Archive for the 'wordpress' Category



13
Jul
08

Fox Spews: fare for the unbalanced

This post dedicated to my dear friend Trish in California, who wishes they would have a moratorium on campaigning until two months before the election just to give everyone a break.

A fellow blogger recently commented on the wordpress.com forums that she has saved SO. MUCH. TIME. not paying attention to American politics. Or French politics, for that matter, even though she was born there.

Well, I’m sorry. Much as I’d like it to be otherwise, what happens in US politics affects your life, whether you live in the States or not. Neocon foreign policy, where diplomacy is dead and pre-emptive war a God-given right? That hasn’t affected anyone’s life? Got on a plane lately?

And much as I’d also like it to be otherwise, I can’t vote for the man I’d like to win in the upcoming presidential election. But I can spread the word on how awful the smears have been against Barack Obama and his wife Michelle. Nasty Larry’s still stinking up the joint, but not many are paying attention to him.

Fox News on the other hand gets millions of viewers, and those people are being fed a streak of racism and lies about the couple.

Watch this video to see how Fox is doing it. Then sign the petition. Oh, and hope you’ve had a great weekend.

31
May
08

When I quit blogging, I’ll do it my way

I think it’s a sign of the times when one of the most passionate, committed bloggers out there mentions that Blogging Just Isn’t Fun Anymore.   In saying he’s Closing This Shit Down, another blogger says as he switches to Tumblr: WordPress is so 2006…  Comment fatigue, post burn-out, eyes glazed over as the feedreader spits out another 55 updates…

Have you thought about quitting blogging?  I have.  It’s going to happen sooner or later, so when it does, I want to be prepared.    This is about how I want to end it.  The last post.  The so-long-I’m-outta-here.  Not like some, who simply slink off and let their blogs die. 

When I quit blogging, I’ll do it My Way.  Perhaps I’ll link back to this very post.  So here’s a preview:

And now – the text is clear
And so I face – the final posting.
My friends – have left Facebook
Without a trace, of which I’m certain
I’ve blogged – a blog that’s full
I’ve followed each and every comment
No more. No more of this.
I’ve hit the high – way.

Trackbacks? I’ve had a few,
And linked to things – too dumb to mention
I’ve post’d ’bout – a lot of bull
About a life – of nervous tension.
I planned each post, of course
Each paragraph, each punctuation
But so… so bored to tears,
It’s time to go ‘way.

Yes, there were times – I posted shite
Just like that site, for those that arrrre white
But nonetheless, when I look back
I chewed it well, and spat it out,
I wrote it all, I had a ball,
Writing ev’ry day.

There’s more, but I simply can’t go on…
Take it away Sid:

27
Apr
08

Possibly related posts definitely not for everyone

It seems to be a WordPress habit. Friday afternoon rolls around, time to spring another feature on a million unsuspecting bloggers just in time for support to high-tail it to the dude ranch for the weekend.

Latest addition hard on the heels of the wildly successful upgrade of early April is the addition of Possibly Related Posts. It’s being billed as a way of leading readers elsewhere to posts that might be about the same thing you have written.

The operative word you have to keep in mind is Possibly.

A quick survey of the links now inserted at the bottom of a couple of my posts include:

Other bloggers have had the ultimate creep-out: one complained in the forum of links to porn inappropriate content, for example.

If you’re not happy with links appearing on your blog you never chose and have no control over, there is fortunately a way to disable it. Go into your dashboard and click on Design, then Extras. A page will pop up. Check the box marked: Hide related links on this blog.

But to give WordPress credit, they are saying that over the coming days we’ll be allowed to tweak the results to our liking. Hopefully that will include the ability to filter out the crap. Not a bad idea, but one that should have been there from the beginning.

© 2008 lettershometoyou

11
Apr
08

This site may harm your computer

Waiting for a flight at Hamburg airport early last week I sat down at an internet terminal and was about to drop a coin in before the nice man sitting next to me said, “take mine, I have to go and there are about 25 minutes left on it.”

