Suspensions Enacted

Barry has not responded to my note below, and the time I set to have this resolved by (10am PST today) has now passed. It’s time to resolve this issue and move on, and so I have acted: as of now, all the blogs listed in my previous post have been suspended from the Ecosystem, with the exception of Rush Limbaughtomy itself — as per Barry’s suggestion (which he still has inexplicably not posted on his blog, but did send to me and the League mailing list via e-mail), and my extension of his concept to apply to all his alternate blogs.
I’m not going to take the time to respond point-by-point to Barry’s various posts on this subject, but I will address one comment he made, as it bears directly on the need — or lack thereof — to have multiple blogs. He said: “Each of our “Limbaughtomy pages” is usually unique. They have more content and more varied content that the majority of pages on the Ecosystem.”
Ah. Would that be varied content like this?
Anyway. I hope Barry will recognize that I’m not going the final step and suspending him entirely from the Ecosystem. He can still compete, but each of his links will have to be earned from someone other than himself. And if he genuinely does choose to start a truly separate and distinct weblog someday with its own content, I’ll consider lifting his one-blog-in-the-Ecosystem restriction.
As for the League, I hope the members of the League will recognize that I bear them no ill will as a whole or individually. I dislike the tactics that have been employed here, and I’ve been disappointed — until this recent incident — that in general, League members have seemed to display an “anything goes if its not against the rules” attitude to “winning” the game of the Ecosystem. I’m heartened to see many League members publicly denouncing this most recent SiteMeter-related behavior, and I hope this incident will provide a catalyst for the League to focus its membership on individual achievement and merit, and to condemning publicly the attitude of reaching for pure statistical gain through whatever means necessary.
If you’re wondering just how badly these blogs distorted the League’s rankings, I’ll draw your attention to the League’s total inbound unique statistics from this morning, before I suspended these blogs: 8597 unique inbound links across all the League’s blogs. With the removal of the duplicate blogs, the League now totals 5641 unique inbound links. That’s right: 34% of the League’s total unique links were due to these duplicate blogs. To League members, I ask you: is that really the way you want to advance?
Anyway, enough said. That’s it, folks. Show’s over, so move along.
And by the way: to all those who expressed their thanks and appreciation for the work that I do on the Ecosystem, thank you in return. The acknowledgement is very much appreciated, and it does indeed encourage me to continue my own focus on the Ecosystem and related tools — particularly at times like these.
Update 12/1/03:Kynn Bartlett has an excellent roundup of these events, including an extraordinarily revealing email from Barry himself.

Barry’s Counterproposal

Barry has proposed a compromise solution in which he indicates he is willing to remove three of the four weblogs that remain in question (Savage Cruel Bigots, Hell on Halliburton, Treason Online, and Rush Limbaughtomy) from both the League of Liberals and the Ecosystem. This would remove the duplicate-SiteMeter counter issue, and would also address an equally important issue for me, which is the significant cross-linking between these blogs that artificially drives up their link-ranking in the Ecosystem.
(Barry made this proposal in e-mail, and included a link to Savage Cruel Bigots indicating the post would continue there, but the link seems broken and the latest posts on his site don’t match what was sent in e-mail).
I’ll consider this proposal, however, it needs to be more complete. If Barry is willing to provide me a complete list of all of his blogs, and agree to only keep one in the Ecosystem, then this may be acceptable. I add this condition because, in addition to those we’ve already discussed, I believe that the following blogs which are registered in the Ecosystem and provide links to Rush Limbaughtomy are clearly his:
Bum’s Rush – Clearly labeled as “Page 2 of Rush Limbaughtomy”
Hoggs Online – Posts signed Aurabass, Barry’s e-mail name.
And the following group, all signed “BC”, also look like they are probably Barry’s:
The Pulse
Main Street
Open Template Testfile
If Barry provides that list, and gives his word to stick to a single weblog in the Ecosystem, then we may have a solution.
Update: Latest here.

