Google outsourcing comments to Digg?

Social networks are the big thing, it seems. Everyone wants to be in the middle of the people, piggybacking and collecting the output of our daily dramas and conversations. In addition to sites like Facebook and Myspace, other services are seeking to insert themselves into the middle of our online social lives in order to build their own networks. Of course, they do this by creating a compelling product and removing friction for users, but there are significant advantages to bringing large numbers of people to your product. With people comes traffic and advertising revenues and other network effects. While Facebook and Myspace are interesting anthropologically-speaking (boy, has dating changed), I have been more interested lately in some of the companies trying to stake out the high-value ground by reaching out to the rest of the web, services like Disqus or IntenseDebate, that effectively centralize blog commenting by connecting any blog that uses their service into one larger network.

With all the rumors about Google acquiring Digg, the web’s perpetual frat party, and with Google experimenting with Digg-like features in its search results, I was surprised to notice how the Official Google Reader Blog outsources its commenting system to Digg. I don’t recall Google supporting a third party service quite like this before. Do they use other web services they do not own?

Official Google Reader Blog

Each of the official Google blogs look pretty different from one another in terms of whether comments or trackbacks are enabled, so maybe each project manager gets to decide how they connect to other services, as well. Google Reader and Digg share some things functionally, in terms of providing a mechanism to collect valuable social data on what people are interested in (what gets the most stars and diggs, what is shared the most), which would naturally lead to more personalized and relevant search. Also, by including a Digg commenting link, the Google Reader Blog provides a sure-fired way to generate more attention to what improvements they’re making. The more high profile the project, the more likely to have Digg comment links?

Official Google Mobile Blog

Other official Google blogs like the Google Webmaster Central Blog, and the Google Mobile Blog support the usual Blogger commenting system. I don’t know if it means anything, but it does bear notice.

Charlie Munger: “all reality has to respect all other reality”

From an interview with Berkshire Hathaway’s Charlie Munger, the most clear and concise argument for the liberal arts education (previously called “the Humanities”) I have ever seen:

Although I am very interested in the subject of human misjudgment — and lord knows I’ve created a good bit of it — I don’t think I’ve created my full statistical share, and I think that one of the reasons was I tried to do something about this terrible ignorance I left the Harvard Law School with.
When I saw this patterned irrationality, which was so extreme, and I had no theory or anything to deal with it, but I could see that it was extreme, and I could see that it was patterned, I just started to create my own system of psychology, partly by casual reading, but largely from personal experience, and I used that pattern to help me get through life. Fairly late in life I stumbled into this book, Influence, by a psychologist named Bob Cialdini, who became a super-tenured hotshot on a 2,000-person faculty at a very young age. And he wrote this book, which has now sold 300-odd thousand copies, which is remarkable for somebody. Well, it’s an academic book aimed at a popular audience that filled in a lot of holes in my crude system. In those holes it filled in, I thought I had a system that was a good-working tool, and I’d like to share that one with you. And I came here because behavioral economics. How could economics not be behavioral? If it isn’t behavioral, what the hell is it? And I think it’s fairly clear that all reality has to respect all other reality. If you come to inconsistencies, they have to be resolved, and so if there’s anything valid in psychology, economics has to recognize it, and vice versa. So I think the people that are working on this fringe between economics and psychology are absolutely right to be there, and I think there’s been plenty wrong over the years.

Rather obvious, but it has deep implications: “All reality has to respect all other reality. If you come to inconsistencies, they have to be resolved.” All fields of study, especially as relates to human behavior, are connected with one another. The separation exists only in our minds where we naturally reduce everything to smaller separate and comprehensible components in order to somehow interpret the workings of the whole. But, make no mistake, an elegant and interconnected whole exists.

Kindle: Let anyone safely email your Kindle

I love my Kindle. I use it nearly every day. Even though there are many books I can’t get on it, I prefer to read this way now, so I usually just move on to something I can read on the Kindle. Take note book publishers!

