But what is annoying me the most today, are indeed the blogs. I was just searching the web for some Ubuntu backports for Breezy and I hit a blog with a guy talking about Chuck Norris. The whole thing is a mess (not that the Internet has ever been organized either) I think somehow soon we will need an advanced search option on google to bypass useless blogs, if that's not possible already. Does blogs annoy anyone else? Or even worse... do you have a blog? If so, why?. Is it stuff worth reading or is it just like a diary? Because I believe peoples browsing the web could care less that your dog or cat is sick, what you've ate at school and what you did last summer... Source: LinuxQuestions.org forumsI must say that the concerns raised are quite valid although I beg to differ on the subject of severity of the problem. The vast network of interlinked blogs out there have certainly gained a degree of visibility on many search engines out there. And I have to accept that a large number people are increasingly annoyed by the growing number of online diaries and journals that are sprouting up like wild mushrooms by the day. The sheer number of blogs out there render most search engines helpless in filtering them out completely. It's not merely a question of blocking out all blogspot.com addresses out there for instance because the problem goes way beyond that. Because, as end users of the vast ocean called the internet, we cannot change anything - that's for certain. Moaning and groaning about it will not help. Rather, we should adapt to this situation and explore techniques to separate the wheat from the chaff. And believe me, while useless personal blogs have grown, the number of quality websites providing a rich wealth of information and education have grown as well. Ultimately it's a question of perception and how well one is tuned to take the good and filter out the rest. Crap is crap, whether you find it on a blog or whether you find it on a corporate or business website; whether you find it in a personal diary or in a regular, mainstream newspaper. Let's admit it. Searching the web is inherently limited because while we can input keywords to search for occurrence of words, we cannot input ideas to search for relevant content. Let me take an example: today I want to read any essay which talks about the issue of "quality over quantity." It is extremely hard to find a generic one on this particular subject simply by entering quality over quantity in google, because my search has more to do with the idea rather than the actual keywords. Google obviously doesn't recognize that fact and hence provides less than satisfactory results. It throws up topical pages on other issues which have these words "quality over quantity" and not an essay dedicated to this topic as such. Another factor is that search engines don't necessarily index every single website out there and that SE ratings can sometimes be seriously flawed. Search engines can only look for quantitative factors: number of links pointing to a site, number of occurrences of keywords but not necessarily how those occurrences are relevant to the search on hand. In other words, the search engine cannot rate the quality of those sites which have a higher rank. We try to cut down this discrepancy by refining searches, but ultimately if a site is not indexed by google, that site will not occur in google results, no matter how hard we try. Many times, I've given up on searching because the quality of the results have simply not justified the time spent in doing it. Do a broad search and you're swamped with irrelevant results. Do a more refined one and you get only two hits, both of which have almost nothing to do with what you wanted to find in the first place. This has been my experience more often than not. I am certainly no expert on search engine technology, but I believe it has more to do with the skewed methodology rather than the content. And I also think it's a by-product of search engines not being able to keep up with the current growth of the world wide web. But blogs are but drops in the ocean. I don't think they are so important that they get higher weightage in SE ratings just because they are linked to a dozen similar blogs. On the contrary my observation is that blogs certainly do not "dominate" search results, although they might admittedly have more visibility in searches these days. And you certainly get irrelevant results from other websites as much as you do from personal blogs. I think singling out blogs is unfair. There are certainly useless blogs out there, but there are worse kinds of nonsense going on in the internet and in much higher volume than inane personal ramblings or diary entries of a bored person. Generalized observations such as "blogs are the crap of the internet" miss this perspective. While I admit that search engine results need to keep improving over time and blogs probably have to be filtered out where irrelevant, it's certainly not such an important issue when we think about the other kinds of trash littered all over cyberspace. If the world wide web is polluted, blogs certainly are nothing more than minute specks of dust in a room full of rotting, stinking garbage.
Posted at 10:56 IST (last updated: Wed, 16 Jul 2008 @ 20:24 IST)
Mega Man X recently brought up a very valid question about blogs in the LinuxQuestions.org forums. Here's what he has to say on the subject:Fri, 18 Nov 2005 Filed under: Software and Technology by Hari
Posted at 21:19 IST (last updated: Thu, 7 May 2009 @ 21:20 IST)
I recently downloaded and installed Opera 8.5 in my Debian box being curious on two counts: firstly, how it compares to Firefox with regard to features and secondly how well it complies with W3C standards including rendering of XHTML and its CSS capabilities. The fact that Opera is now free for use without ad banners was an added incentive to give it a try. When evaluating any alternative to an existing product or service, I usually consider two things:Mon, 14 Nov 2005 Filed under: Internet and Blogging by Hari
- Functional benefits of the new product over the old one: namely what is the reason for switching? Are there any added benefits of using product A instead of product B?
