Tag Archives: Bloggy stuff

Ten Things You All Need To Stop Doing Immediately.

1) Making web sites that I have to join even to browse. Especially if your web site exists with the intention of selling me something. If I had to sign up for a mailing list to walk into a store, I’d never walk into that store.

2) Using that “beverage on keyboard or monitor” joke. I love tired old stale jokes as much as the next guy, as evidenced by my continued enjoyment of LOLcats. And even I got tired of the “you owe me a new keyboard” thing sometime before Mosaic was released. It was a clever witticism when first used back on Usenet before the Great Renaming. Now it’s just a supremely inefficient way of saying “LOL.”

3) Creating links that always open a new tab or window. This is a lot more common than it used to be, and there may well be some people who expect it as the default. If your machine has enough RAM, this may not bother you: you may even find it convenient.  I like being able to open things in a new tab, too, so that I can check out a link and continue reading your page where I left off. I do that when I want to by holding down a key as I click. Having that choice taken away from me means every single link I click eats more RAM, and it costs me an hour a day or more dealing with RAM shortage induced slowness.

4) Variations on the “You Win The Internet” comment as a means of agreeing emphatically. This isn’t nearly as time-worn as the joke mentioned in #2, but wouldn’t it be nice to let it remain slightly funny by going on to another joke?

5) Running web ads that load after the page does, and then cause other items on the page to shift positions as it loads. Most commonly, this is seen in top banner ads that push everything else down the screen a couple of inches. Usually just as I click on the story I want to read, only to have that link scroll out from under my pointer causing me to open up either an ad or a resource-intensive page I had no intention of loading.

6) Ending a comment by saying something like “Flame away.” Or “Go ahead and ban me.” You are almost certainly not as heroically iconoclastic as you think you are. If you were, you wouldn’t claim to be. It’s like being “innovative” or “a maverick”: claiming you are usually means you aren’t.

7) “tl;dr.” This is first cousin to the perennial “I don’t care about this unimportant topic” comment, which is a self-refuting comment. Going out of your way to proclaim a post too long to retain your interest says more about you than it does about the essay. Sure, plenty of people online go on at great and self-indulgent length where they could have been much more concise, and this blog offers a number of examples of the practice, possibly including this post. But an effective counter to that involves using actual words to detail your objection to longwindedness. Saying “tl;dr” isn’t an effective criticism of longwindedness: it’s a confession of your short attention span and laziness.

8) Calling them “infographics” when they aren’t. This is an infographic. It conveys information in graphical form, using text as labels rather than the sole source of actual information. This is NOT an infographic. It’s a bunch of information in text for with pretty pictures to decorate it, and would be no less informative if you took the images out.

9) Using images to publish a piece of text you like, as in:

When you post images with words in them but fail to provide a caption or alt text, you are saying that you do not care whether blind people are included in your sharing of information. And quite frankly, that sucks ass. -Helen Keller

In addition to the accessibility issue, you may have noticed that Helen Keller probably didn’t say anything like the above.  Misattributions of people’s words are rampant with these things. That’s probably inevitable: asking people to factcheck whether Chief Seattle actually said anything about thousands of rotting buffalo carcasses is almost certainly too much to expect of people. (He didn’t, by the way.) But in addition to the whole accessibility issue, images take a lot longer to download, and a lot more memory to display, than the text you’re actually sharing. Not much of an issue for a single image, but when was the last time you went to Facebook and saw just one of these on a page?

10) Speaking of #9: those things that are essentially the same thing except they have a bunch of animated gifs in comic-strip sequence, showing an interaction or event with dialogue that was originally part of a fully web-compatible video? Cut that shit out this instant.

Coyote Crossing’s floors are getting knuckle-scuffed

Coyote Crossing has been discovered by a couple of off-roader sites, and I’ve had to throw comments into moderation to keep the worst and most badly misspelled comments from sullying our comment threads. I’ve been approving the ones that are merely completely wrong. And even though it didn’t make the cut, I had to admit I enjoyed the one from “4X4Life” that started off:

Congratulations your a moron.

The down side of this is that comments from non-yahoos will be sent into moderation as well. I apologize for this and will approve your comments as fast as I can.

The up side is that every visit to this site boosts its rank on the Nature Blog Network’s toplist, and so by linking to Coyote Crossing, the off-roaders are making this site more prominent, thus bringing a realistic viewpoint on this insanely destructive, utterly indefensible pastime of sociopaths to far more people. Funny, that. 

Moderation

Low-key blog maintenance stuff: I’ve created a new membership type, “Moderator,” which is exactly like being a regular member with one exception: Moderators can edit or close other people’s comments.

I did this because every once in a while there are stray trollish comments that pop up, climate change denialists and right-wingers only looking to start comment fusterclucks. (To be distinguished from right-wingers looking to have actual conversations.) I’m not always around to nuke the trolls, and I know how tempting it can be to respond to people like that. I like the constructive conversations and disagreements we have around here and I suspect some of the rest of you do as well.