I’d like to use it more for other things, but the web browser is limited. One cool feature is that since every Kindle has an Internet connection and an email address you can email yourself documents that will be converted and sent to the Kindle for 10 cents (unsure on why the cost unless it’s to throttle network-crippling usage). Also, your Kindle will only receive messages sent from a sender whitelist, so you should not receive spam. Unfortunately, this means you have to add various friends and colleagues to your Kindle whitelist if you want to receive documents from them on your Kindle. If you have a lot of friends or colleagues this is a pain in the butt and will require ongoing management. There’s an easy way to liberalize access, which should still prevent spam:

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Preventing collisions at intersections

I’ve seen several people writing about Tom Vanderbilt’s thought-provoking, Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us) . Every few pages there is a good idea that leads you down some mental rabbit hole. I have highlighted passages and dog-eared pages on the Kindle every time I sit down to read it. The universal experience of driving has turned us all into amateur psychoanalysts navigating complex social interactions, so the book’s popularity is understandable and says a lot about how much is going on while we’re just driving.

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Daily reads with feeds

Last Friday I was reading through the monthly archives at Matt Webb’s excellent and erudite Interconnected blog. I especially enjoy his brief book reviews and reading recommendations, which I follow religiously as he reads 100+ books a year, most of which I have never heard of before.

Anyway, he created an RSS feed to read Leonardo Da Vinci’s Notebooks (1,565 pages) on a daily basis in easy to digest chunks. This is a great way to read lengthy material that is not presented as a linear narrative or in chapter form. The Notebooks are perfect for this as would be any sort of diary or journal. For other daily content, I recommend subscribing to the Pepys Diary, which provides several different types of feed content based on what you would like to glean from the material.

There is also a service, DailyLit, which specializes in delivering daily book content via email or RSS. There are many public domain and copyrighted works available and you can customize delivery with options like receiving updates only during the work week or at certain times of the day, etc.

Make money for someone special as you surf

As an Amazon Prime member, I buy a fair amount of stuff on Amazon, especially Kindle books and MP3’s. With free 2 day shipping and $3.99 next day shipping, it’s too easy to buy things on impulse.

One cool program Amazon created is their affiliate program called Amazon Associates , where people can create links with their associate ID that when clicked will pay a percentage (around 6%) if the click results in a sale. The associate program is very popular among bloggers as it gives you one more way to make money off something you do anyway, like recommend books.

I see a lot of popular bloggers like VC blogger, Paul Kedrosky, who use this and it occurred to me that while I appreciate the book or product recommendations, wouldn’t it be better to award this benefit to someone in my immediate circle? In other words, shouldn’t a nice Amazon commission on MY purchases go to someone I actually know and care about? Someone who might really benefit from it rather than some Venture Capitalist out West who I’ve never met? It’s really just a matter of substituting the Amazon associate ID’s at the end of the URL. After a quick search, I found a Greasemonkey Script that does this.

Now, whenever I load any Amazon link anywhere in my browser the Greasemonkey script rewrites the link and inserts my friend’s associate ID. If I click the link and buy something my friend gets a 6-10% commission.

I would not recommend using your own associate ID as you cannot make commissions on your own purchases. Of course, if you got your friend to use your Amazon ID and you used his ID, then you might both be able to make reciprocal purchases.

It’s very easy. Here’s all you need to do:

  1. Make your friend get an Amazon Associate ID.
  2. Install and use Firefox as your web browser, if you haven’t already.
  3. Install the Greasemonkey Firefox Extension
  4. Install the Amazon URL rewriting Greasemonkey script
  5. Edit the script and add your friend’s associate ID.

That’s all there is to it. Now any time you buy anything from Amazon, your friend or loved one will get a nice percentage, which can add up over time.

In the future, it might be nice to add a feature to the script to rotate through a group of Amazon associate ID’s from friends and assign one to each link at random to make it more interesting. Or, you could see about finding Amazon associate ID’s for any charities that participate in the program.

