Don’t Like Slashdot? Blame Ed

My brother grew up knowing Jeff Bates (Hemos) and Rob Malda (CmdrTaco) of Slashdot.

From what I understand, it may have been Derek that introduced Jeff Bates and indirectly Rob to the idea of modems and computer BBS’s. I was talking with him during Christmas and it turned out that he specifically remembered explaining what a modem was to Jeff Bates.

And why did Derek know? He knew because I’d bought a 300 baud modem for my Commodore 64 with birthday money when I was in high school. And why did I have a Commodore 64? Because I’d been over to Ed‘s house a lot, thought his Commodore 64 (with an unbelievably fast 1200 baud modem), was pretty cool and had saved up money from picking blueberries one summer to buy my own.

Strange how tenuous a series of events it is.

Before people come to the conclusion that I’m in tight with Rob and Jeff Bates, I should mention a couple things. First, I wouldn’t know them if I saw them on the street. Second, I didn’t speak with them much even then. I’m pretty sure I dropped Jeff off at his house a couple times and I’m sure I saw their posts on boards that I frequented, but I’m pretty sure I also ignored them because they were seven years younger than I am.

Funny, eh?

I Took a Survey

I took a survey that someone at MIT is apparently conducting. As someone who put in a substantial number hours of my life learning how to write and analyze surveys, I can’t help but note that the people taking this one are a self-selected group. This is potentially hazardous in that you always have the potential to get too many people from one group or another.

Bearing in mind that the survey is about blogs and that there’s no decent list of bloggers, self-selection may be the only realistic way to do it. If you’ve got a blog feel free to click on the link below…

Take the MIT Weblog Survey

What I Don’t Blog About

I’ve read a number of articles in the past few months about people getting fired for things that they wrote in their blogs.

Though I’m inclined to think that people shouldn’t be fired for what they write about, I’ve read some of the things that people got fired for. Some of them are not particularly bright.

Personally, I’ve always come at blogging assuming that anyone I know could type in my name and come up with my blog. Even beyond deliberately trying to find me, it’s possible for people I know to find me unintentionally. My wife once told me that someone we know (but not all that well) at church had asked her if I had a blog. I don’t know how she found it. Another person from church was doing research on local political blogs and came across mine in the process. My blog isn’t all that political, but he found it nonetheless.

In short, I tend to assume that there are no safe spaces online.

Thus I don’t blog about work or people at work. If I do mention work, I mention specific tasks I’m working on or something complimentary. I don’t mention names and I don’t make nasty comments about anyone other than myself.

I also don’t make a point of writing about my faults. I’m sure it’s possible to pick up on a few of them indirectly, but I don’t mention any that I don’t want a current or future employer to read.

I’m not sure why I come at blogging from this particular angle. Part of it, I’m sure, comes from working for non-profit organizations and having to constantly ask what someone will think about finding this on our website.

Part of it comes out of years of writing and writing classes. I constantly imagine who the audience for what I’m writing might be.

In the end, the reason I do it may largely turn out to be personality. When I have time to reflect on something, I almost always end up analyzing the probable results of what I’m doing. Sometimes this results in my being slower about things than I want to be. Hopefully it also allows me to avoid certain errors.

Even Google’s Not Perfect

Recently I was trying to fix a problem with someone’s pc. The pc had mysteriously stopped sending system events noises (email beep, start windows, stop windows…) through the speakers and would only make the rather unpleasant beep that comes directly from the computer speaker itself.

It turned out that it resulted from an entry that a downloaded program (the Weather Channel client) had made in the registry. Eventually I discovered this and deleted the entry.

The amusing thing for me was the stuff that showed up when I was searching. I was putting in words like “windows xp beep system events registry key” in various combinations, but when I searched with one of those combinations what were the first entries?

Stories from I have no idea why.

Tempest in a Bitbucket

I read a number of online comics regularly. One of them is PvP. Another is Megatokyo.

