Close Encounters of the Turkish Censorship Kind

Vacationing in Göynük, Turkey,
Thinking to myself:
This is how all Muslim countries should be,
Secular, advanced and free.

Logging to YouTube and reading this:

How YouTube looks in Turkey - BANNED - 2008-12-23


Access to this web site is banned by “TELEKOMÜNİKASYON İLETİŞİM BAŞKANLIĞI” according to the order of: Ankara Çubuk Sulh Ceza Mahkemesi, 30/10/2008 of 2008/558


No worries… Anonymizing proxies work fine.

The Five People You Meet in Web 2.0 Hell

38-year-old Eddie is convinced his digital life would be better upon meeting five types of people and showing them the unexpected negative impact they have on others:

[singlepic id=60 w=320 h=240 float=right]The Under-Tagger – This guy would spend a week going through old video cassettes, finding the amazing CNN footage from 1983 he was looking for, but upon uploading it to YouTube would title it: ‘She Lied!’ and would tag it using three keywords or less, at least one of which is misspelled. The Under-Tagger assumes that since you can clearly recognize the people in the video, there is no need to be petty and elaborate on it in the title, description or keywords, and as a result of that no one can find his video even when searching for relevant keywords.

The Non-Linker – This guy would spend an hour blogging on a recent survey or commenting on an obscure news item, spewing lots of words and ideas without supplying a single link to the actual survey or the original news item. If this guy writes in a different language, say Hebrew, he would never consider supplying the English spelling of names of people or companies he writes about. The Non-Linker believes he is the alpha and the omega and thus his readers need not check out additional data on other websites.

The Voluntary Spammer – A relic of Web 1.0, this guy truly believes everything he reads in emails he receives, and feels it is his moral duty to forward them to all his friends. From a new computer virus and PowerPoint slideshows, to ladies dying from perfume spraying and cash giveaways from Microsoft, this guy assumes the newspapers do not report the big stuff, and that everyone in his contact list is interested in the small stuff. The Voluntary Spammer tends to get offended when you try to explain this to him over the phone, claiming he only wanted to help.

The Armchair Activist – This guy had joined dozens of groups on Facebook from curing AIDS to freeing Tibet, and truly believes he has done his part. Without once leaving his house or donating a buck to causes he really believes in, the Armchair Activist feels so good about himself he often tries to recruit his friends in the hope that AIDS would really be cured if only one million people click a button.

The BCC-Denier – This guy sends an invitation to his new exhibit by email, adding hundreds of people to the TO section, assuming that since all of them know him, they should all know one another. A direct result of this gross faux pas comes from recipients who RSVP by clicking Reply-All, and people who harvest email addresses revealed in the email for their weekly newsletter.

Yahoo Rewards Sarcasm

A year ago I wasted some time answering questions on Yahoo! Answers. It is a fun system that lets people ask questions and get answers from their peers. You can gain points if your answer is chosen as Best Answer by the person who asked the question, or else if it is voted as such by other members within a week.

For some reason I just got an email from Yahoo letting me know an answer I gave a year ago was voted as Best Answer. For your amusement, here is the mentioned question and my reply – apparently my answer was given close to my losing patience with the service:

Yahoo! Answers Rewards Sarcasm

They say sarcasm is the lowest form of wit – but they never tell you it will earn you credit points.

Ode to My Browser – or – Why I Love My Opera

Vincent: You know what the funniest thing about Europe is?
Jules: What?
Vincent: It’s the little differences. I mean they got the same shit over there that they got here, but it’s just – it’s just there it’s a little different.

— Vincent Vega (John Travolta), Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson) – Pulp Fiction (1994)

Speed-Dial, mouse gestures and integrated search, three of the many features that made me love the Opera browserI was going to write a song about my web browser.
I was going to incorporate all its great features.
I was going to mention Speed-Dial.
I was going to mention mouse gestures.
I was going to mention integrated search.

