Monthly Archives: April 2006

How many monkeys does it take to write the web?

Continuing the discussion on social networks and user-contributed content, I started writing this as a comment on Alex’s post but it got long enough I decided to bring it over here as it’s own post…

In response to this article about the contributors to Wikipedia, Alex makes the point that Carr’s split of numbskulls vs. a few active contributors is too simplified, and that Wikipedia’s nature also favors a specialist/janitor split. This is not to suggest that Wikipedia is entirely specialists and janitors (the stories of jerks, spammers, and censors abound) but I see how a Wiki’s nature might attract more of that type of division.

Every community-organized/moderated site, or gasp “web 2.0″ app with a social network is going to have different types of folk in that 80-20 division. I ran into this mentioned in a couple other articles recently, and discovered it actually has a name; Pareto’s principle. If I’d taken more economics classes in college, I might have known. A site like Flickr may have more of the social-connectors in the 20% of their population, powering the majority of the groups, friends and favorites. And del.icio.us or digg might favor the dedicated blogger/web-surfers contributing the majority of popular links and stories. In economics it’s 20% of the population controlling 80% of the wealth. The same division was found (not surprisingly) with weblogs, where the top 10-20% of all weblogs (the notorious a-listers) were responsible for the majority of links (often back to themselves)1.

Every system is going to favor different types of splits, with a different subset of people. I really like that idea. Most of the time we think of these community-powered sites as massive networks of people working together, when they really aren’t. Flickr is just a couple thousand photo-enthusiasts culling through all the junk… Wikipedia is a combination of a few specialists, janitors and information hounds doing what they love… and the web is just a few obsessive web-surfers linking to everything. These sites and social networks aren’t powered by the masses, they’re powered by the dedicated niche users. And there-in lies Econ. 101, or something: Find a demand; fill the niche; and supply the masses2.

How’s that for super-generalized social and economic theory?

1 I need to find that article again.

2 And clean up their messes.

How movie-literate are you?

Film writer and critic, Jim Emerson compiled a list of what he considers the 102 most important films to see, in order to have an informed discussion about movies. It’s kind of an elitest mentality to take towards film-criticism, but it’s also a great list with a lot of different films, demonstrating some important landmarks in film history. They are not his favorites, or a best-of list, but more a “common cultural currency of our time” as it relates to film. Following kottke’s lead, I decided to run through the list and see how “literate” I would be considered on this scale.

Continue reading

D-List Celebrity Sighting

Santino at the Game

At the Mariners game on Sunday, sitting down the aisle in the same section was Santino Rice from Project Runway. He was pretty easy to spot. For those of you who don’t even know who that is, or even care, just check out this video (YouTube) from VH1’s Best Week Ever, which sums up Santino’s character pretty well. I snapped a couple other photos, but decided not to be too paparazzi-ish.

Happy 500 Posts!

This marks the 500th post on this weblog. It seems fitting that it’s exactly 6 years to the month from when I first started writing this crap on the web. This didn’t really start as a weblog as we now know it, but it still had the same idea. I’ve even still got an old version living here. I admit that 500 posts over 6 years isn’t the most impressive posting rate, at about 1 post every 4 days. But I guess it adds up.

Some of the highlights from the past few years…

It’s pretty fun browsing through my old posts, and having those things documented to varying degrees. They start out when I was still in school, and then through 3 jobs, various locations, quite a few trips and activities, and back again.

Here we are, and here’s to 500 more!

Pumping Iron for the Lord

A few days ago I checked my website stats and noticed that my top referrer was for a body-building site. I couldn’t figure out why in the world I was getting all of these hits. After digging into the lovely ABC Body-Building, I found that on the forum entrance page, one of the main forum posters was using the “Buff Jesus” image from my blog post way back here. That explained it. I poked around the forum a bit and it turns out this guy is basically Mr. Evangelical for the whole body-building forum, and since this image was his avatar/icon, it was showing up everywhere.

