Virtuous cycle

Bartlomiej Owczarek weblog

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Nokia 6230i: good phone, awkward mp3 player

It?s been almost a week since I have a new toy, Nokia 6230i, which replaced my old mobile. The latter was Nokia 3210, which got into so desperate shape that my colleagues started to hint that it became a shame of a phone. So I got myself a new one.

I?m not a gadget maniac, but when I eventually get my hands on a new gadget, I tend to play with it a lot. And so far I like my new Nokia:

Nokia 6230i

At the very start I took a look at Motorola’s RAZR, but then decided to stick with Nokia; clamshells don’t look durable.

Then, having set on the brand, I was considering buying the cheapest model – looks the same for me, and I don’t care much about phone anyway – but then I thought that I could find the phone to be used as an audio player as well, in order to economize on number of devices I have to carry around. That was the reasoning behind choosing 6230i. (read more…)

Writing well

One of the advantages of having a blog in English and suffering from an urge to be always correct is that, sooner or later, you feel compelled to do something positive about your writing skills. Even if you, like me, spend days and nights producing doubtlessly English content, when you start to write an article you find that a very different language competence is required.

As it is apparent to everyone reading this, I have not made so much progress as far as this competence is concerned, but at least I found some resources, namely two of them, which I can recommend. Both are quite dated. Fortunately time doesn?t matter much in this faculty.

Elements of Style, ?the little book? was originally written and published privately by William Strunk in 1918. Its age takes away little from its usefulness but allows to read the first edition free of charge, e.g. here. As Wikipedia notes, the value is not only in the rules it contains, but in the examples it provides to support them.

Donald Hall?s Writing Well is the second and the last position that the library of the Warsaw School of Economics is able to offer on the topic of style. I only started reading; this book is not so ?little?. Halls? description of a cliché helped me realized that most of what I read daily is composed exclusively of it:

?Little cinder blocks of crushed and reprocessed experience (…) familiar and seem to mean something, yet are meaningless (?) prevent true contact?

In contrast to Strunk, Hall takes a broader perspective to the act of writing. Of particular interest is the understanding of how good writing is distinguished by giving the reader impression that the author is truthful in what he communicates, as opposed to feeling of indecisiveness and dishonesty in bad writing. Technicalities aside, this point struck me as a key and in the same time probably the main difficulty in writing the way that people will find enjoyable to read.

Wikipedia has its place

Wikipedia received a great deal of criticism lately. The poster child of the new Internet became a favorite target for anyone having an issue with the noise generated by web2.0 prophets. Nicholas Carr fired a resounding salvo in October with his ?Amorality of Web2.0? article.

Using Wikipedia as a representative of the emerging ?cult of the amateur?, he examined some sample deliverables of this new mode of production. Compared with work of the professionals, in this particular case Encyclopedia Britannica, the results were rather unimpressive, to say the least. Clearly, the exhibits made it hard to imagine that any respectable researcher would use Wikipedia as an authoritative reference.

At that point I felt an urge to write a longer comment to this topic. It seemed ridiculous to me to even consider Wikipedia as an authoritative reference and compare it with professional work. Regardless of whatever the Wikipedians might be saying, I felt that no one serious would expect authority from Wikipedia. That said, lack of authority doesn?t negate in any way how useful Wikipedia can be. (read more…)

A tribute to Supermemo

SupermemoI’ve been using Supermemo for close to 1o years now. Can’t think of any other program even close to that.

Supermemo is based on a scientific theory of how human memory works. Basing on that theory a method was created, which allows predicting when the once memorized item will reach the stage when it is likely to be forgotten. (read more…)

Tracksy under-reporting traffic?

TracksyI started using Tracksy on 4th December. It is a free traffic monitoring tool. It provides everything I was looking for, including lots of useful reports and a fast interface. On top of that, Tracksy doesn’t put any ads on my website. Yet I have a small problem with it: the number of reported visits doesn’t seem correct. (read more…)

Google short on capacity?

Google errorCracks are beginning to emerge on Google’s myth of unlimited processing capacity.

Some highlights including my recent experience:

  • Search query containing lots of “inurls” and other modifiers returned an 403 error and suggested that my computer has been taken over (I don’t think it has)
  • Blog search returned an error as well
  • Sitemaps verification didn’t work due to “server is busy” issue, try again later
  • Google Analytics is closed for new users due to capacity issues, as everyone knows.

I hope it’s only me. Otherwise it would be a pity – after all infrastructure strength used to be considered as one of Google’s key competitive advantages.! – first thoughts has just made public that it joined the Yahoo! family.

The first impression upon hearing the news this morning – things are moving really fast for these guys. Close second would be some kind of uneasiness about where it’s heading. (read more…)

Social bookmarking: an uncharted territory

CmaptoolsSocial bookmarking subject provides a good opportunity to introduce concept mapping as a tool that you can use when making first steps in an uncharted territory of knowledge.

Instead of trying to describe the approach, I will take you through my concept map of social bookmarking. Should you wish to try yourself afterwards, you will find suitable links at the bottom of this post.

Below is the concept map that I drew for the social bookmarking topic: (read more…)

Should you dump for Blinklist?

It was only a couple of days ago when I became a happy user of My happiness did not last long, though, even if I thought I solved my bookmarking overload problem once for all.

Sometimes when you are hiking in the mountains, you can climb a mountain for half a day, then finally reach the peak… only to see the next one somewhere far above. I got kind of similar feeling when after couple of hours after posting about I saw this comment from Mike:

Since you are talking about taking bookmarking to the next level, I thought you might like to try our new service No worries, you can just import all of your links from to give it a try. To compare BlinkList vs. you can just check out this page:

I started reading around first. Awful consulting bias towards researching instead of actually doing something yourself.

