Saturday, December 30, 2006

What Social News Sites Drive the Most Traffic?

This is a question I'm trying to answer for myself, but am now looking for empirical research to back it up.

There are all sorts of social news sites around now. Digg, Reddit, Netscape, Newsvine, Slashdot, etc. Which one of them is most beneficial for the content producer, or for the interested individual, to be posting on? Which delivers the most bang for the buck?

I had my own initial results with many different social news services, and the resultant traffic they can drive to one's site. Everyone knows that Digg has the best Alexa ratings out of all these, but is it the best for actually directing interested people to on-topic news?

My initial response to it all would fall under the concept of "publics". In an essay called "Wrong Publics", an essay written for people in business, PR and Marketing, L. Ron Hubbard discusses the need to only promote to correct publics, and not go after wrong distinct publics. The "people" aren't just "the people". They're cynical college kids or high-school girls or they're housewives or whatever. You can't put the same stories up on Digg and expect them to be gobbled up if they're for the 60-yr-old housewife public.

I've noticed this on posts that I've done, and that a friend of mine did on Scientology Volunteer Ministers. Now, firemen nearly escaping death, and excellent stories showing such is definitely a newsworthy item. It's a story of hope, and bravery and camaraderie. Now, you'd think this sort of thing would rise up in social news services. Of course, it doesn't. What does instead? Well, let's take some of the top stories in Reddit right now:

Inkless Metal Pen Never Runs Dry
Duke Nukem Forever approaches *10 years* of active development

It's terrible. Why do dorky articles outpace meaningful ones?

It does come down to who is reading them, and what audience they're destined for. The selfsame article that went nowhere on Digg, erupted on Reddit. Similarly, articles that went nowhere on reddit erupted on Netscape.

It is indeed a matter of looking at what you're writing, and then write for the people that will be reading it. I.e., if you're writing for the 22-yr-old Linux hacker, definitely post on Digg.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Integrating Reddit Buttons Onto your Blog

I've become quite enamoured with Reddit of late - partially because it's so easy to use, and partially because it does seem to have an uncanny ability to drive quite preposterous quantities of visitors around -- assuming you have decent content to send them to.

On, you'll find a number of little Reddit buttons that you can add to news stories, web pages or blog posts. These put a nifty little reddit box onto your page, like you see on this post.

This is done by adding a tag like this to the HTML code of your blog post

Now, one thing that I've noted which is an impediment to using a service of this nature is that just about every blog provider I've seen will strip out the "" tags out of your HTML. Wordpress does it, does it, Clearblogs does it, etc. Now, Blogger seems to do it too -- and gives you a big, gnarly "dangerous code detected..." warning when you go to post. However, if you simply check the checkbox that says to ignore further errors, the post will post, and the script tags will end up on your blog post. The only other one that I've seen work is on, where it still allows you to just slap script tags right on to the HTML.
I still haven't gotten the Digg JS to work on Blogger, but the Reddit JS seems to work like a bomb.

Another nifty article on Duplicate Content and SEO

This is another such article I've found on duplicate content, for those who have found themselves nailed by Google's duplicate content filter:

From the article, "This duplicate content that I’m reporting on should provide some good insights. Why? Because these sites aren’t attempting to spam the search engines. Instead, they’re just typical efforts by business units to brand something on the web with no consideration of the SEO consequences. You might also ask why, as someone involved with SEO, I’m not doing anything about it? Partly because the sites are eventually going to disappear as they are replaced by yet another recipe search and partly because examining the data should be quite educational."

Outstanding SEO Guide

Browsing around, I just found this incredible site on search engine optimization, which has one of the better explanations of things like duplicate content, importance of titles and backlinks, and so forth.

Here is their mini-book on SEO - which I would definitely encourage any SEO to study up on.

