Life Expectancy Review

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

At last I've finished listening to Life Expectancy by Dean Koontz. This was my first unabridged audio book and it was totally brilliant. The story is ok but the descriptions are able to immerse you in the story like very few authors can. I heard most of the book in the car and there were times were the descriptions were so humorous that I burst with laughter leaving passers by thinking I'm a complete nutcase. I'd recommend this book to anyone who likes well written English with imaginative expressions as this is the best characteristic of this work. 4.5 stars / 5

The role of Blogshares in categorising blogs

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Post submitted for the Blogshares Blogging Contest #4 in the Blogshares and Blogosphere category. User ID: 28218

Blogshares is promoted as an addictive game of buying and selling blogs, but at the heart of Blogshares there is a pulsating ever growing index of categorised blogs which forms the main data source for the game. Blogshares started out in early 2003 and since then its database contains 2,585,072 blogs 433,250 of which are categorised, since then it became the largest directory service and the second largest service to track blogs.

Service Name

Service Type

Blogs Tracked

Blogs Categorised

Technorati

Search Engine

10,473,778

N/A

Blogshares

Directory

2,585,072

433,250

Blogstreet

Directory

102,780

2,897

Blogwise

Directory

50,001

50,001

Etonweb Portal

Directory

28,139

28,139

Globe of Blogs

Directory

24,456

24,456

Blogs more than normal websites are usually read for pleasure and this means that readers need to find blogs that match their interests. There are several ways to do this but blog directories more than any other service provide the easiest and fastest way to find blogs in a particular area of interest. With the proliferation of blogs the problem is how to create a blog directory that categorises blogs fast enough to match the increasing number of created blogs.

In Blogshares, blogs are categorised as a by-product of playing the game. The creators of the system realised that people like getting rewarded for their work, so they encouraged players to categorise blogs in return for chips which are the most valuable token in the game. For 1 vote you get between B$125 million – B$1.5 billion worth of Blogshares dollars which makes it evident that the administrators care for the development and enlargement of their most valuable resource, the index. With this categorisation model the onus of categorising blogs is shifted from the few selected administrators to the players, making blog categorisation very fast. This approach of rewarding players for categorising worked perfectly for me. I started using Blogshares and Blogexplosion around the same time, but I only continued to categorise blogs in Blogshares. The reason as far as I am concerned is that in Blogshares I vote for chips, and in BlogExplosion I vote for zilch.

To implement the categorising mechanism each player may vote a blog into one or more categories, and each vote is assigned a value based on your level of expertise in the game. Every vote that a player submits is then moderated by other experienced players who approve or reject the validity of the first vote. Players also have the option to report erroneous blogs that have been submitted or else have been automatically picked up by the Blogshares bots that monitor services like weblogs.com .

I have spent some time to test the accuracy of few of the categories in the system. This was not meant to give an exhaustive quality check of the directory, but it can be used to highlight some aspects about the index. For the scope of this exercise I choose categories which are as unambiguous as possible so that I could easily judge whether a blog fits or not in the said category.

Category

VS

SKP

NA

NB

COR

INC

% COR

% CALL

Fantasy Baseball

7

0

0

1

7

0

100%

88%

Fantasy Football

15

2

2

1

14

1

93%

78%

Fantasy Baseball

14

0

2

0

14

0

100%

88%

Frogs

15

0

0

0

4

10.5

27%

27%

Cartography

8

1

0

0

8

0

100%

100%

Yoga

13

3

1

2

7

5.5

53%

43%

Totals

72

6

5

4

54

17

75%

66%

VS: Valid Sites – The number of sites that were considered for categorisation (correct + incorrect)
SKP: Skipped – Sites that were skipped because the content could not be deciphered (mainly blogs written in other languages)
NA: No Access – Blog does not exist or access denied because of passwords
NB: Not a blog – Content of the site did not match the definition of a blog.
COR: Correct – Site was a blog in the correct category
INC: Incorrect – The category of the blog was incorrect
%COR: Percentage Correct – Percentage correct from the number of valid sites
%CALL: Percentage Correct Overall – Percentage correct considering also invalid sites.
.5 vote - This means that the site had some content related to the category long ago but the amount of content is not representative of the category anymore

Overall the categorisation of the blogs was quite accurate apart from the frog category which had a very low accuracy of 27%. It was concluded that this low accuracy was due to an automatic categorisation routine that was run when Blogshares started, in order to start off some categories in the game. The reason for the low accuracy rate of the yoga category is due to the fact that the content related to yoga in the sites was not deemed sufficient to categorise the site in the yoga category. The fact that a vote in the Yoga category is worth the maximum amount of chips in the game might be the reason for a higher number of incorrect votes.

