Making Sense of the Noise

The Internet and everything can be a lot of white noise to some. Understanding it can be a problem for people that don’t understand the technology. Yet it is this technology that is shaping our future and that of our children.

This would have to be the best video that I have ever seen. It embodies nearly every aspect of where we have been, where we are and where we are going. Sure it has been floating around for a while now but I think it is great, inspiring and very well done. I have seen it about 10 times now, but you need to watch it more than once; the pace is quick.

I am not saying that it explains everything or that it has any answers for you. Yet it might send you on a path of discovery or just help to put things into perspective. The concepts that this video encompasses is the basis of RSS, Web 2.0, content, delivery, community and heaps more. The implications of the principles that this video depicts are wide and far reaching. While I think I understand what is happening around me I still learned a few things by watching it.

It is time to rethink a few things…


Consumers are in Charge, Got It?

Pete Cashmore said this today in relation to the fact that the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences pulled all the clips of the Oscars from YouTube:

“Here’s the problem for you, content providers: you’re no longer in charge. The consumer is. And they’ll watch your content where and when they want, or they won’t bother watching it at all.”

YouTube Viewers Would NOT Like to Thank the Academy

Totally 100% agree, now how long do think till they actually get what that means? Right now I am not seeing that they do or are even close to even knowing how it can affect them. Nice one Pete.

Nine News Video Podcast

I am enjoying iTunes and I have subscribed to a fair few podcasts and got all my feeds organised. Since I have had the iPod I have been utilizing the video capability a lot more and I have been liking it. I have small children and when the news is on we are sorting the kids out and I miss it all the time. So the answer is that Channel Nine actually both podcast audio and video the news week days. I am subscribed!

The news is an abridged version of the headlines which is all that I want. The video version in my opinion is better because the audio version is based on the video so you get the audio version only with that one, not so good. I had been subscribed to the video podcast about a week ago and it suddenly stopped. No explanation given. It turned up again today. So we have a professional television network doing a video podcast which if you want the content is great, but I have one major criticism.

You would think that the basics are all covered with this video podcast. Professional video equipment, yeah the video is excellent. Professional studio, yeah the audio is great. It is a shame given the professional set up they have they can not synchronize both the audio and the video! About five to eight minutes into it the audio goes all out of sync with the video. Most indie videos casts seem to be able to accomplish this yet a professional one fails.

If they want to be competitive in this space they had better get with the program. I’ll put up with it because I am after the content. However, as this space becomes more competitive and Channel 7 start offering similar type services for example then I will consider the alternative.

So indie podcasters kick arse and the pros are crap at the moment. I am not sure if we should congratulate the indie’s or really rubbish the pros because this is what I would call a basic requirement. The basic requirement is that they should take notice of what the 15 year old kid can accomplish using their home PC and less than $1000 bucks!

Subscribe to the Channel Nine News:

In iTunes

Video Version

Audio Version Only

Streaming from NineMSN: Note you will need to use IE Tab If you are using Firefox to view this streaming content.

iTunes Screenshot

Tagging Folksonomy & WordPress

Tagging of your blog posts is not a necessary step in publishing your post. However it does make a significant contribution to the blogging community. Selecting tags has been described as:

“… the most important social contribution an individual can make.”

I have seen one post in particular here on WordPress recently and a few others around the place generally that seem to have a lot of tags in their posts. By that I am talking excessive, really excessive. To the point where the actual post was significantly shorter than the tags that followed. I am talking hundreds of tags here and most totally irrelevant to the post. The lack of a link is not an oversight.

This got me thinking. There are no rules as such for tagging posts:

“Tags are usually chosen informally and personally by the author/creator of the item — i.e. not usually as part of some formally defined classification scheme.”

Wikipedia: Tag (metadata)

There are however accepted norms or conventions that bloggers have come to expect fellow bloggers to follow. Although these conventions may vary within different networks or communities. Finding a definition for tagging is actually not as simple as it might seem. However to be more specific tagging is a folksonomy, which is defined by Wikipedia as:

“… an Internet-based information retrieval methodology consisting of collaboratively generated, open-ended labels that categorize content such as Web pages, on-line photographs, and Web links.”

[emphasis added]

A community relies on such tagging in order to make content searchable to relevant topics within a specific tag. So in searching a the tag “audio” you would expect to find articles related to all things audio. But not if someone has tagged a post about “The Emergence of Green Tea in Western Culture” with the tag “audio”. This is why relevent tags benefit the blogosphere and the WordPress community. Relevance is very important to tagging. Rather than relevance, tagging should be thought of as words that attach meaning to resources. You could conclude from that then, if your tags are irrelevant then the resource to which they are attached is equally meaningless. When thought of in relation to the association with tagging.

