WordPress and Slashdot

The disclaimer at the top of this page made me laugh:

Dear Slashdot readers: We didn’t expect this to hit the front page and our ghetto PIII web server normally doesn’t get much attention, so wordpress blew it up. We’ve converted this page to static for now. The rest of the wordpress install is currently unavailable so unfortunately the links are broken for now.

I wonder how my blog (which runs WordPress) would handle Slashdot or Digg?

Minor Policy Change

I just received some odd comments on a blog entry I wrote more than a year ago. Looking back, I’m kind of mortified at what I wrote. I feel that way about a lot of stuff I write here.

Two things come to mind:

  1. This blog is highly extemporaneous. Think of it as a public journal, not a carefully edited research paper. (the name of this blog is the first clue)
  2. My opinions often change over time, or at least evolve. I know that code I wrote last week looks a lot different than code I wrote one or two years ago. (if your coding style never changes, you probably stopped learning, and are in trouble)

Thus, for anything older than 180 days, comments are closed. Going back that far seems silly because I might not even believe what I wrote back then. Oftentimes, a post is simply me working out my thought processes by writing about them.

Plus, most comments on old material are either spam or students asking HOWTO questions.

Twittch Comments

I created Twittch 161 days ago. Shortly after launching the web site, I added the Google Friend Connect social bar, allowing people to “join” and leave comments.

So now, 52 comics later, the statistics are not impressive:

  • 38 total comments
  • zero spam (great!)
  • 9 of the comments were from me, replying to other comments
  • 1 comment was along the lines of “where did my last comment go?”

So basically, after 5+ months people left around 28 comments. Here are the Analytics stats:

  • 167,728 visits
  • 145,880 absolute unique visitors
  • 412,014 pageviews

I’m not sure how to explain it, because I receive far more comments here with WordPress and an annoying CAPTCHA that probably deters a lot of people from commenting. I considered replacing the Friend Connect Social Bar with their Comments gadget instead, but ultimately I decided to give Disqus a shot instead.

I will follow up after a few weeks (and some new comics) to let you know how it goes.

Who do I Follow on Twitter?

I generally don’t pay attention to who follows me on Twitter. In fact, I have GMail automatically archive Twitter email notifications whenever someone new follows me. That bucket currently has 700+ unread messages. (I just checked so I could put a number in that sentence.)

This offends some people. They believe that by following you, you should in turn follow them back. You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. Twitter is weird like that.

So how do I decide who to follow? I generally follow these groups of people:

  • People I work with or know personally.
  • People who are well known in fields I’m interested in, like Android development.
  • Familiar names that keep popping up on Twitter among the people I already follow.
  • People who @reply to me with interesting comments.

More and more, that last bullet is how I choose who to follow. If someone sparks my interest with a comment, I’ll click their profile and check out their time line and bio. If I like what I see, I’ll follow. It’s as simple as that.

Un-Follow

If people spend a lot of time tweeting about religion, teabagging, or other things I don’t like, I silently un-follow. That stuff stresses me out, which kind of defeats the whole purpose of Twitter. For me, Twitter is a way to relieve stress and amuse myself.

Speaking of un-following, there are tools to notify you when someone un-follows. Last year someone (who I don’t know) send me a personal email telling me he was un-following me. It’s OK, really. You don’t need to tell people when you leave, just go away.

I believe people should not concern themselves with un-follows. Sanitizing your thoughts and censoring yourself is a great way to be boring on Twitter. Instead, just be yourself and have fun.

Twitter Killed the Blog

Several people have asked me why I don’t blog more. The truth is, Twitter is a lot more convenient. When something pops into my brain, I throw it onto Twitter. Here is my username:

@burke_eric

Twitter is mostly nonsense, just an outlet for me to say strange things while my computer is busy compiling or copying files. During those brief moments of down time, “Tweeting” is instantaneous, while posting to my blog takes more commitment.

By the time the day is over, my itch to write is mostly gone, so I write less here. I have the best intentions to spend more quality time blogging, but I’m not making any promises.

(I know I’m not the only one…someone I work with mentioned he created a Twitter account just to follow all the people he used to follow via their blogs. Apparently many blogs have gone dormant thanks to Twitter, which is a damn shame, because many thoughts require more than 140 characters.)

Me Meme

Via Mario

  1. Take a picture of yourself right now.
  2. Don’t change your clothes, don’t fix your hair…just take a picture.
  3. Post that picture with NO editing.
  4. Post these instructions with your picture.

Font Advice

What font should I use in my comics? I realize people are passionate about fonts, but I doubt most people have the expertise to explain why one font is better than another.

I admit it, I do not “get” fonts. Most look the same to me, and I do not know what makes one font “good” and another “bad”.

Thus, I seek your advice. Leave a comment and tell me what font to use in the comics. Preferably back it up with some explanation. Without that explanation, I won’t know why your favorite font is any better than someone else’s favorite font.

Twitter: Leave my URLs Alone

Twitter has an annoying feature: it auto-shortens URLs. You might think this is useful given the 140 character Tweet limit, but in fact the opposite is often true. In many cases, the URL itself is self-descriptive. Let’s make up an example:

This is hilarious: http://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/freemanic_paracusia.png

That tweet takes 70 characters, and is self-descriptive. You can tell I’m linking to an XKCD comic, and you even know which one. Despite being well-within the 140 character limit, Twitter changes it to this:

This is hilarious: http://tinyurl.com/5gmpbn

They cut it from 70 to 44 characters…but why? It wasn’t anywhere near the 140 character limit. And what the hell does that Tweet describe? For all you know, I’m Rick-Rolling you. To give my Tweet context, I now have to describe it:

This XKCD comic is hilarious: http://tinyurl.com/5gmpbn

That’s 55 characters, but you still don’t know which comic I’m linking to. I could add more description:

This XKCD Freemanic Paracusia comic is hilarious: http://tinyurl.com/5gmpbn

Which brings us up to 75 characters, longer than the original Tweet with the full URL. (And I might still be Rick-Rolling you.)

Hacking a Workaround

Because Twitter does this automatically, without any explanation, I find myself spending more time on Tweets trying to find workarounds to avoid the URL tampering. I’ve tried posting URLs without “http://”, and that seemed to work for a week or so.

Then I posted this Tweet, and as you can see, they shortened AND BROKE the URL!

One surefire workaround: post an upside down URL. But that won’t render in many Twitter clients, Twhirl for one.

Content Tampering

Twitter is mostly just harmless fun, often a waste of time, but I find it enjoyable. Who cares, right? But…my Tweets are MY WORDS. Given that URLs often describe their destination, I choose my words in combination with URLs to say something specific. Cramming a coherent thought down to 140 characters is a challenging and fun exercise, and it is very frustrating when a flawed algorithm changes what I type without asking.

In fact, I think this problem is more profound. Changing what people write without asking permission is in fact a misquotation:

Omission of important context: The context can be important for determining the overall argument the quoted person wanted to make…

I argue that URLs often provide context, and our words — even URLs — should not be changed without permission. I suggest Twitter add a preference option allowing users to enable or disable this feature. Sadly, the broken URL shortening occurs whether you Tweet from the web or a Twitter client.

New Header Graphic

If you don’t see the new “comic bubble” header graphic, you may have to refresh the page, or even Shift-Reload. I find that whenever I change background images on this blog, the old images are cached for awhile.

I still need to fix the caveman favicon.ico file, but I seem to have forgotten how I created an “.ico” file in the first place. Time for some research!

I was working on a completely new theme, but everything I come up with ends up being more complex and ugly. So rather than start from scratch, I plan to incrementally tweak this theme, hopefully removing some clutter as I go.