"A unique, wry and often satirical look at the Internet, the modern age and life in general" (there is way too much search-engine competition for the phrase "incoherent ramblings")

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Wednesday's blog is full of woe!

I have been observing this phenomenon for some time and, though I do not really have the global web traffic stats to back me up on this (help anyone?), I have become convinced that Wednesdays, as far as blogging and the Web are concerned, are best skipped over.

There just seems to be this mid-week lull that takes hold on Wednesdays - the major bloggers seem slow to post, my own web stats take an overall dip, and the net just seems to find itself in the digital doldrums for a day.

Perhaps we could just agree to forget Wednesdays altogether, or maybe use them to do something more useful, like wash the cat.

I took the opportunity to start up a little blog I have been planning to start for ages, called Word Tips World. Seemed like a good way to make the best of a bad deal.

I suggest the next Shutdown Day should be on a Wednesday, then we can sit that day out, and wait for Thursday which, according to the rhyme should show a lot more promise!

Word Tips World!

I have made the most of today's lull to launch a new blog (still in fairly rough form) where I want to provide medium-advanced tips for using Microsoft Word. It's called Word Tips World and is looking very rough, still plenty to do on it.

But I have been wanting to do this for a while: I use Microsoft Word an awful lot and call me Future-phobic but I think this software package is going to be around for a long long time to come. There is a huge number of shortcuts and tips that you can use to make using Microsoft Word a whole lot easier and quicker, yet many people use Word for years without learning them.

Some of these tips are not to be found on the major online Word-related sites simply because they are supposedly too "obvious", so that is why I have decided to start covering some of them.

The inaugural post tells you how to capitalize an entire sentence with one keystroke, and sort of sums up just how useful I hope you are going to find these tips!

Why not have a look, and subscribe to email updates, or the Feedburner Feed and get fresh tips on a regular basis? And if for some reason Word Tips World doesn't live up to your expectations, well, you can unsubscribe any time you want!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Amazon launches context links - get sold stuff in context!

Just a quick note about a new service Amazon are providing to their affiliates.

To quote the notice that they sent round today:

Context Links automatically identify and link relevant phrases within your page content to Amazon products, unlocking new ad inventory and saving you the time from having to manually create links. You can add the links to your pages in minutes, and we provide a wealth of options to customize how they are displayed.

Basically, the system works by identifying key words on a site which relate to certain products Amazon has on offer. These words are highlighted as links, and when you hover over them with your mouse, you get a little balloon popping up with a related product, which you can check out if you want.

This sounds like another useful idea, as long as it doesn't get too intrusive to site visitors. It could get annoying, I mean, let's face it, not everyone wants to buy stuff all the time!

I have got Context Links working here finally. As Blogspot is strict about XHTML, I used the really useful little tool at Blogcrowds to convert the Javascript, though I am not sure it wouldn't have worked anyway, since it takes a little while for Amazon to index your pages which might have been the reason they the links weren't showing straight away.

Check out Amazon's Affiliate Blog for more info.

The PC mouse to become history thanks to Launchy!

The mouse is soon to be no more! A time is coming when we will finally be able to rely on the keyboard alone to use our computers!

Now, you may be used to not taking this blog entirely seriously, so let me just say I am taking a little rest from the cynicism, satire and parody to tell you about a neat little open-source program you may not know about, called Launchy (all credit to its writer, Josh Karlin).

If you are like me, you find the mouse a real hassle if you do a lot of typing. Why? Because it is a real pain to keep moving your hand over to the mouse and hunting around in menus for what you need when your hands are in full flight over the keyboard. I far prefer to learn the keyboard shortcuts in the common programs I use, such as MS Word, it drastically speeds up work, and I don't know about the business you are in, but in mine, time is... $$. And it is especially a pain trawling through your Windows Start Menu when you know exactly what you want anyway.

Launchy is a neat little program which lives invisibly on your system (Windows only AFAIK!) and is only activated when you press ALT-SPACE (configurable). When you do so, you get a floating window like this:

Launchy indexes all the programs on your Windows Start Menu (so if you want it to work with a particular program, you have to make sure you put a shortcut to that program on your Start Menu), and when you type in the first few letters of the program you want to run (in this example Firefox), Launchy offers you a suggestion, or more than one, as to which program you are after.

