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).

19 Mar

Ideas for Blogs

Here are some ideas for writing for a blog that I came up when brainstorming for ideas for my blog. It may or may not be helpful for a writer’s block.

A Numbers List

A numbers list, e.g. “10 Bestest Games Evar”, “20 Weirdest Science Facts of 2004”, is an easy and lazy way to write. It requires an paragraph of text per each thing, at best. A lot of these are basically link lists — something that wasn’t too useful even back in 1996.

Worst case scenario: You essentially need to come up with a generic title (be sure to include “best” and “you’ve never heard of” somewhere in the post title) and then a template in which you fill in the blanks for each bullet point in the post. It’s like doing Madlibs with yourself. Just put the game/movie/social networking site in the template, repeat 20 times and you’re go.

Best case scenario: You come up with an idea, which is original. Even if the actual idea wasn’t too original, you will balance that with quality reviews of each thing you include. Or, you could try to narrow your scope so you will provide at least a somewhat useful list for a certain topic. In practice, your goal is to create original content even if it merely described other content.

How to improve: If you are writing about best games you saw last year, you include images or even better a video on YouTube. I find it very convenient if I can instantly view footage of a game and changes are I’ll revisit the post just because all the videos are in the same place. Even if you are writing of a subject everyone has an opinion about, you could try to entertain with your opinion.

Blog Dialogue

Many blogs quote other blogs and then continue on the subject or critique the original quote. This is easy, as long as you keep in mind you need to have something to add and that you need to provide something more to read. Simply paraphrasing someone else’s text to give a heads-up to your readers about some other blog can be acceptable in some sense but it is rarely captivating enough in its own right. Obviously, the dark side of this is blatant stealing of content, links and ideas.

Worst case scenario: Your blog consists of a stream of links to other blogs. The readers will be bored of filtering through all the random stuff. Unless they are clones of you — in which case they will be very interested of everything.

Best case scenario: You disagree or agree with someone’s blog. You quote the parts of the original post and include your own thoughts (“Sucks!” and “Ditto!” is not acceptable). Generally, after reading your post the discussion has advanced. Or, in case you are just posting a heads-up to your readers about another blog, after reading your blog your readers don’t have to refer to the original blog to keep on track.

How to improve: Even if it’s only your opinion, you need to have a solid base of your argument (well, duh). Your content needs to be interesting and entertaining in its own right — otherwise your blog will be a a mishmash of random links to other blogs.

Write about a Hobby

You could try to educate the masses about something you already know about. Everyone has a hobby, which means everyone knows about something that is interesting enough to keep as a hobby. Obviously, not everyone has the skill of teaching. Nonetheless, most people can provide a bit of help to people who wish to know more about, say, programming or guitar playing.

Worst case scenario: You write about a trivial subject everyone with half a brain knows. Or, you write about something you don’t quite get. And the writing is sloppy, your goal is just to bash the keyboard until you have created any content at all for your blog. In addition, you just copy other people’s content.

Best case scenario: You write about something cool you came up with, tell how you did it and are ready to answer questions. Your goal is to share your knowledge or at least the end product.

How to improve: Again, more content is better. Provide images or videos. A lot of tutorials and instructions on the ‘Net are good enough for their writing alone, but it is quite rare to see good illustration for a geometry problem or a good video of some handicraft technique. One thing I have noticed are videos of someone doing something trivial on the computer — for a computer-illiterate this can be very helpful. It requires a bit of effort to produce good visual aids but for the reader it’s worth its weight in anything he or she considers valuable.

Write about Your Day

This is the archetype of all blogs, writing about what you did today. It is acceptable to the readers only if you are very good at writing — or are ready to expose interesting details of your life. Don’t be alerted, exposing those interesting details can be as easy as reviewing a movie you saw last night.

Worst case scenario: Twitter. Livejournal.

Best case scenario: Your writing is extremely good, humorous or you simply pour your heart into your writing. Or, you provide a honest opinion on a movie, a warning on a brand of bad hardware you bought or give useful information about living with a rare disease.

More Ideas and Examples

18 Feb

A simple statistics plugin for WordPress

Here’s a very simple plugin for WordPress that keeps track of view counts of individual pages. It is not intended to be a complete statistics solution. Rather, the main purpose is to provide something for those empty spots in your site layout.

Here is a sample graph (page views for this site):

For a better example, see the site stats page.


  • Keeps day-by-day based page view stats using the database
  • Outputs a clean histogram
  • Includes easy functions for those who are better at blogging than programming


Copy viewcount.php in /wp-content/plugins and enable it in WordPress options. Enter the path of the directory you want to the graph cache to be located in the options page (Options > Viewcount). The plugin will then start counting page views.

Note: the plugin taps into the_content(). Pages that do not use it will not update the stats! See below for a workaround.


To display statistics, there are a few functions.


get_view_histogram() returns a URL to a PNG image.

If $page is unset or is -1, the data will be the combined page views for all pages. $web20 specifies the height of a “Web 2.0” style reflection under the bars. The rest of the parameters should be easy enough to figure out.

You can use the function like this to display the statistics for the current post (or page):

<img src="<?php echo get_view_histogram($post->ID); ?>" />

You can also display a top list of page views with get_view_count_list().


$excludeid is a comma-separated list of post IDs (note:the list is not escaped so do not use any values in there that come straight off $_GET or so!). $type is either “post” or “page”, empty string returns both.

You can exclude the page that is currently viewed like this (shows the top five pages from the last 30 days excluding post ID $post->ID):


To display a Popularity Contest style percentage (the percentage of traffic a post has compared to other posts), use get_popularity($page=-1,$days=30,$format=’percent’). if $page equals to -1, the current page ID will be used automatically. $format can be either ‘percent‘ or ‘float‘ — ‘percent‘ returns a string with the percent sign, ‘float‘ returns a floating point number between 0.0 and 1.0. The following will display a percentage of page views for the current page during the last 30 days.

<?php echo get_popularity(); ?>

To display all time statistics, you can simply do this:

<?php echo get_popularity(-1,99999); ?>

This will display all time statistics, unless your blog has been online for more than 274 years.

To get the list of most viewed pages, use the function get_top_pages($days=30,$limit=10,$type=’views’). $type is either ‘views’ or ‘popularity’.

You can request more functions!




You need the GD library installed for PHP.

I created the plugin to see how that is done. Therefore, crap code ensues (see the warning about excluding posts above).

The plugin will count views for pages and single posts only. Page views from users who are logged in (e.g. you) will not be logged.

The plugin taps into the_content() to count views. You can use vc_update_counter($id) to manually update the page views (or, you can be creative and count very different stuff with it – just make sure the ID is not in use by real pages).

In case you think the graph is wrong: the bar height is normalized. This is just so there is interesting variation in the height.