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Friday, May 23, 2008


Friday... gardening tips?

It's Friday, so I don't have to keep it technical. But what the heck, I've got a little bit of tech. was exactly what I needed yesterday when I realised I had an n-squared problem with accumulating strings into one long string. It's a complete newbie mistake, but I found it at least. Anyhoo, it was so good I decided it needed another vote.

Okay, so gardening. I'll make it quick. I read in my bonsai book that if you have problems propagating from cuttings, you can grow roots on the original plant in a process called air-layering:

I tried that with my dwarf schefflera (at least I think that's what it is). Here's the parent plant (it's in a pot with 2 chillies and a mint):

But the air layer failed. No roots grew. And as you probably guessed I failed with cuttings, too. But I don't like giving up, so I stuck the cutting in some water:

It has done well. It's in a tall thin jar half full of water, in a pot that's backfilled with pebbles. This keeps the rooting part warm, which I understand is important. It is now finally growing roots:

By the way, there was no sign of those roots when it was being air layered - they've all popped out since it has been in the water. I had it outside, but a couple of the roots died and I decided it was too cold out there so I bought it inside. And today I noticed there are lost more roots starting to stick out through the bark (from cracks that run in the direction of the stem, not from those popcorn-looking bits).

So here's my conclusion about air layering schefflera (umbrella trees). There's nothing to be gained from cutting a ring of bark off. The roots don't grow out of the cut bark - they just grow out of normal bark. In fact, they grow out of the brown ~2mm long cracks you can see on every part of every branch.

In summary:
Enjoy your weekend. I'm taking a week off and spending it on vacation on Long Island in the Whitsundays, to celebrate my partner and my 10 year anniversary.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008



Here are the ways I can think of that an automated system could know that a web page is licensed:
  1. has a link to a known licence URL
  2. has a link that has rel="license" attribute in the tag, and a legal expert confirms that the link target is a licence URL
  3. has a meta tag with name="dc:rights" content="URL", and an expert confirms that the URL is a licence
  4. has embedded or external RDF+XML with license rdf:resource="URL"
  5. natural language, such as "This web page is licensed with a Creative Commons Attribution 1.0 Australia License"
  6. system is told by someone it trusts
Here are the ways I can think of that an automated system could find new, previously undiscovered, types of licences (or at least URLs thereof):
  1. URL is in rel="license" link tag, expert confirms
  2. URL is in meta name="dc:rights" tag, expert confirms
  3. URL is in RDF license tag
  4. page contains an exact copy of a known licence
  5. system is told by someone it trusts
If you can think of any other items for either of these lists, please let me know.

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A night of analysing data

Running for 8 hours, without crashing but with a little complaining about bad web pages, my analysis analysed 191,093 web pages (not other file types like images) and found 179 pages that have rel="license" links (a semantic statement that the page is licensed) with a total of 288 rel="license" links (about 1.5 per page). This equates to 1 in 1067 pages using rel="license"

The pages were drawn randomly from the dataset, though I'm not sure that my randomisation is great - I'll look into that. As I said in a previous post, the data aims to be a broad crawl of Australian sites, but it's neither 100% complete nor 100% accurate about sites being Australian.

By my calculations, if I were to run my analysis on the whole dataset, I'd expect to find approximately 1.3 million pages using rel="licence". But keep in mind that I'm not only running the analysis over three years of data, but that data also sometimes includes the same page more than once for a given year/crawl, though much more rarely than, say, the Wayback Machine does.

And of course, this statistic says nothing about open content licensing. I'm sure, as in I know, there are lots more pages out there that don't use rel="license".

(Tech note: when doing this kind of analysis, there's a race between I/O and processor time, and ideally they're both maxed out. Over last night's analysis, the CPU load - for the last 15 minutes at least, but I think that's representative - was 58%, suggesting that I/O is so far the limiting factor.)

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Monday, May 19, 2008


What's an Australian web page?

I said recently that defining the Australian web is an issue in itself. I thought I'd say a little more about how the National Library's crawls handled the issue.

First, the National Library's crawls were outsourced to the Internet Archive, which is a good thing - it's been done well, the data is in a well defined format (a few sharp edges, but pretty good), and there's a decent knowledge-base out there already for accessing this data.

Now, there are two ways that IA chooses to include a page as Australian:
  1. domain name ends in '.au' (e.g. all web pages on the domain)
  2. IP address is registered as Australian in a geolocation database
Number 1 is simple, and number 2 complicated. Basically, IA is using another company's geolocation database, which uses things such as the path through the Internet to the server, who the Internet service provider is, and possibly who the domain name is registered to.