I. Introduction – What Is SEO

1. How Search Engines Work

2. Differences Between the Major Search Engines

II. Keywords – the Most Important Item in SEO

1. Choosing the Right Keywords to Optimize For

2. Keyword Density

3. Keywords in Special Places

a. Keywords in URLs and File Names

b. Keywords in Page Titles

c. Keywords in Headings

III. Links – Another Important SEO Item

1. Why Links Are Important

2. Inbound and Outbound Links

3. Anchor text

4. Link Practices That Are To Be Avoided

IV. Metatags

V. Content Is King

1. Topical Themes or How to Frequently Add Content to Your Site

2. Bold and Italic Text

3. Duplicate Content

VI. Visual Extras and SEO

1. Images

2. Animation and Movies

3. Frames

4. JavaScript

VII. Static Versus Dynamic URLs

VIII. Promoting Your Site to Increase Traffic

1. Submitting Your Site to Search Directories, forums and special sites

2. Specialized Search Engines

3. Paid Ads and Submissions

Thursday, December 28, 2006

What are Volts & Amps? The Hydraulic Analogy for Electronics

I had a friend who had a hard time getting the difference between volts, amps and so forth and what it all actually means in the real universe. As anyone who knows L. Ron Hubbard Study Technology will tell you, a misunderstood word can be one of the nastiest things there is, in terms of its impact on one's ability to learn and work. So, here's my favourite analogy which explains this, excerpted from

The electronic Hydraulic analogy (derisively referred to as the Drain-pipe theory by Oliver Heaviside) is the most widely used analogy for "electron fluid" in a metal conductor. Since electric current is invisible and the processes at play in electronics are often difficult to understand in an intuitive way, it is common to teach electronics using analogies to more common sense objects and processes. The analogy is made to a hydraulic system of water in pipes. The "electron fluid" in a metal conductor has many similarities to such a system, and the various electronic components have similar hydraulic equivalents. Electricity (as well as heat) was originally understood to be a kind of fluid. This hydraulic analogy is still of some use in teaching, not only for the fact that the names of the quantities are often struck by analogy. The water analogy is very useful in describing some aspects of electricity, but it breaks down for others.

Basic ideas

There are two basic paradigms:

  • Version with pressure induced by gravity. Large tanks of water that are held up high, and the potential energy of the water head is the pressure source. This is reminiscent of electrical diagrams with an up arrow pointing to +V, grounded pins that otherwise are not shown connecting to anything, and so on.
  • Completely enclosed version with pumps providing pressure only; no gravity. This is reminiscent of a circuit diagram with a voltage source shown and the wires actually completing a circuit.

Component equivalents

All pipes are completely full of water, and none ever has an open end. If a pipe were to go somewhere without reconnecting to the circuit, it would have to have a cap on the end. This is because the wall of the pipe is like an insulator, and a wire just sticking out into insulating space/air is like a completely pipe-surrounded rod of water.
Equivalent to pressure.
Also called potential difference. A relative difference in pressure between two points
The amount of charge (i.e. electrons, electron holes or ions) passing through a cross section of conductor per given time, much like a hydraulic mass flow rate.
Ideal voltage source
A pump with a pressure meter on both sides. It varies the speed of the pump to keep the difference in pressure constant.
Ideal current source
Also a pump, but with a current meter (little paddle wheel). The pump changes speed to maintain a constant speed of the little paddle wheel.
A pipe with a small width. "So what makes this different from a regular-width pipe?" Nothing. All pipes have some resistance, just like all wires have some resistance.
A capacitor driven by an AC source through a diode.
A capacitor driven by an AC source through a diode.
One-way valve or check valve. If it has a rubber flap it can be blown out permanently by too much reverse bias, which is similar to the real thing.
Big spherical tanks with a sheet of thick rubber separating the two halves.
All flowing water has inertia, which has similar effects to inductance. A large, heavy, frictionless paddle wheel is like a dedicated inductor. As you try to increase a DC current, you encounter resistance as you speed up the paddle wheel, but after it is going, you can send a current at the same speed as the paddle wheel with no effort. If you try to put AC through it, the wheel will present a great resistance, as its inertia prevents you from moving it back and forth. Any real paddle wheel will have some friction associated with it, just as any real inductor has some resistance. The DC to DC converter uses inductance to change voltage in the way that a Hydraulic ram uses inertia to change pressure.
A device similar to an EGR valve, where a diaphragm controlled by a low-current signal (either constant current — BJT, or constant pressure — FET) moves a plunger which allows a larger current to flow through another section of pipe, like a globe valve.
A combination of two MOSFET transistors. As the input pressure changes, the pistons allow the output to connect to either zero or positive pressure.

