Thursday, May 17, 2007

Social Network Experiment

This is a social network experiment.

America. of States United the for Constitution this establish and ordain do Posterity, our and ourselves to Liberty of Blessings the secure and Welfare, general the promote defence, common the for provide Tranquility, domestic insure Justice, establish Union, perfect more a form to Order in States, United the of People the We

Unrequested expenditure of Attention

But, look at that! Does a posting from a Yahoo email account include a random advertisement at the bottom?

You can blog from your email!

I'm posting this message to my blog from an email! Slick, eh?

Food fight? Enjoy some healthy debate
in the Yahoo! Answers Food & Drink Q&A.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

How to brainstorm in the middle of the night

In the tradition of self help blogs across the internet, I am proud to present the following article that I made up.

How to brainstorm in the middle of the night

Materials needed:
Lots of caffeinated, sugary drinks.
1 dog
1 baby
1 wife

Step 1:
Gather all the required materials. If you do not have the materials you may try to borrow them from a neighbor.

Step 2:
During the day drink as much of the sugary drinks as possible. I prefer Coca-Cola with meals. It just seems to go well with food. Mountain Dew is useful in times of great stress. It really gets the heart beating.

Step 3:
Generally, try to pass out into a sugar coma around 10 or 11 pm.

Step 4:
Have your dog wake you up around midnight to go out and pee. I think that any dog will do, but I prefer a 120 pound Great Dane. They don't bark or whine as much and you won't accidentally throw them across the room when they interrupt your sleep. Generally, my Great Dane will click, click, click across the hardwood floors and stand beside the bed staring at me until I get up. He's a pretty good starer apparently because he is almost always successful. Maybe it's his breath. At times when I am particularly sound asleep, he might press down on me with his head. Repeatedly.

Step 5:
Go back to sleep. Your brain is still tired! It's not yet in the proper state for optimal brainstorming.

Step 6:
Have your baby wake you up around 2 am for something to drink. It's best to cosleep with your baby. You might sleep through their wails if they are in another room. If they sleep in the same bed they will be able to kick you appropriately until you awaken. Additionally, if you fake sleep long enough, your wife will yell at you or shake you violently enough to encourage you to stagger out of bed toward the kitchen.

Step 7:
Carefully prepare the drink for the baby. It's best if there are no clean dishes and you have to wash something. During this phase it is important that you achieve a fairly high level of wakefulness.

Step 8:
Lay back in bed and stare at the ceiling for at least 30 minutes. You are now preparing to enter the brainstorming mode.

Step 9:
Think of a topic that will allow you to mull over it continuously for the remainder of the night. If you ever get tired of a particular topic, choose another, you can always come back to the original topic later if you wish.

Now you are ready! Brainstorm away!

What kinds of problems can you solve under these conditions? Anything at all. Last night, for example, I had three excellent ideas.

Idea 1
Wouldn't it be cool if I invented a machine that would allow me to lower the temperature of water until it reaches a solid state? I could use the resulting product for many things - like cooling off highly caffeinated, sugary drinks.

Idea 2
Inventing machines may be difficult. Perhaps, instead, I could convince everyone who wanted such a product to move to extremely cold places. They could simply break the frozen water off a convenient tree limb. Trees, after all, have already been invented. I could sell trees to my target market.

Idea 3
For my blog, I should start using the following tag line:
Polytopic Satire Techtemplations - The Leftover Salmon of blogs.

Sometimes your ideas may not seem as good in the morning. That's OK! Brainstorming is not about quality.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


Herbert Simon, who Wikipedia tells me was one of the most influential social scientists of the 20th century, once said:

" an information-rich world, the wealth of information means a dearth of something else: a scarcity of whatever it is that information consumes. What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it."

Simon, H. A. (1971), "Designing Organizations for an Information-Rich World", in Martin Greenberger, Computers, Communication, and the Public Interest, Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins Press, ISBN 0-8018-1135-X., p. 40-41.