As soon as the desired program appears in the main window, or you have chosen it from the dropdown menu (not usually necessary), you press enter, and away you go, the program will be launched!

If your response is, "What's the point of that, surely it's much easier just to find what you want with the mouse?" then this program is probably not for you.

For passionate (and impatient) keyboard users, this program is a life-saver because it saves TIME, not to mention increasing productivity.

Now if only I could just do, "ALT-SPACE - Go make coffee"...

Monday, March 26, 2007

Start making money using a tried and tested method!


I used to DREAM about what I could do if I had MONEY!

Well stop right here if that is you too!

Because I have found the money-making formula that can make your dreams come true! And I am so excited about it, I am going to share it with you, free of charge!

You can earn money every day just by putting my simple principle into practice. And you can start doing it right now!

Just think, you could get your first check within the month just by following the simple one-step plan I am going to reveal to you!

Are you ready (remember, this could change your life!)?

I am about to reveal the technique that is making people just like you money all over the world, every day!

(scroll down a little)

(here it comes)

Saturday, March 24, 2007

It's Shutdown Day, go away!

What are you doing reading this?! It's the 24th of March, Shutdown Day! You shouldn't even have your computer switched on, never mind be surfing the net! You ought to be out there doing something healthy, talking to someone, learning about the outside world!

But seriously though, what if people really did all close down their computers for the day! What would the Internet do while we were away? I was wondering about something similar recently. But unlike at the end of the world, I doubt there would be time for the Internet to evolve into a superbrain. Indeed, if everyone turned off their computers - servers, routers, everything, there would be no Internet! Spooky thought, huh?!

Actually, probably what would happen when we booted up again is that would be no massive changes, but it would be little things that we would notice - a menu moved slightly, an icon in a shade of orange lighter... Like when you come back home from a long holiday and notice something unusual that you are sure wasn't there when you left it!

Let's be real though, it's never going to happen. Why would people leave the comfort of the Web for the cruelty and harshness of the outside world? Here it's cozy, safe. When I die, I want to be buried on the Internet! Shutdown Day indeed!

(man, it's quiet...)

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Table-tops to replace notebooks and laptops!

Dell Home Systems

Future-Phobia is always first with technology news! Today we have another exclusive! We can reveal that exciting developments are afoot in the field of personal computing. If research at a leading computer company (who shall remain nameless - they usually do here) produces the expected results, we will soon be rid of the "laptop" or "notebook" computer for good!

No more carrying around that bulky bag, the new so-called "table-tops" or "static computers" (working title) will allow you to use your personal computer in the comfort of your own office, or even home!

This is because the new technology will eliminate those tiny keyboards and flimsy screens, replacing them with a full size keyboard and monitor, the latter sometimes even optionally being of that nice cubic shape, rather than the paperlike, delicate thin things that computer users are currently forced to live with. The "brain" of the computer, or if you like, the CPU, will be housed in a half-meter high case, thus ensuring you are unlikely to lose it.

Just imagine, no more working in airports, cafes and parks, with your "laptop" (aptly named!) balanced precariously on your lap, or perhaps risking a spilt drink in a cafe! Work in the comfort of your own home, with no fear of your notebook or laptop being stolen, avoid the stares of curious children and eliminate the problem of short battery life forever (or at least until this happens)!

It's time to get those notebooks and laptops off our laps and onto the table! "Table-tops" are the future!

NB: Those old defunct notebooks and laptops can be sent to the Future-Phobia charitable fund, where we promise they will be treated with the contempt they deserve.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

What happens to the Internet at the end of the world?

The internet, especially the Web, is an incredible, organic, constantly shifting, growing, moving pulsating mass. Some of this motion is automated - crawlers, bots, daemons. But most of it is due to human activity. It's the humans who are mostly creating the content, making the links, clicking the links, voting, buying, "Digging", advertising, selling, surfing...

I had a bizarre thought - you know those films where the entire population of the earth gets wiped out, taken up to heaven, or in some other way removed from the scene? Imagine for a moment what would happen if this did occur, while all the infrastructure remained intact. Imagine that everything the Internet needs to keep going remained in place - power, servers etc.

