Scripting News for 10/15/07

The small picture 

Why is it that the highest-rated sites, some with supposedly hundreds of thousands of subscribers, only generate a couple hundred hits when they link to you?

As Pete Cashmore on Mashable says, it’s because the subscriber numbers don’t reflect actual readership. The people who subscribed may not even be aware that they are subscribed. Or put another way, we haven’t learned yet how to measure what’s valuable, we only have the crudest ways to measure value, so crude as to be meaningless.

Ultimately what matters to me is not how many people subscribe to my feed, rather how much of a connection I can make with the people I want to connect with. I’m satisfied that the people I care about read my site, and the aggregators flow mostly the wrong people through my posts with the most sensational headlines, ignoring the ones with the greatest value, imho.

I’m a blogger not a broadcaster. Blogging isn’t about mass markets, it’s about the small picture. My small picture (and for you, yours). I’m trying to draw a picture, create a frame of reference that’s personal, not corporate. I’m a zig to corporate media’s zag. I am a blogger. I am personal.

I don’t want a hundred thousand ghosts “subscribing” to my feed. I want to influence the thinkers of the tech sphere, and I’m satisfied that I do. No leaderboard is ever going to reflect that, even though my site is often favorably rated by them.

I want rating services to provide clues about what I should be subscribing to. I want them to find not what’s popular with the masses but what will be valuable to me. My favorite movies are not the ones the masses like, I prefer art films and ultra-violent comedies (I like everything Quentin Taratino does, for example).

It’s a simple matter to apply collaborative filtering to this problem, we’ve even done it in SYO. These ideas need revisiting now that everyone else seems to have caught on that this is a problem worth solving. :-)

Fred Wilson: “I totally agree about engagement being the right metric.”

Photo set: Berkeley Hills, sunny after rain 

Instead of using my iPhone and Twittergram to post real-time pictures, I used the Nikon and took higher resolution pictures.

The leaves are turning, and the sun was out after a huge rain. I thought there would be some good pictures, and there were.

Click on the picture above to see the set.

My iPhone stopped ringing 

Sometime after I updated to 1.1.1 my iPhone stopped ringing. I checked myself, calling my iPhone using my Blackberry. Sure enough, no ring. I did a soft restart (hold the button on top down while clicking the menu button on the bottom). Didn’t help. Did a search, found I’m not the first with this problem. Dr Fran says she missed a social event because her iPhone didn’t ring. I missed a bunch of important calls before I realized my phone wasn’t ringing anymore. This is the nightmare, I can’t afford to be without the phone, but a phone that doesn’t ring is like 1/4 a real phone. Oy. Let me know if you have any ideas. I don’t relish getting in Apple’s loop on this.

Update: Ben had the answer. Yehi!! The phone rings again. Happy.

Rainy day over the bay 

New home page 

The home page on Scripting News has changed to match the RSS feed. Now the 20 most recent items are posted, as opposed to just the items of the current day. The current day’s items are expanded, the previous days’ items are collapsed. You can toggle the expand-collapse state by clicking on the plus or minus to the left of the title. As always, the blue arrows are the permalinks, if you’re going to point to an article, you should use the page it points to. This is an experiment, it’s possible that the expand-collapse approach doesn’t work in all browsers. Report any problems here. Hope you like! :-)

Saving the h-word 

Usually I ignore the moralistic snipes that come from a handful of bloggers, but to characterize a post of mine with a term like “hate” is really over the top. The post certainly was critical of a piece of software, but hate is a special word, and should be saved for special circumstances.

My family emigrated to the U.S. during World War II from fascist-occupied Europe. Growing up, my grandparents told us stories of how they fled for their lives and how the U.S. welcomed us. Without that, I wouldn’t be here today, I never would have been born, because my parents and grandparents wouldn’t have survived. What they dealt with certainly was hate. It was there in NY when I was told by schoolmates that their uncles were killed in World War II fighting for “The Jews.” To be blamed for the deaths of loved ones when I wasn’t even born was, imho, an example of hate.

Saying that a software system is controlling its users, when it obviously is, is not hate. It’s criticism, and it’s one of the things guaranteed by our Constitution in the United States. In this country hate speech does not enjoy the same protection. So let’s not cross that line so easily. Let’s not devalue a term like hate, let’s save it for those special circumstances when speech is used to persecute innocent people.

