Archive for Blogorrhea

In which a hat is tipped

And for good reason, too:

The previous post was #3,000 for this here blog, which makes me a “millitriathlete” of running my mouth.

Not even going to try to come up with a comparable term for this place.

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Dying off the vine

The era of the Lone Blogger, says once and possibly future Lone Blogger Arthur Chrenkoff, is over and done with:

In line with the trend towards “magazination” of blogging, one recent survey by Orbit Media Studios has found that “the typical length for a post is about 900 words, up 100 words from last year’s survey.” When you are competing with “normal” media outlets, you need to try matching both quality and quantity. Blogging used to be called citizen journalism, but citizen or not, it had to become a lot more professional.

(Via Glenn Reynolds, who notes: “InstaPundit turns 15 in two months.”) Then again, Reynolds has help these days; still, I’d bet he turns out more than 900 words a day, even if it’s spread over several posts.

Come to think of it, I generally turn out more than 900 words a day, albeit spread over several posts. And this place turns 15 on, um, 9 April 2011.

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I shouldn’t worry about this

Then again, what’s the point of collecting statistics if you’re not going to look at them?

Six weeks or so ago, I had 1,450 subscribers to some feed or other, according to the little gizmo that counts them. This was the peak; the number began shrinking the next day, and bottomed out at 502 before rebounding. (It’s currently floating around 920; 750 of them are basically taking the entire blog feed, while the rest are subscribed to individual threads.)

I’d break this down further, but I’d probably wind up finding that I have only nine actual readers, and two of them are out of town.

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Material expectations

On the 11th anniversary of the day he joined the Halls of Blogdom, Roger observed:

As you know, I often write ahead in my blog, but, because of annoying things, such as LIFE, the number of posts in the queue is down significantly, 36% from the peak. This means that one of these days, I’m going to wake up, realize I have no post prepared, and will scurry around looking for a picture of one of my cats.

I daresay, this is not terrible. Note the decline here in actual publication numbers:

  • 2006: 2,126
  • 2007: 2,021
  • 2008: 2,063
  • 2009: 2,123
  • 2010: 2,056
  • 2011: 1,978
  • 2012: 1,920
  • 2013: 1,874
  • 2014: 1,909
  • 2015: 1,920

This is not a precipitate decline, exactly, but the 2,000 mark constitutes a psychological barrier, one I haven’t been able to surpass in some time. (You might want to keep in mind that Roger writes long-form stuff: two thousand from me might equal maybe four hundred from him.)

And at least he has cats, which are always welcomed on the Web.

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The book of (smaller) numbers

I’ve heard this particular plaint before, but seldom as eloquently:

When I started blogging, The Truth Laid Bear blogging ecosystem was kind of fading; Technorati was a going enterprise and Sitemeter was hot. Over the years, Technorati turned its attention elsewhere, or maybe just off, and Sitemeter eventually decided that loading obtrusive adware was the way to monetize. Tam moved to StatCounter and I followed soon after.

At one time, I looked at the numbers daily. Any more, every few weeks is often enough.

There’s a definite downward trend. I don’t pay the five bucks a month to save stats forever, so I only have about a year, but it’s got a slope. Eventually, it’ll be like it was back in the beginning, just me and some web-crawlers from search engines, maybe a friend stopping by every so often.

I will never understand what happened to Technorati, but I figure any operation that can say something like this with a straight face is doomed:

Within our network, we help website publishers maximize their advertising revenue without having to worry about the complications of the ever-shifting advertising marketplace so they can get back to making the awesome content that we all consume every day.

This, even more than an executive search, proves that Dave Sifry is gone. And I object in principle to the idea that what I do here is produce “content” for “consumption,” like I’m some extruded-food distributor in Secaucus, New Jersey.

I admit that my numbers, like everyone else’s numbers, are down: 800 a day a decade ago, 300 a day today. Then again, I had about 50 people taking some form of feed, usually RSS, back then. Today it’s over a thousand, and has been as high as 1400. Yeah, it fluctuates. What in nature doesn’t? And if I’m no longer a TTLB Large Mammal, I’m happy with my state of cellular development.

