Bl_gging Archives

April 12, 2005

Hall of Mirrors

My first thoughts about blogging were that it is an exercise in narcissism and that only the mania for constant self-reflection and self-aggrandizement would be enough to keep a person publishing one. My reasons for thinking this were many. Take a look at some of the blogs which are out there. It is hard to count how many bloggers out there blog about blogging and by simple association blog about themselves in the process. The fact that such bloggers invent terms such as blogosphere and hold conferences and create incestuous links between themselves is reason enough to believe that this is a large component of the fascination with blogs.

But after thinking more and looking around I see some people are just as concerned with using a blog to post things which are interesting to them. Some post things which may be useful to others. In short, they just use a blog as a container for some information.

It strikes me that to them, the blog is like a book. The form of publication is not what is important to them, but the fact that there are readers (even if it is only the person publishing it in the first place) is important. This sets them apart from the blog bloggers I described earlier who upgrade the journalist's vice of writing about journalism and send that writing at the speed of light into the teeth of their fan clubs.

So how does this get resolved in the case of this blog? If I write about blog bloggers do I become one myself? Or is it possible to take the role of the critic? Does a critic become a bad poet just because they criticize bad poetry? I'm hoping not. Still it may happen. But until then I'll be content throwing rocks in the hall of mirrors.

April 19, 2005

I was right - it is incestuous.

I didn't really read any bl_gs until I started this one. Now I find that most people who read this have their own bl_gs. And if those people link to your bl_g in someway or another then you get more readers. So to get more readers, the best way is to say things which get noticed by others. I find that most people tend to like to read and recommend things that they agree with. I know I do. It seems to me this tends to amplify the positive and familiar. This is sort of OK, but a system with too much positive feedback becomes a problem. How?

Everyone who has attended a school assembly will recognize the effects of a positive feedback loop. Yes, that loud screeching from the public address system which leads you to cover your ears with your hands and yell "turn it down!".

May 26, 2005

Time is not on my side

Talk is going on about "podcasting" and video blogging as being the next big thing, but I'd have to disagree with some estimates of how big they are going to be. Personally I can't spend an hour listening to a podcast. Listening is much more time consuming than reading. I suppose that the advantage is that you can "take it with you" - thus the term "podcast", but serious listening does take attention and time. Right now (OK - up until I started writing this) I was reading a transcript of an hour long forum. I'm about halfway through and it has taken me about 5 minutes or so. Video blogging is even more time intensive. And of course, the time it takes to produce and edit video is substantial as well. I just wonder how this is going to be an effective way to get ideas across. I'm not alone either. Seth has a couple of recent posts describing his thoughts on podcasting.

Granted both audio and video can convey things which words can not easily do, but things such as ideas are more efficient in text.

June 11, 2005

It's not for everyone

Truly it is not. For example Lance started out well enough with a post about me. Then he fell off the face of the earth. Was it something I said?

Eventually we are all famous

For example, my brother gets a brilliant write-up here. I think...


Why does this stuff even exist?

June 13, 2005

How Google Works

According to a patent just published at the end of March, there are a variety of methods. If you scroll down past the claims and get to the examples there is a lot to be learned . Here is an example of how it works:

[0039] Consider the example of a document with an inception date of yesterday that is referenced by 10 back links. This document may be scored higher by search engine than a document with an inception date of 10 years ago that is referenced by 100 back links because the rate of link growth for the former is relatively higher than the latter. While a spiky rate of growth in the number of back links may be a factor used by search engine to score documents, it may also signal an attempt to spam search engine. Accordingly, in this situation, search engine may actually lower the score of a document(s) to reduce the effect of spamming..
[0040] Thus, according to an implementation consistent with the principles of the invention, search engine may use the inception date of a document to determine a rate at which links to the document are created (e.g., as an average per unit time based on the number of links created since the inception date or some window in that period). This rate can then be used to score the document, for example, giving more weight to documents to which links are generated more often.
I've found that I've made many mistakes as far as getting this blog to rank well in google searches. Oh well. Too late to go back now.

