 2008. La Performance with its high school gym-style performance of "You Are So Beautiful" of Shakespeare (music by Zucchero, and choreography by Jie Loon), and Ballet Pixelle (formerly known as Second Life Ballet) with "The Nut: A Slightly Abridged Telling of The Nutcracker" (music by the Bolshoi Ballet Theatre Orchestra, and choreography by Inarra Saarien) opened the season.

Shows are every Sunday at 02:00 PM for La Performance, and every Sunday at 05:00 PM for Ballet Pixelle. Do not miss!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Video Games as Cultural Artifacts

In their recently published article Collecting and Preserving Video games and Their Related Materials: A Review of Current Practice, Game-Related Archives and Research Projects, Megan A. Winget and Caitlin Murray[1] argue for the importance of collecting and coming to a better understanding of video game "artifacts of creation," which will help build a more detailed understanding of the essential qualities of these culturally significant artifacts.

Surprised? Don't! Digital Age has its own quirks, and preservation of its products [data] may have a lot more impact than you think. Compare it to what had happened in the Middle Ages, when people were using pergament:[2]

Some researchers have been formed, using special tools, methods and approaches, in order to study and teach a very specific and "weird" scientific field: "written history sources of the early middle ages" 600-987). This field is quite different from analogous "more ancient" or "more recent" historical font-digging activities: in that specific time-interval people used (at least in Europe) pergament, not paper and not clay. Pergament is a "funny" media: it is in fact re-writable! Yup! You can scratch it -with a stone- back to white, deleting (almost completely) the previous writings in the process.

Now, since pergament was also expensive, it has been used and used again. As a consequence very few original documents of the early middle ages have survived... imagine all those silly monks, that - later - have happily re-cycled valuable ancient sources in order to write down for the thousandth time one of their boring holy-lives (Acta sanctorum). The original source disappeared and survived only through small snippets of citation, hidden references, copycatted snippets elsewhere. The quellenforscher of the early years of last century had to re-construct them, in an extremely difficult and clever backward approach, reversing the snippets that have survived.

This happened ONLY in the early middle ages. For this reason that period can be considered the "black hole" of our past history... for whole centuries we know nothing but the NAMES of a couple of kings.[...]

A similar black hole is also possible for all digital media, not necessarily games, if we do not take action now. While it is still possible to look at unpreserved five-hundred-year-old paintings and sculptures, and in many cases, we can still look at preliminary studies and drawings for those works – there is a significant risk of losing a new media artifact as soon as ten years after its initial creation. Laura Campbell, Associate Librarian for Strategic Initiatives at the Library of Congress, sums it up nicely in the article,

We are faced with the potential disappearance of our cultural heritage if we don't act soon and act together to preserve digital materials... We have learned from our experience that long-term preservation of digital content is dependent on influencing decisions of content providers from the moment of creation.

Winget and Murray gave a nearly comprehensive list of institutional archives and repositories some of which I would like to recite here:[3]

Stephen M. Cabrinety Collection at Stanford University
Ralph H. Baer Papers at Lemelson Center, Smithsonian Institute
Computer History Museum
Digital Game Archive
International Arcade Museum
Software Preservation Society
Archive.org
Videogame Music Archive
Slightly Dark

So, next time when you see a floppy disk or tape archive lying around, think twice before disposing it and check if it can be of value to the above institutions.

[1] School of Information, University of Texas at Austin; 1 University Station, D7000, Austin, TX 78712-0390.
[2] Sadly, Fravia's site is not updated any more due to his sickness. If you are interested in web searching, or rather seeking as he puts it, you will find a treasure there.
[3] The Authors also report the availability of an archive in Univ. of Texas at Austin.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Crisis of Journalism

According to Los Angeles Times, Six Apart, the company behind major commercial blogging platforms TypePad and Movable Type, is offering free blogs to laid-off journalists via their Journalist Bailout Program:

Hello, recently-laid-off or fearful-of-layoffs journalist! We're Six Apart (you know us as the nice folks who make Movable Type or TypePad, which maybe you used for blogging at your old newspaper or magazine) and we want to help you.