I thanked him warmly and sat down in his place, immediately typing lettershometoyou into Google to see if I could find Adsense ads on my blog. You’ve probably heard that they’re out there, lurking on every wordpress.com blog. It’s the price you pay for free hosting, and no amount of whining is going to get wordpress to take them off short of your paying them to do so.

Problem is, if you’re logged in to wordpress.com you never get to see them.

So every once in a while I slip into the skin of Joe Regular Blog Lurker to try to find out how Google is making an even greater mess of my blog. Do they stick ads for jock itch powder next to posts about my mother-in-law? Blurbs for psychiatrists next to write-ups about psychos? Tart up my skiing posts with pitches for helmets and handbaskets and other crap I have no use for?

The list of hits Google chucked up had me scrambling for my camera. Not for what they said, but for the public terminal’s net-nanny warning label:

At first I thought they were referring to my blog. After all, even if there are no trojans waiting to ambush the unsuspecting visitor, there is a ton of stuff here people might find harmful. Fake news, accounts of deception and outright lies, denunciations of crap, transcripts of discussions with an underage female child concerning condoms, naked girls in newspapers, death and more death. I don’t know why I haven’t already been hauled before a judge as a menace to society.

Then I realised the warning was all about WordPress.com. How could it not be? The link is to wordpress, not lettershometoyou, which only appears in the description.

Maybe it was just a forewarning, because a few days later I and millions of other unsuspecting WordPress.com bloggers logged on to find our blogging universe turned inside out without so much as a ‘”hey guys, guess what? Big changes coming up tomorrow at 4pm Pacific Daylight Saving Time.”

Did someone at WP central hit publish instead of save by mistake before turning out the lights for the weekend?

I’m sure after a few months this will all die down and we’ll wonder what all the fuss was about, but in the meantime wordpress.com probably is harmful to your computer. Judging by the number of pissed-off entries on the forums, I’m surprised there hasn’t been a youtube video posted of someone throwing a laptop out the window frisbee-style in frustration. I don’t care what it looks like, merely uploading an image, for example, has become a mind-numbing chore, a multi-stepped process where once a couple of clicks sufficed.

This in an upgrade? Sure the savvy bloggers using wp.org had a go at it for a while, but given the huge drop in skill level between those bloggers and duffers like me using wp.com, didn’t they think to test it on a few hundred of us wp.com users who’d never seen it before? They could have run a little sneak-preview contest, choosing a hundred or so bloggers to run it through it paces for a month just to iron the kinks out.

Hell, maybe they did test it out on no-brain bloggers like me, I don’t know, but the way it was released reminds me of the time I bought a new desktop from Dell a few years back. The monitor was a new flat-screen model from the Korean firm LG, back when flat screen meant the surface was flat. The rest looked like an old-style monitor.

Anyway, the first one they sent didn’t work, so I sent it back.

The second one arrived three days later. It didn’t work properly either, so I sent it back, too.

The third one arrived a few days after that, and it didn’t work either.

So I phoned up Dell to complain – not for the first time – and asked them why they couldn’t ship me a monitor that worked. Their response? We can’t test the monitors as they come in, we just ship them along.

Fair enough, I said, but can’t they at least have someone switch it on at the factory? Twist a knob? Tweak a button?

Nööö, too expensive. It’s cheaper to ship them halfway around the world and have the consumer do the testing.

Happy blogging.

© 2008 lettershometoyou

10
Apr
08

A few comments on comments

So it is possible to post from bed. Though my lap may be overheating, I have to start hacking away at the backlog of things to post. One of them is about comments on this blog, something I was meaning to get to a month ago.

I used to maintain a really strict commenting policy: No comments posted without moderation. I figured that was the safest way to keep the spammers, psychos and occasional foam-at-the-mouth neo-nazi at bay, as happened when I wrote a series on racism in Germany around the time of those horrendous attacks on Indians last summer.

But one day while rummaging around in the WordPress Dashboard – before the nuclear meltdown latest upgrade – I discovered you can allow those whom you’ve previously approved to post comments immediately, while those posting for the very first time are still held back for moderation.

Wow. Didn’t notice that when I started out, and never bothered to check up on it again.

So I quietly changed the setting to allow regular commenters to have their say right away. I do hope regular readers appreciate this loosening of the tie, so to speak, and hope that new commenters will understand theirs will have to be vetted the first time.

