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

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

QR Codes all over the place!

According to my webometrics Reddit I have been waiting 28 days to get a Pepsi Max with a QR code on it. Today I finally got one:

Just half an hour before, I received a poster from Wolverhampton's School of Art and Design with a QR code on it, both as an illustration of the subject of the talk and as a means of providing further information:

... a close up of the code:

Whereas the Pepsi QR code merely gives a link to the Pepsi site, the Wolverhampton code provides details of the lecture, a link for further information on the speaker, and even includes information about how to scan the QR code (taking advantage of the level of error correction in QR codes). Could it be that Wolverhampton's School of Art & Design have more successfully utilised QR Codes than the multi-billion dollar PepsiCo?

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Saturday, 22 November 2008

Sky News on BNP site traffic...and other opinions

The leak of the BNP membership details has continued to produce a vast amount of press coverage over the last couple of days, and I must admit to being slightly addicted to reading both the stories and the comments of the masses (impossible to read and support democracy). Anyway, yesterday Sky News published a story about how they had seen research which showed the BNP web site got more traffic than the Labour web site!

Whilst "Research seen by Sky News" gives it an air of mystery/exclusive, the story is well known, I even blogged about it myself back in March. Unfortunately Sky News miss the reason why the BNP is so big online: Their values are not acceptable amongst the majority of society and can not be freely aired in the real world. So rather than a story of support for the BNP, it is a story about the unacceptable nature of their politics in the modern world.

What I would really like to see after the story dies down, is an analysis of the comments the public have been placing. Skewed heavily towards BNP activists, the comments provide a great opportunity to understand the irrational thinking of the BNP members.

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Friday, 21 November 2008

Google SearchWiki: Cleaning up the Webometric results

For some reason Google always saves its big releases for those days when I am busy. Could it be that they are fearful of my criticism? Or merely coincidence? Whatever the reason I couldn't help but push other things to one side and comment on Google's new SearchWiki. Basically, when you are logged into your Google account at google.com (not currently google.co.uk) you can change the results you find on your home page: promoting results, hiding results, commenting on results. Whilst it only affects your results page, you can see how other people have ranked/commented on items, and it seems highly likely that Google will eventually incorporate the findings in its general search results.

SearchWiki is by no means a new idea, sites such Aftervote (now Scour) have done it all before, the difference this time is the amount of people Google can put to work on the idea. At the time of writing this blog a search for 'Google' had already had 908 people make notes; it would probably have taken Aftervote weeks if not months to get that many comments on a single search term. So what is the collective wisdom regarding the best search result for the term 'google' entered into Google.com...that'll be Google.com. Personally I would have thought that people are more likely to be searching for one of Google's other services or information about Google rather than the page they are already on, but noone ever accused the public of being overly bright.

As someone who likes to do his bit for collective wisdom, I have made steps to clean up one of my most regular search 'webometrics':

Just the three adjustments: promotion of the most important site, questioning the validity of a colleague's page, and the removal of a character who has no right to call himself a webometrician. But I am sure everyone would agree that such amendments improve the page astronomically.

Whilst I am sure that shere weight of numbers will prevent the spamming of the top searches, it will be interesting to monitor the spam on the fringes. Will people be looking at the notes other have made? I will. SearchWiki seems as though it will give great insight into what people think of different sites, I just hope Google adds it to their API.

UPDATE: Whilst I initially said it was only available on Google.com, it's seemingly not as simple as that. When I log into Google.com with my webometrics account I get SearchWiki, when I log in with my gmail account I don't get SearchWiki! It seems as though they are taking steps to restrict access geographically.

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Wednesday, 19 November 2008

BNP Membership List Online - Then taken down

For those who don't know, BNP stands for 'British National Party', a right-wing party that loves to hate. Whilst their 2007 membership list was placed online , to shame the members, it has seemingly since been taken down. However, when data is released on the web, it is very hard to get it back. Remember AOL's search data scandel, or the AACS encryption key controversy; you can't put the cat back in the bag.

A few other thoughts are available on my other (rarely-updated) blog.

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Saturday, 15 November 2008

Facebook thinks I am French!

I just noticed that my Facebook blog widget is publishing in French for some reason:
Words fail me.

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ScreenToaster: Easy screencasting

I have never been one for screencasting, but that is because I have never used one as free and easy to use as ScreenToaster (for which I finally got an invite yesterday). Obviously there is only one way to provide an opinion, via a screencast:

Whilst the 'featured' screencasts on the site have sound, it didn't record sound for my recordings; however, 'Subtitles & Audio' are listed as features to come. When ScreenToaster gets sound it will quickly become the web's simplest iPlayer recorder/publisher.

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Guitar Hero World Tour (On the Wii)

First I got Guitar Hero on the Wii. Then I got Guitar Hero on my N95. Yesterday I got Guitar Hero World Tour:
Whilst I now seemingly have guitars coming out my ears, my instrument of choice is without doubt the drums. Goodbye academia, I have found my new calling in life: I shall become a drummer. Back in July it was reported that drummers need the stamina of a Premiership footballer, bets are now being taken on how long it will be until academics are measuring the energy of World Tour drummers.

