29.9.07

[ad clicks]

An interesting post on the logistics of ad-clicking from Zeila Rich Enterprises.



"The pie chart shown above gives you all the different types of clicks there are to Adsense Advertisements, be it on the Search or Content Networks. We cannot disclose our methods of collection of such data, as it is our proprietary technology, and we might plan to do something about it some day. There are several categories of clicks.

We have the Fact-Finding Clicks (FFC). These clicks are just for visitors to find out more about a particular offer or just receive information, perhaps comparing offers from one advertiser to another. It is not surprising that it makes up over 60% of all clicks in our research.

What is shocking most is that out of 4 clicks, at least one of them is what we term the Curious Click (CUC). Over 25% of all clicks are as a result of curiosity. People are clicking just to find out “what’s going on”, without the intention to buy anything. That has serious implication to pay per click advertisers, but that is beyond the scope of this book.

There are also the Competitive Clicks (COC). Luckily, it is only 1% of total clicks. These are ads which are clicked by competitors of the advertisers. These competitors have no intention whatsoever to do business with the advertisers, other than to inflate the advertising costs of their competitors. Sad, but true about the existence of such clicks!


The 3% Converted Clicks (CNC) are in line with data collected by major advertising firms. These conversions only include direct sales (and exclude leads such as subscription to a mailing list, request for information, etc). What this means is that 3 out of 100 people actually buy something the first time they click on an ad. Remember we talked about Click Flipping in Chapter 4? Can you imagine making money from referral commissions from just 3% of your ad clicks (not to mention an even infinitesimal portion of your total web visitors)?"




For more see here.

24.9.07

[zig-zag philosophy]


I'm editing my introduction to the thesis and re-reading Haraway and her notion of situated knowledges and cyberfeminism as well as going through Braidotti's Nomadic Subjects (which must be one of my favourite academic reads). Braidotti also has her own site which I check on frequently, hoping for a blog I suppose so that I might keep up with her theorising. Although no blog, I have just found her most recent article, published in Italian. In it she makes a comment about an aspect of her work which is dedicated to constructing *real* communities and discourses within and outside of her written works, all the while leaving "ample" space for others thereby provoking multiple encounters (nb. my *loose* translation). This kind of theorising that moves between other theories as well as being a political strategy is essentially "non-linear" and thus becomes a "zig-zag" philosophy.



"Se il discorso teorico infatti funziona in un’ economia non-lineare, in modo eterogeneo e complesso, allora anche la resistenza politica deve assumere questo stile a zig zag."






23.9.07

[harpenden farmers' market]

harpenden farmers' market



A lovely way to spend a sunny Sunday morning; strolling through a pretty town and doing food shopping without dodging crazy trolley drivers in a crowded supermarket...ah, and it's all local produce.















22.9.07

[italian deli]

Who knew that tucked into a small, mostly residential road in a "village" I would find a lovely and authentic-smelling Italian deli?


The Silver Palate Delicatessen in Harpenden is everything a foodee would love. It is somewhat cramped making customers more aware of the shelves packed with tasty morsels ranging from real Italian pastas, olive oils, to fabulous San Pellegrino sparkling lemonades (and that's the *real* lemonade, not the 7-up stuff) and assorted selections of things "sott-oglio."

The deli counter displayed a huge selection of Italian salumi including my favourite Ventricina (although the person working there didn't know what I was asking for and I had to point to it...) which is a specialty of my home-town Vasto


as well as loads of cheeses and home-made bread and fresh pasta.
For those looking for more than a few bits and pieces to take home, The Silver Palate has a few tables scattered about (inside and outside) complete with tasty-sounding offerings on the menus, waiting for weary customers to plonk themselves down.



If you're ever in Harpenden do check out this authentic Italian deli.



19.9.07

[folksonomy and thomas vander wal]

Yesterday I had the great pleasure of listening to Thomas Vander Wal share with us his charting of folksonomy, from its beginnings to future possibilities. He began with his definition of folksonomy (which funnily enough, Vander Wal noted, Wikipedia gets wrong):




When Vander Wal spoke about the important aspect of folksonomy, that it is a "social" activity, he reminded us that in a pre-networked world, networking was walking your floppy across the office!

The "f-word" (as Vander Wal puts it) allows "regular" folks to categorise or structure information in a way that is pertinent to them (i.e. personalised).




