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

Thursday, 29 May 2008

bbc.co.uk: Reviewed

In its extensive review of bbc.co.uk the BBC Trust concludes (amongst other things):
bbc.co.uk is an excellent service that is highly valued by users and makes a strong contribution to delivering the BBC's public purposes

Definitely the most obvious finding ever. Although the 75 page report does have some other interesting bits and pieces.

Whilst we all follow our Google Analytics, few of us could afford the traffic levels of the BBC:

My own hosting package (with streamline.net) includes un-restricted visitor bandwidth, however the most any of their customers uses is 1313.07GB, a thousandth of the BBC's traffic. It would be interesting to see how the traffic has increased since December with the iPlayer (it didn't launch to all until December 25th).

As someone who has enjoyed a limited amount of traffic from the BBC it is interesting to see the number of click-throughs they send:

My own 202 visitors from the BBC (over a number of months) quickly pales in comparison to these figures.

Whilst overall things at the BBC seem to be on the up, I was particularly pleased to notice that there seems a slight downward trend on the Have Your Say section of the site.

It sounds good to let the public publish their opinions, unfortunately most of them are extremely odious.

Unfortunately not everything is positive. The BBC got a bit carried away with their spending so the commercial rivals are having a bit of a whinge. However, the BBC is not competing with ITN or ITV, they're competing with the world. If we want to have the British perspective promoted to the world, rather than a right-wing US perspective, then we need a strong BBC.

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Merging Worlds

The have been a number of launches recently that have brought the web and the desktop closer together. Microsoft's Office Live (which I have been using regularly since its launch) has been joined by Live Mesh (which I was finally allowed to join yesterday); Yahoo are trying to merge the two worlds with their BrowserPlus; whilst yesterday saw the launch of a Google Earth plugin so it can be viewed in a browser.





Whilst having files or programs stuck in one place will soon seem very old fashioned, it did have advantages:
- You generally had a choice about whether to take the office home with you.
- And most importantly you always had an excuse for not doing a piece of work...'it's finished, just on my other flash drive/laptop/computer'.

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Monday, 26 May 2008

Microsoft concedes more ground to Google

Microsoft announced on Friday that they are ending their Live Search Books and their Live Search Academic projects. Whilst you can't blame them, you can't help but feel slightly disappointed at the increasing dominance of Google on the web. If Microsoft can't give Google a run for their money, who can?

The first comment in response to Microsoft's blog announcement pretty much explains why Live Search Books and Live Search Academic are closing down "...this is first time i hear about book search...". After the initial buzz around the launch of the services, they quickly dropped into the background with few people using them. It wasn't just about monetizing the service, it was about getting people to use them. Personally I found them very un-user-friendly, and at one stage I seem to remember having to access Live Search Academic with Firefox as is it wasn't compatible with the latest version of Microsoft's own Internet Explorer. Whilst there have been numerous academic papers investigating Google Scholar, I can't recollect one investigating Live Search Academic. Most people just didn't like the services.

However, whilst I can't mourn the passing of the poor Live Search Books and Live Search Academic, I can't help but worry about the unstoppable Google behemoth. One of the first questions I ask of any new innovative service is: "Can this break Google's domination?". Unfortunately, all too often, the answer is no.

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Friday, 23 May 2008

The Strange Case of the Webometrician's Fan

It sometimes feels as though there is no piece of information, or opinion, that cannot be found online. If people have something in a digital format it seems natural for a large proportion of the population to publish it on the web, with little thought as to whether they would really want people looking at it for years to come.

Today my attention was drawn by the head of my research group, who had been engaging in some google-self-abuse (although he claims he was looking to see if his latest paper had been published yet), to one particular term paper: '“Webometrics”: Through the eyes of Mike Thelwall'. After working with Mike for four years I can assure readers that his appalling t-shirts are testiment to the fact he is not head of the 'Sense of Humor Diagnosis Service'.

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Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Is hot traffic ever rich traffic?

Quick Online Tips have posted about the effect on their traffic due to being mentioned on the BBC's Click. One of the points that they noticed was that the extra visitors didn't click on the Google Ads, something I have found whenever I have had an increase in traffic.

Whilst my Webometric Thoughts aren't in the same traffic-ball-park as Quick Online Tips (since I started keeping statistics on Oct 9th I have had 8,609 absolute unique visitors, less than QOT has in the average day), there have nonetheless been a few occasions when I have seen an unexpected rise in traffic: mentions on the BBC's internet blog,a recent rise due to my Wii Fit posts, and a comment I posted on Engadget (surprisingly producing my personal high of 176 absolute unique visitors in a day). But the rise rarely corresponds to a rise in ad-clicks.

