" /> CTDATA: March 2003 Archives

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March 30, 2003

The Long Shadow of Past Blogging Prowess

Dave Aiello wrote, "CTDATA is a pretty good weblog. Sites like Scripting News and The Doc Searls Weblog link to us fairly regularly. I started a small wave that swept across the Blogosphere recently with The Internet Needs a Search Engine Driven Off RSS Feeds-- an article that contributed to the creation of Feedster and rssSearch."

"With all of this recent attention, you'd probably think that CTDATA is fairly high up the food chain in the Weblog community. Think again. Most of the sites that track weblogs, such as Technorati, BlogStreet, and TTLB, show an uptick in interest in this site whenever we publish an article that gets popular attention. But within a few days, we are languishing in the 'Insignificant Microbes' section again."

"The reason this happens is that big time bloggers link to us if we publish a good story. But, their attention to our site only counts in the blogging community for as long as that link appears on their home page. None of the major weblogs blogrolls us. Getting on the blogroll at one of these major weblogs is the surest path to a permanent improvement in a site's statistics."

"One of the impediments to up and coming weblogs, in my opinion, is sites that have fallen significantly from past glory but somehow still manage to show up on the blogrolls of influential sites. An example of this, and I can see the thunderbolts from Mount Olympus coming now, is a site like Camworld."

Dave Aiello continued:

I admire Cameron Barrett's work. Up until about six months ago, his site was a must read for me. But since then, it has been infrequently updated, hasn't had any real focus, and recently inexplicably rolled back to December 31, although more recent articles are still accessible if you Google them.

I want to see Camworld come back because I enjoyed reading it. But why should that site, in it's current condition, be rated so much higher on many statistical measures of popularity than ours?

Camworld has 187 blogs linking to it, according to Technorati, versus 10 for CTDATA. Does this mean that many more bloggers go to Camworld on a daily basis to see what's new? No, it means the site was interesting enough to be put on the blogroll months ago, and blogrolls are hardly ever pruned.

I know a couple of things about blogging that are irrefutable:

  1. If you snooze, you lose.
  2. You are only as good as what you've posted recently.

The dirtiest secrets about blogging, in my opinion, are the undue influence of major site's blogrolls on what is considered popular, and the unique inertia that governs these blogrolls. I have adapted the old slogan, popularized by the Black Flag Roach Motel, to blogrolls:

Blogs check in but they don't check out.

I think one responsibility of running a widely-read weblog ought to be ensuring that your blogroll reflects reality: Don't just point to friends who used to be interesting; Point to sites that deserve the attention. The Weblog Community will be a better place for it.

March 28, 2003

RSS-Search Adds New Features

Dave Aiello wrote, "Earlier today, Francois Schiettecatte wrote to update me on rss-search.com, and I thought I'd pass the information on to our readers:"

Just wanted to let you know that I have made some changes to RSS Search. You can now download an RSS file for the results as well as subscribe to a news feed if you are using Radio Userland. You had specifically mentioned that in your article {referring to Head-to-Head Comparison Between rssSearch and Feedster, published March 20}.

I also added the ability to set searching preferences, so these are retained
across sessions.

Dave Aiello continued, "Francois is referring to the Search Preferences page on RSS-Search, not the controls that appear on the main page of the site itself. It took me a little while to figure out what he meant."

"Preference setting is definitely a useful feature if, for example, you want to see more search results per page. I think Google offers similar preference setting capabilities for its search engine. It's nice to see that the RSS search tools are reaching this level of maturity so quickly."

March 27, 2003

Enhancing a Perl-UNIX Daemon: Integration with System Logs

Dave Aiello wrote, "Last week, I talked about the minimal changes that are required to daemonize a Perl program originally designed to run as a UNIX cron job. I have to admit that the approach I suggested was too simplistic for my application."

"I took down the new daemon within six hours because it was silently dying-- something a UNIX daemon obviously can't be allowed to do. And, simply sending standard output and standard error to /dev/null, as the WebReference tutorial suggested, didn't help me understand what the problem was."

"This time, I went to my bookshelf for guidance, and picked up Lincoln Stein's excellent
Network Programming with Perl
, published by Addison-Wesley. There is a lot of information in this book that is applicable to this problem. I found Chapter 14, Bulletproofing Servers, to be particularly useful. It talks about using Sys::Syslog to write status messages to the system error log, and to overload warn() and die() so that they are logged in the same fashion."

"The chapter also takes a simple server that had been written in previous examples in the book and adds these features to it. When making significant changes to programs like this, it's always useful to be able to compare the before and after states of an example."

"I am going to try to implement the recommended changes in my own daemon today, and I will report on the value of these changes in a future article."

A Number of Alternatives Exist in Ink Jet Printer Market

Scott Aiello is looking for a low cost ink jet printer for his personal computer and asked for some ideas on how to choose a good one. The most advertised brands in the market are Hewlett-Packard and Epson, although there are a number of other brands that offer good products.

One of the most useful sites for narrowing down the field is CNET. Their database of ink jet printers contains 425 different models. It allows you to search by release date, name, editors' ratings, value ratings, and price. CNET also has a fairly comprehensive price comparison service, although it primarily covers on-line merchants.