Ecosystem Suspensions Pending

Effective immediately, six weblogs are being put on notice that they are about to be suspended from the Ecosystem. If suspended, their entries will not be displayed on any Ecosystem pages (either by traffic ranking or by links); their links will not count to other weblogs, and their votes will not count in the New Weblog Showcase.
The reason for these suspensions is that it has come to my attention via the Commissar that some weblogs are posting multiple SiteMeter counters on their pages which point to other weblogs. The result is that when a visitor lands on their main page, the visit is not just counted for their own blog, but is also double-, triple-, or in some cases quadruple-counted as a visit to the other blogs.
What this means is that the SiteMeter counters for the blogs in question are flatly inaccurate: they are being inflated by visits which didn’t really happen on their pages. This also makes the Ecosystem Traffic Rankings inaccurate, defeating the whole purpose of the rankings, and is therefore intolerable.
I don’t think it will surprise anybody who is paying attention to learn the source of these weblogs. Here’s the listing of the top-ranked weblogs in the League of Liberals (by SiteMeter traffic ranking):
League of Liberals Member Details:
Rush Limbaughtomy (381 links) – 2311 visits/day V
Treason Online (76 links) – 2170 visits/day V
Savage Cruel Bigots (61 links) – 2170 visits/day V
The Mahablog (253 links) – 2170 visits/day
Hell on Halliburton (86 links) – 1645 visits/day V
League of Liberals (116 links) – 1486 visits/day V
And here’s the list of weblogs with multiple SiteMeter counters:
Treason Online: Counters for Hell on Halliburton, Treason Online, and MahaBlog. Update: And a hidden one for Rush Limbaughtomy.
Savage Cruel Bigots: Counters for Savage Cruel Bigots, Hell on Halliburton, and Treason Online. Update: And a hidden one for Rush Limbaughtomy.
Rush Limbaughtomy: Counters for Hell on Halliburton, Treason Online, Savage Cruel Bigots, The League of Liberals, and Rush Limbaughtomy (hidden).
The Mahablog: Counters for Mahablog, The League of Liberals, and Treason Online. Update: And a hidden one for Rush Limbaughtomy.
Hell for Halliburton: Counters for Treason Online, Savage Cruel Bigots, and Hell for Halliburton. Update: And a hidden one for Rush Limbaughtomy.
So: the five weblogs above and The League of Liberals weblog itself are therefore on notice of their pending suspension. (Although the League weblog does not have multiple counters, it is clearly benefiting from having its counter cross-posted on other blogs). (Correction: Actually, on a second look, the League weblog does have multiple counters: it has a hidden one for Rush Limbaughtomy — as do all of the other blogs above.)
If in 24 hours (let’s call it 10am PST Sunday), the counters have not been removed, these weblogs will be suspended. This notice is also being sent via email to each blog’s owner where it could be identified (although most of them don’t seem to have contact information).
To be clear: if the owners of these blogs have a legitimate reason why they’d like to keep those multiple counters, that is their right, and that’s fine with me. But it is my right to conclude that they are not generating valid statistics and therefore screwing up my rankings, and to remove them based on that conclusion.
Folks, if you can’t tell, my patience for these games is running thin. I had intended to spend my weblog time this morning focusing on the effort to turn the Ecosystem into an open-source, distributed effort. Instead, I’ve spent it chasing down this nonsense. I’m tired of wasting my time on this type of thing: from here on out, consider notice given: if I think somebody is trying to game the Ecosystem, it’s going to be suspend-first, and ask-questions-later. I wish it hadn’t gotten to this point, but obviously it has.
Update: Barry has responded on Savage Cruel Bigots. His explanation of why his blogs were set up with these counters also completely fails to explain how a counter for his own personal blog — Rush Limbaughtomy — ended up on the League of Liberals’ main blog page — a question I would think League members would be rather curious about themselves. Bottom line: I believe his explanation of SiteMeter is wrong, and his proposed ‘solution’ is unacceptable, as it will still result in overcounting the visits that his blogs receive in the League’s listings.
Further clarification: My last update was made in a rush, so probably wasn’t as clear as it could be. Strictly speaking, parts of Barry’s explanation of SiteMeter are correct. He quotes my explanation of what he has done, and says: “This is not how sitemeters work and by limiting the group to one common sitemeter cumulative visits will increase NOT decrease.”
Well, it is how SiteMeter works. But his second part — where he says limiting the group to “one common sitemeter” would increase the cumulative visits — might well be right. But it’s not what I was asking for. I thought it was obvious that was I was asking was for the individual SiteMeter accounts that actually correspond to each blog in question to remain on that blog (and only that blog). That will provide accurate statistics, both at the individual blog level, and in summary when rolled up for the League as a whole. (Remember: the Alliance details page shows summary stats for each alliance for inbound links and traffic). Instead, what Barry is doing is putting his own main blog counter (Rush Limbaughtomy) on every one of his family of blogs — all of which are individually registered separately for the League.
Bottom line: Barry’s current approach of spreading a common SiteMeter account across four blogs, all of which are registered separately as League members, is going to quadruple-count each visit to any one of those blogs for the League.
Update 11/30: Barry has provided a counterproposal, to which I respond here.
Update 11/30 pm: Latest here.
Update 12/1/03:Kynn Bartlett has an excellent roundup of these events, including an extraordinarily revealing email from Barry himself.

