“If I Were President…” Of A Social News Website

Posted by: Rea Maor In: Uncategorized

“If I Were President…” Of A Social News Website

As has been pointed out in many places, “social news will always suck”. We see Digg, Reddit, Slashdot, and other train wrecks, where the quality always drops to rock bottom and the Lowest Common Denominator rules. But if we create a social news site with a fresh template, what would we do to avoid heading down the same path? Here’s some ways I think I could make it suck less if I started a social news site…

1. Charge a membership fee. Something modest, like a dollar per month.

This fixes (or helps to limit):

(a) Spammers.

(b) Astroturfers.

(c) Sock puppets.

(d) Poor service due to lack of funds for servers/admins. A dollar per month per user ensures that the resources will always scale with the community.

2. NO “Self” posts!

This fixes (or helps to limit):

(a) Ego-stroking circle-jerks.

(b) Attention whores.

(c) People who use the submission box for their personal blog.

(d) “Does anybody else blink?”

3. NO duplicate submissions – period! AKA The Robot9000 approach (see link at the end). (Note: Better make sure you have an awesome site search/ archive interface for this one!)

This fixes (or helps to limit):

(a) Reposts of stale old garbage coming back every six months.

(b) Flooding the front page with one story.

(c) User amnesia.

(d) Having the same flamewar over the same old troll post over and over again.

4. “Smart” submission filter screens stories to limit multiple submissions of different sites pointing to the same story. For instance, once five links with the keywords “Gulf”, “oil”, and “spill” have been posted, allow no more submissions with those keywords for another 48 hours or so.

This fixes (or helps to limit):

(a) Flooding the front page with one story.

(b) Mob hysteria.

5. Idiot filter – rejects titles with various annoying patterns and memes.

This fixes (or helps to limit):

(a) OMG! WTF! BAC0NZ!!!!!!!! U HAZ 2 C THIZ! MOST AMAZING EVAR!!! MIND = BLOOOOOOOWWWWNN!!!!!!!!!1111one one eleventy one!

(b) Titles that do nothing to describe the content they’re linking to. “Here’s a video!”

(c) Flat-out trolling headlines.

6. Meme filter that applies to both submissions and comments. Once it’s been posted 99 times, that’s it, it’s not funny anymore. Forever.

This fixes (or helps to limit):

(a) Stupid in-jokes that never go away for ten years.

7. A block feature. Users, just for their own view, can block any one of comments from a user, submissions from a user, comments containing certain words, or even submissions containing certain keywords.

This fixes (or helps to limit):

(a) Flamewars that go on forever.

(b) Trolls.

(c) Seeing the same story over and over when you’re sick of hearing about it.

(d) Mob hysteria.

8. Repeat site submission filter. You can only submit, say, five consecutive links to the same base domain in a row, and then you have to submit something from somewhere else before submitting that URL again.

This fixes (or helps to limit):

(a) Spam.

(b) Astroturf.

(c) Shills.

9. Offer REAL REWARDS for “good karma”! Not just a point score, but tangible benefits in exchange for being a good site citizen. These could include being promoted to moderator, being awarded one’s own personal page onsite, being awarded extra moderation votes, getting one’s own subfolder, a waiver of some submission filters, and (at a certain score) a waiving of membership fee for as long as you continue to score high. This last would be well-worth the trade-off, since top-tier citizens add more value to the site than the measly dollar-a-month.

This fixes (or helps to limit):

(a) Trolls.

(b) Burn-out.

(c) The feeling that the site just uses you without giving back.

For a related one-blog brainstorm, see Randal Munroe’s ROBOT9000 manifesto. Note, 4chan just cut the /r9k/ folder.


Eight Signs That Your Web Designer Is Full Of Baloney

Posted by: Rea Maor In: Internet and SEO

Eight Signs That Your Web Designer Is Full Of Baloney

I’d have to say that from my point of view from within the industry, some of the world’s biggest, most over-inflated egos belong to web designers. If you get one even half the time that has their head fastened firmly on their shoulders, you’re lucky. And I’m not just talking about penny-ante freelancers you hire on a bid site; I mean big, professional companies with clients on every continent still send out designers who blow half the rules on this list. We all go on about the many kinds of rotten clients and clueless users there are out there, but how about the people who claim to be professionals – notice nobody dares to criticize them?

