Notes from underground

يارب يسوع المسيح ابن اللّه الحيّ إرحمني أنا الخاطئ

Archive for the tag “Amatomu”

Internet connections and speeds

After 12 days without a phone or Internet connection, I’ve been catching up on reading blogs, and Jenny Hillebrand had an interesting thing about Internet speeds here Carpenter’s Shoes: Internet Speed.

I thought I’d try it, and my results are here and look something like this:


If that’s the speed I’m getting at 1:40 am, what must it be like at peak periods?

I also noticed that AMATOMU :: The South African blogosphere, sorted is back, well sort of. Some of the stuff doesn’t seem to display properly, but at least it is there. I thought it was gone for good. It least it gives some idea of which South African blogs are active.


Goodbye Amatomu?

For several years now Amatomu has been the most useful guide to the South African blogosphere, but for the past couple of years it has been behaving erratically, and now it seems to have disappeared altogether.

It was started by the Mail & Guardian a few years ago, when they tried to entice several bloggers to their web site, but they abandoned that along with Amatomu some time ago. For a while Amatomu limped along on its own, but now it seems to have died altogether. All I get now is

Unable to connect
Firefox can’t establish a connection to the server at

That is sad, because now the only real guide to South African blogs that I know of is the blogrolls of other South African bloggers, and those, including my own, are often poorly maintained.

But perhaps blogging is dying anyway, and internet communication is becoming more and more trivial and inconsequential.

We read headlines like Kate Middleton Just Gave Birth to Nearly $400 Million in Economic Stimulus –, only to discover that most of it is “The commemorative schlock. So, so much schlock.”

And most of that schlock finds its way on to social media sites like Facebook nowadays.

And yes, there were (and probably still are) blogs that are just as bad, but they weren’t quite as “in your face” as Facebook.

So, I’m sorry to see the death throes of Amatomu. For all its faults, it did serve a useful purpose.



Is someone tampering with blog stats?

There’s something weird going on with blog stats.

Yesterday our family history blog, Hayes & Greene Family History, got its highest number of daily visitors ever — 252.

BlogStatI didn’t post anything special yesterday — in fact I posted nothing at all, so there doesn’t seem to be any particular reason for the sudden rush of visitors.

But there was something else that was even stranger. I did post something on our other family history blog, on Blogger, rather than WordPress, and I happened to notice, when I updated it on Amatomu, that its ranking on Amatomu was higher than that of the WordPress one, which was a bit unusual. Ususally the WordPress blog fluctuates in the Amatomu rankings between about 220-250. But this morning it was down to 285, and now it is down to 816, on the very day that it seems to have got the highest number of visitors. The Blogger family history blog is usually somewhere in the 300-500 level, but yesterday it was suddenly up around 220.

Here are the current Amatomu rankings for my blogs:


The question I have is: why there such an extraordinary increase in the number of visitors on a single day, and why should it be accompanied by such a huge drop in the rankings, from 280 something to below 800?

The only way that could happen is if someone is manipulating the blog stats, and doing so in two different places — on WordPress to exaggerate the number of visitors, and on Amatomu to lower the rankings.

If anyone else has a better explanation, please let me know.

But I am more than ever convinced that blog statistics are completely unreliable and worthless.

The South Africa blogosphere, unravelled

Amatomu’s slogan used to be “The South African blogosphere, sorted.”

Well, now it has become unsorted, because Amatomu no longer seems to work. To “unravel” means to pull a knitted garment apart so that all you have is separate strands of wool, and you can no longer see the pattern or shape of the garment, or even the garment itself. It has gone.

And one by one the tools that I used to use to find interesting blogs have gone, or become unusable.

The first to go was Technorati. It’s still there, I think, but it’s no longer useful. It used to have tags that found blog posts with particular topic tags, but that no longer works. It’s become a thinly disguised advertising gimmick.

The next to go was Blog Catalog. That’s still there, but some whiz kid who had never heard of the old adage “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” decided to “improve” it. Now it no longer works.

Then it was the turn of MyBlogLog. Yahoo! bought it as a successful running concern from the original developers, and then pulled the plug on it. Yahoo! does that a lot. They did it with Geocities, they did it with Webrings, and they did it with MyBlogLog.

