Archive for October, 2005

Cites & Insights 5:12 Available

Posted in Media, Writing and blogging on October 14th, 2005

One rule for Cites & Insights is that issues never appear on Friday or Saturday. It has to do with the delay between the first round of publicity (this post, the same post on the C&I Alerts blog, a text-only mailing at Topica, and roughly the same post at LISNews) and the second round (forwarding the Topica post, sans ad, to a few big library lists).

So I’m breaking the rules this time.

Cites & Insights 5:12, November 2005 is now available for downloading.

This 22-page issue (PDF, but HTML versions of each essay are available from the home page) includes:

  • Bibs & Blather – five little essays, including a new email address for publishable feedback.
  • Net Media Perspective: Analogies, Gatekeepers and Blogging – some notes about net media and analogies, more comments on Civilities’ “New Gatekeepers” series (and a related essay on citizen journalism), notes on seven other blogging essays and papers, and a few notes on Meredith Farkas’ first-rate demographic survey of the biblioblogosphere.
  • The Library Stuff – five cited items
  • Library Access to Scholarship – general notes on sources, events and comments on “building the archives” (NIH, RCUK, and Wellcome, and six cited articles. OCA is too new and too important to squeeze into this essay.
  • Interesting & Peculiar Products – eleven products and services.
  • The Good Stuff – four cited items

Correction: As Jon Gorman points out in the first comment here, there’s an error on p. 16: “quality over quantity” should, of course, read “quantity over quality.”

What isn’t in the November C&I, 2

Posted in Technology and software on October 14th, 2005

More stuff you won’t find in the forthcoming Cites & Insights 5:12:

  • An expanded commentary on possible futures and win:win vs. zero-sum scenarios.
  • 4,000 words that were in the edited essays, but brought the whole issue to 27 pages with 20,500+ words. The first-round cut (which deleted the blather in the previous post, and a bunch of other stuff) brought that down to 18,000 words and 24 pages. Another round of cuts, mostly commentary, brought that down to 16,500 words and 22 pages. That issue will be coming soon. (How soon? Within the next hour.) A really good editor could doubtless bring that down to 20, 18, or 16 pages–but at some point it would cease to be my commentary.
  • This other piece of blather, sacrificed during round two. So, of 4,000 excess words, I’ve tossed fewer than 1,000 your way via these two posts. The other 3,000 are where they probably should be: In that great bit-bucket in the sky.

Better than the Original?

This has come up before: The possibility that a CD-R can sound better than the CD from which it was recorded—and the ancillary situation in which an audio reviewer who considers LPs vastly superior to CDs in sound quality uses CD-Rs to demonstrate the differences between turntables and cartridges (as recorded to CD-R).

Part of me wants to say “hogwash” when I hear the first claim, putting it in the same category as improving CD sound by painting a green stripe around the edge, freezing the CD, or demagnetizing it—pseudoscientific mumbo-jumbo that works just as long as the person listening believes it works.

But in the case of CD-R vs. CD, it’s not entirely clear that it’s nonsense—at least not if you believe that jitter and error correction can have subliminally audible side effects. Once a CD has been ripped to a hard disk, assuming the ripping works properly (and you’re ripping to a .WAV or .AIF file or to a lossless compression format), there should be no errors and jitter should no longer be a factor. While playback jitter from a CD-R made from that file may still be a factor, the one-off CD-R should have no errors (unlike pressed CDs, which are likely to have some small and fully correctable error rate).

Will I swear that any of my CD-Rs (re-expanded from 320K MP3 compression) sound better than the CDs they came from? No, but I also have very modest sound equipment and somewhat damaged hearing. Do I think a few of the cuts are cleaner and less edgy than the originals? Yes—but that may actually be the effects of lossy compression. Do all claims that CD-R copies can sound better than the originals fall into the snake oil realm? I no longer believe they do. But when it comes to holding a little box over the CD for a minute to permanently improve the sound—there I’m back on the side of the skeptics.

