Social Networks and Advogato
Posted 29 Oct 2006 at 22:00 UTC by Ankh
Like many others I'm delighted to see Advogato kept alive. But the recentlog page is much
quieter than it used to be. Is this for social reasons, technical
reasons or both? In planning "social network" features for a Web site I
edit about old books I
looked around at a number of other social network sites and concluded...
and concluded it's probably a bit of both.
Of course, a lot of people left when they thought that Advogato was
going away. Others wanted some specific feature or other, such as
better support for images or for threaded discussions. Some felt that
they wanted to talk about things inappropriate for advogato.
Elsewhere, most of the successful sites have some sort of
"goal", almost like a gaming score. Advogato has three levels for
people; people on (say) deviantArt talk about
pageviews (a meaningless statistic displayed on a user's profile,
roughly related to pupularity * history) or about number of watchers.
Orkut, of course, ranked people
by the number of "friends" they had. Or still does I suppose, but since
it's a closed world, since you can't link into individual pages because
of the need to log in, it's not really part of the Web.
MySpace, flickr, livejournal, they all seem to have metrics for
success. In the most successful sites, you increase your "score" by
doing things that also help the site grow, or help the community become
more tightly knit together.
So,... what would help Advogato in this way? Of course,
ideally I'd like to ask the people who left, and who are probably
not reading this, why they wandered off. Or, what might make
What features are most important in order to support a community?
I'm very interested in this subject too. In a few cases, as I've looked
at old user profiles, I've noticed that users who left Advogato made a
final diary post mentioning where they're moving their blog and why.
Several mentioned specific features Advogato lacked or complaints about
something on the site. It would be nice to find all of these and tally
up the results to see what the most commonly mentioned problems were.
I'd like to start a list of specific improvements to Advogato that would
make the site more useful to the current users and might tempt some of the
ex-Advogato users to return.
I've already collected many of feature requests for mod_virgule and compiled
them into a mod_virgule
ToDo list. But this list is not really specific to Advogato. Many of
the features were requested by other users of the software.
Thoughts, posted 30 Oct 2006 at 21:34 UTC by cdfrey »
In a way, I actually like the fact that there are no comments to diary
posts. This means that people posting responses to other diary entries
need to link to what they are replying to. Also, everything a person
writes is located in one spot. There is no way for someone interested
in me to find out what I wrote in all my Blogger responses, but they can
easily see it on Advogato. And by looking at my responses, they are
introduced to other people that I also find interesting.
Of course, the opposite direction doesn't work. Reading an original
post in my diary will not display the replies to it.
And that is a feature that I believe advogato can fix technically.
Instead of writing a reply in my diary, and placing an href link to it,
it would be helpful if there was a "traceback" link option, perhaps
<original>cdfrey/43</original> to reply to cdfrey's 43rd diary entry.
This would place a link in the response entry as usual, plus add a
traceback link to the list of replies in the original.
This feature could possibly be exposed via RPC to
support replies from external blogs, although that might be a problem
for spam. It would work well within advogato though.
And once this feature was added, it would be neat if replies to advogato
articles (like this) also showed somehow in a person's diary. Being
able to find everything one person ever wrote, in one convenient
location, would be very useful, in my opinion.
I went through the first 250 or so users on the user list and located
quite a few ex-users who posted some sort of final good bye message.
From my thoroughly unscientific sampling, it seemed to me they could
roughly be divided into two groups:
- Advogato users who wanted to continue keeping their blog here but
didn't because Advogato lacked a particular technical feature they wanted
comments, photos, atom feeds, etc.). Often they didn't say exactly what
feature was lacking. These users mostly seem to have gone to other
blogging sites like blogger.
- Advogato users who simply wanted to operate or host their own blog
and didn't have any convenient mechanism to syndicate their blog posts
I suppose I would have fallen into the second group myself, except that
I wrote some perl code that syndicates my blog to my Advogato and
robots.net accounts (this was
before the XML-RPC interface was added to mod_virgule).
The Planet sites, which were inspired by Advogato's recentlog,
are based on a feature Advogato doesn't have: they can aggregate posts from
the user's blog. Maybe adding something like that here would encourage
more dormant users to come back and add their blogs to our recentlog
again? I'm guessing this would at least gather back those users who are
now aggregated at planet (former)
Maybe a new field on the user account page where you could specify
the RSS URL of your blog and request that it be syndicated here. To
prevent more blog spam, we'd have to limit the feature to trusted
accounts, of course.
