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  • The New Spam: Don’t Waste Your Time or Mine


    Blog Badge, courtesy of FreshBadge.comIf you are part of the blogosphere, whether you are a blogebrity or (like me) toil away in blogscurity, you are probably aware of the First Universal Truth of Blogging: Comment spam is a royal pain in the blogterior. 1I don’t know that this is actually the First Universal Truth of Blogging, but writing about the Second (or worse, Thirty-Fifth) Universal Truth of Blogging isn’t quite as relevant or … Continue reading

    Fortunately, plugins like Akismet have proven (at least in the case of this particular blog) to be very effective at dulling the pain to a large degree. Akismet has caught more than 155,000 spam comments and trackbacks since I installed it, 2I know this because of the friendly message on my comment administration page that says, “Akismet has caught x spam for you since you installed it.” Where x is currently 155,632 but will … Continue reading and that means 155,000+ comments about bizarre (and often illegal) sex practices, bizarre (and often illegal) sources for prescription drugs, and bizarre (and often illegal) quotes for car insurance that you never see. Akismet isn’t perfect; it occasionally captures a legitimate comment, which means I have to monitor my spam queue just to make sure there’s not a comment from Dave in there. 3No, the other Dave. Akismet also lets a handful of spam comments through to my moderation queue every week, but on the whole I’d say it’s got a better than 90% accuracy rate at catching obvious spam.

    The obvious spam that Akismet misses are easily spotted and dealt with accordingly; they usually contain dozens of links to sites of dubious nature. It’s the clever spam, the stuff that makes at least a minimal effort to be relevant to the original post, that sometimes throws me for a loop. Here’s a sample that I moderated today, posted on my review of the movie Transformers:

    From: Ford Lover [Okay, there’s the first tip that this isn’t entirely legit, but maybe it’s just a guy who really likes Fords. I’ve known a few of those in my thirty-five years.]
    Comment: I wasn’t as thrilled about this movie. I would like to see a Ford transform and beat some Chevy’s! [Hmm, that’s actually kind of germane to the discussion. There are no links to obnoxious websites in the comment, which is good. And, hey, there’s a punctuation error! How human! Maybe I should let this one through…]

    Except that Ford Lover’s website (which his/her name would link to, should the comment be approved) isn’t a blog, personal page or even a MySpace/Facebook profile, it’s a car dealership 4Sorry, Ford Lover, I’m not going to say which one. with a streaming video ad that automatically plays when the page is loaded.

    I’ve seen this type of comment creeping in for a couple of weeks now, and I’ve been on the fence as to whether or not to allow them simply because, at first glance, they do appear to be relevant to what passes for the conversation around here. I’ve even been tempted to strip out the annoying link and approve the comment, but that would open the door to a barrage of spam from the same individual/IP address. 5In theory, once I’ve approved a comment from an e-mail or IP address, future comments from the same address won’t be held for moderation or marked as spam. Which doesn’t explain why … Continue reading

    Plus, there’s nothing in the actual content of the comments of this nature that really compels me to respond to them. I suppose I could start a big GM-versus-Ford back and forth with “Ford Lover”, but for the most part I just don’t see the comment adding much, despite its initial apparent relevance.

    So, here’s the deal: If you’re trying to sell something, go away. If you link to a site that isn’t your blog or other personal page (MySpace, Facebook, Friendster 6Just kidding. or the like.) or a page that isn’t immediately relevant to the content of your comment (e.g., citing a source, linking to a Wikipedia entry or an article on or a page on IMDb) I’m going to dump your comment into my spam queue and you won’t have an opportunity to establish a dialog with me and the readers of this site. Do you work for or own a car dealership? Too bad. Don’t link to it. I work for an insurance company, but you will never see a link to a site trying to sell you insurance here. Not going to happen.

    Sadly, the spammers aren’t going to abide by this rule; I’ll keep seeing the same type of garbage day after day, 7Bring it home, baby, make it soon. but now I won’t hesitate for even a second before I dump it into my spam queue. I’ve established a rule, and that feels good.

