Blake's blog

The Shortest Book Review Ever

I just finished up "Things My Girlfriend and I have argued about" by Mil Millington, and I'd say it's worth a read. It follows the life of Pel who works at a library, and it's chock full O' good funny librarian quotes

Non-librarians generally regard efficient collation as a chore.

…"disruption" is to librarians as, let's say, salt is to slugs.

I work in the library – no one on planet Earth looks up to me.

I'd be swept by self-loathing if I were a qualified librarian, naturally.

You're excited about getting promotion within a library. Thie, Pel, is the moment you became old.

So if that stuff strikes you as funny, and you like British humor, it's a short, worthwhile read.

Friends and Foes and Such

I just posted this as a comment elsewhere, and I'll just drop it in here as well, it might be helpful to other LISNewsterz as well.

You set your relationship with other LISNewsterz by clicking the the little face icons (, , ) that appear next to their name wherever they may have left a comment, or on their user page.

If someone makes you a friend, they are now your fan. If you make someone a friend, then you are now a fan. Your Amigos Page lets you look at all your friends journals. Setting friends and foes also gives you more options on your Messages and Comments pages, where you can choose to highlight, or ignore, things based on relationships.

Good stuff to kill some time.

Readin' N Writin'

On occasion I'll read a book.

That sentence was originally written as follows:
On occasion I'll read a book that I feel I could've written. Now I'll admit that's a stretch. It's a stretch to say I have the time, talent, and patience to ever write any book, but sometimes I'll finish a book and say to myself "Self, we could do that"

I changed that first sentence because I felt it wasn't quite honest. My finished book to started book ratio has fallen off this past year. I've been working on "The Future of Ideas" for almost a year now. That one's not on my "I could've done it" list, that's one my "not even if given 100 years" list. There's just too much good stuff in the one, I can't stop writing notes and ideas, and reading the foot notes. Lately I've been working on "Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About." That's on my list because I think, or maybe more accurately, I hope, that given enough time, and maybe a bit more talent, I could write something at least that good, or maybe at least almost that good.

I figure writing doesn't need to be an all or nothing proposition. I can write a short story, or even part of one and be happy with it. As a matter of fact I have more than a few sitting around just waiting to be finished. I think a blog is a perfect place for such writing, and entry can be just part of what I've written. Just as show uses it to chronicle her daily life, I too can use it to chronicle my made up life. So, to that end, I hope to do more writing in this space. I hope.


Loooooooong time LISNews readers might remember the QuickSubmit from a few years ago. I'm working on a new one, and could use some help testing.


That's the code for a bookmarklet, creat a new link in your links bar, using that code. When you find a story worth submitting, click on it, and it'll open a new window with the LISNews suggest a story page in it, with the title and URL already put in the boxes.

Let me know if it works for you, and how I might make it more useful.

The LISEchoChamber

I just recently heard the phrase "echo chamber" for the first time, and it made sense. Most people tend to interact with others that share the same views on many subjects. The term seems to be synonymous with politics, and seems to have attached itself to Howard Dean. Dean supporters only talked to other Dean supporters, and missed out on what everyone else was doing and saying. I'd say that's true of all supporters. Bush, Clinton, Edwards, Dean, Nixon, Regan, Carver (do I have any supporters?) they all just stick together and complain about the other guy. LISNews is, for the most part (unfortunately), an echo chamber as well. You'll find few supporters of the Patriot Act, or many of the other big librarian causes here, or almost anywhere on the web. That's not something I try to encourage. There have been a few very interesting and open discussions between people on both sides of the issue, which gives me hope that things maybe opening up. Intelligent discussions or arguments are few and far between on the web. It takes guts to be the one dissenting voice in any discussion. I had high hopes when I first heard about Shush, but so far it's been a big disappointment. Someone needs to take up that cause that has something interesting, informative, and well thought out to say.