As I am only discussing a low number of visitors in it hard to draw firm conclusions about the relationship between the number of visits and ad-clcks, although I think it probably goes something like this: Although a small proportion of all visitors will click on an ad, the proportion will be slightly higher for more regular visitors due to factors such as trust, and wanting a site to do well.

I would be interested to know if anyone has ever had a rise in traffic from one source that was particularly rich. Not necessarily a lot of clicks, just a high percentage.

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Monday, 19 May 2008

Wii Fit Diary - End of Week 3

Last Friday saw me ending my 3rd week on the Wii Fit. Unfortunately the week saw my BMI rise for the second week in a row, despite accumulating 6hrs 43mins in comparison to the previous week's 4hrs 50mins.

It doesn't look good for this week either, having already failed to workout either Saturday or Sunday. Defiantly time to put in some extra effort, and not just on the fun little balance games.

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Will Twitter Go Mainstream?

With the arrival of my ancient PhD supervisor on Twitter, it seems an appropriate time to reflect on how mainstream Twitter could become. Whilst the amount of Twitter discussion on the blogosphere and the number of sites that are based on Twitter would seem to indicate a burgeoning community, my experience is that it hasn't moved beyond the web 2.0 geeks (which is also the conclusion of Compete.com too). Personally I am still failing to see a killer Twitter application, maybe that's because there just isn't one, or maybe we need to see the twitterings seperated from Twitter.

Twitter has been getting some good publicity recently as a news source, primarily because of the speed with which twitterings were appearing about the China eathquake but as ReadWriteWeb point out, Twitter is in no way a substitution for the traditional media. Earthquakes and other mass-news events are really the only occassions Twitter is likely to focus on one story: Millions of people on the ground feel an earthquake and it unsurprisingly makes a lot of noise, if I twittered about a murder outside my window it would barely make a ripple. For all the good publicity, news will not make Twitter mainstream.

Although I am not a big fan of Twitter, I do see some potential in micro-blogging. Not as a seperate service, but rather as an integrated part of people's web presence. There are occassions when 140 characters would suffice for the odd musing I may be having, or for a link I wish to comment on, but I don't necessarily want to use a specific site for this microblogging. It would be nice if I could microblog on my own site, follow other microblogs on my own site, and possibly even converse through microblog posts on my own site. I want to keep my own content. Twitter could provide a place for those without their own web space, as well as a central directory of microblogs. Maybe then microblogging could go mainstream.

nb. Before anyone says 'they're called tweets not twitterings', I personally think that 'twittering' better reflects the continuous-droning-pointlessness of so many of the so-called 'tweets'.

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Crazy Finns, but not quite 1984

Personally I am a fan of all stories that make the Finns look silly; a justifiable penance for the creation of the Moomins. Last week Mashable reported that the Copyright Information and Anti-piracy Centre had disconnected a Finnish government office for downloading music illegally. I love the idea of disconnecting people who illegally share files, although the problem will always be with those who are downloading on someoneelse's network. Is this story true? It sounds unlikely, and I could only find a reference to it on Mashable, and TorrentFreak (who they reference) on Google News. Nonetheless it provides the opportunity to have a little rant about the constant mentioning of 1984: the book's cover accompanies this particular Mashable 'article', and it is also mentioned on a previous Mashable article the author references.

Reading the blogospere it often seems that the only book anyone has ever read is 1984. Whilst I am a fan of Orwell's work, I don't necessarily think that every occasion any level of surveillance is mentioned it is necessary to compare such surveillance with Orwell's dystopian vision. Surely there is some Godwin's law equivalent for the invocation of 1984 whenever a government tries to restrict a technophile's unfettered use of a technology.

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Blogging Excuses

I always seem to have some excuse for not blogging at the moment, although since I posted a blog post last Wednesday I have collected a host of excuses:
-Thursday/Friday - My home internet connection was down. This is a bit of a rubbish excuse really as I could still access the web via my mobile and Eee PC. However it is a lot easier to blog on the big screen, especially when you have numerous windows open.
-Saturday/Sunday - So much to do on the allotment, with rows and rows of tomatoes now planted out. If you think I update this blog rarely you should see Plot 13!
-Monday morning - Newsgator seems to have been down. This is the first time I have had a problem with Newsgator since transfering from Bloglines back in January. So, whilst it was annoying for a few hours, it was actually a nice reminder of how good a service Newsgator is in comparison to Bloglines who seemed to have a picture of their 'plumber' up every other day.

Anyway, now is the time for catching up, including the results of Week 3 of the Wii Fit Diary.

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Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Yahoo!Buzz overtakes Digg

The ComScore finding that Yahoo!Buzz has overtaken Digg is being widely discussed(e.g., ReadWriteWeb, Mashable). So what does Yahoo!Buzz have that Digg doesn't?

