Webometric Thoughts

December 26, 2009

Do you need a Pocket Projector?

Filed under: Pocket Projector,tv licence — admin @ 11:33 am

My research group were recently assigned a large amount of cash for new equipment. Beyond the usual list of desktops, laptops, and netbooks, I decided to ask Twitter for more interesting suggestions.
The idea of a portable projector appealed from both a work and a social perspective. Offering the opportunity for demonstrating webometric presentations on the fly (it’s a very visual subject), as well as watching films and TV on the big screen. The best Pocket Projector I could find was the Adapt ADPP-305 Pocket Projector. Luckily it arrived on Christmas Eve, so I have had a couple of days to test it out – albeit it mostly for watching Christmas TV.

The projector promises up to 100 inches, although you’d want a very dark room for it to be a clear 100 inch image. So far I have connected my laptop and my Wii to the projector, and run it off the mains, although there is also a 4GB internal memory, and a battery if you want to leave the laptop and leads at home.

There’s no doubt it is a nice bit of kit (although one of the tripod legs is a bit lose on mine – it’s nothing a bit of glue wont sort out), providing a good picture, and is reasonably priced.

As projectors continue to improve I can imagine the traditional TV being squeezed out by computers on the one side, and projectors for the big screen experience on the other. On Christmas Day I projected the Gruffulo onto the wall at 70 inches; a 70 inch flat screen would not only cost thousands, but would continue to take up space when not being used.

December 16, 2009

The meaning of ‘citations’ on the social web

Filed under: attention,citations — admin @ 9:06 am

It has long been recognised in the world of scientific publishing that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer as authors vie for attention: The Matthew Effect. On the social web the problem is exacerbated through a combination of greater variation in the quality of publishing, the ease of ‘citing’, and social rewards for citing first. This can result in highly cited works of very dubious quality.

Publishing has traditionally been limited by space: If you publish one article you won’t have space to publish another, therefore you should choose wisely. Online the cost of space is negligible, so sites often publish stories that are pretty worthless. A good example of this is an Econsultancy post on “What would a Tory government mean for SEO?

As a pointless article with absolutely no substance it should attract little attention. However it is on a very popular site, so (according to Topsy) it nonetheless gets 50 retweets (admittedly one is mine). It’s a pattern that’s regularly repeated all over the web, with numbers dwarfing a mere 50 retweets. A post that may be described as “naive and lazy” by one person, can easily find itself retweeted over a thousand times if the right person is posting it and the mob want to jump on the bandwagon.

Whilst the cost of space is negligible, few online publishers (and promoters) take into consideration the cost of time to the reader. Whilst users don’t have to subscribe to a feed, many will have subscribed to feeds as the sites were working hard to build a reputation, unfortunately they remain in the feedreader when the sites are starting to coast. Maybe it’s time that I put Econsultancy in the same bin as Mashable, which tipped from being mostly useful to mostly pointless over a year ago for me.

Whilst many of the posts on this site will fall firmly in the “not worth the attention” category, my audience has little expectation of anything else :-)

December 10, 2009

SpongeBob Top Trumps – With 2D Codes

Filed under: 2D codes,QR codes,SpongeBob — admin @ 1:51 pm

Back in September, on a trip to Walsall for a Social Media Curry, I picked up a pack of 3D SpongeBob Top Trumps. Unlike the traditional Top Trumps, the latest versions have an interactive element with 2D barcodes printed on the back of some of the cards which can be read by a web cam with special software.

Earlier this week, Top Trumps finally released the necessary SpongeBob software. Why the cards were on sale almost three months before the software I don’t know, but at last I can have my photo take with Spongebob.

The actual SpongeBob software is a bit rubbish, and really wasn’t worth a three month wait, but it does show some of the potential of 2D codes for bridging the gap between the real and virtual worlds.

December 6, 2009

The Distraction of Television On-Demand: It’s the tip of the iceberg

Filed under: television — admin @ 3:54 pm

With the exception of the occasional football match or Formula 1 race I have stopped watching live television, instead I ‘catch-up’ with the iPlayer, 4OD, and occasionally the ITV Player and Demand Five. Online availability has now become the most important factor in my watching of a television programmme; if a programme is not available online it doesn’t exist to me. Increasingly, however, I’m not just ‘catching-up’ with current television, I’m watching the increasing number of old series online.

The last couple of weekends have been spent/wasted watching the Day of the Triffids on the MSN Video Player, Relic Hunter on Blinkbox, and the surprisingly enjoyable Dick Van Dyke Show on Joost; whole series available for watching in one sitting. Whilst the selection of programmes freely available is currently fairly limited, these are likely to increase with the increasing number of new entrants in the market (e.g., SeeSaw) offering content providers a new revenue streams.

The big difference with watching such series, however, is the lack of a shared cultural experience. There are few in my social circle who will have watched Relic Hunter or the Dick Van Dyke Show (or who would admit to it in public), and so I’m watching them in isolation. Whilst the web offers the opportunity for discussions to occur around idiosyncratic television selections, it won’t be the same as having shared experiences with friends and colleagues.

November 12, 2009

My Circle of Distraction: Now with added Google Wave!

Filed under: circle of distraction — admin @ 12:23 pm

Increasingly we have web access wherever we go: wi-fi, dongles, mobile phones. For me, however, it’s nice to get away from the web, because when I do have access I have to be constantly on guard against falling into my personal circle of distraction: the never-ending loop of checking web services.