But all these would not do it justice.
That’s when I was reminded of this Pulp Fiction quote. You see, it’s the little differences that make Opera an amazing browser. Example: When you click on a download link and the dialog box opens and asks you where to save the file – in Opera, the file transfer has already started, as its developers knows it would take you a few seconds to find the designated folder, and they thought it would be neat if they could save you the wasted time.

I have tried Firefox and it’s fine, and as long as you do not use the security hazard named Internet Explorer, in my book you are one of the good guys – but after using Opera for a couple of years now, I can honestly testify it is a web browser developed by people who love to surf the net.

Why Changed Its Hosting Provider from Yahoo to GoDaddy – Follow-up #1

I recently transferred my hosting from Yahoo to GoDaddy and elaborated on the reasons that led me to this inevitable move after a couple of years of gradually increasing disappointments from the Sunnyvale company.

As somewhat of a computer geek, I never thought I would need assistance from the customer support department, and never thought it to be a factor in choosing a hosting provider. Unfortunately, the two times I had to contact Yahoo I was shocked that a corporate giant like them would allow its customer support to function this poorly. With offshoring, ridiculous salaries and meaningless mandatory responding times, the old saying resonates: You pay peanuts, you get monkeys.

To grant you an unbiased opportunity to know Yahoo without the dubious honor of becoming their customer, I am posting here the entire six emails that span only one incident. I believe reading it is worth your time. Please note the dates and try to imagine the level of frustration one reaches when waiting for a reply and getting a Yahoo instead.

Email #1:
To: Yahoo! Web Hosting
Subject: Banning IPs and or .htaccess
Date: Fri, 28 Oct 2005 14:31:06

Hello Yahoo people!

Now that my site is up and running for a while, I wanted to know how can I keep certain IP addresses off it, as I have started seeing Spiders that do not follow the robots.txt file.

Appreciate your prompt reply by email,
Shahar Golan.

Reply #1:
From: Yahoo! Web Hosting
Subject: Re: Banning IPs and or .htaccess
Date: Sat, 29 Oct 2005 10:43:12

Hello Shahar,
Thank you for writing to Yahoo! Web Hosting.

As I understand from your mail, you need information regarding keeping away IP addresses.

In order for us to better assist you, we require some additional information. Please reply to this message and describe all of the actions you took that led up to the problem — include any of the following relevant information. The more information we have, the better able we will be to investigate this issue.

* Your Yahoo! ID
* Your domain name
* A clear and detailed description of the problem
* The exact steps you took before the problem occurred, and the text of any error message you received

I look forward to your reply.
Yahoo! Customer Care

Email #2:
To: Yahoo! Web Hosting
Subject: Re: Banning IPs and or .htaccess
Date: Sat, 29 Oct 2005 11:10:24

Thanks for the prompt reply, although I must say I am getting a bit annoyed by the Yahoo employees’ over use of semi-automatic answers 🙁

I will answer your automatic questions, although you could have retrieved them from the original post:
* Your Yahoo! ID: [redacted] (but you know that already)
* Your domain name: (but you know that already)
* A clear and detailed description of the problem: How can I keep certain IP addresses off my site.
* The exact steps you took before the problem occurred, and the text of any error message you received: If you read the original post, you could have understood no steps were taken by me, I JUST NEED TO KNOW HOW TO BAN CERTAIN IP ADDRESSES, as I encountered spiders that do not follow my robots.txt file.

If you need further information, or just want me to repeat myself for your own amusement, please don’t hesitate to ask.

Shahar Golan,
a soon-to-be unsatisfied customer.

Reply #2:
From: Yahoo! Web Hosting
Subject: Re: Banning IPs and or .htaccess
Date: Sat, 29 Oct 2005 15:35:05

Hello Shahar,
Thank you for writing to Yahoo! Web Hosting. I hope this email will answer your question.

As I understand your concern is about getting a static IP address for your Web Hosting Starter account.

I would like to inform you that Yahoo! Web Hosting does not provides static IP address for the domain name. Yahoo! provides dynamic IP address for all the domain names.