MyBlogLog and BlogCatalog were social blogrolling sites. They allowed each person to sort the blogosphere according to their own preference, but in such a way that others could see them and join in, the theory being that if you liked someone’s blog, you might like the blogs they liked, and the people who liked their blog might like yours. Since those two disappeared from the scene, I’ve lost contact with a whole bunch of blogs that I used to read, and I missed them. I found some again and put them in my blogroll, but that doesn’t tell me how often the writers of those blogs visit my blog, as MyBlogLog and BlogCatalog used to do.

But there was still Amatomu for South African blogs. You could see who had posted what recently, and which recent articles were most popular and so on. But now even that’s gone.

There’s still Afrigator, but I’ve never understood its user inferface, and no matter how much time I spend on it I never seem to find anything I’m looking for.

Occasionally someone comments on my blog, and I think, hey, I used to read your blog, but I haven’t seen it for a long time, and now I no longer know how to find it.

It’s all rather sad.

And when I say it’s sad people say, you must move on… move on to Facebook and imbibe popular culture and immerse yourself in banal and trivial stuff like “What my friends think I do, what my mom thinks I do, what my boss thinks I do” and so on.

Blogging’s better, but it’s getting harder to find the good blogs.

Blogging blind

With the death of Amatomu and Technorati, I feel a great lack in the blogosphere.

Both seem to have died from the same cause — someone decided to tinker with them to make “improvements”, and broke whatever was working before. There’s a lot of truth in the old saying “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Amatomu used to be a fairly good guide to South African blogs. You could see who was blogging about what, and the latest posts in various categories. It also gave fairly interesting statistics on one’s own blog, showing which posts got the most readers and things like that.

Now I suddenly find that there are blogs that I used to follow fairly regularly that I haven’t looked at for a month or more, because Amatomu is dead. It appears that the Mail & Guardian, which used to run it, has pulled out, and are looking to sell it or give it away.

Technorati was good for topical searches. I used to use it to see who was blogging on a certain topic, and to see what they said. I liked to do that when I was planning to write a blog post on a topic, and if I found that other bloggers had already said interesting things on the topic, i could link to there posts as well. But now it’s as though one is blogging blind, not knowing who else is writing on the topic, and whether anyone has some interesting angles one hadn’t thought of.

I suppose that has now been taken over by Google blog search, because when one goes to Technorati for the last few weeks all one gets is messages like

Welcome to the new! The page requested was not found. It’s possible you reached this page because we forgot to update a link on the previous version of our site. We have recorded this event and will be doing our best to repair any broken links.

Well the links have been broken for so long that there is no longer any hope thatr they will be repaired.

I suppose Amatomu is the victim of a common problem in the IT industry — people who have a good idea and implement it where they are working, and then move on to somewhere else, leaving the Mail & Guardian (in this case) stuck with a service that no one else really knows how to maintain. I rather hope that the community option comes off, and that the original authors may see fit to revive it.

The heat death of the Internet

A couple of days ago I commented on entropy on the Internet, and things are getting worse. Amatomu is still broken. Technorati returns “Page not found”. I’m thinking of removing their widgets/links from my blog, since they no longer serve any purpose.

And last weekend my ISP, Telkom, announced that there would be service interruptions over the weekend so that they could improve their service, and the service interruptions have continued ever since. The service seems to work for 30 seconds, and then to be off for two minutes, in a continuing cycle. Two out of three web pages I click on return the following message:

Network Timeout

The operation timed out when attempting to contact

The requested site did not respond to a connection request and the browser has stopped waiting for a reply.

Is it just me, or are any other Telkom subscribers experiencing similar problems?

Entropy in the blogosphere

Why is it that websites that provide auxiliary services to blogs have a passion to tinker with their sites in such a way that what used to work no longer works, and adding a whole lot of useless stuff?

I’m not the only one to have noticed this. St. Aidan to Abbey Manor: What’s going on with Technorati?:

Not that I notice these things, but in the past week my Technorati ‘authority’ (number of other sites linking here in the last 90 days) has dropped like a stone, and my ranking seems to vary by several hundred thousand depending on which way the wind is blowing at the time. Maybe they’re all getting a bit overloaded. It looks like links from the sidebars of other blogs (like the ones down the right hand side here) aren’t being counted any more.

Technorati is a prime example of people messing with something that previously worked well so that when they have fixed it it doesn’t work at all. When I first joined I found it quite useful, but it has become more and more erratic.

