Scorching in the IT Kitchen

If you cast your mind waaay back, you’ll remember the IT Kitchen group effort we had at the end of last year. It was an interesting experiment–open up a weblog and a wiki to edit access by any person who came in off the street, and see what happens.

Well, like all new things it had its up and downs, not the least of them was my own fussing and hovering. But the real killer came after the Kitchen had been quiet for some time.

The Wiki was hit — hard– to the point where I didn’t even know how to recover it. The weblog, which had been relatively untouched for the longest period of time was also hit badly: in comments, trackback, and people coming in through the open doorway I provided. It got to the point that the only access to IT Kitchen was from spammers.

I ended up making a backup of the database and then closing the account. I wasn’t sure about putting it back up again, but I figured I would after a couple of months passed and the spammers hopefully had lost the address. Not the wiki — I won’t do a public wiki ever again. But a closed version of the weblog, in Wordform, so people’s links wouldn’t break.

Unfortunately, the CD I had burned of the backup ended up corrupted, and I couldn’t restore the database. The hosting company is great about backups, but not to an account that’s closed. Even then, if I had checked with them a few weeks back, they probably would have still had the backup.

There’s not much I can do to restore the entries at Kitchen, but luckily, some are still accessible through The Wayback Machine. I had hoped I would be able to also recover from Bloglines, but it looks like this service only goes back to January (or most recent 100 entries, whichever comes first).

If you do have an entry at the site you want to recover, now is the time to do it. And if anyone happens to have an aggregation of all the original entries, I sure would love a copy because I could re-build the weblog from this.

Lesson Two learned: One backup is not enough.

Lesson One learned: wikis updated by the general public only work if there’s enough people interested in helping to maintain it to offset the spammers, trolls, and script kiddies. In other words, the only viable public wiki is Wikipedia.


Creative Commons follow up

Dennis Kennedy wrote an excellent follow-up post on the Creative Commons discussion this weekend. Excellent. I particularly wanted to note the following:

One of my biggest concerns about the Creative Commons license has been the lack of guidance from CC on practical interpretation and enforcement issues. I’ve held off commenting on the issue Shelley raised because I expected to see something from CC on the topic. Unfortunately, my daily check of the Creative Commons blog has shown mainly the usual victory laps being taken when a high visibility site or celebrity uses or mentions the CC licenses, although I’ll note that news of a tweak to one of the licenses has been mentioned. I make no secret of my belief that this approach is not especially helpful and opens the CC to the criticism that it is more of a marketing gimmick for CC than a serious effort to benefit the Internet community by providing a workable and well-accepted license.

The point is good: for the CC license to be anything but puffery, the CC folks can’t resort to ignoring challenges that have been raised; or using the usual weblogging tactic of sending in hordes of supporters to challenge either the person or their motives.

There is much more to read in Dennis post. It is, like Denise’s writing and commentary this weekend, a breath of fresh air in an environment that has, lately, become too close for comfort.


May days

I am determined to finish all my unfinished, planned, hoped for, dreamed of posts by end of this month. These mock me, these unfinished writings, sitting at the top of my edit window taking up screen real estate (note to self–change this in weblogging software)-sticking their tongues out at me and going, Neener, neener, you can’t finish me.

Self-rightous words on a flat screen.

Undisciplined would-be writer!

Pedantic puffs of postery.

Into P’s, eh? Well how about ‘procrastination’?

To all things there is a season…

Cut the touchy feely crap

Let me finish…

Ms. Can’t-Finish-Shit

Verbal trash.

Takes one to know one, lady!

I can delete you, you know.

Ha! You still have that unfinished post from December, 2003!

You can’t win when you argue with your writing. All you can do is finish it and push it out into public, and then let the little suckers sink or swim on their own. Or hope for a computer crash–whichever comes first.

(”Oh, darn! They’re all gone now. And I was just about to finish the one from December, 2003. Darn.”)

First, though, I need some photos for my stories, in addition to quiet time in the woods for some hard thinking, and even harder decisions. Then I’ll finish the little buggers.

Yeah, right! That’s what they all say. “First, I need to ….” But we’re not going away, honey. We’ll be here when you get back. You can run, but you can’t…


Weblogging is for winners: backlash

Joi Ito recently wrote something about his weblog and the commentary he gets from people. He was concerned that the responses were making him wary of what he wrote, and this, in turn, was making him boring. Several people responded–over 90 comments at last count. Most were sympathetic.

One response in particular stood out, repeated over and over again in several weblogs: too bad weblogging has changed and how a person can’t even have a conversation now without one person or another writing a ‘negative’ comment or post. Not like in the good old days when all of this was so much more fun.

I’m reminded of people reminiscing over the good old days when they were a children, growing up in a small town. “We used to be able to play out in the streets after dark,” they’d say. “And never have to worry about being attacked or harmed.” Not like today, they’d say, sadly shaking their heads.

