Thursday, November 27, 2008

Crowdsourcing 101

Suppose Jimmy Wales decides to create an encyclopedia all by his lonesome self. Sounds hard, if not impossible, right?
Well, this Jimmy Wales is the creator of Wikipedia. He did not do an online encyclopedia on his own. In fact, he asked everyone who can access the Wikipedia website to contribute and collaborate on the content of the site. The result: over 10 million articles written collaboratively by volunteers around the world. I have edited some Wikipedia articles in the past myself - although my contribution is limited to correcting typographical errors - just so I can say that I have made some contribution to Wikipedia.
Wikipedia typifies crowdsourcing. Coined in 2006, the term crowdsourcing is defined in Wikipedia as:
[T]he act of taking a task traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, and outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people, in the form of an open call. For example, the public may be invited to develop a new technology, carry out a design task, refine an algorithm or help capture, systematize or analyze large amounts of data.

The term has become popular with business authors and journalists as shorthand for the trend of leveraging the mass collaboration enabled by Web 2.0 technologies to achieve business goals. However, both the term and its underlying business models have attracted controversy and criticism.
Other well-known crowdsourcing sites are Digg, Delicious, StumbleUpon and Flickr. But the concept of crowdsourcing is not new. According to Wikipedia (where else?), in the 19th century, the Oxford English Dictionary was written from volunteer contributions of millions of slips of paper. In the early days of the internet, the concept was already being applied by computer programmers and scientists.

The Emperor's Virtual Clothes author Dinty Moore forayed into the (then) mysterious world of internet back in 1995. Thirteen years ago, you had to make do with Bulletin Board Systems (BBSs) for social networking. Search was not made through Google. Netscape was still the number one browser. A picture file would take minutes to download.
But even during the "primitive" era of the internet, the idea of crowdsourcing was already alive. BITNET, CSNET and Usenet allowed for discussion of computers, computing issues, scientific disciplines and controversy. Usenet, in particular, was famous in universities, research labs or other academic institutions. Usenet originated with a link between two universities, and the exchange of ideas and information is what such institutions are all about. It created huge amounts of information that would have been hard to obtain had there been no Usenet. Collaboration  and exchange of information among early Usenet users made it possible.
According to wiseGEEK, it seems that the potential of crowdsourcing has yet to be tapped. "There is an enormous creative and technical population in the world, many of whom have interesting ideas or skills, and crowdsourcing allows companies to profit from their work — often giving them a healthy living in return — at a fraction of the cost of a more traditional business model."
For more information about crowdsourcing sites, you can visit
Comic strip: xkcd

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Spot the Spammer

Lately, my email has been flooded with spam. It is mighty irritating, to say the least. 
To top it off, I almost became a victim of phishing.
There was this one email purporting to be from PayPal. It said that I purchased something via my PayPal account. I'm pretty sure that I haven't bought anything through PayPal for the last 6 months, so I was about to go to the PayPal website (rule of thumb: I never click on any link in any email, except if the email comes from very close friends or if it's an activation code) to check it out. Then I suddenly realized that I wasn't using that particular email for my PayPal account. 
So how do we avoid spam mails? If Yahoo, Hotmail and Gmail can't solve the spam problem, we sure as hell can't.
But we can settle for the next best thing. mikealao has a great tip for Gmail users: 
It is absolutely impossible for us to find out who sold our email address to those spammers who choke our inbox with unwanted emails. But now there is a solution to find out people who sell our confidential information to others. Gmail provides a not so explicit feature which you can use to find out which website is giving out your email address to spammers. This will not work for the previous websites where you have already registered but you can use it for future registrations.
 Here is how to use it:
1. While signing up for any new website enter your Gmail address as
 2. Don’t worry, you will receive the mails as usual because Gmail doesn’t recognize any combination of words or numbers after the “+” sign.
 3. Whenever you get any spam message just click on the “Show Details” link to expand the email header and find out the email address to which it was sent. The images below show a test which I did with a “+” sign on my email address.
 4. If you had signed up according to the step number 1, you will be able to find out who gave your email address to the spammer.
Use this to find out which websites are selling your email addresses, check out their privacy policy and sue them if they lied. If you found this useful, don’t forget to share it with others.
I don't know if there is a similar code for other email providers, though.

Photo: Michal Zacharzewski, SXC

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Photos for Your Website

Blog posts and websites without photos sometimes look drab. I admit, there are times when I don't even read the whole post. I just look at the pictures.
That is why blogs and sites which have photos usually have an edge over those that only have text in them.
But what if you suck at taking pictures? Or if your pictures aren't appropriate for your particular post? Or if you don't have a camera at all?
No problem. There are thousands of photos over the web.
However, you can't just copy a picture from a website and simply put it in yours.You'd have to contend with copyright infringement and royalties. In a worst case scennario, you can even be subjected to civil or criminal sanctions.

Good thing there are websites that offer free use of photos at no charge.

My favorite is Flickr Creative Commons.
Many Flickr users have chosen to offer their work under a Creative Commons license, and you can browse or search through content under each type of license.
 It has a huge collection of great pics, that is why I go to this site very often if I need a picture for my blogs.