We're a company founded by bloggers, and we've supported on-line journalism from the beginning. During a time when so many great journalists are worried about losing their jobs, we want to do what we can to help. So we've put together a program to put you on your first steps towards independence.

But I did not read the story from LAT first. While Times focused on how generous was Anil Dash's (from Six Apart) offer and the difficulties of making money on-line, it was Graham of Entrecard who truly got to the bottom of the real crisis we would be facing and started a discussion:

The true benefits of journalism, and what sets it apart from a free blog you set up on the Internet with two clicks, is that it's backed by a healthy business with important infrastructure in place to receive new tips, report news factually and accurately, and be held accountable for any facts they publish.

I am sure you have caught the irony here. While journalists light heartedly talk about it, bloggers discuss serious issues. The situation is a little bit more complicated (my subjective view) for the confines of a comment there, so I am picking it up here.

Let us sum up the crisis we are facing:
  • Very few trust the media as is, including myself
  • There is a growing tendency to entertain than to inform in the media
  • Bloggers lack the means for investigative reporting
  • The lack of accountability on the Internet helped a few incidents be uncovered but a- this is an exception, b- it is changing, c- it will not be valid for the journalists (the threat of legal action against them will be real)
  • It is difficult for journalists to sustain themselves by blogging let alone pay attorneys' fees should they face a legal action
  • A properly functioning democracy requires informed citizens, a prerequisite only independent journalism can provide.
I will briefly cover each of the above and explore the possibility of on-line solutions in the days ahead.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Our Imperfect Mind

ad campaign picture of Corri Fetman 
With this photo, my intention, of course, is not to draw your attention to the "Life's Short. Get a Divorce." campaign of Corri Fetman[1], the Playboy playmate and the hottest attorney (she is also called the lawyer of love because of her invaluable legal input as a regular columnist in the said magazine) in the galaxy, a fact, as it was affirmed by Marvin the Paranoid Android.

Rather, I would like to talk about Kluge: The Haphazard Construction of the Human Mind [Barnes&Noble], by Gary Marcus, a professor of psychology at New York University.

Marcus argues that evolution is a terrible designer (those who favor intelligent design can read: [insert your favorite deity here] did a clumsy job); not only our bodies are flawed, our mind is also completely messed up.

There seems to be two systems operating in our minds: an ancestral system and a deliberative one. We have been unable to shake off the ancestral system dating millions of years despite our feeble attempt to develop the deliberative one during our climb in the ladder of evolution.

Marcus, citing Fetman's campaign as an example, shows the tug of war between the two systems neatly. The younger system knows divorce is stressful, expensive, recovery can take years etc, yet the ancestral whispers in our ear "I'm missing out a lot!" Now, he does not claim the ancestral wins over the other; rather, he questions the existence of that voice. It is there and unlikely to go for another thousand years or more.

With chapter headings of memory, belief, choice, language, pleasure, things fall apart and true wisdom, it is a treat for those who have a more advanced deliberative system.

[1]Still, when properly used, sex always sells; Marcus seems to score on this one.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Most Annoying Optical Post in Internet

classy optical eyeglasses
For me, that is! Every once in a while I stumble upon a blog that mentions about these sexy, classy, fashionable, affordable, high quality, smart (yes-sir, smart), high profile designer frames (with variable dimensions) and eyeglasses using the latest modern materials, manufacturing and marketing systems. Apparently, buying a pair is a must if you want to acquire an aura of Zen.Ni-Cad batteries may not last but the effect of these eyeglasses with a wide range of patterns and prices will. In doubt? It is even in the news, you dumb foxes!