Let a thousand Ecosystems bloom

I’ve been thinking about the next phase of where I’d like to take the Ecosystem, and have concluded that it may be time to invite other folks to join the party.
Here’s the vision: I’d like to see other Ecosystems created, each focusing on their own particular community within the weblog world. Perhaps there could be an Ecosystem for U.S. military bloggers; an Ecosystem for political conservatives (or liberals); an Ecosystem for bloggers writing in Portuguese. Wherever a community of interest exits in the Blogosphere, there might be an Ecosystem for it.
Some might argue that this would contribute to a fragmenting effect in the Blogosphere; isolating communities so that they only communicate internally among themselves. But I think the effect would be the opposite. By providing a focus and nexus for blog communities, I think such Ecosystems would make it easier for outsiders to understand them and sample the work of their bloggers. I know that I’d personally be more likely to genuinely spend time browsing through the blogs of the kinds of communities I note above if there was an easier way to find the most well-regarded bloggers working within them.
To be clear: there are certainly other valuable contributions being made to this type of effort. The Carnvial of the Capitalists; the Blog Mela; Hoder’s new iranFilter: these are only a few examples of the many different efforts being made in this area, and I applaud them all.
This idea, perhaps, is the contribution I can make. But it would be foolish of me to try to take on this kind of expansion by myself. There’s no way I could subdivide the Ecosystem to truly give each subcommunity the attention it deserves: I wouldn’t even know where to start, or which communities truly exist as such and are worth following.
So, I am considering turning the Ecosystem code base into an open source effort, and inviting other bloggers to take up the mantle of running their own, individual versions of the Ecosystem, tailored to focus on the needs of their own communities. Each Ecosystem would be completely self-contained and independent, but they would all rely upon the same open-source code base, to which I will continue contributing — and others would be encouraged to enhance and modify as well. And each Ecosystem could also use the peripheral features I’ve implemented over time, such as the New Weblog Showcase, to further highlight the work within their own communities. Looking into the longer term, perhaps methods could be developed to share data between Ecosystems — the most obvious application of which might be to create a mega-Ecosystem that rolls up data from all of them.
But as I say, I can’t do this alone. So here’s the questions I would ask you:
– As a blog reader, what communities would you be interested in seeing Ecosystems created to track?
– Are you interested in contributing to the actual coding work on the Ecosystem? At present time, it is a rather badly hacked-together bunch of PHP scripts running against a MySQL database. But it could evolve to use any platform or tool, so anyone with any web design / coding experience could make a contribution.
– And the big question: is there anyone out there who would be interested in running their own community Ecosystem? And if so, what isyour vision for that community?
I’m still debating whether to go forward with this, and of course the level of response I get here with have a lot to do with my final decision. So let me know your thoughts, suggestions, and if you’d be willing to help out.
Thanks to all…

500,000 Customers Served

Well, my handy little SiteMeter counter tells me that sometime on the overnight last night, The Truth Laid Bear received its 500,000th visitor.
I think that’s pretty spiffy, I have to admit, and I hope you’ll forgive me if I indulge in a bit of nostalgia to celebrate the occasion. If you have no interest in the history of TTLB, run screaming now, ’cause this will bore you to tears.
Still here? You fool! You were warned.
TTLB officially opened its doors on May 16, 2002, with this post. Five-hundred and sixty days later, over five hundred thousand visitors have passed on through; an all-time average of just under nine hundred every day.
When I started this blog, I really had no idea where it would go. At the time, I found myself with a large amount of free time on my hands, being on an extended leave from work (which eventually turned permanent), and I decided that I would try to do something to rekindle the writing bug I have always had lurking in the back of my mind. Originally, I had thought to dive into the Fray over at Slate, and try to make a name for myself there, but then I stumbled upon the weblog world, and it seemed a far more direct approach.
“N.Z. Bear”, of course, is a pseudonym which I have consistently refused to fully explain, and I shall not change that policy here today. But to give a little more background: as I’ve said before, the “N.Z.” part is not New Zealand. It is, in fact an abbreviation of a personal nickname someone close to me likes to use for this humble bear. And further trivia: I actually first used “NZ_Bear” as an online handle in a massively multiplayer space-combat game to which I became briefly and heavily addicted (prior to becoming more permanently but equally severely addicted to weblogs). So if you thought you once blasted me out of the sky flying a heavy fighter somewhere around Hyperion sector — you might well be right! (I was a lousy pilot; I’m a much better blogger).
So with penname in hand, “The Truth Laid Bear” just seemed to fit. It had a stupid pun in it (good), and it would give me a theme to run with (better).
I started on Blogspot, like pretty much everybody else, with a hideous little standard template layout (like pretty much everybody else). I was fortunate to have early help from my old buddy Meryl — who I knew both online and in real life from the BBS days back in the 80’s — and her (and my) newfound friend Lair, who seemed to take an inexplicable liking to me for no good reason (thanks, Lair!), and altogether decent folks like Martin at Patio Pundit. It was particularly fun to rediscover Meryl after many years (we had not been in touch for probably about a decade) — despite my taking the rather obnoxious approach of saying ‘hello again!’ by emailing her a scanned photo of her in a somewhat compromising position fifteen years ago, she welcomed me back into the online world and helped me get a leg up with the weblog thang. Thanks, Meryl!
Early on, I was fortunate to draw the attention of heavyweight bloggers such as Glenn, Bill, and Mickey, who ensured a fast launch for TTLB in its very first weeks. Early themes included attempting to recruit science fiction writers to fight in the war against terror, commenting on campus speech codes, and the perennial favorite, beating up on Richard Bennett. Not everything was an instant hit. I’m still bummed that Bloggers: The Musical hit the ground with a resounding thud, and I still think it’s funny, damnit.
A huge moment came when I made an honest-to-goodness Professional Sale to Salon.com for my piece Back in the Day (retitled to ‘When 300 Baud was the Bomb’ on their site, which I like equally well). I must confess that was quite a moment for me and caused a bit of bouncing-off-the-ceiling; knowing that somebody was actually willing to pay for my foolish words certainly went a long way to convincing me that perhaps I wasn’t utterly incompetent at this whole writing thang after all.
But TTLB truly went supernova on June 2, 2002, when I completed implementing a silly little idea to produce a list of weblogs which ranked them based on their number of incoming links, and the Ecosystem was born. (No, you can’t see the actual list, sadly, but that’s the announcement post at least).
A bit of confession/belated thanks: I was inspired to name the Ecosystem by Virginia Postrel. I’ve tried to find the exact post of hers, with no luck, but I have a dim recollection of her referring to the interaction between media and weblogs as an ecosystem: and so, when I completed the listings, it seemed a natural fit. So a very, very late thanks Virginia!
With the Ecosystem, I found a niche that has served me well to this day. Despite my fairly abysmal web programming abilities, I discovered that I enjoyed tinkering with what could be done with weblog-tools, and with public projects such as the Ecosystem. Some worked, others didn’t. The Weblog Action Center worked quite well for a while, but proved too much work for me to maintain; The Weblog MetaData Initiative is still technically alive, but I have frankly never managed to figure out how to push it to a true level of usefulness, and so it sits rather dormant. But the Ecosystem itself has proved a consistent favorite, particularly after it returned from a long hiatus in a new, automated form this past March. And the New Weblog Showcase continues to chug along rather nicely.
But these projects also pose a challenge for me, as I find myself consistently torn between focusing on coding/tool projects, and actually writing for the blog. Both are rewarding; both have their own pleasures for me. Lately, I have been tilting probably too far towards focusing on the tools side, although I’ve been attempting to swing back into balance over the past few weeks, as those watching closely may well have noticed. Going forward, I doubt that tension will ever ebb: I expect I’ll keep writing when I find something that strikes my interest, and keep tinkering with the Ecosystem and its associated gizmos as well.
So that’s the news to date on the first half-million visits. I look forward to the next half-million, and the ones after that. Keep coming back, keep linking, and I’ll keep doing whatever it is I’m actually doing here that seems to hold your interest. And if you want to indulge a bear on this day, take a browse through the “Classic Bear Truth” section on the left nav bar — a decent sampling of what I consider my best work resides there, and it warms my ursine heart to see some of those posts still drawing interest to this day.
And once more, to all those who have visited, linked, or otherwise provided encouragement and support over the past two years: thank you!

