[CopyBlogger] Confessions of a Comment Addict by Johnny Truant

ORIGINALLY POSTED IN: [CopyBlogger]

It’s interesting to run into an article about the deeper mindset, truth shared by a bloggger him or herself. Usually the established bloggers don’t show their inner thoughts, while focusing on professional, educational contributions through their posts. But in my case, for being a developer yet to be grown to become truly professional who can contribute significantly, it’s not easy to make regular posts. I wrote about Why it’s hard for me to blog frequently previously and this article by Mr. Truant seems to recognize the beneficial effect of opening up oneself to the readers.

The problem with most blogs and most bloggers is that they’re playing it safe. They’re just “reporting” on things, playing by the rules of what a person should and shouldn’t say in public. If you can buck that trend and talk about what others are feeling but won’t admit, you’ll draw a reaction. Opening up, especially when it’s uncomfortable, will get you more comments.

I guess people often feel difficult to comment on the superior post which may not need any addition or editing. But if the post is about inadequacy of incompleteness of the author or the subject matters, it becomes much easier to add to or edit the inferior post by commenting. Identifying this idea, Mr. Truant listed how to get more comments:

  1. Think of something that you feel or that is bothering/affecting you, but which you are reluctant to talk about.
  2. Ask yourself if other people are likely to identify with it or to feel the same thing, but are similarly reluctant to admit it. There’s little point to confessing to something that only you feel. (So for instance, perhaps you have a deep desire to rub yourself with rats. It seems unlikely that others will share this desire. But maybe that’s me. Maybe I’m out of touch.)
  3. Make your confession, showing yourself in full, naked glory.
  4. Watch the comments roll in.

This works because everyone has foibles, but most people are too preoccupied with looking “correct” or “professional” to discuss them. By finding and talking about these “elephant in the room” topics, you’re being brave on behalf of your readers. You’re being the first person to say what everyone is thinking, but which everyone is afraid to admit. You’re giving them permission to feel the same way, to discuss it, to admit it in kind.

While it’s important in blogging to be able to guide and contribute by sharing special knowledge or providing better solutions to the problems, sometimes it’s meaningful to connect with the readers by having the vulnerable communication, making oneself seemingly weaker. Amazingly, people don’t easily attack or slander the humble and  sincere blogger.

But what people really want, I think, is a friend. Not some know-it-all who pretends to like you just so he can make a sale, but a living, breathing human being who is just as screwed up as you are and isn’t afraid to admit it.

BOOK: Designing for the Social Web by Joshua Porter 06

I have been posting selected excerpts from the book “Designing for a Social Web” by Joshua Porter. Translating back from the Korean version of the book, I just want to tell the readers that the serial posts of the excerpts is not authorized by the owner of book. I just wanted to share the excerpts so useful to my own projects, and thought the imperfect translation from Korean version back to English may be acceptable.

Following excerpts are not as structured as a serious composition should be, merely combining the selected sentences I took from the book and translated back to English.

<< Previous Chapter 5: Keeping the users constantly satisfied

Selected excerpts from Chapter 6: Building collective intelligence

Sometimes, an individual must be sacrificed to provide better service to the mass.

Complex System is the mutually linked one, cannot prove its features or functionality when it’s disintegrated.
But when it’s integrated as one system, it shows more than one actual or potential features or functionality.

Adaptability is the capability to change flexibly throughout time.

It’s important for the designers and the developers to flexibly change the target users for keeping the system as healthy as possible.

The purpose of this kind of social system is to concentrate individual activities and bring out or create the most qualified and largest number of contents. The result of this process is called the collective intelligence.
The designer or developer can draw insightful ideas and information from this collective intelligence generated by many people.
In other words, the larger number of people can make the more qualified and accurate decisions, than the smaller number of people.

For this to be possible, activities of the users must be recorded and the innate or implicit patterns must be brought out using these steps:

  1. The initial behavior like submitting a new content. The fate of it is determined by the system rules and the other users.
  2. Exposure. The algorithm or the rules of the system based on the subject or suitability to the system. The exposure changes to display the good ones among different contents.
  3. Feedback. The users of the system can change the exposure of the content by affecting the algorithm through positive or negative interaction like commenting to the content.

When your content is exposed with other similar contents, it would require only little effort to promote it.

