Blake's blog

Great Conservative Humorists of the 2000's

This would be a good project for someone. Start keeping track of all the times conservative pundits use the "I was just kidding" routine. Common variants include any of the following:

That was just my way of being funny, that's humor, it's just a cliché, everyone says that, someone else said it first, or I didn't say that at all.

Make $171

I just got SPAMMED by someone promising I can make $171, I wonder if they did a study and found that $171 is the magic number that the largest number of suckers will reply to. I can make several million through a friendly fellow from Nigeria, why would I waste my time on only $171? LISHost gets at least 80% more SPAM than legitimate email now. Email, in it's current state is simply broken, I have no solutions but something needs to be done.

LISNews: Numbers for July 2004

We ran 393 stories last month, and now have 3215 user accounts.

It really suprises me that all these numbers are up from last month, I figured with it being summer in the half of the world we get most visitors from, and no more AP things would be down, but all the log numbers are up, again.

Total Sessions 171,876.00, up about 10k
Total Pageviews 542,966.00, up 30k
Total Hits 1,874,026.00, up about 100k
Total Bytes Transferred 15.54 GB, up about a half a gig

LISNews in the Press

2 different people pointed out 2 different places LISNews showed up recently. Rochelle noticed we were in The Pantagraph. They called us "the national library site, LISNews.com." I'm just happy the got the capitalization correct, no one ever gets that right. It's nice to see LISNews mentioned in a newspaper. Offline & online working together I guess.

446 of about 121,000

It's fascinating what going though 446 of about 121,000 search results will teach you.

Entitled

When I first read the "killer bookworm" title I thought for sure it'd be some stupid story about someone who loves to read, or a librarian who killed someone. As it turns out the story was actually about bookworms, but it got me to thinking about just how important titles are to anything written. Choosing titles has got to be a tricky business for writers. Library stories in the popular press are often entitled using puns on the usual themes, quiet, book, stacks, and so on, some are actually funny, but for the most part they seem to be obvious and tired.

Anonymous Patron Has Left The Building

I turned off the Anonymous Patron account last night, which means you must now register for a real account in order to post a comment. I have mixed feelings on this, but it's something I've given a lot of thought, and after reading a few journal entries lately I felt it was time to see how things felt without Mr. AP.

Regular user accounts are still essentially anonymous, so I don't think it'll make that much of a difference. Let's see how things go, and we'll revisit the issue at a later date.

If you have any thoughts, do let me know.

The LISNews Numbers for June

All numbers are for June '04:
The busiest day in just brought about 6180 sessions, the most pages served in a single day in June was 23,470, and the most hits in a day was 93,490.

Total Sessions 162,934.00
Total Pageviews 508,439.00
Total Hits 2,011,010.00
Total Bytes Transferred 15.06 GB

Average Sessions Per Day 5,431.13
Average Pageviews Per Day 16,947.96
Average Hits Per Day 67,033.66
Average Bytes Transferred Per Day 513.91 MB

Average Pageviews Per Session 3.12
Average Hits Per Session 12.34
Average Bytes Per Session 96.89 KB
Average Length of Session (HH:MM:SS) 00:10:55

The most hit pages were /article.pl /index /lisnews.rss /comments.pl /article.php3 /journal.pl /robots.txt /rss/descriptions.rss /index.rss /relocate.pl. collectively, those pages were viewed 508,439 times. Referrals continue to be all about google, though over 80% of sessions show now referal at all. Google, yahoo, msn, and aol were all in the top 10:

1. (no referral) 131,414 80.65%
2. www.google.com/search 9,583 5.88%
3. search.yahoo.com/search 3,652 2.24%
4. radio.userland.com/newsAggregator 2,053 1.26%
5. frontier.userland.com/xmlAggregator 1,386 0.85%
6. www.bloglines.com/myblogs_display 998 0.61%
7. search.msn.com/results.aspx 911 0.56%
8. www.google.ca/search 716 0.44%
9. aolsearch.aol.com/aol/search 590 0.36%
10. search.msn.com/pass/results.asp 407 0.25%
View Total: 151,710 93.11%

The top search terms were very average as well:

1. harry+potter+book+six 3,164 15.78%
2. harry+potter+sixth+book 1,142 5.70%
3. sixth+harry+potter+book 682 3.40%
4. pickup+lines 340 1.70%
5. pick+up+lines 238 1.19%
6. lisnews 223 1.11%
7. next+harry+potter+book 222 1.11%
8. matrix+story 156 0.78%
9. mattie+stepanek 127 0.63%
10. 100+greatest+novels 117 0.58%

I'll be keeping an eye on the browser stats in the coming months to see if IE falls a bit. Last month:
Internet Explorer
Mozilla Compatible Agent
YahooFeedSeeker
Bloglines
Googlebot
Mozilla
RssReader
NetNewsWire
SharpReader
LiveJournal.com

Mozilla showed a solid uptrend in the month, while IE dropped just a bit.

Most popular journals: Walt suddenly made us all look unpopular, almost doubling the hits on the #2 most popular journal, me. I was followed by nbruce, shoe, slashgirl, Samantha, birdie, Daniel, ChuckB, tomeboy, gratzee, Fang-Face, Rochelle, Karl, and mdoniel.

So that's what we can learn from the logs. Now let's take a peak at the Database goodies.

Metamoderation was done by 31 people 1629 times last month (compared with 778 times in May). Moderation was done by 45 people 1234 times. There were 221 journal entries, 342 stories, and 1355 comments.

Moderations were as follows:
Count, reason
9 offtopic
38 flamebait
15 troll
4 redundant
306 insightful
375 interesting
215 informative
188 funny
39 overrated
45 underrated

Metamoderations were 73 disagree, and 1556 agree.

Beans beans the magical fruit, the more you eat....

a new list of the 20 most antioxidant-rich foods, published in the June issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, "is a relative ranking of the capacity of foods to interfere with or prevent oxidative processes and to scavenge free radicals," explained list co-creator Ronald L. Prior, a USDA nutritionist and research chemist based in Little Rock, Ark.

Their Top 20:

"Dewey decimal syndrome"

Last night my sister in law mentioned she thinks I may have "Dewey decimal syndrome" from working in libraries. Surprisingly it's never been mentioned before (if it's not in google's index it doesn't exist). So let me be the first person to ever write about this dreaded disease.

Dewey decimal syndrome is a chronic condition often attributed to a genetic condition, but can also be acquired through environmental conditions found at institutions of higher education.

Single Issue Voting

I've decided to become a single issue voter, it's much easier this way. I could spend hours and hours poring over what the candidates say about this and that, worry about broken campaign promises, corruption and character, but who has the time? Not me, because I work too much, therefore I am declaring myself as a classic "single issue voter." Some people worry about abortion, others education, maybe it's libraries for you, but for me it's going to be "More Holidays."

A bad case of the Crashies

After about 18 months of 100% uptime the server LISNews sits on crashed yesterday afternoon. It came back up in decent shape, things seem to be back to normal after just a little bit of work. The bad news is I still can't tell for sure what happened. It's like the server was tired, so it just took a nap for a few hours. EV1 turned it back on, and I repaired a few tables, and that's about it. Seems to be back to normal now, I hope. Now that LISNews is alone it wasn't a big deal, had .org crashed I'd be much more worried.

The great moderator conspiracy.

I've seen it in the journals and comments at LISNews, and I've been seeing it for years at Slashdot:
"The moderators are out to get me"
"Disagree with the moderators and you're in trouble"
"Censorship!"
"Unfair!"
and so on….
Today I will explain the great LISNews moderator conspiracy.

Tinfoil hats on:
We're out to get you. Just you, you've been singled out because we don't like you. We don’t like what you say. We don't like what you do, and we don't like how you smell.
Now take your tinfoil hat off, for the truth.

LISNews, unlike Slashdot, has just several thousand visitors a day (Slashdot probably does that in an hour). LISNews, unlike Slashdot, gives almost everyone with an account the power to moderate (and I think metamoderate now) each and every day. On any given day the actual number of people who choose to moderate is rather low, but the fact remains, it can be any number of well over 3,000 people who moderate any one comment. There is no group of moderators that have the power to take you down. No moderator clique that has the power to take away all your karma. The entire LISNews community is "the moderator" and unless you've managed to anger over 3,000 people, they're not all out to get you. Chances are, if you have a comment that ended up at -1, you deserved it.