Showcase Results 11/24/03

It’s Monday, and that means it’s Showcase time. This week Anarchy Xero is the clear favorite on the political side, leading with 60 links. On the non-political side, a rather odd contest this week: Pepper of the Earth wins by acclaim as the only non-political entry for the week! Happily, Pepper seems to be a fine blog, so no harm done.
And yes, the League of Liberals is way out in front on the voting-participation contest, with 86.7% participation. Yawn.
Click Read More below for full results; complaints & protests accepted until 5pm PST as always…
Update: OK, it’s official: congrats to the winners!

Continue reading “Showcase Results 11/24/03”

Salam Pax: A Fine Whine

OK, I’m late to the party on this one, but it seems one of those contentious issues that demands that a self-respecting blogger make their opinion known.
Salam Pax, ur-blogger of Iraq and a man with an invitable backlash coming his way if there ever was one, has drawn the wrath of Lileks for comments he made in an open letter to President Bush in the Guardian. Witness first Salam:
Dear George,
I hate to wake you up from that dream you are having, the one in which you are a superhero bringing democracy and freedom to underdeveloped, oppressed countries. But you really need to check things out in one of the countries you have recently bombed to freedom. Georgie, I am kind of worried that things are going a bit bad in Iraq and you don’t seem to care that much. You might want it to appear as if things are going well and sign Iraq off as a job well done, but I am afraid this is not the case.
Listen, habibi, it is not over yet. Let me explain this in simple terms. You have spilled a glass full of tomato juice on an already dirty carpet and now you have to clean up the whole room. Not all of the mess is your fault but you volunteered to clean it up. I bet if someone had explained it to you like that you would have been less hasty going on our Rambo-in-Baghdad trip.
To tell you the truth, I am glad that someone is doing the cleaning up, and thank you for getting rid of that scary guy with the hideous moustache that we had for president. But I have to say that the advertisements you were dropping from your B52s before the bombs fell promised a much more efficient and speedy service. We are a bit disappointed. So would you please, pretty please, with sugar on top, get your act together and stop telling people you have Iraq all figured out when you are giving us the trial-and-error approach?
Anyway, I hope this doesn’t disturb you too much. Have a nice stay in London, wave hello to the demonstrators, and give my regards to your spin doctors. I bet they are having a hell of a job making you look good.
Regards,
Salam Pax
The Baghdad Blogger

To which Lileks responded:
Hey, Salam? Fuck you. I know you

Bernstein on Jackson

At the Den of Volokhs, David Bernstein says:
“Michael Jackson: The last boy who accused Jackson of molestation received a $12 million settlement even though his claim was uncorroborated, and, in the view of many who followed the case closely, of dubious veracity. Given the obvious financial incentive of a family to fabricate a claim, it’s going to be awfully tough to get a conviction in the current case unless the police have turned up additional evidence.”
Actually, I was thinking that knowing past history and the ability of Jackson to defend himself, they must either a) be pretty damned sure they have a solid case — i.e., stronger evidence than was present in past accusations — or b) be complete idiots.
We shouldn’t rule out b), however…