The only downside to World Tour is the size of my TV, especially when you want to sing along. Unfortunately my girlfriend does not agree that this is proof I need a 52 inch HDTV.

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Thursday, 13 November 2008

Microsoft is the BOSS: API version 2.0

Microsoft have just released version 2.0 of their Live API. The good news is that this time you can send unlimited queries, the bad news is there is still no sign of the return of 'linkdomain'.

nb. In case you are one of those people who use search engines without any thought of the APIs they offer, 'BOSS' in the title of this post is a reference to Yahoo's Build your Own Search Service.

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Sunday, 9 November 2008

del.icio.us is 5: Web 2.0 is stale

I hadn't checked my RSS feeds for a couple of days before today, so I only just found out that del.icio.us (or delicious.com as it now styles itself) turned five a couple of days ago. Whilst delicious has been a stalwart member of the web 2.0 movement, you can't help but feel that it, and many of the other web 2.0 properties are a little bit stale. It is time for web 3.0 to enter the arena.

Whilst there have been lots of opinions on what web 3.0 is, none of them have seemed particularly appropriate to me, seemingly having more to do with a person's desire to define web 3.0 than using web 3.0 to describe a change on the web. For me web 3.0 will be the widespread adoption of a feature that makes the web exciting again.

There was a time, a few years ago, when I was searching for sites that were adopting web 2.0 technologies. When I am excited enough to start searching for sites that are using a new set of technologies, then I will know what web 3.0 is.

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Small BASIC: A simple programming introduction

Way back in April Bill Thompson posed the question "Who will write tomorrow's code?" As an appalling programmer it is a topic I am very interested in, and was therefore intrigued by Microsoft's Small BASIC (via ReadWriteWeb): A development environment using a small version of the BASIC programming language.

Whilst Small Basic incorporates web elements (even having a Flickr class), reading the 62 page 'Getting Started' guide was bit of a trip down programming memory lane; reminding me of learning to draw simple graphics on the ZX Spectrum, and using Logo on the BBC Micro.

The success of Small BASIC will depend on the user-community and the third-party libraries that build up around it, and at this early stage it is impossible to say how much interest Small BASIC will gain. However, I for one will enjoy seeing what I can do with it's limited keywords (15 according to the front page, 14 according to the FAQ), although a vibrant community will need people with far more extensive programming skills than mine.

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Monday, 3 November 2008

Facebook Overtakes the BBC in the UK!

Looking at ComScore's top U.K. web rankings for September 2008 there is one big story: the greatest broadcaster the world has ever known (i.e., the BBC) has been overtaken on the web in the UK by a social network site most famous for 'the poke' (i.e., the Facebook).

Whilst I have never been one to subscribe to the Daily Mail's mantra that 'the world has gone to hell in a handcart', you can't help but despair on days like this. The future's bleak, the future is filled with flying sheep and zombie bites. It will be interesting to see how the Mail deal with the story. Do they spin it as the "BBC letting things slip" or "Armageddon due as world's youth communicate"? So much fear and hatred and only one small paper.

The BBC has a massive site with loads of great stuff, but unfortunately most people just go to the same few small areas. Everyone should go to the BBC this minute and surf an area they haven't been to before!

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Academia.edu: Direct marketing

I first mentioned Academia.edu, a social network site exclusively for academia, back in September. At the time I said that a SNS specifically for academia was a good idea, although the site itself was slow and not particularly user-friendly. I didn't give the site another thought until this morning, when I found an email in my inbox, sent to all the university staff, inviting me to join academia.edu.

Academics are easily contacted via email, and if you describe your product in an academic enough manner you will quickly find a 'helpful' member of staff willing to send it to every member of a university. Would a Facebook, Bebo, MySpace, or LinkedIn invite have been forwarded as quickly? Despite the fact they are more user-friendly, and in the case of LinkedIn arguably more useful as academics look to engage with the wider community.

What really annoyed me, however, was the way the network tried to sell itself.
Some professors on Academia.edu include:
- Richard Dawkins - http://oxford.academia.edu/RichardDawkins
- Stephen Hawking - http://cambridge.academia.edu/StephenHawking
- Paul Krugman - http://princeton.academia.edu/PaulKrugman
- Noam Chomsky - http://mit.academia.edu/NoamChomsky

What does their inclusion have to do with the network's use to me? Does Dawkins have some great insight into social network sites that means I should follow his example? Would he appreciate me contacting him via academia.edu to give a critique of his 'God Delusion'? Obviously they are irrelevant, and any academic should recognise them as such. It obviously doesn't help academia.edu's case that each of these particular professors are vastly over-rated in the public-psyche.

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Sunday, 2 November 2008

Britannica on the Underground

Over the last couple of weeks the Encyclopaedia Britannica has been covering the recent commissioning of 100 works to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the London Underground's Roundel. Two prints were made of each of the works: one added to the underground's archive of art and one auctioned on ebay. Unfortunately the Briannica's quality must be called into question once again; they failed to highlight Karl Holmqvist's "Let's Go Together"...that's the one we bought.

Before I had web access, it was highly unlikely that I would have heard of the commissioning, and if I had heard of it, it would have seemed too far away to do anything about it. Sometimes we forget how much the web has changed our lives in such a short period of time.

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