The moderation system was put in place to make good comments stand out, and to make bad comments disappear (for those who choose to ignore them.) Anything below 0 is for the most part not seen by many people, and any number above 1 is read by most everyone. At a busy site like Slashdot it's possible to browse at +5 and see the best of the best, and not worry much about missing anything (At LISNews, I'd stick with +2, or even just +1).

There are just a few simple rules to moderating. You can't comment and moderate on the same thread. You can't moderate your own comments. You're limited to just 5 points a day (one point = 1 vote). And you can't moderate more than once on a comment. That's about it. Exceptions to that rule: those of us with super-secret and exciting authors powers can moderate all we want (I've seen very little evidence of abuse, we really have better things to do most of the time).

Metamoderation allows anyone to moderate the moderations. I think I now have the code set to allow everyone metamoderation powers each day as well. When moderating, you give support to a comment, when metamoderating, you give support to a moderation. So as you metamoderate, you're simply agreeing with how someone else moderated a comment. Those who are frequently disagreed with are denied moderating powers. (note: I *think* everyone can metamoderate, can you confirm that?)

I know this is not a perfect system, especially here, we just don't have enough people participating to make it hit on all 8 cylinders, but it's a system that does a pretty good job. It's rare for a comment to make it all the way up to 5 (comments can range from -1 to +5), it's actually rare for a comment to be moderated more than 2 or 3 times (comments can be moderated a total of 10 times). There are opportunities for abuse and mischief, but for the most part it just doesn't happen. People who moderate and metamoderate do a good job, it's just that simple. They're not out to get you. We all do what we can to make it a useful and interesting site to be a part of.

So if you think "the moderators" are out to get you, you're just paranoid, and you probably need a new tinfoil hat.

The tyranny of the majority

"As long as we read only that with which we agree, we learn nothing.
-- Chester Dolan"

I have a horrible habit of not taking sides, due mostly to the fact I'll usually see good points on both sides of an issue. I think it's important to understand more than one side of an issue. By learning what the "other side" is saying I'm able to learn more about my own ideas. This is also a good way to find common ground that can be agreed upon. I like to be able to understand and even argue both sides to issues that interest me, and I am not afraid to listen to well reasoned arguments that I disagree with (though it often seems a well reasoned argument is a rare event). There are nuggets of wisdom to be found in the opposition. I'm a strong believer in avoiding the tyranny of the majority, even if it's on a small scale, like on a website. Though much of what Mill wrote on the majority was political in nature, I think I can apply it regularly, including LISNews.

Mill wrote that societal tyrannies are somewhat different from what we may normally think of when we think "tyrant." Normally, he said, when we think of tyranny, we think of "the government," probably a thought that is common to both the right and left. The government is tyrannical, more often than not, when it disagrees with us, and doing a great job when it agrees with us, or us with it. So the tyranny of the majority, Mill says, comes from society "collectively over the separate individuals who compose it." More commonly called group think, maybe mob rule, or maybe now, the echo chamber. So when we do wrong, we are tyrants, and, so says he, this is worse, because there is no voting us out of office, or "putting society away." The tyranny comes from opinions, feelings and needs of the majority. Obviously we're not electing anyone, or influencing much of anything at LISNews, but I think much of what is discussed here reflects values that people use to make more important decisions. Rather than creating ideas and values we mostly reflect them. Mill says we need protection from prevailing opinions and feelings, something more important needs to drive what rules us, since often society tends to punish, squelch, and prevent the growth of those who have differing ideas and practices. That's true in most any social situation, those who are in the minority are often shouted down, or just don't have the guts to speak up in the first place. Those who are seen as different are often forced to conform or shut up. He says there needs to be a limit to the legitimate interference of collective opinion with individual independence, and it's important that we, as a society find that limit. If I am not seeing and attempting to understand the other side I can never argue against them, nor can I ever really know that I truly believe in what I am doing.

Though Mill wrote on the majority well over 100 years ago, it's more important to understand, and avoid, now more than ever. We need to surround ourselves with a truly diverse group of people, people who we actually disagree with, not just people who look different. We need to respect and understand what they have to say. This year we've found ourselves with a group (a coven, some would say) of people who represent the conservative side of librarianship, and it's (usually) been interesting to read what (most) of them have to say. Anecdotally, I'm afraid they've scared off some of those on the other side. To expand on that a bit, I think most people can't handle reading or hearing from those they disagree with, be it right or left, and that may have caused some people to stop reading or leaving comments. I've found it interesting to see another side to many of the issues I thought all librarians agreed on, and I just hope that a vocal minority isn't able to scare anyone off.