Finding My Inner Paris Hilton

Special Message for Google, Yahoo and AOL Searchers 12/13/03: Hello! N.Z. Bear here, the proprietor of this little corner of the Internet. First, let me waste no more of your time: if you are looking for the actual video, or nekkid pictures of the young lady, you aren’t going to find them here. Hit that back button right now; move along, nothing to see here.
Still with me? Good! In that case I’ve at least momentarily held your interest, which is a good start. Check out the post below, and if you like it, stay a while! Bounce up to the front page, and for a sampling of what I do here, take a look at my own self-selected greatest hits under “Classic Bear Truth” to the left. Or if you are interested in weblogs themselves, browse through the Blogosphere Ecosystem to see rankings of blogs, or find new up-and-coming weblogs in the New Weblog Showcase.
Ok, enough of my yammering, on to — er, more of my yammering. Thanks for stopping by!
-N.Z. Bear


By now most everybody knows that Paris Hilton, heiress, socialite and — well, not much else — is the web’s latest amateur video star.
I take as a given that Ms. Hilton’s recent escapade, as noted at Fleshbot (not work safe) and elsewhere, does not represent any fundamental new ground for the young lady. When you devote your life to being watched: to being observed, the step that you take when finally allowing that observation to extend to your most intimate — or at least, most explicit — moments is not a particularly bold one. When put in the context of her past behavior, the act is different only in degree, not in kind.
But observing Ms. Hilton (no, not observing her doing that, but more generally) makes me wonder about a personality so in need of attention from others. She yearns for the spotlight; for the eyes of the world to focus on her for a moment, and, if possible, longer. She seeks notice wherever she can find it; basking in the radiance of strangers’ gazes and thoughts. Where once, we can assume, she sought such attention a source of approval, a validation of her own worth, now, the notice itself has become the end. Positive or negative; embarrassing or flattering, whatever keeps her in the spotlight is by definition good.
She almost acts like a blogger.
How different, really, is the desire of Ms. Hilton to be noticed — to see her name in the tabloids, to have her visage streaming into our living rooms — from the desire of a blogger to be heard? To get that big link from Glenn or Andrew; to see their blog sit atop the Ecosystem?
Not very, I submit. Any blogger who tells you they don’t care at all about links, or stats, or being read by others — well, that blogger is either lying or wasting their time. Because they have a name for weblogs written by people who don’t want other people to ever read them. They call them diaries, and they don’t go on the Internet.
So if you find yourself tsk-tsking at the foolish escapades of Ms. Hilton in between checking your Ecosystem ranking and polling your SiteMeter stats — pause for a moment. And ask yourself whether, perhaps, you might suffer from the same need for notice that drove that young lady to conclude that making a home movie while getting boffed was a splendid idea. Again: it’s a matter of degree, not kind.
Ms. Hilton has the celebrity press corps to do her dirty work for her: here in the blog world, we do it differently. In the blogosphere we are all each other’s paparazzi. Stalker and stalkee; celebrity and gossip — we each play both parts in our turn, and in the end we are all attention-addicts and enablers both. And sometimes, I fear, we need to stage our own interventions and stop our own madness.
The question to ask is whether the attention is a goal in itself, or a means to an end.
Attention for its own sake is a hollow victory; if that is what you seek then you are indeed no better than poor foolish Paris. But if that desire for attention drives you to do great work; to inspire others with a turn of the phrase or a clever remark; to create something — then embrace that desire. Let it fuel your work and drive your writing; let that yearning for the Big Link push you to scour the web just one more time to find that missing story that nobody else is noticing, but everyone should be.
Accept your inner Paris Hilton, and let her have her fun.
But please: try to keep your clothes on.

Blogger Power

Jeff Jarvis is one of the most articulate spokesbloggers when it comes to bridging the gap between old media and the weblog world, and if you aren’t paying BuzzMachine a regular visit, you should be.
Jeff has been blogging the Online News conference, and took a dim view to some of the very restricted ideas of ‘interactivity’ he heard at a panel there:
In weblogs, people have their say and try to influence people in power. So what they have to say does not end there.
Interactivity isn’t about pushing buttons.
It is about interacting with power.

I’d add to that: it is also about creating power where there was none before. A few years back, this medium did not exist, and the media world was a binary one — you were either in it, and had power to define the issues of the day, or you weren’t, and couldn’t.
Now it is shades of gray, and every blogger has a chance to lend their voice to the chorus in a way that actually has a chance of rippling through the overlapping worlds of weblogs and traditional media and affecting the public debate.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: this change, from a black-and-white world of “in the media” vs. “not in the media”, to a gray world where it bloggers become a part of the media ecosystem — sorry, but it is the best word — this change is what makes weblogs powerful.
To be sure, individual bloggers don’t have nearly the immediate and direct ability to define the agenda that traditional media outlets do — not even Glenn. But what we can do is raise issues to the surface; draw attention to news that traditional media overlooked, and keep focus on issues until big media is forced to take notice.
No one blogger can rival traditional media. But taken together, we are the lever, and the blogosphere is the place where we can stand to move the world.
Even if it is just by a little bit…

Ecosystem MySQL Issue

The Ecosystem and Showcase rankings are not updated today, because a periodic problem I have with my MySQL database is back.
Basically, the Ecosystem has one huge table with almost a million rows in it which stores all the links that it harvests. Every week or so recently, it simply stops working. When I try to access it through phpMyAdmin, I get:
Can’t open file: ‘links.MYD’. (errno: 145)
Error
SQL-query :
SHOW KEYS FROM `links`
MySQL said:
Can’t open file: ‘links.MYD’. (errno: 145)
Back

