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Archive for October, 2006

Digg Acquisition Coming Up?

The Digg front page

ACCORDING to various sources (including a seminal report from TechCrunch), Digg seeks to be acquired. The reactions are, as expected, largely rants that express dissatisfaction, particularly within the Digg community. I spotted this one comment the other day.

“If News Corp buys it, you can find me a or some other similar site.”

It is just one among many which speak of Slashdot, Netscape, or mention News Corp./Fox as the evil creature that could take over Digg. All in all, this is probably good news to all sites which compete with Digg. I don’t think that any company with the needed resources (and interests) is truly benevolent.

  • Google – would pull “democracy” out of Digg, especially if you IP address is Chinese…
  • Yahoo – would sell your Digg details…
  • Microsoft – would eliminate the Apple and UNIX/Linux sections…

Interview About Netscape Move

AS time goes by, occupations evolve. It was under 3 months ago that I made a move towards Netscape. My absence in Digg was noticed by a few friends including Stacy Doss (also known as 3monkeys) and linnerd.

Some time ago I did an interview with a Netscape colleague. It is yet to be published, but below is a copy.

1. When you were first approached about the offer, what was your first reaction? (Taking into account your standing on Digg at that time, and possible backlash from the Digg community)

Understandable reaction from the Digg community was by all means a cause for concern. And yet, its impact was by far surpassed by woes over neglect of my principles. I perceived my role in the community as one who promotes not-for-profit causes, which led to a clash of ideologies. The reaction was thus a mixture of confusion, a sense of self-betrayal, and fear of the outcome. It was a tough decision to make and, being a self-funded student, I needed support which, in turn, would enable me to evangelise values I believe it, principally Open Source.

2. How long did it take you to decide, what factors did you take into account, and what made you finally decide to make the switch? (Was it the money, the networking opportunities, both, or something completely different?)

In hindsight, I would have handled things differently. I was very hesitant and self-critical, to the point of losing the ability to focus. At first, I began by making isolated submissions to Netscape, as means of ‘testing the waters’. I was a Digger in heart and soul at the time. From a usability point-of-view, I become critical of both sites. Each had its strengths.

As weeks went by, a few top Diggers were recruited. Prominent examples are Derek and Henry. They wrote about it and discussed it. With discussions, thoughts began springing to mind and another perspective — from a Digg’s mentality — was laid out. Ultimately, my inclination to relocate involved a mixture of factors: joining ex-Diggers whom I knew, being able to make ends meet, and seeking a change. Yes, just for the sake of change. *smile* We all need that sometimes. My early involvement in Netscape was the fruit of curiosity rather than desire to be hired.

3. How has it been at Netscape so far? (Interaction with the users, other navigators, anchors, devs, and so on)

There is going to be a snag here. Communication from a contributer’s point-of-view slightly differs from most, especially when a Navigator role is involved. Putting myself in the shoes I (metaphorically of course) wore at the start, interaction among users goes beyond IM. But at the end of the day, the scope and goal of both sites is slightly different, so there is no clear basis for comparison.

4. Are you still contributing to your old community? (Digg)

Yes, in a sense. Several times a day I read through hundreds of Digg submissions. I probably spend a couple of hours per day reading Digg alone, yet I limit my active (as opposed to passive) contribution, i.e. participation. I very much enjoy seeing what friends are up to, as well as what they share with the rest of the community. It’s an educational experience, which is what such sites (can be?) are all about.

5. What was your friends’ reaction to you making the move? Did you feel like you were abandoning them? Did they have such feelings?

I have clear memories of particular reactions. In general, there were not many flames as I preferred to keep off the limelight and never dive too deep into the controversies. I particularly appreciated the supportive words from “George W (no relation)”. I truly wish that people can be /happy/ for others, as adverse to logic and ego as it may be. It’s important to understand that a lot of effort and time (including long nights) is spent working for the benefit of the community. And it’s all about sharing /happiness/ and bringing /happiness/ to others. Isn’t that the raison detre of social bookmarking?

