Posts tagged ‘World Wide Web’


New Twitter, less utility?

16.12.2010

I might have to go on to one of those Twitter clients, when “new” Twitter is forced upon all users soon.
   When it eventually began working (it didn’t initially), I liked the new Twitter’s overall look. It was only missing one feature: telling us what the last Tweet of the person was at a glance. I didn’t want to click on each person to see what their last Tweet was.
   Knowing what the last Tweet was allows me to make a judgement call about whether I follow that person back. Sometimes you can tell if the Tweeter is actually a spammer, sending automated Tweets that you have no interest in following. For instance, these are my newest followers (sorry, folks—but since anyone can see you, I’m sure you won’t mind being used for this exercise):

Latest Twitter followers

In each case, I already have an idea who is worth following back, and it saves me some time. (I won’t comment on whom I have followed back out of these four.)
   The new Twitter is a little slower because it loads so much more—yet I don’t get any more utility from it, based on my usage.
   We all adapt, just as we did with wholesale changes to Facebook and other services. But I wonder whether it will be like Digg or Technorati, or, for that matter, Infoseek and Altavista (remember the portal gag? I think Google does), where changes scared people away.

PS.: Based on Twitter’s own ‘Help Center’, the bug I reported three months ago is still present for a lot of users. While the bug disappeared for me around six weeks ago, I’m now dreading the change, being one of the first people to encounter it when the new Twitter was launched.—JY

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Posted in design, internet, technology | 2 Comments »


“Liking” something on Facebook takes an awfully long time

12.12.2010

There are things I “like” on Facebook, but as they can be run by organizations, I don’t see the need to reveal all my private information to them.
   Once upon a time, it was quite easy to stick these “likes” into my limited profile friends’ category on friends. But a few months ago, Facebook removed them all from my friends’ listing. Not that they ever told us, but they are still there.
   With some reason, Facebook makes me paranoid. It’s made changes to my privacy settings a lot of times without my permission, and made false accusations about copyright infringement, including lying about the reasons for the latter. From what we know from inside the company, the culture’s not exactly on the side of everyday people like you and me.

Facebook makes false accusations

   Just because these fan pages and supported organizations are not among my friends’ list, it does not mean that some day, Facebook won’t allow them access to our profiles. I prefer to be cautious and stick them all into my limited profile category—or an even stricter one.
   So to all those people who have sent me fan pages to “like”, here’s why it takes me a long time (sometimes years) to add them.
   1. I go into the page suggestions and confirm the page that I like.
   2. I go to Account, then Edit Friends, at the top of the page.
   3. I select Limited Profile on the side, and wait for the friends’ list to generate.
   4. I enter the name of the page I just “liked” into the box that appears above the list.
   5. I repeat (2) to (4) because nothing happens.
   6. On the second time, Facebook will add the page into the limited profile category of my friends’ list.
   It’s an incredibly convoluted process, and step (5) is particularly frustrating, but when it comes to Facebook, they have taught us that it’s better safe than sorry.

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Posted in culture, internet, technology, USA | 2 Comments »


Testing the search engines

30.11.2010

Blekko

I hadn’t heard of Blekko, a search engine, till last week, so armed with a new entrant, I wanted to see how they all compared.
   Blekko’s very pretty, and I’ve told Gabriel Weinberg, the man behind Duck Duck Go, just what it is that makes it attractive. Most of it is the modernist design approach it takes. But is it more functional?
   I have a couple of tests. You may have heard me dis Google’s supplemental index, where pages it deems to be less important wind up. But who makes that determination? And what if there is a page in there that is actually relevant but Google fails to dig it up?
   Google says the supplemental index doesn’t exist any more, but the fact remains that it fails to dig up some pages, especially older ones. So much for its comprehensive index.
   The first test, therefore, is one I have subjected every search engine I encounter to: will it find a 2000 article on Lucire about Elle Macpherson Intimates’ 10th anniversary? It is probably the only article on the subject, and because of this test, I’ve even linked it this year so it can be spidered by the search engines. Last month, Google could not find it, though in 2000–1, it was very easily found.
   If the search engines are as intelligent as their makers claim, it should be able to figure out these concepts and deliver the pages accordingly. The page itself is very basic with no trick HTML—just plain old meta data, as you would imagine for a ten-year-old file.
   Will the search engines find it now, with a few more inward links?