That seems to be an incredibly insightful statement considering the overwhelming amount of information that we are bombarded with today. 500+ TV channels, email, IM, text messaging, ubiquitous broadband connections, ubiquitous advertising... It's no wonder that Attention Deficit Disorder is on the rise.

I love being connected. I love learning random things here and there. I'm sure many of you reader(s) will agree. But, by being connected we are creating a profile of what captures our Attention.

Marketers, obviously, understand the concept of Attention very well. They would like to understand what has the attention of their target markets and how they can somehow get a piece of that attention. When you are connected, particularly in this new Web 2.0 social networking world, who is watching when you blog, or microblog, or IM, or purchase, or click? And how does your past activity affect what you are presented with in the future?

By choosing to participate in Web 2.0 services, you are, to some degree, agreeing to allow your web footprint to be tracked. Is Attention tracking a bad thing? How does a consumer win in an environment where their Attention is being tracked? How can a consumer manipulate their Attention information to their own benefit?

Monday, May 14, 2007


Wow! It's hard work to squeeze in blogging time between full time jobs, entertaining the kids, celebrating moms, etc... I can understand why so many blogs dry up after a couple of weeks. Starting a blog is almost like speaking to a coliseum full of screaming people and you are underneath the bleachers in the dark with your scarf wrapped twice around your mouth.

People like a bit of feedback. So, perhaps you pay someone to post a comment on your blog - which may be somewhat anti-climatic (Sorry, Dad). Or, perhaps, you get a comment from someone totally unknown and (...sad truth...) your inner cynic rises up and wonders "What kind of scam this person is pulling?" Is the investment in blogging worth it?

Perhaps, these facts are the key to the rise of "microblogging". Microblogging is any online application that allows a person the opportunity to post a short, informal statement of some sort. For example, with flickr, you can post a comment regarding a photo. On you can summarize your perceptions of a web link. Even commenting on some random blog gives you the opportunity to say something that may be read by others.

With Twitter or Jaiku, you have no choice but to limit your comment to 140 characters.

... But what is allure?

Friday, May 11, 2007


The use of tags to describe objects on the web will propagate the creation of new words which imply bigger ideas much more succinctly.

Most of these new words will likely be portmanteaux. A portmanteau is a new word which combines the spelling and meaning of two or more words. For example, a spork is a spoon / fork hybrid. Additionally, 'portmanteau' is one of those few words that you can make plural by adding an 'x'.

Hotlanta (hot, Atlanta) is a local favorite.

I seem to tend to use fidiot fairly often when I'm driving in traffic.

The web is already packed with portmanteaux. For example, consider email, emoticon, and, in fact, the word internet itself is derived from international and network.

The Wiktionary has an entire list of useful portmanteaux for your tagging needs.

In this day and age, there is no such thing as too much. So, I have endeavored to create a few of my own.

Blogophytes (blog, neophyte) can't wait to pump up their blego (blog, ego) a little with a successful post on digg.

Note: Don't confuse blego with the portmanteau homograph blego (blog, Lego) which means a blog built out of lots of smaller blogs.

Consider this sentence: I can't believe Ray would work on his blucky (blog, sucky) instead of billing some hours.

EggBlog (Egg Nog, blog) - a blog that is only updated once a year during the holidays.

TroggBlog (The Troggs, blog) - A blog that covers the same 3-chord topics as every other blog on the web. (Not that that is bad. After all, Jimi Hendrix covered Wild Thing.)

Hey! Blog (web, log) is a portmanteau, too.

Here's some more examples:

Parison (Paris, prison) - very topical

rubyatric (Ruby, geriatric) - an aging developer who reads Ruby books just to seem relevant still.

self-developrecating (self deprecating, developer) - a developer who adds methods to the API and then deprecates them in the next release, just for laughs. (See: Research In Motion Device Java Library)

Moonvertising (Moon, advertising) - probably costs more than Adsense.

