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

Saturday, 27 September 2008

My first e-book: An Unsocial Socialist

It isn't the first time I have tried to read an ebook, but it is the first time I have read one all the way through. My previous attempt was as an undergraduate at Loughborough University (approx. 2002), and despite the nifty little ebook reader, the book was not particularly to my liking. In comparison Shaw's 'An Unsocial Socialist' fits nicely with my general approach to society at large, and my opinions of Tories in particular (i.e., selfish, idiots, or both); it had me hooked to the end. Whilst I have yet to see an ebook reader that hopes to challenge more than the fringes of the codex market, the prevalence of freely available pdf books (e.g., 20 Free eBooks about Social Marketing) is beginning to persuade me that there is a place for these devices. Whilst I have found myself coveting the reasonably priced Sony Reader (tempting me every time I walk into my local Waterstones), I don't particular want to carry around an additional electronic device. I therefore decided to try reading a book on my N95 using Mobi Reader.

The advantage of reading a book on a mobile phone is that most people carry their mobile with them always. The disadvantage is, in the same way as a dedicated ebook reader, you are more concerned about damaging or losing the device. One of my favourite times to read is walking down the street, however I found myself acutely aware of the fact that my phone was much more likely to be the target of an opportunistic thief than a 10p novel from a charity shop. Nonetheless, despite fears for my phone, I found the N95/Mobi Reader combo to provide a useful reading device, and if those who create the free pdf versions would also make a free Mobi Reader version of their books I would never look at a Sony Reader again.

Nb. If you do want to create your own ebook for the Mobi Reader then All About Symbian had a useful post the other week.

Update: Using the Mobipocket Reader desktop version makes converting PDFs to the mobile reader AMAZINGLY easy. I can't believe I haven't been doing this for years.

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Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Google Insights for Search: Term order is all important!

Unfortunately most poor academics don't have access to the same data as Bill Tancer, instead we generally have to make do with the crumbs from Google and the other search engines. This morning however, I was reminded about how careful we need to be when using the tools the search engines offer us.

Today I was using Google Insights for Search to compare the term cybermetrics and webometrics. Whilst I am part of the Statistical Cybermetrics Research Group, as a group we tend to discuss 'webometrics'. Google Insights for Search clearly shows that whilst there was once a time when cybermetrics ruled supreme, webometrics is now far more popular.

More importantly, however, I also noticed that Iran wasn't highlighted on the map for the term 'webometrics', despite Iran have a (relatively) strong webometrics community.

Basically, because Iran does not appear in the results for 'cybermetrics' (which was my first search term), it is not calculated for 'webometrics'. If I had added the term 'webometrics' first, then the term 'cybermetrics' the map would have looked very different:

The solution would seem to be to include a universal search term first, but those that immediately spring to mind are not necessarily the sort that you would want appearing on a corporate slide-show.

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"One third of bloggers have received free products"

I'm beginning to take the general attitude to my blog personally. Whilst I kept calm when I read that the mean income from a blog with advertising is $6,000 p.a., to find that a third of bloggers have received free products through their blogs is a bit hurtful.

According to Technorati the top categories of free products that everyone else seems to be receiving are: DVDs, music, books and video; Computers; Electronics. Do I not read? Listen to music? Watch DVDs? Spend a small fortune on electronics I can't afford?

Admittedly music and DVDs are slightly out of the remit of this blog, and I don't currently have the traffic to encourage large companies to send me the latest laptops or mobiles for testing, but I wouldn't mind receiving the occassional web/library-based book. These things cost me a fortune. It should be noted, however, that I can be quite a harsh reviewer. A highlight from my review in the latest Library Hi Tech (26(3)):
...this book suffers from the substandard quality of some of the research... pieces that pique your interest only to suddenly be cut short, or, more annoyingly, misrepresent personal opinions as objective research

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Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Technorati's State of the Blogosphere 2008

Technorati are releasing their annual state of the blogosphere during the course of this week. Giving a round up of who is blogging, how often they are blogging, and what they are blogging about. It shows that whilst I epitomise the average blogger, that isn't enough in the scale-free network of the web.

The average blogger is male, 18-34, 'college' graduate, and have a household income over $75,000. They have been blogging over two years and half have a second blog.

However, whilst I blog regularly and find myself firmly in the top half of active blogs (1.5 million blogs posted in the last 7 days, Technorati ranks me 601,571), I earn nowhere near the mean annual revenue for those with advertising: $6,000. My current Google AdSense earnings: $16.61. The reason for this discrepancy is the power-law distribution of traffic and earnings; most of the bloggers are hanging around in that long tail. If Technorati has decided to show the mode average of blogs with advertising, it would probably be have been nearer to my measly $16.61 dollars.

