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 digg.com. 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.