The thoughts of a web 2.0 research fellow on all things in the technological sphere that capture his interest.

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Google Shares at $700

Just over three weeks ago, as Google shares passed $600, analysts were predicting that they could reach $700 next year. I guess this just shows that really analysts don't know what on earth they are talking about. The markets are far too complex for anyone to really have an idea what is going on, we all just keeping making rather uneducated guesses most of which will turn out to be wrong, and those that chance on the right result will inevitably be thought of as geniuses.

I still think, as I did three weeks ago, that the Google price is over-inflated and there will be an inevitable crash. The only problem is, we just don't know when. Whilst I previously said that I would sell at $699 and never look back, now it is at that price you have to think it must be worth hanging on until it reaches the inevitable predictions of $800, or $1,000. But there again the market always looks stable before the crash appears, and when the crash starts its too late to off-load.

Luckily for me the whole game is theoretical, and I can just watch from the sidelines, but if I was so rash as to make a prediction it would go something like this:

Now the $700 mark has been reached relatively easily, and the $1,000 mark is in the market's sites, the market will go a little crazy until it reaches the $1,000 mark...possibly to coincide with Christmas. The price will then slow down and, given time to reflect, people will realise they have all got carried away. At this point people will try and sell their shares, unfortunately everyone will be trying to sell their shares, and the Google price will crash. The fear that they have overpaid will spread to shares in other Internet businesses, and those shares will also see a massive dip in share prices. It will quickly become known as bubble 2.0.

Obviously this is just one of a million scenarios, but it is always worth having a stab at what will happen. If you get it right there is a cushy job at the London Stock Exchange and you are hailed as a prophet, if you get it wrong then no one remembers anyway.

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Second Life News

A few hours after pondering/blogging about what sort of news stories would be found in Second Life I found myself in a pub testing the quality of their cider, and what should appear on the TV screen but a story about Second Life! Unfortunately, as with most news stories, it was about the seedier side of life. In this case what was described as a "virtual paedophile ring".

It is unfortunate that it is always the worst aspects of new technologies that gain the most media attention, and difficult to see what Second Life can do about it. Whilst the news article indicates that people are engaging in some rather sick fantasies, whilst contained within a virtual world are they doing anything illegal? If not it seems hard for Second Life to do anything, it is stuck between a rock and a hard place. If they start to dictate what is and is not acceptable behaviour in Second Life where do they stop? On the other hand, if they do nothing it will seem as though they are condoning the sick practices, and will harm their image amongst the public at large (some of whom will never have heard of Second Life before).

It would be nice to see the Second Life users do something about these groups, turning up on mass and disrupting the groups. Unfortunately the groups would then end up building secure members-only areas. At which point I would like to see Second Lifers and some good hackers turn up to disrupt these places. Successful self-governance of this situation would save Second Life from having to dictate what groups are acceptible, and also save the image of the Second Life user.

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Tuesday, 30 October 2007

CNN sets up an office in Second Life

Whilst CNN's setting up an office in Second Life emphasises the interest that the traditional media have in the online world, it makes you wonder what sort of stories they will find, and what sort of effect it will have on the world itself.

Second Life is one of those things I keep an eye on, convinced that there is something to it, but at a loss as to what it actually is. Whilst Tim Guest et al. provide a vision of an exotic world full of strange people freed from the inhibitions of the regular world, I just tend to see groups of people camping on benches as they earn a few Linden dollers. As such a news service would be a useful way of finding out what is going on, without having to trawl through extensive lists of 'garage sales' and 'free giveaways'.

With a lack of wars and deaths to occupy the headlines of a Second Life news bureau, it will be interesting to see the sorts of news stories that get covered. I just hope that we don't see the rise of the celebrity Second Lifer.

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Diabolically Innovative

I doubt there are many people who like spam, and personally I am not keen on those people who send it. However it must be said that they are an innovative bunch. Whilst Godin describes one group of spammers methods of dealing with captcha as diabolical, it should also be said that it is rather innovative: the public type in the captcha code in exchange for the promise of a striptease program.

If only the spammers applied themselves to more legal activities.

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Blog conversations

The best way to learn about the blogosphere is to be involved in the blogosphere, however much that will make you want to pull your hair out and bang your head against a wall. Whilst blogging can be a joy when writing down a few musings and reading a few comments, when those comments turn into a conversation it can be one of the most exasperating moments. It feels as though you are having a conversation at a party where everyone else has had a few drinks, and you are the only sober person. Whilst that is not to say that my opinions are necessarily more lucid than the next person's, it is merely that they make more sense to me; equally other people's opinions will feel more rational to them.

