My life and the world around me

Category: meta-blogging (Page 2 of 5)

Old blog, new domain

I’m back to using Movable Type, although I’m intrigued enough with WordPress that I may continue fidding with it behind the scenes.

One thing that really is new is my domain name—it looks as if that deal is going through. My old e-mail address should continue working for a few months, and there should be redirects for this and a few other subdirectories that should also last for that period, but now would be a good time to update your address book and bookmarks. Wherever you see “”, change it to “” (or “” if you prefer—they both work).

Why 8stars? It’s an obscure visual pun. The Chinese character for rice, ç±³, looks like an 8-pointed star (in fact, the Japanese nickname for the asterisk is “kome-jirushi,” or “rice-mark”). You can see a stylized version of this character in the header of this blog—I’ve actually been using that mark for some time. I would have registered, but someone else already had. So I went with the plural. is just too damn verbose.

It is with some regret that I part with the old domain name: I’ve had it since 1994, and really thought I’d have it permanently. As silly as it may be, that domain name had become part of my self-image. There’s also a practical reason to regret it: having a durable e-mail address has allowed some people to contact me at that address even after many years of silence. The flipside, of course, is that I get an ungodly amount of spam. So there’s a silver lining. Plus, well, there’s the money. Not enough to retire on, but enough to make a significant difference in my retirement fund, buy a few toys, and go on a trip.

Comments hosed

I’ve learned that comments aren’t working, for some extremely arcane reason that I have been unable to diagnose. I am preparing to switch to WordPress.

Later: Not exactly sure what I did, but comments are working now. Still contemplating a switch to WordPress.

Putting tagging to work

I’ve previously noted the conversion of my sideblog to, partly so that I can take advantage of tagging. The whole tagging phenomenon has caught fire among the blognoscenti because it provides a quick and dirty–and effective and flexible–way to categorize content.

Technorati, the blog search-engine, has added a tagging facility–it finds entries, flickr photos, and blog entries with a given tag. In order to make these tags explicit, Technorati lets blog authors insert a rel="tag" attribute into a link in order to be treated as a tag by Technorati, though what many bloggers do not know is that as long as their software supports categories and/or keywords, and they are publishing feeds containing this data, Technorati will figure it out from that.

I’ve started assigning keywords to my posts, and am including all that data in my feeds. I’ve also decided to take advantage of Technorati’s tagging thing by creating direct links to its tag directories for each of my keywords. I’m still using categories as well, but I’m not creating Technorati links on category names–somehow it doesn’t quite feel right. Perhaps an information architect could diagnose my taxonomic malaise–all I can say is that tags are feel like they should be used to discover communal links; categories feel more idiosyncratic.

Anyhow, the result of linking to Technorati’s tag directories is something vaguely akin to trackback–it lets you see what other people are saying about the same subjects. It’s still somewhat primitive, but it’s a start.

It occurred to me that it should also be possible to extract links from a blog entry, search for that URL, find how other people have tagged it, and use the most popular tags as the blog entry’s tags, resulting in consensus tagging without even trying. There are some problems and interesting ramifications to this approach: 1) not every link I might use will be in; 2) I might not want to use the consensus tags; 3) the consensus tags will change over time–this, in my opinion, is the most interesting and most problematic part of the idea; 4) I’d have to do more programming work, and I’m lazy.

Pardon the dust

The upgrade to MT3 has been going less than smoothly. I’m starting from scratch, with a new blog and old data. I’ll gradually be adding back in features of the old blog.

Getting with the program is a “social bookmarks manager,” or in plain English, a web page that lets you keep a list of interesting websites. What makes it interesting is that it lets you use tags to classify your links a rough-and-ready sort of way (this kind of undisciplined tagging is now sometimes called “folksonomy”), lets you see links from other people with the same tags (or any tags) and shows you how many other people link to a given URL.

I’ve been keeping a “hit and run” blog for some time, and this fulfills the same role for me as would, but I had been unwilling to switch over two for a couple of reasons: 1. The data doesn’t live on my machine; 2. It’s not easy to control the presentation–it is possible to republish your links on your own page, but you’re kind of stuck in terms of presentation. There are ways to get at the data programmatically, but that involves programming, and that means work, and I’m lazy.

