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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!

It’s a Sock Puppet Show at Social Bookmarking Sites

WITH success in any Web site comes some spam, which needs to be combatted effectively. Herein I will deal with social bookmarking Web sites in particular. Spam is not always automated. There is brute-force spam that is scripted; but there’s also self-promotion that strikes in the form of mass submission. And people have begun trying to game Netscape, whose front page bears an admirable PageRank 9. This keeps the Anchors and Chief Editor on their toes.

The problem has become somewhat universal across this new wave of sites comprising contributer-driven content. Digg has had submission parasites, yet human moderation, as well as spam report widgets (community-driven), have it eradicated early on. I usually report any suspicious submission as spam, at least as soon I spot a distinct and objectionable pattern. When the same person always posts to the same domain, for instance, that’s a red flag. Sometimes you can align the username with the domain’s affiliation, but sometimes consistency in the URL is enough. And ‘sock puppets’ (same person with multiple identities that boost a bogus sense of consent) are another-yet-closely-related matter altogether.

When enough stories get intercepted, links the to the domain are banned by principle (for a month if not permanently), or particular Web addresses blocked for good. This sends the appropriate message: abuse, then get your domain blacklisted. This may be better than banning the users who could otherwise change their ways and contribute differently; in a positive way, that is. In fact, some people just haven’t grasped the concepts of social bookmarking, so they fail to see the wrongdoing.

When banning users, there is a need for caution. A pissed off innocent user is far worse than spam that successfully percolates because people talk. They have blogs, so a good rant with proof can get heavy exposure very quickly. And it affects reputation. Look at what has happened in Digg more recently.

An afterthought: One possible workaround to ‘sock puppets’ would be to demand that each newly-subscribed user supplies a unique E-mail address, as well as logs in with an IP address that wasn’t yet used in registration on that same day. This can’t stop instantiation of puppets or protect against proxies and dynamic IP’s. However, it definitely slows down the abuse and reduces incentive to game the system.

Wikis Finally Embraced by Academics

The Public Wiki section on this domain

Some good news with regards to collaboration with tomorrow’s technology (pardon the pun).

“The collaborative editorial process of wikis often results in a stunning degree of accuracy. A study by the science journal Nature found Wikipedia nearly as accurate as Encyclopedia Britannica. In fact, for summaries on niche issues and emerging interests, the biggest wiki of them all — Wikipedia — is often the best available source of information.”

It’s about time. I have been doing this for over a year, but people whom I work with refuse to embrace the concept of collaborative editing. They just toss 2 MB E-mail attachments back and fourth, bloating/clogging each other’s inboxes, still unable to spot the actual changes made.

Here is one example . The page is currently locked for editing because it’s a year and a half old, which expires its ‘shelf life’ and justifies guarading against Wiki SPAM.

Well Done, John Tapsell!

Pager in KDE
A KDE pager containing eight virtual desktops

SURPRISE, surprise! It turns out that I am only one among several. Several (former) Manchester University CS students who contribute to Linux, that is. Purely by coincidence (a newly-published feed item), I have just spotted an old University mate on the KDE Web site. It turns out that he followed an educational route similar to mine and is now maintaining KSysGuard, which I use on occasions. Keep up the good work, John.

Digg Bashing Reaches Inane Forums

The Digg front page
My first front pager in

I have just come across quite an amusing forum thread. Interestingly, I found a link to it on Digg. Flamebait, surely. It does nothing but bash Digg, which is sad, particularly given the idiocy in that forum, which gives it no credibility.

Proprietary File Formats Penetrate Through E-mail

Season of the playful penguins
Season of the playful penguins from Oyonale

A nice old writeup from Tristan Miller (someone whom I first met on UseNet) explains why it is a poor idea to send Word files. I explored his site at deeper levels in the past as his opinions broadly intersected with mine. I also happened to find this funny ‘scientific paper’ with an hilarious followup.

Returning to the subject at hand, the true nuisance is mail that contains Word attachments. It is a plague that appears to be reaching its end. Funnier (or coversely — more annoying) experiences include the embedment of nothing but plain text (or even a single image) in a Word files which is attached to a blank-body message. Some people just never learn. Here are some effective E-mail signatures that I have come across in the LyX mailing list.

I do not have a copy of Word, Excel, or PowerPoint.
I have no plans to buy one.
Please avoid sending me Word or PowerPoint attachments.
Word, Excel, and PowerPoint use proprietary data formats,
encouraging consumerism by forcing us to purchase new licenses
every time they “upgrade” their secret formats.
Send plain text, rich text format, html, or pdf instead.

Or a shorter version thereof (one which honours the 4-line signature limit)

Please avoid sending me Word or PowerPoint attachments.
Word, Excel, and PowerPoint are unreliable, unmaintainable, and unsafe.
Send plain text, rtf, pdf, or W3C html instead.

There is now the ODF argument as well. ODF has recently become an ISO-approved standard.

City Without Physical Money

Money on keyboard

MORE nations than ever before are showing interest in a purely electronic system for managing people’s records, funds, and vehicles. Take, for example, this older story on the use of biometrics. Cities and individual shops can already make authentication immediate when payment are being made. More latterly, a city in France began testing the idea of cities where cash is a antiquated notion of the past.

The tourist city of Caen in Normandy is hosting a major European trial of the use of NFC (near field communication) – a mobile technology that can be used for anything from paying for groceries to finding out about your home town.

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