What does my A-Z autocomplete browsing history say about me?

I don’t know, but here’s what comes up when I type in each letter of the alphabet in my browser bar:

astros.com—my baseball team’s site (I’m not on the team, I just consider it “mine”)
boingboing.net—nerdboy blog
consumerist.com—consumer crusader blog from consumerreports.org
dirteetv.com—download site for the new Dizzee Rascal mixtape, which is great
espn.com—the worldwide leader
failblog.org—videos of guys getting racked in the nuts, etc.
houston.astros.mlb.com/index.jsp?c_id=hou—another way to get to astros.com
icanhascheezburger.com—LOL cat HQ, parent site of failblog.org  
http://jameskillough.wordpress.com/—a blog I’ve read a couple of times and should read more often
kottke.org—a blog I read too often
liveleak.com—oddball video sharing site
http://www.oregonlive.com/—a site I probably went to once while working on a blog post
people.com—source of inspiration for my rejected letters to People Magazine
http://quotient.net/—a software development firm in Austin, TX
reebok.com—the atheletic wear giant’s newly redesigned site, which I helped write
statesman.com—the local rag
upscapital.com—site I wrote for an interesting UPS subsidiary
vanguard.com—thinking of starting a self-employed IRA here
zynga.com—the company that is making millions turning play into work 

Top Oblogatory posts among web crawler robots


  • Reprogram your feeble human masters with this easy script
  • Floating point calculation FAILS!
  • Seduce human women as well as any programmer
  • Cat asked for thoughts on Steve Jobs
  • Vacation ideas for when we finally take over the world
  • Viral Video: DavPro X300 goes to repair bench
  • User spoofing methods that will “CAPTCHA” your heart
  • Manage stress levels with an object-oriented to-do list
  • New possible explanation for “stickiness” of porn sites
  • Yeti gives no-word answers


Trending now, rendering you hopelessly passé


TREND: Cloud-sourced social-driven bookmarklet sharing
FIRST TO MARKET:flobber.com
OTHER PLAYERS: chillibee.nz, rumpld.com
OUR TAKE: There’s bookmarklet sharing, and there’s cloud-sourced social-driven sharing, but until now, no one has figured out a way to combine the two. Too bad it’s like three days too late.

TREND: On-demand local coupon deal generation sourced by real-time social graph keyword analysis
FIRST TO MARKET: sunch.com
OTHER PLAYERS: blurbleblurblelittlestar.com, snitchn.com
OUR TAKE: Although many thought it couldn’t be done, no one dared to say it couldn’t be done, possibly because no one really knew what the hell it was. And now it’s a reality. Supposedly.

TREND: Spontaneously data-stripped infographic renderer for the secondary urban parking locator app development market
FIRST TO MARKET: happyparkpappyappy.com
OTHER PLAYERS: ohfuggit.com, xtrakrispee.com
OUR TAKE: While it remains to be seen how important the secondary urban parking locator app development market will be a week from now, it’s importance today is impossible to overstate, and the increasing prevalence of spontaneously data-stripped rendering generators in this space is only likely to make it even more so, at least through Tuesday.

TREND: Heat mapped social click tracking reverse link aggregation curation
FIRST TO MARKET: itsybitsyspider.com
OTHER PLAYERS: monkeyplaywright.com, yukko,com
OUR TAKE: Users have been crying out for some way to discern which reverse link aggregator has the most relevance for their personal heat mapped social click tracking, but until now have had to rely on crowd-sourced word-of-mouth relevance ranking engines, so the addition of robust curation algorithms into the space should make this a fecund segment through lunchtime and beyond.

Inside baseball: HP and Netflix homepage re-dos

HP rolled out a new homepage. What interests me about it is how they’ve reduced the main top navigation to two links:

But that’s at the expense of a ginormous “mega drop-down”:

In essence, site nav is a modal pane. You could see it as an acknowledgment that a user who is looking for something on another page has already “mentally” left the current page. The big nav pane is a transitional layer between where you’ve been and where you’re going. 

Now here’s the new Netflix user homepage:

Nice and clean, n’est ce pas? What caught my attention here was a design meant to scale laterally—whether you have a 12” notebook or a 24” desktop monitor, it’ll handily scale to fit the width of your screen. The game here is to put as many videos in your face as possible. Many sites worry about losing what’s “below the fold.” Netflix said, hell, if we can’t do anything about making monitors longer, we can sure as hell take advantage of all those wide-ass monitors out there and grab more shelf space that way:


Cool Web tricks: AdKeeper converts fixed page to scrolling page

I posted about AdKeeper a while back, so I went to their site to check up on them. OK, mostly I was just checking to see if they were still open for business, which they appear to be. 

But something on their redesigned site caught my eye: the home page orients newbies to the service. Like similar pages on other Web app sites, it’s a short, fixed-length page with just the minimum info. But at the bottom of the page is a grey bar with an up arrow on the right side (circled in yellow below):


Click that arrow and the grey bar slides up, revealing a scrollable ad gallery beneath it. Pretty elegant way to present simple, essential information while preserving the capability to show a browsable breadth of offerings, all on the same page:

What other sites feature this functionality? None come to mind at the moment. 