Late last week Scott Kurtz, the artist and writer of PvP, made a joke about Fred Gallagher, co-founder of Megatokyo with Rodney Caston. The joke congratulated Rodney and his wife on becoming pregnant and suggested that Fred wouldn’t be able to steal the baby. This refers to the fact that while both Fred and Rodney started Megatokyo, Fred took over the comic and has been doing it solo for a few years now. Some people imagine that Fred somehow cheated Rodney out of his share of the comic and Scott was joking about that speculation as much as anything else.

Alas, things soon grew out of hand. Scott Kurtz phrased things in such a way that one could easily read it as an attack. Fred Gallagher (who apparently has read all too many attacks of this kind) responded with an explanation of the breakup process. It didn’t stop there. Fanatic followers of both comics took potshots at each other in online forums and called each other (and their favorite artist/writers) nasty names.

Apparently Scott Kurtz and Fred Gallagher also both got a lot of emails on the topic.

At this moment, both artists’ sites have messages saying the equivalent of “please stop caring about this. Nothing to see here. Move along…”

Funny how one attempt at humor can blow up into so many wasted words.

Part of it might be the medium. When people say something like that in person, they can see the effect of the words and immediately apologise and explain their motivation. On the web you say it, people get offended and never get to say something to you directly. In fact they can go back to the same object and re-read it and it’s just like it was before. With an in-person problem, the details blur and when you feel better you can reinterpret your memories.

Thanks to the web, if you tell people about it, they can read it and get angry too. They, in turn, can tell even more people.

It would be interesting to track how people found out about the comments, if they made a response, and what sort of response they made.

More Key Phrases

A couple weeks ago my wife told me, “You should do that thing Nate does and write about the searches that lead people to your blog.” As of now, I am stuck for something interesting to say and have decided to do it.

From the “I Really Shouldn’t Have Written That, Should I?” Department
Thanks to an entry I once made, I appear to be something of an authority on cat urine:
cat pee
finding cat pee
why cats pee on things

And Ant Removal:
exploding ant
ants in the dishwasher
chalk ants
ants yeast
exploding ants -book -adapt

And Poison Control Advice For Pets:

cat was licking ant trap

From the “That’s What You Get From Putting ‘Online’ in Your Name” Department
online rpgs
driving games online that are not blocked
ad&d tome of magic online
harlan ellison online stories (Note: Harlan would sue me if I actually had some on this site…)
cookbooks online with pictures
deerslayer online
beavis and butthead online
online telekenesis test (Hint: If you have to take an online test to find out, you probably don’t have telekinesis)

From the “I Only Wish My Blog Were That Cool” Department
the human genome project the ethical situations
mysql html conference registration
menu for san chez (As in San Chez Bistro. A very good place to eat)
babylon 5 storylines
banning of mark twain s books in 1800 s

From the “Thanks for the Hit, But You Won’t Find It Here” Department
checking tires that have a thump in them.
parse huge files with sax java
lawn moves on your head to too (Er… Maybe you could be a bit more precise?)
pictures of a drunk person s brain \ (What’s the “\” for?)
fine ham abounds (Thanks Ed)
brother can you spare a dime sheet music
how to record steamed music to pc (steamed music?)
bed sheets that toddlers can t remove (They don’t exist. Trust me)
protecting christmas tree from pets (Likely a lost cause)
how to stop someone driving on lawn
9 princes of amber in ad&d
fix gas leak (My suggestion? Call your gas company. NOW)

From the “Probably Actually Found What You Wanted” Department
war phillipines iraq parallel

Comment and Trackback Spam

Comments and trackbacks are part of what makes writing a blog interesting. It’s just nice to know that someone else read what you wrote and cared enough to respond.

This makes it doubly annoying when someone decides to up their google ranking by filling your site with references to drugs, gambling and pornography, using comments and trackbacks to do it.

