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What goes around . . . March 20, 2008

Posted by caveblogem in Books, Other, web 2.0.

I was ironing a shirt this morning and had the Today Show on (yeah, I know) and they were talking about this Web 2.0 site called Juicycampus.com. If you haven’t heard already, the site encourages people at any of 50 (so far) college campuses to post juicy rumors about others, completely anonymously. Open to abuse? No, more like open for the sole purpose of abuse. The campus at which I work is not one of the favored few (yet, of course), which is sad; I hate to be left out of new trends, especially when self-destruction is so glaringly immanent.

At any rate, it made me think of this delightful passage of a delightful book called Microserfs, by Douglas Coupland. [One of my favorites, honestly. It is The Soul of a New Machine for Generation X.] The book concerns a group of playful geeks who quit their jobs at Microsoft to build a video game. One of them, at some point in the book, writes a bit of code that allows any of the seven or so people coding the game to post rumors anonymously. Things quickly get out of hand, of course. He pulls the plug, to much relief on everyone’s part, after about 24 hours.

What’s different about juicycampus.com, of course, is that the company’s founder, Matt Ivester, already graduated from Duke, in 2005. So he is not subject to the stream of junk that afflicts all of the people at these colleges. Perhaps Matt would feel differently if someone, perhaps someone who knew Matt at Duke (or perhaps knew him at Clemson, before he was kicked out because of that Harry Potter Fan Club fiasco), maybe one of his frat buddies, posted some gossip about Matt.

Or not.

Guilted into blogging once again March 18, 2008

Posted by caveblogem in blogging, blogs, Blogs and Blogging, Other, web 2.0.

Raincoaster has guilted me into posting, I’m afraid. On the post below, which was about how I was being very good and exercising three times a week, she comments:

Yes, but what kind of BLOGGING equipment do you use? And do you use it three times a week??????????????

Well, no. One glance at the dates on my last few posts and you will quickly find yourself reading about things that happened in October.

Raincoaster is right, of course, as usual. I fooled myself into believing that I was keeping in good blogging form because my job requires me to use a similar skill-set. I write for a living and analyze things and am called upon to have opinions about things, and I thought that would be enough. But my blogging muscles are now flabby and atrophied. I will try to do better, Raincoaster, honestly, I will.

If anyone is responsible for keeping this blogging and social networking stuff alive in the coming years, it will be people like raincoaster. Yeah, it’s scary, but that’s one of the reasons you like her, isn’t it?

Motivation February 22, 2008

Posted by caveblogem in blogging, DIY, Other, web 2.0.

You know those motivational posters that some people (people people, obviously) have in their offices? I don’t really want to post a picture of one of them because people are still trying to make money selling them, and they make me wince, somewhat involuntarily and think uncharitable thoughts, but click here if you really don’t know what I am talking about.

Anyway, I work in a fundraising office, so I used to see these things everywhere. For a while, mine was the only office (not including cubes, just the ones with doors) on the floor of my building that didn’t sport one of those posters. I remember wanting to ask my boss whether they were purchased with state funds, since we were on a mailing list for a company that made them.

I was thinking about them for the last couple of mornings because when I take the dog out I am confronted every morning with the vision below. It is a little hard to see with the crappy quality of my cellphone camera. This morning’s unexpected snow obscures the fact that the leaf had fallen on about two inches of solid ice about a week ago. As the leaf absorbed the sunlight it melted its way through about 3/4 of an inch of that ice. It’s a metaphor for something, I kept thinking.


But I don’t really have any idea what it is a metaphor for. The slogan above is a hipshot [My lovely wife asked me last night when I was going to post again. She has started a blog and has more excitement about the whole thing than I have had in quite a while. For some odd reason I told her I would post today. So you have her to thank.] Here’s another one:

Erosion: An unintentional benefit of being opaque.

Please feel free to suggest better ones in the comments.

Thinking about that leaf led me to think about those motivational posters, so I looked them up, and there’s a site that lets you make your own, of course. I must have missed out when this thing got Boing Boinged.

