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A Plea to my Blogger Friends (the ones with blogspot URLs) March 29, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in blogger, bloglines, Blogs and Blogging, DIY, how to, My other blog, Other, web 2.0.
7 comments

Something has troubled me for some time now.  I have some blogging friends on WordPress, and some on Blogger.  I can keep up with all of my comments on all of my WordPress friends through the comments functionality of WordPress.  Unfortunately, when I comment on blogspot blogs I have to remember that I commented, and then return there periodically repeatedly to see whether anyone had responded to my comment.  I have added more friends with blogspot addresses recently and I am finding it impossible to keep up with them.

In a perfect world we would all be on WordPress, of course.   But I can understand the reluctance of these people to migrate.  Blogger can do things that WordPress still cannot do. 

About a month ago Silver Tiger had a post about this, and he noted that you can get some comment feeds on blogger.  I tried to get some of these and found that blogger had three different varieties of comments feeds.   What I want you to do, my blogger friends, is to turn on the full comments feed on your blog.  That way, I’ll be able to keep up with you better, and so will your other good friends. 

Here’s what you need to do.

Go to the help section of the blogger website here.  It will tell you how to go to your settings tab, change your site feed to advanced mode, and then enable all three types of comment feed.  After you do this, I can, anybody can go to their favorite feed reader and pick up the feed by using the following feed URL:

http://nameofyourcoolblogspotblog(moontopplesforexample).blogspot.com/feeds/comments/full

Do it for me, blogspot friends.  Let us have better conversations.  To get my comment feed from this WordPress site, of course, you just click on the little rss comments icon over on the right hand side of my blog over there—>

Or use this URL:  https://caveblogem.wordpress.com/comments/feed/

I tried this out today on my blogspot blog and it works, people.  For some reason Bloglines doesn’t update the comments feeds as often as they do a full feed, but I’m O.K. with that for now.  Just so long as I don’t have to remember all this stuff all of the time.

 Thanks!

Books and LibraryThing III December 13, 2006

Posted by caveblogem in Blogs and Blogging, Books, librarything, Market Research, My other blog, Other, statistical analysis, web 2.0.
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Tim Spaulding of LibraryThing writes:

“Well, why not just have LT add a field for putting that sort of data in, so that it can come up with percentages for personality types, signs and so forth. *Tagging* should be about the book, not the tagger. The tagger’s metadata resides one level up, right?”

I am deeply flattered that Tim, who apparently works at LibraryThing, would comment on my post.  I’m not at all sure what that bit about residing “one level up” means, because I am primarily a user of other peoples’ data.  This means that most of my databases are something I create by stringing together data from a wide variety of different sources, splicing them with available key variables and demographic data.  But Tim does pose an interesting question in the rest of it, to which I’d like to respond.

My offhand response, formulated while in the shower this morning, was going to be “well, Tim, companies, in my experience, just don’t move quickly enough to make that sort of change.  It would take quite a while, I imagine, to get LibraryThing to take note of the advantages of doing anything different.”  That obviously doesn’t make any sense, in this case, because this is clearly a company that moves quickly and thinks deeply about things, too.  And to add a field for this sort of thing might be a good way for LibraryThing to go about this sort of tagging.  I’d be happy to remove my tags and place them in the profile section, I guess, if LibraryThing would rather do it that way. 

But I disagree that tagging should be about the book and not the tagger.  One of the advantages of tagging is that it says as much about the perspectives of the tagger as it does about the book.  Tagging is about both, and more.  For example, I just finished reading Philip Jose Farmer’s Riverworld series of books.  I could tag the books as science fiction, but that information is already coded in their LC and Dewey numbers, which LibraryThing makes available to us (and thank you, LibraryThing, for doing that.)  But later today I will tag them with some other tags that reflect my use of these books.  I am interested in these books because they show how libertarian science fiction novelists dealt with racial tension during the 1960s and 1970s.  In that respect they are similar to Robert Heinlein’s Farnham’s Freehold.  They also play with the idea of free will and predestination, possible absorption of the soul into a godhead, that sort of stuff.  So I’ll tag them with something about some Hindu ideas, like Samsara, or Atman and Brahman.  I’m currently reading Greg Bear’s Blood Music, which somebody told me is about nanotechnology.  It is not, but Bear’s vision of absorption into a larger community and the loss of individuality forms one of the recurring themes of Farmer’s book.  If I tag Bear’s book with the tag “Riverworld,” is this information about Bear’s book, my perception of Bear’s book, my perception of Farmer’s book, or Farmer’s book? 