As general net-etiquette, it isn’t polite to link to images hosted on other people’s site directly. At the very least it isn’t good design to rely on random third-parties to “host” graphics, and it also leeches someone else’s bandwidth. So I decided to have a little fun with the body-building preecher, by changing the content of the image he was linking to…

Replaced Jesus

I feel a little bad that my immediate association with body-building was steroids, since I couldn’t find any evidence for their use by people frequenting this site. But with all of the crazy photos they post of themselves and others (Ahnoohhld!), it might be appropriate.

I do have to say that the ABC Body Building forum is home to one of the best discussion-thread titles I’ve ever seen. Posted by Mr. Uber-Christian himself in the “Sanctuary“:

And you get to read it with Steroid Needle Buddy-Christ winking at you.

UPDATE — And by the end of the day he caught on to it and replaced the new Buddy Christ image with something else. It was still up there for a full day. Not bad.

Pure Whey Jesus

So much for having any more fun with that guy. Until next time…

How to join the HDR Photography fad

It’s hard to browse Flickr much now without running into a lot of these eerily-lit, surreal, colorful photos. These photos tagged with “HDR” are quite common in Flickr’s daily “interestingness“, and the HDR group pool is seeing a lot of activity. Here are a couple shots I took trying out this new technique:

Seattle Downtown Skyline Sunset HDR Space Needle Sunset HDR

So what the heck is HDR? It stands for High Dynamic Range, and the Wikipedia entry on HDR imaging does a good job of explaining it. Now, the above images are not actually HDR images (as Andy corrected me early-on), they’re tone-mapped images generated from an HDR image. Seems like semantics, but it’s sort of an important distinction that’s been completely lost during this trend.

Using software such as Photoshop CS2 or Photomatix you load multiple exposures of a scene, including full exposure data (you’ll need to shoot in RAW), and the software combines them into a single HDR image. The image contains the varying exposure possibilities for highlights and shadows, using the starting images you gave it. You can think of it as giving you control over the actual light in different areas of the scene. The tone-mapping process is essentially a way of taking all that HDR information and generating an image that shows all the best-exposed parts. It brings out details in shadows, under-exposes bright highlights, etc.

So what’s the point of all of this? Well, the HDR techniques and algorithms have a lot of applications in computer graphics, effects and video games, where natural light is one of the toughest things to simulate. In photography though, this tone-mapping is just a processing step, not unlike a Photoshop filter, which makes for a pretty image. Like shooting in infrared, or macro, or lomo, it’s another tool (some would argue a gimmick) which creates a unique photographic look.

If you’re looking to play around with it, the Flickr HDR group has a lot of tips and links to resources. Looking for interesting things to shoot? Scenes with high light/dark contrast work well since you’ll be under/over exposing your shot to pick up the details in both extremes. Skies and clouds end up looking pretty neat, and so do reflections.

Have fun, and I’ll see you in the next photo fad. Digital pinhole photography? I already missed the boat on fake tilt-shift photography.

Just a short run in Boston

My sister is off and running again, this time in the Boston Marathon. Unlike the NYC Marathon which she ran previously, not just anyone can run this one with a lucky lottery number placement. Sarah’s time was good enough in the NYC Marathon that she got an invite to Boston. That’s right, she didn’t just run to finish, she ran to do well!

She’s only a short ways in at the moment, but with a pace that seems consistent with her last run. Projected finishing time is right around 3 1/2 hours. Stats are loading slow on the Boston Marathon site, but if you want to check out bib # 11720, you can see how she’s doing. Go Sarah!

UPDATE – She’s passed halfway at 1 hour, 42 minutes and is keeping just about the same pace of 7:51 per mile, and a projected finishing time of 3 hours, 25 minutes.

UPDATE 2 – She finished! Official time of 3:32:06. Her pace slowed a bit from the first half, but I’ll cut her some slack. Boston is known as a rather hilly marathon, and the 20,000 people that run it are tough cookies. Overall place: 6656th, and she placed 1137 out 8000 women.

