Web hosts and the Viral Nature of bad news

conversation Andy Beard is thinking about moving his blog to a dedicated server. The move appears to have been put in motion by the recent experiences of Tricia and myself with regards to our treatment by our web hosts. (Vlad also pinged me today about his experiences with hosting from Yahoo!)

Now before I go any further I must admit to being remiss and say that it’s been a while since I’ve dropped a comment on Andy’s blog, although I never miss reading a post. I’m sorry mate.. 

Anyway, Andy’s post started a great discussion about problems with web hosts but one thing that got to me about it is something that appears to have slipped under most peoples radar.

and the viral nature of the blogosphere passes on the bad experience that bloggers are having with their web hosts

Isn’t that a shame?

I actually once posted about how well One.com had stood up when O’Flaherty was getting hammered by traffic for the Krak.dk thing.

Unfortunately that praise probably went unnoticed.

Bad news travels. It’s a fact and I’m sure if it’s speed could be measured it may prove to be the fastest traveling thing known to man.

Web hosts don’t appear to realize how important peer recommendations are to people that are looking for good hosting. After all, 99% of web hosts promise the same stuff so there’s not very much to differentiate them.

Web hosts need to realize that providing web hosting does not make them “active on the web”.

It facilitates other people to be active on the web. If those people are anything like me, they’ll have no problems slating your service when fail to deliver.

Web hosts need to be proactive on the web.

Customer support is all well and good when it works. Unfortunately, for a large percentages of web hosts, it doesn’t. The limited information they provide in many cases leads to frustration and anger and invokes enough wrath in many end users to obliterate a small country.. maybe Luxembourg.

Web hosts need to make themselves part of the discussing when things go wrong.

When a bloggers fires off a rant about his web host then they need to be there commenting on the blog and trying to work with the blogger to address the issue or explain the situation.

A complete lack of comments from the host only reinforces the bloggers point as the blogger remains unchallenged.

Maybe unchallenged is the wrong word here, maybe unanswered is better, but you get what I mean.

Even if the web host has completely cocked things up then a comment on the users site which simply explains what went wrong will earn them some brownie points.

They will, at least, appear to be part of the solution.

Also, and equally as important, is the need for a web host to be gracious when a blogger gives them praise. Dropping a comment to say thanks will put them in better standing.

Us bloggers like to know that you’re listening. It means a lot to us when we give praise to something that we get an acknowledgement for it. A little “thank you” note.

If we get a little “thank you” comment, we may even post about your service again!

We don’t give out praise that often you know. We can be a pretty mean bunch ;)

Web hosts generate a lot of bad PR for themselves simply by staying out of the conversation.

Bad news travels, and bad news for a web host means a loss in potential revenue.

Thankfully it’s very easy to reduce the impact of the bad news. Get involved in the conversation.

You don’t need to give away stuff, spend more money on advertising or AdWords, all you have to do in join the conversation.

You’ll look better and you’ll be in the minds of bloggers everywhere. You’ll get a reputation for being part of the solution and the conversation.

That, alone, will ear you a lot of free WOM marketing from bloggers. Everybody knows a blogger and bloggers are the voice of the internet.

(Image by Bright Meadow)

Folks who make me exercise the grey matter.

I’ve been sitting on the “Thinking Blogger” meme ever since Andy Beard tagged me.

I’ve got to thank Andy for nominating me. I must admit to having been shocked, but I am deeply honored.

It’s taken me quite a while to respond because I wanted to be sure, that when, or even if, I tagged other bloggers for the award I would be tagging people who really do make me think.

I want to tag the bloggers who’s blog posts gnaw at the back of my brain when I can’t sleep goading me into writing a response / comment or discussing the post with somebody.

I want to tag bloggers who force me to look at ordinary situations from extra-ordinary angles.

I want to tag bloggers like:

Maximillian Kaizen – Hunter of Genius

Bruno Pieroni – K City  (A comic strip)

Kamigoroshi – Footsteps in the Mirror

Steven HodsonWinExtra

Jessica Hagy – Indexed

A big thank you to all of these bloggers.

