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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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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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Spotplex Front PageSpotplex is a new service that launched a few days ago. It is squarely positioned to be a kind of digg competitor. The spin is that instead of working with user voting, they let people vote with their feet. If a lot of people view a certain article in a day, then that article is deemed ‘popular.’ Simply put, popular articles end up on their front page precisely because they’re popular.

While there isn’t much material on the site detailing their intentions, the idea is presumably that the visitor count method will prevent rigging the game as what may happen with digg. (Kevin Rose and the digg team is fiercely fighting cheaters though.) On digg, supposedly people sell their vote, or work together in teams to promote certain articles to the front page. On Spotplex this is meant to be more difficult. On digg it may be sufficient to get 40 willing people with digg accounts to end up the front page. But to do the same thing on Spotplex, you would need to get thousands of people with unique IP addresses to surf to your page.

There will probably be some way to trick Spotplex too – someone with access to a lot of zombie computers could do it perhaps. But in general it should be harder. Spotplex has a lot more data to go on – they can check IP numbers, referrer addresses, browsers and so on and look for patterns among the thousands of views an article needs to get on the front page. They should be able to prevent at least all basic forms of cheating with much less effort than digg.

Another distinguishing characteristic of Spotplex is that they use AJAX like there’s no tomorrow. The front page is nothing but a frame with little windows and the javascript necessary to fill those windows with dynamically sourced data. The first thing you see when you come to the front page is in fact nothing of interest at all. Instead there will be three major panes which all have a subtle little ‘loading’ tag in the background.

Spotplex Shows ‘Loading…’Spotplex doing its thing: ‘Loading…’

Apparently this dynamic design is putting quite a strain on the servers Spotplex invested in initially. Although not a very scientific test, we’ve been checking in on the front page of Spotplex once in a while for the last couple of days and we have usually been greeted only with lots of spinning ‘please wait’ indicators. Most of the time these last for several long seconds and that’s after the actual page took a few seconds to load too. The site feels tired just loading the front page.

Unfortunately Spotplex seems to be having more trouble than that. When Playing With Wire was invited to join the first 1,000 blogs to be on Spotplex, we received an invitation code. That invitation code could be used on the Spotplex page to get a code number. Supposedly the same page was to provide HTML code meant to go on the actual blog pages, but there was some kind of issue and we didn’t get any. No matter, we contacted Spotplex support who gave us the code promptly. Next, we inserted the code on our pages – you might have noticed the Spotplex image in the side bar.

This seemed to work well initially, and the page for our code started registering both a little bit of our page views and what articles were currently popular. Alas, about two days into the test Spotplex ceased to count our views and our number of views for the last 24 hours steadily declined to 0 on the Spotplex site.

At the time of this writing the Spotplex front page is loading as slow as ever, the Spotplex ‘get the code for your blog’ page is still not producing any actual code, and a search for “” on Spotplex returns no results. So apparently Spotplex is still struggling with the basics of their service. They will need get on top of this quickly, because the greater problem demands attention: can they really prevent people from generating fake ‘views’ for their blogs? Before they can compete with digg at all, they will have to prove that spam won’t rule their front page.

Update 1: We contacted Spotplex and they let us know that they are working on a potential database problem affecting Playing With Wire.

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The record and movie industry has expressed a lot of concern about copyright infringement lately. In the ideal world, these organizations would argue, anything ever made by any of their members would be forever copyrighted. Since they own this information, or ‘intellectual property’, nobody should be allowed to reproduce it without their explicit permission.

I have to say I agree absolutely. Without this form of protection, there would be no culture at all. Copyright is an essential part of society. What does distress me though is the laissez-faire attitude even these organizations have when it comes to enforcing this fundamental right of artists and creators in the world. While RIAA and MPAA have a lot of opinions they do not seem to walk the walk. In particular, there is a special copyright infringement technique through which perpetrators are virtually unhindered to reproduce materials without paying for this privilege. To any reasonable person it must be obvious that this is an unmaintainable situation. If I write a book, a blog entry, create a piece of music, or design a game, I should be allowed to reap the benefits of the hard work I put into these pursuits. If anyone coming into contact with this information product would be allowed to copy, retain and spread my product, they would be depriving me of a basic right to my own work. They would in fact be stealing my work.

In many cases these organizations do protect us artists. They will prosecute thieves of physical goods; they will sue criminals engaging in blatant copyright infringement online and elsewhere. But for some reason which I cannot fathom, they let one of the most commonly used techniques for copyright infringement today go unpunished.

What I am referring to is of course the theft of intellectual property by people with eyesight.

Without any enforcement whatsoever of applicable laws, these individuals are unhindered to make unlimited copies of any material they come across by using the technology of ‘bio copying’ – also known as ‘remembering things’ in layman terms. Even now as you read this, there are less scrupulous people also reading this very blog entry. And as opposed to you, dear reader, these users are at the same time storing the data for later reproduction using extremely sophisticated neural networking technology. At a later time these ‘pirates’, as they are known, will be able to freely reproduce important concepts, ideas or industrial secrets expressed in this entry.

And to my amazement nobody goes after them. “But it’s too hard to suppress this behavior,” it is argued. This statement holds no water with me. We can lock down computers with Digital Restrictions Management (DRM). We can shut down whole companies for producing software or hardware which enable copyright infringement. We can spend millions of tax payer dollars on hunting down illegal information trading. We can even impose economical sanctions on countries with too liberal copyright laws.

Surely this one problem should then be easy to resolve. A small modification of today’s neural networking systems should suffice; perhaps a little chip in the bio copying devices. The chip would prevent access to Stored Intellectual Property – also sloppily referred to as ‘memories’ – without proper authorization and correct dues paid. If that doesn’t work, we can just go after the producers (colloquially called ‘pregnant women’) of this technology. Strict laws, lawsuits and legal enforcement will stem this crime wave at the root.

Support culture – don’t remember illegally.

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Ever tried to write a web page and make it work in all major browsers?

In this video I make a change to Cuzimatter. Then I test it in Safari, Firefox, Internet Explorer 7 and Internet Explorer 6 in a row. Warning: trying this at home may melt your RAM chips. And your brain.

What’re we looking at?

It’s the fix of a spelling error in our Cuzimatter, which by the way is written using symfony. The software used is TextMate to edit, Virtue Desktop to do virtual desktops, and two instances of Parallels – one running Windows XP and the other running Windows Vista in Coherence mode.

We wrote a slightly negative article about Parallels last week, but we gotta hand it to them. They write some pretty solid virtualization software.

Music is Marooned by Zale. This video is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

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