Almost…

Last night’s attempt to ping Salon’s server with my own code was just about successful (I sent the address to my main Web site instead of my Weblog by accident). I’ll get it right this morning.

Also, in a comment, Christian points out that WordPress and Movable Type can do this directly. I’m not surprised to hear this, since as I’ve looked into it, I’ve found the whole thing to be pretty simple. So I’ll investigate further and see what I can figure out.

Next Year in San Francisco

In a comment to an entry in which I mentioned that I had a way for Mac-using Salon Webloggers who were no longer using Radio UserLand to have updates to their Weblogs noted on Salon’s Recently Changed Weblogs page, Anne asked if I could figure out a solution for Windows users as well. It occurred to me that I actually am a professional programmer, and I really should be able to handle this.

Looking at the AppleScript that I had appropriated from Christian Crumlish, I could see that this was really just a matter of making the appropriate XML-RPC call on Salon’s server. The structure of the call was clear in the AppleScript, so I just needed to find a way to make the call from a machine running Windows. Since I’m a Java programmer and Java runs on Windows, OS X, Linux, and other operating systems, I thought I’d start by looking for a Java library that did this. As I should have guessed, the Apache Foundation have just what I needed. So if Salon’s Recently Changed Weblogs page is updated for this post, you’ll know that I figured out how to use the library properly.

Assuming that works, I’ll try to build some sort of application that anyone running Windows, OS X, or Linux can use (provided they have Java installed on their computer). Once I have that, I’ll let you know, and then the diasporal Salon Weblogging community can reassemble.

And as a happy aside, I’ve gotten a comment and e-mail from Scott Rosenberg supporting this, so long as it doesn’t descend into this sort of Spam-addled chaos.

TrackBack

A few months ago, I posted answers to a list of questions that Meg had sent me and others about Weblogging. One question she asked that I neglected to answer was about the use of TrackBack.

Basically, TrackBack allows you to refer to a post in another Weblog and have that noted in that Weblog. For instance, I posted an entry with a TrackBack to this entry on Gothamist. On Gothamist’s site, below the entry and above the comments, there’s an excerpt from and link to my entry. Similarly, if you go back to my original entry responding to Meg, which I linked to above, you’ll see an excerpt from and link to this entry in the comments section (since WordPress automatically creates TrackBacks for links between entries within a WordPress Weblog).

The practical value of TrackBack is that it allows discussions across Weblogs. If you have a lot to say about an entry on someone else’s Weblog, you can continue the discussion on your Weblog rather than in the comments section on theirs, while still making readers of the original entry aware that there’s additional discussion elsewhere. So, for example, someone reading my previous answers to Meg’s questions can see that I’ve continued my answers here. The only drawback I can see to TrackBack is that it requires support from the Weblogging software that you use, and not all Weblogging software supports it. As far as I can tell, WordPress, Radio, Movable Type, and TypePad support it, and Blogger and LiveJournal don’t.

The Salon Weblog Community is Dead, Long Live the Salon Weblog Community

Word comes from Dick and others that the Salon Weblog community in which I and many others got our start may be winding down. Buddhist though I may be, I admit to being sad to hear this, even though I’ve long since left that community. It was through that community–a community that fostered more than a few notable books–that I got to know many of the people that appear along the right side of this page. Its apparent pending demise should at least be noted.

Yet for those of you who have been part of the community and have moved on, or would like to move on, but would also like to maintain some connection to that community, I might be able to help. Karen Armstead was able to get some AppleScript code from Christian Crumlish that allows former Salon Webloggers to have updates to their now diasporal Weblogs continue to appear on Salon’s Recently Changed Weblogs page. What does that mean? It means that if you have a Mac running OS X, you can host your Weblog somewhere other than Salon’s servers, using software other than Radio UserLand, but still have updates to your Weblog noted by Salon. (Separately, it’s also possible to have visits to your Weblog counted on Salon’s Rankings by Page-Reads page.) If this is something you’re interested in, let me know.

Area Teenager’s Life Destroyed

Last Saturday, Brittany Eldredge’s parents left their fifteen year-old daughter home alone for a few hours to go out for dinner. Brittany invited three friends over, and technology in the hands of teenagers–the specter that excites and terrifies PTAs, small town newspapers, and local newscasts across the country–demonstrated its inherent danger. Word of the party quickly spread via cell phone and text message, and soon there were roughly 80 teenagers destroying the Eldredge home. Her parents returned home to find Brittany crying among damaged property and the stench of beer and marijuana. Some of Brittany’s brother’s things had been stolen and the family dog had been traumatized. Then things got really bad for Brittany.