The study into tagging, folksonomy and nomenclature in general is quite complicated and involved. The fact that it has got a lot to do with the development of the symantic web has got a lot of developers interested in it’s evolution. This very fact is why the indiscriminate tagging of posts with unrelated words, terms and concepts is counter productive both technological development and the communities that rely on appropriate tagging.

The local community here on WordPress relies on an author’s ability to choose appropriate tags for their posts, within the realm of personal significance. Without that then “Tag Surfing” (This is an option within the WordPress “dashboard” available to members) would be useless and a waste of time. Indiscriminate tagging affects the wider blogging community in different ways. People expect that a tag will relate to a topic or context. If you have placed a tag that has nothing to do with your post then you have wasted the visitor’s time and your own in writing it and adding it. Plus you just lost a potential reader of your blog. You may have also lost some creditability.

Spam blogs or Splogs use this technique of unrelated prolific tagging to drive traffic, I call it “Tag Dragging”. They get hits on a particular page not because of content but because of the tags that have been used. In this instance you would consider the tags that were used as misleading and deceitful to the visitor. There is no difference between a Splog doing it and a legitimate blog, it is spam. It is misleading to the community and makes your contributions to that community less useful and meaningful than they otherwise could be. In addition to the possible assumptions that you may well be Tag Dragging for hits and not on letting your content do that for you. Good content drives traffic and tags help place that content in context. Mix those two up and you will loose you creditability and respect in the blogosphere and your work will repulse readers because of it’s lack of relevance to them.

I see one of the drawbacks to tagging is the fact that different words mean different things to different people. However the association can usually be made between the words used in tags with a bit of thought from the reader. It may not have been a connection that the reader had made but one that can be seen and associated with the post by the reader. Sure occasionally an abstract term will pop up in a post. However, due to the abstract nature of the tag and the frequency of use; the tag becomes irrelevant to the wider community and is more relevant to the author. Excessive and frequent indiscriminate unrelated tagging is far worse than the odd strange association or concept.

For example; the prevelance of specific tags or tag used inappropreatly could cause the WordPress Tag Cloud to be skewed in a deceptive manner that was not representative of the posts that were being made in this community. This would result in the relevance and usefulness of said cloud to diminish and potentially become useless as members of this community loose trust in the relevance it might have to them. Although this is unlikely as this outcome would rely on a good majority of this community using inappropriate tags, the same ones and multiple times on different posts.

In an article that I read as a part of my research I found an excellent guide as to what makes a good tag. There were some interesting points raised in relation to tagging for a community and maintaining tag relevance to that community. The most glaringly obvious one to me was:

Observe the norms of the network. Pay attention to tagging conventions followed by other members of the network, and if they make sense to you, adopt them. Lots of good ideas can come from observing the tagging practices of others.

– Ideant: Tag Literacy

Do as they do in other words. So that got me thinking as to what is the “norm” here at WordPress or in your own blogging community. I believe that as individual bloggers we have the responsibility to tag appropriately for the posts that we write. This is of benefit to this community and the blogosphere at large. I know that the opinion of some might be that “I can tag any way I like, it is my blog and I do not care how it affects this or any other community”. If that is the case then we are worse off for your opinion and we will be plagued by your pestilence of useless, irrelevant tags. Not to mention stall development of the symantic web and technological advance in addition to promoting the cultural relevance and acceptance of blogs as a “source” within the digital media revolution.

The community drives the relevance of the tags that it generates. We as a community determine how useful our tags are to us. However, we should also remember that the tags are viewable by non-WordPress users. I don’t know about you but I would rather make WordPress a place that visitors can come to as a source of relevant content. We can do that by thinking about how we as a community are representing ourselves in the tags that we choose. That is if you have any concern about what people think collectively of “bloggers at WordPress” then think about the contextual relevance of your tagging practices. Call it our collective public presence.

The aim of this post was not an in-depth study of tagging. Rather some thoughts and some encouragement for you as a blogger to think about how you tag your posts and how such a step affects this community. Both the perceptions of this community and you as a blogger. I know that I am looking at tagging in a very different way than I did before tapping out this post. If you would like to read more then I would suggest the following resources as a place to start:

Within the theme of this post, this tag cloud is of this post and generated by TagCrowd:

Tag Cloud

A Bullet Proof Way to Cheat Digg?

Spike the Vote ImageDigg used to be about content. Content that deserved attention based on the quality of that content. Spike the Vote is set to destroy that once and for all.

Digg is constantly on the look-out for people that cheat Digg, such as with multiple log-ins. But what if each Digg is from a unique user with a different IP? You could not say that it was not legit. That is exactly what Spike the Vote is aiming to do.

