Archive for the 'Web sites' Category

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.

Lifehacker goodies

Wednesday, August 31st, 2005

[Also posted on CT.]

I’ve been very busy over at Lifehacker. A friend of mine says it’s like “quirky academic meets Martha Stewart”. I’m not sure how I feel about that, but it’s a reasonable description of what I’ve been up to. Here are some posts I put up in the past couple of days. I will have a roundup of all the free downloads later in the week. If you can’t wait, feel free to check out the site directly.

General tips

GMail/Flickr tips

Got any lifehacks?

Monday, August 29th, 2005

I am guest-blogging over at Lifehacker this week while regular editor Gina Trapani takes a breather. Lifehacker is part of Nick Denton‘s Gawker Media empire that has managed to make money out of blogging. (We’re not all in it for the $s, but it’s nice to know that some people who don’t necessarily have other main sources of income are able to pull it off.) CT readers are probably most familiar with Gawker’s Wonkette, but there are about a dozen Gawker sites at this point addressing all sorts of topics.

Lifehacker focuses on ways to make your life more productive. Many of the posts feature downloads (e.g. Firefox, Flickr), shortcuts and pointers to helpful Web sites. There is a whole category of advice pieces as well ranging from how to deal with various situations at work to ideas for getting things done more effectively.

If you have any lifehacking tips, please send them along to me this week by writing to

Create a Web page full of post-it notes

Thursday, August 18th, 2005

This is somewhat random and I don’t know if I’ll end up using it much, but it’s interesting enough to pass along: customized stickies on a Web page. (That link points to one I just set up for my Web-Use Project. You can see the service’s main homepage here.)

Some first impressions regarding features:
1. The user should be able to change the graphic in the upper left-hand corner of the page. That’s the location where one expects to see the title of a page and it’s confusing to have the company’s general logo there. In the least, the user should be able to specify “User’s Protopage” to taylor it to the specific page a bit.
2. It’s a bit annoying to have all the links opening up in new tabs (or new windows). Why not the current one?

As I said, I’m not sure if there will be much use for this, but it’s nifty enough to try out.

Geography of E-Blog visitors

Sunday, August 14th, 2005

This map shows the geographical location of E-Blog visitors, courtesy of This one is the map for

UPDATE: I just realized the maps only show the geo location of the last twenty visitors, fyi.

Photo sharing

Sunday, August 7th, 2005

The photo-sharing site Flickr has come out with some nifty features recently that make it even more fun to browse pictures on the site than before. Beware, there are hundreds of thousands of photos to see, and more ways to navigate the Web site than before so a simple click can take you away from whatever it is that you were doing for longer than what you might expect. Of course, just like with blogs and many other things, there is a lot of uninteresting mediocre material. But there are also great pictures to view. To help find these, Flickr came out with the interestingness feature. To figure out what gets highlighted in this section, they are using “a ranking algorithm based on user behavior around the photos taking into account some obvious things like how many users add the photo to their favorites and some subtle things like the relationship between the person who uploaded the photo and the people who are commenting (plus a whole bunch of secret sauce)”. There is a calendar feature that lets you browse the interestingness category by day.

Another new feature is their clustering of tags. First, let me take a step back for those who are not familiar with the service at all. When users upload photos to the system they can tag them with descriptors such as name of location, type of event, etc. Photos across the entire site can be viewed by tags. Say you are interested in viewing photos of Chicago. There are over 70,000 photos tagged with “chicago” so you are likely shown many that are not of interest. Tags in and of themselves are only so useful since someone may tag all their private party photos with the name of the city in which the party took place, but that won’t be of much interest to someone looking for pictures of the urban landscape. This is where the new clustering feature comes in handy. For popular tags, the system now offers you related tags so you can be sure that you’ll be viewing pictures of the Chicago skyline, buildings or Millennium Park if that is what’s of interest. (Note that when looking for something specific, it’s worth checking alternate spellings/specifications. For example, you’ll get more pictures of Millennium Park under the misspelled tag milleniumpark than under the correct spelling millenniumpark.)

Some basics about Flickr: anyone can create a free account, which comes with the ability to feature 200 photos organized in up to three sets with a 20MB upload limit per month. For $24.95/year you get much more (unlimited storage, 2GB upload limit, no ads, etc.). You can add contacts and specify them as acquaintances or friends. When you upload photos, you can specify them as public or restricted to your contacts. You can join communities based on interest and affiliation. You can mark photos as your favorite and find them easily later. You can add notes to photos. You can leave comments on people’s photo pages. It’s a neat service, I recommend giving it a try.

