Tuesday May 03

Webrings are making a come-back

My new obsession is webrings. You might think this is a step backwards rather than forwards, but I think webrings are making a comeback. The problem with them before was that their positioning was wrong. They were (and still are) touted as traffic drivers, but each ring is so niche, traffic numbers are miniscule. But now that expressing oneself online with blogs and tagging are becoming more popular, webrings are being revived as a way of creating your self-identity on the internet.

A webring is basically an opt-in directory like all the thousands of opt-in directories on the internet. But webrings are amateur directories that put the power of their creation in the hands of Joe Public. And unlike most self-made directories, they automatically generate customised code that each ring member displays on their own website that identifies their interests to their visitors.

There are two main webring creation networks. http://Ringsurf.com and http://Webring.com Webring.com was the original and Ringsurf.com came shortly after. But both of them have changed little in the last 10 years they have been around. And they haven't had to because ironically hardly any competitors have entered their market. So they both look like time stopped for them since the early 1990s and they have spent relatively little in their development for the past few years.

Of the two, I prefer Ringsurf.com because you can create and host your own ring home page and you can easily customise your own ring code with a little HTML knowledge. Webring however uses javascript in its ring code to enforce compliance and it does not offer the option of using your own ring home page. Ringsurf.com retains the short and simple text-only ring code, whereas webring.com's default code (in the name of extra features for the ringmaster) has become large, ugly and includes graphics and tables.

The comeback of webrings is only being hampered by ringsurf.com and webring.com's outdated branding. It would be much speeded up with a more professional-looking website and updated features. They need features such as RSS feeds and community building tools like mailing lists and marketing tools like email-invitation features. I emailed both companies with suggestions, but neither one has replied. Still, I'm already happy with the simple and customisable features that Ringsurf.com currently offers. I set up my own ring directory for iBook owners and pro-bloggers in less than 10 minutes.

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Age transformation tool

Upload your portrait and this online tool will run it through a few photo filters to output what you may look like in 40 years. It is weighted for different races too. (This is IP hosted, no domain name.)

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GifFun for OSX - open source animated gif maker

I've been playing a great deal with this cool software. Just drag and drop gifs onto its interface, arrange them according to the way you want them and set timing of each gif in 1/100s of a second. It probably wasn't meant for this purpose, but I've been using it to create slideshows of photo albums. I think if I have a need to make an education slideshow, GifFun would come in very handy.


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Malaysian newspaper discovers RSS

A bit late, but nevertheless. Interestingly, The Star offers customised classifieds RSS feeds based on keywords. Similar to what pubsub.com is doing -- persistent search delivery. Given that this is a Malaysian newspaper, and not given to technology advancements, I'm particularly impressed.


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Monday May 02

When you want to see all the photos in an online photo gallery, it can be an inconvenience to have to click on a thumbnail and hit the back button on your browser repeatedly. Instead, just point ixtractor to the URL of the gallery you want to view and it will extract all the photos from the gallery and hotlink them from ixtractor's own page. So you can see all the full-sized photos on a single page, bypassing the thumbnails. Warning: this service is predominantly used for scanning p*rn galleries.


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Questionablecontent.net - webcomic

Why is it after you manage to get rid of all your quirky behaviours so that people won't find you too weird to talk to, one day you wake up and realise... you're just not interesting anymore. Reading the webcomic Questionable Content sent me into a nostalgic spiral.


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Netcraft anti-phishing toobar for Windows IE

Netcraft has a new toolbar that helps you discern links in suspected phishing emails.

  1. Traps suspicious URLs containing characters which have no common purpose other than to deceive.
  2. Enforces display of browser navigational controls (toolbar & address bar) in all windows, to defend against pop up windows which attempt to hide the navigational controls.
  3. Clearly displays sites' hosting location, including country, helping you to evaluate fraudulent urls (e.g. the real citibank.com or barclays.co.uk sites are unlikely to be hosted in the former Soviet Union).