- Ease of migrating from one to the other. How much do I have to re-learn to effectively use the new product and how much work do I have to put in to make the new product as effective as the old one?
Posted at 09:29 IST (last updated: Wed, 16 Jul 2008 @ 20:24 IST)
Some time back, I took a conscious decision that I won't be taking part in serious online debates any more, at least not on a regular basis. Now there is a good reason for this and before you think that it is a case of battle weariness just after a heavy round of flame war, I want to correct that impression. I haven't been into any serious discussion for months now and I am actually beginning to enjoy being away from them and being able to ignore being drawn into them. But more on this later. Firstly I would like to analyze this issue from a personal or first-person point of view. I think the issue I want to address goes deeper than merely being tired of flame wars, bad as they are. As a frequent observer of online forums and communities I have found a fundamental problem with debating online. There are a couple of factors here. Debating is a tough art and demands a considerable amount of time and energy. Constructing a logically sound argument to put forth your views, especially on emotive topics like politics or religion (and particularly religion) puts a tax on your brain and undeniably puts you into an "auto-censor" mode where you try to cut down your emotion in favour of logic and argument. This is a tough balancing act, particular with regard to issues which affect you personally and ideas which you hold close to your heart. There is a fundamental problem, I think, in communicating certain things by the written word across the electronic medium in a multi-way, public conversation. One being that you really cannot convey emotions that well - they tend to get misinterpreted most of the time by different people to whom you would rather not relate on a one-to-one basis. Another is that you are forced to sound "politically" correct by taking up positions which you would not care to defend when asked to do so in a real-world face-to-face scenario. I think writing down thoughts tend to clarify them too much sometimes and shows up your thoughts differently from what you might actually feel. Blurred or neutral points or view become too sharp and sometimes sting when unintended. I found more on one occasion being called upon to defend what I thought was a light-hearted quip and which was misunderstood by others as offensive in tone. And no, smilies don't help either. Rather they might in fact show you up as a hypocrite. Sometimes you're forced to apologize for something which you might have felt was a perfectly acceptable remark just to cool things down. Believe me, you may not feel the effect of a single apology at that time, but they make you more wary, more cautious and reluctant to participate over a period of time. All these are personal issues. The other side of the coin is the debates actually become quite boring, repetive and mentally tiring when continued beyond a point. In real life, time and space constraints act as natural impedances to prolonged debates. Unfortunately, the online medium tends to overcome barriers rather too easily. A public internet forum or discussion group, being available to anybody at any given time, allows people to carry on debates to ridiculous lengths when you would rather see it die down after a certain point. Months-old debates continue to be revived by misguided or over-enthusiastic new debaters just to throw their "2 cents in." And the cycle continues. These debates become a nuisance just to observe, let alone participate actively in because every fifth reply is an echo of a previous one without any new thoughts added to it. Talking of people, I want to say something which might offend some, but I will say it anyway. In fact it might apply equally to me as well in some instances and I accept that risk in saying it out. Most people who participate in debates refuse to participate in a meaningful manner. I'm not talking of mere sensible participation which anybody can achieve by posting a reasonably relevant reply to any topic on hand. The point I want to make is that people ought to do their homework and know their subject before they debate. This goes for anything: be it science, religion, politics, art, literature or even Linux verus Windows. Unfortunately people prefer to pour out their opinions instantly (in the "heat of the moment," you might say) without respecting facts. They prefer to push the "reply" button without caring to see what your point of view really is and what are the relevant points you've raised. You might have spent a good fifteen or twenty minutes constructing a perfectly sound, fact-filled argument only to be rejected instantly by a moron who doesn't read beyond two lines of what you've written. They don't flame actively, but by ignoring you, they actually insult your intelligence implicitly. This, I think, is one of the prime reasons why flame wars occur in the first place. More than the actual variance in points of view which can be addressed, refusal to acknowledge is the prime reason for flame wars. Now, these people might not be, in reality, be trolls but they can appear to be so by their thoughtlessness. Let's face it. Some topics are best left to the experts: science and religion in particular. Academics armed with more facts and knowledge are in a much better position to debate these topic on rather more solid ground than laymen. People who rely only on their personal experience, opinions and feelings might not find too much common ground for any meaningful discussion with other lay people. On the other hand, academics who've done their research and who have a reasonably knowledge of not only own areas of speciality but also an understanding of why some things are the way they are, tend to go deeper, probe better and get answers which might actually help them and others. With due respect to all laymen including techie "geeks", I don't really