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 del.icio.us 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 del.icio.us feed. As this is usually the tag that is added. Why cross post their links on their blog and del.icio.us?

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.

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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.

FeedReader Now Supports Enclosures

FeedReader Logo_OldI was talking to my brother-in-law tonight and giving him a crash course in RSS feeds and podcasting and just how great the whole thing is. I think I left him sufficiently confused but excited about what it could do for him. That aside I was recommending a feed reader for him to try and I have always recommended FeedReader. I was very surprised to see that it now supports enclosures (and that includes podcasts!).

While I have not used this version which is FeedReader 3.02, I am sure that it is as easy to use as it was for me when I used it. I have used FeedDemon for some time now, one of the main reasons that I switched to FeedDemon was the fact that it is an all-in-one solution. It supports both feeds and lots of different types of enclosures including podcasts and I liked the idea of having it all in the one place. Essentially both these programs do the same thing; in that they now both support enclosures and read news and whatever other feed you wish to subscribe to. But now when I recommend a reader I won’t have to give an explanation as to why you can not get podcasts with it and why you need a program like Juice to do that. This makes FeedReader a very nice no cost alternative for anyone wanting to give RSS a go.

Juice is a very good Podcast aggregator. However I do think that it is not the easiest piece of software to use for a person that is new to RSS or podcasting. Now having the podcasting support in FeedReader means that a user only has to learn to use one program and not two. Both having very different interfaces. The other huge bonus for the end user is that FeedReader is still open source and still free! Which is great news all round in my book. The new version of FeedReader has some other great new and improved features so check it out!

So for my mates that I put onto FeedReader, go and update it to the latest version on the Download Page and shove your podcasts and feeds into it and let me know how easy/hard it is to use. I hope it makes it a lot easier for people to utilize RSS and enjoy podcasts.

What is RSS?

What is a podcast?

What is an aggregator?

Ok, so I have the software where can I go to find some great RSS feeds and podcasts?

That should be enough to get you going I am sure you will start to notice RSS links and feeds and podcasts everywhere now.

Don’t forget to add Rooster’s Rail to your subscriptions and Global Geek Podcast! Here are the RSS feeds for those. Right click and copy the link and paste it to your reader of choice when you have selected to make a new subscription:

Nice Blog

Thomas Marban; who I can only assume is the author of POPURLS left a comment on my last entry. I went and checked out his blog, amazing.

Thanks Thomas for the comment, nice to know my ranting is being read by someone. I took a look at Thomas' site and it is very nice. Think minimal, 2.0 niceness. It is simple and yet functional. On first glace I thought "what the?", I actually thought that I had a bit of comment advertising. But I stayed and clicked a few of the headings, while obscure I found the blog easily enough and found it easy to read. The thing I like about the whole site is that it is unique and not your average blog. I would not expect it to be given he wrote POPURLS! He is also obviously heavily involved in web design. Perhaps the reason I thought it was a bit of corporate work is the fact that the world is not used to seeing a blog that is as polished as this one and perhaps I will not make assumptions in the future.

I urge you to go and have a look at what the future of Blogs might be like and have a poke around, I liked it but it might not be everyone's "cup of tea". Nice work Thomas. That's if you want the opinion of a small time blogger! I could only dream of a site that went anywhere near the quality!

POPURLS dot com: What a Great Site

POPURLS BannerI was cruising the RSS today and although I had heard of POPURLS in passing I had not visited it until today. I was pleasantly surprised.

This site is a sort of a aggregator for sites that are updated frequently or have RSS feeds associated with them, or some other kind of community contribution on a regular basis. POPURLS summarizes this data into a “all-in-a-view” style. I don’t think that it is everything that comes out of these sites but it is a nice summary. The site has a very nice single page design and you can swap the default white on black to black on white. You can also make the text larger for those of you who are blind. The other cool option is that you can expand the headings to include more feeds or data. Lastly you can hover over a title of an article you get a summary of the article, click on it and a new tab opens with the full text from the site, cool.

POPURLS covers a huge range of sites: digg.com, del.icio.us, furl.net, flickr, reddit.com, tailrank.com, fark.com, youtube.com, news.google.com, news.yahoo.com, newsvine.com, video.google.com, shoutwire.com, slashdot.org, wired.com, odeo.com, nowpuplic.com, metafilter.com.

You will notice that not all the “feeds” are text based. There are video feeds as well and that’s something that average newsreaders don’t do. I think that is a nice addition, so is the fact that there are Flickr photo’s as well. I am not sure what the relationship between POPURLS and the contributing sites is but it makes you wonder how others might get on the list. Just something to think about.

That aside I think this is a great idea and one that finally puts RSS feeds into the hands of “regular” users. While it does not unleash the true power of RSS and aggregation it is a taste and might spark some interest for some people, it also connects you with the information that may enable you to better utilize RSS fully. In addition to these points, even if you were a super geek; it is just a fun site and a great way to have a quick catch up with what is going on in cyberspace and beyond, a cool distraction from whatever it is you are meant to be doing. Have a look you will end up staying a while.