Webometric Thoughts

March 29, 2008

Python & the Flickr API on the Eee PC

Filed under: Eee PC,Flickr,Python,RM minibook,program — admin @ 10:05 pm

Until yesterday I hadn’t really thought about programming on the Eee PC, but once I started looking I was surprised how easy it was: Unbeknown to me, it has had Python 2.4 and 2.5 sitting there the whole time! Despite not being a particularly competent programmer, I found Python to be very user friendly, and look forward to programming on the Eee PC in a variety of settings in the future. My first Python program was used to find random Flickr users:

> import flickrapi
> import random
> api_key = ‘XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX’
> for counter in range (1,1000):
>>> flickr = flickrapi.FlickrAPI(api_key, fail_on_error=False)
>>> a=random.randint(1, 99999999)
>>> b=random.randint(0,1)
>>> c=random.randint(0,9)
>>> d=str(a)+”@N”+str(b)+str(c)
>>> photos = flickr.photos_search(user_id=d)
>>> if photos['stat'] == “ok”:
>>>>>> print d
> print ‘done’

Webometric studies are always searching for ways of finding random users, unfortunately I have no idea how Flickr assigns its user_ids. O’Reilly’s “Flickr Hacks’ says:

“…a string of numbers, followed by an at sign (@), an N, and two more numbers (often 00 or 01)…”

Not exactly specific. The program calculates a number up to eight digits long before the ‘@N’ and from 00 to 19 after the ‘@N’. Whilst most may be 00 or 01, I found them as high as 08. If anyone knows of any user_ids not included in these parameters, please let me know.

Sending 1,000 queries, 10 random users were identified. Not exactly efficient.

March 28, 2008

Coding for the Eee PC

Filed under: BBC,BBC Micro,Eee PC,RM minibook — admin @ 2:18 pm

The Register notes that Asus have just released a Software Development Kit for the Eee PC. A cheap, widely available personal computer which can be easily programmed: Will the Eee PC be this generation’s BBC micro?

The SDK is a welcome addition to the Eee PC, although it will mean that I have to learn another new language as it supports C and C++, but hopefully it will encourage a future generation of programmers in the same way the BBC Micro did. In fact it should be more encouraging, this time you don’t have to be locked away programming in a room on your own, you can sit around in the park sharing code with your friends. Maybe the BBC could get involved this time with some nice ‘how to program your Eee PC’ television programmes :-)

Research v. Internet

Filed under: research,webometrics — admin @ 1:36 pm

I have just come across a picture that perfectly sums up why I never get as much work done as I should:

How can webometrics compete with dinosaurs?

(Asher Sarlin’s original picture can be found HERE).

Print-on-demand: Amazon marks its territory

Filed under: Amazon,e-book,print-on-demand — admin @ 9:42 am

A posting over at TechCrunch highlights an Amazon announcement that is will only be selling print-on-demand books that use their own print-on-demand service BookSurge. Whilst this has implications for today’s other print-on-demand publishers such as Lulu, the true print-on-demand revolution has barely started and when it does Amazon’s old model of selling books will quickly fall down around its ears. Amazon needs to emphasise its publishing side before the online book selling business falls flat.

Personally I am a big fan of the traditional book, and feel that it has many years left in it yet; e-books will continue being the preserve of the geek for the foreseeable future. Whilst buying online has opened up a far wider range of books than was previously available in the local shop, and print-on-demand has increased the number of titles even further, we are currently having to suffer the delivery delay. The real excitement in print-on-demand will be when print-on-demand is available in the local highstreet: order any book you want and collect the printed copy ten minutes later.

Obviously there are numerous hurdles to jump through before print-on-demand comes to a highstreet near you, so it will probably be a few years yet, but I think (and hope) that it will come before the mass adoption of the e-book.

March 27, 2008

Hotmail continues losing email

Filed under: email,hotmail — admin @ 12:44 pm

On Tuesday I blogged that over the previous week at least two of the emails I had sent through hotmail had gone missing: all the recipient recieves is an email that is blank except for an advert at the bottom. Today I had two more hotmail emails go missing, or rather the same one twice, before the email finally successfully sent on the third occassion. I am currently checking that every email is sending….not particularly user-friendly.

I have no idea why the emails go missing (or rather why only some go missing when the majority travel without a problem from the same browser on the same computer). I would be interested in knowing if anyone else has been having a similar problem.

My Google Shame

Filed under: Google,Google Adsense,Google Analytics,Google Scholar — admin @ 9:24 am

A four point manifesto was published on Read Write Web yesterday about how to avoid a Google media monoculture. The manifesto is aimed squarely at the advertising side of the Google behemoth. In truth we are in need of a far wider ranging manifesto, even those who dislike the extent of Google’s power find it creeping into their lives.

My own (daily) Google shame includes:
-Google Search Engine (approximately 50% of my searches)
-Blogger
-Google Analytics
-Google Ads
-Google Scholar

Google infects my online life due to a combination of habit, ease, and lack of alternatives. Whilst I can try to wean myself off of search, I have no idea how easy it would be to change the blogging software (without losing everything), whilst once you have started one analytics program you are loathed to change to another which calculates the numbers differently. At least I can hold my head up when emailing (Hotmail), reading my RSS feeds (Newsgator), reading the news (BBC), or doing a bit of social networking (anything but Orkut).

