Webometric Thoughts

June 21, 2009

Traffic to the University of Wolverhampton’s Web Site has Collapsed!

Filed under: University of Wolverhampton,web traffic — admin @ 3:57 pm

I’ve just noticed an interesting trend over at Google Trends, and it’s confirmed by both Compete and Alexa. The traffic to the University of Wolverhampton web site has collapsed.

Google Trends:



There are lots of potential reasons for the decline in the traffic: obviously changes in student behaviour (e.g., Google Scholar rather than the OPAC), increasing number of satellite web sites (e.g., individual/departmental blogs). But does this really account for such a massive decline? A brief glance at some other university web sites showed some decline in traffic, but I didn’t notice them falling as sharply.

Whilst I’d suggest the university have a good dig around in their data to find out exactly what is going on, as much as anything it highlights the need for a change in how we think of a successful online web presence.

June 19, 2009

How much is a Twitter update worth?

Filed under: TwitPub,Twitter,making money — admin @ 8:00 am

A couple of days ago I posted my thousandth Twitter update, and an earth shattering post it was to:

A comment appropriately enough about Twitter, an update that was meaningless to anyone who wasn’t already aware of Opera Unite, and representative of the banality of so many of my Twitter comments.

As I discussed when I passed my 100th Twitter comment, the value of Twitter is hard to quantify, especially in monetary terms. Throughout social media, the value of the content we generate is generally indirect rather than direct: Dave Winer has made over $2 million via the stuff he talks about on his blog, whilst I have made $32.02 through the Google Adwords on this blog.

Nonetheless the dream of direct income remains. On the same day as I posted my 1,000th update, I received an email asking me to review the TwitPub marketplace. Basically TwitPub allows you to create a Twitter stream that people pay to get Direct Messages from. Whilst the concept is interesting, the content offered is generally poor. The only feed I came across which had any subscribers (supposedly ’2′) was a feed for real time trading alerts (at $0.99 a month), and the author’s web site link was to a page of adverts.

Twitter works because you follow many people, no single person is indispensable. If you want to get useful trading information you would do better follow numerous people in the field and drawing your own conclusions rather than paying $0.99 for the opinions of one person, however good they are.

So who could make use of TwitPub? Those who already have a loyal fan-base. It provides a simple means of monetising an existing brand. But when everyone else is offering their Twitter streams for free, I don’t imagine most fans being loyal for long.

Twitter, like other social media, is most likely to generate income indirectly. For me that has been £100 to write an opinion piece on Twitter in a magazine (JISC Inform 25 – see page 20). I doubt my Twitter-stream would ever generate that sort of income through TwitPub.

June 16, 2009

Did Opera Reinvent the Web?

Filed under: Opera Unite — admin @ 9:26 am

Last week Opera promised that today it was going to “reinvent the web“. Today it launched Opera Unite, a new technology that turns your web browser into a server. This basically means that when I am online, and have Opera Unite enabled in my Opera browser you can access certain of my files as though they were on a web server!

At the moment there are only a few Opera Unite services:

Whether Opera Unite truly manages to reinvent the web will depend on the sort of services other people build. At the moment the services have a distinct web 1.0 feel, with messageboards, chatrooms, and static html pages ['Device Unavailable' means I'm not currently using Opera Unite]. However, If the chatroom becomes a social networking site, the message board a distributed micro-blogging service, and the static html becomes dynamicly generated pages built on the back of python and PHP, then we really will be heralding a new era of the web.

June 13, 2009

Brief Thoughts on Twitter and the Turing Test

Filed under: Turing,Twitter — admin @ 2:48 pm

Before heading off the allotment to pull weeds this morning I downloaded some podcasts from a Berkeley course on Foundations of American Cyber-Culture. One of the things discussed was the Turing test [summary by Saygin]:

The interrogator is connected to one person and one machine via a terminal, therefore can’t see her counterparts. Her task is to find out which of the two candidates is the machine, and which is the human only by asking them questions. If the machine can “fool” the interrogator, it is intelligent.

Whilst I don’t generally give a lot of thought to the Turing test, the idea of creating an automatic Twitter account in an attempt to pass the test was immediately appealing:
- Twitter offers a massive/current conversational database to draw on.
- The 140 character limit means people are more likely to be forgiving of answers that are not totally explicit.
- The API means that programming knowledge required to create such a bot (albeit not necessarily a good one) would be relatively simple.