So, I've given myself a personal challenge this election year. To get just one person to vote against Bush who would've otherwise voted for him. Luckily I've got a few people I think won't end up hating me as I work on them. I'm careful to be respectful, gentle, and always factual, and generally Socratic. I love letting someone talk themselves into a corner, I'm a quiet personally generally, so it's often very easy to do. I find it works best when I quote the man himself, that way there can be no doubt as to what was said, and only interpretation can be argued. So far I don't know how it's going, but it's been far easier to find really strong arguments on my side than I had thought. So far my favorite discussion went something like this:

Me: something about Cheny's energy taks force
Them: Clinton did the same thing
Me: So we're in agreement on Cheny.
Them: dead silence

It was like they'd never given any thought to what's going on with this except to relate it to their hatred and fear of the Clintons. They had no idea what Cheny was actually doing, not that I really do, but at least I had some quotes. This is probably typical of arguments on both sides of the issues these days. Bring up anything to a conservative and they squawk Clinton, bring up anything to a liberal and they squawk Bush.

Now, all of this does not mean I consider my self liberal, not even close. Most people seem to think if you're opposed to one thing, they you must be for another. Against Bush? You must be a liberal. For Bush? You must be a neocon. I tend to think both sides will have good points and bad points, and one side will usually have more good than bad. I've never been a one issue voter. At this point, as I see it, Bush is more bad than good.

No links in this one, too busy today.

You Got Feeds

You may notice all the journals have an button now. You may not notice, or ever care.

I've also had no luck enabling the ability to moderate and post in the same thread. I thouhgt it would be easy, but it seems to be a bit more difficult than I had hoped. Any know perl see something wrong with this?

sub _can_mod {
my($comment) = @_;
my $user = getCurrentUser();
my $constants = getCurrentStatic();
$comment->{time_unixepoch} = timeCalc($comment->{date}, "%s", 0)
unless $comment->{time_unixepoch};
&& $constants->{allow_moderation}
&& !$comment->{no_moderation}
&& ( (
$user->{points} > 0
&& $user->{willing}
&& $comment->{uid} != $user->{uid}
&& $comment->{lastmod} != $user->{uid}
&& $comment->{ipid} ne $user->{ipid}
&& (!$constants->{mod_same_subnet_forbid}
|| $comment->{subnetid} ne $user->{subnetid} )
&& (!$user->{state}{discussion_archived}
|| $constants->{comments_moddable_archived})
&& $comment->{time_unixepoch} >= time() - 3600*
|| 24*$constants->{archive_delay})
) || (
&& $user->{seclev} >= $constants->{authors_unlimited}
) );

It seems like I just need to comment out a couple of those lines, but no such luck.

Mortage Matters

I've been shopping for a house since December, and so far I've found it an interesting game. One of the bright, if not the brightest, spots in this game has been Holden Lewis' Mortage Matters Blog. It's just fantastic. I love his style, and the blog format is perfect for this type of reporting. I learn not just which way mortage rates are moving, but why they're moving, and which way they're likely to move in the future. Things just make sense here. If you're in the market for a new house, or thinking about refinancing, I doubt you'll do any better than this site.

Some End O' The Month Stats

January is as good as over so it seems like a good time to look back at 2004 and see how things are going. First, a bit on referrals to LISNews. Google 14,308 (3,300 for the week), Yahoo, 4,056 (945). That's the number of referrals LISNews got this month. I'm mentioning that because of the fact that Yahoo has dropped, or is going to drop google soon, and some people seem to think that's a big deal. I'm thinking nothing will change for most sites, but it'll be interesting to watch. MSN is third at 1972 (441), and AOL is a distant 4th at 728 (192). Overall google accounts for almost 54% of all search engine referrals, and that's just It's rare that a non-search engine, non-rwss reader shows up in the top ten, this week Jessamyn has sent well over a hundred surfers our way. memepool sent a whopping 2,000 folks our wa for the month as well.

There were 3 RSS files in the top ten most popular pages this month. We had a daily average of just over 4,000 people a day, about 51,000 hits a day, and we served about 11,000 pages a day.

I'd also say this is the month the Journals really got interesting. Overall the journals were read about 20,000 times this month. The most popular being:
shoe 641
nbruce 578
Blake 387
Daniel 323
birdie 292
Rochelle 284
djfiander 266
AshtabulaGuy 193
Bibliofuture 134
madcow 128
donwarnersaklad 128
mcbride 127
Karl 122
Great Western Dragon 118
singingbelle 115
daidy 107

Paying it forward on the web.