Another useful article related to the subject was written by Walt Mossberg and published in today's Wall Street Journal. Mossberg talks about one of Dell's new printers and compares it to a previously released printer from H-P. The article says that the Dell printer is essentially the same as another printer in the Lexmark product line. Both models, in fact, are made by Lexmark.

The new Dell model discussed is a multi-function device that is more of a printer-scanner-fax than a simple printer. Our point in mentioning this article was to illustrate the existance of yet another competitor in this market. We are sure that printers from Dell will be competitive in terms of price and features with most devices on the market.

Comcast Attempts to Tie Broadband to Residential Cable TV

Yesterday, The Washington Post reported that Comcast is increasing residential cable modem charges on customers who do not also subscribe to cable TV. The article talks about a user in Berkeley, California who received a notice that indicates that Comcast will increase her bill for cable modem service from $43 to $57, a 25 percent increase.

A Comcast spokesman is reported to have characterized this price increase as an incentive. By this, we assume they mean that only those customers who pay for both cable television and broadband will get reasonably priced broadband service.

It's clear that Comcast is taking advantage of a number of trends in our current communications market to try to extract more revenue from existing customers:

  • lack of serious competition in residential broadband services,
  • hesitance of consumers to switch broadband providers, even when alternatives are available,
  • unwillingness of the FCC to police the residential cable and telecom markets and stop anti-competitive behavior.

We have to wonder why a residential customer in Berkeley doesn't jump to DSL immediately. Surely SBC offers residential DSL services there.

March 25, 2003

Why Has War Information Reappeared on CTDATA?

Dave Aiello wrote, "I know that many readers will remember that earlier this month I said that we would not talk about the War on Terror, sports, or politics on CTDATA much any more. So, what's the deal with articles today about Iraqi TV and al Jazeera?"

"Very simply, these news items are here because they are primarily about technology. The article referencing al Jazeera's web site has to do with a new, much anticipated site on the Internet that I think is much ado about nothing. The other war-oriented article is a huge piece of news because CBS is claiming that the Coalition used an electronic pulse weapon to destroy much of Iraqi TV's infrastructure."

"Our recent stories are still quite lean on war news and politics when compared with other blogs (for example: The Doc Searls Weblog or Scripting News). We plan to continue to differentiate our site by only mentioning the war to the extent that it relates to the topics we normally cover here."

CBS: U.S. Dropped Microwave Pulse Bomb on Baghdad TV Transmitter

CBS News is reporting that the U.S. Air Force dropped a so-called E-bomb on the transmitter for Iraqi TV in Baghdad. This is a microwave pulse bomb designed to disable electronic devices.

The existence of this type of weapon in the U.S. arsenal is not acknowledged by the Department of Defense. If it has been used in this case, it is the first time a weapon of this nature has been seen in combat. Such weapons have been talked about theoretically for years.

al Jazeera English Language Site Doesn't Contain Very Much Content

Earlier today, The Wall Street Journal reported on the launch of an English language web site by al Jazeera, the Qatar-based cable news network.

We looked at the web site, http://english.aljazeera.net/ at 6:00am Eastern time today, and found that the site was overloaded with traffic and did not offer very much more than news headlines and a one or two sentence summary of major war news stories. It is not really offering the alternative view of the news that we were led to believe it would. At this time, we do not recommend expending the effort to try to read it.

BlogStreet Does a Major Site Upgrade

BlogStreet recently released a major upgrade to its site. One of the biggest features of the upgrade is a major update to its database. Many other weblogs (including CTDATA) are now included.

BlogStreet was one of the earliest sites to show relationships between weblogs. It includes cutting edge features such as Visual Neighborhood which provides diagrams of the relationships between weblogs. BlogStreet also provides a text representation of weblog neighborhoods, and "BlogBack" which shows the blogroll relationship between weblogs.

Now that the database has been updated and includes CTDATA, it is far more useful to us. No doubt we will be visiting it on at least a daily basis.

March 24, 2003

API for Danger HipTop Reportedly Has Onerous Legal Restrictions Attached

Boing Boing reports that Danger has relaxed restrictions in the Terms of Service for the API for its Hiptop mobile device. However, those terms of service are, according to Cory Doctorow, overly restrictive:

People have said that the restrictions are necessary to keep apps from sucking too much bandwidth or to prevent malware from being installed on users' devices -- but these are the same risks borne by ISPs that allow anyone to connect any PC, with any software, to their network. What's more, it discounts the possibility that apps could be developed that reduce the bandwidth sucked by a device.... Likewise, it discounts the possibility that users can distinguish between good and malicious software, say, by installing software released or recommended by people they trust.

U.S. Government Testing Bioterror Alert System Using PDAs

On Saturday, PalmInfoCenter.com reported that the U.S. Government is testing a PDA-based bioterror alert system that would allow rapid communication with large numbers of doctors and other health care workers. The system, being implemented by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, will reportedly use ePocrates to deliver these alerts.

ePocrates is a very popular Palm OS-based application that provides drug and procedure reference information. It is primarily used by doctors to refresh their memories on uses of various prescription druge. It includes things like drug monographs, alternative medicines, formularies, and a Doc Alert feature which provides recently updated information on ailments and the drugs needed to treat them.