During the research there were two blogs Frog It and MJ Direct that were incorrectly categorised in their respective categories Frogs and Yoga. It turned out that during the time these blogs were categorised, there were indeed several posts related to Frogs and Yoga, however as the blog evolved further these two categories weren't given that much importance. This example highlights the dynamic nature of blogs and the importance of having an evolving categorisation system that allows a blog to be easily re-categorised. Blogshares makes it easy to correct the old categories and it also allows the players to vote the blog into the new categories that now apply to the blog.

From the categories used in the above exercise it is evident that Blogshares spans a wide range of categories. In fact Blogshares is the leading blogging service in the number of different categories that are used to categorise blogs and there is no other directory that comes anywhere close to the 2359 categories in the system.

Service

Different Categories

Blogshares

2359 pdf list of categories

Globe of Blogs

772

Etonweb Portal

367

Blogwise

187

Blog Catalogue

100

Blogarama

74

Blogexplosion

45

Blog search engine

42

Blogstreet

10

The Blogshares index caters is in constant evolution, with the help of the whole community that supports the system. Categories range from the most common, like Male and Female, language and country of origin to the more exotic like ASCII Art , Wild Animals and Vegetarianism . Although common categorisation data like the blogger's sex and blog language may seem of little value, they can be very useful as a research aid for blog studies ( 1 , 2 ). Blogs categorised under these categories are easily identifiable though Blogshares, which simplifies part of the data collection process involved in this type of research. Apart from this, data can be used directly for gathering information about bloggers like ratios between male and female bloggers (1 : 0.8 female : male), blogs by location and other similar statistics. This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to using Blogshares for research, and I hopefully plan to continue studying the possibilities of the system to aid in researching blogs.

The idea of making voting part of the Blogshares game is one of the main reasons for the system's success however it isn't without its share of problems. First of all blogs tend to have a diverse array of content, and determining whether a blog has enough content of a particular subject to warrant being categorised in that category can be a very subjective opinion. Unfortunately, when such a subjective task is delegated to a wide audience such as the web the consistency of the categorisation process is very likely to suffer. In this case Blogshares decided to trade off speed of categorisation with having a single point of reference to categorise blogs, which is a reasonable exchange considering the dynamic nature of the Blogshares game.

Being a game Blogshares has another disadvantage, which is that players may disregard the index and incorrectly categorise blogs in order to gain better results in the game. To solve this problem Blogshares has a specific disciplinary board called BSEC to deal with such cases however there can be other ways to stimulate players to play and add quality to the system. A possible idea to improve the quality of the index is to segment players into different groups according to their preferred speciality areas so that they will have a higher moderation vote value in blogs under their areas of expertise. This approach will limit having people categorise blogs incorrectly because of their lack of expertise in a particular field, although it can also be of a hindrance to the main game play. To counteract this, an industry specific ranking can be created so that players can start attaining rank within an industry according to the value they add to a particular category. This might be especially appealing for players who cannot compete to reach for the very top places but who could aim for lower objectives while gaining status and having fun.

Having a large amount of categories has its benefits however it runs into the risk of having synonym categories that can confuse the users. For example a personal blog apart from being defined in the personal category can be defined either as a diary, lifelog, journal or life which are very similar categories to each other. I understand that there are differences between the different categories but do all players recognise this difference? The decision to add similar categories is not straightforward with pros and cons on each side. In one case having more categories gives the possibility to distinguish between similar content, but on the other hand it may confuse users to vote blogs incorrectly. If the categories are so similar as in the above case, I for one would find it difficult to moderate a diary blog categorised as a journal incorrect.

Blogshares has got all the elements of a good game and a good directory service but there's a missing twinkle that's preventing it from being a 'real' directory service. The lack of search facilities and the accessibility of data within the categories make it less of a directory and more of a game. In order to make the data in Blogshares more accessible in the form of a blog directory, a service called quacktrack was created. This service uses the category data from Blogshares with different voting level thresholds to increase accuracy of blogs that fit in a category. Unfortunately, the popularity of quacktrack is nowhere near the popularity of Blogshares. I think one of the main reasons for this is the lack of a "quacktrack listed" icon for users to add it to their affiliate list in their blogs. I first got to know about Blogshares more than a year and a half ago by visiting other blogs but I only learned about quacktrack once I started playing Blogshares.