Blog conversations can be exasperating due to their unique combination of being asynchronous, public, personal, and providing room for long comments. Whilst other forms of communication may contain some of these factors (e.g., email-asynchronous and chatrooms-public), it is the combination of all these factors that make a blog conversation so potentially exasperating.

As blogs are both asynchronous and allow for the inclusion of long comments, people include long comments. Whilst this may seem a rational response, after all you would be conversing on the same subject for weeks if you limited yourself to one comment at a time and then waited for a response, it creates a debating environment that people try to 'win', rather than one where ideas are discussed rationally. Postings are not read rationally and responded to as a whole, in context of the whole conversation, but rather disingenuously with tactics that would make Eric Berne blush. The must-win mentality is only exaggerated by the public nature, whilst the personal nature of the blog to one party makes it very hard to leave a conversation whilst the other continues promoting opinions you disagree with.

Nonetheless there is a time where continued conversation makes no difference, opinions have hardened and an understanding of different perspectives is more distant than it ever was. It is at this point that you have to bite the bullet and walk away, it's annoying, but if you don't it becomes a slow walk to the mad house.

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Monday, 29 October 2007

Dear Technorati, what is wrong with my authority?

I must admit to having an unhealthy interest in web statistics, especially when they relate to my own web site. It is therefore annoying to note that my Technorati authority doesn't seem to be worth as much as everyone else's. Whilst their filtering system allows users to filter the results according to whether hits have: any authority, a little authority, some authority, or a lot of authority; my authority seems to account for little, and my results (for the term webometrics anyway) only seem to appear for people not interested in the authority of the posts.

I am a reasonable person, and wouldn't expect my hard-earned authority of 5 to appear under 'a lot of authority', and maybe not even 'some authority', but surely under 'a little authority'! Especially as others are appearing under 'a little authority' with an authority of 1.

Web statistics are nothing but trouble.

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Saturday, 27 October 2007

Shelfari vs. LibraryThing

I was pleased to notice that Shelfari has shot past LibraryThing (according to Alexa anyway). I was always put off LibraryThing because there was a fee if you entered more than 200 books, which doesn't exactly encourage you to get involved in the community....and its especially annoying as most of the site's value comes from the members who put in the most effort!

I have taken to supporting web sites rather sports teams in reaction to the sad demise of Norwich City F.C.

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Friday, 26 October 2007

Mobile test

...with a picture of my empty sandwich packet.

[It turns out to be the simplest job in the world after giving up on MMS and POP3 and just sending the email from the Hotmail using the regular web interface!]

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A New T-shirt

Whilst not on a par with my personalised qr code t-shirt, it is nevertheless a welcome addition to my blog promoting t-shirts:

The picture quality isn't great as I MMS-ed it to my Hotmail to save on carrying a usb lead. Unfortunately, despite hours of trying, I have failed to successfully manage to get my T-Mobile N95 to post directly to blogger...although the rumour seems to be that I can manage it through a Yahoo account.

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Thursday, 25 October 2007

Who really won Facebook?

You couldn't really describe the Microsoft investment in Facebook as breaking news, the story seems to have been going on for weeks. The final outcome, a 1.6% stake for $240 million, valueing Facebook at $15 billion. If Facebook is worth $15 billion, then I'm the Queen of Sheba.

Whilst I think that it is an outrageous price, it will probably work out quite well for Microsoft as it will tie Facebook into their adverts for the forseeable future. Whereas I don't think it is necessarily a good deal for Facebook, they should have sold a little bit more whilst they had the chance, their stock is unlikely to be riding this high forever and they need to capitalise on it ASAP. Zuckerberg talks about going public in two years, by which point it will probably be worth half as much.

The other big social networking sites are going to continue innovating, new social networking sites will enter the market, the mobile market is going to become increasingly important, and teens are going to decide they want to hang out somewhere different to their parents. The market is constantly shifting, but the $15billion price tag seems to reflect a continued status quo. Yesterday Techcrunch published the growth rates of a number of different social sites, and the fastest by far is IMEEM a site that has managed to pass me by up to now. Whilst I have yet to have a close look at IMEEM, it serves to illustrate the point about emerging sites; it may be the next big thing, it may not, the point is nothing will stay the same.

However the future of social networking pans out, one thing is for sure: Rupert Murdoch got MySpace for a bargain price.

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Wednesday, 24 October 2007

What is a blog? Does it have to be social?