Of course it goes without saying that the spammers are reading it too and taking notes.

June 23, 2005

MIT Blog Survey

If you write a blog, click on the button to participate in the survey. It didn't take too long, but I think some of the questions are a bit skewed. Give it a try. You can always make something up.Take the MIT Weblog Survey

June 24, 2005

This is the shape of my blog

Sorry to be tiresome and point to someone else for material, but I'm a sucker for charts. Seth puts up 4 of them as the typical sales curve for products. Of course he is missing a few, notably the one which crashes to the ground. But none the less it is interesting.

I know I have a handful of regular readers out there (and nearly enough fingers to count them all). What do you think, is this a B or a C blog? Have I saturated the world market for MS Project Programming tips and African Cockroaches? Please don't answer D. It would not be polite.

July 6, 2005

Passing Judgement

The other Jack pointed at this "ChangeThis" manifesto proposal and proclaimed it "interesting". My response is perhaps more judgmental. Here is the basic proposal:

What if you knew for certain that your idea to change some aspect of the world we live in would work? What would your idea be? What if there was a place where you could post your idea without fear; without criticism; without judgement? If I told you that together we can build a New Knowledge Web where these ideas can be posted along with your bio and links would you write something?

When I want to avoid judgment and criticism I simply turn off comments and trackbacks here. Maybe I'm missing the point, but isn't this already the "New Knowledge Web"? A $4.99 domain name and a few bucks a month for hosting and you have your own "New Knowledge Web". Maybe I'm an idiot, but I just don't see what is "New" about this. I don't see where the "Knowledge" is. And finally, I don't see why there is a need for a new "Web".

So, when I don't know something I might spend some time looking into it. What I found at his website didn't help clarify things much. It is filled with things like:

As long as thought poluters exist there will always be chaos in our world.
Basically if your thinking your dead in the creative area; so stop thinking and listen to your thoughts.
The Technological Age swooped in upon us and before we could truly understand its true nature big business saw the opportunity to take control of it; and it is a perceived false control of the Internet since nobody owns it in the first place.

Of course my favorite part is where he says:
Who knows we might even invite you to the exclusive membership of Sophistica as a contributing author.
Thanks, but no. I'm happy enough sitting here shouting into space by myself. The attempt to provide a walled garden where you are the gate keeper is a bit antithetical to the ends you profess. Again my apologies for the harsh words, but as I've said before, thinking is hard work. It is good to have someone to help you.

July 9, 2005

Sines of Summer

I'm not sure if it is the weather, but it has shown up as a clear pattern over the past couple of years. Visits to my site show up in my web logs as a sine wave peaking in April and reaching a minimum in October. It is surprising how smooth and consistant it is.

Anyone else out there see a similar trend in their logs or their own behavior?

Since no one is watching perhaps I should program re-runs over the summer...

July 15, 2005

A Simple Taxonomy of Blogs

Another post got me thinking about how to categorize the different types of information which go out in a blog, or which people seek from a blog. Since I have five fingers on my left hand I figured that was a reasonable limit. Looking to the left I notice that I have a couple of dozen categories. I'll have to do something about that. Anyway, after careful consideration consisting of walking my dog around the block here they are.

1) Provocative - stimulating thought, ideas or discussion.

2) Useful - things which are useful either in solving an immediate or future problem.

3) Edible - I'm amazed at the number of food blogs.

4) Funny - goes without saying.

5) Sexy - both the human and inanimate types of lust, desire or dreams. Includes gadgets and shoes.

Unfortunately I do not have a sixth finger or I'd use it to add:

6) Ranting - coherent or incoherent babbling and random abuse.

You could make the argument that rants can fall into category 1 as anti-examples (which is as intended) or category 4 if that stuff entertains you.

Did I get these categories right? Should I add, delete or modify any of them? Where does this post fall in the taxonomy F, E, S, U, P ?