Thanks for making me question my assumptions and forcing me to think outside of the box.

You don’t need to accept this award, or even tag other people with it. I just wanted to express my gratitude…

Elaine Vigneault thinks I’m a whiner!

 I started writing this post at 4am this morning as a reply to a comment left by Elaine Vigneault. It quickly expanded beyond that and rapidly warranted a post all of it’s own.

So here it is Elaine, a reply to the comment which you thought I’d remove.

The background!

Elaine Vigneault called me a whiner today! It made me chuckle a little. I haven’t been called a whiner since I was 5 years old.

I don’t whine! I rant, rave, shout, roar, stamp, throw full blown temper tantrums and then roar some more for good measure. 

I could teach many a chair throwing CEO a thing or two..

Whining indeed!

So, why does Elaine Vigneault think I’m a whiner?  Well in order to understand that, you’d need to read a recent post of mine: “How the Link Whores killed Technorati Favorites!

To cut a long story short I called everyone who participated in the “Technorati Favorites Exchange” meme a “Link Whore” and accused them of breaking the system in order to generate a .. well let me just quote myself instead:

The “Technorati Favorites Exchange”meme may garner some Google juice for the blogs involved and it may give them a little temporary exposure on the top 100 Technorati favorites list, but it rapes Technorati favorites of any value for the rest of us.

There’s more..

But I think that’s not enough. The people involved in using the “Technorati Favorites Exchange” meme have collectively shown what a greedy, selfish and self obsessed bunch of link whores bloggers can be.

While all of these bloggers were on their crusade for that one extra hit, that tiny bit of Google juice and that one handed self indulgent pleasure of seeing their blog temporarily crack the Technorati top 100 favorites, NOBODY, none of them stopped to think that gaming the service like this ruins it for the masses of other bloggers who actually see a value in the service.

Now, I would recommend you go and read the original post because there’s a lot more to it than that.

While you’re at it you should also read “I know what the Link Whores need!” which was my follow up post on the matter.

In the interest of completeness you should also read “Technorati favorites: Not worth it anymore” by Amit Agarwal and “Technorati Favorites – Is This Evil, Lazy or Just Smart?” by Andy Beard. These two entries prompted me to write my original post.

Finally you should read “Blogging Productivity & Criticizing Goals” paying particular attention to the comments as Andy and myself have a good back and forth about the TFE meme.

To be honest, I don’t expect you to read all of the posts and comments. It’s a lot to get through, but if you do, you’ll get some good content with good strong opinions from both sides of the argument.

If all you read is the original post you’ll have done more than Elaine! 

 

The Comment!

Okay, before I get stuck into things I’d better repost Elaine’s comment in it’s entirety (Elaine thought I’d delete it! Can you believe that? She’s obviously not an O’Flaherty reader and she didn’t look at the comments policy):

Technorati encourages this! No one is gaming them or abusing the system. This is actually ONLY helping Technorati. It’s encouraging people to use a system that’s currently almost completely neglected.

PS I favorited you just because I’m nice like that.

Oh, but wait. I don’t actually like your blog (this is the first time I’ve read it). So, according to your article, I’m wrecking the system because I took the advice in your first paragraph and I favorited your blog. Are you going to whine about that, too? (Funny, I’m currently the only person who favorites your blog.)

 

The Breakdown!

Now lets get into this one little step at a time. For the rest of this post, whenever I quote Elaine, it will be taken from her comment, or her post on the matter: “Technorati Favorites Exchange Experiment: Whores, Prom, and Pig’s Blood“.

Technorati encourages this!

They do, do they? How so? Have they made a statement to that effect:

Rowse emailed Technorati’s CEO. I emailed Technorati, too. No response. Technorati has nothing to say on the matter… yet.

The reason Technorati has nothing to say about it is probably because they like it

So silence is an endorsement?

It couldn’t be that they’re trying to get a handle on what’s going on and trying to find a way to reconcile, within the system, the gulf that has originated between 2 sets of passionate people.?