The other day I read an article that probably contained the worst description of a blog ever:
In a nutshell, a blog is a "do-it-yourself" website

Anyone who engages in the blogosphere would realise how rotten a nutshell this particular comment is, however the borders of what is and is not a blog are pretty vague. To me a key ingrediant of the blogosphere is the engagement with other users, unless we allow others to comment on our opinions blogs are little more than vanity publishing. Unfortunately it is not always a simple process to comment on some people's blogs, we can find ourselves hampered by blogs not allowing comments, having moderated comments, or having a comments section that is damned-near impossible to find!

Relating to the above, high ranking, linked-to examples:
-Yes, Seth Godin shows trackbacks, but I don't necessary want to add a blog post on a topic.
-I don't understand why Andrew Keen utilises moderated comments when he then passes spam and pointless insults for publication.
-Why does Dave Winer have comments when they are such a bugger to find?

Spam and offensive comments are probably more of a problem to high profile bloggers than me, although I was privileged enough to receive my own comment from a BNP idiot, and I can understand why they put safeguards in place. It is however bloody annoying to the fairly-respectable majority, who come across a comment to which they want to respond and can't.

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Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Kinset needs a bit more Second Life

Yesterday saw the launch of Kinset's browser, the self-proclaimed "Internet's first and only Truly Immersive 3D shopping experience" (brought to my attention by those folks at Mashable). Whilst their proclamation seems extremely debatable to anyone who has strolled along some of the rather curious boulevards in Second Life, there is little doubt that Kinset is taking online shopping to a whole new level.

Whilst the browser takes a while to download and install, once installed it will provide access to two established stores, with more on the way if other shops utilise Kinset's technology. Currently there is Bunchabooks and LectroTown, both in association with Amazon, both fairly self-explanatory names. Both shops follow the traditional shop lay-outs, suitable for browsing, and if you can't see what you want on the shelf you can always search for something more specific, and it will appear behind the till.


What Kinset shops are missing is the human element which is present in Second Life; the inclusion of the flat pictures of shop assistants in LectroTown (who are always facing you) just don't provide the same welcoming feeling. Unfortunately Second Life either has box-like shops selling Second Life goods:


Or nice warm friendly looking places, which are unfortunately just for show:


I like people with my books. People-watching is one of the enjoyable parts of shopping/browsing in a bookshop, I like to see what others are looking at and buying, and it would be nice to see it included in 3D online shopping. There are also the obvious advantages of being able to discuss books with people in the shops, something that could make online book shopping more enjoyable than the physical book shopping experience where you are less likely to approach a perfect stranger for their opinion on something.

All in all the introduction of Kinset's technology bodes well for the future of online shopping, and rather than a finished product may be seen as a taster of things to come. My only quibble is that the shops were restricted too much to the physical idea of space. Why can't the headers leap to sub-shops on those particular subject?

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Saturday, 20 October 2007

BBC Flash Player Starts to Roll-out

Less than a week ago the BBC announced that it had come to an agreement with Adobe allowing it to stream programmes with Flash. Whilst there are no exact dates as yet, the BBC doesn't seem to be messing around. They announced in their Archive Newsletter last night:
We're also launching a new media player that uses Flash instead of RealPlayer or Windows Media. We have to stress that as this is more to help us with technical aspects of the trial, it won't be released to everyone, sadly. We'll be e-mailing a selection of triallists soon with more information. We're sorry, but we won't be able to extend this group of triallists, but we thought you'd like to know that it exists, even if we can't give everyone access to it.

At this rate the streaming should be completely rolled out by Christmas, and come Christmas Day the Queen's speech will fit into my schedule...surely that must be treasonable!

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Thursday, 18 October 2007

China redirects: Could my ISP do the same?

The big news in the blogosphere this afternoon seems to be Chinese surfers being redirected from the US search engines to Baidu, with many suggesting that it is a reaction to George Bush recognising the Dalai Lama. Whilst the blogosphere is unsurprisingly outraged, personally I quite like the idea of having my ISP stopping me going to Google.

We all have certain URLs we type into the address bar automatically. If I am searching for something I find myself typing 'google.com' without a thought for Ask, MSN, Yahoo, or any of the thousand other search engines available. If I am momentarily at a loss as to what to do next I find myself returning to my emails for the umpteenth time, or checking my bloglines for the zillionth time. If my ISP forced me to use another search engine every now and again, or forced me to have reasonable periods of time elapse before returning to the same web site again and again, I am sure I would utilise the web much more productively.

Yes, I know, civil liberties, blah blah blah...I'm just saying that there is an up side.

