People who live in glass houses

It’s 10 years since the first blog, according to the Guardian. In that time, as you all know, the blog has become a major force for mass communication. More and people are setting up blogs.

“We’re seeing about 120,000 new weblogs being created worldwide each day,” said Dave Sifry, the chief executive of the blog monitoring site Technorati. “That’s about 1.4 blogs created every second.”

Ironically, the article finishes by quoting some supposed expert who says that most blogs are boring vehicles for narcissistic individuals.

“The real issue is whether it adds any more to our culture. Most of it is just so transient and ephemeral …. Why do I want to know what some guy sitting on the west coast of America thinks about Iraq? Would you pay to listen to this person?”

This self-proclaimed dotcome millionaire is about to publish a book saying that blogging is killing off the internet. Have to paraphrase here:

“Why do I want to know what some guy who a guardian journalist happens to have the phone number of thinks about blogging? Would you pay to read this person’s book?”

Christian fun for boys and girls

Following links from parabiodox’s – how can I put this? – unique site, I came across some really good Christian sites. Believe it or not. No, really.

(And before you say it, I’m not the fool for carrying on….. I know it’s not April 1 any more. )

I’m not talking about the normal entertainment value you can get from from reading creationist garbage and having a good chortle – albeit, tinged with fear. These really seem to be people who can extract the proverbial urine from themselves.

Ship of fools is a shock. It should probably be on the Atheist blogroll, were it not for the bulletin board that seems to be full of actual Christians. The gadgets for instance, like the dasboard Jesus, from Dogma or the knitted testament redefine tacky.

My temporary favourite is the cat baptising kit. Which seems to be being applied to the evil cat from Cats and dogs.

There is a section called the Fruitcake Zone that might as well be on the atheist blogroll because some of these links really are to the sites of people off the church bell-shaped curve of rationality. As the Ship of Fools site puts it:-

Here you will find the weird, wild and wonderful world of religious fruitcake, with websites that unwittingly put the “fun” back into fundamentalism. And the “mental”, come to think of it.

Related sites include the The religious adherence of comic book characters With an attention to detail that would shame Monk (the TV detective, that is, not a member of a religious order) someone has tabulated a million comic book characters and listed their religions.

They’ve had to strain the concept of religion beyond breaking point to include things like Alcoholics Anonymous, environmentalism, even atheism. (A fair number of the villains turn out to be atheists.)

Some characters like Thor and Hercules are even stuck with worshipping themselves more or less.

There are even linked pages debating the religion of selected characters at such length you may suspect the Bible is the condensed version of the book these would make.

You can spend hours here, being amused, infuriated and utterly baffled at the oddness of the human mind. As I said they are pretty damn good.

Atheist serpent eating own tail

We will now bow our heads in worship of the marvellous Mojoey’s Atheist Blogroll (see below right – or elsewhere, depending on whetherTW is experimenting with another new theme at the moment) The serpent eating its own tail bit means that this blog, being on the blogroll, is about to discuss the blogroll.

This blog has leapt from Technorati insignificance to the lower reaches of the blogistocrcay thanks to its magical touch.

Firstly, there are some blogs on the roll that I find utterly infuriating. I’m buggered if I can identify any logical connection between a miltant pro-Israeli stance and atheism, for a start, but there seem to be more than their fair share of blogs emitting very pro-Israeli rants. I’m obviously missing something here, but isn’t Israel by definition a Jewish state?

I seem to remember that Judaism is normally considered a religion. Couldn’t you even argue that the behaviour of Israel has been the biggest single spur to the rise if militant Islamic fundamentalism. Just saying. (There are no problems with the “Jewish atheist” site, which is totally what one would expect to belong on the blogroll. I.e. It’s by an atheist who was brought up into the Jewish tradition.)

I’m going to ignore these odd blogs. Free speech and so on. Instead, I’m going to unfairly pick out the most stunningly brilliant atheist blogs in case you haven’t read them. (Unfairly because this is on only the basis of the most brilliant ones I’ve read recently.)

