Archive for September, 2005

Yahoo!’s Hot Zone

Thursday, September 29th, 2005

Yahoo! has launched a new site: Hot Zone featuring the first news correspondent of its own: Kevin Sites. Sites will transmit news from around the world – mostly from areas underreported by the mainstream press – using various forms of media to Hot Zone readers. The articles often come with accompanying photo essays, audio or video material. Comments are open (for those with a Yahoo! ID, which readers can get for free) on the pieces so readers can contribute to the content.

British study on Net-related terms

Thursday, September 29th, 2005

A study conducted on Brits suggests that the majority of people don’t know what blogging and podcasting mean. It seems that the survey was conducted on both Internet users and non-users. There is little reason to expect non-users to know these terms. And based on findings from previous work conducted as part of the Web Use Project and a recent study by Pew we also know that users don’t tend to have a solid understanding of these terms either.

One challenge is to figure out whether it is simply the terms that users do not understand or whether they really don’t know anything about these practices nor do they encounter/use such forms of media. That is, it is possible that people who read blogs do not realize they are reading blogs per se. Among teenagers, it is definitely important to ask about both blogs and Web journals as the latter term seems to be more widespread (probably due to the popularity of such sites as Live Journal and Xanga).

Although an analyst of the British survey does mention that even among Internet users the terms are only known by two-thirds of users, these figures are not broken down by blogging and podcasting so it’s not possible to compare to the results they have published for the sample overall, which also includes non-users.

Overall, the results confirm the notion of a “second-level digital divide” – a focus of my research for over five years now – that suggests different levels of know-how among users with respect to Internet uses.

Digg’s spell checker needs an update

Monday, September 26th, 2005

Despite thousands of stories on Digg.com about Google, Digg’s spell checker highlights “Google” as a misspelled word. Although other systems may also not recognize Google, it is somewhat ironic to see this on a system that prides itself on being cutting edge and providing up-to-the-minute techie news.


Google not recognized by Digg spell checker

Then again, it doesn’t seem to recognize itself either:


Digg doesn't recognize

Give or take a billion

Monday, September 26th, 2005

Inspired by this post on Digg, I started running searches on Google to see what would yield a really high number of results. A search on “www” yields results “of about 9,160,000,000″. This is curious given that according to Google’s homepage, the engine is “Searching 8,168,684,336 web pages”. Perhaps they are extrapolating to sites that they are not searching. Or perhaps those “of about” figures are not very accurate. In general, those numbers are hard to verify since Google won’t display more than 1000 results to any query. The figures may be helpful in establishing relative popularity, although it’s unclear whether the system can be trusted to be reliable even to that extent.

Who are you?

Thursday, September 22nd, 2005

Yesterday was de/lurker day in the blogosphere. First of all, what’s a lurker? A lurker is someone online who reads material on an interactive site/mailing list, but rarely contributes to the discussion.

The idea of de/lurker day is to give these quiet visitors a chance to say hello.

Of course, by definition, a lurker is someone who tends to opt out of such contributions so I suspect this initiative won’t get too many people to contribute, but perhaps some will decide to come forward.

I happen to know from the site statistics that there are plenty of people who stop by here, but don’t seem to comment. (Thanks to those of you who do.:) Of course, there is nothing wrong with not contributing and given that I don’t post comments on most blogs I read, I know it has little to do with what you think about a blog. That said, it is interesting to know who reads a blog and how they came upon it.

My best guess is that people who stop by here are friends who didn’t feel like migrating over to Crooked Timber when I started blogging there two years ago. But clearly there are some other people as well. Who are you? Feel free to say hello now or some other time and do so anonymously or not. Oh, and if you have any thoughts on what type of material you prefer to read about on here feel free to mention that as well. I can’t make any promises, but I can take suggestions under advisement.:)

Dancing with the Stars is back

Tuesday, September 20th, 2005

I just realized that Dancing with the Stars is back and on tonight.
I only got to see one or two episodes over the summer, because, ironically, it conflicted with my dance classes. However, this Fall my club has Salsa classes on Tuesdays and I don’t like Salsa that much so I am not going to those classes. Thus: no conflict. (For those who are curious, my favorites are Cha-Cha and Samba, but I’m also taking West Coast Swing this term.)

West Coast dispatch in ’06/07

Tuesday, September 20th, 2005

Next year Eszter’s Blog will be coming to you from Silicon Valley. I will be a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford. I am super excited about this opportunity. The Center got a grant from the Annenberg Foundation last year to add Communications to the fields represented among its fellows and I’m going as part of such a cohort.

There’s something amusing related to all this. Or I thought it was amusing until I shared it with a friend who didn’t think it funny at all. You be the judge. While I was lifehacking away a few weeks ago, Chris pointed me to Google Sets for various associations. I decided to see what Google Sets had to say about my academic affiliations. I typed in the names of my BA and PhD granting institutions plus Northwestern (the place of my current employment) and pressed Large Sets. The fourth school on the list was Stanford. When I did this I already knew that I was headed to the Center next year so I found this amusing. But perhaps you need to have a certain geek factor to get anything out of this exercise.:)

Dreamhost NOT recommended

Monday, September 19th, 2005

In the past I have recommended Dreamhost as a hosting service, but after numerous problems with them in the past months, I would like to point out that I no longer recommend Dreamhost. In fact, I am in search for another hosting service that has much more reliable service and offers better and faster customer support. Two of my important sites – eszter.com and webuse.org – are down this morning for no apparent reason. Moreover, the error message that comes up makes it seem as though the fault was mine yet I have done nothing to the sites in days so it’s not possible that any action on my part would have led to this outage.

Crooked Timber is also hosted at Dreamhost and that site was down for several hours late last week. (I should note that neither of these have to do with the electricity problems in LA that I know affected numerous other sites as well.)

