Archive for November, 2003

More trackback problems

November 30, 2003

I saw that “life – listed chronologically” sent a trackback ping to Rayne’s latest post but it doesn’t show up on the archive page. My theory is that the page is not being rebuilt automatically as it is when comments are posted. To check this, I will rebuild the page manually. If the trackback appears, that will confirm my diagnosis of the problem. If not, then I’ll have to keep digging.
If I’m right, does anyone know how to wire things up so that incoming trackback pings automatically rebuild the relevant archive pages? I’m not sure if they currently rebuild the index page, or if that page just gets regenerated so often that they tend to show up there fairly soon.

Spammers find MT's open relay

November 29, 2003

Been busy holidayin’ and doing other stuff lately, so a lot of the basic substrate of blog news and blog gossip is passing unremarked. By now, most MT users probably know that Movable Type is vulnerable as an open spam relay.
If you are not using the “mail this entry” feature, it is highly recommended that you change the permissions or the name of mt-send.cgi or both, to prevent spammers from highjacking your server to send bulk unsolicited commercial email.
If you do use the “send this entry” feature (which I had lately been thinking of adding to RFB), I don’t know how you do this and keep it secure from spammers. Details as they are unearthed.
[via Mark‘s b-links]

Dating the next killer app?

November 27, 2003

First of all, Happy Thanksgiving everyone, whether here in the U.S. or not. On this day where so many of us convene with our families and talk about or avoid talking about politics, religion, and sex, I find myself thinking about online dating.
A lot of us are scratching our heads as we see venture capitalists starting to invest again in Internet start-ups, particularly social software tools with no visible means of support. Some of these networks are set up explicitly for business and professional purposes but many are geared toward dating.
There have been online personals almost as long as there’s been a web, and there have also been the unstructured meat markets gathered around Yahoo! profiles and messenger (asl, anyone?) and other social/communication tools.
In today’s Circuits section of the Times, danah boyd is quoted, featured, and pictured in an article on Friendster, Tribe, Ryze, and all the rest. I still don’t see where the money is, but the idea is clearly gaining mindshare.
Maybe if Dean is elected, DeanLink can transform itself into a dating network as well.
RFB contributor filchyboy, it should be noted, recently floated a concept for an open source network structured around dating, blogging, FOAF, and some extended custom metadata. He calls it The Dating Syndicate! Now, how do I invest?
P.S.: This year I’m mainly thankful for my friends and family, online and off.

RSS feeds for Channel Z nodes?

November 26, 2003

This is a question for Dave Winer but maybe Andrew Grumet or someone else who has insight into Dave’s latest innovations in weblog concepts could take a stab at it too:
I assume each of the nodes in the aggregator hierarchy will have RSS feeds (or may already have XML renderings available)? The XML icons on their pages currently all point to today’s root.
I’d love to subscribe to the feed for Politics / Presidential Election of 2004 over at Oakland for Dean or a new Deadheads for Dean site ideas I’m toying with.
Assuming an RSS feed for that node is availabe, would it include (transclude?) new items in its subfolders, or would I also want to subscribe to the Dean one, the other candidates’ ones, etc.?
I realize this is in the midst of being baked, but in the spirit of bootstrapping, figured it couldn’t hurt to ask.

Tweaking the sidebar here

November 25, 2003

I figured the link back to RFB proper should be bigger and easier to click on, so I sort of combined two sidebar-title/sidebar elements from before.

Template access

November 25, 2003

filchyboy, you now have access to the templates at RFB. Anyone else want in?
Please everyone check around before trying out changes. Best to demo them over here first as Liza will be doing.
filchy, i didn’t give you config access. Do you need that?

Iggy, the Stooges, and Watt

November 25, 2003

Thanks to shacker I just noticed that Mike Watt is playing bass with a Stooges reunion in SF this December:

iggy pop + the stooges watt gets the incredible honor of adding bass to the lendary team of iggy and the asheton brothers in some re-ignited stooge fury!

friday, december 12
part of the not so silent night at the bill graham civic auditorium
99 grove st.
san francisco, ca
(415) 974-4016

I’m already thinking of seeing Watt with Banyan this Saturday (Nov. 29, show starts at 10) at the Great American (859 O’Farrell St., SF, 415 885-0750).
(Mike Watt is on my very short “always try to see ’em” list.)

Are blogs a new form of virtual community?

November 25, 2003

Dr. Anita Blanchard has published a preliminary analysis of a proposition that blogs may be a new form of virtual community, based on a studio of the Julie/Julia Project Salon blog:

This research provides an initial look into the complicated topic of blogs as virtual communities. For many readers, the Julie/Julia Project is simply an entertaining, interactive web page with humorous insights into cooking, working in New York, and the mind of its well-liked author. But for the others who accessed and participated in its more interactive feature, this blog also serves as a virtual community.