If I’m blogging on a topic, I sometimes enter key words in Technorati to see what other people are saying about it, but now I find Google blog search is much more reliable for that. Technorati keep changing their user interface and moving stuff around so it is far more difficult to find. I used to be able to go to my home page on Technorati, see all my blogs, ping them if necessary, see who had linked to my blog posts, and see the top ten search keywords and the top ten post key words. That’s how I learnt about Twitter, and discovered who Paris Hilton and Steven Furtick were.

But those have all been scattered and are no longer conveniently visible in one place. I suspect that the reason for that is that Techorati hope that you will go looking for them as in a labyrinth, going down numerous dead ends and having to work your way back, and so will be exposed to more advertisements and so they will make more money. That might work for a week, but after that most people will give up and stop visiting the site.

The home page was all over Technology Business Entertainment Lifestyle Politics Sports Gaming Celebrity. One of the reasons I never visited Digg was that most of my interests didn’t fit into any of those categories, and when Technorati went down that route I lost interest.

After writing this I went to have a look at their home page (for the first time in about six months) and I see they’ve put back a little of what used to be there, but still not enough.

And I just did a test: I searched for “hippocracy”, and none of my posts on that topic show up in Technorati, even though they have explicit Technorati tags. When I click on the tag in the post itself it takes me to the relevant tag page on Technorati, which tells me that “there are no posts related to this tag”. And it also goes on to say

Welcome to the hippocracy tag page at Technorati. This page features content from the farthest reaches of the Blogosphere that authors have “tagged” with hippocracy.

Yet it can’t even find the post that has the tag that I clicked on to reach the page — so much for the “farthest reaches of the Blogosphere” claim. The fact is that it doesn’t work. It’s broken.

Even the WordPress page on the topic appears to be broken (or hacked).

So Technorati is pretty useless.

Another site that seems to have similar problems is Amatomu. When it started, was a fairly good guide to the South African blogosphere, and also gave some interesting statistics about what posts on one’s blog were being read most frequently.

By far the most popular post on this blog was Notes from underground: Books to read before you die. But then Amatomu revamped their software, and suddenly it appeared that no one was reading it at all. So either the Amatomu statistics were wildly wrong before, or they are wildly wrong now. I suspect that it is the “improvements” that broke it. One of my widgets tells me that Saint John, New Brunswick arrived on “Notes from underground: Books to read before you die” today, so people are still reading that post, and it is the Amatomu statistics that are as inaccurate as Technorati’s.

After the bad news, some good news: Blog Explosion seems to be improving.

Like Technorati and Amatomu, Blog Explosion was started by enthusiastic people who lost interest in it and handed over the running of it to someone else who didn’t really grasp the original vision. Because of entropy, without enthusiastic input, it gradually ran down. But in the case of Blog Explosion the users organised themselves, and complained, pressed and prodded until the people running Blog Explosion finally acted to arrest the decline, and began to get things working properly again.

They were able to do this because of the way works.

At one level it is a kind of Blog Directory, with blogs divided into various categories. You surf through blogs, which it is supposed to show you in random order, giving preference to a category that you choose. As you surf, you get points for each blog you see, and your blog is then shown to other surfers in proportion to the number of points you earn. So it is a good way of seeing new blogs, and getting new readers for your blog at the same time.

The problem was that because lack of maintenance and general neglect, it was shaowing the same blogs over and over, even if they hadn’t been updated for months, also also was not showing blogs in the chosen categories, but in categories that were of no interest.

Blog Explosion users got fed up with this, so they blogged about it, and because of the way Blog Explosion works, other users saw these posts, commented on them, and blogged about it in turn. And eventually Blog Explosion users got sufficiently fired up to nag the owners of Blog Explosion to do something about it. So they removed some of the dead wood — neglected blogs that weren’t updated — and did some general cleanups, which led to a great improvement.

One of the things about Blog Explosion is the more the merrier — the more bloggers who participate, the greater the number of new blog posts there are to see, ones you might never have otherwise seen. So I encourage bloggers to participate in this.

There are still some improvements that could be made, but it’s definitely better than it was a few months ago, unlike Technorati, where they keep changing the user interface and making the site more difficult to navigate while the underlying purpose and the functions it was supposed to provide are no longer there — like finding blog posts tagged “hippocracy” (or anything else).

Finding good blogs to read

I saw this appeal on another blog.

