Category Archives: Blogging

All my thoughts, opinions, resources and help related to our favorite pastime

My theme kinda died

And I’m not in the mood to fix it anymore. I used a heavily customized HemingwayEx ever since I started this blog, but it’s been unmaintained for the past 7 years and I noticed recently that my homepage is now all wonky. Plus sporadically people had been complaining about readability.

Since I don’t post that much anymore, I think it’s time to go to something more standard, so I just selected one of the wordpress defaults for now. Feeling cute, might change later 😀

Intense Debate comments deactivated

Image representing IntenseDebate as depicted i...

I’ve been using intense debate for the longest time, being a very active proponent of their comment system, hell, even getting a gift T-shirt for my efforts; but now I find myself having to disable the comment system and go back to the default wordpress comments.

 

The reason for this is that for some reason their comment system has somehow been compromised by spammers, and blatantly obvious spam comments are coming in constantly, and that is even though they are supposed to be going through Akismet which is excellent at catching this kind of stuff.

 

I didn’t take this decision lightly, I contacted support who initially thought comments were coming through the internal comments, but once I pointed to evidence that it is coming through ID, they said they were going to “look into it” and that I should fight spammer with IP bans, which is a ridiculous idea.

 

In fact, another reason why I’m ditching ID is that they have completely dropped the community ball. I have no idea what is up, but I got all excited when they got acquired by Automattic, and was expecting to see ID comments start to get rolled out in WordPress.com and stuff which would have been awesome. Instead the ID people literally fell of the map. Their active blog pretty much died, making 1 post in a year, their support either doesn’t reply, or gives worthless suggestions like IP bans on spammers. And most importantly, their development all but stopped. I haven’t seen any improvements in ID every since the automattic acquisition and that’s just sad.

 

I was content to stick with ID anyway since it’s better than my theme’s built-in ones, but now that it has also become quite a lot of work to scrub my comments every few days, enough is enough!

 

Perhaps it’s time to look into Disqus whose developers seem to be actually interested in improving and making useful.

I’m ba-ack!

front view of the cluster of Wikimedia servers...

Yea, baby, yea!

I have finally moved away from Dreamhost after 6 years of being a loyal customer. After barely being able to run a simple murmur server and 2 wordpress sites without multiple reboots per day due to lack of resources, even on a VPS, enough was very much enough.

So I have finally decided to make the jump into a different host which came recommended from a friend and until now I’m very glad I did so. Not only is my speed blazing fast compared to dreamhost, not only do I have 10 times the available resources, not only do I have full root access and ability to customize my sites fully, but I’m also paying less than 1/3rd of what I used to!

Now this is a significant difference and I really struggle to understand why I had to pay $15 extra a month just to get 300 lousy MBs of ram which was a also a hard limit that caused by whole server to reboot during each resource spike? Why indeed did 2 wordpress sites with no particular frills and a mumble servers with 5 users caused 1-10 reboots a day for years? Why couldn’t dreamhost support in troubleshooting this very worrying performance of their services?

In the end I really had myself to blame for a lot of it. I was far too lazy and a bit scared of going to fully rooted hosting and got very complacent and used to the user-friendliness of the dreamhost panel.  It is all kinds of awesome how easy dreamhost makes it to set-up and maintain sites, emails, DNS entries, cro

n jobs and so on. It’s such a pity that their performance has been in the toilet for the past 2 years for me.

I could even have lived with the 2-5 seconds per page load, or the visible lag I has in a simple ssh connections to their servers. But 20 server reboots in a day while dreamhost support were telling me it’s my own damn fault for running vanilla wordpress, was just too much.

All that was part of the reason why I’ve been so inactive in blogging lately as well, aside for my newborn child and my new hobby in octgn development that is; it was just so frustrating trying to blog in a server that took second to load each panel and literally went down every time I hit “publish”.

