January 20, 2005 | 4:43 PM ET

All week long the Web has been abuzz with discussion of a new idea for combating spam -specifically "comment spam" which are advertisements that clog the comments sections of blogs.  Once again I'll attempt a brief not-too-technical explanation:  One of the reasons spammers want to have their links in blog comments is that search engines read them as recommended links from bloggers and will return the spammers' sites higher in search results.  The new idea is to insert a bit of code that will make search engines ignore the links in comments, thereby taking away a chief incentive of the spammers.

I figured this was too technical for me to bother with in this blog until I read this extension of the idea from Robert Scoble.  Not only can this new tag be used to keep spam out of search engines, but using it, bloggers can link to sites they don't like without inadvertently helping that site's search engine page rank.  Read Scoble for a more specific example, and here's an introduction to the piece of code, called "nofollow."  This won't be on the test, but it's still interesting to see the Internet community work together to solve mutual problems.

Speaking of working together, Rebecca Blood isn't quite ready to drink the Kool-Aid on the tagging idea we looked at yesterday.  This leads me to today's Commuter Click:  Social Consequences of Social tagging

Unfortunately, too many of the paeans to tagging that I’ve read have completely ignored some of the key social and cultural issues associated with public and collaborative labeling of content, opting instead for a level of technology-driven optimism that I see as overly naive.

A Bush fan live-blogging from the inauguration today.  In fact, you may have heard the commentators mention that there was some fuss with protestors.  This is the only video I've seen of it so far. 

Speaking of inauguration protests, this is a liberal site obviously intends this list with scorn, but regardless of partisanship, I always like these kinds of stat breakdown lists.

Speaking of video and the government, remember the story of the band "The Postal Service" negotiating a deal with the U.S. Postal Service to be allowed to keep it's trademark infringing name if they would use some of their time to promote the snail mail service?  For today's Video of the Day you can watch a video of theirs --I'm not seeing much post office imagery however.

A lot of folks are marveling at these Hong Kong photos.

You've probably seen the headlines about Richard Hatch, winner of the first Survivor TV show, being in trouble with the IRS.  Looking at the official papers, what stands out to me is not how much he won on the show but how much he was offered afterward:

Pursuant to the employment agreement, defendant HATCH was to be compensated at a rate of $500,000 per year and was guaranteed a bi-weekly salary of $20,833.33

Bloggers are calling this Wall Street Journal Social Security debate series a celebrity death match. 

You may have missed some news yesterday of a manhunt in the Boston area.  A bizarre story of a human smuggler and dangerous substances led officials to be concerned about public safety.  The story was kind of light on solid information and I haven't heard anything about it today, so either it was resolved or it didn't have enough information to sustain itself (or officials stopped sharing).  Either way, the blogosphere is a perfect place for trying to follow a story like that.  Backcountry Concervative does some of the heavy lifting.

Of growing interest to some bloggers today is an Australian interview with Richard Armitage in which he regrets how some things have gone since 9/11.

Dan Gillmor shares a draft of an essay on the end of objectivity.  We read so much about citizen journalism and blog and "real people" versus "the media" that the other paradigm shift in journalism is often overlooked.

I understand the sentiment behind trying to make children aware of the tsunami disaster, but I'm not sure a fun little game is the way to go.

Excuse me, but are you licensed to sit there?  (What do you mean you don't get it?  It's art!)

When you pop open your laptop and look for available wireless networks, how confident are you that what you're tapping into is safe?

Games cut both ways.  They can be a complete waste of time or they can be used to help us get back to work.  (Note that both links appear to come from the same site.)

Click up your heels
Get into the right click
Click this Cliche Finder.

I've never played in an online casino, and I've barely played in a real world casino, so I'm don't know very much about gambling culture other than watching the occasional episode of celebrity poker on Bravo.  That said, this Beginners Guide to Casino Bonuses is an interesting look at something I thought was purely the domain of spam e-mail and boxers with body paint.

