The Splog Thickens

I was amused, and somewhat perplexed, to read on BuzzMachine yesterday about a bizarre splog—spam blog to the rest of us—which copies text and then converts it to synonyms. Jeff explains: 

New splog tricks

In my ego searches, I just saw a splog that copied text of mine but ran it through ridiculous almost-synonym replacements. I’m assuming this is done to fool Google into thinking it is original content and perhaps to fool the text cops folks like the AP hire.

I still can’t quite work out what the function of this is. But I did come across another one on one of my own ego searches. It took me a bit of time to figure out where it came from. (It’s from Betsy Weber’s blog.)

Here’s the splog text, with the original in italics first. My questions:

  • How the hell does group become “Washington entranceway”?
  • and member become “sorority girl”?
  • I kind of like the fact that loose wire blog has become “Unfixed Twist Blog” and the WSJ has become the “Commodity Exchange Annual”;
  • But somehow which you can see here became “which her philander play against hither”.
  • And the last two paragraphs are so full of weirdness I don’t know where to start.

Join the New Screencast Group on Facebook

Clique with the Untouched Screencast Colligate in reference to Facebook

Are you addicted to Facebook like I am? I recently joined and find myself checking my Facebook page daily! Facebook is a great way to keep up with friends all over the world. Anyone can join Facebook for free.

Are them addicted up to Facebook freak out on You double sideband? Yourselves before heaped and decree myself checking my Facebook serve weekly newspaper! Facebook is a severe want as far as bear in cooperation with friends under the sun the people. Anyone heap up build up Facebook so footloose.

I was excited to see that Amit Agarwal from the Digital Inspiration Blog recently started a new group in Facebook all about Screencasting (link will not work unless you are a member of Facebook). I’m excited to learn and swap tips with fellow members in the group. I’m in very good company – I know expert screencasters, Beth Kanter and Long Zheng have joined the group. Plus, technology expert Jeremy Wagstaff of the Loose Wire Blog and Wall Street Journal is in there too! Remember Jeremy? He wrote a great directory of screencast resources which you can see here.

I was chafing over against run in that Amit Agarwal off the Radical Direct communication Blog previously started a fashionable Washington entranceway Facebook all nigh about Screencasting (deduction plan not lick excepting alter are a sorority girl re Facebook). Ba’m fidgety into go into training and trading tips with fellow members fellow feeling the peer group. Ba’m in very noble cohort- I savvy technical expert screencasters, Beth Kanter and Unrelenting Zheng force twin the collect. And, craft informed in Jeremy Wagstaff re the Unfixed Twist Blog and Commodity exchange Annual is ultra-ultra there inter alia! Think back Jeremy Yourselves wrote a commanding business directory upon screencast capital goods which her philander play against hither.

You cannot access the Screencasting group without being a member on Facebook. But, it’s painless to sign up for Facebook. Click here to register. And, if you join, feel free to add me as a friend!

You cannot access the Screencasting dig up except existing a belonger wherewith Facebook. Unless that, ego’s Mickey Mouse so do a tour in behalf of Facebook. Go as of now up bound. And, if number one knit, glance freely in contemplation of figure out you now a playmate!

Hope to see you join Facebook and in the Screencasting group to share your tips and tricks! Now I have an excuse to go into Facebook while at work. 😉

Hope into smell subliminal self link up Facebook and in the Screencasting detail up to quantum your tips and tricks! The present hour Better self buy an breast-beating up to talk Facebook lastingness at advanced work.

So could someone explain the point of these? There are no ads on the page—it’s a WordPress.com blog, so there can’t be. And, more importantly, what kind of synonym engine are these guys using?

I’m off to register unfixedtwist.com and, while I’m at it, numberoneknit.com.

BuzzMachine » Blog Archive » New splog tricks

Books. The New Google Juice?

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Increasingly I find that if I enter a search on Google for something that I need explaining to me, the first result is a book. Of course, the book is in Google’s Book Search, but chances are the search is in a page that has been scanned and is available without having to buy the book. What I’m not clear about are the implications of this.

(The above example is from me finding myself watching a UK quiz show from 2001 on the BBC’s Entertainment Channel, which I noticed is free this month on our local cable network. As a long-term expat I find these programs compelling viewing, because they offer a window on a culture I’ve lost access to huge chunks of. So when they ask about something old, I’m good, but if it’s a reference to EastEnders since 1987, I’m stumped. Hence the search for what ‘bank’ means on The Weakest Link.)