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An example to follow

I would never, ever tell you that you really ought to blog the way I do. (Okay, I did reveal the trade secret just once.) But I am happy to endorse this particular advice:

You should blog like future employers have no idea how Google works. And by that I don’t mean that you should post nude pictures of yourself online. Never do that. Unless your last name is Kardashian, and then I think it will actually work out in your favor. But you should write what you feel and what you believe. Don’t worry about whether or not it jives with the view of a potential employer. I spent a lot of time blogging that way, and I can tell you that that way lies madness.

If you find yourself doing something that you don’t like, go ahead and delete it all. Some time last year I hit a wall, and deleted almost all of my blog posts. I did this because those posts didn’t feel like me. I realized I was writing a completely different blog. And since having deleted those posts and starting over, I’m averaging more page views, my social media interaction is up, and I’m proud of what I’ve put out there. When all the web gurus tell you to be authentic, they aren’t kidding. Just do it. Be real, and blog about what you want to write about.

And if your last name is Kardashian, what the heck are you doing here?

Seriously, this is what I think of as good advice. My boss reads this stuff on occasion, but I have no reason to think anything I say here has precipitated any corner-office discussion. (It helps that I’m somewhere below nowhere on the corporate org chart.) I haven’t deleted much stuff here over the years, but there’s not a whole lot here that doesn’t sound like me either.

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It was twenty years ago today

The Bird, circa 1997I’m just as amazed as you are: this Web site was actually founded on 9 April 1996, and at the time, all of it would fit on a 3.5-inch floppy. (Okay, not a 720k 3.5-inch floppy, but let’s not get technical here.) I’m declaring an open thread for the day; however, I am not actually going to take the day off, because, well, I just don’t do that sort of thing. I never figured this place would last this long. Then again, I never really figured I would last this long, and we know how well that worked out.

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Imagine the directory structure

At any given moment, I have several side projects going, though “going” implies a destination, and many of those destinations may never be reached.

This is because I am not as organized as those people who can describe the whole process far in advance:

Caffeine –> Idea –> Caffeine –> Boredom –> Caffeine –> Another Idea –> More Caffeine –> Idea For Something I Think Is Hysterically Funny –> Execution of Something NOT Funny Because I Quickly Decided That My Hysterically Funny Idea Was Really Not Very Funny –> Caffeine –> Think About Disappointing My Five Readers –> Make That Four –> More Caffeine –> Feel Bad About Not Achieving Anything Or Writing A Book –> Side Project Executed But May Never Be Shown To Anyone –> Caffeine –> Repeat.

Dissolute soul that I am, I get bogged down somewhere in the vicinity of “Execution of Something NOT Funny.”

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Among the OGs

Francis W. Porretto remembers Steven Den Beste:

One of the early pioneers of blogging, Steven Den Beste, became well known for a number of reasons. One of them was his dislike of any reader feedback, however delivered. His site didn’t permit comments, and he became famous for repeatedly pleading with his readers not to write to him. Those pleas weren’t always heeded.

Den Beste was/is — I have no idea whether he’s still on the sunny side of the sod — an intelligent and accomplished man. For some time he indulged in the expression of his opinions about a wide variety of things here on the Web, even though his ROI appeared to be decidedly negative. Moreover, he would occasionally take up cudgels with those who disagreed with him: a strenuous undertaking that’s seldom brought anyone any meaningful gain.

He quit this madness after a few years. There were several reasons, but one was undoubtedly that he was unable to express himself without getting feedback he didn’t want to cope with. Those of us who valued his thinking and writing mourned the loss.

I am pleased to report that SDB is still on this side of the grass, running something called chizumatic.mee.nu. It is decidedly less Calculated to Outrage than USS Clueless ever was — and comments are open!

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One of those minor milestones

I have no reason to assume he was actually looking at it, but McGehee would have been the first person to be able to see this little callout over in the sidebar last night:

Fifty thousand comments

And actually, that’s 50,000 just since September 2006, after the first Movable Type database was closed down and all the posts converted to static pages. (The second one was successfully imported into WordPress two years later.) So this figure includes the last two years of MT and all the years of WP; there are about five years of comments — 17,000 or so — which are not included in this count.

Before you ask: of those fifty thousand, about 9200 were written by me. And I have no idea if this little gadget, not formally a widget, is capable of six digits. Maybe we’ll know in ten years.

