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My recent post about Wikipedia’s Wikia linking brought on some emotional responses. Since there seems to be some misunderstandings about what I’m arguing, I’ll in this post lay out what is hopefully a more succinct description of why Wikipedia’s actions are both unfortunate, and ironically enough promotes spam rather than combats it on a large scale.

First of all, please be mindful that nowhere am I making the argument that ‘spam is good’, nor that Wikipedia should be a platform for spam. You will notice that Playing With Wire is not linked to by Wikipedia, and that we have no direct self interest in the use or lack of ‘no-follow’ tags on Wikipedia. What I do have an interest in is the health of the internet as a whole, and I believe that there is a risk that Wikipedia is causing harm to this health with its recent actions.

At the crux of the matter is the way modern search engines separates spam from useful content. Google and other search engines separate valid content from spam by inspecting the way the world wide web is interlinked. A site is considered ‘trusted’ if it has many inbound links from other trusted sites. The theory is that since humans make most links, sites that are useful for actual people get plenty of human links over their life span, while spam sites only get links from other spam sites. If you score sites based on the quality of their incoming links, you will then over time see some sites rise above the general noise. As far as Google is concerned these are the ‘non spam’ sites – other trusted websites have confirmed their validity.

You will notice that there is something circular about this system – a catch 22 if you will. To know the trusted sites on the internet, you have to already know what sites can be trusted so that they may vote. To solve this apparent paradox, Google will seed the system so that every site has some kind of base trust. From there on Google starts to count: outgoing links ‘give’ trust to other sites, and incoming likes conversely ‘receive’ trust from other sites. A mathematical formula balances the total amount of ‘trust’ so that eventually a stable structure crystalizes.

You may think of this trusted structure as the sea with little trusted islands rising out of it. Google gives you good search results because most of the time it can find you an island rather than having to dive into the sea floor mud of spam and noise that is the general internet.

It is this structure and balance that makes Wikipedia’s choice of anti-spam technique so unfortunate. Since a lot of trusted sites have given their vote for Wikipedia, they have essentially lowered themselves a little bit into the sea in the process. Normally, this would be fine because when a trusted sites lowers itself in this way, it will cause other islands to rise. These other islands in turn give away some of their buoyancy to yet other islands, and so forth. In the greater scheme of things the mud stays on the bottom and the islands stay on top.

Wikipedia has over time built a very strong position within this system. Wikipedia is one of the most trusted sites on the web as far as Google is concerned. It still amazes me how often Wikipedia comes up right on top in search queries. Wikipedia is essentially one of very few mountains in our sea analogy. But by not voting on other valid sites, Wikipedia is pushing every other island back into the mud by its own sheer weight. Google can no longer give us as many valid search results because the islands are closer to the mud as compared to Wikipedia. These sites gave away their trust in the greater balance to a site that doesn’t give anything back.

In a system where you measure importance as the relative difference between the average and the peaks, having an enormous peak will reduce the effectivity of the system. What’s worse, Wikipedia is setting a very distressing example. Imagine for a moment that every site on the internet decided to do what Wikipedia is doing now, and only use no-follow tags for external links. This is in the individual interest of every site, as they no longer give away their votes. But in doing so, the whole system is ruined as every site would be reduced to the level of the mud.

Ironically, Wikipedia is promoting spam on the internet in the process of trying to rid itself of it.

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A while back I wrote about Wikipedia’s selfish ‘nofollow’ linking. I made the argument that by tacking on the nofollow tag on external sites, Wikipedia is tricking Google and other search engines to think Wikipedia is even more important than it already is. Intentional or not, the policy causes some significant skew in search engine results due to how many people like to Wikipedia.

Turns out that Wikipedia didn’t focus the skew purely on itself. Techcrunch has noticed that Wikipedia gives Wikia preferential treatment. Wikia is a commercial project, in part founded by Wikipedia’s founder Jimmy Wales.

Again this is not necessarily intentional but the skew is yet worse now. Wikipedia collects massive numbers of inbound links without giving anything back to the web community. Instead Wikipedia channels its importance into promoting a commercial project of the founder’s choosing. This is very unfortunate.

