Wednesday, June 29, 2011
State of the Blog
Hard as it may be to believe, this blog is coming up on its 11th anniversary. In other words, I've been blogging for more than a third of my life, and all of my adult life. Of course, the blog has seen varying levels of activity over the years, but has remained remarkably consistent over the past few years, largely due to my Sunday/Wednesday schedule. Anywho, I thought I'd take a look at the past year of statistics and see what that shows me. Some generic stuff:
So what are the most popular pages?
I've definitely settled into a bit of a groove on the blog, and I can tell you that I spend less time writing posts these days. I have mentioned a few times that I need to shake things up a bit, but I have had limited success with that. I've generally noticed that my posting goes in waves. Sometimes I'll be inspired and have no problem writing new, interesting stuff. Other times, not so much (which is when you get simple posts like a link dump or something). Yeah, this isn't exactly an earth shattering observation, but still. In reality, I tend to be pretty hard on myself when I'm in the midst of writing - I'm usually not super happy with a post when I publish, but if I revisit later, I'm often surprised by what I wrote. I usually like it a lot more after the fact. Go figure. In any case, the blog must go on, even if it does get stuck in a rut every now and again (hopefully, it's at least an entertaining rut!)
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Link Dump & Notes
Just some interesting links and some notes about upcoming posts and whatnot:
Thursday, December 02, 2010
Insert Spam Pun Here
So I upgraded Movable Type about two months ago, and for the most part, I think the version I'm using right now is great. However, it quickly became clear that my preferred spam fighting solution, CCode, was not working correctly, and indeed, it was messing up all of the fancy new authentication methods that MT was implementing. So I had to remove that and update the comment form code to reflect the new functionality. That seemed to go swimmingly, but due to a combination of factors, I've discovered a veritable plethora of spam comments pouring into my system.
The way it was set up was that anonymous comments end up being stored in "pending" status, meaning that I need to approve it before it shows up on the site. The tricky part there is that the default way MT displays comments when I log in doesn't register "pending" comments, so I never noticed that the spambots were quickly rediscovering my blog and having their way with my comment system.
Now, this isn't and hasn't ever been a particularly popular blog, so it's not uncommon to see a lack of comments. That being said, I began to get a bit suspicious after over a month with no comments. So I took a closer look and found 11,000 pending comments in the system. The grand majority of these were placed in the past couple of weeks, and looking at the comments shows an interesting progression from the time I upgraded to the present. At first, only a couple of comments were submitted per day, then a few more, then a dozen, then a few dozen, then hundreds, and recently it's been in the thousands. So a few hours ago, I turned off anonymous comments, which effectively muted the spam, but which I suppose also presents more of a hurdle towards casual or new readers.
All of which is to say that if you submitted a comment in the past month or two, it may be deleted in the great purge I'm about to implement here. Sorry about that. Also, you may see some funkiness happening with the comment forms below. If you have a Google or Yahoo account (among a few others), you should be able to use that to comment for now. I'm trying to figure out a way to reinstate anonymous commenting without resorting to CAPTCHAs or other intrusive methods, but it will most likely be slow going.
In any case, I'll leave you with my favorite piece of spam from this latest attack:
I tried to publish a comment previously, but it has not shown up. I think your spam filter may be broken?This would be hysterical if it wasn't so annoying...
Saturday, October 09, 2010
I'm in the process of upgrading some of the software that drives the site, including Movable Type (which runs this blog). Which is to say, you may see some issues with some of the dynamic features (like comments or the pagination). There's no specific problem that's causing me to upgrade or anything, I just figured it was about time.
Update: Upgrade is complete. I hope. No unintended consequences as of yet, but I haven't tested commenting yet, and the thing I'm most worried about is my anti-spam functionality. The version I'm using was built for MT4, but it seems pretty straightforward - hopefully it will work on MT5. Pagination seems fine.
Again Update: All quiet on the internet front. Upgrade has gone well. Too well. Suspiciously well. But for now, everything is ok. See you tomorrow with some zombie movies!
Sunday, July 18, 2010
A Decade of Kaedrin Weblog
Believe it or not, it's been ten years since I started blogging here. Sure, I started the website even before then and the blog has changed a lot since those initial entries, but it's still an important milestone. Going back to read those first posts is a bit painful, what with the embarrassing attempts at humor and reliance on some of the lame weblog tropes of the day, but I'm ultimately pretty happy with my blog.
