A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘blogging

[FORUM] What do you think of online rating systems?

Two weeks ago, there was an article at Toronto Life, “Why Momofuku’s David Chang thinks Yelp reviews are dumb”, that caught my attention.

David Chang knows his fast food, so it makes sense that he’s signed on as the official Northeastern U.S. “burrito scout” for ESPN blog FiveThirtyEight, which is currently conducting a rigorous, March Madness–style search for the country’s top burrito (and, in the process, examining the relative reliability of crowdsourced recommendations versus other sources of data). Chang recently spoke with the site about his personal views on user-generated restaurant reviews, particularly those on Yelp. To put it concisely, he’s not a fan. Here’s what he had to say:

I’m just going to come out and say: Most of the Yelp reviews are wrong. They just are. Yelp is great for finding information if you forgot the address of a place. [...] But for the most part, no chef is going to take a Yelper’s review seriously, even though they might read them.

The problem with Yelpers, according to Chang? They take everything way too personally, and usually don’t know what they’re talking about.

The best analogy I can give is fantasy sports or lawn-chair stockbrokers. For the most part, unless you’re really studying the stats and you’re a former football player or baseball player and know the industry inside and out, it’s most likely that your insights aren’t that great.

My reaction, as expressed in the comments, was critical. Chang’s argument leaves no space for well-informed amateur critiques, or for informed readers, and additionally seems to verge on making the fallacious argument that everyone is making one-star reviews based on a single thing that doesn’t work for them.

What say you all?

Written by Randy McDonald

June 23, 2014 at 4:00 am

[BLOG] Some Monday links

  • Centauri Dreams features an essay by Andreas Hein arguing that interstellar travel will be quite easy after the singularity hits, when our minds can be copied onto physical substrates.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes that the dispute between Vietnam and China over their maritime boundaries runs the risk of intensifying.
  • Far Outliers chronicles the Australian creation of the Ferdinand radio network in the 1930s, a network of civilian radio broadcasters in northern Australia and Papua New Guinea charged with reporting on border security.
  • Joe. My. God. notes controversy in Israel over a harmless music video by trans pop star Dana International.
  • Language Hat notes one Russian writer’s suggestion on how Russian-language writers can avoid Russian state censorship: write in officially recognized variants of the Russian language (Ukrainian Russian, Latvian Russian, et cetera).
  • Language Log examines “patchwriting”, a subtle variant of plagiarism.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money is just one blog noting the insanity of George F. Will’s claim that being a rape victim on a university campus is a coveted status.
  • The Map Room’s Jonathan Crowe links to OpenGeoFiction, an online collaborative map-creation fiction.
  • Marginal Revolution notes that, before Hitler, the Biblical pharoah was the figure used as the embodiment of evil.
  • The New APPS Blog takes issue with the claim that photographs sully our memories. Arguably they supplement it instead.
  • Personal Reflection’s Jim Belshaw notes, following Australia’s recent budget cuts, how young people lacking connections can find it very difficult to get ahead.
  • Window on Eurasia notes that ethnic minorities and secessionist groups in Moldova are being mobilized as that country moves towards the European Union, and observes the maritime sanctions placed against Crimean ports.
  • Yorkshire Ranter Alex Harrowell is very skeptical of UKIP founder Alan Sked’s statements that the party was founded free of bigotry.

[ISL] Peter Rukavina on chance and blogging the remarkable

The title of Charlottetown blogger Peter Rukavina’s blog post “I remember the day the bus exploded right in front of the fire eater and her amazing magical cat…”. He recounts how he just managed to bear witness, not least via his Twitter account, to the background of the incident described in the blog post’s title.

Despite myself I was always a fan of the Road to Avonlea television series. It was hokey, and not even shot on Prince Edward Island, but it was also endearing and provided a useful lens through which to look at life in contemporary Prince Edward Island.

The archetypal episode would involve some interesting character from away arriving in the village of Avonlea, with hijinks ensuing.

A long-lost huckster cousin of Aunt Heddy would show up and talk Jasper out of his inheritance.

Or a rough-looking carnie would arrive on the train from Charlottetown only to run into Olivia and sweep her off her feet.

(When I think of developer Richard Homburg and his arrival in Charlottetown as a billionaire saviour I tend to think about it in Road to Avonlea terms; it’s far more entertaining).

And so it came to pass that yesterday, while popping down the street for a quick lunch before heading to the dentist, I spied an intriguing character walking down Queen Street: an eclectically dressed woman walking a cat on a leash and carrying a well-worn hula hoop on her shoulder.

The whole story is fantastic.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 10, 2014 at 11:08 pm

[BRIEF NOTE] On Livejournal being made into Medium, or Tumblr with text

James Nicoll linked to a Techcrunch article describing how the new CEO of Livejournal wants to position this blogging platform as a kind of Medium, as a place for long-form writing.