What isn’t in the November C&I, 1

Posted in Cites & Insights on October 14th, 2005
  • You won’t see a Perspective on LTB (Life Trumps Blogging).
  • No Copyright sections
  • No real discussion of the Online Content Alliance or Google Print.
  • No color illustrations or animations.

For the first three, it’s a lack of space and time–and for the third, I’d like to let the fat folder of source material grow a little more before putting it into perspective. OCA’s too important for a hasty comment.

For the fourth–well, business as usual.

What will you see in Cites & Insights 5:12 (November 2005)? Stay tuned. Barring earthquake or other natural or human disaster, it will appear sometime between this afternoon and Sunday evening.

Here’s a bit of blather that was cut from Bibs & Blather as part of a fairly ruthless editing process, offered up here because it will be far too stale by the time the December C&I appears:

Politics in Disguise

I find it fascinating that the house organ of ALA, decried by so many “conservatives” as a hotbed of leftists, has one and only one columnist who freely insinuates political opinion in his offerings—and that columnist is a conservative. That’s “Will’s World.”

I don’t intend to start a “Will watch,” but I was impressed by the ease with which Manley dismissed the non-Bush perspective on Social Security in the August 2005 American Libraries. He says it’s all about “the concept of trust”—those in favor of privatization “feel that American workers should be trusted to invest the money that is deducted from their paychecks for Social Security” while those who favor keeping it “completely in the hands of the government don’t think that workers can be trusted to make prudent investments with their retirement money.”

Isn’t that simple? Here you thought the argument involved tens of billions of dollars of profits for stockbrokers, keeping faith with those who have paid into Social Security, whether there should be any sort of safety net, and issues like that.

Nope: It’s all about trust, and if you think workers are competent, you must favor privatization. It’s that simple in Will’s World.

I’m not going to comment directly on the “loneliness of the conservative librarian” column or the discussions of that column in various places. I did find one early set-to bemusing and noteworthy. One ALA Councillor (his name does not begin with an R) wrote a blunt response to the commentary, posting it on the council list and on Publib. One of the first reactions on Publib made a snide comment about “your reality-based party line” in dismissing the Councillor’s reaction. What I find bemusing here is that the right-wing reaction seemed to think “reality-based party” is an insult. Maybe in some circles it is, more’s the pity.

TV or not TV?

Posted in Movies and TV, Writing and blogging on October 14th, 2005

Not Hamlet’s question (although it’s not a bad Mondegreen), but…

I’ve been struck over the past few days by several people (librarians, librarian bloggers) pointing out that They Don’t Watch TV, Don’t Want to Watch TV, Don’t Even Own a TV.

It’s pretty clearly a point of pride in some cases, although in others it’s just a lifestyle comment.

By comparison, I don’t happen to own a DVR–yet–but that’s mostly because we’re cheap, own an S-VHS VCR that provides comparable quality, and haven’t yet gotten quite sick enough of a growing flood of commercials every five minutes even on the major networks to kick in for the DVR and watch everything on a slight-delay basis. It’s not a point of pride that I don’t own one, and that lack of ownership is likely to be a temporary situation (go back and reread the previous sentence if you wonder why); when, in the past, I’ve commented on reasons for not (yet) owning a DVR [OK, "TiVo" if you only know the dominant brand name], it had to do with the prevalent comment that “we see so much more TV since we got one” and our lack of desire to watch a whole bunch more TV. Thus, a few months ago, commenting on the lack of a DVR was a form of lifestyle comment; now, it’s just something we haven’t purchased yet because we’re cheap, slow, and not particularly fond of collecting Things. (One advantage of always living in tiny starter houses: With no room for Things, you tend not to accumulate them.)

Back to the point: I was particularly bemused by a librarian who feels the professional need to know about pop culture–but neither owns nor plans to buy a TV. Isn’t that a little like feeling the professional need to know Unix but neither owning nor planning to buy a computer?

Yes, TV is mostly crap. (Sturgeon’s Law applies to TV even more than it applies to books, music, and the like. Actually, what he said was: “Sure, 90% of science fiction is crud. That’s because 90% of everything is crud.”)

