If you’re not reading Mudflats, you should be. It’s a weblog that’s been written by an “Alaska muckraker” since mid-May, and found itself perfectly-positioned when Sarah Palin ascended to the Veep nominee slot. Things have been on fire there since the announcement, with great local views of all the hubbub that’s descended on Alaska; it’s now one of my first reads in the morning, and one of my last reads at night.

I’ve got a few short takes today, to try to assuage my guilt for being a bit swamped these days (and also to get rid of a few of these tabs in my browser).

Remember the lawsuit Verizon filed against Vonage, threatening to bankrupt the upstart VOIP provider over technology the Baby Bell claimed was its own? It looks like Vonage might have finally rolled out workarounds to all the disputed tech, and also posted better-than-expected financials — which makes me pretty excited, being that I’ve been nothing but satisfied with our service from the company.

I’ve been slowly working my way through Jane Mayer’s amazing New Yorker piece on the CIA “black sites”, and it’s pretty clear that this is a must-read article for those who wish to learn how far our government has taken its torture of detainees in the all-important war on terror. The worst part of it is that at this point, there’s no question that what the public knows only scratches the surface, and that when tomorrow’s historians uncover the full details of this administration’s assaults on fundamental American liberties, we’ll either be aghast or will have long ago given up the right to express our outrage. (Let’s hope for the former.)

It’s amazing, but Apple really does look to be violating the script.aculo.us license on every single page that’s generated by the .Mac photo gallery. Either that, or they’ve struck some licensing agreement with the tool’s author, Thomas Fuchs — but seeing as how script.aculo.us is released under the extremely permissive MIT license, that’d seem unlikely for Apple to have done.

Cool — I hadn’t put two and two together, but Movable Type 4.0 is using Codepress to provide inline syntax highlighting in its template editors, and has extended the tool so that it recognizes all the Movable Type template tags. A long time ago, I bookmarked Codepress so that I’d remember to come back and take a look at it… looks like I don’t have to do that anymore. :)

Finally, this page might be dangerous for me. That is all.

Tonight brings a few short takes, since I’ve had a few tabs open in my browser for days now waiting for a chance to get ‘em posted.

  • The New York Times published an incredible article last week about the ways the Karitiana Indians feel they have been misled and abused by various medical research teams who have visited the tribe and made promises in return for participation in research. The Karitiana are a tribe from western Brazil and have historically remained relatively isolated and close-knit, and both in the 1970s and 1990s, both these traits led American medical teams to ask for blood in order to study how disease penetrates through generations of families, promising access to modern medicines and care in return. The tribe never received the promised returns on their participation, though, and recently learned that the collected blood and DNA are now being sold by private companies in the United States and France. Needless to say, they’re not pleased.
  • It seems that DirecTV is about to introduce a sorely-needed feature to their high-def DVRs — autocorrection after fast-forwarding, similar to what TiVos have had pretty much forever. This is, bar none, the biggest annoyance of using the HR20 DVR after having had a TiVo for the last seven years, so I’m certainly thrilled that the feature looks to be coming soon! (I’m also excited about next week’s scheduled launch of the DirecTV-10 satellite, which promises to bring a slew of new HD programming to DirecTV users as soon as they’re able to put it through it’s paces in orbit.)
  • A study was published in this month’s Archives of Internal Medicine looking at the effect of doctors talking about themselves during patient visits, and as I’ve come to expect, most of the news coverage misses the nuance and makes sweeping and indefensible conclusions. The study used fake patients and judged their subjective reactions to physicians talking about themselves during first visits; unsurprisingly, most of the “patients” didn’t feel that the physician’s personal chitchat added much value to that visit. Reuters more or less blew off the “first-time patient” detail in its coverage, implying that there wasn’t really ever a place for that kind of doctor-patient conversation during visits, but the study doesn’t say that, and my personal experience is that with longer-term, established patients who might see you once (or more!) a week, there’s certainly a place for occasional personal comments or observations, all of which can help keep the therapeutic team (doctor, patient, nurse, psychosocial providers, etc.) intact and functioning at its best.
  • Finally, I’m really getting excited about Movable Type 4, which is now in beta — damn, are there some great features lurking in there! If I didn’t have such a complicated setup, I’d migrate over this very second. As it is, though, I probably have an hour or two of work ahead of me before I can get my site into MT4 exactly as I want it to be, so I’ll probably wait a week or two, when I can carve a chunk of time out to make the move. I can’t wait!

Those who found themselves in a weblog-free cave for the past 24 hours might have missed the huge storm that erupted over the head of Kathy Sierra, the fantastic weblogger and author of more than a few great programming-related books; in a nutshell, a handful of people in the weblog world have been treating her to death threats and other pretty awful harassment for a few weeks now, and it finally reached the point where she cancelled her presentations at O’Reilly’s Emerging Technology conference out of fear for her own safety. To say that the community response has been overwhelming would be a far, far understatement, and I won’t pretend to have something more profound to say than nearly all the folks who’ve weighed in on this already.

That being said, during my time in the pool today at lunch, I kept returning to a point that I think is worth making, so I figured I’d put it out there. Chris Locke, co-author of the original Cluetrain Manifesto and general crank-about-town, was named in Kathy’s post as involved to some extent, and we’ve learned since that he was one of the founders of meankids.org, a weblog devoted to ripping various internet personalities apart and the home of some of the harassment against Kathy. Similarly, when meankids.org went away, Chris started another weblog (unclebobism.wordpress.com) for the same purpose, and it was there that yet more harassment of Kathy started taking place. And when asked about all this by a reporter yesterday, Chris unrepentantly defended his involvement in the whole situation; his specific justification was that he was never the one posting awful things about Kathy, and that he has a guiding life principle that prevented him from taking down the posts of those that did, the “You Own Your Own Words” principle of the online community The WELL. The point I kept returning to in the pool is that in the 15 years since he was introduced to YOYOW, Locke and many others seem to have lost touch with the first “O” in that acronym, the concept of ownership. The YOYOW ethic at The WELL is rooted in the fact that the community doesn’t allow anonymity in any form, a situation which stands in stark contrast to the anonymity under which everyone participated in both meankids.org and unclebobism.wordpress.com (and sites like Digg, Slashdot, and YouTube). In Locke’s little fetid nests, there wasn’t a single shred of ownership taking place; truly horrible posts were just shat out without a lick of accountability for the shockwaves they caused in people’s lives. And as a result, we all find ourselves here, with a reasonably prominent author and community member literally worried for her own safety due to the behavior of a few people operating under the anonymity granted to them by Locke and the others who ran both weblogs. (Incidentally, it’s also a great advertisement for communities like MetaFilter, where the combination of a reasonable barrier to entry and a strong moderator presence keep things incredibly civil and reasoned most of the time.)

You’d think that Locke, the author of the Cluetrain Manifesto would be able to hear the cluephone ringing loudly at his side, but apparently, his rage has made him deaf to the sounds of reason.

A few more short-takes (in lieu of actual posts that take time or energy to compose!) — consider this fair warning that they’re all a little on the geeky side.

