Archive for February, 2005

Spamming problems on Del.icio.us; you don’t really need to validate your account

I was surprised to see, this morning, a sort of bookmark spam attack in one of my Del.icio.us feed (tag:writing). I had around 30 bookmark entries with user names like: rollofle500, rollofle502, rollofle503? etc. All the messages have been sent at a minute of interval with different tags, different topics and all linked to the same website: http://torrents.on.nimp.org/?u=rolloffle that redirect us to http://www.gnaa.us/. I think the attack have been performed with an automated script that worked like this:

  1. He creates an account with a random name and a random email address.
  2. He login to this newly created account.
  3. He post a bookmark with this newly create account and put random tags that he get in a special word dictionary created for this effect.
  4. Finally he restarts the whole process.

It seems that the administrator of Del.icio.us had deleted these users and entries. They probably have been alerted of the situation and deleted them on the spot.

The problem is that erasing all the entries hadn’t repaired the entire problem because their feeds have been infected and distributed to hundred of subscribed users.

We are in right two ask this question: Why this situation happened? The answer is ease: because their authentication is not working properly. You can post bookmarks without validating your account. This is the real problem and why the spammer had been able to perform this sort spam attack. Even if you see this message:

ยป A verification email has been sent. Please check your mail. If it does not arrive shortly, go to the settings page and ask for another verification email.

You can do what you wish with your account.

What’s the solution to prevent future bookmark spam attacks on Del.icio.us? They will need to upgrade their registration and validation system to prevent the new users to be able to post bookmarks without being validated by the system.

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Web texts editing: bold your key words term to increase the scannability of your articles

A trick I read in a Sun Microsystems article

79% of web readers scan pages instead of reading them word-for-word. How to increase the scannability of your blog’s posts? By bolding the key term of each paragraphs. This is an editing trick for web texts that I read in an article of Sun Microsystems.

It’s a really simple and evident thing to do when you think about it. So, I’ll start to apply the principle in my posts. The bold key words will be an addition to the new Technorati tags I added to each of my posts. Then my readers will be able to find where in the text these tags refer.

I wish that this new editing trick will be helpful to my readers. Personally I think that the text is really simpler to read. Now we know, in a second, what the post is about by reading the title, sub title and bold terms. Do you have the same feeling? Do you think that this is a good addition and will be helpful for you? Please leave me your feelings about it! The principle will be better with time because I’ll learn how to spot and bold the best terms.

So enjoy it and share your feelings about it!

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It seems that there are fewer connections between languages and mathematics understanding in our brain

How our brain seem to understand these two syntaxes.

I just finished to read Mathematics is a language of is own pointed out by MathForge. “A team of scientists led by Rosemary Varley at the University of Sheffield, UK, studied three people who had extensive damage to the left hemisphere of their brain, the so-called Apollonian half that includes linguistic skill areas”. They observed that those people were able to understand the difference in mathematical sentences of the type “7 – 2″ and “2 – 7″ but were not able to understand differences in language sentences like “The boy chased the girl” and “The girl chased the boy”.

The experience is really interesting. It seems that the brains zones involved in the understanding of basic mathematical sentences are not the same as the one of the traditional, written, languages. Good; but what about more complexes mathematical sentences? Everybody who tried to demonstrate theorems of any sorts in algebra or set theories know that this is not just a question of syntax understanding but more a question of imagination.

By example, if you work in the field of computer sciences, you know what formal specifications of software are. This is a method used to prove that your software is consistent with himself, it help to clarify, without ambiguities, the specifications of your software (it help for many other things but I’ll not discourse on the subject of software format specification in this post). Basically, formal specifications are a way to write a software program (his specifications) in a formal mathematic syntax. Now, my question is: if I got these brains damage cited up there, will I always be able to read and understand a specification wrote in Z (a formal specification language)? Personally I have doubts because I think that there are more things involved then just mathematical syntax understanding.

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What is blog about? A quote of John Hope Franklin will give you a part of the answer

“We must get beyond textbooks, go out into the bypaths… and tell the world the glories of our journey.”

I got this quote some times ago from A Quote a Day’s feed. I remember that I directly linked it to blog’s purpose. It’s sure that blogs can be other things but his essence is in this quote. We need to tell the world the glories of our journey. We don’t need our journey published, no; we just need to tell it to anyone who want to ear it. The best medium I know to do this is incontestably: Blog. It’s exactly why blogs are so interesting, because we can get beyond textbooks, go out into the bypaths.

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A new way to promote your blog’s feed – A market trick for your feed’s content

Today I receive an email from Max. He ask me my opinion about an idea he had while reading my recent posts on feeds. There is the idea he shared with’ me in his email message:

Lately you’re writing good stuff about RSS feeds and their capabilities. So, I decided to express to you an idea I had about it. [...] I’d like to know your opinion. [...]

Some days ago I wrote that I don’t care if someone read my blog via browser, feed or whatsoever. Well, I changed my mind: RSS readers are special. They’re not casual readers; they decide to subscribe your site because they want to follow it. So, why don’t give ‘em more? This could be a way to promote RSS feeds use. [...]

Here’s my idea: why don’t add to ordinary blog feeds another one, as a supplement? Many newspapers have a Sunday supplement, or similar. After all, a weblog is a kind of newspaper, for some aspects. The supplement should be strictly related to the blog, but not necessarily with the same arguments. It could be a monothematic dissertation, or simply something you don’t want to publish on the blog because not coherent enough.

The following could be the main goals of this concept:

****Only supplement feed subscribers could read those extra contents. –> Promotion of RSS feeds use, special treatment to those. ****

****Extra feed subscribers could be invited to contribute to this “magazine” via email or maybe by co-author account –> Interaction. ****

Technically I think it’s easy to do: just open a new blog, modify the template to not show the posts, then publish, promote the extra-feed, and it’s done.

Do you know if somebody has already done this?

Anyway, let me know what you think about it [...]

Many interesting ideas are presents in this email. This (new?) idea is, at my sense, a really good way to promote your feed. Personally I think that feeds are more important then blogs. Why? Because they create the more direct link between you and your readers. In this sense, it’s always a good idea to promote it. This added value to your feed will certainly help to insist your blog’s visitors to subscribe to it. But there are two rules that you need to take into account: (1) you need to promote the fact that there are an added value to your feed’s content and (2) you need to basically have a good content to make this added value a real one at the eyes of your readers.

This said, I have an interrogation about this idea. As beautiful as it is, there is no archive of this feed only content. The added content will only be archived by your readers and possibly online services like Bloglines and NewsGator. It’s why blogs are interesting: everyone(thing) can keep an archive of it; Google cache, MSNSeach cache, etc, etc, etc. This is not a real problem in itself; it’s more a personal question that the bloggers will need to ask to him: do I need to put a part of the content I create available to only some subscribed readers or to all the Internet users? Depending of your goals you’ll answer differently to this question and finally find the whole idea more or less interesting.

There would be some technical problems to create such a feed, especially if you are using services like Radio, MovableType, Blogger, MSNSpaces, etc. The idea is to aggregate new content to existing feeds when users request the feed’s new posts. The only service I know that do this sort of thing is Feedburner. They give you the possibility to add things to you feed’s content. By example, they give you the opportunity to add a Del.icio.us feed to your blog’s feed. If you would like to implement this idea you’ll need to create such a service. This is not really complicated in itself but its works and times.

Finally, depending of your goals, you’ll find this idea really interesting or just another way to market your feed. The idea is really good; the only question is how it can be useful in your case.

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This blog is a regularly updated collection of my thoughts, tips, tricks and ideas about my semantic Web researches and related software development.


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