Warning: This is one of those "everybody should be just like me" entries…
Seems like everyone is saying the end of the free web is coming, thanks to low click
through rates and increasing costs.
I like the idea that the web is for sharing and part of how I choose to pay for reading sites is by clicking on an ad. Slashdot and fark get several a day from me, while I've sent matt a couple bucks to keep mefi going. I try and support the sites I really like and use all the time.

But there's other ways to pay or get paid back. The search engines web dude
is a good example of that. Whatever his motivations are in submitting so
many stories, I pay him back by having a link back to his site on his
submissions. Each link, especially the ones that I change to "search engine
submissions" is my payment to him for sending in a story. It doesn't really cost anyone anything, but we both get something we need.

At LISNews, I like to think people pay us back by suggesting stories and clicking on
the google ads, but the former is true much more than the latter. The ads
have a click-through rate of well under 1% and if we're lucky we'll get
maybe 5 good submissions a day, most days it's more like one or two. But that's still pretty good, anything is better than nothing in the submissions area.

There's other ways to pay it back on the web, paypal and amazon both have
tip jar apps written, and bitpass and others are trying to make a go of the
second generation micropaymets system. It'll be interesting to see how those grow, or die.

This is truly the toughest website to use

I'm happy. I just got an email from a LISNewster who called LISNews "truly the toughest website to use." Why am I happy about that? Because this person points out what's wrong with the code, pages that are broke, are hard to use, and links that are missing.

We get somewhere around 5,000 visitors a day now, and I'm lucky if I get one or two suggestions a month on how to best make the site run. This might be due to the fact that most people are happy , but it's more likely because people just don't complain enough. Rather than thinking something is wrong with the site, they think they can't use it because they are having troubles. This is not a phenomenon unique to LISNews in anyway, read any good usability book, or, better yet, do a usability study, and you'll see it for yourself.

I probably shouldn't complain about the lack of complaints, and I defiantly shouldn't ask for more, because, as they say, I might just get what I ask for. I simply don't have the time to make all the changes I'd like to make as it stands now, add to that a pile of new ones, and I'll never get anything done. Until I can figure out a way to run LISNews for a living, the changes will be slow in coming.

So my point today is simply, I know it's not the easiest thing to use in the world. I added what I thought would help to the help page, but if something's broken, or hard to use, or you just don't get it, let me know, and I'll see what I can do.

Top Journals For January

Top 20 journals, with # of page views, according to Urchin, for the month, so far.

1. shoe 345
2. nbruce 281
3. Daniel 229
4. Blake 203
5. djfiander 187
6. birdie 159
7. AshtabulaGuy 142
8. Rochelle 121
9. mcbride 87
10. Bibliofuture 86
11. Karl 85
12. GreatWesternDragon 76
13. madcow 72
14. singingbelle 68
15. donwarnersaklad 63
16. daidy 61
17. kctipton 59
18. sabine01 57
19. nbruce/rss 56
20. jeni 54

For my money, shoe is some of the best reading anywhere. (update) #19 is, in fact, nbruce's rss feed.

Life In The 00's

So here's an interesting problem that most people don't have now, and no one had just a few years ago.
I accidently let my wifes domain name expire earlier this week. Luckily I caught it in time, so no harm done. Even while it was expired her email kept working, which I don't understand, so she didn't catch me, but I did fess up.
So for a happy marriage, always renew your domain names early, it's like never forget her birthday or anniversary.

2505 LISNews Lane

The term "pack rat" is thrown around a lot these days... I'm about half way to being a digital pack rat. I've got maybe 100 CDs of backed up old stuff. I save all the sent emails I can, which is about 80% of what I've sent in the past 6 or 7 years. I save very few other emails, but a few make it to my special "stuff" folder that's chock full of email goodness. There's a few flames, some praise, reminders of friends I've lost, job offers, and various other tid bits. One of the emails in there was a reply from long ago, and part of the reply had my little message from the mailing list that day, in which I write "The LISNews mailing list is now over 500 people!" I went on a bit about how nifty that was.
This week, we went over 2500 members, a bit different than the old mailing list counts, but a significant number nonetheless. Although, you might notice, the newest member is currently #2572, I've killed off around 70 accounts for one reason or another. The mailing list number seems to have been more or less consistently at half of the daily visitors number for the entire life of LISNews, which is some what interesting, if that kind of thing interests you.
I swear I had a point when I started writing this, now I've lost it.

