Archive for Blogorrhea

A writer apart

Let us now tip our knit hat to Jeffrey Zeldman, who has kept the zeldman.com blog up for twenty whole years:

My Web site is 20 years old today. I’m dictating these remarks into a tiny handheld device, not to prove a point, but because, with gorgeously ironic timing, my wired internet connection has gone out. It’s the kind of wired connection, offering the kind of speed most everyone reading this takes for granted today — a far cry from the 14.4 modem with which I built and tested the first version of this site, shipping it (if you could call it that) on May 31, 1995.

Such things happen.

I launched this site twenty years ago (a year before the Wayback Machine, at least two years before Google) and it was one of the only places you could read and learn about web design. I launched at a tilde address (kids, ask your parents), and did not think to register zeldman.com until 1996, because nobody had ever done anything that crazy.

I did read, and I did learn some things. (I also picked up some tips from A List Apart, which Zeldman founded and which now stands on its own.)

To celebrate the years, here is “The Years”, a “mysterious lamentation” by Zeldman, from his album Waterbox. You may be absolutely certain that I will not have an album out by the time this site turns 20.

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Until it’s time for you to go

It’s not a dream, it’s not an angel, it’s not even a good statistics tracker anymore. So out it goes.

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A little more than minor housekeeping

With SiteMeter in free fall from once-useful utility to apparent vendor of malware, I have opted to remove their code from the blog portion of this site. (This leaves about 8,000 static pages which will have to be changed manually, scheduled for When I Get Around To It.) If you’re coming into a current page, you should no longer have to deal with attempted redirects to vindicosuite.com. For the time being, I have switched to StatCounter, which in its WordPress plugin form does not display in the sidebar. The pricing is about the same, and StatCounter has a couple of features I’d wanted, most notably an integration with Google’s Webmaster Tools.

I have also had a few issues with the comment-subscription routine, which you may remember; I have juggled a couple of things, installed a new subscription manager, and I’m thinking there’s a slight chance that it might actually be working. If you’re not getting your notifications, please advise.

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Google just being Google

It’s been a long time since “Don’t be evil” was supplanted by “Don’t be unobtrusive,” so I wasn’t entirely surprised to see this come down the timeline:

I scoffed for public consumption, then hit up the surfer dudes who host this site for suggestions, since broadside isn’t even a mail server fercrissake. Said they, did you know that the WordPress wp_mail() function, as used in emailing subscribers, is totally devoid of authentication?

[facepalm]

They suggested a plugin to route the mail through a proper SMTP server, and since I have one of those servers, they were happy to tell me all the settings that would be necessary. I had everything in place by four-thirty. So if you’ve been having to fish updates out of the Gmail spam folder, perhaps this will persuade Google to quit acting like the grand high muckety-mucks of the frigging Internet just this once. Maybe.

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Screw those desktops

Google wants everything to be ultra-readable on mobiles, especially their mobiles, so they’re going to slant their search results accordingly:

Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.

They started making noises like this back in November, so it’s not like this is suddenly being sprung upon us, but I figure I’m already jumping through enough hoops for them, so do not look for sudden design changes around here — for at least a year, anyway.

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Hey, nineteen

This here Web site is old enough to vote, though it’s not old enough to drink. Whether this makes any difference or not, I’m not entirely sure.

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Your piece of the pie

As of yesterday, there were 46,250 comments on the site — that is, comments within the current WordPress database, which goes back to the first week of September 2006. (There were about 17,000 more in the first Movable Type database, from August 2002 to that point, all converted to static files.)

Now this figure seems amazing to some, and by “some” I mean “people who hang out in Twitter chats to bewail their lack of response.” Forty-six thousand sounds like a lot of comments, but that’s a slow month over at Ace’s.

Still, I’m happy with the participation level here. And inasmuch as I have a gizmo that counts these for me, I’m tossing this question to you guys: how many of those 46,000 do you think you wrote? Be sure to show your work.

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The hard place is over there

Taking care of a WordPress operation is a two-pronged affair, inasmuch as the files are stored in two wholly separate locations: the Web server itself contains the WP core files and the design elements, while the actual posts are kept in a database elsewhere.