After seeing these words a hundredth time, I have almost started to believe  Jason Calacanis, who announced his retirement from blogging. But what hurt me most is this analysis of the Economist:[1]

The rest of the world may well have missed the unfolding of his tragedy. Behind it, however, is a bigger trend. Blogging has entered the mainstream, which -as with every new medium in history- looks to its pioneers suspiciously like death. To the earliest practitioners, over a decade ago, blogging was the regular posting of text updates, and later photos and videos, about themselves and their thoughts to a few friends and family members. Today lots of Internet users do this, only they may not think of it as blogging. Instead, they update their profile pages on Facebook, MySpace or other social networks.
 Something had to be done to bring back quality to blogosphere, to go back to the glorious days. So, after reverse cell phone lookup(s), I proudly announce the next big thing, the birth of Reverse Pay Per Post:

Pay Per Delete!

I hereby ask my fellow bloggers to find the most annoying post of every month and twist, bend and degenerate it. But, there is more.

What is the point of writing trash for a miserable 5 bucks? Damn, you even wait in queue for days to get an opportunity. Do the opposite: ask for deletion fees! Use all your skills of search engine optimization so that your twisted posts come first in the search engine results! And charge for deleting your posts.

After a few hours of meditation, I have come to conclude that following formula will be convenient in calculating the deletion charges:

PPPv * (6^6*66)/(Ar-666)

Where PPPv is average pay per post value and Ar is the Alexa Rank at the time of deletion request. For example, for a post paying $ 5.0, with an Alexa rank of 300,000 at the time of delete request, 5 * 3,079,296 / 299,334 = $ 52.44 will be charged.

I have also created a nifty badge for the members of this congregation of noble souls, the "I Delete" badge:

badge of I delete clan 
Stick it at the end of your posts so that the offended knows you are ready to delete at a reasonable fee. If you wish, you can also attach a JavaScript that calculates the fee for the convenience of the offended.
Oh, do not forget that chain-linking your I-delete-articles will increase the overall relevance of your posts.

Come and join the "I Delete Movement" and let us turn the clock back to the days when blogging was cool.
Vive le Movement, Vive la Revolution!
[1] Credit goes to Cats with Thumbs for referring the Economist article.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Darknet for Those in Dark Places

I have (sort of) established that censorship in internet cannot succeed without violating basic human rights. Sadly, this is the de facto case, they are not observed in half of the world today. There are a number of experimental projects that aim to provide freedom of expression and of information retrieval. I would like to introduce one of them: The Free Network Project.

Freenet, as is commonly known, is software designed to allow the free exchange of information over the Internet without fear of censorship, or reprisal. To achieve this Freenet makes it very difficult for adversaries to reveal the identity, either of the person publishing, or downloading content. The Freenet project started in 1999, released Freenet 0.1 in March 2000, and has been under active development ever since.

What makes Freenet different from other similar projects is found in these few sentences:
The journey towards Freenet 0.7 began in 2005 with the realization that some of Freenet's most vulnerable users needed to hide the fact that they were using Freenet, not just what they were doing with it. The result of this realization was a ground-up redesign and rewrite of Freenet, adding a "darknet" capability, allowing users to limit who their Freenet software would communicate with to trusted friends. This would make it far more difficult for a third-party to determine who is using Freenet.
Unlike many cutting edge projects, Freenet long ago escaped the science lab, it has been downloaded by over 2 million users since the project started, and it is used for the distribution of censored information all over the world including countries such as China and the Middle East. Ideas and concepts pioneered in Freenet have had a significant impact in the academic world. Our 2000 paper "Freenet: A Distributed Anonymous Information Storage and Retrieval System" was the most cited computer science paper of 2000 according to Citeseer [via webarchive.org], and Freenet has also inspired papers in the worlds of law and philosophy. Ian Clarke, Freenet's creator and project coordinator, was selected as one of the top 100 innovators of 2003 by MIT's Technology Review magazine.