LiveJournal is hanging out the “under new management” banner yet again. Last month, the company announced a new CEO, Katya Akudovich, who previously worked at Google, Box and Microsoft. Akudovich was confirmed in a unanimous vote by the board of directors, who believe her international experience at these major tech companies will help her make LiveJournal a top social media platform yet again.

“My Box experience, where I started the Deal Desk department, gave me unique insights into how a company turbo-charged an amazing product,” she tells us. “At Google, it was about bringing the right content in the right form to brand new Google Play markets. And this is exactly what we’re planning to do at LJ,” Akudovich says.

In addition to the new services Akudovich teases, LiveJournal is also rolling out new iOS and Android applications next month, designed to appeal to both writers and readers. And the company is hopping on the ‘anonymity’ bandwagon, now in vogue thanks to services like Whisper, Yik Yak and Secret, noting that LiveJournal “will remain anonymous and will never ask its users to identify themselves.”

[. . .]LJ’s new strategy for 2014 and beyond is one where it hopes to promote itself as a platform for longer-form content and self-expression in an era when users can’t seem bothered to post status updates, preferring Instagram selfies, looping Vine clips, GIFs and texts over longer articles, lengthy videos, and the like.

But that, thinks LiveJournal, is the opportunity.

“There’s a big market for this that really only we and Medium are filling – and with significantly more personalization, while still being easy to use,” says Akudovich. “Our users generate an amazing amount of deep content – half a million long-form posts a day – these are not tweets, these are real long-form posts where people write some very interesting things. We have amazing communities too,” she says.

Hmm.

This proposal certainly does seem to reflect the way Livejournal is now used. Of the people active on my friends list, most of them are people who write long-form entries. Many of them are, in fact, published authors. Rejigging the non-Cyrillic functions of Livejournal to service this demographic does work.

And yet. Is this an innovative effort to position Livejournal as a platform of choice for long-range writing, perhaps even social journalism, or is this trying to take some advantage of the fact that the users who have remained are too locked to their journals and communities to move? I’ve migrated already: this text is being entered into a window at Dreamwidth, which then automatically posts to Livejournal, and will be cut-and-pasted over to WordPress. Making Livejournal an active hub for me again, as opposed to a second-order backup with a friends page I visit, will take some doing.

There’s also the non-trivial question of whether or not Livejournal can make these changes without alienating its user base. Not a week ago, I was perturbed to find out that Livejournal had switched the user interface entirely. I couldn’t locate my aforementioned friends page. It was only when I found out, via a LJ friend’s post, how to switch the user interface back to a usable format. I fear that Livejournal may yet change it back. I had no idea this particularly was coming, but the idea that Livejournal’s administrators would unilaterally change something critical of the site without letting its users know is sadly not a surprise. The commenters at Techcrunch shared their own stories of how the site has let them down. Navigating a revamp of the site without angering frequently disappointed long-time users is going to be an issue.

I hope Livejournal can survive in some form, but I will need to be convinced. We’ll see what will happen.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 30, 2014 at 3:35 am

[LINK] Two links on the decline of the homepage

The apparent decline in visits to the homepages of sites, triggered by people heading directly to the pages hosting articles, was analyzed at The Atlantic by Derek Thompson.

The New York Times lost 80 million homepage visitors—half the traffic to the nytimes.com page—in two years.

[. . .]

If the clicks aren’t coming from homepages, where are they coming from? Facebook, Twitter, social media, and the mix of email and chat services summed up as “dark social” (dark, because it’s hard for publishers to trace). [. . .]

News publishers lost the homepage firehose, and gained a social media flood. This social flood corresponds with the emergence of another powerful piece of technology: audience analytics software that tells digital publishers what people are reading, and how long they’re reading it, with greater specificity than ever.

One theory is that the rise of twin technological forces—the social flood and the age of analytics—will (a) make the news more about readers; and (b) make news organizations more like each other.

Why should the death of homepages give rise to news that’s more about readers? Because homepages reflect the values of institutions, and Facebook and Twitter reflect the interest of individual readers. These digital grazers have shown again and again that they aren’t interested in hard news, but rather entertainment, self-help, awe, and outrage dressed up news. Digitally native publishers are pretty good at pumping this kind of stuff out. Hence quizzes, hence animals, hence 51 Photos That Show Women Fighting Sexism Awesomely. Even serious publishing companies know that self-help and entertainment often outperform outstanding reporting.

It’s also the subject of discussion at Marginal Revolution.

I would put it this way: the fewer people use RSS, the better content providers can allow RSS to be. There is less fear of cannibalization, and more hope that easy RSS access will help a post go viral through Facebook and other social media.