I hope that I’ll start writing a bit more now that my snazzy new system doesn’t seem to be making it a chore to put two words together on the net 🙂

Fresh installation

So, here’s a new version of the site. Still in a very basic form, with only the most barest of plugins. I’m checking to see what the stability is before proceeding but the positive is that I already see that php calls do not automatically take 10 percent of my available ram each. More like 3-5% each which I hope will be manageable once the caching plugin picks up.

This is the second time I’ve had to do a complete wipe of the blog and restart. The first time was after a being hacked and finding it impossible to wipe all traces of the code which meant that they kept getting back in. This time I went even more radical and completely nuked my existing database as well, because it’s the one I’ve been using since 2007, which means its full of crud from all the plugins I’ve installed and uninstalled since then. I sincerely hope this was a big part for the memory leaking because if that doesn’t work either, I’m at my wits end, and I’ll probably have to start seriously considering moving away from Dreamhost.

So now I wait and see if the site will avoid imploding from those DOS-like requests I’ve been getting lately.

The Barefoot Bum strikes back and the ethics of blogging.

8 12 09 Bearman Cartoon Freedom of Speech
Image by Bearman2007 via Flickr

…Sort of. In response to my internet drama post about banning me from his blog and my thoughts about it and his past actions he’s come out to clarify his position and why nobody deserves to call him an enemy of free speech or whatever. Of course that would actually be a valid defense if I had claimed that he was an enemy of free speech and open debate. Which, you know, I haven’t.

The Barefoot Bum thus, unwittingly, provides us with a perfect example to talk about blogger ethics and go further on why his actions were objectionable.1

He claims that he has no obligation to publish comments or be as nice to commentators and thus implies that shouldn’t be criticized for not doing that. He also claims that he doesn’t object to others criticizing them at their own locations…within a blogpost whining about me criticizing him at my own blog. The Irony is delicious once more.

But what he has failed to grasp is that I’m not criticizing him for being a hypocrite or an enemy of free speech. I’m criticizing him for being an arrogant elitist, for being a dick to people who don’t deserve it and for being hypocritical about being a “a honest seeker of truth” when he dismisses arguments which do not fit into his preconceptions.

His comment policy fits nicely into this picture since it’s a policy which works quite different from the examples he mentions about “no comments”, “no replies from the office”, and “open to all but trolls”. Putting aside the fact that any and all those comment policies can and should be discussed and criticized just as well, his own policy of “comments are heavily moderated and discouraged” is very vague on its guidelines and judging from the examples of what he ends up banning can thus be condemned for the thin excuse for intolerance of different opinions it is. Just because it’s his  policy in his own blog does not allow him to escape this, and this is precisely what I did.

One might ask, as he proceeds to do, why didn’t I do this before? Why I didn’t criticize his comment practices (or his Maoist tendencies) before this drama occurred. The answer is quite simply because I used to consider him an online friend at some point in the past and thus was trying to tactfully point out the errors of his positions without putting it bluntly and thus forcing him on the defensive which would have simply ended up with us speaking past each other. This is only common (n)etiquette between friends and acquaintances really as you’re trying to change the other’s position without breaking up all relations in the meantime. My attempts were especially cautious furthermore as I knew firsthand his intolerance and thus slow. But it was there, in the various counter-arguments I made in his comments and in this blog as well.

Of course, what ended up happening is that the more clearly I started opposing his position, the more annoyed he became at me and the more cold and stressed our interactions became. Still I kept hope that he would be willing to listen to opposing opinions  from someone who’s opinion he used to respect and thus I decided not to come out and condemn him openly until he took the first step to force my hand as I expected him to do, and as he proceeded to do. Instead of thinking why someone he used to read and agree with started arguing against his positions, he took the easier solution to consider that I must have somehow become stupid in the meantime and therefore not worth listening to.