  • Holy crap, the folks behind the kick-ass app Parallels have released a new beta version for the Mac (download here) that takes things to a whole new level. You can now interleave Windows and Mac windows on the same screen, modify shared folders while a virtual machine is running, and drag and drop between the Mac and Windows installations, and it looks like a slew of interface issues were fixed as well. It looks like you can also boot from a Boot Camp installation of Windows, but from the comments in that discussion group thread, there might be dragons so it might be worthwhile hanging back and waiting to see how that works itself out. (Thanks to Dan for letting us know about the new beta!)
  • I’m a sucker for a programmer weblog that focuses on issues of usability and logic rather than the nitty gritty insides of some technology or language. (Think Raymond Chen’s Old New Thing or Joel Spolsky’s Joel on Software, both of which are like crack for me.) Because of this, I was happy to discover today that the authors of the Head First line of programming books have a weblog, Creating Passionate Users, that solidly fits into this same mold! I’m a fan of their books, and am glad to be adding the site to my reading list.
  • Speaking of weblog reading lists, earlier this year I switched to using the web-based feed reader reBlog, and was ecstatically happy about its general level of hotness. Over time, though, it’s demonstrated a bunch of flaws — such as suboptimal parsing of pages and feeds (at times leading to feed lists rendered so poorly that the app’s own control buttons become totally nonfunctional!), feed items showing up dozens of times as new despite having been archived, and keyboard commands that randomly shut off — all of which have made me eagerly anticipate the release of a new version that incorporates bug fixes and whatnot. We’re now nine months later and no new versions have crossed the wire, so I decided to post in the forum asking about the status, and learned that the authors aren’t working on it anymore and there won’t be any more versions. That’s sad; I have a lot of data locked up in the archives of my reBlog installation, an app that’s becoming harder and harder to use with any reliability, and no real path forward… time to start looking for options.
  • And finally: my feet are famous! (Mine are the ones in the Apple socks; Alison is a good friend of ours, and the socks were a thank-you gift for some computer work I did for her.)

Hey, cool — Vox made MIT Technology Review! The author, Wade Roush, likes it enough to move his weblog over to Vox, which is a nice endorsement. Perhaps I should find time to start playing with my Vox account again… hell, maybe I should find time to start writing on any of my weblogs again.

A few other short takes:

I can’t believe I’ve neglected to mention here that Martin Dugard is back with his amazingly well-written Tour de France weblog this year. Last year, I found that his coverage of the Tour was, by far, the best cycling writing I’d ever read, and was pretty sad when he wrapped up his weblog at the end of the race. I seemed to recall Dugard making noise like he wasn’t going to cover this year’s Tour, so when my brother dropped me a message last week with a pointer to the 2006 weblog, I was pretty excited. Even if you couldn’t care less about cycling, his writing is well worth a read, and once again I’ll be bummed when things come to a close in a few days.

There was quite a bit of teeth gnashing across the web throughout the evening yesterday as TypePad, LiveJournal, and all the other hosted Six Apart websites went dark; we learned late in the night that the cause was a “sophisticated distributed denial of service attack” against the sites. Digging a little deeper, though, it doesn’t look like this is a particularly accurate description of what happened — but instead of this being a case of the folks at Six Apart trying to cover up some internal issue, it instead looks like they’re being far too gracious in not revealing more about another company, Blue Security, which appears to have been responsible for the whole disaster. An explanation of this requires a slight bit of background.

Blue Security is a company which has recently garnered a little bit of notoriety on the ‘net due to its unorthodox method of attempting to control the problem of spam email. Last summer, PC World publshed a reasonably good summary of Blue Security’s antispam efforts; a charitable way of describing the method would be to say it attempts to bury spammers in unsubscription requests, but a more accurate description would be that the service performs outright denial-of-service attacks on spammers, and does so by convincing people to install an application (Blue Frog) on their computers which launches and participates in the attacks. Without a doubt, Blue Security’s system has generated controversy from the perspective of both unsolicited emailers and regular ‘net citizens alike, so it’s not all that surprising that the spammers recently began fighting back. One of the methods used against Blue Security has been a more traditional denial-of-service attack against the company’s main web server, www.bluesecurity.com, an attack which was effective enough to knock that web server offline for most of yesterday.

OK, so why is any of this information — about a company completely unrelated to Six Apart — important background? Because according to a post on the North American Network Operators Group mailing list, at some point yesterday the people at Blue Security decided that the best way to deal with the attack was to point the hostname www.bluesecurity.com to their TypePad-hosted weblog, bluesecurity.blogs.com. This effectively meant that the target of the attack shifted off of Blue Security’s own network and onto that of Six Apart, and did so as the direct result of a decision made by the folks at Blue Security. (The best analogy I can think of is that it’d be like you dealing with a water main break in your basement by hooking a big hose up to the leaking joint and redirecting the water into your neighbor’s basement instead.) Soon thereafter, the Six Apart network (understandably) buckled under that weight and fell off the ‘net, and over four hours passed before packets began to flow again. (And given that the www.bluesecurity.com hostname was still pointed at TypePad for most of today, I’d imagine that the only way those packets began to flow was as the result of some creative filtering at the edge of its network.) Judging from the outage, it’s unlikely that Blue Security gave them any warning — although who knows whether a warning would’ve prevented the basement from filling up with water all the same.

So, returning to my original point: saying that Six Apart’s services were taken down as the result of a “sophisticated distributed denial of service attack” is an incredibly gracious statement that only addresses about 10% of the whole story. The other 90% of that story is that Blue Security, a company with already-shady practices, decided to solve its problems by dumping them onto Six Apart’s doorstep, something I’m pretty damn sure isn’t part of the TypePad service agreement. I know that ultimately, the denial-of-service attack came from the spammers themselves, but it was specifically redirected to the Six Apart network by Blue Security, and I hope that they get taken to the cleaners for this one.

(I’ve just begun experimenting with the social bookmarking/commenting site Digg; as I’m clearly in favor of more people understanding how the outage came to occur, feel free to Digg this post.)

Update: Computer Business Review Online has picked up the story, and has some other details. Netcraft also has a post on the DDoS, and News.com picked up the bit from them, but there’s not much more in either bit.

There’s been the tiniest bit of preview press given to Sphere, which bills itself as a weblog search engine and has been in soft-launch mode for a little while now. Today, the service actually went live, so I figured a little exploration might be in order. Alas, after spending a little time with it, I concluded that the folks in charge of Sphere might want to change its billing to reflect that it’s more a splog search engine — the sheer number of spam weblogs in the search returns is pretty amazing. That, combined with Sphere’s apparent indexing of quite a few non-weblogs, makes its usefulness dwindle quite a bit.

Here are a few example searches, looking at the first page of ten hits that Sphere returns:

  • razr v3c”: returns five spam weblogs, two questionable spam weblogs, one overt non-weblog, and two legitimate sites.
  • honda accord”: three spam weblogs, one non-weblog, six legitimate sites.
  • bluetooth headset”: four spam weblogs, three legitimate sites.
  • dual core intel”: three spam weblogs, one questionable spam weblog, six legitimate sites.

I don’t claim for these results to be rigorously scientific, only representative of the experience that’s led me to relegate Sphere to the bin of sites that seem to have gone live without addressing all the issues inherent in their areas of focus, and as such, aren’t really all that useful.

I swear to you that when I saw the title to this TiVo Blog post in my syndication aggregator, I immediately wondered how my wife and I got roped into contributing… and it took a good 10 or 15 seconds for me to realize that there are probably other “Shannon & Jason” pairs that might exist out there on the web. Perhaps I should take this as a good reminder that it is possible for my life to be less wrapped-up in the online world…

Pretty recently, most big pediatric hospitals began offering patients and their families the ability to set up websites that they can use to stay in touch with their friends and relatives. (The hospitals aren’t insane enough to become webhosts themselves — nearly all of the sites are offered through one of a number of services like CarePages, CaringBridge, or theStatus.) Due to the chronic nature of cancer, a lot of my patients’ families have set up and maintained websites for a while now, and I’ve found that the pages provide me with a completely different perspective on what the kids are going through. They can also be absolutely hysterical; this bit posted by the mother of one of my patients with childhood leukemia had me laughing so hard I was crying. (Of course, I’ve redacted my patient’s name.)

