Tag Archives: web 2.0

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 gravatar.com 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 Blip.fm 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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Spam and Social Networks

Social networks have been growing at an extraordinary rate over the last couple of years. The big contest has been between Facebook and MySpace and recently Facebook was reported to have caught up with its older rival. These two social networking giants aim to be walled gardens where users can chat, exchange photos, share music, take quizzes and (more bizarrely) turn each other into virtual vampires.

A more minimalist approach is the microblog. Twitter pioneered the idea of the microblog, asking its users the question “what are you doing”, a question to be answered in 140 characters or less. You are also able to “follow” other twitter users, tracking their posts (or “tweets”) and they may choose to follow you back. Twitter has been growing rapidly over the last year (see chart below) and recently exceeded two million registered users and countless other sites are now following hot on their heels, including jaiku, pownce, identi.ca and kwippy.

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Parliament FlagLast Monday the public beta of OpenAustralia.org was launched. The site, closely modelled on the UK’s TheyWorkForYou.com, aims to make the workings of Australia’s democracy more transparent.

Transcripts of parliamentary proceedings (Hansard) have been available on line for some time, but OpenAustralia takes the same content and gives it a Web 2.0 work-over. Searching is far easier than on the parliamentary website. You can enter your postcode, find your local member and then search for particular words or phrases in her speech (in my case Tanya Plibersek) and you can even subscribe to an email alert which lets you know whenever she says something in parliament. You are also able to post comments on individual speeches. This feature provides a intriguing forum for community debate of political issues without the filter of media decisions as to what is or is not newsworthy. I will be very interested to see how these discussions evolve.

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