Given the popularity of Blogshares I think that enhancements to promote the system as a directory should be added to Blogshares. This can be done through a different view of a particular industry in a similar way the detailed statistics are displayed to view the market trends of an industry The directory page would then display the contents of the industry in a format that is more appropriate to a directory listing result. This can be done by first allowing access to all blogs within a category without imposing a limit, and secondly by ordering the blogs differently. Currently the order of the blogs in the industry view is by the total amount of incoming links however this is not always the best ordering, especially for industries that contain lots of blogs. The statistics within blogshares can be used to reorder the blogs by for example sorting by the number of incoming links from blogs within the same industry rather than all the blogs in the game.

There is no doubt that in the minds most users Blogshares is ultimately a game, nevertheless I feel that the directory service this system provides should not be underestimated. The tight integration between the game play and the categorisation of blogs made it possible for the system to expand its index at a very fast rate as dictated by the rate of growth of the blogosphere. For all this the praise must go to the creators and administrators of the system who managed to strike a balance between creating a valuable index that can be used both as a game and as a search tool.

Defining blogs with the help of Blogshares

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Post submitted for the Blogshares Blogging Contest #4 in the Blogshares and Blogosphere category. User ID: 28218

When trying to answer the question what is a blog mad trollie said "i seriously think it might be easier to define 'love' then 'blog'", and if you think about it he's not too far from the truth. Based on the way blogs are categorised in blogshares I'm going to try and define what is a blog by identifying the main characteristics, and also comparing blogs to similar websites.

General Characteristics

  • Chronological listing of posts - Posts must have a date of publication and they must be sorted preferably but not exclusively in descending order. This is the most important defining feature of a blog.
  • Layout of the site - The main page of a blog should contain 1 or more recent posts sorted by date. Usually in a blog the posts are the most prominent element with respect to the other content of the site. E.g. Common Blog Layouts
  • Each post must be attributed to a single author - A post can only be written and edited by one author.
  • The author's personal opinion - At least some posts in the blog are expected to have the author's personal opinion. Since blogs are personal sites they are expected to have some sort of opinion or bias.
  • Posting Frequency - The updating of the site can range from daily posts to weekly to monthly to yearly. There are no strict rules to posting frequency in blogging.
  • Text is not necessary - Blogs can be made of chronologically ordered photos instead of text. These types of blogs are generally referred to a photoblogs. E.g. Daily Dose of Imagery
  • Text must be created by humans - Sites generated automatically using content aggregators are not usually blogs E.g. Loopy News , however they can be useful blogging services E.g. Blogdex

Blogs can have …

  • RSS or ATOM Feeds - These are used to publish the content of the blog in an XML document so that newsreaders can automatically retrieve the blog's contents.
  • Calendar & Post Archives - Some blogs contain calendars to allow navigation to previous posts that are not still on the main page.
  • Categories - Since a blog can contain posts on different topics most blogging systems allow you to organise posts according to their content.
  • Comments - Most blogs allows users to add comments to posts but still do not allow anyone other than the original author to edit the posts.
  • Blogroll - A blogroll is a list of links to other blogs that the blog author finds of interest.
  • Hosting with a blogging service - Blog hosting services provide an easy setup to start blogging. Some of the most common hosting services are Blogger and MSN spaces .

Analogies to blogs in the real world

  • Diaries
  • Journals
  • Travel Journals
  • Photo albums (ordered by date)

Blog vs Other sites

News Blogs vs Newpaper / TV News sites
News sites and news blogs might be difficult to distinguish from each other. First of all most news sites and newspaper sites do not qualify as blogs . I identified the following reasons why:-
  • Ownership – The ownership of the news site's content is the newspaper organisation and not the person writing the article.
  • Layout – The layout of most news sites does not fit with the blog layout E.g. CNN , NY Times , The Times
  • Lack of personal opinion – News sites have got factual postings rather than personal postings.
  • Frequency of posting – A news site is obliged to report a piece of news as it happens therefore it has a very strict posting frequency contrasting with the lax posting frequency of blogging.