6. What has been your most fruitful experience at Netscape so far?

This would definitely have to be the formation of cliques. I am not speaking about cliques that mutually benefit members by votes, but rather a bunch of people who share thoughts and opinions on- and off-site.

7. Where do you see Netscape in another 6 months?

Where would I want to see it? Or where do I think it will be? Frankly, the two intersect. I have kept tabs on Alexa and Netcraft traffic ranks, apart from various statistics that are visible on the site. They seem encouraging as there is a gradual elevation, which follows a long decline that predates New Netscape.

Anything else you would like to say?

If you enjoy Digg, then Digg on. If you seek something different, cat least consider Netscape. Each has its merits. And, as I always say in the context of GNU/Linux, it’s all about choice!

Alexa Ranks – Only Make Belief

Alexa ranks can be fun. But can they ever be trusted?

What does a high Alexa rating mean to a web master? It shouldn’t mean that much as it’s not accurate. Alexa is a website that tracks a website’s traffic history, and gives a ranking based upon the number of visitors. However the fact that it requires a tool bar to work flaws it in many ways.


Apparently the folks at Alexa have never heard of any other browser besides Internet Explorer and FireFox. This seems quite unprofessional coming from a company owned by

My main site peaked at ~17,000th for Alexa (with Netscraft rank currently at 18,608th for In the latter case, however, the figures are grossly biased because I have the toolbar installed. Ranks very much depend on the audience the site attracts. System administrators , for example, fancy the Netscraft toolbar. Its primary service addresses a niche.

Alexa traffic ranks prove to be a real problem (as well as a perpetual pain) to Webmasters. This remains the only number which can conveniently be assigned to a Web site. It is a silly label that should be disregarded, but the average user does not know this. Luckily, not every average user will have such ranks displayed. Alexa as a comparator is a misleading assessor. Even top sites cannot be compared, unless one judges by orders of magnitude (and takes these with a grain of salt). In fact, PageRank and the likes of it weigh more factors other than traffic, so they ought to surpass Alexa in terms of validity.

As a timely rant, I was temporarily able to influence Alexa rank with a local installation of the A9 toolbar, but then Microsoft took over A9′s operations and forced them to shut down some competing services, the toolbar included. Yet another example of acquisitions or mergers that are practically death knells (and a penalty to Mac/Linux/BSD users in this case). That is just why I took it personally.

SearchStatus in action

Related item: Firefox Toolbars

Life on UseNet and ‘Web-based’ Knowledge?

THE way knowledge is shared among and between people keeps changing–or put positively–evolving . Take for example stories and personal journals that are released under a Creative Commons (e.g. Attrib-NonCommerical-No Derivs 2.5) license. These come to show that content becomes a very ‘fluid’ thing where information is increasingly reused to improve existing knowledgebases. But it goes beyond that.

Many people are openly sharing information about themselves. They make it searchable online. Keywords and unique identifiers definitely help as well. Indexing makes streams of written consciousness easier to locate. Passively perhaps, I am among people who can organise personal data owing to searching technologies in a vast pool of informational context–the World Wide Web. I did not choose the path of anonymity. It was either a wise or a dumb choice, depending on who’s to judge. By collecting and piecing together over 20,000 UseNet posts of mine (a screenshot of my newsreader is shown on the right hand side), one could reproduce some of my life’s history and, potentially, highlight more controversial opinions, too.

There are less flattering pieces of information of the Web, including the defamation of one’s name and dignity. Sadly, there are some people who take advantage of indexing. The best method of evading nasty consequences is never to engage in conversations with those who shoot from the lip. Hopefully it becomes reciprocal, as in “if you want to discard my messages, then just killfile me”. In other cases, however, the coronation of stupidity takes over logic. Sick-minded (and often anonymous) people carry on with inane one-liners and personal attacks. Yesterday I confroned a Digg stalker. Yes, there is some crazy stalker on Digg who is a sworn Microsoft fan that systematically mods my comments down.

All in all, despite a little bit of negative publicity, I am fairly pleased with what I have contributed over the Web. I guess that every valuable thing with a noble cause, however benign, must have a cost.