Too much content of different quality causes confusion to the users. The system must be able to control the submission to encourage quality content exposures over others.
Entry barrier is the mean to gain superiority in the market, likewise adopting or abolishing the entry barrier in the web service is critically considered for keeping the service as healthy as possible.
These are three types of barriers:

  1. Unofficial barrier: The special design or advertisement only work implicitly on special group of people.
  2. Official barrier: Requiring signing up for an account, installing an application.
  3. Extreme barrier: Invitation only, not open to the public.

Digg uses these kinds of barriers to ensure the quality of content submitted.
It is important to evaluate the suitability and the originality of the content.

Normally, people consider the well exposed content to be valuable.

  • Exposure in the main first area
  • Frequency of exposure affects the value
  • Head position in the first page
  • Higher rank compared with other contents

The purpose of most content is to draw a lot of visitor traffic, to the point of server error!

The ranking depicts the relevancy of contents to the users. Each user applies different combination for viewing conditions to the list of contents.

  • Chronological order
  • Popularity gained during certain range of time
  • Level of participation
  • Collaborative filtering
  • Relevancy
  • Identity of the content provider
  • Providing different perspective to look at one’s own content

The ranking is important to promote better user experience. It allows the user to recognize the value of content by comparing it with others.
The value of news service is freshness, of search engine is relevancy, and of social network is relationship.

Interface of the service is the world where users dwell and play. What’s displayed through interface determines the user experience. People often rely on the decisions made by others to make their own. Unless, the interface of the service purposely not showing information about what others think of the content, people’s evaluation on the content is heavily affected by how positively of negatively the content is examined beforehand by others. Social interface changes user’s decision.

The implicit and explicit feedback to the content are combined together to construct the overall reputation of the content.
The implicit feedback is generated from the user activities like visiting the page, bookmarking, clicking the download icon, and purchasing.
The explicit feedback is like reviewing, commenting, expressing the user preference.
It is very important to make the mechanism for feedback to be so easy to use, like Digg button on a page.

Leverage point is the small thing of the service which can affect the large part of it. Opening this leverage point to the users to participate in building the quality of the web service is necessary for actively growing the social network service.

Next Chapter 7: Encouraging to share >>

The Danger of Hesitation and Procrastination

For many days, I had been seriously considering to register a domain for my web development. Finally, after many days of speculation, I had come up with almost perfect domain name. It was about two weeks ago. At the time, registration for one year was priced about $7.99. However, because of my personal reason, I hesitated to obtain it thinking there might be better options. I was wrong. And now it costs about $59.99 for one year.

I couldn’t understand what happened to me. The price that I saw about two weeks ago was sale price and I didn’t know well about the price difference in registering .at, an Austrian domain. In other words, I wasn’t fully informed about domain pricing and business. I can’t help but still thinking what if I didn’t hesitate to register the domain at the moment of conceiving the domain name.

Another lesson I learned is about the danger of procrastination. My hosting company sent me an email about its affiliate program offering $10 for putting the banner linked to its website. Not reading the details of the email, I thought about doing it a few days later. But the email offer was valid only for 3 days. Noticing how easy it was like notifying the hosting company that I put the banner in my website, I was embarrassed to ignore the value of $10 which can be used for supporting my hosting charges. Lost the easy money.

Here I would like to stress the reasons why hesitation or procrastination is ALWAYS BAD:

It happens because one is not informed enough.

Due to having narrow viewpoint or stereotypical idea, one cannot act even though the decision to do it needs to be made as soon as possible to progress the task.

It cannot be replaced by better activities.

To be honest, I cannot confidently say I always did something better or meaningful things while in the state of hesitation of procrastination.

You cannot expect the future.

Accidents happen and the remaining time becomes so much shorter than anticipated.Often it’s caused by other factors, but blaming them is not the right excuse for lack of preparing for accidents.

It leads to abandoning the initial plan.

Unless I had the strong need and will to obtain the domain name before it was too late, I would’ve abandoned my plan for developing a web service. It frightens me how shameful and regretful it could be.

It is not a good thing to talk about.

Almost nobody wants to hear about the reasons or excuses for hesitation or procrastination state. The professionals working together will definitely think negatively about the one who is mindlessly talking about what he or she could do if he or she had enough time but didn’t.