It couldn’t be that any statement one way or the other could do the service more harm than good and it may be best to wait until the “storm has lulled” before risking alienating a particular set of users?

It couldn’t be that your head is firmly planted between your bum cheeks now could it?

This is actually ONLY helping Technorati. It’s encouraging people to use a system that’s currently almost completely neglected.

You can make up your own mind on that one readers! I’ve given you my opinion on it and many great bloggers have expressed theirs on both sides of the argument.

Make up your own mind.  Exercise your freedom of will and thought!

Elaine obviously can’t:

PS I favorited you just because I’m nice like that.

Oh, but wait. I don’t actually like your blog (this is the first time I’ve read it). So, according to your article, I’m wrecking the system because I took the advice in your first paragraph and I favorited your blog.

Elaine, I never advised you to favorite my blog!

I simply pasted a button into my post. A button which serves two purposes. 1 is to display the Technorati favorites graphic, as that is Technorati favorites was the focus of the post, and the second to give folks who do consider my blog to be worthy of a “favorite” an easy means to do so.

I assume you have free will enough not to click something simply because it says so?

I don’t actually like your blog

You don’t like my blog! Good for for you! Line up and stand proud because you’re most definitely not alone. I’m not here to be liked. I’m not here to reinforce your ideals, your beliefs or your individual perception
of reality.

I’m not here to make you feel comfortable!

I’m here to express my opinion and hopefully make folks think outside of their usual box for a few minutes.

If you can’t handle that, you know where the back button on your browser is!

(Funny, I’m currently the only person who favorites your blog.).

You’ve already displayed a complete lack of free will, as you clicked the button and added my blog as one of your favorites, when you clearly stated you don’t like it.

I stated in the post, and it was correct at time of writing that this blog had been marked as a favorite 60 times, you still claimed that your the only person who favorites this blog. You were number 66 to favorite this blog.

Your lack of free will, coupled with your inability to read properly and your inability to count, makes it appear as if you have a poor IQ for a glass of water.

Why did you think those pictures of other peoples face are on O’Flaherty’s “Favorited By” page? Did you think the were their just to watch you say “hi” to you?.. Poor thing!

I sincerely hope these free will and number issues don’t extend beyond blogging for you!

Other wise, armed with a credit card, you must be every marketers and every store owners dream. All they have to do is throw up a “Buy this” sign on any piece of crap and you’ll buy it. Even better, you can’t tell the difference between 1 and 66 so they could probably charge you anything they want and you’d happily take it.

Lemmings have it SOOO easy…

Ignorance must be bliss.

I’m a hypocrite?

Yep, sometimes. We all are from time to time, but in this case I believe I’m in the clear:

The vocal nay-sayers are hypocrites

Apparently Darren Rowse doesn’t use Technorati favorites much so him writing about the situation makes him a hypocrite.

He claims the “favorite me” meme is inauthentic and “games” Technorati. But as other bloggers have pointed out, Rowse barely uses the Technorati favorites himself.

Well, I’m definitely a “vocal nay-sayer” and I definitely use the service. I’ve currently got 157 favorites and I subscribe to all of them.

Lets look at that for a moment:

DOES NOT USE TECHNORATI                  NAY-SAYER
—————————————-   (plus) + ————— (Equals) =  HYPOCRITE
USES TECHNORATI                                        NAY-SAYER

DOES NOT USE TECHNORATI                  NAY-SAYER
—————————————-   (plus) + ————— (Equals) =  HYPOCRITE
USES TECHNORATI                                        NAY-SAYER

NAY-SAYER
————— (Equals) =  HYPOCRITE

NAY-SAYER

NAY-SAYER (Equals)= HYPOCRITE

You’ve got to love that logic, right?

Why should we listen to Elaine?

We shouldn’t and she’s told us why in her post (emphasis mine):

Critics argue that adding blogs that you don’t read or like to your favorites list undermines the system. Well, I don’t care about the system. It’s not my system. It’s Technorati’s system. They’re the ones profiting from it, not me.

