18 February, 2003: (Something self-referential goes here)

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I was quite interested by this review of BIMBO. Meg Pickard's comment on it is

``An interesting experiment, but doesn't really seem to get the point of half of the links they review, and places far too much importance in the personal whims of the reviewers. Mostly content-free.''

-- which, of course, is just as fair a comment as those she complains are `rude'.

Some of the other criticisms, though, may arise from features of how BIMBO works. For instance, she complains that marking ickle.org as `content-free' is ``bollocks'', or that marking The Mirror Project as ``pseuds' corner shite'' is `an opinion'.

Now, the first thing to remark about this is that the BIMBO idiom is that the rating is of the particular page linked to, not the site itself. So it would be perfectly reasonable to mark the `front page' of the BBC News site as `content free' because all it contains is a question about whether the reader is in the UK or not (you may not see that if you have a BBC cookie set, but that's what a first-time viewer sees). That's not a claim that the BBC News site as a whole is `content-free', nor should it be interpreted as such. In the case of ickle.org, the front page is pretty content-free -- when I checked it a moment ago, it consisted of a picture of a chocolate and some tiny text in the middle of a big white page. (Unless I looked at it in Links, in which case it's just a blank page....) Again, that's not a comment on whatever is linked to from the front page, but if no links to other pages on that site come BIMBO's way, the moderators won't see them.

The second obvious comment is that, yes, of course these are opinions. That's rather the point.

There's a little bit more information about the ideas behind the thing, which might be of interest.

Meg also complained that

For example, they followed a link to this explanation and background of the Be My Anti-Valentine project and then reviewed it as if it was the project itself:

The cards are vaguely fun, but the metawittering is not (Chris Lightfoot).

Well, I voted that page up because I liked the cards. If another link to the project itself had been in front of me, I would have voted for that instead. But the idea behind the thing is to avoid having to trawl through endless pages to find which ones are fun or interesting. Instead, it presents a random selection to the moderators to choose from. (I'm also not sure I'd agree that I'd reviewed it `as if it was the project itself', either; for a start, it's probably going a bit far to claim that a fifty-six character comment constitutes `a review'.)

(Another comment is that `American or wildly parochial' should perhaps be interpreted with the or emphasised.)

The most interesting criticism is that the comments and votes don't address the context of the links. This is a good point, and one which has come up in discussion before.

Unfortunately context is quite hard to do. The moderators are presented with the option of seeing the context from which the link was drawn, but I don't think I'm prepared to present this to general readers, because it obviously has to work by caching the pages, and there are technical and legal Issues there. (It's obviously not good enough just to link back to the site from which the link was drawn, because (a) it might well have changed since the link was extracted from the page; (b) the page itself might be long and a context feature is useless unless it can find the original link in the text. There's no way to solve these without caching the pages.)

For information, here's an example screenshot of the interface which the moderators see:

BIMBO screenshot

Copyright (c) 2003 Chris Lightfoot; available under a Creative Commons License.