And speaking of new commenters, three comments waiting for me one morning last week were such a welcome gift, they’re worth talking about here.

The first one was most unusual. More than a year ago, I raved nearly uncontrollably about the new ski lift installed in 2007 at St Anton, Austria, our usual ski holiday destination. I was so completely overwhelmed by its design and engineering, I wrote a post about it, complete with photo and video. Well, it took more than a year for the first comment to appear, a thank-you from one of the engineers who worked on it.

Unexpected? I’d almost forgotten I’d written it!

I’d like to thank you, sir, for taking the time to tell me who you are and your connection to it. Great work. I hope to be back there again next year.

Though I hope she doesn’t say it to all the boys, the second one made me smile: I just love your blog. Thanks, Rebecca.

And finally, the third in the queue that morning: a comment that had me sitting up and saying wow. It’s from CaliGerm, a couple who’s recently moved to Lüneburg, which is just down the pike from Hamburg.

It really encourages me to keep doing what I’m doing when I’m told this blog was one of the few which inspired them to start their own.

© 2008 lettershometoyou

02
Mar
08

Lesson learned: do your damn research before posting

My most recent post about the blog Stuff White People Like contained a glaring error that basically blows apart my whole thesis.

As someone – probably Brian from catsandbeer.com who is a contributor – pointed out in this comment, the author is Canadian.   The Assimilated Negro has an interview with the author in which he states that he grew up in Toronto’s East Chinatown and now lives in LA.  Another contributing author lives in Vancouver.

Oops.  The interview post is a week old.  No excuse for poor research.  Thanks, Dude.

01
Mar
08

What if you’re white, and don’t like stuff white people like?

I’m a white guy. A real white guy. I am so damn white, I need factor 35 sun cream to go skiing or sunbathing. I am so damn white, there is a genetic skin disease in my family going back an untold number of generations called Epidermolysis Bullosa, a rare affliction which renders the skin as fragile as a butterfly’s. Though the disease doesn’t discriminate for race or sex, it first showed up in my family in the area of the northern British Isles where my ancestors lived, and where asses don’t get whiter.

My two white brothers have it, my white father did, so did his white father, and his white father, his white mother… and that’s about as far back as we’ve been able to trace.

Born in Canada, so already a member of the lucky sperm club, I can count myself one of the luckiest damn white guys on the planet, because I don’t have it.

Still, I’m stuck with being white, and can’t do anything about that. I was born this way. This is who I am.

Apparently, some Americans have been carefully observing me and my fellow white people, and decided it’s time to let everybody know in a blog what white people like. Called Stuff White People Like, it has shot like a rocket to the second-most popular blog on wordpress.com in only its first five weeks of life, pulling in a total of more than six million hits as well as hundreds of comments for each post. The “About” page alone has nearly 2,200 comments last time I looked.

I read through it and shrug.

Musical comedy? I prefer stand-up.

Kitchen gadgets? Please.

Multilingual children? There are hundreds of millions of white people here in Europe, where the best jobs are hard to find without foreign language skills.

Threatening to move to Canada? I had a howl at that one, because at the end it says – possibly after someone pointed out that there are white people in Canada who read the blog – that white Canadians threaten to move to Europe.

Naw, we just look south and shake our heads at the latest example of how little regard or even awareness many Americans have for what goes on beyond their own borders. Having successfully thrown their cultural weight around the planet for more than a century, they automatically assume that what goes for white Americans goes for white people everywhere.

There are dozens more examples of Stuff White People are Supposed to Like. White Americans, maybe. Yuppie Americans for sure. Yuppie American dinks (dual income, no kids) absolutely. It stops there, though.

National Lampoon in its 1970s glory days once ran a Race Issue which, depending on how you took it, either tried its best to insult every race on the planet with equal measure, or satirise racism as a useless exercise because we all have traits which define us as individuals and, like it or not, as a group.

One look through the comments and you’ll see that readers of this new blog don’t know what to make of it, either.

Me? I prefer Weird Al. At least he’s funny.