When I was in graduate school I read Carlo Ginsburg’s marvelous The Cheese and the Worms.  Ginzburg studied the court proceedings of a trial of the Italian (if I remember correctly) Inquisition.  Now the court records recounted trial proceedings and the responses of the accused heretic.  But Ginzburg managed to pull from these records a story about how a 15th Century miller viewed cosmology–that’s what the records were about to him.  But to their writers they were about proper procedure.  Ginzburg’s book, to me, is about historical method, cultural studies, reader-response criticism, and that sort of thing.  If I tag the book this way, I am intruding sharply into your book-centered vision for tagging, aren’t I?

It seems to me that tags reflect information about a book, but also invariably reflect the reader’s ideas about what the book is about, which is a slightly more distant relationship, logically and grammatically, but often even more useful.

Take an example from Flickr, to simplify the discussion a little.  People assign tags to pictures based on what they think is important in a picture.  Maybe you take a picture of a bridge, but other people tag it “purple” because that’s what they are interested in.  If a lot of people use that tag, then more and more of the information stored in that tag represents a weird societal interest in the color purple, rather than the fact that the picture has purple in it.  The more people fixate on that, the more of the tag’s information reflect’s taggers’ interests.  Perhaps this weird societal interest in purple will go away in a little while; maybe it is just a fad.  If the information about people’s interest in purple is only in their profile, it is not stored with the date information about when they were interested in purple.  Placing it in a profile fixes it in time and space.  Well, I guess I didn’t simplify anything with that example.  Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that tags contain both information about users and about the thing they are using, whether a book, a picture, a website, or whatever. 

But there is something else I am trying to get across, and that is that while LibraryThing is very responsive, clearly, to its user community, other companies aren’t necessarily.  Why not go into my Flickr account and tag pictures I like with my personality as well?  Why not do the same in my del.icio.us account for websites I like?  If users have to have companies create a database field every time they want to record personal information, it makes signing up for new accounts a little onerous, doesn’t it (warning, possible startup company idea)?

And unless LT allows people to include what might be termed “profile tags” in their profile (eg.: Capricorn, Masochist, Chocolate Lover) and search these tags right along with the tags these users applied to books, it would be pretty limiting.  Will LT Do that?  It would be really, really cool. 

No Terriers were Harmed in the Writing of this Novel December 3, 2006

Posted by caveblogem in Dogs, My other blog, NaNoWriMo 2006, national novel writing month 2006, Other, writing.
3 comments

Writing is a funny thing.  People bring their own preconceptions to your work (if you are lucky enough to have readers, that is.)  I just got a comment that was posted to this site on December 1 and for some reason was put into the spam bin.  Maybe that’s because it was posted anonymously.  I don’t actually know. 

At any rate, this commentor took me to task for criticizing terriers in Chapter 13 of the novel I wrote for NaNoWriMo and posted elsewhere on this site. 

I applaud his or her bold defense of terriers.  Just to set the records straight, though, I should admit that my West Highland White Terrier, Margaret, pictured below, was the model for that particular character in the book.  She is, as you can probably tell just by looking at her, just the sort of dog that, blinded by a spotlight, would somehow find your leg and try to take you down, somehow. 

meg12-03-06.jpg

We were playing our favorite game, chase-me-around-the-house-you-out-of-shape-awkward-human, yesterday, and when I lunged for her in the kitchen and missed, she doubled back and ran over my chest.  I was actually trampled yesterday by a dog that weighs less than the laptop I am using to type this. 

Isn’t she adorable? 

