advice from a fake consultant

out-of-the-box thinking about politics, economics, and more…

On Getting Found, Or, Search Engines: Is There A Difference? December 6, 2009

Filed under: Blogging,Internet — fakeconsultant @ 9:19 am
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

I have a story today that comes from my predilection to “self-syndicate”, meaning that I post my stories far and wide, in the same way a newspaper columnist is syndicated nationally—or beyond.

After I post, I know others will also post my stories to their sites, a topic that was itself the subject of a recent conversation.

To keep track of it all, I use the Google…but I recently wondered if that’s actually the most effective tool for the job—or not—so as an experiment I recently challenged several search engines to go out and seek the same search term.

We find out today…and the results are, indeed, interesting.

So here’s the rules of the game: on the afternoon and evening of November 29th, I posted my story On Stimulating The Future, Or, “It’s The Ytterbium, Stupid!” on 27 sites. The next morning I conducted the searches you’ll see referenced in this discussion using as a search term the exact words of the title, in quotes, just as it appears above. During the course of writing this story, we’ll revisit the same sites to see if the results have changed.

So the first search was conducted on Google, which found 849 results.

The reason that happens is because the tags associated with (or the proper nouns that appear in) a story often trigger websites to place that material on pages with other stories with matching tags or names, as you can see from this example at RootsWire. (The story appears twice because it was updated after it was posted.)

This creates lots of iterations of the same title on the same site under different categories, a situation other search providers seek to reduce; this being the one of the points behind all those recent ads for Microsoft’s Bing search engine.

A quick note about “search consistency”: seeking for the same search term at Google on multiple occasions will yield different results each time, even if the two searches are conducted immediately after one another. For example, my search this morning found 852 results—and then, just a few minutes later, 653. (By the way, if you click on these links now, some other number of results will appear, which is its own comment on consistency.)

We next visit Bing, where 16 results were initially found. Interestingly, some of the links were the ones I placed, but 6 of the 16 were multiple iterations of the same story on three sites.

As with Google, visiting Bing today might yield 57 links—or 2530, or 152, or 26—and despite Bing’s advertising claims that they make searching simpler by eliminating Internet “clutter”, a huge number of the links I’m seeing here are links to the weather in virtually every city in Maine; all of these linked back to “Weather Underground” weather reporting pages…and all of those pages were from the same basic address: insert name here.wunderground.com.

Next was Yahoo!, reporting 887 results (and then, after clicking through a few pages, 1580). There was an interesting variation to the pattern of what they found, however: more results from the first 50 were links to the original 27 postings than appeared to be the case with either Google or Bing.

The search today found 860 results…four times in a row…which is by far the most consistent results reporting so far—even if the results from the other day were completely different.

Lycos found 67 iterations of the posting…or 50……and then 49…with roughly a dozen of the first 30 listings being “duplicative” entries, which is fairly consistent reporting. Returning to the site today, the search engine found 69 listings—and it was also able to do that four times in a row….which makes it at least the “consistency equal” of Yahoo!

Dogpile (a product of the fine folks at Infospace) aggregates results from Google, Yahoo!, Bing, and Ask.com into one set of results…and for some reason the first result on the second page was for a futures trading opportunity (“I’m shocked to discover there’s gambling here…!”).

That said, Dogpile “sniffed out” 40 results, with many of those being “duplicate” instances of the same story from the same site. Conducting the same search today yields 6 additional results—all of which appear to be duplicates of the previous 40.

On four further attempts to search, the original 40 results were found.

WebCrawler, another Infospace property, located 38 results; again, the results are highly duplicative. It is not possible to enter the entire search term at this site, instead, the term…

“On Stimulating The Future, Or, “It’s The Ytterbium,

…was used.

Four additional searches were conducted today, with 38 results found each time.

(Because the page-naming conventions of both Dogpile and WebCrawler insert an ! into the page names upon which results are presented, they can’t be linked here, and you’ll just have to visit the pages on your own.)

