Thursday, October 14, 2004

In Answer to Will's BlogShares Question

Will had a very good comment about BlogShares where he voiced concerns about blog valuation. I'd like to answer him, as well as others who share a very common, very easy to formulate, misconception about the game. First, the question from Will:
Though I'm not sure how I feel about BlogShares. Admittedly, I'm not much of a player, my site is listed.

I fear that some of the premises of the stock market, namely, its a corporate popularity contest, ends up with the valuation of a blog site being higher with more external links attached and volume of traffic received to the site.

While I believe that many of the top sites are well put together, some seem spare on content at times, though they are well visited.

So what's the dif?
BlogShares values blogs based on incoming links, and only for blogs. In other words, if Kos links to your site, it affects your blog's valuation, but a link from Google News does not. Because the game relies solely on incoming links from blogs to determine a value point, the game acts as a very clever social network experiment, with the game layer taking place around these connections.

Also, since incoming links from blogs are the sole source of value, outgoing links to other blogs naturally affect value as well. If Kos links to your blog, using the same example, and hundreds of other blogs link to Kos, the value added by Kos's outgoing/your blog's incoming link is higher than the same outgoing link from my blog since fewer people provide my blog with incoming links. Kinda circular to imagine, but since bloggers often thrive on incoming links, it is a keen method of charting the evolving social network, much like the Ecosystem, only with a fun game attached.

BlogShares does not base anything on site traffic. In fact, the only means of affecting blog share prices are incoming links and player actions. You can buy and sell shares in each blog, changing the price per earnings (P/E) and share price, plus there are tools called "artefacts" which allow players to increase/decrease blog share prices, among other functions. As such, many of the top players often battle each other to control shares in the top blogs in the game. However, there are so many blogs (over 1.6 million at last count), there are never enough buyers for all the shares.

Unfortunately for many BlogShares veterans, whose days go back to the game's beginning in early 2003, the game has changed greatly from being focused on blog shares to a derivative of these blogs known as Ideas. Many purists, and I'm among them, want the game to refocus on share trading and strategy. Admins are working to bring the game back to this point, but a majority of game play continues to take part in a very neat product of blog valuations, the Ideas.

Ideas are a bit complicated to explain if you haven't played the game, but here's a quick summary. There is a large index of categories in the game. Players vote blogs into such categories (Law, Politics, etc...), over 1000 at the current moment. Once blogs are in categories, they have the potential to produce ideas. However, they will only do so if two conditions are met:
    1. The blog must have incoming links.
    2. There must have been some activity on the blog
The BlogShares spiders rely on a quick parse of the blog site to identify and update links, and use for activity updates, although the spiders can also read activity during the parse.

Basically, the ideas market is separate from the share market. Although they are both generated from the blogs in the system, ideas are created in two steps.

First, blogs are reindexed by using spiders to parse the site.

Then, once every 15 minutes or so (its random), an idea production script is run. For blogs which are voted into industries and were indexed since the last idea production (and also had some activity on the blog based on a ping during reindexing), the script will produce ideas. For example, a blog in the India, Journal, and Hinduism industries would cause those ideas to be produced. The ideas are released on the market upon production.

Generally, they are the major part of investment and play once you pass several hundred billion dollars, but can be fun under that amount too.

The way the prices are determined has recently changed to reflect a more supply-demand relationship. Basically, if ideas are rarely produced, rarely sold on the market by players, and always bought before the next idea production, the prices will continuously rise. See Petroleum Engineering as an example of a rare industry (although "rare industry" changes based on when blogs are voted into them).

Most prices now reflect the rarity, although there are few exceptions. Industries which just start producing ideas are priced very low and are likely to stay that way for quite some time (See Conservadox for example). However, these rare industries have value to collectors who are trying to garner ideas in all the industries available.

Blogs can only be reindexed once in every 24 hours. and premium members can reindex an unlimited number of blogs, though still subject to the 24 hour limit for each blog. So, rare industries will be produced only 1 or 2 times a day, if at all, and thus, many of the rarest industries often sell at $100Million/idea for 10 ideas. Some even go for more than that on occasion.

The other reason for ideas is to create artefacts. In general, artefacts which are the most common (for Weblogs or English) for example are the most useful in the game since they can be used to drive down prices of blogs then acquire the shares and boost up the price prior to selling. You can literally make billions a day with only 30 or so artefacts (and a premium membership due to transaction limits). However, richer players also like to collect artefacts, of which there are currently 204.

So basically, ideas are to build artefacts, for investment, or for collecting.

So, to put it a bit more succinctly, BlogShares tracks links between blogs only, and determines value based on which blog links to other blogs. It cannot be manipulated by site traffic or links to other web sites, but players in the game can affect blog values, at least temporarily, by using artefacts or buying and selling shares. Ideas are produced through a player-voting system and a production script run after blogs are reindexed in the system.

Hope this answers your questions, Will! :)

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Supreme Court takes up Commandments

From AP:
The Supreme Court said Tuesday it will consider whether the Ten Commandments may be displayed on government property, ending a 25-year silence on a church-state issue that has prompted bitter legal fights around the country.
Sad that this country has to argue about such menial and pointless subjects when our school system continues to degrade, medical care is still generally unavailable to a great many citizens, and international conflicts rage on. What happened to the basic idea of seperating Church and State??? Do we really need the Supreme Court to take this up? No mixing the two, period. That's been the stated goal of our democracy. Yet, still, people (religious zealots) continue to press hard to entertwine the two. Bush caters to conservative Christians with every speech he makes. Oklahoma Senators complain about "rampant lesbianism" in schools...Jesus Christ, the hypocrisy and idiocy grows more troubling by the day...and now this...
Ten Commandments displays are common in town squares and courthouses and on other government-owned land, including the Supreme Court. A wall carving of Moses holding the tablets is in the courtroom where justices will hear arguments in the case.