Now that I have “Won” NaNoWriMo November 28, 2006

Posted by caveblogem in Blogs and Blogging, Books, My other blog, NaNoWriMo 2006, national novel writing month 2006, Origami, Other, Tennis, writing.
7 comments

Well, I still have some loose ends to tie up–like the actual climax and an epilogue that ties up some remaining questions, nothing important–but I feel like the 50k barrier is a real accomplishment.  But I am looking forward to finishing this first draft and spending December picking at the task of editing it and making it a little more interesting and readable.  More than that, though, I am looking forward to revamping this blog and re-purposing parts of it.  Expect monumental changes, therefore, in

  1. the “books” section, which will be changed substantially to mesh better with the way the rest of the blogging world handles book reviews
  2. real-life postcards, which was put on hold during the month of November.  This was only partially due to NaNoWriMo, mostly I was having technical difficulties with either Blogger or Verizon.  Verizon blames Blogger, but I currently do not believe them.  At any rate, the technical difficulties seem to have ironed themselves out.  And I have recently stumbled upon some theories that would be interesting to test there. 
  3. the page on paper-folding is mainly going to stay the same but get some added material.  Oddly, this has been one of the most traveled parts of the site since day one, so I’ll give the readers what they seem to want.
  4. the section on triples tennis is also due for some additional materials, especially w/r/t strategies.  A friend of mine recently attempted to alter the court formation during a losing streak, inverting the triangle.  It didn’t alter the balance of power that day, but it got me thinking about some possibilities.

Still thinking about a couple of other things, but 1-4 are probably enough to keep me busy for now.

Books–Making Comics (IV) October 19, 2006

Posted by caveblogem in Blogs and Blogging, Books, Cartooning, Memory, My other blog, Other.
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I guess I should mention here that McCloud is on tour with his family and blogging about the tour, and he has a nice website as well.  Anyway, his sections on facial expressions, body language, and emotion are the ones I have learned the most from in this wonderful book.  But again, the ones that I have found validating and the ones I find myself thinking about the most are concerned with rhetoric and consciousness. 

One of the primary difficulties everybody faces, and one that is getting much worse because of the internet, is the simple fact that we are drowning in information.  If you don’t find yourself constantly struggling to filter out superfluous information, you are doing it unconsciously. 

So to gain an audience, whether it is in some sort of writing at work, or performing, or gaining and keeping friends, you have to make sure that you don’t send too many messages that you don’t intend to broadcast, because these increase the ratio of noise to signal.  And they make everyone’s information management problems more difficult.

Think, for just a second, about how many Web 2.0 technologies exist only to help us to filter our information more effectively.  Bloglines (or other RSS reading mechanisms) allows us to take weblogs that may have radically different facades and make them appear more uniform so that we can extract the actual content from webposts, rather than getting distracted by the appearance of that post and that blog.  Google and other search engines filter out sites when we are looking for information.  Flickr sets up tags so that we don’t have to (mostly) look at thousands of pictures that we are uninterested in.

Or think about this:

“[I]t is possible to process at most 126 bits of information per second, or 7,560 per minute, or almost half a million per hour.  Over a lifetime of seventy years, and counting sixteen hours of waking time each day, this amounts to about 185 billion bits of information.  It is out of this total that everything in our life must come–every thought, memory, feeling, or action. ”  —Flow, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, 1990.

Or take it from Scott McCloud:

“Your readers are humans, just like you and me, and we all sort information in the same way.  Every day our five senses take in an overwhelming amount of information, yet we quickly sort out what we care about from the chaos and direct our attention toward it.  And at the end of the day, it’s the flow of selected moments that we remember–and all those other sensations are left on the cutting-room floor.”

So you are engaged constantly, as the day progresses, in creating a narrative of that day, a flow of events that makes enough sense to you that you will remember it as a story. 

For Csikszentmihalyi, this constant decision-making process is called “attention.” 

“Attention is like energy in that without it no work can be done, and in doing work it is dissipated.  We create ourselves by how we invest this energy.  Memories, thoughts, and feelings are all shaped by how we use it.  And it is an energy under our control, to do with as we pleasse; hence, attention is our most important tool in the task of improving the quality of experience.” Flow, pp. 33.  (This forms a part of the context for my other blog, in case it wasn’t obvious already).