The AHRQ alert system is expected to piggy back on ePocrates' Doc Alert feature.

March 21, 2003

CNET Reports on Increase in RSS Use

CNET News.com published an article yesterday about the dramatic increase in use of RSS content syndication that has taken place as a result of the weblog phenomenon. The title of the article, "Old data update tool gains new converts", is quite misleading, but there are a number of interesting pieces of information in it. For instance:

The most interesting quote in the article comes from Ben Hammersley, the author of
Content Syndication with RSS
, a soon-to-be-released book from O'Reilly:

RSS is proving to be a nice, robust and easily used tool for moving data...not just news headlines, but everything--from orders and inventory to whether or not the servers are up. Thanks to the tools the RSS development community has made these past few years, it has a great future in the enterprise.

Technorati Adds Current Events Feature to its Blogosphere Analysis Tools

Doc Searls scooped everyone yesterday with his story about Dave Sifry's latest addition to Technorati. This is a feature Sifry is calling Current Events in the Blogosphere. Sifry explains the design of this new feature on his own weblog. He says:

It is a list of the top links to "professional" news sites by bloggers in the last two hours, along with comments and analysis. I created it because, like most people, I've been following the progress of the war, watching and reading the mass media, and I wanted to know what people out there were saying about the news. What are the most important stories? What is real, and what is propaganda? What is not being reported, or is being underreported?

In our opinion, this type of current events aggregator is a great application of RSS. A lot of webloggers write about current events. The keys to getting value out of browsing an aggregation of current events articles from weblogs are:

  • immediacy of the information (hence, the 2 hour aggregation window)
  • relevance of any commentary that surrounds the link to the story

It's already obvious that you are going to get a wide range of opinions related news stories through this service. This makes it a complement to Google News.

This raises the inevitable question: Why didn't Google roll out a feature like this within days of the Blogger acquisition?

March 20, 2003

Head-to-Head Comparison Between rssSearch and Feedster

Dave Aiello wrote, "I've attempted to do a head-to-head comparison of the two new RSS-based search engines that have gone live recently. Both search engines have interesting features that set them apart from each other and from search engines that came before them."

"Here are the results of a quick feature comparison I did earlier this morning. YMMV, and I would appreciate it if you would send any comments or suggestions to me by email at dave_aiello at ctdata.com."

Unique rssSearch features:

  • visible relevance scoring
  • detailed "Search Report" for each search, including:
    • database statistics
    • equivalent search parameters
    • result summary for each part of the search term
  • similarity searching based on key attributes of one indexed document

Unique Feedster features:

  • "filter out" capabilities, to remove a given blog from search results
  • dynamic RSS generation, based on search parameters
  • visible display of number of links in article
  • direct link to comments on articles in search results, in some cases

"At the moment, rssSearch appears to be the more statistically-oriented of the two pure RSS Search Engines. But, Feedster seems to have an edge on Blogosphere-integration with its dynamic RSS feature. This looks like it is definitely worth an experiment or two."

"I am specifically not commenting on the relevance of the search results displayed by either search engine at this time. I have not had time to compare them."

"This is a fluid environment, and I expect lots of competition between these two search engines, and Daypop, which is more well known than either of them and has RSS search capabilities as well."

FS Consulting Enters the RSS Search Engine Fray

rssSearch is another RSS-based search engine developed by Francois Schiettecatte of FS Consulting. CTDATA has known about this development effort for almost two weeks, but, we were asked not to mention it until some data quality issues were worked out.

Francois has begun a new weblog called have-at-it.net that discusses developments at his company. Yesterday, he published specs for the server on which rssSearch runs. It's interesting to read about the infrastructure that people use to run weblog-related services.

March 18, 2003

Mossberg: Centrino May Be Inferior to Other WiFi Radios Already In Use

In last week's Personal Technology column in The Wall Street Journal, Walter Mossberg reviewed three Pentium M-based laptops. One of the most interesting aspects of the article is Mossberg's analysis of the Centrino WiFi chipset. He says:

You might conclude that Centrino laptops do Wi-Fi better than other laptops, or that the Pentium M or Centrino chips are needed for wireless networking. But none of this is true.

The Pentium M has no special capability for wireless networking. And the Intel-produced Wi-Fi radio chip included in the Centrino bundle is actually regarded by some computer makers as inferior to other brands of radios they were already using. Not only that, but the Intel radio used in Centrino machines doesn't support the new, faster type of Wi-Fi networks called G or A.

Mossberg goes on to explain that some Pentium M-based laptops will be labeled Centrino laptops, while others with similar WiFi capabilities will not. The Centrino designation is solely based on the presence or absence of the Intel WiFi chipset.

Imagine the confusion that could occur if Intel really spends money on making consumers aware of the Centrino brand, and Intel tries to make Centrino synonymous with WiFi.

David Weiss Spent a Week with a Treo 300

David Weiss spent a week with the Handspring Treo 300 and wrote about it on O'Reilly's Wireless Devcenter. This is an interesting article because it includes screen shots of the full color Palm OS user interface as it appears on the Treo screen. From a pure prose perspective, the essay is quite similar to many Treo first impression articles.