If I use the stats as a measurement, I'd say we're doing something right. If I use my gut feeling as a measurement, I'd say we're doing something right as well. The site has changed, grown, considerably this year, and it'll be interesting to see where we are next year. I've had people from the left say we're too conservative, people from the right say too liberal, and everyone complains about the "great moderator conspiracy." This leads me to believe maybe we're approaching a balance somewhere in the middle. If overall participation continues to increase, and the flame wars die down a bit, the future looks bright indeed.

We need to decide if we're going to have a site where everyone is free to comment without fear, or one which we trade openness and community for protection from those we are afraid of or offended by this week. Any form of group communication that uses the internet (email, listservs, Usenet, boards, blogs, etc…) will have a certain number of idiots, trolls, morons, and people who take great joy in making others mad. We need to decide if we will let those people control what is discussed, and how it is discussed, or if we ignore them and continue on doing what we think is best. Are we to attack each other, or are we here to learn, teach, and share? Is it really worth getting upset about what some moron writes on some stupid web site? Before you post a comment, think about what you're writing for a second, realize this isn't Fox News, we don't break for commercials, you have time to make a point without attacking, you have the time to explain your side rather than just attacking the other, and you have time to compliment and agree as well. One of the most powerful aspects of the web is the lack of time and space constraints. You have the time and space to write whatever you want, and make it interesting and informative. Better yet, you can provide links to back up your seemingly crazy ideas, to make them seem somewhat less crazy.

I don't expect us all to get along, agree, or even always understand each other, bit I'd love it if we can use more understanding and civility in our disagreements.

A short history of this piece: I wrote this a few months ago because I wasn’t really sure I understood what the "tyranny of the majority" really meant, rewrote it once, forgot about it, put a good part of it in an email, rewrote it again, forgot about it, another rewrite and today did a quick rewrite, and posted it now.
and thanks to Ender for the quote

Got Hits!

So the problem was counthits.pl uses counthits_lastmaxid

my $logdb = getObject('Slash::DB', { db_type => "log_slave" });
my $lastmaxid = ($slashdb->getVar('counthits_lastmaxid', 'value', 1) || 0) + 1;
my $newmaxid = $logdb->sqlSelect("MAX(id)", "accesslog");
$lastmaxid = $newmaxid - $maxrows if $lastmaxid < $newmaxid - $maxrows;
if ($lastmaxid > $newmaxid) {
slashdLog("Nothing to do, lastmaxid '$lastmaxid', newmaxid '$newmaxid'");
return "";
}

What's our next step?

Occasionally I've waxed poetic on the future of LISNews. I admit that I'm light on ideas, I'm not even sure anything can be done to be done to improve LISNews, or make it more important to more people moving forward. My big idea is to have more original work, more reporting, more stories, more articles, become more a place for news, and less a place for links to the news.

The big question is, how can we pay for "real authors," or at the very least, how can we at least motivate people to "report" for nothing? This is a question I've had in my mind for years, and not been able to find a suitable answer for yet. I'd rather not become an advertising web site. I believe that entities that make money from advertising are simply advertising companies that use some other method to attract people so those advertisers who are trying to sell something to the readers have someone to target advertising to. If it's possible, I'd like to avoid that model of doing business. But what does that leave as our options?

The NPR model, where we beg for money and hope for the best. I've begged, and got pretty much what I needed, but that's just enough, it's not enough to pay anyone for what they do, it's not even enough to say I get paid for what I do, it's just enough to say that I am no longer paying to run LISNews. So that leads me to believe that it will pay the bills, but won't pay the people. So the questions this raises, for me: Would having original works attract more donations? What happens if it doesn't? What else can we give people who donate?

The subscription model, where we have a part free, part paid site? Authors would be paid, write original stories/articles, and only those who are subscribers would be able to read them. What else can we give subscribers?

Are those three models mutually exclusive? Would anyone care if we had real stories? Would anyone read them? Would anyone want to write for us? Do we have a large enough audience to support anything other than my break-even model?