Some notions, posted 31 Oct 2006 at 23:59 UTC by salmoni »
I think the lack of syndication was a major reason for people leaving. Many wanted cool features like having graphics or comments so went elsewhere, and a syndication would have enabled them to stay in touch. We would need a link to the original post too in case we wanted to comment on something and the author didn't come to this site any more.
A way to edit articles would be useful too, though this could be abused. However, I've often noticed glaring mistakes in my articles which I don't know how to correct - one was a reference missing, quite trivial in terms of impact (ie, non-contentious), but important where credit is involved. To prevent abuse, perhaps an automatic post could be made detailing that changes have been made - or authors would be encouraged to post a comment to say this.
Perhaps even a continuation page for long articles, though that could be accomplished by authors submitting parts as separate articles. Does anyone feel this is not acceptable (ie, filling up the articles page with multiple "parts" of the same article)?
Steve - this really is great work and thanks very much for your efforts.
Editing posts, posted 1 Nov 2006 at 08:45 UTC by cdfrey »
When I am logged in, and look at my own diary page, there are lots of
little [Edit] links.
I believe when accessing these posts via XML-RPC, the date of last
change is available as well, so you can detect edits if you save the
timestamp with your local copy.
No Follow, posted 1 Nov 2006 at 18:12 UTC by vab »
One of the reasons I used to post to advogato was to help me get my new
projects out there - to get them some google juice and on people's
radar. Now that no follow is in place, there's less incentive for me to
No follow relations are only applied for untrusted accounts. If you're
certified as an apprentice or higher, you can use anchor tags and get
the same google juice as before.
cdfrey, I'm assuming salmoni is talking about posting articles rather
than diary/blog entries. As you noted, it's possible to edit a diary
but not an article. Article editing is something
we've needed for a while. Patches welcome. :-)
Patches, posted 1 Nov 2006 at 23:16 UTC by cdfrey »
Speaking of patches, the CVS tree linked to from the Show Me The Code page seems
to be about 2 years old.
I probably missed the correct link somewhere in the announcement, but
maybe the code page could be updated as well?
I've updated the code page to link to my mod_virgule web page where you
can download a tar gz of the current source. I've got subversion
installed over here but haven't had time to play around with it and
figure out how to make it go. Maybe soon.
I'm a day or two away from uploading some new code that has a
lot of changes, so you might want to wait for that before doing anything
Looks like it may not be too difficult to get some basic blog
aggregation going. DV has already done the hard part
for us by adding nanohttp to libxml2, so I can grab an RSS or Atom file
with two lines of code. I've already got some test code working. Just
need to clean it up and do some real world testing.
One thing I've been wanting for a while is the ability to cert rss
urls. That breaks open the closed garden, and would let mod_virgule
function as planet software without the feed moderation overhead. This
is the complement of being able to import feeds as a diary (for persons
and projects!). Together these two features would make it much easier
for users to move on and off advogato as a hosting site while remaining
part of the community
But this has turned into an advogato feature discussion, which wasn't
Ankh's question. Advogato was one of the community spin
offs from slashdot. When that site got big enough for the level of
technical discussion to degrade, a lot of people were looking for
another place to carry on conversations. Advogato's initial popularity
was due to that, but these days no one has the luxury of being the only
one in a particular niche. But just being more active and open would
help, I think.
Cert RSS?, posted 4 Nov 2006 at 10:17 UTC by salmoni »
- certifying RSS urls sounds interesting. It's
a shame that RSS itself can't handle it independently. That sounds
confusing so I'll try to explain:
Imagine if you were looking for interesting things to read, you could
simply use a search engine* to find RSS feeds that have been highly
rated by others. This is independent of any website so is like /.'s
moderation but on a wide scale. We could do things like searching
through RSS news sources and filtering out low rated feeds, or comparing
news sources (eg, bloggers against more "authoritative" websites, or BBC
vs Reuters vs Fox). Of course, the problem would be spoofing by
ego-whores or spammers making their RSS feeds highly rated. Perhaps this
could be an application of the trust metric?
lol! I just like the idea of the wider Internet community rating the
authority and "worthiness" of different feeds. Note - I'm aware that
aggregation sites do this, but these are awkward for most people to
find. Just imagine that you have an RSS reader that shows you the feed
and has a rating at the bottom. You rate it (along with everyone and
anyone else who wants to), and this rating is visible to anyone else who
finds the feed. Is this clear?