Principle equivalents

EM wave speed (velocity of propagation)
Speed of sound in water. When a light switch is flipped, the electric wave travels very quickly through the wires.
Charge flow speed
Particle speed of water. The moving charges themselves move rather slowly.
Constant flow of water in a circuit of pipe
Low frequency AC
Water oscillating back and forth in a pipe
Higher-frequency AC and transmission lines
Sound being transmitted through the water pipes
Inductive spark
Used in induction coils, similar to water hammer, caused by the inertia of water

Equation examples

Some examples of equivalent electrical and hydraulic equations:

type hydraulic electric thermal
quantity volume V [m3] charge q [C] heat Q [J]
potential pressure p [Pa=J/m3] potential φ [V=J/C] temperature T [K=J/kB]
flux current ΦV [m3/s] current I [A=C/s] heat transfer rate \dot{Q} [J/s]
flux density velocity v [m/s] current density j [C/m2s] heat flux \dot{Q}'' [J/m2s]
linear model Poiseuille's law \Phi_{V} = \frac{\pi r^{4}}{8 \eta} \frac{\Delta p^{\star}}{\ell} Ohm's law j=-\sigma \nabla \phi Fourier's law \dot{Q}''=\kappa \nabla T

Limits to the analogy

If taken too far, the water analogy can create misconceptions. For it to be useful, we must remain aware of the regions where electricity and water behave very differently.

Electrons can push or pull other distant electrons via their fields, while water molecules experience forces only from direct contact with other molecules. For this reason, waves in water travel at the speed of sound, but waves in a sea of charge will travel much faster as the forces from one electron are applied to many distant electrons and not to only the neighbors in direct contact. In a hydraulic transmission line, the energy flows as mechanical waves through the water, but in an electric transmission line the energy flows as fields in the space surrounding the wires, and does not flow inside the metal. Also, an accelerating electron will drag its neighbors along while attracting them, both because of magnetic forces.
Leaking pipes
If a hole is made in a hydraulic system, the water can leak out. But the movable charges present within electrical conductors are always attracted to unmoving opposite charges in the material. The "electric fluid" can be forcibly removed from metals, but enormous voltages arise if even a tiny amount is removed. For this reason, the surfaces of conductors act as if they always have a high energy-barrier preventing leaks. Also for this reason, continuing electric currents require closed loops rather than hydraulics' open source/sink resembling spigots and buckets.
Wrap a long water-filled hose around a barrel, and the water's large mass behaves as a significant "inductance." However, in real coils the adjacent turns interact via magnetic fields, and the value of inductance increases as the square of the number of turns. It's as if we could create four times the mass of water by only doubling the length of the water hose.
Fluid Velocity
As with water hoses, the carrier drift velocity in conductors is directly proportional to current. However, charges' velocity within a conductor is typically less than centimeters per minute, and the "electrical friction" is extremely high. If charges ever flowed as fast as water can flow in pipes, the amperage would be immense, and the conductors would become incandescently hot and perhaps vaporize. To model the resistance and the charge-velocity of metals, perhaps a pipe packed with damp sand would be a better analogy than an empty, water-filled pipe.
Quantum Mechanics
Conductors and insulators contain charges at more than one quantized level of atomic orbit energy, while the water in one region of a pipe can only have a single value of pressure. For this reason there is no hydraulic explanation for such things as a battery's charge pumping ability, a diode's voltage drop, solar cell functions, Peltier effect, etc.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Digg Passes the 20 mark on Alexa Ratings

Apparently, Digg has officially broken the 20 mark for most visited websites in the United States. Digg now comes in at 19th place in the rankings where can be found here.

This is pretty impressive considering that digg has only been on the wire for a little over 2 years now.

Digg falls just behind Microsoft and IMDB while it beats out some very big names which include: The New York Times, Wal-Mart,, Mapquest, Best Buy, etc.

According to Seth Godin's Web 2.0 traffic list, that puts it a good ways ahead of Reddit (1400) and Newsvine (3490). Curious Reddit always seems to pull more visitors every time I post something. Oh, well. Reddit's faster too, so I'll stick with that.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Scientology Volunteer Ministers in Australia

Photo: Media inspect a fire some 30 kilometres south of Mansfield. Firefighters battling Australia's massive wildfires amid soaring temperatures and fierce winds are looking forward to a white Christmas to dampen the bushfire emergency, officials said.

