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Archive for the ‘Cyberspace’ Category

Smear Campaigns Against This Web Site

Well, well, well…

It turns out that a bunch of shills might be trying to shut up this Web site for no justifiable reason whatsoever. WebSense has just blacklisted schestowitz.com after someone had been spreading lies in public forums and Web sites. Some anonymous voices spoke about this Web site (and another one of mine) launching DDOS attacks. This is utterly false. It is slander that has been spread in various forums by the same person with different identities or by the usual suspect (Gary Stewart). It’s a character assassination and image assassination attempt.

I’ve inquired to check with other sites, which I suspect suffer from the same people. Those responsible for this are probably long-time Microsoft shills (many observers are convinced). There are prior stories and cases in the past.

Update: It turns out that this happened in the past to other innocent Web sites too. Exact same scenario: “Websense and false accusations.”

If companies keep paying people to do such utter rubbish, then investigation ought to follow. I haven’t enough evidence, but let it all be said in public — for now.

Alexa Versus Netcraft Ranks

Wikipedia statistics

I will start with a proposition that I repeat rather often: Alexa ranks are flawed. Usually, for most sites, they are utterly meaningless.

It is difficult to argue this when faced with Alexa-happy people, but the figures cannot be trusted. It is a toolbar that acts in a similar way to spyware which drives these ranks. The A9 toolbar for Firefox used to have the same effect. Recently however, Microsoft grabbed A9 by the balls and forced them to drop the toolbar. No more Alexa manipulation on Macs and Linux boxes. So where do we end up?

Alexa aligns with Webmasters’ surfing habits. Netcraft figures, on the other hand, align better with system administrators’ surfing habits. The two can intersect. The shown figures are, by default, calculated from a three-month average of pageviews. One can view daily reach though to see how it goes willy-nilly when a few regular visitors use the toolbar. The exception to this might be the very top sites, although the definition of traffic still matters.

Manipulation gets harder at that stage where top sites get ranked. Many people game Alexa as well. Do not trust Alexa ranks. Ever. Use Netcraft if you want something that’s not just an alternative, but is also better in the sense that fewer people game it. Here are some example statistics from two top site.

  • Netcraft rank for Netscape: 341st
  • Netcraft rank for Digg: 867th
  • Alexa rank for Netscape: 479th
  • Alexa rank for Digg: 79th

See? No alignment between Netcraft and Alexa figures at all. Not even for top sites. These so-called ‘realistic’ figures collide and contradict one another. Alexa has become one these “everybody steals, so I can as well” sort of thing… grossly biased. While people continue to game Alexa it remains a strange animal.

Digg Changes Algorithm

The Digg front page

DEMOCRACY has returned to Digg.com, all at the expense of arguably-deserved rewards (power and advantage) given to top site contributers. These latest algorithm changes affect me as well, though I have not been submitting any stories for a fortnight.

Will this prove to be a wise move by Digg’s administrators? Was it well overdue? History will tell. But here’s a sure bet: top users, whose labour contributed the most to Digg, are utterly dissatisfied by the large.

I noticed that fellow Diggers are unable to get front pagers. The frustration and loss or power is likely to discourage further participation. The problem is thus resolved not only by changing the rules, but also by demoralising regulars. It’s somewhat of a scare tactic, which is a bad idea no matter how you look at it. Good for newbies perhaps, but it drives away the “power Diggers”—those who care the most about the Web site, know it best, and submit the least duplicates. A shame really…

Bill of Rights for the Web?

This one is an eye-catcher in case you have been following the progression of the Web. This relates to the tiered Web, the divisive (isolated) Web, and censorship.

A bill of rights for the internet age has been proposed at a United Nations’ conference in Athens.

The bill would update and restate rights that have been enshrined for centuries, said Robin Gross of civil liberties group IP Justice.

As an aside, one of the greater threats to the Web are Windows zombies which pollute the Internet with SPAM and DDOS attacks.

Also see: Web developer (Berners-Lee) fears for the internet, Berners-Lee calls for Web 2.0 calm

Duplicates Detection in Social Bookmarking Sites

DUPLICATE entries are some of the evil residues of sites where editorial involves many people. There are ways of preventing duplicates (dupes), but none is perfect.

I personally find Digg’s dupe detector somewhat flawed because, by the time the user finds matches based on similarity, much of the entry (and effort) has already been put into it. The user is thus tempted never to retract and concede the submission. Netscape, on the other hand, checks for title and URL similarity (identity only) in-line.

Wishlist items:

  • Have matches that are more ‘fluid’ appear on the side while input is entered (not just exact matches)
  • Permit the user to preview without entering a channel and without tags. This enables the submitter to check for dupes before giving some supplemental information. I am aware that it requires some parsing of the text, which is harder than using tag-based similarity.
  • What would be nice is an option for supplemental items, URL’s, and followup news. Maybe have a hierarchical connector between related items, or at least some linkage that connects an item with a correction, clarification, op/ed, etc.

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 Netscape.com 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…

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.

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