There are two big differences: The publishers; and the audience. You can't just Buzz any old page on Yahoo, instead it has to be one of a select group of publishers, which Yahoo is increasing on a rolling basis. Whilst the Yahoo!Buzz audience is also more mainstream, closely resembling the average internet audience, rather than those geek-survivalist-libertarians ("it's all a conspiracy because it said so in a film I downloaded illegally on the internet").

Which is better? Well that depends on what you want? Rather than bad news for Digg, this could actually be seen as good news for the Digg community. Yahoo!Buzz provides a place for the mainstream users to go, and stop interrupting the conspiracy theories that are so much more interesting than reality. Whereas the mainstream user no longer needs to put up with the opinions of Digg-pin-ups like Rosie O'Donnell.

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Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Top ranked online newspaper in UK: The Sun

There used to be a time when the Guardian ruled the online newspaper world, but whilst it continues to produce quality journalism the other newspapers have caught up. ComScore have declared that The Sun Online now has the most total unique visitors, whereas the Guardian had long ago lost the number one position of total minutes on a newspaper site. What happened to the digital divide that was meant to keep the Sun readers offline?

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Who needs more than 5,000 Facebook Friends?

You have to wonder what sort of person needs more than the 5,000 friends that Facebook currently allows, but, nonetheless, they are going to list the restriction. Is this the occasion when I should let my hair down and start friending everyone? Or should I stick to my current strict friend policy that saw me de-friend my own brother due to his appalling (and vocal) taste in music?

They are very strange creatures who follow and friend everything that moves, and you have to wonder what filled their lives before the internet.

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Saturday, 10 May 2008

Wii Fit Diary - How is everyone else getting on?

As I have just earned myself a platinum pig, due to accumulating 20 hours on the Wii Fit, it seems an appropriate time to see how others are getting on with their Wii Fits.

Whilst there are a number of people out there keeping Wii Fit diaries, or at least posting about the Wii Fit occassionally, they will soon be over-shadowed by Engadget's 30 day test which has just started; it was nice getting the traffic whilst it lasted.

Wii-Fit-Me-Fit is providing an unbelievably detailed diary of her Wii Fit activities, which generally account for 30mins a day. Now on day nine, her BMI dropped from 30.08 to 30.05 in the first week. Whilst I wouldn't have thought 30 mins a day would be enough, that is also the aim of Assasin, and he lost 5lbs in the first week! I was beeginning to get big headed about my first week's loss of 3lbs, but it doesn't look as impressive now. 30 mins a day seems to be what most people are aiming for, but not everyone is giving the details.

It's good to see how others are getting on, although a shame that some only keep going for a week (incl. Wired), it will definately take many weeks for the Wii Fit to make a difference.

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Wii Fit Diary - End of Week 2

Yesterday saw the end of my second week with a wii fit, unfortunately not a particularly successful week. My weight continues to be 14st 2lbs, whith the more accurate body mass index showing a slight rise from 26.21 to 26.27.

Whilst the Wii Fit Age hasn't shown the highs of the first week, it hasn't shown the lows either. All in all, the results show a need to use it more often. Over the whole week only 4hrs 50mins were accumulated.

Is the Wii Fit losing some of its shine already? Or was it just a particularly busy week? Only time will tell.

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Thursday, 8 May 2008

Borders to stock e-book reader

Borders are claiming to be the first UK retailer to sell an e-book reader this weekend. They have decided to stock the iLiad (presumably the new one rather than the original), at a cost of £399. But who will buy one from a bookshop?

I think Borders have probably moved a bit too soon on this one, the general public just aren't ready for ebooks yet, and those geeks who do want one will either buy an iLiad online or, more likely, wait for a Kindle. Personally I am not a fan of e-books, and definitely not a fan off a £399 initial outlay however many public domain works they bundle with it (currently 50). Thinking about it, however, I don't know if there is a price that would make me interested. The traditional book is just too damned nice.

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Booby-trapped media file :-)

The BBC are reporting that a fake media file has been widely seeded on file-sharing networks. Supposedly the biggest outbreak for 3years. As a person who doesn't illegally download songs or films, it is the sort of story that makes me smile. Would you feel sorry for the burglar who scratched himself on the broken window?

Most people don't steal films and music because of an unerring belief in the faults of the intellectual property laws; they steal because they want the music and films and don't want to pay for them. There are problems with the intellectual property laws, but stealing is not the right way to go about changing them. If you don't want to pay, then don't watch/listen.

It would be interesting if the record and film industries started seeding these trojans, after all people would be damaging themselves through carrying out an illegal act.