In fact, this etiquette is what Larry seems to be severely lacking and something that he also deserves to be condemned for just as well. His reaction to people who express a different opinion is horrendous. He will accuse them of stupidity or “fucktardery” (to use his own words) at the drop of a hat and thus only manages to discourage and avoid dialogue. Is it no wonder why I consider such knee-jerk reactions counter-productive and do not follow them? And this is precisely the reason I now openly take the time and condemn Larry’s intolerant behavior. Because I wish to discourage it.

I don’t have any illusions that Larry will learn from this of course but he does serve as a great example of how not to act if you’re really looking for truth. Shutting down dialogue, especially when the other side is not being deliberately trollish or aggressive, is not in your interests as a freethinker. Larry may be too far gone with far too thin a skin to save but hopefully the rest of you aren’t.

For closing I am going to address Larry’s contention that he’s not a Maoist because he’s not explicitly said so. A claim so ridiculous on its face that I shouldn’t have to address anyway but I’ll do this just in case one can’t see it. Very much like Socialism or most other political theories do not apply via self-description, so does the opposite hold true as well: The lack of a self-described label does not automatically exclude one from the theory. Larry makes the fallacious reasoning that people are not a “Hitlerites” either simply for being vegetarians nonsmokers, missing the point that those factors do not a Nazi make. However someone who was intolerant to non-Aryan races and homosexuals and also an anti-semite would probably strongly point to Nazi-tendencies. Similarly, the Barefoot Bum’s promotion of governmental communism, his support and apologetics for various Maoist policies, his fawning over Bob Avakian and the RPCUSA and finally his intolerance for opposing opinion in a true Marxist-Leninist fashion, do point out that strong Maoist-tendencies certainly exist in his political orientation, even though he has not explicitly endorsed the whole theory.

If it walks like a duck and it looks like a duck but it hasn’t actually quacked yet to confirm it, you are still warranted to have a very strong suspicion that it is, in fact, a duck.

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  1. Really, It’s not worth wasting any more bytes explaining how he didn’t understand why I was annoyed at him. My post is quite clear on this even though Larry picked the parts which were the easiest to misrepresent and proceeded to do so. []

Finally a way for the reader to provide feedback easily

emotions

Damn, I’ve been trying to find this plugin for a while now, ever since I’d discovered clickcomments1 I’ve been trying to get a similar solution running on the Division by Zer0 but there was nothing of the sort, at least as far as I knew.

So as a workaround I used another similar plugin called WP-Likes which did almost the same thing but unfortunately was limited to only one option and hard-coded to “Like”. It was a compromise while hoping that it’s developer might include the multiple-choice functionality in the future.

Fortunately I didn’t have to wait that long. Through a chance encounter with the Sikkdays blog, I noticed exactly what I wished to have: Three little icons at the end of the pos, allowing people to rate/judge a post according to emotion. A quick question to the admin, led me to the plugin responsible for this, called Emo-Vote.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to stay with Emo-based titles as there is a customization possibility and I quickly switched to Slashdot-based ratings, which are far more descriptive of how people might find the topics I write about.

So you’ll notice further below that you can now vote for each article on how you found it. Options are based on how I think opinionated blogposts can be judged as, such as interesting, boring, funny etc. I’d like to have a couple of options more, such as “disagree” etc, but I think for now the current capability is enough.

But why do I think that this kind of functionality is something beneficial to have on one’s blog? A few reasons.

First, it allows people who had a reaction to the article from some perspective (say, finding it informative) to state so without having to write a short comment about it (which is far more time-consuming than a simple click of the mouse.) In a sense, allowing the author to see how his articles are being received from a part of the audience he couldn’t see before. The silent majority. And as I consider comments and feedback in general as the main measure of success of blogposts, a way to increase that cannot be anything but good.

Second, it provides some interesting statistics, such as being able to see which are my top funniest topics, which are the most boring etc, according to audience interaction. This in turn one can publish on sidebars or a particular page so that new visitors can quickly find the most interesting content in the blog according to their tastes. It also provides the author with valuable information on what kind of topic he should concentrate on, based on previous success.