It is a daring project for extreme circumstances where you can
  • publish web sites (freesites, as they call it)
  • communicate via message boards
  • distribute content
  • and send mail anonymously.
In addition to private companies, the project is sponsored by individuals like John Pozadzides (founder of htmlhelp.com and former Vice President of Sales for SAVVIS Communications) and John Gilmore (one of the founders of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the Cypherpunks mailing list, and Cygnus Solutions, creator of the alt.* hierarchy in Usenet and a major contributor to the GNU project).

The latest version of the project is Freenet 0.7.0 "Darknet" and was released on May 8, 2008.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Comment Luv: The Only Plug-in I Love

Excluding its simplicity, a big plus, Blogger has some disadvantages over other free blogging platforms. It heavily relies on JavaScript (this quite plain site ships 100,034 bytes of JS) rather than server side scripting, i.e. PHP or Perl, it claims to be XHTMl 1.0 strict, yet the very first script Google flushes breaks the validation, resulting in 461 errors, 164 warnings for this very site. These problems inevitably slow down loading of the pages and design concerns for running an efficient blog become even more critical.

Now, I can live with extensive use of client side scripting (JavaScript) and 461 errors because there is nothing I can do about them and modern browsers are really fault tolerant (which makes them less secure, too). But I can not live without Comment Luv. It is the coolest, sweetest idea in the whole blogosphere. It is trivial to install it on a, say, wordpress blog.

When I found out that there was a Comment Luv plug-in for Blogger, I had to try it. And I did. I was expecting problems but not this. It immediately screwed up the custom template I was using. I first thought it was a script incompatibility so I disabled all plug-ins using JavaScript and tried it again. Nope, the beast was resilient. I checked a few forums, made a few Google queries but no solutions. I decided to sleep over it (it was late).

Next day, I compared the two templates, my original one and the JS-Kit processed one. The only difference was a few lines of code in the commenting section and honestly I could not see why these lines would break the template. But I wanted Luv.

So, I picked up one of the ready-made templates, rearranged a few things (basically the width) and tried it again. And, success! I hope. I made a test comment and it worked.

For those who can not live without it, try it with your current template first. If it works, cool, you are luckier than me. If it does not, choose a template from Google's offerings, it should work.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Piksel08: Code Dreams - Bergen, 4-7 December 2008

expanded eye by Anaisa Franco
How does code dream? What are dreams of code?

Piksel08 examines the other side of code, an alternative side to a hard-coded reality of work and play. Open hardware and free software project a utopic vision, yet exist within economies of capital, the dream factory of mainstream technology. Within the chance meeting of sewing machine and umbrella on the dissecting table, hardware and software are flattened.

Piksel08: code dreams explores the dreams of this soft machine; bachelors coding for pleasure, reverse engineering paranoiac constructs of the real, automatic coding practice, soft hardware, and everyday magic.
 Also spracht Piksel's informative page about this year's event, Piksel08, where artists and developers working with Free/Libre and Open Source audiovisual software and hardware will congregate in Bergen, Norway this year.

If you are around, do not forget to take a look. There is also a live CD of last year's event ready for download at the site.

Image: Expanded Eye by Anaisa Franco which will be displayed at the exhibition.

How to Design an Efficient Blog

Since this seems to be a popular topic, let me throw in a post in the early stages of this fresh blog of mine. It is popular because everyone and his dog have written something about it. Now, hear what this cat has to say.

Why do you blog?

No, I am serious, think about it. What is your aim, your target? What do you want to achieve? This is the single most important factor that will have an impact on designing an efficient blog (you noticed the emphasis on efficient, didn't you?). Here are some thoughts:
  • You want to spread your ideas, i.e. you want to be read.
  • You want to sell your products, crafts, etc. on-line.
  • You want to make money from advertising or similar.
If you consider the above, you will see that:
  1. First group needs readers or subscribers;
  2. Second, customers;
  3. Third, targeted visitors.
You should evaluate your blog, from top to bottom, taking into account what type of visitors you expect. Without further ado, excluding the third group (there is a plethora of articles and tutorials on the web and duplication is unnecessary), the good stuff:

Software/platform:

Any software or free platform (like blogger, wordpress.com, self hosted) will do for subscribers. For the customers group, however, there are additional concerns.