“Spike” the founder of the site says his motivation for starting it:

“… I’m tired of 30 elite users (or bots, perhaps) controlling the front page content of That’s why I created this little community here. We collectively vote each other’s stories to the front page.”

I am not sure that is entirely accurate. Especially considering the fcat that the algorithms on Digg were recently changed to prevent a group of “Top Diggers” from controlling what gets to the front page. Now there has to be a greater diversity of Diggers, Digg a particular story in order for the story to get to the front page. I guess ironically that very fact makes this venture even more successful.

So how does it work? You must be registered to use the service. Second each day you are given a “mission”, that mission is to Digg some stories on Digg. You have 12 hours to complete your mission. 20% of the stories are users of Spike the Vote the other 80% is random stories on Digg. This is to:

“… eliminate footprints and keep things anonymous.”

Each story you Digg will earn you points that you can trade for Diggs on your own stories. “Spiking” was not going to start until there were 1000 registered users. They must have reached this total as at the bottom of the page there is a list of the current “missions” and their status. Seems they are having some success.

I don’t know what Digg can do about this. There is no way of determining which users of Digg are a part of the “Spike theVote” community… unless they intend to plant a spy? Be careful Spike.

More than anything does not the actions of this site contradict the very principles that motivated it’s invention? That stories are pushed to the front page by few users. I think so, so how does he justify that.

Sink or swim? Swim I think, who would not go for a fool proof way to game Digg and for Digg to be able to do nothing about it?. That is of course if “hits” are all you are in it for. The motivation is certainly there for people to complete their mission as they then get to have their own stories Dugg. It is pyramid schemes for Digg! I also wonder how many commercial and profit organisations will gravitate toward this service? Many would find even a few thousand hits profitable.

I am not blogging just to get noticed and I have written before about the value of being Dugg. While the buzz is nice the everlasting effect can be argued. But the other fact is that I don’t have the time to Digg in the first place. Is this the tip of the iceberg and beginning of the end of Digg? Potentially the end of creditability.

UPDATE: Sold to Jim Messenger for $1275 on ebay. It would seem that he is a strong Digg supporter and donated it to them. Looks like a few Digg gamers just got caught. Seemed like a bit of a low thing to do even though they were gaming Digg. That is just my opinion though.

What’s with “Link Dumping” and Invisible Advertising?

I subscribe to a lot of RSS feeds. I have noticed a bit of a change lately and I am not sure I like it. I am not sure if it is because people are stuck for things to write about in their blogs or they are just using a new feature. But what I am seeing is the practice of “link-dumping” getting a bit out of control. It is almost RSS spam.

Every other post that some bloggers are doing is just a list of links. While these links are usually related to or something similar and related to their area of interest and maybe mine. I just do not see the point. I am not really that interested in what they have bookmarked for the week or day. In addition if I was interested in what people are bookmarking I can always subscribe to their feed. As this is usually the tag that is added. Why cross post their links on their blog and

It does seem like an excuse to post rather than something useful to say. I realise that they think they are providing their listeners with useful information or curious content, I would rather no post than a “link dump” thanks. It would seem that the proverbial social bookmarking phenomenon is taking over the world.

Something else that angered me this week was a nasty trick that some RSS feeds seem to be employing. It might be an error but it has occur more than once and I am starting to think it a ploy. What has been occurring is “invisible” adverts. In other words an embedded ad that you can not see but if you hover over it there is a link there in the feed-reader screen display. I think that for most the temptation to click would outweigh leaving it alone. While there is nothing wrong with clicking the ad – who wants to? In addition yesterday I accidentally clicked one and I was so annoyed at myself for doing it. But perhaps they are banking on that too.

Adverts in RSS was always going to happen but when companies try to trick people into clicking their ads I believe that to be wrong and uncalled for. The best way in my opinion to combat this as users is to not click anything, make the ploy ineffectual or boycott the feed until they shape up. I don’t mind the advertising but please lets be sensible and abstain from trickery and nasty ploys of entrapment.

Should Tragedy be Used as Entertainment?

Video sharing sites such as the popular Google Video, YouTube and Yahoo are proving popular at an ever increasing rate. However do these companies have a moral obligation to review and block or delete certain material? This I know is a hotly debated topic and one that is difficult to have an answer for.

While the Internet should in my opinion be an uncensored and free expression community; I think that pure morality should prevail in regards to certain material. I think it is agreed universally that this applies to inappropriate pictures and videos of children. In regards to pornography I think that while the material is openly and freely available the accessibility of the material to minors is far too easy. That said; the primary responsibility for ensuring that minors are blocked access to such material lies squarely at the feet of parents.