In the beginning, I had focused on smaller entries and reached a peak posting rate of just a little less than one a day. However, this was unsustainable, especially if I didn't just want to keep repeating stuff that other people were posting. From there, things floundered a bit for about a year or two until I set a weekly schedule for myself, committing to at least one entry a week (on Sunday). The thought was that having a regular posting interval would make it easier on readers, who would know when to expect new content. The schedule was later amended to include at least two entries a week, and I've kept to that schedule pretty well over the past several years.
I'd also like to think that the quality of my writing has improved, though I have to say that I feel like I've been a bit of a funk lately. I've been relying on formulaic and not terribly inspired posts like link dumps and doing less writing of consequence. More and more it seems like I don't really have a good idea what I'm going to write about when I sit down on Wednesday or Sunday, and all too often, I end up firing out an entry in about an hour or so (this post will probably fall into that category, though I knew I wanted to write it). These entries often come out better than I thought at the time, but they're still not my best work. I've been blogging long enough to recognize that this sort of thing happens from time to time though, and I often feel better after a few months, so I'm not looking to make any drastic changes. I considered taking some time off to see if my brain would recharge or reconfigure itself or something, but I think whatever success I've had with this blog has been due to my schedule. Plus, I do have some longer and more involved pieces in the works, so hopefully I'll be able to polish some of those off soon...
One of the interesting things about running a blog for so long is that I've developed some strange habits. For instance, I often find myself thinking about whether or not something I'm doing or watching or reading is blog-worthy. A lot of people blog because they have something to say or because it's timely and relevant, and I suppose I do that too, but I also blog to learn about things that interest me. Most current events don't really fall into that category until after the fact (if at all). But I am, of course, interested in lots of things and even writing a quick post on a complex subject can lead to deeper understanding. Writing a a longer form essay often takes me to all sorts of interesting places that I never even intended to visit when I started writing, and those end up being my favorite posts. Usually such posts burrow into my mind and grow follow-up posts (which is perhaps another thing that only a blogger could appreciate).
In the ten years I've been running the blog, I've never really had that large of an audience. I've had a small and loyal following, and for those readers I am very grateful, but this blog was never entirely about that. Of course, the blog is public, and so I do very much appreciate whatever limited attention I get, but it's always been more about what interests me at any given time, and often that doesn't lend itself to the sort of thing that make blogs popular (i.e. timely events and controversial stances in short, easy to read chunks, etc...). This isn't a complaint, as I don't think I'd enjoy having a tremendously popular blog; that entails all sorts of other frustrations that I'd rather not deal with.
In any case, since I've already done a detailed look at the history of the site, I figure there's not much to say at this point. I realized that I hadn't updated the Best Entries category in a few years, so I added a bunch of posts I thought worthy (if you have any favorites of your own, let me know) and hopefully I'll be writing many more posts that belong there in the future. Just for the heck of it, here are some of my favorite posts from the past year or so:
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Another Store You Made
I'm totally stealing an idea from Jason Kottke here (let's call it a meme!), but it's kinda neat:
Whenever I link to something at Amazon on kottke.org, there's an affiliate code associated with the link. When I log into my account, I can access a listing of what people bought1. The interesting bit is that everything someone buys after clicking through to Amazon counts and is listed, even items I didn't link to directly. These purchased-but-unlinked-to items form a sort of store created by kottke.org readers of their own accord.I have about 1/1000000th the readership of Kottke, but I do have an Amazon affiliate account (it doesn't even come close to helping pay for the site, but it does feed my book/movie/music/video game addictions). Of course, I don't sell nearly as much stuff either, but here are a few things sold that haven't been directly linked:
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Upgrades and Problems
I'm in the process of updating the site's software for both Movable Type and the forum. This may cause issues in the near future. This process started last week, but the problem has expanded a bit, so I'm still working through a few things.
