Tag Archives: php


Just because something has the word Wiki, community and/or .org in its name, doesn’t mean it isn’t a scam. I just received an email from someone called Navin Mirania about Wikimmunity which on first glance sounds like a worthy project: a website designed around local community content. But on closer examination it has the word ‘spam’ written all over it: 

How are you?  My name is Navin from Wikimmunity.org. I recently tried to contact you by phone regarding your blog/web site Endangered Spaces to see if there was any opportunity for us to work together.  Wikimmunity.org, the local community source, is looking for writers to write about local organizations, groups, attractions, people, places, and more.

We pay a modest fee for writing about places and things that you already know about in and around your local area.  Your idea/topic list is unending. Let me know if we can set up a time for us to discuss further. We’d like to help you to generate additional revenue from your blog.  In the mean time, visit  https://www.wikimmunity.org/affiliate/scripts/signup.php to register.  I’ve also included some other links that you might be interested in visiting below. Thanks and I look forward to hearing from

Navin calls himself a “Content Distribution Specialist” which is a new one on me. I guess it sounds better than “spammer who forgot to set the autofiller in his distribution list software”.

And what of the website itself? Well, it looks and feels like Wikipedia, until you realize there’s no information about who’s behind it, and until you start reading some of the entries. Which are, it has to be said, unconsciously amusing. Try this one, for example, about Walmart:

walmart has a lot of people’s needs at great prices. they have snacks, electronics, drinks, furniture, sports stuff, music, and many more. they have video games and acsessories and many more. If you want the newest things for a great price go to walmart. They have so much sales and and items you know it is goinig to be a good store all around prices. if you wann visit their online store [1]. they are one of the best stores to go to. they have toys, fishing equipment, tires, and even t.v. so for this holiday that is coming up you must go to walmart for their awesome prices

Copy I’m sure Walmart would be proud of. Or this one on Barnes & Noble:

Alot of people should be Familiar with this store. In case you don’t know this is a book store. in this store you can get all kinds of books in this place. they have fiction, non-fiction, realistic fiction, and many more. They also have new releases of books all the time. They also have cd’s. the music they have is rock, classic rock, country, rap, and others. this is a good store to get both books and music. They also have drum books. They have Jimi Hendrix cd’s!!!

Well, blow me down. Jimi Hendrix CDs?

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Skype Is Making Me Look Fat

I’ve always held up Skype as a revolutionary tool, not for the voice over Internet thingy, although they definitely were the first to make me sound less like a frog when I talked to folk online. No, the revolutionary bit for me was that their software was simple enough for even the most technology averse of my friends, readers and relatives to install without too many pleas for help. Good stuff. And no small feat. But now they seem to be almost deliberately blowing it by making those who do request help jump through so many hoops I wouldn’t blame them for throwing out the program in disgust.

Skype-support2Try it: the Skype help system does everything wrong. First off, there’s no useful list of the likely problems users may encounter, bar a list of five “popular knowledgebase topics” like “what is relayed transfer”. There is no way to reach a live person — which there should be, at least for paying customers — and searching the knowledgebase is an exercise in frustration. My particular problem — trying to find out why I can no longer drag and drop text from an application into Skype — threw up weird answers that did not appear to be even tangentially related although there were about 20 of them. There’s no link on the bottom of the list along the lines of “can’t find what you’re looking for? Submit a ticket”; instead you need to look down the side, to the penultimate entry, for a link to doing that.

You then are taken to a page where you have to fill out a form, though first you’re steered away again:

Did you try searching our Knowledgebase browsing our user guides? If you didn’t find an answer then try pinpointing your problem below and send it to our Customer Support.

If you remain determined, you’re required to select from a list of topics, and then subtopics, before entering a subject for your query. You can’t skip this: the fields below will be grayed out until you do. I must confess I didn’t get this for a while and was getting a tad more frustrated than I should have been. The fields below are pretty straightforward, though I suspect a few people will be stumped by the field ‘Skype version’ without any help as to what that means or where to find the information. (It’s not a mandatory field, but I’m guessing the first supportresponse customers receive who don’t fill it out will be “What version of Skype are you using?”)