Does anyone think differently? What’s differences between hesitation and procrastination? What are your experiences? Can anyone likes to suggest links?

BOOK: Designing for the Social Web by Joshua Porter 05

Korean version of Designing for a Social Web
Korean version of Designing for a Social Web

I have been posting selected excerpts from the book “Designing for a Social Web” by Joshua Porter. Translating back from the Korean version of the book, I just want to tell the readers that the serial posts of the excerpts is not authorized by the owner of book. I just wanted to share the excerpts so useful to my own projects, and thought the imperfect translation from Korean version back to English may be acceptable.

Following excerpts are not as structured as a serious composition should be, merely combining the selected sentences I took from the book and translated back to English.

<< Previous Chapter 4: Bringing people to sign up

Selected excerpts from Chapter 5: Keeping the users constantly satisfied

The real difficulty in running the web service is to find the way to bring people to use it constantly. The first impression which led to have loving relationship quickly fades. The answer is in motivating the users.
Keep paying attention to the users, and it will be rewarded with more ads and sponsors. Remember that these are the effect of the successfully running the service, not the necessities.

  1. Understand why people wanted to sign up and use the service
  2. Build the right interface which can motivate the users to keep using the service

Why people sign up?

Most people use the web service for simple reason. For example, the users of Amazon give and get helps from one another through reviews (reciprocity). They simply wanted to return the favors. They believe that sharing their experiences can help the other to make sound judgment.
Designing a social web service is not about economical problem, but about social capital problem. This is the list of things related to the social capital to be used in building the right interface:

  • identity
  • uniqueness
  • reciprocity
  • reputation
  • sense of efficiency
  • control
  • ownership
  • attachment to a group
  • fun

Manage identities

We have rights to present our identities freely in online environment. Online anonymity is also about managing identities. If the power and the importance of identities is neglected or denied, these problems may occur:

  • Spamming meaningless messages to the mass
  • Abusing the service, or using the service not as what the developers intended it to used
  • Inappropriate use of commenting
  • Pretending to be someone else, deceiving others

Usually, lack of clear identities cause and condone bad behaviors. There will be no way to describe one’s action and to ask for responsibilities or reward the right behaviors if the identities are not known.
Depending on how the service manages the identity, the minimum requirement like using a nickname will be sufficient enough to prevent some abuses.
Profile page is closely related the concept and the value of the web service. Each different web service displays the user profile differently.
The content must dynamically updated and displayed to the users. These are the updating mechanisms:

  • Lifestreaming. Showing the latest activities from every source.
  • Commenting Wall
  • Notification

Be aware of the problem of social network being deteriorated caused by lack of interesting activities beyond signing up and updating profiles.

Emphasize individual uniqueness

The web service should know: What’s it that only this person can do and no one else? What makes each user unique to one another?
For example, Netflix recommends movies based on the reviews the user has been made. The good service recognizes and responds to the uniqueness of the user. There are many ways to respect and encourage the users to express his or her uniqueness:

  • Display special copies about certain activities which require participation
  • Emphasize that the user can make positive contribution
  • Bring out the benefit of his or her unique contribution
  • Keep reminding him or her how unique he or she is
  • Develop the unique contribution into the meaningful perspective or element used in the service
  • Display the page which shows the differences between the contribution of the user to that of others

Maximize reciprocity

Reciprocity is about exchanging what the users gained from one another. People do have tendency to make contribution as a response to the favors they received from the other users met while using the web service. Being able to give is another form of having respectful authority.

Empower reputation

Reputation is built around the opinions of others so have strong objectiveness. The good web service has the clear system of managing and measuring one’s reputation. These are the example criteria:

  • The number for friends or fans
  • The number of posts
  • The ranks of these posts
  • The number of comments and their qualities
  • The number of posts recommended by others
  • The number of first submissions
  • The length of being an active user

The reputation plays the important role in collaboration, and the result of collaboration affects the reputation. The three conditions for collaboration to occur according to Robert Axelrod in “The Evolution of Cooperation” are:

  1. Possibility to meet again in the future. Staying as the users in the same service increases the possibility.
  2. Ability to know about one another. Knowing the reputation alone is strong enough to decide whether to collaborate of not.
  3. History of past activities of the users. The best way to judging the reputation is examining the user from the past records.