1. Doesn’t know the difference between ‘web design’ and ‘graphic design’.

Yes, web pages are partly visual in nature. To run it past that point any farther is to risk having your site drawn – literally – by a third-tier Photoshop-slopper who will then cut the image of the page into chunks to display on your site. Went out of vogue in 1998.

2. Spends more than five minutes discussing fonts.

Helvetica. There, we’re done. There’s about ten fonts out there that are safe for all platforms and browsers, only three of which should even be considered for the web page’s main body content. For some bizarre reason, “web typography” has become the domain of the most stuck-up, overbearing divas to ever walk on water, all of whom demand that a chorus of cherubs scatter rose petals in their path wherever they go. And they have no shame in making the most pompous ass of themselves possible, for basically making what should be a one-minute decision accessible to any two-year-old who can chew with his mouth shut.

3. Hangs the moon and stars on Adobe software.

Anybody who raves about Adobe’s “high-quality” software is to be regarded with suspicion. Adobe is a ruthless monopoly who drove everyone else out of business; they are the standard today for this reason alone. True designers use Adobe if there’s nothing else around.

4. Designs for Internet Explorer ONLY.

Yes, these people still exist. They’re dying out, but not quite fast enough.

5. He insists on using nothing but minimalist elements on pure white background, or he walks.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, black text on white space is popular. But it’s not the case every single time. Some sites do better with a black background, some do better with more visual input, some do better with more style and pizazz to them. Some sites are better off looking like a space ship or an old movie theater or a hacker terminal. Anybody who insists on making every site be a clone of the first one they teach you to do in design school is an insecure coward who can’t do anything else.

6. The first sentence out of his mouth contains the phrase ‘intuitive interface’.

Like web typography, ‘interface design’ becomes a deadly sin if you over-think it too much, and more than five minutes is ‘too much’. There are books and blogs and magazines and videos devoted to nothing but yapping on and on about interface design, and we know precisely zero more than we did know before they all started talking about it.

7. He’s critical of Google, steers you to Bing.

Shill. Stay far away. Even people who work for Microsoft use Google over Bing.

8. He does not have a concept of ‘character encoding’.

So he puts Unicode elements on a page declared to be Western ISO 8859-1. He pastes your Norwegian text into a page using Western Windows-1252. When you ask him about character encoding, he goes “What?” No, really, when you go to a web page and see those black diamonds with a question mark in them or those square blocks with a four-digit number in them, and the rest of the web looks normal and you’re looking at a page that should be in your language? That’s the web designer’s fault.


A Very Unfunny Reminiscence On LulzSec

Posted by: Rea Maor In: Misc

For a little while there, a cyber-mischief group by the handle of “LulzSec” rose like a fungal infection on the world news media and died out like a fungal infection after a hit of Monostat-7. Don’t believe for a minute that they’re disbanding – their website is still up, their Twitter feed is still active, and despite a flurry of witch-hunting in Great Britain and the US, the group is still very much at large. “Disbanded” is just what they want you to think!

By the way, in case you’re wondering where the group might be rooted, here’s a possible clue. Take the LulzSec logo:

LulzSec logo

…and here’s the Reddit Gold Member Lounge from reddit.com, a special section which you can’t access without being a paying gold account member:

Reddit Gold lounge screenshot

…hmmmm, a common theme? LulzSec incidents certainly got a lot of ink on Reddit while they were active. Oh, and both LulzSec and Reddit have a huge crush on Wikileaks. Just sayin’.

Anywho, LulzSec is just one more in a long string of Internet “hacktivists”, really teenage boys with too much time on their hands (like what teenage boy doesn’t?) running very obvious exploits on very clumsily-managed websites. In the end, nothing was changed, nobody paid any attention to the causes they were trying to raise awareness for, and the damages they did are easily repaired.

What a waste of time. While “hacktivist” groups do do some good in keeping the world’s security on its toes, for the large part, they do more harm to the causes they claim to support. So once again, the concept of a “hacker” is sullied and the serious efforts to forward political causes are set back by association with a bunch of jack-offs mooning the news camera for the attention.

In the end, not a damn bit funny.