IM/RSS bot – BBC Persian News Flash

OK this is old news, but pretty cool so I’m happy to write it up belatedly.

I just logged into MSN chat, and was greeted by Mario Menti’s IM bot, which provides a text-chat UI for navigating the BBC’s news feeds from their Persian service. I’m pasting the output here, hoping it’ll display reasonably. I can’t read a word of it of course, but remember Ian Forrester’s XTech talk a few years back about the headaches for getting I18N right for such feeds (and the varying performance of newsreader clients with right-to-left and mixed direction text). This hack came out of a conversation with Mario and Ian around the BBC Backstage scene, and from comments from a couple of friends in Tehran, this sort of technology direction is much appreciated by those whose news access is restricted. The bot is called bbcpersian at hotmail.co.uk, and seems to still be running 18 months later. See also some more recent hacks from Mario that wire up BBC feeds to twitter.

BBC Persian News Flash says: (23:01:02)

Hi, this is your hourly BBCPersian.com news flash with the 10 most recent new items
1 افزایش نیروها در عراق ‘درحال نتیجه دادن است’
2 انتقاد شدید کروبی از ‘مخالفان احزاب’
3 نواز شریف از پاکستان اخراج شد
4 بازداشت یکی از ‘قاچاقچیان بزرگ’ کلمبیا
5 ترکیه: کشورهای منطقه از اقدامات تنش زا دوری کنند
6 ‘عاشقان قلندر’ جشنواره ای دیگر برپا کردند
7 کاهش ساعت کار ادارات دولتی ایران در ماه رمضان
8 ‘عراقیها احساس امنیت بیشتری نمی کنند’
9 نواز شریف از پاکستان اخراج شد
10 شرکت مردم گواتمالا در انتخابات این کشور

Reply with number 1 to 10 to see more information, or any other message if you want to stop receiving these news flashes

Anyone know what the state of the art is with IM-based feed readers? or have a wishlist?

Zoolander test

OK, well this only works in France…

Joost thumbnail

From Joost : Zoolander

Le celebre mannequin Derek zoolander (Ben Stiller) a toutes les chances de recevoir pour la quatrieme fois consecutive le trophee “Top-Model de l’annee”. Mais rien ne se passe comme prevu et Zoolander, effondre, voit son prix lui echapper au profit d’un jeune “hippie”, Hansel (Ow…Joostâ„¢ the best of tv and the internet

An OpenID roster

I recently added OpenID support to my WordPress blog installation, and asked folks to test it out by leaving OpenID-authenticated comments. Seems to be working OK. I had a couple of issues with over-zealous spam filters, and people have reported a few glitches with specific providers (see comments for detail). OpenID doesn’t remove the need for spam filters btw, since anyone can run an OpenID server.

I said I wanted to see about a machine-readable export of the collected ID list. While I’ve not got to that, SQL access is simple, so I’ll show that here for now. Perhaps someone else has time to hack on the Web-export problem?


mysql> select user_id, url from wp_openid_identities;

+---------+----------------------------------------------------+
| user_id | url                                                |
+---------+----------------------------------------------------+
|      46 | http://danbri.org/                                 |
|      47 | http://piercarlos.myopenid.com/                    |
|      48 | http://claimid.com/nslater                         |
|      49 | http://nmg.livejournal.com/                        |
|      50 | http://ivanherman.pip.verisignlabs.com/            |
|      51 | http://simone.pip.verisignlabs.com/                |
|      52 | http://tommorris.org/                              |
|      53 | http://mijnopenid.nl/is/joe                        |
|      54 | http://dagoneye.it/me.html                         |
|      55 | http://kidehen.idehen.net/dataspace/person/kidehen |
|      56 | http://www.wasab.dk/morten/                        |
|      57 | http://aberingi.pip.verisignlabs.com/              |
|      59 | http://decafbad.com/                               |
|      58 | http://dltj.org/                                   |
|      60 | http://openid.aol.com/koaliemoon                   |
|      61 | http://klokie.com/                                 |
|      62 | http://petenixey.myopenid.com/                     |
+---------+----------------------------------------------------+
17 rows in set (0.02 sec)

I’m calling this list an “openid roster”, by analogy with XMPP/Jabber. I’m not sure what associations the word has in other’s minds; from a quick search, it was originally used in military contexts first, but is now a general purpose term for a list of people. So, … here is an OpenID roster derrived from my blog comments system.

Scareplane

“He looked so mean, the way he was looking at everyone,” Robbins said. “It was very frightening, like something out of a movie.” [...]

[as the plane prepares to take off] 
Hanging Lady: Nervous? 
Ted Striker: Yes. 
Hanging Lady: First time? 
Ted Striker: No, I've been nervous lots of times.

OpenID plugin for WordPress

I’ve just installed Alan J Castonguay’s WordPress OpenID plugin on my blog, part of a cleanup that included nuking 11000+ comments in the moderation queue using the Spam Karma 2 plugin. Apologies if I zapped any real comments too. There are a few left, at least!