PS: I turned on the TechMeme blocker to be sure this post doesn’t appear there. I don’t want this to turn into a topic that other people pile onto in hope of improving their rank on the Leaderboard. I’m seriously considering leaving the flag on, because the atmosphere there has turned so acrid.

Good morning everybody 

Working on code today, may be limited updates.

29 responses to this post.

  1. One man’s criticism is another man’s hate speech, larded up with a description that conflates real hate with disagreement. Freedom of speech is not freedom from criticism, just the right to speak. Talk on Dave, we’ll keep listening.

    Reply

  2. Charlie, I don’t think it’s all that gray. If I say you deserve to die because you come from Bosnia, that’s hate speech. If I say your software locks users in, that’s not hate speech. Regardless, of course, none of this will effect what I say. And thanks for the support.

    Reply

  3. Hey, Dave! In my Opera browser (9.2 on Windows) the little “minus” signs keep multiplying in a peculiar way — it’s almost like ants marching across the screen (a la the old Javascript trick from the mid-late 90s that sent type marching across your status bar). Anyway — I know lots of people don’t worry about how their sites render in opera. But you asked for reports :-)

    Reply

  4. Not a problem but i like the new design Dave!

    Reply

  5. I like the design.

    How do you do your pages? Do you pull RSS out of wordpress and then apply a xslt or something?

    Reply

  6. scottr, I care about Opera!! I do I do really. :-)

    Rick, I’m surprised you ask. I am the original RSS guy.

    Of course I have my own software for all this stuff.

    I had it when Matt was still riding his Hot Wheels.

    Reply

  7. Posted by Ben on October 15, 2007 at 2:52 pm

    dave,

    did you check the iphone “silent ringer switch” which sits above the volume control on the top left ? My iphone stopped ringing and giving keyboard clicks this morning. till i realized i had set the silent ringer switch on. till today i didn’t even know what that switch did! i didn’t even notice it was a switch. i thought it was a button!

    other people have said that wasn’t the problem for them and they tried putting their earbuds in and out of the jack and that seemed to do it.

    RE:RSS feed numbers. for whatever reason, i always read your site by going to scripting.com and nytimes.com vs reading them through feeds .don’t know why. maybe it’s because it makes me feel like i’m going out to visit you (your site) vs. your pouring in to see me.

    Reply

  8. Ben!

    You da man!!

    I was farting around with that button on the plane the other day, and I had no idea what it was for, and had no idea that I had done anything with it. And then proceeded to forget about it.

    I just jammed it the other way, and tried a call and the fucker rang!!!!!!!

    Yehi. I wish everything were this easy.

    Reply

  9. I love the convenience of that button. The problem is that when you switch it to silent, there is no permanent status icon on the screen to remind you. This omission is even more surprising because the rest of the iPhone UI is so perfect.

    Reply

  10. Ultimately what matters to me is not how many people subscribe to my feed, rather how much of a connection I can make with the people I want to connect with.

    I couldn’t have said it better. That is exactly the reason I blog. The connections that I hope to be able to make with people. On a personal level.

    I also love the new layout. It’s fabulous!

    Reply

  11. Heh. I was just coming here to suggest you check the silent ringer switch. :-)

    I’m surprised at how many people I’ve talked to with the same symptoms, and the same problem.

    Guess there is benefit to R’ing TFM sometimes (not that I ever do!) ;-)

    Reply

  12. dave – i totally agree about engagement being the right metric

    which is why i am so thrilled that so many of my readers responded to the donors choose bloggers challenge, 81 so far, compared to 44 for engadget and only 17 for techcrunch.

    my readers took the time to care about something i care about.

    it’s really a wonderful feeling and makes me want to try even harder to give them back as much of me as i can.

    fred

    Reply

  13. The collapse/expand idea is most excellent, congratulations.

    Reply

  14. Posted by vanni on October 15, 2007 at 6:48 pm

    re: “I love the convenience of that button. The problem is that when you switch it to silent, there is no permanent status icon on the screen to remind you.”

    Sounds like a visual clue should be included in the next iPhone SW update ;-)

    Reply

  15. Posted by Paul on October 15, 2007 at 8:19 pm

    Actually, there’s a tactile clue so you can tell whether the Ring/Silent Switch is in the Ring or Silent position.

