Follow Slashdot blog updates by subscribing to our blog RSS feed

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
User Journal

Journal: Ask Slashdot: Can Quality Writing Live Beside SEO?

Journal by nightcats

As a writer, I have a crucial question which needs input from geeks, and I hear a few of them hang out here. It's about SEO, which usually stands for Search Engine Optimization; but I call it Strange Eerie Orwellian. I use the Yoast plugin on WordPress and find that it's always sniping at me about omissions and flaws. The gold keyword must be in the title, in the first paragraph, and a dozen other places amid the content. The Flesch score is always yapping at me to make shorter sentences, as if the children out there reading their cell phones can't follow dependent clauses. Bottom line is that all this can turn a 1,200 word essay into a barrel of tripe. Search Engine Obsession appears to be making a mockery of quality; content is not king, it isn't even the prince's lapdog. Therefore, geeks, my questions: does SEO really matter for anyone but the owners of content farms? What rational options exist that may put prosody ahead of these draconian search rules? Or is it time for us writers to buckle down and accept the new reality, that we are no longer slaves to publishers and editors but to algorithms?

Iphone

Journal: The Device is Not Your God

Journal by nightcats

I walk nearly every day, and I see them everywhere I go: the young, strong, potentially vibrant bodies, shuffling along the street like broken old men in a nursing home, staring blankly into the Device.

I want to call out to them, to warn them: do not become slaves to Connectivity so that you forget how to communicate. Learn to connect with yourself, and the Device will find its small and proper place in your life. Remember the words of Krishnamurti:

Technical knowledge, however necessary, will in no way resolve our inner, psychological pressures and conflicts; and it is because we have acquired technical knowledge without understanding the total process of life that technical knowledge has become a means of destroying ourselves. The man who knows how to split the atom but has no love in his heart becomes a monster...

Mars

Journal: LHC or Mars?

Journal by nightcats
I wrote a piece today that asks the question: what is more valuable to real advancement in scientific knowledge and social progress -- the LHC or travel to Mars? (the President has voiced his support for the latter as America's next great scientific adventure). My answer is that Americans really need to get over their lust for drama if they are to discover the genuine beauty of scientific progress:

The Large Hadron Collider, or LHC, is, frankly, rather ugly. It doesnâ(TM)t fly, takes no glorious pictures of space, has no âoeone small step for manâ quote-book, and doesnâ(TM)t send us cool rocks. You canâ(TM)t drive a space car on the LHC, and youâ(TM)d better not go anywhere near it with a golf club. The LHC lacks all the beautiful theater and heavy-breathing drama of American space travel. But the fact is that manned interplanetary travel, with the technology available now, would be fairly banal in its practical revelations; just as landing on the Moon was really more an assertion of Americaâ(TM)s scientific alpha-dog status than a genuine exercise in an even mildly revolutionary scientific understanding.

Microsoft

Journal: IE6: Still Crazy, After All These Years

Journal by nightcats

So I had to spend a little time yesterday re-familiarizing myself with Microsoft's Sharepoint product, as I was preparing for a phone interview with a company that uses it. I was watching a video demo from a MS geek when I noticed a funny looking icon on his screen: that's Firefox (bottom of image, beside the IE icon), the open-source web browser that is MS Internet Explorer's chief competition in the web browser market. And it appears to be that geek's default browser on his machine (see the icon for the web page link on his desktop at the upper left).

Geeks don't really care about their corporate affiliations. They behave essentially the way the rest of us do, or should, or once did, in America -- they choose what works best (when you work in the IT sector of a big company, you can sometimes get away with receiving local installations of alt-software for the purposes of "testing"). Corporations are slowly, but inexorably catching on: Google has decided to stop supporting IE6 on its Youtube site, beginning in about ten days. Many geeks blame IE6 for the Chinese cyber-attack on Google's and some 30 other corporate web servers that we covered earlier this year, details of which are still emerging.

For years, I messed around with the HTML of this site to keep it displaying properly in IE6, and finally gave it up as a bad job this year. Every single web browser out there, from Safari to Firefox to Opera to the lowly KDE Linux Konqueror, effortlessly and correctly displays our content, images, videos, and sidebar material. Only IE, especially IE6, has trouble with it. It is an insecure, outdated, abysmal application that consistently fails where others succeed. Yet, when I was pushed off the sinking ship of AIG last year, their corporate standard web browser was still...IE6. Stupidity and stubbornness are usually very happily, or at least inseparably, married.