Moovertising (Moo, advertising) - an idea waiting for someone to jump on it.

sneasel (snot, weasel) - one that I like to use with my kid. That's either a boogle, gang, confusion, or pack of sneasels for you animal-collectiverati out there.

While I did think most all these up myself, I couldn't necessarily take credit for them. Some are just portmantobvious (portmanteau, obvious).

As a final note, the Wikipedia states, "Typically, portmanteau words are neologisms." (070511) What are neologisms? It's a word, term, or phrase which has been recently created.

Once again, to quote from Wikipedia:

"In psychiatry, [neologism] is used to describe the creation of words which only have meaning to the person who uses them. It is considered normal in children, but a symptom of thought disorder indicative of a psychotic mental illness such as schizophrenia in adults. Usage of neologisms may also be related to aphasia acquired after brain damage resulting from a stroke or head injury." (070511)

That being said, what is your favorite portmanteau?

Thursday, May 10, 2007


What's a blog if you don't have at least one YouTube link?

Here's a great song from the mid - 90's. Tahitian Moon by Porno for Pyros.

I've never actually seen the video. Watching Little Beam (age 2) dance to the music is certainly more interesting. (Sorry, Perry.)

Here's how you do the dance:

During the fast parts run around in random directions like a wild animal.
During the slow parts stand in place and stretch your arms up towards the sky, repeatedly. (Kind of the way that they are doing it in the video...)


Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Tag Cloud

Yesterday, I described how tags act as metadata in an image search. Metadata tags can be (and increasing are) associated with any object or concept on the web.

Consider the web site Due to its name, when I first surfed to, I was concerned that I might encounter images and an endless array of popups which I wouldn't want young children to see. Be honest! When you see that there is a web site called "", what do you think of? Food? Yeah, right! Maybe if someone is wearing the food!

Actually, is a wonderful site where you can store a collection of your favorite links with any choice of associated tags. then tracks all the users that save the same link and all of the tags that are associated with that link. A link's associated tags may be visualized using a "tag cloud". A tag that is used by a large number of users is represented by a larger font.

When you post a new favorite link in, they actually suggest tags to use for that link (if the link has been posted before). This technique helps to build some sense of congruence amongst the users of the community. With, web searches can be made based on how other users have tagged their favorite sites.

This all leads to today's haiku...

lust, gluttony, greed,
sloth, wrath, envy, pride - deadly
sins or great tag cloud?

Tuesday, May 08, 2007


How do you search a database of images? One solution would be to associate metadata with the image. Metadata is data(2) about data(1). In this case, data(1) would be a particular image, while data(2) might take the form of text based descriptive tags. For example, the following image may have the tags "ireland", "ocean", "landscape", "green", "photo", etc. associated with it.

Now when someone enters text "ireland" into an image search engine this image should come up as one of the results. Unfortunately, the search engine is only as good as the tags associated with the image. If the searcher entered "moher" into the engine, the image would not make the list even though it is a picture of the Cliffs of Moher.

Who tags all these images? Well... we, the users, tag the images.

My description of image searching is particularly simplified. I have no idea if this is how the photo site Flickr works. But it might...

Please note that I am not paid to promote Flickr. If you would like to change that, please contact my business department.

Monday, May 07, 2007


Last Thursday I published a post regarding Technorati and my current ranking. Obviously, Technorati was listening (HA!), because they changed their blog ranking system on Friday. Now, they apply an attribute called "Authority" which indicates the number of blogs that have linked to your blog in the past six months. If your blog has no links from other blogs, then you have no Authority. If you have no Authority, then you remain unranked.

You may have also noted that I received a nice little comment from someone for my Technorati post. It's always nice to receive comments, but generally, I only get them from my father. Does this mean that someone else actually looked at my blog? I doubt it.

Here is my hypothesis regarding what happened... You may notice that at the bottom of each post, there is a series of "labels". I directed Technorati to "ping" my blog after I published the Technorati post. Technorati scanned the entry and its labels. Then they published my post on a feed to anyone subscribing to those labels. The commenter was hoping perhaps to reach someone desperately trying to increase their Technorati rating.