I download all the graphics and such to my home box before posting, so I already have copies of them in case of Dire Emergency. I hardly ever see the database, though, so a plugin copies it out on a regular basis, gzips the copy, and emails it to me.

Or anyway, it used to email it to me. The database is now so large that the gzipped copy is up to 20 megabytes, just at the point where the mail server balks: “Too big, pal.” For now, I’m fetching it via SFTP, but I’m thinking I ought to be considering other options.

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Retaking the pledge

In 2005, Patterico called for bloggers to take the same pledge he was taking:

If the FEC makes rules that limit my First Amendment right to express my opinion on core political issues, I will not obey those rules.

It took me a day or two, but I eventually saw the wisdom of his approach.

And the Federal Election Commission wisely kept its big yap shut about the matter, until now:

In October, then FEC Vice Chairwoman Ann M. Ravel promised that she would renew a push to regulate online political speech following a deadlocked commission vote that would have subjected political videos and blog posts to the reporting and disclosure requirements placed on political advertisers who broadcast on television. On Wednesday, she will begin to make good on that promise.

“Some of my colleagues seem to believe that the same political message that would require disclosure if run on television should be categorically exempt from the same requirements when placed in the Internet alone,” Ravel said in an October statement. “As a matter of policy, this simply does not make sense.”

Take your “policy” and shove it, Annie dear. In the best of all possible worlds, there would be no such thing as a Federal Election Commission, and the limit of your public utterances would be “You want fries with that?”

So Patterico is renewing the pledge, and so am I: “If the FEC makes rules that limit my First Amendment right to express my opinion on core political issues, I will not obey those rules.”

Period.

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The unchanging of the guard

James Lileks, on the occasion of the (presumed) retirement of Andrew Sullivan:

I can’t imagine not doing this, and I hope you can’t imagine not expecting something. I mention this because Andrew Sullivan announced he was retiring from blogging today, and given his longevity this was seen by some as one of the great tent poles of the Golden Age of Blogging toppling over. Perhaps. The notion of individual sites with individual voices has been replaced by aggregators and listicles and Gawker subsites with their stables of edgy youth things, and public squares like Medium where dross and gold abound. But there will always be a place on the internet for individual sites like this one, because there is nothing from stopping all the rampant egotists from braying bytes over this matter or that. I’ve always been a diarist, and this iteration happens to be public.

As the edgy youth are wont to say: +1.

It was a home page, and then personal website, and then a blog, depending on the terminology of the era, but it really hasn’t changed at all. Next month, I think, is the 18th anniversary of the Bleat.

The mind boggles at the thought of keeping a Web site open for eighteen whole years.

Not going away. Why would I? This is fun.

Make that +2.

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Meanwhile across the yard

For a couple of years now, I’ve kept a backup blog at wordpress.com, mostly to explain why this one was down. With downtime seemingly diminishing these days — there have been some connectivity issues which probably relate to SiteMeter, but that’s another matter entirely — I’ve decided to drop in the occasional reblog from other wp.com sites, items that I feel like passing on but don’t have anything else to say about. A use-it-or-lose-it kind of deal, especially since I’m considering killing off one of my less-used domains.

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Surrounded by morons

Nicole questions whether she can remain committed to tossing up the occasional bon mot for our reading and dancing pleasure:

I’m not sure I’m going to keep up with this blog on a steady basis. At least for the next few months. I find that I have lost things to say that anyone would find interesting. I’m increasingly less hopeful for a return to a semblance of sanity in the general populace and there’s really no point in discussing anything with people who already have the narrative they want to believe set in their heads. If you are so scared of life that you have to cling to your world view despite proven facts, then I don’t need to waste time talking to you. I don’t even mean convincing anyone to change their minds about anything. Every discussion doesn’t have to end with both parties agreeing. Simply that it’s a waste of time and breath to try to discuss anything with someone who won’t admit what is real and proven and what isn’t. Belief isn’t the issue for me either. Believe all you want to in things that can’t be proven or disproven. Faith is a personal matter and I hold nothing against you for any faith or belief you have. But when you insist that things are true that patently aren’t, I just don’t see the point in talking to you. Willful ignorance is worse than honest ignorance. Ignorance in pursuit of a political goal is detestable.