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Down at the heels

It’s probably a safe bet that we are never, ever going out together. If we did, I would of course take a look at your shoes, but otherwise they play no role other than transportation appliance and/or cultural artifact.

There are, inevitably, people with more prurient interests in that realm, and Cristina, who writes a shoe blog, is weary of them:

I have some amazingly engaged & supportive followers on Twitter that possibly sway towards a quasi-unwholesome shoe loving direction. But they know where to draw the line when it comes to my PG-13 rated shoe blog talking about shoes within the context of fashion, not fetish. The others get blocked.

I did leave her this comment:

On the subject of pervs, I sympathize: in at least some of the circles in which I operate, the mere fact that I can distinguish between styles invites suspicion. (“Why would you even know that?”)

Then again, I’ve been hit with that question so many times that I’ve had to resort to “Why would I not?” as a response.

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Changing with the times

I really don’t have much of a counterargument for this:

I have a similar annual spend. Then again, I probably have more posts than most.

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The relocated malcontent

In fact, the Local Malcontent may already be moving:

[We] have sold our home in Yanush to a lovely, young, immigrant Muslim couple from Qatar and Pakistan, and we two+ are going to move into a newer, larger home in LeFlore County, Ok.

Effective late January.

So I will be away for awhile, until AT&T U=verse connects us to the InterWebSuperHighway — they claim it will be on February 2 … but they wouldn’t say which year.

(Emphasis added.)

The community of Yanush isn’t big enough to be mentioned in Wikipedia, though it does have a Facebook page.

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Live by the link, die by the link

I should have left this tissue of organic fertilizer in the spam bin. It was titled “A few recommendations that can help both of us,” which inevitably means it will help the sender and may or may not do the recipient any good. Decide for yourself:

Webmaster,

We are writing to alert you to the presence of harmful backlinks on your website. These links, that direct to [domain name redacted], were placed on your site by our former SEO management company. That company willfully violated Google’s Terms of Service, which resulted in a penalty being levied against our company. In order to remove this penalty, we must ask your assistance. Please delete the known backlinks to [domain name redacted], hosted on your site at:

http://dustbury.com/archives/cat_blogorrhea.html

Your compliance with this request is greatly appreciate. Have a nice day.

Generally, anyone who uses the word “backlink” unironically can be assumed to be a scoundrel or a fool.

What’s hilarious about this is the origin of said, um, links: this domain, once upon a time, belonged to a blog which once — well, twice, actually — hosted the Carnival of the Vanities, and I always linked to the Carnival host as a matter of historical reference, since I contributed the first piece to the very first Carnival, way back when. There’s now a storefront sitting there, and their current SEO management company apparently got its BVDs horribly knotted at the thought of an incoming link that would not sell any product.

How much do these links harm me? I have a better chance of winning the freaking Powerball. Just the same, I took them out, on the basis that I don’t want to hear from these whimpering sons of bitches ever again.

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And lo, there was debugging

A cry from my techie side (which is actually barely more than a corner) from last month:

After installing WordPress 4.4, I encountered a minor anomaly. Short version: In posts included in two or more categories, the categories are now listed in the post heading, not in strict alphabetical order as they used to be, but in the order of their assigned ID numbers, whatever they may be. I left a note at the support forum, indicating what I thought might be the issue, and expressing some nominal amount of dismay.

Unusually, no one at the forum deigned to respond to my dismay, but the problem was quietly fixed in 4.4.1, possibly as a by-product from this bug.

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Worst titles of 2015

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The entrepreneurds

After installing WordPress 4.4, I encountered a minor anomaly. Short version: In posts included in two or more categories, the categories are now listed in the post heading, not in strict alphabetical order as they used to be, but in the order of their assigned ID numbers, whatever they may be. I left a note at the support forum, indicating what I thought might be the issue, and expressing some nominal amount of dismay.

On its heels came this email:

My name is Jane and I’m with fixrunner.com WordPress support experts.

I saw your website on one of the forums online and that you are having an issue with your websites, We provide a professional WordPress support and maintenance service.

If you are currently experiencing any bug or need any immediate fix on your website we can help you fix it for a Flat rate of $49.

Please note that payment is not due until after we fix the issue. If we don’t fix it you don’t pay us.