Why would someone want to increase their Technorati rating? If you can generate more traffic to your blog, you may be able to generate more revenue from the ads that are displayed in your blog. That, or perhaps, it's just to pump up your blog ego (blego?).

For today's experiment I will use the same labels and see what happens...

Regardless, who all have blogs with lots of "Authority"? Hmmm... maybe "Authority" is a misnomer...

Friday, May 04, 2007

I don't know RSS from Atom

With the growth of the World Live Web wherein sites (such as news sources or blogs) frequently update content, a new machine-friendly description of the content was developed. RSS (which has evolved to be an acronym for Really Simple Syndication) was the first flavor of this syndication syntax. It is basically an XML document. That is, it is a well structured document containing a number of tags describing the nature of the content. Tags might include things like <author>, <title>, or <pubdate>.

Unfortunately, several flavors of the RSS format evolved in the early 2000's, so, yet another syndication scheme, known as Atom, has been developed. Atom, once again, describes a document with XML, however, the specification is a bit more explicit regarding the payload of the content (eg. plain text, escaped HTML, etc.).

You can even see the RSS feed and Atom feed for the SolarPoweredDreams blog. Note, that you may need to right click on the window of those locations and choose "View Source" to actually see the XML.

So, who cares?

Now, there are tools (generally known as "feed readers") that will go out to sites to which you have subscribed and notify you of any new content since the last time you checked the site. These feed readers allow you to surf all your favorite sites from a single interface.

Thursday, May 03, 2007


Nerds like their statistics. It's no wonder that is a popular destination on the web. Technorati tracks blog popularity. They count the number of links from other blogs which are pointing towards yours and provide your blog with a ranking. So, where is SolarPoweredDreams in the rankings? 3,154,798. I certainly must be tied with a lot of other blogs. After all I have zero (0) links pointing here, so far. According to BlogHerald, in July 2005 there were over 70,000,000 blogs. With the eruption of Web 2.0, this number certainly has increased.

Oh, look! I've just ticked up someone else's blog's external link count. Technorati on! I see that BlogHerald is currently ranked number 448. Hey! Whoever's number 447 - Sorry! Drop me a line and I'll do some more linking. Baby does need a new pair of shoes, after all...

Update: Number 447, I'm just joking. Little Beam has a number of nice pairs of shoes.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Mobile IM and Presence

IM clients are also developed for mobile devices.

SMS's (short messages) may be considered a subset of Instant Messaging. Generally, an SMS may be stored by the carrier when the mobile device is not on. Additionally, the SMS will be stored on the device once it gets there and thus, not require the user to be actively interfacing with their phone.

Alternatively, IM clients will use the device's data service and generally require the recipient to have their device on. Because of this, a protocol has been developed to monitor an individual's Presence. For example, your IM contacts may determine whether the your phone is on or off, if you are in a call, if you are available, unavailable, or in a meeting. Additionally, they may be able to determine your location, your device's capabilities, even your current mood and a list of hobbies if you choose.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Instant Messaging

Instant Messaging is a technology that allows two or more entities to communicate "privately" over the internet in real time. Typically, an individual will install a client application on their computer that will handle the communication with other individuals on the same network. The concept of Instant Messaging has been around since the 1970's particularly on multi-user operating systems. Applications such as AIM (AOL Instant Messaging) with easy to use graphical interfaces helped boost the popularity of instant messaging over the internet in the late 1990's. Unfortunately, many companies have created messaging applications each of which communicate on a proprietary protocol. Thus, the different messaging systems do not allow you to communicate amongst one another. As a result, clients, such as Pidgin, have been developed that allow you to maintain all your IM conversations in a single interface. These clients are known as Multi-protocol Instant Messaging Clients. Even though they are able to communicate over the different networks, you must still have a separate account for each of the networks to which you connect. is the first example of a web based IM client that I have seen.