[H] has a new game that she plays, called, “I am Dr. Jason.” I should preface this by telling you that one of her chemo meds, Vincristine, has the lovely side effect of sometimes causing constipation. So before she could get Vincristine at the beginning of her cycle, Dr. Jason would ask if she was having any constipation issues. The conversation usually went like this:

Dr. Jason: Any mouth sores?
Me: Nope.
Dr. Jason: Eating okay?
Me: Yep.
Dr. Jason: Pooping okay?
Me: Yep.

We have had this conversation about a gazillion times since H was diagnosed. But in H’s little world, apparently the only interesting part of this exchange was the part about the poop. So she’s sitting on the couch next to me, being Dr. Jason. She’s got a pad and pen and is carefully recording my answers just as Dr. Jason does.

H: So, Mommy, are you pooping okay?
Me: Uh, yeah?
H: Is [H’s sister] pooping okay?
Me: Yes?
H: Is Daddy pooping okay?
Me: Yes?
H: Is [H’s other sister] pooping okay?
Me: Yes?
H: Is Grandma pooping okay?…

And it goes on… until she’s ascertained that everyone in her life is pooping okay. Makes me wonder what she thinks all those clinic visits were all about anyway. Cancer? What cancer? As long as you’re pooping okay, H!

I think that, with a week’s worth of content under her belt, it’s now time to point out that my mother has joined the world of weblogging. (I can honestly say that that’s a phrase I never thought I’d be saying.) Her site, Paper and Threads, is devoted to her drawing and quilting (hence the title), and I couldn’t be happier to see her taking to the medium like a fish to water.

A bit of backstory: a few months ago (not long after she learned about my site), my mom sent me a link to a weblog run by Danny Gregory. Gregory is the author of Everyday Matters, a part-journal, part-sketchbook that describes how he recovered from his wife’s tragic accident by wandering the streets of New York and drawing. Gregory’s website has become an adjunct of sorts to his book, and has even inspired a Yahoo Group in which participants discuss drawing and even engage in weekly challenges. For a while, a lot of the members were using Flickr to upload their drawings, but when the folks behind Flickr began enforcing a photos-only policy, people found themselves without a home for their artwork. Soon thereafter, my mom asked me if I could help her work out a solution, and it didn’t take long to realize that that solution was a Movable Type site of her very own!

The funny thing about all of this is that it doesn’t feel like it’s been all that long since she turned to me in the car and said, “OK, now tell me all about this internet thing.” We quickly found our way to a local Chinese restaurant, and I spent the better part of the next two hours explaining the web, email, and the general mechanisms that make the internet function. (Of course, sitting down and doing the math, I just realized that that was in either 1995 or 1996 — so about a decade ago!) Over the intervening years, she’s come to understand a ton about the online world, but when I started this site back in 1999, there isn’t a chance in hell I’d have guessed that she would eventually embrace the medium. How far things have come!

If you’re one of the people who reads this site in an honest-to-goodness web browser window (rather than a syndication aggregator), then you’ve probably noticed that I went and redesigned things around here. The last time I went and did that was in February of 2002, so that would explain why I’ve been feeling that my layout was a bit stale. Welcome to the 2006 version of Q Daily News… and keep your eyes peeled around mid-2010 for the next iteration!

A few notes on the design:

  • Given that the title and navigation never felt intuitive to me over in a bar along the right, I moved it all up to the top. Not really rocket science, but it certainly went a long way towards making the site feel right to me.
  • Over the past year or two, I’ve been trying to use categories when I write posts, if only to help gather similar subjects together on category pages. Of course, I never exposed any of this to viewing through the site (for reasons having more to do with laziness than difficulty), so I fixed that wrong. Likewise, I decided to make entry titles a little more prominent; they used to be visible only on each post’s individual archive page, but now they’re above each entry on the main page and on the monthly and category archive pages.
  • Over the past few years, I’ve been squirreling content away in various publicly-accessible web services (like the photo archive Flickr, and the bookmark storage site del.icio.us), something that always made me feel like I was competing with my own weblog. Rather than stop using the web services, it made more sense to me to bring that content back to QDN… so now you’ll see a few content areas in the righthand sidebar that weren’t there before, including the last three pictures I’ve uploaded to Flick, and the last five bookmarks I’ve posted to del.icio.us.
  • What you’ll see is now missing from the sidebar is a list of links (a blogroll, as it were); I found that my old link list rapidly got crusty as people shuttered their sites, moved URLs, or generally fell off the web. I’m tinkering with a few ideas about how to add it back and make it more current, so we’ll see what comes of that.
  • I used Tim Appnel’s mt-archive-dateheader plugin and a bit of PHP reprocessing to revamp the archive page. The long, thin list of links to month-by-month archives was always just on the barely-tolerable side of acceptable to me; at least displaying them within year blocks seems a bit more logical.
  • I was within micrometers of doing away with all TrackBack functionality (given that my last valid TrackBack was sent back in September), but I decided that the spam-filtering code in Movable Type 3.2 makes TrackBacks low-cost enough to keep around for a little while longer. I did tinker around with how they’re gathered and displayed on entry pages, though, which will make it easier to just abandon all TrackBack functionality if that’s what I ultimately decide.

Congrats to Matt for launching the latest member of the MetaFilter family, MeFi Projects. The main MetaFilter site has a longstanding rule banning members from self-linking (writing posts which link to anything in which they’ve had a hand); the new site is specifically designed to allow those kinds of links, and let members put their projects up on display for everyone else to see. Based on the amazing creativity that’s been displayed by MetaFilter members in the past, I’m interested in seeing what comes of this.


For those who care about such things, I’ve added OpenID support to the site, meaning that you can authenticate and leave comments using any OpenID identity that you might have. (For example, if you’re one of the eight and a quarter million LiveJournal users, you have an OpenID — and there are rumors that TypeKey will become an OpenID service very soon, too.) I’m still not at the point where I’m willing to mandate that people somehow authenticate in order to be able to comment, but the ease of using OpenID makes it look like that’s getting closer and closer to being a possibility.

For the even fewer that care about the details: since this site runs on Movable Type 3.2, it was pretty simple to install Mark Paschal’s OpenID comments plugin. After that, I had to add a single line to my individual archive template, add a few new styles to my stylesheet, update the Javascript file that governs display of various elements of the comment box, and republish all the archives. (I ended up isolating a bug or two along the way, but Marc was kind enough to reply to my pestering emails letting me know that he’s fixed all the same bugs and added a few things here and there in a soon-to-be-released update. That being said, I’m happy to help anyone who’s interested in setting up OpenID support before then, so just drop me a line if that’s you.)

It looks like Google has finally launched a weblog-specific search engine, a move that I’d imagine is reasonably sure to doom Technorati and it’s smaller cousin, Daypop. (It also doesn’t help Technorati compete when its service has become unreliable enough to inspire both annoyed rants and sites of outright mockery.) It’s not like people didn’t see this coming; for a while now, Google has done a fairly good job of quickly indexing weblogs and liberally returning hits to the sites in its search results, and a specialized search site is the logical extension to that. The new search engine sits behind the blogsearch.google.com address, the search.blogger.com address, and the navigation bar at the top of every Blogspot website, and it looks like it sustains itself on a steady diet of sites that alert one of the weblog update notification services (although the folks at Google don’t share a comprehensive list of the services that are used). As with all things new from Google, it’s labeled “beta”, so I imagine we’ll see a bunch of improvements in the coming weeks and months.