More Journal Stats

This is in the last 36 hours:

46 /~shoe/journal/
41 /~Daniel/journal/
37 /~AshtabulaGuy/journal/
32 /~Blake/journal/
27 /~Rochelle/journal/
16 /~birdie/journal/
15 /~mcbride/journal/
14 /~Marlene/journal/
14 /~djfiander/journal/
14 /~Bibliofuture/journal/
13 /~Karl/journal/
11 /~misseli/journal/
11 /~jeni/journal/
11 /~bibliothecarius/journal/
10 /~singingbelle/journal/
10 /~shoe/journal/173
10 /~sabine01/journal/
10 /~Great Western Dragon/journal/
10 /~Daniel/journal/167
10 /~daidy/journal/

When I get a chance I'll write something more automagic that builds a page every so often, or better yet work something into slashcode.

A Perfect Score?

I just noticed there are three people who have a "perfect" karma score now, Mock Turtle, Fang-Face and mcbride. I'm not really sure if anyone cares, or pays attention to that kind of thing here or not, but it's kinda interesting to watch the numbers. The single biggest karma bump at LISNews is submitting a story. Well, having a submitted story posted, to be more accurate. Maybe I'll change that and have the max karma be a million or something.

One person has meta-moderated 685 times, while the most active moderator (behind me) has only done it 64 times. 2 people have more than 100 comments in, while one other is close to 100. I'm 4th at 58, which suprises me, I thought I had far fewer (or is it far less?). This doesn't count "Anonymous Patron" who has well over 400.

I've just started looking at journal stats, and the numbers there are much higher than I suspected as well. In the past 11 hours, the most popular journal, Daniel, was read 32 times, next in line, Shoe, 27, followed by Ashtabula guy at 21, mcrbide, me, birdie, and bibliofuture all at 10. There's almost 20 more with less than 10 hits.

How are "SCORE"(s) assigned to Submissions - writes "How are "SCORE"(s) assigned to Submissions - What exactly gets "Calculated"..
Does Higher mean better...
Does it have any effect on whether a submission is "Accepted" or "Rejected"...
Instead of the term "Rejected"
Could we consider "Declined" as an option :)"

Actually I've been meaning to change "Rejected" for quite some time, I just forget. So, yes, good idea, and I changed that to "Sorry".
Now, as to the why...

The FAQ which I need to update, does a good job of explaining it. There's no score on the submissions, we read them, and if it looks good it gets posted. Sometimes it's obviously bad, and it gets deleted right away. Usually the ones we're not quite sure about sit in the queue for a while until a few of us have had a look. If no one posts it after maybe a week or so I usually delete it.
Unfortunatly, it's an either-or thing, either it getes posted, or it gets deleted.
Shlashdot is famous for not posting people's submissions. I think we use most of what we get, but not always.
I get yelled at for not posting stuff, and I get yelled at for posting stuff.

From Free to Fee in 10 Easy Steps

Just take a look at ABQ's homepage and you know what business they're in, advertising, plain and simple. The stories take a back seat.

Reading the story on how the moved from free to pay just reinforces that. Citing increased costs, and lowered paid subscriptions to the print paper Donn Friedman argues there is nothing wrong with building a wall around your website, after all, they made a quick $100k. Page views are up 30 percent; advertising revenue is up more than 50 percent. And print subscriptions are not falling.

"Like anything else you consume, you should pay for your local newspaper, whether you get it on your doorstep or online."

So why can they charge people? They "… happen to be the sole provider of local news in a remote place, like Spokane or Albuquerque... In remote places, charging for news online can work, the logic goes, because readers don't have another place they can easily go to get the content and service you provide."
In other words, we've got you, you owe us, and you're going to pay. What're you going to do, there's no where else to go!

The arrogance runs deep in this piece, but what really strikes me is this paragraph:

"Reporters may be your hardest sell. What reporter would be in favor of reducing his potential audience? Reporters often choose journalism because they want to report the truth and share it with the largest number of people that they can. Journalism is a higher calling to them, not a business."

