Bookmarks for January 17th through January 20th

These are my links for January 17th through January 20th:

  • PG&E Electrical System Outage Map – This map shows the current outages in our 70,000-square-mile service area. To see more details about an outage, including the cause and estimated time of restoration, click on the color-coded icon associated with that outage.
  • Twitter.com vs The Twitter Ecosystem – Fred Wilson comments on some data from John Borthwick indicating Twitter ecosystem use = 3-5x Twitter.com directly.

    "John's chart estimates that Twitter.com is about 20mm uvs a month in the US (comScore has it at 60mm uvs worldwide) and the Twitter ecosystem at about 60mm uvs in the US.

    That says that across all web services, not just AVC, the Twitter ecosystem is about 3x Twitter.com. And on this blog, whose audience is certainly power users, that ratio is 5x."

  • Chris Walshaw :: Research :: Partition Archive – Welcome to the University of Greenwich Graph Partitioning Archive. The archive consists of the best partitions found to date for a range of graphs and its aim is to provide a benchmark, against which partitioning algorithms can be tested, and a resource for experimentation.

    The partition archive has been in operation since the year 2000 and includes results from most of the major graph partitioning software packages. Researchers developing experimental partitioning algorithms regularly submit new partitions for possible inclusion.

    Most of the test graphs arise from typical partitioning applications, although the archive also includes results computed for a graph-colouring test suite [Wal04] contained in a separate annex.

    The archive was originally set up as part of a research project into very high quality partitions and authors wishing to refer to the partitioning archive should cite the paper [SWC04].

  • Twitter’s Crawl « The Product Guy – "A list of incidents that affected the Page Load Time of the Twitter product, distinguishing between total downtime, and partial downtime and information inaccessibility, based upon the public posts on Twitters blog.

    http://status.twitter.com/archive

    I did my best to not double count any problems, but it was difficult since many of the problems occur so frequently, and it is often difficult to distinguish, from these status blog posts alone, between a persisting problem being experienced or fixed, from that of a new emergence of a similar or same problem. Furthermore, I also excluded the impact on Page Load Time arising from scheduled maintenance/downtime – periods of time over which the user expectation would be most aligned with the product’s promise of Page Load Time. "

  • Soundboard.com – Soundboard.com is the web's largest catalog of free sounds and soundboards – in over 20 categories, for mobile or PC. 252,858 free sounds on 17,171 soundboards from movies to sports, sound effects, television, celebrities, history and travel. Or build, customize, embed and manage your own

Bookmarks for June 3rd through June 4th

These are my links for June 3rd through June 4th:

Bookmarks for June 1st through June 2nd

These are my links for June 1st through June 2nd:

  • jqPlot – Pure Javascript Plotting – jqPlot is a plotting plugin for the jQuery Javascript framework. jqPlot produces beautiful line and bar charts with many features including: Numerous chart style options. Date axes with customizable formatting. Rotated axis text. Automatic trend line computation. Tooltips and data point highlighting. Sensible defaults for ease of use.
  • New Twitter Research: Men Follow Men and Nobody Tweets – Conversation Starter – HarvardBusiness.org – "Although men and women follow a similar number of Twitter users, men have 15% more followers than women. Men also have more reciprocated relationships, in which two users follow each other. This "follower split" suggests that women are driven less by followers than men, or have more stringent thresholds for reciprocating relationships. This is intriguing, especially given that females hold a slight majority on Twitter: we found that men comprise 45% of Twitter users, while women represent 55%."
  • Shirky: Power Laws, Weblogs, and Inequality – 2003 article on popularity / traffic on blogs, which was then the latest emerging social media format. "Once a power law distribution exists, it can take on a certain amount of homeostasis, the tendency of a system to retain its form even against external pressures. Is the weblog world such a system? Are there people who are as talented or deserving as the current stars, but who are not getting anything like the traffic? Doubtless. Will this problem get worse in the future? Yes. "
  • well-formed.eigenfactor.org : Visualizing information flow in science – Some nice visualization ideas using hierarchical clustering to explore patterns in citation networks.
  • Bing API, Version 2.0 – Updated API documentation for Microsoft Bing (formerly Live Search) web services.