Funds are still needed to support the volunteers. If you can help, go to the Volunteer Ministers website and fill out the contact form they have there.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Miracle Stories of Scientology Volunteers in the Philippines

Scientology Assist technology can produce products routinely that many might consider "miracles". To the average Scientology Volunteer Minister though, this is all part of the normal day's work.

Two Scientology Volunteer Ministers giving assists to children in the evacuation center.

There have been so many miracle stories that have come in from the Scientology Volunteer Minister activities in the Philippines.

Two young girls they helped were devastated. Having lost both parents in the typhoon, they were overwhelmed with grief. They calmed down, stopped crying and both of them experienced some relief. Nothing the Volunteer Minister could do would bring their parents back, but at least they could now get on with their own lives, and start caring for themselves and each other.

In another room the volunteers helped a whole family that seemed to have given up after their home was destroyed. It started with an assist to a woman who was clearly very sad. She was lying listlessly on a mattress on the floor, and told the volunteer she felt very lonely. After her assist she got off the floor and started watching the volunteer as he gave an assist to a little girl nearby. She was so interested that he asked her if she wanted to learn how to do this too. She was very emphatic when she said she did, because the child the volunteer had just helped was now giggling and smiling. And that child was her daughter. The volunteer then taught the mother and daughter how to use this technique and the daughter gave an assist to her father. When she began the assist, her father was lying down and said he couldn't move. But after his assist he felt much more energetic and he got up to prove it!

Using Dreamweaver on Linux

I've been trying for the last 2 years to find a decent web development platform for Linux, and still can't find one.

I truly don't understand what the big deal is with porting Dreamweaver to Linux. It already works on the Macintosh, so what would the big deal be making it work on QT or GTK+?

I think that if there were a decent Dreamweaver port for linux, that would end up converting a TON of people to the Linux camp. Seriously, for everyday work, I find GIMP totally acceptable for most photo work that I need to do for sites. Sure, I love Fireworks and I love Photoshop, but it's not a big block to getting website editing and development done. I can make it work.

But in terms of development environments, all I've found for Linux are:

  • Quanta: Great for PHP hackers, and great for the way that I develop sites (i.e. the site upload feature is very similar to dreamweavers). However, the visual editor is terrible. 90% of the time that I'm using the visual editor in Dreamweaver, it's for the purposes of SPEED. I'm trying to select something, fix it, and move on. Not navigate through someone else's messed-up code and table layout to find something. The Quanta visual editor doesn't work at all, really - crashing on even the simplest of pages.
  • Bluefish: Just a glorified gEdit, as far as I'm concerned.
  • Aptana: Looks really nifty, but I can't get it to work at all on my FC6 box. Also, has no visual editor, like Dreamweaver.
  • Mozilla Compozer: Would be almost usable if (a) it had a site upload / management setup like Dreamweaver (i.e. doesn't assume you're directly editing, via FTP, the files that run your website) and (b) if it didn't horribly mangle your source code every time you make an edit.
I'm all for open source software, but in this case I can't get around the NEED for Dreamweaver. Anyone have any clues how to persuade Adobe to move ahead on this?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Linux Driver for HP 2600n

Just in case anyone has ever needed a Linux driver for the HP LaserJet 2600n, a wonderful article on how to make it work with Linux is here. It works like a charm. Just follow the instructions one after the next, and it goes right on. Even works in Color!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Technology: How Bushfires Spread

As I've been covering quite a bit on what Scientology Volunteers have been doing, as relates to the Bushfires in Australia, I figured I'd find out a bit how these bushfires spread and what one can do about this.

Found this interesting one on BBC news:

One home was destroyed at Stonyford, in Victoria's south-west, despite the efforts of firefighters working in temperatures of 41.1C - the hottest December day in more than 50 years. Dozens more houses are under threat.

Military personnel have been mobilised to help volunteer civilian fire crews fight the bush fires.

Specially modified planes and helicopters are dumping water on the flames from above.

Environment department spokesman Stuart Ord said crews were being stretched by trying to tackle fast-moving fires on several fronts in extreme conditions.