Brittany’s mother, Kerrie, “just want[ed] to make sure other parents know this is happening,” so she called the local newspaper and gave them the story, complete with a picture of the damage. From the picture’s caption:

Trash is strewn in the Eldredge family’s West Barnstable home last weekend. The family’s traumatized dog recovers on the couch. (Photo courtesy of the Eldredge family)

To the reporter’s conclusion:

Brittany, meanwhile, remains grounded, her mother said.

The teen will have plenty of time to read the three self-help books her mother purchased to give her the strength to combat future peer pressure.

Poor Brittany’s nascent social life has been set ablaze in the bonfire of an article that sounds like it was taken from the Onion. Sadly, it wasn’t, and she’s unlikely to extinguish the flames before her graduation. I suggest that she start applying to large colleges in the midwest, where no one will have heard a word of this.

New Year, New WordPress

WordPress released WordPress 2 yesterday, so I thought I’d upgrade for the new year. The whole process, including back-ups and other administrative efforts, took less than an hour and went without a hitch. I haven’t encountered any problems with the site, comments, RSS feed, etc. If you see any problems, let me know.

I continue to be very impressed with WordPress, both the software and the organization. The instructions for the upgrade not only include all of the information anyone would need, but they’re structured in a way that allows people to see only the information they need. I’d like to reiterate my recommendation that anyone with a domain (or willing to get a domain) and a Weblog should give serious thought to WordPress. (I’d also like to throw in a plug for Transmit, by far the best FTP client I’ve seen for OS X–it’s one of only three pieces of shareware I’ve ever paid for.)

And I hope that 2006 continues in the same vein–easy, better, and shinier–for everyone. May everyone be happy, and may no one suffer.

New Camera

Yesterday, Eric met me at B & H to help me pick out a new camera. As I waited for Eric outside, watching hordes of people pile into the store, I pondered the advisability of going into such a place two days after Christmas. It turns out that, despite the masses of people shopping there, B & H offers about as good a face-to-face consumer experience as I’ve ever had. If you’re looking for a camera in or around New York, this is the place to go.

After getting my new camera home, I’ve spent the last day playing with it, and I’m very happy with it. The review linked to above says that the sensor is prone to noise in all but the best light, and that does seem to be true (as can be seen especially clearly here, which is admittedly under less than ideal conditions). But this camera is so much easier to use than my old one and offers images that are so much richer and clearer, that I’m quite willing to put up with the noise. About the only way I could get a better complete camera would be to move up to an SLR, and I’m not ready for that yet. Now the only excuse I’ll have for bad pictures is my own incompetence.

One of the realms of Shambhala practice, in addition to the various sorts of meditative and community practices, is contemplative arts, which was the theme of my recent retreat. Amid the hours of sitting, we discussed the view of Shambhala arts, and even tried some calligraphy and body movement. The gist of the practice, if I may so violently condense it, is to be absolutely present in the moment and express only what is there, free from memories, expectations, and other concepts. The act (which may or may not leave any artifacts) is simply an expression of what is. Along with calligraphy, dance, and other arts, this practice can be pursued through photography, where it’s called miksang (Tibetan for “good eye”). I find the images produced through the miksang practice captivating, and now that I know something of its view and have a suitable camera, I’d like to give it a try (as you can see here and here).

The Way of All Utopias

MTV has announced that they’ll partner with Microsoft, rather than Apple, to sell media over the Internet. Says MTV Networks Music Group President Van Toffler:

“[Apple Chief Executive] Steve Jobs has a point of view,” Toffler said. “ITunes is about a digital storefront for a la carte downloads. Our goal is to create a utopian music community that keeps subscribers coming back.”

This will, of course, fail miserably for two reasons:

  1. The media that they’re selling won’t be usable with the devices that constitute 80% to 90% of the market.

  2. Their “utopia” is subscription-based, which is a model that, when given a choice, consumers rarely choose.

Pronouncements like Toffler’s fascinate me. Is he really unable to see how this will end? And if so, is it ignorance or denial? Isn’t he in essence saying, “We know that consumers have spoken as clearly as they could, but we think they’re wrong”?