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 del.icio.us 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 http://friendfeed.com/davelevy, 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 del.icio.us feed, to be a microblog of sorts. Another key development is that the use of sites like del.icio.us 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 http://socialadoption.com/ 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.

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Monday Jun 22, 2009

When WiFi's no good

I installed Joikuspot on my new Nokia E71 and this works quite well as a portable gateway. It uses the E71's wireless chip to turn the phone into an internet gateway for wifi devices. Some services were restricted by my network provider in Greece, but definately an additional way to connect my 'touch and laptop to the internet when on the road. This was pointed out to me by Sean Harris.

tags: ""

Wednesday Nov 19, 2008

Mobile Viewing

I have just attempted to read a recent Guardian article, the Coolest Quartier in Paris. I was pointed there by my ipod touch's feed reader, Daisy Feed, and decided that the page is not well read even on the 'touch's screen, so checked it out on a laptop browser. I have been surveyed by the site owner and they asked some questions on the mobile internet, which since they didn't ask me all the questions I wanted to answer, I'll comment here.

I have struggled to embrace the internet on the phone. The screen has always been a problem and as I get used to the 'touch, which is so much better I am considering my static web site and how I present pages on the net. Much content is arranged optimally for reading on a computer hosted browser, and this is true for much of the Guardian's site as well as my own.

An example of changes I am considering include a long standing page which hosts my delicious tag cloud and a revised version optimised for the ipod touch. You can view the differences, just, by hovering or click though to view. The tag cloud is no longer just a vanity, its a quick way through to my bookmarks.

I shall be reviewing web site name structure and looking at if I can use CSS/Javascript to represent the same pages differently depending on the device. So probably best not bookmark the ipod links page, I am not sure how long it'll be there.

The mobile internet'd be a lot more useful if wireless was more ubiquitous, but I have plans to fix this. I'll use my phone, to connect the 'touch to the internet.

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Saturday Sep 20, 2008

Braindead Browsing

I wonder what it would take to embed browser awareness in this blog theme. I have been experimenting with creating pages for my phone's browser without much success but it might be a good idea to try and simplify the theme for braindead browsers.

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Friday Aug 15, 2008

Rethinking Twitter

I have been arguing with Constantin Gonzalez about the best way to use twitter. He ended one of his mails to me with the advice to get a better phone and/or client. Yesterday twitter announced that they were terminating SMS transmissions in the UK. Oh Hoorah! So it looks like I need to take his advice.

I use a Sony Ericsson K610i, which I have also been advised to change and so I have the choice of using a WAP service or looking for a Java application. So far I have found

The twitter blog article offers some other advice including http://www.cellity.com/, this looks neat but does anyone know what their business model is? It also suggests looking at a page on getsatisfaction, where a lively discussion is taking place.

I have had a quick look at the two wap sites. tweete.net looks OK, but how shall I get it to discriminate between those I want on the phone and those I don't. Its font size is smaller than twitter's, so harder to read, but more white space.

tags:

Wednesday Aug 13, 2008

Laptop Diaries, more Bluetooth

Over the last few weeks I have struggled to create a bluetooth 3G modem on my new Tecra M5. The Bluetooth drivers on this XP build have been provided by Toshiba and the big difference between it and my previous configuration which uses the Microsoft stack is that the special phone number code that the microsoft drivers require is not required when using the Toshiba drivers. It has a specific field for holding the modem configuration parameters and uses the default phone number of \*99#. I should have waited.

You can also ignore the create the modem stage.

tags: should be 'how not to'

Thursday Aug 07, 2008

Help with making a personal feed using SaaS

I have for a while tried to create a personal feed of stuff I put on the internet, in the hope that someone might be interested. Historically this has been a planet but I now have a FriendFeed account. I am considering aggregating my bookmarks from del.icio.us into the feed and wonder what my correspondents, that's you that is, think. The reason I worry is that I issue a lot of bookmarks.