Duck Duck Go: 1st
Blekko: not found, though it locates a reference made on this blog and two others in Lucire, one going back to 2001, at positions 1, 2 and 12
Google: 73rd, with blog entries from here referring to it at 5 and 42, and another link in Lucire at 6
Bing: 1st with old frameset at 2nd
Ask: 7th

   Here’s the second test. In Wired, Google bragged about how its index could find a page about a certain lawyer in Michigan (mike siwek lawyer mi). Unfortunately for Mr Siwek, most of the top entries quickly became those about the Wired article and he was lost again in the index.
   Mr Don Wearing, a friend of mine, is a partner in a shoe retail chain. If I typed “Don Wearing” shoes, which of the search engines will deliver me an entry referring to Don Wearing specifically and not some guy called Don who happens to be wearing shoes? (Not long ago, the best the search engines could do was around 12th.)

Duck Duck Go: 2nd
Blekko: says ‘No results found for: “Don Wearing” shoes’ but actually finds the article at 5th
Google: 3rd
Bing: 2nd
Ask: 5th

Not bad: an improvement all round.
   OK, how about speed of addition? Let’s see if the search engines will find the last entry in this blog, added a few hours ago. I’ll use the search term “Jack Yan” TPPA.

Duck Duck Go: not found
Blekko: not found
Google: found the main blog page
Bing: found a link to it at MyBlogLog
Ask: not found, but came up with seven irrelevant results

   This is just a quick test based on three examples that might not reflect everyday use. However, the first two frustrated me earlier when I went to hunt for them on Google (and before I had heard of Duck Duck Go), which is why I remembered them, so admittedly Google was at a slight disadvantage in this test as a result. I never went to Bing or Ask regularly.
   Therefore, I’m not going to draw any conclusions about who is best, but I will say that Google is quicker at finding new material. I would, however, encourage others to give these other search engines a go and see how effective they are. I’m very happy with Duck Duck Go, especially as it does not second-guess my queries with Google’s annoying ‘Showing results for [what Google thinks I typed]. Search instead for [what I actually typed]’. No, Google, I did not type my query wrong—so give me the results already!
   I prefer Duck Duck Go’s approach, which is to treat the web more as a research medium. There is no hiding pages: it just delivers the most relevant result to what I typed, which is why I originally moved to Google at the end of the 1990s.
   Judging by the above, I’m not convinced Blekko is ready for prime-time (which is why it still has a beta tag).
   Of the five tested, it looks like it’s still the Duck for me, complemented with Google News. I’m way more impressed with Duck Duck Go’s privacy policy: no search leakage, no search history, and no collecting of personal information to hand over to law enforcement or, for that matter, the Chinese Politburo.
   And in a year where people have shown that they care about privacy, Duck Duck Go seems to make more sense.

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Posted in business, design, internet, technology, USA | 2 Comments »


The “next Google” has to save the web

09.11.2010

Spotted on Tumblr yesterday, via Dave Sparks: ‘Why Facebook Browsing Annihilates Web Browsing’, on the Fast Company blogs. The intro pretty much summarizes the whole piece:

Recent research suggests that Facebook is overtaking search engines in terms of “time spent” on the web. Want to see where the trendline is heading? Take a look at young female Facebook users, who spend as much as 5 hours on the site per day—and almost no time on the wider web. You’d better get your brand’s Facebook page in order.