What would happen? If all the "energy" that is currently pumped in - all the human activity we outlined above - just ceased? The net just sort of... sits there. Suddenly no content is updated, no links are clicked, no pages are viewed, no ads are read or followed, nothing is bought, nothing is paid for. The only activity is by the automatic crawlers and bots, for the purposes of indexing, spamming or whatever else it is they do. And their only purpose anyway was to analyze the human activity and regurgitate it to those same humans in different form.

So what now? Does the Internet keep on humming away to itself, oblivious? Does entropy gradually take hold and the system start to break down into some amorphous mass of random spam-like content? Or is the theory of evolution confirmed by the gradual development of the Internet into some kind of global super-mind?

My personal theory is that the entire Web will eventually resolve down to a single page which says:

Please click to exit

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Human-readable captchas soon to become a reality!

New advances have been made in the technology of "captchas" which will soon render them human-readable!

If you are not familiar with what a captcha is, you are sure to have encountered them - they are the funny little graphic you are sometimes presented with when you try to log in somewhere, or post to a forum. You are asked to decipher the hieroglyphics you see on-screen and enter them in a field below, and their intention is to stop human beings from actually performing the desired action (see here for more details).

Well, it is hoped that with new breakthroughs in captchas it will soon be possible for a human being to read one of them and successfully enter the required text.

Here are some that are currently being tested and that show promise:

This one (taken from a popular forum and beginning to see common use) is beginning to show vague signs of human readability, but more work is probably required. This form of captcha would be best used to prevent entry to commoners to a forum for use by the exceptionally visually gifted.

These two examples are served up on Reddit.com and show a quite remarkable development in the concept of the human-readable captcha.

In this beta version we can see that up to 80% of the letters are human-readable, but the reading is hindered by the white letters on a white background which the scientific team behind the project is still struggling to eliminate. However, it has been shown that a 11-year old with pristine vision can in some cases correctly identify the letters. This form of captcha would therefore be useful for adult-content sites.

This captcha, used on digg.com, is probably the most impressive example of a potentially human-readable captcha. However, its readability is deceptive, using letters of different fonts and cases, thus sowing confusion in the mind of the human reader. The bleary-eyed viewer may well mistake the second letter for a capital "I", or perhaps the last letter for a small "a", forcing multiple login attempts.

While we welcome positive moves being made in the area of human-readable captchas, we would like to use the full authority and weight that this blog carries in the industry to call on science to do more!

To read the rest of this article, please type the text that you see into the field below:
(Uses Future-Phobia's proprietary HumanProof Captcha technology. All rights reserved.)

Monday, March 19, 2007

Playstation 3 Emulator in a glass of water!

Future-Phobia can exclusively announce that scientists in America (yeah, bit vague, we know!) have managed to achieve a high level of emulation of Sony's new, next-generation console, the Playstation 3, using a glass of water!

This emulatory (?) feat has been achieved, it is thought, by lashing together a chain of Cray Supercomputers, resulting in a near-perfect reproduction of all Playstation 3 games! Our source, when pushed, was forced to admit that he wasn't exactly sure where the glass of water came into it and allowed the possibility that it might have "just got left there".

Currently the Playstation 3 Emulator takes up an area approximately the size of Belgium, produces enough heat as to raise average global temperatures by 2 degrees C by 2009, and so is not considered practical for most bedrooms.

Usually when a new games console such as the Playstation 3 comes out, and the drooling begins, it is not long before you will hear, or more likely read on some forum, some optimistic kid ask "is there an emulator for the PS3?", as if there is the faintest possibility that he (Mum and Dad) is going to avoid forking out for the real thing.

But until a way is found to reduce the Playstation 3 Emulator to more practical proportions, kids desperate to play the latest generation of video games will have to wait. Though they could do worse than keep a glass of water handy...

The dream of the Playstation 3 emulator lives on. But that's still all it is, a dream. This was just a little joke. Sorry, there is no PS3 emulator - that's the point. The Playstation 3 is way too powerful to be emulated on any other platform. By the time your average PC becomes able to emulate the PS3 there will be something bigger and more powerful out. The only solution, I am afraid, is:

a) to Buy a Sony PlayStation 3!!! If it is any consolation, Playstation 3 prices have come down quite a bit since my original post!

b) The other possibility might be to buy a PS2! They are REALLY cheap now, around $130! Click here for the PS2!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Google honeymoon drawing to an end?