It also got me to wondering what it is that people get from these things. Do people really draw motivation from this stuff? I have been reading Darren Brown’s Tricks of the Mind, or at least re-reading sections of it, this week. He points out that motivation is a strange sort of reification. People only talk about motivation in a negative way, he says. They only use the word if motivation is lacking. All that “being motivated” means is that you are working. It doesn’t really mean anything, as such. I’m still thinking about that.

What I am certain of is that I get stuff done when I can keep my sense of humor. So whether these posters are funny in an ironic or sarcastic way, or whether the posters are sarcastic and, thus, funny in a straightforward way, I draw motivation (however fictitious the concept itself is) from them. Sort of a paradoxical sort of thing, iznit?

The World’s Foremost Authority October 30, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in Books, libertarians, Other, Robert H. Heinlein, Science Fiction, speculative fiction, web 2.0.

One of the most generally prescient science fiction authors, and one of my favorites, has always been Robert A. Heinlein.  That first sentence requires a lot of qualification, which I won’t do in this post–perhaps later when I have more time.  I’m posting this today for two reasons. 

1) My wife reminded me this morning that it only takes five minutes or so.

2) My nine-year-old son was doing research for his Spanish class last night using Youtube (looking at and listening to Flamenco music and some other things.)

So that research reminded me of a passage in a book called Friday, by the aforementioned Heinlein, written, if I am not mistaken, (no, I won’t take the two minutes it might take to look it up) in 1990.  The protagonist, a young, genetically engineered combat courier named Friday, is doing some research at a facility in Pajaro Sands, California.  She gets off on a tangent, as researchers often do, following links on a world-wide web that did not yet exist, and sees a video of Professor Irwin Corey, the World’s Foremost Authority. So I’m linking to one here:

He’s pretty funny.  The crowd is perhaps funnier, in an entirely different way–they know all the gags and repeat the lines, ad tedium.  I chose this particular one because it popped up first on the list.

Kinda makes you think.

Experience: What’s it Good For? June 27, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in memes, Other, Philosophy, statistical analysis, tagging, web 2.0.

This is third in a series of posts about my study of responses to the dreaded 150 Things meme.  All of which will end up on the COMBS page of this site, eventually.

My wife and I rented “The Pursuit of Happyness” from Netflix about a month ago but finally found time to watch it on Sunday night.  I like Will Smith.  We lived in San Francisco for a while, at a time when I was interested in the stock market.  We are both interested in the plight of the homeless.  There were a lot of reasons that we thought we’d like the movie.  But we just couldn’t get through the unhappyness part of it.  We stopped watching after maybe 25 minutes and sent it back.

But it got me thinking about this meme, which some people looked at as a to-do list for life.  It should all add up to something, shouldn’t it, all these experiences? 

I combined the positive responses to questions #38 (have you ever actually felt happy about your life, even for just a moment?) and #141 (have you ever thought to yourself that you’re living your dream?) to divide the sample into people who were relatively content (those who responded in the affirmative to both), and relatively discontent (those who did not).  Then I crosstabulated these against the rest of the questions.  So, what correlations did I find at the 95% level of confidence?  None.  Didn’t seem to make much difference. 

That again:

None of the accomplishments on that list was strongly related to how content you said you were. 

Blogger, are You Experienced? June 21, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in blogging, blogs, Blogs and Blogging, memes, Other, statistical analysis, tagging, web 2.0.

Last week I began a statistical examination of blogger responses to the lengthy meme “150 Things,” which is a long list of experiences that bloggers have been tagging each other with for at least a year or so. (If you came here because of a trackback, I included your blog in the statistical sample). Those tagged copy the list and reproduce it on their blog, with their experiences/accomplishments in bold type.  Response percentages (from a sample of 222 blogs) may be found in a summary report here. They are probably more interesting to look at in that form.  But if you want, I could put together some bar charts from the data.  Let me know. 

