January 31, 2008
Video: Man on the street interviews in Beijing about the U.S. elections — they know more about us than average Americans know about Chinese politics, but not much more (via)
Mr. Show's Bob Odenkirk created the "Bird Poops in Newscaster's Mouth" video — the YouTube video was viewed 1.2 million times, making this a very successful viral hoax
As I was writing up yesterday’s article on The Times, I realized that there’s a wide range of opinions from social media founders about undisclosed mass promotion on their communities. (Mahalo’s Jason Calacanis doesn’t mind, while Matt Haughey drops the banhammer on any Metafilter user who tries it.)
I contacted several founders affected by Sitelynx’s activity to see their official (and personal) stance on this questionable practice.
Adrian Holovaty retires Chicago Crime — EveryBlock made it redundant, so he’s shutting the influential site down
Jason Kottke liveblogged the Mythbusters "plane on a conveyer belt" episode — big spoiler warning; literally, a very big spoiler
Waxy.org: The Times (UK) spamming social media sites — including Metafilter, StumbleUpon, Del.icio.us, and many more; also: I’m blogging daily on the main site now!
Yesterday, I discovered that The Times (UK), a well-respected newspaper owned by News Corp., is involved in an extensive campaign to spam social media websites with links to Timesonline.co.uk articles.
Since 2004, The Times retained the established SEO consulting firm Sitelynx to handle their search engine marketing. Working on behalf of The Times, a Sitelynx employee posted thousands of links to community and social news websites, including Mahalo, Del.icio.us, StumbleUpon, Metafilter, Yahoo! Answers, Ma.gnolia, and Netscape’s Propeller. His actions were done without any disclosure of his affiliation to Sitelynx or The Times and were, in some cases, posted under the assumed identity of his wife. Update: The Times didn’t know what Sitelynx was doing, the Sitelynx employee was
fired suspended, and The Sun is also involved. See the updates at the bottom of this entry.
Before coming to Sitelynx, Piotr had a history of promoting his own business, an online jewelry store called Signature Gems, by using his profiles on sites like Myspace, Flickr, and Yahoo 360 to manipulate his search engine rankings. After coming to Sitelynx, he continued to use this technique to promote The Times. (A full breakdown of his accounts on each site is below.)
For me, it’s disappointing to see a well regarded, legitimate newspaper using these tactics to gain headway against their online competitors. Founded in 1785, The Times is one of the world’s longest-running papers, the namesake for the New York Times and the paper that originally commissioned Times New Roman. I’m sincerely hoping that The Times didn’t authorize undisclosed, deceptive spamming in their partnership with Sitelynx. It’s even possible that Wyspianski is a rogue SEO working autonomously, and Sitelynx isn’t even aware of his actions.
To find out, I contacted Graham Hansell yesterday, the founder of Sitelynx and head of strategy, but he didn’t respond.
I’m not having any luck finding an appropriate contact at The Times either, but if you know someone there who can help address these questions, please get in contact with me immediately by email or IM. (Update: The Times contacted me, see more in the updates below.) This quote from a 2004 article, which seems to be The Times’ only public statement on working with Sitelynx:
Simon Christy, marketing manager at Times Online, which has just signed up Sitelynx to improve its search visibility, agrees. “In the past it has been down to the techies to get their heads around SEO, but it’s now moved into the remit of marketers,” he says. “I see it as the fundamental building block or starting point for any search marketing strategy. Once you have the natural side sorted, then you can start spending money on the PPC side.”
Each of the accounts below is used exclusively for posting links to Timesonline.co.uk, his jewelry business, or a combination of both. (In case the accounts get removed, I’ve included the date he began posting and a rough count of the number of Times links.)
Tag cloud for the upcoming 2080 State of the Union — the 2008 tag cloud is slightly more predictable (via)
Defective Yeti's dead simple Oscar Pool creator — no logins required, just simple Oscar goodness
Ellen Page and Michael Cera sing a song about Diablo Cody — if that whole acting thing doesn’t work out, they should tour
How a deadly BMW M5 crash affected an online community — 18-year-old posts thread about high-speed driving, dies in massive wreck later that night
Edward Tufte sounds like Gene Simmons — and weirdly, both the Simmons and Tufte links are worth experiencing
The real history of woot and w00t — great roundup from a lexicographer on the multiple theories of the word’s origins
Yesterday, I saw the Richard Stallman personal ad on Craigslist for the first time. While the text is authentic, the free software activist almost certainly didn’t post it to Craigslist himself, since he doesn’t really use the web. (Instead, he reads web pages by sending an email to a daemon, which retrieves the URL with wget and emails it back to him. Yes, this is not a joke.)
Stallman’s ad immediately reminded me of Dave Winer and his very first post on The WELL, a personal ad from 1994 that shows another side of the tech pioneer.
From: Dave Winer (dwiner)
Date: 1994-08-17 17:52:00
Topic: Personal Ad experiences
Well, here goes -- my first message on The Well. I've just been lurking for the last few days, trying to figure out what's going on. It's pretty daunting, but maybe I'm getting the hang of it... You all seem like VERY nice people.
