Google Analytics

Google have a new service out called Google Analytics, a web site stats and trends analyser which is probably based on the code of Urchin, who they acquired earlier this year (although it has at least one bug so far). The tracking is cookie-based and works by inserting a JavaScript fragment into the head section of the pages you want to be monitored.

In the interests of science, I’m giving it a go, which, according to the Terms and Conditions (section 8.1) means that I have to put this somewhere:

This website uses Google Analytics, a web analytics service provided by Google, Inc. (“Google”). Google Analytics uses “cookies”, which are text files placed on your computer, to help the website analyze how users use the site. The information generated by the cookie about your use of the website (including your IP address) will be transmitted to and stored by Google on servers in the United States . Google will use this information for the purpose of evaluating your use of the website, compiling reports on website activity for website operators and providing other services relating to website activity and internet usage. Google may also transfer this information to third parties where required to do so by law, or where such third parties process the information on Google’s behalf. Google will not associate your IP address with any other data held by Google. You may refuse the use of cookies by selecting the appropriate settings on your browser, however please note that if you do this you may not be able to use the full functionality of this website. By using this website, you consent to the processing of data about you by Google in the manner and for the purposes set out above.

So now you know.

Unless it turns into an unparalleled success I’ll probably remove it in a couple of weeks.

KDE blog posting client needed

So at the weekend I installed what I hope will become my full-time OS, Kubuntu.

The one thing which this, and my week with SUSE has taught me is that Linux has a dearth of third-party applications. No, really.

Almost everything that I normally use on my Windows machine had equivalents pre-installed on Kubuntu. The two standouts were a blog posting tool and a Flickr posting tool.

If you want to upload a photo to Flickr from Gnome you have multiple choices: the FlickrUploadr; the a script for Nautilus, and Glimmr. If you want to upload from KDE, you have KFlickr, which, try as I might, I couldn’t install cleanly. It’s the only app I’ve tried to install which has had dependency problems. So, the Flickr “upload” screen it is for me. Which is lame. There are, of course, jUploadr, a Java client but I want a native one.

More amazingly, there doesn’t seem to be a KDE tool for posting to your blog. There’s KLuJe for LiveJournallers, but nothing more generic for posting to, say, your WordPress, TypePad or Blogger account. Some guy started KBlogger just over a month ago so it’s obviously very basic and doesn’t meet my needs, but blogs started to appear five years ago, where’s the support in Kontakt or some other key KDE app? Again, there are Java clients but they’re almost uniformly terrible.

What’s a boy to do?

Google Local for mobiles

So, posting to Blogger from Firefox on Kubuntu doesn’t work and leaves me with a title and erases my post content. Lesson learned.

Google Local for mobiles has launched. It’s currently for the US only, but 2lmc seem to have got it working in the UK too. Obviously the point of Google Local is to search for things that are close to you, but the main use would probably be as an A-Z.

Frankly, given that I have to pay for my 3G per MB, I have no intention of using this until I can either use bluetooth to connect to my broadband-connected PC or get a phone which has WiFi so that it won’t cost me an absolute fortune.

At the moment, when I plan on going somewhere, I use Google Maps on my PC to view the location, and mark on a couple of useful routes, then take some screenshots at different sizes and send them to my phone. The maps are clear and easy to read, and immensley useful.

I look forward to being able to use Google Local without it costing the earth.

Automatic unsubscribe is wrong

Last week sometime I read about FeedDemon’s new automatic unsubscribe feature and it bothered me, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

kellan’s just written an article on it called Automatic Unsubscribe Considered Harmful, and he makes some good points and it led me to what my problem with this feature is:

From Nick’s description, the aggregator will silently unsubscribe you from a feed.

Now, you could say that that’s fair enough. After all, you did ask it to unsubscribe you after a certain time period. But what if you’ve forgetten that you set it to unsubscribe? Given the number of feeds that most people I know subscribe to, it doesn’t seem too unlikely.

It’s not as if the feed is returning a 410 – Gone, where the aggregator would be right to stop polling the feed, it’s just an arbitrary cut-off point.

I like the idea of the feature, I just think it should ask you first.

(Incidentally, mentioning no longer polling a feed – is that what Nick means when he says ‘unsubscribe’? Or does he actually mean delete that feed and its history from the FeedDemon database?)

Microformats and structured blogging

Stowe Boyd of Corante has gotten around to writing an article about microformats and structured blogging entitled Microformats v Structured Blogging: A Small War With Big Consequences.

Both formats are about embedding more data into blog posts. If your blog post contains details of an event then tools should be able to extract that event and place it into your calendar. If your blog post contains a review then tools should be able to extract that review and add it into your store of recommendations. And so on.

The two approaches are very similar, but, using a review as an example, here are some broad differences:

  • microformats embeds data directly into your review
  • structuredblogging embeds a separate data node before or after your review using the script tag
  • microformats can be parsed with JavaScript and highlighted with CSS
  • structuredblogging script nodes cannot be parsed by JavaScript
  • compound microformats attempt to represent a 1-1 mapping of an IETF standard (this is true for hCalendar and hCard) in XHTML
  • structuredblogging uses custom XML schema to represent events and reviews

Something that’s quite important to note, I think, is that whilst structuredblogging does have a more technical bent, both microformats and structured blogging are quite easy to understand and to write by hand, and both are easy to mess up by not nesting your tags properly!

Stowe’s article is reasonably ambivalent, but leaning towards microformats, noting

My gut feel is that structured blogging requires too much formalization of what people do on their blogs, and microformatting tools are more likely to be adopted in a dynamic, bottom-up, changing, and innovative environment.

This seems like a reasonable assumption to make, but he goes on to say that

It may come down to a battle of the tools — who creates a better set of tools for authors — rather than the pros and cons of the models themselves.

This is an interesting comment – the only structuredblogging tool is a plugin released for WordPress which offers complete integration into the blogging tool. On the other hand, whilst there are many tools for creating and extracting microformat data from webpages, there aren’t any which are integrated into a blogging tool (there appear to be some private plugins that people are using, but there’s nothing that anyone can download and use).

According to his article, there are more structuredblogging plugins in the works, intended for other blogging platforms, and this would be great, because by far the weakest point of structuredblogging, head and shoulders above any technical detail, is the total lack of any obvious update since April 2005. To all intents and purposes, the site and project look dead from the outside, offering only an email address where you can send comments and suggestions. The people behind microformats on the other hand opened up a wiki to store their project details, and a mailing list where people can discuss things. The process and project are both more visibly open than structuredblogging, and because of this microformats are bound to get not only more eyeballs, but also more supporters as people feel that they can actually get involved.

As much as I think that using XML Schema to define item types is the “right” way to go about things, I can’t see that structuredblogging stands a chance of gaining a foothold unless it opens up in the same way that the microformats crowd currently do.

TV on the web

After posting about the BBC putting up a show for download (and remembering, of course, their ongoing iMP trials), NBC will be putting up its NBC Nightly News for broadcast on the Internet starting on November the seventh.

I don’t have Sky, cable or Freeview, and I’ve never been to the US, so this will probably be my first real experience of American news (other than the clips of Fox News that I’ve watched in hide-eyed horror). I wait with bated breath.