Embedded Powerpoints!

Props to Microsoft for this feature. I’m thinking of ideas for a PowerPoint post already. 🙂

Edit: Nice! If you modify the PowerPoint, it will automatically update on the blog and you will not need to repost it!

Edit 2: This feature isn’t too polished yet; for one thing, it takes forever to load sometimes.

Edit 3 (11/29/10): Aww, it stopped working! 😦

Freedom of the Press: Baidu vs Google

Freedom of the press is a privilege that most of us take for granted—we assume its rooted existence without question, thanks to the blessings of our First Amendment. But what about nations who lack a liberal constitution, nations whose political systems are far from Western democracy?

China is one example. On the Internet alone, nearly all potentially subversive material is banned, as are many of the platforms upon which it can be published. The social networking/blogging sites Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr are prohibited as part of what is referred to as The Great Firewall of China. The Firewall also blocks many parts of other sites that might contain information on topics like anti-communism, the history of China, or—most strikingly—the Tiananmen Square Protests of 1989.

For example, in mainland China, if I google “tiananmen square protest,” the search results page will fail to load. Even just “tiananmen square” will activate the firewall and trigger an Internet failure. If I switch to Bing, I get the same results. This is where China’s main search engine, Baidu, comes into play. On it you can type in “tiananmen square protest,” but the results are next to irrelevant: they’re related to Tiananmen Square, but either are totally unrelated to the 1989 protests, write them off, or condemn them.

An image search shows the disparity more clearly (click to enlarge):

Tiananmen Square Protest Search

Note that I am actually using Google UK on the right-hand side as the proxy server I am using routes there. The difference between the results from Baidu and Google is astounding—you’d think they were searching two completely different events.

More interestingly, according to the Chinese Internet, the Tank Man never existed. The man who stopped a column of tanks by standing in front of them. This guy:

Tank Man

He’s nowhere to be found in China. It’s as if he were a Western myth. For amusement, I have attached here the image comparison from above, with the word “tank” added to the end of the query:

Tiananmen Square Tank

So neither the tank man nor the tanks existed—if you know what I mean.

Happy Fourth of July!

Testing Post Through Email

Since the Great Firewall of China is now blocking my WordPress, most likely due to my post “A Greeting from China,” I shall resort to an indirect means of posting—through email. I do have access to my blog via VPN, but if this way is easier, I shall stick with it.

Tumblr vs WordPress: Simplicity vs Power

There are a great number of debates on this subject already, and I could agree with any of the first 10 hits in a Google search of “wordpress vs tumblr” for either side, as there are certainly advantages and disadvantages to each. Here is my take.

Overall: WordPress is more powerful but more bulky; Tumblr is more simple but more limited. (Also, I’m referring in this post to WordPress.com hosted WordPress. If you don’t know what I meant by that, ignore it.) Feature sets are as of mid-2010.

Tumblr

When you create a Tumblr, you can basically start blogging immediately, with little adapt-time. On your Dashboard, you click this giant button for Text Post and it leads you to a nice, basic text editor. You type in a couple messages, click Create Post, and in no time you’ve created your first post!

You’ll find, however, that what I listed above is about all you can do. There are slight variations, such as posting pictures, quotes, audio, and short videos, (and a little more, but are all expected of a blogging software) but that’s it. Going further, you can “follow” other people so their posts will show up on your Dashboard, very similarly to friends’ statuses in Facebook’s “News Feed.” After that, you can “like” posts, also similar to Facebook, and you can “reblog,” which basically copies a post into your own post and lets you comment or reply to it. Your response, however, will only appear on your own blog. This makes Tumblr a poor choice for discussion—there is NO built-in comment system. For me, that alone made Tumblr out of the question.

WordPress

When you create a WordPress, things are different. On your Dashboard, you see a zillion things on the left-hand menu, and a perhaps-intimidating grid of information in the center. In fact, it might not be obvious at first how to make your first post!

After a little while of getting used to it, however, you find that it virtually lets you do anything you want. You can include almost anything in posts. You can put categories or tags on your posts, for archival purposes or for ease of access. Speaking of archives, Tumblr’s post archiving system is unique, but rather disorganized—it looks nice, but it’s incredibly hard to find a certain kind of post. On WordPress, if you can narrow down the category or month, it can become much easier. You can also comment, which makes WordPress infinitely better for discussion; it has automatically included anti-spam as well. WordPress comes with a built-in stat tracking system, which is very nice, telling you how many times posts were viewed, which ones, from what links, etc. It also LOOKS more professional. The themes are very well designed, and there are lots of them. You can post attachments which don’t have to appear in any post. Plus, WordPress is de facto more than just blogging—it lets you create a website, with pages which are not posts, and which can be as many in number and can have as many sub-pages as needed. And each of these features is customizable.