A few days ago, my Web Use News blog (down now) went completely crazy and although the top page worked, all of the underlying links – including the ones to simple entry archives – were inaccessible. Then suddenly an hour later all was okay again.

This is unbelievably unreliable service and is not an option for sites that have a professional purpose. I welcome suggestions for alternatives.

Another beautiful weekend

Sunday, September 18th, 2005
Shadows in the lake

Shadows in the lake,
originally uploaded by eszter.

I have absolutely no recollection from the past two years I have spent in Chicagoland as to whether this is regular weather, but I am delighted to have had the opportunity to enjoy another beautiful weekend. It was still warm enough to go down to the beach although I did not venture in the water past walking knee-deep. I did, however, get a chance to “stand on water“, which was neat.:-)

Workshop on Blog Research

Saturday, September 17th, 2005
Blog Workshop Dinner

Blog Workshop Dinner,
originally uploaded by eszter.

I’m spending Friday and Saturday at a meeting about the Power and Political Science of Blogs organized by Dan Drezner and Henry Farrell. The discussions have been great so far – and I suspect will continue to be very insightful and interesting today – and we also had a fun dinner last night at Emilio’s Tapas.

UPDATE (9/18/05): I posted a related note with some relevant links on CT.

Happy belated Arrival Day!

Thursday, September 8th, 2005

D’oh, I can’t believe I missed it. Browsing Otto Pohl’s blog I realized that Arrival Day was yesterday. The Head Heeb started the tradition of the Arrival Day Blogburst two years ago in preparation for last year’s 350th anniversary of the first Jews’ arrival in the U.S..

Each year’s blogburst has a theme. The theme this year is “American Jews as part – or, more accurately, parts – of a larger whole.”. Since I like to take this kind of an exercise seriously, I’m going to have to postpone a response not having an immediate inspiration. In the meantime, you can check out what others had to contribute.

And here is what I posted on this day last year.

What were they thinking?

Thursday, September 8th, 2005

They weren’t. Or they certainly weren’t thinking about anybody else.

At 4:58am this morning I heard a very loud bang. Then I heard another. Then I heard a whole series of them. By the third I decided to get up. I saw small fireworks a few blocks away. Who decides to set off fireworks in the middle of a densely-populated residential area at 5am?!

Results of very quick survey: browser homepage

Wednesday, September 7th, 2005

[I have also posted this on CT.]

This discussion concerns a survey I posted on Crooked Timber (the group blog of which I am a member) and Lifehacker (where I guest-blogged last week).

First, the bullet-point version of this post:

  • A one-question survey has very limited utility
  • Most respondents have tweaked their default homepage
  • Several types of default pages are popular with respondents
  • We cannot generalize findings from one blog’s readership to another
  • When trying to learn about people’s Web uses, it can be very helpful and interesting to ask them for details

Second, thanks to the 784 readers of CT who took the survey. Read on for more.

Read the rest of this entry »

Cheapest print photos

Monday, September 5th, 2005

There are numerous photo printing services available online these days. Their prices can vary considerably. The cheapest I have found recently is York Photo. It looks like this may be temporary, but for now as per their summer sale, 4×6 prints are just 10c each. I used them a few weeks ago and just put in another order. They processed my orders very quickly. In fact, even this Labor Day Weekend, the order I put in yesterday is already ready for shipment today. (Of course, due to the holiday, it will only be shipping tomorrow.)

IMPORTANT UPDATE (9/17/05): I no longer recommend York Photo. It took this shipment ten days to get to me AND they cropped by photos even though that was not identified in the order and this means that they got rid of important parts of my pictures. I do not plan on using them again.

This compares well with very similar services such as Snapfish – the service I usually use -, which charges 12c/print. What used to be Ofoto, but is now Kodak Easy Share Gallery charges 19-25c although if you sign up for a pro account on their service you do get 10c/print for 4×6. There are lots of others that charge 20-25c/print, I see no point in linking to them.

I did check and York Photo’s mailing fees do not seem to be higher – in fact, if anything, they seem lower – than those of Snapfish so it’s not as though they are making up for costs there.

Perhaps I should note that I am not affiliated with any of these services. However, if you think you may sign up for one of them and send in an order, do let me know. If I send you a referral and you do put in an order, I get a few free prints. Why not?:) This intro offer is available on both York Photo and Snapfish.

New spam guard

Sunday, September 4th, 2005

You will notice a new requirement when you want to post a comment to this blog: you are asked to type in my first name. It is not a trick question, not to you, the reader that is. It is supposed to trick automated spammers though. (Be sure to enter my name exactly as shown next to the field.) Thanks to Jeff Barr for posting the relevant bit of code on his blog.

Comment spam continues to be a problem. You may not always see this as some of the messages are caught to the extent that they are sent to my mailbox for approval. I used to deal with these by creating a filter in my mailbox so that any such email was sent directly to my Trash folder. Unfortunately, as I described earlier, this still left me with a serious problem since my provider decided that I was using too many resources and was going to either shut down my account or start charging me $100 for it. That’s extreme for a relatively small site.

I experimented with a CAPTCHA solution (completely automated public Turing test), but ran into some problems. So I went looking for alternatives and this solution seemed like it might work and I was able to implement it. So we’ll see. From what I can tell, even if you don’t get it right the first time around, the system should keep your comments in the comment field so hopefully by pressing the back button – after you receive the error message – you can retrieve what you wrote.

Let me reiterate, the requirement is exactly as simple as it sounds. (Although given the number of times people misspell my name perhaps it’s not quite as simple as I think. But hopefully by having it right there next to the field you’ll be able to do it.:)

Feel free to leave a comment here to try it out.