Blogs vs wikis
In a blog each different post is edited by a single person, in a wiki each article can be edited by several people and the authorship cannot be defined. Also, the layout of wiki posts are not usually sorted chronologically.

Blogs vs Forums
The difference between community blogs and forums may be difficult to pin point exactly because the content is similar. The major difference in this case is the site layout between the two systems. In a blog the posts are organised on the main page but in a forum the posts are scattered around different forum areas. Secondly, the postings in a forum are not ordered chronologically because a thread order can be governed by the date of the last reply in the thread. Thirdly, conceptually a blog is intended to pose one's opinion and a forum is more of a discussion area where users can debate issues and solve problems. Forum Example: Blogshares Forums vs Community Weblog Example: Watcher of Weasels

Blogs vs Link Farms
A link farm (e.g. Investing in Tax Liens ) can take the format of a blog with a number of links that point to the same site to enhance the site rankings. Such sites are considered spam and not blogs.

Blogs vs Blogging services
A blogging service such as Blogger and Blogdrive provides a service to the blogger rather than being a blog in itself.

Blogs vs Travelogues
As long as a travelogue is sorted in chronological order it can be considered a blog.

Blog vs Website update list
The main focal point of a blog are the ordered posts in the website. A generic website whose main focus is not the author's posts but contains a website update list is not considered to be a blog. E.g. ARC Museum updates

Defining Blogs by examples

The Agonist ( B$ Profile ) – This is good example of a blog news site. The posts are given prominence on the first page and they are ordered chronologically. The posts are attributed to a single author who adds his personal comments to the news and reports on different news according to his personal appeal rather than across the board as required by news sites.

Fark.com ( B$ Profile ) – The layout of fark.com is unconventional for a blog but this site is still a group blog as members can submit links to the blog. The posts are on the main page, content is not automatically generated and chronological ordering is present, thus making fark.com a valid blog. The site allows comments and borders a bit into the forum area but is still distinctly not a forum.

Loopy News ( B$ Profile ) – Despite being listed in blogshares this is not a blog. The site has got no chronological ordering and the contents are automatically collected. The author of the site also agrees that this is not a blog.

about.com ( B$ Profile ) and about.com sections – About.com is a topic of major controversy in the definition of a blog. I disagree that the parent site of about.com is a blog because it does not meet most of the major characteristics of a blog, such as chronological ordering, blog layout, comments and personal opinions. On the other hand about.com sections such as Camping ( B$ ) Saltwater Fishing ( B$ ), and Orlando ( B$ ) can be categorised as blogs since they meet most of the defining characteristics of blogs defined above even though this site layout is unconventional.

References

Blogshares

When is it a blog?

B$ Help – Advanced Voting Guide

What Makes a Weblog a Weblog?

Is this a blog? Linkfarms

What are the differences between Message Boards and Weblogs

Les Blogs Presentation

Milan vs Liverpool

Friday, May 27, 2005

You must have guessed why I didn't blog yesterday. I was still incredulous after Milan's defeated in the Champions League final against Liverpool. This game will be written in football history after Milan were winning 3-0 at the end of the first half, and in 6 minutes Liverpool managed to draw the game. After nobody scored in the extra time Liverpool won the penalty shootout after their goalie Dudek played the fool in front of Milan's penalty shooters to induce Serginho, Pirlo and Shevchenko to miss.

I wasn’t as disgusted as I should have been because Milan played well for 110 minutes out of 120. Maldini scored the first goal before the first minute was over, and from then onwards Milan basically trashed Liverpool. Then in the second half while Milan were still attacking to increase the lead, Liverpool scored and disoriented Milan completely. In the following few minutes Liverpool scored twice with their third goal being a penalty given by Gattuso. At 3-3 Milan regained their senses and tried to score the winning goal but it was all in vain after Dudek made several important saves.

The irony of the game was all in Milan's attitude because usually like most Italian teams they are happy with a marginal lead and try their best to defend it. Yesterday they tried to continue attacking even after a 3 goal lead to end losing the match.

Technology Links

Thursday, May 26, 2005
Ajax: A new approach to web applications
Difference between Java developer and Java Architect
Gmail API– the reason for the speed behind GMail
RHCE Exam - I will need to study this very soon

Interview

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Today I learned an important lesson when taking interviews; if somebody asks you what made you apply for the job do not answer with, because I'm fed up with my current job. The logical reasoning in the mind of your interviewer will be 'so this guy doesn't want this job because he thinks he likes it or is good for it...'. What I could have told him instead was '...cause you know I'm so fed up with my manager that any other manager will be a godsend instead of her ...'