McCloud’s advice about how to get rid of extraneous information from cartoons and how to think about composition in this medium is a better, more helpful guide to rhetoric in any medium than I have seen in books posing as guides to rhetoric.  And part of the reason he gets these messages across so forcefully is that he does it visually (a big part, too, is that he is passionate about the importance of this stuff.)   Whether you are constructing a comic book or making sense of your day, McCloud is in invaluable explainer.

I might have more to say about McCloud as I continue to ponder this book.  For now all I can say is, in the words of Patrick McDonnell’s cartoon dog(?) character in Mutts: “I bow to your wow.”

Books–The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time October 5, 2006

Posted by caveblogem in Books, Constructivism, Memory, My other blog, Other.
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The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. Mark Haddon–And we continue with this string of very positive reviews.  This book is unbelievably good, and for a large number of reasons.  First, it is smooth story-telling, well written and engaging.  Then there are the themes. 

The narrator is autistic teenager attemting to solve a mystery, which is that somebody killed his neighbor’s dog with a pitchfork.  He is extremely skilled at mathematics, and there are interesting explications of such things as The Monty Hall Problem, and chaotic population behavior over time (for which see the chart I created this morning based on the equation he gives in the book, below). 

pop.jpg

The population density looks like it is going to stabilize in that weird problem, but I ran this out to t=60 and it looks wildly different.  And the equation is incredibly simple, not like wrapping your head around cellular automata (yes, I know this stuff is supposed to be simple, but try explaining it to a non-mathematician). 

Anyway, the book, to me, right now, is about how most people in positions where they do most of their work writing or thinking or at a computer are what a character in Douglas Coupland’s latest book Jpod calls “high-functioning autistics.”  Perhaps I am some sort of mental hypochondriac, but I found endless parallels between the way I think and the way this teenage autistic Brit thinks.  Particularly (and Coupland draws some pretty convincing parallels to tech workers) periodic feelings of sensory overload:

“I see everything.

That is why I don’t like new places.  If I am in a place I know, like home, or school, or the bus, or the shop, or the street, I have seen almost everything in it beforehand and all I have to do is to look at the things that have changed or moved. . . .

But most people are lazy.  They never look at everything.  They do what is called glancing, . . . And the information in their head is really simple.  For example, if they are in the countryside, it might be

  1. I am standing in a field that is full of grass.
  2. There are some cows in the fields.
  3. It is sunny with a few clouds.
  4. There are some flowers in the grass.
  5. There is a village off in the distance.
  6. There is a fence at the edge of the field and it has a gate in it.

And then they would stop noticing anything because they would be thinking something else like, “Oh it is very beautiful here, or “I’m worried that I might have left the gas cooker on,” or “I wonder if Julie has given birth yet.”

But if I am standing in a field in the countryside I notice everything.  For example, I remember stnding in a field on Wednesday, 15 June 1994, because Father and Mother and I were driving to Dover to get a ferry to France and we did what Father called Taking the Scenic Route, which means going by little roads and stopping for lunch in a pub garden, and I had to stop to go for a wee and I went into a field with cows in it and after I’d had a wee I stopped and looked at the field and I noticed these things

  1. There are 19 cows in the field, 15 of which are black and white and 4 of which are brown and white.
  2. There is a village in the distance which has 31 visible houses and a church with a square tower and not a spire.
  3. There are ridges in the field, which means that in medieval times it was called a ridge and furrow field and people who lived in the village would have a ridge each to do farming on.
  4. There is an old plastic bag from ASDA in the hedge, and a squashed Coca-Cola can with a snail on it, and a long piece of orange string.
  5. The northeast corner of the field is the highest and the southwest corner is lowest (I had a compass because we were going on holiday and I wanted to know where Swindon was when we were in France) and the field is folded downward slightly along the line between these two corners so that the northwest and southeast corners are slightly lower than they would be if the field was an inclined plane.
  6. I can see three different types of grass and two colors of flowers in the grass.
  7. The cows are mostly facing uphill.

And there were 31 more things in this list of things I noticed but Siobhan said I didn’t need to write them all down.  And it means that it is very tiring if I am in a new place because I see all these things, . . .”