Fifty writing tools

Correction:  Matthew Aylward writes in to point out that in the third item from the bottom of Monday's post I called a soldier a Marine.  (Actually, I called a soldier a marine, which is even worse -ug!)  Apologies for that.  Thanks Matthew for helping fill in some pretty broad gaps in my knowledge base.

January 19, 2005 | 7:11 PM ET

The battle lines over Social Security aren't officially drawn until someone registers a snappy URL.

I think it was just last week that I criticized the Democrats for not offering an answer to the White House's declaration that Social Security is in trouble.  I still haven't seen Democrats making statements, but the "not a crisis" pundits have certainly made themselves heard lately -enough so that I'm wondering when the White House is going to offer a little more meat to support its side... Nevermind, here come the "you can do better with your own money" pundits to help make that case.

But before we go too far down that path, here's one for the Click Again files:  The debate about Social Security is about Social Security, right?  Click again.  Money quote:

[T]he goal is to create a political dynamic over the next one to two years in which the Republicans appear the party of opportunity, ownership, dynamism, and forward thinking, while the Democrats appear to be the defenders of old, boring, inadequate safety net programs.

Speaking of politics, the John Kerry campaign Web site has a pre-written letter campaign form advocating the firing of Donald Rumsfeld.  Says the site, "I urge you to act without delay."  Given that philosophy, we must assume there was a technical glitch that prevented this page from publishing, say... three months ago.

Video of the Day:  The latest viral car ad to get a lot of free online distribution.  This took a while to load on my machine, so you may want to open the page and go do some Clickin' and then come back to it.

As a close second, seriously, the split second view of the truck hitting the Thing in this clip rocks!

And as long as we're on about moving images, I'm completely over these Jib Jab politics movies, but folks are still linking to them.  I take their popularity as a sign that Americans don't actually like hating each other so they appreciate the relatively even handed mockery.

Who are the people in your neighborhood?  (As a photoblogger in my other life, I always feel awkward about taking pictures of people.  This is a great way to break that ice.)

The other day I mentioned Power Curves and the idea that only a few blogs get huge traffic and a huge number of blogs get just a little traffic.  Here's an interesting example of a guy who's drawing attention for writing critiques of comic strips.  Notice how word of mouth spread to the big A-list bloggers and then made the jump to mainstream media -as if he used the power curve as a ramp.

And then there's the flip side of that dynamic.  Ranking high on one blog list I read today was a link that seemed to indicate it would lead to a Lord of the Rings related photo.  Instead the link was dead and I was able to find this explanation (warning: angry blue language).  Rocketing up the power curve can be a curse for the unprepared.

We saw this same problem with distribution of tsunami video as well.  As blogs become more popular, will the small, independent blogger become an endangered species?  Will everyone have to move to a big hosting system just in case everyone in the world suddenly wants to click?

Speaking of the chain of blog popularity, this link is the third time in two days I've seen high profile mention of The Long Tail blog.  I note by the graphic that the long tail refers to the many blogs getting little traffic, and the other posts I read were about "microcontent" and "microaudiences," so I'm guessing the main subject matter is the part of the power curve that is concerned with the many blogs who receive just a little traffic.  We don't have a "blog to spend some time with of the day" feature, but if we did, I'd choose this blog for today.

Commuter Click:  Bloggers vs. Journalists is Over  Will Jay Rosen's new essay put an end to what as become for some a cottage for blog punditry?  Will blog evangelizing media critics become the new O.J. pundits?  (I've only read the first bit of the essay so far, so hopefully I'll know the answer tomorrow.)

Poll: Nation split on Bush as uniter or divider  (Duh)

Alternative commuter click if you're sick of blogger/journalist navel gazing:  Here are some interesting lessons in what makes humans look like real people and why actors don't have to worry about being replaced by computers just yet.

