Tweeting from the Vasisthasana Position

July 16, 2010



I was speaking today with the chief executive of a new media technology/services company about some key enhancements to its offering (I’ll be blogging about them on Monday, the official announcement date). We were discussing how challenging it can be to get old media executives into new media positions. I said that while I wasn’t any longer physically able to lift my leg over my head (was I ever?), I felt that I was still managing to do so in my embrace of new technology.

I can be a little stiff-jointed at first, as I have been with social networking and eReaders, but eventually I loosen up, as I’ve now done with Twitter and (to a lesser extent) Facebook.

Earlier today I posted the longest and most involved entry I’ve yet written in some three years of blogging. I use Twitterfeed to tweet my new entries and for some reason it wasn’t picking up on this one. I changed the settings and still nothing. How could I tweet it manually?

I checked to see if anyone else had noticed it today, so I could tweet their entry. Nope (because it hadn’t been tweeted…a vicious circle). So I thought I’d tweet it myself from my site.

That’s when I noticed that I’ve only got four social buttons: Delicious, Digg, Reddit and Technorati. No Facebook and no Twitter. Jeez.

Then I remembered a visit the other day to eCampusNews for an article about Zinio’s new “all-digital newsstands” (saves floor space!). Good story, but what struck me was the social networking “button” on the site. Powered by AddToAny, it the biggest blog button I’ve ever blundered upon. They seem to think that size matters, forgetting that it ain’t the meat it’s the motion. I had to assume the Vasisthasana position to get a screen capture of this one.

It certainly solves the problem (and then some). What’s Fark? Weren’t they disbanded after the diplomat was rescued? I thought I got my vaccine for Xerpi. Maple must be Canadian, but I can’t find it online. Oh well.

I think smaller is better. But I’d better add a few more buttons. Then I can just move on (for now, anyway).


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When Captchas Go Crazy

July 7, 2010

I was on the Audience Development magazine website tonight, led there once again by Bob Sacks, and found an interesting piece of news about magazine circulation…which will appear on my next post (such suspense!).

This post is about CAPTCHAs. Did you know that CAPTCHA stands for “Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart”? CAPTCHAs usually require entering difficult-to-read alphanumeric text. This site uses a very simple MAPTCHA, the mathematical variant, because my astute Webmeister, Elia Kanaki, convinced me that it doesn’t have to be fancy to be effective. I still get some spam, but it appears to be generated by humans.

The most recognizable CAPTCHAs come from reCAPTCHA.


If they’re too difficult to see, or too long to bother, you can just keep clicking until an easier one appears.


But tonight I ran into a new CAPTCHA that made me LOL (laugh out loud).


That’s not a word! I assumed everything was garbled, some kind of programming error. I tried it on two more entries.

What is the third word in the phrase “sahiqu boso poy enub won”?

What is the second word in the phrase “fex madib qifot ewew nucit”?

None of my comments were acknowledged, and none appeared on the site. So of course I went googling and learned that for sites built with the open source DRUPAL software, this is a standard CAPTCHA format. So I guess the folks at Audience Development still moderate the comments even if the CAPTCHA is entered correctly (I do too). They’re going to be scratching their heads tomorrow morning when they see my goofy comments.

I’m glad that Elia talked me down from getting too fancy with my CAPTCHA. Once you get onto the path of paranoia about too many spam comments, there’s no stopping. On the DRUPAL site one distraught programmer comments on an early version of the DRUPAL text CAPTCHA “I am working on it to make it harder, e.g. ‘what is the third character of the second word of …’, and more difficult questions.”

The CAPTCHA continues to evolve over at reCAPTCHA.


Cute, no? Try programming an automated spambot for that one, you evil spammers!

But meanwhile the days of the CAPTCHA are dwindling, as the era of social networking overwhelms us.


Sites increasingly rely on third-party social networking log-ins to confirm your identity, and presumably over time, to tie a tweet or a Facebook favorite or some other loathesome false flattery with one’s attempt to post a comment.


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Facebook Privacy Update

May 24, 2010

In my May 15th blog entry, “Privacy, Facebook and the Future of Publishing,” I looked at the recent brouhaha (haven’t used that word in awhile) over Facebook’s info-grab from its “more than 400 million active users” (as Facebook crows on its depressing stats page). Today Facebook Inc.’s founder and chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, published an op-ed column in The Washington Post (whose chairman, Donald E. Graham, happens to be a member of Facebook’s board of directors) called “From Facebook, Answering Privacy Concerns with New Settings.” It’s his mea culpa. The core content of the short piece is:

The biggest message we have heard recently is that people want easier control over their information. Simply put, many of you thought our controls were too complex. Our intention was to give you lots of granular controls; but that may not have been what many of you wanted. We just missed the mark.