I think I screwed up this interview but at least I got to know something about IS Internal Audit and I think it doesn't really apply for me. I'm still fascinated with designing and programming stuff so I don't imagine myself playing the police on the work of others, I prefer doing the work myself. The good part of the job will be that you'd have a great deal of authority to control things and define what must be done, something only imaginable in the best of dreams in my current position. You also get to define standards and practices as well as having the opportunity to improve things concretely but anyway, the company is still the same so this is only very nice in theory.

Tomorrow by this time I'd either be in heaven or swearing like a madman – there's the final of the Champions League between Milan and Liverpool.

50th Eurovision

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Helena PaparizouToday was the night of the 50th Eurovision Song Contest which is the largest European song festival. This year there were a total of 39 countries competing in Kiev and the winner was Helena Paparizou for Greece with here song My Number 1 (download mp3). I must admit that the song was the best one of the 24 finalists even though I'm a bit disappointed that Chiara came second with the song Angel (MP3). Both competitors were at their second Eurovision and this showed clearly in their performances which were perfectly executed deserving the top places.

Personally the song I liked best was Cool Vibes (MP3) for Switzerland played by the Estonian band Vanilla Ninja. This year there was a surprising number of rock bands in the festival which is a rarity. The most original performance was by the Moldavian group Zdob si Zdub with their song Bunica Bate Toba. The song was very groovy and they had a grandmother on stage which first started rocking on her rocking chair then ended drumming with the band. All in all the quality of the songs was good and we spent a pleasant and entertaining Saturday night.

*Click on the song names to download the song mp3.

Thoughts at random

Thursday, May 19, 2005
  • Granted I haven't been working my whole life but this is the first time that I heard that a manager is granted permission to manage from home instead of coming to work. Yes I know that there something called teleworking, but isn't a manager supposed to manage people. That's exactly what our manager is not doing, and she's only in charge of 2 people by the way. The best part is this, the reason she's working from home is that she's got lots of work to do … go figure!
  • Tomorrow I've got my first bachelors party preceding my friends wedding. The plans are for a nasty boy's out (or rather in a farmhouse). I'd try to capture the best of it on video if I'd manage to keep the camera intact.
  • Today my better half coined a great expression to describe a speech made by someone at her council meeting. "In his speech he talked like a bad politician, he was vague and didn’t please anyone with what he said."
  • Today while reading Fox's blog I saw a link to this picture which was drawn with MS Paint, can you believe it? It took 500 hours to complete.

URL abc's meme

Wednesday, May 18, 2005
These are my URL ABCs:

Links of the month

Monday, May 16, 2005
I collected a couple of links I haven't yet added to the blog.

TLongren
The first post was about Sage Mozilla Newsreader and seconds later I downloaded the software. This is a great site full of very interesting posts about the better aspects of the internet, a definite daily read.

Truer Words
The blog of the man behind conversant my weblog software must be blogrolled.

Tildemark
Tildemark is like a cousin to mindspill, if you like this blog then you will like tildemark. We're into computing, we like movies, like godaddy, we propose memes, what more do you expect. The better part of it is that the author comes from Cagayan d'oro which must be much nicer than were I live. Btw, Cagayan is in the Philippines.

thinking with my fingers
I'm hoping to find the inspiration for my Masters thesis from here.

Stephanotis Floribunda
The next best humorous blog after defective yeti.

Cahan's Art
Nice artistic impressions of natural subjects, worth a quick visit.

Wichita Faro
When I see the words card and game in the same sentence rest assure that I'm going to click on the link. The game can be found in the games section of the television series Into the West produced by Stephen Spielberg. According to the history of the game Faro was played in the old far west saloons instead of poker. The game is a very easy gambling card game, were you basically guess which card is going to be drawn to the winner pile. The pretty graphics and western look of the electronic card game developed by Sean Glesson make an otherwise too basic card game enjoyable.