First and foremost, blogging as we know it, is NOT for you. You should consider alternative software (CMS) and think blogging as a marketing arm/tool of your company. By blogging, you inform your customers about new products, tell events/news in your niche, history of the craft, how a product is created from ground up, so and so forth. Remember this! You are not selling anything in your blog. You are branding and increasing the visibility (from a search engine point of view) of your products/shop.

Background:

This one's easy; white or light backgrounds for subscribers, dark for on-line shops (it really increases the visibility of your products).

Fonts:

You should always opt for clear and reasonably large fonts for your subscribers. As the average age of your readers increase, their visions unfortunately decrease. Giving them an option to adjust fonts is a plus. For customers, the fonts should neither stand out, nor be extremely difficult to read. Avoid unnecessarily using color phrases.

Images:

Images no doubt draw attention. However, use them sparingly for your subscribers. They must be to the point and contribute to the story. Choose thumbnails over full-size ones, as each image added will slow down your site. The visitors' attention span is very short. They will not wait 20 seconds for your site.

The second group is handicapped again as far as images are concerned; they have to use images. Still, with a little bit of planning, you can minimize the damage.
  • Limit the number of posts in your index page; three is ideal, four is the maximum.
  • When you are publishing a series of pictures, say the same product but different angles, consider using one big picture and the rest as thumbnails.
  • Avoid unnecessary pictures, widgets, buttons and what not.
Social networks:

Following is valid for both. Social networks like Entrecard, Digg, Facebook, etc. are only beneficial if you are active in that network. You can achieve very little by frantically mixxing, redditing and propelling your own posts on the same day and asking people do the same. Choose one of them and be active. Participate in the forums, discussions and make friends.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO):

Oh, the holy grail! First the readership group:

Do NOT optimize your post titles and texts. Write as naturally as possible. Stuffing keywords in the titles, counting and/or unnecessarily adding them in the posts will harm the readability of your articles. If I changed the title of this very post to "Design Concerns in Implementing and Successfully Running Weblogs", would it be more readable (it surely looks academic, though)? There are only two items you should really care about:
  • Always give a proper description of your images using the alt tag [w3.org].
  • Keep a good link structure. Whenever you are referring to an article -on or off site, give a hyper-link to it. Directing your readers to posts and quality content is a good policy.
Well, here comes the customer group. I am afraid you have to optimize your pages as you will be competing with others to appear in the search engine result pages (SERP's). You can either read a lot of articles and learn (not always correctly) by yourself or take my advice and do the following:

Advertise! You are a business man or woman, making an investment in your store. Allocate a budget, even as low as $ 10 a month and spend it. Your place is inside the ring (or something similar, Godfather?, can't remember).

Advertisements:

So, you want to do something in between, writing and one day quit your day job and make a living by writing or crafting, etc on-line. By all means give it try. Making a living from something you like is definitely satisfying. Do not annoy your readers by overdoing and filling your site with irrelevant ads, though. Filter, where necessary.

And again I will depart from the main stream and offer something different for shop owners: Accepting advertisement is NOT good for you. I do not see any reason whatsoever referring a potential customer to a competitor of yours. Try affiliate marketing, instead. Unlike ad programs, you have full control over the affiliates and their products that will show up in your site. You can offer complimentary products and services to your customers and create value for them.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Proof That Barack Obama is Evil

 B   A   R   A   C   K   O   B   A   M   A
66  65  82  65  67  75  79  66  65  77  65 - as ASCII values
 3   2   1   2   4   3   7   3   2   5   2 - digits added
\_____/ \_____/ \_____/ \_____/ \_________/
   5       3       7       1       9       - digits added



Thus, "barack obama" is 53719.