She doesn’t profit from it and she doesn’t own it, so it’s perfectly okay to screw it up for everybody else!

I wonder if Elaine has the same sentiments about other things in life?

I wonder if she’d feel the same if a bunch of people just decided , just for their own personal gain, to screw with a system that she uses and gets value from?

Elaine, I’m amazed that you can still ride that high horse with head so far up your own arse.

You slate Darren Rowse for expressing an opinion about a service he doesn’t use much, and then wax lyrical about it yourself while admitting that you don’t care about it.

With that in mind, I must say you’ve got balls, and you must have quite some set, to call me out for expressing my opinion about a service I actually USE and care about without even reading what I wrote properly?

He called me a whore?

Some folks may get the impression from Elaine’s blog that I called her a whore specifically.

If you do, check out my comment at O’Flaherty (unless he removed it). Hahaha! Hey, he called me a whore first, what’d you expect?

Let me just quote what I said:

The people involved in using the “Technorati Favorites Exchange” meme have collectively shown what a greedy, selfish and self obsessed bunch of link whores bloggers can be.

Let’s look at that last bit one more time:

bunch of link whores bloggers can be.

But I’ll go one step further and say that all serious bloggers (myself included) are link whores.

I’ve referred to myself as a link whore before. I even said it this week:

Yesterday I called my friend Andy Beard and a large sway of the blogosphere “Link Whores”! Well you are! We all are. I’ve confessed that I am one on more than one occasion.

Being a “Link Whore” is a fundamental part of the blogger/podcaster/vlogger psyche. If you aren’t one, if you don’t want more people to read or view your opinion or work then you have no business being a blogger.

If you’re not putting yourself out there, link baiting, commenting on other blogs and trying new things to drive traffic to your site then you’ve got no business calling yourself a blogger.

 

Remove thy self!

I’ve stated on numerous occasions that I don’t want votes on services, or lists, or people joining community lists that I didn’t earn. I don’t do the reciprocal thing for all the reasons in mentioned in the linked posts above and for all the reasons I’ve mentioned in previous posts unrelated to TFE but for other services.

So Elaine, you don’t like my blog, but it’s marked as your favorite.

Is it to much trouble to ask you to remove your “favorite” or doesn’t the hypocrisy extend to that?

I know what the Link Whores need!

Yesterday I called my friend Andy Beard and a large sway of the blogosphere “Link Whores”! Well you are! We all are. I’ve confessed that I am one on more than one occasion.

Being a “Link Whore” is a fundamental part of the blogger/podcaster/vlogger psyche. If you aren’t one, if you don’t want more people to read or view your opinion or work then you have no business being a blogger.

If you’re not putting yourself out there, link baiting, commenting on other blogs and trying new things to drive traffic to your site then you’ve got no business calling yourself a blogger.

If you don’t intend your posts to be read, then that’s fine, but I have to ask why you don’t just keep a diary instead or make your blog private so that it’s not clogging up the SERP’s.

If you are serious about blogging then you need to be promoting your site in every way possible. It doesn’t matter if you’re blogging for money or just for the ego trip (even the best ideals of simply wanting to inform / educate people have a fair sway of ego involved) you need to be pulling in the readers.

If nobody is reading then your efforts are being wasted.

To Hell with the “A-list”

That’s why I love reading Andy’s blog – Niche Marketing. He’s always on the edge experimenting with how to be more productive online and draw in new readers.

I still don’t agree with how the Technorati favorites was being used for self promotion. If the service was meant to be used in the manner it was being used by the “Technorati Favorites Exchange” it would have be named something different like “Back Scratchers Vote Exchange” or something.

Also to those folk who try to justify the raping of the system by the “Technorati Favorites Exchange” meme by saying that many folks weren’t using it to begin with or that many of the top bloggers weren’t using it, I say: So what! I don’t care if just 2,000 people were using it. You guys just raped the service and destroyed it for the people that did use it

This blogger used it!