Altavista found 904 iterations of the story, then 17,800 on today’s search. There is an option to either search “Worldwide” or “USA”, the Worldwide search, conducted immediately after today’s USA search, found, oddly enough, 2460 results—and for at least the first several pages, which was as far as I looked, the results were the same as for the USA search.

Four additional searches, conducted today, located the same 17,800 results.

One strange idiosyncrasy of the site is that it won’t actually display those 17,800 results: instead, it only displays the first several pages of results (in this case, 7 pages), and then just stops, with no additional pages made available beyond that point. There is an “advanced settings” page available, but it does not offer any solution for this problem.

Ask.com displays 240 results on the first search—and they were the only site to report the listing on the Times of India site right there on the front page (which, if you return to the site, is no longer the case)—but on the down side, 1/3 of the results on that first page were “sponsored results”.

After the first page, ½ of all results are “sponsored”, and the results are highly duplicative. By page 10 of the results, as few as 2 of the 13 results on the page are not sponsored.

Today’s searches located 452 links, then 449, then 452, and then (take a guess…) 449.

Ever heard of Duck Duck Go? Neither had I before this story. They feature an unusual format that displays some results, and then, when you click “more results”, displays those below the first results on the same page; a pattern that continues until all results are displayed.

The Duck located 35 results on the first attempt, with no duplicates. The “wunderground” domain was represented—but only once.

Apparently recognizing that their searches are not going to give every result, the site encourages you to also search at YouTube, flickr, twitter, amazon, and Google.

Turning off the “safe search” feature yields 43 results, including BhamLinks.com (a news aggregator from Birmingham, Alabama), Pshcye’s Links, (“Esoteric Subjects on the Web”), and the “Li-Ion” page from the Journalism that matters site (Li-Ion, by the way, is the abbreviation used to describe lithium ion batteries.)

Conducting additional searches on the site today yields the same 43 results.

Finally, Cuil. I had never heard of this site before…and apparently, they’ve never heard of me, either, with zero results reported for my query. Searching the “127 billion web pages” they purport to scan today provided no results again during four additional checks—which makes this site the most consistent of the search engines I examined.

I conducted a test search for pizza (with no quotes). 809,000,000 results were found…but only two were displayed on the “All Results” tab: one for Pizza Hut, one for the Wikipedia entry for pizza (which featured the story of how pizza was introduced into Pakistan, of all things). Even more odd: on the same page you can look up “Pizza franchises” and other pizza related results “categories”, and there’s a “Timeline for Pizza” with entries like: “2004 Melbourne, Australia” and “1993 Pizza was”.

All of this appears to be at odds with the intent of the site’s operators:

“Popularity is useful, but has dominated search results so heavily that it gets harder and harder to find the page you want, especially if your search is a complex one. Cuil respects popular pages and recognizes that for many simple searches, popularity is an easy answer to your question. But for a deeper search, establishing relevancy is more than a numbers game. Cuil prefers to find all the pages with your keyword or phrase and then analyze the rest of the content on those pages…”

Those are the results: so, what about conclusions?

The first conclusion we can reach about all of this is that the number of results that any search engine locates on any particular visit are highly variable—and so much so that the number of results presented appears to be virtually random (with the notable exception of Cuil, which seems to be consistently unable to find anything).

With that said, if I was quickly looking for this particular story, it appears that some of the odd search engines might be the best choices, including Lycos, Duck Duck Go, and Ask.com.

On the other hand, if the idea was to determine how far a story has been distributed, Google seems to be the winner.

There is another reason to use search engines, that being to find information about a topic that you currently don’t know enough about; this test is not well suited to answer the question of which search engine is best for that purpose…and it’s a test that we’ll save for another day.

So that’s today’s story: we visit quite a few search engines, we learn that the results you get are almost always entirely unpredictable, and, in what might be the most important lesson of the day, we’re learning that deifying Tiger Woods can backfire on you, big time.

Advertisements
 

On Murdoch And Google, Or, Hey, Rupert, Where’s My Check? November 20, 2009

Filed under: Blogging,Culture,Economics — fakeconsultant @ 5:30 am
Tags: , , , , ,

Our favorite irascible media tyrant is in the news once again, and once again it’s time for me to bring you a story of doing one thing while wishing for another.