And he has a lot to say about those who go through life thinking they are “normal.” Example:

“Mr. Jeavons, the psychologist at the school, once asked me why 4 red cars in a row made it a Good Day, and 3 red cars in a row made it a Quite Good Day, and 5 red cars in a row made it a Super Good Day, and why 4 yellow cars in a row made it a Black Day, which is a day when I don’t speak to anyone and sit on my own reading books and don’t eat my lunch and Take No Risks.  He said that I was clearly a very logical person, so he was suprised that I should think like this because it wasn’t very logical. 

I said that I liked things to be in a nice order.  And one way of things being in a nice order was to be logical.  Especially if those things were numbers or an argument.  But there were other wyas of putting things in a nice order.  Ant that was why I had Good Days and Black Days.  And I said that some people who work in an office came out of their houses in the morning and saw that the sun was shining and it made them feel happy, or they saw that it was raining and it made them feel sad, but the only difference was the weather and if they worked in an office, the weather didn’t have anything to do with whether they had a good day or a bad day.”

This blog is self-destructing October 2, 2006

Posted by caveblogem in Blogs and Blogging, My other blog.
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I can’t believe this thing.  I was just writing about a lost draft.  Then I was checking on something else and attemting to get to one of my other pages on this blog and I find that even though the URL says this page is two levels down, the screen is actually showing the home page of this blog.  How can something like this happen?  If I go into an editing window I can actually edit the page that is supposed to be at that URL.  But when I try to view it through the normal tree it points back at the home page. 

wtfnow.jpg

And I also noticed earlier today that one of the pictures I uploaded had been replaced by a red x in an otherwise empty box.  This has not been a good day for this project.  I really would appreciate if anyone knows, some inkling as to how this stuff happens and whether it happens often in the blogging world.  I had some problems earlier with a Blogger blog, but they seem to have gone away now.  This is three things in one day here on WordPress, and it is not as if I have had a lot of time to spend with the thing . . .

Stupid, stupid September 16, 2006

Posted by caveblogem in My other blog.
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I figured out today, toying with my cell-phone, that it is possible to set alarms with it, multiple alarms many days in the future.  This makes the emailthefuture solution to posting reminders a little redundant.  And I must admit I was worrying that it would not be able to remind me in cool places that are unreachable by cell signals, like the tunnel system and on the “T.”  But the email the future thing is awfully cool, still.  Only problem is that I might be tempted to look at days to see when the reminders are going to come.  Since I possess the phone, I could do that.  If I do, I promise that I will go back to the emailthefuture solution. 

On my desktop September 15, 2006

Posted by caveblogem in My other blog, Other.
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I was just looking at the website for Renovation Journal because my lovely wife keeps telling me that I should submit something for publication there and noticed that they also had a monthly.  So I clicked on that link and read part of the interview with local author David Robinson, excerpted here:

“I feel that the workspace can reveal a lot about the author. Kind of like the saying that you can tell a lot about a person by peering into their medicine cabinet. This may sound strange, but could you describe what is on your desk right now?”

I guess that’s Kate asking the question.  Perhaps you can tell something about the author by their desktop.  Hopefully you can also see that author changing over time at Real-life Postcards.

New Blog September 11, 2006

Posted by caveblogem in Blogs and Blogging, Memory, My other blog, Other.
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Over the weekend I created another blog, which I’m going to link to from this site.  This site is also going to contain a bunch of information about that blog, because it is a Blogger.com site, and thus cannot contain webpages that are not part of the chronological flow of the blog.  Why, then, did I create it at Blogger.com?  Well, so far as I know, WordPress does not enable me to publish pictures and text directly from my cell-phone-camera thing.  Otherwise, I woulda done it from WordPress.  Anyway, I’m still playing with the site’s name, and getting it up-and-running while working a pretty engaging full-time job and having a new puppy (which admittedly takes much more of my time than it should, I spoil her) and all of that is slow-going.  But watch for it.  I will put it on the blogroll here just in case anyone is actually interested.  It’s the site that’s not RadioOpenSource, WordPress, or about letterfolding.