    EDIT: This comment from “Seamus Burns” appeared in my spam queue only a few hours after I wrote the post. I didn’t immediately notice that the commentor’s website is a rate-comparison site for hotels in Singapore until after I had read through the comment twice trying to parse it:

    It was cool to compare the comment and start to just hang out. Ford Lover was the First Universal Truth. Anyway, as I write this at links next morning, I still have no links in my pack – we weren’t able to dry it overnight.

    EDIT: (21 August 2008) Dammit, here’s another one, this time commenting on my post-Christmas 2007 entry:

    Christmas was great… my son actually jumped with glee a few times. And, you know its a good year when someone tells you that hearing from you was the best present of the day. I think I actually felt my grinch exterior sloughing off… I may even hang a wreath or something next year

    Just found your blog and etsy shop – and I’m a fellow etsian. I agree – the word of mouth and how things move around are very interesting and it’s great to hook up with other’s to spread the word. Your markers are great – different and not the everyday that you find out there

    Ooooo, if only I need new something like same … I’ll check yours out some time again. thank you.

    First off, I don’t have an “etsy shop”. I’m not against Etsy, 8Frequent commentor Nycteris has an Etsy shop where she sells handmade jewelry and some seriously awesome clay sculptures of little dragons and other beasties. I don’t feel at all hypocritical … Continue reading but this commentor and I aren’t fellow anything. Second, it’s August. Christmas 2008 is four months away. Yet this commentor talks about putting up a wreath “next year”. That bugs me for some reason.

    1 I don’t know that this is actually the First Universal Truth of Blogging, but writing about the Second (or worse, Thirty-Fifth) Universal Truth of Blogging isn’t quite as relevant or topical, so I’ll take a certain amount of artistic license.
    2 I know this because of the friendly message on my comment administration page that says, “Akismet has caught x spam for you since you installed it.” Where x is currently 155,632 but will almost certainly be over 160,000 by the end of the month. And that’s on a tiny little blog with almost negligible traffic. I can only imagine that the aforementioned blogebrities are seeing 160,000 or more spam comments every single month.
    3 No, the other Dave.
    4 Sorry, Ford Lover, I’m not going to say which one.
    5 In theory, once I’ve approved a comment from an e-mail or IP address, future comments from the same address won’t be held for moderation or marked as spam. Which doesn’t explain why Dave’s comments are consistently flagged by Akismet, but…well, it’s Dave; he’s gotta be difficult.
    6 Just kidding.
    7 Bring it home, baby, make it soon.
    8 Frequent commentor Nycteris has an Etsy shop where she sells handmade jewelry and some seriously awesome clay sculptures of little dragons and other beasties. I don’t feel at all hypocritical linking to it in a post railing against using my blog as a place to shill your own wares. Why? Because Nycteris contributes to the conversation; she’s not just here for marketing purposes. In fact, she’s never linked to her Etsy shop through the comment form.
  • Naked for a Day


    It’s the third annual CSS Naked Day, so I’ve disabled all stylesheets for the blog. This is what the site would look like every day if not for the magic of Cascading Style Sheets: functional, but not very pretty.

    CSS Naked Day is the brainchild of User Interface Engineer Dustin Diaz. It is intended to “to promote Web Standards with layered semantic markup, and a clear separation between content, and presentation to enhance accessibility.”

    This year, more than a thousand websites have signed up for the event, signifying their intent to strip away the pretty CSS and show the world what’s underneath.

    EDIT: Bloginatrix Lorelle van Fossen has an excellent explanation of why we’re observing CSS Naked Day on her meta-blog, Lorelle on WordPress.

  • Welcome to WordPress 2.5


    WordPressWordPress is the finely-tuned mechanism that keeps this site ticking and—like a wristwatch—it does so whether anyone is looking or not. On the surface, things appear to be quite simple: the big hand and the little hand do their little circular dance hour after hour and usually we don’t think about the tiny cogs and gears and springs all precisely meshed together…until something goes horribly wrong. Then we’ve got to flip the thing around and take the bezel off. If we’re lucky, popping in a new battery does the trick (but totally throws the whole spring-loaded movement analogy out the window); if we’re not, someone’s going to have work to do.

