Friday, February 27, 2004

Is RSS the TiVo of the Web?

It's an interesting idea: equating RSS feeds with TiVo. For those of you who don't know, TiVo is a device that constantly streams television feeds to a hard disk. That way, you can decide half way through a show to record from the beginning. You can also pause live TV, record shows a week or two out with one click, and much more. The point is, it is a revolutionary step in the watching of television and those of us who have it can't imagine life before TiVo.

So, is RSS (and Atom) as big for the Web as TiVo is for television? "If you're not reading it in RSS you're wasting your time," declaimed Microsoft's blogging evangelist, Robert Scoble, who says he subscribes to nearly 1,300 feeds.

RSS has been called the TiVo of the Web, the first "killer app" of the anticipated automation of social and commercial transactions online using the Web's second-generation XML (extensible markup language) standard. --Business Tech Wire

Is Blogger correct after all with going with Atom rather than RSS? It would appear so now that Anil Dash has put the TypePad stamp of approval on Atom. RSS or Atom, Yahoo's Jeremy Zawodny sees it this way:

"Remember when you first starting seeing URLs appear on billboards and at the end of movie trailers?" Zawodny wrote in his blog in December. "It's going to be like that. One day we're just going to look around and realize that RSS is popping up all over the place. And a couple years later, we'll all wonder how we ever got along without it."

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

The classroom bully

"But what happens when a student's brain has a few ideas in it already and is not simply waiting to be filled with every opinion the teacher has? Well, if the teacher is the exact opposite of the "To Sir, With Love" type, she can try humiliating the student in class. And in the old days, that probably would have worked, because high school pretty much was a student's whole world and such an incident would have seemed like the end of it.

But a teenager with a blog is a teenager whose world has already expanded..."

One of the fascinating things about blogging is that it gives everyone on the planet a potentially enormous voice. Take for example the ongoing saga of Cecile duBois, the nom de blog of a 14 year-old blogger who was blasted by her teacher for having an opinion. Unfortunately for the teacher, Cecile's mother also blogs. Still more unfortunately for the teacher, Instapundit and several other heavy hitters in the blogosphere picked up on the story of the blog-empowered student who fought back. So, beware all you classroom bullies (who are frequently the large person at the front of the class): 50,000 people may be reading about your small mind before the end of the day.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Where is Google going?

An extremely interesting article looks at Google's history, present and future. The future entails not only rumors about Google acquiring or creating a free email service, but the reasons the future may not be bright for Blogger's owner.

The history: "According to Google legend, Brin and Page didn't hit it off when they first met at Stanford in 1995. Both were doing postgraduate work; Brin, 23, had been assigned to show Page, 24, who had just graduated from the University of Michigan, around the place. As scientists will, they soon found a common interest: how to get the best information out of a sprawling mass of data. And their idea was, why not start with the Web? By January 1996 they were working on the prototype of what became Google, called 'Backrub', because it would determine how authoritative a web site was by looking at the links coming to it from other web pages, and especially from the web pages viewed by others as authoritative."

The present: "But now it is expanding so fast, he says, that it is in danger of losing sight of what we want to do. It has bought a 'blogging' company called Blogger, and set up a 'social software' site called Orkut and now is rumoured to be setting up a free e-mail service. 'I don't see what those have to do with search,' says Sullivan."

The future: "At Forrester, Colony warns: 'How long did it take you to switch to Google? Seconds. How long will it take you to switch out of Google? Seconds.' By contrast, he says, 'all great businesses are built on a monopoly'. And nobody has that in searching. Get it wrong, and the pack will leave footprints all over your back. 'Is Google's search good?' he adds. 'Yes. Is the company worth tens of billions? No.' That's because it's comparatively cheap to set up a new search engine, and Google has well-funded rivals - after all, if two penniless graduates can do it, why not a well-funded company like Microsoft or Yahoo!? Secondly, says Colony, there's the fact that the Web itself is changing. Web 'pages' in the future might have programs on the page, or complex new services that will integrate directly with your computer. (Microsoft has said this is an objective of its next operating system, due in 2006.) 'When that happens, the usefulness of link-based search will wane,' says Colony. 'Simply stated, Google is very much of the times, with no advantage in the internet that lies ahead.'

