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

Friday, 29 February 2008

Drudge: An example of what is wrong with some New Media

The blogosphere always seems to be having a bit of a love affair with itself: They are a great fighter for unbiased freedom of information, whilst the traditional news sources feed us the slops of whoever has the biggest pockets. Whilst that may make the average office-bod feel like a South American freedom fighter, the truth has a lot more to do with lots of little people sounding-off with few restraints. The latest big story that was broken on the web without any restraint was that Prince Harry was fighting in Afghanistan. The story was broken by the Drudge Report whilst the traditional media had agreed to a news blackout until Harry returned.

Whilst others may question whether the media should have had a blackout, without it there would have been no story, and Harry's deployment to Afghanistan had the potential to bolster much-needed support and coverage of the war at home. The breaking of the story reflects Drudge's self-interest rather than the public interest. Did the public benefit from the breaking of the news? No. His breaking of the story is on a par with the lowest form of paparazzi journalist that knows the upskirt shot of the latest young starlet will increase a paper's sales, whatever the consequences to those involved.

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A response to Google's latest logo!

Boo, hiss.

Really obvious anniversary logos are just getting on my nerves these days.
I want less of this:

And more of this (or this):

In fact the frog is such an annoying logo I will probably be forced to use more alternative search engines than usual today.

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Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Qik Streaming Video: Scarily easy!

I came across a post on a BBC blog yesterday about a site called Qik.com, which provides an application for your mobile phone so that you can stream live video from your mobile phone to the web. Whilst it is in an alpha-release at the moment, I found my request for an invite was relatively quickly met, and at some point during the night my mobile phone received the necessary text with a link to the software.

The amazing thing about Qik is the ease with which you can start streaming video. Literally a couple of clicks on my mobile phone and I am streaming live! Obviously, like most people, my life is not filled with never ending events worthy of filming, so my first video is an extremely mundane recording of the Qik.com web site, which I click through until I enter the never ending world of me filming me filming me filming....

Whilst that isn't the most exciting video, you can embed a person's Qik channel rather than just a single video, which will then show the most recent video or a live stream:

At the time of posting these are one and the same, but who knows, I may try some streaming whilst I am out and about just to see what it is like.

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Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Hotmail down? It's definately causing trouble

Usually I am not too bothered when a web site becomes inaccessible, there are few sites I can't live without:
-YouTube, FaceBook, MySpace, Digg, Google: couldn't care less.
-BBC, Newsgator, webometrics.org.uk: slightly annoyed but happy to wait.
-Hotmail: I'm tearing my hair out!
Over the last 24hrs I have found Hotmail increasingly difficult to access, with the last few hours being nearly impossible: connections are continuously timing out.

It's unlikely that my inbox is filled with 'can't wait' job offers and business opportunities, but it's the not knowing that is driving me mad.

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Second LIfe v. EA-Land

The Sims Online is being relaunched as EA-Land, and this time its going to be free (via TechCrunch)! Hopefully EA-Land (a name which already seems to be univerally hated) will bring some much neeeded competition to the virtual world sector. Despite all the fun that some sections fo society seem to have in Second Life, I have found it a curiousity rather than a real interest, and rarely visit.

Unfortunatley, despite gaining my initial interest, EA-Land is experiancing problems with new sign-ups at the moment. However, the promise of free land, albeit small land, will probably see me try again. Will this see Second Life offer a small basic plot for free, with more extensive islands costing?

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Google Top UK Brand? Not worth reporting.

I was quite surprised to read on Search Engine Land that Google is the top brand in the UK. However, following up the story you soon realise that the the title isn't really worth that much. The ranking is actually based on a survey of '1,500 professionals', rather than the public at large, and rather than being surprised that Google has knocked the BBC from the top spot, we should be surprised that the BBC ever held the top spot in the commercially focused business world.

Whilst the more vocal elements of the online community may worship in the church of Google, I think for the average UK user (myself included) the BBC brand is still a better indicator of quality, reliability, and distinction. The factors that the survey's ranking was meant to reflect.

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Sunday, 24 February 2008

Wii goes even more retro!

