Webometric Thoughts

May 30, 2009

Mixed Messages: Please comment on my blog!

Filed under: Twitter,blogging — admin @ 4:50 pm

Something I find increasingly annoying is the tendency to have discussions across different media. Most noticeable in people responding to everything with twitter comments. If I post a blog post people comment on twitter. If I set up a wiki people comment on twitter. As such, discussions are scattered all over the web. However useful and interesting these comments are, they are invisible to most people.

Last week Jon Bounds asked whether the solution was technical or social:
To which my answer is ‘social’.

Although technical solutions have worked in the past for distributed conversations, e.g., trackbacks, when the conversation is distributed across different media there is a greater chance of inappropriate comments being tracked automatically as people use the different media differently. There is more chance that a blog post linking to a post is making a useful relevant contribution than a Twitter comment responding to a blog post.

A specific example: two comments from a Finnish colleague regarding my previous blog post:
One comment represents the ephemeral conversational nature of Twitter, whilst the other is more akin to the sort of comment that could be considered a contribution to the blog post. Whilst a technical solution may have been able to identify both comments, it couldn’t determine which was a contribution.

There is also an ethical dimension to take into consideration. When someone comments on your blog they are consenting to the contributions being seen on the site. When someone chats with you on Twitter, they don’t necessarily expect it to be permanently visible somewhere else.

Unfortunately, I fear the actual solution will have to be technical. This blog post will do little to hold back the tide of Twitter’s real-time conversation at the expense of useful long-term contributions. But maybe for this one post people will comment on here rather than on Twitter.

From Webometrician to Web Analyst?

Filed under: web analyst,webometrics — admin @ 11:55 am

On 22nd July 2009 my job as web 2.0 research fellow at the University of Wolverhampton finishes. As the only other webometrics research post currently available is in South Korea, and I’m not really a 9-5 office type person, I will [probably] be going into business for myself: Commercialising webometrics. Unfortunately, as there are only a handful of people who know what webometrics is and what a webometrician would do, the hunt is on for a new job title.

The most obvious job title is ‘web analyst’, although the slightly wordier ‘web analytics consultant’ would probably give a better indication of the services I can offer. Neither, however, sound particularly cutting edge, exciting, or (like webometrician) rhyme with magician! Even after I have decided on a job title I will have to select names for the services I offer. Is ‘web impact analysis’ catchy enough? Naming children seems like a piece of cake in comparison.

One thing I am sure about: I will not be a search engine optimizer offering search engine optimization! Any other suggestions welcomed.

May 28, 2009

Many a slip twixt the phone and TwitPic?

Filed under: TwitPic,Twitter,beta,reliability — admin @ 9:50 am

Yesterday evening I was having a game of chess in the Posada pub in Wolverhampton. As it was the first game I had played in years, I couldn’t let the occasion pass without telling the world. I sent this photo to TwitPic using PockeTwit:

However I have just discovered that was not the picture that was published:

Ignoring for the moment my inability to spell, where did this car come from? It is not a picture I have taken or even seen before! Admittedly I was having a pint with the game of chess, but I’m sure I would remember nipping out to take a photo of a rally car. No such picture exists on my phone.

On this occasion it didn’t matter; no one even questioned the disparity between the photo and the text. However it could have been a less appropriate photo in a more professional context.

In attempting to keep up in the social media game many of us are relying on technologies that have not yet been robustly tested, and generally recommending these technologies to everyone else as well. Maybe we should make a bit more effort emphasising the fact these technologies should be treated as being in beta…even if they don’t say they are.

May 20, 2009

Daily Mail v. the iPlayer

Filed under: Daily Mail,iPlayer,tv licence — admin @ 9:22 am

Back in January 2008, Ashley Highfield claimed that:

…the number of homes that currently have no television licence, but that do have broadband subscription is currently estimated to be infinitesimally small.

It didn’t take a genius to recognize that this group would increase; in fact I said as much in December when I no longer needed a TV licence myself (although I still buy one). Unsurprisingly, as the ‘infinitesimally small’ group shows signs of increasing suggestions are being made about needing a licence for iPlayer content. According to the Daily Mail:

BBC technology chief Erik Huggers said: ‘My view is that if you are using the iPlayer you have to be a television licence fee payer.

‘I don’t believe in a free ride. If you are consuming BBC services then you have to be a licence holder.’

A fairly reasonable position in my view. In the changing world of television and news production and consumption we rely increasingly on services like the BBC to produce high-quality content; the commercial models are increasingly failing. In fact I would personally go further, arguing for an increase in the licence fee.

However, such a position puts me in opposition to the always-irrational Daily Mail. Until the BBC replace the ONE show with ‘Asylum Criminals: The truth about illegal immigrants’, the Daily Mail will always hate the Beeb. Huggers suggestion that iPlayer viewers pay a licence fee quickly gets expanded upon:

If he were to have his way, possible changes to the fee could include:

* Viewers having to buy an extra licence just for the iPlayer
* Increasing the cost of the current TV licence to include the iPlayer
* Forcing viewers to pay a subscription to use the iPlayer service

If Huggers was suggesting any of these changes the Daily Mail failed to include the appropriate quotes. It would be equally meaningful to say possible changes could include “Hanging for watching iPlayer without TV licence”; possible, but highly unlikely. The second suggestion “Increasing the cost of the current TV licence to include the iPlayer” is particularly stupid as the current TV licence already includes the cost of the iPlayer!