The Interpreter

Monday, May 16, 2005

After quiet some time away from the cinema today we went to watch The Interpreter (reviews) by Sydney Pollack starring Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn. This is a fast paced thriller about a United Nations Interpreter (Kidman) who overheard a plan to kill the president of the fictional African country of Matobo. The underlying theme of the film is about the problems of rebels and ethnic cleansing in Africa which at times drive the film into suspenseful drama. (4 / 5 stars)

Tanzania Travelogue - Costs

Saturday, May 14, 2005

These are the costs for the Tanzania and Zanzibar holiday. For those who have never been in Africa, you can notice that prices are by no means cheap at all, Asia is way cheaper. When locals see a white man they imagine a walking dollar and bombard you to buy something from them. Here you get nothing for free, not even taking photos. Rest assured that people will ask you money if they catch you taking their photo which is one of the reasons we preferred taking shots of animals.

Tipping is expected, or more accurately forced upon you for each service you get, in fact this has been the holiday with the highest tipping costs. During the holiday we rarely got to carry our own bags because as soon as you arrive somewhere people come rushing out to carry your bags obviously expecting tips. The only tips that were really deserved were those we gave to our safari guide and cook.

I'm shy by nature and I hate to force people so I'm not good at haggling, however here some souvenir prices were so high that it all came natural. At first I was a little bit too aggressive until I realized that the prices weren't supposed to be cheap either. In general we managed to get a 10-20% discount by haggling.

Keep in mind that the prices quoted below are quoted for a single person. Since we were two people prices like taxis and hotels will obviously be higher if traveling alone.

Description Cost per person
Friday 4th March
Battries & Underwater Camera 29.08
Taxi Heathrow - Thistle 16.52
Taxi Tips 1.83
Taxi Thistle - Heathrow 12.85
Hotel Thistle 45.89
Films & Battery Camera 22.96
Saturday 5th March
Taxi to Stanely 27.53
Tips to Taxi 9.17
Stanely Hotel 25
Sunday 6th March
Trip to Arusha 30
Indian Food 7.52
Impala Hotel 41.64
Phone call to sunny safaris 2.00
Sunny Safari 6 Days / 5 Nights 855
Snakes Tour 10
Tip for Snakes 2.50
Soft drinks and beer (twiga) 3.50
Tuesday 8th March
Curio Shop 10
Maasai Entrance 25
Maasai Tips 5
Wed - Friday
Drinks 2.25
Saturday 12th March
Picture with Maasai 3
Tip to Maasai 2
Tips to Porter 0.5
Chinese Meal 13
Tips to Papa 30
Tips to Anton 25
Flight to Zanzibar 140
Sunday 13th March
Masai Dress 20
Impala Hotel 41.64
Phone call to Zanzibar 2
Taxi to Dhow Place 5
Drinks 1
Map of Zanzibar 1.5
Dinner 8.52
Monday 14th March
Spice Tour 25
Tips to guides 3
Spices 3
Chess Set 20
Lion & Wartog Souvenir 12
Chips & Snack 2.50
Dinner 10
Shampoo 4
Tuesday 15th March
Dhow Palace (x2 nights) 90
Transport to Jambiani 5
Licence for Zanzibar 10
Snorkeling 7
Wednesday 16th March
Petrol 9.53
Car Rental 25
Park Entrance 8
Pizza Mid-day 2.50
Thursday 17th March
Dolphin Tour 30
Donation Zala Park 1
Friday 18th March
Blue Oyster Hotel 75.25
Dinner for 3 days 25
Lobster 18
Bus to Zanzibar from Josani 7.5
Flight to Dar Tax 48.16
Tax DAR to NBO 30.10
Drinks at NBO 2.50
Saturday 19th March - London
Underground day tickets 11
Baggage Storage 10
KFC 10
Ice cream snack 5.50
Nike 73.42
Starbucks 7.34

Re-engineering stale old processes

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Do you want to find flaws in a process in it in your organisation? The solution to this problem is simple – try to computerise the system. When you are computerising a system you have to study the current system in such detail and depth that very few other studies can hope to achieve. This week we started the rollout of the Leave Management Information system we've implemented in the last couple of months and we're facing the baffled users of the system who don't know what hit them.

At face value the system serves as a mere paper reducer because it replaces the old leave application forms, however at a deeper level it is being used to enforce the streamlining of a leave process in the organisation. Throughout all these years the leave application and authorisation process has been moulded into dozens of different formats with different rules applied to different departments without any control and rational. Now the system is being used to find out and eliminate the exceptions and loopholes in the process which have now become the norm.