Photo by Kris Krüg on Flickr
Anyway, I wrote a personal ad last week, and sent it via email to a bunch of friends, most of them women, for their reaction. Here's the ad:
SWM 39, 6'2", athletic build, Bay Area, software entrepreneur turned massage therapist, gentle hands, romantic, emotionally developed, born-again hippie. Loves gardening, road trips, walking, skiing, writing. Looking for a great gal who's ready to create a safe space for love and lots and lots of play. Send email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
One of my friends had a pretty animated response:
"You're going to find a nurse or a chiropractor. Why? The self-description sounds too needy, as if you're looking for succor. Anyway, i never describe you that way to anyone i know. Your description entirely omits your shining INTELLIGENCE -- you're a genius; you assimilate new ideas like most people consume their morning cereal. You see shapes when there are only nebulae. You're also kinetic, always soul-searching. grounded and yet ready to leap. You're body's pretty irrelevant, but obviously you want to be of athletic build (for what sport, exactly, would your body be considered athletic? no offense, but REALLY). As long as you've got some hair left and your sexual organs, your body's functioning, or do you really want to be a combination of Yogi Berra and Albert Einstein? -- Love, Sylvia"
Of course I liked Sylvia's version of the ad better. ;->
PS: I'm a great skier. Definitely athletic.
I finally understand why John Brockman dubbed him The Lover in Digerati! Even in the age of Netscape 1.0, Dave was using technology to connect with people. I emailed him to find out the story behind his WELL posting and follow up on his current relationship status. No response yet, but his Facebook profile says he’s still single and looking for a relationship.
I find the personal side of these technology giants to be fascinating. In just a few words, it shows a warmer, more human side to an often-controversial man. If you can think of any other examples, leave them in the comments!
February 7 Update: Surprisingly, the only people that seemed to care about Dave’s personal ad were Valleywag, Eye on Winer (the newest in a long line of Dave Winer watchdog sites), and Dave Winer himself. He commented on it a few times on his Twitter account, but that was about it. (Related, Eye on Winer posted this Knight-Ridder article from 1986 about American bachelors, with Dave Winer in the lead story.)
Many more people took note of the bit about Richard Stallman’s extremely unusual web browsing habits, culled from this post I dug up from a discussion list late last year. That link ended up on Zawodny’s blog and, later, the top of Reddit. I emailed RMS some questions, to ask him more about this, leading to the shortest interview ever:
I’m fascinated with a message I read about how you read the web with a wget demon. Could you elaborate on it?
It is a program that runs wget and mails me back the result.
Do you then convert the HTML to plain text and read it by email, or do you load the retrieved file in a browser? (If so, which browser?)
I can do either one.
Finally, is it free software, or something that you’d be willing to release?
I did not write it, but our sysadmins say it is kludgy.
Thanks for that elaborate explanation, Richard! As Philipp told me, “He answers like a programmer. If you stopped him on the street to ask, ‘Do you know the time?’ he’d say ‘Yes’ and leave.”
Tweetmeme, tracking link popularity in Twitter — surprisingly effective, updates every five minutes
WSJ on Passage, the provocative 5-minute indie game — I linked to this back on December 7, happy to see it’s getting some attention; play it before reading!
Remember Colin’s Bear Animation, the disgruntled demo reel I linked to a few weeks ago? First, watch it again. (It’s only 15 seconds long.)
In the spirit of investigating things nobody cares about but me, I decided to track down and interview Colin Sanders to find out the story behind the demo reel.
SmugMug's private photos are public — Philipp interviewed Don MacAskill, who doesn’t believe the autoincremented IDs are a problem
Geek Entertainment TV covers 20 Goto 10's ANSI art show — overview of the show including a good 30-second primer on ANSI art
Game Mod workshop asked non-programmers to mod a Breakout clone in Processing — don’t miss the video of the results; the well-documented source is available, too (via)
The Heavenly Jukebox, excellent Atlantic Monthly article on digital music from 2000 — they lowered their paywall on Tuesday, making thousands of articles free
Dean Wareham's candid account of his affair with Luna bassist Britta Phillips — it must be hard for his ex-wife to hear about the new band (via)
Laugh-Out-Loud Cats book released tomorrow — $15 from Lulu or $30 hand-signed by Ape Lad
Brazilian novelist pirates own books, sees huge increase in sales — distributes links to pirated copies through an unofficial blog
MP3: David Lee Roth's isolated vocal track from "Runnin' with the Devil" — I found myself playing reverse karaoke, humming the guitar parts (via)
576,000 private Myspace photos leaked to BitTorrent — an insane 17GB of photos grabbed before they plugged the security hole
Ghostface Killah angry at fans for pirating album — 115,000 fans on Myspace, but only 35,000 first-week sales
Hardly Working: Office Fantasy — Jake and Amir make me laugh, and if that’s wrong, I don’t wanna be right