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Some arcana about how BlogStarz! work

Believe me when I say that this will only be interesting to you if you are curious about the thinking about the Starz rating system that we've built into BlogBridge. If you don't have a burning curiosity, trust me, it will put you to sleep 🙂

The basic idea for the BlogStarz! mechanism is simple but the UI at this point is still confusing practically everyone. I will explain it here and describe changes we are planning.

The idea is that the BlogStarz! are generated by BlogBridge and are meant to be a summary rating that ought to match how interesting this particular blog would be to the user, based on several factors.

Currently 4 factors are implemented: your personal rating (thumbs up/down); how 'authorotative' this blog is (based on Technorati rating); how 'active' the blog is; and how many of your keywords hit in the blog. If you look in BlogBridge/Preferences/BlogStarz you'll see 4 sliders that allow you to customize the weight you'd like to put to each of those factors towards the overall one to 5 star rating.

Now, more on each of the factors. Thumbs Up/Down is today implemented inconsistently. While the menu says thumbs up and down, the corresponding indicator is the little icon in the top right of the blog's entry in the Channels pane. Clicking on it you can see that it goes through 3 states: grey box (for neutral), heart (for positive) and bomb (for negative.) Obviously these are temporary icons. In the future this will change to a 4 state icon in the shape of a thumb pointing up. It will go like this: greyed out, thumbs up, two thumbs up and three thumbs up. It will have the same effect - allowing you to give your own personal rating on the blog.

We can determine how authoritative a certain blog is via the Technorati service. For now, you have to get a free Technorati key from them by going to and requesting an API key. And then in BlogBridge, under Preferences/Advanced you can enter the key (cut/paste but be careful of a trailing space which will throw it off.) Once you do that, BlogBridge will, in the background, ask Technorati how many inbound blog links there are in a certain blog, and use that number as an indication of how authoritative the blog is.

Activity of a blog is simply how many posts have been added since you started subscribing to it, divided by time. So a rough average of number of posts per day.

In the BlogBridge/Preferences/Highlights tab (should be called Keywords tab) you can enter a list of words and phrases which are important to you. BlogBridge will use those in many ways. It will highlight those words wherever it sees them. It will also count them and rate a blog higher if there are a lot of hits.

You can see that this is a pretty elaborate, and overly configurable scheme. That's because we are still trying to learn which of these factors (or others) are the best predictor of the subjective "how interesting will you find this blog" question, which the Starz are meant to convey.

Am I cranky today?

Here I go again, picking a out quote from a blogger who I really like and dissecting it. I don't know, maybe I am cranky. Robert Scoble, of Microsoft and Scobelizer fame, reports on a conversation he had with Kim Polese. All in all a fascinating bit, and I hope Kim realized that Scoble was going to blog the whole dang thing. Buried somewhere in the middle, Scoble says:

"It was not possible until there was friction free collaboration(blogs, RSS, Wikis, IRC chat), and a large number of open source components."

Maybe it's because I come from the world of collaboration, but I hate seeing people's fascination and even infatuation with theh new stuff that's no better than the old stuff, or sometimes way worse.

I won't pick on Wiki's again (although I still feel the same…), but how about IRC? I mean calling IRC 'friction free'? Puleeez. I would call it maximum friction! Anyway, just cranky I guess.

Talking points memo: who’s obsessed now?

I'm a huge fan of Talking Points Memo, Josh Marshall's blog. In fact it's my exhibit #1 for people who ask me for a good blog to read (assuming they are "liberal." If they are not I point them to Instapundit.)

Anyway just a few words about Josh Marshall's complaint about how the spinmeisters positioned Kerry's comment about Cheney's daughter the other night. They called it "A crass, below-the-belt political strategy to attach the president's daughter."

Well, my reaction was the same as Mr. Marshall's - how can they call what Kerry said an attack? You can call it a lot of things but not an attack. But I was amused by this comment in Josh Marshall's blog:

"And 'below-the-belt'? Like 'cheap and tawdry', why are all the criticisms coded in sexual language?"

Hmm. Below the belt actually is a boxing term not sexual language at all. Now who is being cheap and tawdry! And by the way, in his last paragraph:

"It's a telling example of how the heavy-weights on the cable nets, the gilded and the gelded , …"

Heavy-weights is another boxing term, I think. But gilded and gelded? I don't know, the whole thing struck me as funny!

Why don’t you check your email?

A very interesting piece about how people are beginning to use Instant Messaging instead of email. It's quite counterintuitive, but it does seem to correlate in one particular college student I know pretty well.