In a November 6th interview, Sky News Australia’s David Speers spent about 35 minutes with the CEO of NewsCorp, Rupert Murdoch; the conversation covering topics as diverse as software piracy, world economics, the role of Fox News (and Fox NewsPinion©) in American politics, a strange defense of Glenn Beck, and, not very long afterwards, an even stranger defense of immigration.

We have heard a lot about the…how can I put this politely…challenges Murdoch seems to face associating factual reality with his reality, and we could have lots of fun going through his factual misstatements—but instead, I want to take on one specific issue today:

Rupert Murdoch says he hates it when people steal his content from the Internet to draw readers to their sites…which is funny, if you think about it, because he has no problem at all stealing my content (and lots of yours, as well) for his sites.

(To begin, a quick note: all the Rupert Murdoch quotes you’ll see today came from the YouTube, specifically the Sky News Australia interview, which is there posted in its entirety. Although each quote presents Mr. Murdoch’s words exactly, they aren’t necessarily in their original order; that’s so we don’t go jumping around from topic to topic too much in this story. When that happens the quotes will be split into separate paragraphs, each with their own set of quotation marks. Words in italics were words Mr. Murdoch himself emphasized.)

David Speers began the interview by asking Murdoch about the concept of public access to free news content online:

“Well they shouldn’t have had it free all the time, I think we’ve been asleep, ar, and, it costs a lot of money to put together good newspapers, good content, and you know they’re very happy to pay for it when they’re buying a newspaper…and I think when they read it elsewhere they’re going to have to pay…”

And it’s not just the public, either. Murdoch is particularly incensed at the idea that one news organization would intentionally steal content from another:

“Well…the people who just simply pick up everything and run with it…and steal our stories, ahh, we say they steal our stories they just take them, ummm, without payment…”

“…if you look at them, most of their stuff is stolen from the newspapers now, and we’ll be suing them for copyright. Ummm, they’ll have to spend a lot more money on reporters, to cover the world…when they can’t steal from newspapers…”

Mr. Murdoch is, after all, running a business…but beyond that, he acknowledges that the News Corporation “experience” is also critical, and that creating that experience requires him to deploy top-notch talent.

For that reason he is dismissive of the suggestion that he might establish a free site augmented by a “premium” site that charges for…well, premium content:

“…there’s also, in in a newspaper, uh we got a newspaper, or a news service, there’s a thing called editorial judgment, there’s a thing called quality of writing, um, quality of reporting, and, ah just to say you know we’ll take what’s average stuff that comes from an agency and uh, not charge for that, it’s okay but I think you’re really degrading the whole experience if you do that…”

And this is the part of the story where I come in.

It was with great surprise that I heard Mr. Murdoch saying all this, because, for the longest time, Murdoch’s own newspaper, “The Wall Street Journal”, has been carrying my stories (along with hundreds of others daily) on their WSJ.com website. In fact, my most recent story, “On Determining Impact, Or, How Stimulative Is Stimulus?” ran on their site just a couple of days ago, on November 18th.

Now don’t get me wrong: in contrast to Mr. Murdoch, I like being carried in as many places as possible, even if I don’t always know about it, and I’m glad the WSJ likes the work, so I am surely not complaining…it’s just that I was surprised to discover that News Corporation’s editors, exercising on a regular basis what can only be considered fine judgment, had apparently recognized the “quality of writing, um, quality of reporting” that I bring to the table, and, in an effort to enhance the experience they provide their clientele, have been regularly posting that writing…and Mr. Murdoch hates news organizations that steal content…and yet, despite all that, News Corporation never seems to send me a check.

So, Rupert…where’s my money?

But it’s not just bloggers and the WSJ: the movie review site Rotten Tomatoes is owned by IGN Entertainment, which is owned by FIM, which is part of…wait for it…News Corporation.

And what is the Rotten Tomatoes business model, exactly?