That’s not the end of the process. You’ll probably then get a page saying:

Your support request was not submitted as there are some possible answers in our knowledgebase, they are listed below. If your answer is not listed then please click the button at the bottom of this page.

Skype-support1How weird is that? I think most people are just going to assume their request has been sent and not read this bit. In which case they’re going to be waiting a long, long time. (Almost as long as someone successfully submitting a request, it turns out.)

What annoys me here is that the listed answers aren’t any more related to my request than the ones I tried to find earlier are. They included questions like “What types of links are available for the Skype Affiliate Program” and “What is a publisher?” I suspect these answers have very little to do with what you actually enter in your request. To confirm this I submitted another query:

I’m increasingly concerned that Skype is making me fat. Could that be the case, or have I got the settings wrong? Should I use a smaller headset?

To which I got another “not submitted” message, along with some irrelevant responses (mind you, I would have been deeply impressed if I had received something, particularly if it had been along the lines of “Sennheiser do a very a good line in svelte headsets helping even the heaviest set user appear streamlined”), none of which even mentioned headsets (Can I see list of persons whom I have authorized? etc).

To get past all this dross you need to scroll to the bottom and click on a button. Finally the support request has gone. How many steps was that? Too many. Way too many.

But that’s not the end of it. An email arrives notifying you of your request, and informing you that “Skype Paid Service and Billing-related queries will be sent usually within the next 72 hours”, whatever that means. Bug reports, comments and suggestions won’t be answered. And be warned; you may not receive an answer at all:

Not all Technical Problems will be answered if it is a known problem or if an answer is available in our Knowledgebase or you can also check our Troubleshooters for answers to common problems: http://support.skype.com/index.php?_a=troubleshooter>


Aside from the overlong sentence with the unparsable final clause, it sounds a tad Catch 22; if we know it’s a problem, we may not tell you. If it’s in the Knowledgebase we may not either. So good luck with that.

Sure, they’ve made VoIP easy. But as their client gets more complex, and they add more features, and they try to lure more paid users beyond the early adopters, they need to prepare for people who want assistance. Skype, for some reason, really doesn’t want to know.

The TiddlyWiki Report, Part III: Alan Hecht

This week’s WSJ.com/AWSJ column is about the TiddlyWiki (here, when it appears Friday), which I reckon is a wonderful tool and a quiet but major leap forward for interfaces, outliners and general coolness. I had a chance to chat with some of the folk most closely involved in TiddlyWikis, but sadly couldn’t use much of their material directly, so here is some of the stuff that didn’t fit.

Third up, Alan Hecht Instructional Design Specialist at Penn State University:

Loose Wire: i’m intrigued by TWs and have enjoyed fiddling with them. i’m wondering whether they might be suitable for casual users, and whether they are likely to grow into something more?
AlanCHecht: I discovered TW because I was looking for a wiki solution that I could load on a local web server.  When I sw TW, I was amazed that I didn’t need a server-side app to handle the wiki DB.  I was so surprised by the ease at which anyone could create a dynamic wiki with search capability that I showed it to several faculty (non-techies) who now want to use it for their university-hosted website.  But to answer your question more directly, I think TW is unique in that it can be used by people with no expereience AND by seasoned web programmers who like the power of the plug-in arch.
Loose Wire: yes, good point. i personally love the tagging thing, the idea that you can organise stuff in such a simple but powerful way…
AlanCHecht: I think you have 3 types of TW use…1) wiki-on-a-stick personal only usage, 2) edit locally then post new file to website, and 3) the server-side TW flavors like PHP-TW and ZiddlyWiki.  So folks can get in at any level and start playing, but the tool can also grow with the user.
Loose Wire: how do you think this kind of tool is going to develop?
AlanCHecht: Technically, we just hit a milestone with the plug-in architecture.  I think this means that JeremyRuston will concentrate less on adding new features and more on providing safe, open hooks to plug-in developers.  So the TWs in use out there could all be different based on the plug-ins that are loaded…
Loose Wire: could you give some examples of how different they could be, what kind of uses they could be put to?
AlanCHecht: 2) Cosmetically, I think you’re going to see a lot happen in terms of tweaking the CSS to give TW new looks.  Several recent stylesheets that have been developed hardly look like TW anymore.  and lastly, 3) in terms of usage, I think your going to see TW springing up all over the place (hint: if you google TiddlyWiki, you’ll see results include any site that uses TW because “TiddlyWiki” is hardcode in the HTML title tag…there’s already a lot out there).
AlanCHecht: DIfferent TW’s…give me a minute to think…