Courts around the country have splintered over whether the exhibits violate the constitutional principle of separation of church and state.
The disputes have led to emotional battles, such as one in Alabama by Chief Justice Roy Moore, who lost his job after defying a federal order to remove a 5,300-pound monument from the state courthouse. The Supreme Court refused last week to help him get his job back.

But the justices agreed to address the constitutionality of displays in Kentucky and Texas. The case probably will be argued in February with a decision before July.

Supporters of the monuments celebrated the news.

"The Lord answers prayers," said former Judge-Executive Jimmie Greene of McCreary County, Ky., which was ordered to remove a display in the hallway of the county courthouse. Greene refused to do the task himself.

"I am a law-abiding citizen, but there is a higher power," Greene said. "I just could not remove that sacred document. Could you think of a better reason to go to jail than standing up in defense of the Ten Commandments?"

The Rev. Barry W. Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State said the court should block all government displays of religious documents.

"It's clear that the Ten Commandments is a religious document. Its display is appropriate in houses of worship but not at the seat of government," Lynn said.

The last time the court dealt with the issue was 1980, when justices banned the posting of Ten Commandments in public schools. That case also was from Kentucky.

Mathew Staver of the conservative law group Liberty Counsel, attorney for Kentucky counties in the current case, said the Supreme Court has expected for a long time that a blockbuster religious liberty case would come along.

Officials in two Kentucky counties — McCreary and Pulaski — hung framed copies of the Ten Commandments in their courthouses and added other documents, such as the Magna Carta and the Declaration of Independence, after the American Civil Liberties Union (news - web sites) challenged the display. The ACLU won and county officials are appealing the decision.

David A. Friedman, general counsel for the Kentucky ACLU, said people of different faiths follow different versions of the document. "Especially in a courthouse, people should not be made to feel like outsiders in their own community because they may not share the prevailing religious view," he said.
Religion cases have been difficult for the Supreme Court. In June, the court sidestepped a ruling on the constitutionality of the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools.
The court's three most conservative members have made clear that they do not think the bar on state establishment of religion affects local government monuments.

Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas complained in 2001 when the court refused to rule on the constitutionality of a display in front of the Elkhart, Ind., Municipal Building. They said the city sought to reflect the cultural, historical and legal significance of the commandments.

The court's most liberal justice, John Paul Stevens (news - web sites), disagreed. He wrote that the words "I am the Lord thy God," in the first line of the Indiana monument's inscription are "rather hard to square with the proposition that the monument expresses no particular religious preference."

The cases are Van Orden v. Perry, 03-1500, and McCreary County v. ACLU, 03-1693.

Wedding and Honeymoon Pics will be up soon

Haven't gotten around to organizing all the pics from our wedding and honeymoon, but hopefully, I'll get em posted to the ID Photoblog soon so y'all can see them. We took hundreds, so its taking a bit of time to weed through them and get em in some sort of order. We did get lots of beautiful shots. Staying in the northern NC mountains helped that a bit, of course.

Monday, October 11, 2004

How I've killed some time

While I awaited the publishing function to be fixed for my blogs, I had to find something to do with my time. Though still busy with school and the wedding, I was used to spending 4+ hours a day blogging for my sites. Without that to occupy me, I turned to an online game I slowly became addicted to this summer.

Some of you already know about BlogShares. If you don't, let me give you a bit of a run down. BlogShares is a fantasy stock game based on blogs. Shares of blogs (most of yours are already listed) can be bought and sold, with value based on incoming links. Its a really neat concept of social networking, but done within a context of an investment game. If it sounds dry and boring, don't underestimate it. The game has tons of intricacies that take months to fully understand.

Better yet, the community of BlogShares has become my second family. I was hooked by the kindness of many of the senior veteran players, something extremely uncommon in online gaming. Once I hit IRC with the crew, there was no turning back. I've been playing steadily for several months now, and am in the top 30 players in the game. Now, new players call me a "veteran". HAH! If anyone is interested, pop into the BlogShares IRC channel. The network is WyldRyde (, channel is #blogshares. No password needed. I'm almost always on unless I'm out or sleeping, so pop in for a minute if BlogShares interests you.

Early on, I made it a point to buy shares in as many of the blogs that I link to as possible. Over time, I've lost a few (part of game play), but still have stock in many of my linked blogs. Plus, the blog index is a constantly evolving categorization of blogs based on categories termed "Industries". Science, Politics, Law, get the idea. Players vote blogs into industries, and the index lets you browse industries for new blogs. I've found many great blogs this way.

Anyway, I can't really offer much more without you playing a bit to understand the terms and thrills. I'm currently running a blogging contest via the BlogShares forum and awarding Premium Memberships (currently $15 per year, a real steal) to contest winners. Who know, if you get on the site, find you might like it, check out the contest guidelines here, you might just take a top prize! This second BlogShares Blogging Contest ends November 2.

New JibJab video

The guys that brought us "This Land is Your Land" are back with "D.C. Land", featuring our favorite political icons. Funny stuff...

Finally Back!

After frustrating problems with the CEM posting, I was completely shut out of posting on this blog as well for two weeks. Didn't get access again til a day before my wedding (which went wonderful). Just got back from a great vacation in the NC mountains, and look forward to blogging much more soon! CEM may be up this week, don't hold me to it though. Site publishing is working again, but may be tight for a couple of days as election happenings get crazy and school picks up again.


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