Another problem - where is the information stored? Having a central
location seems to limit the utility, and would inhibit take-up (unless
it was from an established company like Google); but the only other way
is to mess with RSS itself which is unlikely to happen.
* Does Google do RSS only searches? if not, why not Google? Having RSS
only searches could be useful even without ratings and would probably be
easier to use than searching through piles of aggregation sites.
Gaming, posted 5 Nov 2006 at 22:52 UTC by Zaitcev »
I do recognize and do not care for site-imposed "metric for success". I
was not aware that LiveJournal had one. I may belong to the minority in
my indifference, but I am quite sure that trying a reward scheme to
enliven the recentlog is not going to produce anything as interesting as
the old recentlog. The whole point of it was a snapshot of a certain
active community. If community itself evolves away, there's nothing that
can be done by the site software.
I considered my membership at Advogato as a give-and-take between Raph
and myself (highly asymmetric, of course): I wrote entries and read
recentlog, whereas Raph received material for his research. But the
score-driven gaming was not very strong at the site, and I consider it a
By the way, many people tried to award points for things like filing
bugs and posting patches. For example, in Linux kernel there was an
effort to assign points to authors of netfilter patches. As far as I can
tell, all such efforts fizzled out.
So, the artifical community building seems rather masturbatory to me. If
Steven and Rillian were to stick together and deliver some significant
application of trust metric, that would be interesting for me to be a
willing guinea pig. Otherwise, purpose-built blogging sites do a better job.
Speaking of guinea pigs, Zaitcev, I see that you're
hosting your blog at Live
Journal these days. How about being a guinea pig for the new blog
syndication feature? It's not finished yet but the aggregator back-end
and I could use a couple of test subjects who have Advogato accounts but
don't keep their blogs here. All you'd need to do is go to your Advogato
account profile page, check the "Syndicate your blog from another site"
box and add the URL of an ATOM 1.0 or RSS 2.0 feed. Once the coding and
testing is complete (maybe one more week), your Live Journal blog posts
would appear here on Advogato and show up in the recentlog.
rillian, how do you envision your RSS certification
scheme working here on Advogato? As currently implemented (well,
partially implemented) each trusted Advogato user can choose to populate
their diary from an RSS/Atom source rather than posting directly to
Advogato. This seemed like the safest way to start since it uses the
existing diary/recentlog/diary-ranking system.
openid.org, posted 6 Nov 2006 at 23:00 UTC by lkcl »
this goes back some time - to 2000 / 2001. integration of openid.org into advogato would, i believe, be a significant step forward.
conceptually, certification of rss feeds doesn't exactly work - but the use of openid does.
i don't believe that certification of rss feeds has any actual meaning. after all - a trusted advogato user is going to be very very stupid to actually add someone ELSE's rss feeds to their own account.
which is where, if necessary, openid would come in: if there is a mechanism for validating that a particular RSS feed comes from a certain user, then a flag could be raised, on the site, saying 'advogato has checked [the digital signature of] this rss feed and it belongs to the same openid user - and if you don't believe us here's how you can check it for yourself'.
Cert RSS, posted 7 Nov 2006 at 01:22 UTC by rillian »
StevenRainwater, I hadn't thought about it in too
much detail. I imagined you'd have a web page where you could paste an rss
feed url. This would create a special account instance which you and
others could then certify. The rss feed would then show up in the recent
log, subject to the normal filters, and the account page would link back
to the blog or website, perhaps with that url entered separately.
People could later "claim" the advogato account through some kind of
"make this token appear in the feed" mechanism, and then be able to get
a password and change the account nick.
It's an extension to what you're working on with importing diary
entries from rss, but without the assumption that the owner of the feed
will create the account first. Instead, if you know someone, you can
just cert their blog feed and they become at least of leaf in the trust
metric. A person could do this manually by creating an account for
someone and hooking it up to their feed, but that's not very friendly
if the target individual later wants to assume control of the account.