It looks like Mint now has a license, and while it’s a great start, it seems to still be silent on a few important questions. There’s nothing in the license about whether buyers have the right to upgrades (but oddly, the license contains definitions of both “update” and “upgrade” at the bottom, making it clear that there’s a distinction between the two and implying that buyers will be entitled to one with their license but will have to renew in order to have access to the other). There’s also no mention in the license of technical support (whether buyers get any), duration of use (whether there is any limit on the time period during which buyers use Mint), or the use of personal information (which is almost always covered by some additional privacy policy document, but also usually mentioned in the license). There’s a restriction on using Mint “to provide services to others,” but no corresponding commercial license that would allow that, and no obvious way for a web host to offer Mint to its customers even if it had the customers pay the license fee themselves.

Like I said, this is definitely a good start, but it highlights how difficult it can be to write for-sale software as an independent programmer. I certainly don’t think that Shaun has omitted anything from the license on purpose; rather, it’s likely that he was caught in the whirlwind of excitement about his new web app, and is now having to figure out how to split his finite time amongst the seemingly infinite need to fix bugs, handle payment issues, field support requests, and figure out the terms by which he’s releasing Mint to the public. It’s not a position I envy!

Over the past two days, it’s been hard not to notice the excitement around the world of weblogs about Mint, Shaun Inman’s new web stats app. I’ll admit that after reading some of the posts by Mint’s beta testers, I was firmly in the camp of the intrigued; the application appears to provide a nice, modern interface to the stats about website usage that I currently view using the very capable but reasonably archaic Webalizer, and Mint’s incorporation of Ajax appeals to the web designer in me that likes to follow the leading-edge examples of current technology. But it didn’t take long for my excitement to wane — in fact, it came crashing to the ground as soon as I realized that Mint costs money (the reasonable sum of $30) but doesn’t have a license that tells you what you’re getting for your money. There’s no license available on the website pre-sale, and from the accounts of about three or four people who’ve bought it over the past two days, not only is there no license available on the website post-sale, there’s no license included in the downloaded app either. So to date, those that have bought Mint have done so not knowing if they have the right to use it indefinitely, if they’ll have access to support, if they will be able to move their installation of Mint to another domain name in the future, or even if they’ll have access to new versions or updates.

After all the uproar over the change in terms of the Movable Type license back a year and a half ago, I figured that webloggers had figured out that licenses matter, and that they should pay at least half a mind to the terms by which they were agreeing to use products that they integrate into their websites. Alas, it appears that a year and a half is enough time for people to forget those lessons.

Congrats go out to Maggie for Mighty Goods (her kickass shopping weblog) showing up as a nominee in BusinessWeek’s Best of the Web survey. (It’s in the Shopping category under @ Play.) It’s up against a few sites that aren’t so shabby in their own rights, but since I’m a bit partial to the world of weblogs, I gave Maggie my nod. Go do your part!

movable type 3.2 now!

Congrats to the team over at Six Apart for the release of Movable Type 3.2! I’ve been using it in beta for the past few weeks, and I really can’t say enough about how many improvements they’ve baked into the new version; count me among the folks who say that they easily could’ve gotten away with making this version 3.5 (or perhaps even 4.0). I’ll probably write a bit more in the next week or two about the specific things I love about MT 3.2, but for now, I’m just happy that they were able to get it out the door. (And as you’d expect, Jay and Anil have posted quick notes about the release over in their worlds, so if you want to congratulate them yourselves, head over and give them a pat on the back!)

So it looks like the cat’s out of the bag about the upcoming new version of Movable Type:

Something that [Anil] said, but didn’t go into too much detail is that with version 3.2, *all users* will be entitled to unlimited weblogs. This goes for free users, as well. A lot of the rationale behind this was that the multiple weblog management is so good in 3.2, that we didn’t want to have the limit anymore.

That’s awesome; glad to see that Six Apart continues to highlight its strengths and use them to bring people to the platform. And they can count me as one user that’s pretty much in awe of the improvements in version 3.2; I’m stunned to think that this is the same product that I started using just over three years ago.

Tonight, I upgraded the works behind this website to use the latest beta of Movable Type, and I’ve gotta say I agree that it’s the easiest upgrade I’ve done. Here’s what moving from version 3.1 to version 3.2 beta 2 involved:

  1. First, I downloaded 3.2b2.
  2. Then, I upgraded my configuration file, and copied all the new files into place.
  3. After that, I hopped over to my regular Movable Type control panel, which gave me a cryptic message about an invalid DataSource directory. I remembered reading that this was a symptom of the old config file still being in place, so I went back and deleted it.
  4. Reloading the control panel, I was alerted that an updated version was in place, and that Movable Type needed to finish the upgrade. I OK’ed that message, and watched the upgrade info scroll by, a process that took about 2 minutes.
  5. That was it for the upgrade!

I really like what I see in the new interface — search boxes appear pretty much everywhere, and the control panel of MT 3.2 is much cleaner and more intuitive than its predecessors were, bringing MT a lot closer to TypePad in terms of usability. Since my site’s setup is anything but simple, I found a few small bugs (like a couple of errors that result from MT 3.2 using new defaults for the names of its archive files, and a trivial — and trivially solvable — problem with MT-Blacklist), but all in all, I’m impressed.

(By the way, I also noticed a wee little tease during the upgrade — a new field, “entry_atom_id”, in the database table which holds weblog entries. The field doesn’t get populated yet, for either old entries or newly-added ones, but it’s nice to see that the people at Six Apart are moving towards storing permanent IDs that can be used to create permanently-valid Atom feeds!)

If you want to see how easy it is to upgrade to Movable Type 3.2 and hear the voice of überweblogger Anil Dash at the same time, go check out Six Apart’s one-minute webcast of the upgrade process. (And in all seriousness, the upgrade looks like it’s going to be the easiest yet.)

Hey you — yeah, you, acting like you don’t hear me talking — I have a favor to ask. If you’ve got ten to fifteen minutes to spare, wouldya be so kind as to help Cam Marlow get his Ph.D.?

(Funny thing — during the step where the survey asked me about five random links from my site, one of them was Cam’s own weblog. Awesome.)

Holy crap — the new version of Adobe GoLive supports Movable Type and TypePad template tags! In plainspeak, that means that you can now use GoLive (which is a pretty powerful web design studio) to create the templates for your Movable Type and TypePad sites, which opens up all kinds of site redesign options for those who aren’t too eager to dive into hand-coding their pages.

Congrats to SixApart for this pretty astounding coup!

It’s so much fun watching someone like Cory Doctorow completely dissassemble the Google Toolbar nonsense. In a post on Saturday, he outlined the reasons why services that let users decide how to display content are the very reason for the innovation that’s driven the web since the day it appeared; yesterday, he followed that up with a glimpse of other projects out there that provide similar services for users using Google’s own data. And then this morning brought the latest salvo, a two-fer that included a good real-world analogy and a smackdown to a pathetic attempt to raise Cory’s ire.

Every time that the total hacks of the weblog world start to annoy me by simultaneously attempting to rule the terms of debate and ignoring the incredibly nuanced debate that’s occurring all around them (including in their very own comment threads!), it’s refresing to see that people like Cory step into the breach and provide a voice of reason.

This morning (don’t you love that 12:55 PM is “morning”?), I’ll share a few links that found their way into all the tabs I have open, waiting to be read. The sharing is partly because I have to update my web browser, so I’ll be losing all those tabs soon; it’s also partly because they’re all share-worthy.