If you’re a regular around these parts with a good sense of the difference between honest disagreement and bad-faith trolling, not to mention the difference between actual comments and the new outbreak of individually crafted spam comments, and you wouldn’t mind making the occasional easy single click to send a comment into moderation, lemme know. Moderators will also be able to edit comments to fix broken links and such. Signing up implies no obligation on your part: it’s just a way of giving a few folks the ability to make constructive contributions that they probably already wish they could.

Creek Running North cob-loggers Theriomorph and Kat and Stephanie already have this special power and are welcome to use it if they like. (No obligation, of course.) Space Kitty’s been added to the list of moderators. Two or three more helpful people would be nice.

Interested? .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
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Using Google Earth, researchers find unmapped Mozambique wilderness

From Birdlife.Org:

<blockquote cite="http://www.birdlife.org/news/news/2009/01/mount_mabu.html
“>

…scientists who recently discovered a hidden forest in Mozambique show the uncharted can still be under our noses. BirdLife were part of a team of scientists who used Google Earth to identify a remote patch of pristine forest. An expedition to the site discovered new species of butterfly and snake, along with seven Globally Threatened birds.

About that sacred right to private property?

Gosh, the moonbat icon here, used with neither credit nor permission, looks awfully familiar.

Looks as though the linchpin of conservative thought, Private Property Rights, only applies to their own. Shocking.

[Updated] Well, I’ll give them this: they took it down politely when I asked.

US National Park Meme

I call the Mojave National Preserve “The Park” as often as not, but I’m painfully aware that it isn’t one. The difference between “Preserve” and “Park” status? Hunting is allowed in National Preserves. Letting hunters shoot things in the Preserve was a compromise reached in the 1994 California Desert Protection Act that pacified a key constituency opposed to Park status for what had been the East Mojave Scenic Area.

(Did you know that you can shoot all the coyotes you want in the preserve, any time of year, if you have a valid license? That’s not specific to the Preserve: it’s California law. Still. There are pumas in the Preserve, including at least one who skulks around Cima Dome, but given their relative numbers coyotes still function as the top predator in the Preserve. Yet it’s legal to kill them all if you can. This hardly strikes me as sensible management, and I imagine Preserve staff would likely agree were their hands not tied. I can understand shooting one if she’s trying to raid your lamb pen — it’s not a feasible solution long-term, but I can understand the impulse. But what kind of sick person would stalk and shoot coyotes for fun? A sane society would keep tabs on people like that, the way we do now with convicted sex offenders.)

Where was I?

Oh, yeah. There are plenty of full-fledged US National Parks where hunting isn’t allowed: 58 of them, in fact. A list of them, cut-n-pasted from Wikipedia, is below the fold. In the spirit of those “crazy things you’ve done in your life” memes, I’ve bolded those I’ve visited. Feel free to do the same in comments, (though just deleting the ones you haven’t visited might be easier!) or on your own blog, and let us know you’ve done it. Don’t see one in the list you know you’ve visited? It’s probably a National Preserve or a National Monument, or one of the dozen or so other categories of Park Service unit. Perhaps even a National Forest. Non-US residents can participate by telling us about some of the fine parks outside the belly of the beast. And yes, this list reflects a certain amount of assumption of privilege in that travel costs money and time, and if you’ve been unable to do the Parks Tour thing, feel free to tell us about a local place you like, NP, National Monument, State Park, or otherwise.

Bonus question: what’s the next National Park you’d like to visit?

Oh, and it’s not a meme unless you tap people for it, so I’m pointing at Rana, Sherwood, RonArvind,  and Dave.

Continue reading

Conversations I’ll be avoiding in 2009

Talking to all different kinds of people is important, and I enjoy it most of the time. Modern life offers plenty of chances for insularity, parochiality, echochamberosity and related plaints, and it’s good to avoid those. And the exigencies of surviving in this society demand at times that you talk to people you’d rather not talk to, and do so as pleasantly and constructively as possible. But there’s necessity and then there’s time-wasting. There are people with whom talking is not exactly productive. They are a tiny minority of the world’s people, but I have wasted enough time. And thus, in 2009, I’m going to try not to spend unnecessary time conversing with people who:

• Spend more than a sparing and reluctant amount of time trashing mutual acquaintances. Amazing how long it’s taken me to figure out what sorts of things such folks say to their other friends about me.

• Send email or leave comments entirely in all-caps. If they haven’t mastered the notion that capital letters are for beginning sentences and proper nouns, acronyms, and occasional emphasis or exuberance, then it’s unlikely they’ve put enough thought into what they say to me to merit my spending a lot of time crafting thoughtful responses. Spelling errors may well be a result of disability, and both spelling and grammar problems might come from unfamiliarity with the language, so neither of those serve as a reliable marker of carelessness. But there’s no reason for all-caps all the time.

• Insist that complex political and sociological phenomena can be explained by lumping 20-year age cohorts into “generations” and assigning virtues and failings en masse to members of those “generations.” My favorite one of these took place recently over at Michael’s joint in comment five on this post. (You reject everything about the Baby Boomers? Way to be totally unlike the Baby Boomers there, pal.)

