Saturday Aug 29, 2009

Are blogs losing their infuence?

Richard Morgan sent me this article, "Are Blogs Losing Their Authority To The Statusphere?" dated March 10th 2009, which argues that while blog authority ranking according to Technorati remains fairly static, the scores of the various blogs are declining. Technorati uses an inlist scoring algorithm which may be part of the problem, but it would seem to me that micro-blogging is impacting the strength of the voice of blogs as a communications tool, which is what the article argued. In some way's not just micro-blogging, but the various places where people can and do record what they do and think. When I started this blog 5 years ago, I chose to restrain what I put here but other media have grown in popularity, and so people's ability to express themselves have grown. There is a diversification of publication sites which makes following people harder, although technorati only set out to capture blogs, not people, blogs seem no longer to be at the centre of how the internet records what people think. I know that I have been writing less frequently.

Internet messaging is built on a growing distributed architecture, consisting of

  • publication,

  • distribution,

  • aggregation and

  • consumption.

Different sites and technologies seek to perform and excel in different parts of the chain. The aggregation stage permits people to view people, if they permit it, or subject matter and most importantly control their own entry points to the mess that is today's content, by which I mean choose to follow people of look for specific expertise. I think that authors should seek to co-operate with this consumer control of the reading process. It should be noted that the behaviour of individuals and corporations will differ. In particular most media companies want to capture the reader/viewer but individuals have no need to copy this behaviour. I try to post content and let people find it; I hope I have developed a reputation for expertise in some subjects over my career.

By keeping the architecture in mind, one can try and avoid annoying your readers, who, if one has any, are likely to be your friends. Bad habits I see are people who syndicate their tweets into facebook, so I, and others, get to know about their breakfast twice, and I am not a fan of syndicating one's feed into blogs using the APIs. This latter habit annoys me because I don't see the blog as an aggregation tool, but a publishing tool, and so I expect original work, of some description in people's blogs. This can be even worse when people then publicise the blog, containing bookmarks using a micro blog. That's three clicks to read something written by someone other than the person who's views you've subscribed to, and if using a wireless device that's a real pain. NB This is also true if you subscribe to Digg feeds, you get to 'interesting' content via the Digg page, so three clicks, three tabs or windows to read content you want. Another offence which I wish I could deal with more easily is the microblogging incontinent. The only way I have discovered how to deal with those, is to unsubscribe.

One can, and I do aggregate my feeds into one place. I originally created a personal planet, which aggregates some of the feeds I create. I have tried to create an everything feed at, which also has a nice key of the feeds I contribute to. This means that my readers can construct a feed that interests them. I know that some friends are interested in the technology, but not the politics. I commit the offence of subscribing my friend feed to face book, but I consider Facebook to be mainly a consumer. I need to think about this. Its not great, but I don't syndicate my tweets directly to my face book statuses (sic), nor do I copy them back into friend feed. Manging my facebook feed is not easy and is compounded by Facebook's desire to perform all roles in the architecture while being 'open'. Its this open-ness which has enable site specialisation around, for instance, travel, books, restaurants and even at living social, iphone apps.

I suppose I am appealing for people to consider what tools they use to perform a specific role in the the personal content architecture. Don't over aggregate, if people are interested in your thoughts they'll find them. Don't shove it down their throats.

When I first considered writing this little essay, it seemed interesting to consider, “Is the status-sphere replacing blogs?”, others including Tim Bray have written about this since and argue Not. I hope that the evolution of easy micro-blogging, will free blogs to become deeper and more interesting. I know that I have produced less frequent blog article since I took up with Twitter, but I also considered my feed, to be a microblog of sorts. Another key development is that the use of sites like has turned in-list search ranking from a vote of web authors, where you needed the technology skills and resource to have a web page in order to influence the sort order, into a vote of web readers and authors. The ease of micro blog adoption means that an even large crowd should now be participating in the construction of in list search orders. I am unsure how url shortner's impact the search engines in-list calculations. They make it harder, I 'm sure, as does the fact there's more than one. Many argue that Twitter's best value is as a search engine and that it, and other micro-blogging systems won't replace blogs because there are too many subjects that can't be accurately discussed in 140, characters. Techcrunch published further thoughts on twitter, and it chances of supplanting the blogs, however it takes less time to tweet, rubbish gets lost easier, and twitter in particular is designed to be used by handheld devices. (I don't think I'd like to have written this on my new Nokia 5800, or even my ipodtouch.) It should be noted, that while its very easy to create a 140 character message, it should be easy to create a podcast or even a video, but its not. They are both difficult to create, especially if you don't just record a chat amongst friends but try and 'deliver/perform' a report. This is a skills issue. They wouldn't pay Steven Fry all that money to make audio books if it was easy.

