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

Monday, 31 December 2007

2007 Launches

TechCrunch has listed some of the major launches of the last year. It serves as a reminder of how quickly the web changes; at the end of the year I am already bored of many of the projects that were originally greeted with much fanfare. How many will still be going strong at the end of 2008?

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Saturday, 29 December 2007

Web Castaways

Finally, almost 24hrs after I started, I have caught up with my Bloglines. With the exception of the demise of Netscape Navigator, the web seems a little thin on interesting news. What has been popular over the last few weeks, however, are lists of predictions or desires for 2008, everyone is up to it, even webometricians.

My own personal list comprises of those I would like to see on the Google Jet if it happened to crash into the sea in 2008, and all on board had to live on a very desolate desert island for the rest of their lives:
1) Larry Page and Sergey Brin
2) Mark Zuckerberg
3) Kevin Rose
4) Steve Jobs
5) Jimmy Wales

It's a harsh list as I don't know any of them personally, but they all seem to be getting a bit big for their boots and have started to believe their own press.

nb. apologies to the innocent Google Jet pilot.

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Friday, 28 December 2007

Bloglines after a Christmas break

If I don't look at my Bloglines account every few hours the number of items soon starts getting out of hand. If I don't look at it for a couple of days I find myself putting off the inevitable confrontation. Returning from Christmas in Norway, after not looking at Bloglines for a week, I find myself dreading the task in hand. Would I really miss out on some important item of note if I ditched the 1,358 items I am told I haven't looked at? Probably not, but there is always the fear/hope that there will be something really interesting buried amongst the rubbish.

The only web story I came across whilst I was away was the Royal Channel on YouTube (every news channel seemed to discuss it), although I also noticed advertising on the BBC web site for the first time outside the UK (whilst checking the football scores). Both good examples of traditional institutions adapting to the modern world.

Unfortunately not everyone is as up-to-date as the Queen and the BBC, T-mobile's current data plan could quite easily see many people dragged off to the poorhouse when travelling abroad: £7.50 per Mb of web browsing! Admittedly you have to be pretty foolish to not pay close attention to these things before travelling, but with 3G connections the Mb can quickly add up. My solution was to simply not use the web on my phone whilst away, but really it is time that the phone companies' caught up, we aren't looking at WAP anymore!

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Friday, 21 December 2007

Nothing on the web

Is it just me, or is their nothing interesting on the web at the moment? Despite looking at hundreds of feeds from all over the world, there is very little that is catching my eye. I guess everyone is just too busy with their christmas shopping to do anything interesting on the web...except, for some inexplicable reason, turn themselves into elves.

If I don't come across something of interest soon I shall just have to conclude that I really have come to the end of the web. Although, with such a poor ending and little in the way of plot I doubt it will be turned into a film.

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Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Web Celebs

If bloggers aren't talking about the great democratic nature of the blogosphere, they are discussing the latest list of the top blogs...or in this case Forbes's top 25 web celebs. A curious collection of egos, but I doubt many people will be bothered by not making the list.

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Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Google retaliates: reported collateral damage

According to Mashable some Google users are reporting receiving a large number of messages claiming their searches are looking like automated requests. If Google continues with a tightened security system there will be repercusions for those webometrician's who use scrapers rather than the Google API, but more importantly, Google may use it as an opportunity to encourage/force users to log-on: Surely if you log-on, there is less chance of receiving 'automated request' accusations.

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10 years of blogging

According to the BBC, yesterday marked the coining of the term 'weblog'. Although there are lots of claims by the 'citizen journalist' lobby about their collective power and importance, its difficult to truly assess how much of a positive effect blogs have had on the news and media landscape over the last ten years. Whilst there are well documented cases of the blogosphere's success, these are too often overly-trumpeted rather than any real discussion on the potential short-comings of the blogosphere.