Unfortunately, this site seems to have become the target of some malicious hackers who are exploiting some sort of vulnerability to inject code into some index files. Near as I can tell, the blog is among the least affected sections of the site (perhaps because it is consistently refreshed (and thus overwritten)). At this point, I think I've done everything I can do. I've contacted my host as well, so hopefully they can help me diagnose the problem. Sorry for any inconvenience. Hopefully this will be resolved soon.
Update: Spoke with my host. They inspected my account and all appears to be well for now. The recommended using some different FTP and account settings, but otherwise I seem to have done all that I can at this point. Software updated, passwords changed, all known issues removed, etc... I'll just have to keep an extra close eye on the site for the time being.
Again Update: It appears that the upgrade to Movable Type broke the pagination at the bottom of the page. It wasn't working for a few days, but it appears to be fixed now.
Tuesday, August 04, 2009
Thanks to a timely observation by Steven, I found out that this site has been hacked. It appears to be spammers who have exploited a vulnerability in my forum software to inject HTML onto various pages. I have since upgraded my forum software with the necessary patches and while I'm at it, I figure I might as well upgrade Movable Type as well (the new release actually has at least one new feature I want to take advantage of).
All of which is to say that the blog might be acting a little funny tonight, so if you have some trouble commenting or the page looks all banged up, it's probably because I'm working on it. See you on the other side.
Update: Upgrade is complete. No problems encountered. Yet. I'm going to fiddle around with pagination and maybe some comment system stuff if I have time. Also, I removed Steven's comment and my response from the previous entry, since they didn't really fit with the whole slasher movie topic of the post. Thanks again to Steven for finding the issue and taking the time to alert me.
Again Update: So you know how at the bottom of the page, I have a link to read "Older Posts" which will take you to the next 8 posts after the ones on the homepage? Up until now, I had to use multiple index templates with hard-coded navigation between the index templates. This sorta approximated the functionality that's common on, er, most other blogs at this point (I could have converted to dynamic publishing, but not without massively changing the linking structure of the site). This is dreadfully inefficient and it doesn't scale very well - it only went for two extra pages. Anyway, MT 4.3 has support for pagination via built-in search functionality, so now you can just keep reading (apparently, there are a few hundred pages to read through). The resulting pages could use some work, but it's probably fine for now.
Posted by Mark on August 04, 2009 at 08:49 PM .: link :.
Sunday, June 07, 2009
A Decade of Kaedrin
It's hard to believe, but it has been ten years since I started this website. The exact date is a bit hard to pinpoint, as the site was launched on my student account at Villanova, which existed and was accessible on the web as far back as 1997. However, as near as I can tell, the site now known as Kaedrin began in earnest on May 31, 1999 at approximately 8 pm. That's when I wrote and published the first entry in The Rebel Fire Alarms, an interactive story written in tandem with my regular visitors. I called these efforts Tandem Stories, and it was my primary reason for creating the website. Other content was being published as well - mostly book, movie, and music reviews - but the primary focus was the tandem stories, because I wanted to do something different on an internet that was filled with boring, uninspired, static content homepages that were almost never updated. At the time, the only form of interaction you were likely to see on a given website was a forum of some kind, so I thought the tandem stories were something of a differentiator for my site, and it was, though I never really knew how many different people visited the site. As time went on, interactivity on the web, even of the interactive story variety, became more common, so that feature became less and less unique...
I did, however, have a regular core of visitors, most of whom knew me from the now defunct 4degreez message boards (which has since morphed into 4th Kingdom, which is still a vibrant community site). To my everlasting surprise and gratitude, several of these folks are still regular visitors and while most of what I do here is for my own benefit, I have to admit that I never would have gotten this far without them. So a big thank you to those who are still with me!
But I'm getting ahead of myself here. Below is a rough timeline of my website, starting with my irrelevant student account homepage (which was basically a default page with some personal details filled in), moving on to the first incarnation of Kaedrin, and progressing through several redesigns and technologies until you got the site you're looking at now (be forewarned, this gets to be pretty long, though it's worth noting that the site looked pretty much like it does today way back in 2001, so the bulk of redesigning happened in the 1999-2001 timeframe)...