Take a look at the full article. It's well worth the read and the best analysis I've seen on the Google legend versus the Google reality. The bottom line is: "But you can't take away the fact that they came up with what people wanted. And as long as that stays true, its place in dictionaries is assured."

Saturday, February 21, 2004

Google parasites

A parasite is a Web URL that is deliberately similar to a popular site. One obvious strategy in the parasite vein is to take advantage of common misspellings to grab traffic. Google is a site name that would obviously tempt parasites to come up with similar names to grab some extra traffic.

There are several parasites that do this. Google was smart enough to buy the obvious domains, like Googel. If you type "" you end up at the Google site. But they couldn't buy up every crazy thing someone might type in their address bar. How about Guugle? takes you to a travel site. I wonder how much traffic they get each day from the spelling handicapped?

Woogle and Toogle both take you to the same gambling site. I won't even bother giving you the links.

Have trouble with your g's and q's? It is hard to tell them apart, isn't it? Type and you end up at the Khooj search engine site. I'm not sure what it does. I guess nothing, although they do have "all rights reserved."

The only site that is worthwhile (in a way) is the site. Boogle is actually a search box for Google, but with a nice little graphic and quotable quote that changes each time you visit.

Friday, February 20, 2004

The trouble with the Dean blogs

Blogging may indeed be an important component of a political campaign. However, as Dean withdraws from the campaign it should be abundantly clear that the blogs were merely a component, and not a very important component as it turns out.

The new issue for the Deaniacs is what to do with the information base and structure that Dean accumulated during the campaign:

"Can the ardor of the Dean supporters and their online organization be harnessed for another purpose, including getting a Democratic presidential candidate elected? Is their devotion to Dean transferable to other causes? Can they overcome their clear antipathy to Sen. John F. Kerry, the Democratic front-runner, and help him if he's the nominee?" --NH Union Leader

There is a strong debate going on right now on that issue. "Let's stay together everyone." "Let's not mourn fellow Deanies, let's continue to organize!" Is there any point to keeping things going? Can it be successful without a presidential candidate to focus on?

I have my own theories as to why the Dean blogs had far less impact on the campaign than everyone thought. For one thing, most of the traffic was the Dean people talking to each other. Blogs linked to blogs linked to blogs. OK, fine. A large number of people who are already Dean supporters are talking, blogging, cross-posting, and linking with each other. To the outside world, it looks like an enormous amount of activity. I would guess it might appear something on the order of a million man march on Washington. However, the "million" were actually more like 1,000 hologram images of each actual Dean supporter. Looks impressive, but when you analyze what is actually happening it just ain't that big a deal.

And another thing: am I the only visitor to the Dean blogs who came away with a bad feeling? Did anyone else get the distinct impression of a certain smugness to the Dean blogs? If you asked questions, the response tended to be a harsh "you're not one of us" kind of thing. If you jumped from link to link to link on the "Dean Web" you immediately got the impression that these folks were only interested in talking to each other in some kind of tummy-rubbing "aren't we great" dialog. "Bob over at Dean Blog #232 said that Bill in Dean blog #432 said that we are going to win the primaries by the largest margin in history. Isn't that great? Aren't we all great?" In short, I started getting the same creepy feeling I get whenever I run into a Scientology Website.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Looking at Feedster and Feedpapers

Feedster has long been the salvation of Blogger users who were lacking the ability to provide their readers with RSS feeds. Feedster would create an RSS feed from a blog site's content and enable the blogger to provide syndication. With the enabling of Atom, Blogger has at least provided one method of providing syndication, but not the more universally (for the time being) accepted RSS. With Feedster, Blogger users can have both Atom (natively from Blogger) and RSS (from Feedster) on their sites.

Going a step further, Feedster "is a must-use tool for anyone tracking the blogosphere of information." It is a search tool limited to blogs or blog topics. Doing a search on "Atom" brought up quite a bit of hash, including non-English sites in the top slots. Doing a search on "Atom and ZDNet" brought up Blogger Forum in the #2 slot for a blog done on Atom that referenced a ZDNet story. So, you have to phrase your searches carefully if you want good results. I have to say after signing up and trying it out, that I am quite impressed.