    Upgrading WordPress is typically like changing a watch battery: if you know what you’re doing it takes about five minutes and you’ve just got to make a minor adjustment or two to get everything synced up again.

    Now imagine that you change the battery in your watch, pop the bezel back on and flip it over to discover that the stem has been moved to the opposite side. It’s a little inconvenient, but you manage to reset the time anyway. And in doing so, you notice a nifty new dial that keeps track of the phases of the moon, but it doesn’t seem to work properly. In fact, the entire face of the watch has been rearranged, the numbers all squished to one side and set in the opposite order, probably to accommodate for the fact that the hands now seem to be moving backwards.

    That’s a bit like what upgrading to WordPress 2.5 was like.

    Okay that’s a bit of an exaggeration. WordPress isn’t running backwards. It still works. Sort of. I mean, I’m blogging, aren’t I?

    At first, before the “gee whiz, this is shiny and new” wore off, I thought, “gee whiz, this is shiny and new!” I fiddled around with the redesigned administrative interface, figuring out where everything was, spotting a few new things here and there. Then I started to use the new interface, probably in the worst possible way one could choose to test drive it: I recategorized 500+ blog entries.

    Let me explain why this is bad. First, let’s have a look at the old WordPress interface. This is what the write/edit post screen used to look like:

    WordPress 2.3 Write Interface

    Recategorizing a post was simple: click “Edit”, select the new categories on the right, de-select the old ones, click “Save”. Done! This is how I did the first hundred or so posts, before I upgraded to WordPress 2.5.

    Now here’s the same screen after the upgrade:

    WordPress 2.5 Write Interface

    Okay, so we’ve got a smaller editor, a column of white (or negative) space occupying the right fifth of the screen, and where did those categories go? Well, they’re below the editor. But not right below the editor; that’s where the Tags section is. But below the Tags is the Categories section, so it’s not too far away.

    Unless you’re recategorizing several hundred blog entries. Now you’ve got to scroll down to select the categories. Every single post. Edit. Scroll. Select categories. Save.

    Making the whole process even more tedious (as if that were possible), is the fact that there’s no more “Save and Continue Editing” button. This is because the “Save” button is now the “Save and Continue Editing” button. Which means clicking “Save” after editing a post doesn’t return me to the screen on which I selected the post to edit, it saves the post and reloads it, just in case I want to keep editing. Which, in this case, I most certainly don’t. And so now my process is: Edit. Scroll. Select categories. Save. Wait for page to refresh. Click “Go Back”.

    Four. Hundred. Times.

    Now, this might seem like a pretty minor gripe, but it’s not. It’s huge. Because the simplest of blog posts on this site has just four elements: title, content, category and tags. 1Technically, only the category is required. Posts can be published without a title, content or tags, but WordPress will set a default category if one isn’t selected. Which makes putting the … Continue reading Prior to WordPress 2.5, all four of those were above the scroll. Everything was right there in front of me and unless I wanted to add an image (more on that in a bit), no scrolling was necessary. Now, not only do I need to scroll to select a category, but thanks to the clutter above the editor I’ve got to scroll to enter tags, as well.

    It’s only a matter of time before someone publishes a plugin that will overlay the default WordPress 2.5 administrative interface with something that resembles the interface from the previous version. When that happens, I’ll be first in line to install it.

    But what about adding those images?

    Sweet Elyse, mother of Alex P., if there is a feature of WordPress 2.5 that makes me want to gouge my eyes out, it’s the new media functions. The simple upload interface has been replaced with a Flash and JavaScript monstrosity that looks like the bastard child of Lightbox. Don’t get me wrong, Lightbox is great for displaying images and slideshows—clicking the screen shots in this very post will demonstrate how it works—but it’s absolutely horrid for file management, even if those files are photos and screen shots. Dropping the blogging interface into shadow when you want to insert an image is unsettling; there’s no way to verify that you’ve got your insertion point set correctly, because clicking outside the “lit” portion of the window causes the media library to close.