But, quite apart from the usefulness of having the Weather Channel and CNN and local news available at certain difficult times, TV also has remarkably good stuff, even excluding pay channels. The best of TV stands up to critical scrutiny and bears comparison with all but the very best of movies (and I’m not sure about the qualifier there) and, certainly, most books. And by “the best of TV” I don’t mean TV movies, miniseries, and specials–TV movies are, after all, just that: Movies made for broadcast, but movies nonetheless. (I was going to say “made for the little screen,” but that’s silly these days.)

I mean series. I mean network series. I mean Northern Exposure, Moonlighting, Desperate Housewives, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and any number of others over the years. Some of them hits; some failures. (OK, I don’t mention much in the way of CSI/Law & Order/etc., mostly because I’m an early-bird and just don’t watch 10p.m. shows much.)

Our local TV critic, who I frequently deride (at least internally), claims that TV making is, on the whole, superior to movie making. I’m not sure I agree–but there’s a craft to building characters whose interaction and lives continue to matter over the course of a hundred hours or more that’s different and in some ways more impressive than putting together a script that starts and ends in 90 minutes or 2 hours. And, of course, a typical TV show has to work on a much tighter budget (both in dollars and time) than a typical movie; TV can’t really just keep us in the seats with fight scenes, explosions, and special effects.

I’m certainly not arguing that anyone who Doesn’t Own a TV should run right out and buy one–just as I’d reject an argument that I need to run out and listen to lots of rap music or that I’m obliged to run out and buy PDAs. Personal time is one of the few true zero-sum games; if you find your time and attention more valuably spent on other things, well, good for you. (Seriously.)

On the other hand, your choice to opt out of an entire slice of contemporary culture doesn’t give you moral superiority. It’s a choice, comparable to choosing never to eat Asian food or pizza: Neither a commendable nor a necessarily unfortunate choice.

(Yes, it’s Friday.)

Bloglines improvements

Posted in Writing and blogging on October 13th, 2005

Christina noticed it first (or at least hers is the first entry I saw about it), but I was pleasantly surprised when I clicked on Bloglines first thing this morning and saw “65:1″ as a count for unread library blog postings and, looking down the list, “0:1″ for the one blog where I had a “keep new” checkmark for a post.

Nice. Very nice. This unobtrusively reminds you of the keep-new items you have–and the “0:” lets you skip that blog since there’s nothing really new.

Bloglines also added a set of navigation fastkeys, but I haven’t used those yet.

Just a brief fanboy metablog!

Update: Now I’ve used the fastkeys. Very neat, and a great way to reduce mousing. Yeah, I’ve seen this subscription; ‘s’ gets me to the next one (as long as I don’t confuse a subscription with a folder, since ‘f’ goes on to open all the posts in the next folder as a single stream). Nice.

This time for sure?

Posted in Books and publishing, Libraries on October 10th, 2005

Maybe it’s time for another round, and another round is what we seem to be getting.

Blake Carver writes a long, heartfelt essay at LISNews coming down on the “digital side”–with a series of “ten years will fix all that” responses to the questions he’s inclined to raise, an assertion that the young’uns are all deserting print, and the sense that the library’s place will be lost. (That’s a really bad summary of a long piece, which has already had 27 comments. I’ve printed it out–too long to read and think about otherwise–and will probably prepare some sort of commentary later, either here or in C&I. This isn’t it: This is just a preliminary musing. That’s why there’s no link.)

Daniel Chudnov is quoted with a five-year “be there or be square” clarion call, based on everything being all-digital all the time.

Update on the paragraph above: Dan takes exception to being misquoted–although, if you read the paragraph above, I don’t actually quote Dan. I picked it up from a third party. But now that Dan’s done an extended post, well, go read his post. Maybe he doesn’t think it’s a “this time for sure” post, but I certainly do. As to my abilities as a futurist–I’ve always said that I don’t pretend to be a prophet. I don’t remember a conversation about Amazon (I remember Dan pushing me very hard to try to convince RLG to make some money-making software open access). If I was dead wrong about Amazon–well, fine. I’m wrong about lots of things. Possibly including this one…but I don’t think so. Now, back to the post…

I think I’ve seen one or two others, and of course there are those who keep predicting “ten years from now” in the hope that they’ll eventually be right. Somehow, sales of Harry Potter do nothing to discourage the “young’uns don’t read print” meme; somehow, growing use of American public libraries by all ages and classes doesn’t matter (or isn’t real, or they’re all just checking computers, or something); somehow…well, this time, for sure.