Another website that I usually use for my pic needs is Photobucket. Its terms of service provide:
By displaying or publishing ("posting") any Content on or through the Photobucket Services, you hereby grant to Photobucket and other users a non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, worldwide, limited license to use, modify, delete from, add to, publicly perform, publicly display, reproduce and translate such Content, including without limitation distributing part or all of the Site in any media formats through any media channels, except Content marked "private" will not be distributed outside the Photobucket Services. Photobucket and/or other Users may copy, print or display publicly available Content outside of the Photobucket Services, including without limitation, via the Site or third party websites or applications (for example, services allowing Users to order prints of Content or t-shirts and similar items containing Content).
In short, the publisher of the photo has virtually relinquished his copyright. So anyone can use it for whatever purpose. But I tend to be wary of using Photobucket pics because some photos are obviously taken  from other sites as  well (presumably without permission).
My third favorite source is It has a collection of amazing pics, but the selection is limited. Here is a sample.

Another one is Stock.XCHNG. It claims to be the leading FREE stock photo site. However, you must sign up in order to use the photos in the site. But the sign up is worth it. 

Just a quick note: When using photos from the sites I've mentioned, please take note of the terms for their usage. It's only but proper. And hey, you're using their photos in the first place.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

What Happens to Swallowed Chewing Gum?

This question has been nagging mer for a very long time now. Obviously, I've had my share of swallowed gums (mostly because I had to avoid getting caught by my teachers).
The usual answers (e.g. it will stay in your stomach forever) are not acceptable to me, for obvious reasons.
I had time to search for the answer over the web, and the most satisfactory answer is by Mayo Clinic:
Although chewing gum is designed to be chewed and not swallowed, it isn't harmful if swallowed. An old wives' tale suggests that swallowed gum sits in your stomach for seven years before it can be digested. But this isn't true. If you swallow gum, it's true that your body can't digest it. But the gum doesn't sit in your stomach. It progresses relatively intact through your digestive system and is excreted in your stool.
In other words, you just poop it out. However, the explanation offered by Thunder Dragon may also be another plausible explanation. Here is the illustration:

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Mosquito Hearing

Heard about mosquito ringtones? says:
In medical science there is a condition called “presbycusis”, when most adults over the age of 24 lose the ability to hear high frequency sounds like the mosquito sounds. Some people know this fact and creating a mosquito ringtone so high schoolers and college students are able to receive cell phone calls and text messages even at the classroom.
Which means that a person loses the ability to hear high frequencies as he gets older. Therefore, a mosquito ringtone can be heard by the (young) student but not by the (old) teacher. But beware, I read that a story about a young teacher who reprimanded a student because the teacher, in her mid-twenties, heard the student's mosquito ringtone loud and clear. Needless to say, it was straight to detention for the student.
The technology is even used as an anti-vandal system to deter teens who like to hang out at malls.
I tried this out with my mom. When I played the mosquito ringtone, and she couldn't hear a thing. She thought I was pulling her leg. Only when she listened closely that she heard the high-frequency sound. Try it out for yourself.
You have great hearing and you are probably pretty young, rock on!

The highest frequency you can hear is: 18khz
Try the The Mosquito Ringtone and see how well you can hear
Photo: tanakawho, Flickr,Creative Commons

Friday, November 14, 2008

Mind block! Now what?

Sometimes, you desperately want to write about something but you simply just can't. It happens to the best of them. So what to do next?

Maybe Lorem Ipsum will do the trick. Generate a string of words and hope to the gods that someone doesn't notice that it's in Latin.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Donec auctor ullamcorper lorem. Etiam gravida vulputate lacus. Nam ultricies tempus ipsum. Quisque ullamcorper viverra libero. Cras sodales metus non sapien. Ut aliquam, felis id sollicitudin fermentum, metus augue scelerisque lectus, vitae ultricies arcu urna sed metus. Ut egestas. Donec eget tellus. Sed non elit ac pede adipiscing interdum. Etiam at erat eget erat pharetra vestibulum.

Generated 1 paragraph, 64 words, 447 bytes of Lorem Ipsum

Thursday, November 13, 2008

How to Add a Recent Comments List

Sometimes, reading the comments of a blog is half the fun, because you can follow the dialogue between the blogger and the commentators. Even better, I like to get into the mix and have a friendly discussion. That is why I prefer blogs that have a conspicuous Recent Comments list. Such a list is good for both the blogger and commentator because they can both keep track of the most recent discussions.
If you have a Blogger account and you want to have a Recent Comments list too, just go to Blogger Buster. You'll see there a box which asks ask for the heading, your blog address, the summary size, etc. Fill in the necessary info in the box. Click apply, and then click Add widget to my blog
You will then be directed to another page. Just choose the blog account, then click Add widget. It will then direct you to the layouts page. You'll then see the Recent Comments gadget in your blog.
Mine was placed at the top right side of my layout by default. Just place the Recent Comments gadget to wherever you want it to be and voilĂ ! You now have your own Recent Comments list.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Interactive Mirror

How cool is that?
But in reality, it's just one of those toys where you really enjoy playing with for about 30 minutes and never play with again. Much like the Elmo Live toy, or the ASIMO robot.
The mirror has a big potential though. It can be a huge advertising tool in the future.We'll see.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

My BlogMad is Now Working!