Regarding the 4-point manifesto, in addition to wishing for a wider ranging manifesto there is one point I do disagree with: a push towards cost per action (CPA). Whilst I understand that steps are necessary in preventing people clicking on their own links purely for the ad-revenue, CPA would tip the balance too far in the advertisers favour. Why should I have ads on my site that earn nothing because the advertisers product isn’t wanted on closer inspection? It also doesn’t bear thinking about how long I would have to wait for someone to not only click on one of the ads, but to actually do something on the advertiser’s site. After almost three weeks of Google ads, and 1,438 page impressions, I have only had 2 ads clicked on!

March 26, 2008

Beta Problems: The case of Google Analytics

Filed under: Google Analytics,beta,bugs — admin @ 3:22 pm

It is often stated that we are now in the age of the perpetual beta as web services continually evolve to gain competitive advantage, never reaching a final finished product. Whilst we may enjoy the new additions to a favourite web site it can establish bugs in previously stable software. The effect of these bugs can range from the annoying to the potentially disastrous. Google Analytics seems to be having a number of these problems at the moment, hot on the heels of its not displaying graphs properly earlier in the month, I now find that it is refusing to acknowledge “absolute unique visitors”.

When investigating a day’s traffic it is always the absolute unique visitors that I am interested in rather than the total visitors, after all I often visit my own site more than once (and occasionally so do others). However, at some point yesterday Google analytics stopped being able to distinguish an absolute unique visitor. The results say I had a mere 27 absolute unique visitors yesterday, despite visitors from 33 different cities, whilst it currently says that I have had 27 visits today, of which there is not one single absolute unique visitor!

The perpetual beta works when innovation is more important than consistency. For me, in the cases of site statistics and email, consistency is more important than any new innovations.

March 25, 2008

Is a Web 2.0 future really so great?

Filed under: Leadbeater,Shirky,web 2.0 — admin @ 6:56 pm

One of the reasons that I haven’t posted much over the last few days (besides the fact it was Easter), was that I have been trying to catch up on my ever-rising pile of unread books. After finishing Leadbeater’s “We-Think” I followed up with Shirky’s “Here Comes Everybody“. Whilst both are enjoyable enough quick reads, by the end I find myself dying for some cynicism about the social empowered future; not the capitalist-led cynicism of Keen whose opinions have a Thatcherite air to them (a distinctly bad thing), but rather a cynicism about the empowering of the masses. Whilst both Leadbeater and Shirky point out that the future will be turbulent, they believe that the likelihood is that the overall outcome will be positive. I am not so convinced.

My more cynical vision of the future is based on a lack of belief in the good of democracy. Whilst democracy would seem to have provided the best solution for establishing a government so far, it has primarily worked because of its limitations rather than in spite of them. The more abhorrent opinions of the majority are, more often than not, curtailed by the representatives of democracy. If the social tools that are available open the way for a more direct democracy then the flood gates are likely to be opened to man’s rather nastier side.

When direct democracy is possible, is it possible to defend representative democracy on the basis that the majority have repulsive views? It seems more likely that a government, which will become increasingly vulnerable to the masses, will have to embrace the majority. To misquote: “The voters are never wrong. Repulsive, maybe, but never wrong”.

It is too late to put the genie back in the bottle, and I don’t think I particularly want to. I would, however, like a bit of a less evangelised future.

Hotmail’s selective sending

Filed under: email,hotmail — admin @ 5:29 pm

Despite recent difficulties in accessing my Hotmail account I have been, all-in-all, pleased with the service they have provided over the years and have no wish to move. However, over the last week Hotmail has stopped sending some of the long emails I have been diligently typing out, and instead just sent the recipients the adverts at the bottoms of the emails. Without checking the contents of the ‘sent’ email in the ‘sent’ folder, the first I hear of the problem is if the recipient takes the trouble to ask if there was meant to be more to the email than they received.

To my knowledge only two of my emails have gone missing in action (although I have not checked every sent email), however, what has also been lost is my trust in the service. Whilst the majority of my emails may be of little worth, some are extremely important, and if an important one goes missing it can really mess up my job.

For me the question is how can Hotmail get back my trust. I don’t want to leave, and I certainly don’t want to take a walk to the Google-mail side of the street, but I equally don’t want to spend the rest of my life checking the ‘sent’ folder.

March 21, 2008

Giga-blast from the past

Filed under: API,Gigablast,Google,search engine — admin @ 9:32 am

It is all too easy to forget about some of the alternative search engines out there, and I must admit that I can’t remember the last time I used Gigablast. It was therefore good to read on ResearchBuzz that Gigablast are now offering site search, which I have now added to the right-hand frame of my blog (too often people overlook the blog search in the blogger toolbar/banner).

Gigablast seems to have had a bit of make-over since I last visited (when it looked something like THIS), and now it even has a very limited API. Personally I would like to see the API extended and a few advanced operators, surely that’s an easy way of getting a competitive advantage over the other search engines.

Personally I hate the growth of Google search, and love any opportunity to support other search engines.

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