When a blog is linked to the reputations of its producers, rather than to advertising revenue, the home page remains all the more important. That is who you are, and many people realize that, even if they are not reading you at the moment. I call those “shadow readers.” For MR, I have long thought that the value of shadow readers is quite high. (“Tyler and Alex are still writing that blog — great stuff, right? I don’t get to look at it every day [read: hardly at all]. Why don’t we have them in for a talk?”) In other words, a shadow reader is someone who hardly reads the blog at all, but has a not totally inaccurate model of what the blog is about. For Vox or the NYT the value of a shadow reader is lower, although shadow readers still may talk up those sites to potential real readers. For companies which run lots of events, such as The Atlantic, the value of shadow readers may be high because it helps make them focal even without the daily eyeballs.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 23, 2014 at 8:06 pm

[LINK] “The Caucasus Network: in blogs, Russian is the common language”

My attention was caught some time ago by this feature in Transition Online’s Netprophet program. It makes sense that the Russian language would be widely used as a language of wider communication by bloggers based in the Russian Federation, even in the largely non-Russian North Caucasus. Factors of language shift aside, Russian is embedded and useful.

Judging by the media they share in social networks, netizens throughout the North Caucasus tend to read online news in Russian—indeed, it is the working language of most information outlets in the region. Only in Dagestan has there been a concerted effort to develop outlets not based in Russian. Two of the most prominent outlets are the local Radio Liberty branch and Ria-News division, both working in the Avar language. Additionally, a new online video portal, AVAR TV, recently launched, which offers netizens channels for self-expression in the opportunity to produce original content in Avar.

When I informally surveyed several bloggers active in the North Caucasus, many explained the choice to blog in Russian as the most efficient means of reaching a wider audience—particularly as a way to speak to other bloggers in the region’s neighboring republics.

Timur Agirov, known on LiveJournal as Timag82, has done groundbreaking work to quantify the presence of non-Russian blogging in the North Caucasus, compiling a personal archive of statistics to map the various language enclaves. Of the top one hundred bloggers on Agirov’s list, every single one writes exclusively in Russian.

The language barriers that necessitate the use of Russian as a lingua franca across the North Caucasus are also present within individual republics. In Dagestan, for instance, there are over thirty unique languages spoken by different groups of the population.

The blogosphere in Chechnya resembles Dagestan’s, though there are a few notable exceptions that do feature non-Russian writing, like bilingual work by Gilani Lamaro, LiveJournal user svd-1986, and Mukhammed Yusupov.

In Ingushetia, bloggers use the native language even less frequently. One rare example of mixed-language blogging includes Abu-Umar Sakhabi’s LiveJournal. Bloggers in Circassia also favor Russian, though you can find exceptions there, too, like Circassian-language blogging by Astemir Shibzukho and Avraham Shmulevich.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 10, 2014 at 2:00 am

[BLOG] Some Tuesday links

  • io9 notes that apparently circumbinary planets and their moons–planets orbiting two stars which themselves closely orbit each other–might be better-suited to life than planets orbiting single stars.
  • Centauri Dreams’ Paul Gilster reacts to Karl Schroeder’s Lockstep, an imagining of a far future where slower-than-light travel is compensated for by hibernation technology.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to Kevin Luhman’s discovery paper for nearby brown dwarf WISE J085510.83-071442.5.
  • A Fistful of Euros reports on the Ukrainian release of intercepted communications between the Russian ambassador and separatists.
  • Mathew Ingram describes the role played by blogger Eliot Higgins in, through his sterling research, is undermining traditional models of journalism.
  • Language Log’s Victor Mair reports on the linguistic diversity within greater Tibet.
  • Marginal Revolution’s Tyler Cowen predicts that Russia will undermine the Ukrainian government to the point that the entire country will align with Russia, not just fragments.
  • John Moyer makes the case for reading Beowulf. (It’s like Die Hard!)
  • The New APPS Blog notes that some Fox affiliates seem to be cutting oddly to commercials whenever the new Cosmos mentions human evolution.
  • Otto Pohl notes the Soviet Mennonite writers of the 1930s.
  • Savage Minds starts a discussion (through Alex Posecznick) about the ways in which anthropologists resemble hipsters.
  • Window on Eurasia links to a few article, one describing the current events as a delayed reaction to the Soviet split of 1991, another noting the de-Ukrainianization of Crimean schools, another noting Crimea’s potential for instability, another observing persecution of religious minorities including Ukrainian Catholics in Crimea, and noting separatism among the Karakalpak of western Uzbekistan.