According to an Engadget post a couple of days ago (I've been busy) the Wii is going to start adding C64 games to their virtual console. A console that already offers a selection of games from the NES, SNES, Nintendo 64, Sega Mega Drive, and two I had never heard of, the Neo Geo, and Turbografx.

The addition of the C64 will allow the younger generation to try real games rather than the pathetic offerings of today. Personally I am hoping for addition of Manic Miner and Chuckie Egg. If you can't get the whole level on one screen I am just not interested!

nb. My girlfriend is too young to remember the joys of computer games, rather than console games, so if Nintendo come across this: Could you please hurry up with a releasing a version of MicroMachines so she will stop going on about it. Thanks.

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Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Researcher ID: A password nightmare!

Whilst searching on ISI Web of Knowledge I came across ResearcherID. It basically assigns you a unique identifier to which you then add your publications, 'to aid in solving the common problem of author misidentification'. It's a good idea, but it has been executed badly. Even the relatively simple process of creating a password was badly worked.

These days it seems as though we all have a million different accounts, and as such we have a choice of either writing all our passwords down (stupid), using the same password everywhere (stupid), or creating our own system for establishing passwords (sensible). Unfortunately when web sites have stringent stipulations about the form of the passwords, our extremely sensible password allocation systems soon fall apart. Researcher ID has the most stupid password stipulations I have yet to come across:letters, numbers, length...and symbols!
Password Guidelines
Must be 8 or more characters (no spaces) and contain:
- at least 1 numeral: 0 - 9
- at least 1 alpha character, case-sensitive
- at least 1 symbol: ! @ # $ % ^ * ( ) ~ `{ } [ ] | \
Example: 1sun%moon

Idiots.

Additional annoyances include: rubbish search fields; and the fact it only adds records directly from ISI Web of Science, not ISI Proceedings. The site should also use the fact that researchers want to have their citations recognised, and rather than only showing the citations identified by WoS they could enable users to match up the results from cited reference searches.

Nonetheless I have created a basic page with some of my outputs. Although I doubt very much whether I will remember the password long enough to update the page.

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Bridgend and Bebo

In the last year 17 young people in Bridgend have committed suicide, and such a cluster is, unsurprisingly, getting the interest of the press. Possibly more surprising is the interest that is being given to social networking sites. For the most part it has been mentioned as an aside, i.e., the youngsters were members of the social networking site Bebo, although it seems that certain newspapers are beginning to build up a head of steam...and it's not surprising that the Daily Express is beginning to look like one of the first to lose the plot.

Today the Daily Express have roped in 'psychologist and novelist' (alternatively "writer, psychotherapist, and media commentator") Lucy Beresford to explain how:
"What could be going on is that adolescents are sharing and describing experiences on the internet...People of this age tend to be very imitative...The experiences they describe are toxic, rather than in my day when you might be influenced by magazines like Smash Hits."
Yes, in my day the world was full of balloons, chocolate, candy floss, little puppies, and butterflies, and it has all gone to hell since the demise of Smash Hits and the rise of means of communication that allow us to share our 'toxic' feelings.

I am expecting a follow-up that proves that:
1) social networking sites killed Princess Diana*
2) social networking sites encourage immigration to the UK by lazy benefit cheats

*nb. Princess Diana dies in 1997, the same year as sixdegrees.com was launched...spooky.

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Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Dailymotion offers HD Videos

TechCrunch are reporting that Dailymotion are starting to offer HD videos, streamrate 2 megabits per second. Whilst it is great that these services are starting to be offered, we are a long way from the ISPs being able to deal with any sudden surge in traffic. Currently the UK ISPs struggle to deal with the bandwidth-friendly streaming of the iPlayer!

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Free Microsoft Software for Students

Microsoft are making a number of software products free to students: Visual Studio, Expression Studio,XNA Game Studio 2.0, and Windows Server 2003. You currently need to be a student in either Belgium, China, Finland, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK or the US.

This is a winning move for both students and Microsoft. Microsoft creates great software, but it is often out of the price range of many students. This move will prevent the students moving to less user-friendly open source equivalents whilst hopefully getting them hooked on Microsoft products for life.

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Monday, 18 February 2008

Laptops to come inside cereal boxes!

OK, so I am exaggerating, but you do wonder how much cheaper they can get. Hot on the heels of the amazing Eee Pc (aka RM minibook), and the more recent cloudbook, comes news of Britain's first sub-£100 laptop: the Elonex One (via ASUS Eee News).