I can’t prove otherwise. Nobody can. It has the same feeling as the prevailing wisdom of 1992.

I do know that I got back to my own public library a week ago (Sunday afternoon). It was busy. I’ve never seen it any other way. Sure, three or four people were browsing the surprisingly large DVD collection. Sure, a dozen (maybe 20) people were working on computers. But there were also at least 50 or 60 people in the adult stacks, a fair number over in the children’s areas, solid traffic at the two selfcheck machines, a short but steady line for the human checkout…

And it was all pretty typical. Loads of people taking out books and bringing them back, lots of others taking advantage of other resources, digital and otherwise. I saw kids, teenagers, young adults, and every age from there through retirement.

Maybe it’s time to forget about print, celebrate the all-digital near future, and give up on the services and spaces libraries provide so they can be hip to the future. But maybe, just maybe, things will continue to move along in complex and unpredictable ways–and those 300 million Harry Potter books (along with all the others that make young adult and children’s publishing healthy) aren’t imaginary.

As I say, this is just a preliminary musing. More later, I think.

Second update, Wednesday, 10/12:
No question: Blog “conversations” are a little peculiar in that the blogger gets to nominate the topics–and can warp the conversation by deleting comments, failing to approve them, or, ahem, modifying the original post to make comments look stupid.

I try not to do that last–but do choose in this case to use the blogger’s prerogative of adding to the post itself, not just commenting-on-comments.

My possibly-hasty reading of “the other posts” (setting aside Blake’s extended commentary for the moment) suggested to me that the writers were doing two things that caused a Reaganesque “there they go again” sense:

  • Assuming that e-paper/e-ink as a plausible replacement for print was finally Just Around the Corner. Which might be true–heck, I hope it is true–but I’ve been hearing the same thing for considerably more than a decade, and the existence of development kits doesn’t make me a true believer.
  • Discussing “digital ubiquity” in a way that seemed to suggest that everything else would be marginalized in a few years–that print collections would be essentially irrelevant, even if still there.

It’s quite possible that I was reading things into the messages. That happens with reading from the screen and posting offhand responses. Although, with at least one or two of the postings, I still get those sense fairly strongly.

If anyone believes I’m arguing that librarians should ignore digital possibilities, they’ve gone way beyond reading into my postings: That’s just wrong, flagrantly so. (If anyone believes that I’m arguing that many–most–innovations don’t work out in the marketplace, that’s absolutely true.) (And if anyone believes that I argue that, for most public librarians, treating print books as secondary is a good way to alienate your users…well, you’re right there as well.)

Want to set me up as an “only books matter” strawman? OK. I don’t know who that Walt Crawford actually is, but straw men are awfully convenient.

I used “and not or” as a summary of my credo for a long time. It still applies.

Sigh. I really do need to work on that fuller response. Maybe later in the blog. Maybe in the December C&I (not the November issue; that’s already starting the editing/paring stages.)

Second, try Word

Posted in Stuff on October 6th, 2005

[If you don't get the reference, look here.]

A colleague had an odd question. There were more than a thousand little log files, all just text. She needed to scan all of them for problems. If only they were one big file, it would be a snap. But was there a way to combine lots and lots of little text files into one big text file in one or two steps?

I said, “There must be, but I wouldn’t be the one to know how.” [The files are on a Windows box, but could always be moved to a Unix box, I suppose.] Then, she said, “You know, like in Word, if you have a bunch of chapters and you want to combine them all into one big manuscript…” Well, making a multichapter document’s a little more complicated, but I knew that you could actually attach multiple files to a document in a single step, using shift-mouse or control-mouse directory selection.

