Thursday, September 14, 2006

An excuse for my lack of readers.

My Statcounter statistics are pretty poor. Only 16 unique visitors in the past thirty days. And I can't tell how many of them are me, because I clear my cache and cookies frequently, and my dynamic IP changes fairly often. I'm not really disappointed with my low hit-count, because my goal with My Forty Two Cents wasn't to commandeer the blogging world and snatch millions of daily hits. I write mostly because I find something that interests me, and if there is one other person who reads it and finds it interesting, then it was worth my posting.

My low hit-count is most likely a result of my infrequent posting, and possibly uninteresting or poorly presented material. I hope the last two aren't the case, but opinions are opinions, and I do the best I can.

However, I came across a possible mathematical explanation for my low amount of readers (of course, I appreciate those of you out there who do read). It has to do with Power Laws, which shows how there are very few blogs with the majority of readers, and more and more and more blogs with fewer readers.

This is contrary to our first instinct to attribute population distributions (in this case, blogs, and measuring the number of readers) to a Normal Curve, where most blogs have a moderate amount of readers, and very few blogs have many or little readers.

Of course, it made perfect sense. The blogosphere operates mostly through links, and the number of people clicking that link. So until this site is linked to by enough blogs, and those blogs are popular enough that enough people see and click those links, My Forty Two Cents will not have the exposure necessary to rise in popularity. And because more blogs link to popular blogs than blogs like mine, the popular blogs (commonly called "A-List" blogs) become more statistically biased in the power distribution, and all the other blogs in the "tail" remain with low numbers of readers.

This raises interesting questions as to the true "equality" in the blogosphere. Mathematically, there is a natural and inevitable hierarchy that forms between popular and unpopular blogs. Even a spectacularly well written blog (which I know mine isn't--it's sparse and often behind the times) will falter until there are enough links to it.

For me, and according to Technorati, nobody links to my blog. So my 16 unique visitors are all people who've clicked links I've posted places, such as sig lines in forums, or profiles on or AIM. And I really don't want to solicit links to my blog, or spam forums with it. Hit-count isn't important to me. I personally operate my blog as more of a public diary of interests than a media outlet.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Facebook Update: An Open Letter from Mark Zuckerberg

It was quicker than I expected. Facebook's creator Mark Zuckerberg released a blog statement announcing the addition of new privacy controls for the News Feed and Mini-Feed, saying:
"We really messed this one up. When we launched News Feed and Mini-Feed we were trying to provide you with a stream of information about your social world. Instead, we did a bad job of explaining what the new features were and an even worse job of giving you control of them. I'd like to try to correct those errors now."

The new controls don't allow Facebook users to completely hide their feed from other users, or hide others' feeds. However, what is shown in the Feed can be limited to a bare minimum of items that can hardly be construed as privacy-invasive. This include groups, events, networks, profile removals, status updates, notes, and photos you are tagged in. The Feed obeys the "rules" of profile and limited profile privacy settings, as well, so only people who can see your profile can see items about you on their feed.

It's not perfect, because you can't completely remove the feed. You can, however, remove individual items from your feed. So if you don't make changes too often, and you click the "X" next to them in the feed when you do, you can get pretty close to completly voiding the effects of the Feed.

Good job, Facebook community.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Facebook, I don't need to know that.

So MySpace is the rage right now, but the social networking site I use most is Facebook. It's got a clean interface, without all the flashy, wannabe-javascript-junkie crap on MySpace.

Or at least it used to.

The other day, Facebook implemented a new "feature." The Facebook News Feed. The Feed shows you when you log in a summary of every action any of your Facebook friends made over the last few days. It shows who joined what groups, who became friends with whom, who posted pictures of what, who changed what in their profile, and even who wrote what on anyone's wall. There is also a "Mini-Feed" in your profile, which shows all of your friends what your other friends are doing.

Simply put, I don't need to see this. Ever. If I'm curious as to who did any of these things, I'll take a look at that friend's profile and see for myself. Facebook, I ask you not to clutter my screen space with junk I don't care about.

A number of Facebook users have complained about an invasion of privacy, going so far as to make Facebook a tool for stalkers. I wouldn't say that much; the information is public, and posted on the web. Only logged in members who are your friends can see your Feed.

That said, I think users should at least be given the option of both disabling the Feed on login, and hiding the Mini-Feed from their profile. It isn't an invasion of privacy, but I understand why users (myself included) wouldn't want that much shown off so blatantly.

The Facebook communinity has responded; a number of protest groups have been created. I recommend joining Students against Facebook News Feed (Official Petition to Facebook). I'd also recommend signing the petition to revert Facebook back or add a hide option. And of course, express your complaints to Facebook's feedback page.

Even if you personally like the new Feed feature, for the rest of us, please help fight for the option to hide it. After all, that's what a community does.


By the way, Facebook Me!