Go Go Go

I also just noticed that my Google PageRank just jumped from 0 to 5 tonight.

For those who do not get the pun. 5 in Japanese is Go, and this is my third post about 5, and by the way it is the 15th... ah, nevermind.

July 19, 2005

The Boy Who Cried Blog

Poor Robert Scoble. He keeps having to issue corrections about his results to find the best link search engine. And all the time David Berlind keeps poking at him with a stick and shouting back and forth as if it were something really important. I find it mildly entertaining, but ultimately it has diminished my view of both of them. Scoble for not have much in the way of a valid methodology and Berlind for long winded diatribes. Need more proof that blogs are a positive feedback loop which can amplify whatever is input to a screech?

Oh, what is that noise? Just a couple of bloggers... don't worry about it.

August 5, 2005

Blogs as Information Storage

Christina Pikas writes about whether blogs are useful just for writers and information workers. The answer seems obvious to me. I see many technology workers using them to post information about issues they have and solutions to their problems. I'd say there is a higher concentration of software people than any other, but that is because they are perhaps more familiar with the underlying technologies.

Link from the other Jack

August 10, 2005

Intel Corporate Blogging Guidelines

Intel is famous for being paranoid so it is probably no surprise that there has been no external sign of corporate blogging. Certainly the fact that there is internal blogging has been reported in places like the San Jose Mercury News which talked about CEO Paul Otellini's internal blog.

But things are changing a bit and a bunch of people are working on how to break a small hole in the corporate wall. I've even argued that some portions of the wall should be kept. But I think it is nearly impossible to avoid getting on the bandwagon. With that in mind, here is what I've proposed as guidelines for Intel's corporate blogging guidelines:

  1. Be PASSIONATE!!! (uh, well only if you want to... It is OK to be boring... if you like)* Write about what you know, and what you're excited about.
  2. Respect your audience. Write clearly and well. With only your text to go by, many people will make assumptions about your intelligence so good writing (including correct grammar and spelling) does matter. Respect their opinions and don't insult them.
  3. Respect the truth. If you are posting code, take a minute to confirm it is not buggy. If you are posting product data, make sure it is up to date. If you are repeating information you have heard elsewhere, take a moment to fact check with another source.
  4. Respect privacy. If you are writing about co-workers or posting pictures which may show them, please make sure you have talked to them first. When in doubt, don't do it. Treat unreleased products as your closest friends and make sure you have permission before you write about them too.
  5. Respect the law. Understand and obey copyright law and fair use (link to EFF site - Understand and obey Intel's trademark guidelines (link to trademark guidelines).
    Respect your limits.
  6. Call for help if you need it. Trolls, stalkers, journalists and other strange creatures live on the internet. If you are feeling like you are getting in deeper than you can handle contact the blogging Ombudsman and they will help you.

It will be interesting to see where this leads. Certainly legal and corporate marketing people will chomp on whatever is proposed. I'll try and do a comparison between this proposal and the "real" guidelines if/when they are released. What do you think about this proposal?

*(note: the exhortation and triple exclamation points in the first item were lifted from someone else's version. The italics and permission to bore are all mine)

[Update: I was reminded that I'm required to add this: The content of this message is my personal opinion only and although I am an employee of Intel, the statements I make here in no way represent Intel’s position on the issue, nor am I authorized to speak on behalf of Intel on this matter. ...etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.]

[Update 2: don't forget to check out Josh Bancroft's ideas on this too]

October 5, 2005

Survey - Tell me what you like

Well, the experiment with surveys was certainly shortlived. I didn't know it would pop up a window which touts my ISP. Perhaps it is best if you just leave comments. Thanks to anyone who did leave a comment. I'll see about putting together some more stuff on VBA.

October 11, 2005

In an Imperative Mood

Read these articles:
blogging style by Joi
humans by Josh
On a very tangentially related note, I just finished Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. I'm kind of surprised that I've not actually read any Dickens before and equally surprised that I found it so enjoyable. About two thirds of the way through you will find the derivation of the title of this post.

