Feedster claim

Identifying the supernodes

Based on the top 100 listed at scripting.com's community feedlist, one third of the news I read is read by the other 125 people. This list is generated from the top 100 feeds out of everyone who's uploaded OPML; you can do so, too. Just create an account and you're set to go.

With this data, you could identify what blogs the top 100 most-read bloggers *aren't* reading, read them, and feed them interesting tidbits that they might not see otherwise. You could customize your blogging for any audience. You could target only B-list bloggers. You could create a directed network graph of who's reading who, find out who isn't reading who, and fill in the gaps.

If this new service provided an aggregate dataset, I could teach people to become supernodes. Unfortunately, the aggregate dataset being collected by this service is not available for download. I suggest contacting Dave and asking him to please republish the aggregated information in XML form.


Many put a lot of effort into the look and feel of their website, and then watch it reduced to plain-looking HTML in RSS readers.  After seeing Joi's feed reduced in this manner, I decided to try applying the rather elegant style from his site to his feed.  I met with success.  Here's how I did it.

Update: Sam Ruby provides some technical guidance; I've updated the RSS 2.0 and Atom instructions.  The RSS instructions may change again soon once a way is found to move the stylesheet out of the content and into the XML; the Atom feed is now HTML and XML compliant, however, readers will need to be configured to look for the stylesheet link.  Thanks, Sam!


Backup your templates before trying this.

If you're the auther of software that renders the HTML it receives from feeds, I strongly recommend reading Mark's post about sanitizing RSS feeds, and then following his advice.  This implementation of RSS stylesheets will be changing to be more like the Atom way, as the current method wreaks too much undesired havoc on readers.

Replace http://www.example.com/site.css with the URL to the desired stylesheet; for MovableType users, I recommend styles-site.css; for TypePad users, styles.css.

This is an experiment, and may break things; there's a bug with Feed on Feeds, for instance. The RSS approach violates the specification; however, your feed will validate as XML.

These directions will only work as expected if your feed is both full-content and HTML.  MovableType's default templates do not ship with either of these features; I strongly urge using the full-content, HTML enabled RSS templates — and verify the content type on the first line of each template if you're installing these, as they aren't UTF-8 by default.

After making these changes, please check to make sure that your feed is still usable; subscribing to the feeds in an RSS reader works well for this, as does FEED validator.

Tips on how to do this for other feed formats not listed below are welcomed; if I've left out your favorite syndication format, that can change.

RSS 1.0 and 2.0

Search for the <content:encoded> tag (or, if that's not present, the <description> tag) in your template; make sure it's the one that contains the entry body of your posts; for MovableType users, this would be the one that contains <$MTEntryBody>.  Immediately after the tag, before any other content, add the following text:

<![CDATA[<link rel="stylesheet" href="http://www.example.com/site.css" type="text/css" title="styled" />]]>


Search for the <feed ... > tag in your template; inside the tag, before the <entry> tag, add the following text:

<link rel="stylesheet" href="http://www.example.com/site.css" type="text/css" title="styled" />

Links: Brent set me down this path in the first place; Morbus discussed this, too; Anil talked about this a year ago; Liz researched CSS and Atom; Michael does a lot of research, including an actual proposal for styled Atom; Mark talked about styles and syndication; Gadgetopia's audience chimes in.

Continue reading "RSS with CSS [DOES NOT WORK]" »

Viewpoint Routers

One trend in intelligence gathering and analysis is 'open source' - and we're not talking Linux and GPL here. Simply put, as electronic media have proliferated around the world, more information that is useful for security purposes becomes openly available. The problem is digging out the useful bits, assessing their reliability, synthesizing and analyzing the bits together, then using the results to guide clandestine information gathering if needed.

Open source in this sense seems to have started inside the intelligence agencies, but you don't need a government ID card to play the game. For instance, the NOSI site is essentially a blog that compiles military intelligence with a naval skew into one convenient location. One might also consider Rantburg, run by an ex-intel guy, to be an open source site, with a bit of an attitude.

An alternative definition of the word "open source" appears here, as intelligence agencies begin to base more and more of their information sources on that which is available to the public — "open" knowledge, as it were. I must admit some curiosity as to how long the intel community has been using the term, but that answer is probably classified.

This concept of "open source" intelligence leads to an insight into blogging, and why it has grown so as a social phenomenon. Intelligence has, for many years, taken advantage of the human instinct for gossip; by collecting information that seems unremarkable at the time, collecting it together, and through massive human and computer effort turning the mass of information into coherent, organized data.