It's the sort of price where people will probably buy one just to see what they are like...I think I may have to buy one.

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Sunday, 17 February 2008

What's Everyone Twittering About?

Whilst I am not personally a big Twitter fan, I am interested in discovering what people are Twittering about and how the posts differ from other forms of communication. With such thoughts in mind I started my first tentative Twitter steps this evening.

Adapting an open source RSS feed reader I set about downloading the public timeline (http://twitter.com/statuses/public_timeline.rss), for which Twitter has no restrictions on the number of requests that you can send. Whilst the original plan was to download an hour's worth of data for a small pilot investigation, unfortunately I had to stop after about 45 minutes when I received Http 502 Status Code ('Twitter is down or being upgraded' rather than 'exceeded the rate limit').

The first post that was downloaded was numbered 723435732 (just after 7pm), whilst the last was numbered 723547592 (about 45 mins later). As the last number seems to be superfluous, there were a potential 11,186 posts to be downloaded, of which 6,422 posts were successfully downloaded. Many of the 'missing posts' will have been private, whilst others may have been missed due to delays in sending and receiving the RSS feed.

I have not, as yet, had time to do anything more interesting with the collected data than look at the frequency of terms using Text-Stat. So in true informetric style, here is the log-log graph of word frequency in rank-order:

Most noticeable in the frequency data is:
-Over 58% of twitter links are via tinyurl: 'http' appeared 588 times, 'tinyurl' 343 times.
-Twitterers are generally a polite bunch. The more 'popular' swear-words don't appear that often, in 6,422 posts: shit (11), fuck (6), & cunt (zero). Admittedly a large proportion are not in English and the are a few variations on the words, but nonetheless I probably swear more than all these people in my average email.
-And they are not celeb-obsessed: Britney only gets three mentions, whilst there is no word on mention of Winehouse. Instead they err on the side of the geek: windows (19), Mac (25), iPhone (20).

As the analysis shows, these are early (childish) days. But hopefully I will have the opportunity, later in the week, to create the tools to investigate the data more thoroughly before downloading a larger sample.

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Thursday, 14 February 2008

Web Impact Factors for Blogs

Oh what a tangled web we weave... has just posted an interesting article on the problems of calculating the impact of a blog. In summary: Whilst a web site's impact has traditionally been measured by dividing the number of inlinks by the number of web pages (the Web Impact Factor), the feed aggregators are having such a disproportionately large effect on the results they are useless. Whilst this is true, this is by no means the only reason for dismissing the use of the traditional WIF in determining the impact that a blog is having.

Other important factors that need to be discussed are:
1. The use of 'number of pages' as a denominator.
The number of pages has been used as a denominator to normalise for the size of organisations, whereas in this case it is normalising for the quantity of output as each of the blogs only has one author. Do we want to assess the value of individual posts, or the value of the blog/blogger?
2. The effect of the blogger posting comments on other people's web sites.
Analysis of the links to my blog from external sites (after dismissing the feed aggregators) would find that I am the author of most of them. Commenting on other people's blogs often provides a link back to your own blog, although these tend to be to the blog's homepage rather than a specific post. Do we need to dismiss these links, or do they provide a useful indicator of a blogger's contribution to the blogosphere?

Any method we use to judge the value of a blog will have its promotors and detractors often depending on how well it portrays their own work. Therefore I think we should stick with the WIF, at least until such time as my own webometric thoughts slip down the table.

nb. as an aside(-ish) I have noticed that for the first time Webometric Thoughts has leapt above both of the other webometricians' blogs on a Google.com search for 'webometrics'. Maybe Google rank is the only important indicator as it has such a disproportionately high effect on the success of a web site that all other indicators are now merely a reflection of it.

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Tuesday, 12 February 2008

De-friending on Facebook

One of the Facebook issues that is often discussed is the juggling of friends from different spheres. Would you want professional colleagues seeing what you had been up to on a drunken night out? The vicar to see your debauched holiday snaps?

An issue that is often overlooked is whether you really want to know the continuous goings-on of certain people's lives. Today I finally gave up and de-friended my brother:

Whilst his status could not be seen by any of my friends, and he never felt the need to write inappropriate comments on my wall, a person's status can slowly drive you mad.