Blog of the gods God’s own blog, written in the first person. As infernally brilliant as you’d expect from the creator of the universe. Can be almost unbearably funny. The Sycophants section is particularly good, with God slagging off the people who are shamelessly flattering Him/Her to get in His/Her good books. S/He writes a few more new commandments, sends a few deserving people to Hell for all eternity. You are even guaranteed eternal life in heaven if you click on a sponsored link. (This appears to involve you getting pop-up spam, sadly, though, maybe for ever.)

Nullfidian The blog would collectively say Nullfidian was God, were it not for the fact that the Blog of the Gods suggests the post has been filled. Never seen a boring post on his blog. That’s not a challenge, by the way.

There would be some danger of turning this blog into a scraper and just posting content from Pharyngula, Nullfidian or Blog of the Gods, if we let ourselves do that. So I won’t point you to nullifidian’s 2000-years-of-learning/ blogofthegods’ godmen-tyler-durden-meets-ned-flanders/ (These are just tasters, linking to their most recent posts. Trawl the rest.)

I was going to add another half dozen links here, but I started worrying about choosing excellent blog x over equally excellent blog y. Or the list would have been massive, Ah, isn’t that what the blogroll is for?

Tags untagging themselves

Blog posts here keep randomly losing their UTW tags today. We’ve got used to wierd weekend errors. We probably cause half of them ourselves. Is this the Technorati monster or something I’m doing? Any ideas, welcome.
While your at it, maybe someone can suggest how TW can get openSUSE to work in 64bit. Make command get error 2, as far as I can determine.

Tagging the untagged

This blog has been going through some traumatic changes to its functionality.

It doesn’t look much different because most of the changes to its appearance were repellent in IE6 and earlier browsers, although they looked great in IE7, so it’s temporarily reverted to a look which it’s had for .. oh, I don’t know… all of about 6 weeks.

The main differences for visitors is that you can find much more by tags, as if the blog was trying to be a mini-Technorati. You can open the Tag Archive page and search on several tags. (These are even presented in a tag cloud.)

The big difference for us is that we can tag things by just clicking on them. Adding tags used to be like pulling teeth. It probably contributed to my blogs being unfeasibly long because I couldn’t bear to have to go through the tagging process again (like a graffiti artist with a sore arm?) So the outcome should be less blog words, more tag words. Or at least, more tag words.

However, we don’t have full tagging liftoff yet.The older posts either don’t have any tags or only have WordPress category tags. By older, I mean “up to January 2007”. So that’s nearly all of them. As the posts here go back over a year, it’s an arduous task to add tags and it’s getting done piecemeal. All the same. it should be possible to find most of what we have for most of the topics.

And by the way, why do people keep typing “none” into the search bit in the header? This is just bizarre. It’s not when people click on the search box without putting anything in, because that brings up a blank page.

Microsoft Live-writer spam now gone

If you click on the link in the post about Microsoft Live-writer’s comments being pure spam, this morning, you might wonder what I was going on about. The page now has normal-looking comments.

(I still have the page open as it was last night though so I made a screenshot – well 2 screenshots, as the page is huge and I could have made about four, but I stoppped when I got the first three spam lists.)

Without being interested enough to go through pages of comments I can’t really say if they were genuinely deleted or just fell off the front pages because of the volume of comment that Microsoft page would generate.

However, WhyDontYou blog felt slightly smug when FireStats showed that almost the first reader of that comment came from an IP address in Redmond Virginia………. Please don’t destroy the illusion that Microsoft jumps to our tune.

Be careful what you blog

Abdel Kareem Nabil Soliman – an Egyptian student with the nom de blog “Kareem” – has been jailed for four years for insulting Islam and the Egyptian president, as reported by the BBC How depressing is that?

Here’s a brief summary of the BBC report. Abdel Soliman is a secularist, who was expelled from his University law studies for criticising religion. The University was responsible for reporting him to the police.

Mr Nabil had declared himself a secularist who does not fast during Ramadan and he criticised al-Azhar, the most prestigious institution of religious learning in the Sunni Muslim world.
He accused it of spreading radical ideas and suppressing freedom of thought.