In David Brin's book "Earth" (spoiler warning! this gives away a key aspect of the plot), one of the key protagonists is a person working from home, observing and collecting information through a high-speed internet connection. As the book progresses, we learn that she wields a power stronger than any other single individual in the book; eventually, however, she is defeated by cooperation (and coincidence).

Like the protagonist in "Earth", the blogging community wields a great amount of power, mostly untapped. The events surrounding Trent Lott's dismissal from the government for holding a viewpoint unacceptable to the community demonstrate the power of the group to turn what was formerly described as "gossip" into immediate, highly effective influence over a regime. Unlike the book, however, we do not act alone.

Bloggers have, in a short period of time, begun developing the ability to take the same information that intelligence agencies; each individual collects the data they feel relevant, assembling it into a conclusion (or summary, or post) that is then shared with all who care to read it. Each of the thousand voices, using different information, reach different conclusions; sometimes in agreement, more often not, but in the end all are given a chance to share their view. Unlike before, however, bloggers have the Internet at their disposal.

The NSA has recognized the power of the Internet as a tool for distributing information; influenced by Gore, they developed at the turn of the century a private network that rivals the mass media in sharing information to anyone with access. Around the same time, online journals began changing their focus; many began discussing viewpoints along with the trivia of their day-to-day lives (the root of the thing we call "blogging" today); today, the propagation of information through the blogosphere has begun to rivel the AP wire, and may be approaching equivalence with the NSA's billion-dollar system.

We link to each other almost unconsciously, creating a community of a form that no one has seen before. The onus is upon each of us to make our voice heard; once that has been done, entry to the community is almost certain, with a minimum of barriers (be civil, be interesting, be unique). Within the community, information flows at a rate faster than any one human can discern; with a thousand of them looking, though, suddenly it's not so unmanageable. When I miss an article at New Scientist discussing the origins of pulsars, it turns up in the blog elsewhere in the community; in turn, I link to that article at my blog, thus ensuring that someone, somewhere, will see the information that they otherwise would miss.

Like ants (carpenter ants!), we're crawling the information space in its totality — even though each ant only sees a tiny portion of all that is out there. Unlike the government, however, we don't have to pay ten thousand people to do our work for us; each of us puts out a few hours a month (or, perhaps, a day), and perhaps a few dollars for connectivity, hosting, etc. In return, we're granted a skill that was formerly limited to corporations, governments, and (rarely) activists; efficient information routing. With this skill comes great power; if we use it responsibly, the world will change in ways that sci-fi writers have only dreamed of.

Continue reading "Viewpoint Routers" »

To: O'Reilly, Re: ETcon

This was the first talk I�d been to since EtCon and given my inability to concentrate on such things I realised how boring talks can be without the distraction of EtCon�s ranks of laptops and Wi-Fi. I desperately wanted to exchange instant messages with friends about what was going on or force myself to concentrate by getting stuck into some collaborative note-taking. Looking at your neighbour�s notepad just isn�t the same.


If education was like ETcon all the time, as opposed to just for three days, there'd never be any problem getting students to attend.  I've never found an environment so automatically accommodating to the needs of a thousand people, without breaking the fragile social connections that bind them.

Hydra, the Rendezvous editor, has totally surpassed all the possibilities I could dream of for workflow shifts.  The user interface alone makes CVS merging amazingly simple.  I'm glad I was a participant in that; it's not something I'll ever forget.

The best venue of the entire week was the balcony eating area upstairs.  From dawn until midnight it was continually populated for four solid days, a thriving ebb and flow of a community that had never been in the same room like this, yet somehow coexisted and interacted beautifully.

Something I have missed forever since is a target market for my thoughts.  I found myself submerged, unexpectedly, into an ocean of people who care about similar things as myself -- social software, adaptive networks, the reasons I came!  Deciding that my role in the conference would be "catalyst", I was able to connect two people four times, to some effect; the ripples have spread in several directions, and I think they're for good (for instance, Esther Dyson now has a blog).

The chance to do that, just for a day, would entice me more than any job in my life has offered.  The chance to do that for a year in an educational setting would change my life.  Thank you for the three best days this year.

Microphones in the corporate embassy

"Conference organizers cannot make an event off the record only for the official journalists anymore," wrote Gillmor. "The rules of 'journalism,' whatever that is, are changing. This is just one more example."



It's like a Freedom of Business Information Act, implemented by individual interested parties (and, perhaps, shareholders).