But you're running XP, Vista, or some other version of Windows and have had IE6 for a long time and don't feel like leaving the devil you know -- what to do? Well, the simple answer is exactly what MS wants you to do: upgrade to IE7 or IE8. It's not the worst answer -- IE8 performs considerably more reliably and smoothly than 6. But it's still IE, with the same old antiquated Trident engine running it. My recommendation would be Google Chrome, because it's fast, safe, and user-friendly on its interface. Firefox is also an excellent option, and I think you'd be pleasantly surprised by the performance of Opera as well. And if you're working for a company that still is in the IE6 swamp, I'd ask why. By this time, given the seriousness of the Chinese attacks, it's a very good question to ask the government, via your local Congressman or Senator. How is it that the world's most advanced and wealthiest nation can only deliver barely half of the broadband Internet access to its citizens of, say, Denmark or Canada or Switzerland, and is still technologically and politically in the pocket of a corporation that perpetually churns out unsafe and dysfunctional product (MS)? If America is so great, how come it is so damned slow and stupid on the uptake of the simplest, clearest issues of fact and experience?

When even a geek paid by MS goes public with his implicit disdain for his boss's own product, that should send a message to the rest of us.

Windows

Journal: Ballmer and the Window 7 Teen Test

Journal by nightcats

About 14 years ago, an editor at Bloomsbury took home a manuscript for a children's novel that had come in that day. She gave the thing to her daughter to read. The kid really liked it, and the rest is history. That novel was from an unknown and unpublished welfare mom named J.K. Rowling, and it was called Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.

Today, we learn that Steve Ballmer is personally supervising user previews of Windows 7; and he's including his own teenage son in the test group. It's probably the smartest thing he's done in all his years at MS, maybe the only smart thing he's done. This is not to say that Win 7 will be anything approaching Harry Potter for impact and success, but you have to give the man credit for going to the right sources for some honest feedback. Kids, unlike tech bloggers and columnists, don't care about shilling for a new piece of software because it might come with a brand new PC or some other gift or perk. If your product ain't fun and easy to use, they'll get bored and complain. And if Dad thinks it's really cool, the suspicion factor is magnified. If Win 7 passes the teen test, Ballmer might be safe in hoping for a better outcome than he had with Vista.

United States

Journal: Hawking to Get Medal of Freedom

Journal by nightcats
Stephen Hawking has been selected by the Obama administration to join Ted Kennedy, Harvey Milk, and Desmond Tutu in receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The citation for Hawking reads:

Stephen Hawking is an internationally-recognized theoretical physicist, having overcome a severe physical disability due to motor neuron disease. He is the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University, a post previously held by Isaac Newton in 1669. In addition to his pioneering academic research in mathematics and physics, Hawking has penned three popular science books, including the bestselling A Brief History of Time. Hawking, a British citizen, believes that non-academics should be able to access his work just as physicists are, and has also published a children's science book with his daughter. His persistence and dedication has unlocked new pathways of discovery and inspired everyday citizens.

Earth

Journal: The Search for Dark Matter

Journal by nightcats
The Economist, curiously, offers this article on the next stage in the search for dark matter, the cosmic stuff that is to the universe as gluons are to the brain.

Claims to have spotted dark matter have so far rested mostly on evidence gathered by looking at collisions between clusters of galaxies. Some of these appear to have separated dark matter from its visible counterpart. Three months ago, however, a team of physicists reported subatomic evidence. They think they have seen an abundance of high-energy positrons, the antimatter versions of electrons, coming from space, and they speculate that this, too, is a sign of dark matter.

Now, if the Economist could only find the dark matter of the global economy...

User Journal

Journal: Happy Birthday Nik Tesla

Journal by nightcats
Time to take a moment to honor the 153rd birthday of that guy who won the techno-battle against Edison but lost the marketing war, Nikola Tesla. Charles Arthur of The Guardian has a feature piece on Tesla:

...it's thanks to Tesla, not Edison, that we have electricity coming out of plugs, and that we even have power stations able to generate serious amounts of energy. He won "the war of the currents" with Edison, who was convinced that direct current (DC) - the sort that comes out of an ordinary battery - was the way forward for power generation and distribution.

User Journal

Journal: Search Term Poetry

Journal by nightcats
Hey geeks, see if you can find the techno-phrases in my latest "Search Term Verse" poetry. I'd do lots more of these if I had the traffic , but I've barely squeezed out a dozen of them in two years at my Poetry page.

esoteric america: how to install wine;
wizard of oz, socialist, warren court --
escapism god, renaissance imp;
puppy on macbook.


i ching demon becoming unemployed:
how the marijuana laws oppressed black
man with imp of the perverse.
freshman high school diary.


siddhartha mango tree, maroon bell deaths.
demon sphere: assertion failed.
anyone out there need help with
robber barons 8th grade history?

