Archive for November, 2006

Nature review of Martians

Thursday, November 30th, 2006

Following up on my earlier post about the difference in the marketing and subsequent sales of two similar books, here is a bit of an update. The current (Nov 30, 2006) issue of Nature has a review of my father István Hargittai’s book The Martians of Science. Likely as a result, the book is now ranked #87,665 on and #33,109 on Amazon UK. Earlier today it was even higher (#56,649 in the US, #16,279 in the UK), but I didn’t have time to blog until now. This is a much better figure than over one million, which it was at some point recently. Of course, The change could well be due to no more than one or two purchases. I’m not sure why it is always higher on Amazon UK, perhaps Amazon lists fewer books on that site.

* Nature requires subscription. Here is a screenshot of the review.

Links for 2006-11-30

Thursday, November 30th, 2006

Links for 2006-11-29

Wednesday, November 29th, 2006

Hey, hi, do my work for me, will ya?

Tuesday, November 28th, 2006

Some people are not very good at communicating requests to strangers. My frustrations over this – being the recipient of such messages several times a week – have led me to write a piece on how best to approach a stranger with a request over email published today at Inside Higher Ed.

Often enough we are faced with a question that can best be answered by someone else, possibly a complete stranger. The upside of the Internet is that we can quickly contact folks without much effort. The downside of the Internet is that people can contact us without much effort. [..]

Given people’s limited amount of time, how can we ensure that our inquiring e-mail is not simply relegated to the recipient’s trash folder?

Descriptive subject line
Polite point-of-contact
Succinct statement of the message’s purpose
Brief introduction of yourself
Acknowledging other attempts at finding an answer or solution
Restatement of question
Gratitude for assistance

.. all done briefly.

See the piece for details. Of course, one problem is that the people who are most likely to write pathetic notes are the least likely to read an article of this sort. But at least for those who care, perhaps this can offer some helpful pointers.

Links for 2006-11-28

Tuesday, November 28th, 2006

Links for 2006-11-27

Monday, November 27th, 2006

Links for 2006-11-26

Sunday, November 26th, 2006

Video round-up

Saturday, November 25th, 2006

Here are some interesting video finds:

Also, as proof that YouTube has grown up, I am now receiving spam through it:

My first YouTube spam

Since the sender’s ID wasn’t created until five days before sending this note and the account has no bookmarked or submitted videos, it’s a safe bet (beyond the content of the message) that its sole function is to generate spam. (I have purposefully removed the URL the user is trying to advertise from the above image.)

New Flickr features

Saturday, November 25th, 2006

For those of you not following the official Flickr blog, here are a couple of exciting features introduced recently:

1. Mobile support. Just point your mobile browser to Yes!

2. Guest passes to otherwise private photos. One possible limitation of Flickr is that in order for friends and family to see private photos, they have to log in to the system. But we all have friends and family who don’t want to be bothered. Well, now they don’t have to do anything, but click on a link to your otherwise private photo set. Go to one of your sets, click on “Share this set”, enter people’s email addresses and there you go.

If you like sharing photos with others and you don’t use Flickr then can you please comment on this post and let me know why? Because it is an awesome service and I keep waiting for more of my friends to start using it, and given all of its features, I don’t understand why more people aren’t coming on board.

I realize it’s not the most user-friendly site if you don’t know anything about it, but you can laarn quickly. And there are some tutorials to help you.:)

Also, another perhaps not widely-understood feature is that you can upload photos simply by emailing them to your account. You don’t have to bother with their upload tools if you don’t want to. I just thought I’d point out that additional helpful feature.

Playing with celebrity pics

Saturday, November 25th, 2006

Via Alex I found a celebrity look-alike tool. A couple of people have told me in the past that I look like Sigourney Weaver, but she didn’t come up on any of the results regardless of which photo I tried. (Yup, I got different results depending on the photo so that, in and of itself, should tell you about the value of this exercise.:-) FYI, you do have to register for a free account to play with this tool.

Links for 2006-11-25

Saturday, November 25th, 2006

Project 365: #30

Friday, November 24th, 2006

Mixing up the pie filling

Taken: November 23, 2006 (What is Project 365?)

Pumpkin pie in progress. This was one of those days when it was hard to pick just one photo for the day. Contenders were the boiling cranberry sauce, the finished dishes, the red theme at the dinner table, and the holiday table itself.

Hot sauce Thanksgiving cooking Red theme Thanksgiving table

Project 365: #29

Friday, November 24th, 2006


Taken: November 22, 2006 (What is Project 365?)

I don’t think I’d ever seen an orange tree up close like this before. The photo was taken on Stanford’s campus.

Links for 2006-11-24

Friday, November 24th, 2006

Links for 2006-11-23

Thursday, November 23rd, 2006

MyBlogLog reinvents itself and gets noticed

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2006

.. or how to figure out whether you are hallucinating.

In the past few weeks I have come across more and more commentary about the site MyBlogLog, a service that is responsible for the list of pictures of other recent site visitors on the sidebar of some blogs (example).

But I was confused. I was quite sure that I had signed up for a free MyBlogLog account over a year ago, and this was not at all the service it had offered back then. I started searching and most recent commentary focuses on the above-mentioned social aspect of the service. So how to figure out if I am just utterly confused and mixing this up with another service?

First, I searched my email archives to see whether I had signed up for this service at some point in the past. Indeed, I had created an account back in June, 2005 with the purpose of tracking the relative popularity of various outgoing links on my blog.

Next, I turned to the Web archive to see what the site had looked like back then. As I had remembered, it was something quite different with a focus on enabling a site owner “to track when offsite links are clicked by your visitors”.

Finally, I did a search on to see when people first started bookmarking the site. The first mentions date back to March, 2005 with the descriptions focusing on the link-analysis feature all the way up until August of this year.

Nonetheless, reading the descriptions of the site you would know little of this.* I find it fascinating how short-lived people’s memories are or how little attention is paid to the background behind these much-hyped sites. Perhaps I’m just being influenced by all the historians I’ve been hanging out with recently, but I think context is interesting. And luckily there are tools that can help us figure it out even if current commentary is lacking in that domain.

Regarding the new features, the community aspect of MyBlogLog sounds interesting and not too freaky now that they have implemented the opt-out feature in case you do not want to be shown as having visited any particular Web site.

[*] To be sure, I haven’t read through the hundreds of recent mentions, but this is my impression from reading several.

Project 365: #28

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2006

Straw struggle

Taken: November 21, 2006 (What is Project 365?)

Yesterday’s big walk involved the hillsides next to my office. It starts out with a very long steep stretch. At least it has these neat sculptures for company. This one is a good representation of the struggle it took to make it to the top. Then came some very pleasant views though so I guess it was worth it.;-)

Links for 2006-11-22

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2006

Project 365: #27

Tuesday, November 21st, 2006

Guarding the 'plex

Taken: November 20, 2006 (What is Project 365?)

I had lunch at Google yesterday and went on a bit of a tour with my host to check out the various sculptures. This isn’t one of them.;) This is a guard from the back protecting the ‘plex.

Links for 2006-11-21

Tuesday, November 21st, 2006