Lastly, it has potential. What Postreach attempted to do but failed due to its centralized nature, perhaps can be achieved by blogs federating amongst themselves. So for example, perhaps there will be a way to export such ratings to an aggregator which would allow anyone visiting it to quickly find new insightful, interesting etc posts from different blogs. Of course that would require than many use the same rating names or some other working system. Who knows, perhaps the Automattic will be willing to host such a service for the benefit of their userbase. But yeah, potential.

So anyway, I really hope I’ll see you all clicking away below, and you should even see this as an option on your RSS reader. 😉 Normal comments are of course welcome as always and do let me know if you think that a category should be swapped to something better.

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  1. And stopped using it due to its slowness. That service has now shutdown due to hosting costs. No wonder as the whole thing was extremely centralized []

Mutualist Political Economy ebook

Cover of Mutualist Political EconomyAfter converting the AFAQ to an ebook format, I’ve thought I might as well release some of the other stuff I’ve converted for my personal use. One of them is Studies in Mutualist Political Economy which I’ve been reading lately. Like the AFAQ, I’ll provide you below with a few popular versions for ebooks along with the master copy which you can use to create your own versions.

  • pdf – 9x12cm with index
  • rtf
  • epub
  • odt – master copy in open document format

Of course, I’ve already contacted Kevin Carson to get the OK for this and apparently the book is available on a copyleft license (GFDL? He didn’t specify) so I can post the files here without problem. Eventually he’s going to host the files on his own site as well.

Since I’m on the subject, perhaps it would be appropriate to say a few things about the content of the book. For someone like me who basically self-educated on libertarian socialism as who has come to the conclusion that the labour theory of value applies, a synthesis of LTV with Marginalism sounded promising. However, even though I enjoyed the refutation of Böhm-Bawerk’s criticism of the LTV, the actual synthesis didn’t impress me. I won’t make a substancial critique here (perhaps another time) but I’ll say that too much weight was given to Austrian “axioms” and shaky conclusions about free markets.

Nevertheless, it’s still an interesting book and it was the first time I read soemething from the Mutualist perspective. If nothing else, it gave me a few more ideas to write about and pointed out some differences between that and social anarchism.

The best solution for multilingual blogs is here!

translation
Image by Swiv via Flickr

Through NoState.com I’ve come to discover Transposh, a new WordPress plugin that promises to make the task of translating pages of your site to other languages very easy, and to also take reduce the personal effort required to do so by crowd-sourcing the task.And boy does it deliver!

You may have noticed that I occasionally write in other languages, particularly in my native Greek. That doesn’t happen so often because my audience is mainly international now but it still bugged me that my choice of language was in effect making it difficult for my friends and relatives from my birthland to follow and participate. However the task of replicating each post on another language was simply too much to bother.

However Transposh finally gives me an opportunity to fix this. I can much more easily do the task of translating my pages to my native language myself, since it utilizes google translate to get your text changed, transparently. That is, the text will switch to the google translation of the language you want and you can edit and fix it right there and then, without having to go through the dashboard or anything.

Not only that, but the elements of the page which exist in other locations as well, such as the title or the header, once corrected once do not need to be corrected in every other page of your site as well, but rather are intelligently cached and served.

Oh, and did I mention the crowd-sourcing part? This is my favourite bit. Transposh gives the opportunity for the blog author to not only allow other registered users to translate, but also for anonymous as well. This means that all interested parties can help improve your site. This might not be of much use for small fishes such as me, but for larger players with an international audience, it will certainly provide a lot more labour. Of course, there’ always the issue of vandalism, but much like any wiki, some solutions should be possible.

You can see how translating with Tranposh looks like. The colour show the status of each sentence (Google-translation, Human-edited or none)
You can see how translating with Tranposh looks like. The colour show the status of each sentence (Google-translation, Human-edited or none)

This crowd-sourcing now means that if you find an interesting article in a Transposh-enabled site, you can help translate to the language you wish (of those the author made available) and then send the link to all your friends whos’ foreign language skills are not so good.