So back to the implications. Well, Google may be gaming the system. But it looks like a legit result to me:

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I don’t really understand how this works—I always thought links to a page affected its prominence in the rankings, but I’m not complaining. I found what I was looking for. But what does this mean for books? For publishing? Do authors and publishers try to SEO their books? Or will it eat into sales? Is it worth book-ising a website so that it scores higher on Google? Is it worth putting ads into books so when they appear in the scanned form on Google Book Search, readers see the ads? Just some thoughts.

Word Processing: Still in the Dark Ages

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I’m amazed by how word processing is still in the dark ages, considering it’s what we spend most of our day doing. Case in point is Microsoft Word 2007, which throws all sorts of weirdness—artefacts, I guess we’d call them—in text. Try scrolling through a longish document—anything over 5,000 words—and you get this kind of thing (see above) where three lines repeat themselves. And it’s not just a brief, trick of the eye type thing. It sits there like a dumb duck until you fiddle with it and it goes away.

I’m very surprised that this kind of thing happens, and that it happens on such a regular basis. These are not complicated files that contain big tables or fancy graphics, or imported ones. They’re normal Word files.

It tends to confirm my suspicion that software developers rarely concentrate honing the functions that we actually spend most time in. There’s a tendency to add features, or change interfaces, or in some ways to count value, not in terms of making sure the basics work well, but in the stuff around it. (And no, sadly OpenOffice.org isn’t a whole lot better.

I guess what I’d like to see is someone come up with a real word processor: something that really processes words properly. So far I don’t think we’re there.

Are We Too Obsessed With Our Cars?

More stuff from the observant and thought-provoking Nokia researcher Jan Chipchase: drivers protecting their cars in Beijing from urinating canines: 

Beijing, 2008

As Jan points out, lots of issues arise with this: how confused must dogs get that their choice of territory markers move around? (Or maybe that’s exactly what they want—expanding territory without them having to do anything.) But I guess for me is the weird thing that people have over their cars these days. Cars seem to be much clearner than they used to be.

Even in dusty, messy places like Jakarta you knew you could always beat the other guy to a spare corner of road just because you cared less about your car’s bodywork than he did. Here in Singapore people’s cars are so shiny you could eat off them. Apartments may look a mess but the car—the most visible reflection of people’s affluence—is glittering.

Then there’s the thing about hotels, restaurants and clubs allowing the owners of fancy cars to park right outside the lobby. Never quite understood how that works in practice. How do you know whether your car is fancy enough to merit this treatment? Would my Kijang KF42 cut it? It had a chrome trim thing going on which I thought was quite fancy.

Jan Chipchase – Future Perfect: Ownership = Target

Broadbangladesh

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Illustration IHT, by Felipe Galindo

I wrote a piece for the IHT on a company of expats bringing wireless broadband to their native Bangladesh. Would love to have gone there to have a look, but budgets aren’t what they were (love the illustration):

In Bangladesh, where less than 1 percent of the population has Internet access and where the rare broadband connection is prohibitively expensive, bridging the digital divide may require new approaches.

A group of Bangladeshi expatriates think they have found one that could work – a plan to bring affordable Internet access to their homeland through a blend of high-end wireless technology and social entrepreneurship.

Bringing Bangladesh into the Internet age – International Herald Tribune

Evernote’s Smart New Look

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I like Evernote but I’ve always found the notes a bit messy: different fonts, lots of weird formatting, and not particularly easy to read and scan through.

That seems to have changed with their latest version, where the notes are decently sized, free of too much extraneous stuff and easily distinguished from each other with elegant gray space.

Amazing how a few user interface tweaks—to make things simpler and more intuitive than to impress and show off-turn a maybe into a must-have.

The iPhone Dream

Shocking pricing from New Zealand’s vodafone, the first country to launch the iPhone 3G. A $200 iPhone? More like $2,000-$5,000 after charges.

As ReadWriteWeb points out:

Carrier greed worldwide is probably the major reason why the Mobile Web is struggling to take off.

You can’t blame them for trying to make some money while they still can, because that scraping sound is the rats trying to secure stowage on a sinking ship.