That latter reminds me of this Upton Sinclair observation: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” Academic and political grantsmanship — like Janus, a single organism with two faces — demands that you toe the line or not get paid. Most people in this predicament follow the path of least resistance.

Still, frustration with the human race affects different people in different ways. It evidently makes Nicole want to go somewhere else where she won’t encounter all these farging jerks. Me, I’m more the stay-the-course kind of person, although it helps that I’m older than dirt and therefore can remember times when the conventional wisdom was 180 degrees — well, 150 to 210 — away from what it is now, and can remind people of it when necessary. This isn’t a better position, morally or otherwise, but it’s the one that’s most compatible with what’s inside me: I was a didact when didacticism wasn’t cool.

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Off the reading list

Some of the browser tabs that Lileks will no longer be opening:

Another thing I do at the end of the year: ruthlessly cull and trim bookmarks. I look at the site I have set aside for regular visits, and regard them with a total lack of ruth. Every year a big site gets cut, it seems. A tentpole falls. This year it was Fark. I’ve been on Fark forever, but it looks old and the comments are … well, it’s like Reddit. A lot of clever males unmoored from anything but tech and snark. The sort of smug adolescent impotent anger that makes them feel superior because everyone else is deluded or stupid. For some this lasts their entire life, and while it’s cute in the young it’s unbearable in those who carried this guttering pitch-stinking torch into middle age.

I have always believed that the way to handle Fark — and probably 60-80 percent of all sites with umpteen thousand visitors a day — is simply to avoid the comment threads at all cost. (I break this rule for things about which I may have personal knowledge, and for the weekly thread that accompanies any new My Little Pony episode, but for nothing else.) Also, some planetary alignment involving Adobe Flash, the Pale Moon Web browser, and whoever is providing Fark advertising these days invariably results in a lock-up resistant to anything short of Fletcher’s Castoria. I dislike ad blockers, but I can’t have stuff crashing my browser either, so I compromise by toggling off Flash.

But I also tire of the places where the men of my demographic cohort have pulled away and disconnected and have no interest in the world at large, and seem content to shoot little toothpick arrows down at the pullulating hordes banging on the gates. Most of all I tire of the sites and comments that luxuriate in their critiques of West as the most perfidious manifestation of human nature that ever blackened this innocent orb. People who put the seed corn in the microwave and complain because it takes two minutes to pop, is probably GMO, and was marketed in a way that reinforces some horrid old social norm. And then bitch because you don’t have French sea salt to sprinkle on it.

I avoid such places like the plague they are. To compensate — I really dislike the idea of living in an echo chamber, even if it echoes me — I leave Progressive hash-houses like #p2 open on Twitter.

And really, the cure for hatred of Western civilization is to be parachuted, in the dead of night, into some place that has little or no trace of its presence.

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Worst titles of 2014

Listed chronologically:

“Fluttershub-Niggurath” (2 January)
“We are never ever getting snacks together” (4 January)
“High-fructose cornball” (13 January)
“Save ferrous” (24 January)
“Doing asbestos we can” (10 February)
“Vampire weakened” (11 February)
“Crease is the word” (15 February)
“This schist is gneiss” (18 February)
“Harry, the feckless Senate runner” (6 March)
“Evenly odd” (18 March)
“You don’t owe Jack” (19 March)
“Multi-tusking” (28 March)
“You can have it all, my empire of fish” (17 April)
“Take me to your liter” (30 April)
“Bot and paid for” (10 May)
“A marked absence of seamen” (21 May)
“Myocardial ingestion” (6 June)
“No, a fence intended” (15 June)
“You’ve seen one, you’ve seen Amal” (16 June)
“Beware of geeks bearing GIFs” (21 June)
“Papa’s got a brand-new Baghdad” (22 June)
“Battle of divulge” (13 July)
“Thorina, Thorina” (21 July)
“Tootsie in the sky with hijinks” (26 July)
“The urge to wax has waned” (14 August)
“Friends with Benadryl” (22 August)
“This doesn’t Pétain to you” (6 September)
“First cud is the deepest” (19 September)
“Fescue me” (25 September)
“A John Deere letter” (3 October)
“The amazing Snyderman” (25 October)
“Let’s all get bewbs for the holidays” (22 November)
“Hair apparent” (27 November)
“Regression to the meanest” (28 November)
“Snot what one aspires to” (5 December)
“Mails of the unexpected” (28 December)

(Total number of 2014 posts: 1,909. Also: Worst Titles of 2013; Worst Titles of 2012; Worst Titles of 2011; Worst Titles of 2010; Worst Titles of 2009; Worst Titles of 2008; Worst Titles of 2007; Worst Titles of 2006.)