One final thought is that communitarian aggregation is not well done at the moment. One of the strength's of Peter Reiser's approach, 'Community Equity', to knowledge management systems that at its heart is a personal rating engine. (See also They don't yet have this as truly n-dimensional, which I think is needed, so you can rate your own content, rate other author's expertise, rate & describe their interest to you. I may play with a Google App or Zembly, to experiment with some of how to make some of this work. A very rich inter-personal network with sophisitcated popular and machine calculated relevance scoring is something that can add value. Content could flow through your colleagues votes moving closer and further away from your viewing window and your friends and colleagues advice and hints would influence or determine what you find. Google reader's share facility is quite close, but there's only one dimension, you can have friends, and they can recommend stuff for you to read. (I think more can be done.)

I hint that one of Technorati's problems is its reliance on in-list. Searching the Workplace Web, written by Fagin, Kumar and McCurley, which I commented on, on this blog in an article called, The Shape of Internet, write about a number of relevance and ordering tests that could be used and specifically argue that within the corporate intranet other sorts and relevance tests may be more appropriate to help solve a number of questions such as authority. They also argue that intranet URL naming is less search friendly and it is clear that the dissipation of people's voice and advice over multiple sites with different naming conventions, often using surrogates or numbers and URL shortners means that the internet is catching up on the early intranet in the chaos of name space. It may be time to review in-list and begin to weight votes for relevance and sort-order.

Are blogs losing their relevance, maybe, maybe not. Well written opinions by disinterested experts will always be valued. As the dross moves to the microblogs, this may liberate the blogs to re-establish themselves as clear voices of expertise. Some of what was observed Richard's post to me may be failures in Technorati, its initial insights are aged and its being out innovated.


Tuesday Jul 28, 2009

Twitter grows on me

I have been unable to resist twitter and so have become regularly in breach of my original manifesto. I still make posts which imply my location and that I am not likely to be online for a period but have become involved in conversations and more recently I have been trying to build karma on lazytweet. As a result I have removed the twitter widget, which displayed my most recent tweet from this blog, and replaced it with a twitter button, which takes you to my twitter page.


Thursday Aug 07, 2008

Reading Danilo Poccia's italian language blog

Danilo Poccia has been experimenting with allowing his readers to use Google translate to read his blog. I, at least, will find this useful as Danilo writes in italian. This could of course be an advantage as the 'to english' translators may be stronger, since it looks quite good to me. It also enhances his hit count; its only available via the HTML interface. :)  He categorises the blog, so finding his professional content is quite easy.


Wednesday Apr 23, 2008


In the article My Twitter Manifesto, I stated that I did not propose to use Twitter as a microblog, the closest thing I have to one is my feed, which since I bookmark nearly everything I read, gives you an idea of what I am thinking about at least. I nearly always comment on a site/page, although not always in my own words. But if your interested.... it's there. The most recent seven items are also in the sidebar on this page.


Friday Mar 09, 2007

What's my blog worth?

Another blog valuation at Dane Carlson's blog been pointed out to me by FlexRex.So here's mine.

My blog is worth

How much is your blog worth?


This uses the technorati api to query the technorati ranking, which undervalues a roller blog because technorati treats the long and short names as seperate blogs.. However, the html above is not dynamic and so I have done two queries and added the result. The number above is Dane's view of how much my blog is worth today.  (His link to the backing research is  a bit out of date. Tristian Louis' researc
has now been archived.

An alternative valuation is made at Blogshares, which values the blog at $15,000. @ blogshares



Listed on BlogShares


Although, I really should learn how reindex it as I havn't done this  ever. If you know how to do this, I suggest you post a comment and buy some of my shares. 


Wednesday Jan 31, 2007

Changing my version of the Currency theme

I have just made a few changes to my blog roller theme. I have moved the tag cloud into the banner; if like me you often look at the blog on a laptop, there's not much room for what I'm writing after the duck and tag cloud and all the navigation widgets.

This isn't ideal. I have played with the new opacity feature to see if I can get a better answer, but this is about as good as it gets. There is a text background on the the tags, so each one can be read as you move the mouse around the cloud. Ideally, I'd like to have a text background which was an opaque white for the tag cloud, or even declare the table cell in which the tag cloud was displayed as having a background of opaque white so that the text would stand out more. I suppose I could change the hyperlink colours, but I'm not sure what'd go well in front of my duck. Instant Color Schemes at may help, and I found  useful in experimenting with opacity.