The Verdict

It might seem above that I am saying that WordPress is unequivocally better. But that is is not my point. Whether you should choose WordPress or Tumblr (assuming you have narrowed down your choice of blog to these two, though there ARE other nice blogging sites) will depend on how you plan to use your blog. If you want your audience to be a group of close friends, and you don’t feel too serious about blogging, then I would recommend Tumblr, as it’s easy to set up, easy to connect.

But if you want to reach out to a world audience, and are somewhat serious about blogging, then I urge you to use WordPress. It takes more time to get used to, but it gives you so many more features.

Extra

Here are a screenshot of Tumblr and of WordPress respectively. Click an image to view at full size.

Tumblr:

Tumblr Screenshot

Plain and simple.

WordPress:

WordPress Screenshot

That’s a heck of a lot more customization, but also a heck of a lot more to learn.

Final Advice

You’ve seen them, you decide.

Google and this Blog

Today’s post examines how people find my blog, as I thought it would be interesting to see how this blog generates traffic. WordPress has a built-in statistics tracker including what search terms people searched to click to the site—mainly from Google. I’m going to use two different days of stats.

Tuesday May 11, 2010

Total # of Views: 117

Most viewed pages:

Title Views
StarCraft II Unit Review: Protoss Void R 27
Home page* 23
The StarCraft II Map Editor, in Context 11
Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar… 11
US Census 2010 Win 8
Testing WordPress-Facebook Posting 5
Never Let a Fool Kiss You or a Kiss Fool 5
The Brain’s Dark Energy 4
The Persistence of Memory 3
WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr, Facebook, Tw 3
Sleep: A Heuristic Examination 2
Visit to the University of Chicago 2
Philosophy of The Matrix (Part 1) 2
College Decisions 1
StarCraft II Beta Overview 1
Life, L-IB-erty, and the Pursuit of H-AP 1
On Writing Well 1
New Laptop, and Laptop Comparison 1
Candide 1
IB Theory of Knowledge 1
Negative Correlation 1
36.8% in Probability 1
The Use of Rhetoric to Obscure a Lack of 1
AP/IB Exams 1

* “Home page” involves any hit on any page number, so if someone looked at the first three pages of blog posts, that would count as three hits, not one.

So that’s a breakdown of what people viewed. It doesn’t represent Google searches exactly as some people visit the blog without searching for it while others click on links to pages from my Facebook. Here are the searches that people clicked to the blog on that day:

Search Views
sleep 5
void ray 4
starcraft 2 void ray 2
let a kiss fool you 2
starcraft 2 void ray rush 2
void rays 2
on writing well abstract 1
protoss phoenix review 1
tumblr vs wordpress vs blogger 1
candide philosophy 1
how to get sc2 map editor 1
the use of rhetoric to obscure a lack of* 1
how to counter protoss void ray 1
moving matrix code 1
best defense against void starcraft 1
what is the map editor in starcraft ii c* 1
best against void ray 1
649,740 1
map editor starcraft 2 list of condition 1
starcraft 2 terran void ray counter 1
ap physics c how do you think you did 1
clever quips on census 1
sc2 editor triggers 1
warp ray 1
code matrix 1
this isnt a chair exist philosophy 1
tumblr not facebook 1
starcraft 2 void ray counter 1
low energy state of the brain 1
how to kill protoss void 1
how does protoss work 1
best protoss anti air unit starcraft 2 1
protoss void ray counter 1
starcraft 2 map editor triggers 1
iblogo 1
laptop 1
starcraft 2 terrain editor 1
starcraft 2 stragegy void ray counter 1
starcraft ii void ray defense 1
mutalisk vs void ray 1
sc2 map editor changing unit model 1
tumblr vs facebook 1
the brain’s dark energy scientific ameri* 1
void ray rush 1
theory of knowledge ib books 1
starcraft 2 protoss best single unit 1
scientific american march 2010 1
ib history exam paper 3 2010 1
“warcraft iii” “comments” “overview” 1
nargaque 1

* The stat-tracker cuts off the stored search string if it is really long.