   As Lucire is largely made up of female users, the above is borne out on some days, where we receive a handful more referrers from Facebook than from Google.
   The other component to this may be Google itself. Now, this isn’t a dig (as I am wont to do this year). But here at work, we’re noticing that in order to find something, we might employ two search engines and not rely just on Google.
   As I pointed out, there are things that Google just cannot find, even when freshly linked from, say, this blog.
   It all seemed to start from the days of the supplemental index, where Google hid some pages that it had crawled from the main index. This seems fair enough: the majority of searches must be connected with the Zeitgeist (a word Google itself uses when describing a month’s search-term trends), and would be about a current event. Older pages, which contain historical information, only serve to get in the way.
   But what of the researchers? I’ve posited once before that the web is, at its core, a research medium, and (the old) Google contributed to some degree to that notion. If you’re hunting for something, especially if you’re a student, the web is your first port of call. However, if certain pages are now hidden from view, then a search engine might not be your best bet any more. You might Tweet your request, use your social network to see if a peer or a “friend” has the answer, or, Heaven forbid, you might go offline to find a credible source.
   Mark Kirby, who wrote the Fast Company entry, notes:

What’s most important about this behavior, from a brand marketing perspective at least, is that when many of these women needed to look something up—information on a venue, or a band, or a consumer brand—they were more likely to look first for information on the site where they were already spending all their time: Facebook.

   The idea that young women are spending time on Facebook, and spending less time on any other site on the web, isn’t that big a surprise. Many of us have set up presences there: the latest, when I clicked through on Lucire ads today, was L’Oréal USA. It is a site that some trust, despite its callous attitude to privacy and the law. (Again, this was a prediction I made, not referring to Facebook, some years ago: that people would start flocking to trusted brands on the internet again. It just so happens some people trust Facebook’s brand, even if I don’t.)
   We’re also creatures who like our busy lives to be as crap-free as possible. Remember email? Once upon a time, there was no spam. Everyone who we were connected to via email, we wanted to be connected with. Often, these were people with that same, idealistic outlook we ourselves had. People with like minds. Not always friends, but certainly people with some connection to us. They might be what we term a ‘friend’ today, in Facebook or MySpace parlance.
   Cities that have experienced decay might be another parallel: remember how there was less crime? Remember when you could walk down Street X more safely, before the crims took over that neighbourhood? (I hear variants of this frequently from my British and South African friends now.)
   And now look at the web. Fake, automated blogs (such as those promoted in the image at left) are set up just to trick people into visiting so their owners can make a few bob from Google Adsense. (Don’t believe me? Head into Google Blog Search and have a poke around: the phonies are taking over the index. This was the sort of disease that plagued Vox before Six Apart shut it down.) No wonder publishers are doing Ipad apps and the like, where they can be assured of some quality control, and no wonder we are spending time on Facebook, hopefully to lead spam-free lives. And no wonder Technorati, which once was a powerhouse when it came to cataloguing blogs, is so very 2000s now.
   As with so many things, Google’s web search probably needs to return to its roots. PageRank is useful, but then, so is a good old-fashioned analysis about how honestly a site has done its meta tags and provided its content. Or perhaps the boffins at Mountain View can develop a method, beyond PageRank, to determine a site’s legitimacy. (I’m sure they’re already working on it; they’re doing their bit to get rid of splogs, even if many legit ones get caught up in that. Ironically, fewer splogs would probably exist if Google did not have its Adsense programme, which provides advertising income to low-traffic publishers.) It’s still a bit better than my current search engine favourite, Duck Duck Go, when it comes to interpreting the terms that are fed in (it groups them better, though it still makes mistakes), but the web, as we knew it, may be heading the same way as email. It’s there, but it’s just not the best hang-out in town.
   That might be the task of “the next Google”—the new venture that’s going to come in and define the 2010s just as Google defined the 2000s. The one engine that’s more capable of weeding out the splogs, able to spot the human-authored spaces. The new site that will save us from ourselves and the crap that now goes on to the internet. The need seems to be there.