Hmm. Would Word import a whole bunch of text files in one step just by highlighting them all in a directory? If so, that would be a crude but entirely effective solution.

Sure enough: Works great. I happened to have a directory with 30 little .txt files. Opened a blank Word document, clicked on Insert File, chose .txt in the bottom menu, selected everything in the directory: Five or ten seconds later, I had a combined file. Since they were .txt files, Word wasn’t asking me whether to retain formatting or any of that stuff: It just appended everything. A thousand files might take a minute or two.

Of course, all you high-tech folks already knew this. But I didn’t. And it will save the colleague a couple of hours of inquiry…

SciFi Classics 50-movie Pack, Disc 4

Posted in Movies and TV on October 4th, 2005

This disc combines one of the strangest “sci-fi” pictures I’ve ever seen, a fairly typical cheaply-done B-grade flick, and two films derived from the 1954 syndicated TV series Rocky Jones, Space Ranger, which—according to the sleeve—“was cancelled after a single season because the costly special effects made it unprofitable.” Three of the four films have characters named “Winky”—reason enough to group them on the disc. In all four films, the people on other planets speak English—in the first case, because they watch Earth TV, in the second because it’s convenient, and in the others with a “but it’s so foreign” overlay and no really good explanation. (OK, in the fourth, the people on one planet that can’t possibly support human life also speak their own language.) I believe one or two of these have been on MST3K. The first is also on IMDB’s “100 worst movies” list.

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, 1964, color, Nicholas Webster (dir.), John Call, Leonard Hicks, Pia Zadora. 1:21

Taken from a copy for TV distribution (the AVCO TV logo appears before the title), the print is good—good color, decent VHS-quality appearance, good sound, very little damage. Now, about the picture… Martian kids are unhappy because they’re educated like grownups from birth, so a group of leaders goes to Earth to kidnap Santa Claus from his workshop at the North Pole. They do, they build him an automated workshop, and much strangeness ensues. Pia Zadora is presumably the big-name star in an entirely forgettable role. The theme song (“Hooray for Santa Claus,” with “Santa” consistently pronounced “Santy” even after it’s been spelled out), repeated at the start and end of the film, was almost enough to send me running screaming from the treadmill. Only “sci-fi” because there’s a rocket (and a tickle-gun, and a freeze-ray) involved. You get Wernher von Green, head of the space program; Mrs. Claus “positively identifying the kidnappers as Martians” (you can tell because they have olive skin and wear hoods with antennas); and a subplot about spaceships attempting to retrieve Santa that is simply dropped after using some stock footage. They don’t get much stranger than this. I can’t imagine ever watching it a second time, but it gets $0.75 for sheer novelty value.

Teenagers from Outer Space, 1959, b&w, Tom Graeff (dir.), David Love, Dawn Bender, Tom Graeff (who also produced and wrote). 1:25.

The blurb says, “The Martians are coming to Earth to raise the Gargon Herd, an unstoppable torrent of giant lobsters.” Well, they aren’t identified as Martians, and there’s no attempt to make them anything but pure human—but from some planet where kids don’t know their parents, there is no joy or love, and there’s a need for a planet to raise the Gargons as a reserve food supply. Why? Because the Gargons start out tiny, then grow to a million times the size, into enormous, vicious lobster-like creatures. They’ll kill everything on Earth, of course, but “what concern are foreign people to the supreme race?” One crew member (a good-looking teenager who turns out to be the son of the Great Leader, of course) objects to using a planet with intelligent life, and escapes. Plot ensues. There’s a weapon that eliminates all flesh from living things (skeletal special effects—or, rather, one skeleton reused several times). There’s lots of life in the 1950s. It’s silly, but it’s not a bad B movie. Decent print quality, good sound (seemingly stereo, but that’s unlikely). $1.