Interestingly, people search for the Void Ray (from StarCraft II) a LOT. Quite a few searches total are on that.

The single most searched term was “sleep” and I found this rather odd. My only post that focuses on sleep is “Sleep: A Heuristic Examination,” but from the actual view table this post only had two views. The conclusion: When you see an individual blog post from Google search of a WordPress blog, it has both the given article AND the home page. Thus, of the five clicks, two were on the article and three were on the home page.

Other interesting search terms:

  • let a kiss fool you—there’s a post called “Never Let a Fool Kiss You or a Kiss Fool You,” on a book with the same title.
  • protoss phoenix review—the post “StarCraft II Unit Review: Protoss Void Ray” had the word “Phoenix” in it, so somehow this happened.
  • 649,740—this looks completely random, but it’s actually the denominator of the chance that you get a royal flush, i.e. 1/649,740. Linked to “36.8% in Probability.”
  • this isnt a chair exist philosophy—to one of the “Philosophy of The Matrix” posts.

Alright, let’s try a different date.

Sunday, May 9, 2010.

Total views: 225

Title Views
Home page 59
US Census 2010 Win 39
StarCraft II Unit Review: Protoss Void R 29
Senioritis 27
The StarCraft II Map Editor, in Context 15
WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr, Facebook, Tw 8
Negative Correlation 7
Never Let a Fool Kiss You or a Kiss Fool 5
AP/IB Exams 5
The Brain’s Dark Energy 4
Quotations from Alice in Wonderland 3
College Decisions 3
“The Larvas are Being Larvated” 3
About 3
College, and the 15% Rule 2
Quotations from Through the Looking Glas 2
The Great Gatsby 2
The Riemann Hypothesis 1
College Acceptance Status 1
The Use of Rhetoric to Obscure a Lack of 1
Essays 1
IB Theory of Knowledge 1
Alice in Wonderland 1
Kevin Tian 1
The Aims of Education 1
The Scarlet Letter Mock Trial 1

This was the day I posted “Senioritis,” and its view count is mostly from Facebook. It would make sense that the Home page has the most views, but to someone new to this blog, the high number of views of “US Census 2010 Win” might be confusing. These hits are mostly from StumbleUpon. Digg was able to bring 80,000+ visitors in one day, but the traffic it generates dies down after about a week. StumbleUpon had a lower spike, at around 20,000 visitors, but is continuously generating traffic. Now, the search stats.

Search Views
starcraft ii unit review 3
sc2 editor freeze unit animations 2
sleep 2
protoss ground unit anti air 2
nargaque 2
starcraft 2 map editor dota 2
marcus raichle 2
the great gatsby global statement 2
nargaque blog 1
how to beat void ray rush 1
hypothesis 1
starcraft 2 protoss counter void ray 1
starcraft 2 terran build order 1
caltech waitlist 2010 1
starcraft 2 how to kill void ray 1
tweedledum and tweedledee contrariwise 1
starcraft 2 map editor script 1
“they were learning” alice quote 1
facebook post appear on tumblr 1
starcraft 2 map editor modify terrain 1
starcraft 2 map editor scripting 1
the use of rhetoric to obscure a lack of 1
how do void ray charges work? 1
iraq war tok 1
scarlet letter 1
how to use the void ray 1
phoenix rush protoss 1
what do the codes in the matrix mean 1
where can i find my starcraft 2 map edit 1
starcraft 2 air defense protoss 1
terran how to counter void ray rush 1
how void ray works 1
things that happened the week after next 1
kevin tian 1
wordpress.com (clash of the titans) 1
how to change upgrade in starcraft 2 map 1
“marcus e. raichle” 1
voidray 1
ib exams waiting for godot 1
starcraft 2 map editor triggers 1
my birthday is tomorrow 1
starcraft 2 protoss block ramp 1
ib may exam 2010 physics 1
counter protoss void ray 1
tumblr over facebook 1
counter massed void rays 1
cornell college of arts and sciences wai 1
starcraft 2 units protoss ray 1
void ray 1
void ray attack 1

As the tables indicate, there is not really one exact search string that brings a lot of traffic to this blog. It’s very dispersed actually. There are quite a few bizarre ways people got to the site, for example: iraq war tok, hypothesis, my birthday is tomorrow, kevin tian, caltech waitlist 2010, and ib exams waiting for godot. Google seems to do a whole-blog search at times, because I do have Iraq and war in one article, and TOK in another, but not together. Similarly, I have IB exams in one article and Waiting for Godot in another, but someone got here by searching for both. Weird.

