Teesside Snog Monster (jiggery_pokery) wrote,
Teesside Snog Monster

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Sunday alert

Managed to keep off LJ on Friday. Last two days have been marginally productive. Trickling through the to-do list slowly, very slowly. Beats not, though.

A couple of things to look out for on Sunday:

Last Saturday I posted about listening to coverage of Nigel Short win a chess tournament on the chess radio station chess.fm. At the moment, chess.fm are presenting live radio coverage of the Generation Chess tournament from New York. It has 3 GMs, 6 IMs and an IM-elect, so not such a huge line-up, but still fairly credible. This tournament has the gimmick that all the games "have" to go fifty moves before a draw may be agreed. (Technically there are get-outs possible with perpetual check three-fold repetitions, but if these arrive before move fifty then Questions Will Be Asked.) Should an unsatisfactory draw be reached then both players are "smacked upside the wallet".

I said last time that the chess.fm coverage from Hungary was lousy; I listened to it on Friday and it was rather better. The main host, Tony Rook, has got a long way to go before he becomes fluid; indeed, many talk radio DJs never achieve fluidity and it's quite possible that he might not. However, the fact that the tournament is taking place in Eastern Time rather than European Time means that he can at least wake up properly before he has to start the coverage. Particularly at the start of the program, he has a much more fluent degree of patter than he did last time.

The other reason why the coverage was better on Friday was that instead of having IM Mark Diesen giving analysis on the phone, they had NM Eric Schiller. Now Mark could beat Eric at chess playing with his teeth, but Eric makes for much better radio. Eric is a natural gabber - he could talk the hind legs off a donkey, or indeed talk the ass off an ass. For a chess commentator, this is an excellent trait. He has lots of stories to tell, is pretty competent at explaining the position to those who are not great chess followers and makes for an ideal guest. I met him once at MSO 3, when he was accompanying a young charge (Ray Kaufman, I think) to one of our chess tournaments. He took Ray to see the South Park movie at the time, noting that it was only a 15 certificate in the UK but apparently NC-17 in the United States. Eric was very vociferous about a particular web authoring package which he uses on his web site Chess City though I'm not sure it's stayed the course.

I liked Eric. He's pretty nice-mad even by the standards of the wacky world of chess tournament organisers. Unfortunately the infernal politics of the chess world mean we don't really have reason to keep in touch much. He has forthright anti-war views and is fairly openly in favour of the legalisation of marijuana. There are only two other tales worth knowing about Eric Schiller: he played chess against the band Phish, and he wrote the book Unorthodox Chess Openings which the recently-deceased also-mad British GM Tony Miles famously reviewed in two words. ("Utter crap.") Oh, and he isn't shy of giving his views about certain august chess organising bodies, which caused Tony Rook to shut him up live on air in fairly short order. 'Twas quite amusing.

Nevertheless, Eric has found his niche on chess.fm - do listen in to the station's coverage on Sunday, Monday and possibly beyond. Coverage of the fourth round starts at 3:45pm EDT (12:45pm PDT, 8:45pm BST, etc.) on Sunday. They're also replaying audio coverage of the Kasparov - Deep Junior man-vs.-machine match once they go off air.

Be warned, they still play "Take Me Out To The Chess Game" from time to time and it's still embarrassingly, painfully bad; atrocious singing and are parts of it which neither rhyme nor scan. It's so bad that I'm minded to knock up a simple drum'n'bass remix of the classic tune and karaoke the lyrics just slightly less badly over the top myself - no matter how appalling my version was, it would be an order of magnitude or two less irritating than the one they have already. So, er, how would one stick an extremely elementary clubby-sounding drumbeat line over the top of a MIDI file?

The lj_nifty followers among you may have read about the existence of the LiveJournal Top 40 already; creator Larry Gilbert (l2g) has pledged to update it on a weekly basis. Amusingly, aptly, cassieclaire was #1 in the first week's poll. Who's to say how things will go in future polls? Personally I hope that the initiative develops into something like the Lycos 50 where a commentator attempts to give analysis to explain the changes in position from week to week. I'm also uncertain about the choice of 40 for the size of the chart: why 40 rather than 50, or 100, or 1000, or 10000. (Or, for that matter, 10 - or one.) I dare say that a lot of people would enjoy being able to follow their own LJ's progress from 276,439th up the rankings from week to week.

Now the really clever thing is the way by which the rankings are decided; Google's page-ranking methods. This is clever because nobody outside Google knows exactly how they work but people generally tend to accept them as having some sort of value. I'm sure that LiveJournal could produce a chart of "which LiveJournal has the most friends?" very easily if they wanted to - after all, they track which syndicated feeds are most popular (effectively exactly the same thing) and even which quizzes URLs are most frequently linked to over the last seven days. I'm sure it's a deliberate decision not to offer charts of "who is listed as a friend most frequently", simply because it would be likely to lead to incredibly tedious mutual-friendship "let's push each other up the chart" clique competitions. Bad for the servers, bad for everyone.

Instead, Google's authority as arbiter is not brought into question; if you want to get higher up the Top 40, you need to get more people from around the world linking to your journal - and for the people who link to your journal to be as reputable (highly-regarded within Google) as possible. Surely the best way to do this is to feature the sort of content that people would want to link to, so surely this is something worth encouraging? That's the theory, at least. amuzulo (nice to see another face from my Friends list on the top forty!) asks in the inventor's own LJ, "That training I had in Internet promotion pays off for something... Am I the only one who submitted their site to several search engines...? " Perhaps that's the technique that pays dividends after all! :-)

It should be fun to see the way the Top 40 develops over time. Eventually it would be interesting to try to see what impact the most popular LiveJournals have on the world of weblogging as a whole, or even how they compare to the mainstream news and information sources of the world. I look forward to seeing what people come up with next!

More to talk about, but not tonight.

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