Massively Multiplayer Metaverse Multiplied?

The most recent issue of Wired magazine has a large feature on gaming. Wil Wright begins with a great article on the psychology of games and play, and there’s a sneak preview of his upcoming game Spore (fun animation on the official site). There are also some excellent illustrations from Feric Studio throughout the features.

The one article that really caught my attention was, When Virtual Worlds Collide. It discusses the idea of building a common “metaverse” that individual games could share and tap into. It mentions the Open Source Metaverse Project which is trying to do exactly that, using open source technologies. Much like we have standard web protocols that let us share information between sites and services, players in different games could visit others in different worlds. This definitely makes sense for games like Second Life, where the focus is on player-created content and open-ended worlds.

But what about something like World of Warcraft, or a sci-fi setting, where mixing of worlds and characters might not fit? Maybe a certain amount of information or characteristics can be shared or linked. Xbox Live is kind of doing it with reputations, scores, gamer points, etc. I would love to see the lines blurred between different games even more. A metaverse similar to that imagined by William Gibson or Neal Stephenson could be the next killer-app. Maybe your orc from Warcraft can’t just walk into a modern-day Grand Theft Auto setting, but maybe there are some loose interactions possible. At the very least, there could be currency conversion, trading or sharing between worlds. Or maybe we arrive at games within games. Your “real” metaverse character wanders the open worlds, but enters virtual arcades to play other games. However it all morphs and changes, I think there are some exciting possibilities. It may be an existing game that continues to change and lead the way, or it might be an open source project. Whatever happens, cyberpunk isn’t all fiction anymore.

Ego-crawling: How Popular is Your Name?

I’ve got to give a lot of credit to one of the search marketing brains at WhitePages.com for a really interesting idea. We’ve recently rolled out some pages listing People Name Popularity. It’s currently limited to a very few names as an initial test, but the ultimate result would be a large directory of names, ranked by popularity (based on searches on our site). Interested in how popular the firstname James is? How about the lastname Smith? And there’s plenty of food for the ego surfers too. When James Otepka decides to Google himself, he gets some interesting (and hopefully ego-boosting) info from our directory. Why bother with all of this? Why not? We have the data and search history, so let’s make use of it. The extra traffic from Google might not hurt either. It’s worked for some less reputable folk out there.

The Names Database took a very different tactic and called themselves a Reunion/Classmates type connection site. Just give them your name and an e-mail address… and then another 5 names and e-mail addresses… and then a monthly fee… and then maybe you can find someone. Meanwhile they built out a massive static “directory” of their (your) names. If/when you actually get to a page for a particular name, it’s just a plain unusable list of as many or as few names as possible. Oh, and a whole lot of irrelevant Google AdSense ads. But… it all worked for them. They show up on Google results pages for plenty of uncommon names. And all of those e-mail addresses (valid or not) that they collected, garnered enough attention, and fetched a $10 million pricetag.

Search Stringulation

It’s been 3 or 4 months since I’ve written a search string summary. This time, something a little different. Instead of my random amusing search strings, I’m going to start with my top 5 search strings traffic-wise for the past 3 months. Not exactly the most PG-rated, but here are the totals…

#1 banksy = 435 hits (third page of Google image search)
#2 incredibles porn = 353 hits (there might be a market for this)
#3 street art = 293 hits
#4 the incredibles porn = 264 hits (yes, definitely a market)
#5 bowling team names = 171 hits (only posted a month and a half ago)

And now for the more amusing random phrases…

buffjesus
be cool stay in school
i need chris browns real phone number – Try WhitePages.com
is cool relative – No, and you’re lame
most unsuccessful attempts to guinness world record – Most gunshot wounds to the head?
boob.gif – First page of Google results
malfunctioning janet jackson free photo – Not the wardrobe, just a “malfunctioning janet jackson”
thithter – nor hither
thurfing – with a “web browther” of courth