Weird Blogger content flagging

One of my friends and favorite writers, Hollis Baker, blogs over at Blogger’s Blogspot. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way his site content was flagged as offensive, which makes no sense at all as his writing is strictly apple pie. In fact, he publishes many of the same stories in his hometown newspaper. I’m sure this mistake is fixable, however we decided to move his blog to his own domain, to avoid any future issues. So, we set it up in WordPress, imported the entries from Blogger, and now he’s good to go. I look forward to more enjoyable reading. Check it out for yourself by reading one of his best entries.

Shallow versus deep

Despite my desire at times to be otherwise, I am a shallow thinker – in the sense that my normal thought pattern is more lateral and connective than deep and focused. There are few things that I know deeply, but many things I understand superficially.

I hate not knowing something and yet feel satisfied once I have understood something sufficiently well to connect it to everything else I have stored away. Like most things, it is probably best to have a foot in both camps: the ability to process large amounts of information while capable of ‘going deep’ to focus when necessary.

In my experience, most people are in one camp or another. Yet, which mode is the most ideal?

A few things I have noticed:

  1. Shallow thinkers tend to be more social relative to their deep thinking peers. Many deep thinkers are even frustratingly asocial.
  2. Deep thinkers are rare whereas the world seems to abound in shallow thinkers.
  3. Both shallow thinkers and deep thinkers get something from the presence of the other. There is a certain excitable state that emerges when capable shallow and deep thinkers get together.
  4. Shallow thinkers seem more practical and action-oriented, while deep thinkers seem drawn more to the theoretical, or at the very least, they seem more content with the thinking versus the doing.

Which type of thinking are you most comfortable with?

I started thinking about this after viewing my Google Reader Trends:

From your 203 subscriptions, over the last 30 days you read 8,077 items, starred 491 items, shared 1 items, and emailed 45 items.

I am also reminded of the (humbling) description of the socionics type, the ENTP at Psychological Types uncovered from the Socionics people:

ENTps are very curious and process a lot of information, similar to a gold digger washing out the soil looking for gold. And ENTps know where the “gold” is. They are often well aware of some new and unusual discoveries. Such information is usually available to everyone who is interested enough to look for it, but not many people are that bothered. ENTps ideas are often based on these discoveries and for someone who didn’t know that these findings are already in existence, ENTps ideas may look very radical and original.

How to royally screw up your Google PageRank

A week or two ago, I fiddled around a bit with the inner workings of this blog, as I do from time to time. In trying to improve the search-engine-friendliness of the site, I made a few changes to the permalink structure in WordPress, but after a couple minutes I changed it back and forgot all about it.

Turns out Google had a big PageRank refresh over the weekend and I went from PageRank 4 down to PageRank 3. In trying to find an explanation for the drop, I realized that a large part of the site content was unreachable and generating 404 Not Found errors. Between upgrading WordPress and messing with the permalinks, the URL rewriting got hosed, which made nearly every post unreachable.

After much lamentation and gnashing of teeth, I did some research and found a nice solution in the form of the WordPress Permalink Redirect Plugin, which would resolve the issue and also help redirect some even older broken permalinks.

Now, all I need to do is keep blogging every day until I get back into Google’s good graces.


No vision: A missed opportunity with Flickr

Getty Images

As someone who occasionally needs to find stock photography for various design projects (stock photography is like design shake and bake), I’ve used several services ranging from free to painfully expensive (Getty Images). For some Getty Images photos, you might pay a few hundred bucks to borrow a high resolution print-ready image. Considering they might pay the photographer a couple bills and then get to resell the images as many times as they can at no additional cost, I imagine it’s a pretty high-margin business at the top end.

Unsurprisingly, as low-cost microstock photo providers like and Stock.XCHNG have emerged onto the scene, in true reflection of the actual costs involved, they’ve been quickly snapped up by larger companies like Getty Images and Jupiter Media. As soon as was acquired, the prices went up dramatically. With most of these microstock sites, the initial service is attractively priced and contributors are compensated adequately, then as they scale, prices increase and payouts decrease, as one would expect.

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