October 18, 2005

The 80/20 Rule in action

With a little more than a quarter million hits to this blog I thought I'd take a look and see who is responsible and the results are that 80% of readers are responsible for 20% of the hits. Leaving the top 20% of "readers" responsible for 80% of the hits.

Most of the top 5-10% of the "readers" are search index robots and rss readers who hit the site several times per day. Thanks go out the percentage of my audience which is living and breathing.

November 14, 2005

Waiting for Google

I used to think that Yahoo and MSN liked me more than Google. Of course it was true. Just look at the first 2 months of this chart showing how many visitors to my site were referred by the big 3 search engines:


After a magic 6 months (almost to the day) things changed. Now Google thinks I'm great and the other search engines continue nearly unchanged. The message for anyone seeking to optimize their site and get google traffic is to be patient. It looks like your rankings increase if you can make it through the first 6 months. Of course, the timing could just be coincidence but it is clear that something changed.

November 17, 2005

All around the world tonight

It seems that they are reading this blog. I was surprised to see that more than half of the hits to the blog are from Europe and Asia. The following map from Google Analytics shows where you are all from.

Welcome Everyone!


December 7, 2005

Oh so special!

I got an email today from a "web 2.0" company/thing. I'm not sure what it is that is so annoying about it. The false exclusivity, the permission to blog about it (and the implicit suggestion that you do) or the fake name of the "senior director of community development". Is the world really half full of propaganda or is it half empty? Anyway, here is the note. I've cut off any indentifying labels.

You may notice something special about *doo today.

We have quietly — and completely — moved out of the closed beta test... and into a public beta.

That means that anyone can visit *doo, find lenses, claim lenses, and build their own. We're thrilled to open our doors to the public, and to let everyone use the platform that you've been helping us test and improve these last few weeks.

But we're not going to tell anyone yet.

Except you.

So, now's the time for you to share what you've been working on during the secret beta test. Email your lenses to friends. Post a lens to your blog. Tell your mom. And, for a limited time, your friends will be the only people to know that *doo is finally live.

Thanks for working with us over the past two months. We can't wait to see how the general public responds to what you’ve been building!

Ready. Set. *doo.

Heath Row
Senior Director of Community Development

P.S.: Yes, it's OK to blog about this.

"Secret beta", gack!

January 18, 2006


Sorry but I'm disabling Tr_ckbacks as I'm getting up to a thousand bogus ones every day. If you really want one, leave a comment.

February 10, 2006

Accoona or the lifespan of a robot

I've written before about the incredulous claims made by the Accoona search engine and the past day or so they showed up in my logs. Looks like they are near death:

Accoona failure

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised to see that sloppy (I hesitate to say deliberately misleading) analysis ended up in such an unfortunate trajectory, but it is a nice little lesson. One should be more responsible to one's workers.

February 23, 2006

All your page are belong to us

Google is now hosting free webpages - well, they have provided some and are now oversubscribed, but if you want to see what it look likes here is an example from the ever enthusiastic Josh Bancroft:

jabancroft - Josh Bancroft's Google Page

I'm not sure why Josh claims it is cool, new and fancy or web 2.0, but I suppose it would be boring if it wasn't all of those things even if it really doesn't seem to be any of them to me.

 It looks like a good way to get kids on the web though. Free is always a good strategy for getting people to try something new.

October 26, 2006

Going Square

Presentation Zen is slowly dropping the rounded corners on all the images. Now it is safe for me to read again! You should give it a try too if you have any sort of presentation to make... ever. Garr Reynold's most recent post is about how there is more to presentation than logic, reason and facts. I have to agree. Project is mostly fact, reason and logic free, but you still come here to read it don't you?

Now what sort of appeal do I need to make to get you to tell your friends to come here too? Laughter?