Using Perl to Write a UNIX Daemon

Dave Aiello wrote, "Earlier today, I converted a Perl program I wrote to a UNIX daemon. I did this because the program, which had been run as a cron job, was failing more and more frequently. It's easy to get a cron-based program to fail if it has to be run frequently-- the execution time of an instance of the program simply has to exceed the time between invocations of the job."

"A better approach is to daemonize the program. In other words, put an outer loop in the program that causes it to execute repeatedly, with a programmatic delay at the end of the loop. As long as variables are re-initialized properly and resources are conserved, the program will theoretically run forever."

"I know that any self-respecting professional Perl programmer would look at PerlMonks for help before looking anywhere else. But, I decided to perform a Google search first. As a result of this choice, I was able to find a great tutorial on WebReference called UNIX Daemons in Perl."

"This is a great tutorial-- well worth reading-- despite the fact that it was originally written in December 1999. It provides a very simple example that can be used as a model for modification of existing Perl programs."

"It's surprising that the daemonization of a Perl program is largely done in 10 lines of code. But, the psedo-code for daemonization is this simple:"

  1. Change the working directory to the root directory ( / ).
  2. Set standard input, output, and error to /dev/null (unless you want to enable logging).
  3. Fork a new process and test to make sure it worked.
  4. Call setsid from the Posix module.
  5. Set the umask.

Contributor to XML Standard: "XML is Too Hard for Programmers"

Dave Aiello wrote, "In a recently published essay on his Ongoing weblog, Tim Bray says XML is too hard for programmers to use. The topic alone is certain to get a lot of developers with web infrastructure interests to tune in. What does he mean? Well, he says:"

During the process of setting up ongoing {his weblog}, for the first time in a year or more I wrote a bunch of code to process arbitrary incoming XML, and I found it irritating, time-consuming, and error-prone.

"Nice to know that one of the authors of the XML specification has the same sort of problems that the rank and file does. But, many of us have studied XML manipulation extensively and found one or more solutions that work in our problem spaces."

"It turns out that Bray writes a lot of code in Perl, but he defaults to the lowest common denominator method for parsing XML:"

As regards XML, I've been living in the land of scripting generally and Perl specifically in recent times.... That leaves input data munging, which I do a lot of, and a lot of input data these days is XML. Now here's the dirty secret; most of it is machine-generated XML, and in most cases, I use the perl regexp {regular expression} engine to read and process it. I've even gone to the length of writing a prefilter to glue together tags that got split across multiple lines, just so I could do the regexp trick.

"Bray's chief complaint, when you get down to it, is that he wants a reliable stream-oriented XML parser in Perl that does not rely on callbacks. I was never able to find one, but I found a way to do what I wanted by using XML::Twig. XML::Twig is fast, memory-efficient, and can be used in an object-oriented or callback-oriented method."

"Initially, I fought against using a Perl module like XML::Twig. I said to myself, 'I ought to be able to extract the small amount of data I need using regular expressions.' I tried it. It's not easy. And, it never worked 100 percent of the time for me."

"Maybe the problem I solved was different from Bray's, but I get the impression from reading his article that he hasn't tried all the different ways the Perl community has come up with to process XML."

Parent of Wrox Press Reportedly in Bankruptcy

Yesterday, The Register reported that Peer Information has filed for bankruptcy. Peer is the owner of Wrox Press, publishers of dozens of programming books, as well as p2p.wrox.com, ASPToday, and C# Today.

Some of these sites hint at the financial problems. For instance, C# Today says, "The addition of new content has currently been suspended, we apologise for any inconvenience that this may cause."

CTDATA doesn't have as many Wrox books on its permanent reference shelf as it does books published by O'Reilly and Associates or SAMS Publishing. But, the loss or impairment of a major IT book publisher would hurt the development community. On the other hand, it would be surprising if the huge reduction in employment of software developers in the United States that has taken place in the last two years did not have a major effect on the publishing industry.

March 17, 2003

Dan Bricklin Makes the Case for Small Business Weblogs

Dan Bricklin (of Visicalc and Trellix fame) wrote an outstanding essay for his web site called Small Business Blogging that was published last August. It came to our attention because Doc Searls pointed to it in a list of links associated with corporate blogging.

Bricklin's essay almost lays out a business plan for companies that want to sell blogging to businesses like bed-and-breakfasts, specialty stores, companies that have technical support as part of their business, as well as companies taking part in major projects or that find themselves in crisis.

The article also articulates the purpose of the weblog features of CTDATA.com fairly well:

Consultants are already very common users of blogs.... A blog is a way of showing your expertise and establishing yourself as a trustworthy authority without the travel. The time necessary to maintain the blog comes out of the time that would have been spent at some of the meetings. (A blog is an excellent way to build up your "authority" to move up politically in a trade association, too. Your readers would be others in your field, not customers.)

Output of Amazon Web Services Change Without Notice

CTDATA has developed a number of unreleased programs that tap into Amazon Web Services. We use these programs to do price analysis on books in the Amazon catalog that we are considering buying.