I was not surprised to find therefore, that other people have had the same idea. However, how much of the human created Twitter data could the bot use and still be considered a bot? If the bot merely relayed the questions asked of it to someone else, and responded with their answer it would be considered cheating, but if it just found the answer of someone else who had answered a similar question would it be acceptable?

There are just not enough hours in the day to do all the things I want to in this always-on world.

June 11, 2009

The Library Show 2009: Are libraries stuck in the physical world?

The Library Show was on at the NEC yesterday, so I decided to pay it a visit. The show itself was free, and the £5.20 train fare was more than compensated for by the free magazines. Whilst I enjoyed the show, I couldn’t help but feel it was stuck in the past. Whilst there were organisations promoting technological solutions, there was nothing there that made me think that librarianship is a profession heading in the right direction in changing times. Instead I thought: what a lot of different sorts of shelves.

Whilst I appreciate the continuing importance of the physical library, I would have expected it to be coupled with some innovative digital products. Unfortunately, I fear, there are great swathes of the library world who are stuck firmly in past. Demonstrated most clearly by the absurd comment by someone speaking from the Copyright Licensing Agency:

If copyright didn’t exist people wouldn’t create anymore because they wouldn’t be paid

Copyright has a place, but let’s keep some perspective.

The show organisers did make some effort to be ‘cutting edge’, with Phil Bradley giving a talk on ‘Twitter and Its Value to Librarians’:

Bradley’s talk (slides available on slideshare.net in true web 2.0 fashion) was standing-room only, with the vast majority having never used Twitter. Three year’s after such a service launches a community of information professionals should need more than an unashamed apologist’s introduction on how to use Twitter!

Obviously there is a lot of innovative work going on amongst individual librarians that is not going to show up at a trade fair…but you wouldn’t have guessed by seeing the joy with which they carried around their new CoLibri book covering machine.

The big thing I will take from the fair is StoryPhones. I don’t think I have ever seen such an awful idea!

June 10, 2009

Black Country Social Media Cafe: Excellent Journalism 2.0 talk

Filed under: BCSMC,Black Country Social Media Cafe — admin @ 6:10 am

The mixture of informal gathering and a more formal talk went down well again at yesterday’s Black Country Social Media Cafe. Dan Slee, Philip John, and Linda Jones did a magnificent job of leading us through the changing world of the newspaper industry.

What’s particularly good about the panel/discussion format is that everyone throws in a few opinions, and everyone learns something new. Aptly shown by Dan’s after-event-tweeting:

What did I learn? Newspapers have an important role to play in the local media, but if they don’t adapt quickly enough to the opportunities offered by social media they could see themselves marginalised by the likes of The Lichfield Blog and the work of Talk About Local.

I also learnt that of all the social media people at the BCSMC, I am probably the worst photographer:

As always I am looking for suggestions for both speakers and topics (and photographers) for future events, so any ideas let me know.

Thanks to all those who came along, and this month’s sponsor Wolverhampton Development Company.

June 3, 2009

A Short Rant: Elsevier Webcasts

Filed under: webcasts — admin @ 3:03 pm

One of the things I recognise I should do is watch more webcasts. There is loads of interesting stuff streaming out there, but unfortunately webcasts always get put to the back of my very long to-do list. Therefore, when I do make room to watch one live, it would be nice if I could watch it!

As I type this there is a webcast being streamed that I want to watch:

Research Leadership Redefined… Measuring Performance in a Multidisciplinary Landscape

Admittedly not everyone’s cup of tea, but squarely in the area of my more traditional academic research interests.

After the sign-up process I am informed that the log-in details will be sent half-an-hour before the streaming starts. Why they don’t send the details straight away I don’t know. Did they fear a sudden black market in log-in details to such a generalist webcast? Or are [my opinion] they idiots who didn’t take into account the fact that emails often go missing or on a walkabout for a couple of hours and a half-an-hour window was always asking for trouble?

When nothing had arrived by 4 o’clock I emailed saying I hadn’t received my log-in details. They replied very promptly:

My appologies, you are on the list but the registration has been closed now and I have been told by the organizers that I cannot log you in any more.

It will be available for download later, but at that point it is one of a million webcasts I can watch. If I don’t watch these things live they will probably never be watched.

Thanks Elsevier.

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