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The articles here at PWW tend to be a bit more in depth than this, but I thought this might be a good tips that many would benefit from. As you’ve probably figured out by now, both Alex and I are Mac users, and just adore the design of Apple’s products. As a result of this, both Alex and I bought the Wireless Mighty Mouse to use with our laptops. A couple of days ago my Mighty Mouse stopped scrolling up. It was weird, because I could still scroll down and horizontally. Since this was very annoying, it became the first thing on my priority list to fix.

After some googlin’ and reading on a couple of Mac forums, I found the solution. Press down the ‘scroll ball’ hard. This sounds like a weird thing to do, but after checking some other sites that said the same thing, I tried it. After pressing the ‘scroll ball’ down quite hard the scroll feature started working again.

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Introducing YippieMove '09. Easy email transfers. Now open for all destinations.
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Category: Technology

Ok, so we’re not really there yet, but it really looks like many big players are aiming towards this within the next few years. The list of softwares moved to the web can be made long. Although Google received a lot of press for their Google Docs and Google Spreadsheet, there are other at least a handful of equally interesting products. A company named GravityZoo aims to bring the entire desktop online. In their attempt, among many things they’re working on porting OpenOffice to the Internet. What makes this more interesting than Google Docs is that instead being a commercial product, they must release the source code of their product. What this means is that companies might be able to use this solution for their intranets, which means sensitive information never needs to leave the companies network. Although many might argue that if one uses Google’s commercial service, the data is still safe, even if it’s online. However, since many larger corporations IT policies strictly states that internal information is not allowed to leave local network, utilizing a web-based OpenOffice or their intranet will enable them to get the benefit of the web app, without sensitive information ever leaving the corporate network. Moreover, with a simple VPN solution, even road warriors will be able to take advantage of this solution.

No, lets look at the ups and downs of using web-apps instead of traditional softwares. When I think of web-apps, the first thing that comes to mind is the administrative aspects. One of the largest benefits of administrating web-apps rather than traditional apps is that you don’t need to configure each and every one of you desktop machines with the particular software. Although you probably want to install a more secure browser than Internet Explorer if they’re running Windows, this is really all you need to do on the clients. Another quite obvious benefit is the platform independence. If you’re web-app is well written, it should work in any browser on any platform, witch is a great thing, since you don’t have to spend money on porting your software to a variety of platforms. Moreover, if you have a variety of platforms, file sharing tend to be a hassle. If you’re running a web-port of OpenOffice, with built-in file-management, you don’t need to worry about this anymore.

So what’s the downside? I spent quite some time thinking of drawbacks of using web-apps, but could only really come up with one; that it might be less responsive. If you’re on a slow connection, lets say over the internet, it might be very annoying with the delay it causes. However, if you’re running the web-app on a local 100Mbit network, they delay of a well-written AJAX web-app should be quite small. I think that the largest obstacle to overcome is the mindset of the users.

Talking about web-apps, we at WireLoad are planning to make a web-port of FireFox. We also talked about porting this blog to the web…

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I’ve been using Windows Vista on occasion recently. When I used it for the first time, I was expecting to see the now infamous ‘Cancel or allow?’ dialog boxes popping up left and right. To my surprise there was nothing of the sort. It took me a moment and to realize that the default account that had been created for me in Vista was an ‘administrator’ account, which allows you to do anything.

I’m not really sure why this is the default account. It’s like your Linux box would log you in as root by default. But fair enough, if that’s the Vista way, that’s the Vista way. I went ahead and created a normal account for myself and logged into that account instead.

Everything was well until I restarted my Vista machine the next time. I found myself right back in the administrator account. Apparently Vista insists that Administrator is the right account to be in.

To make a long story short, it took me just about forever to figure out how to make Vista not log me in automatically this way. I’m going to post it here to help other people with the same problem.

  1. Pull up the Run… menu (Windows + R on the keyboard)
  2. Enter “netplwiz” and click “Ok”.Windows Vista Run Menu.
  3. Check the “Users must enter a user name and password to use this computer” checkbox.Advanced User controls in Windows Vista.

Hope that helps someone. It’s hard to find for sure. You can also check the box, and then click on another account name in the list, thus selecting it. Then uncheck the box again and you’ll be asked for the password for that account – now the selected account is your new default account. If you make this a non administrator account you should have increased your security a little bit during day to day computer use.

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