Now, obviously I’m no Jason Calacanis, Steve Rubel or Michael Arrington, but why should that matter? Why should the A-listers (I can almost hear Calacanis screaming that the “A-list doesn’t exist“) using a tool be held up as benchmark to gauge whether or not a service is used?

Stop belittling yourselves! A lot of people spend so much time complaining that they can’t break into the A-list. To hell with the “A-List” (no offence to the bloggers on it), but if you keep worrying about them, you’re wasting valuable energy which could be used improving your own blog and gathering readership.

If you’re only using tools “endorsed” by the A-list then you’re missing out. The A-list is (to steal Andy’s metaphor) much like a tumbleweed. The slightest breeze blows them from one service to another in search of the next “cool” service to hype and write about.

Yet, even though I’m pissed off at the fact that the top 100 favorites now hold little to no meaning for me, I’ve got to applaud the link whores for trying something different in order to fill the gap of an obvious and necessary, yet as yet poorly represented, blogging tool: the personal memetracker! (This came to light when discussing a reciprocal favorites policy with Andy – the real important stuff is in the comments).

The Personal Memetracker

Don’t get me wrong, personal memetracker’s do exist. You’ve got Megite, BlogRovr , Tailranks MyTail feature and if you feel like parting with some cash, I believe FeedDemon has a built in personal memetracker for your desktop.

I’ll admit to not having tried these services personally, but reports from other bloggers have yet to be convince me that any of these services are up to par yet.

I’m waiting for Megite to introduce a web UI for setting up the memetracker, Andy couldn’t get good results with Tailrank and unless I hear some excellent reviews of FeedDemon’s built in memetracker I’m unlikely to part with the $30 as I prefer online aggregators (Google Reader rocks btw).

I only signed up for BlogRovr today, so as yet, have no idea how good the results will be but the reviews I’ve read so far are not encouraging. Andy called it “elitist” but didn’t qualify his statement. 

Chris Gilmer of DownloadSquad was not impressed by the idea of Blogrovr:

Why would someone really want to use this application? Are we missing something? Would you want to read your favorite bloggers commentary on every site you visit? It seem like it could get a little distracting. It is however good for a little cross referencing when doing research, and gathering links to same topic posts from a familiar voice.

Chris has a good point, even though I NEED a good personal memetracker, I really want one that gives me a Google Reader style river of news for the results, as opposed to results being show based only on the site I’m currently visiting.

Even so, I’m still going to give it a try and see if it fits some of my needs.

The Killer App of Blogging?

I know it takes a lot of resources to power memetrackers but if some company were to release one, with a good easy to use UI and plenty of flexibility then it would instantly become the killer app for anybody serious about blogging.

So the big question is who’s going to bite first? Will Google, Yahoo, or the sleeping behemoth that is Microsoft, be the first to produce such a tool?

They all have the resources and the money to make this happen and happen fast.

Releasing a great personal memetracker would be a great opportunity for to Microsoft claw back some ground against Google and win some valuable brownie points with the blogosphere and tech influencers.

Or will it come from a startup? After all, it’s not a stretch to imagine that if a startup developed a good personal memetracker, it wouldn’t take long for one of the big 3 to snap them up!

You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours! No Thanks!

I read every post Andy Beard writes. I don’t care if a particular post has a mundane title, he’s put out so much quality stuff that he always warrants me spending more time reading his posts in Google Reader than I allot for 90% of the blog I read.

As you guys know I recently called out Googlr for asking me to join his MyBlogLog community and promising me he’d join mine in return.

Googlr (good blog check it out) and I discussed the resolved the matter because he wasn’t aware that those kind of solicitations are considered by many to be spam.

More importantly they lower the value of your community as you have people joining simply for the sake of joining. Many of these people may not like your blog, but will join anyway simply to have another member in their community.

Now, back to Andy and on to Technorati.

I added Andy’s blog as a favorite on Technorati before he wrote a post entitled “Goal Setting & Technorati 100“.