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Posted in branding, business, culture, internet, media, publishing, technology, USA | 2 Comments »


A weekend of malware

24.10.2010

Autocade warning

I’m prepared to eat humble pie if one of our sites is actually distributing malware (naturally without any knowledge or action on our part). According to Google, Autocade is doing just that, as of the 23rd:

Of the 3 pages we tested on the site over the past 90 days, 3 page(s) resulted in malicious software being downloaded and installed without user consent. The last time Google visited this site was on 2010-10-23, and the last time suspicious content was found on this site was on 2010-10-23.
   Malicious software is hosted on 1 domain(s), including requestbusforward.co.cc/.
   1 domain(s) appear to be functioning as intermediaries for distributing malware to visitors of this site, including globals1696.ipq.co/.

   Immediately, I did the following:

  • searched for the domain (requestbusforward.co.cc) that was the source of the malware, and found that there were accusations toward Gizmodo and Gawker of doing exactly the same thing;
  • notified people on Twitter that there could be a problem with Autocade;
  • confirmed on a machine that is infected (which we were about to nuke) that the message was correct (it happened exactly as Google stated);
  • began backing up the database of the legit data along with the images;
  • informed our web host, Rackspace, of the notice and asked for an immediate check whether the server had been hacked;
  • did a Google News search and came up empty for news about either Gizmodo or Gawker being infected (which you would expect given these are popular websites);
  • better safe than sorry, nuked the infected PC with a hard-drive format. (Thank goodness for long weekends.)

   Rackspace’s Joe Kirby reports that he has seen no hacking activity at the server end. I’ve requested a review from Google and we’re still going to upgrade Mediawiki, which Autocade is run on.
   I’m willing to keep an open mind about whether Google was accurate this time (I can confirm it was not accurate about this blog), given that the scenario could be reproduced, albeit on an already infected machine.
   It still strikes me as odd that there is nothing on Google News or Google Blog Search about an infected Gizmodo or Gawker, which you would expect to make some sort of a splash.

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Posted in internet, technology | 1 Comment »


A new blogroll (Chrome should be happy)

12.10.2010

Sorting by the definite articleAfter Andrew relayed to me that Google Analytics code was being downloaded with Blogrolling, that—and not the fact that Chrome users were blocked from seeing this blog due to a false malware warning (sorry)—motivated me to shift my blogroll on to WordPress.
   He was right: it was ironic that I could have it in for Google yet preserved a blogroll that permitted Analytics to keep a track of this blog. So, this afternoon, I spent a couple of dull hours transferring all the blogs over. Life after campaigning!
   A few links were dead, as you can imagine after four years, although I clicked on many of them regularly (evidently I clicked on the same ones). A few had changed addresses. But as of 5.30 a.m. GMT, there is a new, complete blogroll at right, delivered by WordPress. As the old part of this website (pre-2010) still has Blogrolling, I updated the blogroll there, too.
   As Mike Riversdale confirmed earlier today, Chrome’s oversensitive warnings are now gone, and everyone—even Chrome users—should be able to access any post on this blog made after January 1, 2010 again. As to stuff before that date, I believe my complaint still stands.
   My issue with the new blogroll is that it files everything beginning with The under T. To me, this remains a very unnatural way to sort things—once upon a time, children, even New Zealand phone books did not do that. If I am looking up The Dominion Post (most likely to complain about rubbish being left on my property), I still, out of habit, go to D in my phone book. While the Post might be an obvious one, for many other cases, how do I know if a business has opted to retain the definite article as part of its official title? Answer: I don’t. It makes a lot more sense to file under the next word—as most libraries do. Economist, The; Miserables, Les.
   If the Open Directory Project can ignore the indefinite and definite articles in its sorting, then surely WordPress can, too?

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Posted in culture, internet, New Zealand, publishing, technology | No Comments »