From the cut-off-your-nose-to-spite-your-face department, a law designed to block legal rights for unmarried gay couples is being twisted to help defend unmarried girlfriend-beaters from domestic abuse charges.

I saw this story pop around a bit earlier in the week but now it's getting some regular linkage.  What made me hesitate to link is that it's a story about democratic stirrings in North Korea that cites a Web site (no link) and a video (also no link).  That is, no link until I found a blogger who'd actually done some real legwork.

The big red button of doom

Making your bed as party of general domestic hygiene is good for you, right?  Click again.

Living in the North, I had no idea Monday was also Robert E. Lee Day.  Or, for that matter, that there was such a thing as Lee-Jackson Day.  Then again, the school where I went to 4th grade puts on a play about General John Stark every year.  I don't imagine that's a name that comes up much in Mississippi.

Yesterday we saw well laid plans (no pun) for Mary Ann.  Today we change channels to look at blueprints for the Brady Bunch house.

Speaking of yesterday, Metafilter's tag page.

Ukrainian hasn't slept in 20 years  That must have been the same time he got Tivo.

The 25 most difficult questions you'll be asked on a job interview

January 18, 2005 | 8:19 PM ET

You may recall when I was posting tsunami links that I mentioned a resource called Del.icio.us.  The site's users categorize the Web pages they recommend with labels or "tags" with the goal of bringing some order to the chaos that is the Internet.  This idea of tagging content fits into the larger context of what Web smart-guys call the semantic Web -a system of padding Web pages with extra information so search engines and Web surfers can find what they're looking for more easily and accurately.

OK, that's my non-technical three sentence explanation as I understand it.  Now let's go to the links:

What's brought this all to the blogging foreground is the launch of Technorati's tag page.  (You'll notice its similarity to Flickr's tag page, another early tagging success.)  Technorati's Dave Sifry offers an explanation of what it's all about.  Jeff Jarvis is excited about the idea.  And, though I haven't played with it yet, this tagging tool (with explanation) is meant to simplify the process.

This all might seem a little more technical than you want to care about, but it's really not that bad.  What's more, blogging seemed technical at first.  So did RSS and trackback and a number of other tools that have entered the mainstream through blogging.  You might as well learn now.

Speaking of Jeff Jarvis, he has a bit of a freak-out over a New York Times article about the Iraq The Model blog.  In calling it a freak-out I don't mean to belittle Jeff's reaction.  His passion is partly the result of the fact that he was so active in encouraging bloggers in Iraq, including these guys, so he doesn't appreciate any reproaches to their character.

The substance of the story is actually kind of old.  I mentioned it here over a month ago .  Bloggers already ran through and shot down conspiracy theories about these Iraqi brothers, but in the context of credibility that everyone has been so actively discussing, it's an interesting specimen.  In spite of the Armstrong pay-off, people don't generally jump to the suspicion that mainstream media members are on the CIA payroll.  For these bloggers, however, it's a constant battle.  Is this suspicion just the nature of the beast?

(Glenn has just filed on this very matter.)

Speaking of blog credibility, this is an interesting piece in Fortune Magazine but I have to wonder, as advertisers become more blog savvy, do blogs become less trustworthy?

And speaking of blogging-to-be-free: The Committee to Protect Bloggers

Many have considered it but few have actually plotted a strategy:  Bedding Mary Ann.

How badly do Bush's critics want the president to suffer a Clintonian fate in his second term?  Bad enough that they're keeping a list.

The lead link everywhere I looked today was of these photos of Bill Gates.  (The anchor tag doesn't work for me every time, so you might have to scroll a bit.)

In his interview with David Gregory yesterday, President Bush responded to the question about Seymour Hersh's Iran article by saying that he hadn't read it, but the Pentagon's answer was sufficient.  This is that answer.  Although elsewhere Bush gave some people the impression that he was corroborating Hersh's report.