We love Google
We all love Google, right? The cuddly upstarts who have created an internet revolution (not to mention a multi-billion dollar business) from humble student beginnings. Most would agree that this has been achieved thanks to their huge creativity, their willingness to "think outside the box" and - this is in my opinion the most important factor - the huge added value they provide. More than any other company, they have invested their success back in creating valuable, useful and unrivalled free services for the end user. This can be a precarious balancing act, but I think that this is what has most contributed to their success. Think how often you use a free Google service on a daily basis, and you will see my point.

Google backlash coming?
I have been thinking for a while, though, about how it is only a matter of time before a serious Google backlash happens. You know what I mean - it always does happen. We humans are fickle, we get emotionally involved in someone or something, and then when things get strained, the relationship turns to hate (I'll save the talk about relationships for another post!) Just think of any popular public, or TV characters - last year we loved them, this year we hate them! I will name two examples (one British, one American):

Jamie Oliver
Orange County Choppers

See my point?

So how long before we see the end of the honeymoon, and a more familiar corporate-customer relationship with Google, such as that "enjoyed" by Microsoft?

Google foul of regulators
Today, privacy organizations welcomed steps to be taken by Google to limit the quantities of private data that their search indexing servers store (see the BBC story here). While this is not yet a major sign of serious crumbling in the company's public image (nor the first, remember the Chinese search results censorship story?), it makes you wonder.

How long before the love affair ends and Google matures into a full-on corporate monster, with all the pressures and forces which this involves, and we begin to regard Messrs Page and Brin with the same love/hate ambivalence as we do Bill Gates now?

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Silly things people search for on the net

Amazing abilities of Web 4.0 search engines - recap
I recently wrote a not-entirely-serious blog post about how Web 4.0 was imminent, and how one of the amazing things about Web 4.0 would be the ability of search engines to find anything for you, even lost car keys!

Silly things people search for
Well looking through my logs for the search terms that people key into search engines to get to my site, I see people looking for really weird stuff!

The silliest example I had today was a hit on this blog using the Google search term:

fear of poo phobia (whaaat?!)

The hit came from Australia, so maybe that explains something :D. I don't know whether to be more concerned that someone is searching for this expression, or that the result took them to my site!

Concealing my searches
OK, I search for some pretty weird stuff too, sometimes, which probably makes sense to me at the time, but could seem pretty weird to others. However, now that I am more aware of how the technology works, and I know that webmasters can see what I searched for in order to get to their site, I sometimes actually (this is so embarassing) mask what I was searching for by not clicking on the Google link that gets thrown up (that's where your search terms are appended so the site you go to can see what you searched for), but by Copy/Pasting the link into my browser.

Pretty sad, right! I mean, what do I care what a complete stranger thinks about what I am searching for on the net?!

Have you got any examples, either from your own site logs, or of weird stuff you search for on the net?

P.S. Once I got into this topic, I found that I wasn't the only one bemused by weird search terms. Check out a few of the following:


buttcrack cookies is one of my favourites! I thought I was gonna die laughing!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Reddit is better than Digg!

If you were following my little experiment yesterday, you will know that I was trying to discover which of the two services, Reddit.com or Digg.com is "better".

What do I mean by "better"? Well, I am looking from the point of view of someone trying to spread the word about a particular piece of news, perhaps a news site, or a regular web site hoping to draw attention to a new feature, product etc. They want to know which of these two services is going to bring their site the most visitors, right?

I devised an incredibly scientific (ha!) experiment whereby I submitted the same gripping story to both services at the same time, and then kept an eye on my server logs (actually, I use a great little freeware PHP-based program called TraceWatch) to see how much traffic came my way as a provable direct referral from each site in the subsequent 24 hour period.

The results
Well, first off, don't expect to hear huge figures! The story headline was pretty weak and you have to have a pretty good leadline to create a buzz on these services. I may well try again at some point with a slightly more, shall we say, sensational headline (just gotta wait for something sensational to happen!)

But even these feeble results confirm what I had already believed to be the case:

  • Digg - 12 hits
  • Reddit - 41 hits!!
And the winner is.... Reddit! For Digg, all 12 hits happened in the first 8 hours, while Reddit continued to provide hits, albeit tailing off drastically, for the whole 24 hour period.