Spikes from StumbleUpon and Digg Fall by 50% on Second Day

As mentioned before, I received two spikes in page views for my blog (credits to the US Census image). For this post, we take note of a striking similarity between the two spikes.

Blog Stats Two Spikes
The first spike (3/21/10) is caused by StumbleUpon, the second by Digg (3/26/10).

First, each spike lasts for roughly two days. But the more interesting fact is that, even though Digg brought in 3.5 times as many viewers than StumbleUpon on the first day, both had a near 50% drop on the second day. The percentage of views on second day to views on first day was precisely 50% on StumbleUpon and 48% on Digg.

This seems to imply one thing: StumbleUpon and Digg are fundamentally the same. They would seem to be different, for they have different modes of operation, i.e. random, recommended pages from a button versus lists sorted by time or popularity, and they have different user bases. The stats, however, show a disturbing similarity.

I wonder whether other sites that get hit by StumbleUpon or Digg experience this phenomenon too.

Digg Stats: Hits vs. Page

Yesterday I wrote a post on The Impact of Digg, and Digg vs. StumbleUpon, which involved stats on site interaction rates. Today, I shall look at Digg only, and how the page number of the Digg website impacts the number of hits. Basically, if a site is on the first page of Digg, it should get a lot of views. When it gets pushed to the second page, the number of views should decline, as only a fraction of the people who viewed the first page would click to the second page. Same goes for the third, fourth, fifth pages.

WordPress stat tracking allows me to see the number of hits from each separate url. And I see hits from digg.com, digg.com/page2, digg.com/page3, etc. So, what is this fraction of users that go beyond the first page? Below is a table of the number of hits from each Digg page url. This gives the number of people who clicked to my blog from the first page, the second page, etc. As I am compiling the data right now, the site is on page 11 of Digg, so I shall only go up to page 10. Also, note that there are many ways to access a site on Digg than directly from the front page or numbered pages, so the total views below will not add up to anywhere near 100k.

Page Hits Ratio to previous page
1 14855 N/A
2 5036 33.9%
3 1447 28.7%
4 1247 86.2%
5 641 51.4%
6 299 46.6%
7 385 128.8%
8 179 46.5%
9 196 109.5%
10 133 67.9%

Here are the corresponding graph for the Hits column:

Digg Stats: Hits vs Page

And for the last column:

Digg Stats: Hit Ratio vs Page

Quite a few surprises here! I shall try to comment in order.

First, from page one to two, we see that the clicks generated on page two is only a third of that generated on page one. That is, you’ll get about three times as many hits from the first page of Digg than from the second page. Roughly speaking, this also means one-third of users who go to the front page of Digg will continue to the second page.

From page two to three, there is an even larger drop—only 28.7% of those on page two continue to page three. But, from three to four, there is barely a drop. In fact, the number of hits generated by the fourth page is 86.2% of that generated on the third page. There are several ways to explain this, and each one most likely plays a role:

  • Dedication: Users having the energy to click to page three will probably have the energy to click to page four. Compare this to the first page. Someone might go to Digg, glance at the topics, then leave. But if someone is dedicated enough to go all the way to page three, there is a likelier chance that he will stay on Digg.
  • Post Timing: Depending on the number of sites that are dugg, a particular site might be sent back pages faster or slower.
  • User Timing: Perhaps more users are on at certain times of the day.

From four through six, the view count drops by about one-half each time. At seven, however, the view count INCREASES by 28.8%! Most likely it is a combination of the timing issues, plus the superstition of seven—a user might jump directly to page seven. Who knows?

From seven to eight we have about the same drop as from five to six. But at nine, the count increases again. And again, this is most likely explained by a timing issue. Page ten has a drop from page nine, but it is not a big drop.

Just looking at the first graph for a minute, we see the dropping rate almost flatten from three to four. After two sharp falls, it falls much more slowly.

The second graph has two points above 100%, which we have looked at before. It also has an generally positive trend: the later the page, the higher the retention rate. This makes logical sense, as explained in the bulleted dedication part.

There you have it. Overall, it’s mostly about the first page—it gets more views than the others combined. But weird things happen once you get into the later ones.