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At last my own QR code t-shirt

When I first blogged about QR codes on the 5th of October I mentioned that I wanted to get my own qr code on a t-Shirt. Now, thanks to the University of Wolverhampton School of Art and Design, I have my own qr code t-shirt.

Does it work? Yes. In fact it even works from the above photo!

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Wednesday, 17 October 2007

I want Download! Windows Live NOT Download!Sonic Jump!

I have just noticed that my the Download! folder on my N95 has been rearranged this morning. Was this due to Nokia finally providing the Windows Live Services they promised almost 2 months ago? Of course not, the wait continues.

The only new item in this morning's reshuffle seems to be the inclusion of a Sonic Jump demo, and whilst that seems quite an enjoyable little game (much more so than the stupid Snakes game), it is not the reason I have been constantly checking my Download! folder for the last two months.

How long does it take roll out one little piece of software in this interconnected age? Whilst I find it annoying that the United Arab Emirates seem to have access to the software before the UK, I am sure it is much more annoying for the Finns who also seem to be waiting! Such a slow rollout doesn't encourage people to wait for the official version.

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Week One of Google Analytics

Last Tuesday (at about lunchtime) I started utilising Google Analytics so that I could see whether anyone was accidently stumbling across my blog. Up until then the only indication I received was if someone left a comment, as traffic data from my web host is considered an extra and costs £15 per year! Today I can see, for the first time, a week's worth of data. Although as a webometrician it is not suprising that I have been looking at the data numerous times over the last week.

Since the introduction of Google Analytics I have had 78 unique users from 11 different countries, and whilst that is not exactly setting the world on fire, I can at least rest in the knowledge that I wouldn't be doubling my audience by sending my mother the URL.

The most curious finding was the amount of traffic I had driven to my site by Google for a post I wrote on the 16th of September about a rather idiotic Facebook group called 'Leamington Spa Celebrity Mental Spotting'. The traffic emphasises that it is not necessarily the topic that is important, but rather the uniqueness of the topic. Whilst there are millions of people searching for 'iPhone' and 'Facebook', there are millions of posts on those subjects; whereas there are only a few people searching for 'leamington spa celebrity mental spotting' but the small number of posts means that mine is likely to be near the top of the pile.

The statistics also point out the necessity of making the blog more engaging, most users only viewed the one page. Whilst a pre-defined template is never going be very exciting, the ease of use makes them very appealing.

Who knows, maybe with the help of Google Analytics I will have over 100 unique users next week!

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Tuesday, 16 October 2007

BBC: The Best of British

If you had to create a list of the best things about Britain only a fool would ignore the BBC, and despite being in existence for over 75 years, in various forms, it continues to be at the forefront of the latest technologies. Last night its news site (probably the best news in the world) announced that the BBC site would be accessible at The Cloud wi-fi hotspots throughout the UK for free, but even more interestingly it provided some further details of the future of BBC TV on the internet.

Key points:
- A streaming Flash version of the iPlayer
- Downloading to portable devices (such as N95 and PSP)
- Not commited to offering download version of iPlayer to Linux and Mac

Whilst the streaming version will be a more inclusive version for the whinging Linux and Mac users, I am sure there will still be complaints that they can't have a download version, but as the BBC says "It comes down to cost per user". Of course I personally welcome the proposed addition of the N95 version (especially as I have numerous trouble connecting to my Sky Sports package), and hope that the Flash version will be compatible with the Wii, but I also realise the need for the BBC to be cost effective.

The biggest probably I have at the moment with the BBC is finding time to watch and listen to all their programmes. The iPlayer is slowly filling with programmes I will probably never have time to watch, my N95 is filling with podcasts faster than I can listen to them, and I am constantly battling with the wi-fi radio to utilise the 7-day catch-up before we reach day eight! The change in the media landscape is best expressed through a comparison of launch of the Channel 4 twenty-five years ago, and the launch of Dave on Freeview yesterday. Where one was launched with a blaze of publicity that everyone was talking about, Dave was launched with little more than a whimper. As yet I haven't even bothered to re-tune my digi-box.

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Monday, 15 October 2007

Blog Action Day: Merely platitudes?

Today is 'Blog Action Day', where bloggers around the world unite to discuss a single important issue, the environment. But whilst there can be little doubt that the environment, and more specifically our abuse of it, is one of the most important issues of the 21st centuries, I am unsure whether a single blog action day will do much good. People need to start making major changes to their personal lifestyles, and unfortunately I doubt whether people are going to be willing to make such changes however eloquently people may blog on the subject.

