Sweep The Sleaze

I came across this article over on iA (via @gruber, I think), and was really struck by its thesis, namely:

Promising to make you look wired and magically promote your content in social networks, the Like, Retweet, and +1 buttons occupy a good spot on pretty much every page of the World Wide Web. Because of this, almost every major site and world brand is providing free advertising for Twitter and Facebook. But do these buttons work? It’s hard to say. What we know for sure is that these magic buttons promote their own brands — and that they tend to make you look a little desperate. Not too desperate, just a little bit.

Be sure to read the article in-full.
I was struck by the article and so have swept the sleaze from Literal Barrage. No more Share This/Stumble This/Tweet This/+1 This boxes at the bottom of my posts. Hopefully this helps reduce the clutter and makes reading content here just a bit more enjoyable.
Let me know if you agree.

Zounds! Google To Buy WordPress By Proxy!

WP + G = ??
Well, okay, now that I have that little bit of headline rumor-/scaremongering out of the way, I’ve got to say: interesting things are afoot in the Automattic/WordPress world these days. First off, Matt Mullenweg announced a few days ago that, effective immediately, all WordPress.com (as opposed to .org) accounts would be receiving an upgrade from 50MB of storage apiece to 3 GB apiece. Speculation ran rampant as to how such beneficence could be possible until Matt let slip that Automattic had received an additional $29-30 million in venture capital from several investment partners, including the New York Times(!).
Now add to that other blatant WAGging/punditing about Google buying the Times and you arrive at my far-fetched headline.
Yeah, I know, preposterous and beyond far-fetched. Still, it’s an interesting thought experiment to pursue, namely: what happens if Google gets ahold of the company largely behind the world’s most popular self-hosted blogging solution and owner of a direct competitor to Google’s Blogger service?
Rough-and-tumble times ahead, but I’m sure the Automattic guys will weather it just fine with those VC dollars. *grin*

Up From Humble Beginnings

It’s hard to believe, but Google, the current King of the Internet[s], sprang up from humble beginnings at Stanford back in 1998. Want proof? Here are the pictures that capture the ragtag nature of the first revision of the Little Search Engine That Could And Eventually Did.

Beyond Crypto Journalism: MySpace, digg And Trust Engines

I’ve had time to mull over the implications of my previous post on technological solutions to what ails journalism and have come to the conclusion that a solution based on high technology would ultimately fail for the same reason that PGP-based email encryption has failed to catch on in the world at large: it’s simply too complicated for the average user to interact with, let alone understand. The very notions of “key exchanges” and “signing” tend to be over users’ heads and questions such as “What do you mean, they have to send me a key first? Why can’t I just send them email and have it be encrypted without messing around with all that extra stuff?” While the concepts behind public key encryption are fundamentally sound and fairly easy to understand for computer science grads, they tend to be over the heads of average users. Still, I believe that the idea of using technology to enhance the trust relationship between the producers and consumers of news to be one within reach. If a high-tech solution is out of the question, though, what are we left with?
Then it struck me: simply leverage social network effects to make up for any technological shortcomings.
Three sites known for their exploitation of network effects immediately leapt to mind: digg, MySpace and Google. Each of these sites (and their corresponding technological underpinnings) rely upon users to build and make up for content and relationships that their systems would otherwise lack. digg allows users to both submit noteworthy content and vote for content that strikes them as interesting, allowing the stories that most people find interesting to “bubble to the top”. Blatant spam attempts, linkwhoring, repeat content, etc. tend to get “dugg” downwards, assuring that most digg readers never see the worst of the worst. MySpace offers users a chance to build a network of friends through simple invitations and gives a chance for all to see the networks each user has managed to collect. Google, through a set of algorithms they have spent millions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of man-hours in developing, peruses each site that it knows about, assigning each page a relative ranking (known as “Page Rank” – creative, I know) based upon the number and “strength” of links other Internet users have chosen to point to it. The cardinality of each link is used to give each page its own place in the hierarchy of the Web. Each of these models, particularly in some combination of the three, could be used to great effect in the furtherance of restoring trust in journalism.
Imagine a site where each reporter and source maintained a MySpace-esque profile page listing each and every user that has given their explicit trust to the news producer, couple that functionality with the ability for users to affect the actual news that gets top treatment ala digg, add in a distributed protocol of “trust links” or somesuch that would allow independant, average citizens (read: bloggers) to note their trust for certain authors. Bloggers and web content creators already obsess over Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – what would our news organizations look like if they similarly obsessed over their Trust Engine Optimization? Their Google Trust Rank? All of these notions use interface cues and concepts that are already widely-used by average Netizens of all stripes.
So, all that being said, how do we get the AP, Reuters, etc. to care about TEO?

Spam, Spam, Eggs And Spam, Ham, Spam And Eggs

I have a very simple question: why do I continually get bombarded with penny stock scam image-based spam at work and yet my GMail address has yet to get a single one? Why does my corporate identity lose out? Why do most businesses do such terrible jobs at filtering out the crap and yet Google and Yahoo! manage to catch, on average, 97-98% of the spam I would potentially see?
FOLLOW-UP QUESTIONS: How can I convince Yahoo! and Google to allow my company to leverage their anti-spam resources and how in the world can I convince a corporate IT structure practically addicted to Microsoft Exchange to use said leverage?
FOLLOW-UP-UP QUESTION: Who, in the name of all that is holy, sacred and pure actually buys the stuff spammers “sell”? I, personally, think that anyone idiotic enough to do so ought to be placed in stocks in the town square and pelted with Hormel Brand SPAM™. Still in the can, of course, as I’d hate to have anyone forget the lesson they would be sure to learn.
1/18/07 FOLLOW-UP UPDATE: Wouldn’t you know it – an image-based V1agr4!-style spam got through to my GMail this morning. Heh.

Google – Now Diagnosing Meatspace Tech Support Issues, Too!

Our living room air conditioner has been acting fairly fritzy as of late, running at full bore for 5 minutes or so and then summarily shutting off and flashing “E1” on its LCD readout. In vain did I search the owner’s manual for a solution and I was nearly ready to call Sharp’s customer support line when I was struck by a thought: why not Google the error message?
Sure enough, the very first hit contained the answer I was looking for. Maintenance completed, the air conditioner returned to working form and all was right with the world again. Google saves the day!
For other Sharp A/C owners out there, the solution appears to be the following:

  1. Turn off and unplug A/C.
  2. Remove and clean air filter.
  3. Replace filter.
  4. Hold down power button until you hear a beep while plugging unit back in. You will hear the compressor and the fan turn on briefly. This is very important – it appears to reset the unit to its factory settings.
  5. Unplug the unit.
  6. Plug it back in and resume use.

WaPo Editorial Board Piles On Yahoo!

We’ve been over the incredibly craven behavior of Yahoo! with regards to helping the ChiComms oppress their people, but the mainstream media seems to have largely ignored the issue. In a first big stride, however, the Washington Post’s editorial board has weighed in on the issue (anti-Yahoo!, pro-freedom, if you must know). Let’s hope theirs is the first among many mainstream voices to call out Yahoo!, Google, Microsoft and other US companies for their inexcusable behavior.