Today the Commute Click and Video of the Day come as a package deal.  For the Click, the CollegeHumor.com guys are barely older than 20 and live in a newly renovated, forty-two-hundred-square-foot, five-bedroom loft in Tribeca, which rents for ten thousand dollars a month.  Dang.

For the Video, here's part of what's paying their bills:

More video:  A local NBC news piece on " Hit Song Science."  (I came upon this story kind of backwards.  It looks like this is the post that brought these links to the attention of so many bloggers.)

Stand by your statue

It's hard to say why Safecracking for the Computer Scientist is something anyone but the specified professional would care about, but I clicked on it and bookmarked it -just in case.

If there's one thing yesterday's Commuter Click really highlighted for me, it's just how much of a disservice this country's pundits have done to us.  (How did Jon Stewart put it?  "Hurting America"?)  I can't remember the last time I've read or heard my fellow Americans portrayed so reasonably and likeably by either side.  So it's with some trepidation that I bring up this next item.  It turns out there are some questions about how the votes were tallied in Wisconsin -this time with the Republicans doing the questioning.  So as the blow-hard jerks play musical chairs with "count every vote/get over it the election is over" positions, I offer these words of sanity from Wisconsin blogger Boots & Sabers who is covering the story:

Having a voting system that we can trust is not a partisan issue.  It is an issue that we should all be concerned about.

The latest thing in Japan, key ring plants.  (If you pass your mouse over the words "English translation" a little window pops up with some explanation.)

Today's Click Agains:

Do you remember years ago the uproar over the discovery that the government was spending tax money on the study of methane from cow flatulence?  Even if you don't, surely you can imagine how the idea that our tax dollars could be spent on studying the toxic air coming out the back of a cow would be an outrageous example of government waste, right?  Click again .

McDonald's is a terrible looking restaurant serving terrible food that's terrible for you from a terrible corporation, right?  Click again.

One more:  When Social Security was invented, no one counted on the average lifespan getting longer, right?  And no one ever factored in the demand from baby boomers, right?  Click again.

Have you ever read an article about the problem of online music trading that included examples of unreleased records "leaked to the Internet?"  Did you ever wonder where the leak was since no one ever leaked an unreleased record to you?  Here's one.  You have until this guy gets sued or the whole thing is declared a hoax to download it.

What if you mix your average office cube farm with Mad Max and a prison mentality?  Office Bricolage.

For Thai Survivors, The Dead Live On In Ghost Sightings  I always thought something like this would come up around Ground Zero given the number and manner in which the people there died.  I've not heard any though.

January 17, 2005 | 6:18 PM ET

One of the reasons why I wanted to keep "This is what I clicked" as the tagline for this blog is that the blogosphere is so vast and diverse that only a fool would claim to be able to summarize or encapsulate it.  An interesting example of just how disparate regions of the blogosphere are is that while the blog punditocracy made ostensible history with discussions of ethics and credibility there was little mention among them that one of the blogosphere's largest services had a completely debilitating power failure, taking millions offline.

Best quote about the LiveJournal outage over the weekend:

I feel a great disturbance in the force..... It's as if a million bloggers cried out all at once..... and became silent.

A lot of folks are linking to this cartoon as well.  What did you do while LJ was down?

Regarding the ethics/credibility discussion, the links seem limitless.  This is really one of those discussions that is best served by starting in one place and clicking through referring and responding links to get a sense of the dialogue.  For my part, I'll point out some of the high points:

The lesson for a campaign is obvious: Got a story you can't convince a mainstream reporter to run? Leak it anonymously to a blog on your payroll. Then get a local reporter to write a story on the controversial, gossipy, local political blog. Soon everyone in town will be talking about the story you leaked to the blog. Voila! Eventually a mainstream news organization will run a story on the rumor that "everyone is talking about." Or they'll do a "what people are buzzing about on the Internet" piece. And no one will know that the blog post was a paid placement until after the election.