"There is no doubt the fire will hit settlements, the question is which ones?" he said.

Victorian Premier Steve Bracks has compared the situation to the state's "Black Friday" in 1939, when 71 people died in bush fires.

No-one has died in the current emergency, but Mr Bracks said the danger remained critical.

"We expect the next two weeks are going to be really like standing on our toes, waiting and hoping the communities are protected as the fires rage and move through," he said.

He condemned arsonists who, early on Sunday, lit grass fires on the outskirts of Melbourne that threatened homes before they were brought under control.

"The full force of the law will be brought to bear to find these people, to bring them to justice," Mr Bracks said. "We have increased penalties in place."

Volunteer Resources on Bushfires:

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Scientology Volunteers in Victoria, AU


Scientology Volunteers are still needed in Victoria, AU, more than ever.

Contact any of the following locations to find out how you can help.

Resources to contact:

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Typhoon Utor - Volunteer Help Needed

DOUBLE DISASTER. Over a week after Supertyphoon “Reming” left 90 percent of all houses either destroyed or damaged in Marinduque, including this hut, Typhoon “Seniang” battered the island-province again yesterday. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
DOUBLE DISASTER. Over a week after Supertyphoon “Reming” left 90 percent of all houses either destroyed or damaged in Marinduque, including this hut, Typhoon “Seniang” battered the island-province again yesterday. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Talk about an engineering nightmare. Scientology Volunteers are still needed desperately in the Philippines to help patch up their villiages literally blown apart by Typhoon Utor. Contact the Scientology Volunteer Minister Coordinator for more data on how you can help.

Monday, December 11, 2006

3,000 Firefighters Needing Help

Apparently, there are currently over 3,000 firefighters on the ground fighting the Australia bushfires. However, there are barely any support personnel keeping those firefighters on their feet, which is the problem. Anything anyone can do to assist those firefighters would be most welcome. One should contact the Scientology Volunteer Ministers hotline for more on how they can help.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Technologies of Being an Effective Volunteer

There are two major disasters going on right now in the ANZO area (Australia, New Zealand and Oceania) -- with the fires going on in Victoria, and the Typhoon which just hit in the Philippines. Now, Volunteer Minister teams are being dispatched to both locations -- but what are the technologies they use which makes them so effective? Governments praise them, the people on the ground wonder at why they can just get in and get things done -- but they're just people.

What's the difference between what they've got and what other groups might lack? The difference is that Scientology Volunteer Ministers are studied and drilled heaviliy in L. Ron Hubbard's organization technology -- for handling situations which seemingly are a confusing mass.

They're also drilled on L. Ron Hubbard's Scientology Assist Technology, which is a technology anyone can learn to help others. That in itself -- that anyone can learn it -- is something that Scientology Volunteer Ministers use to the hilt -- because when only a few hundred Scientology Volunteers hit a three-state disaster zone line Hurricane Katrina was, it's imperative that as many people as possible become empowered to themselves provide effective help to each other.

So, as an engineer concerned with Technology, that's where I salute the PEOPLE technologies like was created by L. Ron Hubbard and is put to use by Scientology Volunteer Ministers all over. I learned it -- and I think anyone else who could possibly run into similar such situations (which, if you live on earth, is you) -- should learn it.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Scientology Volunteer Ministers Needed -- Victoria, Australia

CFA volunteer Tony Tynan inspects a burnt-out house and car at Rose River.
Scientology Volunteer Ministers need help in Australia, fighting fires which are now burning out of control just north of Melbourne. Contact the Scientology Volunteer ministers coordinator to find out how you can help.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Scientology Volunteer Ministers Needed in the Philippines

Scientology Volunteer Ministers Needed in the Philippines to Help in the Wake of Typhoon Durian Volunteer Ministers from Taiwan, Japan and Australia are traveling to the Philippines to help the people of the region recover from the devastating typhoon that ravaged the area leaving as many as 1,000 presumed dead and 40,000 homeless; and Scientology churches from around the world are assembling teams to join them.
(full story >>)

How Bayes Spam Filters Work

I just got sent a really nice article on how Bayes spam filters (aka bayesian analysis) work. I've excerpted part of it here, as I think it's quite insightful:

Recognizing spam is not as easy as it might seem. For example, Yahoo! Groups put ads at the end of every e-mail, but if your users subscribe to such a group, they probably want to get the e-mail anyhow. Most users would just as soon discard any e-mail containing the word “Viagra,” but if you’re a pharmaceutical company, that might not be a wise policy. Press releases look a whole lot like spam, but discarding them would be a real problem for a working journalist.