That would be to be the website that gathers movie reviews from a community of reviewers, posting them all in one space, and to use those reviews as the basis for the “Tomatometer” ratings they apply to movies…the Tomatometer being the central brand identity around which the entire franchise is built.

What’s not included in the business model?

Paying money for those reviews, a fact I was able to confirm after an exchange of email today with the folks at Rotten Tomatoes.

So, Rupert…where’s their money?

We could end this story right here, but there is one other quote from the Sky News interview that deserves to be put in the record, not only because it’s a comment on Murdoch’s view of the newspaper business, but also because it may be instructive as to how he views television as well:

“…people who have been buying papers for 20 years, um, even bad newspapers, it’s hard to see them, um…can’t stop buying all papers or even changing newspapers…”

(For the record, I attempted to obtain a comment for this story from Dan Berger, who is News Corporation’s primary press contact, but that effort was not successful as of the time this went to print.)

And with that, we come to the “wrap it up” part of the story:

Murdoch is quite upset at the idea that other news organizations will steal the stories that he invests time and effort and money into creating, and yet at the same time he’s absolutely dependent on acquiring content for his own sites that he doesn’t pay for—and my guess is that virtually every one of the people who have been providing him this content, myself included, are at least reasonably happy with the process that got us here…but we’d be even happier if he would get those checks out to us in time for a bit of extra Christmas shopping.

Oh, yeah, and one other thing: when it comes to news, Murdoch believes that brand loyalty is apparently capable of trumping quality of content in the eyes of at least some beholders…and in truth, I think he’s right.

 

At 50th Birthday Party, Geov Parrish Announces New Lobbying Career November 15, 2009

SEATTLE (FNS)–Longtime activist Geov Parrish unexpectedly revealed to the crowd gathered to celebrate his 50th birthday Friday evening his impending plans to end his decades-long career as a public issues advocate in exchange for new opportunities in the field of corporate communications management and image development.

The announcement appeared to be even more shocking to the glitterati gathered for Parrish’s 50th birthday extravaganza at Seattle’s tony Rainier Club than the fact that the event was sponsored by longtime Parrish nemesis Frank Blethen, publisher of the “Seattle Times” and a frequent target of Parrish’s acerbic criticism regarding the state of corporatocracy and its negative impact upon the state of the Nation.

A new commercial venture and three new business relationships were unveiled: a corporate communications consultancy, tentatively to be named “I Am The State!”, is to be opened in the next few weeks, after suitable office space is located, with the United States Chamber of Commerce and The Seattle Times Company as the first two business associates; additionally, Parrish will be joining the Board of Directors of the Strangelove Foundation, an organization devoted to maintaining the purity and essence of our precious bodily fluids.

A book deal was also announced.

Parrish, who among his other work was a founder of Seattle’s alternative newspaper Eat The State!, was in an ebullient mood as he explained the thought process behind his decision:

“After spending so many years fighting for affordable, high-quality health care for all Americans—all to no avail—I’ve decided to focus my efforts on getting myself high-quality health care, no matter what the cost…and considering, on the one hand, that my projected income next year from just the US Chamber of Commerce and Seattle Times operations are going to be somewhere in the range of $2.5 million dollars, and, on the other hand, that when my company pays for my new gold-plated executive health insurance plan it’s fully tax-deductible, I’m thinking the cost of health care is probably not going to be a problem for me going forward.

And then I thought: what better day to make the announcement…than Friday the 13th?”

Apparently channeling Dave Chappell, Parrish then offered the crowd a certain single-fingered gesture before shouting:

“I’m rich, bitchaaas!”

In an exclusive interview, Frank Blethen explained to me the rationale behind the surprising new relationship:

“There was a time when we could afford to ignore publications like “Eat the State!”, but as conditions for traditional publishers continued to deteriorate we found ourselves having to face the uncomfortable reality that last year Parrish’s paper was actually more profitable than “The Seattle Times”, and it was at that point that the Board and I decided to approach Parrish with an offer of employment.”