For an Alpha version plugin, I’m impressed. Both at the quality of the code but also at the quality of the support. The main developer is lightning quick to respond and help with problems (although that’s bound to change as the plugin becomes more popular I guess). For example, my first and largest problem was that it seemed that the translation of each page was taking forever, sucking all my resources and that caching was not happening. However after some discussion with the developer, I discovered that by simply leaving the first translation to finish, everything became much snappier on subsequent attempts. That is because the general elements are translated once on the first time (which on an element heavy page like mine can take a while) but are cached once this is completed.

Oh, and did I mention that that it can also make nice permalinks for your translated articles that are indexable by google and cacheable by Hyper-Cache? (And I assume WP Super-Cache as well). For example, you can find the Greek translation of this article here.

So if you’re writing a multi-language WordPress blog or if you have an international audience, I think it’s time you give this plugin a go. Even if you don’t have the time to perform the task, you give the capability for others to read it easily (without having to go to visit google first) or even do the full job of translation themselves for the most interesting stuff.

For the Division by Zer0, I’ve now activated the Greek and German languages since I don’t expect people from other places to visit much. However if you’d like another option, simply let me know and I’ll enable it.

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100.000

The Division by Zer0 has finally passed the 100.000 unique visitors mark.  W00t!

I only noticed this from my WordPress stats, which count my visitors since Feb 2008, but Google Analytics gives me about the same number since 2006 (and that is always much reduced). So I can safely say that I’ve passed this little milestone in the life of this site. It’s not incredibly important, but it’s nice to know that so many people have read what small I had to say.

Here’s to 1 Mil 🙂

And now, some stats, just for the heck of it:

  • Current RSS Subscribers: ~200
  • Most popular referrers: Google Search, Stumbleupon and Reddit.
  • Google Pagerank: 4
  • Number of posts: 653
  • Number of comments: 3.221
  • Number of times banned from blogs: 4 😉

Fun.

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Comment Hell with Intense Debate

The Rocket Breaks Down album cover
Image via Wikipedia

For the last month, Intense Debate has been behaving extremely badly. It’s been hiding comments from everyone, on seemingly random rates and times. Basically, at various occassions, replies to particular threads would disappear. Sometimes it would be just one or two replies, at others it would be the whole thread past the first reply.

And while this started out mild, as the month passed, it has grown progressively more intense, to the point where now there’s always at least some replies missing, and at worse, hundreds of them. This is even more annoying since those comments still exist in the system (ie, I can see them in the dashboard) but appear sporadically. So in one refresh I will see 90/100, and the next refresh I will see only 15.

Unfortunately, the developers have really dropped the ball on this. Even though this seemed from the start as a quite important problem, and even though this was reported early on, there was initially no response, then there was some non-functioning workarounds, and finally the problem was acknowledged just last week after me and other started screaming bloody murder. Incidentally, it was at this point where this was becoming unbrearable which I assume meant some of their big name clients started complaining as well.

So now, this is creating a comment hell situation for me, especially for the long discussions I’ve opened with Lockeanists and the like. Not only do many people get confused about their disappearing replies, but they also get the impression that I’m secretly deleting comments. And this just too much.

So for now, I’m going to stop replying to comments until this fucking issue is resolved. This is not say that I will leave your replies unanswered, but that I will only start a conversation, when a conversation can be maintained. Of course, this assumes that IDC will get their act together and fix this annoying bug ASAP. If this does not happen, I may have to do the unthinkable and remove it altogether in order to be able to discuss again.

Needless to say, this whole situation is seriously pissing me off, especially since I’ve been a devout proponent of IDC for a while now.

I’ll be updating this post with the status of this comment hell in the future.

UPDATE1: It seems that the IDC folks have finally located the code causing this and have produced a fix to stop this from happening in the future. Now all that’s left is fixing the problem as it already exists and they plan to push an update for this once they know the fix worked.

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