Thus, advogato should support that directly.
salmoni and Zaitcev, I've talked
about distributed trust metric calculations some with Raph. It's hard.
He did some work on a P2P system that did this implicitly (search for stamp trading
network) but nothing much came of it. The currency idea is an
interesting spin. Spam filtering by Capitalism! I
think it's more realistic to just harvest links and use them to do a
local trust evaluation until we understand things better.
As far as rss feeds certing each other, they do through their links,
although this isn't quite the same as the assertion advogato uses. But
you could harvest new feeds by looking in the pages your known feeds
link to. Scraping blog rolls would get you certs closer what advogato
uses. "People worth reading" and not just "article I wanted to talk
Providing "single sign on" was another thing we talked about. That's
entirely my fault; I said I'd implement the scheme developed through the
recent log and never did. Nowadays, as lkcl pointed
out, there's openid, so some kind of integration there would make more
sense. I hadn't mentioned it because I saw it was on the todo
with respect, i disagree that distributed trust metric calculations would be difficult.
with the current use of the ford-fulkersson 'maximum flow' algorithm, which is a depth-first algorithm, hell yes, it would be difficult.
however there are plenty of other max-flow algorithms, some of which are breadth-first, and it is breadth-first algorithms that would, along with cacheing of certs from other sites, prove much more amenable to distributing.
the other important thing to have when going distributed is digital signatures on things, otherwise it's no good doing _anything_ like this except as a 'nice experiment'. we implicitly trust that nobody hacks in to advogato.org and changes the database. however, a remote site must also be trusted: by the time you get to 100 remote sites there's no way you can rely on every site to be trusted (not hacked) so instead you really need to use digital signing.
that's what 'keynote' was all about (look it up with google).
sorry, rillian: i assumed that you meant 'actually certify the rss feed'. what i believe you _actually_ meant was 'create an advogato account with an identity and then add an rss feed to that which over-rides the advogato diary' is that correct?
and then people can certify the advogato-user-which-happens-to-have-an-rss-feed-as-a-diary-instead-of-an-advogato-diary
I don't think providing a score would help matters much. My two reasons:
First, a technical one. The recentlog is no good for carrying on conversations. I try
sometimes, but people miss my replies, and since the recentlog only shows one post per
person, posting again means giving up on the old post being read. So if I've replied to
someone recently, I have a disincentive to post.
Second, a personal one. I've been busy, and generally not with free software. I haven't
stopped entirely - and I guess there are a few things I could post about now - and I will
surely start writing more again. But advogato's had a shrinking crowd for quite some time,
and everyone goes in streaks. I think the only way to consistently get lots of good posts
again is to get a larger crowd again.
I could post about what I had for breakfast, or proprietary software I write at work, but
hopefully if I did that everyone would mark my diary as boring and you still wouldn't see it.
One of the things I like about advogato is that it's focused. I only read the entries that talk
about technical things. I like to think other parts of my life are interesting, but this really isn't
the place for them. Here free software is signal, all else is noise.
slamb, the one-post-per-recentlog has been fixed.
lkcl, something like that. What I said is what I
wanted to do conceptually, from the point of view of user experience.
Instead of certifying the identity of behind an advogato account, I
wanted to certify the identity behind an rss feed. But within advogato's
framework that has to be implemented by a class of account, as we both
Relying on digital signatures still amounts to trusting
that "nobody hacks in...and changes the database." But there are other
ways to enforce that sites can only make certs from nodes they control,
say through the dns system or probabalisticly unique ids, and the trust
metric should still let you distinguish between trustworthy and
untrustworthy remote sites and their nodes.
At least, I think that was the point of the distributed
discussions. Parallel algorithms where you don't entirely trust the
nodes doing the computation is the hard part of the problem.
On the thread of making advogato more attractive, we now allow
<img/> tags, and I think so far they've been used to great effect.
However, there's a drawback for someone trying to use advogato as their
primary blog, in that the images must be
hosted off site, even though they're supposedly part of your blog. Not
robust if you're posting other people's pictures, and you still need
another site if you're posting your own.