Medicine

Journal: Nano-Boats Target Cancer Cells

Journal by nightcats
Another Kurzweil prediction is coming to pass: nano-tech "ships" protected by a lipid sealant against assault from immuno-supportive killer cells are carrying cancer-destroying chemicals to tumors within mice. The system uses fluorescent imaging to allow tracking and remote guidance of the cancer-killing nano-bots.

"This study provides the first example of a single nanomaterial used for simultaneous drug delivery and multimode imaging of diseased tissue in a live animal," said Ji-Ho Park, a graduate student in Sailor's laboratory who was part of the team.

Democrats

Journal: Obama Promises a National CTO

Journal by nightcats
Barack Obama has supplied written responses to Science Debate's 14 questions (no response yet from McCain). In his answers, Obama proposes a national CTO:

Establish the nation's first Chief Technology Officer (CTO) to ensure that our government and all its agencies have the right infrastructure, policies and services for the 21st century. The CTO will lead an interagency effort on best-in-class technologies, sharing of best practices, and safeguarding of our networks;

Handhelds

Journal: A Booklover's Review of Kindle

Journal by nightcats
Norm Jenson's got an average-guy's review of Amazon's Kindle up at his blog. If you're simply a booklover who wants to know more about this product before plunking down your $400, you'll benefit from Jenson's perspective, which is overall positive but also contains some practical insight on the Kindle's place in your reading life.

The Kindle is not a substitute for traditional books, when I was reading War and Peace a big book, it was heavy and substantial and in some way that added something in addition to the page numbers that were missing on the Kindle. I think of the Kindle not as a replacement of traditional books but as a supplement. I've got jury duty next week and I can tell you that it will be nice to take the Kindle and have additional choices of what to read while I'm waiting rather than deciding in advance what specific books I'll be in the mood to read.

Microsoft

Journal: Ballmer, Open Source, and the Wind in the Forest

Journal by nightcats
I have a detailed response to a story that has generated some "hell-freezes-over" astonishment at Slashdot. I view the MS LGPL/Apache move in light of Ballmer's recent annual message to the troops, in which he targets Apple and Google:

They [Apple and Google] are entities that can be seen and understood as competitors in the capitalist forest.

Open source, however, is like the wind blowing through that forest -- it cannot be fought or conquered; only channeled (as Swift Boat financier T. Boone Pickens has discovered on a more literal plane, with his $10B investment in Texas wind farms). So Ballmer has made tactical decisions, based on a belated recognition, to turn the forces of his militant marketing and wealth-based product development toward the only things they can reach -- the other big animals in the corporate forest. So should the leaders of the open source movement fear a rearguard action from MS, following upon this seemingly inexplicable peace offering? Or should they wonder if MS is on the point of a great awakening that will bring us open source versions of Vista and MS Office? I think the answer to those questions is clear: MS has made a strategic choice to let the wind blow as it may for now, while it targets the relatively fixed and identifiable adversaries on the only level it can understand -- opposition and conquest.

User Journal

Journal: The Open Source Society: Beyond Team

Journal by nightcats
I have a new piece up at the blog about how the open source community labor model is surpassing the team-based paradigm of corporate culture. Here's an excerpt:

Let's suppose that most corporate-based, proprietary business units are indeed active, vibrant teams in their structure and resource pools. What open source is revealing today is that the team-oriented approach to business is being bypassed by another model, the community approach.

This is more than a question of numbers; it is a matter of dynamics. A team is a group-we, a closed, insular society that necessarily excludes other groups beyond its scope and expertise. A team must work within sharply defined boundaries that are fairly rigid and impassable. Thus we see that, for all Microsoft's wealth and both the numbers and expertise of its personnel and resources, it cannot begin to match the quality, reliability, and the pure cool factor of a product like Firefox or Opera. As I write here, Internet Explorer is continuing to drag its feet to the standards-compliance finish line, as testing of beta versions of IE8 continues. The open source browsers have been there for years.

User Journal

Journal: Seed of Decline: The Gospel of Consumption

Journal by nightcats
Orion Magazine features a piece on the rise of consumer society in the context of a distortion of the meaning and use of labor-saving devices. It explains a great deal of what we're dealing with today in both our workplaces and our communities:

Today "work and more work" is the accepted way of doing things. If anything, improvements to the labor-saving machinery since the 1920s have intensified the trend. Machines can save labor, but only if they go idle when we possess enough of what they can produce. In other words, the machinery offers us an opportunity to work less, an opportunity that as a society we have chosen not to take. Instead, we have allowed the owners of those machines to define their purpose: not reduction of labor, but "higher productivity"--and with it the imperative to consume virtually everything that the machinery can possibly produce.

Sentient plasmoids are a gas.

Working...