  • The City Record and Boston News-Letter: this is a (TypePad-driven!) site run by Charles Swift and devoted to Boston’s history; Charles came across my June 2003 post about moving to Boston and wanting to spend time delving into the history of the region, and was kind enough to drop me a line overnight letting me know about his site. This is the kind of weblog that sits smack in the middle of my danger territory — I could start reading it, and get so engrossed and so obsessive that I might never come out.
  • Guide to Using XmlHttpRequest (with Baby Steps): I posted last Monday about Jesse James Garrett’s piece on Ajax, the newest Big Thing in web development, but lamented that there still wasn’t a user-level guide on implementing it. Well, now Bill Bercik has done that, and I couldn’t be happier. I’m currently finishing off the reimplementation of one of my web applications in PHP, and after reading Bill’s piece, I’ve already started forming a mental checklist of places that I might want to think about using Ajax in v2.1 of the app.
  • The MN Musolfs: OK, this one is mostly personal — it’s the new Blogger site of a friend of mine. The part of it that isn’t personal, and what motivated me to include it in the list, is that she (or her husband) is a natural-born blogger; in one page of posts, there are baby pictures, recipes (a hot tuna wrap!), and laments about the cancellation of the NHL season. I can’t wait to see where the site goes, and it’s nice to have the added way of keeping up with long-distance friends.
  • Rolling with Ruby on Rails: this is a O’Reilly review of the web development technology that’s being called The Way Of The Future, and while I’ve been at this long enough to know that there’s as much hype as reality in claims like that, I’ve also been at this long enough to know that, at a minimum, being called that means that the technology is at least interesting. And according to this MetaFilter thread, some of my favorite websites were built using RoR. So I’ll give it a read.
  • Stage Fright Remedy: this is a brother-sister guitar and vocal duo that Shannon and I heard on the “Talent from Twelve to Twenty” Prairie Home Companion show last weekend, and even though they didn’t win the competition, we really liked them. Turns out that they’ve got music online, and it’s already made its way onto both of our iPods. (Of note, I also loved the bluegrass music of The Lovell Sisters Band, but they’ve got nothing online, so it’s hard for me to keep listening to them!)

Over the past few days, I couldn’t figure out why the portrayal of bloggers as mainstream media checkers didn’t sit well with me, but I knew that something was wrong. After reading a few more bloggers’ versions of what Google’s trying to do to America with their latest Toolbar beta, I now realize what it is: bloggers are just as bad as — and in some ways way, way worse than — the mainstream media about taking an out-and-out falsehood and running with it, usually without doing anything other than taking what they’re told and repeating it more vehemently. In this instance, it seems that all it took was a few people claiming that AutoLink automatically changes the text in web pages, and now that’s all anyone’s saying despite the fact that it isn’t true; website operator forums are literally exploding with outrage, media watchdog bloggers are repeating their complaints without any attempt to verify them, and scores of users are hopping mad that someone would dare mess with their web browsing experience (even though they’re happy to use popup blockers and other tools that modify the display of a web page’s HTML code). The only thing I can conclude is that none of them have even installed the Toolbar, the same conclusion I’d make if someone told me that they hated the graphing calculator feature in AOL Instant Messenger.

Don’t get me wrong — there are a lot of people maintaining weblogs who could factcheck anyone’s ass better than a huge chunk of the mainstream media (for example, cross the folks over at MetaFilter at your own peril!). But at least in most segments of the mainstream media, there are editors who would check to see if what a writer describes has any basis in reality. Then there’s the tabloids, and in the Google Toolbar outrage, that’s what a ton of bloggers are showing themselves to be.

Hey, cool — Anil was quoted in the New York Times! The article provides a look at the entry of investment bank ThinkEquity into the world of weblogging, and tries to predict how such moves might affect the conversation between the financial industry and consumers. And like much of their coverage of weblogs in the past few months, the piece is as much about testing the Times’ own understanding of the medium as it is about the industries’ use of the medium.

I know that on a more-often-than-I-care-to-admit basis, weblog bookmarks of mine go into that little sidebar to the right and then promptly die; I get a jones for a site, and then its owner gives up and stops posting. One site that firmly fit into that category was Dan Hartung’s Lake Effect, a site that showcased Dan’s acumen for dissecting arguments and generally elevating the level of discourse on the personal web. Alas, Lake Effect fell off the face of the planet a year and a half ago, but I kept the bookmark in place hopeful that things might start back up someday. This morning, I was happy to learn that Dan’s resurfaced with a new site, Stilicho — welcome back, Dan!

For the past two days, a new BitTorrent-related weblog has been TrackBack-pinging an entry I wrote about BitTorrent and its inventor every time that the author posts a new item. (It’s been something like eight pings over that time period, from a site that seems to have started up four days ago.) None of the author’s posts have referenced mine, nor have any of them have addressed the issues (assymetric bandwidth usage, centralization of tracker servers, Wired’s piece on Cohen) that came up in my post — in short, none of them continued the conversation in a way that justified using TrackBack to generate a contextual relationship. Since it felt so much like spam, I went to the site, found the “Contact Us” link, and jotted off a quick email to ask for a little bit of explanation, but it bounced back as undeliverable. I then got another TrackBack this morning, so I added the site to my blacklist.

It’s this kind of TrackBack spam that I find particularly insidious — by being marginally related to the posts that are pinged, it’s more than likely to be either accepted or ignored (rather than deleted) by a lot of site authors, meaning that the spam attempt will succeed. To me, though, it’s the difference between going into a boat show to advertise breast enlargement pills and doing the same thing at a cancer conference — it might be a smidge closer to the intended audience, but it’s still miles and miles away.

About twice a month, I get a request from someone to help them migrate their -based weblog over to or . (It’s a migration I did, and wrote about while misspelling Movable Type, back in 2002.) Each time, I’d send along my script and a hastily-written set of quasi-instructions, and as you’d expect, it ended up not being all that clear. So when I got a similar request today, I finally got off my ass and wrote up a documentation page for the process.

So if you’re looking to get off of Manila (or Weblogger, or Buzzword, or any of the other Manila-based hosting sites), take a look!

Count me firmly in the camp of those that think Technorati’s new tag system is a damn fine new bauble. Before today, there were tags for two of the big sources of content online (photos and links); now, there’s a tagging system that encompasses both of those and then throws in the biggest content pool of all, weblog posts. And there’s no reason why participation in the Technorati tagging system is limited to traditional weblog-based content, either — at a bare minimum, all a content producer needs to be able to do is and ping Technorati’s server. What a great way to expand the social networking side of content!

(And since there’s already one out there, for any of the crochety, uninspired “pioneers of the Web” who might have found themselves intimidated by Technorati’s uncomplicated explanation of the service, never fear — Matt Bridges has created a Technorati Tag bookmarklet that makes it even easier.)

There’s a respectable article in yesterday’s Financial Times about weblogs as businesses, complete with quotes from Matt Haughey, Rebecca Blood, and Nick Denton. And while it’s a good read in its own right, it’s all the better for Matt proclaiming that I (well, anyone) could be the next Britney Spears!

First, much of the bloggers’ vaunted fact-checking was seriously warped. Their driving assumptions were often drawn from flawed information or based on faulty logic. Personal attacks passed for analysis. Second, and worse, the reviled MSM often followed the bloggers’ lead. As mainstream media critics of CBS piled on, rumors shaped the news and conventions of sourcing and skepticism fell by the wayside. Dan Rather is not alone on this one; respected journalists made mistakes all around.