Parrish declined the offer, citing his unwillingness to be anyone’s employee. Blethen, however, would not be dissuaded:

“…we were determined to have him, in whatever capacity we could, and finally we hit upon the idea of hiring him as a consultant. We still couldn’t come up with enough of an annual retainer for Parrish to be fully persuaded, so I made a quick call to Tom Donohue at the Chamber, which is how we came up with the proposal to have him advise not just The Seattle Times Company on media outreach and branding strategies, but, through the auspices of the Chamber, to provide those same services to other companies that could use ‘the Parrish Touch’.”

As the Obama Administration’s plans for a new energy policy begin to become more certain Parrish’s I Am The State! is also expected to provide services to companies outside the media community.

I was able to confirm this with a quick call to Exxon/Mobil spokesman Harry Paratestes, who told me that:

“…we are one of several companies that are seeking to reinvigorate our corporate image ahead of any new energy legislation that might be forthcoming from this and future Administrations.

Parrish’s ability to successfully position his own media property while simultaneously destroying three competing papers—first, the “Seattle Weekly”, then, Hearst’s “Seattle Post-Intelligencer”, and finally, the “Seattle Times”—gives us the confidence we need to invest in his ideas and every expectation of a profitable and mutually satisfying outcome.”

Based on a recommendation from Tom Donohue, Center Street Publishers is rumored to have offered a $3.5 million advance for the rights to Parrish’s new book documenting his change of circumstances, “The State Can Eat Me!”; it is anticipated that distribution will be not only through traditional retail channels, but also through Conservative websites such as Human Events, which is currently offering books by Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin at deep discounts to entice new website subscribers.

A number of times during the evening I attempted to obtain a comment directly from Mr. Parrish regarding these developments, but due to my inability to penetrate either the cordon of sunglass-wearing security personnel or the ever-present entourage that now surrounds him that effort proved to be impossible.

In a written statement, Parrish’s people informed us that his next move will be to visit the Columbia Tower, Carillon Point, and the South Lake Union area to identify a suite of offices that can be redesigned to meet his specific requirements (which, I’m told, include an indoor shooting range, a cafeteria operated by the local “Popeye’s” chicken franchisee, and the largest organ in the State of Washington); during the period of construction, we were informed, he will be in residence in either the other Washington, at the Hay-Adams Hotel, or Atlanta, Georgia, at the Omni Hotel at CNN Center, where, despite the fact that he was initially recruited by the “Times’” Blethen, he will be doing his first consulting work for other members of the Chamber.

 

On Looking Deeper, Or, Things About Iran You Might Not Know June 24, 2009

It has been an amazing week in Iran, and you are no doubt seeing images that would have been unimaginable just a few weeks ago.

For most of us, Iran has been a country about which we know very little…which, obviously, makes it tough to put the limited news we’re getting into a proper context.

The goal of today’s conversation is to give you a bit more of an “insider look” at today’s news; and to do that we’ll describe some of the risks Iranian bloggers face as they go about their business, we’ll meet a blogging Iranian cleric, we’ll address the issue of what tools the Iranians use for Internet censorship and the companies that could potentially be helping it along, and then we’ll examine Internet traffic patterns into and out of Iran.

Finally, a few words about, of all things, how certain computer games might be useful as tools of revolution.

The first task for today…let’s talk about blogging:

It turns out that bloggers in Iran risk running afoul of the Press Law of 1986, which, in addition to requiring the licensing of media outlets, reads in part:

Article 6: The print media are permitted to publish news items except in cases when they violate Islamic principles and codes and public rights as outlined in this chapter…

…5. Encouraging and instigating individuals and groups to act against the security, dignity and interests of the Islamic Republic of Iran within or outside the country…
…7. Insulting Islam and its sanctities, or, offending the Leader of the Revolution and recognized religious authorities (senior Islamic jurisprudents);
8. Publishing libel against officials, institutions, organizations and individuals in the country or insulting legal or real persons who are lawfully respected, even by means of pictures or caricatures; and
9. Committing plagiarism or quoting articles from the deviant press, parties and groups which oppose Islam (inside and outside the country) in such a manner as to propagate such ideas (the limits of such offenses shall be defined by the executive by-law)…

… Article 25: If a person, through the press, expressly and overtly instigates and encourages people to commit crimes against the domestic security or foreign policies of the state, as specified in the public penal code, and should his/her action bear adverse consequences, he/she shall be prosecuted and condemned as an accomplice in that crime. However, if no evidence is found on such consequences he/she shall be subject to a decision of the religious judge according to Islamic penal code.