I have noticed with any stories I submit to both services that Reddit consistently sends more visitors to my site/blog/whatever (I have had hits in the 100's before, with a more interesting story!), but I had never officially tested it.

Quality or quantity?
Now the question for web publishers is what is the "quality" of those hits in terms of actual interest of the reader in my site, my company, my product (although I must mention that they are primarily news sites, and should not be abused for the promotion of products - such submissions get "buried" or shunted down the line pretty quickly anyway)?

That will be another experiment, another day. I would like to hear readers' comments though - maybe you have your own take on this, and I bet you can rip my methodology apart too!

Is Reddit really better than Digg, or am I just asking to get buried!?

Video-on-demand will help reduce piracy?

Amazon seems to really be pushing it's new product, Unbox, a video-on-demand/download service that it launched at the beginning of this year. Another mail went around to us affiliates today, reminding us of the service.

The service ties in with the TiVo system (Series2 or Series3 TiVo) and allows you to effectively buy or rent videos by downloading them to your TiVo DVR device for a fee. In the case of rentals you then typically have 30 days to watch the video, but only 24 hours to complete the viewing once you have pressed Play.

This seems like a case of the industry finally trying to catch up with rampant piracy. I believe one of the reasons piracy may be so prevalent, apart from people just plain not wanting to pay for stuff, is simply the convenience of downloading frankly easily-accessible pirated material.

Perhaps the advent of quick and easy services like Unbox will finally help the industry recover lost sales by offering customers a simple and relatively cheap way to buy videos.

Give it a go and let me know how you get on. I would be interested to hear what people think of Unbox, whether it will affect the buying habits of movie-viewers, and whether I need to go out and buy one of those TiVo doo-dabs.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Which is better, Digg or Reddit?

If you reached this blog entry via one of the above-mentioned services, then I hope you won't mind the fact that you are part of a little experiment to see which of the two sites, part of the contemporary social bookmarking phenomenon, is more effective at publicizing a story.

This is not much more scientific than the old "my Commodore 64 is better than your Spectrum" debate (though we all know the answer to that, right!), just a little ad-hoc poll to see, in terms of pure visitor numbers, which of the two services, Reddit or Digg is "better".

The experiment was launched by publishing the "story" to my blog and then simultaneously (or as near as...) submitting the story to both services, at a time of significant net activity (about 16.00 GMT). Digg additionally allows the submitter to add a comment, so it seems reasonable to use this facility and add the description, "An experiment to see which of the two sites, part of the contemporary social bookmarking phenomenon, is more effective at publicizing a story.", since this might be a key advantage of Digg's.

After a 24-hour period, I will examine server logs to ascertain which service sent the most visitors.

Once again, I hope you won't see this as abuse of these services, or as a bit of cheap publicity for my blog (perish the thought). It is intended to provide a useful bit of data for publishers thinking about which services to use in publishing their news stories. And I hope the final result, to be published after the 24 hour period is up, will actually amount to a proper news story!

You can either keep your eyes glued to Digg or Reddit's "new/upcoming" pages, or you can subscribe to the Future-Phobia feed to find out the results.

The Internet is making people talk funny!

Following on from a post I made a couple of days ago, in which I speculated a little about the future role of the English language on the Internet, I was thinking about another Internet tendency which threatens/promises to affect language.

SEO and keyword-based advertising
It is the phenomenon of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and keyword-based targetted advertising like Google's Adsense. In case you are unfamiliar with the terms, here is a quick explanation:

  • people want to make money (excuse the generalisation)
  • other people are looking for information on the Internet
  • you have the information
  • you can't charge for it (mostly)
  • advertising schemes like Adsense allow you to place ads on your site and indirectly make money from visitors, who click on ads targeted to the content of your site
  • SEO means tailoring the content, especially the text, so that people will find your site when they search the net, but also so that the kind of ads will display that are related to your content.

Abusing the system
Of course, you can guess that the more unscrupulous types out there have seized this opportunity to create MFA (Made for Adsense) sites which contain low-quality text that is loaded up with fruitful keywords which attract visitors searching for those terms, but gives them very little information except relevant ads which have also been triggered by these keywords and which they hope visitors will click on and bring them money. Google bans these sites when it finds out about them, and I certainly do not want to give out links to any of them. But here is an example of the kind of text I saw on a site the other day:

If you are looking for insurance then you are very wise to be looking for insurance because being insured is of the utmost importance as if you are not insured then you will have no insurance against the future. So insure you have insurance.
You can see where they are trying to go with this, right? And I have a sneaky feeling that insurance ads are quite high-paying too...