Corey Pein’s wrap-up of what he calls Blog-Gate — the weblog “takedown” of Dan Rather over the Bush National Guard memos — is well worth a read. As you can probably guess from the quotation marks in the previous sentence, Pein challenges the notion that weblogs proved to be an infallible check on the so-called mainstream media, reminding us of the facts that got lost in the rhetorical insanity of the pile-on.

Is it just me, or have other people noticed that various properties of Nick Denton’s media empire (specifically Gawker and Gizmodo) seem to republish their entire syndication feeds once or twice a day with new modification times, so that every freakin’ one of the posts shows back up in my aggregator as new? It’s really quite annoying, and if it doesn’t stop soon, I’m reasonably likely to unsubscribe to the feeds.

Now a week into using Movable Type 3.1, my biggest observation about changed behavior isn’t with MT itself, it’s with MT-Blacklist. The newest version — the one distributed with the Plugin Pack and the only version compatible with MT 3 — no longer has an option to scan your site for blacklist matches, an omission which makes it a good deal harder to clean up after comment spammers.

The old MT-Blacklist would let you search your site for comments that matched your blacklist, and present them all to you so that you could delete them and rebuild the relevant pages. That workflow made sense; frequently, you would get 50 new comments from the same spammer, and in order to get rid of all of them, you’d only have to let MT-Blacklist process one, loading the relevant strings, finding the other 49 comments which matched, and deleting the whole lot of them. That functionality is gone — the new MT-Blacklist handles checking individual messages great, but has no function that lets you check the site for any new blacklist entries and handle matches in bulk.

Maybe I’m missing something; the docs aren’t done for the new version yet, so it’s very possible that I’ve just overlooked the golden link that will do what I need. Alas, if I’ve overlooked it, it’s not for a lack of searching, and at this point I’m dealing with spam one-by-one, and growling the whole time. And in looking through the MT support forums, it appears I’m not the only one!

Congrats to the people at Six Apart on today’s release of Movable Type 3.1 and the Developer’s Contest Plugin Pack. The former is a pretty big update to the weblog publishing tool I can’t live without; the latter is a demonstration of the cool things that independent developers can do to add functionality to Movable Type. (The Plugin Pack is also the only way that you can get a fully-supported version of MT-Blacklist that works with Movable Type 3.X.) The third piece of news is that Anil is heading up the new Six Apart Professional Network, which looks like it’s going to be devoted to connecting developers and users with the resources they need in order to use Movable Type, TypePad, and TypeKey in their own applications.

All very cool; now that there’s a version of MT-Blacklist for 3.X, I’ll probably upgrade tonight. I also joined SAPN, so we’ll see where that leads.

After getting more and more annoyed at the prevalence of comment spam, I went hunting around for a good way to automatically close comments on entries here after a certain number of days. What I stumbled upon was a few semi-manual ways, and after tweaking them a bit and adding an automation step, I have a system in place (and a publicly-available script) that will turn comments off after 60 days.

I’ve been playing with Andre and Jason’s new bauble, DropCash, and I’ve gotta say I think it’s the bee’s knees, for a couple of reasons. First of all, it’s an awesome demonstration of how you can weave a bunch of different tools together into a seamless application — DropCash uses TypeKey for authentication and PayPal for the transactions, and hooks into both through their respective public APIs. Second, it layers an element of community atop the otherwise mundane task of requesting money, and since people generally would use services like this to ask for money from a community of their peers, I think it’s wicked cool to include community elements in the app itself. And third, DropCash itself is cleanly designed and quick to use, both of which are enviable in this era of overengineered and inscrutable web applications.

So, of course, what does a dork like me do when he starts playing with a new web application? Create a test case! I set up a campaign to raise enough money to buy a hardware firewall and VPN server for my home network; since I have a few big servers running here (including the one that hosts this very website, a moderate-volume mail server, a curriculum server for my old pediatrics residency, and the MetaFilter server), I figure that it’s a worthy goal to go for a dedicated, easy-to-use box to protect it all. And if I don’t raise enough, I can always put the money straight into the help-keep-MetaFilter-air-conditioned fund!

If anyone wants to see one place where web publishing has a huge, influential future, you can’t go wrong by taking a look at Jim Gilliam’s video analysis of the appearance of Bill O’Reilly and Paul Krugman on Tim Russert’s CNBC show. Gilliam, the producer of Outfoxed, took CNBC’s video clips and superimposed meaningful facts over top of O’Reilly’s outrageous claims, transforming what O’Reilly must have hoped would be a (boisterous, obnoxious) one-man message into an effective exposure of genuine doublespeak and deceit on the part of the Fox anchor. Over and over, O’Reilly tried to manipulate the conversation with volume, bombast, and lies, and Gilliam’s ability to publish an on-point rebuttal which (in part) uses O’Reilly’s own words as rebuttals is amazing. And as this latest generation of journalists and documentarians has grown up right alongside the web, this kind of thing is going to occur more and more.

So damn funny. Two seemingly-naive web programmers decided to write an application that runs around visiting people’s websites, ostensibly in an effort to look for broken links and email the webmaster to let him know about the problems. As a prelude to their service, they sent their application along on a spidering trip, which they said was targeted toward gathering webmaster email addresses which they could then use for their service; as a little bonus, the application left behind a referrer entry pointing back to a thread on their discussion board which explained what they were doing. And when webmasters came calling — in droves — with objections to the referrer spam (and to the fact that the application ignored the robot exclusion files on websites it visited), the two clueless souls stood unrepentant, with the results you’d expect.

It appears that Darwin is alive and well on the Internet!

Apparently, the webloggers at the Democratic National Convention stink (in the odiferous way, not in the suck way). Or so says Adam Fuller, the guy who’s been running around for the past two days trying to get the wireless network up and running.

Congratulations go out to Jay Allen for winning the Movable Type 3.0 Developer’s contest with his soon-to-be-released offering, MT-Blacklist 2.0. His offering for MT 2.x has protected my site from over 40 spammed comments in the past week, and allowed me to mass-delete another 100 more with ease. (Note that that 100 number isn’t a failing on Jay’s part, but rather represents a new spammer that hit my site with one URL 50 times, and then another closely-related URL 50 times more the next morning.) In fact, the only thing that I’m waiting for in order to upgrade to Movable Type 3.0 is the new version of MT-Blacklist!

For those who are interested in the weblogging world’s take on the upcoming Democratic National Convention, and have been wishing that there existed an aggregator which gathered all the posts into one convenient place, check out politics.feedster.com. It’s been around since February, tracking posts about the 2004 campaign for the Presidency, and (as you’d expect) is currently focused on the DNC. And since it’s a product of the folks at Feedster, of course there’s a syndication feed. Take a break from the big media advertisements this week, and enjoy a view from the trenches!

Anil has a great post up today about leveraging the power and experience of weblogs to understand problems and encourage change, and in so many ways, it rings true to me. Specifically, it reminds me of the annoyance I feel when I read a weblog post that is clearly based on the superficial understanding of a situation someone gleaned by merely skimming a single perspective on something (or, worse still, skimming the text of a single link to a perspective on something, a phenomenon I’ve started to call MetaFiltration). Too often, I find that weblog authors don’t delve any deeper than the link someone sent them in their email (punctuated by fifteen exclamation points) as a call to action; they don’t even try to figure out the context in which the supposed travesty exists. Anil does a good job of pointing out the alternative, an alternative that we’ve even seen wield an enormous amount of power at opportune times. I’m all for exploiting that alternative when the need arises, since I’m generally for using anything and everything to right wrongs and iron out ineffeciencies in systems.