Last week, one of our price anaylsis tools broke. Initially, we thought it had to do with XML interface performance problems that were reported by web services users on Friday. When the problem did not resolve itself, we did some testing and saw that price offers were suddenly being returned with currency symbols. These symbols were not present before.

The addition of currency to the offer prices might have been inferred from a developer chat that took place on March 5. This chat discussed the introduction of Amazon Web Services to Amazon.co.uk. This would necessitate the introduction of some means of designating the currency in which each offer price is expressed. But the problem is that we didn't discover the text of this chat until after we did some troubleshooting, and worked around the changes that Amazon made.

We are surprised that these sorts of changes are made without a great deal of notice from Amazon.com. How do they think developers are using these web services? Don't they realize that prepending a currency symbol changes the XML node from something that can be interpreted as a number to something that has to be manipulated before it can be converted into a number? Didn't they realize that would have an effect on applications that are already in use?

It's harder to justify the development of applications that use Amazon Web Services when changes like these take place silently. Caveat developer.

March 14, 2003

The Search Engine Formerly Known as Roogle Comes Up With a New Name

Dave Aiello wrote, "I'm a little out of the loop on this, but, I am asking myself why Scott Johnson changed the name of his RSS Search engine to Feedster from Roogle? What's the difference? Wouldn't a name like Feedster also set off alarm bells in some Intellectual Property circles?"

"Prior to Feedster, there was Napster, Aimster, Madster, and several others. Most of these were peer-to-peer file sharing communities that were subject to intense litigation. Why would anyone want to take the risk of being lumped in with that sort of site?"

"I think that there is some risk of confusion and a somewhat higher risk of building a brand that is impaired from the outset. What do I mean by confusion? Well, the Feedster home page doesn't even say that the site is an RSS search engine anymore."

Update by Dave Aiello, 2:52pm: I noticed that the title tag says "RSS Search Engine", but it's not visible in the body of the page. Where's Jakob Nielsen when we need him?

"Scott spoke about the futility of corporate naming exercises on his weblog:"

... I think everyone would rather have us making you the best possible RSS search engine NOT doing the corporate naming exercise.

"I would have picked a name that either described an RSS search engine in no uncertain terms, or, one which is as unique today as Google was when it went live on the Internet."

March 12, 2003

AP: Blogging Goes Mainstream

On Monday, The Associated Press published an interesting summary of recent developments in the weblog community. The article points to the blogging phenomenon as the next great hope for entrepreneurial activity on the Internet:

...as more people have embraced the concept, what once seemed like a passing fancy has morphed into a cutting-edge phenomenon that may provide the platform for the Internet's next wave of innovation and moneymaking opportunities.

This article goes on to draw parallels between the so-called Blogosphere and the Borg, a collective intelligence that appears in the television and movie series Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek Voyager, and Star Trek: First Contact. Although this concept is introduced by reference from someone who played a minor role in Google's acquisition of Pyra Labs, it is a bit of a digression from the other points in the article.

Todd Copilevitz from Richards Interactive is also quoted extensively in the article:

With blogging, all you really need is an articulate point of view and some dedication to reach a very broad audience.... If you read these sites long enough, you see points of intersections where the opinion makers gather. It's a phenomenon that's not on the mainstream radar quite yet, but it will be in six months.

These observations are interesting since they come from the group that has reportedly developed the marketing campaign for Raging Cow, a new milk-based soft drink to be released by Dr. Pepper in April. This marketing effort has been extensively discussed on weblogs for the past 10 days, and current thinking is that the publicity generated by it will not be that favorable.

March 9, 2003

Refocusing CTDATA.com on Our Business

Dave Aiello wrote, "Over the past few weeks, I have steadily improved the integration of CTDATA.com with the Weblog Community. This has resulted in a sizable increase in traffic to our web site and interest in what is posted here."

"CTDATA relaunched its web site in weblog format back in July 2000. At the time, I was trying to illustrate our skill in implementing web sites based on the Slash Open Source Project. In the course of running this site, however, it has grown beyond providing news and information about our business and our industry."

"I think it's time to refocus the content of CTDATA.com on the businesses we are in today: corporate IT consulting, content and knowledge management systems, business applications for weblogs, and web services based on SOAP, REST, and XML-RPC. I am also planning on posting articles about important developments in these industries and technologies that can be used to create competitive advantage in them."

"So, you won't be seeing much in the way of articles about the war on terror, sports, or politics around here anymore. Although those stories have an audience, and they're fun to write and talk about, they confuse our potential business clients."

"We are seriously considering launching a weblog hosting service soon. If we do so, there is a possibility you will see articles about these others topics appearing on another weblog. Stay tuned here for any such announcements."

"Thanks for your continued interest in CTDATA and in our website. Please let me know if you have any comments, questions, or suggestions. You can reach me at dave_aiello at ctdata.com."

Ask and You Shall Receive, I Guess

Dave Aiello wrote, "A hat tip to Dave Winer for making The Internet Needs a Search Engine Driven Off RSS Feeds the most widely quoted article in CTDATA history. I've never posted anything that generated nearly that response."