The inherently selfish nature of the average person means that whilst they are willing to 'do their bit' for the environment, this is on the understanding that it doesn't overly effect their own lifestyle.
Taking the bottles to the bottle bank - yes.
Walking to work - no.
Restricting the number of flights they take each year - no.
Holidaying nearer to home - no.
Only eating seasonal fruit and vegetables - no.
... and the list just goes on.

When people are questioned about their own carbon footprint there tends to be three sorts of answers:
1) They question the validity of the science (despite their lacking the most rudimentary grasp of scientific principles).
2) They look forward to a warmer climate (these people are just idiots).
3) They believe it is their right to live their life however they want (these people are just ****ers).

Personally I hope this blog action day will make people look more closely at their own lives, and recognise the need for personal large scale change, unfortunately I am quite pessimistic when it comes to relying on the average man doing the right thing.

Professionally however, I look forward to following whether there is a noticeable rise in the discussion of environmental topics across the blogosphere, and more importantly, whether such a rise will be sustained.

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Friday, 12 October 2007

Yahoo Site Explorer serves conflicting results

Search engines play an important role in webometric studies as most researchers have neither the processing power, the bandwidth, or the inclination to attempt to crawl and index the whole of the web themselves. However, search engine data is very imprecise, they are estimated numbers of results, varying according to which server is being searched, how deep into the results the user is digging, and now it emerges according to whether you are logged in or not...at least according to Yahoo Site Explorer.

The volatility of the results can be seen through looking at the results for www.seroundtable.com, the site that just published a story about this particular cause of search result variety (I'm, not sure if I have come across it before). In fact there seems to be much more variation than the site first mentioned. Results depend on: whether you are logged in; how deep you digg into the results; and whether you are looking at the same page as the results (the number of inlinks can be seen when viewing the pages indexed, and equally the number of pages indexed can be seen when viewing the inlinks).

When looking at the first page (or the tenth page) of results for pages indexed, not logged in:
Inlinks = 35,171
When looking at the first page of result for inlinks, not logged in:
Inlinks = 56,200
When looking at the tenth page of results for inlinks, not logged in:
Inlinks = 55,288
When looking at the first page of results for pages indexed, logged in:
Inlinks = 187,124
When looking at the tenth page of results for pages indexed, logging in:
Inlinks = 223,242
When looking at the first page of results for inlinks, logged in:
Inlinks = 195,239
When looking at the tenth page of results for inlinks, logged in:
Inlinks = 222,681

Whilst appreciating that search engines can't know everything, they could at least have the decency to reflect this by not giving such specific results...obviously what an academic really want is access to the data itself, but we may as well wish for the moon on a stick.

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Thursday, 11 October 2007

Nielsen's old fashioned newspaper statistics

Nielsen Netratings have just released the latest figures for the top 10 UK print newspapers online. Whilst the Guardian continues to attract the largest number of unique users, most of the other papers are growing faster, and in terms of total minutes on a site the Guardian is in a poor fifth place after The Sun, The Daily Mail, The Telegraph, and The Times.

The sites are being compared because they all fall under the umbrella of 'UK national newspapers', but the wide variety in the time people are spending on the sites indicates significantly different types of user behaviour: The high amount of time spent on The Daily Mail and The Sun may indicate that people are approaching these sites in the same way they do newspapers, seeing them as a whole package; whereas the significantly lower periods of time spent on the more serious newspapers (i.e., The Times, The Telegraph, and The Guardian), would seem to indicate that it is the individual stories that are of interest. Comparisons between the different newspapers are really comparing chalk and cheese. It is also pretty meaningless to purely look at UK figures, sites such as the Guardian have a significant following in the US (whereas the US has plenty of its own right-wing crappy press).

If comparisons are to be made between the newspapers, it would probably be more interesting to compare the results with the print editions' circulation figures. Such figures would truly indicate the Guardian's online success.

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Technorati's most popular blogs: Where are the new and exciting blogs?

The introduction of Techmeme's leaderboard last week engineered a lot of discussion in the blogosphere about the usefulness of such lists, and whether the new list was an improvement on Technorati's long standing top 100 most popular blogs (I even went so far as to ponder a few words myself). Thinking about these lists I decided to investigate how the Technorati popular blogs list has changed over the years, after all, if the blogosphere is a vibrant community with new exciting entrants we should see numerous changes and the emergence of innovative blogs...unfortunately that doesn't seem to be the case (at least amongst the top 25 blogs).

