Joho the BlogSeptember 2005 - Page 3 of 12 - Joho the Blog

September 22, 2005

robots.txt question

[Note: This post is part of the Be Dumb in Public program, of which I am a lifetime member.]

There’s lots of good info on the Web about how to create a robots.txt file that will keep the major search engines from spidering your site. But I haven’t found instructions aimed at my precise level of ineptitutde. So, here goes…

Let’s say my “”directory exists at root level. That is, my host won’t let me go any further down than that. I see plus all the other directories I own. Let’s say I want to put in a robots.txt file to protect the contents of, but I want to leave the rest of my directories open to search engines.

1. Is this the right robots.txt content:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /

I’m especially concerned about getting the slashes right.

2. Where exactly do I put the robots.txt file? At the same level as the directory, where I can see all my directories? Or inside the file? Or elsewhere? Thanks in advance. And have pity: I was a Humanities major.


[berkman] Susan Crawford on One Web Day

“The popular myth is that the Internet was bult to withstand a nuclear attack, but it may not withstand the depredations of the telcos and cablecos.”

Her idea: A year from today, we have an Earth Day for the Internet. No particular political agenda. Big tent. “A first step towards recognizing the fragility of this resource.” She says, “The key pain humans feel is alienation.” She wants One Web Day to help counter this with connection.

Her mother said, “But on Earth Day, you can plant a tree!” So, what can we do on OWD? It has to be participatory. E.g., connecting villages. More hotspots. “One Day on the Web.”

David Isenberg suggests giving Netizens a few seconds each on a big screen in Times Square. Mary Rundle suggests MTV might be a good partner here.

Susan wants it to be sponsored by many private and public organizations. But how neutral is it going to be? The group discusses. Susan says that just as Earth Day expresses some concern about the Earth, OWD should express some concern about the Net. The positive about the Internet is its ability to connect people and give them voice. What threatens those values threatens the Internet. Should Verizon have pause before joining? Maybe, but they should jump on board if only for digital divide reasons. (“It’s tree planting,” says Erica George.)

Derek Bambauer comes up with the idea of using the Google globe — the one that shows much of the Earth lit up with connectivity [Ack! I can’t find it.] — as a logo. [I like this idea a lot, in part because there’s an implicit message in the fact that so much more of the north is connected: Light up the world.]

We discuss many other ideas. Susan says someone had the idea of state paintings: Everyone in a state gets to add a few pixels to a painting. [Emergent painting!]. Erica suggests an oral history project. Any page that wants to support OWD can put up the logo and link it to some contribution to make the Net better. Derek suggests that OWD also remind people of the repression occurring. He mentions having an “adopt a blogger” program for bloggers in rights-challenged countries.

The first One Web Day is scheduled for September 22. [Tags: ]


The New Is

I’ve posted the write-up Ars Electronica required of its presenters. It’s called (overly-dramatically) The New Is. It’s a slightly different take on what’s becoming my same-old topic: The effect of the change in principles of organization currently underway. This piece focuses on the dismantling and re-mantling of knowledge. Here’s a snippet from near the beginning:

From Aristotle’s way of thinking came a history of thought and politics that made certain assumptions: Because knowledge and being are fused, just as there is only one reality, there is only one structure of knowledge. The best people to put this structure together are experts. Because of the economics of parchment and paper, experts filter what we need to know. They become gatekeepers, priests of knowledge.

The digital age undoes all of these assumptions, changing the nature of knowledge and even of meaning itself. We are entering the age where to understand something is to see how it isn’t what it is.

(The note of paradox is there because paradox was the theme of Ars Electronica. (VOICE IN HEAD: And if the theme of Ars Electronica were jumping off bridges, I suppose you’d do that too…)) [Tags: ]

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Bogus Contest: Internet MadLibs

[The following is from the latest issue of my (free) newsletter, JOHO:]

Bogus Contest: Internet MadLibs

At the Emmy’s, Jon Stewart apparently dubbed in network-acceptable words to passages they have found too hot (= interesting, real) to allow on air. This suggests a type of Internet MadLibs. Can you improve on the following famous Internet quotes?

Information just wants to _____ – John Perry Barlow

The network ___ the computer – Scott McNealy

The future is already here. It’s just not ______ – William Gibson

…I took _____ in creating the Internet – Al Gore (See here for the actual quote in context.)

“The Net interprets censorship as damage and ________.” John Gilmore

On the Internet no one ____ you’re a ____ – Peter Steiner

As always, all entries will be routed around as if they were damage…unless we can ascertain that they came from a genuine dog.