Bookmarks for May 3rd through May 4th

These are my links for May 3rd through May 4th:

  • Dilbert comic strip for 05/04/2009 from the official Dilbert comic strips archive. – Secretary to Pointy Haired Boss: "I live in a rented trailer and all of my money is in my checking account. Your investments are worthless and your mortgage is underwater. My net worth is higher than yours now. I guess promiscuity and a G.E.D. was a pretty good strategy after all." Reminded me of a thought I had earlier this year, that much of Western Civilization is built on valuing delayed gratification, which hasn't worked out so well recently as opposed to immediate consumption in many cases.
  • Without Warning, Twitter Kills StatTweets (Businesses Beware) – StatSheet.com ChangeLog – Owner of StatTweets post regarding his network of sports-related Twitter handles being banned. They had several hundred accounts, one for stats for each team. This makes sense for users, given the way Twitter works, but they don't like mass account creation. Interested to see how this sorts out, there seem to be at least a few similar Twitter networks with team/region/topic-specific handles.
  • Dooley Online: What URL Shortener Should I Use? – Comparison of features and some usage data for URL shorteners such as tinyurl and bit.ly used on twitter and other services.
  • Obesity and Overweight: Trends: U.S. Obesity Trends 1985-2007 | DNPAO | CDC – During the past 20 years there has been a dramatic increase in obesity in the United States. This slide set illustrates this trend by mapping the increased prevalence of obesity across each of the states. In 2007, only one state (Colorado) had a prevalence of obesity less than 20%. Thirty states had a prevalence equal to or greater than 25%; three of these states (Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee) had a prevalence of obesity equal to or greater than 30%. The animated map below shows the United States obesity prevalence from 1985 through 2007.
  • Why text messages are limited to 160 characters | Technology | Los Angeles Times – A look back to the beginnings of SMS in 1985 – Would the 160-character maximum be enough space to prove a useful form of communication? Having zero market research, they based their initial assumptions on two "convincing arguments," Hillebrand said. For one, they found that postcards often contained fewer than 150 characters. Second, they analyzed a set of messages sent through Telex, a then-prevalent telegraphy network for business professionals. Despite not having a technical limitation, Hillebrand said, Telex transmissions were usually about the same length as postcards.

Bookmarks for April 30th from 05:57 to 07:10

These are my links for April 30th from 05:57 to 07:10:

Bookmarks for April 15th through April 17th

These are my links for April 15th through April 17th:

Bookmarks for April 13th through April 15th

These are my links for April 13th through April 15th:

Bookmarks for February 27th through February 28th

These are my links for February 27th through February 28th:

Bookmarks for February 18th through February 19th

These are my links for February 18th through February 19th:

Coming soon – one click from SpiralFrog to iPod?

Today SpiralFrog announced a free subscription-based music service. Subscribers will be able to download music to their music playing devices, but will need to listen to advertising presented on the SpiralFrog site periodically, to keep the music authorized. It sounds like the downloaded music would be WMA files, using Microsoft Windows Media DRM.

A couple of days ago, Engadget pointed at FairUse4WM, a Windows Media DRM 10 and 11 removal utility with a user friendly interface.

This FT article says that iPod+iTunes has the largest market share for legally authorized music at 80%. At the same time, it notes the growing number of non-iPod MP3 and other music players coming to market. I suspect it won’t be long before there’s a one-click utility to remove the Windows Media DRM, transcode the WMA file to MP3, and import them into iTunes so subscribers can listen on their iPod or whatever device. It probably won’t be from SpiralFrog, though.

The upcoming Zune music / video players from Microsoft are likely to have similar issues, whatever their online media network turns out to be.

I think it’s great that the music publishers are trying different business models, in this case advertising. On the other hand, I find I use services like Pandora for casual listening and finding new music, then buy the actual CDs of music I want rather than purchasing from iTunes, just so I have a clean, portable DRM-free audio file that can be shipped around the house and across whatever device happens to be convenient. I’d rather just buy clean, portable bits, without needing the physical CD. Where’s the service for that? (Other than allofmp3.com).

