Bloggery Madness

Aside

This backend of this blog is continuing its descent into madness. Following on from the problems where no posts would accept tags, this seems to have fixed itself while simultaneously stopping the blog posting anything but the most recent article on the home page. All of this has taken place without user intervention. It seems the glue, velco and staples holding the back end together have finally given up the ghost. Hopefully we will be able to find time this weekend to fix things. Sorry for any weirdness until then and during the “improvements.”

WordPress upgrade mildly broken

Bits keep falling off this blog like so many bits of newspaper escaping from the recycling van cage. (E.g. the Atheist blogroll became landfill months ago, although I see it still works fine on dozens of sites.)

After bowing to WordPress’s nagging requests and upgrading WordPress to version x (I can’t remember) two days ago, I find that I can’t attach tags to posts.

Any ideas?

Bloggery

Come back flatterspam, all is forgiven.

For the past few days, the blog has been getting gibberish comment-spam, in oddly large numbers, almost at DDOS attack levels. (OK, I exaggerate but there were over 380 yesterday, 51 today.) Some of these comment spams are particularly weird, in that even the URLs are gibberish.

It’s not as if the random word generators have generated text in any known human language, that could trick the unwary into clicking on a link to onlinefakemeds.com or whatever. The URLS themselves are also random letter collections, with names like Mr._Mxyzptlk but less meaningful.

Charitably assuming that spammers have not completely taken leave of their senses, I guess that these suidfiojdfolsrkl.comstyle links go to redirects and do eventually take the unwary URL-clicker somewhere. (Obviously, I’m not going to try them out. I’m enough of a sucker for any worm or trojan anyway.)

But still, what is the point? It seems even less likely that people would click on a gibberish link in a mound of gibberish than that they would believe that a complete stranger in Africa would pay them ten percent for the assistance in transferring 64 million dollars.

A few more blog-related odds and ends, now I’m on the subject:

Apologies to anyone who expects to get email alerts about new posts here. This plug-in has just stopped working. We don’t know what happened so we have less than no idea how to change it.

The Atheist blogroll got broken so long ago, it’s almost a distant memory. Again apologies. We threw it away a few months after it got stuck permanently showing last August’s posts of about ten blogroll members. (Or something like that.)

Other things just randomly break anyway. For instance, there was a link to the Convention on Modern Liberty that only lasted a week or so.

Plus, this blog can load so slowly (even on my allegedly very fast connection) that It’s hard to see why anyone bothers waiting for it.

Except for all those visitors who are looking for Schwarzenegger, 5 fruit and veg, funny magic the gathering cards, Bodium castle, fairytale castles, fine art or morris dancing. These are the top search terms that consistently bring people here from Google. Every day.

Now, I am all for giving the public what they want, but there’s only so much that I have to say on any of these topics. So, most of these visitors must leave a little disappointed, to put it mildly.

This blog needs a serious “REDO FROM START.” It should happen soon…..

Spam Avalanche

I am not sure if it was a special event, but for some reason on 04 Feb 2009, this blog was innundated with spam comments.

Now, as any blogger will know blogs get spam comments. We get a fair few of which most (99.85% if you believe Akismet Stats) get caught by the anti-spam. It is, rightly or wrongly, one of the prices you pay for having a blog. It is slightly amusing that around a third of the spam comments are advertising spam-commenting systems but most are tediously repetetive. Every now and then Heather gets it into her head to read, and subsequently rant about, some of them but generally we are happy to ignore them.

However, on Wednesday we were flooded with spam comments. According to Akismet stats (which broadly mirror my recollections), we had 3.5 times as many spam comments as the previous peak (09 Jan 09) and a massive 16 times as many as the average spam comments. We had more spam in that 24 hour period than we’d had in the whole of August and September last year. Fortunately Akismet caught the lot, but it was bizarre. In the time it took to click on “delete all spam now” another 50-odd messages arrived. Equally odd, few were “normal” spam in which something was advertised, most were just strings of random letters and urls pointing to random letter domains. I really have no idea what the spammers hoped to achieve, unless it was an attempt to overwhelm Akismet worldwide…

Anyway, the main point is that the volume of spam meant there was no way we were going to read through it and see if any legit messages had been trapped. In the massively unlikely event that you had a message deleted, this is why.

If anyone knows why 4 Feb was World Spam Day please let me know.

If it ain’t broke

I have tried blogging platforms apart from WordPress and have found them too restrictive or unpleasant to use. I had a few stabs at helping a friend develop a “network of networks” on another platform (N**g) I was reduced to helpless gibbering, as its counter-intuitive interface actually sucked out my previously adequate knoweldge of html and css and replaced them with complete incomprehension. So, I am a diehard fan of WordPress. It doesn’t leave you stupider than before you start using it.

But, the new WordPress upgrade is annoying. For silly things, granted, but it’s still infuriating.