January 10, 2007

Five things

Raven Young who runs Raven's Brain has tagged me in the great (or evil?) five things you don't know about me thread. So here goes:

1) The clues for knowing EVERYTHING about me are already out there, just google for them.
2) I have great appreciation for the smooth way people like Kathy Sierra and Hugh MacLeod dodged the questions.
3) Umm...
4) Do I really have to do this?
5) I am not as clever at dodging the question as Kathy and Hugh... but you knew that didn't you?

So in order to inflict no more damage on the world than I have to I'll let YOU decide if you want to be tagged. Let me know and I'll tag you, otherwise have a great 2007!

August 7, 2007

10 pieces of advice to a new blogger

I wrote this email to someone who is considering starting a blog.

Building your blog:

If no one reads your blog you will give up on it eventually. There is no point writing something that no one reads. So you need to have some way for people to find it. Search engines are the main way to get traffic. This requires that you have something worth reading on your site first.

85% of the people who arrive at my site found it through Google. Maybe 5% use Yahoo and 1% use MSN. The rest are from links here and there. This article gives some pointers on making your blog search engine friendly:

Here are my top ten pieces of advice:

  1. Include your blog URL in your newsgroup signature and if you have already solved a problem then point people to the in-depth article about it.
  2. Don’t submit your site to the search engines! Rumor is that they put you in a sandbox for a few months if you do so. If you have good content you can get people to link to your site and Google will follow those links and index your site. The more links the more important Google thinks your site is. But go slow on getting other people to link to you. Steady growth is rewarded. Fast growth looks like spam to the search engines.
  3. Don’t go too wild with categories. I think I have too many, but after a while you have too much stuff to bother reorganizing.
  4. Keep focused on one main topic which you care enough about to spend time on. I throw a lot of different sorts of crap in my blog and I don’t think it does much to help me. I noticed I was posting enough about other things that I created a second blog ( to handle miscellaneous postings. But then I also created a few other blogs I completely abandoned so don’t go overboard.
  5. Don’t bother creating daily or weekly or monthly or yearly archives. They will confuse the search engines and no body cares about them anyway.
  6. Don’t expect much for 6 months or so. Traffic is roughly proportional to the amount of content you have. The more you write, the more it grows.
  7. Keep articles short. Attention spans for online reading last about a single page at most. Unless you are a brilliant writer, most people just want an answer to their question or some new knowledge. They won’t finish reading something that is too long. You can always break long articles up into a series of smaller ones.
  8. Start any post with a attractive and relevant description. The first sentence often shows up in the search results so don’t be writing things like “I was at the coffee shop with Blaise and I spilled a frappuchino on my pants” and then launch into how to set up a workflow in Sharepoint. The Sharepoint readers will be disappointed and so will the coffee on the pants fetishisti.
  9. If there is something you have taken the time to research and understand, share it. For example, I’m probably putting this list on my blog.
  10. Ignore this advice and try to have fun with it. I disregard any of these rules if they interfere with my enjoyment. The rewards of blogging are subtle so if you don’t get enjoyment from the process, then you will soon realize you are wasting your time.

June 9, 2008

Speaking in Gibberish and Writing Constantly

This article in Scientic American hints at some potential health-related impacts of blogging (all positive by the way). According to the article:

expressive writing produces many physiological benefits. Research shows that it improves memory and sleep, boosts immune cell activity and reduces viral load in AIDS patients, and even speeds healing after surgery.

Now, I'm not certain how "expressive" an article about VBA and VSTO can be... so it may not be helping me much at all, but it may help YOU to sleep.

Of course it may be possible to take a contrary view and suggest that people actually blog because they are ill. The article in describing the physiology of the brain related to writing suggest that the temporal lobes (which govern speech) may be involved as well. Then as proof cites Wernicke's aphasia which appears to be rooted in the temporal lobes:

People with Wernicke’s aphasia speak in gibberish and often write constantly. In light of these traits, Flaherty speculates that some activity in this area could foster the urge to blog.

Uh huh, gibberish, constant writing, bloggers... all cut from the same cloth.

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