Looking at the current top 25 blogs finds 13 of them already established in the top 100 of 28th December 2005, and of the other 12 all but three were in existence before 2006. The three 'relatively' new entrants are:
Mashable
icanhascheezburger.com
Peterandrej
...and of these only icanhascheezburger (which is without doubt the most pointless of the three) was established this year.

There could be a number of reasons for the lack of new entrants:
1)The blogosphere is dead (or at least dying), with few new and exciting entrants.
2)Blogs rarely emerge quickly, but rather take time to become established.
3)The lists are driving the traffic as much as they are reflecting the traffic.

Personally I don't think the blogosphere is dead just yet, but with the traffic being driven heavily by the relatively few 'top blog' lists a perception may be given that it is a place where only long-serving bloggers get any traffic and potential new bloggers won't be tempted to join the debate. To encourage growth and participation, maybe Technorati should include a chart of fast climbing blogs.

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Facebook Nose-dive: Please let it be true

Over at GigaOm some statistics have been put up that show a fall in Facebook's traffic, both in absolute user numbers and in the number of pages viewed. If it is indeed true, and I fear it may be more to do with the calculating of the figures, I would be very pleased indeed. I liked Facebook, but quickly got bored of it, and it would be nice if the fact its really 'not all that' was reflected in some sort of numbers. One of the things I hate about the web is the way surfers go crazy about the latest big thing.

OK, so the figures are not showing a 'nose-dive', and there may be a reasonable explanation for the dip in users, but more than anything it is a reminder to the blogosphere that there is a world beyond Facebook (and the other big current topic-the iPhone) and that we should really be keeping the iPhone and Facebook stories within reasonable limits. When Google bought Jaiku many bloggers felt it was necessary to explain what Jaiku was, surely if the blogosphere had been doing its job then the users would have already known what Jaiku was; unfortunately the blogosphere had been banging on about Twitter for months instead.

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Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Is the UK Networking or Wilfing?

The latest research from comScore finds U.K. social networking site usage to be the highest in Europe. Whilst the UK users average 5.8 hours per month (with the heavy users' average being 22 hours per month), the average hours per user in Germany is only 3.1 hours and in France 2.0 hours. There are two ways of viewing these result:
1) UK residents are using social networking sites to share ideas, collaborate, and come up with innovative ideas, and increased use of social networking sites will help economic growth.
2) UK residents are merely wilfing, aimlessly surfing the internet with little or no purpose (from the phrase 'what was I looking for), and is of little productive use.

Whilst the press release lacks details on which social networking sites are being used (LinkedIn use seems likely to be more productive than MySpace), I fear that the majority of use is likely to be the big three generic sites (i.e., MySpace, Bebo, and Facebook), and people's surfing habits have changed from aimlessly surfing the whole web to aimlessly surfing/interacting with their social network communities. Whilst I am sure that our fellow Europeans will soon catch up, I don't think it will be something that they'll be boasting about.

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Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Don't go the way of Jaiku: JUST SAY NO

One of the things that really annoys me is the way so many of the start-ups are willing to sell out as soon as one of the big three comes knocking on the door with an open cheque book. The latest acquisition is Jaiku by Google. It seems as though the aim for start-ups these days is not to be successful and take the web by storm, but rather be successful, attract the attention of one of the big three, and then sell out at the first opportunity.

Whilst it currently says that services will continue running the way they always have, the truth is that they won't; they never do. Six months down the line, if not before, Jaiku users will be asked to start using a Google user name (as happened with blogger previously), and you will need a Google email account, and any password reminders or update information will be sent to your Gmail account, and slowly your whole world will turn Google.

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Is Manchester the second city or just a big footballing city?

Hitwise has access to loads of data that I would love to get my hands on, the sort of data that would keep me busy for the rest of my academic life. It is therefore probably pure jealousy that makes me complain about some of the ways it utilises its data. Its latest post addresses the question: Which is the UK's second city? As well as showing the traffic to the cities' respective tourist information sites, it also shows that Manchester is searched for more often than Birmingham.

Unfortunately it fails to mention one particularly word. Football. Manchester United are the current premiership champions, whilst Manchester City ride high in the table under the previous England manager Sven Goran Eriksson. In comparison Birmingham City bob between the premiership and the championship and Aston Villa doesn't even have Birmingham in their title!

Does football make much of a difference? Well Google trends would seem to suggest that it can. Liverpool can be seen to have shot past Manchester on the back of its footballing glories (and failures), whilst Arsenal have have captured as many hits as Manchester on occassion without the additional 'city' searches.