If I doubled the number of people who joined my Technorati Favorites, I would currently be ranked 37 – a very achievable target.
If every one of my subscribers added me to their favorites, I would actually be in the Top10

Andy Beard Technorati Okay, that’s good.. You’ve got my vote already Andy.

But, what is this I find on your sidebar?

Are you saying that you’ll add ANY blogger that adds you to their favorites to your own Technorati favorites?

I have a reciprocal policy, thus if you add me to your Technorati Favorites, your content will appear here

I’m sorry Andy but I think that is plain wrong. What you’re saying is “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours!”.

You’re setting a playing field where everybody can be on your favorite list regardless of quality. If they’re crap and don’t deserve a vote, so what?

You’ll get your vote, they’ll get there’s and to hell with the fact that this is little more than gaming Technorati.

To hell with the fact that it reduces the value of the favorites system! If everybody favorites everybody simply for a reciprocal favorite, then the system has no value and no point.

Andy, I don’t know if this is an oversight on your part? I sure hope it is, as it’s not something I would expect from you!

I don’t want somebodies vote unless I have earned it! Therefore I will not vote for somebody unless they’ve earned it, regardless of whether or not they’ve voted for me.

I have 4, count them 4 people who have added this blog as a favorite on Technorati. I have also favorited exactly 4 other blogs (for now expect that to change later today as I start to use the favorites service properly).

All of the people I have favorited have reciprocated (including Andy). I hope it wasn’t out of some sense of obligation.

If any of you who have added me to your favorites list did so, solely because I favorited you, then I would request that you remove me from your favorites list!

If I didn’t earn it, I don’t want it!

Does Twitter have built in Trust?

Andy thinks that Twitter is unethical for business use and therefore made his last business related Twitter post last night!

Andy
AndyBeard I can’t find a way to use Twitter to comply with WOMMA so last business related update from me – full details here – http://tinyurl.com/29yr

Andy cites the following reasons:

Twitter is thus being used for WOMM (Word of Mouth Marketing), and should be subject to the same ethics rules and recommendations as blogging.

  • Disclosure in the Twitter Interface – currently impossible because there simply isn’t enough room in 160 characters.
    <image removed>
  • Disclosure Link – maybe an ethical possibility, but you can’t add anchor text, and not all the URL is displayed
    <image removed>
  • Disclosure In Content – it is hard enough already to say anything meaningful within the number of words allowed, there is no way you could add a disclosure to the content as well.

Okay, I can see where you’re coming from with this one Andy, however I think you’re very much missing the fact that because you choose who your receive Twitters from, there is an expectation that you know what kind of Twitters you’re going to receive.

If you add Steve Rubel to your Twitter friends, you expect to get links to marketing stuff and stuff he’s related to. That’s why you added him to your Twitter friends list in the first place. Surely you can’t tell me it’s really because your interested in what the guy had for breakfast?

If you add Cali Lewis you expect to get updates about GeekBrief TV (awesome video podcast for those of you who don’t know it).

If you add me, you’ll expect links to stuff all over the web, and updates on my  podcast etc…

If I start a Twitter profile for my company, the I have to tell my customers that I have a Twitter profile they can follow, and then, as it is a company profile, it comes preloaded with the expectation that it will link to company related stuff.

You see Andy, it’s the entire “expectation” angle that makes Twitter ethical for word of mouth marketing.

You don’t just go to Twitter and start adding names at random to your friends list without first knowing a little something about who these people are. 

When I added Steve Rubel, I knew I’d get marketing related stuff! When I added Cali Lewis, I knew that some of the posts would be about GeekBrief related stuff! (It’s also nice to know what the prettiest and one of the smartest women in tech is up to!)

Twitter is not blogging! Actually, this level of innate expectation separates it even further from blogging! When you visit somebody’s blog that you’ve never heard of you have to research who they are by reading their posts and profiles to learn if you want to continue reading and trust their links.

You don’t need to do that with Twitter because you’ve already taken that step when you visited their blog, podcast or whatever and decided to follow them on Twitter.

