Sunday, February 22, 2009

Open Source Search Has Arrived

Do you love open source? Do you remember a time before when using locked off, proprietry systems that gave you little control seemed so normal because you'd never found anything else? Are you using an open-source search engine?


"Open-source search engine?! I can hear many of you gasp. But... doesn't Google use Linux? Yep. But can you look at the code for how they control what information you see (and don't see)? Nope. Are they legally bound to show you the best results possible? Nope. Are they legally bound to do whatever it legally takes to make the most money even if it means not giving you the best search results? Surprisingly, yes. (For fairness sake, this also applies to Microsoft's Live search, Yahoo search or *any* search run by a publicly listed company).

In fact *every* common-law country based public company is legally bound to do *whatever it takes* within the law to get the most money for their shareholders. (Note: No, I'm not a lawyer. This is not legal advice. Look it up for yourself, and also go watch "The Corporation" while you're at it.)

So if we want human knowledge to be truly free (as in beer *and* speech) what's our best option:

Wikia Search.

Hmmm... It's still in beta (at time of writing), howver: It's open-source. Everyone has access to the index (in-fact you can even automatically help build it yourself). Everyone can see how the index is ranked, but the trick is, that like Wikipedia (which was founded by the same guy) it relies on mass numbers of human users to make it relevant. It worked there. It works here, too. Before you gasp that that must lead to people gaming the system remember that human entered data is most likely what Google is using as well. Think about it. Do you really think that all that data they have when you "vote up" a result in their search rankings does nothing? And that marking that (Google owned blogspot) blogpost in your (Google) RSS reader is just ignored? And of course they would never track the number of click throughs you do on different links... oh, except for where we know they do already like Adwords.

The difference here is that Wikia lets you know what they do, has it community monitored and lets you much more comprehensively improve your own (and others) results. There's combinations of commenting, annotations, adding alternative key-phrases, giving (1-5 star) ratings of search results and even seeing which (logged in) users contributions added to the results you're seeing.

That's not to say that Google is evil. Personally I feel that in some areas we need proprietry software just to "fill the gaps" until a great open-source option comes along.

My feeling is "just" that the great open-source search option has arrived...

How I learned to stop worrying and love KBlogger

At the time of writing, Kblogger is in Alpha2 (read NOT released yet!) and has some... well.. need of love to get it going.

When you do get it going though, it's a beautiful, lightweight app that integrates nicely with KDE4 and makes blogging easy.

So how do you get past those "getting it up and running blues"? I can't offer tech support on every situation, however here's what worked for me with a blogger account and Kubuntu Jaunty (Alpha 4).

There are two main issues:

1. When trying to create an account I always got "Could not get blogs".
a. Visit your blogspot site (ie and log-in.
b. Click on any link (such as Create or Edit Posts) that ends in ?blog-id= and a long number. Copy that number from your browsers url bar.
c. In the "Create account" section of kblogger, click the advanced tab. Paste the number from step b above and click ok. You're ready to go! However, you'll now notice that...

2. None of the buttons appear (you know, unimportant stuff like, well, add a blog post)

Temporarily this can be worked around by adding shortcuts (settings -> Configure shortcuts) for New, Upload and Synch. Use them instead.

You're now well on your way to becoming a Web 2.0(tm) journalistic superstar! Go forth and make the mainstream media tremble!