Posted by Mark on June 07, 2009 at 09:38 AM .: link :.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
So while I am able to write a post now, the problem of the mysterious core dumps is still apparently not solved. I logged into my account last night to find that I had a nice 2 gb of core dumps in my movable type directory. These files must have accumulated during the past few weeks, and it's obvious that my original posting problem wasn't the only malfunction that was creating core dumps. In any case, I checked the system again tonight and found about 600 mb of files in my account. Great. At least that narrows it down a little, as I haven't logged in to MT since last night. So if it's not something I'm doing in MT, it's got to be something that is accessible to everyone, like comments or trackbacks. After some halfassed troubleshooting, I was able to cause a core dump by sending a legitimate trackback to my site. Somehow I doubt that's the only thing causing a problem, but clearly, it needs to go.
Trackbacks were a nice idea, but in reality, they've gone down as something of a debacle. The general concept is to provide a way for one blogger to notify another blogger when they've linked to their blog. So I write a post that links to another blog, and I can "ping" that blog to let the author of that blog know that I've linked to them. In addition, a link back to my post appears on their post. Sounds nice, right? And it is... when it works. The problem is that the system is completely open, so the spammers had a field day. And the trackback management functionality (including anti-spam measures) has always lagged behind comment functionality, so there always seemed to be problems. In other words, trackbacks basically became useless, and a maintenance nightmare. Also, the implementations of the trackback protocol on different blogging engines tended to be a bit strange (Wordpress blogs can never seem to ping my blog successfully.)
The general concept still exists in other forms. Aggregators like Technorati are partially driven by Pings. They deal with spam too (among other issues), but again, the concept remains valid. Six Apart and others are attempting to rework the concept, at which point it might prove useful again.
Alas, it will not exist on this blog anymore. Of course it's not a big loss. During the 8 year tenure of this blog, I've received exactly 11 legitimate trackbacks. I have no idea how many spam trackbacks I've received, but it's somewhere around way too fucking many.
All of which is to say that I'm mucking around with my blog's templates, so things might appear wonky for a bit. If you're having problems, feel free to email me (or post a comment, as that seems to work fine).
Update: Author comments. It's funny, I really should have removed trackbacks a long time ago. I guess I'm just lazy. Let's just call it blog template inertia. Oh, and there was also at least 2 occasions where I thought to myself, I should remove trackbacks! They're useless!, at which point I would receive a few trackbacks in the next couple days. But the last one was well over a year, and the core dumps provided a convenient excuse. Incidentally, only 160 mb of core dumps in the past day since I removed trackbacks. Hurm.
Posted by Mark on September 11, 2008 at 09:10 PM .: link :.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Upgrading Movable Type
Something has gone mildy wrong with my Movable Type installation. For the past few weeks, I've apparently been causing MT to do core dumps fairly regularly, to the point where I had built up around 2 gigs of these error files on my server space. I've been composing tonight's regularly scheduled update, but I got to a point where I can't seem to save my changes anymore. I keep getting Internal Server Errors. I noticed a new version of MT is available, so I figured it's about time for an upgrade. See you on the other side.
Update: Upgrade is complete. I hope. I suppose I'll find out soon if there are any unexpected consequences (there often are).
Again Update: As of yet, the upgrade doesn't seem to have broken anything, but if you run into any issues, feel free to email me (or post a comment, as that seems to work fine).
Incidentally, the upgrade didn't seem to fix the problem I was having with the Neal Stephenson post (which I did eventually get working). Once I looked at the core dump files, I noticed something odd - there was a bunch of HTML in the file, and it was all code from Amazon's pages. It turns out that MT was choking on my post because I had linked each Stephenson novel to Amazon. Once I removed those links, all was well in MT-land. This, of course, makes absolutely no sense. The only thing I can think of is that that many Amazon links was setting off some sort of Spam filter (in either MT or my hosting service), but that seems unlikely. Regardless, once I figured out the Amazon problem, I was able to get the post up in relatively short order.
For reference, if you're seeing a lot of core dump files in your MT directory, you might want to check out this thread in the MT community. Apparently this has been an issue for quite some time and it has something to do with MT's memory usage. Or perhaps a couple of other factors. Someone else there had an isssue with links tripping up their hosts' spam filter, so perhaps that's what was causing my problem...
Posted by Mark on August 20, 2008 at 10:56 PM .: link :.