Article 26: Whoever insults Islam and its sanctities through the press and his/her guilt amounts to apostasy, shall be sentenced as an apostate and should his/her offense fall short of apostasy he/she shall be subject to the Islamic penal code.

Article 27: Should a publication insult the Leader or Council of Leadership of the Islamic Republic of Iran or senior religious authorities (top Islamic jurisprudents), the license of the publication shall be revoked and its managing director and the writer of the insulting article shall be referred to competent courts for punishment.

(In Iran, the penalty for apostasy is death.)

Those bloggers who are not licensed can still be prosecuted under the Penal Code, as the OpenNet Initiative reports in an excellent article they’ve just posted on the subject.

In 2008 the Iranian parliament passed a law which provides for the death penalty for bloggers who engage in non-permitted activities, a situation faced today by Yaghub Mehrnahad, who publishes the Mehrnahad blog.

(Interestingly, this blog can be reached in Persian, but an attempt to access the same URL with Google Translate returns this message:

“You are not authorized to view this page

The Web server you are attempting to reach has a list of IP addresses that are not allowed to access the Web site, and the IP address of your browsing computer is on this list.”

More about that later.)

There is also the risk of torture: a problem noted by the BBC at least as far back as 2005.

Ironically, Mohammad Ali Abtabi, a cleric and former Vice-President of Iran whom you may have recently seen on “The Daily Show” maintains a blog in which he does criticize Iranian society on a regular basis, including his assessment of the recent election as “a huge swindling”…which has now caused the authorities to place him under arrest.

So how does Iran manage to control Internet access?

What they aren’t doing is employing the simplest method possible: cutting off all access. This is presumably because of the negative impact on the Iranian economy that would be caused by business being unable to do what they need to do online.

There are several methods being employed, including a requirement that all Internet Service Providers in the country connect to the state-owned Data communication Company of Iran (DCI) for international access, that all ISPs put in place “filtering” and monitoring technologies, and that households be blocked from having access to high-speed Internet connections.

As of this writing the fastest Internet connection now available for an Iranian household is 128k, about double the speed of a dial-up connection…and as you might guess, not fast enough to allow Iranians to use such services as YouTube. A 6MB cable Internet connection, not uncommon in the US, would be roughly 50 times faster. Because of this the total capacity of Iran’s international Internet connections are roughly 12GB per second. Normal traffic is about 5GB per second, which, we are told, is about the same as a mid-size American city.

OpenNet reports that after an initial period of reliance upon foreign monitoring software, the government decided to create an “in-house” capability, and as a result there are locally developed software packages designed to allow access to the actual data packets in messages—meaning that authorities can read such things as e-mails and instant messages after they are sent and before they pass through the DCI “gateway”.

There has been a conversation regarding the role of Western equipment suppliers in all of this; and it is alleged that a Nokia/Siemens joint venture (Nokia/Siemens Networks) has sold to the Iranians equipment that is used to monitor the Internet use of Iranian citizens. The company denies this, however.

They also want you to know that the joint venture has been sold to a third party, and that, as their press release tells us: “providing people, wherever they are, with the ability to communicate ultimately benefits societies and brings greater prosperity”.

Another method of blocking access is to deny connections to certain sets of IP addresses, and this is why, presumably, I could not access the translated version of the “Mehrnahad” blog. This method would also allow the Iranians to block access to and from inside the country to sites like the BBC, Google, and Blogspot.

There is a way around “address blocking” which involves setting up “relays” and “bridges” that can be accessed by people in Iran—and this is something you yourself can do that can be of considerable benefit to Iranians trying to reach out to the rest of us.