    WordPress 2.5 Insert Image Interface

    The previous version of WordPress, on the other hand, used much more straightforward interface, with the image selection and insertion all handled without fancy JavaScript popups and with the editor available on the same screen so inserting at just the right spot was a breeze.

    WordPress 2.3 Insert Image Interface

    Simplicity has been replaced with glitter and the end result is clunky at best (and just plain doesn’t work on some PCs I use). Again, as soon as someone creates a plugin to do away with the new “media library” features, I’ll install it. Hell, if I had the programming chops, I’d just whip up the plugins myself. Alas, I’m too busy bitching about free software to learn the necessary skills to solve the problems I perceive.

    But that’s the great thing about WordPress, after all: the community of developers who pour their time and talent into putting out new versions, new plugins and new themes. And that’s why I’m not going to let a couple of speed bumps turn me away from the blogging platform that I’ve come to love and rely on since I switched over from Moveable Type way back in January of 2005.

    But seriously, someone get to work on those plugins. Pronto.

    1 Technically, only the category is required. Posts can be published without a title, content or tags, but WordPress will set a default category if one isn’t selected. Which makes putting the Categories section below Tags all the more baffling.
  • HOW-TO: Not Use Feedburner Properly


    Back in the spring of 1977, a couple of guys named Steve were changing the world of computers, a guy named George was changing the face of science fiction cinema, and a man named Jimmy was flexing his newfound Presidential muscle. That very same spring, 1Plus or minus thirty years. I created a Feedburner feed for

    Though I’m not obsessed with site statistics and number of subscribers to my RSS feed(s), I will admit that I was a little curious, plus Feedburner offered a couple of clever options for making the feed more friendly to various feed readers. Plus, there didn’t seem to be any downside to redirecting my existing feeds.

    Fast-forward to a couple of months ago: In upgrading to WordPress 2.3.x and trying my hand at theme design, I run into problems with a couple of the plug-ins I’ve installed. After upgrading all the plugins I’m using and getting rid of a few I’m not, everything appears to be fine.

    Fast-forward to a couple of hours ago: some random whim inspires me to check my Feedburner stats for the first time since George, one of the Steves and another George who has nothing to do with science fiction or personal computers went eight different kinds of crazy. Immediately, it is clear that something has gone horribly awry. Three subscribers? Just three? I’m responsible for at least two subscriptions to the main feed; surely I’ve got enough geek cred to warrant at least a handful of subscriptions from savvy Intarwebbians.

    Of course I am, though my geek cred may be in some jeopardy as the twisted tale approaches its climax. It seems that in my virtual house-cleaning I had managed to deactivate and delete a very important WordPress plugin, one called Feedburner Feedsmith that handles the redirection of my default RSS feeds to Feedburner.

    The upshot of all this, unless I’ve missed something, is that, for the past couple of months, Feedburner has only been counting subscribers who subscribed to the feeds generated by Feedburner (e.g.,, because the feed published by WordPress ( has not been properly redirected. 2This is a nice, warm, fuzzy explanation, because it means that people are subscribed to the feed and reading the blog but Feedburner isn’t counting them.


    So now I’ve reinstalled the Feedburner Feedsmith plugin and this is the first new post since doing so. If all goes well, I should see the number of subscribers jump back up pretty quickly.

    Either that or I suddenly became very unpopular in early September.

    1 Plus or minus thirty years.
    2 This is a nice, warm, fuzzy explanation, because it means that people are subscribed to the feed and reading the blog but Feedburner isn’t counting them.
  • Sitestuff: Theme work in progress.

    · Screen Shot
    I spent a good deal of time this weekend fiddling around with the Sandbox theme from is the brainchild of Scott Wallick, and he describes it as “[m]inimalism in blogging: an experiment out of control”. In the two and a half years since I installed WordPress, I’ve used at least three of Scott’s themes: Barthelme, plaintxtBlog and now Sandbox.