Promote usefulness

Usefulness can be defined as what benefits the users can obtain from the values of themselves using the web service. Rewarding properly to what the users contributed is how the web service becomes useful to the users.

Allow the power to control

The users often demand the power to control their own contents, whether it’s actually practiced or not. It’s important to the users to have the secure means to control the web service even if they will never use it.

Give ownerships

Let the users feel that this web service is specifically built for them, using the contents of them, and managed by them. Assure the users that it’s meaningful to use the web service. These are the effects of giving ownerships to the users:

  • Adorn the contents to be more than what they seem to be
  • When the contents are published, the owner takes more responsibilities, by taking care of them to have more values
  • Some responsibilities to manage the contents are delegated to the owners, easing the burden of the web service
  • The perception about the web site becomes more friendly

However, don’t let this ownership invade the ownerships or the user experiences of the others.

Provide model behaviors

For promoting the right ways to use the web service, the model behaviors of certain group of users can be used.

Develop attachment to the web service

The love for interacting as a group is one of main reasons why people use Internet. Most of the famous websites are for supporting group activities. Community is the very essence of social web service. People becomes the users of the service not only because it’s useful, but also it’s fun.
According to Kathy Sierra, if the web service can help the users to know more about their worlds, and to believe that the web service is exactly what they needed, they can see about themselves under the brighter lights. In other words, they will find themselves to become better than before, strongly motivated.
To receive passion from the users, the designer and developer must give passion to them first.

Next Chapter 6: Building collective intelligence >>

Why it’s hard for me to blog frequently

Examining myself very closely, my recent difficulty in blogging is not because I am a total recluse who doesn’t like to share with anyone about anything. Or I can make it worse by labeling myself as a lazy person, but it’s not actually true considering what’s going on in my mind. I do have some topics in mind, but somehow it’s just not as easy to share them with the public as I thought it would. It seems to be a methodical, or a situational problem which I must learn to deal with using the solutions from the experienced bloggers and developers. There are what I suspect to be reasons or excuses for my lack of blogging.

Preoccupied in doing a project. But it’s not ready to be opened and shared yet.

  • Because I want to keep it as a secret.
  • Still the project in the conceptualizing phase which is still too abstract even to myself.
  • Waiting for internal and external encouragement on this, to solidify confidence in the project.

I guess this waiting is the major cause preventing me from actual progression. Also, without opening the minimum information about the project, how can I expect to learn anything from the experienced developers whom I can meet and interact through blogging? I must learn to present and communicate well with the experienced developers.

I am not tuned to the current events.

  • Not because I intentionally ignore them, but simply I just want to distinguish facts from opinions and it’s taking some time.
  • Due to my lack of professional insight, what I can blog about current events is only the repetition of what’s already there with a little bit of my simple thoughts. It’s not a real contribution in my measure.

To gain more professional and unique insight, it would take a lot of reading and speculating, challenging me to build and re-build knowledge basis. This task must be taken quite seriously and I need find the right way to do it.

I need to have more reading and watching to expand my knowledge and imaginations, which cannot be limited in web browsing.

  • Embarrassingly, I began to understand the need to have more various activities including something entirely different from or even against one’s field of study, in my case it’s Computer Science.
  • Narrowed perspective, intentionally or unintentionally gained prevent one from developing and sharing his or her experiences or thoughts with others.

I am thinking about having more knowledge in film making, English learning, Bible study, social servitude, and unknown other possibilities. The additional solution is to meet more people from various interests. Though I don’t neglect the value of socializing, it’s been hard for me to be more proactive.

Not utilizing the notes in my journal.

  • As a proof for not being lazy, I’ve been keeping journals. However, almost none of the notes are used in blogging. Because of excessive filtering not to jeopardize my private notes, my record keeping has contributed so little for my blogging.
  • But most of all, I think it’s lack of confidence in my notes that prevented me to review them more carefully to find the value.

The worst thing that I found while writing this blog, blogging infrequency is the consequence of not following the plan as it is scheduled. Procrastination is the worst kind of enemy for developers and bloggers like myself. It’s not only about unable to do something, but also about taking away the opportunity to do something else, possibly better and more important thing.