Unfortunately de-friending on Facebook is a rather un-momentous affair. Merely being asked if you are sure you want to go ahead, told you won't be able to undo it, and told that the person will not be informed. Facebook should allow you to inform the person and provide the reason if you wish. As it was I had to resort to the traditional email to explain my actions. Maybe I should have looked for a de-friending application that offered to send some sort of animated e-card.

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Three strikes and pirates will lose their internet connection

It is being widely reported that the UK government is considering requiring internet service providers to take action against people illegalling downloading music and films: email warning, suspension,and then termination of contract. Personally I welcome the move, although I have some reservations about the effect it will have on legal internet activity. The illegal downloading of films is a problem, and potentially a bigger problem than the illegal downloading of music. Whilst music can be produced relatively cheaply by amateurs, the rubbish on YouTube is not going to be making Hollywood quality movies any time soon.

The problem that is most often identified with such legislation is that of 'piggybacking', someoneelse using an open wi-fi connection. Whilst this can most often be sorted out by password protecting your wi-fi, some of the systems are not very good and can be easily hacked. The ISPs should have a duty to provide secure wireless encryption before they can suspend or teminate a contract. If they supply a secure system, then we can be expected to utilise it.

I am more concerned about the effect it will have on public wi-fi zones. Those coffee houses and pubs that make wi-fi freely available. Unless such places are excluded from any new laws, any legislation could hold back the growing adoption of certain mobile technologies.

So, if ISPs provide secure wireless encryption and the public wi-fi spots are excluded, I broadly welcome any legislation. It will also force parents to take more interest in what their children are up to online. Whatever they may say, they are rarely doing their homework.

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Monday, 11 February 2008

Unexpected Traffic: RM minibook

The last time I had a large spike in my traffic was when I was privileged to receive a link on the BBC's del.cio.us stream, resulting in a personal record high of 76 unique visitors in a day. Early indications, however, suggest that today may see a new record set as I receive a large number of visitors from Google searches. The reason seems to be a Guardian Unlimited article on the RM minibook.

Unfortunately (for searchers) the Guardian fails to mention the more well known name of the device, the ASUS Eee PC. As such there are middle-class lefties all over the country tripping across my blog rather than finding the more useful reviews.

So, a word of advice:
If searching for information on the RM minibook, also search for 'Eee PC'
Then go out and buy one.

***A little update
The Guardian continue to post (this time on their blog)without mentioning that it is also called an Eee PC. Just one extra line would make it so much simpler for their readers.

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Saturday, 9 February 2008

Where is the truly addictive web site?

I am finding myself increasingly bored with the web, whilst this may not be a problem for most people, my job is basically researching things I find interesting on the web. No interest, no research, no job.

The problem is that I have failed to find a web site that has me truly addicted. Whilst some sites have become endemic in my online behaviour (e.g., Google), they don't particular provide me with any enjoyment. Where is the site that can give me a hit of enjoyment every time and that makes me want to return again and again with increasing regularity?

Some sites have provided me with an initial buzz, but have soon become tiresome (e.g., Facebook), whilst others are like classic comedies that you happily sit through with a faded reflection of enjoyment (e.g., JT's blocks).

What I want is multimedia-fest that streams everything I want to my screen with minimal involvement. I am fed up with clicking amongst the crap.

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Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Joiku and the Eee PC (RM Minibook)

I don't usually get my S60 news from GigaOm, but they have highlighted a potentially useful application that can turn the N95 (or other phone with the S60 operating system) into a wireless hotspot: Joiku. It is VERY important to take into consideration the data package that your phone comes with before adding it, and unfortunately it doesn't come with any security, so once your phone's a hotspot, anyone can connect to it!

As the Eee PC doesn't come with bluetooth, there may be occassions when you want to access the web and don't have the required wire, and therefore Joiku seems a useful solution. You will, however, need to change the wireless connection settings so the mode is 'ad-hoc' rather than 'auto' for the connection to be enabled, and even then I found trouble getting the computer to connect. It automatically loads the joikuspot.com homepage first, and I found this took AGES!

