June 30, 2008

Movable Type Monday: Action Streams, FriendFeed, Greyhound, RC3

This past week saw another round of incredible plugins being released with the majority focussed on integrating your Movable Type blog with third party services including FriendFeed, action stream plugins for BrightKite, Seesmic and Sporepedia! The bi-weekly Movable Type Conference Call was also held and featured updates about upcoming and future releases. Release Candidate 3 of the next version of Movable Type (and public betas of the Commercial and Community Solutions) was also released last week.

Welcome to Movable Type Monday!

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Doubting the Legitimacy of Blog Comments

When you get a comment such as:

Teens are upward on the drooling era because they aren’t unmarried to scrimp joyous and attractive proclamations and they are amorously the depressing to be the looks of hollywood icons.

And it arrives on a blog post about your favorite WordPress Plugins, it’s really clear that this is comment spam, right?

What about something like this:

I found your insights inspiring. You really made me think, but more than that, you made me want to act. Thank you for being such a thought provoking blogger!

If you found one of those comments on your blog, wouldn’t you preen a little? Wouldn’t you want to call your family in and say, “See, someone thinks I’m smart! Someone out there likes me!”

I recently found that comment on my blog and I started to flutter my peacock feathers – until I noticed the link in the comment form went to a dating service of ill-repute. YUK!
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Legal Issues with Choosing a Host

Finding a new host is never easy.

First, one has to choose the kind of hosting and the plan that they need, something that is almost impossible with a new site. Second, they have to find a quality host at a reasonable price, which is also difficult because nearly all hosts have at least some negative reviews and some devout fans.

However, one area that often gets overlooked when picking a new host is the legal side of the relationship. Hosts and their clients have a complicated and somewhat delicate legal arrangement between and now two companies approach it exactly the same way.

Though no one enjoys reading the lengthy agreements we have to sign, there is actually some very important information in there, including the following items.

Country of Origin

One of the first things to look at when considering a host is the country it is located in as it determines the laws that it operates under.

Typically speaking, it is best to locate a host that is within your own country as the laws will be more familiar to you, they will be able to provide support in your native language and they will be the easiest to get in contact with.

If that is not practical (IE: There are no acceptable hosts within your country or most of your audience is oversears), selecting a host within the U.S. or EU are good choices as the legal climate there has been stable for a few years now and the rules are fairly standard.

However, more important than the actual country is being sure that you understand what you are getting into and that involves reading through the terms of service and acceptable use policies to be sure that nothing you are going to do will run afoul of their guidelines and result in your site being taken offline against your will.

Things to Look For

When you are going through these terms, be sure to look up these following items:

  1. Billing: Billing is one of the most common issues people have with their host. It is important to understand how much will you be charged? When will you be charged it? Is there a setup fee? How will you pay it? Is it automatic or invoiced? Understanding these issues will go a long to ensuring a good relationship with a host.
  2. Server Restrictions: In addition to understanding how much space and bandwidth you get, make a note of other restrictions on server use. For example, most shared hosts do not allow “always running” scripts such as chatrooms. Take special note for under what conditions your host can suspend your account, very useful for when you are experiencing a Digg or similar traffic rush.
  3. Content Restrictions: I typically try to avoid hosts that do not allow adult material. Though I have no intention of publishing pornography on any of my sites, the definition of adult content is subjective, even within the courtroom, and some articles I’ve written could be mistaken for pornography at first glance. Typically, it is best to have as few content restrictions as legally possible.
  4. Copyright/Trademark: Though laws such as the DMCA and the EDEC have largely standardized copyright enforcement by hosts, many still have their own policies and it is best to understand what they are and how they might impact you. Take special note of counter-notice procedures.
  5. How Responsibilities: Different hosts and even different accounts on the same host often have disparate responsibilities. Understand what your host is required to support, referring to how “managed” or “unmanaged” your service is. Also, see if there is an uptime guarantee and what happens if it is not met. Also, some hosts offer a guarantee for hardware swap-out times, see if the one you are considering does as well and what the penalty is for them not meeting the advertised time frame.
  6. Cancellation: At some point you will probably want to leave. How do you cancel your account? How much notice do you have to give? What happens if you cancel before your contract is up? Every host is different and many make it artificially hard to cancel. It is best to look at this closely before signing up.

Though it looks like a great deal of information to obtain, it should only take a few minutes to get it. Considering the amount of time it takes to find an acceptable host and the amount of headaches such research can save, it makes sense to take a few extra moments and do the research.

Taking a Pass

Most of the time, the information gleaned is just for one’s own knowledge. However, I’ve encountered many situations where one host’s terms of service make me take a pass on them in favor of someone else.

The important thing is to be honest about what you need and examine what is likely to go wrong in your relationship. Also, look at your site from the perspective of someone who is angry with you and seeking to shut you down through any means available, no matter how petty.

Determine in advance what you need and what your most likely sticking points are. Though no host will be perfect, you can find one that mitigates against most of the potential issues.

This may not help you avoid conflict, but it certainly can help you avoid catastrophe.

Conclusions

Though we like to think that the hosting terms of services and acceptable use policies are cookie-cutter and identical, as someone who reads them regularly, I can tell you for certain that they are not.

It is important to read these closely and understand the rules your hosting account will operate under because those rules don’t just impact you, but potentially all of your visitors.

