Something fans of irony can appreciate

After spending the last couple of weeks twisting foreign and corporate arms (successfully) to take down Julian Assange, the United States takes a break in order to celebrate “World Press Freedom Day”. Clearly the US State Department would be unable to detect irony even if “irony” was a baseball bat that was used to repeatedly smash the limbs and skulls of whistleblowers.

Clearly this is double-plus-ungood. Really, Americans, do you think anyone’s taking you seriously on that one?

From the “dead to me” file — Technorati

I was wondering about the relative dearth of traffic recently, and had a look at this site with my adblock turned off. As it turns out this was causing the page to apparently not load; what was really happening was that the page did load, entirely, but then there was a sneaky call to a web site called b.scorecardresearch.com which never loaded, so every non-adblocked call to this site resulted in blank pages and hung browsers. At least on Firefox it’s obvious that there’s a delayed call to a third-party site; with Google Chrome I just ended up with a blank page.

On doing a bit more research I found that this “scorecardresearch.com” site is an advertising beacon, which is annoying enough, but then I found out that the call is made from a script that comes with the technorati widget that was on the wordpress template of my site. As of now this has been removed, and it will not be coming back. To put it plainly, fuck Technorati, for tracking users and screwing up my site. And don’t give me any of this “it’s not our fault” crap, it is your fault. You included this third-party script call into your script, it’s up to you to make sure it works and replace it if it doesn’t. And why exactly are you tracking user activity by IP in the first place anyway?

So, Technorati, you’re dead to me.

Is Reddit on the path to decline?

For a long time I’ve been a member of reddit.com, which is a fairly popular blog of sorts, but recently I’ve started to wonder if it hasn’t jumped the shark and entered its natural period of decline.

I’m not usually a big fan of the whole “is this what this site has become” whines, and this isn’t going to be a note about how the content used to be so much better than it is now (although one may say that such naysayers have a point, what with imgur.com now practically being the most prominent source of links). The site has grown tremendously and recruited users from outside its traditional scientist/engineer base to become more of a general content site, although it does have its overall tendencies, viz. atheism and political liberalism.

That being said, over the past few months it seems that the site is succumbing to its own success. Site performance is generally marginal, and during busy times you’re disturbingly likely to get a 502 error page instead of the comments page you wanted. The search functionality, which was never one of the site’s strengths, is now basically unusable; when doing a search you’re most likely to get the message that reddit is “under heavy load”. Likewise when you attempt to check your unread messages, you often end up with the picture of the reddit alien sweating while carrying a big object on his back (get it? “under heavy load”? harharhar). And of course there has recently been a bit of outright downtime.

The problem is that this just isn’t supposed to happen, not for a site which prides itself on its tech-heavy roots, and especially not for a site which has been acquired by a large corporation. Availability issues are understandable for sites such as this one, which do not have a server farm available to accommodate an excess of requests; but in reddit’s case it’s owned by Condé-Nast, a company with a lot of resources at its disposal. The site has had a few upgrade-related outages in the not-too-distant past. It would appear that the upgrades did not really resolve the underlying issues. It would seem that reddit doesn’t scale as well as its owners think it does.

At the same time it’s not like demand for sites such as reddit is showing signs of abating. The site’s pageviews have grown 1200% since January 2009 (acc. to Alexa) and over 10% in the past three months. So reddit’s capacity problems, it seems, are only going to get worse with time, especially given that they can’t really cope now. Which is really odd for a site whose membership could once be relied on to say that they knew 20 programming languages and “only” used 5 or 6 on a regular basis…

Same result, no reward.

When Microsoft offered nearly fifty billion dollars last year to acquire Yahoo I thought this was the stupidest thing Redmond had ever done, and in hindsight not accepting the offer was indeed the stupidest thing Yahoo had ever done. In a new development this week Yahoo has announced that it was ditching search and concentrating on its ad service in a 10-year agreement with Microsoft. Effectively Microsoft ended up getting almost as much control over Yahoo as they would have by owning it but for a fraction of the cost, while sidestepping antitrust regulations that would have resulted from an acquisition. In the end it goes to show that Yahoo really has been managed by the dumbest people in the IT business for the past couple of years…

How NOT to do public relations.

First, spot a blogger who finds a relatively minor, non-critical bug in your web site. Second, make sure some of your staff insult him personally and call him a liar, and make sure they do so from their office computers (read the comments on that first link). Third, have your PR department make a statement that bloggers are idiots and lunatics. Fourth… profit?

Ryanair seems like one place left in this world where PR men still enjoy their three-martini lunch!

Documentaries to watch in 2009

Here’s a list of four documentaries which you should watch in 2009 if you haven’t seem them yet.

I’ve been watching a lot of documentaries on YouTube recently, so I figured it might be a good idea to recommend a few. I think all of them are well worth seeing, if you haven’t viewed them already.

Continue reading “Documentaries to watch in 2009”