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Struggling with style

I’ve mentioned before that occasionally I page through the archives, and sometimes, I have to admit, I like what I see.

And then there are the times when I don’t.

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This morning’s instructional

A decade or so ago, I put out a threadbare little template for those who wanted to post the way I do, which turned out to be no one at all. The idea, however, has been steadily improved upon, and the current state of the art, I think, is in Jennifer’s “Eye Catching Title Referencing Something Controversial,” which offers not only a better title but the potential for actual controversy, something de rigueur in this age of fifty million blogs chasing the same ten million clicks.

(Oh, and read the comments. They’re actually in the spirit of the thing, for once.)

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Inflating the bounce rate

There was a report yesterday of domain hijacking, which proved to be a little bit less heinous than that but no less annoying.

It’s a third-party script, which apparently piggybacks onto the existing SiteMeter code. Fortunately, it was easy to identify. If you’re using some form of ad- or popup-blocker, this is something you’ll want to block:

http://x.vindicosuite.com/imp/…

If you’re not, well, why not?

(Hat tip to @GLHancock, who saw it here first.)

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My back pages

Once I’ve posted something, I never, ever want to see it again — unless I do.

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Things I learned today (32)

Has it really been two years since I did one of these? (As always, “today” includes some hours from yesterday, since I tend to write these several hours in advance.)

And no, actually, it’s been four and a half years since I did one of these.

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Never look at the statistics

Rather a lot of us on this side of the screen have been through this, sometimes more than once:

A long time ago, this blog was what I considered a huge success, at least in my view. One day I had over 300 page views, which spun me up into a frenzy of joy the likes of which no one has ever seen, except for that time Sally Fields got the Oscar. Nowadays it’s around 50 to 75 views and I’m happy to get that, because I realize I shot myself in the foot when I had my little depressive episode and just couldn’t bring myself to update. So a lot, well, most, of my “readership” wandered off to greener, recent-er pastures, and that’s what they should have done. No one lingers by a dry well thinking it’s going to suddenly spring forth with new crystalline-clear water.

This aquifer of mine has been played out for rather a long time. About ten years ago, I was pulling something like a thousand page views — call it 800 visitors at around 1.3 pages per visit — every single day. This couldn’t last, and it didn’t: today I’m pulling 500 page views a day, but it’s 250 visitors at 2 pages per visit. (The increase in pages per visit is solely attributable, I think, to the fact that I no longer have the pop-up comment box, which counted as 0.) Feed subscribers are a bigger component of the audience these days, but they fluctuate wildly: the gizmo on the sidebar, which counts the number of subscriptions held for at least two weeks, has seesawed between 180 and 1100 this year. And feed subscribers don’t figure into this graph:

SiteMeter numbers from 10/13 to present

That November 2013 burst, curiously, is entirely due to this one post.

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Downtime a-comin’

The surfer dudes who host my sites have advised that said sites will be down for at least part of Sunday evening:

We’re continuing our roll-out of Ubuntu 12.04 Precise to an additional 150 web servers this Sunday, October 12th. As we’d like to get all of our customers over to this new OS, we will be upgrading 2 batches per week. While the total estimated maintenance is 5 hours, we expect actual downtime due to the upgrade to be around 45 minutes. A large part of the maintenance window will be spent testing all of the servers post-upgrade to ensure everything is in order.

And it is indeed a new OS for them: far back as I can remember — and I’ve been there almost 13 years — they’ve been running some flavor of Debian.

Of course, the major thrill with any such announcement is the list of actual machine names to be upgraded, which includes such august designations as “augusta,” “coweta,” “king-william,” “snowstorm” and “tricia-mcmillan.”