Crash of the Moons, 1954, b&w, Hollingsworth Morse (dir.), Richard Crane, Sally Mansfield, John Banner. 1:18 [1:12]

As cheap TV serials go, this one’s pretty good, with extensive sets and simple but adequate space stuff. The blurb notes “Rocky’s scantily clad assistant, Vena Ray” (Sally Mansfield), but she seems clothed in the women’s fashions of this near future—basically, a loose-skirted minidress with cape, neither particularly scanty nor at all shocking. The science doesn’t bear even crude scrutiny—for example, the “moons” in this case are twin “gypsy moons,” connected by a band of atmosphere and both fully capable of supporting human life, at least until one of them crashes into a planet whose female ruler doesn’t get along with the federation of planets. Good simple fun, actually, including an amusing sidekick (Winky), the stalwart hero (Rocky Jones, Space Ranger), and a kid. Decent print with some damage. $1, as long as you don’t expect credible sci-fi.

Menace from Outer Space, 1956, b&w, same director and cast (without John Banner). 1:18.

The same hostile female ruler (planet Officious?) is involved here as well, but mostly it’s about strange crystalline rockets being fired at Earth, apparently from a moon known to lack metals and clearly incapable of supporting life. Except, of course, that it does: Entirely human life, but on a planet where everything’s crystal-based. Spies, intrigue, general nonsense, and (as in Crash of the Moons) a kindly elderly professor. $0.75—the plot’s neither quite as ridiculous nor quite as interesting as the other one.

I was amazed to note that each of these is available on its own DVD, typically for $7 to $14. The notes on one of the Rocky Jones DVD releases suggest a print in much worse shape than the one used here–and this whole 50-movie set cost $25. Such is life.

Loud and tricky: The last Reno post

Posted in Stuff, Travel on October 4th, 2005

This is really a two-parter, finishing “Reno musing” and maybe clearing the way for relevant posts (don’t laugh: it could happen).

The first part is a grumble of sorts, pointed mostly at a few of the downtown Reno casinos: Turn down the music, dammit! Last time we visited, I thoroughly enjoyed Eldorado’s selection of music, played at appropriate volume (you could enjoy the music, but you could also converse or think). Ditto Silver Legacy. Other casinos had less interesting music selections, but only infrequently too loud.

This time (what, I can’t hear you over the music) (I said, THIS TIME) (sorry, I still can’t hear you…) the music at Eldorado was less interesting and the volume was nearly deafening. For two evenings, Silver Legacy was better: A little loud, but still interesting selections and not intolerable. Then, the third evening, the volume was up. Way up. Painfully way up. To the point that I actually went to the concierge desk and complained. Twice. After they said “yes, it is too loud, we’ll deal with it” the first time–and the volume went up again.

Oddly, most outlying places (e.g., Atlantis and Peppermill, also a casino in Carson City) we went to were much better in this regard–music at near-background levels. Making them much more pleasant places to be.

Then there’s the “tricky” part: The new slots. Much of this is good–after years in which there were ten nickel machines over in a corner and about an equal mix of quarter and dollar slots, now there are loads of penny machines as well, but mostly there are multidenominational “bill-in, print-out” machines, which accept folding money or cash-out tickets from other machines and where you can choose one of several denominations (either penny, nickel, dime, and quarter, or nickel, dime, quarter, half-buck, or in some cases quarter, buck, fiver), then choose one of several games (typically several poker variations or maybe keno/blackjack/traditional slots).

Not my first experience with ticket-out machines: that was at Harrah’s New Orleans (sigh) a year or so ago, but at that point, you had to go to the cashier to cash a ticket, which made it a nuisance. Most Reno casinos that have ticket-out machines also have remarkable multifunction machines that are ATMs (with huge fees), bill changers (with no fee), and ticket-redemption machines (even spitting out change): No fuss, no problem.

Harrah’s New Orleans was also my only previous experience with an intriguing variation on slot draw poker (my only real gaming preference, and one of few casino slots where you know the actual payback percentage right away, because the payback for each hand is posted): Multihand poker. You play some number of hands, typically one to three, one to five, or one to ten (but there are penny and nickel slots with one to fifty or one to one hundred); one hand is dealt; you decide which cards to hold. Then all the hands you play are treated as the same set of held cards, with the draw dealt separately for each hand. I like it–particularly since you’re not obliged to play more than one hand.