When you upload photos, you can either reserve all rights or specify a Creative Commons license for them. Although many people – especially those who seem to be pros – reserve all rights, many do not. Thanks to the Creative Commons licenses, the site offers great illustrations for those in need of adding some photos to other sites, presentations or whatnot without worrying about copyright infringement.

I really enjoy browsing the site aimlessly, but I also appreciate viewing pictures from people to whom I have some connection. So if you happen to have a flickr account, how about posting a link in the comments? My album is here.

Research blog

Tuesday, May 17th, 2005

I have started a new blog.. haha, because I don’t have enough online endeavors already.:-) It is for my research group. In addition to covering research updates, we will also post general IT-related news items. That’s the plan for now. It’s called the Web Use Project Blog. We cover more than “Web use” in a strict sense, but that name still works for much of my work and for lack of a better name I will continue to use it for now.

Budapest sights (& a conference)

Friday, February 18th, 2005

This on CT.

I just came across some beautiful pictures [link to PowerPoint slides] of synagogues in Budapest most of which I have never seen despite it being my hometown. You will notice that they are tucked away with quite some care in several cases, which makes it easy to miss them. The photographer has many other slideshows available on his Web site.

I have also posted some photos of the main synagogue and my high school, but mostly of communist era statues gathered up in a Statue Park on the outskirts of the city.

Social scientists looking for a conference excuse to see these sights may want to consider submitting an abstract to the annual meetings of the Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics to be held this summer in Budapest. Abstracts are due March 1, 2005.

Networks and tastes

Monday, February 7th, 2005

This on CT.

Retailers such as Amazon and Half use social network methods applied to people’s previous purchasing behavior and demonstrated interest to figure out what other items users may want to buy. MovieLens is an interesting example of a non-commercial service that uses information provided by the user about his or her movie preferences (ratings of movies already viewed) to suggest what additional movies may be of interest to the person based on the movie evaluations of others who exhibit similar tastes. Music Plasma suggests what artists are close to each other based on style and epoch. Unfortunately the site doesn’t tell us much about the underlying methodology.[1] Unlike MovieLens, it seems to rely on information about the position of artists in the network based on shared genre and era to make recommendations (i.e. display linkages) instead of relying on listener feedback about shared tastes. I’d be curious to hear about other similar services resembling any of these approaches. For those interested in visualizations of this type, the search engine Kartoo and the Virtual Thesaurus may also be of interest (the latter is quite restricted for non-subscribers though and I have never been able to access enough of it to be particularly impressed). For more on visualization of networks and an explanation of social network analysis basics, see

fn1. A few months ago I contacted them for more information, but got no response.

Top books

Saturday, November 27th, 2004

This on CT.

Since people on Crooked Timber seem to enjoy book lists (of ones not read, favorites, ones every educated person should read, ones lesser-known) I thought I’d post a link to the OCLC Top 1000 list.

OCLC Research has compiled a list of the top 1000 titles owned by member libraries—the intellectual works that have been judged to be worth owning by the “purchase vote” of libraries around the globe.

The complete list page has links to top lists by genre. The site also features a page with fun facts about the list plus pointers to other top book lists.

Hat tip: Neat New Stuff.

Purchasing power through the years

Thursday, November 11th, 2004

Here’s a nice little online tool to help figure out how much $X from a given year would be worth today in terms of its purchasing power. [Hat tip: NeatNew]

Polls, polls and more polls

Monday, September 27th, 2004

In case you haven’t seen it yet, Mystery Pollster is a new blog for “Demystifying the Science and Art of Political Polling”. I didn’t find it through Kausfiles or Instapundit, I got the recommendation during a phone conversation with a friend who barely reads blogs… but who does work with surveys herself. The blog should be of interest to data & methods geeks and political junkies alike.


Tuesday, September 14th, 2004

I’ve added a new category of links on the right: Photoblogs. I don’t visit photoblogs often, but whenever I find myself doing so I really enjoy it (so I should probably do it more often.. but that’s a slippery slope…). A friend of mine just started a photoblog so I thought I would put up a permanent link to it.

Cool search feature

Friday, September 10th, 2004

Did you know that you can get excerpts from books and other material otherwise not online by searching on Google Print?

You can search using this feature of Google by adding the following bit to your search query:

Example: chocolate mousse

This query yields a list of resources with all sorts of excerpts from books that talk about chocolate mousse, including some full recipes.

It’s unclear how copyright owners are/will be reacting to this. You would think as long as the excerpt is just an excerpt and the page includes a link to online book retailers where users can then purchase the book they would embrace it. It may be a bit more complicated with magazines as copies of those for sale are usually not just a click away.