But I finally decided to sit down and figure it out (as a way to avoid something even harder: my current translation job). Somebody has already provided a library of PHP tools for messing with, and I know just enough about PHP to get myself in trouble. Here’s what I did [caution: entering geek mode]

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How I use Movable Type

Since Mena asked so nicely, here’s my setup.

My MT database has seven blogs in it:

  1. This blog–this and the next two would probably count as a single blog under Six Apart’s current licensing;
  2. My “hit and run” blog;
  3. My “longer articles” blog;
  4. Instructions for making firedancing equipment. This isn’t very bloggy, but it was more convenient to do this in MT than all by hand;
  5. The Honyaku Home Page. This has five authors (though only two others, aside from me, are really active). Also not very bloggy, but MT is a good enough CMS for the purpose;
  6. Jenny’s personal blog;
  7. A test blog.

I’ve thrown up a few other demo blogs here and there under this install, but those have all been temporary.

Another pocket of slack stamped out

The end of free has come to Movable Type. If you want to upgrade and be honest, it’ll cost you. A lot. I am disappointed.

I am an enthusiastic user of MT2. It’s a good program. I’ve encouraged other people to use it, and via the MT support forum, tried to help the community a little. But based on my own current usage, I’d owe Six Apart $150 if I upgraded to MT3: their license is based on the number of authors and blogs you host, rather than a more direct metric, like the number of support requests you make. And my usage is entirely for vanity and community projects: it’s not like I make a dime off any of this. That’s a lot of money to spend on free expression.

Even that might not be too bad if I perceived much value in this upgrade. I don’t. As useful as MT2 is, it’s getting long in the tooth, and there are features that users have been clamoring for for years, few if any of which appear in the new version apart from comment management.

For the time being, I’ll sit pat. MT2 works, and it isn’t going to stop working. But there are features I was expecting in MT3 that aren’t there, and (as I understand it) will not be there unless developed by third parties. Switching to a different system–even an open-source one–would be expensive for me in terms of time: I’ve got a lot invested in tweaking MT and learning its ins and outs, and getting to a similar level of proficiency with a different system would take a long time. So in that sense, it would be reasonable for me to pay $150 to upgrade (if I had a reason to), but only because they have me over a barrel.

Later: After the barrage from the blogosphere, Six Apart has backed off a bit–giving you more for your money and allowing a more expansive definition of a “blog.” I congratulate them for being responsive. With a little creative counting, I could probably sneak in on the $100 license now. Still not exactly cheap.

Distributed comment authentication

With the introduction of Typekey, the discussion of blog-comment validation and moderation has kicked into high gear.

I applaud the nice Six Apart people for doing something to turn back the tide of comment spam and crapflooding. And while I wouldn’t necessarily discourage anyone from using Typekey, I think we might be able to do better.

I’d like to see a social-networked, peer-to-peer, graduated comment-moderation technology (is that enough buzzwords?). Here’s what I mean.

  1. I would be able to whitelist or blacklist commenters. I’d actually like something a little more fine-grained than just blacklisting: I’d like one class for trolls, another for spammers. Trolls might actually have something interesting to say once in a while, spammers (almost by definition) don’t, so I might want to put troll postings into a moderation queue and simply shitcan anything from a spammer.
  2. I would be able to publish my whitelist, troll-list, and spam-list as separate items.
  3. À la LOAF, I would be able to subscribe to someone else’s various lists. If I know “I can count on Alice’s whitelist”, then I’d automatically whitelist anyone she does. One might be able to take this a step farther and use “two degrees of whitelisting/blackisting.” If I really, really trust Alice, I might be willing to trust all the whitelists/blacklists that she subscribes to herself. Of course, we’d need some kind of RSD format for publishing our whitelists and blacklists to make this work. I suppose you could get into the question of whether you want to reveal to others whose whitelist you subscribe to, but frankly, that level of cliquishness strikes me as way too silly to worry about.
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