Category Archives: web 2.0

RIAA Continues to Stifle Innovation

Back in August, muxtape, a popular music playlist site, was forced to close by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Now mixwit have announced that it is closing too. The only explanation offered was as follows:

We’ve put a year of work into Mixwit so this choice wasn’t taken lightly. I won’t go into the details of our situation but state simply that we boldly marched into in [sic] a position best described as “between a rock and a hard place.”

Reading between the lines, it looks as though they too have fallen at the hands of the RIAA. Under the cover of claims to be protecting artists, claims that do not bear close scrutiny, the RIAA is building an impressive track-record of stifling innovation. While it is possible to take comfort from the fact that attempts to stem the tide of progress always fail in the end, it is nevertheless frustrating to see the suffering of victims of this pernicious organisation in the meantime, whether those victims are single mothers sued for file-sharing or the creators of sites like muxtape and mixwit.

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Pownce and Sandy: RIP

As is probably evident from past posts about twitter or identica, I am something of a Web 2.0 junkie. Over the last few years I have signed up for countless services and I am sure I have forgotten about far more of them than I actually use. And therein lies a problem. The rate of innovation online of late has been extraordinary, but the result is a proliferation of services that is not sustainable. With the Global FInancial Crisis progressing outside the financial sector to the broader economy, venture capitalists will be tightening their purse-strings and this will inevitably lead to a period of consolidation in the online landscape.

Early signs of this phenomenon appeared today with announcements that the social networking site Pownce, to-do list manager I Want Sandy and virtual Post-It note site Stikkit  will all be closing down.

Twitter is a common theme behind these closures. Despite the backing of welebrity Kevin Rose and rich media sharing features, Pownce ultimately failed to grow at the same rate as twitter. When initially launched, the mystique generated by the invitation-only private beta version of the site attracted attention for a while, but interest seemed to wane after the site went public. Personally, I have been using twitter more and more and pownce less and less over the last year, but I will miss the friendly alien (pictured above) who appeared on pownce pages when something went awry. Somehow he is more endearing than twitter’s “fail whale”.

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Blog Comment Spam

What with buying a new house, going on holiday and now trying to sell the old house, it has been a while since my last post. Here is a quick reflection on blog comment spam to ease myself back into my blogging regimen.

Those who have never written a blog may not be aware of the phenomenon of blog comment spam. The basic idea is the same as email spam: to drive traffic to websites featuring pornography, viagra or worse. Fortunately, spam filtering software works as well, if not better, for blog comment spam as it does for email spam.

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I feel I am due for a break from the GFC* and so will instead return to the subject of Web 2.0.

Whenever I come across a new Web 2.0 site/application/service I cannot help but sign up. A quick search for the phrase “welcome to” in my gmail archives throws up about 100 messages, representing only some of the debris of this obsession: sites I have signed up for, explored briefly and mostly never visited again.

home_logo_2x-vflh0bgUFAmong these, however, is a recent discovery that has quickly become an indispensable tool. Alongside gmail and google calendar, Dropbox is now one of my favourite examples of “cloud computing”. In a nutshell, it provides synchronised offsite storage in an extraordinarily seamless way. For a new service, still only in beta, it is very impressive.

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Readers of comments on the Stubborn Mule and other blogs may have noticed the little avatars like the one pictured here. Some may even have wondered how it is that some commenters manage to display a picture of themselves. If you are one of those people, or you are now curious, read on.

These avatars are known as “gravatars”, or globally recognized avatars. Gravatars provide a clever mechanism for frequent blog vistors to have the same image appear with their comments across all gravatar-enabled blogs. To create a gravatar of your own, you simply sign up at and upload an image.

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Monetising Microblogs with Music?

In my recent post on the future of Microblogging, I expressed concerns about the viability of twitter given that they are yet to find a business model. But perhaps I just wasn’t thinking laterally enough: earlier this week I stumbled across a novel approach to monetising microblogging. The new site brings music to microblogging in a way that initially had me scratching my head, but it is gradually starting to make more sense. Based on a recent post on the Microblogger’s blog, 140char, others are responding in much the same way.

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An Online Communication Primer

In a recent post on his Sprechblase (“Speech Bubble”) blog, Cem Basman examines a number of different forms of communication that have evolved on the web: chat, forums, wikis, blogs and microblogs. Although the boundaries can be blurred, Cem’s summary of the key features of each of these forms is a useful one.

The original post is in German and, with the help of Google translate and my own rusty German, I have adapted it to produce an English version. I am publishing it here with Cem’s blessing. Cem couches his discussion in terms of his notion of “die Sphäre” (the “Sphere”), by which he means the totality of communication in all its forms on the web.
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The Future of Microblogging

I have been an enthusiastic user of twitter for quite some time now, but I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that it is unlikely to survive, at least in its current form. This is partly because they will struggle to build a business model to start paying off their venture capital backers. But more importantly, it is because twitter is a closed system and that will ultimately constrain its potential.

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Online Data and Charts with Swivel

I recently came across the OECD Factbook blog written by Jérôme Cukier, who works as a data editor for the OECD. He has an excellent post on publishing charts in blogs.

As regular readers of the Mule will know, I don’t mind posting the odd chart and in the process I have grappled with the less than ideal results that the Excel to image production-cycle can produce. Jérôme’s process discusses these challenges and illustrates the results of different techniques (although I had more luck with copying as a picture and saving to PNG format than he had, so perhaps the choice of picture editor is a factor as well). As far as possible, I try to avoid using Excel altogether for producing charts and instead use the statistical package R, which can produce charts directly to a number of image formats including JPG and PNG. Although Jérôme doesn’t mention R, it does crop up in the first of the comments on his post.

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This evening I caught up for a chat and a couple of beers with Dan Walsh, the technologist behind the scenes of the Australian social news site Kwoff.

For those not familiar with social news sites, the idea is that users submit links to interesting news articles (or blog posts, funny photos, videos or anything else that tickles their fancy) and then other users can vote for the stories they enjoyed reading. The most popular stories then float to the top where they are easily found by visitors to the site. This is a classic example of the Web 2.0 technique of crowd-sourcing.

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