The old admin interface discreetly offered you lots of choices that you could ignore except once every few months. This one puts lots of items (that you don’t care about) in your face, as soon as you login.

Usually, I open this interface to post. For instance, I don’t much care who has linked to the blog, if those links are just spam pingbacks or from sites with a working Atheist Blogroll (which you will no longer find here, for reasons we can’t fathom.) If it’s a real link, I’ll find it anyway. WordPress news doesn’t really interest me much. If I want to read it, I’ll look at the WordPress site. And so on.

When I started using the new interface, there was a confusing Quick Draft window in the top right corner. Confusing because I didn’t know if this was the new Post window. In which case, it feels so cramped that I really don’t want to use it.

It made me wonder – will my drafts be “quick” enough to match some conceptual terms of use? My long drawn out blogging process : finger-pecking characters, writing drafts, rereading, typo-searching, changing my mind, rewriting whole paragraphs only to make them worse – and so on. It ain’t “quick.”

Maybe the interface will give you five minutes and post things, when you don’t expect it. (That happens often enough anyway, by accident.) That would be “quick.” Because, otherwise, it looks as if writing in the Quick Post window might turn out to be slower than using the old-fashioned and more generously-proportioned Post Window.

Faffing about nervously with that little rectangle, I spot Posts – Add New. This mercifully brings me to a window much more like the old one. But it still puts disconcerting things all over the screen.

For instance, “Excerpt”, which tells me that Excerpts are “optional hand-crafted summaries of your content.” So, something like an Abstract, then? It’s hard enough to write an Abstract for an academic piece. Why would anyone want to write an abstract of their blog post? To my recollection, academic Abstracts exist mainly so that hard-pressed post-graduate research students can use them for “I’ve read that”- bluffing purposes. Is anyone going to bluff reading a blog post?

Phew, at least writing an Abstract Excerpt is still “optional.” You won’t lose marks if you don’t bother. But you can “use them in your template.” (Why?) With a “template” link that I choose not to follow, to avoid getting sucked further into a WordPress shadow world, in which a blog exists to make use of WordPress capacities, instead of the other way round.

I love WordPress. It’s brilliant. I am a bit sad that it seems to be about to fall into the canal that separates “useful new features” from “bloatware.”

Function creep means that any software revision has to have lots of extra features, way beyond the point at which they serve any purpose except to distinguish the new version from the one before.

I understand why this has to be so for commercial programs. If Adobe doesn’t convince buyers that the new Photoshop has many more desirable functions than the last version, unemployed software writers will be streaming out of their factory saying “The dream is over,” (like the workforce of the Baby-Get-Well-Cards factory, in the Simpsons episode in which Homer swathed all the Springfield babies in PPE.)

WordPress though? Surely, WordPress is partly a labour of love and partly an opportunity fro shit-hot coders to show their brilliance. In which case, hiding the upgraded stuff in the background and leaving the old-fashioned interface intact would suit me better.

Bless this blog

PCs’ demonic powers are self-evident to anyone who’s had to pay with their own blood for opening a case or for trying to get a cpu fan off its mount. So, it’s no surprise that there are religious ceremonies to propitiate the evil entities that haunt the average PC box. (h/t the Register)

There’s a Shinto shrine where you can get your PC blessed, according to iol.co.za

In high-tech Japan, not only programmers provide protection from viruses and other computer bugs, but also the gods.
At Tokyo’s Kanda-Myojin Shinto shrine, the faithful can bring their computer and have the priests use centuries-old ceremonies to ask the gods for help and protection for their computer, a shrine spokesperson said Friday.

Centuries old? Wow, if they protected 17th century PCs adequately, these are the ceremonies for me.

The site otakuinternational.com has a picture of laptops getting prayed over in the aforementioned Shinto shrine. Sadly, you have to go to Japan. They don’t do it over the internet, although I may have spotted a marketing opportunity there.

Among the traditional charms often found at a Shinto shrine, they offer a very unique one adorned with what looks like circuit boards and chips. You can even find one to bless your blog. I guess there is no such thing as too much protection!

Otakuinternational has a photo of what you need for blog protection.

From otakuinternational site converte dto jpg

From otakuinternational site converted to jpg

This may sound a bit pushy, o great and magic bloglord, but maybe you could see your way clear to sorting out the endless comments delay thing on this blog.

Toutatis knows I’ve poured enough coffee into the keyboard to slake the thirst of an army of vengeful spirits. And I am facing something that could easily be magnetic north, if only I had a compass.

*************
Aside

Someone called Chris, commenting on the Register piece, linked to a bbspot article about Bush supporting a faith-based firewalls from a couple of years ago. 🙂

WordPress Upgrade

For the techies amongst you, WP 2.6 is now on the streets. (and has been for over a week – but I’ve been away). The promo video is:

When I get back to my proper PC, real content will be blogged once more.