And I must free myself from fear of not becoming a responsible contributor. Accepting my current status of being a student of life and knowledge without any set date for graduation, must not be ashamed of utilizing the resources from others especially the open information and I must understand that mature blogging experience require so many trials and error.

In conclusion, not only for my blogging but also for other activities, I must embrace beauty of making mistakes and learning from these valuable experiences.

UPDATE(2009/08/04 16:31) Found a good article related to this blogging problem. [CopyBlogger] The Most Horrible Blog Post Ever


BOOK: Designing for the Social Web by Joshua Porter 04

Following excerpts are not as structured as a serious composition should be, merely combining the selected sentences I took from the book and translated back to English.

<< Previous Chapter 3: Sincere Conversation

Selected excerpts from Chapter 4: Bringing people to sign up

The users who consider the web service to be useful, they will show appreciation toward the developer who invested so much time and energy.

Usually it takes only 8 seconds for a new user to make a decision to sign up.

Even for the already signed up users, the continued process to keep them interested and persuaded is crucial.

The issues about persuading people to sign up:

  • First impression doesn’t change easily. Decision to become a loyal user is done when he or she saw the web service for the first time.
  • So many questions without opinions. Answering to their questions is the opportunity to talk about the web service.
  • A watchful latent user is becoming an active user at this point
  • The critical decision is made. To the general users, decision to use your service is not as important as success of the service.

The categories of users:

  • The users who are ready to use the service. They know the value of the service and willing to accept some difficulties in using the service.
  • Interested, but not assured users. They need to have an opportunity to find about the value of the service.
  • The fact-finders. They want to examine the service objectively based on the opinions of others. Provide them with the good instructions for using the service.
  • Skeptical users. Show the proof that many users are satisfied using the service.

The well designed sign-up page can make a visitor to be an user of the service.

Must for well designed sign-up page:

  • Give clear description of the features of the service
  • Convince the users that this is an useful service
  • Provide answers to the obvious questions
  • Challenge the unreasonable criticism or provide the facts of the service
  • Let the users to try the service to finish a task
  • Let the users to contact the other users of the service
  • Give an idea what kind of relationship the users and the service provider can establish

The essential questions:

  • Who will use the service?
  • What will the service do?
  • Where will the service be used?
  • When will the service be used?
  • Why the service is important?
  • How to use the service?

Using the pictures or the icons, explain what the service does concisely.

Complicated interface means complicated service.

Show people how to use the service.

The technical people are interested in the efficiency of the service.

Adopting the social influence idea, people care about who uses the service. It’s hard for the general public to resist the general trend.

People find it easier to sign up when their friends are already using the service.

Show the recommendations from the respectful personnel, and even from the competitor.

Specify the target users. The specifically defined service is effective.

Provide the user stories about how the service is successfully being used.

If the number of the users or usages is significant, show it to be visible to bring more attention.

Utilize the authoritative figures, their presence in the service.

Let the visitors try or use the service for free without any limitation.

Reciprocity is powerful. Give something for free to make the receiver to react in some way to return the favor to get out of the sense of being indebted.

Unless it’s necessary, build the service without needing to create an account.

Ask only for the necessary information from the user.

Next Chapter 5: Keeping the users constantly satisfied >>

[ReadWriteWeb] The Future of Search: Social Relevancy Rank by Alex Iskold

ORIGINAL ARTICLE: http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/future_of_search_social_relevancy_rank.php

The article talks about the importance of prioritizing search result, or stream of posts, not based on chronological order, but based on social relevancy, or social network of followers of oneself and people he or she is following.

What we are about to get is a Social Relevancy Rank. Whenever you search streams of activity, the results will be ordered not chronologically but by how relevant each is to you based on your social graph. That is, people who matter more to you will bubble up.

The author brought up improvement ideas for mainly Twitter, or also for any SNS. Main points are:

1. The result of search query, or the front loaded posts should come initially from the relations to myself. But it limits the result, because not everyone has opinion or information about the search query.

This sounds awesome, but there is a problem. “Wilco” works well as a query because the band has just released a new album, but many other queries would return no results. Simply put, your friends on Facebook and people you follow on Twitter can’t possibly have an opinion on every topic you may be interested in. This is a problem of sparse data: trusted opinions are scarce.

2. Since the trusted result from the level-one relations is limited, expanding the network to include the relations of the relations is necessary. This expansion can also be based on likeness of people even outside of the relations.

