27 Jun

Proposal: One-sentence News

Stop luring people on your trite news blogs with misleading titles. Sure, a mysterious or provocative title is a good way to get people interested, but it in worst case makes your blog (and you) look uninformed. Especially, when the first sentence of the news item doesn’t explain the inaccuracies of the main headline.

News should never be speculative and if that is the case, it has to be explicitly stated where the line between fact and fiction goes. Some news are meant to be taken as entertainment but that style of writing should not bleed to potentially important news items. At least I expect to get information from news, even if I just casually pick the interesting sounding ones.

I hereby give away another priceless idea: one-sentence news. That is, you do not need to read the full article after you have read the descriptive, 5-15 word headline. Maybe that’ll cut into the advertising profit for there are less visitors to your site from feed readers etc. but not providing full articles in a feed is yesterday. And if you really only write 20 words per article, well, I guess that could make it profitable if you divide your income by the amount of text you write.

Here’s an example: Popular Science reports “Genetic Material Found on Meteorite“. What went wrong? Take a guess. At the very least I expect to read about scientists finding very discriminating evidence on a meteorite with a blacklight, kinda like how they do it with dead hookers in CSI.

Even the subtitle right below the main title already downplays the sensational title and states “A meteorite in Australia has been found to contain component molecules of DNA”. And if you take the time to read the article, you’ll learn similar molecules that make up DNA are found on a meteorite (I bet a rather large percent of the molecules in your DNA most likely are entirely made on Earth). That’s like reporting there are organic molecules in space (look it up), and not explaining what “organic” actually means. Except in the end, right below the ad banner.

How could that be reported in one sentence and what are the benefits? First, you’ll deliver the exact same amount of information but quicker. “Similar Molecules as in Your DNA Found on a Meteorite”. “The Birth of DNA Molecules Could Have Been Helped by Completely Uninteresting Stuff on Meteorites Billions of Years Ago”. Hell, I don’t care if it’s a haiku. Just make it terse, informative and less stupid.

18 Apr

A Blogging Experiment

I’m going to try something that is not entirely original but still should be useful. I have found people often come across my page when looking for something with a search engine, yet the page they land on isn’t exactly what they were looking for. Or to say it in other words, I’ll try to help random visitors to find what they are looking for (or, you could argue this is some kind of search engine optimization).

At least Syd Lexia frequently does this on his page, albeit humorously (even though he does often answer a simple question as well as it can be answered). My idea is to either write about the subjects as much as I know about them or simply point out how to find the needed information.

For example, people are often looking for image re-targeting when they click their way to my post about a crap example of the seam carving algorithm. There are much nicer examples out there. I’d like the random visitor to know that so the time is not wasted when skimming through my writings.

So, expect more useless information about things that interest the random visitor (not you).

01 Apr

Get your act together, Mozilla

dailyApps writes:

Mozilla has finally lifted the curtains off Mozilla Addons that has a completely has a shiny new look and is simply amazing at the first sight
What do you think about the new Mozilla Addons site?

Frankly, I think it sucks.

I had to reinstall Firefox and when trying to download all the old addons I used to have, the dreaded addons site stopped the process instantly. First, I had to create a user for a site I have used for years with great ease.

Usually, I wouldn’t even think twice about that but I don’t have the Bugmenot addon installed because I have to log in the site first to download it. I went ahead and saw the trouble of typing in the information and checking my mail for a confirmation email and so on.

I found an addon I need and click the install button on the page, which has to this point been a two-or-three-click deal. Next thing I see is a completely nonsensical and technical error message (one with an error code with no explanation — on top of it all it was a negative number). I had to right click and save the XPI package on the disk in order to realize it’s actually a web page explaining the error I encountered.

The add-on you’re looking for is in the sandbox, which you do not have enabled in your user preferences.

Guess where the option is? Not anywhere near the user preferences. In fact, I can’t find it anywhere. And, I don’t really feel like reading through a forum or a well-hidden FAQ.

If a dedicated Firefox user like me can barely find enough energy to fight through the mess that the new site is, how can they assure the common surfer that addons aren’t that big of a hassle? Sure, the new site might be somewhat safer and somewhat less threatening to the normal visitor but that doesn’t mean it has to be an annoyance for everyone else. Also, I don’t care if this is just a temporary quirk.

At least Firefox 3.0 seems quite promising. Though, I can’t really agree with all of the thousands of blogs that are completely flabbergasted of the fact the next shipped release actually works. Or, that the bookmarking system doesn’t suck balls as much as the current thing.

I think the new user interface has some clever realizations. For example, the two drop down menus that are usually located next to the forward and back buttons have been combined into one menu. It simply has items above (forward in time) and below (backward in time) the current page that is highlighted in the middle. I also think the “Smart Bookmarks” (something that remembers the most visited pages) are a good idea, the most visited pages generally are the same pages as the pages in your bookmarks.

However, I think 3.0 also has some mistakes in the new features. While it’s great you can search the browser history simply by typing in words in the location bar, I think it’s not that clever that it’s always the page title that is the largest part of the results — I bet most users are very used to seeing addresses in there since it’s originally the address bar.

Also, there still is an annoyance I have wished didn’t exist since version 1.0. You can try it yourself: go to e.g. Google, move your mouse just a bit below the query field and type in the beginning of a query. Now, since Firefox remembers earlier form data it will show a drop down list of earlier searches. The catch is that since the mouse hovers over the drop down list, pressing enter will not submit the form but select the item that the mouse is hovering over. Not fatal but it can very annoying (everyone has to agree to some extent, any lost data is at least just a bit annoying).

Anyway, Mr. Mozilla, call me when you have removed the silly stuff from the addon site. Kthx.

30 Mar

Stupid Computer Ramblings (and Ikaruga)

It only occured to me yesterday that there’s a clear benefit in that I bought a new LCD screen a while ago. I leaned on the screen and realized the screen of course rotates 90 degrees flipping the vertical and horizontal axes.

Well, this is nothing new and I knew that was popular back in the days when screens were so small that there was a bona-fide benefit in a tilted screen: you could fit a preview of a A4 document on the screen with realistic dimensions.

I don’t do design work on my computer. But, for me realizing that old feature was a revelation: it allows playing vertically scrolling shmups properly. I it never occured to me that you could do that even though I knew some people simply tilted their TV sets on their sides (which could be harmful).

Long story short, I can be stupid and most importantly: Ikaruga kicks rear. It’s barely playable on Chankast (the better Sega Dreamcast emulator out there, which is not saying a lot) but the game is so awesome that who cares. It’s quite hard in any case, some invisible sprites hardly make it any harder.

Everyone and their mother knows Ikaruga is the best thing out there etc. but it also occured to me just yesterday only four people are responsible of creating it. Similarly, the game is only about 20 megabytes in size and even the game mechanics are very simple even for a late 1980s shmup (no power-ups whatsoever). It’s somehow very reassuring for the bedroom game maker. It’s a real shame the game isn’t available on the PC (it should be available for that Xbox Live Arcade thing this April — maybe that gives hope it could eventually find its way to the remaining few).