"Youth use email to talk with parents and authorities(including corporate emails like from Xanga); it's where they get the functional stuff. They check email once a day. They get notices there, but they're mostly disregarded.

IM is where the action is. Youth see this as their digital centerpiece, where they communicate with their friends, thereby maintaining their intimate community.

They use the Profiles in IM to find out if their friends updated their LJs or Xangas, even though they are subscribed by email as well. The only feed they use is the LJ friends list and hyper LJ users have figured out how to syndicate Xangas into LJ. [Remember: blog is not a meaningful term to youth culture.]"

Worth reading!

Too Many Toolbars!

Everyone wants to give me a toolbar! I've successfully fought back Yahoo's and am a happy user of Google's Toolbar.

Now A9 has a toolbar too.

Have you checked out A9? It's Amazon's Search Service. What does Amazon want with a Search Service? Don't ask me! Does the world need another one?

I guess I am all for trying to improve on what exists. But in the case of A9, they license Google results and then "add value." For me the value isn't persuasive yet.

But geez, do I have to decide now between the Google toolbar and the A9 Toolbar? Puleez!

But here 's a tidbit for you: if you use A9 then you get a little discount on your Anazon book order. It's only 1.5% (or so 🙂 but still if you order a lot of books, it could add up!

BlogBridge Podcasting?

There's a site called IT Conversations that has a collection of interviews, recorded on mp3s with some very interesting people. Also included are lectures, debates and panels. It is an excellent site, I recommend it.

For a while now, I've been, manually , downloading those onto my PC and transferring them to my iPod for listening while I work out. Very useful and very manual.

It turns out that there's a new term floating around, PodCasting , that describes the 21st century version of what I've been doing. Conceptually, you pick the interviews you are interested in from a list, and they get automatically get downloaded to your iPod. Here is a good introduction to PodCasting.

From a technical viewpoint what's interesting is that people are using RSS and enclosures to integrate this into the world of Blogs. That is, there are some rss feeds, which are all enclosures, which are specifically designed to be handled by a special kind of reader that presents a list to the user, let's them pick the recordings they want and then in background, download them to the pc and then onto the attached iPod.

This will be aBlogBridge feature in the not too distant future.

Here's how it will work. There will be a kind of Channel called a PodCaster Channel. It will be similar to a blog or other feed channel, with two exceptions.

  1. The article list will be formatted a little bit different and in particular will provide for a checkbox with each article.

  2. There will be a background process which will initiate the background download and transfer to the iPod.

(Of course, with the requisite setup, config and customization stuff.) I think it will be quite useful!

[GEEK] Undrestanding and getting around EDT

No, not Eastern Daylight Time, the Swing Event Dispatch Thread. Duh. If the abbreviation EDT doesn't send shivers up your spine you're not really a Java Geek. Or maybe you are an uber-geek.

Anyway, I came across this clear and short article explaining the big traps and how to avoid them. It is the SPIN project which implements a way-esoteric-PhD-level technique to make it easier to work with the EDT.

Here's a really cool idea (via Boing Boing - see their story) - Creating a web site, identical to an existing one, except that certain words have been changed to links. A very powerful idea. Read the [article ]( see the site.

In BlogBridge we already have automatic highlights of keywords. That is, you can specify a set of words or phrases you care about, and BlogBridge will highlight them whenever they occur in a Blog posting.

What if:
in addition to preprocessing words for highlighting we also preprocessed them for magic links. In other words, automatically certain words in a blog posting would be turned into links. Wow!

There are variations here:

  • We could allow you to specify a URL with your keywords and then instead of simply highlighting, magically convert the keyword into a link.

  • We could have a large glossary of words of interest on our BlogBridge server and map them to links.

  • We could (following the example that inspired this) look up words which occur frequently in WikiPedia and supply links to that.

  • We could look them up in Google (using the Google API) and supply links to that!

It boggles the mind. Food for thought.

Find what you care about with BlogBridge

We just got a totally cool new BlogBridge feature working, which actually was suggested by a user a few months ago: keyword highlighting. It's quite simple:

The user supplies a set of keywords they care about (in my case: "Bush Kerry Microsoft eRoom Curacao and Pito")

In turn, whenever blogs are displayed, wgere hose keywords occur, they are highlighted , like so:

screen.jpgClick on the image to enlarge it and note how the words Kerry and Bush are highlighted.

That 's not all. Keyword matches also figure in the scoring of feeds, so when you want to look only at your highest rated feeds, those with matches will be rated more highly(actually this is configurable.)