Another step could be to include people with similar tastes, so-called taste neighbors. This approach is common among vertical social networks such as Last.fm, Flixster, and Goodreads. These networks have ideas about which people, other than your friends, are like you. However, this is a costly calculation and takes time.

3. Using the number of followers as a measure, a few of the relations can be titled as opinion leaders or the influencers among the crowd. Give higher order to their opinions in the search results or the stream of posts.

In the absence of any other metric, someone who is followed by hundreds of thousands of users is likely more relevant to you than someone you don’t know at all. Using number of followers as a weight might be a good way to order the rest of the activity stream.

I think this relevancy rank can improve what Twitter, or stream based publishing systems have been good at. For their currently chronologically ordered search results of stream of posts to be more useful or more easily to be found and processed, the additional sorting mechanism based on this relevancy ranking is crucial. Depends on the level of openness of the service enabled by APIs, the application of this system may come much quicker and may be developed to become superior service than the original.

Guess my blog setup is almost done.

Somehow I am satisfied with the current theme. So, what’s next? Better get started with the development I’ve been planning, along with finding a good job that will earn me more time than more money. But it’s true that I want a GOOD job for I don’t want to get embarrassed when I talk about what job I have.

Not only for the development use, but also for job searching, I must start the coding exercises for my PHP and Ajax learning. Or change the old ASP files to PHP version as an exercise, like I’ve posted before. I’ve starred many posts found in RSS feeds and it’s up to me to invest quality time to digest all these good ideas and knowledge.

Without something to show or share, it’s so hard to have a conversation with anyone online or offline. That’s why I must be working or studying so I can talk about it with others. Shouldn’t there be a solution for introverts who just don’t know how to express attractively? I need to examine my method of interacting with others.

Along with this matter, I must stop worrying about the frequency of making statements or blogging. While taking care for quality of my expressions, frequency matter is irrelevant or automatically solved, I guess.

AdSense, Blog design and Comment

Began to grasp the idea about how WordPress handles the advertisements using its themes. Finding a specific plug-in for this, like Advertising Manager made by Martin Fitzpatrick, I was able to put Google AdSense code easily to my whole blog pages. Also, I accidentally found more about other advertisement programs, which I am so tempted to get my hands on to get more profit. How greedy I am.

Regarding the blog design, currently I need to try other good themes to find the perfect match, but only until I can design my own.

It thrills me to have a comment only after a day re-launched my website. I was glad that the the first one was nothing like a spam, but sincere friendly comment. I joyfully thanked the first commenter. Looking at  the report from the Google Analytics, I am beginning to think that all my past effort in bookmarking in my website didn’t help to get more traffic than simple but active commenting on other websites and Twittering. Recognizing others is the best way to get recognized.

Utilizing every little jot in Twitter, me2Day, Facebook, and my notebook can help me to write a daily entry. Tracking, aggregating and polishing almost every thought I have in a day is very crucial.

PHP Exercising Opportunity

Re-posted some of my old entries from other blogging services but I need more efficient way. It was embarrassing method of copying the post and changing the date.

Looking for a way to salvage my Access database which contains all my old bookmarks(posts), I wanted to activate currently obsolete ASP server. Instead of installing an old version of Windows server(something like 2000?), tried  Visual Web Developer for temporary access to the MS Access .mdb file and generate HTML result so I can add it to the old HTML version of my posts. However, this Visual Web Developer 2008 Express Edition doesn’t build a properly working website using obsolete ASP files, or I just can’t find the right solution. I regret that I didn’t make the HTML version  before shutting it down.

Not knowing if there is same situation like me, I just don’t have any clue where to start searching about restoring ASP page with Access database. It’s quite hard to imagine what I must search in ASP.NET, what I need to know more about the basic essentials.

Should I change the ASP files to PHP? Using some kind of automatic parser? Or set up currently obsolete format of server to activate ASP service as I planned initially? Add ASP scripting to Apache? Maybe I should accept this situation as an opportunity to learn PHP coding by rewriting the entire website in PHP. For I’ve tried to learn the grammar, structure of PHP, this challenge can be a good exercise which will accelerate my learning speed. Now I am little glad that my old website was not as complicate one as I wanted it to be back then.

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