Disturbing The System By Measuring It

Glenn:
“I notice, walking around campus, that there are almost always many more women in view than men.”
May I gently suggest that the instrument being used for measurement in this particular example might be a bit biased towards producing the aforementioned result?
Yes, Glenn has a healthy man’s appreciation for keeping attractive “women in view” — but we cannot either discount the strong magnetic InstaAttraction that his Glenness has on the fairer sex, which may well result in crowds of women unknowingly diverting their paths into his proximity.
Could be there aren’t actually many women on the whole campus other than the ones in his view — but the same ones just keep following him around…

A Fiscal Broken Windows Policy

I must say I’ve been surprised and pleased to see the tremendous response we’ve received thus far to the Porkbusters effort.
Some, however, are less optimistic. Andrew Sullivan, in skeptic mode, puts it this way:
“I’m as eager as the next guy to prevent pork-barrel spending, and I’d definitely support this effort. But the blogosphere campaign to battle pork in the face of Katrina, however admirable, still strikes me as too easy. The truth is: even if we got rid of all the pork, we’d still be in deep fiscal doo-doo….”
Pontifex Ex Machina is also a bit dubious, and describes our effort’s results to date as follows:
“So far, they

Gaming Technorati

From Culture Kitchen:

Earlier this morning the Andrew Rasiej campaign sent out an email asking people to post about the candidate for public advocate on their blogs tagged with “Rasiej”. Then they were asked to run some searches over at Technorati. The results are on the front page :
The concept behind this strategy is one of pure viral marketing for the sake of free publicity. The problem with this, of course, is that corporate marketing departments will be able to follow suit and game the system to get their products on that front page. I wonder how Technorati is going to handle this one in the future.
This is an interesting experiment, though. I hope my fellow bloggers will join in with the coming John Roberts SCOTUS hearings. Let’s see how we can work with this knowledge to virally spread our opposition to Roberts using these blog and search tools to the max.

To answer the question of how Technorati is going to handle this in the future: they aren’t, at least not with a code-fix, as there really isn’t a reliable technological method for distinguishing between “real” spikes in interest in a subject and manufactured ones. Trust me on this: I’ve tried.
They will be able to handle it, however, because they are lucky enough to be tracking trends in a community, which — disjointed and fractured as it may be — actually has some vague codes of decent behavior, and when members of that community do something stupid, others will tell them so.
So let me be the first: this is a stupid idea.
Technorati provides a useful service to the blogging community — take it from me, one of their competitors. Trying to game their rankings — just like gaming my Ecosystem — does nothing but damage and distort the valuable information they provide. It’s dumb, and worse than that, it’s rude.
So don’t do it. End of public service announcement…

Katrina Commission: Let Bloggers Do It

Many folks in the blogosphere have opposed the idea of having a Congressional “Commission” appointed to investigate the preparation for and response to Katrina, citing (in my opinion, justified) fears that it will turn into a circus like the 9/11 Commission did.
So here’s a suggestion: why not attempt to create a blogosphere-driven commission? Bloggers are already doing much of the investigative work of a commission, but rather than do a post here and a post there on different aspects of the failures that lead to this disaster, why not try to organize a group to actually produce a structured report that could then stand side-by-side with whatever report the ‘official’ commission produces?
One way to do this might be to set up a Wiki that would allow bloggers to collaborate and contribute bits of information they have accumulated on the various sub-topics needing discussion (Federal response, state response, local response, etc.). The Wiki itself might prove robust enough to then be the final report, or alternatively, it could be edited into a more traditional document.
I’m not a huge Wiki-guy myself, and many aren’t, so that’s just one possible way to do it. The mechanism isn’t important: what’s important is finding a way to apply some organization and coherence to the power of the blogosphere and aim all that potential at this particular problem.
I will state up-front that I’m overloaded with other projects right now so I can’t really step up to drive this one myself (although I won’t rule out participating at some level). So who wants to volunteer?

Katrina Relief Web Project Mailing Lists

The response of the onlne community to the needs of those affected by Hurricane Katrina has been tremendous. Already, projects are springing up across the web to provide aid in a myriad of ways.
And this makes sense: in the immediate term, one of the key challenges Katrina’s aftermath presents is one of information distribution: whether that is connecting refugees with their loved ones, or to match relief groups with those in need. And that is something that the distributed information processing power of the web is exceptionally well suited for.
I’m one of those people developing such projects: first with the Blog for Relief effort and now by working with Hugh Hewitt on a new project to connect groups needing relief with those who can provide it. And yesterday, a thought occurred to me: with so much activity happening to develop so many different tools to help the relief effort, we should all not just be talking to one antoher, but actively trying to work together as efficiently as possible.
To facilitate this communication, I’ve created two mailing lists, as follows:
Katrina Relief Projects

This mailing list is meant to provide a communications mechanism for the vast number of web developers who are creating websites and databases to aid in the relief effort.
Goals of the list include:

  • Increasing awareness of projects and their goals
  • Connecting developers with others working on similar projects to facilitate coordination and avoid duplication of effort
  • Opening discussion on larger-scale collaboration across the community, including the potential for standardized data models and APIs


Katrina Relief Volunteers

This mailing list is meant to provide a mechanism for connecting developers creating databases and websites to aid in the relief effort with volunteers who have the skills needed to assist in such projects.