I don't know what kind of resources our new host can provide, but I'd
suggest that trusted accounts being able to attach and refer to files
(images, media, source code!) in blog and article entries would be a
We're getting closer on the blog syndication. I got a little carried away
and decided to add support a few more feed formats than I'd originally
intended. Zaitcev's feed uses Atom (thanks for volunteering as a test
subject, by the way!), so that's first on the list. A few other people
have set up a feeds too, so I have sample data for the common RSS
formats (v0.91 and v2.0). And one feed was in the somewhat more
complicated RDF Site Summary format (aka RSS v1.0). Looks like all of
them will work out okay so far. After parsing all
these formats, I can see why Atom is becoming so popular.
lkcl, OpenID is definitely on the ToDo list. The big
question is would it make more sense just to add support for logging
into Advogato using OpenID authentication, or to provide OpenID
authentication to other sites using Advogato user data. Would there be
some value an OpenID provider with trust
metrics? If a login succeeds, you've not only authenticated the login
but also that the user is a trusted member of the Free Software community.
Either I'm thick and can't find it, or there isn't one. If there is,
where is it, and if there isn't, can we get one?
Feeds, posted 10 Nov 2006 at 16:32 UTC by StevenRainwater »
, I've added a recentlog feed to the ToDo
. I've also added a couple of other feed-related tasks to the
list. I think we need to move all our existing RSS feeds to RSS v2.0.
I'd also like to look at making Atom feeds available as well.
distributed trust, posted 10 Nov 2006 at 17:23 UTC by lkcl »
ok. i believe that you believe that the problem is harder than it is. you can always run the trust-calculation program either yourself, or you pick a specific server that you trust to perform the calculations for you.
then, that server (or you run the program yourself) performs a breadth-first scan-and-download of digitally-signed trust-metric-certificates.
if the trust-metric-certificates are digitally-signed (via a mechanism such as GPG which can be verified or by i presume openid can do digital signing?) then you have a chain (rather a large and hierarchical chain) to reassure you that the resultant trust-metric-calculation comes from the right sources.
the point of using keynote is that it gives the next clue: the resultant trust-metric-calculation _itself_ is then digitally-signed (!) and then that calculation itself you can double-check and verify that it was performed in good faith.
it really _isn't_ rocket science.
i'm assuming of course that slurping all of people's certifications onto one server, breadth-first, is a practical option...
... however - if you are talking about millions or billions of certifications, then yes you have a serious problem: that _does_ need some rocket science and a totally different approach.
if you're talking about actually distributing the trust metric calculations, then yeh, that's a big hairy deal.
lkcl, that is an excellent summary. Thanks!
i think it's important to advise people, now, on the create new account page, that they fill in some background information about themselves, and say that it is important that they do this, so that people can establish who they are and can Certify them.
a genuine user will do this.
disingenuous users will ignore it and consequently will be easy-to-spot as spammers.
sneaky bastards spammers who start stealing genuine free software users' identities is the next serious problem up the chain to think ahead to that could hit advogato: that can easily be dealt with using openid or gpg.
The syndication seems working swimmingly, now that it has the back
pointer. One thing I noticed though... Old entries are not being updated
if changed upstream.
: I've looked at the syndication formats and Atom
has a handy "updated" tag for just that reason. It shouldn't be too hard
to add support for that one. Handling updates on RSS or RDF feeds looks
a bit more involved. I don't see any obvious way to uniquely identify a
post or to tell whether or not it has changed.
lkcl: Yes, I think you're right about needing an update
to the account page text. Several other Advogato pages could use updates
as well. I may have time to take a shot at it this week sometime.
Looks like we may need to add a "delete blog entry" feature too. I
gotcha's little recentlog accident manually but it
would probably help if users could delete their own blog entries when
needed. I've noticed other users who, for reasons I don't fully
grok, replace their older blog posts with empty entries to effectively
delete them anyway. So I think there are multiple reasons for adding a
less-recent log?, posted 2 Jan 2007 at 04:20 UTC by Alphax »
It's a pity the recent log runs out so quickly... the ability to hit "older" (as we can with articles) would be nice.
Alphax: Adding an "older posts" link at the end of the recent log is
already on the ToDo
list. Now that holidays are over, I should be able to find some
spare time soon to start coding on mod_virgule again.
This is a problem we
should be happy to have, anyway, since the article at the top of this
thread was complaining that the recentlog had gotten too quiet. I'll take
this as a sign we're begining to turn things around.