Now, I’m fully aware that you can add people you don’t know especially if you have a ton of followers and just use the “add all” feature.

But if you add 200 or 1000 people that you don’t know, then you expect to get hit with crap and unethical links from time to time. It comes with the territory and it’s your own fault for adding them in the first place. You can remove offending linkers again, but it’s your own fault for adding unknowns to begin with.

The public timeline is not a marketing tool. The lifespan of a Twitter on the first page of the public timeline is to short to make it viable for any kind of exposure.

People add who they want to add, and should know what to expect of a person when they choose to add them to their friends list.

It’s to be expected that most bloggers (and others) will hold themselves to the same standard of linking on Twitter as they do on their blogs. If they don’t it will hurt their reputation with their followers. They’re followers are they’re audience and their blog readers. They know all to well, that if they do something unethical and get called out on it on Twitter, it will have the same negative reaction and effect as if they did it on their own blog.

If you added somebody to your Twitter friends, and they later betrayed the trust and expectation that came with adding them, then simply “unfriend” them and unsubscribe from their blog.

Twitter is like standing at the bar in the pub with your mates.

You don’t probe your friends about every recommendation they make to you. You expect them, not to recommend anything harmful to you! Its a very rate occasion when  you care if the recommendation benefits them as long as it benefits you as well.

But if they make a recommendation and you get burned, then you hold them accountable for it and possibly stop being friends with them.

Link Roll Up 21/03/2007

I’ve been filling the link blog all morning with the best posts from all the feeds I follow.

It’s starting to look like today won’t be a good day for me blogging, so I’m highlighting a couple of cool things here that may have warranted a post in response or are just damn cool, but I don’t have time to get around to today.

Andy Beard – WOMMA Should Watch Who They Quote And Especially Who They Link Too!

Member Alert: WOMMA Supports Clear Disclosure of Compensation on Blogs – Womma go PayPerPost spanking!

Jason Calacanis – More proof that there is no A List (or at least if there is, it means NOTHING!)

Google Image Ripper (Warning NSFW by default) via Cord Silverstein

Steven HodsonMisuse of Technorati and and the dirty links

Rok Hrastnik – Why is Everyone Missing the RSS Transactional Messaging Opportunity?

MacDailyNews – Unauthorized Obama Internet political ad converts Apple’s famous ‘1984’ commercial (with video)

Hillary 1984 video

Original Apple 1984 video

Ars Technica -NFL fumbles DMCA takedown battle, could face sanctions

Firefox 2.0.0.3 Available

Just even more stuff in the link blog!

Akismet/Collective Intelligence/Education through Design

Andy Beard wrote an article a while back about the potential problems of using so called “collective intelligence” to power spam and comment filters on email systems and blogs.

Andy’s article, Akismet – the Danger of Collective Intelligence (and why I don’t use it), focused mainly on Akismet, the comment filter which I use on this blog and the problems caused when the collective intelligence is influenced by unintelligent, spiteful, and sometimes simply ignorant or uniformed users.

Logging in to WordPress this morning, the number of spam comments waiting for moderation got me thinking about Andy’s article and how Akismet could be improved.

The following is a rough piece of “blogging tourettes” related to improving Akismet!

The usefulness of collective intelligence in a filter such as Akismet is diminished by a number of factors:

  1. All those idiots who mark legitimate comments as spam simply because their ego’s can’t suffer the existence of an opinion which differs from their own.
  2. All those goits who mark a comment as spam simply because they don’t like the comment author.
  3. Users who lack the deductive capability to recognize a spam comment from a real one also harm the filter by provide false positives and negatives.
  4. User apathy! Users who have 500 potential spam comments and don’t want to check for false positives so instead hit the “Delete” All button!

Now, unfortunately there is very little we can do about factors 1 or 2 (besides round them all up and have them shot for being petty, closed minded idiots) as these proponents of collective stupidity are impossible to educate (without using electroshock therapy).