On deck is the new Feedster service called Feedpapers. As their news release repeated on BizLink said:

Feedpapers are customized web pages formed by combining syndicated Internet content - culled from the 500,000 newsfeeds continuously searched by Feedster, such as The New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today,, many IT publications, PRNewswire, and hundreds of thousands of blogs. A Feedpaper is a web-based and RSS-enabled micropublication on any topic of its creators choosing. Creating a Feedpaper enables its publisher to blend, track, and share information on any topic.

Monday, February 16, 2004

No Kerry-ing on?

It's interesting to remember that the Monica/Bill infidelity story was first revealed by a blogger. The national press had avoided "going there" until The Drudge Report started talking about the affair. Then the mainstream "journalists" jumped in with both feet.

Is the same thing happening right now with John Kerry? There wasn't a whisper in the American press about the story. You had to either go to the foreign papers or back to The Drudge Report.

It will be interesting to see whether a blog has once again scooped the American press or whether Drudge did nothing more than feed the unsubstantiated rumors. Of course, how do you substantiate a rumor if the person continues to deny? With Monica, if you will recall, the President claimed she was "psycho" and started his bimbo alert to quickly discredit poor Monica. But Monica, being no airhead after all, kept some evidence in the form of her dress with Presidential fluids. Faced with the DNA proof that could not be side-stepped (unlike "Yes I smoked marijuana, but I did not inhale"), Clinton finally had to admit he was a liar. Except he did not admit he was a liar since "is" was not "is" and sex was not sex.

Google Brandy update

Google has been in the process the last few days of updating. The "Brandy" update shows a slight change in algorithms.

Googleguy, who is the resident Google employee and contributor at Webmaster World says "I usually say change instead of update; it's a little more generic but more accurate, if that's possible." Ok, Google isn't fond of the word "update" whenever they update.

You can always sense the changes coming and supposedly there have been some toolbar rank adjustments felt already. At Blogger Forum today, Google spidered 6.3 megabytes which is higher than normal.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

PayPal no longer requires accounts

PayPal has initiated a new feature that allows customers to purchase from your site without requiring the purchaser to have a PayPal account.

For blogs that wish to sell items, this is a big improvement. The way it worked before, if someone wanted to buy something from your site, they would have to sign up for a PayPal account. This was a killer in many circumstances since buyers did not want to go to the trouble.

At Blogger Forum we have a coffee mug with the Blogger Forum logo. We probably would never have bothered trying to sell the things since the cost of merchant credit card accounts are prohibitive if you're selling a $6.95 item. With the new PayPal system, the purchaser simply uses their credit card. See the PayPal site for details.

Saturday, February 14, 2004

Has Atom "split" the blogging world?

Everyone admits that the Google/Blogger decision to support Atom exclusively is controversial. Many even go so far as to claim the Atom move has split the blogging community.

A recent ZDNet article looks at both sides of the issue. On the one hand, "The Blogger decision to offer Atom only has angered supporters of RSS, who accuse Google of helping to splinter a wide network of RSS-using bloggers." There is also considerable criticism of Blogger for not at least supporting RSS and Atom concurrently.

However, the move makes sense as a long-term strategy when you start to look at what open source really means and where Blogger want to be a year or so down the road. And don't just think "Blogger." Think other Google products --even ones that don't yet exist.

"RSS has long been controlled by a single vendor or entity," said Mark Pilgrim, an early contributor to Atom. "Atom's an open standard, so people can point at the spec and say they're conforming to it, and it's not controlled by one of their competitors. And RSS is. It's no surprise that the vendors in control of RSS are upset about this. Open standards benefit everyone but them."

Dean's chief blogger looking for work

In a very interesting interview given to The American Prospect, former blogger-in-chief for the Dean campaign, Mathew Gross, revealed that he still thinks the Internet is vital to future campaigns. After quipping that Dean's chances for nomination were at least better than Carol Moseley Braun's, Gross said in response to "what lessons were learned":

The lesson is that technology, coupled with true grassroots support, can level the playing field. Actually, it can flip the playing field on its head, as it did in 2003. It's clear that any candidate who ignores the Internet in the future -- as most of the Democratic candidates did in the first half of 2003 -- is going to be at a severe disadvantage.