There are, I imagine, circumstances under which I might find this service useful. But this isn’t one of them.

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November in a nutshell

This sequence of events is a perfect metaphor for the way this month has gone.

The house in which I live was built in 1948, and some of its fixtures are either original or so old they might as well be. There are two towel bars in the bathroom, each suspended by a pair of ceramic holders; the smaller one has a spring-loaded ceramic bar, the larger one a similar-looking bar, but plastic. I found this out when I went scooting across the floor on a not-yet-wet bath mat, grabbed the bar with my left hand, and watched as it broke almost exactly in half.

I rigged up a temporary fix, involving good old strapping tape, and on an impulse, I checked to see if Amazon had a replacement bar. They had three of them, as it happens; but two of them were restricted to Prime members only. Disinclined to put up $99 for the privilege of spending ten bucks on a plastic rod, I passed them by, and several pages down found the third, from a merchant in Arizona. Five bucks for the bar itself, seven for shipping. Well, thought I, it’s not gonna fit in an envelope, y’know?

It somehow arrived about two days ahead of schedule, despite the punishing weather. (The postman actually clambered through the space I’d cleared in the Fallen Branch Zone and left it on the porch.) Grateful for anything that worked at this point, I hurriedly opened the box, verified that the sizes were correct, and took it into the bathroom.

The old one wouldn’t come out. It was solid, inflexible, and incompressible. Almost like it was, um, ceramic.

If all my temporary fixes worked this well … but never mind, it’s not going to happen.

And with the house in utter darkness for another night, and me stuck on a 15-year-old laptop that can no longer keep up, this may be the last update for a while: the strange-query feature and the Thunder game recap tomorrow will likely be delayed.

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Sort of a moat

Since I installed WordPress in the fall of 2008, the Akismet plugin has thwarted just under 40,000 spams. To me, this seems like a lot; but to WordPress oldtimers, this is a rounding error. Then again, I have a second line of defense: a handy little device called WP-Ban, which does a pretty fair job of keeping out known offending IP ranges. Even after a recent update, though, it was taking a couple of minutes to add a single IP to the ban list, and after watching things unfold in realtime, I decided to reset its counter.

As of yesterday, WP-Ban had turned away 923,242 intrusions, some IPs with only one or two tries, some with several thousand. So maybe, instead of forty thousand spams, I’d have had close to a million by now. It’s a discouraging thought, to say the least; then again, picking them out by hand is no fun for anyone, unless they’re inadvertently amusing.

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But you must monetize

I expect to be staring down this particular situation before too awfully long:

The theme I’d worked so hard to look just right got all effered up when I applied an update the developers told me was necessary. Too many issues, not enough patience, and too tired to care, I just went with another theme. Unfortunately, these days, finding a WordPress theme geared for actual blogging rather than rabid capitalism is nearly impossible.

True that. Sunday night’s #blogchat on Twitter is just overrun with people who are desperate to get Maximum Personal Branding, or some such hooey, out of their $75 Premium Themes, if only to earn back that $75.

I have not yet begun my full-fledged search for the new 20th Anniversary Theme. I am, however, deeply suspicious of any theme which mentions SEO in the first two lines of its description.

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Small and Gawky

The restructuring at Gawker Media — basically, Gawker itself is going all politics, all the time, and some of the “lesser” brands are being shed — is likely no surprise to Robert Stacy McCain:

If Nick Denton could outsource Gawker’s editorial work to Guatemalan peasants working in squalid huts for a few pesos a day, I’m sure he wouldn’t hesitate to do so. There is no feasible limit to Nick Denton’s unscrupulous greed, and this is why investors put their money into Gawker media, because they trust Nick will be absolutely ruthless in his quest to make a dollar, and “diversity” is only of interest to Gawker’s investors if it somehow impacts Nick’s ability to produce revenue.

For myself, I thought it was odd that, having sold off an actual political blog a couple of restructurings ago, they’d now try to recreate one:

Wonkette editor/publisher Rebecca Schoenkopf begs to differ:

Hello, Gawker sirs, don’t mind us, we’re just a couple of country mice over here in the corner eating this tiny crust of bread. You remember us, Wonkette? We are the politics blog that sprang from your loins (gross) and which you then sold almost immediately because you couldn’t figure out how to make money from politics. (Have you asked Newsmax for some pointers? I hear they got a real good list.) So this other guy, who was not us, bought it from you, and four years later he realized American politics was rotting his wanderer’s soul, so he went out for a pack of cigarettes and never came back.