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onlinestatus.org - standardised markup and images for all major IMs

If you want to show whether you are online with simple standard icons, then look no more. This free service provides you with the code and images for all major IM services - Yahoo, MSN, ICQ, AIM and even Jabber. Just provide onlinestatus.org with your login name, no password necessary. The links on the images activate your IM to send you a message. Unfortunately this feature does not work with Trillian and other multi-IM softwares. And the images look crap because they blink. Fortunately onlinestatus.org offers the option of suggesting your own images as replacement. I use onlinestatus.org to generate the icons and my online status on this blog.


Sunday May 01

Moore's Law leaves many PC users behind

This opinion piece argues that Moore's Law is making it more profitable for software makers write for increasingly-powerful computers at the expense of people who don't feel compelled to play the annual upgrade-game. People really shouldn't be forced to upgrade so regularly. But nothing can force software vendors to make their products backward compatible when it would mean more bloat and less efficiency.


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Virus authors switching from email worms to IM viruses

The study identifies 40 individual IM worms in the first quarter of the year, the majority written in one of the simplest computer languages, Visual Basic (VB). Seven out of every eight IM worms attack Microsoft's MSN Messenger service.

"It's clear that classic e-mail worms are on the decline, with network and instant messaging worms exploiting relatively lax security to take their place," said Alexander Gostev, senior virus analyst at Kaspersky Labs. "Improved antivirus technologies, and increased user awareness of security issues are clearly forcing virus writers and hackers to use new approaches to access users' information and systems."


Nokia N91 will have camera, mp3 player, USB

Now that's what I'm talking about! It defeats the purpose to have to stuff my pockets with three different devices in order to indulge in my whims. The N91 will have a 2-megapixel camera which means it takes at least 640x480, good enough for emailing. It will have 4gb hard disk, enough to store hundreds, if not thousands of songs. And it has a USB port so I can rip and burn CDs directly. I'll probably have to wait to the middle of 2006 when it will be cheap enough for me to afford. But I may not want to wait for this goodie.


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Those crazy Cambridge guys have done it again

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Saturday April 30

Plazoo is yet another blog search engine. Except it pre-sorts out the news according to major categories (such as sports and music) and seven major languages (including Russian). Technorati doesn't sort by language and you get a mish-mash of babel of blogs when you enter a search term. And findory is exclusively in English. When Plazoo manages to add Chinese and Japanese blogs to their database, they'll be able to compete heavily with the more established blog search engines.


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tagwhere.com - user-contributed geo-directory searchable by tags

Login to tagwhere and start adding your favourite places and their tag descriptions. So when you click on the "iBook" tag, you can find all the locations related to iBooks, from iBook stores to iBook-friendly wireless cafes and iBook repair services. But tagwhere only applies to American locations. Not even Canada is supported.


ROR - Resources of a resource

Resources of a resource is an initiative to start a standard vocabulary in XML for describing common resources used in documents and associate them together. For example, using XML tags to describe the various properties of a product like price, description and dimensions. I tend to agree with the naysayers in this ROR discussion on the W3 mailing list. This initiative seems to be far broad and its vocabulary far too narrow in many places. By the time a standard vocabulary is produced, it is quite likely to be outdated.


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Alterslash - Scraped RSS feed of Slashdot with comments

Slashdot's RSS feed provides stories and headlines. Now someone has scraped the headlines and stories into a feed and added the associated comments as well. There might be a good reason why Slashdot doesn't include comments -- frankly, there are so many for each story, I get a headache keeping up.


wists.com - same as del.icio.us but with screenshot thumbnails

wists.com is designed to mimic the function and features of del.icio.us, but with screenshots. You share links and associated tags just like del.icio.us. But wists' preview thumbnails are far superior to the Alexa screenshots that have been added to del.icio.us. The Alexa shots are often outdated by two or three years! Wists treats the screenshot as personally iconic as the tags. It's your choice of whether to take the screenshot or select one of the images (eg the logo) as the image icon for your link. I'm curious as to the thinking behind this. I can't imagine that screenshots are any more helpful than the combination of tags and the page title associated with a saved link. But they can be more eye-catching. Maybe that's the whole point behind having a thumbnail.


