A Digital Reboot

It’s with mixed emotions that I retire my home on the web for the last decade. When I purchased radicalwacko.com back in 2001, I was a young, aggressive Libertarian, who thought that he could and should change the world. In other words, I was an insufferable, young, recent college graduate that you wanted to avoid making eye contact with and save yourself from the pedantic lecture that would inevitably ensue.

Now as an older, crankier libertarian – who increasingly doesn’t give a damn – it starts to be embarrassing to give out a domain like radicalwacko.com. If you are over the age of 35 and still think of yourself as a radical or a wacko, you are either deluding yourself or you really probably should be on a watch list. I actually blush every time the Best Buy clerk asks me for my email address. At a certain point, you have to ask yourself why keep a domain name that you refuse to acknowledge.

With that in mind, I decided I needed a new online persona. I’m still enough of a web geek/creative that I didn’t want to use my own name but I needed a less combative domain name. I purchased lostinok.com a few years ago with no real plans for it, but I just liked the name. More and more, it fits my more questioning mood and attitude.

So while I hate to admit that I don’t like everything about my 21-year-old self, at least I can like the fact that I am able to move on from some of the more distasteful remnants of that passionate, yet annoying fellow.

Of course, it turns out that attempting to change your online persona is actually a pretty daunting task once you get started, especially if you’ve had the same one for a decade or so. Dozens of websites are linked to this persona and hunting them all down is going to take some time.

However, I’m starting the big ones. So going forward, besides finding me here at lostinok.com, you can find me on Twitter @lostinokay (unfortunately, I was too late to get lostinok). At Facebook, you can find me at https://www.facebook.com/lostinok On Instagram, I am @lostinok. You can also reach me via email at nathan [at] lostinok[dotcom]. The rest of them will have to come gradually.

As to the website design, I think I have pushed my desire for retro minimalism as far as it can go. I welcome feedback since this is the first design I have mostly done myself in quite some time, though some credit is due to the Toolbox theme from Automatic.

In any case, I’m hoping that this new start is finally the impetus I needed to be a little more active in my writing and photography. However, if nothing else, it will be nice being able to make eye contact with that Best Buy clerk after all these years.


Feeds are Back

Thanks to the excellent help of the guys over at WordPress, the feeds are back. Besides this little set back, 1.5 is a great product. The theme system alone is enough to make it worth while. I’m still evaluating looking at a .NET product, such as DasBlog, so that I would be in a better position to edit the system, but for the time being I’m shelving any conversion for the time being.

All problems aside though, if you are a PHP developer, I would highly recommend using WordPress 1.5. It’s a great product.


Blog Issues

Sorry folks, but there are some blog issues I’m working through right now. While the upgrade to WordPress 1.5 seemed to go fine, all of my RSS feeds are returning 404 errors. My php skills are very poor so it may take me awhile to get them back up and running. If I can’t, I’ll have to switch of a .NET blog engine where I can understand the source code. ;)

I hope to have everything back to normal by this weekend.


Google Enters the Comment Spam War

This is kinda amusing to me because my buddy Peter and I were just talking this morning about how it was inevitable that Google would have to weigh in on the comment spam plague. Today they announced on their blog that they will be implementing an “nofollow” tag that will allow you to block links on your site from being used for ranking purposes on Google. The same rule applies to MSN and Yahoo searches. From the blog post:

If you’re a blogger (or a blog reader), you’re painfully familiar with people who try to raise their own websites’ search engine rankings by submitting linked blog comments like “Visit my discount pharmaceuticals site.” This is called comment spam, we don’t like it either, and we’ve been testing a new tag that blocks it. From now on, when Google sees the attribute (rel=”nofollow”) on hyperlinks, those links won’t get any credit when we rank websites in our search results. This isn’t a negative vote for the site where the comment was posted; it’s just a way to make sure that spammers get no benefit from abusing public areas like blog comments, trackbacks, and referrer lists.

[Via: Google Blog]

All I can say is thank goodness. Maybe it’ll at least slightly reduce the 300+ comment spams this site gets a day, although to keep beating a dead horse, the great product Spam Karma has been blocking them all. I’m also glad to see that my blogging engine, WordPress is already on the case.


On Compensation for “Free Stuff”

I should preface this post by saying I am not, in any real way, an open source developer. I feel no compulsion to distribute the source of my work for others to modify and distribute on their own without proper monetary compensation. In fact I am revolted by anyone who suggests that I have a moral obligation to do so. This is the talk of looters who wish to steal the works of others for their own purposes without the producers consent. However, my feelings on the politics of GNU style open source are well known and not the purpose of this post.