Please do not hesitate to reply if you need further assistance.
Yahoo! Customer Care

Email #3:
To: Yahoo! Web Hosting
Subject: Re: Banning IPs and or .htaccess
Date: Sun, 30 Oct 2005 09:49:10

Hello Chad,
 Hello Wilson,
  Hello Brad,
   Hello Gibson!

Thank you all for giving me the precious opportunity to write to the Yahoo Customer Care team. I really cherish these moments we spend together, and if you don’t mind my saying – it make me feel you really DO care about your customers – what with the frequent corresponding I can honestly say I have found true pen pals.

Now, let us assume I was not looking for friends, but for actual service, how would the Yahoo people respond?
Let me refer you to a nice page I found by a small company called Yahoo:
The page quotes the company values, words that may feel strange to you: excellence, innovation, and customer fixation – to name a few.
It seems to me all the people at the Yahoo Customer Care decided to focus on the last value: fun – and indeed, they are goofing off out there playing around with customers.

Now, assuming you read this far, there is a chance you are genuinely, honestly interested in answering my question – which I will now repeat for the third time:


If you:
1. Have no idea what I am talking about
2. Do not have any technical knowledge
3. Do not know what banning is
4. Do not know what .htaccess is
5. Do not speak English
– then please forward this email to a representative who does.

Your never-meant-to-be-your Friend,

Reply #3:
From: Yahoo! Web Hosting
Subject: Re: Banning IPs and or .htaccess
Date: Sun, 30 Oct 2005 11:17:51

Hello Shahar,
Thank you for writing to Yahoo! Web Hosting. I hope this email will answer your question.

As I understand you want to:
1) ban certain IP address to access your web site, and
2) use .htaccess for your web site.

For both the issues: 1) & 2) We’re sorry, the feature you are mentioning is not currently available through Yahoo! Web Hosting and we do not have an estimated date as to when or if it will be available. However, we’ll pass your comments on to our Development team for further consideration.
We are always looking for ways to make Yahoo! Web Hosting more useful to our users, and we will be sure to keep your question in mind as we continue to make improvements to our service.

Please do not hesitate to reply if you need further assistance.
Yahoo! Customer Care

How Your Creepy Ex-Co-Workers Will Kill Facebook

Just read an interesting column by Cory Doctorow of Boing Boing on InformationWeek. Here is an excerpt:

…In the real world, we don’t articulate our social networks. Imagine how creepy it would be to wander into a co-worker’s cubicle and discover the wall covered with tiny photos of everyone in the office, ranked by “friend” and “foe,” with the top eight friends elevated to a small shrine decorated with Post-It roses and hearts. And yet, there’s an undeniable attraction to corralling all your friends and friendly acquaintances, charting them and their relationship to you. Maybe it’s evolutionary, some quirk of the neocortex dating from our evolution into social animals who gained advantage by dividing up the work of survival but acquired the tricky job of watching all the other monkeys so as to be sure that everyone was pulling their weight and not napping in the treetops instead of watching for predators, emerging only to eat the fruit the rest of us have foraged.

…You’d think that Facebook would be the perfect tool for [keeping track of our social relationships]. It’s not. For every long-lost chum who reaches out to me on Facebook, there’s a guy who beat me up on a weekly basis through the whole seventh grade but now wants to be my buddy; or the crazy person who was fun in college but is now kind of sad; or the creepy ex-co-worker who I’d cross the street to avoid but who now wants to know, “Am I your friend?” yes or no, this instant, please.

Why Changed Its Hosting Provider from Yahoo to GoDaddy

Warning, GEEKY POST! Move on, folks, nothing to see here!
Unlike my regular posts about life, liberty and the pursuit of decent hummus, this is a pretty rare post intended for the technically savvy only, so do not bore yourself if webmastering is not your cup of tea. Read some other stuff here.