The percentages are pretty easy to use, I think.  Just look at a question, like #7, for example.  Sixty-three (63) percent of the bloggers sampled have taken a candlelit bath with someone.  If you have not, that makes you a loser :).  Or take question #40.  Only one percent of the bloggers sampled have been to all 50 states.  If you have, that’s an extraordinary accomplishment.  If you have not, well, almost nobody else has.  Don’t let it get to you.  Some of them are a little boring anyway, I suspect. 

For those who prefer this stuff in narrative form, I must point out that this was a pretty eclectic group of questions.  At any rate, most (more than half of the sample plus a percentage to account for sampling error) of the bloggers who took the time to bold the tasks that they had accomplished are not the sedentary creatures portrayed in the mainstream media.  Although most have lounged around in bed all day at least once (59), they obviously don’t make a lifestyle out of it.  They just don’t have the time.

They are social.  Most have formed friendships with people they admire (42).  Sure, they have had their share of skirmishes with their buddies, involving food (27) or frozen water (30), but they are supportive when it counts (41).  Most have an impulsive (88), romantic streak (7, 49, 62, 83) and have professed their love to significant others (8).  Despite their geeky reputations some have broken hearts along the way (110).  But they have also experienced love without getting their hearts broken (68) and ended up getting married (72) and having children (or at least changing them—20).

They may have an undeserved reputation for geekiness.  Most have never played D&D for more than six hours (71) or written their own computer language (140), although most have at some point alphabetized their CDs (56).  These people have used firearms (116), most of them, and ridden a horse (118), perhaps at the same time.  They are not to be trifled with—most of them have eaten raw fish.  It takes guts.  I remember. 

Perhaps they are not extroverts, but they have, possibly via liquid fortification (23), cut loose a little (36, 58, 102, 146).Most have gone to drive-in theaters (65), ridden roller coasters (34, perhaps where they screamed as loud as they could–31), attended huge sporting events (15) and stayed up late enough to watch the sun rise (13).
Most have not traveled extensively, although most took a road trip at some point in time and have toured ancient sites, whatever those are (47, 69).

They are effective communicators, although not necessarily with words (138).  Most say they have changed peoples minds (129).  If they are not perfectly happy, this group has known happiness (38).

They are a do-it-yourself group.  They make their own food, from scratch, if necessary, watching it grow from seeds, perhaps, into sugar cane, corn, wheat, etc., grinding the grain, smooshing the corn to make oil, and turning the finished bounty into cookies (17, 77).

This is the first of a small series of posts on this particular meme.  If your blog didn’t get a trackback from this yet, and you would like to be included, just comment, link to this post (from your 150 things post, if possible), or wave your arms or something—I’d be happy to put you in.  And if anybody has suggestions for other memes that might be in interesting study, do please let me know.  I’m thinking about doing one of the book memes rattling around, since the format is similar.

The blogs sampled for this particular study are listed below, with links (many didn’t have actual titles, particularly the ones from MySpace, so I am listing them with only their ID numbers.)

001, 004, 005, 006, 007, 008, 009, 010, 011, 012, 013, 014, 015, 016, 017, 018, 019, 020, 021, 022, 023, 024, 025, 027, 030, 031, 032, 033, 034, 035, 036, 037, 038, 039, 040, 041, 042, 043, 044, 045, 046, 047, 048, 049, 050, 051, 052, 053, 054, 055, 056, 057, 058, 059, 060, 062, 063, 064, 066, 067, 068, 069, 070, 071, 072, 073, 074, 075, 076, 077, 078, 079, 080, 081, 082, 083, 084, 085, 086, 087, 088, 089, 090, 091, 092, 093, 094, 095, 096, 097, 098, 099, 100, 101, 102, 103, 104, 105, 106, 107, 108, 109, 110, 111, 112, 113, 114, 115, 116, 117, 118, 119, 120, 121, 122, 123, 124, 125, 126, 127, 128, 129, 130, 131, 132, 133, 134, 136, 137, 138, 139, 140, 141, 142, 143, 144, 145, 146, 147, 148, 149, 150, 151, 152, 153, 154, 155, 156, 157, 158, 159, 160, 161, 162, 163, 164, 165, 166, 167, 168, 169, 170, 171, 172, 173, 173, 174, 175, 176, 177, 178, 179, 180, 182, 183, 184, 185, 186, 187, 188, 189, 190, 191, 192, 193, 194, 195, 196, 197, 198, 199, 200, 201, 202, 203, 204, 205, 206, 207, 208, 209, 210, 211, 212, 213, 214, 215, 216, 217, 218, 219, 220, 221, and 222.