I finally got BlogMad to work. I joined about three weeks ago and added my blogs and immediately thereafter. But I hit a snag because I couldn't get my blogs to be activated. I put in the link in my blogs and emailed BlogMad about my problem to no avail. I tried again yesterday, with a different tack (I used the RPC method) and now my blogs are activated.  I can immediately feel the effect of BlogMad. So all's well.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Tracking Your Website with StatCounter

Aside from Google Analytics, another web tracker that I use is Statcounter. What is StatCounter? It is like a stripped down version of Google Analytics. But that is not necessarily a bad thing.
StatCounter is ideal for those who want to track their blogs or small websites. If you don't need complicated stats or conversion trackers, then StatCounter is for you.
It is much much simpler than Google Analytics, but it still gets the job done. But what I like about it most is that it churns out real-time results, unlike in GA wherein there is a one-day delay in the release of the tracking stats. I also like its visitor paths feature because it tracks the location of the visitor, as well as the pages that he accessed. Aside from these, there are many other features of StatCounter, which are listed here.
The downside is that a free StatCounter account will only have a log size of 500. If you want more capacity, you have to pay a monthly fee. But I personally don't have problem with this, since I have a Google Analytics acccount anyway, and I use StatCounter mainly for the real-time report.
If you are have a Blogger account, here is the step-by-step process of installing Statcounter.

Friday, November 7, 2008

What's New with Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a tracker which collect information about the visitors of your website or blog. GA shows you how people found your site, how they explored it, and how you can enhance their visitor experience. Improve your website return on investment, increase conversions, and make more money on the web.
I only noticed it about three days ago, but GA has a new look to it. I checked the Google Analytics blog, and here are the new features: 
Advanced Segmentation enables you to isolate and analyze subsets of your traffic. It is true on-the-fly segmentation of visits so that you can create powerful filters with a few mouse-clicks.

Custom Reports are reports you create, save, and edit to give you a specific view of your data. You can choose the information and metrics you want to see, organized in the way you want to see it, by using a drag and drop interface to populate an Analytics report.

Motion Charts add sophisticated multi-dimensional analysis to most Analytics reports.
The New Account Management Dashboard makes it easier for you to manage and monitor your account by providing simpler navigation between accounts and profiles and displaying a dashboard of key performance metrics upfront upon login.
If you haven't signed up for GA yet, but are interested, you can click here for a step-by-step process of  setting up you GA account. Once signed up, you may be a little intimidated by all the figures and stats on the screen. Don't worry. You can go here for more info - it has a very instructive video for beginners.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

NBA Fantasy Update

As predicted, the NBA fantasy website screwed up. I joined two leagues in the NBA website for good measure. And now, both leagues are lying dormant as of this writing. The drafts were did not take place, leaving the managers of both leagues dumbfounded. Next year, I'll definitely stick with Yahoo.
New Orleans phenom Chris Paul is having another fantastic start, with phenomenal assist numbers and great across-the-board numbers. Philadelphia's Elton Brand, ranked 6th-10th in pre-draft rankings, is struggling with his shooting percentages and turnovers. He clearly has not fully recovered from last year's injury. Among the rookies, Miami's Michael Beasley and Chicago's Derrick Rose post impressive numbers. Although Beasley will probably have better numbers at year-end because of the volatile guard situation in Chicago.
In a somewhat related news, the Wall Street Journal reports that Joseph Abboud will be providing the 30 NBA head coaches with suits, sport coats, dress slacks and ties. Methinks that Joseph Abboud is taking advantage of the fact that NBA coaches unlike other sports coaches, wear suits. Good for the clothing line if the coach wearing the suit is suave like Pat Riley. But if it's the likes of Stan Van Gundy, forget it.

Monday, November 3, 2008


If you are registered to vote but are not decided if you will vote or not, maybe this will help.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Parable of the Subprime Market

I got this from an email. There's a lesson to be had in this story.

Once upon a time a man appeared in a village and announced to the villagers that he would buy monkeys for $10 each.

The villagers, seeing that there were many monkeys around, went out to the forest and started catching them. The man bought thousands at $10 and, as supply started to diminish, the villagers stopped their effort.

He next announced that he would now buy monkeys at $20 each. This renewed the efforts of the villagers and they started catching monkeys again.

Soon the supply diminished even further and people started going back to their farms.

The offer increased to $25 each and the supply of monkeys became so scarce it was an effort to even find a monkey, let alone catch it!

The man now announced that he would buy monkeys at $50 each! However, since he had to go to the city on some business, his assistant would buy on his behalf.

In the absence of the man, the assistant told the villagers: "Look at all these monkeys in the big cage that the man has already collected. I will sell them to you at $35 and when the man returns from the city, you can sell them to him for $50 each."

The villagers rounded up all their savings and bought all the monkeys. They never saw the man or his assistant again, only lots and lots of monkeys!

Now, let's talk about the stock market...