Weblog on the Internet and public policy, journalism, virtual community, and more from David Brake, a Canadian academic, consultant and journalist

Archive forMay, 2004 | back to home

31 May 2004

“Ethan Zuckerman”:http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/ethan/ – philanthropist, academic and geek – has recently been “quantifying”:http://h2odev.law.harvard.edu/ezuckerman/ which countries are written about by which media outlets. Of particular interest to bloggers he has been comparing ‘mainstream news’ outlets to what the blogosphere talks about.

One possible methodological weakness – his study doesn’t seem to weight by impact or story length. If, say, NBC talks about Sudan once in the news for three minutes it may have more impact among Americans than a hundred mentions in the Seattle Post Intelligencer, the The Free Lance-Star etc (let alone the many overseas news sources on Google News). The same argument could be made about blog postings – if lots of ‘minor’ blogs post about the Sudan but none of the majors do, that is important to capture. Of course no research method is perfect and it is a lot easier to poke holes than suggest methods of one’s own. So hats off to Ethan for at least starting a debate!

Also see some analysis of the coverage of “The Sudan in particular”:http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/ethan/2004/05/27#a209 and in the comments I found references to “NKZone”:http://nkzone.typepad.com/nkzone/ a weblog about the biggest news black hole – North Korea.

30 May 2004

Picking two facts at random from the April index – only 3% of Afghans have registered to vote and when the president was asked questions about his tax cut proposals on Meet the Press in 2003 none of the questions related to their inequality.

29 May 2004
Filed under:Interesting facts,Search Engines at11:02 am

An article in “Knowledge Management World”:http://www.kmworld.com/publications/magazine/index.cfm?action=readarticle&Article_ID=1725&Publication_ID=108 suggests a lot of what knowledge workers do is re-creating knowledge that is already available but they didn’t find.

It’s ironic (and infuriating) – particularly for a magazine all about knowledge management – that none of the catchy factoids like, “90% of the time that knowledge workers spend in creating new reports or other products is spent in recreating information that already exists” come with citations so there’s no way to check their methods (though I’m guessing they aren’t particularly rigorous).

Thanks to Lilia ‘Mathemagenic’ Efimova for the link. She notes interestingly that maybe some people prefer to re-discover things themselves because learning for yourself is more fun than researching it…

28 May 2004

opensourceCMS is a very cool idea. It’s a sort of playground where you can kick the tires of lots of open source groupware, weblogging and content management software. This kind of software requires some skills and time to install so having a way to try it out and see what it feels like to use without having to install it yourself (and then uninstall it if it isn’t what you want) is very useful. Of course nothing you do with it is permanent – ‘Each system is deleted and reinstalled every two hours. This allows you to be the administrator of any system here without fear of messing anything up.’

27 May 2004
Filed under:Academia,Virtual Communities,Weblogs at9:32 pm

The site owner has revealed that it will vanish on the 9th of June, thus putting an end to a fascinating blog that shot from nowhere to (relative) fame in a little more than a year by providing a place for (mostly American) junior academics and PhD students to vent their frustration and share knowledge.

I was initially complacent, thinking ‘well if I want it I can always check out the Internet Archive’ but the last ‘backup’ of the site by the Internet Archive took place “5th June 2003”:http://web.archive.org/web/20030605225140/http://invisibleadjunct.com/ – a year’s worth of insights will be lost forever! Will nobody step forth to persuade the mystery owner to keep it going? Or hand it over to a third party?

(This also is an unwelcome reminder of the ‘fragility’ of cyberspace – how, even with the Internet Archive, pages can appear suddenly and disappear suddenly without leaving a trace…)

26 May 2004
Filed under:Academia,Personal,Weblogs at10:49 am

How would you sample home pages and weblogs in the UK? My definition would be: “sites that are not primarily in furtherance of professional goals (eg online CVs, galleries of art from artists etc), are not explicitly temporary, are substantially the work of a single individual, and are not closed to the public either explicitly (through a password) or implicitly (for example collections of photos from an event without an accompanying narrative that are only meant to be accessed by a small group for a short time even if they are openly available online).”

If I had a long list of random UK home pages I could weed out the ones that didn’t belong myself, however.

I thought about sampling randomly from directories compiled by Geocities or Freeserve/Wanadoo but I looked and it seems they no longer index their pages. Do they have directories somewhere I missed?

Using Yahoo or DMoz would introduce obvious biases because submission is not automatic.

Tripod still does have “directories of its UK users”:http://www.tripod.lycos.co.uk/directory/homepages/ and it seems like the best bet so far but how representative would Tripod users be of all users? Searching for ‘personal home page uk’ in Google gets me nowhere.