Early spam-fighting products relied largely on keyword filtering to spot dubious messages, on the theory that words like “Viagra” and “FREE Offer” and “unsubscribe” only appeared in spam. There are two problems with this approach. First, unlikely though it may be, such words do appear in legitimate e-mail as well. Second, spammers quickly caught on and started sending mail with creative spellings such as “V1agra” and “FREEE Offer” and “un$ubscribe.”

The spam-fighting landscape changed dramatically in August 2002, when Paul Graham published his article “A Plan for Spam” on the Internet ( Graham proposed a method of detecting spam by what’s known as Bayesian statistical analysis. While you should go read the article for details, the basic idea is surprisingly simple. Start with a large corpus of spam and a large corpus of “ham” (good e-mail), say several thousand messages of each. Now count the individual words that appear in each corpus. What you’re looking for is words that tend to appear more often in spam than ham, or vice versa. For example, these days the word “Abacha” in my mail occurs exclusively in spam (of the Nigerian swindle variety), while the word “galleys” turns up only in ham (when my editors want me to review galley proofs). By looking at every word in every message, you can build up an extensive list of words and their probabilities of occurring in spam messages. Some words (like “Abacha” and “galley”) have a very high or very low probability of occurring in spam, while others (like “the” or “home”) are distributed pretty evenly.

When a new message arrives, the Bayesian algorithm compares the words in the message to those already in your corpus, looking for the most interesting (defined as having a high or low probability of occurring in spam) 15 or 20 words. Looking at the probabilities of those individual words, you can come up with a probability that the message containing the words is spam. If that probability is high enough, you can be nearly sure that the message was, in fact, spam.

Soon after Graham published his results, Bayesian spam filters started appearing—first on the client and in POP3 proxies, and then later on the server. Bayesian filters now boast a spam recognition rate of 95 percent or better in many settings. The experimental CRM-114 implementation ( refines the Bayesian notion for a recognition rate over 99 percent.

The nice thing about Bayesian filters is that it doesn’t really matter what the spammers do; as long as their mail is different from real mail, the filter will learn to recognize it. Word substitutions, for example, end up working against the spammer; the likelihood that a message containing “V1agra” is spam is nearly 100 percent, and after the first few times that goes by, a good Bayesian filter will automatically stamp messages containing that word as spam.

Friday, December 01, 2006

SpamAssassin Benchmarks - Fighting Spam Faster

I've been working to combat the recent wave of spam we've all been experiencing - waves upon waves of St0ck Reports, and Vlnnagra and Home M0ortgage Appr0vals. In doing so, I've done some benchmarks on SpamAssassin with its various options that some Google searchers might find ineresting:

The following numbers were produced on a test server of mine - a Gateway E-9315R server, 3.0Ghz Xeon, 512MB RAM, 80GB SATA, Fedora Core 3, running Postfix 2, MailScanner, and SpamAssassin.
  • All features turned on: 4.8 messages/min
  • Bayes filtering disabled: 19.1 messages/min
  • SpamAssassin disabled, but RBL still turned on: 74 messages/min
  • RBL+XBL, Pyzor, Razor and DCC disabled in spam.assassin.prefs: 76 messages/min
  • RBL+XBL disabled in MailScanner.conf (line commented out: Spam List = ORDB-RBL SBL+XBL): 320 messages/min
  • RBL+XBL disabled, but SpamAssassin turned back on: 64 messages/min
It's pretty clear that Spamassassin, Bayes and RBL are each pretty serious CPU hogs, but RBL is more network I/O bound than CPU bound.

I'm pretty tired of those spammer bastards cutting my communication lines (a subject most Scientologists feel strongly about, as communication is pretty much the most core element in Scientology), so I'm definitely looking for creative ways to process mail fast, but also more effectively. Comments welcome!