Thus far, I’ve found no way to recover from this other than to drop the table, re-add it, and do a full rescan of all webolgs for links. (A full scan happens every day anyway, so thankfully this is never really a case of data loss).
Any suggestions from MySQL gurus out there?
Anyway: unfortunately I’m not going to be able to resolve this today, so stats will be off until tomorrow…
Update 11/15: Fixed for now. Thanks to all for the suggestions.
To describe the table in question a little better, here’s the creation script:
CREATE TABLE `links` (
`source_url` varchar(200) NOT NULL default ”,
`source_host` varchar(200) NOT NULL default ”,
`dest_url` varchar(200) NOT NULL default ”,
`dest_host` varchar(200) NOT NULL default ”,
`new` varchar(10) default NULL,
`blacklist` varchar(10) default NULL,
KEY `source_host` (`source_host`,`dest_host`),
KEY `source_url` (`source_url`,`dest_url`),
KEY `source_url_2` (`source_url`),
KEY `dest_url` (`dest_url`),
KEY `source_host_2` (`source_host`),
KEY `dest_host` (`dest_host`)
) TYPE=MyISAM;
I am fairly sure I am not using all those indicies at the moment and some are redundant/wasteful.
But basically, it’s a very simple table, and I’m not entirely sure there’s a way to rearchitect it to be more efficient. It’s pretty self-explanatory: it’s just a big collection of all links found during the Ecosystem’s scans, including data on the source and destination URLs. The ‘host’ is a somewhat clumsy concept which I use to try to identify a particular blog (so all links going to a particular blog may have different dest_urls, but they should all have the same dest_host).
Anyway. I’d welcome suggestions on how to a) avoid the routine corruption problem, or b) optimize this layout.
Thanks again all…
-NZB

Showcase IE Bug

A quick shout-out of thanks to Barry for pointing out that the Showcase was screwy when viewed with IE: none of the entries were being displayed! I’ve implemented a temporary fix and may play with getting the old layout back later…

All that can be said

I’m late. But it is still worth saying.
To all those who have served this nation in the past, and to those who serve now, I simply say: thank you.
-N.Z. Bear

Fun with Auto-Counters

Browsing about the blogosphere tonight, I passed through Rick’s Cafe Americain, and noticed a spiffy feature that caught the eye of the web-development bear in me. Atop Rick’s page, he displays a rapidly cycling counter — similar to those old “national debt” ones you used to see — which reads “Cost of the War In Iraq”.
The counter shows around $84,210,061,103 right now, and it zooms upward as you read this.
Not to be outdone, I thought I’d show off my own web widget chops, and add a nice auto-updating counter of my own. Here goes:

Iraqis Tortured to Death Today By Saddam Hussein: 0

Someday, maybe I’ll let y’all in on the secret of how I coded that…
Update: To his great credit, Rick at Cafe Americain has a well-reasoned, civil response to my little snark up at his place. I don’t agree with everything he says, but it is well worth reading. The phrase “loyal opposition” leaps to mind: for me, this post marks Rick as a sane voice of the left that I’ll return to in the future…

Preliminary Results 11/10/03

In this first week of the dual-category Showcase, Rocket Penguin looks to be the front-runner for the non-political category with the post Who Da Pope?, while in the political contest, Clareified brought it on with Death By Invitation.
Now, as Clareified is a liberal, and I’m a warmongering, biased conservative, I will of course immediately disqualify Clareified, and anybody who looks like Clareified, from the contest.
Ahem. Or not.
Both winners are tentative until after 5pm today; feedback/comments/complaints will be heard until then. But for now, a tentative congratulations to both!
And oh, yeah: the League is clearly slacking, ’cause they had a whole two members fail to vote this week, managing only to deliver a measly 43 of 45 for 95.6 % participation in the Showcase sponsorship contest.
Click more for full results!

Continue reading “Preliminary Results 11/10/03”