The current feed is at My Planet, (hover over the link for a preview). It has been implemented using an old version of planet planet, and so is available in RSS, ATOM and HTML (?). However it has a couple of problems (see below). One of my facebook correspondents pointed me at FriendFeed. Prior to finding this, Richard Morgan pointed me at secondbrian.net, (see below). One of the things that makes friendfeed so useful is that it has a generic feed service, so if their specific services, and they have a lot, don't suit then you can use the generic service, which is how I subscribe this blog, and my bliki to the friendfeed.

One neat gadget they offer is a weblog widget, which looks like this...

<script TYPE="text/javascript" SRC="http://friendfeed.com/embed/widget/davelevy?message=Dave%20Levy"> </script>

I am currently post into the feed from my blog, my bliki blog, my google reader shares, my flickr and my twitter. The Flickr subscription consumes both my photostream and favourites.

The ones I have syndicated at planet/davelevy and not yet syndicated on friend feed include my bookmarks at delicious.com, which is the nearest thing I have to a microblog. You have to work at it and it tells you what I'm reading on the internet i.e. what I am thinking about not what I am doing. I also syndicate my digg posts at my planet and I have displayed the digg stories on the full article page.

The final feed consumed at my planet is my slynkr posts. I have decided to stop using this. See Au revoir Slynkr, below.

This leaves my plazes feed as unforwarded. Since I use the plazer, each time I move computer or network, it generates a new plaze. This can lead to many entries for the same place on a single day. I expect that people want to track location, and most importantly timezone, not my connections. The plazes feed needs a filter to restrict the feed to first of day and change of location and I have considered using planet or venus to do this.

The one feed that I think would add to the Friendfeed is my bookmarks. On some days, when researching something I may write number of bookmarks in quite short periods. Is this a burden to my correspondents?

When done, I can pump friend feed back through planet for any legacy users. Perhaps I should check its actually used by anyone other than me.

Use the [Read More] button for more on my usage of Twitter, Digg and Planet.

tags:  

[Read More]

Friday Jun 06, 2008

Video Conferencing for free

I was introduced to http://www.mebeam.com last year by colleagues in the US, and its a quite cool video conferencing feature. The lag in Europe is appalling, so I use the phone to host the voice channel. You can use whatever string you want to act as the meeting name, which you can enter on the home page, [ hover or click on the link above] or in your browser's URL entry box.

So I use IM and the phone to support the video channel. I was having some problems connecting up with some Mac using colleagues, so connected to Hans Joerg who is a bit of wiz with the Mac. I am on the left, and you can see the IM dialogue box.

 

a mebeam conference

and he explained that the configuration needs to be changed using the panel that is opened by pressing the 'settings' button on the bottom right hand side of one's own picture. Mac Users may default to 'DVD Video Class' and they require 'USB Video Class'. (The picture below was scrapped from my screen, and I am using a windows XP machine, which is why the text says something else.)

 

mebeam devices configuration

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Thursday Jun 05, 2008

Laptop Diaries, onto the internet with 3G

I have just moved my laptop forward to an improved build. This proves that this article only works if the bluetooth drivers are the microsoft drivers on XP. I have modified the tags on this article. In fact, this was meant to be a follow me article, I hope it works for you. I have written about the toshiba drivers at Laptop Diaries, more bluetooth on this blog.

My colleague at work Sean Harris, helped me configure my laptop and phone to use the phone's 3G capability to connect the internet. Sean was guided himself by this article at 'crackistan'. While that author writes about Mac OS, and I am using Windows XP, we both use sony erricson phones and vodafone as our service provider.

I really did this for times where I have no internet access, but as 'Bodoggy' points out, it may come in useful in airport lounges or other places where the wi-fi costs are outrageous, or their credit cards systems broken.

So the process is

  1. Create a connection channel between the phone and laptop, and I used blutooth
  2. Create a dial up agent for vodafone and select your new modem

The only tricky bit is that you don't use a phone number to connect to the internet, there is a special code instead.