© 2008 lettershometoyou

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26
Feb
08

10 things you can do with 3gb of free space on wordpress.com

Not too long ago, the top dogs at wordpress.com announced that every blog hosted there now has three GB of free storage space. Wow, 3GB! That’s huge step up from the 50MB they were dishing out up to then. Before, if you wanted anything above that, you used to have to pay for a space upgrade.

I started to have visions of what I could do with all that space, but because what I saw was pretty fuzzy, I went on the wordpress forums and asked how much other bloggers were using. Turns out they weren’t using any. Raincoaster, practically a grandmother in bloggers’ years with a huge amount of material accumulated on her blog, is using 0% of her available space. So is everyone else who bothered to respond.

free-space.jpg

I learned that even if you were to post the Bible, the Koran, the Torah, War and Peace, the complete works of William Shakespeare as well as the entire catalogue of stupid things George W. Bush has uttered since he went dry, it would still register 0%. That’s because they don’t count text. Photos usually don’t take much space, so unless you’re uploading bloat-sized 39MB jpegs from the latest digital Hasselblad, you aren’t going to use up much either.

So I thought maybe you too are wondering what 3GB of free space is good for. Uploading video is the first thing that comes to mind, but then it’s no longer free. If you want to upload your own video and have it stored on your blog like a photo instead of linking to youlube like everyone else does, you have to pay the $15 minimum upgrade.

With the price of Sloppaccino Slattés in a paper cup approaching five dollars, 15 bucks might not sound like a lot of money, but since video is practically the only thing that 99% of us are ever going to fill up that vast amount of free space with, tying its most obvious use to a paid upgrade is not offering free space.

It’s as if you’re out shopping for a piece of land upon which to build your dream shack, and the agent steps out of the car, turns to a stretch of turf and with a sweep of the hand says: and it also comes with free use of the sky, all the way up to Uranus!

Looking at him like he’s a blithering idiot, you say: …but I don’t have a rocket ship.

Well, Home Depot’s gotta sale on stepladders! Fifteen bucks!

So if you’re like me and still wondering how to bulk up that 0% into a figure you can be proud of, yet remain true to your everything-on-the-net-is-free / dot-communist roots, here are a few suggestions.

  1. Upload your entire photo collection and store it on your blog, thus freeing up hard-drive space on your own computer. Since you’ll have to upload them one-by-one, please allow yourself adequate time. Quit your job if you have to.
  2. Beg, borrow or steal that Hasselblad and start uploading. At maximum resolution, your 3GB is good for about 75 shots.
  3. Write all your posts out in longhand Dear-Diary style. Then scan and upload them to your blog. Make sure you don’t scale for size, because you’ve got so much to fill.
  4. Once you’ve posted about 10 hand-written entries, hold a contest to see who can best figure out your personality through your handwriting.
  5. Feel vaguely smug.
  6. Add your name to the list of barking seals clapping their approval.
  7. Start to wonder if this isn’t some way to make wordpress.com look good to investors, without a lot of outlay on their part.
  8. Confirm this.
  9. Go watch the fun as other kids point fingers and say: The Emperors have no clothes.
  10. Forget you even have the free space. I have. It’s not hard to ignore what you’ll never use.

© 2008 lettershometoyou

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31
Jan
08

A few signs bloggers are taking themselves much too seriously

  • Targetting fitness tips to bloggers as if the breed were something special and the advice didn’t apply to the rest of the real world. All together now! Climb those stairs, say hello to Mom, put on shades and suncream, go outside, breathe deeply…
  • Nutrition advice for bloggers as per above.
  • Worrying about what happens to your blog after you die. Guess what? You won’t care.
  • Wait a minute. Maybe you will. I first heard of this via Raincoaster, who pointed out that no matter how successful a blogger you are, there will always be someone out there with more readers and a more loyal following. Even if the blogger died more than six months ago. Not to make light of suicide – far from it – but where do the desperation that drives you that far end, and the obsession to blog forever, overlap? Think about it. If you want to, you can write hundreds of entries, time-posting them so that they publish on the dates and times you choose in the future. After you die, but before pre-paying your hosting fees, if you have them. I don’t know… I think it would make responding to comments a bit of a problem.
  • Reading too much into one executive’s move a while back from dusty, crusty old CBS News to shiny, new, hip and happening news blog The Huffington Post. I’d be willing to bet they simply offered her a shitload more money.
  • Writing a diary about your blogging habits. Don’t millions already consider their blog to be a diary? I guess it would look something like this: Dear offline diary. Woke up, scratched privates, logged on, blogged. Went offline, wrote this. Went back online, wrote some more. Went offline, wrote a bit more about what I wrote online. Went online… The really obsessives could start a new blog which tracks the offline diary which tracks their main blog.
  • Getting bummed out about your blog and generally not having fun. The writer says he has people come to him “…feeling despondent (about) their underperforming blogs.” Lighten up, already! Everyone goes through a slump now and then. When in doubt, go out.
  • Like me. I was going to list ten, but have to stop here.
  • © 2008 lettershometoyou

