Friday, April 27, 2007

What does Technorati rank really mean?

Lately I had been thinking about my blogging experience of less than a year. 

Starting September 2006, I saw the Technorati rank of this blog climb from over a million to within a whisker of 200,000, in a few weeks. Since then it has dropped below 500,000 and isn't holding!

Beginner's luck? Perhaps, because I never did anything to push up the rank, either then or now.

I have, however, been posting steadily. Does it therefore mean that my blog has become less popular with more content?

Well, there are more subscribers and casual visitors now, but their numbers being embarrassingly small, I can't make any definitive claims.

Technorati ranking system is flawed in many ways. For example, it fails to count lots of links. Yet is a good indicator because it presumably miscounts for everyone, so the ranks are fair.

However, there'd be a strong incentive to game any such system, and bloggers do seeks links using every conceivable trick. Is that good or bad?

I think it's wonderful because it forces all of us to think about meaning of rank, the best way to measure it and newer ways to exploit the system. In the ecosystem that is the blogosphere, blogs and ranking systems, thus compete with each other and evolve.

There can be no better way forward!

Today I came across an experiment on Dosh Dosh's website, whose result would be very interesting to watch:

Technorati link count rankings are a source of social prestige in the blogosphere and are often the pride or despair of many bloggers. Unlike Technorati Top 100 Most Linked To blogs, which has a high barrier of entry, the Technorati Top 100 Most Favorited is a list that is much easier to break into.

Source: Dosh Dosh’s Ultimate Technorati Favorites Exchange: An Interactive Experiment

Happy experimenting and best of luck!



Amit Agarwal writes that Technorati Favorites is not Worth it Anymore. It's led to an interesting conversation on his blog. 

Perhaps, Technorati could provide users a negative vote too (as on Reddit or Digg). Thus any blog that's got an unfair rank simply by gaming the system wouldn't sustain the advantage very long.


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Cappuccino cell phone plan

light on the line
Originally uploaded by Mr. phelps.

Cappuccino, from Illy naturally, with an additional shot of espresso, cream and some honey. Also a moist banana cake.

No idea how this would turn out. But I'd like to place the order, if only to leave the barista no options to play with.

Never mind the unnecessary expense, I just want to deny them the pleasure of inflicting more damage on me for once.

Perhaps, whenever the service provider has a bewildering set of options to offer, but doesn't, it means they have already got you on the most expensive plan and maximum add-ons.

For example, my cellphone provider hasn't offered any plan changes or opt-in's for a while now. Have I already maximized revenue for them?

Maybe I should vary my options at random and measure the provider's distress by the number of times they contact me per months. Then stick with the configuration that maximizes their discomfort.


Technorati tags: , , , ,

Friday, April 20, 2007

Making Office Ergonomics actually work

Originally uploaded by Pollona.

If you work in an office, you know the aches and pains that come with a day at the computer. But it doesn't have to be that way.[1]

Yes, that’s true. There is a correct way to place your monitor, keyboard, mouse, arms, shoulders and head in the natural and neutral position. (Besides taking regular breaks, of course.)

My questions are:

  1. Why doesn’t the anatomically natural way come naturally?
  2. Why the relapse into painful, dysfunctional postures, after being taught the correct neutral one?

Perhaps, the answer lies in loss of strength and calibration.

Take a different example. Simply being told to hold the head erect sometimes doesn't work. That’s when doctors prescribe a Cervical Collar to ease the pain, and exercises to strengthen the involved neck and shoulder muscles.

The best to way to avoid postural problems, whether in office or otherwise, is probably to develop adequate body awareness and strength. And nothing helps you get there more easily than the Ancient System of Exercise called Yoga.

It was two years ago that I got introduced to yoga and enjoyed the learning experience.

Started on it again after a longish break. It's been as wonderful all over!


[1] Office Ergonomics presentation created by Prometheus Training Corporation, winner of the Articulate Guru Awards 2007.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Oh My God!

(Appended more thoughts towards the end - April 11, 2007))

The Washington Post set this up:

No one knew it, but the fiddler standing against a bare wall outside the Metro in an indoor arcade at the top of the escalators was one of the finest classical musicians in the world, playing some of the most elegant music ever written on one of the most valuable violins ever made.

Source: Pearls Before Breakfast -

It's a wonderfully written story about what happened next--and what didn't. And some delightful insights woven into the text.

Even at this accelerated pace, though, the fiddler's movements remain fluid and graceful; he seems so apart from his audience -- unseen, unheard, otherworldly -- that you find yourself thinking that he's not really there. A ghost.

Only then do you see it: He is the one who is real. They are the ghosts.

It's wonderful that Joshua Bell agreed to participate in this experiment.

I wish this performance is soon released on DVD!


Upon thinking some more, I'd say that Joshua Bell did rather well with the audience.

  1. Do street musicians make more than $40 an hour? Except, perhaps, some exceptional ones like Jim Grasec or Lorenzo LaRock that SawLady mentions in Is Joshua Bell a Good Busker? $40 an hour isn't too bad for someone who isn't skilled at busking.
  2. Joshua played music that was unfamiliar for the audience.
  3. He also played music that was unsuitable for busking. Most commuters probably heard a small portion from a complex composition. Would that be satisfying? Obviously there was no applause at the end.
  4. Joshua Bell isn't a street musician. But this was a Metro station. It is unfair to expect people to pay as much for street food as they would pay at a fine dining restaurant. How much would you pay for one sushi roll while running to work? (Coffee is different. You might actually pay more!)

