Smokes your problems, coughs fresh air.

Author: Rowan Rodrik (Page 10 of 25)

Rowan is mainly a writer. This blog here is a dumping ground for miscellaneous stuff that he just needs to get out of his head. He is way more passionate about the subjects he writes about on Sapiens Habitat: the connections between humans, each other, and to nature, including their human nature.

Technique for extracting hierarchical structure of networks

Aaron Clauset, Cristopher Moore and M.E.J. Newman published a paper in Nature about the automatic extraction of hierarchical structure of networks: Hierarchical structure and the prediction of missing links in networks. There’s a free PDF of the paper on Mark Newman’s personal website.

In the abstract the say that their results suggest that hierarchy is a central organizing principle of complex networks, capable of offering insight into many network phenomena.

This is of interest of a pet project of mine that I haven’t spent much time on in recent years, but may again in the future.

I’m rummaging through my old bookmarks… More to come.

Social suicide

The 10th of October, 2009. This was the day that I committed social suicide. Now, I’m dead. I can’t begin to tell you how peaceful it has been since I died, but I will anyway: “It feels fucking great!”

Look. If you’re being honest, social networking sites are all about sex, about getting some. But, they won’t get you anything. They’ll just get you bored. In exchange they’ll suck up precious time that you could have spend socializing with actual friends. Fuck social networking sites!


I thoroughly hate LinkedIn. The whole concept is alien to me. It’s a big CV circle jerk, but without the nakedness. LinkedIn is what you get when you take the concept of “social” and remove the component of “fun”.

Deleting my account was fun, though, and it took only five steps.


I’ve never actively used MySpace. My account was mostly a means of stopping annoying little Asians from repeatedly using my email address to register their accounts (and to get all their fucking notifications; I still get a lot of invites for Asian social networking sites because of a few of such incidents). Beyond that, MySpace has always been the social site I least liked of all—its ugly, confusing interface, its ugly URLs, the long, confusing pages, the ill-conceived, user-customized pages. What’s not ugly about the site? Did I mention that it’s ugly? Well, it’s confusing too. And a mess. Worst of all, it has that dodgy “we’re a soulless corporation but we caaaaaare about you (and we’re so sassy and fun)” thing going on… If that’s not bad enough, there’s another unsurmountable problem: the fucking name!

If you’re not a band, a fan, or a fucking retard, there’s simply no excuse to use MySpace. Okay, there could be one: it takes fucking ages to delete your account!


Reaching the 85+ friends mark in Hyves was the drop which made me jump from the whole social web wagon. I don’t have 85 friends. I don’t want to have 85 friends! Whoever does, needs to get some fucking counseling. It’s not healthy to have 85 friends. And if they’re not friends, then don’t fucking call them so.

And the site’s design has always been horrible. Like MySpace it has these horrible user-controlled designs which make my eyes bleed. (Ok, I admit these could be disabled, but that doesn’t make it any “cuter”.) The site is flaky as hell, too. Every piece of the site breathes crappy implementation, crappy DB design, crappy testing and even crappy systems design. They should take a long hard look at Facebook and start to feel really ashamed. Hell, maybe they fixed everything now. Maybe the friend counters have gotten reliable (and I don’t mean the kind of reliable that is achieved by a daily cron job to recompute them), and maybe the whole rest of the interface has suddenly seized to suck, but I strongly doubt it.

Although, I’ve used Hyves the most of all these sites, I miss it the least. Of course, this is also due to attention-seeking types who just want to have some kind of hip, public interaction with me, while giving me the mistaken impression that there’s something intimate within reach. No, I can’t say that I miss most of my 85+ Hyves “friends”.

Removing my Hyves account wasn’t terribly difficult, although, like with MySpace, I did have to dig in the FAQ to find out how, which I consider another UI fail.


Facebook’s interface I’ve liked since day 1. It was modern, slick, fast and responsive. The design was clean and everything worked as expected. Also, everything I’ve read about it’s technical design is beautiful. I liked facebook.

Yet, all (most of) my friends where mostly on Hyves, because Hyves is the predominant social networking site in the Netherlands. Hyves sucks, and the websites aren’t interchangeable, because none of the big social networking sites are (at least were, when I quit) open; they were all walled gardens. If you want to hang out with friends in a garden, you have to subdue to the owner of said garden. This is exemplified by the fact Facebook, for all it’s technical glory, won’t even let you delete your account!

At least deactivating it only takes two steps and, admittedly, Facebook is the one account that I’m most likely to ever reopen again. 😕

Later, I found out that there’s a much better/easier way to delete some social networking accounts. It’s called the Web 2.0 Suicide Machine and, like I understood it, it actually “purges” your accounts by first deleting all your messages, scraps and other nonsense created with your account. Best, of all: the corporate drones behind Facebook are angry at the Suicide Machine. Sooo sad. 😈

I’m proud that the Web 2.0 Suicide Machine comes from the Netherlands. It sort of makes up for the crap creation that is Hyves.


Through this article on A List Apart, I came across a new project called eCSStender, which aims to make it easier to implement and test new CSS features across different browsers using JavaScript. As a side effect it can also be used to avoid having to fork your CSS code if you want to use cutting edge CSS features that are not yet available in all browsers.

I wonder how this compares to IE7.js… Well, I know IE7.js has already saved me from at least some parts of the IE compatibility nightmare on two of my more recent web projects, so, for now, I’ll stay with what I know.

RubyGems nuisances

Because I used it successfully before, I decided to use scrAPI to scrape the entries from the old Aihato guestbook. After preprocessing the HTML a bit, I finally got beyond an endless debugging sessions (which cumulated in me discovering a whole collection of nested <html> tags, which forbad any type of sensible parsing of the page).

The scrAPI script calls a simple PHP script to add the extracted comment to the WordPress DB. The next step was copying the script to the development server (which has command-line PHP and the MySQL daemon running). Of course, the development server (which runs Debian Lenny) didn’t have the scrapi package installed. So, I thought I’d install the rubygems package and be done after gem install scrapi.

It seemed to install just fine, but… it just won’t fucking work! Adding require 'rubygems' to the script doesn’t work either.

This whole thing reminded of a similar occasion a while back when RubyGems kept fucking up everything until we discovered through Google that the version of RubyGems shipped with Debian simply couldn’t handle the whole dependency graph we had to deal with (or something). We had to grab a newer version from Debian backports to make the whole thing work. Another couple of hours wasted on a botched up package management system.

This time I’ve already wasted enough time. I’m ready to change my PHP guestbook comment import code to some XML-RPC hack instead so that I can run it on my laptop.

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