I appreciate that the purpose of these articles is to show the sort of data Hitwise can provide your company with, but these sort of analyses are just a bit annoying...but as I say, its probably just jealousy.

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How quickly could Google stock crash?

Google shares have crossed the $600 mark. It is now officially more valuable than FedEx, MacDonalds, Coke, Intel, IBM and Wal-Mart, and analysts have predicted it could reach a share price of $700 next year. Whilst the chances are that the analysts' 'predictions' will help the Google share price to reach $700 next year, personally I would sell at $699 and never look back. Google is, to misuse the phrase: oversexed, overpaid and over here.

Oversexed. Google has had excessive amounts of good will from web users of the years, and this cannot continue. Whilst the good will was initially based on the quality of its search results and its 'do no evil' philosophy, the search engine results which once stood out are now little better than those of other search engines, and its 'do no evil' philosophy fails to stand up to scrutiny. Its continued support relies as much on its being perceived as the good-guy in relation to Microsoft's bad-guy rather than any reality, and as it becomes as big as Microsoft it will be increasingly find a less forgiving audience.

Overpaid. There is little doubt that Google has a massive online presence with its fingers in a million different pies, however most important to Google are its search engine and the Google Ads. Whilst the search engine provides an outlet for the Google Ads, its domination also provides the strong brand image that encourages people to use the ads that are then embedded in so many other web pages. However web users are a fickle bunch, and use of a service today does not necessarily mean that the service will be used tomorrow. The rise of sites like Facebook shows how quickly new companies can become major players, and just around the corner may be an idea that totally changes how we use the web, and the advertisers will want their ads on that site, not on Google.

Over here. As well as paying for the current Google company, people are paying for a organisation that they hope will keep growing. However the European and North American markets that Google has such a strong foothold in will soon stop growing; all those who will get the Internet will have the Internet. Attempts to enter the emerging markets in the far east are fraught with dangers as it has to compromise with more restrictive governments at the expense of its image in the west.

The Google share price is based on a myth, that the web will continue to be used in the way it is today, and if there are changes Google will be at the front. However, changes are likely to come from outside Google, and if the competitor holds its nerve and doesn't sell then the Google share prices start will start falling, and then they will fall hard.

People are paying for the Google myth and if it shows any weakness there is not a lot left.

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Monday, 8 October 2007

Suddenly QR codes are everywhere!

If it was 1987 then QR codes could claim to have really gone main stream, unfortunately it's not, and therefore it is unclear whether their inclusion into the video for the Pet Shop Boys' latest (download only) single will have any impact.


The embedded QR codes provide links to issues about civil liberties. Unfortunately, as far as I can tell the only may to access the QR codes without taking stills from the video is to download a rather hefty 49mb pdf file of 2408 pages!

So if you can't be bothered with all that, here are the first and last QR codes:

I don't think webometrics quite has the tools to count these links just yet.

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Friday, 5 October 2007

Facebook Flyer Fun

Whilst all the Facebook pages now have bright enticing 'Facebook Flyer' adverts down the side, the lack of variety in the adverts (at least in the West Midlands), and the fact the flyers don't seem to be content driven, means that you can happily kill time finding a group that (vaguely) amusingly matches a flyer that you have seen, and then re-find the flyer with the help of the refresh button:

An advert for gay dating on an anti-gay group:


Or the chance to win an iPhone on an anti-cellphone group:


I am almost tempted to join the London network for a greater choice in the adverts.... although I am sure there are more productive ways to spend my time.

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QR Codes, podcasting and the N95

One of the problems with N95 is that it can do so much it takes ages to try all the different bits out. The last couple of days I have been utilising a couple of the features on the N95 that I hadn't quite got around to. I started with the podcasts, and that led me on to the QR Codes.

I have always found podcasts to be one of those things that have great potential, but I have never managed to quite get to work for me. Previously this has been due to my need to download the relevant files to my computer before transfering them to my MP3 player, which I never managed to successfully fit into my schedule. The N95 however, allows me to subscribe and download directly to the phone...podcasting is alive and well once again (although seemingly too late for Yahoo's Podcasts site).

A topic that occured on a couple of the podcasts I subscribed to this week (one of which was Digital Planet) was QR Codes. Whilst they have been around for a number of years, and are supposedly big in Japan, they have hit the news now as they are being incorporated in an advertising campaign for the 28 days later DVD in London. Basically the 2D barcodes allows for the inclusion of over 4,000 alphanumeric characters, which can be read through a mobile phone with a camera and the required software. Some phones, such as the N95, come with the software installed, whereas others need to have it downloaded.