Given a little more time, Joshua may have collected an appreciative crowd and his next 40 minutes would have likely earned a far higher amount.

Maybe someone who had the opportunity to hear him for an hour would drop $50 dollars. Yes, that's still less than the price of a concert seat, but then it wasn't a concert situation.

Which reminds me of very enjoyable "concerts" every Saturday some 20 years ago in Bombay. A group of people (older age group, well-dressed and knowledgeable about classical music--mostly from the Parsi community) would collect in a large hall for an hour of recorded classical music, played on concert grade audio equipment.

If you closed your eyes, did it matter that the musicians weren't actually out there? It was the same sound. And the yes, people avoided coughing or shuffling their feet while the music played. They even restrained themselves from clapping till the notes of the final movement of a symphony died down.


Thursday, April 05, 2007

The Psychological Harm of Being Connected

Kathy Sierra, in a well-informed and insightful post, describes the likely psychological impact of Twitter.

One of Skinner's most important discoveries is that behavior reinforced intermittently (as opposed to consistently) is the most difficult to extinguish. In other words, intermittent rewards beat predictable rewards. It's the basis of most animal training, but applies to humans as well... which is why slot machines are so appealing, and one needn't be addicted to feel it.

Sources: Is Twitter TOO good? - Kathy Sierra

It is frightening to think that the steady stream of pings into our consciousness may go over the safe threshold. (The Terminal Man?)

I switched off Twitter after a couple of days of experimentation. It now maintains a quiescent existence in my list of contacts. But there are other contacts and they could collectively produce the same effects as Twitter.

Time for coffee with a friend!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Developing IT Strategy

One perk of this new job is that you meet distinguished experts in their areas. For example, through the Gartner programmes.

Recently John Roberts delivered a thought (and discussion) provoking talk to a handful of managers around here.

John P. Roberts


John P. Roberts
Research VP and Distinguished Analyst

Gartner Australasia Pty. Limited
Melbourne, Australia


He suggested a model to assess strategic maturity within the organization. (To fix the current co-ordinates before undertaking the journey.) And he showed how to develop an IT strategy that supports the business one.

This brought to my mind thoughts I had upon joining this office a few days ago: the biggest challenge here would be to keep business, rather than technology focus.

However, John asked a rhetorical question that sent me down a path entirely different from where he was pointing. He asked if we ever stopped to think of the impact that email made to our business?

Do we need to do that? I don't think so.

In An Introduction to Mathematics (1948), Alfred North Whitehead wrote, "Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking about them."

We don't need to evaluate for ourselves what's in widespread use. We needn't examine (ab initio) the technology solutions that similar businesses have adopted and which seems to be working for them(called learning from business cases).

It's putting faith in the same Darwin's law of natural selection that created the most complex IT application that we know: the human genome!

Yes, the fittest would survive. And sure, we can increase our survival chances by adopting the sensible approach that Roberts advocated. Just that there are limits to what needs to be examined.

Now let me circulate a questionnaire among my colleagues to locate where we stand today (assess strategic maturity within the organisation).


Monday, April 02, 2007

Mathemagical Thinking and Romance

Douglas Hofstadter's Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid is an amazing book.

When I finished reading it some 15 years ago, I couldn't comprehend how that book ever got written. Even if one person had such knowledge and depth of understanding, how could he express it all in a tightly organised book?

I find it difficult to write an acceptably lucid blog post, but in today's world it is possible to do amazing stuff by getting lots of smart people to collaborate on the project. See for example Uncyclopedia.

In a wonderful piece, The Year of Mathemagical Thinking, Lev Grossman of Time Magazine tell us about Hofstadter's new book I Am a Strange Loop:

In 1993 Hofstadter's beloved wife Carol died suddenly of a brain tumor at only 42, leaving him with two young children to care for. Hofstadter was overwhelmed by grief, and much of I Am a Strange Loop flows from his sense that Carol lives on in him--that the strange loop of her mind persists in his, a faint but real copy of her software running on his neural hardware, her tune played on his instrument. "It was that sense that the same thing was being felt inside her and inside me--that it wasn't two different feelings, it was the same feeling," Hofstadter says.


Carol and Douglas Hofstadter in a mutual nose touching, forming a (metaphorical) "strange loop" in July of 1987 in the Wallowa Mountains in Eastern Oregon.


Source: The Year of Mathemagical Thinking | TIME

It isn't a sweet, romantic thought, but rather something that goes right to the heart of these concepts: meaning, thought, message and awareness.

In Nature of Romance, and Scott Adams' confusion, I had blogged that romance is a cerebral activity because it is about exchange of messages between two people. It seems romance goes way beyond merely exchanging information with another process to running a copy of the target process on your own machine.

Did that give you a headache evening thinking about it? I told you being lucid isn't natural for me.

Might better understand the idea myself after reading Hofstadter's new book.