What else could I do to pay people to be LISNews reporters?

Whatever I choose to do, if anything, needs to be not so drastic that if it fails LISNews fails along with it. I'm afraid of pushing too hard and becoming too involved, and just burning out, or spending too much money, and having to fold to pay my mortgage.

Some other random things floating around in my head.

Two plugins I'd like to write for Slashcode:
1. RSS Reader for LISNews accounts
2. Contact Us

Other things I need to work on:
Fix the most popular stories page, and hits updating.
What to do with LISFeeds.
Librarianmail accounts.
Automate signing on and off the newsletter? Or at the very least, signing off, it's a pain.
Get involved with the Slashcode CSS conversion.
various other bug fixes.

Book #1, Book #2, and another Book Chapter. When are those due dates again?

Got Hits?

We don't. For those who follow the most popular stories page, it's more or less not working at the moment. Looks like I dumped the wrong table when I was cleaning up some backend stuff and the hits are no longer being counted on the stories.
I'll look into it soon, I need a good library hacker to help out sometimes, none of those programmer/analyst types.

LISNews by the numbers for May

It's June already? Ouch.

For the month of May, we ran 287 stories which contained 1316 comments, from about 200 different people. Slashd crashed a few times, the site was down at least 3 nights, and I seem to have deleted too much information because the hit count is no longer being updated in the database.

A note for "dog people"

Here's a friendly reminder for all you "dog people."

Your dog does not understand the following:

"down, Rover, DOWN"
"hey, get down"
"no, no, no, down, no, bad"
"rover, down, ROVER, I said down"
"stop it"
"I said stop"
"no, no, no, no"
"heal"

It doesn't matter if:

The dysfunctional LISNews family.

I've always wanted to be a part one of those much hyped "online communities." I guess in some ways I am a small part of Slashdot and metafilter, two sites with huge and dedicated communities, though I rarely contribute at either.

After a brief email discussion with an LISNewster in which he described LISNews as a "dysfunctional family," I came to realize maybe we're a community now. I've always felt there were a few people who felt some connection with LISNews over the years, and now maybe it's more than a few, so maybe now we're a community, maybe even a coven. There were people who I became e-cquaintances with through LISNews, and now, there's folks who've made other e-cquaintances as well. Not that we have a big group of people who would be hugging and kissing should they ever meet in person, but there's no doubt a group of people who, for whatever reason, like hanging around the site, and contribute on a regular basis. Some of them know what's happening with the site better than I do most of the time. There are even a few dedicated souls who I know have stuck with the site for years now.

The interaction between & amongst the LISNewsterz is very interesting to me. The interaction in the journals is often quite nice, very supportive, and I see much of the same in the comments, though probably not as much in the latter as the former. There are still trouble makers, people who have a very high percentage of negative moderations, people who really get under my skin, but for the most part many people are usually civil and even helpful. I don't want everyone to get along all the time, but what I would love to see is a higher percentage of civility, niceness, and helpfulness, and a lower percentage of nastiness and flame wars. I'll never understand why the web makes people so crazy-mean all the time. I figure if most of the really active people are mostly nice most of the time, then we'd be miles ahead of most other sites that have an open commenting system. Are we at that point? Probably. Maybe. Almost. It did make me sad to read someone write they've lost faith in the profession because of what they've read here. I think a lot of people are turned off, and driven away by all the fighting. The silent majority doesn't give a shit what Rory thinks about me, nor should they, and seeing everyone screaming and yelling at each other really makes people not want to come back (there's days when I don't want to come back, so I'm sure there are many others who feel the same). I guess we'll see at then end of the month if that last flame filled folly scared anyone away, I do know that we're not doing any record breaking numbers this month, so, not surprisingly, many of the most popular stories this month were only popular with a few people. I wish I had more time to really crunch the numbers. Anyone good with grepping logfiles want to have at it?

So it seems that at some point, I'm not sure when, LISNews developed into an online community, and I managed to completely missed the transformation. People get to know each other, they make friends and enemies, they have discussions, and they help each other out. They reflect a diversity of opinions, and they respect those they disagree with, or at least we do most of the time.

-If you're wondering about the drive to pay for the server in '04, it seems like we'll make it already, I'll add everything up, and write something tomorrow, I hope. I've been completely blown away by the support I've received.

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