Which words do you own?–Daniel Meissler April 13, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in Blogs and Blogging, linguistics, Other, vocabulary, web 2.0, writing.
1 comment so far

[Note: This is part of a continuing series on the actual vocabulary in use in the blogosphere.  Posts on this subject started here and will continue on a weekly basis.]

Below we have the vocabulary cloud for words added to the database by the blog of my latest volunteer, Daniel Miessler


An interesting juxtaposition of “atheism” with “icons.”  It seems to call forth a new religion, some sort of virtual-objectivist desktop non-worship, the Church of the Apathetic Blogger, perhaps.  (I read his post on atheism and it does no such thing, of course.)  Then a little further down we have “freebase” and “grandpa,” which I don’t think was about the Keith Richards’ remarks from last week. 

Perhaps my favorite string begins with the word “server,” and ends with “waterfall.”  It is a “found” steampunk haiku.

Mr. Meissler’s Venn diagram looks like this:


There are a couple of words that pop out that I am thinking about dumping in future diagrams–“march” and “john.”  Microsoft Word recognizes these as words instead of proper names (because one of the macros I run uncapitalizes all words), but I’m pretty sure that bloggers are not using them as such.  It says something about the commonality of the name John, and the month of the year these samples drew heavily upon. 

Mr. Miessler added 528 new words to the database, pretty respectable, this late in the game.  His is the second technologically-leaning blog to be sampled.  I have high hopes that the next blog to be added, Ms Maggie Moo Talks 2 U, a blog that leans towards posts on cooking and restaurant events, will add a whole new sheaf of words. 

My Thinking Blogger Nominations April 11, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in Blogs and Blogging, memes, Other, web 2.0.

If I have an over-riding goal in life, one which shapes my actions more than any other, it is to get people to think of me as smart.  I know that’s kinda sad, but I’m trying to be honest here.  And those of you who know me well will realize how often I fall short of that goal, um, the smartitude thing.  (See how gracefully I wiggled out of that vague reference error?)  So I was happy to discover yesterday that the kind and thoughtful strugglingwriter has nominated me for a Thinking Blogger Award

The thinking blogger is one of those chain-letter meme things that is making the rounds on the intertubes right now.  For some, this may detract from its impact.  Those who are nominees/recipients, however, don’t care about that.  We just strike the appropriate tone with the right caveats (mine is referring to myself as a nominee.  I don’t think there are going to be any actual winners or ceremonies.  It’s just a virtual thing, right?).  But for those of us who live to feel smart, it feels good.  So thank you, strugglingwriter.  I think you are smart too. 

I get to nominate five others for this award, make five others feel smart, and will do so in a minute.  But first a very short story about something else that made me feel smart and could have only happened right here in the blogosphere.

A week or so ago I was at work and checking my WordPress dashboard when I saw that somebody had visited my site from the comment field of a blog I sometimes visited but didn’t remember leaving a comment on.  So I clicked the link to find a strange discussion underway.  Bloggers were talking about a picture of a horse poking its head out of a car.  It was a funny picture, and they were trying to decide where it had been taken.  The blog where it originated was in a foreign language, but not one of those three or four that Americans typically recognize.  Stiletto Girl ventured a guess that it was Albanian, and said something like “caveblogem might know.”  She said this and hyperlinked to this blog, which is how I got word.  Probably this happens to people all of the time, but it is the first time it has happened to me.

I didn’t have a clue about the language, of course.  But since she narrowed it down to Albanian (actually, SG also guessed the freaking dialect) it was pretty easy to confirm (just look for an Albanian blog and compare).  Despite that, it made me feel wicked smart.  It made me feel like some kind of intellectual superhero. 

