Brought to you by HTTPS

As you can see when you access this page, I’ve made the move to HTTPS. I detail the experience at my new technology-only site, Shelley’s Toy Box.

I upgraded my server before I made the move, and eliminated all the cruft. I also moved my DNS records over to my name registrar, rather than manage on the server.

All in all, the experience was challenging at times, but also interesting. It was fun tweaking with the tech, and I need to do more tech tweaking in the future.

One of the downsides to the move is removing my archived statically generated HTML pages. I now get, on average, over seven hundred 404 requests a day. The numbers will go down as I gradually add the older content into this site, and as search engines drop references to the missing pages. Still, I feel like one big link black hole right now.

The Wayback Machine is extremely helpful when it comes to recovering pages that, for whatever reason, I don’t have backups for. I even found a link to my earliest weblog, a Manila site, hosted by Dave Winer and Userland.  I was excited when I found the link. My reactions to the events of 9/11 were recorded in my Manila weblog, and I don’t have a backup of the old posts.

I could have dropkicked Dave Winer when I discovered all the pages have the same message:

Your crawler is hitting our servers too hard. Please slow down, it’s hurting the service we provide to our customers. Thanks. webmaster@userland.com.

Thankfully most of the pages for my many other sites and weblogs are intact. When I restore a page, I try to include a link to the Wayback Machine archive page, because the site also archived the comments.

Seriously, if you’re not donating to the Internet Archive, you should think about starting. It’s our history.

I broke Nofollow

I’m still trying to write something on Technorati Tags. What’s slowing me up is there’s been such a great deal of interesting writing on the topic that I keep wanting to add to what I write. And, well, the weather warmed up to the 60’s again today, and who am I to reject an excuse to go for a nice walk. Plus I also watched Japanese Story tonight, so there goes yet, even more, opportunity to write to this weblog.

Thin excuses for sloth and neglect aside, it is interesting that a formerly obscure and rarely used attribute in X(HTML), rel, has been featured in two major technology rollouts this week: Technorati Tags and the new Google “nofollow” approach to dealing with comment spam. Well, as long as they don’t bring back blink.

Speaking of the new spam buster, after much thought, I’ve decided not to add support for rel=”nofollow” to my weblogs. I agree with Phil and believe that, if anything, there’s going to be an increase of comment spam, as spammers look to make up whatever pagerank is lost from this effort. And they’re not going to be testing whether this is implemented — why should they?

But I am particularly disturbed by the conversations at Scoble’s weblog as regard to ‘withholding’ page rank. Here’s a man who for one reason or another has been linked to by many people, and now ranks highly because of it: in Google, Technorati, and other sites. I imagine that among those that link, there was many who disagree with him at one time or another, but they’re going to link anyway. Why? Because they’re not thinking of Google and ‘juice’ and the withholding or granting of page rank when they write their response. They’re focusing on what Scoble said and how they felt about it, and they’re providing the link and the writing to their readers so that they can form their own opinion. Probably the last thing they’re thinking on is the impact of the link of Scoble’s rank.

Phil hit it right on the head when he talked about nofollow’s impact, but not its impact on the spammers — the impact on us:

But, again, it’s not so much the effects I’m interested in as the effects on us. Will comments wither where the owner shows that he finds you no more trustworthy than a Texas Hold’em purveyor, or will they blossom again without the competition from spammers? Will we do the right thing, and try to find something to link to in a post by someone new who leaves a comment we deem not worthy of a real link, or will new bloggers find it that much harder to gain any traction?

That Phil, he always goes right to the heart within the technology–but blinking, lime green? That’s cruel.

No, no. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’ve spent too much time worrying about Google and pageranks and comment spammers. A few additions to my software, and comment spam hasn’t been much of a problem, not anymore. I spend less than a minute a day cleaning out the spam that’s collected in my moderated queue. It’s become routine, like clearing the lint out of the dryer after I finish drying my clothes.

Of course, if I, and others like me, don’t implement “nofollow” we are, in effect, breaking it. The only way for this to be effective as a spam prevention technique is if everyone uses the modification. I suppose that eventually we could fall into “nofollow” and “no-nofollow” camps, with those of us in the latter added to the new white lists, and every link to our weblogs annotated with “nofollow”, as a form of community pressure.

Maybe obscurity isn’t such a bad thing, though; look what all that page rank power does to people. But I do feel bad for those of you who looked to this as a solution to comment spam. What can I say but…

Weblogging is for winners

Page archived, with comments, at Wayback Machine

Marc Canter called me a couple of months ago about a new concept he was working that would help webloggers make money. The concept became reality today, as several people started making 800.00US a month to promote a new CMS called Marqui.