Actually, there is a third kind of page in the crawls. The crawls were done with a setting that included some pages linked directly from Australian pages (example:, though not sub-pages of these. I'll have to address this, and I can think of a few ways:

(Thanks to Alex Osborne and Paul Koerbin from the National Library for detailing the specifics for me)



National Library of Australia's web data

The National Library of Australia has been crawling the Australian web (defining the Australian web is of course an issue in itself). I'm going to be running some quantification analysis over at least some of this crawl (actually plural, crawls - there is a 2005 crawl, a 2006 crawl and a 2007 crawl), probably starting with a small part of the crawl and then scaling up.

Possible outcomes from this include:
They're all interesting. I'll blog a bit about the technology, but in a separate post.

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Thursday, May 15, 2008


Cheque’s finally in the mail for (some) artists

The recently released Federal Budget held at least one item of interest for the nation’s starving artists: a planned $1.5 million to be spent on establishing a resale royalty scheme. Such a scheme has long been advocated for (by Matthew Rimmer and the Arts Law Centre, amongst many others), in order to bring Australia into line with other jurisdictions including those in Europe, and North and Latin America.

The move to ensure that visual artists benefit from appreciation in the value of their works has been seen as particularly significant for Indigenous artists. Considering the current market for Australian Indigenous artists’ works, a right to resale royalties would translate to a not-insubstantial extra income for some better-known, sought-after artists.

The interesting part will be watching how the scheme develops – at the moment, tenders to administer the scheme should be sought in the later part of this year. For example, nothing appears to have been decided about the term that the right will operate for – that is, whether it will operate on the basis of life + 70 years, or how payments to estates of deceased artists might be managed.

At the same time as K-Rudd gives, however, he also taketh away.

Funding for some other arts sectors has, of course, been slashed – for example, the regional arts fund. So, if you’re an incredibly talented, established (and probably, quite old) artist, whose work has had the benefits of time and hype to appreciate (and which actually sells)– lucky you. That royalty cheque may be in the mail sooner than you thought.

For all those struggling unknowns out there, well, there’s every chance that the program you were relying on for a kick start may be pulled.

Looks like that starving artist cliché will be around (and pulling you a beer) for a while yet.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008


Tune out, Rock on

The music industry is once again raising its shrill voice against ‘piracy’, running a campaign featuring a video starring well-known Australian musos. Artists including members of Silverchair, the Veronicas, and Jimmy Barnes discuss the ins and outs of being a musician, under the tag line: “just paying the rent", "not living like a rock star".

Musos who might actually be having difficulty paying their rent were notably absent from the credits – presumably they couldn’t get someone else to fill in for them down at the café that day, or were too busy uploading their latest single onto Trig.

Unsurprisingly, the campaign has become controversial, inciting much media commentary (check some out here, and here) and raising the ire of Frenzal Rhomb guitarist Lindsay McDougall. McDougall originally appeared in the video, and now says it was on false pretences. According to Crikey, he was

“furious at being ‘lumped in with this witch hunt’ and that he had been ‘completely taken out of context and defamed’ by the Australian music industry, which funded the video. He said he was told the 10-minute film, which is being distributed for free to all high schools in Australia, was about trying to survive as an Australian musician and no one mentioned the video would be used as part of an anti-piracy campaign.” (Crikey)

The original clip including his input has been removed, but is archived.

And what would a debate involving artists’ rights be without a manifesto? ‘Tune out’ has obligingly penned one in response to the In Tune campaign.

Perhaps in an effort to appear marginally down-with-the-kids, the industry campaign page has this pseudo-licence, below, in its footer. It is in some ways similar to a ‘Free for Education’- style licence, and/or may invite the false expectation that they support a sort of personal "fair use" model in some circumstances:

“In Tune was produced with the support of the Australian music industry.
In Tune can be used for personal use and as a free non-commercial
educational resource. For more info, email:"

So, there you have it – the kid drummer from Operator Please thinks MySpace is pretty cool, Lindsay McDougall continues to stick it to the Man, and the Veronicas look flawless even when they’re concerned and slightly annoyed.

Thank goodness for free (for educational purposes only) online videos.

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Thursday, May 01, 2008


Get a list of all (indexable) URLs on a site from the Wayback Machine

Earlier this year I complained about the problem with search engines. Today, Alexander Osborne (from the National Library of Australia) corrected me, at least a little bit.

I said I'd like to see an interface that (among other nice-to-haves) answers questions like "give me everything you've got from", and it turns out that that's actually possible with The Wayback Machine. Not in a single request, that I know of, but with this (simple old HTTP) request:*xm_/*, you can get a list of all URLs under, and then if were to want to you could do another HTTP request for each URL.

Pretty cool actually, thanks Alex.

Now I wonder how big you can scale those requests up to... I wonder what happens if you ask for www.*? Or (what the heck, someone has to say it) just '*'. I guess you'd probably break the Internet...

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