The League and Links: Part II

Well, not surprisingly, League of Liberals members weren’t terribly happy with my commentary on their tactics yesterday. There’s quite a bit of feedback in the comments on that post, and I thought it would be worthwhile to follow-up with additional thoughts and questions of my own.
Let me start by trying to explain in clearer terms where I am coming from on these issues by talking a bit about the Ecosystem itself.
I’d like to say that I built the Ecosystem, originally, as a serious study of the blogosphere designed to better mankind and the weblog world.
But that wouldn’t be true. I built it originally because I was curious to see if it could be done, and because I thought it would be cool, and because I thought it might get me attention in the Blogosphere. As it turns out, it could be done, it was cool, and it did get me attention.
And you know what else? It was fun. It was fun for me to see the positive reaction it received in the Blogosphere, and I think it is safe to say that it has been fun for many, many bloggers to participate in. I still smile when I see a new blogger posting proudly on their blog that they have become a “Flappy Bird”. The Ecosystem is goofy; it is a silly, silly thing and I believe firmly in my heart that the reason it enjoys some success above (or at least, different from) other ranking systems is that very silliness.
But the fact is, through all the silliness, I have genuinely grown to care about the blogosphere, and to believe fervently in the potential it holds as a communication medium and information source. And I know that the Ecosystem, and tools like it, have an effect on the way bloggers behave. I think about those effects, and I try to do what I can to influence them so that, in my humble view at least, they help to build a diverse and meritocratic blogosphere.
So, when I recognized that the Ecosystem reinforces the tendency of top bloggers to stay on top, I created something to help counteract that effect at least a tiny little bit, and give the bottom bloggers a chance: the New Weblog Showcase. When I saw that the desire to beef up Ecosystem rankings was driving people to create pointless multiple links to other blogs, I changed the ranking system to remove that motivation.
The way I see it, as the owner of the Ecosystem, it’s not that I have a right to “make the rules” or demand that bloggers behave a certain way or I won’t let them play in my sandbox. It is that I feel I have an obligation, having created the Ecosystem, to counter the sometimes-toxic effects it can have on blogging behavior. Where I can do that fairly by adjusting the way the system works, I do. And where there is no “code” solution, then I’ll use the other option available to me: to speak out with my own voice, in my own little corner of the weblog world, and draw attention to where I see things going wrong. And try to use my own powers of reason and argument to explain why I’m concerned, and hopefully suggest solutions.
Which brings us back to the cut-and-paste roundup posts that I’ve seen on some League blogs. I find it encouraging that very few respondents have actually tried to defend the practice of blindly copying roundup posts onto their own blog. I recognize that many League members haven’t done that, but more than a few have, so I think it is fair to say that while the practice may not be “official policy” of the League, it is also not uncommon.
We could debate all day as to exactly how widespread the practice was, but I don’t have the patience to go combing through all the League’s membership to count exactly how many of those cookie-cutter roundups have been done, and I hope none of you do either. My bottom line is this: when I see behavior like this, I worry that bloggers are focusing more on beefing up Ecosystem ratings than they are about expressing their own thoughts & views. And that bugs me. Roundups done by an individual blogger pointing out the posts they find of value are great. Roundups distributed by some central source and reposted with no editing by the blogger themself strike me as pointless parroting of a party-line view.
I would worry less about these things, in the context of the League, if there weren’t other signs that the group as a whole — or at least its leaders — seem to have what I consider to be an unhealthy concern over driving up Ecosystem rankings for League members.
When, in the comments from my previous post, I see Barry of Rush Limbaughtomy rattle off a statistic like “Approximately 110 of the TOP 350 blogs on the Ecosystem are ‘Liberal’ today”, what strikes me is that he (or someone) actually took the time to count. He then proceeds to accuse me of bias and states:
“Since we have half as many liberal blogs we have to work harder to get recognition. We are doing that. You seem to have a problem with our hard work, our dedication, and our purpose. As OWNER of the Ecosystem you should be aware that we are now playing on your uneven playing field. When you take sides you tip the balance even further.”
…and when I read that, I hear the Ecosystem itself being described as a “playing field”, with the goal of the game presumably being to drive up the Ecosystem rankings of the League’s players.
I read that, and then I look back at the Liberal Linker blog, and I see a blog that someone registered in the Ecosystem with the tagline “moving liberal bloggers up the blogosphere” that seems to consist of nothing but continual lists of links with minimal commentary. And I start to think that you know what, maybe someone is trying to juice the Ecosystem rankings just a little bit. Call me crazy, but let’s also not forget that it was that very same blog’s habit of multiply linking to League member’s blog posts that prompted me to change the way the whole Ecosystem works.
Am I blaming the League for the sins of one blog? Yes, I suppose I am. But I have yet to hear many comments from League members denouncing the Liberal Linker blog’s tactics, and League members are clearly benefiting from those same tactics through the inflated Ecosystem rankings generated by the many links to their blogs on Liberal Linker.
There’s a simple solution to put my mind at ease on this particular issue, of course: de-register the Liberal Linker blog from the Ecosystem. I’m not planning on doing that myself. But if the League is serious about pursuing higher Ecosystem rankings based on merit, then why not take this step to demonstrate that? Have your leadership make the request to me in email, and I’ll take care of it.
Look: you may think that because I tend to the conservative side, I’m just plain biased against the League. You’d be wrong, but only I know that for sure, and I don’t think there’s a way to convince you otherwise.
I’m not out to get the League. To be frank, I find the League to be in at least some ways a more interesting group than the Axis or Alliance, because it seems to have a purpose beyond sheer silliness. (There’s nothing wrong with sheer silliness, so that’s not a slam on the other alliances, but the League is trying to push forward real-world objectives (spreading their views and ideas) through weblogs, something that the other alliances have dabbled in but not made their primary focus).
But what I don’t want to see happen is for the League to get so obsessed with Ecosystem rankings or combating the alleged conservative bias in the Blogosphere that it forgets what’s actually important: doing good work. Demonstrating the power of the League’s ideas and ideals through the writing of individual members, and through their hard work in seeking out and drawing attention to the issues they think are most worth fighting for. That is what the blogosphere should be about. Listen to Mark Pierce: he’s got the right idea.
Perhaps I am overreacting to certain limited behaviors by a subset of the League’s membership, and if so, then that is great news. But as I have said, I feel a certain responsibility to speak out against the disease of Ecosystem-obsession when I see it, and my honest judgment right now is that the League, when taken as a whole, has at least a mild case of it.
Prove me wrong, and I’ll be a happy bear…

Blogosphere Welfare, or the Welfare of the Blogosphere?