  • If you are a volunteer, post your experience, interests, and skills to the list
  • If you are developing a Katrina relief web project and need volunteers, post a description of your need to the list


I sincerely hope that if you are involved with a web relief project, or want to be, you’ll join me in the effort to ensure that we don’t just attack Katrina’s problems with enthusiasm and energy, but also do so in a way that applies the best efficiencies and synergies that the web can provide.
Any questions or suggestions, please e-mail me as always…
Update: Many folks responded to my request yesterday for people with time to do web research. Well, here’s one task I could use some help with: getting the word out about the mailing lists to all the different developers who are creating Katrina relief web projects.
If you’ve got some time on your hands and are willing to help, here’s what I’d ask you do:
– Search the web for Katrina relief projects
– When you find one, identify a contact responsible for the effort and e-mail them a link to this post with a brief explanation (feel free to cut and paste from the post)
– Post a comment here with the URL of the project and indicate who you contacted. DO NOT POST THE ACTUAL EMAIL ADDRESS, because this will expose that e-mail to spam-bots, and that’s rude.
If I can get a few people working on this today, we can cover the web in no time and get this effort moving. Thanks in advance for any help you can provide!

Blog Relief: Update & Next Steps

Folks:
The response yesterday was tremendous, far exceeding even my most optimistic hopes. With this momentum established, there seems no reason to stop now. So, in a spur-of-the-moment decision made with Hugh Hewitt when I dropped by his studio yesterday (audio here), we’ve decided to turn Blog Relief Day into Blog Relief Weekend. I will be keeping all the relief pages front-and-center here at TTLB at least through the Labor Day holiday next Monday.
In fact, I don’t want to just keep going as-is: I want to go even further. So here’s a few announcements and requests:
International Blogbursts: To date, bloggers from 20 countries have signed up for the effort. This is a great start, but I think we can do even better. I’d like to ask bloggers across the world to set up country-specific blogbursts to aid the relief effort. This is especially important because unlike in the U.S., I am sure that internationally, the plight of Katrina’s victims isn’t quite as front-and-center in the mainstream media, and so bloggers can truly help in raising awareness of the situation and the massive need for aid.
So, I’d ask for some non-U.S. bloggers to step up to the plate and volunteer to organize a blogburst in their country. If you’d like to volunteer, please e-mail me and put “International Blogburst” as the subject line of your message, and I’ll promote your efforts here at TTLB and beyond.
Corporate Sponsors: I’d like to ask companies everywhere to consider joining in the Blog for Relief effort by pledging to match donations made by bloggers during the drive. Whether you are a small business owner running your own Mom & Pop store, or a CEO/SVP at a multi-billion-dollar corporate giant, there’s a place for your organization in this effort, however small or large a pledge you can make. Corporate sponsors will, of course, receive prominent placement here at TTLB — and from the many bloggers that you will be aiding in the effort. If your company is interested, please e-mail me and put “Corporate Sponsor” as the subject line of your message. And if you think your company might be interested but aren’t at a level to make such a decision yourself: please, pass it up the chain and try to get your corporate leadership on board!
Next Steps for Meeting Relief Needs: Hugh Hewitt has made an outstanding proposal in his latest Weekly Standard column, and I’ve signed on board to help launch the effort. The idea is simple: to create a web portal where organizations in the area affected by Katrina can broadcast to the world their needs, and the world — and in particular, similar organizations elsewhere — can step up to meet those needs.
I’m already at work designing the basic framework of such a system, but the one thing that is certain is that we will need help. For sure, we will need the following:
– Web hosting: We expect that initially the directory will be hosted here at TTLB, but will ultimately migrate to be a separate stand-alone effort. If there is a hosting company that would be willing to donate a dedicated server or two for the effort, that would make life much simpler. Update: The fine folks at Hosting Matters, who currently host TTLB, have agreed to donate a server to the effort!
– Web Developers: I’ll be hacking the initial code myself in my usual style, but I may need help. If you know LAMP development and would be willing to assist, please speak up.
– Web researchers & site editors: To launch this effort, we will be looking for people to help out in scouring the web for charities, identifying their needs, and also simply monitoring the portal and ensuring things are running smoothly. If you are interested and have the time to commit, let me know.
If you can help in any of the above ways, please e-mail me and put “Meeting Relief Needs” as the subject line of your message.
That’s it for now, folks. The thing to remember is that this is just the very beginning of the ordeal for the hundreds of thousands of people whose lives have been derailed by the storm. And therefore, it must also be only the very beginning of our efforts to assist them…