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Books, ebooks & Squashed Bugs

6 Oct

ebooks!

Do I hate them? Affirmative.

Have I used them? Negative.

Does that make me a grouchy elderly person? Probably not at this current moment in time because I’m only 19, but I would say it indicates that in the future I will be like those old grannies that refuse to use Microsoft Word because they already spent years learning wordperfect back in the 90s.

I just can’t disregard the fact that I love old crumbling books (and I love that old book smell. Unashamedly), I love dogeared pages and I love holding a BOOK in my hand. Now some words that spring to mind to rebut my love of real books in this ebook debate: modernisation, progress, advancement, technology, convenience, development. Ok fine. As an ezine article notes:

Ever since the dawn of civilisation, the progress of mankind has been aimed towards one main purpose and that has been to make life easier and more convenient…Books and newspapers are the latest additions to the paperless online juggernaut

(Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/7068840)

And yes, I concede, in a changing media landscape the ebook is just another way of getting things NOW, getting things quicker and of course…like the iPod…not having to lug a whole library around with you. So yes Mr. eBook, you win points for practicality. But surely you only need one book at a time? And maybe, as noted in the Rise of e-reading,  eBooks encourage more people to read. But why do I feel a little stab of offence in my wee-little heart, every time I see an ebook reader on the train? Perhaps the pros and cons will help:

The Pros and Cons of the eBook Race, According to Myself and My Research:

PROS:

  • Cheaper (the price is usually around half of the physical book price)
  • Faster access (can purchase and download straight away)
  • No more long lines at the book store!
  • No more overdue library book fees
  • Convenience
  • Promotes more reading amongst those who would not usually read (according to a U.S. Survey)
  • Allows easy access to a wider range of material for those who are already avid readers (see here)
  • Creation of a new market for online eBook businesses

CONS:

  • Requires electricity (the benefits of a good ol’ book, was that you could have it in your bag, for all those times when technology fails us – I agree with this gentleman)
  • Doesn’t have the same generational/family importance – a memory passed down the ages
  • Libraries die
  • Book shops die
  • Paper factories die
  • The social environment created in book stores and libraries of like-minded, book-loving people is…dies
  • The ‘old book smell’ phenomenon fades into an oblivious of myth and legend
  • We spend even more hours of the day staring at a digital screen

So ok. I think I’m coming closer to the reason why eBooks make me cry. Some facts:

  1. To purchase an eBook, you usually won’t pay more than 50% of the physical book price (so they have an unfair advantage already!)
  2. 43% of Americans aged 16 and older have read an eBook (so it’s definitely on the rise)
  3. There are more than 4 x the amount of people reading eBooks now, than 2 years ago (so it’s definitely, definitely, on the rise)
  4. 42% of ebooks are read on computers, 41% on digital readers like Kindle or Nooks, 29% on cell phones and 23% on tablets

I think my major issue with this whole eBook phenomenon, is that it’s obviously on the rise = people seem to enjoy the convenience and cheapness = so I feel like I’m on the losing side. And I don’t like losing.

I just feel like we have excused every technological development with:

The thinking behind progress being that a better life is an easy life.

(Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/7068840)

But has technology made our lives easier? The stress of having your employer and work contacting you whenever he wants via call, txt, email. The suffocating rise of reliance on facebook for notifications, event invitations, birthday reminders, phone numbers, friendship connections. As if our eyes were not already overwhelmed with torturous over-exposure to screens of all kinds – work computers, home laptops, televisions, GPS screens, mobile phones, tablets, iPods.

And if all progress was to make life easier, then what is the point of art? Maybe eBooks make me sad because they no longer carry that ‘work-of-art’ aspect that real books just exude…a little bundle of joy, with a tangible cover – is it cloth? Is it paperback? Can you knock on it? Is it textured? Does the title stand out so you can feel the letters with your fingertips? Not only is a solid book a piece of art, but it carries so much heart (or soul, as this guy says) a note you scribbled here or there, a folded page, a slightly torn page, a coffee stain, a squashed bug…(yeah sorry if that’s icky, but at least it has character! Squash a bug on your eBook reader because you’re to engrossed in what you’re reading to carefully flick it off, and see if it has the same effect when it slides off your plastic protective cover!)

References:

(image from wikimedia commons)

http://vulpeslibris.wordpress.com/2012/05/25/why-i-hate-ebooks-by-daniel-roush/

http://libraries.pewinternet.org/2012/04/04/the-rise-of-e-reading/

http://ezinearticles.com/?The-Ebook-Phenomenon&id=7068840

http://digitalpublishingaustralia.org.au/2012/04/05/lies-damned-lies-and-ebook-statistics/

Search Engine Comparison

15 Sep

Duckduck what? Contestant number one:
DUCKDUCKGO

 Contestant number two, this crazy thing:

INSTAGROK

Contestant number three, the one & only:

GOOGLE

So, it would definitely appear that one of these three search engines is doing a wee bit better in the marketing department (though probably this is also due largely to functionality as well as pop-culture) than the others. ‘Google’ already, of course, has me held captive to the biased opinion that ‘google is THE way to search’ things on the internet. The very brand ‘google’ has already transcended it’s mere functionality as a search engine and assimilated itself into the everyday vocabulary as the verb that in fact describes the act of searching on the internet. See even there I was tempted to write ‘the act of googling’. So with google’s seemingly unfair advantage, it will be interesting to see – biases aside – which search engine stands to be the best when put to…


THE TEST

Search topic: ‘Mexican Drug War 1980s’

Result Comparison:

  • Google: As is often the case, the top few (in this case, the top 2) results were Wikipedia pages. This is no doubt due to the ‘user popularity’ (very generally speaking) of  Wikipedia which is all linked in with incoming links, traffic, keywords and back links. (please note: google is not as simple as displaying ‘most popular searches/visited sites’ see analysis below for details). The next few results displayed were highly relevant and academically sophisticated for my topic of research – news articles and journal articles.
  •  DuckduckGo: Like google, the top 2 results were Wikipedia pages. This seems to point towards Duckduckgo having a similar algorithm to google, at least for specific historically/intellectually/politically-based topics such as my chosen test topic.  Interestingly the next 10 results were a mixture of news articles – again similar to google – and personal, non-commercial blogs. The blog aspect I find interesting, after clicking the links it was obvious that these weren’t as highly frequented pages as say, CNN Website or Wikipedia. DuckduckGo varies from google in that they must have some other indicator in the algorithm that predicts the most relevant results for users.
  •  Instagrok: WOW. Ease up Instagrok. What an amazingly (complex) search engine! The results are displayed in a sort of mind-map format which allows the user to essentially keep ‘searching’ related keywords by clicking on suggested keyword links displayed in the mind-map bubbles. Interestingly, the sites connected with the top few links on the ‘Key Facts’ sidebar, were in no way as dominant as DuckduckGo or Google. None of the suggested pages were from dominant research sites like Wikipedia or major news organisations. This probably means that Instagrok, as it’s focus is on being a ‘way of learning’ is set to find highly relevant material that discusses any given topic specifically, rather than broadly.

Result Analysis:

  • Google: Results were expected. As usual, wikipedia cropped up at the top. This is potentially risky when considering that most people when looking up  a broad overview of (in particular) political or historical topics may bypass google completely and now go straight to Wikipedia, as it is understood that Wikipedia will probably be the first few results anyway. The same applies for the next few results, which all link to high profile organisations or websites such as CNN or PBS. What was useful was the journal articles and political journal sites that google introduced me to.
  • DuckduckGo: Two useful things that DuckduckGo offered me that Google didn’t: a more visually effective teaser to the top result content – in the form of a small dialogue box sampling the wikipedia introduction to my searched topic as well as a small graphic. Secondly, Duckduckgo linked me to a few – thought slightly more obscure – very personalised accounts or reflections of my topic in the form of blog posts, which didn’t even come close to the top results in google. In this way, I found that Duckduckgo was actually a lot more diverse in it’s results; ranging from highly academic, high profile, to the ‘everyday’ account.
  • Instagrok: Was at first very distracting and difficult to navigate. However, isn’t this the general opinion people have of switching from Windows to Mac? And of course, we all know Mac’s are highly superior…The major problem with Instagrok I believe, is simply that we are not accustomed to it. However for research and learning purposes, it is very useful in that the layout encourages one to think deeper about their topic and explore it’s various aspects in a very clear manner – by charting the path through these bubble-like circular links. The sidebar that highlights ‘keyfacts’ is also very useful and effective for topics of a similar nature to the one I have used.

Ranking

A very difficult thing to do. In general, I would still rank

  1. Google: due to it’s results as being a general overview of, well, everything…?
  2. Duckduckgo: because, unlike google, it does give priority to lesser known or trafficked online material that is still of direct relevance to search.
  3. Instagrok: because it is only great for researching and exploring a particular topic, in a very particular kind of way. If you want to know about the French Revolution, yes it will give you a great overview and journey through the surrounding key facts and elements of the French Revolution…but if say, you type ‘Vintage shoes for sale’ it will get all confused and try and bring you the history of vintage, and of shoes, and of economics. Not particularly useful for day-to-day life. But a great educational resource.

Interestingly, if I was to rank them based solely on my chosen research topic:

  1. Google: would still be number one because of the high quality of its results which all led to legitimate and sophisticated sites.
  2. Instagrok!: because of the way I can navigate through my chosen topic and explore its various elements effectively by making use of the suggested bubble links.
  3. DuckduckGO: It isn’t particularly bad…it just wasn’t anything special/didn’t offer anything special in comparison to google and instagrok for my given topic.

Setting up a default search engine (I use CHROME):

google:

Automatically is the homepage and default search engine! But if it isn’t…can use the same steps as below for DuckDuckGo.

Duck Duck Go: 

Quite straightforward. You simply got to the DuckduckGo homepage, right click the URL box, click on ‘Edit Search Engines’, select ‘duckduckgo’ and click ‘make default’. BAM.

Instagrok:

To be quite honest, I don’t know if you even can have it as your default browser. The search engine page itself offers no obvious option and google won’t tell me how to either…interesting. Perhaps I can apply the same steps as Duckduckgo and see if that works!

Managing Comments and Spam

10 Sep

Easy steps to ensure you avoid spam and unwanted comments!

This helped: http://www.megansweb.com.au/handy-hints-3-managing-spam

1. Install an Anti-Spam Filter! (Luckily, with wordpress Akismet already comes with the standard set-up) ‘Bad Behaviour’ is another useful plugin. I’ve chosen to stick with Akismet as my blog traffic is fairly minimal anyway.

2. Set up DISCUSSION SETTINGS so that Spam can be moderated and monitored!

3. Know how to recognise spam (Often the content of the comment is not directly linked to the post or it contains dubious links to websites unrelated to the content of your blog post)

The purpose of spam on a blog (like email spam) is to direct traffic to their website by surreptitiously persuading you to click on their link as – in a moment of egotistical flattery – you are curious as to who in the world is interested in reading a blog that you thought nobody read.

I did fall for the first few ‘followers’ and comments on my blog. Until I clicked the link (vulnerable, naive new blogger as I am) and realised that they just wanted me to buy their b-grade framed landscape photographs as mother’s day gifts.

Damn.

Nobody loves my blog.