As a side note and an off-topic discussion, I recently began using Google Groups. The local newsgroups server has been problems-ridden for a week, so I haven’t much choice. Here’s an observation: in Google Groups’ beta, I am rather surprised to find that Google makes ad revenue out of UseNet. It even appends “Copyright 2006 Google” to pages although the content is in fact contributed by various people without any connection to Google. A well-deserved reward for their service (UseNet gateway)? Probably. But the mind still boggles.

Personally, I only keep copies of messages and threads in which I am involved, whereas Google does this at a far larger scale. It also digs archives that are published without people’s awareness and consent. This leaves a few fuming non-anonymised posters from the nineties and eighties. One of them, for example, has demonstrated loudly and caused disruption to the Webmasters newsgroup. Constant harassment and floods carries on for a few months before cessation. My feelings remain mixed as far as Google’s involvement in public forums is concerned.

Memory Aid for the Obsessed

Palm userThe CNN ran an article on some mind-boggling research. It addresses the obsession with capturing memories digitally. These things are, in my opinion, close to being pointless because too much information can/must be captured, e.g. sound, video, 3-D models, etc. The list is endless and the information cannot be conveyed and processed by one’s mind unless one lives in the past and reminisces in ‘slow motion’. I suppose it would be a nice way of remembering vacations, but for an indexable mind and knowledgebase, it’s just too big a task.

This particular research project is backed and run by Microsoft. If it ever becomes a reality, let us hope they will be careful with names. Zune is pronounced the same way as “a shag” in Hebrew (yes, the bad meaning; very vulgar) while Vista, at least in Malta, appears to mean “a whore” (or something along these lines, if I recall correctly).

Worth reading: an unrelated article with a Mac-slant, which discusses expansion through bundling of software.

Divisive Web

InternetAccording to an article that I recently read, the Internet could one day be broken down into separate networks that are isolated and selectively dispersed around the world. This means that the global nature of the Web, as well as the wealth of information, would cease to exist. Moreover, this heralds that final goodbye to a state where little or no censorship barriers can prevail. This changes one’s perspective entirely.

This worrisome move is entirely different from the issue of Net neutrality, which in itself separates the Web into multiple tiers. It is also reminiscent of rumours about ‘Googlenet’, where one submits a site to a dark privatised Web that gets indexed and closely monitored (obviating the need to crawl remote servers and use pings for distant notification).

In the long term, whether this is totally disastrous or not remains to be seen. Consider, for instance, the peculiar extension of resources that are made publicly available. Let’s look a look at the way that the Web has evolved in recent years. Only a tiny crosssection of the ‘visible’ Web involves content spammers (or scrapers), where visibility is grossly defined by search engines (internal sites and intranets aside). However, in reality, the content that exists on the Web–that which is deliverable and which is spam–can actually be a majority (spammers spawn colossal colonies of junk and dummy content). This leads to (or involves) blogalanches, ‘poisoning’ of the index/cache, and it’s subverting search results in the process. All this leads to chaos as search engines diverge from the correct search results and deliver something less meaningful. In the process of struggling for good spots (or visibility) in search engines, spam rises and leads to attacks of various sort. Temptation leads to vandalism, which leads to further maintenance. The Web no longer seems like an appealing place to be. But can division of the Web help? I very much doubt it. It’s all about authorities controlling information. Brainwash is the means for making others think alike, comply, and even be submissive.

IT Brains Dem/Geography

Map of Europe

COMPUTER skills and competence with them is a subjective thing. It very much depends on the area of expertise which is judged, as well as the way it is judged (e.g. average level of skill versus number of gurus). Regardless, I have found the following study rather interesting.

In some areas, such as security and Windows desktop administration, the United States remained dominant, the study showed; in others, such as LAN/WAN communications, we’re facing stiff competition from newcomers Romania and Ukraine. India continued to dominate database development and most programming-language categories — except C#. Latin American countries didn’t crack the top 10 but showed strong growth in new certifications, with Cuba up 125 percent, Chile up 163 percent, and Mexico up 73 percent…

In a survey conducted last year, Holland was shown to be the most tech-savvy country in the world. Whether that holds under the conditions imposed above, who knows…?

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