Okay, now the fact that you can actually read this post means that I was successful in changing a hosting provider from to and I will discuss my reasons here:

When I first registered my website on August 2005 I wanted to host it with a company that:
1. Is recognized and respected and would not vanish after a couple of months
2. Has a large clientele thus its customer support would be good.
3. Is located outside Israel for security reasons (both cyber-attacks and actual real-life attacks)
4. Would offer a good value for its price.
For all these reasons I chose Yahoo Hosting Starter plan: US$12/month. 5GB disk space, 200GB data transfer.

I gradually became disillusioned with Yahoo, but it took quite a bit of time. It seemed the more I knew of the company – the less I liked my decision to work with them. The reasons to leave Yahoo started piling up:
1. A couple of months after I launched my website, I wanted to configure .htaccess to stop unruly bots from accessing it. This is when I learned that Yahoo does not allow its customers to configure that, amongst many other advanced features disabled by Yahoo.
2. To get a straight ‘No, we don’t provide it’ answer about .htaccess took the Yahoo customer support no less than two days and three emails, as the offshore employees are forced to reply using scripted answers. I have posted the whole torture-through-emails correspondence as a follow-up to this post – make sure you read it as it is well worth your time.
3. Yahoo’s over-zealous cooperation with the Chinese government became clearer as the number of human rights violations facilitated by its branches grew.
4. In May 2007 I launched a blog, only to find out Yahoo provides a crippled and outdated version of WordPress, with no easy way to upgrade it.
5. I became acquainted with GoDaddy when a client of mine needed me to design a website for him and he had already had a GoDaddy account. When I needed some DNS-related help and emailed GoDaddy’s customer support department, I was amazed at how fast the reply came (just a couple of hours later), how human it sounded and how helpful and accurate it was. That got me thinking why the heck am I paying four times as much as the equivalent GoDaddy Economy Plan costs: US$4/month. 5GB disk space, 250GB data transfer.
A couple of months later when I inquired about transferring my own website to, the answers were just as fast, just as accurate.
6. The straw that broke the camel’s back was a recent event when for three weeks thousand of websites (including mine) were down, producing on-again-off-again Error 500s. The good people at Yahoo were gracious enough to tell me they are ‘aware of it’ – but did not elaborate on the cause for the incident or their estimated time to fix the problem. Also, once the problem was fixed no notification was sent from Yahoo and no restitution was offered.

So now is happily hosted here, and hopefully this is a beginning of a beautiful partnership. We have upgraded to the latest WordPress version, started using web2.0 folksonomy tags, and are in a good mood for further site improvements.

…And now back to your previously scheduled blogging.

HotOrNot for Über-Geeks

You probably remember how addictive was rating girls on a while back. A recently launched NYC Jelly project compares website design by showing you a screen capture of two homepages at a time, and lets you pick the winner. It is the ultimate HotOrNot for geeks and it is called CommandShift3.

Besides being utterly addictive, it is a great way to check out the current Web2.0 trends. At this moment in time, these are the best and worst designed websites:

All Time Best And Worst Website Design (as of January 4th, 2008) -

Help Yourself Reduce the Amount of Spam You Get – In 5 Easy Steps

Israeli Spam: IDF MRE luncheon meat, commonly referred to as LoofThe year has just begun, and if you could not think of a new year resolution to make, how about helping yourself by taking some actions towards reducing the amount of unwanted emails you receive?

Here are 5 things you absolutely can start doing today:
1. Do not post your email address anywhere, not even using address munging.
2. Use BugMeNot as a way to bypass compulsory registration on websites
3. Use a disposable email address for website you could not bypass.
4. Teach your friends some manners and ask them to use BCC when sending emails to multiple recipients.
5. Install MailWasher and teach it to automatically filter your emails

Happy (Spam-free) New Year!

Learn Hebrew While You Drive

When I wanted to know how to get to a certain address in Jerusalem, these were the travel instructions I got from Israel’s leading mapping website

English Route Instructions Software Bug |

7.  Straight on Agripas
8.  Turn left on Ki’akh
9.  Straight on Ha-Nevi’im
10. Take ramp to say what?

Yes, it is not a software bug; it is an induced-Hebrew-learning feature.