Legitimate SEO
But even when we are talking about scrupulous (is there such a word?!) webmasters and publishers, there is a very real need for them to optimize their content to ensure that they are

a) receiving the "right" kind of traffic
b) getting the "right" kinds of ads displaying

This means focusing very closely on their target area, keeping to the topic they have chosen for their blog or site and thinking about the kind of language they are using to attract visitors. This blog is a terrible example of this, flitting constantly from topic to topic without rhyme or reason! My Fridge-Googling blog is perhaps a better example, focusing exclusively on recipes and cooking. And this is what most serious web publishers are trying to do.

Effects of SEO on language?
So I wonder, in the future are we going to see a greater and greater battle for site traffic, and therefore a ever greater focus on very specific niche subjects where publishers choose their wording so carefully that they eventually limit their vocabulary down to a few dozen words!

OK, so maybe that is a bit far-fetched, but go back to the "unscrupulous" example above to see what a fine line it is becoming. Perhaps we will all one day be talking a speaking "niche-English" in our efforts to keep control of our little patch of Internet territory!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Internet affecting the "color" of English?

What will happen to the English language in the world of the Internet and the forces which govern communication in this global community? I have been increasingly asking myself this in the light of my work as a translator of Serbian into English, and also as someone who dabbles in webmastering in his not-so-spare time.

If you ask a Brit what they think of American, Webster-influenced spelling of English words such as color or favorite, or "Americanisms" such as fall instead of autumn or movie instead of film, they will probably shudder involuntarily and mutter something about "those Americans ruining the English language".

I am not even going to get into that debate. What interests me is what direction the English language will take in the Internet village.

The myth of English net dominance
First off, let me just enlighten the reader that the Internet does not revolve around English. You can look up the data yourself - there is a gargantuan non-English Internet presence which far outweighs that in the English language. The fact that you never see any of it is because Google and company very kindly filter out the non-latin script, non-English stuff for you, and English language sites just about never link to non-English sites - the English-speaking Internet is surprisingly parochial for such a huge community!

English here to stay
The fact remains, though, that the English language is the lingua-france of the Internet, due to its similar "real-world" significance and because the US and the rest of the English-speaking world represent such a huge market that they simply cannot be ignored. Not to mention the fact that the Internet grew up optimised around the English language (remember ASCII!). Nobody can predict how long the English language will remain the global language of communication, but perhaps a more pertinent question is, what kind of English will we be speaking/writing in 20, 30, 50 years' time?

English and SEO
For example, think of the influences of certain net forces on the English language in the period to come. Imagine I have a site which aims for a high placing in search engine results for the term "favorite color". Oops - how do I spell it, as an avowed adherent of "British spelling"? The search engines DO give different results, depending on the spelling, "favorite", or "favourite". So what do I do if I want to make sure my site is optimized for the world's largest and richest market? The answer doesn't seem so simple now, does it? Do we mix the spellings, and try to optimize our site for both? That could get messy. Or do we Anglophiles say, "hang the lost traffic, I'm gonna stick to British spelling"? No-one is that thick-headed, are they?

English and non-native speakers
However, there is another force at work, that of the huge community of non-native English users, or speakers of one of the "former colonial" varieties of English, who represent a large portion of the web-publishing community. Their goal is also to access the lucrative English-speaking markets, but this is not their only influence. Their unique brand of English is idiomatic in its own way, but is also not always up to "standard", as a native speaker would see it. Will we see the accelerated emergence of a new genus of English, a mixture of "Chinglish", "Spanglish" and other varieties, where the least of the worries for the conservative English speaker will be spelling?

It will be interesting to see this development happen, as I suspect it will visibly occur in our lifetime and we could see our children beginning to speak a language which we can no longer clearly identify as the English language we grew up speaking, whatever side of the Atlantic we originate from.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Exploited Chinese laborers in evil "Get paid to surf" Agloco toolbar scheme

Are you signed up for Agloco, the much-publicized "get paid to surf" scheme that is getting lots of people very excited about the prospects of actually finally making some money off this net thing? Are you waiting with bated breath for any news of the release of that toolbar, and the beginning of your descent into wealth and riches. Maybe you got an email from Agloco today, marking the 100th day of the campaign?