There are several benefits you can gain from introducing an information system, but one which is not commonly acknowledged and adequately quantified is; how much savings does a system bring with by reducing abuses to the old system. Despite the fact that the system was implemented for all the wrong reasons, we're now recognizing some of the more subtle yet more beneficial advantages the system will bring. This is also the first information system that is going to be used throughout the whole company for about 2000 personnel. I'm pleased with the achievement we've obtained as it was no easy task for only two people to undertake in such a short time.

Tanzania holiday video

Wednesday, May 11, 2005
After a month and a half of hard work after hours, I finished the holiday video for our African adventure in Tanzania. I'm too exhausted to rant about it so I'm going to upload the trailer. Download here (approx 4Mb)

Blogroll or not?

Sunday, May 8, 2005

Blogroll or notI don't usually engage in heated flames but this post from Shelley Powers was too much to resist not replying to. During a rant about the dominance of white males in the blogging community, Shelley encouraged bloggers to remove their blogroll because they "are hurting us", The main reason that she gave was that blogrolls are useless and they are do nothing to help less known good bloggers get into the top 100 list at Technorati.

I find it totally absurd to come to the conclusion that blogrolls should be removed because of Technorati's way of determining popular blogs. Blogrolls have a variety of purposes and even if you don't personally use them it doesn't mean that your visitors don't. For instance I start out by checking the blogroll when I visit a new blog trying to identify blogs that I frequent to check whether I share the notion of a good read with the blog writer. A blogroll is the key element in developing blog friend circles which are the heart of the social aspect of blogging. By blogrolling a site you are essentially proclaiming that you like the content of the site and therefore to a greater or lesser extent the site has something to do with yours. This is a great way to identify blogs of similar interests and maybe start forming part of a circle of blog friends with the same interests. To a certain extent this functions similar to webrings but with control on which site you visit. This is the time were the name of your blog matters the most because people will click on it based on its name.

One of the things that escaped Ms Shelley was the encouragement a newbie blogger gets when he's blogrolled for the first time. In a time were blogging has become so common and getting some recognition is even more difficult new bloggers need to be encouraged to continue blogging, and what's better than knowing that somebody values enough to add it to his reading list.

Although I'm all out in favor of blogrolls I realize that they are no holy grail. For instance, long blogrolls are much less useful than shorter ones which attract more attention and are more readable. Blogrolls must also be maintained updated to reflect the shift in the owner's readership, something not all bloggers do. Furthermore a new phenomenon that can threaten the validity of blogrolls is the link exchange systems that allow bloggers to exchange links on their blogrolls. As long as both bloggers in the exchange like each other's blogs then there's no harm in facilitating links but once you start linking for the sake of the link the scope of the blogroll is lost. Separating sites referenced through link exchanges into a different blogroll category might be a valid compromise because people are warned that the blogroll is for a specific reason and might not necessarily be for the sake of content.

One thing I agree with Shelley is that the top 100 list in Technorati is completely useless to identify new good blogs, however I don't think this is the purpose of the list in the first place. I think being on the top 100 list serves more as a status symbol for your blog than anything else. Technorati isn't only blogging service around and there are many other services that do a great job of promoting good newer blogs, like blog explosion for example.

Removing blogrolls to defect Tecnorati's and NZ Bear's Ecosystem top blog list is just the tip of the iceberg in destroying several other blogging services which rely on blogrolls for their analysis. I'm not going into a discussion on whether the use of blogrolls are adequate for such analysis because that's another issue but you cannot chop down a forest to kill a weed. For one thing blogrolls are the backbone of Blogshares, and depriving me from this addiction by shooting down blogrolls deserves capital punishment.

Some other articles about the same topic as this are:-

Running Programs

Friday, May 6, 2005

What are the programs that are currently running in your taskbar now? These are mine:

Intelli J
Explorer
Toad
Tomcat
Secure CRT
Cute FTP
4x Internet explorer browsers
JBoss
Notepad

To continue this thread either post a message in your blog and adding you blog link as a comment, or else post your reply as a comment to this post.

Tanzania Travelogue - 8th March – To the Serengeti

Thursday, May 5, 2005

While we were taking our breakfast two campsite attendants helped our guides to pack everything in the 4x4 to start our long journey to the Serengeti. The scenery around us just kept getting better and better and the villages more characteristic and rural. On our way we passed through the village of Mto Wa Nbu which funnily enough means River of Mosquitoes.