Which is how I came to be the owner, publisher and editrix of this teeny-tiny little politics place, which never hurt nobody, nobody at all. And here you are, and under your new editor — who used to be the editor of us, SMALL PUBLISHING WORLD — you are retooling into a “politics” site.

Really? Are you sure? Because while we’ve tripled our revenues and quintupled our staff in the past three years because it turns out I am awesome at capitalism and asking for money from readers like you, that actually means we’ve gone from “just-me” to “five.” I am pretty sure all Politico’s money comes from that godawful Newsletter Sponsored By Whatever Blackwater’s Called This Week. And Newsmax’s cheddar, while YOOOGE, comes from the fleecing of homebound, ill crackers. You do not want to sell cancer cures made of cinnamon do you? DO YOU?

As good a description of Ken Layne’s apostasy as I’ve yet heard, and the whole (read it all if you dare) is hilarious enough to justify my assertion.

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About those hardware issues

Back in mid-September I put up the usual link to the current Vent, and forgot to list it in the Ventually category. This has been fixed.

This is not, however, what I came to tell you about. That particular Vent — #933 — was a survey of my findings at a Tumblr blog called “Transsexual Nudists,” which so far as I could tell contained pictures of no actual trans people: all the pictures seemed to have been Photoshopped. (I later found what appeared to have been some of the originals elsewhere on Tumblr.) Hardly anyone seemed to be particularly upset about this, though: there is evidently a small core of fans who really, truly want the women of their dreams to have standard male hardware. And the character who was doing the virtual genitalia transplant at least did it with some degree of panache: one particular shot involved three unclad women, and he pasted the penis onto arguably the prettiest one.

For reasons unknown, the site was taken down this past weekend, and its archives nuked, though if I remember Tumblr operations correctly, anything from there that was reblogged elsewhere will remain reblogged.

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Embrace the brokeness

You want to know what’s really killing the blog? The lure of micropayments:

[I]t’s essentially impossible to have any discussion about blogging without that discussion turning toward, not blogging, but rewards for blogging — readership and pagerank and ads and Adsense clicks, and all of those numeric metrics that can add up to making more money from ads or selling products or selling the blog itself.

Many bloggers chase that reward, focusing the entire blogging effort on increasing their Adsense payments from enough money to buy a burger a month, to enough money to buy a burger a week. The entire value of what should be a joyous creative-effort is reduced, in perception, to a few dollars. And if the reward stays at a few dollars, or in fact never goes above a few pennies, they feel stupid, like they’re suckers.

Even when a blogger doesn’t actually care about money, the measure of a blog is still often based on the measures that produce money — readers, page views, pagerank.

Yeah, I watch those measures myself. But I assure you, they don’t make me a dime. In fact, my current stat service costs me $100 a year, more than the cost of actually running the site after I cash in my various referrals and kickbacks. Still, in an average month, I will churn out 15,000 words and lose about a tenth of a cent on each and every one of them. Since I’ve been doing this for almost twenty years — well, I must be making it up in volume, right?

If I were going to monetize (Jeebus, I hate that word) this stuff, I’d do it the hard way: bind it into a book or three. For the moment, though, while it’s certainly time-consuming, it’s not what I’d call budget-depleting. And if push comes to shove, I can always borrow the five most important words in the English language: “Hit the freaking tip jar!”

Oh, wait. I don’t have one of those, either.

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When we was glib

While poking around in the archives, I found this paragraph from December ’04 that technically doesn’t require an update, but perhaps deserves to be spread further:

The Mandatory Serenity Amendment — “The right of the peoples of the United States to be free from any ideas or materials or products, which they may find offensive, shall not be infringed” — has so far been ratified by 0 states.

We owe it to ourselves to keep it that way.