Once again, the mad syndication ninja has elevated his art with Feed on Feeds 0.16, adding XHTML and CSS, a one-page console and viewer, and a lot of bug fixes. Go forth and download!

FoF 0.1.6 screenshot

(Kellan McCrae, the author of the parsing library that sits at the core of Feed on Feeds, has also started experimenting with ways of extending the tool to allow both consumption and production of syndication feeds, and released a patch that allows you to republish posts into your own feed. Very, very interesting.)

Michael Pusateri says it better than I ever could. I just found it a bit odd that all the weblogs.com sites were shut down without even the smallest of notices on the high-traffic home page of the man who shut them down; it’s a page that’s been used as a bully pulpit for so many other things, but I guess this was a decision that didn’t need the extra public scrutiny. Alas, scrutiny has arrived.

Hey, who knew — feedback works! This morning, CNET’s News.com published an article about a possible shift within Google to extending syndication support for users of Blogger to include RSS. It was generally a good piece, except for one glaring issue — a false premise that sat at its very beginning. As posted this morning, the second paragraph of the article started as follows:

In April, Google seemingly chose sides, dropping RSS support for new — but not old — subscribers of its Blogger publishing tool in favor of rival Atom.

In other words, the article laid the foundation as one where, rather than thinking about adding RSS to the options available to users, Google was thinking about adding back the ability to use RSS, as if Google had taken it away from the users at some point. (As is pretty well-known to most people involved in the world of syndication, though, prior to the support for Atom, non-paying users of Google’s Blogger tool never had any syndication options available to them.) The error didn’t sit well with me, so I decided to use those little mailto: links in the article’s byline and let the authors know that they were perpetuating a myth.

Imagine my surprise, then, when the authors personally acknowledged my feedback, and then changed the article! I received a polite email from Evan Hansen saying that they agreed that “drop” was too strong a term, and as of this afternoon, the same section of the second paragraph now reads:

In April, Google seemingly chose sides, bypassing RSS support for most subscribers of its Blogger publishing tool in favor of rival Atom.

There are a few people in the syndication community that wouldn’t mind a major media outlet promulgating the fiction of Google lashing out at RSS by dropping support for it, since it would have the potential to drum up a lot of sympathy. Alas, I’m not one of them, and CNet’s willingness to set the record straight without any muss or fuss pleases me, and makes me respect the company all the more for its efforts.

I’ve been a hardcore user of Steve Minutillo’s web-based aggregator, Feed on Feeds, for about five months now. It’s awesome, allowing me to keep up with all the websites I’d love to have time to read individually; chances are that if I subscribe to your syndication feed, you’ve seen the URL of my Feed on Feeds installation in your referrer log a few times. I currently subscribe to nearly a hundred feeds, though, and when I go one or two days between checking in for updates, the list can get to be a couple hundred posts long — unwieldy enough that it discourages me from checking in, further exacerbating the problem.

A month ago, I noticed that Steve had set up a SourceForge tracker for feature requests, so I asked for an addition to the FoF interface that would let you mass-select the group of entries you’ve already seen with one click. I figured that at a minimum, people would discuss alternatives to my request, and felt the worst thing that could happen was that Steve would ignore my request. How happy I was, then, when a little birdy alit in my email inbox this morning chirping away about the latest version of FoF which including my requested feature! To me, it makes FoF that much more usable, and Steve that much more of a mad syndication ninja; I’ve moved from hardcore to evangelical. Go forth and use Feed on Feeds!

Yep, what Dave Walker said.

Mark Pilgrim is a funny, funny man.

I have to say that I was pretty excited to see SixApart announce their TypeKey comment registration service. Not only is it a great option for Movable Type users who recognize that registration is a potential solution to all the problems with comments on weblogs these days; in the typical SixApart fashion, it also looks like there’s going to be a full-on API for others to use in their applications, if that kinda thing appeals to them.

(And as for the brouhaha that, in typical weblogger fashion, has erupted over TypeKey, I can’t say anything that Adam Gessaman hasn’t already put into words.)

Aaron Swartz and John Gruber have put together Markdown, another simplified text markup syntax. It’s cool, but I’m not too sure what differentiates it from the other simplified markup systems that have been released over the years (i.e., the age-old ReStructuredText, or Dean Allen’s Textile). (John says that the difference is that Markdown is a preprocessor, meaning that Markdown syntax can coexist with regular (X)HTML, and that may be legitimate; I can’t confess to having played enough with the alternatives to be able to recall how they deal with HTML.)

If nothing else, an interesting diversion, and another Movable Type plugin to play with a bit.

Ben & Mena make the big time! (That’s particularly the case if “making the big time” means “appearing in an AP wire photo run on Yahoo News,” and even more so if you consider that neither of them is wearing lingerie, birthing a kitten, or having a wardrobe accident.) Congrats, guys, and keep on writing fantastic software.

To further comment on Jason’s notice, the server that hosts MetaFilter, Megnut, and A Whole Lotta Nothing (along with the SxSWblog and a few other sites) is currently sitting, turned off and with a broken processor fan, in Brookline. The problem? That I’m in New York City for the weekend, and when I left Brookline on Friday, the replacement fan hadn’t been delivered yet.

Damn precision electronics and their need to stay cool! Damn shipping companies and their inability to meet promised delivery times!

Hopefully, all will be waiting when I get back, and things will return to the chaotic norm soon thereafter.

Very cool — Feed on Feeds, my aggregator of choice, now has experimental support for Atom. (To give credit where it’s due, the underlying XML parser now has Atom support, which then lends said support to FoF.) And the last vestiges of the wall start coming down…

Congrats go out to the peeps at Six Apart for making available what seems to be the first public implementation of the Atom API.

Do you remember the great Google bombing article by Adam Mathes? Apparently, so did these plagarizing bastards, but they’re hoping that we didn’t. It’s unbelievable how stupidly dishonest people can be.
Awesome! After promising it as one of the upselling features of the Pro- and Plus-level accounts, Six Apart has delivered TypePad’s domain mapping feature. (You can see it in action at alaina.org.) Now, maybe it’s time to convert this entire website over to TypePad… something to think about, indeed. At least I’ll move all my photo albums over, and just set them up at pictures.queso.com or something. Bravo, Six Apart!
Holy crap — James Seng wrote a Bayesian spam filter for comments on Movable Type sites. Similar to the first responses to unsolicited email, the first responses to the comment spam problem were custom blacklists. And just like with e-mail blacklists, I felt a little uneasy about the idea of comment blacklists, because they rely on imperfect data that’s susceptible to sabotage and simple mismanagement. A Bayesian filter should, in theory, be both accurate and less reliant on the continued vigilance of others; if this thing works as advertised, it would be crazy for Six Apart to not slurp this thing up and integrate it into TypePad as an option.
If you’re interested in starting a topic-specific weblog, and more interested in figuring out how you could make it worth the time and effort it would take to generate something half decent, you might want to read Matt Haughey’s latest essay, Blogging for Dollars. It’s a reasoned look at using Adsense (Google’s text ad service) to provide both an income source to a site’s authors and a collection of relevant paid ads to a site’s readers, and at the end, Matt offers tips for making a site more likely to generate revenue through the Adsense model. Matt may have been the first person to roll out text-based ads on a personal site scale, so it should come as no surprise that he’s put a lot of thought into the small site advertising model; it’s nice to see that knowledge shared so openly, all with the hope of developing more niche weblogs which contribute to the collective knowledge of Internet users while making it worthwhile for their authors.
On Tuesday, I started as the fellow for the inpatient peds oncology floor, which means that in the onslaught of work, I totally forgot to say congrats to the people at SixApart for the release of TypePad! I’ve been putzing around with it a little bit in beta form, and it’s fantastic, so much more capable than anything else out there, well worth the monthly costs. Go use it!