But there’s a downside to the multiway/multidenominational machines: The “bet max” button, always just a little too close to the draw/deal button. On traditional poker slots, the maximum bet is five (five quarters, five dollars, five nickels). Hit the wrong button by accident, and a little “Oops” is in order.

On the new machines, maximum bet may be fifty or even 100. If you’re playing pennies, no big deal. If you’re playing quarters…well, suddenly you’re putting $12.50 on a single play, which I would never intentionally do (in my socioeconomic range, that would move from gaming to gambling). I accidentally hit the wrong button just once; fortunately, I was dealt three of a kind, so it worked out OK…and I was extremely cautious about buttons from then on.

Did I see lots of people accidentally playing $12.50 hands when they intended to play $1.25? Not really. What I did see were the odd “non-problem/big-bucks” gamblers, the ones that casually slide $100 into a quarter machine, then keep hitting Bet Max until they run out of money, sometimes not even really looking at the machine. I base “non-problem” on the way they dress and look–these aren’t poverty cases. Some are young “action” players who just want to see fast action; some seem to be wiling away a few minutes before dinner or something. At $12.50 a pop. You’ll see the balance go up to, say, $300…and go down to nothing just as quickly, because they don’t really care about the money.

In some ways, I think that fifty-coin max buttons that are too easy to hit hurt the casinos, because they slow down play for all but the craziest players. You make very sure that you’re touching the right button…

That’s it for this little vacation. Thinking too much, I guess–one reason I’ll never be a big-time gambler (knowing my math is another reason: slot poker is cheap entertainment, but I know I’m going to lose–which is only cheap entertainment when it’s small-time gaming).

Oh, and if you submit a comment related to this post and it just doesn’t show up at all, apologies: Because of spamment, I’ve added a few words to the “delete automatically” vocabulary.

Spam, spam, spam, spam…

Posted in Media, Writing and blogging on October 4th, 2005

I read this post yesterday on It’s all good. They’re getting voip comment spam. I’m getting refinance/mortgage spam. Loads of it. All of a sudden.

Until yesterday, I think I’d gotten about two dozen spam comments over the six months this blog has been in operation–mostly relating to a popular form of poker, with a few that were actually related to posts well enough to be “semi-spam,” that is, marketing posts.

Yesterday, I got roughly 100 even–all but one from the same email address, with the usual mix of single-letter “messages,” “I disagree with your opinion,” and other stuff. The good news is that WordPress put all of it into moderation, and I was able to mark it all as spam (thus deleting it but also improving WordPress’ spam filters) in two strokes–one for the 30 that arrived yesterday afternoon, another for the 70 that were there this morning.

There was one post that almost passed muster, and maybe it wasn’t spam, but the link in it didn’t relate directly to the topic (and was a marketing blog!), so…

The bad news: One auto-generated mail message for each spam comment, flooding my mailbox and all having to be deleted. And, of course, if there had been any legitimate comments, getting rid of the spam would have been more complicated.

For now, I’ll let it ride: I treasure the conversations on this space. Next step would be to require moderation for all comments (and boy do I sympathize with bloggers who do that), particularly if spam comments start making it directly into the blog (happened once, and I deleted it) but that doesn’t help the overhead problem. Third step would be to see if Blake (or someone) knows of a WordPress plugin to require the word-response activation that It’s all good has gone to. I’m not fond of those devices (particularly since the distorted letters are sometimes almost impossible to get right), but…

Worst case scenario would be to shut off comments. I hope it doesn’t come to that. I wonder whether the sociopaths who run these spamment operations realize how much they’re harming the potential for net media to be worthwhile? I wonder whether they give a damn about anything except possibly improving their search engine rankings…and I think I know the answer. Sociopaths rarely care much about anyone but #1.

Oddly, I never intentionally prevented trackbacks from showing up in this blog–but, as it turns out, I’m just as happy that they don’t, since trackback spam seems particularly vile.


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