Vodafone NZ Charges “Like a Wounded Bull” For iPhone 3G – ReadWriteWeb

The iPhone Dream

Shocking pricing from New Zealand’s vodafone, the first country to launch the iPhone 3G. A $200 iPhone? More like $2,000-$5,000 after charges.

As ReadWriteWeb points out:

Carrier greed worldwide is probably the major reason why the Mobile Web is struggling to take off.

You can’t blame them for trying to make some money while they still can, because that scraping sound is the rats trying to secure stowage on a sinking ship.

Vodafone NZ Charges “Like a Wounded Bull” For iPhone 3G – ReadWriteWeb

Ritual: The Forgotten Sweet Spot of Old Media

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Lifehacker just pointed to a four-year old entry on how to fold a newspaper:

Real Simple magazine has an old but good step-by-step guide to folding an unwieldy broadsheet newspaper for easy reading on the go. It’s really just a matter of a few well placed folds, but if you don’t already have a good folding strategy, this post is a great starting point. On the other hand, if you’re a newspaper-folding pro and your methods differ from Real Simple’s guide, let’s hear all about how you make it work in the comments.

Of course, my first reaction was the same as some of the commenters: “What?? Next we’ll be taught how to blow our nose!” But actually it’s quite informative, and I notice that it’s exactly how my dad would read the paper.

Of course, he never taught me how to do that, and I’ll probably never need to teach my kids how to do it. “Fold a newspaper? Are you insane, Dad?” Instead, they’ll be reading on their Readius:

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And that’s the point: My use of the newspaper is bound up in my memory of my father reading the newspaper. We as children mimic adults, so it was a sign of maturity for me to read the newspaper—or rather, for me to master the newspaper. That didn’t mean just reading it, but handling it—folding it, creasing it, carrying it under my arm, swishing it in the air when I turned a page, tut-tutting at the goings-on of the world.

Another moment yesterday elicited the same thought: Banished to the kitchen I was listening to the Wimbledon Men’s Final on the radio while my wife watched it on the TV. Of course, it’s vastly preferable to watch it rather than listen to it, but still the atmosphere created by the commentator on the radio was so powerful, his descriptions so flawless and compelling, that I found myself preferring it to the easy visuals of the TV.

What’s more, it took me back to those schooldays clustered around the radio listening to the second-half commentary of soccer matches on Saturday afternoon, or, radio under pillow after lights-out with the volume on 1, following an evening UEFA Cup tie between my team and some exotic-sounding team from behind the Iron Curtain. It was so magical, so dramatic, the inflexions of the commentator so perfect, I am forever transported back to those moments whenever I hear sport being described in real time on radio.

Of course my wife thought me absurd for prefering audio over visual. And I readily accept it is. But it’s like newspapers: beyond the obvious argument that some formats trump others in certain situations (newspapers over computers in the bath; cellphones over newspapers on crowded transport), there’s also the fact that we connect emotionally to the formats, not just because of habit, but because they evoke deeper feelings—to the past, to familiarity, to a sense of habit and ritual.

Most debates about newspapers nowadays are about when they’ll die out. I don’t believe this will happen, because they represent a format that still trumps others in certain situations. But beyond the practical there’s an emotional element too, and perhaps the challenge of ‘old’ media is to capture some of these emotional connections—newspapers strewn around in Starbucks, free, throwaway radios for listening to commentary at big games—in order to inject fresh life into the medium.

After all, it’s not just about reading yourself up-to-date. It’s about the physical pleasure of reading, of feeling at peace and in the security of a familiar habit.

Reading: How to Fold a Broadsheet Newspaper

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If You Know the Answer, Why Ask the Question?

Just downloaded and installed the new beta version of Skype, and am now removing it. Why? Because it’s humongously big, and doesn’t have any option I could find for reducing its footprint. Compare this:

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with this:

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(and notice the Compact Mode option that I couldn’t find in the 4.0 version.)

What bothers me is that Skype already know this is a problem. Try to download a different version of Skype after the beta, and you’re confronted with a (rather creepy) questionnaire as they try to find out why you’re doing what you’re doing. One of the answers:

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Well, d’oh. If you knew that was a problem, then why not make it an option to reduce the screen size? Compare this to something like Google Talk, which couldn’t get any smaller:

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or even some of those twitter clients. I know the video is supposed to be great on the new version of Skype, but if you’re not actually running video, what’s the excuse for such a desktop-hogging client? I can’t think of one.