“Who could possibly know?”

“Let’s call caveblogem!  He’ll save us!”

Cue theme music.

So to my five nominees, below, I say, keep this meme going.  Make somebody else feel smart.  To everyone else I say loop people in with hyperlinked comments–it’s even better.  Also to those who I am not nominating, but who are on my blogroll: you make me think, or you wouldn’t be there.

I nominate the following five blogs for the Thinking Blogger Award:

  • Stiletto Girl, who (together with the sizeable group of people who comment on her blog) always makes me think about personal relationships in new ways.
  • Litlove, who gave me the idea for the linguistic experiment that I’ve been running on this blog for a couple of months now.  She adds things to my reading list that you wouldn’t even believe.
  • DavidBDale, who can pack more truth into 299 words of fiction than most could cram into a dissertation.
  • Anxious MoFo, who is apparently one of those rare souls who can engage in meaningful, polite, intelligent conversation about anything
  • Kuipercliff, one of a small but growing group of bloggers out there who are talking about technology stuff while running along the knife-edge between opaque and patronizing.

Those of you I have “tagged” above, here are the rules of participation:

If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think,
Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme,
Optional: Proudly display the ‘Thinking Blogger Award’ with a link to the post that you wrote (here is an alternative silver version if gold doesn’t fit your blog).

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.

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:


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.


Which words do you own?–Neil Gaiman March 16, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in Blogs and Blogging, bookmooch, Books, Cartooning, fiction, literature, Neil Gaiman, Other, vocabulary, web 2.0, writing.

Note: This is part of a continuing series on the actual vocabulary in use in the blogosphere.  Posts on this subject started here.] 

I began to read the work of Neil Gaiman last year when somebody suggested I read Good Omens, a collaboration between Mr. Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.  Then I read American Gods and Neverwhere and everything else I could get my hands on.  The only thing I haven’t been able to get ahold of is his latest, Fragile Things, which nobody has posted on Bookmooch or Paperbackswap (have to be a little frugal this year, I’m afraid.)  Anyway, Mr. Gaiman is a tremendously talented writer of creepy and interesting tales.  And he writes a darn good blog, too, which I subscribe to and read whenever I can.

I sampled 22,000 words from Mr. Gaiman’s site, spanning the period January 6 – March 14, yesterday morning.  I had to run the spell-check a little differently from the way I normally do, because Mr. Gaiman uses the English spellings of words like color, organize, check (cheque, a draft on one’s checking account), favorite, and orangutan.  So I just changed these to the Americanized versions in his list so that I could merge it in with the others.

I have started to add some words to my spell-checker, and with Mr. Gaiman’s blog I added googled, blog, blogger, blogging, edamame, and perhaps a couple of others that I forgot to write down at the time but which I was absolutely certain were correctly spelled words.

The Blogger’s Vocabulary List is getting larger with each blog I incorporate.  The latest, which includes samples from Three Quarks Daily, Daily Kos, this blog (Pretty Good on Paper) and Neil Gaiman’s Journal, contains 9,383 different words.  In a couple of months I should be able to make a pretty good estimate of the size of the vocabulary in actual use out there (here?) in the blogosphere.  Check this space for updates.

Mr. Gaiman added 1,112 words to the list, an impressive feat at this point for an individual blogger.  Here is a vocabulary cloud composed of the words Mr. Gaiman added to the list, with font sizes at twice the point size as the number of times they appeared in his 20,000-word sample (click for a larger image).


I’ve decided to stop estimating the size of the vocabularies of individual blogs in this study because such estimates are too artificial.  Even bloggers and writers use most of their words in conversation.  And since your vocabulary is altered by each conversational partner, (your conversational partner asks a question about broccoli or oysters and you find yourself using these words yourself, if only to ask for clarification) estimates of this sort don’t seem all that relevant.

What does Mr. Gaiman’s vocabulary cloud say about him as a blogger?  What does it say about the bloggers to which his words were compared?  What will Raincoaster‘s vocabulary cloud say about her or us or anything, when it is added to this growing pool tomorrow?