Yet the same sun that shines now, shined back then, forming the same shadows. Scratch the veneer of most of these “home towns” and you’ll find much of the same ugliness as exists today; except back then, people kept things quiet. When the wife with the bruised face and sore arm told people she fell down stairs, no one believed it–but no one would challenge it, either. The little girl of six who fell suddenly silent after a weekend being baby-sat by the 16 year old neighbor boy is just going through growing pains. The middle aged guy who drinks too much is treated with humor, or even affection.

People are people, and as such equally capable of noble sacrifice and petty want. All that time does is change the mode and means and maybe some of the rules.

Time also breeds familiarity. That old saying of familiary breeds contempt is rather extreme, but there is something about familiarity and its ability to polish away shiny newness.

Consider Joi. Years ago, people saw Joi as a person who was on easy terms with members of his country’s government, was wealthy and influential, and who attended prestigious events all over the world. Now, though, we’ve seen Joi as someone who makes mistakes, loses his temper, gets stealth disco silly and even, at times, veers more to the ‘petty’ side of the pendulum. Just like you and me, as a matter of fact. Except that, unlike Joi, no one was in awe of us when we started blogging.

Six months or two or four years ago, when we wrote something, people took it at face value and reacted–to the writing not to who we were. If we wrote something that moved people, they responded. Perhaps not as many people who would respond to Joi, but the emotional reactions would be the same. Conversely, if we wrote something that riled people up, they responded–and not always nicely.

Most of us who are reading Joi’s recent entry are scratching our heads and saying to ourselves, that’s the nature of the beast; except for Joi, it hasn’t been the nature of the beast. At least, until that old familiarity came along and buffed away some of Joi’s sparkle.

The same can be said for others, though for different reasons. Getting flack about trips now, when you didn’t a couple of years ago? Well, a couple of years ago, we hadn’t heard the complaint about airports and no Internet access for the 20th time. Neither had we seen so many photos of so many beautiful people–most of them eerily similar.

After a time, after so many trips to Spain or Japan or England, and so many glamorous or fun get-togethers, people just aren’t impressed. Damn, most of us are doing good not to be destructively envious.

(I am reminded of David Weinberger writing about an uncomfortable plane trip and how the person in front of him infringed into his space–lordy, I thought we were going to see a re-enactment of Joan of Arc, the reaction was that hot.)

As for others, well, a lot of folks have been given a pass on their writing for whatever reason. This is a state that cannot sustain itself, though, and eventually if they say something controversial, they’re going to get a strong response and no amount of their personal unhappiness about the state of affairs is going to change things.

I had a disagreement with Halley in her comments recently, which she has since written about in her weblog and at the Worthwhile Magazine weblog. At Worthwhile she writes:

Joi Ito started it over here. It feels like the better known you are as a blogger, the more people write nasty or critical comments about you, so you stop blogging about certain subjects — or stop blogging as frequently — or stop blogging completely. A number of us jumped on the subject.

I wrote about it here, but also did a little experiment — writing a very edgy piece about how alienated I feel in my kid’s school community of mostly married moms (I’m divorced), but I also wrote that blog post just to REMEMBER how it felt to let loose and express my opinions in my blog. It met with mixed results.

I also wrote that blog post just to REMEMBER how it felt to let loose and express my opinions in my blog. I would suggest that Halley check out another weblogger expressing his opinion and the reaction to same. And his wasn’t in the nature of a little experiment.

Halley implies that there is a correlation between being better known and people being critical of the person. Anyone who has been weblogging for any length of time knows that this is not the case. Your audience and your influence may be larger; you may get more voices clamoring in disagreement among all the nodding heads; but no matter what, no matter who, it all comes back to what we write and how we write it.

If anything what’s happened recently is that there’s a whole group of people who have been weblogging for years, but this is their first exposure to what weblogging really is: every difficult, entertaining, sometimes boring, all too often frustrating/silly/discouraging/enlightening/contentious bit of it.

Lonely, too, at times. But unlike Jeneane, I’m not too shy to ask for comments.

Technology Weblogging

Rewriting metadata layer

I’ve decided that the current implementation of the metadata layer is unworkable. Too vulnerable, and becoming too cumbersome for developers to work with.

Additionally, since it has a significant overhead, and not everyone is interested in it, I’m pulling it out as an integrated component and adding it as a drop-in infrastructure that takes advantage of the plugin architecture, as well as adding some of my own extensibility hooks.

The advantage, aside from decreasing the size of the default Wordform install, not to mention removing a security vulnerability, is that the infrastructure can have different backend engines — not just RAP (RDF API for PHP), which I’ll still be using as the first semantic drop-in. This is a response for those who are interested in using Redland and its PHP interface, rather than RAP.

Just goes to show that for every cloud there is sunshine — the new infrastructure will be superior to the existing one, but I may not have pursued it if I hadn’t had problems with security–which is something I just won’t compromise on.