This is another colourful village with people flooding the streets selling their goods and gaining their daily bread. Before continuing our journey Pius, the driver, parked to the side and made a sign to a group of woman sitting at the edge of the road. All of a sudden three women with different bunches of bananas came to try and sell their produce to Anton our cook. This attitude was very characteristic of the place and shows that if you need to buy anything you’re going to be spoilt for choice. Here we stopped again for some other reason and a small boy came to our car asking for a pen. At last somebody came for something we could give and after fumbling nervously in our bags we threw a pen at him. The smile on his face is one of the best memories I’ve got of the whole holiday.

Maasai Women ChantingThe best part of the day had yet to come because after a brief stopover at the Ngorongoro crater which was on the way, we went to visit a Maasai Village. As soon as we arrived a Maasai dressed in a deep purple cloak came to greet us and obviously ask us for money. Since we didn’t have small change we gave him $30 each instead of the $25. The price looks a bit overpriced, in fact the Maasai himself was quite surprised at giving him the extra $5 but everything was worth it here. The Maasai guide who knew English very well, seemed to have felt guilty not having change so he gave us special attention and was particularly friendly with us.

Maasai Child As soon as we stepped in the village, the Maasai welcomed us with their traditional welcoming dance. With daring confidence they grabbed hold of my queen and dressed her one of their wide collars kidnapping her till the end of their ritual. After the warm welcome the guide took us inside one of their huts created with cow dung, which had a small extinguishing fire fuming the whole place. In pitch black darkness we learned about the Maasai and their way of life.

After this brief discussion we visited their kindergarten area which is essentially a hut built with sticks and earth were small children were waiting for their lesson. In the classroom we were surprised to find benches for children to sit upon and even a blackboard with some Swahili written on it. It’s a pity that we didn’t have any biros and copybooks with us to donate to the kindergarten class. Before leaving the Maasai a female Maasai which is only distinguishable by her cloths since they shave their heads, came to ask us for some anti-venom because a child got bitten by a snake, but unfortunately we couldn’t do much to help.

Maasai Hut   Maasai Kingergarten

On our way to the Serengeti we met the first lion and the first encounter was the best one of the Safari, because we arrived in the exact moment he was mating. We also saw two lionesses ride each other which was rather strange. I haven’t yet found what does this behaviour means.

Lion Mating   Zebras in Serengeti Wallpaper

The plains of the Serengeti are like no other. Huge plains full of life that you can feel the animals watching you. In early March the area was a fusion of greens and yellows with a blue sky contrasting in the background. It’s no wonder that most documentaries are taken in this heaven. The animals here look so friendly that they seem to greet you instead of being intimidated. I’m sure that we got closer to them then you can get at a zoo. In fact after this experience I doubt I’d ever visit another zoo. This is insurmountable.

Most of this day was spent travelling however even though we didn’t explicitly look for animals we saw plenty of them. Zebras, Tomphson’s Gazzelle and Impalas are everywhere, but despite their numbers you never tire of watching them. This does not mean that these are the only animals that you can see, it’s more like if you spit out of the car you’re more likely to hit one of these animals than the ground.

Elephants dick After the lions mating we continued our porno show with the most endowed member of male animal kingdom – the elephant. The elephant's dick is so big that he can scratch his stomach with it, which in fact he did. See the video here.

The campsite we stayed at the Serengeti was much wilder than that of Lake Manyara. In fact here in the middle of nowhere there is no electricity or running water so you can feel really isolated from the rest of the world. The campsite we stayed at was called Seronera campsite although in the area of Seronera there are several different campsites. This was the best camping place precisely because it was the wildest one, with no fences guarding you, completely at one with nature.

P.S. Most of the photo's are copyrighted to my much more artistic soul mate

Zonkey or Deebra?

Tuesday, May 3, 2005

If you mate a zebra with a donkey what do you get a Zonkey or a Deebra? Read the story on CNN

Customer Support

Monday, May 2, 2005

Last Friday I received this e-mail from a customer support helpdesk. I think our helpdesk might consider adopting it maybe clients get charmed by our words and don’t grumble anymore.

Hi,
I am sorry to intrude, but I have a good excuse. The moment you registered "Concealed Name", you received the right to free support. Our Customer Care System assigned you a personal Support Angel. As you may have guessed, in your case that angel is me, Rowena. It's good to meet you!

Whenever you have questions, comments or suggestions, write direct to me at rowena.fake@concealed.com, because I am now your first contact at Concealed Name