Unraveling Obfuscation

ob fus cate – 1. to confuse, bewilder, or stupefy 2. to make obscure or unclear

Archive for March, 2008

A watched pot never…

Posted by Todd McKinney on March 29, 2008

…boils. You knew that.

I have been following a bit of the conversation on FriendFeed this past week, and had the germ of an idea for a really great post. Techmeme, according to Gabe, is particularly susceptible to a “bitchmeme” on the weekend. The reason is simple, there’s no news, so any petty squabble that generates a ton of links from bloggers shoots right up to the top.


(photo: omglia)

Armed with this little tidbit of knowledge, my blogosphere domination plan started to have some legs. All I need to do is generate some kind of controversy on Friday afternoon, and pretty soon I’ll have Arrington griping about how much VC money I’m getting for blogging.

As I’m sure you’ve seen, there were a couple of hurdles that completely derailed this otherwise perfect plan.

1. On Friday afternoon, I was busy actually working and completely missed the window of opportunity to start things rolling.

2. Fredreic not only stole my idea without realizing it, but he executed in a way that made my humble posting aspirations seem trivial in comparison. See for yourself, in all it’s glory, not just an open invitation to the weekend bitchmeme, but a full-blown history of the phenomenon.

3. Nothing happened.

Not a peep. The top story on Techmeme right now (subject to change of course) is the WordPress 2.5 upgrade. The next most interesting thing to my eye is Fred Wilson’s blog metrics. The only thing that has a glimmer of hope is the story about ex-Googlers turning on their former employers, but it just doesn’t have the necessary elements to really be a bitchmeme.

Maybe next week.

Update:  I wouldn’t have thought so late on Saturday, but I was premature. Gabe said it best on Sunday evening “A little late in coming, Bitchmeme has officially arrived.” Catch it here: Mark Evans- Why Original Blog Thought is so Difficult. Or here on techmeme. Whew, that was close 🙂


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FriendFeed really is that good

Posted by Todd McKinney on March 27, 2008

image I know I’m a little late to the party with this gushing endorsement. So much has already been said about the service that we’re quickly heading towards “over-hyped”. I just have one simple point that I want to make that demonstrates why I find FriendFeed so compelling. Amid all of the other things that FF does so well, they have managed to strike a terrific balance between ease of use and noise filtering. It’s done through an interface that is obvious and does exactly what you expect. Most notably in my experience, when compared to Twitter it is far easier to jump in and participate in a conversation. The key difference is that FriendFeed leans more towards an opt-out model for keeping the noise to signal ratio manageable. As a result, anyone can jump in and participate in a conversation with almost no effort. Here’s how it works:

  1. Create account

  2. Find some people to follow/subscribe

  3. Click comment when you see something interesting

Compare that to Twitter, and it’s like night and day. I’m finally coming up the learning curve so that Twitter actually works for me, but it’s been a bit of a frustrating experience that sent me off to find the “user’s manual” to be able to know what’s going on. As a quick aside, I did come across a well written series that fills in the details about how to use Twitter. Ugh, I would hate to have to explain all that to my Grandma. I’ll take clean, simple and intuitive any day. When it comes to “mainstream potential”, I think that’s a powerful advantage.

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Rapid Innovation

Posted by Todd McKinney on March 18, 2008

I dropped by the water cooler a few minutes ago, and noticed that Benjamin Golub is adding functionality to RSSmeme at a breakneck pace. I still have my concerns about this entire category being swallowed whole by Google if/when the reader team implements something similar, but for now there’s some really fascinating things going on around shared feeds. If the rapid rollout of new features keeps up like this, there may be a defensible position for these “first movers“.

Oh, yeah. The thing that caught my attention today was the addition of a FeedBurner feedflare on RSSmeme.

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Saying something nice for a change

Posted by Todd McKinney on March 14, 2008

imageIt has been one of my important goals as I’m thinking about ramping up the posting frequency of this blog, to make the overall tone positive. This is harder than it sounds for a couple of reasons:

  1. Like Steven Hodson, I tend to see myself more and more as a cranky old fart. I’m becoming increasingly comfortable with this every day.

  2. Just like a fight on a playground, or driving by a car wreck, complaining and criticizing draws a lot more attention than doing something nice for someone. The blogosphere rewards controversy.

  3. People (and companies) do dumb things. A lot.

Imagine my glee then, in finally hitting on a solution. I was reading a post by Umair, where he’s calling the billionaire blogger names and I thought he was probably mostly right and I should link to it. Then it hit me – I can be positive (way to go Umair, good point) and still fulfil that need to complain about something at the same time. Problem solved. It’s a happy day.

Now, if I can just find more people griping about stuff on their blogs, I’m set.

Update: fixed typo that made me look illiterate

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ReadBurner back in the race

Posted by Todd McKinney on March 14, 2008

 image -> image

Adam Ostrow posted the news that the pioneering linkblog analysis site ReadBurner has been acquired and will be back online soon. This can’t be anything but good news, and I’m really glad the Alex Marktl got some reward for all his hard work other than just frustration.

One of the things that struck me most about Adam’s post isn’t in the post itself, it’s in the title. He says “Attention Data is the Future of Social News”. That line of thinking seems spot on to me, so it seems that they are not just reviving the project, but doing it thoughtfully and for the right reasons.