This aspect of personalisation has important impacts for the business sector in that it allows businesses a view of their product from the customers' point of view. Again, Vander Wal gave us a funny example of how tagging can affect your product by showing us cd available on amazon.com (see
here) and how it was tagged:



You wouldn't want your product labelled as "talentless" would you...?

So, with the help of folksonomy, businesses can move from their "top down" approach to a more open and realistic understanding of their product (or at least how it is perceived).

Vander Wal concluded his talk with an excellent visual representation of what he sees happening in certain social networking arenas:




People/users/taggers are moving from employing tags as descriptors for solely personal use to, the other end of the spectrum, where tags seem to be jumping off points for dialogues and stories (that's the bit I'm personally interested in. Especially after noticing on flickr how some photos start
so many stories).






As Vander Wal says:
"The people using the tools, including enterprise need to grasp what is possible beyond that is offered and start asking for it. We are back to where we were in 2003 when del.icio.us arrived on the scene, we need new and improved tools that understand what we need and provide usable tools for those solutions. We are developing tag islands and silos that desperately need interoperability and portability to get real value out of these stranded tag silos around or digital life."





NB apologies for the not so great photos! Annoyingly I forgot my camera (such was the excitement to attend the presentation) and to hand was only my blackberry...




18.9.07

[signs i'm getting older]

  1. I found one single, errant, silver hair on my head...and pulled it out

  2. I was pleasantly surprised (though appeared nonchalant) when the shop cashier checked whether I was old enough to buy a (laguiole) knife set...

[Folksonomy: A look at a Hated Word But a Loved Resource]

2:00-3:30PM, September 18, 2007. Free and open to the public.

Room 0.01, Clephan Building, De Montfort University, Leicester UK. LE1 9BH


"Folksonomy" was recently voted one of the new terms most likely to make you "wince, shudder or want to bang your head on the keyboard." This talk by the inventor of the term – Thomas Vander Wal – will offer you a chance to make your own judgment. The talk is open to all and will not require any specialist knowledge on behalf of the audience.


A Folksonomy can be created when users of "web2.0" sites such as YouTube, Flickr, LastFM and Del.icio.us add keywords ("tags") to the items they view in order to add information about these items. As more and more users tags such items more information is created about the the items. Unlike library catalogues which are created by experts, folksonomies are like catalogues created by everyday people. For some, this heralds a brave new era of democratic information management, for others it heralds the death of expertise.


Thomas Vander Wal lives in Bethesda, Maryland, and this is a rare opportunity to hear him in the UK. He coined the term "folksonomy" in 2004 and is a popular speaker on tagging/folksonomy, social web, and web applications around well structured information. He is principal, and senior consultant at InfoCloud Solutions, a social web consulting firm. Thomas has been working professionally on the web since 1995 (with a professional IT background beginning in 1988) and has breadth and depth across many roles and disciplines around web design, social web development & research and general web development. He is a member of the Web Standards Project Steering Committee and helped found the Information Architecture Institute and Boxes & Arrows web magazine. See his web site to find out more: http://www.vanderwal.net/

The lecture is presented as part of the AHRC-funded research project Tags Networks Narratives, examining the interdisciplinary application of experimental social software to the study of narrative in digital contexts. It is a unique speculative project assessing the potential for collaborative social-software techniques such as folksonomy in narrative research. The project explores:

* What kinds of collaborative social network tools are available for the gathering and classification of information?

* Which researchers are making online narratives the focus of study, and how are those projects categorised by discipline?

* How can these researchers make effective use of social network tools to share knowledge and develop interdisciplinary collaborations?

The project is based in the Institute of Creative Technologies (IOCT) at De Montfort University, Leicester UK and is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Board from October 2006-September 2007. The project team consists of Professor Sue Thomas, Bruce Mason and Simon Mills.

The talk is organised in partnership with Production and Research in Transliteracy group http://www.transliteracy.com


For more information and directions to the venue visit http://www.ioct.dmu.ac.uk/tnn/vanderwal07.htm

See also the project site.

15.9.07

[stanborough park]

A sunny day just begs for a walk next to water...













14.9.07

[transliteracy unconference]





Well, I made it to the conference despite the morning's excitement (or kitchen fire) and am so glad I did. It was my first *unconference* and seemed, well, very relaxed?




Howard Rheingold kicked things off for us and then we just had to decide what we wanted to spend the rest of the day talking about. The day was divided into three sessions and each session had four groups. We could flit between groups and attend the various discussions but I found myself staying with each group for the duration of the session. That way, as Dave noted, we could really develop our ideas.