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A factor of two hundred

I read lots of articles on How To Blog — and, sensibly, How Not To Blog — mostly to see how I’ve survived without following anyone’s advice. The lovely and talented XO Sarah posted a list of 10 Things that shouldn’t be on your blog, and before reading, I guesstimated I’d have six of them.

Only three, as it turns out, but the sheer enormity of this violation deserves mention:

45 TAGS / LABELS / CATEGORIES

Readers aren’t going to wade through that many items and search engines don’t like it either. Pick your top five to 10 and feature those.

Forty-five? Forty-five?

I protested, mildly:

I swear, I could almost see her eyes rolling in disbelief.

(@ThoShesFierce is someone I met on Sunday-night #Blogchat.)

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Forth and back

Bark M. completes his first month on WordPress, and observes:

Let’s be honest — I’m a 36-year-old, middle-class, white male college dropout. I have a family with two kids, a picket fence, and a Mustang. In other words, I’m boring. I have literally no idea why anybody cares about anything that I have to say. Nevertheless, about 250 comments have been posted to this blog in the month or so that it’s been in existence (or less than the number of comments on one of my TTAC articles this month). Most of them have been pretty nice and respectful.

I’m about the same flavor of dull, considering I’m 60 and don’t drive a Mustang at all, let alone one of the latter day Boss models in Laboratory Sample Yellow. And I average about 370 comments a month, but then I’ve been here a lot longer than a month. And most of those comments are studiously polite.

Some haven’t been. That’s fine. I respect diversity of opinion and I think that the only way you often know if you’ve said something worthwhile is if somebody takes the time to create a login and type out a hundred or two words telling you what an idiot you are. After all, the antithesis of love isn’t hate — it’s apathy. If you take the time to respond, I get the impression that you care, which I deeply appreciate.

Geez, this guy is starting to sound like me. Maybe I ought to consider buying a Mustang. (It is, after all, the oldest surviving, um, pony car.)

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Beyond here lies nothing

A fairly neutral definition from Wikipedia:

A site map (or sitemap) is a list of pages of a web site accessible to crawlers or users. It can be either a document in any form used as a planning tool for Web design, or a Web page that lists the pages on a Web site, typically organized in hierarchical fashion.

Sometimes they’re complicated. (I’d hate to sit down and draw one for this place.) The consumer-information site MainStreet.com, however, seems to have boiled it down to the basics:

Sitemap for Mainstreet.com

“That is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know,” said John Keats, while not looking at this.

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Hands across the nation

Unlikely friendships may be the best kind: you’ve already overcome the presumed obstacles, probably without even thinking about them. Lisa knows how this goes:

I don’t think it was the Internet that opened up the doors to friendships between people who otherwise would never meet in real life. Ham radio operators used to have whole communities of “friends” out on the airwaves. Even before that, people had foreign pen pals with whom they shared years of correspondence without any expectation that they would ever shake hands in real life. Sometimes it was better that way. I remember a professor telling me a story about Henry James that may or may not be apocryphal. Among the many woman, James corresponded with regularly was one he had never met even through years of letters where they found themselves to be soul mates in matters of literature and philosophy. Finally, returning to America after a long stay in Europe, James decided to visit this woman in New York or Boston or wherever it was that she lived. According to the story, just before James walked up the drive to this woman’s home, a housemaid, distracted by something, dropped a basket of soiled linen on the front stoop. Henry, who we all know was a bit of a prig, saw this basket of unmentionables where no respectable home should allow it to be. He was so horrified at the indelicacy that he turned around and never wrote to the woman again. Who knows if the story’s true? But it might tell us that some friendships work best on other planes of existence.

Cue the voice of somebody’s mother, with just the slightest hint of condescension: “Are you talking to your little Internet friends again?”

Well, yes, we are. And some of them, we treasure as though we’d grown up beside them. Lisa knows about that sort of thing, which is why, after a season full of whirlwind activity, she’s taken keyboard in hand to pay tribute to a friend of hers, and mine, and likely one of yours too.

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A dubious anniversary

It was on this day in 2006 that I restarted the Movable Type database. (This was the last post in the first MT database.) And it was two years and one day later when I washed my hands of it and switched to WordPress.