When Marc and I talked, I was ambivalent about the idea and whether it would work. Ben Hammersley has been a sponsored site for some time, but it worked with Ben because he could be enthusiastic about the products of the company that was paying him bucks. Ben likes cigars, and the ambiance associated with cigar smoking, so being sponsored by a cigar company suited his site. I remember reading one of his cigar reviews and being surprised at how much I enjoyed it, precisely because he does feel enthusiastic about cigars.

But I don’t know of many people excited about Content Management Systems, or CMS. I’ve used too many commercial variations of these product to have anything even remotely resembling enthusiasm for them, myself. And if you couldn’t be enthusiastic about the product, wouldn’t the sponsorship come off like the old Geritol television show sponsorships of the past? You know the kind, where the host would stop whatever he or she was doing, plant a fake, bright smile on their face and extol the virtues of a product that would re-build tired blood?

Still, there is a great deal of discussion about the ‘purity’ of this environment and compromising the faith with our readers and that sort of thing, all of which gives me a rash. It’s as if weblogging is for winners only — people who are supremely successful and need no other help; or independently wealthy, and couldn’t use a few extra bucks. Let me tell you something: only the rich can be Saints, and the rich weren’t Saints to become that way.

Or as Alan, Head Lemur, wrote:

This is going to facilitate a dialog, between the company, me and most importantly you. They are paying us for this. They are paying me to tell them and everyone else who reads me what I think. It may not be what they want to hear. This is a risk they are taking.

I do not need the money, I have a day job.
Can I use the money? You bet!

Here are my risks.

Will I be regarded as a whore for taking money?
I already have. And if I am successful I will become a call girl.

Isn’t that ‘call boy’, Alan?

Can I use the money? Damn straight. I had a hard time making enough money to keep this site going, without having to pass the hat not once, but twice in the last few years. So which is better, and more dignified? The hooker on the corner, or the beggar across the street from her?

Still, I write tips and techniques and help folks and I like to think that when the people have contributed to keep the site going, it’s because I’ve provided something that’s been helpful a time or two. But it would be nice to be able to do this _without_ having to pass the hat.

*sob*

(Of course, what I really need to do is finish my own weblogging tool, Wordform, and then I will automatically become both wealthy and hugely popular.)

So what’s stopping me from tugging at Marc’s shirt and saying, “Hey buddy of mine, can I get back into this deal?” It’s that old Geritol thing, I can’t get it out of my mind.

Stowe Boyd covered some of this in a writing about the Marqui Effect, saying:

Note: I am not a purist who turns away from ads. On the contrary. But I think there needs to be a clear separation from content and commerce. I don’t say good things about Silkroad just because they are sponsoring my blog and the True Voice seminar series. Their ad occupies the upper right rectangle on the blog, and by all means, click through sometime and see what they have to offer. And if they don’t get enough traffic, I am sure that they will put their ad dollars elsewhere. But I am not being paid to write about Silkblogs once per week. And that distinction, although nuanced, is important.

Mitch Ratcliff responded to Boyd’s assertion, writing:

Of course Corante has incentives to increase click throughs, because most ad programs are priced based on click performance. Sorry, but the condescension here is just annoying, since the substance of the Marqui agreement seems to be identical to the ads placed on Stowe’s site, from the simple click through on the SilkRoad ad to the “free” seminar offer (Corante presumably gets some kind of compensation for promoting the conference, even if it is sponsorship placement at the event) that are clearly compensated placements or else they would not be on the page. I’ve been a publisher and editor and trade show producer, so let’s step back from the ledge (or “Get Real,” as Stowe’s blog is called) right here and now: Admit that publishers, especially early-stage publishing companies, exist on in-kind trades. If these are not “not evil,” how are they qualitatively different than what I am doing in relation to Marqui? I put a sponsorship graphic on my site and say thanks once a week, creating a kind of periodicity in the appearance of the company’s name in the blog, just as Corante creates a special section sponsored by Zero Degrees that features fresh links.

Ratcliff’s point is good, as is his earlier notes in the post about how at one time he used to make a lot more money for his writing. Hey, if a few bucks can help Ratcliff and others continue writing, where’s the bad?

Boundaries. I’m hearing people say, “boundaries”. As if Technorati and Google aren’t already placing boundaries in this game.

From the Wikipedia article on the history of commercial television:

In the earliest days of television, it was often difficult to perceive the boundary between the actual television programs and the commercials. Many of the earliest television shows were sponsored by single companies, who inserted their names and products into the shows as much as possible. One of the most famous examples of early television broadcasting was Texaco Star Theater, the variety show that made Milton Berle a household name. Texaco not only included its own brand name as part of the show, it also made certain that Texaco employees were prominently featured during the course of the show, often appearing as smiling “guardian angels” who performed good deeds in one way or another, while the Texaco musical logo would play in the background.