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An enterprising young ghoul

Anyone who has more than a smidgen of archives — well, anyone who has more than a smidgen of archives and is goofy enough to disclose an email address — gets the occasional letter from someone more than happy to point out a broken link and suggest a replacement. Sometimes the replacement is relevant. Then there’s this earnest letter from one “Marlene” in Britain:

Good afternoon, I have found a broken resource on your site, I have listed all the details below so that you can find it and fix it easily. I have also included a link to an article that I wrote and as you will be fixing the broken link anyway, I thought you may like to add a link to my article about “The definitive guide to funeral flowers”.

What was fun about this was the nature of the rotted link: it connected to an old story about disgraced forensic chemist Joyce Gilchrist, who passed away earlier this year. Some of Gilchrist’s more dubious findings resulted in having to obtain funeral flowers, but somehow jamming Marlene’s article into the piece seemed just a hair inappropriate.

That said, however, it’s a very nice article, so should you be interested in funeral flowers — keep in mind, I am very old — this is the piece she offered. Meanwhile, I replaced the old Gilchrist link with a new Gilchrist link.

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Under a modicum of pressure

A Twitter follower professed last night to be impressed by the volume of bloggage I churn out, which got me wondering if there was any particular item I’d done which might be notable for the sheer speed of composition. (I’m an okay typist at best, but typing and writing are two different skills entirely, and Truman Capote might even have agreed.)

So I pondered for a moment, and then recalled that I’d posted this established version of a generic limerick, which inevitably led to someone Googling “generic limerick,” which I duly cited in the weekly round-up of weird search strings, along with this impromptu example:

There once was an A who did B
In front of a horrified C;
The sight of his D
Made her cry loudly, “E!”
And we’re happy this ends before Z.

As I recall, this took all of sixty seconds to concoct, with the semicolon marking the halfway point. (And a reader later pointed out that the fifth line would not rhyme in places like Canada.)

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Somewhere around the back end

One of my more faithful WordPress plugins is WP-Ban by Lester Chan, which allows me to block any IPv4 address — IPv6 isn’t covered yet — or any range thereof. It’s not 100% reliable, but it’s kept about 800,000 unworthy types out of this site over the past several years.

Then WP 4.3 arrived yesterday, and the plugin broke with the ever-popular Fatal Error string. I watched it happen, took the obvious action — rename the plugin directory so WordPress can’t find it — and went out to see if anyone else was having this same issue. They were. Almost identically, in fact. So I’m assuming this problem isn’t due to the weird configuration over here.

This is the first time I’ve seen anything of Chan’s actually break, so I have no idea how quickly he responds to issues like this, but I am hopeful.

Update: Well, looky here. A new version of WP-Ban already.

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When the title says it all

I am considered at least reasonably competent at producing titles for the stuff I churn out, but I admit to being awed, and then some, at this Ace zinger: “Gawker Staff Smears Feces On Itself, Boards a Schoolbus Loaded With Gasoline and Napalm, Then Intentionally Drives That Schoolbus Into a Cargo Train Transporting Toxic Waste and Retarded Clowns”.

Apart from separating “school” from “bus,” there’s not a thing in the world I’d want to change about that.

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Not that we would need it here

Echochamber.js bills itself as “All off [sic] the commenting, none of the comments.” This is what they mean:

Echochamber.js is a third-party script you can install to add a simple comment form to your blog post or website.

why not just use disqus?

Because then there’d be a chance that someone would read the comments. You might have to read those comments. You don’t want that.

When a user submits a comment, echochamber.js will save the comment to the user’s LocalStorage, so when they return to the page, they can be confident that their voice is being heard, and feel engaged with your very engaging content. It does not make any HTTP requests. Since LocalStorage is only local, you and your database need not be burdened with other people’s opinions.

The script is simple, and is fed from a reliable source: Amazon Web Services.

(Via Brianna Wu. Don’t say it.)

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Things to come, maybe

El Nuko celebrates the beginning of his tenth year behind a blog dashboard with a list of ten predictions, two of which I figured I ought to pass on:

  1. The huge NSA data collection center at St Louis will be totally breached, and all of the information will be released into the open. The US economy will be thrown into a deep depression as credit availability evaporates overnight due to lack of confidentiality.
  2. Obama will propose microchip implantation as the solution, which will be agreed to by both parties, with the exception of 2016 hopeful Mike Huckabee, who sees this as the “mark of the beast.”

Expect Mitch McConnell to offer token resistance at first, because that’s what he does best: token resistance.

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