Personally I think that the 28 weeks later advert gets it wrong by including a URL in normal text on the bottom. QR Codes are engaging when you don't know what they say. If I saw a QR code on its own I would scan it; seeing it with the URL for a film I don't care about, I don't bother because I know I am not interested. Obviously, if QR codes take off in the UK, we will become immune to most of them, and will need the extra information to persuade us that they are worth looking at. At this stage however, I believe a bigger buzz would have been created without it...but there again some of the other views of the people behind the campaign are quite questionable.

Personally I like the potential of the QR codes, and I am currently trying to get a T-shirt printed with my own personalised QR code message on it.

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Thursday, 4 October 2007

Berkeley on YouTube: News?

One of the Tech stories doing the rounds on the web at the moment is that "UC Berkeley puts courses on YouTube", but whilst the use of YouTube may be new for Berkeley, Berkeley having videos online isn't. Mashable points out that many of the videos have been available on Google Video, whilst it should also be pointed out that many more videos and lots of podcasts have also been available at the university's web site.

Berkeley is lucky enough to be able to get some of the top speakers to give lectures in various fields (speakers who would never bother speaking at my university), and it is good for education and research generally that Berkeley is willing to share these lectures. YouTube enables the sharing of the lectures far more easily than Berkeley's previous static homepage, with the potential for others to highlight and spread the videos by embedding them in blogs and on web pages. It is a shame however that Berkeley's YouTube page links to the university homepage, rather than their webcasts page, which would have highlighted all the additional podcasts that are available.

The downside. That would be the awful 'You See Berkeley' video.

Maybe its just a reflection of a European/American divide, but that video would put me off going to Berkeley.

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Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Top of the Techs: The Techmeme Leaderboard

Its not surprising that all the big bloggers and news sources are discussing the Techmeme Leaderboard, after all, it's all about them: the sources most frequently posted to techmeme. The obvious comparison for such a leaderboard is with Technorati's top 100 blogs, and those that have found their ranking improved are unsurprisingly enthusiastic (e.g., Scripting News
and TechCrunch), but for every winner there is also a loser who is likely to be less enthusiastic.

Lists of the top 100 lists are always interesting, whether it is books, music, or web sites, but they don't necessarily mean very much: only a fool really believes that the Harry Potter books are great works of literature, and the top selling records are by the best artists. This does not mean I don't subscribe to many of the blogs and news sources on Techmeme's Leaderboard, merely that these are by no means the only ones I subscribe to. There are many highly specialised blogs that are never likely to make it onto such a list, but are nonetheless of great interest to a certain proportion of individuals. Blogging is about enabling the opinions of many people to be heard rather than the few, the creation of a Top 100 focuses on the opinions of the few.

Scoble mentions a lack of bloggers on the list, and suggests that it may be another indicator that blogging is dieing. Personally I don't believe blogging is dieing, it is merely changing. Whilst snippets of news and information will be shared by the micro-blogging format of Twitter, and established bloggers will gather together within one brand (e.g., Read/WriteWeb), there will continue to be a core set of bloggers for whom the traditional blog is the best way of sharing their thoughts and information.

Whilst many people enjoy looking at top 100 lists (or top-whatever), it is important that we don't put too much store in them, and remember that there is a lot of sites beyond that top 100, and for that Technorati is much better than TechMeme.

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Monday, 1 October 2007

Web protests and petitions: Do they mean anything?

Over the last week there has been a lot of news about the situation in Burma, and it is unsurprising to find that it is a hot topic on Facebook. Both Allfacebook and Mashable highlight the “Support the Monks’ Protest in Burma” group that was growing at 3,000 members an hour at one point, and at the time of writing this blog entry had passed the 225,000 members mark. Whilst I don't doubt that there are many people in the group that sympathise with the monks' situation in Burma, the ease with which people can now join groups or sign online petitions means that it is necessary to reassess what such large numbers represent. 50,000 people joining a Facebook support group is not the same as 50,000 people standing outside a Burmese embassy, in fact I doubt it is comparable to 1,000 people standing outside a Burmese embassy. The mass joining of Facebook support groups may even have a negative effect on a cause, as it allows people to assuage their guilt without making any real effort.

There is a place for Facebook support groups in the sharing of information and promotion of real-world activities, however if we focus on the numbers too much we run the risk of turning every situation into a Facebook race, where important political discussions are beaten by 'just for funs': Canada vs. America(493,356 members); "I secretly want to punch slow walking people in the back of the head" (424,980 members).

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