Whether the problems I encountered are due to something I am doing wrong, or a problem at Joiku's end I don't know, but if it gets sorted it will definately find a permanent place on my phone.

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Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Reflections on Google's Share Price

A posting by TechCrunch has caused me to reflect once more on Google's share price. I have posted on the Google Share price twice previously:
- How quickly could Google stock crash? (when they crossed the $600 mark at the beginning of October)
- Google shares at $700 (at the end of October)
Whilst I initially said that I would (theoretically) sell at $700 and never look back, the rapid growth made me think it would probably be worth hanging around for the $1,000. My first instincts, however, were correct, reminding us once more of the dangers of being too greedy on the stock exchange. Now, with Google shares falling rapidly to $495 the question on everyones lips is how much further will they fall?

Whilst Google shares have lost a third of their value they are only back to their August value. The rapid rise can be seen as a momentary aberration, any big downturn in the economy is yet to show in the share price. So my latest Google share prediction:
The shares will bob around the $500 mark until Microsoft's buyout of Yahoo is confirmed, at which point it was drop down to the $450 mark (possibly even as low as $400. Extremely slow growth, or even recession in the US will then see shares fall to $350.
What can Google do? Buying Yahoo would be seen as desperation, and I doubt they could match Microsoft's offer. Basically they have to just keep doing what they are doing and hope that more people don't start questioning whether or not they are living up to 'do no evil'. Personally I find myself slowly breaking the Google spell and typing ask.com more often.

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Monday, 4 February 2008

Google is Unhappy...Good.

Personally I wondered how much an effect a Yahoo-Microsoft merger would have on the Google train, but Google's blog reaction seems to suggest they are definately worried and are going to try and play on consumers' lingering anti-Microsoft feelings. Although I wonder whether Google should really be playing the anti-monopoly card? Definate case of glass houses.

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Sunday, 3 February 2008

Google's Social Graph API

The blogosphere never sleeps, and the big story always appears just after you log-off. One such story was the launch of Google's Social Graph API, which all the big names blogged about shortly after I last checked my newsgator feeds on Friday (GigaOM, ReadWriteWeb, TechCrunch).

As a researcher who studies so-called web 2.0 technologies I am very excited, although as web users it may be time to be mildly concerned (if you weren't already).

Whilst Google will only be drawing together publicly available information, to a certain extent such information has previously been private due to the difficulty in collecting it. If an academic wanted to create something similar, I can imagine them having a lot of problems getting it past an ethics committee.

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Friday, 1 February 2008

There is only one story: Microsoft offer $44.6bn for Yahoo!

I have not had a chance to check out the blogosphere today, but I am guessing that there is only one big story, Microsoft's offer of $44.6bn in cash and shares for Yahoo. Whilst the rumour has been spreading for a while that either Google or Microsoft would buy out Yahoo, it is still a shock to read that the offer has been made. Personally I would like to see Yahoo compete successfully as an independent company, but if it has to be bought I would rather see it bought by Microsoft than Google.

Google is too powerful a web presense, especially in the realm of search. Having a single organisation that provides access to all the information on the web doesn't really bare thinking about, but that is the situation we seem to be (sleep)walking towards. Surely we have passed the point where Google's success in web search has meant that it has broken its "do no evil" philosophy.

This is the wake-up call that we need to start breaking the Google addiction. Personally I will be heading to Ask.com for my searching...as long as I remember.

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Webometrician out of retirement: When is a blog ever dead?

After almost a year without a single post the original webometrics blogger has decided to start blogging again. Whilst a more suspicious blogger would put the sudden revival down to the next generation of bloggers starting to encroach upon the top search engine results for the webometrics field, we will choice to believe the "loss of login details" excuse.

The question of when a blog can be officially pronouced 'dead' arises a lot in webometric investigations of the blogosphere. Many studies ignore blogs that have not been updated in the last week, 2 weeks, or the last month. Maybe it is more appropriate to consider all blogs active, unless they state otherwise.

Whilst I welcome any academic back to the blogosphere, maybe future posts will be a bit more accurate that the last:
"Live Search withdrawal of all link search operators"
Whilst Live Search have severely limited the operators it offers, they still offer a linkfromdomain operator, which provides results that are not available via Yahoo or Google.

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