Suggestions, please! The Ultra, the Fabulous, the only, Miss P!:

I’m running out of good blogs to read.
Any suggestions?

I can understand and sympathise.

I used to use Blog Explosion when I was bored and looking for blogs to read. You could give it your favourite topic (mine was “Books/Literature/Witing”) and it would show you random blogs dealing with that topic, and when it ran out of ones on that topic it would start showing you ones on other topics. By looking at other blogs you earned “points” which meant that your blog(s) were shown to other similarly bored people.

It was quite a good idea when it started, but apparently like so many things in the blogosphere (remember Amatomu and Geocities), it was abandoned by the originators of the idea, taken over by someone else who was simply interested in making money out of it, and then neglected, and allowed to run down.

Now Blog Explosion no longer shows blogs that are related to your preferred topic, but shows the same old off-topic ones over and over again — I suspect because they have paid for preferred positions. The trouble is that some of those that keep getting shown first haven’t been updated, so it becomes even more boring. I occasionally look at it in the hope that things will improve, but they don’t. Perhaps the problem is that there are not enough new people registerin g blogs there, so they are showing the same old repertoire over and over again. So if you are reading this, perhaps you should try it. Register your blog at Blog Explosion, and have a look at what it shows you. Much of it will probably be new and fresh the first time round. If you find too much repetition, there’s no need to go back, but at least your blog will provide a new option for some of the users who have seen it all.

Another way is to look at the blogs in the blogroll of blogs you find interesting. Use a social blogrolling tool like BlogCatalog or MyBlogLog to mark ones that look interesting and possibly worth a return visit.

For South African blogs Amatomu still works, though suffering somewhat from neglect by its sponsors. It also went downhill when, in addition to listing blogs, it listed blog hosts, so that half the blogs one sees there are called “Blat: to utter without thinking” or “Thought Leader”, when in fact those are hosts to many different blogs. It needs someone enthusiastic to take over and do a radical clean-up and reorganisation to get back to the original idea that worked well.

Afrigator used to work OK, but has now become JASNS (Just Another Social Networking Site).

When I first started blogging I used to use Technorati a lot, but that too has gone downhill. It used to be possible to use tag searches to find stuff you were interested in, and each registered user had a page that showed their blogs, and what tags were popular at the moment, but that has now gone, and like Blog Explosion they’ve rearranged their user interface to make it more difficult to use. I suspect that this is in order to make you hunt in many more pages to find what you are looking for, so that you will be exposed to more advertising and make more money for them as you go down each dead end. Surely they must realise that this is counter-productive — it might bring a short-term rise in advertising revenue, but eventually people users will be annoyed and go elsewhere. At the moment they seem to have a lot of technical problems, so even their new and disimproved and dehanced and clunkier user interface doesn’t work properly.

So to the one and only Miss P. my best suggestion, at the moment, is Google Blog Search.

Any other suggestions?

What’s up with Amatomu?

The Amatomo lists of popular blogs seem to have got really screwed up.

Consider this:

Fastest climbing blogs (overall)
Memoirs of a Self-Confessed Slut (+1453)

by memoirs-of-a-self-confessed-slut
The Spear Does Arabia (+1401)

by The Spear
Entropy (+1401)

by docmoo
Contact Online (+1370)

by David MacGregor
Travis Noakes (+1250)

by Travis

Contact Online has always been somewhere in the top 20 blogs in the religion section, until about a week ago, when it dropped right out of sight, and far from jumping up 1370 places, this evening it hit rock bottom:

65 Muslim Revolution

Proudly Muslim Blogger
| by Forwarders
66 nextchurch

A space to share and shape ideas and theology about what the next church should look like. A South African contribution to the emerging church conversation.
| by Andries Louw
67 Contact Online

An Anglican News and Commentary site from South Africa
| by David MacGregor

And the nextchurch one surely doesn’t belong down there either.

Jalan Bukit Merah!

Jalan Bukit Merah
Jalan Bukit Merah
Amatomu! Amatomu!
Jalan Bukit Merah!

Sung to the tune of “Knees up, Mother Brown”.

Jalan Bukit Merah is a road in Singapore, and the most recent posts in the Religion section of Amatomu would seem to belong there, or in Indonesia or Malaysia rather than William Nichol Drive or Nelson Mandela Drive, or Beyers Naude Drive or any other South African city.

Amatomu is speaking in tongues again.

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