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Monday, 22 September 2008

Read v. Write Web

It is rather depressing to find that people are more interested in what I read on the web than what I write on the web. Just 25 days ago I started a customizable Reddit to highlight links I find of interest. Today more people are subscribed to my Webometrics Reddit than are subscribed to my blog!

It would be interesting to know whether there is a large cross-over between the groups. Are there people subscribed to the Webometrics Reddit who have never even heard of Webometric Thoughts? And how many of the Webometric Thoughts subscribers ever bother to leave their RSS-feed reader and actually look at the changing Webometrics Reddit in the sidebar?

All that I can be sure of is:
1) Taking the time to highlight links has had no effect on the traffic to my blog.
2) No-one else from the webometrics community has bothered to highlight anything! Shame on them.

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Thursday, 18 September 2008

Google Shares Tumbling!

Google is the sort of company you either love or hate. It's therefore not surprising that people keep an eye on it's share price, cheering on its rise or fall depending one's inclination. Personally I cheer on its fall, and it's tumbling again.

In the current volatile market it seems Google is likely to dip to its lowest price for a year. The rallying of the price in April (when Mashable told the naysayers to eat their words) seems to have been a brief reprieve. The next big marker to look out for after today will be the 300 mark.

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Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Technorati finds some AMAZING links

Technorati is often getting bad press these days, but whilst I still check it ocassionally I must admit that it isn't the most accurate blog search engine. According to Technorati some of my links are extremely old:

14,129 days ago equates to Thursday 1st January 1970 (according to timeanddate.com). That is, unsurprisingly, before my blog was created, before I was created, and (presumably) before the SCIT blog was created.

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Academia.edu

Academia.edu is a new social network(ing) site for academics (TechCrunch). Should you add this to your busy SNS life? To a limited extent.

The academic community would definately benefit from a dedicated SNS, after all, our needs are very different from the general user and the business user. However, I found Academia.edu to be extremely slow and not particular user-friendly.

In its current state, spending hours on your Academia.edu profile could very easily be wasted. If they improve on the speed and the user-friendliness, however, it could definately be a useful site. Solution: just put up a basic profile for now, and wait to see if it improves and how much interest it generates. If you really are desperate to waste a lot of time on another SNS, then jump into the Hoff's; taking pointless SNS to their logical extremes.

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Why are Nigerian letters so badly written?

Whilst half my emails are seemingly going missing, the Nigerian letters still somehow manage to get through:

What I don't understand is why they are so badly written. A 'citizen of Wales presently in England'? The nationalists haven't quite got their way yet. And why would such a 'citizen' have an email address with a Hong Kong top-level domain name? Surely there is a need for a site explaining how to create a plausible Nigerian letter.

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Tuesday, 16 September 2008

My email nightmare...

I have posted before about the troubles that I am having with my email, but it seems to be getting worse. Lots of emails just aren't making it into my Hotmail inbox these days, they don't even make it into the spam box, they just disappear. What is particularly strange is that the missing emails are generally from university addresses rather than the throw-away email accounts that are more likely to be filled with spam.

So, the point of this post: if you email me and don't get a response, I'm sorry but it's probably because I never received it. Please try again, and CC in Bill Gates so he is aware of my plight.

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Thursday, 11 September 2008

Yahoo Vanity Searching

Like everyone else, I too suffer from vanity searches: Am I on the first page of results for 'David Stuart'? Does Webometric Thoughts hit the front page for the term 'webometrics'? Unfortunately my name is rather popular (or is that common??) and I often don't appear until page 6 or 7. I therefore thought it would be a good idea to automate the process.

Obviously what everyone really cares about is their Google result. Unfortunately those Google F--- W--- changed their api a couple of years ago, and it's no longer much use for the sort of things I want to do (or if it is I don't know how to do it). As such I turned to good old Yahoo.

Enter search term:

Enter site:



On submitting the above form a program is run that pulls off the Yahoo results 100 at a time for a particular query. It then searches for the appearance of a particular URL (or part of a URL) on the page of results, and if it is there, identifies whereabouts on the page it is. It keeps going until it finds the first page of results it is on, or hits the maximum number of results Yahoo lets you see (i.e., 1,000). As it may have to run up to 11 searches on Yahoo, you may need to give it a few seconds.

Notes:
-Use addition signs rather than spaces for more than one term, e.g., webometric+thoughts
-Yes with only a few extra lines I could have allowed multiple urls, multiple terms, and stopped it highlighting the same record twice...but I didn't.

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Friday, 5 September 2008

To Comment or To Post?