I decided to jump right in during the first session and chose to join the group discussing ethics (yes ethics!) of transliteracy. Wow! What a way to begin! The idea of power, access, gender, and other cultures made their way into our conversations. A few of us (
Roland Harwood who organised the event and Shani Lee) had been to the NESTA event on Tuesday night so we made references to Howard's talk and the idea that no matter what culture we happen to be from or live in, we can all spot cheaters...Like Mark Earls' talk on the eyes above the money box. So, who's eyes are watching the 'net?

Session two incorporated lunch so rather than joining any of the groups, including the one discussing collaboration while walking along the canal (which I really wanted to join)...I satisfied some hunger pains. However, I did get to talk to
Ruth at length and she made some pertinent points about transliteracy as a concept. We (as in the PaRT group or perhaps anyone who wants to use the concept) need to make sure it's a robust term that stands up to critque or questions...like Ruth's: how is transliteracy different from linguistics? (I think I got that right). The idea of clarifying how transliteracy is different from other fields that do similar things came up during our final discussion too. I've been wondering about this...how IS transliteracy different? Well, thinking about linguistics (discourse analysis) is the key perhaps in the word: "lingu"-istics? it comes down to language? Sure, as Ruth pointed out, linguistics takes into account genre (the way in which people are interacting, a conversation or a television show), how they are related (I think this is tenor), and then the way their interaction refers to wider discourses, i.e. history. But, isn't this just about language? However, the ideas behind linguistics, like being aware of the larger context and how discourses (in the general sense, not just grammar/words) might be related to the interpretation of a transliterate production certainly are useful. As you can see, there's lots more thinking and firming up to be done.

The discussion with Ruth did not impede our eating and soon we finished and were able to join the group on their walk. Lucky for me, Ruth was able to give me a demonstration of linguist analysis in a transliterate way (we were walking and talking). She spotted a couple sitting on the grass and gave me an example of an analysis including genre and tenor (we just made some assumptions about their wider discourses!).


After a cup of coffee it was on to session three, the final of the small group discussions. I made my way to the back where we tackled transliteracy in terms of a historical context. We had some loaded conversations and argued about how, ultimately, has the right and responsibility to publish knowledge.
Hugo Worthy and Dave (I believe) brought up the idea of a bazaar where anyone can come and exchange (or buy) goods/services rather than a hierarchical effusion of knowledge (for some reason "cathedral" came up as a metaphor).

Good thing that I only needed to do the live note-taking for the final, full group discussion as my brain was befuddled, baffled, and uncertain (nothing new I'm sure). Some of the issues raised in the final session included Ruth's caveat that we be sure of how transliteracy is different or whether, I think, it might just remain a more vague concept which enables people from other disciplines to discuss the crossing of boundaries. Also Dave reminded us that


"there's a window through which we look at tech cultural, concerned window is staying the same size thus we're looking at it more abstractly, if the window were to widen and if we could understand the language behind the structure which informs the practises we can transform the lit. - to gain power over the computing, danger of losing that knowledge and leaving it to other people."




Meg Pickard gave us a good idea of transliteracy in practise when she told us about a tour of Alcatraz she had experienced. It was an audio tour so she had on some headphones but on the recording were sounds of innmates, chains etc...so that Meg said it felt more like a visual and spatial experience rather than just aural. When I looked up Alcatraz now, I found that they're going to start podcasting: Radio Free Alcatraz.


For my roughly-taken and typo-riddled notes have a look at the
unconference wiki page.



13.9.07

[transliteracy unconference]

Today's the transliteracy unconference hosted by the PaRT group at the IoCT....and I've woken up to the lovely aroma of wires burning; there's been an electrical fire in the kitchen!

Hopefully a bit of smoke won't stop me from attending what is going to be a great unconference.

If you're interested have a read here.

12.9.07

[I was part of the herd...]

that went to hear Howard Rheingold and Mark Earls talk lastnight at NESTA's hosted session on Mass Collaboration.

It was fully booked.





Howard kicked things off with some tales of collaboration, or rather lack of: politics is about "your side winning," and biology is war.


But, over the last few years Howard explained that he's been tracking the emergence of a "new narrative; one in which competition is still central but no longer all encompasing and shrinks just a little bit to leave room for some of the new knowledge that's developing over a wide variety of field about complex interdependencies and cooperative arrangements."