More on SpiralFrog from BoingBoing, TechCrunch

Update Tuesday 08-29-2006 21:16 PDT – I see that Microsoft is working on patching WinDRM to block FairUse4WM. (Good luck with that.) And on the iPod front, it looks like jHymn has been getting updates so it can work with iTunes 6 to remove the FairPlay DRM, making those files portable to non-iPod devices.

Hello India, we’re still here…

…but other sites are apparently blocked.

There are a fair number of readers here from India, where some ISPs have started blocking many blogs, including all of Typepad, Blogspot, Geocities. So you might have thought this site was also blocked if you came by yesterday, since you would have gotten something like “Connection refused” or a similar error message.

Fortunately / unfortunately, it’s just Dreamhost having some hardware and network problems, which took down many of their clients for several hours yesterday, and is still behaving badly today.

A primer on the evolving media industry from Carl Icahn and friends


The proposal on the table is to split Time Warner into four pieces, undoing years of mergers and acquisitions. The (massive) report from Carl Icahn’s investment banking team at Lazard is worth a look for anyone with an interest in online or traditional media businesses or who simply lived through the dot-com boom and crash. I’ve only skimmed through it so far, but it’s practically a textbook on the evolution and current state of the media industry.

TWX is at the center of the storm that has and will continue to jolt American industry. Technology, regulation and competition are changing at an accelerated pace. The markets are increasingly rewarding companies—across all industries—with a well-defined vision, as shareholder expectations on transparency, capital returns, appreciation and corporate governance increase. Against this backdrop, anticipating and harnessing change is critical for success.

If you want to get a quick look at market sizes, margins, and fees, this is a fascinating read. It’s packed with details comparing the financial and operating performance and market reach of AOL with Google, Yahoo, MSN, and other online properties, television properties such as HBO, CNN, Cartoon Network, Court TV, and others, print publishing for People, Time, and dozens of magazines, the Time Warner cable system, and the Warner Brothers movie business.

The proposed restructuring would create four new businesses: AOL, a television and film media business, a print publishing business, and Time Warner’s cable distribution business. I have no stake in TWX, but if I were a long time shareholder, I’d be wondering why I’m getting a lower return than holding cash, while I see hugely successful franchises (The Matrix, Harry Potter, AOL, HBO, People) operating in the various business units. Icahn only holds about 3% of the company, so the proposal doesn’t seem likely to succeed soon, but this is a pretty major prod for the TWX management team.

The 300-something-page report, along with various SEC filings, is available for free download from enhancetimewarner.com

More from Bloomberg, Business Week.

See also:

Sure sign of a boomlet underway…

…the business and technology magazines are getting thicker again. The latest issue of Wired magazine is 294 pages, Forbes is 280. Not in the phonebook-sized range yet, but noticeably heavier than they’ve been in a while.

Apparently, Adsense hasn’t sucked up all the advertising money. Plus there’s no way to put cardboard inserts and perfume samples onto a web page yet.

Update 12-03-2005 19:15 PST: This guy plotted Wired page counts vs the Nasdaq index, and some similar comments here as well.

Amazon – Books by the Page

More Amazon stuff this evening:

Amazon Pages and Amazon Upgrade will provide paid access to books by the page, and the ability to “upgrade” access to the full contents of the book.

Press release:

The first program, Amazon Pages, will “un-bundle” the physical-world experience of buying and reading a book so that customers can simply and inexpensively purchase and read online just the pages they need. For example, an entrepreneur interested in marketing his or her business could purchase the relevant chapters from several best-selling business books.

The second program, Amazon Upgrade, will allow customers to “upgrade” their purchase of a physical book on Amazon.com to include complete online access. For example, a software developer who buys a Java programming book will not only get the physical book delivered to his or her home, but will also get 24×7 Web access to the complete interior text of the book. Buy a cookbook and you will not only have it on your shelf, but also be able to access it anywhere via the Web.

Personally, I like owning actual books, as I find them much easier to read and carry around than a computer or PDA. But something like this would be handy to get at my personal collection while travelling. Plus it might cut back on the volume of books I end up donating to the Palo Alto library.