    Where Barthelme and plaintxtBlog are both fully developed from a visual standpoint, Sandbox is more like a blank slate upon which a design can be built; think of it as an unfrosted cake ready for anything your imagination (and your skill with a tube of colored frosting) can throw at it.

    If you’re familiar with the old look of the site, it might appear that all I’ve done is shift the left sidebar over to the right, and there’s good reason for that: my goal was to, in essence, recreate the basic look of Brian Gardner’s Blue Zinfandel theme, but with two right-hand sidebars instead of one on either side of the main column. Ultimately, the changes to the design will be significant enough to fully distinguish it from Brian’sI’ll start by designing my own post-separator graphic., but I thought it would be interesting to see if I could mimic at least part of his crisp, clean look using Sandbox as a base.

    I’m pretty pleased with the outcome so far. There are areas that still need work (the far right sidebar has a tendency to drop out of place when viewing a single post with Internet Explorer, for example), but the basic look is coming together nicely. I’ve had one person tell me they’re not a fan of the dual sidebars on the right-hand side, but I don’t think that’s going away anytime soon.

    As always, I encourage anyone with an opinion on the design to share it with me in the comments. I know that the archives and library pages are a mess right now, and I’ll post an update when I’ve fixed them, but if you see anything else that seems out of place, needs improvement, or is just plain ugly, let me know.

  • One of the most memorable quotes from Tim Burton’s Batman is Jack Nicholson as the Joker declaring “This town needs an enema!” Though the Clown Prince of Crime certainly had sinister designs on Gotham, he had a point: the city was a mess and needed a thorough cleansing. His choice of words may not have appealed to those of a delicate and genteel nature (who would likely have preferred “facelift” or “makeover” to the vulgar colonic), but the idea has always resonated with me and it springs to mind anytime I see something that is clearly in need of change.

    I’ve often felt that the phrase applies to this very website, both in terms of content and design.

    Content-wise, I’d like updates to be more consistent, preferably at least one new post every weekday and perhaps a single post over the weekend. Of course, there’s more to blogging than just establishing a posting schedule, because no one is going to care that I’m posting regularly if I’m not posting anything interesting; which begs the question: what do the people who read this blog find interesting?

    As an example of something potentially uninteresting, I offer up this very post. I like to keep the meta-blogging (or “blogging about blogging”) to a minimum here and leave it to folks like Lorelle VanFossen, who meta-blog far better than I ever could (or would want to). My meta-blog posts tend to center around whatever issues I’m currently experiencing with WordPress and such; I don’t do advice. When I do dip my toe into meta-blogging, I do so with the understanding that—unless you’re a WordPress user (or a huge dork)—the excursion isn’t going to be terribly interesting, but I also do it knowing that the process of writing helps keep the gears turning in my head and there are a few people reading who do blog with (or without) WordPress and muck around with CSS and web design, and they’re likely to provide some very insightful feedback.

    Content is far more important than design and aesthetics, but over the past few days I’ve been very focused on the look and feel of this site. I upgraded to WordPress 2.3, which had some unintended consequences, specifically in the areas of commenting and post tags, but I think I’ve taken care of those. Digging through the site, however, made me realize that I’d like to spruce things up a bit (the Library page is in dire need of an overhaul, for instance, and the Now Reading section in the right-hand sidebar could be cleand up), take care of some browser-dependent design quirks, organize things a bit better and maybe cut some of the extraneous bits.

    I spent an absolutely stupid amount of time last night going through old blog entries (I’m about a third of the way done) and making sure that the markup for images and footnotes was consistent (and adding images to some movie review posts that didn’t have them); the idea is to create a consistent look across the entire site, but also to make switching to a new theme easier, should I ever decide to stop using Brian Gardner‘s Blue Zinfandel.

    Unfortunately, despite a lot of CSS tweaking and web searches, I was unable resolve a browser-specific rendering problem: Internet Explorer versions 6 and 7 both have issues with floating images. The IE screen shot below illustrates the problem: the text immediately beneath the Transformers movie poster image (which is “floating” on the left of the center column) should be to the right of the image and wrap around as it flows beyond it. Firefox renders it properly but neither version of Internet Explorer does.