"Scott Johnson from The Fuzzy Group jumped on this idea and developed an RSS Search Engine that he initially called Roogle. When he told me about this, I responded as follows:"

Glad you got a little inspiration out of my essay. I appreciate the simplicity of your interface. In many respects, that's what I'm looking for. But, I think you are making a mistake by taking Google's UI and making small mods to it. I wouldn't want to answer "cease and desist" letters....

"I think that Scott Johnson deserves credit for moving quickly and implementing a new weblog service that obviously has a lot of initial interest. It will be interesting to see what he can do with this opportunity, from a business perspective."

March 7, 2003

CTDATA Adds XML Badges to Weblog Home Pages

Chatham Township Data Corporation has added the XML badge (RSS File) and Add to Radio Userland badge (Add to Radio) to its major weblogs, CTDATA.com, RCNJ.org, and AAHArefs.org. These badges provide links to each website's Rich Site Summary file, an XML file containing the headlines and summaries of the most recently published documents on each site.

Dave Aiello, President of CTDATA said, "These changes are small in appearance, but they are another major step toward the full integration of these websites into the weblog community."

CTDATA develops Internet and Intranet applications for corporations and non-profit organizations. It also provides consulting services to firms that are interested in using weblogs for internal or external communications. CTDATA has been running all of these web sites continuously since 1997. CTDATA.com has been on-line since 1996 and now contains over 1,100 pages of information.

OLN Proposes Tour de France Prologue in NYC

Yesterday, The Associated Press reported that New York City has been proposed as the site of the Prologue of The Tour de France. The proposal was made by Outdoor Life Network, the television network with U.S. broadcast rights for the Tour. According to the article:

Under the plan, the cycling race would start in New York and continue to Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., before going to France. Englehart said Tour officials have expressed interest in the idea.

An OLN executive was also quoted as saying that the proposal cannot be implemented before 2008 because the organizers are already committed to prologue starts and basic routing through 2007.

March 6, 2003

The Internet Needs a Search Engine Driven Off RSS Feeds

Dave Aiello wrote, "A number of bloggers have pointed to the article Unearthing Dirt in Weblogs Still a Black Art by Mark Glaser. Glaser rightly points out that sites like Google News exclude almost every weblog from their search results, instead focusing on sites operated by the mainstream media. He goes on to say that Blogdex and Daypop have more references to mainstream media web sites than to weblogs."

"I could argue that Blogdex's, and to a lesser extent Daypop's, primary function is to glean what weblogs are talking about, not specifically what they say. Nevertheless, I think that many weblogs contain valuable information, useful analysis, and commentary in their own rights. This information is hard to get at unless you use a broad search engine like Google or AllTheWeb. But then weblog results are co-mingled with information coming from all sorts of sites that have nothing to do with the genre."

"One of the things that I had hoped was that Google would launch an RSS search engine after it acquired Pyra Labs, the company that developed Blogger. Many webloggers, such as Dave Winer, have given up on this. But, I see no reason why a pure RSS-based search engine would not be a valuable addition to the Internet. There is no question that it is technically possible."

"Such a search engine would make it possible for news hounds to go straight to the source of grassroots buzz that often results in stories published in The New York Times or The Washington Post, or on Slashdot, two or three days later. It would also segregate the results of weblogs from more 'edited' sources of news-- that still clearly matters to some people."

"I think the blogosphere has reached a point where people would like to be able to search for information that has specifically been published on weblogs. I think the metadata already exists for a blog-specific search engine (in the form of RSS), the infrastructure is fairly obvious (see Weblogs.com),and the auto-discovery mechanism makes it easy for a search engine to work without requiring blogs to register themselves."

"The big question in my mind is who will develop a pure RSS-based search engine with the same sort of simplicity for which Google is already famous?"

Update by Dave Aiello: I understated Doc Searls' contribution to the ideas expressed in this essay by omitting a link to his article called Making a Different Extinction, published earlier today. In the interest of reducing the overall length of this article, I removed the only appropriate opportunity to link to Doc's article. I only realized there was no reference to his article upon rereading mine.

Washington Post Reviews News Aggregators

Leslie Walker reviews a number of desktop news aggregators in today's Washington Post. A lot of this article explains to people who are not amid the blogosphere what a "news aggregator" is. This is not a bad idea, considering the fact that she is writing for a mainstream media outlet:

These are more like a souped-up table of contents to all your favorite Web sites, with long lists of headlines that are automatically updated at regular intervals. You scan the headlines and click for more information on those that interest you.

Walker discusses NewzCrawler in some detail but also mentions Amphetadesk, FeedReader, Headline Viewer and Radio UserLand.

South Korean News Web Site Impacting Public Opinion, Politics

Dave Winer pointed out an article in The New York Times about a South Korean on-line news site that has gotten as many as 20 million page views per day by touting itself as an alternative to establishment journalism. Apparently, OhmyNews is the place that Koreans turn to for information about breaking news and on-going controversies. Examples of major stories that have been covered recently include the Taegu subway bombing and the accidental death of two Korean school girls hit by a U.S. Army patrol vehicle.

One of the most interesting parts of this article is the extent to which OhmyNews incorporates reports from its user community:

Although the staff has grown to 41, from the beginning the electronic newspaper's unusual concept has been to rely mostly on contributions from ordinary readers all over the country, who send dispatches about everything from local happenings and personal musings to national politics.