The specifics of the circle change over time as my interests change and different services go in and out of fashion. Previous/occasional entrants include Facebook, FeedJit, Google Analytics, Google Finance. The current circle looks something like this:

Whilst Twitter has obvious attractions for the easily distracted, as a webometrician I’m equally interested in bit.ly: how many people have followed the links I’ve placed since I looked 5 minutes earlier? Then there’s the email run: Hotmail, work email, University email. This tends to be followed by Google Wave, the latest new distraction on the block. Hardly anyone I know is really using it yet, but that means nothing in a circle of distraction. Then finally the Opera browser RSS reader. At which point there has been a sufficient gap to start the whole process again!

I dread to think how many times I find myself stuck in this, or a similar loop each day. Without the web I would get so much more work done, but what that work would be I don’t know.

November 8, 2009

The Presentation of Self: A framework for understanding social media

Filed under: Goffman,Social Media,real-time web — admin @ 11:53 am

I dislike the current focus on a real-time web for its tendency to emphasise recent information rather than quality information. The two do not have to be mutually exclusive, but often we are failing to take into consideration works of the past as we attempt to keep up with the new. This seems to be especially true in the realm of social media, where we are constantly striving to spot the next big thing. However I’ve just finished one of the best books for understanding the effect of social media, and it was published fifty years ago: Goffman’s The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life.

Discussing social interactions and the presentation of self in a world very different to the one we find ourselves in today, Goffman provides both an intentional framework to help us understand the interactions, and an unintentional example of how these interactions can change over time.

October 20, 2009

Go out and buy a K8055!

Filed under: K8055,web of objects — admin @ 10:40 am

Before yesterday I had no idea what a K8055 was, but it turns out it is exactly what I’ve always wanted, and after pressing buttons and lighting up various LEDs for the past half-hour I am convinced everyone should have one!

Basically the K8055 provides a method of sending and receiving digital and analogue inputs and outputs from a computer.

The pleasure of the K8055 is that it is so easy to use (especially in comparison with the previously discussed USB thermometer that I’m Twittering). Not only does it come with the required drivers and a demo program, but the source code for the demo program is provided in a number of languages.

Now I need to decide on what I want to input or output.

Currently I’m thinking either a bulb that brightens and dims according to the mood of Wolverhampton (using a sentiment analysis of Twitter), or maybe just a big “ARGGHHH!!!” button that I can hit every time I get annoyed. But with a host of switches and sensors available (e.g., infrared & motion detectors) the possibilities are seemingly endless, so any other suggests are welcome.

October 15, 2009

The Web of Objects: @MyColdRoom

Filed under: Twitter,web 3.0,web of objects — admin @ 3:08 pm

With the web and the real world becoming increasingly intertwined, I found myself wandering about how easy it would be for an appallingly bad programmer like myself to start automatically sending information from the real world to the web. This was the start of one of the most pointless feeds on Twitter: @MyColdRoom.

@MyColdRoom is a Twitter stream of the temperature in my home ‘office’, automatically generated when my desktop is turned on.

I started with a USB thermometer because:
1) USB thermometers are cheap (£10-£15).
2) USB thermometers come with software to write to text files.
3) My flat is generally bloody freezing and I wanted to know how freezing.
Unfortunately the software that came with TEMPerNTC was useless: ‘device error’. Luckily [as always] there was someone out there who had created the appropriate library, and even a simple Visual Basic app. A dozen or so lines of appalling code later (and a shortcut in the right folder) and the application is posting to Twitter whenever the computer is turned on and every time the temperature changes by more than half a degree.

As was quickly noted, it is a rather pointless stream; beyond my mother there are very few people who care about the temperature in my office. However the interest in a web of objects has little to do with single streams in isolation, but with the patterns that emerge from multiple streams, and with information being shared between objects.

It’s amazing how simple it is to set up an automatic Twitter stream from the real world. It’ll be interesting to see who goes the furthest in automating the most mundane of events from around their home.

October 8, 2009

Why I Hate Google: My Ranking has Improved

Filed under: Google,Google Analytics,search engines — admin @ 7:47 am

Over the last couple of months there has been a bit of a slow down in traffic to this site. Not particularly surprising as I have been posting far less frequently. Then, yesterday, my web traffic shot up: three times as many visitors as I’ve been having the last few weeks.

The reason? Seemingly a slight change in Google’s algorithm in my favour. The site has gained no new links, there are no new posts worthy of note, Google have just changed the significance of one of their many ranking attributes and it has changed in my favour.

This can be seen most clearly when taking traffic from one of Google’s sites in isolation:

It doesn’t matter for this blog. Its purpose is not to make money, just provide a place for some of the random thoughts that creep into my mind.

There are, however, many business that rely primarily on search engines driving traffic to their web sites, and such huge variations in traffic can only cause difficulties. Whilst social media is changing how many of us find information, search engines are still very powerful, and Google is too powerful.

October 6, 2009

Twittering Your Work

Filed under: Twitter,bit.ly — admin @ 4:25 pm

As a general rule I always send an update to Twitter whenever I write a blog post or a piece of my work is published online. After all, like most bloggers, a couple of dozen extra visitors can be a significant proportion of my daily traffic. However equally important is the fact that URL shorteners like bit.ly can provide useful information about the impact of my work.

This was emphasised today when I sent an update about my latest online article: Web 2.0 fails to excite today’s researchers. I was surprised to find that it was actually already the subject of a number of tweets (admittedly a couple of them were automated).
However without twittering about the article myself I would never have found some of the comments about the piece: with only 140 characters article titles are often ignored or abbreviated, whilst the use of URL shorteners means that few comments will be identifiable through Yahoo’s Site Explorer (which has an uncertain future anyway).

So if you want to know what people are saying about your work on Twitter, you really need to talk about your work on Twitter…or at least create the bit.ly links.

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