Weblogs and churn rate

the countThe first question that every journalist asks about weblogs—how many are there— has been a source of constant debate over the past year. I was cited in the Economist with the number 500,000, which prompted a response, as well as a number of new efforts for estimating this number:

Blogcensus is a funded project crawling and classifying content as weblog or not weblog. Pages identified as weblogs are then categorized by their native language using simple heuristics. This project is the sole work of Maciej Ceglowski

Blogcount is a self-proclaimed aggregator of other data sources. The site is making press releases based on the management reports of centrally hosted weblogs/journals (i.e. Blogger, LiveJournal, etc.). Using the data collected by Blogcensus, the original numbers are adjusted to account for international and non-hosted entities.

A word to the wise: online communities can appear much more active than they actually are (and I’ve got some data to show it!).

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Philip Seymour Hoffman, self-assassin

philip seymour hoffmanAll good conspiracy theorists know that assassins only use three names: James Earl Ray, Mark David Chapman, John Wilkes Booth, etc. Some would even say that this is an indictment for Lee Harvey Oswald in the death of J.F.K. Of course a closer look reveals a host of two named killers, but they derail my argument, so I won’t talk about them now.

At the same time, one of my favorite actors, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, is a three-named fellow. This morning while driving to work the significance of Hoffman’s full three names struck me, a mark of distinction in the film world. Sure, for an assassin it’s typical, but in the acting world it’s a mark of distinction.

But Philip doesn’t play just any role—most of his characters suffer from some sort of imbalance that results in their downfall. Take his role in Boogie Nights for instance: an unattractive homosexual in the porn industry, he suffers for his endless attraction to heterosexual porn stars, and then finally makes an ass of himself by confronting Marky Mark. 25th Hour, Happiness, Punch-Drunk Love, State and Main… most of his recent parts are ones in which he shoots himself in the proverbial foot.

Sure, some people think that using three names is just a mark of recognition; other famous people, such as Francis Ford Coppola or Alexander Graham Bell are great examples. But, a Mr. Philip S. Hoffman adopted his middle name in the middle of his career. You might think he did it to sound more regal or distinctive, but I think he recognized his God-given talent: Philip Seymour Hoffman is the perfect self-assassin.

Cat got your car?

big scary cat.. meow! hiss!Thanks to the generous donation from airdrop, I procured a copy of a new VW commercial from Europe. At first I was a little worried I’d be preempting some sort of American ad campaign, but then I watched it a number of times and am thoroughly convinced that it would never work here.

Here are some blaring Euroisms I found:

  • Check out the Euro stylings on the lanky guy.. the hair, the suit, the turtleneck
  • No one in the commercial utters a word. Can you say “entire European market?”
  • What old man in America drinks tea?
  • The cast of tiny people is ridiculously interracial.. how much of Europe do you think they cover?
  • The license plate screams of Eastern Hemisphere
  • Gullivers Travels? What kind of obvious reference is that? An American audience would respond much better to a VHS copy of Honey, I shrunk the kids.

Volkswagon Commercial: Tiny people vs. giant cat

Who is Ben Curtis?

ben curtis kissing his trophyGiven a contest where pride is not at stake, most people will root for the underdog. When a Kirk Gibson limps to the plate in the bottom of the 9th with two outs, down a run, and misses the first two pitches from the most fearful Dennis Eckersley, no one I know is going to say “screw this Gibson guy, strike him out and get him a stretcher.” People like to see athletes overcome adversity, especially when the running is tough and the odds are stacked against them.

Yesterday I missed possibly the most important underdog victory that will transpire in my lifetime, the British Open championship won by Ben Curtis. Ranked 396 in the world, and only one year out of the Hooter’s League, Curtis was playing his first Majors competition. Such odds have not been overcome since Francis Ouimet won his first Majors event in 1913, and many books have been written about that game.

To be in the running with Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh, Davis Love III, Thomas Bjorn and Sergio Garcia and win—and never having met any of them (sans Tiger for 20 seconds in a college tourney)—that’s the essence of underdog. I just wish I could have been rooting for him in the final minutes yesterday.

Guardian Sports: Who is Ben Curtis?

Times Argus: Ben Who?

The MIT Spotlight!!

I’ve been interviewed for quite a few publications regarding my work with Blogdex, but today I received the highest accolade: the MIT Spotlight. Every day the MIT homepage features some specific piece of MIT related news to the rest of the community. I recently did an interview for OpenDOOR, the MIT alumni magazine (yes, I’m a MIT alumni… despite the fact that I may never get my Ph.D., I already gots my masters).

I don’t ever self-promote or do my own back patting, but since I look at the MIT homepage every day, but at 4 years and counting, I’ve seen over a thousand spotlights pass over other people, and now’s my 10 seconds. And the best part? The link reads:

weblogs: a new way to make friends and influence people

I made a cached image for posterity.

Mo Razors Scam

Boy, I seem to be talking about spamming and scamming a lot lately. You’d think I was a paranoid bastard if you didn’t know me. But this one is FO REAL.

shave me babyOn my 18th birthday I received a Gillette razor in the mail courtesy of the United States Army †. I guess they were trying to say, "you’re a man now, for all intents and purposes under the law, so shave like one you little peach-fuzz pansy! And drop and give me 10!" Well, truth be told, I was in need of a razor, and the Sensor Excel that they provided was in a different class. This wasn’t like getting a free Subway token, it was like getting a Ferarri.

Of course I was a blind youth at the time, and hindsight is 20/20, but I fell right in the hands of Gillette marketers. This suave shaver required regular cartridge replacements, each of which cost twice that of a disposable, and with a similar lifespan. In fact, Gillette produced a disposable version of the Sensor Excel which was supposed to be competitively priced with the cartridges. But this was all about to change. The whole world of razor technology was about to undergo a revolution.

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Information awareness for the people

information awareness logoWhat’s the most annyoing thing about Total Information Awareness™? Loss of personal liberties? Complete destruction of privacy? A research budget in the hundreds of millions that could be spent on social programs?

No. It’s the hypocrisy.

Why should our government have the best technology for surveillance and tracking, and not be subjected to its own scrutiny? A new Media Lab project by the Computing Culture group is testing that principle, namely shifting the focus to those individuals who put this system in place, namely our government. OpenGov is a website that tracks the movements of politicians in an effort they are labelling “Government Information Awareness.” Their model is a simple adaptation of the one developed by DARPA for civilian monitoring. The OpenGov mission is simple:

To empower citizens by providing a single, comprehensive, easy to use repository of information on individuals, organizations, and corporations related to the government of the United States of America.
To allow citizens to submit intelligence about government related issues, while maintaining their anonymity. To allow members of the government a chance to participate in the process.

With political tension on the rise, I have a feeling that OpenGov will be a big success at least in aggregating information around politicial leaders. Let’s just say I’m glad I’m not under its scrutiny.

The site will become fully operational on July 4th.

MIT Media Laboratory: OpenGov Goverment Information Awareness Project