I know Alan, aka Head Lemur, and I have no doubts that he wouldn’t be corrupted for a mere 800.00 a month. A couple of grand now…

Seriously, unlike the television shows of yore, the amount of money at stake, and the number of people involved is going to limit how much the Marqui Effect will impact on the weblogging environment. As for me, personally, at a minimum it doesn’t impact on how much I trust the webloggers involved. If I trusted the weblogger before, I still do now. If I didn’t know the weblogger before now, I don’t have an increased sense of trust because they’re, like wow, sponsored.

In comments to this post at the Kitchen, I wrote:

I have known some people in weblogging for years. I trust them and their judgment. If they were to tell me that a product is great, I would trust what they said. Even if I found out later they’re being sponsored by the company who sold the product, I would still trust what they said. I would be surprised, but my trust would still be in place.

But, and here’s the kicker, the people who I trust and who I’ve known for years would not, I feel, do such a thing. They would either tell me they’re being sponsored or make note of this in their recommendation. So in a way, my trust is based on their past behavior, which would preclude the need for the trust anyway, because their behavior is such that they would issue a disclaimer.

After some thought, though, I realized that even if I trusted another weblogger, and there are some I have known for years now, and do trust implicitly, I would still not likely act on just that trust, alone.

If it comes to buying a product, especially something fairly expensive, I research reviews at publications and read opinions in forums and scrutinize the specs in addition to listening to those I know from weblogging. I would value the other weblogger’s opinion, highly in fact; but would also understand that they bring into their discussion all sorts of assumptions about what is a ‘good’ product that may not agree with mine. A case in point is my recent purchase of a photo printer — I had advice from several people I know and trust, but ultimately made my decision based on which printer fit my needs the best.

And if others are more easily influenced? Well, I guess they’ll have to find room for their boxed CMS software — perhaps next to the Chia pet, or up against the Ginzoo knives.

Sponsorship isn’t the Titanic event of weblogging; our ‘purity’ is not compromised because some people are selling some space and words in their weblogs. Still, those webloggers who protest that being sponsored in this way will have no effect on them whatsoever are being idealistic and even a little naive.

Becoming sponsored does impact on you. You will be made aware of it each week as you write your little thank-you note to Marqui. You will see it every time you access your site and the first thing you see is the largish “Sponsored by Marqui” graphic. Your readers will be aware of it, and it will, even subtly, alter their perceptions of you and your writing. This may not be bad — in fact, you may get increased respect for swinging such a good deal. But your relationship with your readers will be different.

Eventually, the Marqui Effect could impact how you perceive your own space. Being hired to write an article for O’Reilly or weblog posts at a Marqui weblog, still leaves you your space to do whatever you want in it: to write obscene material, and be hateful all you want; or write your most intimate thoughts, which could eventually be equated one in the same. You may find yourself hesitating, even a moment, before you put down those words.

Or maybe you’ll continue just as you are, sane or not. Who knows? Me? I’m still working through that “weblogging is for winners” thing–but I think he or she who has the cutest kitten picture, or the most lovely poem, or is the most amazingly well read and erudite, or can bake a mean loaf of bread, be the best friend, or is the biggest pain the butt (that’s the rest of you), is a winner in my book. But then, I’m a begger on the corner, so what do I know?

I guess only time will tell what impact the Marqui Effect has. Stay tuned, and we’ll return after a word from our sponsor…

update

Marc was kind enough to extend the offer to me once more, and I was tempted. And it was tough to decline, but decline I must. I didn’t know that Marqui used to be Maestro, and Maestro is an ASP (Application Service Provider) — a service that you subscribe to, to manage your content; not a product you install and own.

It’s comparable to using Blogger or TypePad to manage your weblogs, rather than WordPress or Movable Type. This isn’t bad, but it does make you dependent on the service, and that’s something I’ve been rather vocally against for some time. However, I also know service-based products can be faster and easier to use for non-techs.

Personally though, regardless of subscription service or installed product. I think most CMS (and that’s Content Management System, no matter what word games are played) are bloated, over-priced, and over-engineered. They’re the primary reason why I now only work with lightweight, modular, open, PHP-based or comparable technologies. They’re why I’ve rejected ‘frameworks’ or anything of that kind — because the clients of the software more often than not buy into systems more complicated than they need, too costly to maintain, and usually dead-ended proprietary to boot. And I helped by supporting these products.

It would be tough for me to endorse a CMS, but to endorse a centralized one? No, just cannot do it. And endorsement of the product is what this is about. Reading the contract that the webloggers have to sign with Marqui, the following spells out a direct endorsement of the product:

It is our desire that acceptance of this agreement reflects your basic confidence in the product and that it serves as an endorsement on your part of the Marqui product.