We can however, do a lot to improve the situation with regards to numbers 3 and 4 and we can do it without launching a massive “spam education” campaign.

We can do it by simply changing the design of the Akismet Spam interface.

When I logged in to WordPress this morning I saw that I had 1068 comments identified as spam. That’s a daunting number of comments to wade through when checking for false positives, especially if you’re a tired blogger who only blogs once a week about his growing belly button fluff collection and the girl that works behind the sweet counter who has a big rack, six toes on one foot and eyes that look in two directions at once and neither of those directions is at you.

It’s all to easy to hit that damn “Delete all” button and fill Akismet with false positives.

To make life a little easier for Navel Fluff Boy and make him more likely to check for false positives we need to change how the comments are displayed.

First off, lets not display every spam comment!

Lets group them together, so that identical comments are listed only once, but  also display the number of times the comment was received.

That way instead of seeing 200 comments from “Your favorite Aunty Carol” offering you Viagra (I guess we know why she’s your favorite now!), lets just have the comment displayed once with a “x 200″ box. Suddenly we’ve reduced the number of pages of comment spam to be check by 4 (Akismet puts 50 comments on a page!)

We could also add a button that allows you to delete all the comments on the current page without affecting the other pages, allowing you to come back later and not have to moderate all the spam in one sitting.

So now, we’ve made life a little easier for Navel Fluff Boy as he doesn’t have so many pages to wade through! Is there anything else we can do to ease his burden and get him back to searching for lint?

We can remove the pages completely!

22 pages looks like a lot of work! It is! So, lets borrow a little something from Google and give the Akismet Spam page a “River of Spam” just like Google Reader has a “River of News”.  Lets also give the river keyboard commands similar to Google Readers, so that he can moderate his comments with one hand while dreaming of big rack, six toes, funny eyes and…..

Awesome, now we don’t have pages, and things look a little easier which might encourage Navel Fluff Boy not to be so apathetic about his spam.

Still, making life easier doesn’t do much in terms of preventing those folks who can’t tell the difference between spam and real comments from degrading the collective intelligence by allowing false positives and negatives.

To help these poor soles we could do a little education by design!

Let’s give all the comments a rank or percentage probability of actually being spam and display it next to the comments. The user now has more information (percentage probability) on which to base his or her decision as to wether or not a comment is spam. Better information should result in a decreased number of false positives and negatives!

Now, there’s a little education for you!.

But wait, it gets better!

Now we have comments with probability ranks and a “river of spam”, so lets meld the two together and organize the river of spam so that it displays the comments in order of least probable spam to highest probable spam.

Now, we have a system, where the comments which are most likely to be false positives will show up first on the list, so are more likely to be detected which should hopefully lower the number of false positives entering the system,

We also, have all of those which are most likely to be spam grouped together so that if, after scanning some of the comments, Navel Fluff Boy does get lazy and hit the “Delete all” button there’s a lower probability of the comments containing false positives.

With a little (lot?) of design work, we could potentially reduce the time spent by everyone scanning comments for false positives, make spotting false positives easier and educate users along the way.

Unfortunately there is still nothing we can do about the idiots in factors 1 and 2, but a least Navel Fluff Boy has more time to dream about big rack, six toes, funny eyes, who he’ll probably never talk to anyway!

Comment Notifications

I might be almost a week late but I’ve upgraded O’Flaherty to the latest super shiny version of WordPress (2.1.1).

Even better that that, I’ve now added in the ability for you guys to get email notification of comments left on post that you have commented on. So now, whenever you tell me that I’m completely wrong and have my head firmly shoved where the sun don’t shine, you’ll be notified via email when other people agree with you! 

Isn’t that lovely? LOL… Sorry. I’m a little giddy right now. I’m not sure why, but I seem to have been hit with a “happy wave”. The most miniscule and mundane things are making me grin like the “Cheshire cat” on a great acid trip.

Thanks must go out to Andy, who pointed me in the direction of the Mark Jaquith’sSubscribe to Comments” plugin!

Who spiked my coffee?