What's amazing about the Web as a social space is that it has succeeded in reproducing and in many ways even reinforcing traditional power relations between social groups.



We have implemented one important feature, though: it is acceptable to disagree with as much passion as you wish.  People may be driven off, you may cause arguments, dissent, anger, or pain; but you're welcome to your opinion, and that is a protected ideal in this blogging thing.

In general, there is a higher standard of behavior expected from the media and a higher level of formality when dealing with the media, not just because they report things, but because people believe what they say and act on that belief, sometimes with serious consequences.



I'm not sure that I want a corporation choosing whether I have the right to tell others about what they say to me.  I don't like signing non-disclosure agreements because of this: it's not in my interest to be limiting my freedom of speech.

Well, duh. Although such bloggers really should be wearing one of these. Big Blogger is blogging you.



This is a brilliant idea; does it glow in the dark?

If we're going to want these sorts of conferences with this sort of people, with wifi and unrestricted access, and all sorts of other lovely attractions, then we must, as a community, respect people's wishes. Creating false distinctions between bloggers and journalists in order to let one of our number break the rules can only backfire on everyone.


I will uphold the Chatham House Rule; can you tell us more about Chatham House?

When it's 'off the record' there are normally good reasons why it's not for publication but they want to tell you something so you can understand the context. Does this mean that Chatham House Rules don't apply to journalists with blogs? What if a newspaper wants to quote Denise's weblog, because the info is already out there now? Should all journalists with blogs be asked to leave the room first? Are the rules, as Dan suggests, changing?

As the public media is corporate these days, you could quite seriously file antitrust if they try to restrict journalism directly.  We're not *powerless* in the legal system, just without funding – though Blogger's got a little bit of that.

First, conference organizers cannot make an event off-the-record only for the official journalists anymore. If they truly want it that way, they'll have to get everyone else to make the same agreement. Second, in the world of blogs and other self-publishing, these kinds of arrangements are unenforceable in any event. The rules of "journalism," whatever that is, are changing. This is just one more example.



The rules of ethics are changing.  The protocol of communication between business and blogger is fresh, and not yet set in stone.  I'm heartened greatly by the comments I see about this issue; they're a discussion ranging free, with one apparently shared opinion: this event has changed things.

Now, I have no idea what the conference's press pass policy was, but I'm assuming those who attended on one�and agreed to the associated terms�were exempted from registration fees. In other words, as we lawyers might say, there was consideration given for the reporting ground rules imposed on the professional journalists attending as such. And perhaps not just financial consideration. As Wurman also pointed out, some conferences are off limits to the press altogether.



The event organizers could be trapped in their own contracts: the restrictions may not be in place for those who paid to be there &mdash.   If you put new restrictions in place, attendees can't share things learned with their corporation back at home, for fear of the information "leaking" -- which it will, in any case.

Continue reading "Microphones in the corporate embassy" »

Intelligent media: FOAF my shiny metal ICBM

I've been working on my FOAF file for a couple of days now.  Thanks to observations and commentary from #RDFig and #foaf, I'm now advertising both my nearest airport and my current location using the right namespace.  The FOAF explorer found the geo tags, and is now showing the nice green button for each of the locations specified.  Yay!

The links for this have been added to the syndication sidebar, which also depicts the RSS 1.0 and 2.0 feed links; the 1.0 feed is significantly enhanced beyond the standard template version.

The blog's also been tagged with the ICBM coordinates of my hosting provider, so you can discover websites within a few miles.  I see some; time to make new friends.

I'm open to further suggestions as to things that would be useful to add to any of the feeds; feel free to leave comments, as well.

Update: Turning the archives HTML page into an RDF feed was a brilliant suggestions; thanks!  RSS 1.0 Archives.  Apparently this is useful to anotation?  The entire content of my blog is in that feed, along with comments, foaf, and trackback data.

Cool.  Please don't subscribe to it :)

Creative domain licensing


Someone asked me if I knew of a creative commons no-copyright license; I wasn't able to give them an answer at the time, but I've followed up on it since.  Whoever asked, hope you're listening :)

It appears that the license I was looking for was the Creative Commons public domain.  It's not part of the radio button section of the license selection page, but if you look off to the right a bit, there's a link to it.

Apparently they keep it seperate because it's so distinctly different from the rest of the licenses; I suggested they add, say, "(that is, give up all copyright)" or somesuch to the page.

For the record, my content here at crystalflame is covered by the attribution license; I'm not much of a fan of the GPL-like viral sharing clause, though.

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