Well, that’s certainly proved his point then.

The BBC claims that Egyptian bloggers have gained an influence that greatly outweighs their numbers and have been instrumental in exposing some true horrors carried out by the Egyptian state. This is rather humbling to the rest of us bloggers, who usually just about manage to expose what we think about the latest top-selling indie record.

Global greetings

Hola, Namasthe, Bonjour.

(Greetings in order of this blog’s ranking by nationality of visitors.)

This blog has finally decided to take Alexa seriously, so it’s greeting all you devoted Costa Rican, Indian, French readers. Please reveal yourselves to us.

Web traffic analysis=nonsense

What is it with search engines? and web-traffic rankers?

This blog has done enough whining about Technorati’s randomness. It’s well overdue to say that it’s probably working far more consistently and reliably than most of the facilities that claim to find Internet resources. (On a note that shows how shamelessly susceptible to flattery we are at – others please take note – it puts this blog at under 60,000 in the blogosphere which is almost beyond its wildest dreams.)

As an experiment, look up your blog in a few search engines. See if you can find any points in common between them.

Here’s one of my favourites in that I suspect they actually must a randomiser to generate web traffic numbers and links. Pick a blog, look at it in technorati’s blog directory.

Go to the traffic rank bit and click on it. You will find yourself in the realm of Alexa. This will probably show you that the traffic isnt really counted because the blog isn’t in the top 100,000. The daily page views are shown as a percent of people using the whole Internet, i.e., if the site isnt in the top 100,000 sites in the world, you wont get any figures. (If you come in at a newbie 5,195,452 – as this blog does – you may wonder if you are even reading the blog yourself)

100,000 sounds like a lot of sites. However, if you consider, global players (like Google or Microsoft), then big online retailers (like Tescos and Dell), then news sites (CNN, BBC) and national government information sites, you can see it must be pretty difficult to get into the club.

Beneath this blank chart, you will see “Percent of Internet users who visit this site” with a fraction of a percent if it’s anything like this one. (Maybe you’re Microsoft, in which case i guess it will be higher. Will check shortly.)
Then “average number of pages visited” and “3 months average traffic rank” (risibly low) and average page views per visitor (1) (1 🙂 Do you suspect that’s hard-coded?)

But the next bit is what creases me up for its randomness. People who visit this site come from (in order of most visits):

United States 40.0% (fair enough, the blog’s in English. Most English-speaking Internet users are in the USA)
France 20.0%
India 20.0%
Costa Rica 10.0%
United Kingdom 10.0% traffic rank in other countries: (These seem to be the same countries to me)
Costa Rica 46,349
India 167,900
France 170,280
United States 658,841
United Kingdom 703,872

Come on…. To what do we owe this unprecedented popularity in Costa Rica? India? France? This is a UK-based blog. Most of the stuff we witter on about, apart from atheism and technology, relates to the UK.

It’s not that I don’t want to believe it. A central American flavour to its posts would make this blog much more interesting. I just think the figures have been made up.

OK, let’s look at the sites that link here, according to Alexa. These are so out of date, that it’s obviously not been updated since the blog was a couple of months old. In fact, until I submitted a more recent image, Alexa had a screen shot of the blog that was well over a year old. (Yes, I know, that’s like saying “We don’t get enough spam here, please deluge us with as much as you can possibly manage”.) Maybe because of their age, the sites listed in some of these links are unrecognisable. In fact none of the blog links would be counted by Technorati, being over a year old, but then, it shows no links that Technorati counts (under 90 days.)

Let’s search for this blog on Google. Here, it’s wierder. There are few points of comparison between different Google results, if you repeat the search over a day or so. Maybe it’s just how Google treats blogs, but the post that comes up first is always the same one from a few months ago. Other posts can only be seen by asking for similar results, excluded the first time for being the same. Well, guess what Google, every post is different. It’s a blog. Lots of the other Google results for the blog are bits of the RSS feed. I’d like to think that lots of people are devouring the RSS feed, but, unfortunately, these tend to be link farms. In fact, lots of obscure references to the blog linkfarm sites turn up on Google, most being complete news to us. Real human-created references to the blog don’t turn up as often as they actually happen.