I don’t plan to turn them off, but I don’t much enjoy having to delete upwards of 30 comments in the past 2 days. I’m lucky in that MT-blacklist did catch them all, but I still had to permanently remove them myself–which is as it should be. A program that deleted them without giving me the option of approving them would probably remove comments I wanted as well.

Despite knowing that I should probably feel charitable even towards spammers, rage and frustration dominate my thoughts about them.

I think about how cool it would be if they experienced a shock for each comment spam. Perhaps more appropriately, I think back to an article on Slashdot. A spammer gave an interview and talked about his new home. Some readers figured out where he lived and signed him up for hundreds of magazines and infinite junk mail. He got angry and threatened to sue, but, so far as I know, no one ever went to court.

It’s a pleasant fantasy, but, I doubt I’d be able to do the same. Still, whoever it is deserves to experience the results of their actions. It can’t happen soon enough.

Dot Com Craziness

In 1998, a friend of mine passed along a tip that some new dot com was giving out their stock for free. Mind you, this wasn’t real stock and there was no guaranty that the company would survive, but, what the heck? I went and got some free stock.

A few months ago, I noticed that the company had survived, and, briefly wondered what my stock was worth (if anything). Last night I read an article in Wired.

Turns out that I’m owed some cash. Bearing in mind that I never bought any stock, I almost feel guilty taking the money, but not that guilty. I’ll be sending in my paperwork tomorrow.

Where Do Those Hits Come From Anyway?

I’m a bit of a web statistics nut. Every month I go to my web stats page with a level of anticipation that rivals Christmas morning. Once I get them, I look them over for much longer than I need to, obsessing over the meaning of small, inconsequential details.

At work there’s some use for this. It really does matter which pages are getting hits and which ones aren’t. That helps me understand who comes to our website and why.

For my blog, of course, looking at stats is merely an exercise in self-absorption. Arguably, this might apply to writing my blog as well.

That being said, I’m still interested in who links to me. So, I look into the “external links” section of my site statistics with some enthusiasm. Some entries are easy to explain (links from the Pirate, Polytropos, and the late, great Blog that Goes Ping) but others make no sense.

For example, I seem to get a lot of external links from the /MT/mt.cgi folder of some people’s blogs. This wouldn’t surprise me if I’d every heard of these people (they might have been responding to a trackback), but in most cases I haven’t.

Even after looking over their actual blogs, I still haven’t found any evidence that they’ve linked to me. One of these days, I’ll have to find out exactly what the stats program uses as evidence of links, but until then I’ll post a few of them.

And then there are links that remind me that anyone could randomly come upon my blog. Here my site appears as a detail in a class assignment about blogs.

Should anyone mentioned on this page want me to remove the link I’ll gladly do it, but if someone has any idea how these sites link to me (or where) I’ll be interested in finding out.

Web Statistics

I’ve often been curious about the statistics for my blog. Thanks to Michael Hall, I now know.

Despite my fears, it turns out that not everyone is running Mozilla on Freebsd and happens to have the exact same ip address as I do. In fact, some people appear to arrive at my site as a result of search engines. This is kind of cool for a number of reasons. One of them is that it allows me to swipe a page out of Nate’s book and do a blog entry commenting on search keyphrases.

millenium park grand rapids:The most popular way to find my blog despite the fact that I’ve only one entry that even touches on Millenium Park and the closest I come to the top is three pages in.
san chez bistro: Again, only one entry on my part, but a very good restaurant.
i have a scream remix: I can’t imagine why people would still be looking for this or why my blog (of the thousands that commented on it) gets any hits on this topic at all.

And then there are the wierd ones:
faking international marriage in canada
rotting fish sauce
2004 email address of directors of power supply in spain

The people looking for tech support who got me instead:
install gnome 2.6 online
outlook sending multiple copies of the same email
freebsd deinstall gnome

And finally:
calvin college blog: I actually went to Hope College, Calvin’s rival. Not that that really matters.