Finding a Blinklist review is hardly a challenge. Mike has been doing a heck of a job in terms of viral marketing. More difficult would be to find a reviewer unimpressed by Blinklist:

  • Techcrunch: “Worthy addition to the ranks of social bookmarking services, and one of our favorites”.
  • Blended Edu: “MindValley has created an impressive product with so many applications that learning communities–from grade school to corporate training?will be looking for ways to integrate BlinkList into their curriculum”
  • TipMonkies: “It doesn?t have as many users as some of the other services, but considering the quality of the service, and the obvious level of attention which it gets from its developers, I?m sure this will change soon. Definitely an A+ site, for sure”
  • Talkings of a Tyrant: “To conclude this rather short blog post, I hereby announce that I?ve switched over to Blinklist! No more ugly-looking for me!”

Reading these and a couple more got me interested in some Blinklist features that I thought I could like. They included ?starring? links to mark them out (I use this functionality in Gmail, though not very often), making links ?private?, and the social features in general, even if for me they are hardly a ?must-have? at this stage.

As a result, I eventually found myself ready to give Blinklist a personal try and sacrifice part of a weekend to evaluate it.

Fast forward: I?m still curious how useful in practice are Blinklist’s social features. The reason I don?t know it yet? Before you have the opportunity to play with them, you need to learn the basics, which in my case took a lot of time ? as a matter of fact more than it should. While I enjoy the idea of extending the social part of bookmarking, I have mixed feelings as to the way Blinklist handles the very basics. For now, I will stick with to cover my daily bookmarking needs, while keeping an eye on Blinklist, to get more used to it and maybe find a feature that would make me switch for good. Below I elaborate more on the experience that I had. (read more…)

Bookmarking taken to the next level

del.icio.usThere came a time when bookmarking list of my browser got filled more quickly than I was able to create new folders. And subfolders. I looked at my “bookmarks” menu and realized that it was such a mess that it was no longer useful.

That’s when I decided to take a longer look at It seems that everyone was using it, anyway.

Now I am bought as well. Given its popularity this may not be interesting for many, but if you haven’t tried it yet, maybe I can give you a picture what you are missing:

  • The idea is to store your bookmarks online instead of in the browser
  • Another idea is to let other people see what you bookmarked
  • Now it may seem a bit weird thing to do at first glance, but thanks to this you can see how many people bookmarked the same page as you
  • Also you can drill down to see who is in this group exactly and what else does he have
  • You can use tags to classify each link (tag can by any keyword), and of course you can use tags for searching

There is also possibility to integrate my links into the blog somehow.. but I’m not there yet.

Post del.icio.usNevertheless I felt it was a must to integrate it with Firefox – post works fine for me, simply adds an item to Firefox context menu. But you can find a lot more at Absolutely – Complete Tool Collection.

Personalized Google revisited

Google's personalized homepageFinally I found something that google/ig can be useful for. I used to get by just by manually browsing Google News on my favorite subjects, but now, when I try to keep track of many individual blogs, it just doesn’t scale.

So I took another look at this personalized homepage of Google’s. I added some Google News searches, a couple of online newspapers and some blogs that I regularly read. Now it’s all there and it is automatically updating as news feeds arrive (or so I hope). In the process I found Google Reader in the Labs, which may be even better and I plan to give a try (but not today). I’m sure there are some even more refined power-reading solutions, but for a while I should be fine.

Btw, it is really a shame that there is no Warsaw in the weather widget. Come on Google… even Windows Live has Warsaw in it.

Google adds fuel to Firefox flames

PKiN and bleak skyThe sky is depressingly white and it’s becoming dark so fast. The Warsaw is not a very energizing place right now.

I am working on a case study for students and it takes more time that I expected, or perhaps I am not particularly productive for all this adverse conditions described above. Anyway, since I’ve never done this before, I would like the stuff to be as good as possible. How it will look in practice, I will see the coming week. And the next week – Russia, Ukraine, or something else – you never know.

Elsewhere in the world, interesting things are taking place. “Battle of giants” kind of things.

Let’s take my favorite app, Firefox browser. This open source (i.e. principally non-commercial) program has managed to gain ca. 10% market share (estimations vary and there is also significant geographical distribution) within a year. It generated a lot of noise in the process, for all its gains were mostly at the expense of the dominant Microsoft’s IE.

Firefox is fast, has some innovative features appreciated by power users (like tabbed browsing) and a clean interface. These virtues proved to be enough to allow it spread fast by a word of mouth, but there have been also certain grass-roots, gorilla marketing initiatives, like Spread Firefox. Firefox has always had a friendly relation with Google, to which it defaults its search box and a starting page. Google in return made sure its web properties were Firefox friendly and provided some hosting assistance. It refrained though from a more decisive support, even as people speculated about a possibility of some kind of “branded” Google browser based on Firefox code.

It changed now as Google offers bounty for every Firefox download through its “referral” program. Web publishers will place referral buttons on their sites and for each downloaded copy they will pocket 1$.

Kill Bill's BrowserIt will take some time to judge the outcomes. More innovative promotional activity can be expected now, when there is a tangible reward in place. Some examples are already there.
I like especially this battle cry (open letter on “Explorer Destroyer”):

Mozilla built us a wonderful tool. Google gave us a carrot. Now take the stick and beat IE’s a**.

Since I am happy to recommend Firefox anyway and so far didn’t have any contacts with Google’s ad program (hell, this site is not even indexed, still) I was curious to try how this new thing works. Referral program requires to join Google’s AdSense first, so I filled a form and got through verification process in something like 6 hours. So far so good.

It seems, however, that the Firefox initiative is limited to the US only. So my original reason for all of this is gone, but maybe I can make that up by having some fun with AdSense program. At least I can make referral to this one:

…Only it doesn’t work now. Ok, enough for one day.

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