Add 1954, the year Elvis recorded his debut single, putting the end to all morality and good taste - the result is 55673.

Subtract 1912, the year Titanic went for its first and last voyage. The result will be 53761.

Turn the number backwards, and add 3 - the symbol of fulfillment. The number is now 16738.

Add 6391 to it - this is the year Bruno Hauptmann, baby killer, was executed, written backwards - you will get 23129.

Add 81 to it - this is the symbol of bondage, written backwards - you will get 23210.

This, when read backwards, gives 01232. This is 666 in octal, the number of the Beast...

Evil, QED.

Courtesy of Evilfinder. It is a small script with a small database of numerologically significant integers - dates, sacred numbers, symbols. Using this indisputable information, it verifies whether the subject of your choice is evil or not.


Short URL for this post

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Evolutionary Cognitive Neuroscience

cognitive research
Complexity (the number of ways-hows-and-whys a system can act) may become an anachronism as novel research demystifies consciousness reducing human complexity to a deterministic system. Biomachines that bypass time consuming conscious activity ultimately may be fielded by the DOD. The Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) is already working towards this end. Through its Neurotechnology for Intelligence Analysts program, it has probed brain signals triggered when an analyst sees something interesting in a satellite image. The analyst's brain registers the discovery long before the analyst becomes cognitively aware of it. "The brain can signal the discovery three times faster than the analyst can respond... My goal is to use these technologies to harness the speed of thought... I know it's possible, especially if we confront these challenges not just as problems of biology and neuroscience but problems of physics, math, materials science and microtechnology."

That is how John Stanton, a Virginia based writer specializing in political and national security affairs, summarizes Evolutionary Cognitive Neuroscience in his article Dual Use Discipline for Understanding & Managing Complexity and Altering Warfare [cryptome.org], dated June 24, 2007. According to Stanton, The DOD has a very aggressive interest in understanding and adapting to the Human Terrain (brain-behavior relationships in local, regional, national and global environments). With a budget of approximately $1.2 trillion ($US), and the ability to obtain additional funding, the DOD stands alone in its ability to accelerate research and development (R&D) programs in ECN, as well as catalyze the fusion of the data-heavy and social sciences. Such an effort may be as significant as the Manhattan Project (Atomic Bomb) or the development of Quantum Theory. There is historical precedent for thinking as much, he says.

One can not help but wonder, seeing all those so-called social networks and others pouring vast resources so that they can know your pet's name and the color of your underwear. A heavy but thought provoking article; recommended.

Dirt Cheap Computer Reconnects

Anyway, Pamela is in the market for a new computer and she might let me build it! I think in her mind though I could potentially be not b/p AT ALL at a higher dose and so she might raise me until that point?

I am not good with criticism, even though I try to be.

Sometimes you feel as though you can not forgive, or you won't let yourself because it hurt so much.

I just read in Health that cilantro can kill salmonella, so you might want to wash that down with some fresh salsa. Your a strong person and with time, I believe you can get over him, all right? And you believe you will pretty much know as soon as you might that person. I guess that's because everyone loves the light-and-natural look these days, so the industry had to make a scent to go with it.

So on Thursday, I was all nervous and everyone go to try out -but me and like two other people. Do you smugly sneak your Way into conversations that don't really have anything to do with religion? So I found some mp3 software that was just over 1 MB, and would burn CD's of mp3s, each with this program on it. I felt bad that I couldn't spend as much time as I wanted to spend with him and to spend it as my 'normal, sane' self; but we did get to hang out and reconnect, though.

What Makes Censorship Succeed?

A recent article about Argentina's attempt to block Internet users from searching for information about some of the country's most notable individuals that showed up in Slashdot has made me ponder. How do you run a successful censorship campaign in the Internet? As explained in the post, it is trivial to make such attempts a complete failure [1].