Earlier: AdKeeper: could the tail wagging the dog make it a success?


How much electricity is this blog post wasting?

A Google data center cooling unit near DallasThe web is archival in nature. Once stuff gets posted, it tends to live forever. Sure, sometimes personal websites get taken down and their contents purged. But with UGC-driven sites like YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, et. al., the assumption is that content, once posted, will be accessible forever after that.

And that kind of archiving takes energy—a lot of energy. Sure, you’ll read all sorts of stuff about how the industry is building more efficient data centers, and that’s true. But what’s also true is that more and more data is being created and stored all the time.

When I upload a stupid video of my cat, it causes remote processors to run and remote hard drives to spin. Whenever someone (usually me) watches that video, same thing. Now, after I get sick of watching my video, it just sits there in storage, probably across several mirrored data centers. Maybe people will view it on occasion. When they do, once again processors will run and hard drives will spin to access it and stream it. But more likely, it’ll just sit there, ignored.

Incrementally and on its own, the energy required to keep it alive is minimal. But cumulatively, all the stupid videos, tweets, posts, photos, etc. that I and everyone else upload require a lot of hardware storage. And hardware storage, even when it’s not being actively accessed, requires a lot of power. Most of this power is spent keeping the hardware climate-controlled. We’re spending billions of dollars, millions of barrels of oil and mountaintops worth of coal keeping petabytes of stupid cat videos and their equivalents available.  

See, even if the data is never accessed again, it has to be stored somewhere, on the chance that it will be. We tend to think of data as virtual—something that has no physical manifestation. But it does. It takes up physical space. The industry is building more and bigger data centers all the time. And unlike libraries—their nearest non-tech analogs—data centers run 24/7.

I’m just using user-generated content as a convenient example. It’s likely that UGC only consumes a fraction of the storage required for the web compared to, say, data generated by science, business and industry. But I’m really talking about all web content, and the assumption that once something is posted, it must be stored forever. That’s clearly not true. Should every Tweet, every Facebook post, every corporate press release be accessible indefinitely?

So, what’s the answer, smart guy? I dunno. But maybe certain classes of content should not be assumed to need to live forever—maybe users should have the option to designate data as having a finite lifespan when they post it. Maybe sites should routinely ask users—via auto-generated emails—for permission to archive content that has been stored for X number of months or years without being accessed. At that point, users could be given the option of continuing to have the content stored.

But is anyone really going to want to read this five years from now?  

We have met the enemy, and he is HTML 5

T’ank God! I was beginning to think I was going to have to start the week without something to worry about! 

Dear Technology Answer Man:
Will HTML 5 really steal my children?
Petrified on the Webs

Dear POTWs:
Yes, HTML 5 will steal your children, but it will bring them back after sterilizing them and rendering them unable to procreate. Hope this helps.

NYT: Web Code Offers New Ways To See What Users Do Online

Web monkeys need love too

Really interesting, funny and instructive post about the incredibly high level of programming that goes into sites with amazingly sophisticated functionality that we take utterly for granted. One reason we take them for granted is because they are largely “free” (if you don’t count giving up tons of personal and behavioral data as costing anything). Nothing minimizes the value of something like giving it away for free. But that’s what so much of the web economy (webonomy? Please, God, no!) is built on.

So also thoroughly covered here is the inordinate influence a site’s vocal and entitled power-user elite has over its evolution. These are people who don’t want to pay a dime for anything, but will start loudly questioning the personal integrity of the folks running the site over the slightest change from “how things used to be.” I’m not talking about valid concerns, like Facebook’s recent privacy fart, but beefs on the level of, “why can’t users upload and share avatar clothing of their own design anymore? when did i move to nazi germany?”

But the main reason we take the sites we use for granted is because they work so well and so seamlessly 99.999% of the time (they call that six nines availability, don’t you know). And that’s because a lot of smart people built them in the first place and are working crazy hours fixing stuff and putting out fires all the time, but we just never see it. The level of performance we expect for the sites we use is always increasing, but so is the level of sophistication we expect. The buttload of computing power and the innumerable person-hours behind it all is invisible to us, if we even think about it at all.

I believe programming is one of the most direct means of creative expression in our culture today, and only becoming more so. Learning to program is a recent secret aspiration, but I’m not at all sure my brain is cut out for it. You should give this a read, at least until it makes your eyes cross. It may give you an appreciation of what’s going on behind the scenes at some of the sites you use.


They're canceling the web just in time for my site launch

The web is dead according to Wired, via kottke.org. Now they tell me! But if that chart is showing traffic in terms of bandwidth versus individual requests for content, I got some problems with the thesis. The effect of one dork torrenting an illegal dupe of “The Expendables” would dwarf 500 people surfing news sites.