I could go on to the point where I was boring even myself.

None of this would matter if getting seen and indexed correctly wasn’t crucial to getting any visitors. I know that indexing engines and search engines are bomabarded with spammers trying every trick there is to get high on the first results page. The search engines have algorithms that are supposed to penalise sites and blogs that don’t match their definition of legitimate – density of keywords, number of inbound links, and so on. I believe that not only are these not working, they are often acting in exact reverse to their intentions.

Content from blogs get scraped and put into blag sites that exist just to spew out other people’s content. Google then decides the original source site has “duplicate” content and downranks it. How do you stop this without stopping legitimate blogs from commenting on your posts?

Keywords in the metatags don’t match teh keywords in the text? Well, duh, normal human beings aren’t thinking only of page rank. So they put keywords in their metatags then write content, without remembering to keep changing the metatags. Only people obsessed with search engine rankings do that and ,of course, a fair percentage of them aren’t just bloggers or normal website owners.

It’s not just a question of getting visitors. Anyone who wants to bring in revenue from their site or blog by displaying adverts gets judged by these bizarre standards. Some schemes base what they send you on your Alexa rating, which is itself derived from Google’s well-nigh arbitrary page rank . If you’ve ever tried to have GoogleAds on a site, you’ll see how abstract the GoogleAds process is. In fact, visitors who think they’re helping you pay for the site, so click a few times on your ads every time they visit will get you disqualified. Ditto, your rivals……. (It seems as if you get automatically disqualified anyway, at the very point that you might actually receive any revenue.)

I know it must be well nigh impossible to filter the enormous volume of material in the Internet, especially in the face of the number of spammers there are. However, there must be better ways of doing it. I am always amazed when people find things here and comment or email us about them. How do they manage to find it?

So here, is an unaccustomed prop for Technorati (unaccustomed for this blog, anyway, whioch has done its fair share of ranting about it). For all the irritating Technorati monster error messages and totally inconsistent service, Technorato remains the best performing indexing service that I’ve come across yet. The tags are really helpful when they work. You can still find an interesting read on someone’s first post. And Technorati isn’t yet totally under the sway of the giant players. The fabled Web 2.0 stuff really does still have something going for it.

Site Traffic

Amazingly, even though this month is only just half over, this blog has generated 10,068 unique visits this year. Wow. To put this in perspective, while there has been a steady increase over the last six months of 2006, the highest monthly total was around 9,000 unique visits. If the current trend continues we should break the 20,000 mark before too long. Thank you to everyone who visits!

New Code Required

It strikes me more and more that is not really “cutting the mustard” with regards to how it aggregates blog posts and how it tries to represent the blogosphere. This is not a bad thing as such – it is more a case that Technorati seem to have bitten off a lot more than they can chew and it certainly is (as previously mentioned) time for a new site to take over.

Once upon a time Yahoo was the dominant search engine on the Internet, then after a while it bogged itself down and people migrated to the sleek newcomer of Google. Can Google do the same with blogs? Personally I hope not, but then I feel that Google is starting to fall behind in the search engine stakes (poor quality search results for example), so they may be better off concentrating on that more than anything else.

As an example of Technorati’s oddness, while I was trying to see if it was ever going to realise new posts had been made here, I was refreshing the page about this blog and I noticed the “posts per day” in the corner. The really odd thing was, each refresh made it alternate between two graphs that bore almost no relation to reality (as well as the most recent posts changing to be either days or hours old). Below you can see the first and second vesions. Do they look the same? (I am aware the scales are different).

Version 1 of the Posts Per DayVersion 2 of the Posts Per Day

For example, how many posts were made on 14 Jan? (hint 2) How many were made on 17 Jan (hint – not 19 yet!)

Will some one PLEASE come up with a site which does it better than Technorati.