Sometimes you read a blog post and you feel compelled to make a response, either by leaving a quick comment on their site or blogging on the subject yourself. Whilst we make such decisions on the spur-of-the-moment, it is important to choose carefully. A blog is not only a means of publishing your thoughts to the world, it is also an aide-mémoire, and if you only comment on a subject your thoughts may become lost. I have just spent/wasted 30 minutes trying to track down some thoughts I had almost a year ago.

Om Malik had just posted on Joost killing their desktop client, a sensible move that I remembered writing something about a long time ago. Unfortunately searching through my blog posts only revealed a reference to a plugin by Joost be Valk. Had I started to imagine a virtual past? Was I one step away from claiming to work at CERN in the 1980s? Luckily I eventually tracked my thoughts down to a rather rubbish comment on TechCrunch last October.

Yes, in this case, it did turn out that the thoughts weren't really worth remembering, but it would have plagued me for years if I hadn't managed to find them. I will comment more carefully in the future

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Webometrician v. Webometrician: Who will conquer the world first?

One of the joys of Google Analytics is watching the map slowly filling up as you get traffic from different parts of the world. However, whilst North America and Western Europe quickly fill up, other parts of the world have been more reluctant to visit my Webometric Thoughts. Almost a year after I started using Google Analytics there has still been no traffic from many countries in Africa.

Oh, what a tangled web we weave... is wondering how to start filling his map, hoping to attract visitors from Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia, Armenia, and Moldova. Whilst I am also waiting for some traffic from Belarus and Georgia, at least I can sleep comfortably in the knowledge of 28 visits from the Ukraine, 2 from Armenia, and 1 from Moldova.

Whilst the gauntlet has been thrown down by Kim at Oh, what a tangled web we weave..., I would expect the Belarusian, Georgian, and Armenian traffic to arrive by the end of the week (especially as I have sensibly included the demonyms as well as country names). And whilst Kim has decided to include the terms Google and Facebook in his post to increase the liklihood of traffic, I'm going with the Google Insights for Search suggestions of Minsk, Tbilisi, and Yerevan.

Update: Ooops...just realised I was chasing Armenian traffic after already having had Armenian traffic. So it should really say "I would expect the Belarusian, Georgian, and EXTRA Armenian traffic to arrive by the end of the week"

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Chrome: The world's quickest porn browser

It is always a bit of a chore to catch up on RSS feeds after a couple of days away, but the release of Chrome has taken the blogosphere by storm in a way I have never seen before.

Whilst Blogpulse shows that 1.5% of all blog posts were about Chrome, it was probably nearer 25% of all the posts in my RSS reader. Even the most irregular of bloggers were compelled to post an opinion. So, is Chrome any good, and how quickly will it grab market share?

Chrome is amazingly quick, the bloggers are impressed, the press have decided not to take the 'porn' browser line they did with Internet Explorer 8 - Beta 2, and it's promoted on the Google homepage. Whilst it has been suggested that Chrome will take 15-20% of the browser market within 2yrs, I expect to see it grow faster than that.

Not only will Chrome quickly gain market share, they will be getting it primarily from Microsoft, not Firefox. Without extentions the Firefox geeks are unlikely to be swayed in the long term, whilst the simplicity and speed will quickly appeal to the average user. From Microsoft's point of view, it will give Google access to sort of data that they wanted to leverage with their BrowseRank.

Verdict: Unless Microsoft produce something amazingly innovative in the next couple of years, Google will own the web within 10 years.

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The reason for my delay...

The release of Chrome was the biggest browser story for years. Unfortunately, due to its release on Tuesday revolving around Eastern Standard Time (I only recognise GMT), and my being in Loughborough on Wednesday and Thursday with only a linux computer for company, I have only just had the opportunity to try Chrome. First impressions are mixed, but these things take time.

I did, however, get the opportunity to discover mouth kiss urinals at the Newshouse in Loughborough:

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Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Waiting for Chrome

When you wake up thinking "I can't wait to try Chrome" [that's Google's new browser if you have been living living under a rock for 24hrs], you realise that you spend too much time working and thinking about the online world. It is, however, an important move that could shake up the way we use the web for years to come.

Chrome is being promoted as the first step in the brave new world without Windows, it will be the web OS. 'Hooray' shout the Google worshippers, professing their love for a service they have not yet tried: "I love Chrome already and I haven’t even tried it yet" says an irrational TechCrunch, presumably shortly before taking a much needed very cold shower.

I have mentioned before that I was waiting for a browser that fundamentally changes our surfing behaviour, but it would be a shame if it came from Google. But there again, for all the noise their launches attract, they haven't been particularly great products in recent times (e.g., Knol, Lively). So maybe there is still time for a new entry into the browser market.

nb. At the time of writing this, I am still waiting for the product to be launched. It's in Google's index, but the link just forwards me to the Google homepage.

But hopefully I will get to try it before the day is out.

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