[BLOG] Some Monday links

  • Bad Astronomy’s Phil Plait remembers recently departed colleague Bruce Woodgate.
  • Centauri Dreams examines the possibility of layered subsurface oceans on Ganymede.
  • Crooked Timber’s Belle Waring quite likes the song and video “Tous les Mêmes” by Belgian musician Stromae.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to one paper suggesting that circumbinary exoplanets–planets orbiting two closely-orbiting stars–might be quite common and another modelling the temperatures on the surface of a tide-locked ocean world.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes a DNA study of house mice suggesting that Vikings might have been the first to explore the island of Madeira and its neighbours, four centuries before Portuguese colonization.
  • Eastern Approaches visits east Ukraine and examines turmoil in Slovenia.
  • Far Outliers traces the evolution of the Melanesian island of Rabaul under Japan as a military base in the Second World War.
  • Joe. My. God. notes that anti-gay North Carolina Republican State Senate candidate Steve Wiles had a prior career as drag queen Miss Mona Sinclair.
  • Language Hat samples the beautiful strange poetry of the recently passed Rosemary Tonks.
  • Language Log’s Mark Liberman wonders, inspired by XKCD’s recent meditation on Morse code and Livejournal, how social media will continue to evolve.
  • pollotenchegg maps the changing relative proportions of Russians in different regions of Ukraine over more than a century.
  • Towleroad remembers the late disco great Sylvester.
  • Window on Eurasia links to warnings that Putin is a fascist bent on taking to Russia to war and concerns that so far, the Eurasian customs union isn’t boosting Russian ties with adjacent regions of Belarus and Kazakhstan.

[FORUM] How has your social network usage changed over time?

I began my online presence on Usenet, but my first participation in formal social networks. began here on Livejournal. I’ve remained on Livejournal, but since then there have been migrations, of blog content to WordPress (secondarily to Dreamwidth) and of everything to Facebook. There’s some specialty networks I take part in at a low level–Flickr and Tumblr for photos, Goodreads for books, Yelp! for reviews of restaurants and stores, Quora for debate–but that’s it.

You?

Written by Randy McDonald

April 27, 2014 at 3:59 am

[BRIEF NOTE] On how Russian censorship is killing Livejournal

I found out via fellow Livejournaler tilia-tomentosa that Livejournal’s Cyrillic-script section will be altering the metrics it displays so as to avoid Russian censorship. The situation is examined in detail by Global Voices’ Andrey Tselikov.

A bill that will equate popular bloggers with mass media [Global Voices report] has passed Russia’s lower house of parliament, the Duma. All that remains now are the rather perfunctory steps of passing the Federation Council, and approval by President Vladimir Putin. It now appears a fait accompli that starting with August 1, 2014 Russian bloggers with over 3,000 daily unique readers will be required to register in the same way an online newspaper does. However, some RuNet giants are already fighting back, proving ahead of time that enforcing such a law will be a logistical nightmare.

Earlier, Yandex.ru, Russia’s most powerful search engine, stopped ranking blogs [Global Voices report] on its website. Now, on April 23 Dmitry Pilipenko, head of LiveJournal Russia, posted [ru] the following news in his LJ blog:

Starting today, all blog and community profiles where the number of subscribers ["friends" -ed.] is larger than two and a half thousand, will display 2,500+ instead of the actual number of users who are “Friends of”. The actual number will be available only to owners of blogs or the moderators of communities.

I must add that these changes only affect those users who use the Cyrillic services of LiveJournal.

The rating of users and communities, which was formed based on page-views, will also stop.

The above changes are based on plans to take measures to optimize the service. All coincidences are accidental.

Not coincidentally, Alexei Navalny–a Russian social critic and aspiring politician who uses Livejournal for his blog–is shifting from that service. Again, Global Voices’ Tselikov notes.

Russia’s most famous blogger (or as he describes himself: “corruption fighter, son, husband, father”) has been forced to move away from LiveJournal, the popular blogging platform that launched him to fame in the first place. As a result of government mandated censorship [Global Voices report], and notwithstanding attempts to counteract such censorship [Global Voices report], Alexey Navalny’s team has started a new standalone blog, navalny.com [ru]. Because Navalny is still under house arrest, the blog is technically run by his wife. According to the first post [ru], this blog is an attempt to create a clean slate with Russia’s Internet regulators, who claim that Navalny’s old blog contains calls for unlawful rallies. At this point, Navalny’s LiveJournal account [ru] has stopped updating with original content — it simply links to new posts on navalny.com.

I’ve been using Livejournal for just under twelve years. I quite like the service, and the communities associated with said.

I’m also wondering whether it’s time to give it up. All of my content has been copied over to Livejournal clone Dreamwidth. More usefully, it’s all on WordPress, here. If Russian censorship continued to undermine Livejournal, will I have any more reasoned to stay with an increasingly compromised platform? Tselikov notes that, proclamations of Internet freedom aside, the Russian government can always intrude on Livejournal’s servers at will.

Written by Randy McDonald

April 27, 2014 at 2:39 am

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 360 other followers