I can’t help thinking it would send confusing signals to spend three months being negative about a product that supposedly you endorse.

However, just because I am burned out on CMS and large-scale, complex, proprietary, centralized applications doesn’t mean others should be. Each of us has unique interests and challenges, and one woman’s corrosive drain cleaner is another woman’s fragrant tea.

In other words, lots of really smart and intelligent people like CMS, and have excellent reasons to do so. This, then, could be a very good deal for them, and for those of you who have gotten the golden goose for the next three months, I am glad for you.

And if I were to beg on the corner for alms to support this site again–which I don’t plan on doing but lord knows I change my mind more than my underwear– but if I were, then you’re more than entitled to a ‘neener neener’ all the way to the bank.

But since I’m not being paid, consider this my last word on Marqui.

Value Judgements

Just found another weblog where my comments were ‘altered’ due to weblogging comment policy.

I guess I just lost my sense of perspective — maybe I should have quit reading for the day after my last post. But I don’t understand how people can criticize me for editing my writing, and then turn around and edit my comments. Excuse me? But does anyone else see that this might be wrong?

I don’t edit out material that is critical of other folks, and I apologize when I’m off-base or too harsh. I have taken my hits for being critical of others. I’ve not run from a fight.

Do you know where most of my edits have come from lately? I have exposed something happening in my personal life that shouldn’t have been exposed because I don’t want to make my readers uncomfortable. And because there are certain things I’m just not sure about exposing online. Not yet.

But I also don’t want to make a production of the edit with strike-throughs and hugely bolded comments saying:

I’ve been edited. I’ve been edited. Neener neener, you don’t know what was edited. Too bad, jack. A dollar short and an hour too late because I’ve been edited!

People criticize my editing without proper annotation, but will strike through what I write on their weblogs, or bold it, or otherwise make a point of demeaning what I say in “their” space.

You want to control what I say in my space and you want to control what I say in your space. It’s all about control, isn’t it?

Well fuck it — I’m tired of the hypocrisy, the legions of blind fans, the complacency of the people who feel that they have a right to control what I say! And how I say it! Keep your goddamn morals and your oh so righteous ways of doing things the proper way to yourself — I would rather have an honest argument then bland conformity any day.

Any day.

You all don’t want to read me. Why don’t you go read someone who has both a comment policy — to prevent flames, you see — and a policy about editing — for accountability, you know. If you look hard enough, search through all of the blancmanges that’s left when all of the rules and restrictions have been applied, you might even find someone who might, just might know how to write, too.

But god help them if they don’t tell the truth. Oh, and they can’t bad mouth certain people. By the way, they should be using the right weblogging tool. Oh, and are they providing the appropriate feeds…

Edited for spelling corrections There. You happy?

Archive and comments at Wayback Machine

Editing Comments

Yesterday’s jury duty was very dull. I was almost called in once, but a settlement was reached at the last minute. However, when they sent us home last night, they said we didn’t have to be in today. This is lucky because I’ve been out of sorts the last few days, including a deep ache in my joints, even in my hands. Since I had the day off anyway because of the jury duty, I was able to stay home, trying the alternate heat pad, ice pack treatment. No computer work, either, except for reading the weblogs, which sometimes isn’t a great idea at the best of times.

I went against my better judgment and walked into another RSS discussion today. What can I say? I can no more ignore these conversations than Dorothea can walk away from a discussion about grad school.

Today’s RSS debate began with a discussion associated with Dave Winer’s new PSS ‘idea’, the creation of which is the best reason I’ve seen for moving RSS and other weblog interoperability technologies to standards control. Or to another country, whichever comes first.

As I said, I went against my better judgment and made a comment about PSS in Sam Ruby’s weblog. This discussion degenerated as these discussions always do, and yes, I contributed my part to the degeneration. I slammed, was slammed in return. This isn’t unusual and wasn’t necessarily a disappointment — what I expect with a conversation around RSS.

What was the biggest disappointment was when Sam Ruby edited my comments.
I can’t think of anything worse than to edit other’s comments. I can see deleting abusive comments in weblogs, or editing them on the request of the person who wrote them, or banning someone who’s abusive — but not editing comments without permission. I’d rather all the words be deleted.

Changing the font to create strikethroughs, changing the words or the order — these are unacceptable. By any standard. To do so is to manipulate my words to work against me, and there is no honor in this. None.

I won’t comment at Sam’s weblog. I won’t read Sam’s weblog. And I’m very disappointed at both Sam and others who accept such blatant censorship without batting an eye.

Shame.

edited comment

Archive including comments found at Wayback Machine