Only 20 percent of the paper each day is written by staff journalists. So far, a computer check shows, there have been more than 10,000 other bylines.

The article also talks about a grading concept that OhmyNews has developed to help readers understand the degree of editorial review that each story on the site has received. This may be similar to the score applied to comments on sites like Slashdot, except that this scoring applies to the stories themselves and it is applied by the site editors, not the readers.

The number of page views recorded by OhmyNews is staggering when the size of the South Korean population is taken into account. In a country of 40 million people, this web site gets as many as 20 million page views per day. It appears to be written entirely in Korean, so relatively few people outside South Korea are regular readers.

March 5, 2003

Automatic Conversion of Netscape Profiles to Mozilla on Windows Only Works Under Perfect Conditions

Dave Aiello wrote, "I recently replaced the hard drive on my wife's PC because the old one was beginning to fail. Once I got her irreplaceable data off of the old hard drive, I decided that I didn't want to do a disater recovery restoration. Instead, I replaced Windows NT 4 with Windows 2000, Office 97 with Office 2000, and Netscape 4.7x with Mozilla 1.2.1."

"I had done a Netscape to Mozilla migration before for my own computer. But in that case it was a few Mozilla revisions ago, and it took place on Linux, not Windows."

"When I got ready to migrate a user profile, I was surprised to find that Mozilla did not appear to provide an automated tool to do this in one step. Yes, there were Import options on the Tools menu when the Mail & Newsgroups window was open. But, these did not work with the ease that I expected, considering how similar the Netscape and Mozilla profile data was."

"After several hours of trial and error, I figured out what the problems were. The Mozilla profile migration tool only works if your profile files in exactly the right place. Read on for more details on how I solved the problem...."

Dave Aiello continued:

These are the conditions that appear to be necessary for an automatic profile conversion to take place:
  1. The Netscape profile that you want to convert must be in the proper location, given the version of Netscape that you were previously using. In our case, this meant that we had to restore the data to:
    C:\Program Files\Netscape\Users\PROFILE_NAME
  2. The Mozilla application must never have been run, prior to the profile conversion attempt.

If either of these two conditions were not met, Mozilla would not ask me if I wanted to convert a profile when it was started.

I'm pointing this out because I had difficulty finding help on this issue using Google. I'm posting it here because I believe it will be indexed and add to the Internet-wide Mozilla knowledge base.

March 4, 2003

Is Slashdot Part of the Weblog Culture?

Dave Aiello wrote, "One of the questions I've been thinking about recently is whether Slashdot is a full participant in the weblog culture? Of course, Slashdot is referenced on weblog service sites like Weblogs.com. But, at times Slashdot is oddly out of sync with the buzz in the weblog community as a whole."

"A recent example of this is the Slashdot article about the Raging Cow beverage and the plan Dr. Pepper has to use weblogs to promote it. Although the story points to a Newsweek article, in the recent past many people who live on the web would have learned about its existence from Slashdot. But now that stories are moving through The Weblog Community at lightning speed, Slashdot is sort of late to get to the story."

"Take a look at the Technorati Link Cosmos for the Newsweek story. Note that weblogs who pointed to the Newsweek story earliest were fully two days ahead of the first Slashdot article."

"Admittedly, this is an anecdotal analysis. Slashdot ran 18 stories on March 4, and most of the current event stories probably got up there more quickly than this one. But, this situation suggests that Slashdot's readers don't watch other weblogs very closely and suggest stories based on what they read. Either that or Slashdot editors are making assumptions about the timeliness of the stories in their submission queue that may be worth questioning."

"I'll have to pay closer attention to this for the next couple of weeks, and see if it's a trend."

American Monsoor Ijaz Says Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was Key to Many Terrorist Activities

Last week, Fox News televised a number of interviews of and reports from Monsoor Ijaz. Ijaz is a muslim and an American businessman who had tried to act as an intermediary between the government of Sudan and the Clinton Administration for the purpose of helping Sudan turn over Osama bin Laden to U.S. justice.

One of the more interesting of these reports was the one Ijaz made on Special Report with Brit Hume on February 25. In it, Ijaz said we now have the key guy who is coordinating al Qaeda activities on several continents. Ijaz said:

...We now have the key guy who was the cornerstone of the operation in the Middle East, in South Asia, maybe even in the Far East. So if we are successful in now decoding the data in his computers and his telephones and the audiotapes that may, in fact, even contain instructions from bin Laden on them, we may, in fact, find out a lot of information that we would not have been able to get any other way.

And so the timing of this essentially enables us to dismantle the Middle Eastern terror cells before we have to take that next step in the war against terrorism. In fact, I just want to say that Iraq is not a separate step. It is the next most important step in dismantling the terrorists around the world.

CTDATA previously reported on Ijaz in an article that we published in December 2001.

NYC Government Officials Briefed on Likelyhood of New al Qaeda Attacks

Only weeks after the national terror threat level had been raised to orange, The New York Times reports that a terrorism expert who has studied al Qaeda for 10 years thinks that a large attack on the United States is unlikely at this time. According to the article:

...{Rohan} Gunaratna, a research fellow at the Center for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at the University of St. Andrews in Fife, Scotland, contended that increased information flowing from intelligence agencies and the F.B.I. to the Police Department combined with greater public awareness had made it more difficult for Al Qaeda to launch an attack in New York.