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Email v. Royal Mail

In the age of instant communication and gratification the traditional mail service is often the object of ridicule, so-called 'snail mail'. As such we can forget how good a service it actually is: 36p for a first class letter anywhere in the UK is amazing when you think about it. My positive impression of the Royal Mail has been reinforced this morning with the arrival of my latest DVD from lovefilm.com (a service I highly recommend). Whilst the DVD was not sent until the 8th of May (i.e., today), it nonetheless managed to arrive on the 8th of May (at about 10.30am)!

I can't say exactly what time the DVD was sent as the email informing me of its dispatch is currently missing-in-action.

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Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Things I should have blogged about...

It is now five days since my last blog, for which I have no excuse. There have been stories that have caught my attention and about which I would usually have blogged:
Wikipedia gets published - should writers get paid?
Yahoo shares tumble after Microsoft pulls bid
Microsoft introduces Popfly for games
..but somehow I have failed to start tapping away at my keyboard. As blogging is 90% habit, a brief blog about things I should have blogged about is an easy way of getting me back into the habit.

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Friday, 2 May 2008

xRank Musician Feature: Exactly the same as celebrity list!

Before advertising a new feature it is always best to check that it works: xRank has added a musicians list to its celebrity list. However, unless I am very much mistaken, the two lists are exactly the same (nb. you can click on the pics to see them more clearly):
xRank Celebrity
xRank Musician
May I take this opportunity to congratulate Daniel Day Lewis on his new single.

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Blogging in the Future...or even when you're dead

Whilst logging into Blogger today I noticed a new service they are offering: the ability to blog in the future. Write a blog to day, and then tell Blogger when you want it published. Whilst this offers the potential to publish blog when you are away from the computer, or even when you're dead, personally I prefer to see a post posted and dated when it is written. Obviously people have always been able choose the date to put on a published works, but to add a feature that helps in this deception seems wrong.

Time on the web has always been a difficult concept to pin down, and has just become more difficult.

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Wii Fit Diary - End of Week 1

After having my Wii Fit for one week, am I any closer to gaining a six pack? Not really. Although there have been steps in the right direction, there is still a long way to go.

Despite the fluctuations in my weight over the week, overall I have somehow manage to lose 3 lbs! According to the Wii Fit my weight has fallen from 14st 5lbs to 14st 2lbs...has the Wii Fit broken already? Part of the fluctuation is attributable to the different times of day I have weighed myself, today I tested myself within an hour of the original test.

My Wii Fit Age has fluctuated even more, ranging from an impressive 24 to a disappointing 42. The fluctuations reflect the randomness of the tests that Wii Fit gives you; whereas I score highly on some, I do badly on others.

The biggest problem with the Wii Fit is finding the time to fit it in. Accruing an hours worth of exercise probably takes nearer to an hour and a half, or two hours. Whilst at the weekend I managed to collect the maximum 180mins each, this proved impossible on a work day. Total exercise time accrued: 13hrs 56mins.

More time is necessary before any conclusions regarding the Wii Fit can be reached.

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A Third Way

If there is one subject that is likely to get me talking/spouting-off/ranting for hours, it is politics. Therefore I have finally decided to write down some of my rants in a new blog: Politico-mania. It is not a blog that will change the world, but maybe it will stop me feeling as though I will explode at the ignorance of the masses.

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Thursday, 1 May 2008

Local Election Day! A tale of two cities

Democracy has always struck me as a rather stupid idea; I no more want the general public making decisions about the most appropriate economic strategy, or the merits of joining the Euro, than I would want them performing open-heart surgery. Nonetheless, democracy is what we have, and luckily the more objectionable views of the puppet-majority manage to get watered-down by the representational aspect of our democratic system (God help us if technology ever gives us direct democracy). However, in spite of my dislike of democracy, I love the election coverage. The day after general elections are always a write-off, whilst even the local elections are liable to get me watching until 3 or 4 in the morning. Whilst the BBC provides great coverage, the web provides us with the opportunity for enhanced electoral coverage at the local level.

Coverage of the local elections tends to report the overall results of the council, rather than the results of individual wards; the simplicity of video streaming means that the web can provide that coverage. Being able to view the local council results would hopefully encourage people to think about local policies and engage with the councillors on issues that matter; too often local issues are over shadowed by national issues and protest votes. I was pleased to note yesterday that Birmingham council will be streaming the results live, although as always Wolverhampton is the poor relation: "Results will be posted on this website on 2 May". Not even a live posting as the results come in! As on-the-cheap streaming could be accomplished through qik and an N95, or results published as they happen via something as simple as Twitter, you really have to despair at Wolverhampton's lack of effort.

Just remember, voting for the BNP is not a "protest vote", it is vote for fear, ignorance and fascism, not the sort of things that make Britain Great.

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