    Internet Explorer Float Issue

    The problem is very likely something to do with floating images within floating sections or visible overflow or something, but I haven’t been able to nail it down yet and it’s pretty annoying; especially since I’m almost positive that it was working properly in the past.

    Finally, there’s the new “Currently Playing” and “Recently Watched” sections on the left-hand sidebar. The former was blatantly stolen from Greg Howley (though Rob Miller deserves some credit, too, as his Now Reading plug-in set me on the “media I’m consuming” path in the first place) and the latter was an obvious extension of the idea. Neither of them are plug-ins (though that could change), and they originally featured just cover images and titles. However, converting them to Amazon links has removed some of the hassle of maintaining them: I don’t have to hand-write the HTML or host the images myself. I’ve been embedding my Amazon Associates ID in DVD, book and video game links for over a year now, but this is the first time I’ve used the Buy Now button, something I’ve been avoiding because I don’t want the site to feel like an ad (don’t worry, I don’t plan to start using Google AdSense anytime in the foreseeable future).

    So there you have it: I’m feeling a little restless about the current state of and I want to shake things up a bit. I welcome your suggestions and feedback and appreciate your patience if I somehow manage to break the site while I’m fiddling.

  • Blogging: Abandoned Posts


    There are times when I start a blog entry and then something shiny comes along to distract me and the thing never gets finished. I had, until recently, nearly two dozen such posts in WordPress, just waiting for me to come along and finish them; everything from movie reviews (The Station Agent, Alien Nation, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, 300, The Prestige, Pan’s Labyrinth) to book reviews (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment) and even theater reviews (Spamalot) and short fiction (The Tale of the Ugly Pony, Major Dorque: The Soldier’s Story). I waded through the incomplete posts this morning and deleted most of them, except the short stories and one Game Night recap (yeah, Gus, it’s the one you’re waiting for).

    Here’s a sample of what got axed: my started-but-never-finished Origins 2007 recap from way back in July. A lot of fun stuff happened at Origins, but I got hung up on the style I’d chosen for the intro and never got around to actually writing about any of it.

    Saturday, 07 July 2007, Oh Early Hundred Hours

    As the first rays of sunshine begin to bathe northeast Ohio in their warmth, the MVoD cruises quietly southward along Interstate 271 toward Columbus. Safely ensconced within the sheet metal and fiberglass cockpit, two bearded geeks—unused to being active at such an early hour—rub the remnants of sleep from their bleary eyes and scan the distant horizon for the first glimpse of the Columbus Convention Center, to which thousands of geeks—bearded and unbearded alike—make their annual pilgrimage for Origins, the ne plus ultra of gaming fairs.

    “Long has it been since we walked among our people,” declares one of the bearded geeks.

    “Indeed,” the other agrees.It is neither pertinent nor especially interesting to distinguish between bearded geeks, for one is as much like the other as to make ascertaining anything beyond the most trivial and minute of distinctions an exercise in futility. For the sake of simplicity, we shall henceforth call them Kris and Chris, and note that even their names are so similar that the human ear cannot detect any significant discrepancy in pronunciation. The two are, for all intents and purposes in recounting this tale, identical.

    Unerringly and without hesitation, Kris guides the vehicle toward the Convention Center, while Chris interjects with only the occasional clucking of his tongue against his palate, tsking as one might to a horse who is well familiar with the route but appreciates the subtle encouragement nonetheless.

    Now the majestic spires of Columbus are visible, glimmering towers of crystal rising up through the faraway mists, and the bearded geeks are momentarily struck dumb by the magnificence before them. Time slows, the nearness of the destination taunting the weary travelers with a siren call that transcends sound, the shimmering jewel of the city urging them ever onward. And when it seems that the road will ever stretch out in front of the carriage, leaving their mecca unattainable for all eternity, time collapses in upon itself like a spyglass and at last they arrive.