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Saturday, 15 December 2007

Mobile Literacy

All About Symbian notes a number of YouTube tutorials for beginners with the Nokia's S60 platform.. Whilst these are without a doubt useful to the Nokia novice, a lot more needs to be done. Smartphones can be a useful addition to both people's professional and personal lives, but only if they know how to use them.

Unfortunately, every time a new generation of mobile phones emerges they seem to be quickly followed by user surveys telling us that few people use more than 10 or 20 percent of the facilities available. These surveys are taken as an indicator of a lack of need rather than a lack of knowledge. Whilst all phones have some superfluous facilities, the current generation of phones really are offering useful applications if people know how to use them.

The obvious problem with mobile literacy is the numerous models available, and the individual restrictions placed by the different mobile operators. Nonetheless I find it hard to believe that on the web, where we hear so much about the potential of the long tail, that there aren't decent portals offering all the skills and advice that people of every level would require for a specific model. Whilst there are decent blogs available, these often appeal to the users who are already making good use of their phones (although the blogs are extremely valuable nonetheless).

Maybe if we could start increasing level of mobile literacy, as well as more general computer literacy, organisations wouldn't under value computer skills so much. If we continue to think of mobile literacy as the ability to make a call and send a text, and computer literacy the ability to send an email and surf the web and maybe use Microsoft office, then businesses and users will continue to fail to use the products to their full potential. Surely mobile illiteracy is costing the economy billions of pounds every year?

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Friday, 14 December 2007

'Citizen Journalism' can be dangerous, irresponsible and just downright rude

It was only a couple of weeks ago that I last questioned the slipping standards of Mashable, and I find I am doing it once again. Ironically regarding an article defending the so-called citizen journalists. Professional journalists have been calling into question the quality of so-called citizen journalism, the article responds by insulting the traditionalist's looks and stating she has 'senile dementia'.

I am constantly amazed by the arrogance of the blogosphere, willing to point out the speck in their enemy's eye whilst ignoring the plank in their own. Little of what appears in the blogosphere equates to our traditional idea of what journalists do, instead most stories rely on information collected by the mainstream media (Tech sites are often a notable exception). Also editorial standards are extremely low, as exhibited in posts that merely insult individuals on unrelated factors such as looks. Rather than bitching the bloggers should take some of the criticism on board and work out how they can improve.

There are advantages of mainstream media, and advantages of the blogosphere, but we are mistaken if we believe they are in the same game.

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Google takes on Wikipedia...or should that be Helium.com?

Google have annouced that they will be releasing (at some point in the future) Knol, a tool that will enable users to write articles on topics they are hopefully knowledgable about and want to publish:
Our goal is to encourage people who know a particular subject to write an authoritative article about it.

The incentives to participate are the inclusion of your name, rather than the virtual anonymity of wikipedia, and you will be able to place ads on your articles if you wish to make some money.

It not surprising that Knol is already getting a lot of coverage in the Blogosphere, due to it being one of Google's babies, but it is by no means original. Whilst it looks as though Knol will have a better facilities and provides the users with more rights to their content, in essense it is pretty much the same as Helium.com. Whilst Helium has some good articles, for the most part they are very poor, and I think the same will be true of Knol. Whether Knol is a success will depend on the ranking system and whether enough people get involved.

Personally I don't think Wikipedia has anything to worry about yet, although Helium will have to up its game.

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Thursday, 13 December 2007

Link Analysis Firefox Plugin

Whilst I hate search engine optimisation, it doesn't mean that they don't occassionally come out with some useful tools. Search Engine Roundtable have just brought to my attention a Firefox PlugIn by Joost de Valk which provides a PageRank and the anchor text for each of the inlinks found through either Google Webmaster Tools, Yahoo Site Explorer, and Microsoft Webmaster.

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Record numbers visit Webometric Thoughts!

Whilst it wouldn't be much of a record in comparison to Google, MSN, or even the local corner shop's web site, Webometric Thoughts finally got the 30 unique visitors in a day that have eluded it for so long. In fact it got 31 on Tuesday, and then 40 yesterday.