Monday, February 09, 2004

Blogging from anywhere

One of the great things about blogging is that you can publish whatever you want from any place in the world where there is Internet access. More and more, that is becoming pretty much anywhere.

This blog is being published from a ship near St. Kitts in the Leeward Islands. With satellite communications, and with the Blogger server, you can publish to the world in just a few seconds. If not from a ship, then from any of the many cyber cafes that are springing up around the world like Starbucks.

It has come to this: the free expression of ideas is worldwide except where governments control communication. In China, for example, all Internet access goes through three chokepoints that are controlled by the government. If the government doesn't like what you have to say, they can shut you off (not to mention the arrest that soon follows). This is also the case in Iran where saying the wrong thing can get you into serious trouble.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Pay and recognition for blogging

One way to make blogging a paying proposition is to keep up a good, informative blog with a point and then get picked up as a paid "columnist." What's the difference between a blogger and a columnist? There is no difference.

Simon Willion's Weblog is a good source of information about HTML and CSS: "CSS isn't hard, it just has a learning curve at ninety degrees to that of HTML." He also gets into Python and PHP as well as anything else in the realm of "Web development." In other words, all the technical side of what a blogger should know something about.

Simon was hired today for "a boatload of money" to blog on SitePoint. And what are the odds of the average blogger striking it rich this way? Well, better than the odds of the guy writing the great American novel on his kitchen table getting published.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Jimmy Carter blogs

Former president Jimmy Carter has started a blog to follow his current trip in Africa.

"Members of the general public can accompany President Carter virtually as President Carter "blogs," or publishes regular journal entries from the field. Reports will be posted as they are received from President Carter, who will share his thoughts and feelings during his journey in West Africa."

One of the purposes of the trip is to bring attention to the problem of Guinea worm disease:

"I remember the first time I saw Guinea worm disease. Rosalynn and I were shocked. We were in Denchira, a small rural village in Ghana. More than 200 Guinea worm victims had gathered to greet us. Almost everyone had Guinea worm, many lying on the ground unable to walk. Children couldn't go to school, and farmers couldn't harvest their crops. The entire community was crippled with this disease."

This is really putting the idea of blogging to good use. Join with the Carters as they travel to Togo, Mali and Ghana while publishing frequent updates to the blog.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Spam salad

It is estimated that 50% of a single day's email across the globe is spam. Since there are about 30 billion emails in a day, that is what anyone would consider one large daily dose of spam. Here at the old Blogger Blog, our email runs at more like 70% spam.

You may have noticed the latest tactic (if a couple of months is new) of avoiding spam filters with nonsense phrases. Here's a sample from one of today's emails: "Confiscate indefinable divisor betsey cubic leopard athabascan lancashire gnp brokerage fuse cox goldman pudding."

What is the point of this? To get around spam filters that look for certain phrases, like "Free, free, free." By generating random words and phrases, spam filters will never be able to catch up or understand what the email is about and whether it should be killed. One day, perhaps, spam filters will have artificial intelligence.

In the meanwhile, you might as well make the best of it the way some have done --by creating poetry from the random junk:

"Life just keeps getting better,
They say you look younger ...
136 cups of pure pleasure - the season's finest."

Sunday, February 01, 2004

Arnold terminates killer

Governor Schwarzenegger denied a clemency request from convicted murderer Kevin Cooper. Seems like this would be a no-brainer for any governor since Cooper was convicted of hacking to death a couple, their daughter, and an eleven-year old friend of the daughter. An 8 year-old son survived the 1983 attack with a slit throat.

Of course the brother is 28 years old now. Isn't it wonderful how justice moves swiftly in America these days?

"Maintaining his innocence during 18 years of appeals, Cooper succeeded in having DNA tests conducted on evidence collected at the scene, but the tests indicated he was the killer."

Oops. DNA works both ways.

"Lanny Davis, a lawyer with the firm representing Cooper, called Schwarzenegger's decision 'regrettable' and called for a delay to allow time for an independent review."

What would really be regrettable is to further delay an execution that should have taken place 15 years ago.