Obviously the Daily Mail readers read the article rationally and take the Daily Mail bias into consideration:

Obviously not.
[Disclaimer: As a licence fee payer interested in quality TV and news I have a vested interested in the BBC. As a human being I have a vested interest in pointing out that the Daily Mail is a piece of crap written for idiots.]

May 19, 2009

Why has the BNP failed on Twitter?

Filed under: BNP,Twitter — admin @ 3:06 pm

As I have mentioned before, the BNP tend to get a far higher proportion of political traffic than they deserve. Whilst this can be attributed to the web providing a forum for the discussion of vile ideas that are unacceptable amongst the general public, it is interesting to note that their success has not carried over to Twitter.

Whilst the Twitter logo is proudly displayed on the BNP homepage, the official BNP Twitter account has only been used to highlight blog posts on their web site, and even this has not happened for a over a month. The result of their Twitter experiments: a more motley bunch of 58 Twitterers it would be difficult to find.

So why has the BNP failed on Twitter? After all, my own criticism of Twitter is the lack of room for reasoned arguments…something the BNP has no time for.

Their failure is mainly because people can see who you follow on Twitter. As I have mentioned before, as someone interested in politics I often follow opinions which are the opposite of mine. The shame of being mistaken for a BNP supporter, however, would be too much even for me (and I follow @MayorOfLondon!!).

There is also an argument that Twitter is just too open. As the BNP constantly strive to promote a professional image they know that their own members are their biggest handicap. If the BNP truly embraced Twitter the facade of respectability that they constantly strive for would soon disappear under the weight of their own members’ ignorance.

The BNP thrive in those online places where their members are in the majority; their lack of presence on an open site like Twitter shows what a minority they are.

May 16, 2009

My Eurovision 2009 Menu

Filed under: Eurovision — admin @ 6:03 pm

After a lot of deliberation, a little help from the wiki, and two hours searching the shelves of Waitrose (under the careful watch of the security guard who was convinced we were up to no good), we finally came up with this year’s menu.


Particularly impressed with finding a Moldovan red wine; Waitrose are severely lacking in East European wines!

The only difficulty now is making sure we get the moussaka out the oven at just the right moment!

May 14, 2009

Crowdsourcing my Eurovision Menu

Filed under: Eurovision,croudsource,wiki — admin @ 3:19 pm

For last year’s Eurovision song contest I decided to create a list of food and drink, one for each country, to be eaten/drunk as the band played. It resulted in a strange mix of foods.


Some look ‘surprising’ in retrospect (walnuts for Georgia?), some were excessive (there is still vodka left), some were stretching a connection (Danish pastries!), and some were just bad (NEVER eat smoked-salmon after chocolate torte!).

It is actually very difficult to create such a list on your own, so this year I am attempting to ‘crowdsource’ my menu. Please head over to my Eurovision Menu Wiki Page and give me a hand by making a few suggestions.

May 13, 2009

Is Deferred Gratification Good or Bad?

Filed under: Deferred Gratification,piracy — admin @ 8:10 pm

I was too busy to make it to Birmingham’s Digital Britain Unconference yesterday, but one comment about the benefits of piracy in terms of information retrieval got me wondering: What ever happened to the virtue of deferred gratification?

The digital world (both legal and illegal) strives to feed our desire for instant gratification, but it will never satisfy us. Am I grateful that I can search for millions of different books on sites like amazon? Increasingly I am frustrated at having to wait a couple of days for delivery. The faster we are satisfied the faster we want to be satisfied. In twenty years time people will probably be complaining that they had to think of an object before it instantly appeared on their 3D printer; objects should appear before we think of them!

The move towards instant gratification is not a new thing, but as we defer gratification less and less you can’t help but wonder about the effect it will have on society. Criminals lacking the ability to defer gratification is not the same as saying that people who can’t defer gratification are criminals…instead we say the law is an ass.

Black Country Social Media Cafe: It’s worse than Birmingham’s!

Filed under: BCSMC,Black Country Social Media Cafe — admin @ 7:28 am

Yesterday was the second open Black Country Social Media Cafe, another good turn out with a lot of new faces. Whilst I don’t think it had the same swing as the first cafe, it’s all a learning curve.

My initial disappoint with the turn-out was mostly due to a faulty memory. This month’s BCSMC had twenty people at it’s peak, whilst I was convinced last month’s had twenty-five (20% drop). According to my blog, however, there were only twenty-three last month (13% drop), and two of those were invited speakers (5% drop). With at least half-a-dozen claiming prior commitments, I can’t be too disappointed. Nonetheless we can’t be complacent, if we want to grow we need to work on the marketing. Next month: thirty-or-bust!

The content of this month’s cafe was “You”, we wanted to know how social media had worked for people at the cafe. Great idea, poorly implemented: my fault. Rather than having the round the room input that was originally envisaged, the sun went to my head and I suggested we do the filming outside. As such no one knows what anyone else said and half the people opted out. Hopefully there won’t be any problems with the film, and we will have some idea who we want to speak to at the next cafe.

Next month (Tuesday June the 9th) we will seen a return to the successful speaker/discussion format of the first cafe. Any ideas for talks, talkers, or sponsors, please let me know.

[Update- a couple of hours later] In response to “social media is not in our best interests, so we will not cover your story”…next month’s topic will be journalism 2.0. Sign-up here.

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