The Iranian Government is also trying to locate and isolate those with Twitter accounts that are set to the Tehran time zone…and you can help make that process tougher by either setting up a Twitter account and setting the time zone to Tehran, or changing your existing account’s time zone.

The next few minutes are going to get a bit geeky, and for this I apologize in advance.

In order for your computer to use certain services that involve communicating with other computers the operating system utilizes a series of “ports” (this is all in the software, so don’t bother looking at the back of the machine to find them).

Some quick examples: the TCP/IP connection your computer is using to access the Internet is through Port 80 and the FTP service runs on Port 21.

There are two kinds of ports—TCP and UDP—and there is no reason to explain here why or how they differ.

There are thousands of ports, the ports used are usually specific to a particular service, and there are giant lists of assigned ports that everyone can access. A service can (and usually does) use more than one port for two-way communication with a computer, which is why the Federal Emergency Management Agency Information System uses TCP Port 1777 and UDP Port 1777.

The routing data that packets of information display as they travel through the Internet includes the port that the packet is seeking to access…and that data is accessible to all routers…and if you controlled the gateway through which all inbound and outbound Internet traffic was passing through you could block packets that seek to utilize certain ports.

Experts are suggesting that this is exactly what is happening today in Iran, with more than 80% of traffic bound for ports using the Adobe Flash Player being blocked, nearly 75% of the POP Service (e-mail) traffic being blocked, and roughly 70% of traffic bound for ports used by “proxy servers” being intercepted. (Proxy servers, by the way, are the same type of connections we discussed earlier that you can set up at home to help Iranians trying to reach the Internet.)

Voice over IP (VoIP), the Internet “telephone” service, is proving to be a troublesome issue for censors, as it has legitimate business purposes and is difficult to censor without either having someone listening on the other end of the line or installing a monitoring system worthy of the National Security Agency.

Interestingly, with the exception of the few hours immediately following the vote, the amount of Internet blockage, overall, seems to be fairly close to what it was just before the voting. However, the amount of “instability” has been highly variable, suggesting that certain blocks of IP addresses have been temporarily “withdrawn” from the Internet’s address structure, for want of a better term, and then once again made known to that same addressing infrastructure.

It is suggested that this may be because the Iranian Government has been able to institute a sufficient level of monitoring on those address blocks so as to make them comfortable with again allowing the users of those addresses access to the Internet.

In one of the oddest developments I’ve heard so far, there are reports that certain communications protocols used by some games are not being blocked. We will not go into specifics here, but it seems strange indeed that the video game your mother didn’t want you playing all day might actually be a tool for surreptitious communication.

And with all that said, let’s wrap it up for today.

Here’s what we’ve learned: it is indeed hazardous to be a blogger in Iran.

Despite the fact that it can get you tortured or get you the death penalty, there are those who take the risk—including a former Vice-President who now finds himself under arrest.

We can help Iranian citizens by installing software on our own computers that helps them obtain uncensored Internet access, and about 1/3 of that traffic is getting through.

The regime is not attempting to permanently shut down all Internet traffic—and in fact, that would be a cure that might be as bad as the disease.

The Iranian Government, instead, is developing and operating a sophisticated system of Internet blocking, but it is not perfect…and there are odd connections that could be used that most people would never think of as useful for the purpose.

Finally, a Western company is accused of selling equipment to Iran that could be used for Internet monitoring, but the company in question denies that the gear they sold Iran can perform the tasks the accusers say it can.

It is rare indeed to be able to see two revolutions taking place at the same time–but as you’re watching the news from the newest Iranian Revolution…keep an eye on the news of the Internet Revolution as well.

WARNING—Self-promotion ahead: I am competing for a Netroots Nation scholarship, and I was not selected in the first round of voting. There are two more chances to be selected…with an announcement due this week…so even if you’ve done so before, I still have to ask you to stop by the Democracy for America site and click on the “Add your support” link to offer your support for me again. Thanks for your patience, and we now return you to your regular programming.