Parents often blame the Internet or the web sites for offering inappropriate material where in actual fact they are not doing anything to monitor what their children watch, read or listen to. For example; I would not let my three year old wander the video shop and hire any movie that he wanted or picked up. There would even be some covers I would rather he did not see. Nor would I let him watch anything on television that he wanted to. I monitor it and I decide what I believe is appropriate or not. So I do not know why parents view the Internet any differently than these other mediums. Then when their children do see something or watch something on the Internet that they do not want them to see or that they think is inappropriate they blame the content provider or they blame the government or they blame anything/ anyone else other then themselves; where where they when their 12 year old was surfing porn sites? That rant out of the way that is not the purpose of this post but it is associated with it.

Last night I read an article that talked about video that was posted to YouTube and Google and such that featured dangerous stunts resulting in serious injury. I did not know that this type of material was available on YouTube or Google. So I went looking and fair enough I found some. I am not going to give the search term or the url, but I have included a screen shot to give you an idea.Google Video Screen Shot But what I saw was very disturbing not so much on a basic human level but more on a professional level. I saw an individual of about 12 or 13 years of age “playing” with home made “dry-ice” bombs. When one of the devices did not explode, he kicked it twice and threw it once then picked it up again at which point it exploded. Given my professional opinion and the following footage, I would say that he now has no hand from the forearm down.

The video that I saw is tragic. It featured arterial blood squirting on the wall and a closeup of the arm; what was left of it. The reaction of the camera operator was less than helpful as no attempt was made to do anything, it was almost like they did not expect any sort of injury let alone a serious one. I can tell you that I am a Registered Nurse, I work in an operating theatre. This injury is very serious and tragic. This young person has lost a limb, will require surgery and more after the incident. The injury sustained could be fatal if they were not given first aid and taken to hospital as soon as possible. They may get a serious infection that will result in loss of more of the limb than the injury inflicted. To say that this individual will be affected for the rest of their life is an understatement. Make no mistake some of these clips are violent and graphic in the extreme. How is it then at all possible that this is entertainment?

Don’t go dropping comments on this blog about such things as educational as far as what not to do. Or that I am being sensitive and just don’t watch it if it affects you that much. That is all bullshit. Just because the Internet provides a medium for people to post material such as pranks and accidents does not mean that it should be done or that it should be available to just anyone. Yes I know that people have been doing stuff like this for a long time if not since the dawn of time but have they been taking out page 3 of the newspaper to “advertise” their exploits, and I wonder if that would be socially acceptable. I think not, so I am at a loss as to why it is here in this community. Why do we class the loss of a limb in a young boy as entertainment, or worthy to be placed on Google or YouTube, when clearly we should be lamenting and asking why?

I would argue that it has to do with many factors such as the very aspect of the Internet that is appealing, the freedom that individuals have to express their point of view or their opinion or their art or whatever they wish to. That does not make all things right, just because we can does not mean we always should. Strangely within our society there is a morbid curiosity to see things that are tragic or taboo. Things such as dead bodies, accidents, crash scenes and the like. Further there are many sites on the Internet dedicated to such things. This is a human trait, don’t know why but it is, strange that we are so interested in our own self destructiveness. Nothing regarding this issue is going to change anytime soon, I know that.

The article that I read did go on to speculate that people would copy stupid acts and put themselves at risk. That is a reach as these things are going to happen all by themselves, they don’t need “inspiration”. I would question the ability for individuals to obtain a forum to publicise it. But again to question that is to begin to question the fabric of the Internet. Dangerous territory; do we want our Google web searches to look like China’s?

Individuals need to remember, when they see tragic incidents; these things are not easy fixed, broken bones can be fatal, loss of a limb can be fatal, injury can be fatal period; even the things that appear minor. These actions and incidents have repercussions, it would seem that young people and some adults seem to be incapable of foreseeing seeing what “could” happen.

My conclusion then, is that based on the pure tragic nature of these incidents that video sharing websites have a moral obligation not to show or restrict this content on the Internet. Then that would be in the face of my own argument wouldn’t it, that’s the parents job right? It might even be strange for some people to think that I feel that way. If anything it should not be so easily accessible for minors who certainly can not see the repercussions of their actions. It is debatable as to why adults “need” to see it either other than to satisfy the “morbid curiosity” factor. Further; how do we gauge what is acceptable and what is not and then where do we draw the line. I am not shouting for censorship or restriction, nor am I appealing to better nature. More that we should start to question and debate the reason as to why this content is available. What good does it serve, who is the audience? There is a line but where it is I do not know. How do we monitor content while maintaining the very nature of the Internet, one of freedom of expression. That which makes the Internet what it is.