From that first post in the second MT database:

The most maddening thing, of course, is that during the Quiet Times, my traffic went up about twelve percent. Obviously I should post less.

So why start again? Well, for one thing, the old database, with seven thousand and odd items, was getting cranky. For another, it’s not like anything is missing: all the old posts are still archived and are available at their original URLs. And the last time I ran an export of said database, it clipped off at the 18-MB point for some reason, meaning that if I reimported it, I’d have to port over a couple months’ worth of entries anyway, and I’ve already put enough work into this thing.

The Quiet Times, incidentally, lasted less than 36 hours, and didn’t interrupt my run of Consecutive Days With Posts.

But this almost did:

For some incredibly-stupid reason, I decided to try to update Movable Type from 3.21 all the way up to 4.21 on 6 September 2008. It took four hours, and not everything is in place just yet: the comments popup doesn’t work, for one thing. (It may never work again; they said they were dropping support for it, and while I’m looking for a workaround, there’s a limit to how much I’m willing to put up with just to retain a feature.)

Also, until further notice, any comments that do come in will have to sit in the moderation queue until I have that rearranged to my liking.

But it’s late and I need some sleep and I’m not going to work on this mess any further until I get some. Sleep, I mean.

That was about one-thirty on the morning of the 7th. About 13 hours later:

There is a limit to how much I’m willing to endure, and some time today I reached it. We are now running WordPress 2.6.1. All of the old posts remain in their original locations; posts for this month were imported to WP and can be read here. It will be a while before I have links up to everything else, the way I used to.

Eventually, I moved all the posts from those two years. (The stuff from before 6 September 2006 is still where it used to be.)

I’ve had some scary moments in these six years, but I’m still on WordPress — now version 4.0.

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Copied wrong

A report from the Tumblr front:

Recently I received a notice from Tumblr which threatened deletion of this blog. It was a FINAL WARNING. I have never been warned about deletion previously, so it’s curious why they are calling this FINAL. I emailed Tumblr support, and was told “the email you received was due to an automated DMCA notification processing system that may have gone awry.” Checking a few other blogs, I saw that several others received the exact same notice.

“May have,” they said.

It’s frightening how the people who run social media sites like Facebook and Tumblr care so little about their users that they would wipe out years of work with a single keystroke. None of us are safe online, and things appear to be getting worse rather than getting better.

For an example of “worse,” see this yutz who’s all bent out of shape because someone insulted him; he demands satisfaction.

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Site questions

New arrivals at the site are often perplexed: “This doesn’t look like any WordPress blog I’ve ever seen.” (In which case, you should see this one, which uses the same theme.) Perhaps your question is answered here.

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The wonderfulness of me

Roberta X used to have a category called “the wonderfulness of me,” and the name was intended, I believe, neither as irony nor as humblebrag: it was simply handy. It’s not a term I’d use myself, though: my own shtick calls for somewhere below Whitmanian celebrations of myself but at least slightly above “wayward guttersnipe.”

From some gutter in a 107 IP comes this attempt to butter me up:

I’ve been browsing on-line more than 3 hours lately, yet I never found any fascinating article like yours. It is beautiful price enough for me. In my view, if all website owners and bloggers made excellent content as you probably did, the internet will probably be a lot more helpful than ever before.

I dunno how excellent the content is around here, but there certainly is a lot of it. And there’s a reason for that, for which I turn to Gagdad Bob:

“Only the unexpected fully satisfies. Nothing that satisfies our expectations fulfills our hopes.” This is why I so enjoy this medium of expression. If someone were to offer me money to write a commentary on Don Colacho’s Aphorisms, I would be miserable. Blogging is only fulfilling — and it is, very — because there is absolutely No Plan. Every morning, I can’t wait to wake up and accomplish nothing, only maybe a little more deeply this time!

Says it all, or at least rather a lot of it, as I probably did.

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Reblogged down

Well, they’re doomed. People are actually starting to notice:

[S]ometimes I wonder if Tumblr is actually just eight or 10 blogs with original content, and all the other Tumblrs are just endlessly linked resharing of that content.

Oh, I’m sure there are at least twenty.

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