Thursday Jan 18, 2007

Look at where I've been!

On prompting from Rich Sharples, who has implemented a web services hyperlink preview facility on his blog, Mirrorworld, together with a really cool look and feel. (Its in multi-tone grey, so its cool in more ways than one), I have now done the same. You can preview hyperlinks in this blog, without opening a tab. The service provider is at Snap Preview Anywhere and I have now implemented this on this blog and on my aggregation server, planetdavelevy. You can browse my bookmarks and preview them, by viewing them at the planet. It also works on links where the anchor text is an image, try hovering over the "Innovate on Solaris" button at the top of my sidebar!

You need write access to the <head></head> section of your page, so I can't implement this on Snipsnap.


Sunday Dec 10, 2006

Personalising the roller Sotto theme

A principal engineer colleague, John Stanford has just kickstarted his blog and is using the "Sotto" theme. With respect to themes, one of the most requested theme amendments I've seen has been How to amend the pictures in the Sotto theme? I and some colleagues looked at this some time ago and I posted most of this article internally. On review, there is nothing requiring secrecy in it, so I thought I'd re-post it here.

I think Sotto is a pretty and relaxed theme, but I suspect that most people will want to change the pictures to develop a uniqueness and personality. There are some other problems with Sotto, which I may return to at another time, but for now, here's how I amended Sotto. I originally demonstrated the effect by converting my private blog to Sotto, but I shan't be doing this here, so I have instead posted a picture of John's blog.


John's Blog


Firstly select the pictures you want and upload them to your ../resource directory by logging into roller and selecting the "File Uploads" sub-tab from the "Create & Edit" tab

In my case the pictures had been chosen and munged to have the same height, which was different from the theme's default pictures. This change of height needs to be managed. (See below).

I'd never selected Sotto as my first theme, but I had an empty _css file in my page templates file list. Select Sotto as your theme and then press the customize button. This copies Sotto into your local file folders. Sotto's global theme styles are held in /roller/themes/sotto/styles/default.css. Sotto declares style alias for the three pictures, which it calls gutter images. These are located within a div tag which also has a style. This style is called #gutter. Using the hyperlink above, (and checking that it remains accurate by reading the page source ), you can obtain the CSS code source for #gutter & #gutterimage[1-3]. Cut and paste these into your local _css file. Now amend the file names!

Each of the css rules has a height attribute, set them as appropriate i.e. the images with their height set to the height of the picture and the gutter set to two greater. The image aliases have a width parameter, set these as appropriate. I set #gutter's height to be two greater than the images as this is how the original author sized it. Obviously the background attribute needs to be set appropriately and we use the url() descriptor to do this. The new pictures are held in /roller/${yourloginname}/resource. The simplest way to get these is to open them in a browser and cut and paste the URL into the _css file. If you want more pictures, then create more #gutterimagen alaises; one for each picture. This is all that is required of the CSS file.

We now need to amend the weblog page template to ensure that our new CSS file is interpretated at the correct time in the cascade. The changes required are as follows:

     <style type="text/css">#includePage("_css" )

must be inserted after the

    #showThemeStyle("sotto" "default.css" false)

line. This forces the new _css file to be included and interpreted after the default file. The default file sets the gutter and gutterimages to have a default height and use the default pictures, and our new _css file overwrites these settings. This is enough if you require three pictures. If you require some more pictures then,

    <span id="gutterimagen">&nbsp;</span>

needs to be added as appropriate. Look at Sotto's weblog file, you'll see what I mean.


Thursday Nov 30, 2006

Tags in Roller & Technorati

Two days ago, I looked at how to display the tags assigned to an article hosted in roller and left the question of generating techorati tags unfinished.

<!-- Now lets technorati tag the tags -->
<P><small>technorati tags:
    #set ($mytags=$entry.tags)
    #foreach ( $tag in $mytags )
        <a rel="tag" href="$">$</a>
        <!-- NB there is a trailing space on the line above #end -->

should produce the technorati tag list in a small font paragraph. Now on to Chris's challange.  

I have a challenge about how to migrate forward, since if I put this code in the _day file (inside the entries loop), than I will get the technorati tags twice, for those articles with both roller tags and technorati tags specified. This is caused by my eagerness to load my tags into roller to see my tag cloud; thats why I have articles with both roller and techorati tags. I might be able to create a local velocity macro and use this as content within an article, but I think the _day file is the right place. Have to think about it.