What most people forget or do not want to acknowledge is in order for it to succeed a coercive element has to be present, and that is the lack of basic human rights. Let us for instance take my home country, Turkey. Access to YouTube is blocked (I am using a proxy, kind of slow but it works), whole wordpress.com is unreachable (I am not using ISP's DNS and can run my own if necessary, I have bind installed, so the miserable attempt fails).

Now, think again. Why does it fail? It fails because no one is knocking down my door in the middle of the night and take me and my computer with a lame excuse that I am using a proxy or VPN, or running my own domain name server. The said actions are recorded by my ISP. They know that I am using a proxy, etc; they simply do not know the final destination and the law enforcement authorities do not act on the assumption that I am indulging in a criminal activity because I use such services. My privacy is respected (almost).

OK, think once more. Why does it succeed in [insert a country here]? These are the ones that are run by rogue people and pathetic ideologies or belief systems. Sadly, their biggest allies happen to be the allegedly most democratic nations of the world.

[1] In the article, search results for Diego Maradona (famous soccer player)were given. You can try them, too: Yahoo! Argentina and Yahoo! Mexico search.

85,000 Homes Lost to Foreclosure

I come home and tell my cat about it. And a few fun questions: What is your favorite soap? What is your favorite thing to use when you masturbate? What is your favorite time of day to have sex?

It was really very nice to spend time with just my family.

He is a prick at times, and doesn't mesh well with the rest of the family, personality wise. How can President Bush give speeches promoting democracy and expect to be taken seriously when people at home and abroad with the current election scandals in Florida, a puppet government in Iraq, and receiving an endorsement from Iran because they feel he would be more indifferent to human rights violations than John Kerry.

I had the post-op visit with the surgeon yesterday.

I took off yesterday, and we headed up to Baltimore. Afterwards, we were going to go to the American History museum, but it was already 3:30, and it closes at 5, so we decided to walk around and see the monuments and such.

Austin was good and fresh and lovely, and I'm going to tell you about it now.

Related Link: 85,000 Homes Lost to Foreclosure in October [cnn.com]

American Dream of Amassing Astounding Wealth

It was cute fellow crisis volunteer!!! I'm sure the parents around me thought I was nuts, but how can you resist Josh Groban?

I thought of her as Class Mom, when we went to the pumpkin farm for a Halloween field trip.

A little later, after seeing my parents get divorced due to disputes over money, the American dream of amassing astounding wealth grew more distasteful for me.

You'd think marriage was a cake and if they gave some to the gay people, there'd be none left that wasn't eaten or slobbered on for everyone else to eat. Name ten movies that when you see them at a rental place or think about them you want or have to rent them? We would wrap them in tin foil and put them in the bag. The funniest thing in the WORLD is a kid ripping open a fistfull of pixie sticks, dumping them in her mouth and then doing flips and cartwheels while screaming like a wild animal for the remainder of the festivities. I'd say more, but then what would the stuff below be for?

What would you do to make a lot of money in a very short time?

Did Obama Really Win?

I made some postcards. I think I'm in serious denial... at least to some extent...

I must have been crazy to think that he would want to spend some time with his new wife! And that would be to the point where I don't want to try. Have been spending the last several days drifting through things, touching down occasionally to talk to friends, do chores. After all the shit he had been through and was still facing he was more concerned about my stupid knee than about himself.

An Experiment That Will Lead to What?

Yesterday I came across Michal Zalewski's site. While reading it (could be a bit technical for most), I noticed an interesting tool, an automatic blogging engine. What it does roughly is it takes a number of arguments you provide and outputs a blog post after checking some pre-defined sources in its database. My intention is to use this engine or similar tools, tweaking its sources where and when necessary, and post my findings here.

For what it's worth, unlike Zalewski, my emphasis will be on social, psychological and cultural aspects, not on programming or artificial intelligence.

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