This shouldn’t affect fiction book sales at all (who wants half a novel?), but could put a dent in sales of some types of reference books.

This seems a little bit like a “book” version of the old mp3.com service. If you owned the CD, they would let you stream the bits from their server. I seem to be slowly reconstructing my own private version of that service in our house, although if disk storage increases quickly enough I may just switch to duplicating the content everywhere.

More comments at TheStreet.com

The Inevitability of Blog Outsourcing

The blog outsourcing topic has rolled along while I’ve been spending the day at the Blog Business Summit, listening to discussions on commercializing blogs. There’s now a post about it (Outsourcing bloggers in China) at CNET, which turned up a few other skeptics, and it’s looking like the Blogoriented guys are probably a hoax.

Despite that, I also think it’s inevitable that we’ll see at least a couple of real projects along these lines within a year, not aimed at simulating teenaged girls, but rather at building blog networks, filled and buzzed by creating inexpensive original content and editing search feeds that target specific niches.

David Sifry at Technorati has a good summary on the growing problems of spam blogs and fake blogs, and all the search engines are likely to make progress against what are essentially the next generation of link farms. Unfortunately, as discussed in this afternoon’s sessions on web advertising and affiliate models, if you can get traffic, there’s potential for a lot of money to be made by simple manipulations of the system, at least until the search engines improve. Content picked up by the blog search engines gets indexed immediately, leaving a way around some of the the sandboxing and other mechanisms used by Google and others, and makes profitable links visible immediately.

It’s cheap and apparently effective to implement spam and fake blogs. I’ve noticed the volume of junk e-mail is decreasing, while the number of spam blogs in search results seems to be increasing. It’s going to take cooperation among multiple parties to fix this, but everyone recognizes this as a problem, so it’s going to get better. (Here’s Mark Cuban’s take.)

I think that a follow on issue is that genuinely “original” content, in the “first author” sense, rather than in the “new idea” sense, can be probably be reliably cranked out through a well defined process. Think of something like an Indian call center or coding shop crossed with a daily news bureau, supervised by an editor who picked topics with some guidance from Wordtracker, Google and others. You’d get low cost, original writing, around an editorially consistent, topically relevant set of themes, and perhaps even with some interesting domain expertise, all tuned to be informative and keyworded to be search engine friendly.

Many of the same processes used at Wipro, Infosys, and other software and BPO outsourcers could be adapted to this application. Why cheat the search engine rankings when you can just reduce the cost of production and actually receive ranking benefit when the search engines get better at filtering for contextually better results and get rid of the “really fake” blogs? The Weblogs Inc blog network model seems to be working so far – Jason Calcanis says they’ve just hit a $1M annual ad revenue rate. Reducing the content production costs can’t hurt. I’m sure they could apply some of these ideas, if they haven’t already, and if they don’t, some other new blog network will certainly try.

This approach to farming out the process-oriented writing tasks should apply equally to a number of periodicals, such as magazines and newspapers. The difference between the news content in many newspapers is already often just the local editor’s preferences on the AP or Reuters newsfeeds and what fit in between the committed ad inches.

I don’t think this sort of blog or content outsourcing would be “bad” or “evil” in the sense of creating lower quality content, at least in some topic domains, since a pool of skilled professionals already exists offshore, and is growing rapidly. If you got a good editor in place, it might even improve the overall quality of online content. It’s not misrepresentation, unless you tried to pass off your authors as being something they’re not. But I wouldn’t even bother with attempting the nuances of local US culture with a staff of offshore bloggers, despite the availability of cultural indoctrination programs they run call center trainees through. That would work about as well having US bloggers cover cricket or Bollywood gossip or Korean K-pop singers for their respective local audiences.