To find out in more detail what I did, use the [Read More] button below. 

tags:

[Read More]

Wednesday Apr 02, 2008

workshoping the future

Over the last two day, we have been in workshops, discussing aspects of the development of the internet. The workshops, their agenda and supporting papers are all hosted at the future internet site. We'll have to wait for the slides to see what agreement was discovered.

I was interested to attend BO6, "Future Internet Research and Experimentation", otherwise known as FIRE where I heard a number of presentations from FP6 funded projects talking about the Grids they'd built, primarily on University sites. There's a lot going on. It's a shame we couldn't find someone to take on Sun's London "grid-for-rent". There was some innovative stuff in the re-provisioning solution.

The other working groups were called Networks, Services, Content and Security. I am eagerly waiting the slides from the plenary sessions that introduced and concluded these workshops.

tags:

Monday Mar 31, 2008

The Bled Declaration

We closed the day by adopted the Bled declaration, calling on the Commission and member states co-ordinate their R&D and do other good things, including the support in the construction of a "Future Internet Assembly".

tags: ""

What changes in technology will do to the Internet tomorrow

The afternoon panel was billed, in contrast to the morning's emphasis on society and economics, as about the technology. The session was opened by Lutz Heuser, of SAP, who had an interesting slide about the nature of innovation and a layered architecture model of the internet, which is pretty common place in these meetings, layering business services over common services over a platform, which itself has computers, switches and interconnects. He did ask where the european business services were? Thus ignoring plazes, last.fm and bebo, and if I new the non-UK economies better, I bet I could name some more of these SaaS Web 2.0 startups from Europe.

Christian Grégoire, of Bell Labs, Alcatel-Lucent spoke of the need to re-invest in the network's intelligence and that vertical industries adoption of remote sensor technology will change the applications portfolios, the bandwidth demands and backbone topology. A number of speakers seem to equate the internet of things with RFID, I wonder if the argument that they lack intelligence and programability has been considered and dismissed, or just not engaged with.

Jan Uddenfeldt a senior advisor to the CEO of Ericsson spoke, surprise surprise, about how mobile phones will drive change. I am not sure on two counts. Phones while very portable, have CPUs, RAM, storage, a screen, a keyboard and a network interface. This makes them computers, and if you have a consumer Sony Ericsson, its a pretty poor screen and keyboard. The volume and rate of adoption does make a difference, but the "internet of things" is a step beyond connecting people.

Krishna Nathan Vice President of Storage System Development at IBM. An interesting and thoughtful speech about how the "internet of things" will drive the evolution of an event driven network; sensors will require real time management. He explored the use of sensors to manage the data centre? They made quite a lot of noise about it earlier this month [ IBM Press Release ]. I was quite annoyed about this; I had planned suggest Sun did something about this leveraging Wonderland and Darkstar. (See also MMORPGs, making them massive, at this site.) However, it may not be too late. It interests me that no one is really talking about the nature of the services that the internet will need to provide for these new models. He was explained well the changing nature of traffic patterns that will occur as sensors become pervasive. His slides are also worth a second read.

Jean-Charles Hourcade of Thomson SA, spoke from the perspective of a content company and his speech shows why we need to consider change from different perspectives. He argues that the devices of the future are the pc, gateway and phone. (I don't think so). He argued that HDTV and Cinema Technology will raise the bar again. This is probably true, but to me what's popularising video is youtube, and the reducing of video's length. They've become snacks. A countervailing force in the UK is the BBC's iplayer and BT Vision. Maybe the UK has some more serious legacy inhibitors to change. Both the commercial structure, where content providers own their own network and the business is dominated by de-facto or de-nationalised monopolies, and the age of the local loop. I wonder how easy the rest of Europe will find it to move forward.

tags: ""

and in the rest of the world

After lunch, we listened to presentations from the US & Japan. The americans seem to be concentrating on systems issues and using virtualisation to deliver resources to individual researchers. When I get the slides we might discover how easy it is to join their network as suppliers which is an indication of how well they've addressed and solved the 'federation' issues. The presenter was Heidi Dempsey and the projects web site is http://www.geni.net/. Fumito Kubota from Japan presented on Project Akari, which is being run by the New Generation Network Research Centre of Japan, an interesting view on the growth of communication in Japan. The Japanese project has massive academic input, and is very focused on the network layer and bandwidth.