Wednesday, May 07, 2008
Via Steven's post on site tracking, I found out that Sitemeter was tracking rather more than it really should (use of spyware cookies and all that). This is a shame, as I really loved some things about Sitemeter, and none of the alternatives were able to approach the simple and useful reporting Sitemeter provided. I was particularly fond of their Visitor Detail page (note, that's a link to a screenshot, not Sitemeter), which contains a good summary of a visitor, where they came from, where they went on my site, and other standard info (OS, browser, location, etc...). They only tracked the last 100 visitors, but that was plenty good enough for me, and the service served me well for the past 9 years or so.
Still, they had frequent downtimes, and they've done very little to improve the service over the past 9 years, so I've always kept an eye open for alternatives. None of the popular services have ever really satisfied me though. Now comes this news of spyware, which is just a crappy situation, and so I've decided to remove all instances of Sitemeter from my site. This is most frustrating and I'm not happy with the situation. I've removed it from all blog pages as well as my main page. The rest of the site will have to wait a bit while I breath some life into my crappy, antiquated XSLT content management scheme (hopefully this will be completed by this weekend).
I've been playing around with Google Analytics for a bit, but they don't provide the kind of detail that I want for individual visits (though they're great for collecting general stats). I just installed StatCounter, which kinda, sorta has a page similar to the visit detail page from Sitemeter. But we'll have to see how that works out. I've heard good things about Mint, and I've heard that they have a plugin/extension/whatever-they-call-it that approximates Sitemeter's visit detail page. However, Mint actually costs money (imagine that!) and I don't want to pay for something that I'm not even sure will work for me.
Anyone know of another good stat package? Anyone actually use Mint? Again, what I'm really looking for is something that will provide details like this screenshot (perhaps with more details on what pages were actually visited (rather than just entry and exit pages)). [thanks to Robert for the link to details on the spyware cookies]
Update: StatCounter's visit detail page is pretty good, though you have to click through too many pages to get there.
Posted by Mark on May 07, 2008 at 11:38 PM .: link :.
According to Technorati, there are 112.8 million weblogs (as we'll see, this is probably a highly dubious number). I'm going to take a wild guess and say that the grand majority of them aren't very active. Even among active ones, I'm betting that most don't have much of a readership. Like this blog! Part of this is that blogs fall into a power law distribution, with a small set of bloggers getting the majority of the traffic. The rest of us are in the long tail, and it can be hard to find each other.
Enter Technorati, a service that seeks to track weblogs in numerous ways. You can go there and search on a subject to see what other blogs are saying about that subject. And if you're a blogger, you can see what other blogs are linking to you. They give each blog an "Authority" score which is based on how many people have linked to you (I think there's more to it than that, but I don't care enough to look into it that much), and then they rank all blogs by authority. To give you an idea of how this works, Kaedrin has an authority of 20. The top 10 blogs on Technorati have an authority of somewhere around 10,000 to 25,000.
Here's the problem: Technorati sucks. It definitely doesn't track all the blogs out there (not that big a deal, such a task is probably pretty tough), but it's definitely sure to pick up every new bottom-feeding spammer blog. In other words, every time I write a new post, it gets linked by two freshly minted spam blogs. Those show up fine. Meanwhile, a real blogger (who is listed on Technorati) links me, and Technorati doesn't pick that up (I find out by looking at my referrers). And the same thing happens when I link to other people. For some reason, Technorati decides some of my posts are not worthy of tracking. For instance, my last post isn't showing up in Technorati.
This happens every once in a while, and I think I've figured out why. It seems to happen when I post out of order. I generally post twice a week, but sometimes I start an entry early. Last week, I started writing my review of GitS:SAC on Tuesday. I hadn't finished by Wednesday, so I wrote and posted another entry while I finished off my review. On Sunday, I finished my review and posted it, but Technorati didn't pick it up (despite repeated pings and other attempts to allow the post to show up). Now, none of this shouldn't matter, but apparently Technorati thinks it does, because this exact situation has happened several times. Maybe it's because Movable Type numbers my posts, and if I post entries out of order, perhaps it confuses Technorati. For example, last week, I posted entry 1421 after I posted entry 1422. If this is why Technorati can't figure out that I posted something on Sunday, it's pretty damn stupid. It can't be that hard to fix this. Technorati claims that they track posts by scraping the page and also by using RSS feeds, but if that's the case, they must be doing something really dumb to get tripped up by postings showing up out of order.