The OpenID thing appears to “just work”. By which I mean, I could log in via it and leave a comment. I’d be super-grateful if those of you with OpenIDs could take a minute to leave a comment on this post, to see if it works as well as it seems to. If it doesn’t, a bug report (to danbrickley@gmail.com) would be much appreciated. Those of you with LiveJournals or AOL/AIM accounts already have OpenID, even if you didn’t notice. See the HTML source for my homepage to see how I use “danbri.org” as an OpenID while delegating the hard work to LiveJournal. For more on OpenID, check out these tutorial slides (flash/pdf) from Simon Willison and David Recordon.

Thinking about OpenID-mediated blog comments, the tempting thing then would be to do something with the accumulated URIs. The plugin keeps its data in nice SQL tables and presumably accessible by other WordPress plugins. It’s been a while since I made a WordPress plugin, but they seem to have a pretty good framework accessible to them now.

mysql> select user_id, url from wp_openid_identities;
+---------+--------------------+
| user_id | url                |
+---------+--------------------+
|      46 | http://danbri.org/ |
+---------+--------------------+
1 row in set (0.28 sec)

At the moment, it’s just me. It’d be fun to try scooping up RDF (FOAF, SKOS, SIOC, feeds…) from any OpenID URIs that accumulate there. Hmm I even wrote up that project idea a while back – SparqlPress. At the time I tried prototyping it in Redland + PHP, but nowadays I’d probably use Benjamin Nowack’s ARC library, which provides SPARQL query of a MySQL-backed RDF store, and is written in PHP. This gives it the same dependencies as WordPress, making it ideal for pluginization. If anyone’s looking for a modest-sized practical SemWeb project to hack on, that one could be a lot of fun.

There’s a lot of interesting and creative fuss about “social networking” site interop around lately, largely thanks to the social graph paper from Brad Fitzpatrick and David Recordon. I lean towards the “show me, don’t tell me” approach regarding buddylists and suchlike (as does Julian Bond with Ecademy), which is why FOAF has only ever had the mild-mannered “knows” relationship in the core vocabulary, rather than trying to over-formalise “bestest friend EVER” and other teenisms. So what I like about this WordPress plugin is that it gives some evidence-based raw material for decentralised social networking apps. Blog comments don’t tell the whole story; nothing tells the whole story. But rather than maintain a FOAF “knows” list (or blogroll, or blog-reader config) by hand, I’d prefer to be able to partially automate it by querying information about whose blogs I’ve commented on, and vice-versa. There’s a lot that could be built, intimidatingly much, that it’s hard to know where to start. I suggest that everyone in the SemWeb scene having an OpenID with a FOAF file linked from it would be an interesting platform from which to start exploring…

Meanwhile, I’ll try generating an RDF blogroll from any URIs that show up in my OpenID WordPress table, so I can generate a planetplanet or chumpologica configuration automatically…

Flickr’d

Just renewed my Flickr-Pro account for 2 years, ensuring an irregular supply of pigeon, fish and other misc depictions.

I wasn’t 100% happy with the wording of their terms though.

To participate in Flickr pro, you must have a valid Yahoo! ID and, solely if you have not received a free offer or gift for a specific number of days of Flickr pro (“Free pro Period”), you will also need to provide other information, such as your credit card and billing information (your “Registration Data”). If you do not have a Yahoo! ID, you will be prompted to complete the registration process for it before you can register for Flickr pro. In consideration of your use of Flickr pro, you agree to: (a) provide true, accurate, current and complete information about yourself and (b) maintain and promptly update the Registration Data to keep it true, accurate, current and complete. If you provide any information that is untrue, inaccurate, not current or incomplete, or Flickr has reasonable grounds to suspect that such information is untrue, inaccurate, not current or incomplete, Flickr has the right to suspend or terminate your account and delete any information or content therein without liability to Flickr.

The “provide true, accurate, current and complete information about yourself” is only contextually limited to “credit card” and “billing information”; it could also plausibly be read as covering the more general Flickr user profile, on which I’ve every right to omit various bits of information (Missing isn’t broken). The billing system also let me have the choice of storing credit card info or re-entering it again next time it’s used. So it isn’t really clear what they’re asking for here. If my buddy icon doesn’t show enough grey hair, is that inaccurate? :) I guess they’re really focussed on contact details, in which case, it’s best to say so.

I signed up anyways. The Flickr API and the RDF-oriented Perl backup library make it a more reliable option for my photos than my own little Ruby scripts ever were. Back 2-3 years ago I maintained the fantasy that I’d manage my own photos and their metadata; the big reason I switched to Flickr was the commenting/social side. It’s just too hard for per-person sites to maintain that level of interactivity and community (unless you’re super famous or beautiful or both). And a photo site without comments and community, for me, is kind of boring. For decentralists … perhaps some combination of extended RSS feed plus OpenID for comments could come closer these days; but before OpenID, I couldn’t ever see a way for commenting and annotation to be massmarket-friendly in a decentralised manner. And, well, also no need to be grudging: Flickr is a great product. I’ve definitely had my money’s worth…