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25
Jan
08

What I think about this whole blogging thing

If you’re also a blogger, you’ve probably heard this before:

I am, to be honest, mystified by the whole blog phenomenon. I’m barely interested in the minutiae of my own day, so why on earth would I want to read about someone else’s?

That’s from an old friend with whom I’ve recently re-connected via Facebook. No, not THAT old friend.

Here’s what I wrote back:

I know what you mean. There’s even a book title on blogging that goes to exactly that: No one cares what you had for lunch.

But scrape beyond the surface, spend some time seriously sifting through the vast array of blogs out there, and you’ll come across gems. I liken it to writing a newspaper column or even doing stand-up comedy. You write about what everyone has experienced sometime or another, but put a twist in it that makes the reader say, hmmm, never thought of it that way before. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but what keeps you going is the challenge. Or you do a bit of a niche thing, like what it’s like to be a gay expatriate. Or an expatriate who is stateless, rootless, godless and gay. Or a funny Canadian freezing his ass off enjoying winters sports in Norway.

Some blogs are as unusual as the jobs held by the people who write them. If you go to my blogroll, check out Gimcrack Hospital. It’s written by this nurse who works in a hospital for old people who’ve literally fallen off their rocker. She’s a psychiatric geriatric specialist. It’s at times hilarious, at others shocking, brutal, touching, whimsical and flirty. I love it. Ummm, NSFW, especially on Fridays.

Some blog for money, and some have made fortunes, but mostly I yawn at their stuff. I mean, I know they have a following of millions, but icanhascheezburger.com – for the past few months consistently the most popular blog on WordPress – is nothing but a bunch of cat pics with mangled English pasted over. I do not find it funny. But people send the stuff in, they post it, a few laughs are had, and the money rolls in.

There are now so many tens of millions of blogs, it’s starting to resemble life itself. You can choose whom you want to read and communicate with, just as in real life you can choose whom you want to be friends with. Some you will find fascinating, others boring, still others disgusting. I like to think there’s room for all of us.

Sometimes I make the mistake of comparing mine to others and think I should have done the usual and invented something really quirky instead of Letters Home (I dropped the To You a while back) but then again, if I called it something funny and edgy and cool like Little Red Rabbit Turds I would have to live up to it – be funny and edgy and cool all the time.

That’s not only impossible to maintain, it isn’t me. I’m political one day, whacko the next, introspective the third, ranting the fourth, dripping with cynicism the fifth… I prefer it that way because some blogs start to look like the same post over and over after a while. This way, even if it’s at the risk of alienating some readers who prefer one type of writing and not others, I can try to keep fresh myself. Besides, I’m not a kid anymore. If I were, I’d be on (retch) MySpace.

We’ll see how it goes. I’m still having fun doing it, though it can piss you off at times when people steal your content and stick ads up beside it, and sometimes you don’t feel like posting, so I don’t. But I’ve met some real-life people – and not just in Dresden this past autumn – and that’s been fun, too.

© 2008 lettershometoyou

PS: Today marks one year since my first post. Thanks for reading, commenting, clicking on links, checking out the blogroll and the photos way down at the bottom, and for just dropping by. -Ian

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The banner photograph shows the town of Britannia Beach, BC, Canada, where I grew up. It's home. But I don't live there anymore.

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