think they are in a position to carry on religious or scientific debates. I have learnt to respect that and I humbly raise my hands to show that I don't have more than a cursory knowledge on some issues and I would rather stay out of such discussions than come forward and arrogantly proclaim my ignorance. This is not about freedom of speech, but rather about credibility which I have talked about in an earlier article. It's about respecting knowledge when you see it and acknowledging your own ignorance. It's also about owning up to factual mistakes. Unfortunately all I see on most online debates is finger-pointing, accusations and sometimes, elitist arrogance. It's not to say that you should apologize sincerely each time you make an error but merely to acknowledge that you have made it. Sadly, people shy away from such niceties which are in fact, the heart and soul of debating. I want to conclude by saying that I'm not against debates. It's just that I personally find them more stressful, unproductive and meaningless as each day goes on. There are no winners or losers in an online debate, but only a lot of keyboard-weary fingers at the end of the day. Ultimately that bigot will remain a bigot, the racist will remain a racist, a religious zealot will remain a religious zealot, the liberal will remain liberal and an atheist will remain an atheist. Nothing really changes. In fact, over a period of time, I've learned to predict how certain people will react to certain topics. They sure didn't change their opinions or attitudes just because some faceless internet debater like me told him that he was right and they were wrong even by using sound logic and solid facts. And I'm sure I didn't change either. That ultimately is the clincher. I didn't gain anything by online debating, but by staying out of it I find myself more active and productive in other activities. It has also freed up my creativity to pursue other interests online and made me more relaxed about participating in a community in a non-controversial and pleasant manner. The ability to ignore serious debates on controversial topics hasn't come easy, but the freedom that it has given me is worth whatever price I've paid in the process of learning it the hard way.Sat, 12 Nov 2005 Filed under: Software and Technology by Hari
Posted at 21:22 IST (last updated: Wed, 16 Jul 2008 @ 20:32 IST)
Titaniumgeek brought up a minor issue with regard to blogger-powered blogs that I had noticed before, but hadn't paid sufficient attention to earlier. It is about having to "refresh" the browser before the changes appear on the blog. I guess the reason is simple enough. Unless systems like WordPress or bBlog (which you install on your own server and are live scripts) Blogger doesn't use dynamic server side scripting like PHP or MySQL to generate its page every time you request it. It has to "publish" the blog into HTML once you make the changes. So although the web page is technically updated, your browser doesn't recognize it since the older page has already been cached. With dynamic blogs the server side script when executed automatically loads the blog from the database each time it is requested and so you don't have this problem. This is a minor issue, but quite annoying in the long run. Hopefully blogger will come up with ways to avoid this problem in future.Sat, 12 Nov 2005 Filed under: Site management by Hari
Posted at 17:44 IST (last updated: Wed, 16 Jul 2008 @ 21:26 IST)
Being very conscious of web standards compliance, I have been working hard over the last couple of days to clean up the code in this site and I can finally say that I have achieved what I wanted: this blog now validates to XHTML 1.0 Strict. Apart from this I have also cleaned up the CSS code to ensure that there are no warnings or errors. You can verify compliance to this by clicking on the W3C logos in the sidebar on any page of the site. If you do find any errors or warnings, I'd be glad if you could inform me. Now if this site doesn't render correctly with Internet Explorer, send just Microsoft a mail, won't you?Sat, 12 Nov 2005 Filed under: Software and Technology by Hari
Posted at 11:10 IST (last updated: Wed, 16 Jul 2008 @ 21:30 IST)
If you're like me and you find your list of "to-visit" sites ever expanding by the day, you would find a desktop feed aggregator a real must-have. It's a great way to get the updates on the latest news, your favourite blogs and forum communities all in one place like a desktop mail client. If you're unfamiliar with syndication, here's a basic introduction to RSS. There are plenty of free desktop aggregators around. I, for one, use Akregator, which is a KDE desktop feed aggregator. I highly recommend it because it renders the feed summaries in HTML and you can even view the full website without having to open another browser window. For those who prefer Gnome/GTK, Straw is a good option too. Here's a screenshot of Akregator running on my Debian desktop. Firefox also has a live bookmark feature which you can use to subscribe to websites that provide RSS syndication. Websites which have a feed will display a small icon like this in the bottom-right corner of your browser which you can click to add the feed to your bookmarks. This is a good option for those of you who prefer to use the browser, though I personally find a full-fledged aggregator to be more convenient On the other side of the fence, if you are a webmaster and your site keeps getting updated on a frequent basis, consider providing RSS/Atom syndication for your users if you haven't already. There's no reason not to and in fact, most of the commonly used blog scripts, forums and web content management systems have this feature built-in to them. If not, it's quite easy to get a plug-in or a hack which would work with your particular system. In most cases, it's quite simple to provide a basic feed for your readers and it can enhance their experience of your site. A small, but thoughtful feature like this would go a long way in bringing back visitors to your website.