Alan Hecht (TiddlyWiki): Here are some obvious TW uses: a user FAQ (because each FAQ answer is perfect for the microcontent approach), a personal Kilroy-type or family website page (because of the low overhead and ease of use), a blog (with dynamic linking between articles and search capability all in one file),  software manuals (that’s a new one, but it would work as the user could download the latest manual from a software site and have ALL the content in one intuitive file).
Loose Wire: interesting… the files get a bit big, tho, don’t they? that’s the javascript, i guess…
Alan Hecht (TiddlyWiki): I’ve even just seen a server-side version of TW that is a full-fledged “free for all” (anyone can post, edit, delete content) version.  This would enable for group collaboration on topics.
Alan Hecht (TiddlyWiki): TW is still pretty small (less than 200K on its own).  Add quite a few tiddlers and you’ll easily double that.  But people often wait for a 400K image to download of their sister’s kid…and with broadband you hardly notice the delay.  Plus, once the file is downloaded, there
Alan Hecht (TiddlyWiki): there’s no more wait time
Loose Wire: true…. it makes me wonder whether there aren’t a whole load of things you could do in a TW — outliners, blogging, even editing documents and bits and pieces. it seems the possibilities are plentiful
Alan Hecht (TiddlyWiki): I expect to see TW evolve more into these areas.  We’re coming up to TW’s 1-year anniversary in Sept I believe.  I discovered TW back in March or April and it’s grown leaps since even then.  Now that anyone can dev for TW, I expect these new directions to escalate.  Still TW has some limits.
Alan Hecht (TiddlyWiki): The beauty of TW is the all-in-one file part.  The pad part is the all-in-one-file part.
Loose Wire: what kind of limits?
Alan Hecht (TiddlyWiki): I’ve heard of folks with huge TWs (for online gaming groups) that just don’t scale up that high very well.  Maybe there will be a solution.  Another limit (sort of) is we get about a post a week from folks who expect to be able to edit and save to a TW once it’s posted to a web.  We have to tell them that only the local copy can be saved unless you use a server-scripted version
Loose Wire: they think they can edit it online?
Alan Hecht (TiddlyWiki): One possibility for scaling could be to have different TWs for each large topic and link to them all from within the existing TW.
Alan Hecht (TiddlyWiki): Yes, many people think that they should be able to edit and save changes to the web-served version.  I’ve seen this asked about a dozen times in the Google groups.  TW tells you that you can’t, but folks just think TW is so easy that it “should” be able to save online.
Loose Wire: the perils of a simple looking tool, i guess!
Alan Hecht (TiddlyWiki): It only comes up with new users thought
Alan Hecht (TiddlyWiki): Anything I didn’t fully answer for you?
Loose Wire: no i think that’s good, thanks a lot. you’re right: 82,000 hits on google for tiddlywiki
Loose Wire: i’ll send you a copy of the piece once it’s done. may i post some of this chat to my blog when the column comes out?
Alan Hecht (TiddlyWiki): Check back with me if you have any other questions.  I’d be happy to help.  As most TW users are, I’m a BIG fan of this technology and of JeremyRuston.
Loose Wire: thanks for the info…