    When it is in the Ring position, the switch is lined up with the Volume buttons. When the switch is in the Silent position, it is offset from the Volume buttons .

    Plus, if you look at the switch, you’ll also see a red dot when it is in the Silent position.

    Hope that helps.

    –>Paul B.

    Reply

  16. Another suggestion I thought about for your Scripting News home page, is to have a link like your blue permalink image, but to the daily comments.

    Reply

  17. Posted by Peter on October 16, 2007 at 12:39 pm

    And when you engage or disengage the switch, there’s a bezel that indicates the change!

    How are people missing this? I agree that there should be a status icon at the top – like the one of the little clock if an alarm is set – but the giant bezel of the bell or the bell with the line through it is a pretty good indicator!

    Reply

  18. I kind of remember seeing a video wherein a translucent overlay with a crossed out bell appeared momentarily after sliding the silent ringer switch.

    Perhaps afterwards the bell (with strike through) could appear on the top icon bar up with the carrier and signal strength information. Or does that already happen?

    Reply

  19. I knew all about that switch and use it all the time, but I -still- thought my iPhone was broken the other day. Part of the problem is that if you play anything that’s destined for the speaker (like music, voice mails, video, etc..) it still plays. That makes sense that it overrides the silent switch, since you’re asking for it to play. So music played fine, but all the system sounds were gone.

    Silly thing to forget, but I keep doing it. Weird.

    Reply

  20. Posted by craig on October 16, 2007 at 1:20 pm

    dont you feel like an idiot, theres something wrong my iphone, let me post on the web about crappy, phone when im a moron. great just great

    Reply

  21. Posted by Dennis on October 17, 2007 at 1:32 am

    You can tell whether the phone is in silent or not even without looking at it. Slide your fingers along the volume buttons to the ringer switch. If they are not aligned, phone is in silent mode, if they are aligned, it’s not.

    Reply

  22. Posted by Scott on October 17, 2007 at 7:55 am

    “And when you engage or disengage the switch, there‚Äôs a bezel that indicates the change!”

    Better be looking at the screen then.

    Reply

  23. I read the manual so I knew what the switch did, but for the first two days I pressed the switch wondering what it accomplished. LOL I agree with others that an icon needs to be up there with the battery meter indicating whether sound is on or off.

    Reply

  24. “Better be looking at the screen then.”

    Actually, when you turn the phone into ‘silent’ mode with that switch, it vibrates briefly to indicate that you’ve switched to ‘silent’ mode.

    (It does not vibrate briefly when you switch it back to ‘ring’ mode)

    Reply

  25. I have a puzzle for you. I send emails infrequently from my Iphone, but I notice that when i start to type a new one, one of my old TO addresses shows up. How do I keep these emails blank?

    Reply

  26. Posted by Lun Esex on October 18, 2007 at 11:59 am

    A persistant “ringer off” icon on the screen, in the top bar, would just lead to another problem:

    Everything else up there besides the batery indicator is controlled by software, so people who didn’t RTFM would raise huge issues complaining that they can’t find the *software* setting that turns the ringer back on.

    I think the only real solution would be to put an icon on the main screen labeled something like “What to do if you didn’t RTFM,” which would just link to a built-in PDF reader and an onboard copy of the included “Finger Tips” manual (it’s only 10 “pages,” double-sided, and mostly pictures, folks… Easier to read than a Denny’s menu :).

    BTW, on many devices, a switch that doesn’t seem to do anything might really not do anything. On an *Apple* device, though? Don’t you think you’d better find out what it does, because it’s surely got to so *something*…? :)

    Reply

  27. Dave, just to be clear about the “hate” thing — it wasn’t your comments about Facebook that led me to use that term in my post, but your remarks about Stowe. But then I think you probably already know that.

    Reply

  28. Matthew, that’s nonsense. But I suspect you already know that. :-)

    Reply

  29. Dave, I love the new layout. I don’t get to your site as often as I like, and since I just get the most reecent headlines at My Yahoo, I like coming to the home page and catching up. Starting off with old stories collapsed also makes it super easy to scan. Nicely done, I vote to keep it!

    Reply

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