It won’t surprise anyone that I spend more time than is probably healthy thinking about the blogosphere and the effect which tools like the Ecosystem and New Weblog Showcase have on it. And lately, of course, the impact of weblog alliances has begun to be felt in ways that are difficult to fully quantify, but may turn out to ultimately be quite significant.
The most deliberate and conscious attempt to influence the blogosphere, as I think they themselves would acknowledge, currently comes from the League of Liberals. Recently, the League seems to have implemented a practice of posting daily or near-daily roundups of their members’ posts, which members then put on their own weblog (see here, here, here, here and here for an example). The result: League members whose posts are circulated get a boost in their Ecosystem ratings.
The following post comes from the pseudonymous Liberal Linker weblog, which, curiously, doesn’t appear to be considered an official member of the League, and yet certainly seems tightly connected with it. I don’t know who actually runs the blog, although I assume it to be one of the League’s leaders. But at any rate, it offers the clearest explanation of the League’s tactics and goals that I’ve seen. I’m snipping the highlights here, but as they say, read the whole thing:

I don’t want to get off on a RANT here. but:
I find it disturbing when terms like “artificially creating the hits by linking” or “link-whoring” to describe our practice of supporting each other by linking to our member posts as a group are used…
Bloggers link to the “first movers” or top traffic blogs in hopes of being noticed.
They get massive links from many sites and seldom do the linkers get “repaid” by a link in return. Our system is much more Democratic. We help each other by sharing our ability to link. Is there anything “artificial” in that?

(snip)
…Our system is the fairest, and cleanest way for a group of like-minded bloggers to gain notice on the Ecosystem.
Many of our members have seen meteoric rises in the past few days. Some have jumped 100’s of places. It took me months to get that far in the early going and I am happy to help my fellow liberals up the laddar quicker. My only hope is that they pass the good fortune on to others. 30 or 40 links make a huge difference at the lower orders of the Ecosystem.
To me it is the perfect Liberal Democratic ideal. We as a group make all of our ships rise on the eco-ocean as the tide rolls in. We share and we trade in the only currency of the Ecosystem – links and visits. We know this is not a Zero sum game and there is little gain in being a single winner. We win when we all win.

So there you have it. But this really raises more questions than it answers, starting with the big one: what’s the point of driving up someone’s Ecosystem ranking?
That may seem an odd question coming from me, but honestly: who cares what your ranking is, if you know that is has been gained simply because you signed up for membership in a particular club? There’s no real practical benefit to being high on the list. Trust me, if you think you’ll get massive referral traffic from TTLB when you hit the top 100, think again. TTLB gets about 1,000 visits a day on average, and if the average blog in the top 100 got 1% of that in referrals (10 visits a day), I’d be amazed. It is probably much less than that.
The League’s tactics also, not surprisingly, seem to match their politics rather appropriately. It is not clear to me how the roundup-posts of links to League posters are created, but there seems to be only two possibilities: either they represent an unfiltered list of every League member who posted, or they are being selected by the League’s leadership in some manner. (It is of course possible that there is some system of voting for posts hidden outside the view of non-members, but that seems unlikely).
So take the possibilities in turn. If the roundup posts are unfiltered, then the deal seems simple: sign up for the League, and you get extra links, regardless of the merit of your work. Make a brilliant post, make a crummy one, it doesn’t matter: you’ll get the link that is rightfully yours. I don’t think it is a stretch to call this the Blogosphere equivalent of welfare (minus the means testing — the “rich” bloggers who already have lots of links get just as much as the “poor” ones who have none)
But the alternate possibility — that the posts are, in fact, selected by the League’s leadership — is even more intriguing. If that is the case, then a system which, on the surface, purports to be democratic and egalitarian, is in fact simply a method for individuals to suborn their own judgment to that of their Leaders, who know better.
Sounds a bit familiar, doesn’t it? The real-world political analogies are left as an exercise to the reader.
In case it isn’t obvious, the League’s vision of how the Blogosphere should work just doesn’t match my own. I love the idea of weblogs as a community where merit is truly what matters, and I honestly believe that if you have talent, patience, and willpower, you can and will be successful in this world. I’m not blind to the imperfections, vagaries and politics of the blogosphere, but on the whole I find they are vastly outweighed by its strengths.
I like to see strong, intelligent voices in the Blogosphere succeed — whether or not they happen to agree with my views. I’d rather live in a blog-world where the most successful blogs disagreed with me but were written with intelligence and skill, than live in one where I was surrounded by poorly written and ill-considered echoes of my own views.
That vision seems the opposite of what the League wants. And that’s OK — one of the strengths of the blogosphere is that it is a big, big place, and there is plenty of room for the League to pursue their vision at the same time I strive to encourage my own.
I am in a somewhat unique position, of course, as arbiter of the Ecosystem and the even more directly competitive Showcase. And in that role, I do my best to run fair, neutral contests where all comers have an equal chance for success, regardless of my personal views on their merit.
But that neutrality doesn’t mean I intend to sacrifice my right to speak my own mind on what the blogosphere can, and should, be. I make no secret of the fact that I’d like to influence the course of the Blogosphere’s development in directions that I think will make it a more vibrant, diverse, and ultimately useful space for ideas and information to be exchanged.
So I’ll keep boring y’all with my thoughts: and I’d welcome yours back in return — particularly, on this subject, if you’re part of the League itself. It’s all about the dialogue, after all…