Talk Like a Pirate Day is a yearly event in which many people talk like a pirate, especially online. But not nearly enough people talk like a pirate, so for tomorrow's Talk Like a Pirate Day, I wrote a Greasemonkey script to force the entire web to talk like a pirate. An example with Browse Like a Pirate enabled:

New York Times Browsed Like a Pirate

New York Times Browsed Like a Pirate

 

Yesterday I made a Greasemonkey script to detect telephone numbers in hCards and wrap them in callto: links to launch VOIP tools (e.g. Skype). This is the kind of thing I do to satisfy my own curiosity, assuming no one will ever use. Another such project was the Google hCalendar Greasemonkey script I did a while back, except I did that one in exchange for a free book. And it's now being used by Yahoo.

 

The Western Iowa Advantage website went "live" (no longer a placeholder) yesterday. I’ve been working on it, along with other people and among other projects, for the past month or so. Everyone at work seems pretty excited about the result. I suspect the enthusiasm is largely due to the visual look of the site. It’s pretty. People like pretty.

But what I find most interesting about the site is something no one else will ever notice: it’s very semantic. The markup describes the data. The news is all hatom, the events are all hcalendar, and the personal and organization information is all hcard. You can run my greasemonkey script and import the events into Google Calendar. You can run the hcards through Brian Suda's X2V and get them into your address book. You can use Chris Casciano's NetNewsWire script to subscribe to the news without bothering with a separate feed (although there is a separate feed too).

And who is going to do these things? I expect absolutely no one. Certainly no one I know of using the site. So why do I bother? I don’t know. I don’t know why I like data so much. I don’t know why people like pretty things so much. Maybe some day I’ll figure it all out. Meanwhile, I make websites.

 

Google hCalendar is a Firefox Greasemonkey script I made. It looks for pages with vevents and inserts a button to add each found event to Google Calendar. I'm still working out some time zone oddities Apparently many of the sites using hCalendar have improper time zone markup (e.g. every event is marked as UTC-7 at Upcoming.org), but it otherwise seems to work fine. Now I'm looking forward to my free book. Oddly enough, I'm actually working on another project right now in exchange for free magazines. You can keep your attention economy; I'm going back to bartering. Will code for interesting reading.

 

Completely Idiotic is a Firefox Greasemonkey script to automate Stavros the Wonderchicken's "Completely Idiotic" game. Example screen capture from foxnews.com:

 

It seems all the cool kids are critiquing and/or getting rid of Google ads, but I'm holding out. I like the idea of targetted advertising, as it promises to add value to, rather than distract from content. For example, if I'm reading about a used Honda for sale, I would appreciate some links to companies selling related products, such as the used Honda parts ads I currently see on my Honda sale post (since sold). On the other side, of course, I like reducing my website expenses.

Shelley apparently had a problem with oil rig ads showing up in her post opposing drilling in ANWR. I only wish my ads worked so well. Too many of my posts display ads for weblog tools. The navigational text on every page seems to be overpowering the actual content in Google's topic-determination algorhythm. I'm going to revamp my weblog so that post titles are more prominantly part of the URL, and descriptions are more descriptive. If this doesn't make my ads more relevant, I'll consider getting rid of them. But I'm defining relevancy liberally.

I don't mind when pro-Bush ads show up in my anti-Bush posts. That's related, if ironically so. I have a faith that knowledge is ultimately good. That's why I regularly read authors with whom I regularly disagree. If I'm interested in an issue, I'm also interested in dissenting opinions on that issue. So this doesn't bother me as it apparently does others.

Nor do I think the internet is succeptable to the same corruption as the real world, as Jonathon implies when he writes I can hardly bear to watch as the Talleyrands corrupt something that was, for a while, magical. In the real world the corrupt have the power to change the rules for everyone else. Talleyrand, for example, used his power working under Napoleon to kill people. But the internet's structure makes analogous activities impossible. Not only could you not possibly kill me via the internet, but you can't even make me read something I find uninteresting. Every online transaction requires consent by everyone involved. If I don't want you reading my website, I can tell my server to stop responding to requests from you (so long as I can identify you). That's what makes AFP's lawsuit against Google ridiculous.

tornado

Likewise, if you don't want to see my ads, you can install a Greasemonkey script to block these ads, as Jonathon did. The only problem is that those who, like me, find the ads occassionally valuable don't currently have the option of adding them where they don't exist. So we are losing what to us is useful functionality when these ads are taken away. But I'm not about to tell, or even ask, website owners to add Google ads just to make me happy. Why would I, when I can do it myself?

I made my first Greasemonkey script, Add Google Ads, which adds Google ads to the top of every page (requires Firefox and Greasemonkey). For the curious, Jonathon's anti-Google ad post has Google ads for "Free Instant Ordination" and "Abbott Church Goods," while Shelley's has ads for "Directional Drilling" and "Rotary Steerable Tools." Hmm ... maybe this isn't as useful as I had thought it would be.

As they say, it don't take weather.com to see which way the wind blows. But what makes the internet magical for me is all the counter-currents. You can remove ads from my site, I can add ads to yours, and we can all be happy in this tornado.