We have heard the feedback. There needs to be a simpler way to control your information. In the coming weeks, we will add privacy controls that are much simpler to use. We will also give you an easy way to turn off all third-party services. We are working hard to make these changes available as soon as possible. We hope you’ll be pleased with the result of our work and, as always, we’ll be eager to get your feedback.


Photo copyright Facebook, Inc.

The bell has sounded: end of round.

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Civil Comments

May 21, 2010

What are the two worst things about the comments sections in online news outlets for articles and (even worse) for blogs or other opinion pieces?


The first is that contentious topics draw so many comments that you would need a day or two to read them (assuming you would want to). The lead article on The Huffington Post tonight about the Senate finance reform bill has drawn 5,506 comments thus far (more than 500 added since I began this entry), accumulated over thirteen hours. I quickly calculated the average wordcount: about 13.5 words per entry. So there are over 74,000 words in the comments section, longer than many novels. (The article itself clocks in at under 900 words.)

There something very wrong here, and nothing, as far as I can see, that is at all useful.

But there’s an even worse flaw of many comment sections: the pointlessly nasty insult.

Canada’s mainstream Globe and Mail carried a story in yesterday’s edition headlined “Canada blasts Malawi over jailing of gay couple,” with a subtitle explaining why Canada would bother going after little Malawi: “Criticism comes days after Ottawa extended invitation to Malawi for G20 summit.” Got it.

Would you think this even worthy of comment? Four readers did, and inevitably one of them, with the pseudonym “Bromelia”, couldn’t miss the opportunity for YAGI (Yet Another Gay Insult) “Presumably, the men knew the laws and they were able to maintain a relationship as long as they didn’t flaunt it. When they did, they got the book thrown at them. Another histrionic gay martyrdom — yawn.”

Just as inevitably this triggered outrage from other readers. Here comes the nasty insults:

“StewNYT” wrote:

“Bromelia you are a monumentally pathetic and despicable person. Flaunt it? Are you that mentally challenged? A young couple tries to celebrate their commitment to each other and is jailed for over a decade and all you can do is yawn? You’re just an utter failure as a human being. Two adults in a consenting relationship should not be jailed for falling in love.

“How about I flaunt my fist in your face?”

…while “RestOfTheStory” chimed in with the illuminating remark “Bromelia — You are a pompous ass.”

This is not helpful. So kudos to Politics Daily for its upcoming manners enforcement policy:

Coming Soon
In an effort to encourage the same level of civil dialogue among Politics Daily’s readers that we expect of our writers – a “civilogue,” to use the term coined by PD’s Jeffrey Weiss – we will soon be requiring commenters to use their AOL or AIM screennames. Personal attacks (on writers, other readers, Nancy Pelosi, George W. Bush, or anyone at all) will not be published, period, to make room for a discussion among those with ideas to kick around.

I’d say it’s none too soon.

Now we have to work on getting it through the mind of the average web reader that WE DON’T CARE WHAT YOU THINK (unless you think deep original thoughts and can express them in clear language).

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Eoin Purcell’s Blog: One of the Best

January 5, 2010

From Dublin, Ireland comes Eoin Purcell’s Blog, one of the best blogs on where publishing is heading, albeit with a primary focus on book publishing.

Today’s delightful entry, “My 2009 Publishing Heroes” is to me a fine example of the web at its best. Through this blog entry I was introduced to five new thinkers whom I had not previously encountered and to their great blogs.

I’m having the most fun with Mike Cane’s “The eBook Test.” Purcell describes it thus: “Cane provides solid analysis (caked as it can sometimes be in vitriolic hyperbole). His vision is not even remotely tainted by the fact that it comes solidly from a writers perspective, in fact in many ways that is his strength. Too much for some, he is never shy with his opinion but willing to respond when challenged and corrected.”

Found in this entry is a perfect quotation for our times:

“Just because people are experiencing things doesn’t mean they have any insight into them.”
          — from Bellwether by Connie Willis

It reminds me of another favorite of mine:

“A tradition is only an innovation that worked.”
         — The Economist, April 12-03

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