• Slag me for not fitting in to their crowd, clique, or world-view. Thing is, I realized this year I’ve never fit in anywhere — except by myself, in wild surroundings. People are free to think what they want about me being unhip, the wrong kind of activist, the wrong kind of writer, writing about the wrong topics, not traveling in the right circles, linking to the wrong people, not linking to the right people, or for that matter having the wrong brain chemistry. They might even be right. I don’t care anymore. I know what I want to do, and I’m doing it.

• Have only one apparent setting. Don’t care whether it’s snark, outrage, drama-seeking, passive-aggression, reflexive mockery, piousness, or self-conscious irreverence. There are people who can shift from one setting to another, and I like them better.

• Go out of their way to describe to me the multifarious ways in which I am worthless. The necessity of avoiding these people has been a surprisingly hard lesson to learn, and in fact I have on occasion felt a strange compulsion to get to know them better. This may be because being told in agonizing detail how I fail to measure up brings up all kinds of happy childhood memories. The Gestalt therapists call it “unfinished business.” Well, you know what? I’m finished.

• Are currently middle school students, or act like they are.

I think that’s it. Fortunately, that leaves about six billion people I can still talk to. Some of them are even on the Internet.

Wee Thump Sunset

wee thump

Slept on the ground last night in sub-freezing temperatures. Woke up surrounded by Joshua trees growing out of patches of snow. Drove with The Raven along Route 66. Ate lunch-dinner at the Bagdad Café.

Best Birthday Ever.

Also, please join me in wishing Coyote commenter Arvind and his beloved a happy first anniversary!

Find that receipt

Eric has an gift or two he’s planning to return this week, including:

… Ken Salazar. But then, we actually pay attention to Interior. Its one of those “Indian Things”, like siting in circles talking to rocks, or watching the revolving doors at DoJ and Interior and K Street as the Savages of Wyoming move billions out of the MMS and into the coffers of corporations that love the RNC more than butter.

Back online!

Thanks for your patience if you came by and noticed the test pattern. I’ve updated the CMS and all seems to be working well.

For those who’re interested, the CMS I use is Expression Engine, which I really like. It’s a lot more configurable than any of the alternatives I’ve used, and for those of you who maintain your own site I recommend you give it a try. One downside is that updating the software is not a one-click process. But that’s an upside, too: about half the stuff I hear about WordPress, for instance, is that people are locked into upgrade features they don’t want.

EE isn’t open-source, but it’s all php scripts, so there’s nothing to keep a tinkerer from getting in there and rewriting/augmenting the code to suit their own uses. There’s a developer community that does just that, and they make some of the results available for free. Cool stuff. End unsolicited, unpaid product endorsement.

Outages

At some point over the next day I’ll be upgrading this site’s system software. Given that the net connection here sometimes hangs for moderate stretches of time, this may take a little bit and the site may act strangely in the meantime. More strangely than usual, I mean. Any outage should be short-lived.

All My Internet Friends

Ever have the experience of thinking you know someone fairly well and all of a sudden they pull out a talent you didn’t know they had and display it and it’s obvious they have this whole side of their life you knew nothing about, and it’s like a curtain pulling aside and suddenly your world is bigger?

I had no idea Amanda French could do this.

Amazon Honor System closing down

It’s a mysterious thing, and no one seems to be talking about it online, but account holders with the Amazon Honor System got a note this week in their email, saying, in part:

Beginning December 11, 2008, the Amazon Honor System will be discontinued. This means that PayBoxes on member websites and PayPages on Amazon.com will no longer function.

Amazon Honor System members should make plans now to remove Honor System PayBoxes from their websites. This can be done by simply removing the HTML code originally provided for PayBoxes from your page code document.

We will provide access to disbursement information through December 30, 2008, to allow all transactions to be settled. After that date, Amazon Honor System account pages will be removed from the Amazon.com website. We urge members to create file copies of necessary financial information before account pages are removed.

Anyone here have any idea why this might be happening?

This is a bit of a shame. It leaves those of us who absolutely hate PayPal with no entry-level alternative for online currency exchange. And even if you don’t hate PayPal, this move essentially makes PayPal a monopoly.

While Amazon Honor System had its detractors, and there were a few aspects of the AHS that irked even its supporters, it allowed a fair number of good-works-style donations. It was a valuable tool for readers to show their appreciation of favorite writers. (Readers of Creek Running North used it generously to support my work.) I was able to use my AHS account to raise funds for Lauren, founder of the groundbreaking feminist blog Feministe, to attend the Blogher conference in 2006, covering airfare and expenses and wages lost by taking a few days off without pay. Readers at CRN also, and perhaps more importantly, gave generously to help Gilgamesh pay his emergency vet bills this summer.

So here’s a belated and repeat and fervent thanks, to those of you who gave to Lauren, Gilly/Tmorph, and/or me, and if you’ve been meaning to do that latter you have two days left. Whatever the reason for the program being discontinued, it’s a blow to the online microeconomy, and it’s unlikely that another company will step up to offer an equivalent service. (Yes, I know about Google Checkout. Unless you’re a PAC or a non-profit, you need to sell something tangible to use the service.)