Among other things it says: "Viewbar software team (now seven engineers in Shanghai) is making steady progress. - Release of the software will be announced with both an email as well as a notice on the AGLOCO website."

I must admit I was slightly amused by the image of 7 (a mystical and magical number) underpaid Chinese programmers slaving away in a Shanghai sweatshop for a pittance (forgive my vivid and slightly imperialistically-tinted imagination), working to get us this much-touted Viewbar so we can all start making our millions! Do I get the impression they are dragging their heels over this? Originally they were saying March, now they are not even venturing a date!

I still have a funny idea that the whole scheme is going to bomb, though that hasn't stopped me signing up, obviously :)

Sign up for Agloco and make sure those poor, exploited software engineers in Shanghai can at least rest in the knowledge (even if they aren't allowed a rest during their 18-hour day) that they will make someone happy!


Thursday, March 8, 2007

Virus hoax will one day be true!

Was just reading a blogger quoting an amusing virus hoax spoof and had a horrifying thought! What if one day that virus hoax email turns out not to be a hoax at all!

Imagine the scenario! Microsoft learns of a virus which really IS really really new and really really dangerous, wipes everything off your hard disk, fries your motherboard and cannot be detected by any anti-virus software!

Bill Gates himself sits down to his computer to urgently write a message warning computer users all over the world (at least, the ones who understand English) of this horrific blight. He is in such a rush, that he makes lots of spelling and grammatical mistakes. He also takes the radical step of using Microsoft's rumoured (by me) one-billion-strong email database to send this message to as many Internet users as possible. Just in case he has missed anyone, he adds the line "send this to as many of your friends as possible"!

And what happens? We totally ignore it! We delete the mail, having been taught to do so by years of dealing with hoax virus warnings. The resulting cataclysm doesn't bear thinking about.

All of these "cry-wolf" hoaxes, not to mention people like this spoofing the whole issue are dulling us to the possibility that one day, the hoax won't be a hoax at all and we can all say "bye-bye hard disk, adieu motherboard, thanks Bill for trying"!

No wonder I am future-phobic...

Google Pagerank leakage is actually link juice!

Following on from my revelation yesterday, that Google is likely to expand the Pageranking scale to 15, due to dangerous build-up of Pagerank, I can further reveal, thanks to information gleaned from bloggers such as Andy Beard that the likely agent of the leakage is actually link juice!

It appears that this "link juice" is somehow squeezed from websites by the Googlebot, probably with a special crushing attachment, and gathered in a central reservoir to be poured back into the system. This excess of link juice can lead to the effect I demonstrated yesterday, whereby the juice can actually begin to leak out of the Google Toolbar, or even worse, lead to high pressure levels in the system.

According to Beard, "when you link to me from your blog posts, the juice flows back" (see link to article above), and we can see this as a kind of pressure vent for release of the juice, and a possible means to avert imminent disaster.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Google will soon increase Pagerank to 15 due to "PR-leakage"!

Future-Phobia predicts that Google's Pagerank measurement, which uses a proprietary algorithm to determine the significance of pages on the Internet, ranking them from 0-10, will soon have to be expanded to cover a range from 0-15!

This is because there are so many sites out there that are just TOO GOOD! So good in fact, that in certain cases, the Pagerank has gone right off the scale and leaked out the end, as you can see in this magnified shot of the Google Toolbar pagerank indicator for a exceptionally high-ranking site!

We predict that Google will soon have to take measures to limit this worrying trend as it is thought that the uncontrolled expansion of Pagerank could cause a dangerous build-up of pressure on the Internet, possibly even an explosion!

As you can see, Pagerank is kept under control here at Future-Phobia and until the Google scientists recalibrate their instruments, we advise you to do the same!

Net advertising will eat itself!

You may have heard the expression "pop will eat itself". I don't mean the British band, but rather the idea (phrase originally coined by the British New Music Express magazine), that pop music is coming to a point where it is recycling itself so much that we are gradually approaching the point of the "perfect pop song" where by definition there is nowhere else for music to go.