There are a lot of good things about latest issue of Wired, but one of the things I appreciate most is the blogger lovefest contained within. Starting with page 30, there’s a picture of Nick Denton staring out at readers, giving him props for Gizmodo, Gawker, and whatever else he has up his sleeves; then, on page 126, a table lists Cameron Marlowe’s Blogdex as the seventh wonder of the MIT Media Lab world (alas, the table isn’t available online). And last but not least, page 38 of the Unwired supplement gives us a half-page shot of Rael Dornfest, iBook in hand, alongside a short piece about wireless use at conferences.

I’ve had a few conversations recently about how the press remains evenly divided about the phenomenon of personal websites, either lauding them or hating them consistently across all of each publishing company’s various magazines and websites. I’m glad to see that Wired seems to have taken up position firmly in the pro camp, recognizing the diamonds that have sprouted out of the medium.

For those who haven’t yet seen it, Roogle could be one of the more interesting salvos fired in the search engine wars in a while. There’s nothing more annoying than searching for a phrase and ending up on a dozen pages that have the phrase contained somewhere other than in a block of content (say, in the copyright statement, or in a text ad). The search engines have all tried to implement various algorithms to decide what text on a web page is more important than the rest (wheat vs. chaff, as it were), but fifteen seconds with any of the engines shows that indexing the framing content of a site is an unavoidable part of the business. Roogle is the first to use a site’s RSS files as its own filter for the meaty pulp of content, index that content, and then point searchers back to the original web-formatted pages. It’s also implemented well (made all the more clear after after watching the development process unfold), and it will be great to see where it goes from here.

(Interestingly, after posting this, I ended up in the Google panel, where a lot was said about how the company decides what text on a page is important.)

I’m glad to see that Matt’s trying to get back to writing longer essays. His latest piece is a fine review of the great features that Mozilla has made users expect from their web browsers, and it makes me remember how much I have enjoyed reading Matt’s perspective on the world.

The subject matter of the piece also made me remember a conversation I had with Anil recently, discussing Internet Explorer’s lack of a popup-blocking function. We both came to the conclusion that, in this day and age of the overwhelming proliferation of popups, the only possible reason that IE omits the function is a fear that Microsoft will be somehow blamed for yet another move destined to hurt the little guy, in this case, the advertiser trying to make money on the web. (Remember when IE was the first to implement third-party cookie blocking, and how people complained that Microsoft was being unfair to advertisers?) By resting on the huge browsing majority and letting popup blocking gain acceptance (or, more appropriately, achieve required status) with other browsers, you can bet that there won’t be a peep when the next version of IE includes the feature.

If anyone’s wondering what happened around here this morning — why QDN, as well as my gal’s site, MetaFilter, BlogRoots, Megnut, and a few other sites were down — you might want to read this, and this, and most particularly, this and this. One thing I’ll say about this worm is that on a two-processor machine, it’s impact is enough to saturate a T1; another thing to say is that, after working overnight in the ER, and having a flood in the hospital that was bad enough to cause us to emergently evacuate and set up shop for the rest of the night in the adult ER, I did not want to have to deal with it.

Finally, the issue of unsolicited email and website customer information privacy (or lack thereof) makes it into the New York Times, but only because the incident in question intersects with a more sensational issue, Holocaust revisionism. Writer and photoblogger David Gallagher wrote the article after he received an unsolicited, revisionist email to an address he had used once and only once while hunting for a roommate; he provides a little more information on his own website about what his research uncovered, as well as the actions taken against him by the author of the mail once the article was made public.

I’ve got to thank Lia (my fellow in cheese fandom) for turning me back on to Heather’s Dooce. It’s always nice to rediscover a personal website that has the capacity to make you both belly laugh and want to read entries aloud to those in the room with you.

It’s nice to see that Glenn Fleishman chose Movable Type for his newest wireless technology weblog; his first site, WiFi Networking News (which recently changed names from 802.11b Networking News), still merits a daily visit from me, and I’d hope it’s just a matter of time before it makes the switch to MT. (If you’re reading, Glenn, I’d be happy to convert your Manila database for you; it’s a painless process!)

I’m not sure how I missed Jennifer Balderama’s article in the Washington Post about the friction between free speech and weblogging, but it’s something that anyone who keeps a personal site should read. I’ll always remember my own experience with the issue, a little over a year ago, when my hospital’s associate chairman paged me to let me know that he had become a reader of QDN. At the time, the hospital in which I train was identified in a few different places on the site, and in light of that, he asked me to either remove the identification or avoid discussing my experiences in the hospital. As engrained as I am in my work, it wasn’t a hard choice; whenever I read about people who get sued or lose their jobs over things that they post, I’m thankful that that was the choice I was given.

I’m stoked to see that Gawker has launched, filling the niche of online Manhattan newsmagazines for the people who take Manhattan local news (read: gossip, debauchery, and potential subway strike commiseration) seriously. (Note that I’m willing to forgive Elizabeth her Upper West Side hating today, since I assume that rehashing tired New York stereotypes is a first-day-in-public sorta thing.) Combining the literacy of The Morning News with the practicality of Time Out New York, I look forward to watching Gawker flourish (not to mention having a reliable source of Manhattan info when I move up to Boston next year!).

Wondering what’s with all the links to linkvista.de on Blogdex? At first, I thought that someone was spamming the service; alas, the truth is a lot less dramatic. Deforest away, Cameron!

This weekend, after spending some time drooling over most of Adrian Holovaty’s site (a site that’s run by a custom publishing system he wrote), I decided to buckle down and write a reliable search term highlighting system like the one kicking ass over in his world. (I got most of the way there on my own; Adrian was kind enough to help me get past the one major problem I found.) Now, visitors from Google will be greeted with both a custom header and all their search terms highlighted, as well as an option to use the engine here to perform their search. Check it out — follow this link to search Google for “incredible day,” and then click through the first return.

I’ve always found that the only way I learn a new programming language is by starting little projects and tweaking them to perfection. Small Visual Basic playthings gave me a window into the Windows API, PL/SQL applications helped me learn Oracle database design and implementation, and Manila plug-ins gave me a handle on UserTalk. I used to be able to devote good chunks of time to just starting in on a project and wading through until I triumphantly surfaced; it’s one of the things that I miss most in my currently-busy existence, and it’s probably the biggest reason that I still cling to the computer-related aspects of my life (like this site, and my other job) so dearly.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve really enjoyed living vicariously through a few people who seem to play with programming the same way. Andre has been toying with Windows programming; his apps remind me of my own single-function little doodads, aiming to take a problem and write a little app to solve it, learning all the necessary functions along the way. Dean has been writing PHP apps that enhance his website, giving him the ability to display his photos and find out who’s sending people his way. Brent has been programming up a storm for MacOS X, from RSS aggregators to application launchers, and from what I understand, his applications have reflected the maturation in his code-writing skills. All three people make me wish that I could just take a month off and start playing with programming again.

(It’s funny, but this is all probably the reason that I like using Movable Type so much. It started out as the a website publishing tool written by Ben and Mena for their own personal use, and after much interest from the community, was released for public consumption. It’s the ultimate example of a project written to solve a personal need, and just happens to now be in use by thousands of people.)