He also said that he thought large attacks in the United States anytime soon were unlikely, and that the arrest of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed on Saturday in Pakistan was a significant setback for the terrorists.

March 3, 2003

Are Bugs in BGP Implementation a National Security Issue?

Slashdot pointed out an article on ZDnet that related the main points of a talk by Stephen Dugan about problems in the current implementation of Border Gateway Protocol. The talk took place at a Black Hat Security Briefing on Thursday in Seattle.

The key points in the article were that:

  • BGP has a number of security holes that stem from the implicit trust that routers running BGP have for each other, and
  • architects proposing BGP changes to the Internet Engineering Task Force are not funded sufficiently when the magnitude of the technical problems they are dealing with is taken into account.

We do not need to look back very far to see the potential impact of BGP-related problems on the Internet infrastructure. In January, we reported on the widespread routing failures that took place during the SQL Slammer worldwide network attack. These were attributed by some analysts to widespread BGP session loss and problems with the Cisco Express Forwarding algorithm in low memory or extremely high traffic conditions.

The other obvious issue underlying any possible flaws in BGP is the homogeneity of routing on the Internet. How many practical high-performance routing alternatives really exist to BGP for Internet Service Providers and large corporations?

Earlier last week, an astute Slashdot reader pointed out the fact that one of the 13 root DNS servers changed from BIND to NSD. This was done "...to increase the diversity of software in the root name server system, the lack of which is widely considered to be a potential vulnerability. The nsd software... has no design commonalities with bind, the currently prevalent DNS implementation." If administrators of core DNS servers are acting proactively, shouldn't other administrators of critical infrastructure also evaluate their options?

You have to wonder if all of the core services and protocols on the Internet, except for basic transport, should have widely deployed alternatives. And, if such alternatives don't exist, isn't the entire U.S. telecom infrastructure at risk of a well-crafted attack?

NY Times: Quake Players to Reenact 1994 Friends Episode

The New York Times reports in its Arts Online section that Quake III Arena players led by Joseph DeLappe will reenact a "Friends" episode in an on-line game:

On Saturday Mr. DeLappe and five fellow players will convene in cyberspace to perform "Quake/Friends." The actors will appear on the computer screen as typical "Quake" gladiators, but each will have assumed the role and identity of a "Friends" character. Then, using the game's instant-message system, they will re-enact the real show's 1994 pilot episode in the "Quake" space by typing and transmitting dialogue to other players' screens.

So far, so dull. But online performance is, in a way, a form of street theater, and audience participation is expected to enliven the action. While the "Quake/Friends" actors won't fire their weapons, unsuspecting "Quake" players will notice that a game is under way and will be able to enter the show with their own guns blazing. In a game whose sole goal is to kill as many as possible, Monica will be mowed down and Chandler chopped in half.

Hopefully, statistics will be published on the total number of times each Friends character is killed during the game.

Dr. Pepper Will Reportedly Used Weblogs to Promote New Soft Drinks

Newsweek is reporting that Dr. Pepper plans to use weblogs to promote a new milk-based soft drink called Raging Cow. The product, to be made in several different flavors, is expected to be launched in April.

This article is very short and only introduces the strategy. But, it contains a comment from Doc Searls that calls the strategy into question.

If Dr. Pepper attempts to use third-party weblogs as a promotion vehicle, they will probably use weblogs operated by high school and college-aged people. It's unlikely that technically-oriented weblogs will be part of the program.

Blogosphere Echosystem Relaunched on "The Truth Laid Bear"

In our periodic scan of Blogdex, we noticed that attention was again being paid to The Blogosphere Echosystem, one of the original attempts to measure the influence of individual weblogs. In an article on The Truth Laid Bear called The Ecosystem Returns, N.Z. Bear explains that the new version of the Echosystem is automated and based on PHP and mySQL.

Although the system is now automated, it does not appear to be using Weblogs.com's changes.xml to determine what to crawl. This probably reduces the amount of bandwidth that rebuilding the Ecosystem consumes. But, it also means that most weblogs need to be added to the system manually. Weblogs can be added to the Ecosystem using TTLB Blogosphere Echosystem: Add Your Weblog form.

Johan Bruyneel Says Separation Won't Affect Lance Armstrong's Training

On Thursday, Reuters reported that Johan Buyneel said that Lance Armstrong's training will not be effected by trial separation from his wife, Kristin. Bruyneel is the director sportif of the U.S. Postal Service Cycling Team.

One of the questions that this article provokes is, how would Bruyneel's comments have been different if the Armstrong's separation wasn't public? Bruyneel said that Lance Armstrong "is training harder than ever and is extremely motivated. This winter he has trained like never before because he knows that every year he is starting from scratch again." This is the approach Armstrong took last year, isn't it?

Undoubtedly, cycling fans who do not like Armstrong are already bored by the predictability of his training and his team's comments. But, no one will really know what Armstrong's mental state is until they see him on the road in a serious race.

Update: In April, Lance and Kristin Armstrong announced that they were working at reconciliation.