If I may add another couple cents, it seems to me that we covered a lot of this ground when media organizations started to make the transition to blogging and began to hire bloggers.  (Glenn used to call it "taking the Boeing," although I don't quite remember why.)  While I recognize that part of what makes the current debate unique is the question of disclosure, which is obviously not an issue when you're seeing a blogger on a mainstream site, something we have covered in the past that seems to be largely overlooked lately is that paying a blogger doesn't guarantee his allegiance.  Glenn Reynolds doesn't take it easy on mainstream media because we pay him, and some of the things Eric Alterman says about MSNBC makes me cringe.

Though some have argued that it was naive of paid bloggers to not realize they were being exploited for their influence, as someone who will likely one day take part in hiring a blogger, it would be naive of me to think that hiring a blogger is the same as buying a blogger.

Moving on...

Few people question the convenience of RSS for Internet readers.  But there have been, and still are, a few hitches that content providers are struggling with.  The latest to emerge is the observation by a law blogger that if an aggregator is pulling in all the content of his blog without also reproducing the ads and other element, it is essentially an illegal reproduction of his blog -especially if that aggregator sells advertising.  Obviously that's a simplification, so before I get sued, read his actual explanation here.

Ready for the rebuttal?  Scobleizer has a round-up.

Petitions seem all the rage lately.  EBay sellers are upset at new charges.  Music fans are upset at deteriorating standards.  And some Californians want to make driver's licenses more exclusive.

Give yourself another sense:  The gift of magnetic vision.

Probably due in part to a mention in a BBC article, Waiter Rant, mentioned here a couple months ago, drifts back onto our radar with his well told tales.

We saw some mail about this story in the MSNBC.com Letters to the Editor mailbox, but I'm not sure how far into the mainstream it's made it.  It seems some people suspect that a threat made in a chat room was fulfilled when a Christian Egyptian man and his family were killed.  The man was reportedly a critic of Islam.

Make your own MP3 player inside an Altoids box.  Frankly, this goes a little over my head, but it reminds me of the old radio kits kids used to put together when my father was young.

Media (crap) created the blogging star.

Something that's become apparent since writing this blog is that Weblogs are often useful for challenging conventional wisdom.  When we come across such an item, we call it a "Click Again."  Today's Click-Again-of-the-day:  Everyone knows that one of the challenges to resolving the Palestinian/Israeli situation is that Palestinians will soon outnumber Israelis and could thus pose a threat to Israel as a voting block should some democratic solutions be implemented.  Right?  Click Again

Here's another:  'California professor flunks Kuwaiti's pro-U.S. essay'  An outrage, right?  Click again.

And one more:  Since the U.S. has given up on the search for WMDs in Iraq, pro-war bloggers are probably changing their minds on support for the war, right?  Click again.

Speaking of not finding WMD's, would you know a WMD if you saw one?

Speaking of the war debate, many anti-war bloggers are pointing here on this MLK day.

Quite possibly the weirdest fetish I've ever seen.

I know accountability is an important principle and a hot topic lately, but I think I must be missing something here.

Video of the Day:  Teen Girl Squad.   

Die Blogger kommen:  This is where today's title comes from.  I like it because it sounds like a Mozart opera.  It's interesting to see how other countries, with different media environments incorporate and interpret blog technology.

Speaking of blogs in other countries, the Times has another piece on the importance of blogs in Iranian reform.

Commuter Click:  The Red Sea, which some bloggers are describing as a fair (which I hope to mean 'healing') look at red state, blue state differences.  It clicks out to 5 pages online, that's enough to send me to the printer. 

More reasons to wear rubber rings around our arms.  I suppose it's better than trying to speak Canadian.

Blackfive posts a lengthy letter from a soldier, expressing frustration with media perspectives on the war in Iraq.

Sites Google censors

(I'm not ignoring the Bush interview or the Hersh piece, I'm just waiting for them to percolate a little longer in the blogosphere.)


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