If the number of visitors continues grow at 29% each day, in forty days (and forty nights) I will get a million visitors in a day for the first time. Although I may wait before I upgrade my server data package.

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OAP loses £16,000: It's hard to have sympathy

A story on the BBC yesterday pointed out how an OAP had fallen for an internet scam saying they were to inherit millions of pounds...but obviously they had to send some cash first. Whilst the story is meant to tug on the heart strings, as they talk about an 80 year-old widow, the story I am reading is someone who threw away their money due to greed. Whilst we don't know the full story, its hard to believe that a homeowner with £16,000 in the bank is so close to the poverty line that they saw the promises in these emails as the only way out. Greed didn't pay, boo-bloody-hoo.

My favourite part of the story was the fact that a police officer who advised "anyone who receives a scam e-mail to contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111", somehow I think the Crimestoppers line would quickly crash if someone called for every scam email...it would probably also cost the economy millions of pounds.

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Wednesday, 12 December 2007

BBC iPlayer Flash streams: Linux friendly

The Beeb have been promising flash streams for a while, and when I went to download some programmes on the iPlayer tonight, I found it had already rolled out. This should go some way to placating the linux hoardes who have been complaining. As the picture below shows it now works on firefox/linux, even on the much maligned Eee PC/RM Minibook (the rather poor quality is because I sent the picture to myself via MMS rather than messing about with a wire or bluetooth).

(nb. its Peggy and Phil in the Queen Vic kitchen).

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Social network platforms are coming thick and fast

According to the Mashable posts, by now both Friendster and Bebo should have launched their application platforms. Hitherto disenfranchised social networkers will now be able to throw sheep, be bitten by vampires, and play scrabble...it's surprising the social networks didn't wait until the 4th of July, a date worthy of such an occassion.

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PCMag v. Eee PC: PC Mag gets it wrong

Asus Eee News, Mods, and Hacks highlights PC Mag article about what not to buy in the computing world. The Eee PC (a.k.a. the RM minibook) is lucky enough to be singled out with a nice shiny photo:
The Asus Eee PC, which suffers the misfortune of being inexpensive, having integrated graphics and running Linux on a flash-memory hard drive.

Trying to sum up what not to buy in a single article is always a difficult task, and some would say that it is best not attempted as there will always be exceptions, but by picking on the Eee PC the article deserves to receive readers' wrath, totally missing the laptop's purpose. My opinion, despite having mine totally dying on me last weekend, buy an Eee PC as a second computer and it will be your favourite computer purchase ever.

As for "Don't buy: Linux", whilst I'm not its biggest fan, it is definately ready for the middle-of-the-road tech consumer. They only time I have ever attacked my computer with a screwdriver was to give the innards a bit of a dust.

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Yale put courses online

Social Media have pointed out that Yale have placed a number of courses online, whilst by no means the first to put their lectures online it is a nice little site providing all the information that you would need to complete the course.

The downside is the limited number of courses available, currently standing at 7, and unsurprisingly none of them fall into the information science field. What sort of university is Yale anyway??

Whilst I love the fact that so many universities are making courses available online, and there are loads that I would like to follow, I personally never manage to get around to following any of them.

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Blogs as the social networking future

A recent post over at GigaOm shows that I am by no means alone in believing that the future of social networking may be in the increased personalisation of blogs and personal homepages rather than social networking sites such as Facebook etc.

The question is whether the blog publishing systems can become as user-friendly as the social-networking sites.

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Tuesday, 11 December 2007

One Hundred Webometric Thoughts!

As the title of this blog would seem to suggest, this is actually the 100th blog posting on my 'Webometric Thoughts' blog since I posted my first entry a little less than 4 months ago. It therefore seems an appropriate time to reflect on both the blog, its posts, and the visitors.

When I started the blog I stated in my profile, as is still stated in my profile:
I am hoping that the blogosphere will offer an opportunity for feedback as well as the sounding-off of my personal opinions.