Howard went on to talk about three "mythic narratives" one of which was the prisoner's dilema in which (more or less) the prisoners need to cooperate in order to win. (For a little blurb on this see here).

Then Howard brought up his second mythic narrative, the tragedy of the commons (see G. Hardin, Science 162, 1243 (1968).) Basically, human behaviour is dog-eat-dog and when there's something like, oh, let's say a nice green pasture, people will keep adding one more sheep to the field in the end "desertifying" it as Howard says. Moving from that idea that humans inherently want to maximise their own gain, Howard referred to Elinor Ostrum, a political scientist, who asked important questions of groups who did not deforestlands or over fish etc...how did some of these communities manage their resources? Or, in Ostrom's words:
"The central question in this study is how a group of principals who are in an interdependent situation can organize and govern themselves to obtain continuing joint benefits when all face temptations to free-ride, shirk, or otherwise act opportunistically."


What Ostrom found was that in each of the groups that successfully managed their environment, there was a set of 8 design principles including "
clearly defined boundaries, monitors who are either resource users or accountable to them, graduated sanctions, and mechanisms dominated by the users themselves to resolve conflicts and to alter the rules." The principle Howard focused on is that of "altruistic punishment." To explain the point he Mark {oops, typo: it was Mark's story!!} told us a little story about an honesty box in the coffee shop and if that honesty box had a "pair of eyes above it" then people were more likely to be honest and pay for their coffee... (Read this article for a more recent theorising of community behaviour by Elinor Ostrom, et al in Science).

Mark Earls began by being "outed" as having a background in advertising though his own beginning to the presentation included a quote (seemingly) not about branding or commercial gain but from African philosophy, Ubuntu. Mark explained the quote, and he did say he was explaining it as "he" understood it: "a man is only a man with and through other men." Yeah...what about women? At least the translation might seek to collaborate with the other half of the community; women! I googled Ubuntu as soon as I arrived home, hoping to find out a bit more about this philosophy. Instead, I was reminded that Earls is all about branding because Ubuntu, of course, is the name of that new
"community developed, linux-based operating system that is perfect for laptops, desktops and servers. It contains all the applications you need - a web browser, presentation, document and spreadsheet software, instant messaging and much more. Ubuntu is free software."
Archbishop Desmond Tutu defines Ubuntu as having "to do with what it means to be truly human, to know that you are bound up with others in the bundle of life."




Anyway, that invocation of African philosophy came back to Earls during the question/answer session.





Funnily enough, in a presentation about collaboration Earls asked the audience members to collaborate by doing a "Mexican wave." That was erm...fun. With audience members busy scribbling, typing, clicking, and videoing away, we had to be asked twice and indeed, needed to practise. Here we are trying to collaborate:





Earls further exemplified (to me and Jo Howard who later asked him a question about this) an undercurrent in his theorising that doesn't really seem to be about collaboration but more about power. For one, he created a divide between "us" (northern europeans) and "them" (non-northern Europeans) Plus one image he used in his ppt really stood out for me, an image of a young woman pointing up into the sky with the words "bigger boys" at the top.


Earls said he uses this excuse himself, that "bigger boys made me do it." But why not use an image of himself pointing up? Why an image of a woman? The image was related to a story about a handful of "loonies" pointing up into the sky being enough to make passerbys also look up as they're "covinced" they've missed something...this is an indication of how easy it is for other people to influence us.

Again in question time this binary opposition was picked up and someone asked Earls about aligning the west with a more combative approach and the east with a collaborative one. Interesting. In his answer Earls refers to Richard Nisbett's book The Geography of Thought which is based upon explaining these dualities. I like Razib's review at the Gene Expression where he says

"Nisbett's book is worth a read, at least if you are a business-person or a marketer, but he really does not present any new axiomatic constructs that shift anyone's paradigm."
Maybe I just happened to be more aware of binaries or the invocation of "otherness" because of a sign I had spotted in a shop window on the way to the NESTA building:



There are always "others"...


Earls did use some good words though: exogenous, neotenic mutation, Axolotl.



Look at the technologies being used:







NESTA has put up the podcast from the evening: http://www.nesta.org.uk/assets/mp3/11-09-07/howard_rheingold.mp3 and http://www.nesta.org.uk/assets/mp3/11-09-07/mark_earls.mp3.