Carried over to net advertising the idea would be that revenue is going to increasingly spread itself around, to the extent that in the end no-one will effectively be making any money from it.

Perhaps I can compare it to the concept from physics, of thermodynamic equilibrium, whereby the energy within a closed system will eventually be evenly distributed around the system (apologies to physicists for this mauling): everybody will one day have an internet presence. Everybody will be a publisher, including my granddad. Everybody will be an advertiser, everyone will have a piece of the pie. Hence eventually there will effectively be no-one left to sell to and advertising equilibrium will have been reached. Or if you like, there will only be one piece of the pie left, and advertising will have eaten itself.

Was just reading about yet another affiliate/advertising scheme which is very similar to Adsense in its implementation, but offers a product feed from Ebay to insert into your site. It's called AuctionAds, and credits to ProBlogger for this one, (a guy who is pretty darned far from advertising equilibrium, I suspect!), and works by feeding keyword-based product links to the space you determine on your web page.

Looks a bit like this (this is using the keywords "pink poodle"):

Seems like a nice idea. But what if we all become AuctionAds affiliates surely there will be no-one left to buy from us!

Perhaps the solution is (probably short-lived) pyramid referral schemes like Agloco where the point is to get in early and so ensure you are one of the top-level referrers. That way you might have a reasonable income, at least until your downline gets bored of earning a few pennies a month to have an obtrusive ad bar in their browser, and the advertisers get sick of the low CTR, because most of their users are money-grabbing webmasters like you!

Advertising equilibrium is coming, so you might as well get your knife and fork out and get ready to eat humble advertising pie!

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Web 4.0 on the horizon!

Web 3.0 is old hat - if you really want to read about this aging technology, check out this blog entry. Here at Future-Phobia we are ready to face Web 4.0!

In the coming period we will try to predict some of the innovations that Web 4.0 will bring. One thing is for sure, the Internet will become a multi-dimensional experience, transcending the concept of space and time.

Here are a couple of predictions:

  • search engines will be able to help you find ANYTHING! Right now, Google are rumoured to be working on a search engine which, among other things, will be able to find your car keys when you had already given them up for lost!
  • social bookmarking sites will offer the possibility of simply clicking a button and then going out and meeting real live people or perhaps doing some sport, with no need to spend any further time online!
  • viral marketing campaigns will be conducted by actual genetically modified viruses which force the infected person to spend ridiculous amounts of time in front of their computer. It is even rumoured that some of these viruses may already be in the wild
Watch this space for more news of Web 4.0!

mp8 in the pipeline!

A quantum leap is expected soon in the field of audio compression, scientists have reported. An 5 year research program, veiled in secrecy, has uncovered a method to make the leap directly from mp3 to mp8, completely circumventing 4, 5, 6 and 7.

It is not known exactly what features the new audio codecs will bring, but it is thought that we can expect:

  • high compression rates, enabling an average music file to be compressed into just a couple of bytes. The algorithm is said to do all the work of creating the music by globally storing and analyzing musical trends and intelligently predicting the most likely progression of the song. The music of Mariah Carey has so far proved to compress the most effectively.
  • ultra-high quality sound reproduction, such that the compressed song actually sounds better than the original!
  • a controversial and top-secret viral component serving as pre-emptive copy protection, whereby the mp8 files actually reproduce themselves, invading last-generation sound reproduction devices such as mp3 players and forcing the owner to listen to an endless loop of, say, country and western music.
Cynics predict that the industry will hold back on release of the new mp8 wonder-codecs, opting to progressively release them so as to ensure maximum commercial mileage from mp4, mp5, mp6 and mp7, and it is believed that the open source community is already working on its own version, Mploola.


I have been meaning to begin this blog for some time. I want to put down on paper (to use a somewhat quaint figure of speech) the fear that I feel inside, and in so doing perhaps render it less potent.

Technology, in its relentless march, threatens to trample us into the dust from whence we came. Perhaps, though, if we can see it coming, see its jackboot descending on us, we can sort of roll over like they do in films and not get... er... not get... stomped on.

So this blog seeks to follow the trends, to get a look around the metaphorical corner and inform you, the reader, of the impending cataclysm.

As with all attempts to predict the future, this is by no means an exact science. Believe me at your peril, ignore me at the risk of your very existence! This is future-phobia!