Such legal issues are one of the least “fun” parts about picking a new host, it is one of the most important. Because even if a host is reliable and fast, your site can still go down due to conflicts with your provider and others on the Web.

It is far better to be prepared and be aware than leave it up to chance.

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Retirement of Bill Gates: Top Ten Greatest Hits (and Misses)

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With Bill Gate’s last day of work being today – you can see a great list of his top ten greatest hits (and misses) over at Engadget.

My favorite miss – The Auto PC:

Riding high on its previously-introduced sister products — the Handheld PC and Palm PC platforms, now dead and transformed into Windows Mobile, respectively — Microsoft’s Auto PC initiative was promised to herald a revolution for in-car entertainment and productivity. There’s no question it was well ahead of its time; in fact, many of the features debuted in Auto PC have gone on to become standard fare in today’s cars. Problem was, when it launched your ride was already pimped with a mere CD player. In-car navigation, voice recognition, and MP3 support were still the stuff of science fiction in those dark days (particularly at the four-digit asking price), and the whole thing was doomed to a geeky, spendy niche. Though products were initially expected from several manufacturers, Clarion ended up being the only one to actually produce a head unit.

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Analysis of TechCrunch

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Neoformix has published an interesting analysis of articles at TechCrunch:

The graph clearly shows the companies that have dominated TechCrunch coverage over the last 2 years. Google looks biggest with FaceBook, Yahoo, and Microsoft being quite large as well. You can spot the increase in coverage for Microsoft and Yahoo in Feb of this year due to the merger talks. Notice also that MySpace and FaceBook were fairly even until July 2007 when FaceBook began dominating. If you look closely you can also tell that Twitter has become important lately with the number of references in April 2008 very similar to both Microsoft and FaceBook.

The analysis was continued on Day Two:

My last post explored the company and product names discussed on TechCrunch and how they varied over time. The number of posts written by the various authors and how it varied over time was also illustrated. An obvious follow-up analysis is to look at the interaction between author and company/product names. Do certain TechCrunch authors specialize in writing about particular companies or products ? Or do some authors avoid specific domains ?

The information is well worth reading…

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And the puppets move on…

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Loren Feldman, of 1938 Media, has put an end to the Shel Israel puppet game.

In his post from Saturday evening entitled Open Letter to Shel Israel: It’s Over, Feldman announces the end of the dispute to Shel read more

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Splashpress Media acquires CSS Star

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Our parent company, Splashpress Media, has acquired CSS Star, a gallery & design oriented blog of CSS designs:

CSS Star is managed by one of our resident design gurus, Ia Lucero, who is always on the hunt for well-designed websites, and regularly posts these on the site. CSS Star, which features a rating and ranking system through which readers can rate how good a site looks (or how usable it is). The site’s commenting system will soon follow.

CSS Star is but one of the several design-related publications that Splashpress Media offers. These include Wisdump, Devlounge, WordPress Themes, and Free WordPress Themes, each with its own place and purpose.

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Marc Andreeseen has joined the Facebook Board of Directors

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Marc Andreeseen, the founder of Netscape, and presently the co-founder of social media startup Ning, has joined the board of directors of Facebook:

Andreessen joins Facebook at a crucial time in its growth. Competitors MySpace and (increasingly) Google are gunning for control of the social graph, which may be the engine that drives the next big growth wave in advertising. Several early Facebook executives have left this year as the company has evolved, and new executives have taken their places. Zuckerberg needs a trusted guy in his corner to help him avoid missteps like the launch of Beacon last year, which has led to serious privacy concerns. Andreessen has fought similar battles in the past and won, and his counsel is clearly a competitive advantage.

This is an interesting move for Facebook as Andreesseen is a near-competitor with his social media startup Ning – yet he also brings significant startup and IPO experience with him to the Facebook board.

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CNet profiles TMZ’s Technology

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CNet takes a look at the technology behind TMZ.com – one of the leading celebrity news blogs:

Other newsrooms have migrated from videotape to digital, but TMZ, perhaps best-known for its reporting on Seinfeld star Michael Richards’ racist tirade, was designed for the Digital Age. Not only does this enable TMZ cameramen to shoot using lighter, less expensive cameras, but editors don’t have to rip up entire TV shows each time they make changes, says Jim Paratore, TMZ’s executive producer.

For these reasons, TMZ often has stories up before rivals and operates more efficiently, executives say. As chilling as this may sound to some, TMZ could be the prototype of a 21st century news agency.

Their integrated use of lightweight “prosumer” video has put them far out ahead of most of their competition – driving their traffic to around 10m monthly unique visitors.

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June 29, 2008

Boing Boing Deletes Blogger, Not the First Time?

This is alarming. Sex blogger, journalist, and author Violet Blue’s posts on Boing Boing, including all mentions, has been deleted (NSFW), without any explanation whatsoever:

It was brought to my attention this weekend that every Boing Boing post (except one) with my name in it is gone. It might have happened a while ago, and no, I have no idea what’s going on. How do you even ask someone about something like that? Personally, I never delete posts for any reason so I just think it’s really weird.

Valleywag broke the story, with no real explanation as to why, and so far nothing from the Boing Boing people. They do point out that it isn’t some new anti-sex policy, since recent content still is playful enough. So what happened?

Also: Is this happening frequently? This post certainly raises questions, doesn’t it? We’ll try to follow up on this one as answers subside. One thing’s for sure though, this isn’t the way to play the game in the blogosphere, not even for a bigshot like Boing Boing.

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