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Inconsistency is the spice of life

Posted by Todd McKinney on March 12, 2008

Cory Doctrow has a really useful bit of advice for making general website content accessible to bloggers. I picked up a few tips that I’m planning to incorporate where necessary. Particularly, the bit about Creative Commons licensing makes a lot of sense. The people that I DON’T want to steal my content and use it for their splog will do it anyway, no matter what the license legalese says. The people I DO want to have pull something and talk about it may just pass by if it’s not explicit. Might as well just say “go ahead – sharing is good”. In fact, I kind of gave a tribute to that basic fact in my hello world post here.

The part about the article that made me chuckle, then decide it was worth calling BS on, then laugh a little more while I’m writing, was this

Enough with the legal boilerplate. If your every page on your site ends with “(c) 2008 Paranoid Co Inc, all rights reserved. No part of this site may be reproduced without permission,” then bloggers may just take you at your word and write about someone else’s site. You don’t need this kind of language — your stuff is copyrighted the second you type it out, in every country that’s signed the Berne Convention (that includes the US). Your overzealous lawyer is scaring away the bloggers who’ll tell the world about your stuff.

On that very page, scroll way down to the bottom, and what do you find? Well, what have we here…


Follow the (c) ParanoidCo. Inc.  link, and It starts off with this gem:

Please read our conditions of use carefully as by using the website you will be taken to have agreed to be bound by them. We reserve the right to vary the conditions of use at any time and will post any variations here. You are advised to review the conditions of use on a regular basis as you will be deemed to have accepted variations if you continue to use the website after they have been posted.

And continues later with:

Copyright in these pages is owned by Investis. United Business Media owns the copyright in the content published on the website except where otherwise indicated by a third party’s proprietary notice. Images, trade marks and brands are also protected by other intellectual property laws and may not be reproduced or appropriated in any manner without written permission of their respective owners. Unless specifically prohibited by a notice published on any page, you may make a print copy of such parts of the website as you may reasonably require for your own personal use provided that any copy has attached to it any relevant proprietary notices and/or disclaimers. All other use is prohibited.

Now, I’m certain that Cory doesn’t control the editorial and legal policies of Information Week, and being a blogger of his magnitude it’s not like he needs link juice from me. But still, doesn’t it just seem a little bit funny to be giving advice in a forum that is actively NOT following it? That is doing the very thing that you’re thesis says is wrong? Maybe that’s the point, in some clever twist, Cory might be poking at the IW lawyers and provoking change. We can hope.

One last thing, while we’re at it. The list only went to 17, and I prefer round numbers so I would like to add:

18. If you’re a big site that’s literally plastered with ads, please don’t take a nice digestible 17 point list and splay it across three pages. I know it gets your page view numbers up and gives you more ad impressions. But it hurts you in reader perception. I feel used and taken advantage of when you treat me like a sharecropper in a clickfarm. I’ve got a scroll bar – just put the story on the page and be done with it. That way I only have to turn off your stupid auto-playing flash video ad once instead of three times.

Update: I went back and read through all the comments, and both of these point were taken up by readers. So, I’m not the first to point it out. On the plus side, that does validate that it’s kind of wacky. Another plus – IW editors seem to be listening to the criticism.

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Here in Austin

Posted by Todd McKinney on March 10, 2008

Strange, but true, I’m here in Austin but I’m NOT at SXSW/twitterfest.

It’s not because of some strange weather problems, or a mix up with my badge. It’s because 1) I live here, and 2) I’ve got work to do. Louis Gray mentioned that I might not have quite the posting frequency of even a b-lister, but that is mostly because up ’til now I’ve only been writing for myself. So, now that the big hairy eyeball is pointing this way, what to say?

First, let me say welcome. Anyone besides me who happens to be reading this counts as a new visitor, and I thank you. Second, it’s a crazy world where I’m having a conversation with someone downtown in the city that I live in, linking out to someone in San Francisco and referencing a Canadian blogger all in the space of a few minutes. The world we live in is being compressed by communication that travels at near light speed. Wow.

On the events of today, kudos to Zuckerberg for recovering nicely and winning hearts and minds. The story of Facebook and the brash young CEO is something that is inspirational, even with the dire warnings that accompany the rise of something so inviting and easy to use. I honestly don’t know where I stand on the issue of “evil DNA” as laid out by Umair. There is no doubt that Zuckerberg is a smart guy. There is no doubt that there is mindshare and momentum going for them right now. As I see it, it’s Mark’s game to lose. From where I stand, that’s a pretty good place to be.

If it was me, however, I’d be going over those Umair posts with a fine-toothed comb. I think there’s a large vein of gold in there for someone that’s looking to mine it.

Update: Oops, forgot to include a picture. No respectable blogger would put up a post without one, right???

The conversation that I was trying to engage in with the twitterati – congress avenue birds:


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Dare turns out the lights

Posted by Todd McKinney on March 5, 2008

Dare has decided to call it quits on his blog. Bummer! My feed reader will be a little bit less interesting now…

Anyway, thanks Dare, it was great stuff.

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Reasonable Network Management

Posted by Todd McKinney on March 3, 2008

That seems to be the nice way to describe the approach Comcast has been using to block bittorrent traffic. Alex has been putting up some helpful analysis over at the Capitol Valley blog. I don’t pretend to be a policy wonk, or even to spend too much time thinking about federal politics, but this particular issue hits me close enough to home to really get me going. I hope that Alex is right in thinking that anti-competitive, harmful practices of access providers will soon be getting a lot more attention from lawmakers and/or the FCC. The knee-jerk reaction that decision makers came up with the first time the topic came up was pretty disappointing.

I can’t wait to experience THAT 😦

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