tags: ""

The socio/economic impact

The rest of the morning was taken over with a panel presentation, which focused on the socio/economic impact of the changing internet. The first speaker was Andy Wyckoff from the OECD who spoke of a number of economic issues reinforcing the link between creativity and wealth creation. In fact the OECD are running a ministerial conference, see http://oecd.org/futureinternet, which has had massive and unexpected support from the OECD's member and candidate members. He also emphasised the need for openness & interoperability. He also argued that smarter interfaces will be needed to truly create an internet of people, and that is required before further evolutions will occur.

Led by Geert Lovink of Institute of Network Cultures, the panel explored the question of paying for creativity given the marginal cost to copy is zero. Will it be possible to implement a form of micro payments?

Another issue raised was the duopoly of the search engines. It was argued that it is necessary to have a diversity of search engines, and that fortunately, the smaller players are staying in the market and continuing to innovate. Search will remain the "killer app" of the internet, but where is the "only people are experts" dimension. Will the next evolution be people finders?. They may become more important than resource finders, and is a dimension of the NESSI problem. How will you find services, in a world of billions, with hundreds of thousands joing each day. (Obviously thats the vision, not today's reality).

Dag Johansen asked if can we build a 'push' search engine, and that its very important to protect one's privacy. He (and others argued) that many internet users are prepared to trade some of their privacy for free services and resources. In terms of his privacy, he deliberately uses multiple search engines to hide from those that wnat to know about everything he does, he also stated that he doesn't think Google is good enough to justify exclusive use. I am moving towards this behaviour and often use exalead which tries to use semantic technology to improve the search quality. Another thought this raised in my mind is that {english} schools are once again pretty poor, they're teaching how to use apps, not the internet, and so while todays children are being taught in class how to use Word to write a letter, they are missing how to protect your privacy and use firewalls and spam filters. Actually it would seem they are teaching how to circumvent poorly configured content filters. (Don't ban Google images for the UK & USA, if you leave Ireland, India and Australia available.)

Diogo Vasconcelos from Cisco came up with the following insight, "People like politics, with politicians it depends", he also raised the issue of sustainability. Some of his visions had a real 'Minority Report' touch. A question was raised suggesting that, sometimes selling you stuff you thought you didn't want is good. But how much more than Amazon recommendations do we need? This did remind me of the minority report scene where the shop recognises Anderton (Tom Cruise) via an eyeball scan. Diaogo repeated the idea that the EU is the most connected place in the world? I wonder if its true. I find connecting in the States when traveling easier, the network and wi-fi seems much more pervasive, although I often have to pay. You can see elsewhere in this blog for my views on Italy and Brussels. My recent travels have confused me and I can't make up my mind whether to buy a wi-fi or 3G connected hand held appliance. I hope that I will be allowed to trial a new vodafone commercial solution, or maybe I'll check out BT Fon, which reminds me, I really need to sort my household content subscriptions. It just never stops.

The morning was finished up with a presentation on internet governance, and the need to address bureaucratic degeneracy and market failure. See also http://www.intgovforum.org/, which is a United Nations body.

tags: ""

Can you believe it?

Dr Will Dutton of the University of Oxford Internet Institute addressed the conference. On his blog, he argues that there is an overwhelming concern around privacy and trust, which was confirmed by contributions later in the day. A high point for me in his presentation is the extent to which people trust the accuracy of internet content, which is not very much. He stated that people are using the internet, but trust it as much as they do the TV & papers. The good news is that people are begining to trust each other and their networks though, and are learning to apply personal bullshit filters.

Another piece of trivia is that the EU is the largest internet user base in the world, whatever that means. But, there is a natural centripetal force in that there are so many different languages. (Mind you it should be noted that the US, China and India are all also multi-lingual nations).

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