I've always felt journalism is a higher calling; it's not just a business. Journalism a corner stone of democracy, and it needs to be as open, accessible and honest as possible. There is nothing wrong with making money with whatever you do, but I just don't feel good about the politics of greed and power that control what gets reported, and in this case, who reads it. Especially in this case because they " happen to be the sole provider of local news in a remote place." In my mind this is an argument to leaving access open, to finding another way to get the site to pay for itself.

So, lets play what if… What if some, most, or worse case scenario, all local papers start charging for access? What happens to weblogs, alternative local papers, the newswire services and other news outlets? Do weblogs dry up and die from lack of places to link to? Do we start to become sources of news? Do we simply rely on any free sources we can get our grubby little links on? There is nothing wrong with having a profit motive behind what you do, but I really believe it should take a back seat in many cases, and it never does.

"What I do has value, he said, and people ought to be willing to pay for it."

…And if they're not willing to, we'll force them to pay.

There has NEVER been an implicit deal

Just caught this little tidbit at The IMDB:

Viacom President and COO Mel Karmazin says he does not expect personal video recorders (PVRs) like the TiVo to affect television advertising within the next three to five years, but if it does, viewers will have to begin paying for their programs. Speaking at New York conference, Karmazin said that there has always been an implicit deal between the broadcaster and the viewer that the price for watching shows is having to watch commercials as well. If, however, substantial numbers of viewers use their TiVo players to skip commercials, "then we're going to have to charge you," Karmazin said. Karmazin predicted that ad sales in all areas of the company would rise during the coming year. Viacom's broadcast properties include CBS, MTV, Nickelodeon, and Showtime.

I'd say that so called "implicit deal" went out the window when we got remote controls. TiVO didn't kill ads for me, the remote did, does anyone just sit and watch ads?
I've seen this implicit deal talked about by some other exec. once before, where do they get such ideas? I made no deal, implicit, or explicit to watch an ad under any circumstances.
Thinking like this boogles my mind, and it's why I hate TV so much.

Mozilla Bugs Me

2 Things on Mozilla I want to remind myself to submit as RFEs:
1. I can't search within a tech box using ctrl-f
2. Long text doesn't wrap within a text box

These 2 things make Mozilla painful to use for me. They seem like such minor things, but I do it all the time, and it's quite an annoyance.

The Numbers Game

So here's a little more on moderation and participation. Unfortunatly I don't have time to really get into it like I want to right now, some day I'll really break it down. While Rothman's post goes overboard, he's at least getting people talking about things, which is always good.

There are currently 2371 user accounts on LISNews, most of which have somewhere between 0 and 5 moderator points. A very small number of those people participate in some way, whether it be a comment, moderation, meta-moderation, journal, suggesting a story, or whatever. On a good day we'll get maybe 10 or 20 people moderating the 10 or 20 comments. Most people can not moderate and comment on the same thread, so most of the time it's different people posting and moderating. I broke it down over the relatively short amount of time we've been running slash, and the results look something like this:

Here's a little CSV file [Link Fixed] in case you'd like to crunch some numbers as well. It's just the top 50 busiest people, with no identifiable information provided.
Total moderation so far look something like this:

Basically there are a few people who do a lot in terms of moderation, a bunch of people who will seldom wield the moderator sword, and the vast majority who never participate. I'd imagine the numbers are similar for other slash sites as well. Rather than being sad that so many people aren't participating, I'm quite surprised at just how many people do participate, and very surprised at how many people really participate frequently. It's all very interesting and worthy of further writing and study.

No, it's not perfect, everyone who runs a slashsite will tell you that. There's talk of rewriting the moderation code, so that may help, part of the problem with the code is it doesn't always scale down well. With most software you run into troubles when you try to overuse it. With slash, you start to find problems when it's under used. Slash is designed to run Slashdot, which is a crazy busy site. When it's run on little ol' LISNews things don't always work quite right, and moderation is one of them. Moderation works quite well, most of the time, but not always. Such is life, there's no point in crying myself to sleep at night. As I get a better feel for the code I'll be able to make changes, and as the slash team adds features we'll be able to put them to use.

I think for a bunch of bigoted, ornery, balky, luddite librarians we do a pretty damn good job running our site.

And like I always say, anyone who disagrees with you is wrong, and probably an idiot.

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