(Feel free to post responses in the comments section.) [Tags:]


World blogging guide

Rebecca MacKinnon at Global Voices gets the scoop on Reporters without BordersHandbook For Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents being released today:

The Reporters Without Borders Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents is not for any of those purposes. It is the first truly useful book I’ve seen aimed at the kinds of bloggers featured here at Global Voices every day: People who have views and information that they want to share with the world beyond their own national borders. They are often people whose perspectives are not well represented in their own country’s media, and certainly not well reported by the international media. Sometimes they are political dissidents, but usually not. Mainly, they are just ordinary citizens with a passion to communicate with the world – and no easier way to do so than by writing, podcasting, and posting pictures on their own blogs.

The Handbook for Bloggers is for people who want to be serious participants in the emergent online global conversation: How to set up a quality, credible blog. How to get it noticed. And.. if you’re in a country where there government might not like what you’re saying, how to avoid getting in trouble when you by-pass the information gatekeepers and talk directly to the world.

She then asks a series of trenchant questions… [Tags: ]


September 21, 2005

Design your own postage stamps, Finnish style!

In Finland, you can design your own postage stamps. Just don’t tell the Boobs4BourbonSt guy. In fact, don’t tell me.(Thanks to Juha Jokinen for the link.)



HotOrNot + Google Map + Wikipedia

TopSpotOrNot lets you rate the satellite images of various spots, combining HotOrNot, Google Maps, Wikipedia and Google images. All it needs is Flickr and to be 100% Cool Site Compliant! (Thanks to wanagi for the link.)


Me on Tagging on All Things Considered

NPR’s “All Things Considered” last night ran a three minute commentary of mine on tagging. You can hear it here, thanks to Michael Shook. [Later: Here’s NPR’s own version.]

Here’s a near-transcript:

Google is smart, but here’s a tough problem for it. Let’s say you type in “africa,” “agriculture” and “grains” because that’s what you’re researching. You’ll get lots of results, but you may miss pages about “couscous” because Google is searching for the word “grain” and doesn’t know that that’s what couscous is made of. Google knows the words on the pages, but doesn’t know what the pages are about. That’s much harder for computers because what something is about really depends on what you’re looking for. That same page on couscous that to you is about economics could be about healthy eating to me or about words that repeat syllables to someone else. And that’s the problem with all attempts by experts and authorities to come up with neat organizations of knowledge: What something is about depends on whose looking.

Now a new tool is emerging on the Internet that helps us find things based on what we think they’re about. It’s called tagging, and without intending to, it’s shaking up our ideas about how knowledge is organized.

For example, take a look at the site that kicked off the new wave of tagging, It’s called Delicious and its web address is Let’s say you come across the Moroccan couscous web page and you want to remember it. So you upload its Web address to your free page at delicious that lists all the pages you’ve saved. Then delicious asks you to enter a word or two as tags so you can find the Moroccan page later. You might tag it with Morocco, recipe, couscous, and main course, and then later you can see all the pages you’ve tagged with any of those words.

That’s a handy way to organize a large list of pages, but tagging at delicious really took off because it’s a social activity: Everyone can see all the pages anyone has tagged with say, Morocco or main course or agriculture. This is a great research tool because just by checking the tag “agriculture” now and then, you’ll see every page everyone else at delicious has tagged that way. Some of those pages will be irrelevant to you, of course, but many won’t be. It’s like having the world of people who care about a topic tell you everything they’ve found of interest.And unlike at Google, you’ll find the pages that other humans have decided are ABOUT your topic.

That’s the real change in about-ness. Consider another tagging site, Flickr — that’s f-l-i-c-k-r without the e — where you can upload photos you want to share with friends or the world. You might tag the snapshot you took of the guards at Buckingham Palace as “London” and “Buckingham.” But I might come across it and tag it as “Big Funny Hats” because I’m working on a paper about fashion mistakes. You and I don’t have to agree on what your photo is about. This takes classification and about-ness out of the hands of authors and experts. Now it’s up to us readers to decide what something is about.

Not only does this let us organize stuff in ways that make more sense to us, but we no longer have to act as if there’s only one right way of understanding everything, or that authors and other authorities are the best judges of what things are about. And that’s a big lesson. [Tags: ]


Halley’s heart is good

But we knew that already :)

Keep getting weller sooner, Halley. [Tags:]

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Boobs for Katrina

Irina Slutsky interviews Justin Ross, the person behind Boobs4BourbonSt, a site where men and women can donate topless photos of themselves and visitors can only see the girls/guys going wild if they forward proof that they’ve donated at least $5 to the Katrina relief effort. So far the site has raised over $13,000. Snippet:

Irina: …What kind of job you want after graduation?

Justin: I’m leaning toward something in government. Not necessarily a congressman or senator, but I think I’d really enjoy being an aide or assistant to one. Maybe work my way up to working in the president’s cabinet. Most of those positions aren’t really places for idealists, though.

Justin notes that “each boob picture has raised, on average, $213.” [Tags:]


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