How should I balance blogs with home pages? Using the stats from Pew suggests I should include about one blog for every four home pages. What do you think is the best way to randomly sample weblogs? There used to be a master directory of Blogger ones. Is there still? Is there any up to date info on the relative popularity of the various weblogging platforms?

Jill Walker mentions how people visiting a post on the “Noetech blog”:http://blog.noetech.com/archives/2004/04/13/overhaulin.shtml which mentioned watching a TV show seem to think that the blogger actually runs that TV show.

It’s bizarre but this sort of thing has happened to me, too. I “mentioned”:http://blog.org/archives/000617.html months ago that Philip Pullman’s trilogy was being streamed by the BBC and I received several comments (since removed to avoid confusion) that clearly suggested the commenters thought that Pullman was reading or even writing the blog. It’s as if readers just skimmed looking for their keywords, ignored the context and blurted out whatever was in their heads…

I guess if I want readers “all I need to do”:http://www.google.com/press/zeitgeist.html is talk about how I enjoyed American Idol during spring break and when I finished I listened to Howard Stern talk about Iraq with Halle Berry and Lindsay Lohan.

Thanks to “Lila”:http://blog.mathemagenic.com/ for the link

25 May 2004

I just finished Against All Enemies: Inside America’s War on Terror.

After a quick overview of the day of 9/11 itself he went back to 1979 and started to work forward. It seems he (along with many others) finds the Saudi government to be duplicitous and often unhelpful to Western interests. More interestingly he seems convinced that Iran from 1979 to 1996 was responsible for a large number of attempted terrorist attacks on western interests and he doesn’t seem at all mollified by the election of Khatami. He suggests (p. 129) that they are still supporting terrorism in Israel and helping al Qaeda. I have the (admittedly ill-informed) impression that Iran is stumbling slowly towards a freer society and I thought they were no longer supporting terrorism despite their often bloodthirsty rhetoric. I guess if he’s right it helps to explain why Iran is one of the countries of Bush’s “Axis of Evil”.

It’s also interesting to have all the al Quaeda terrorist attacks against the US pre-9/11 collected together in one place. I always had the impression that there really hadn’t been much activity but it certainly becomes alarming if you add it all up as Clarke does – especially when you start finding out about the plots that were foiled – not all of which became public. I didn’t know that Ramzi Yousef in 1994 plotted to kill the Pope and Clinton in the Phillipines and in 1995 he had a reasonably well-advanced plot to blow up US airliners in the Pacific for example.

One thing I do wonder about though – he talks a lot about the relative unpreparedness of both the CIA and the FBI (and we all know now about their intelligence failures with 9/11 and WMD in Iraq). And he insists (for example) that the pharmaceutical factory in Sudan really was making chemical weapons. So why should we believe what he says about any US intelligence?

24 May 2004

I have been thinking for a little while now that something needs to change in the practice of blogrolling. People use a lengthy blogroll to indicate what other blogs they consider interesting (telling something about their own interests) and to encourage others to link to them, but what use are they to the rest of the people actually reading the weblogs themselves? “BlogRolling”:http://www.blogrolling.com/members.phtml’s practice of just listing them all in a column without comment seems to me particularly pointless – who is going to go and look through all the blogs on someone’s list of 50 – a mix of friends and work colleagues and random interesting stuff – on the off chance that some of them will be interesting?

That’s why I have a “single link”:http://www.bloglines.com/public/derb/ on my already over-crowded right hand bar which leads you to the 104 weblogs I am currently tracking, all sorted into categories and sometimes even with descriptions thanks to “bloglines”:http://www.bloglines.com/. But I worry that automated tools that measure my connectedness like “Technorati”:http://www.technorati.com/ will not capture this and visitors may overlook the link.

So do I include a long useless list of links somewhere just so robots can read them? What do you think? Is there a better way to tackle this? Could bloglines and the blog indexing/ratings people get together somehow?

23 May 2004

Cleolinda Jones is one funny woman as “Troy in 15 Minutes”:http://www.livejournal.com/users/cleolinda/99710.html proves conclusively. If you have rather longer, rather than seeing “the movie”:http://www.metacritic.com/film/titles/troy listen to “Prof Robert Rabel”:http://www.npr.org/features/feature.php?wfId=1901156 and read an English language translation of the original in a “free etext form”:http://www.gutenberg.net/etext02/iliab10.txt instead.

If you laughed at Troy in 15 Minutes why not check out Cleolinda’s version of “Van Helsing in Fifteen Minutes”:http://www.livejournal.com/users/cleolinda/93639.html too?

Obdisclaimer – I have not seen the film or (alas) read the book either in Greek or in English.
Thank you so much Reid for letting me know about Cleolinda!

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