Friday April 29

BBC News - Visitor experience trumps RSS feeds

The BBC news site is the one website for which I refuse to get RSS feeds. It has a feed for every section. But not one feed is enough to beat the amount of general knowledge I get from glancing over sections that I would not normally subscribe to. I visit the BBC several times a day so that the photos can draw me to stories in parts of the world I wouldn't otherwise be interested in. The placing of the headlines in the layout call my attention to items outside of my sphere. I'm a more well-rounded news maven because of it. What websites would you refuse to get RSS feeds for?


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Pictorial passwords

The Economist has an interesting article about pictorial passwords. To replace alphaneumeric passwords, some American universities are developing passwords based on faces. People pick out five pictures in the correct sequence out of a random selection. The idea is based on how we associate memories with pictures. We're more likely to remember a good holiday in Paris and your own child's smile instead of a jumble of characters. It's also more secure because pictures cannot be written down and pictorial passwords are less likely to be forgotten.


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I hate Google RSS feeds

I just saw the new Google RSS feeds on one of Webloginc's feeds in Bloglines. One of the main reasons I like RSS is because it didn't have ads. It was plain and simple content and only content. Now they have ads. And the ads look horrible. I hesitated when the idea of ads in RSS feeds was broached last year. now I'm absolutely positive I'm not going to put them in my feeds.

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sugarcrm releases 3.0

The new version released last week looks really polished. It even includes internal CRM features such as project management as well as external CRM features such as email marketing. Very powerful and Mambo compatible to boot.


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Thursday April 28

I have a really cool blog content keyword advertising idea

The client-end consists of a proprietary plug-in for common blogging softwares like Wordpress and MT that scans each new post for keywords. The plug-in then sends the keywords to the server which compares them with desired keywords booked by advertisers. The server then sends back a tiny XML file of URLs so the plug can add trackable links to the advertisers' websites in the keywords. No extraneous advertising -- the beauty of it is there aren't really any ads at all. The links are inline and relevant to the context of the posts. And they have the benefit of being deliverable via RSS too. Apart from installing the plugin, the bloggers don't lift a finger. They just keep blogging and collecting money. The more they blog and the more attractive their posts, the more money they make.

Now all I need is a plug-in writer...

IBM takes a homophone too far

The MD of IBM's Venture Capital Group tries to contrast open source with open standards. She completely fails to realise they are apples and oranges, but she succeeds in misdirecting the interviewer to support her agenda. The interview contains this little gem:

And what open standards allow us to do is pick the best components that we can find and then integrate them into specific solutions that will translate into the business performance improvement that a customer is willing to invest their IT dollars on today.

Did she accidentally add obfuscation cream to her coffee this morning?


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When you steal a Japanese's credit card, he can't make a call to cancel it

NTT Docomo is making cellphones that can be used at selected ATMs and shops to withdraw money and make payments. It not only helps to reduce the number of things in the wallet, it's a great loyalty-builder for both cellphone and banking services.

Via webpronews

Wednesday April 27

ideanaut.net - online jotbook in flash

Another online notebook, except done in flash so you can add graphics and line drawings to your notes. Good for maps and Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. But it doesn't allow you to download your notes. Doh!


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How readable is your website

This Fog Guning readability test scans the words and sentences of any webpage to determine how many years of schooling the reader needs to have to understand the webpage. I suspect this script cannot discern between a list of links and a sentence of content. So if you have a blogroll, chances are this test will count each line as a sentence and mark down your readability. When I ran my blog through this test, it suggested that grade school students would be comfortable reading it. Urm, I think not.


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filemagazine.com - online photography magazine

Before the year is out, I have to get at least one submission into filemagazine.


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I'm an online brand planner and SEO specialist in Malaysia. XHTML, CSS and PHP hacker. for branding and content planning and execution, offline and online.

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