We can conclude that blogs, even very popular ones, are not inherently virtual communities despite the large number of people reading them. It is the interactive features in which the blog author and the readers interact with each other that contribute to feelings of community. It is expected that blogs that meet the interests of their readers as well as provide opportunities for the readers to interact will be regarded by their interacting members as virtual communities.

Dr. Blanchard plans to write up the final results from this project as an essay for a book entitled Into the Blogosphere: Rhetoric, Community, and Culture due out in Spring or Summer 2004.

Now I have two problems

November 24, 2003

I’m trying to get the hang of the mod_rewrite module of my Apache web server. This enables me to trap certain URLs or patterns of URLs and rewrite them to point somewhere different on the back end. This has two practical benefits:

  1. It makes migration from an old path or permalink scheme much easier to handle. You no longer have to maintain duplicate content at outdated addresses, or manually redirect people. Instead, the old address seamlessly transports the user to the new address.
  2. It frees you from the URL scheme automatically generated by your content managment system, many of which are notoriously ugly or unuseful.

For example, I’ve set up a site using the DeanSpace software, which is a slightly modified version of Drupal. Drupal uses a “node” vocabulary that I find very geeky for ordinary users, and its URLs by default are of the form http://root.address/node/#### (that is, the base URL, a geek word, and an arbitrary number), sometimes with ?=variable a bit of database or PHP query jargon tacked on the end to transform the view of the underlying data.
This is a URL scheme only an engineer could love.
I’d much rather signal the nature of the content, the place in the hierarchy (or taxonomy, or ontology), or at least some key date related to the “node,” such as the date it was created or last revised.
With mod_rewrite, I’ll be able to invent any URL scheme I can imagine, and more importantly I can make database-generates pages appear to be static files in a stable directory hierarchy, so that Google and other search engines will feel comfortable indexing them.
Here’s my problem, savvy use of mod_rewrite involves learning something I’ve tried to avoid as long as possible: regular expressions. (Cue jwz’s famous remark about regular expressions.)
Can anyone point me to a good primer for moderately dense poseurs such as myself?


November 21, 2003

[bust of spectral cloudman]
Sometime when I’m headed to the Berkeley Bowl late in the day and my digital camera’s battery is charged up, I grab the cam and stick in my pocket because there are times when the parking lot of the Bowl will provide several wide vistas showing interesting East Bay cloudscapes or sunsets. There’s something about the spot, a kind of wide-open crossroadslike area with a big sky overhead that often makes for fascinating images.
Pushing my cart across the parking lot on Wednesday, I noticed a purple-and-orange sunset happening down the road (I’ll upload those photos later), so I paused, got out my camera, and started snapping some pictures. As I did so, I noticed a waft of clouds from overhead drifting into the sunset, so I started snapping shots up and over my head, catching segments of the wispy ribbons. Suddenly, I noticed a distinct skeletal image, a skull atop a sort of twisted body.
I couldn’t believe how vivid it was. I decided it looked like skeleton riding a harley, flames or shreds of hair flowing in the wind. I briefly wondered if I was seeing an actual deliberate artwork by some local Dead head but that was clearly impossible. I looked and looked again to be sure that I wasn’t imagining what I was seeing.
I also started snapping pictures because I know clouds change quickly.
It’s normal for the human mind to perceive faces and other coherent images in random Brownian patterns. I realize that. I know intellectual, as a rationalist, that this was just a coincidental set of flutterings that happened to gather themselves into a freaking Rick Griffin poster in the sky.
As I kept snapping pictures I heard a black woman approach, saying something like. “Look at that! A man in the sky. It’s a skeleton.” As she got up to me, she asked me, “Are you a cloudwatcher? Do you see that skeleton in the sky?”
“Yeah,” I said. “It’s creepy. That’s why I’m taking pictures.” But she had already continued on and was asking the next person if they saw that man up there. I was oddly relieved that I was not the only person seeing it.
I kept taking pictures of the sunset as I pushed my cart to the curb. I passed a man selling Street Spirit at the edge of the lot, wearing a hand-me-down denim jacket with dancing bears embroidered across the shoulders. Not an uncommon sight in Berkeley, but it briefly gave me pause. Was there a message in all this, a code? Did the beggar put that image in the sky so I, a longtime Grateful Dead gomer would feel inspired to make a donation? Was he some kind of psychokinetic character out of a Jonathan Lethem novel?
I don’t know. I didn’t buy his paper. I wasn’t moved to give this time. Superstition reared again and I wondered if the image in the sky was an omen. Should I drive especially carefully on the way home? I took a few more shots of the pattern now that it had drifted into cottony incoherence. The image was gone, but I had captured its soul in my magic box, and another human being had seen it the same way while it was happening, so I’m not crazy, right?
The picture at the top of this entry links to a halfsize image of the Harley-riding skeleton-man. I’ve uploaded the original picture of the sky-spectre as well. It’s only about 300 K since it’s mainly blue with some white.”

now playing:
The Stars That Play With Laughing Sam’s Dice” by Jimi Hendrix [South Saturn Delta]