Unfortunately I seem to have failed to successfully take advantage of the potential of the blogosphere; useful feedback requires well thought-out opinion pieces rather than off-the-cuff thoughts on the latest sites I have come across. Nonetheless I have found the blog a useful place for sounding out my thoughts on different topics, it forces me to keep up to date with the ever-increasing number of blogs I follow, and acts as a useful aide-mémoire for some of the hundreds of sites and discussions that I come across in the average week.

Looking back at some of the posts and the aspect that immediately hits me is the wide variety of topics that I have posted on; a factor that would be likely to restrict my from getting much of a following, even if it was better written. However the eclectic blog follows my own eclectic thoughts and interests, and as I am the only person guaranteed to read every posting it will continue as such. My only disappointment is that I do not have the time to blog on every subject or news story that catches my eye, if the blog changes in the future I hope it will be by trying to include an increasing number of short entries.

Whilst my blog has very few regular readers, it is amazing how many people turn up if you put something on the web. According to Google Analytics, since I installed the necessary tracking code within my blog (9/10/07) I have had 835 absolute unique visitors, from 56 different countries/territories, from the US and Russia to Oman and Nigeria. Whilst for a long time the most noticable abscence was the French, I was finally honoured with a visit from one of them just last weekend! Whilst the numbers aren't particularly high, and the most unique visitors in one day is a mere 29, they do seem to be slowly creeping up. In fact, by the looks of today's numbers, I am on course to finally break the 30 unique visitors barrier.

Whilst blogging isn't necessarily what I expected, I have nonetheless enjoyed it and would recommended it to anyone who's thinking about it. Just don't have too high expectations.

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Message Dance could be on message...unfortunately its in private beta

Being a disillusioned ex-Facebooker is not the same as being a disillusioned ex-social networker; the web has great potential, I just find Facebook has become meaningless. Personally I would like to see the social networking future to be based on individuals having their own web space where they can then embed various different widgets. As such I was intrigued by Mashable's post on MessageDance, which enables people to post messages (via email) to a mini wall-like embedded widget which can be placed on a blog.

Whilst I was sold on the idea, and wanted to try one on this blog, Mashable had failed to point out that the service is currently in private beta....so if anyone at MessageDance does come across this, an invite would be much appreciated!

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Monday, 10 December 2007

TechCrunch v. Lessing: I'm with Lessing

According to Technorati, TechCrunch is the 3rd ranked blog on the web, but if all its posts meet the standards of its recent attack on the Nobel prize winning Doris Lessing, then it will quickly be falling down the ranking. This is not a quality piece of citizen journalism, a good reflection the democratisation of communication, it is dishonest technological-jingoism relying on quotes taken out of context and pointless insults.

Whilst the post at least has the decency to reference Lessing's speech in its entirety, how many visitors to the TechCrunch post will bother reading the original text?

Rather than asking us to do away with computers and the internet or claiming they make us ignorant, in fact she describes them as 'amazing', she is merely asking us to think more about the effects of a fragmenting culture and increased specialisation. The 'ditherings of an ignorant old woman' as TechCrunch's Duncan Riley would have us believe, or just crap journalism?

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Eee PC: I never had this much trouble with Windows

Whilst everyone else seems to be doing really exciting things with their RM Minibooks and Eee PCs, I somehow managed to completely crash mine at the weekend with it refusing to restart properly. I must, however, admit that the problems only occured after I had played around with the settings and messed about with downloading millions of bits of software.

Luckily I didn't lose any work, and on the brightside:
-The Eee PC's factory reset is brilliantly quick and simple, a couple of minutes and it was as good as new.
-I now have a much better idea of how to use Linux.

Whilst I wouldn't recommend that people deliberately crash their RM minibooks, I must say that the minibooks are a great opportunity to mess about with Linux with few problems with resetting the system.

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Friday, 7 December 2007

Fascism: When does education become propaganda?