However, I do use several open source products which I assume are developed by people whose desired type of compensation are different than my own. I use WordPress for this blog as well as several plug-ins and tools to support it. Today, Dr. Dave, the creator of the Spam Karma comment spam blocking plug-in (a most excellent product), decided to quit development of this tool because of the mounting complaints about the “stability” of his plug-in in relation to the “alpha” versions of the WordPress engine. The straw that broke the camel’s back was a page long rant on Asymtomatic.com about issues he had with the recent releases of the Spam Karma plug-in.

I can say that I had a couple of issues in installing this plug-in, however, they were entirely due to my ignorance on folder permissions and were resolved with a tiny amount of research on these issues. At no time did I feel anger or resentment at the developer. He developed a product that would have taken me weeks for me to develop on my own and distributed it without charge because he thought it was cool enough for other bloggers to try out. I would have never thought to expect free support from him. At most, I would have dropped him an email letting him know about an issue that I couldn’t resolve only after I had exhausted all of my albeit limited knowledge. However, to self-righteously expect a bug-free product for which you have offered no compensation strikes me as the vilest sort of arrogance. If you can’t get the product to work, then develop your own, pay the developer for a support contract or shut the hell up.

I wouldn’t have posted about this except I noticed another egregious example of this behavior with another free product, although one that is not open source. The w.bloggar tool allows you to post to your blog from a Windows application. It is developed by an enterprising fellow named Marcelo from Brazil. Like Dr.Dave, he develops this app because he thinks it’s cool and wants others to get a chance to use his product. However, he’s also a very busy fellow and doesn’t get a whole lot of time to work on the product. After a long period of silence, he announced that he was still working on a new version of the product to which he got several condescending comments like this one:

Just a suggestion…
When you cannot work on a new version fast enough, you should at least give workarounds to make previous versions usable.

[Via wbloggar.com]

Where do you get off demanding that someone else work on a product that you haven’t paid for? I gave the guy a donation for the product because I used and liked it. However, because it was a donation and not a purchase, I would never demand that he get to work on the latest version. What gall!

These developers work on these products in exchange of the goodwill of those who use them. Their compensation comes from the numbers of users who use the product. If they don’t develop a good product, then don’t use it. But don’t complain about their inability to develop a good product. You have given nothing. You have provided nothing. All you have done is to consume their product for no cost on your side.

If anything, this has confirmed my distrust of the open-source consumer and hardened my resolved to remain a greedy, capitalistic and selfish software developer who demands money for my time.

Not that I have any strong opinions on the subject . . .


The Return of the Comments

One of the other features I forgot to mention that is returning with the new site is real time comments. I had turned on comment moderation when the comment spammers started bombarding my site. In the last couple of weeks, even that has gotten out of hand, with spammers requiring me to clean out over 100 comments a day.

So I started doing some research and found a couple of great plugins called Kitten’s Spam Words and Kitten’s Spaminator both written oddly enough by Kitten of mookitty.co.uk. SpamWords makes it much easier to train WordPress 1.2+ to block spam messages by allowing you to “mark messages as spam” which adds their email address, IP Address and URL to the blocked word list. The Spaminator combines two spam blocking/retribution concepts (Tar Pit and Three Strikes) to help block spam from even getting into your system and to punish those who try. With the use of these products, I have effectively cut down my total incoming comment spam to 5 moderated messages. None got through the screen to the actual site! Not to mention, by using the SpamWords plugin I will continue to improve the effectiveness of the Spaminator by providing it a better word list to select strikes from.

So if your blogging via WordPress and dealing with the plague that is comment spam, check these two products out. They are the first glimmer of hope I’ve had in this war in quite some time.

[Watching: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind]

WordPress GeoTag Hack

This is a little technical post for all of you geeks out there. I’ve really appreciated some of the features of the WordPress blog engine. One of the really unique features is the ability to attach latitude and longitude information to a particular post and for it to display a link to one of the various mapping sites out there. However, I also really appreciate the various blog posting clients (Azure, wBloggar, Zempt) for creating and editing my posts. But none of these clients has the geographic tagging ability built into it, which is especially important for mobile blogging. The following hack lets you enter latitude and longitude as XML tags within the post content and they’ll be stripped out and turned into the standard GeoTags.

Continue reading


Zempt

If you are looking for a great windows blogging tool, I’ve found it. Up to now, I’ve been using w.bloggar which is really a nice product. However, it is primarily designed to support users of Blogger.com. However, with this new product called Zempt, I can take advantage of the advanced options of the WordPress system such as multiple category posts and editing the post date/time. If you are a blogger, check it out..


Update Complete

Well that didn’t take nearly as long as I had anticipated. Still a few wrinkles to work out but all in all everything seems to be back to normal. I gave the site a slightly more “standard” blog look. The latest version of WordPress seems pretty nice but does seem to run a little slower than version 0.72. However, it’s nice to have this outstanding upgrade out of the way. Let me know what you think.

[Listening to: Que Deus Me Perdoe – Amália Rodrigues – (03:11)]