The tags are thus still done by hand.



Monday Nov 27, 2006

Tuning tags for query & propagation

I am still hand coding the the tags in this blog. Roller has a macro to display a hyperlinked tag list but resolves the links inside the roller instance.

<P><small>tags: #showEntryTags($entry)</small></P>

However, I still want to use technorati, so I am copying the tags from the input text box into the content body and using the topic plugin to create my technorati tags. (Actually I don't even necessarily always keep the same tags, but I am pretty consistent.) I wonder how to write velocity code to build the technorati tag list.


Wednesday Nov 15, 2006

Have we moved on?

Last year, Richard Morgan showed me Protopage, which I looked at today. Here's a screen shot.

My Protopage


I think it might be interesting to see how it tries to keep up with the new emerging tools. It seems an odd cross between a personal portal and a collaboration tool. The post it notes metaphor is good, I assume they can be read by others but surely is a better bookmark manager and any wiki better for collaboration. I think that for these sort of applications specialisation is becoming the key. The application needs to be excellent at something and protopage neither excells at anything, nor assembles well, although it does have an RSS display panel.I have set up a personal protopage for Dave Levy to see how I feel about it, but I can't see it replacing in my usage since it lacks the FX gadget. It does claim a mailbox interface, but I can't find a calander (not that I use Yahoo's calendar) The weather feature seems very comprehensive and easier to use than Yahoo.


Friday Nov 10, 2006

More about Tag Clouds on roller

Another e-mail exchange with Dave Johnson, and a quick look at the Velocity manual and I have produced the tag cloud at the top of this page which only includes those tags, with more than two occurences.

I set an interest threshold, and then within the foreach tag loop test the tag count against the interest theshold.

  #set ( $interestthreshold=2 )
  #set($mytags=$model.weblog.getPopularTags(-1, 100))
  #foreach ($tag in $mytags)
      #if ( $tag.count > $interestthreshold )
        <A CLASS="tag s${tag.intensity}" HREF="$url.tag($"
           TITLE="$tag.count"> $</A>

The tag is only written if tag count is greater than the threshold.


Sunday Nov 05, 2006

Finding stuff I said last year!

Since the introduction of tags, I have slightly re-organised this blog site.

 It now has two new features, Yesterday's Words and About Me. These features are available through the small font menu bar above the category list. Yesterday's Words is an archive feature, allowing you to look for things in this blog by Category, Tags, Publication Month, Keyword Search and review titles of the last six months article titles. I have done this because we now have tags, and people ought to be able to see the tag cloud, and I have come to the conlusion that the front page side bar was begining to be hard to use. In order to improve the ease of use I expect to move my feed to another back page, together with some of the bookmarks I have stored. At the moment it remains on the front page and on Yesterday's Words.

Both these new pages have tuned and smaller sidebars. I have done this by utilising the roller #includePage() macro and hold the banner (with the duck & licence) and the sidebars as seperate files. The content for Yesterday's Words is also held in an external file. This should all make updating the site a lot easier, and allow me to move from HTML tables to CSS at some time soon.

I hope to introduce a reading list page about the books I am or am planning to, or have just read.

The navigation bars at the top (and side) offer a page called site search. This is safe checkpointed version of Yesterday's Words; I created it to permit a "roll forward from" point in case I made any silly and drastic mistakes. I will delete it some time soon, so I recommend that you don't bookmark it.


Thursday Nov 02, 2006

Tagging comes to Roller

Yeserday,'s "Roller" implementation was updated to V3.1. The roller projects page is here.... This has integrated tagging and the Xihna Editor. I had to change the editor in my settings page and this is the first article written using it.

I wonder how to apply classes to the paragraphs, so

dave B$ whence html

was tagged by using the show html source button and inserting the class attribute by hand.

The article is also the first article with roller integrated tagging, so I'm not yet sure about how to ensure that technorati tags and roller tags are the same and the tags are posted to the relevant sites. So we may have two sets of tags on this article.

The technorati tags are


and I have repeated them in the roller entry tag edit box.

I may go back through the blog and tag every article, or at least all those I have already tagged, and I need to work out how to display my blog's tag cloud


Thursday Oct 26, 2006

About Bloglines

I have just put a subscribe via Bloglines button on the sidebar. I've subscribed a while but am just getting serious as I move from RSSOWL and Mozilla to reduce my requirement on system caches. Here's how you do it:-

    <IMG SRC="">

Obviously substitute the environment variable for your true RSS feed URL.





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