A German politician, Katrina Schubert, has filed charges against the German Wikipedia site over use of Nazi symbols. Whilst Nazi symbols are allowed for educational and artistic purposes in Germany, they are otherwise illegal. Whilst the politician has been criticised for failing to grasp the "self-regulating mechanisms that work in Wikipedia", it is far better to question these mechanisms than blindly trust in the so-called wisdom of the crowd. In my experience too often the web 2.0 crowd includes a disproportionately large group of, for want of a better term, geek-survivalists.

When the geek-survivalists provide wikipedia with the specifications on every computer there has ever been, it can be useful. However, every single episode of Star Trek is sad, every gun there has ever been is concerning, and every intricate detail of an evil regime can be ghoulish. Whilst we can accept the pathetic excessive details of the Star Trek pages, and may even put up with the love affair with guns, if wikipedia does find itself straying into the realms of ghoulish fasination with an evil regime then it needs to be brought to account.

Whilst Schubert's colleague's criticism that "Right-wing extremism on the World Wide Web cannot be tackled via national criminal proceedings", it is nonetheless a good place to start and encourage a wider debate.

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Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Not everyone is happy with "Comes with Music"

Whilst I am personally looking forward to Nokia's "Comes with Music" (although I'm not sure why as I never listen to that much music), not everyone is so happy. They seem to be having a right old whinge over at Engadget:

-Obviously 'free to user' is not the same as free, otherwise the record labels wouldn't make any money, but the $5 "monthly tithe" on all handsets will be barely noticeable to the average end user.
-Of course the stuff will be "slathered in DRM", what do you expect for $5?? Unlike the majority of bloggers I have no problem with DRM, as long as the limitations are CLEARLY STATED before purchase.

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Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Nokia's Music Explosion

Over the last couple of day's Nokia have gone a bit music mad. Yesterday saw the release of Nokia's Internet Radio application, whilst today sees news of a "comes with music" program that enables people to buy a Nokia device with a year of unlimited access to millions of tracks (currently Universal music group but talks ongoing with other labels). Whilst the iPhone has been grabbing the headlines as (supposedly) THE multimedia device of the year, these moves make it clear that Nokia isn't going down without a fight.

Whilst I am personally thrilled by the simplicity in now getting internet radio on the move (and very grateful for getting an unlimited data package), and wouldn't be adverse to the prospect of unlimited access to songs of my choice, I must admit to being slightly apprehensive about the increased use in public places by those with little thought to others. Already the public arena seems to be filled with people playing their music for everyone to hear, and if people have more they can listen to, it seems logical that they will play more.

What I would really like to see rolled out with these music packages is the rolling out of a campaign to get people to be more thoughtful of others when playing their music/mobile tvs.

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Monday, 3 December 2007

In defence of the second-level domain name

In Stephen Fry's latest blog post he argue's against the use of the second-level domain name in the UK (e.g., co.uk, gov.uk, plc.uk...), but whilst he may write elloquently on numerous geeky subjects, on this point he is talking absolute rubbish. It should also be noted that whilst he supports his arguement with reference to other domains which don't utilise second-level domain names, he simply chooses to ignore those others that do (e.g., New Zealand).

The utilisation of second-level domains has many benefits:
- It allows for a far larger number of meaningful URLs.
- It provides an indication of the type of site.
- It can provide an indication of the trustworthiness of a site's information, and the legitimacy of the site.

Most importantly it also formed the backbone of my PhD research into Triple Helix relationships...without which the world would be a much poorer place!

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Saturday, 1 December 2007

Wii Fit out in Japan

Wii Fit is out in Japan, but the rest of us will have to continue the long wait. By the look of wii fit I would expect it to continue the wii's appeal amongst the traditional non-gamers (myself included).

Who would have guessed that gameplay would win out over better graphics and sound?

Can we blame the fast-food companies for the West's delay in getting Wii Fit? ...and possibly sue McDonald's if we get rubbish Christmas presents instead?

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