This seems to leave American pop culture as a secure niche for a while. Unfortunately, I’m incredibly bad at celebrity gossip. Although, now that I think about it, I did meet Cher once at her house in Malibu…

Putting on my evil genius hat, here’s a hypothetical approach for building an astroturfing blog empire, filled with posts from simulated teenaged (18-35) girls. Start by extracting common phrases, topics, and contexts from some LiveJournal and MySpace blogs. Next, build some auto-blogging agents resembling Weisenbaum’s Eliza program crossed with some modern chatterbots. Finally, set it loose on LiveJournal, Xanga, and MySpace and have it start forming its own blogrings and online cliques, responding to filtered inputs from comments, selected feeds, and topical news, biased for the current hot keywords and with statistically plausible content and linkage…any Emacs Lisp and SQL hackers want to take this on?

See also: Outsource your Blog, Reasons I Still Read Newspapers

Update 08-19-2005 12:32 – some discussion at My Heart’s in Accra

Update 08-27-2005 00:10 – See also Goofy algorithm generates web page about “Prostitute Phobia” (at BoingBoing), which comments on this site, which is one of a collection of automatically generated pages.

Outsource Your Blog

I had been speculating on something like this after reading an article last month about outsourcing personal website maintenance to India.

via Marginal Revolution, Content to Go

As I write this entry my partner Jeff is in the air on the way to our office in Shanghai. What Jeff and I are doing is simple but as far as I know we are the first. We are outsourcing blogs to China.

Our general business model is a two tiered effort to hire Chinese citizens to write blogs en masse for us at a valued wage. The first tier is to create original blogs. These blogs will pop up in various areas of the net and appear to the unknowing reader to be written by your standard American. Our short term goal for these original blogs is to generate a steady stream of revenue through traditional blog advertising like google adwords. We estimate that our current blogforce of 25 can support around 500 unrelated blogs. Hopefully a few of those will be hits. The long term goal is to generate a large untraceable astroturfing mechanism for launching of various products. When a vendor needs to promote a new product to the internet demographic we will be able to create a believable buzz across hundreds of ‘reputable’ blogs and countless message boards. We can offer a legitimacy to advertisers that doesen’t exist anywhere else.

The second tier of our plan is a blog vacation service where our employees fill in for established bloggers who need to take a break from regular posting. As all bloggers know, an unupdated blog is quickly forgotten. For a nominal fee we can provide seamless integration of filler.

I’m not entirely sure that the project is real, they claim to have raised $5 million US and the domain was just registered 3 days ago, but this caught my eye because I think there are some real possibilities for something like this.

Personally, I don’t have a problem with commercial blogging or professional blogging. However…their plan calls for deliberate misrepresentation of commercial interests as personal ones, on a large scale. This could be blog spam taken to the next level.

If they’re really heading off to put together an offshored blog content network, I think it could be done without heading straight for the “astroturf” market, which might give it a slower start but longer legs.

In my quick take on this idea, I’d probably choose India or Phillipines over China for basic English language skills, since the target audience is in the US, and have content editors with actual domain knowledge working with lower cost writers. This might not work for simulating teen LiveJournal sites, but should fit pretty well for topical blogs of most sorts. Hmm. That sounds like the direction the newspaper and magazine business is already heading…

Update 08-19-2005 – Followed up with more comments, plus ideas on how to build the evil astroturfing network in a new post.

Reasons I still read newspapers

Despite getting most of my news through the internet these days, I still get daily paper editions of the San Jose Mercury and the Wall Street Journal, plus Barrons on the weekend. At a get-together this past weekend, one of my neighbors who works at the Mercury took an informal poll to see who was reading newspapers versus online news sources. As might be expected in Palo Alto, a lot of people have mostly moved to online news aggregators. A few thoughts:

Some reasons I still get a print subscription:

  • Habit: I like to read the paper with my breakfast and coffee, and don’t like having the notebook on the kitchen table while I’m eating.
  • Faster scanning: part of the survivable value-added of news organizations is to assemble items that are interesting and/or relevant (“here, look at this”). I can make a quick scan of current news in the Mercury and WSJ faster than going through selected Bloglines subscriptions or Google News.
  • Editorial and opinion pages. No shortage of commentary and opinion online, but syndicated writers usually don’t turn up online right away if at all, and in the paper they’re conveniently assembled onto a couple of pages.
  • Overview of local issues in the Bay Area. It’s hard (not impossible) to generate a quick view of local news and feature articles; services like topix.net can generate local feeds, but they’re not great.
  • Longer analysis and context for recent and upcoming news and events.
  • Calendar of local events and activities. This is good for when you don’t know what you want to do. Once you are looking for something specific, online is much better (e.g. movie times, concert tickets, etc).
  • I like looking through the full-page Fry’s Electronics ads in the Mercury. The weekly real estate section in the WSJ is often entertaining as well.
  • Comics are easier and faster to read in the paper. However, there are a lot more choices online.
  • They’re portable and don’t require batteries for a quick look while travelling.
  • We never need to buy rubber bands.

I rarely if ever look at these sections:

  • Financial quotes. If I want to know right now, I look online. If I’m researching, I want more info, which is also online. I still look through the weekly and quarterly summaries in Barrons, though.
  • Sports section. I subscribe to RSS feeds on the Red Sox and anything else I’m following.
  • Classified ads. Have pretty much moved to Craigslist, eBay, and other online services.

The future role of news organizations:

  • Citizen-journalists, and just bloggers on the ground, are churning out vast quantities of raw content, with a wide range in quality and veracity. Along with the traditional role of putting reporters on the ground, taking notes, and asking questions, news organizations could help filter and highlight “user-contributed” news items along with commercial and advocacy-oriented news feeds, placing them in context with “professional media” news items. For breaking large-scale news, such as the London bombings last week, they can scan the raw data and build a composite picture of what’s going on. They can also clarify what’s unknown, what hasn’t been asked, to help influence the actions of people on the scene.
  • I find that as I’ve been introducing people to news aggregators, I usually set them up with a “starter” set so it makes some sense, sort of like building a custom mini-newspaper of feeds I think they might find interesting. It would probably make sense for newspapers to start publishing collections of feeds in OPML or something similar, along with the RSS feeds that they’re starting to provide. This would make it easier for people to “subscribe” to the newspaper, and get an overall view of what the newspaper’s editors think is interesting, which is probably a better starting point for the average person than what they get now (usually nothing).

Yahoo buys Blo.gs, Dialpad

Couple of interesting announcements on the infrastructure and services front at Yahoo today.

Jim Winstead (founder / operator of blo.gs) writes:

the sale of blo.gs has been completed, and i’m proud to announce that yahoo! has acquired the service. as of right now, give or take a few minutes, yahoo! is running blo.gs.

this is the sort of good home that i was looking for — yahoo! obviously has the resources to run and improve blo.gs in pace with the incredible growth of blogs (and syndication in general), and in talking with them it was also clear that we had some of the same vision for the future of the service and the ping/notification infrastructure.

News.com, see also Dialpad Q&A and more at News.com:

Internet portal giant Yahoo has acquired Dialpad, a 6-year-old provider of Internet phone services. The acquisition, which was announced on Dialpad’s Web site, will place Yahoo in direct competition with traditional phone companies such as SBC, as well as Net phone providers like Skype and Vonage.

…it’s unclear what the Dialpad acquisition means to Yahoo’s longstanding relationship with regional dial-up and broadband service provider SBC. Yahoo and SBC have a partnership providing Yahoo-branded broadband access through SBC’s telephone lines. With Yahoo now offering voice calling services, it will be competing with SBC in the voice market–over SBC’s own phone lines.

No terms disclosed for either deal. Dialpad has around 40 employees, blo.gs is just Jim on his own(!). I suspect blo.gs will become a lot more usable and turn up in some interesting applications soon at its new home.

Update 2005-06-15 21:24: more on Dialpad at Om Malik’s

Update 2005-06-15 21:58: comments and links on blo.gs from Scoble

Coins of the Realm – graphic essay on comics and micropayments by Scott McCloud

I enjoyed reading this, which is one of a series called “I Can’t Stop Thinking “written / drawn by Scott McCloud on the future of comics, micropayments, and business models for publishing creative works online in general.

These essays are relatively “old” now, written in 2001, but the presentation is fresh and many of the issues are still open.

Also worth reading is a followup post by Sean Barret.

(Via Seth Godin)