So basically, Technorati doesn't track all the good weblogs, but it keeps up with all the spammers' weblogs. For some reason, it doesn't register a post that was written out of order either. So what's the point? I guess it works ok for bloggers who get lots of links. If you get a lot of links, the signal drowns out the noise of the spammers, and you don't miss the posts that Technorati doesn't pick up because you've got plenty of other links to go through. But for those of us on the long tail, it's nearly useless. It doesn't hurt anything, I suppose, so I'll continue to check every once in a while, but I'm not getting my hopes up. I don't think I've discovered any new blogs through Technorati that I hadn't discovered first from my referrers.
Posted by Mark on May 07, 2008 at 09:16 PM .: link :.
Monday, February 04, 2008
I was travelling this weekend, so the regularly scheduled Sunday post has been delayed until tomorrow (hopefully). Incidentally, the Super Bowl was pretty good... but as an Eagles fan, I was torn. I adopted the Aliens vs. Predator tagline: Patriots vs. Giants, whoever wins, I lose.
Posted by Mark on February 04, 2008 at 02:19 AM .: link :.
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
A few screenshots for your enjoyment:
Oh no, Robot Santa! Hide!
Hitman Santa? That's just confusing.
Hibiki Claus says Merry Anime Day!
Posted by Mark on December 25, 2007 at 10:38 AM .: link :.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Posted by Mark on December 19, 2007 at 09:38 PM .: link :.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
I'm trying to diagnose a problem with my rebuild process. For some reason, the individual archive entry rebuild process isn't working. I'm able to create a new entry fine, and I'm able to delete comments from entries fine, so it's clear that Movable Type is able to build an individual entry archive file just fine. I have no idea why the rebuild process is failing though. I keep getting this error:
An error occurredFun stuff, I tells ya. Hopefully, I'll figure something out, but in the mean time, you may see some strange stuff on the individual entry pages (particularly with respect to the comments, as that seems to be where the problem is localized.)
Update: Very little progress made. The comments are definitely what's causing the problem. When I remove the code that generates the list of comments, the individual entry archives rebuild fine. When I try to add it back in, bit by bit, I start getting http 500 errors or the original error I was getting above. Somehow, the most recent 30 entries or so have had their comments restored. Beyond that, there's a lot of older entries that have comments, but those comments aren't being displayed because I can't rebuild them without manually rebuilding each entry individually. So if you're on an old entry and you see "Testing something" where the comments would normally be, don't worry. The comments are still in the system, but I can't seem to publish them...
Posted by Mark on December 12, 2007 at 09:30 PM .: link :.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Quick Note: Upgrades
Due to some recent unpleasantness, I'm upgrading several software packages used on the site. Most notably, the software that runs the Forum and Movable Type (which powers this here blog). So if you notice anything out of the ordinary, don't worry. It's probably part of the plan.
Update: We apologise for the fault in the website upgrades. Those responsible have been sacked.
Update 2: We apologise again for the fault in the website ugrades. Those responsible for sacking the people who have just been sacked, have been sacked.
Update 3: The directors of the firm hired to continue the website upgrades after the other people had been sacked, wish it to be known that they have just been sacked. The website upgrades have been completed in a entirely different style at great expense and at the last minute.
Posted by Mark on October 31, 2007 at 11:33 PM .: link :.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Seeing as though I just got home from work, I'm not especially in the blogging frame of mind, except to say that the next two weeks or so are going to be hectic around here, so posting will most likely be light (though I guess you never know. I'm sometimes at mymost inspired when I'm obscenely busy with other things. A cruel irony, that.) Anyway, in lieu of a proper post, here's a funny video about ridiculous comment threads at popular sites/blogs (I bet Shamus can relate to the "First" comments at least, though he does seem to get a lot of good comments as well - this video is probably more for stuff like YouTube comments.):
That's all for now. See you Sunday, with a post that is hopefully a little more substantial than this.
Posted by Mark on September 13, 2007 at 12:12 AM .: link :.
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This page contains entries posted to the Kaedrin Weblog in the Administration Category.
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