  • 5 O’Clock Shadow – 03 April 2007


    5 O’Clock Shadow - 03 April 2007
    Thanks to a bit of help from the creator of the Slightbox plugin and some digging into a couple of the other plugins I use, proper Slightbox functionality has been restored. Full-sized images (including today’s 5 o’clock shadow) will load in a nifty overlay when you click on thumbnails.

    And that’s all he wrote, for now.

  • Sitestuff: I love SPAM, I hate spam.


    5 O’Clock Shadow - 29 March 2007
    According to the stats at MyBlogLog, has 23 readers, which sounds about right to me; there are also a handful of people who read the posts via the RSS feed, but I really have no idea how many. That’s not exactly a huge audience, but the number of spam comments filtered out by the Akismet plugin ranges anywhere from a dozen to several hundred on any given day; if you’re reading this, the comment spammers really want you to see their junk.Or at the very least increase their Google ranking for erectile dysfunction medication, auto insurance and naughty, naughty boys and girls.

    Today was a high-volume day for comment spam. The online pharmacies, insurance agents and purveyors of various forms of taboo (if not downright illegal) sexual practices attempted to hit with roughly 500 spam comments in the past twenty-four hours, only one of which made it past Akismet. Since I’ve been using the plugin, less than a half-dozen legitimate comments have been incorrectly trapped and perhaps two dozen spam comments have made it through the filter. Considering that Akismet has trapped more than twenty-one and a half thousand spam comments in the past two years, I’d say it’s a pretty good track record.

    There’s some concern that WordPress users are putting all of our comment spam fighting eggs in one basket with Akismet; the plugin relies on external servers to function, and a failure of those servers could result in a flood of unfiltered spam comments on thousands of blogs worldwide. Nasty! It’s a risk I’m willing to live with, though, as Akismet allows me to let people comment on without having to register or enter a CAPTCHA code.

    So, comment to your heart’s desire, all twenty-three of you. Akismet has your back, and mine.

  • Sitestuff: Oops. I broke it.


    5 O’Clock Shadow - 28 March 2007
    I really need to start keeping some sort of changelog for this site to make troubleshooting things like the current Slightbox issue a little simpler. Slightbox is the WordPress plugin that used to load images (like the 5 o’clock shadow pictures) in a nifty overlay “above” the main page when they were clicked. The key phrase there is “used to”, as sometime in the past couple of days the plugin stopped working. Instead of getting a nice, smooth image overlay, clicking on image links takes you to a new page containing just the full-sized image.

    I was already aware that Slightbox wasn’t working if the image link was embedded in a list, but now it doesn’t work anywhere. I don’t know if it’s a JavaScript problem, a conflict with one of the dozen other WordPress plugins I’ve got installed, or something else I’ve managed to screw up in my endless fiddling.

    The nice thing about the WordPress community is that plugin developers are generally happy to help when people encounter problems. I pinged Slightbox developer Taras Mankovski with an earlier issue I was having with the plugin and his response was not only quick, but correct. Of course, it’s one thing to say “your plugin is working but there’s a quirk that I can’t figure out” and an entirely separate thing to say “your plugin doesn’t work at all.”

    On the bright side, I did fix an annoying glitch that caused the right sidebar to be rendered improperly in Internet Explorer (which I only noticed because IE is the standard browser at work). I knew that the culprit was italic text and when I Googled Internet Explorer italics CSS, the first hit was a page that described the IE/italics bug and provided a simple solution. That’s because I used the very same page when I was stomping out a similar bug in my own early attempts at WordPress theme design. I dashed off a quick note of thanks to Bruno Fassino, who wrote the page, and he sent me a note indicating the the problem has apparently been fixed in IE 7, but other italics issues have been introduced. Par for the course with IE, it seems.

    Maybe if I just stopped fiddling with things, everything would be fine, but that’s just not my way; I’m going to keep adding new plugins or replacing the ones I already use with updated versions, tweaking the sidebars and the comment form and the page layout because it’s fun and interesting, even if I do wind up breaking stuff now and again.