Free Markets, Free People

Blogging

Style Evolves

Once again, it’s time for a change. This time, I’m rigidly going after a reading-centric style. No graphics. No bells and whistles. Just large, readable text. The body text is done in a Google font called "Vollkorn" that I really like.  Even some of you…ahem…more mature folks should find it much more readable.

Everything about the new template is focused on reading the blog. The sidebar has been moved over to the left. The ad banners have been moved so that there is only one in the text area, while the third has been moved to the sidebar. All the sidebar text is much lighter, so that it fades into the background of the blog post text.

Still, I’m not sure I like it. In successive iterations, I’ve gone for a simpler and simpler look.  I may have gone too far with this one. This isn’t much different than a web site from 1996. It doesn’t look like progress, with flashy graphics and image sliders and what-not. It’s just…text.

Ah, well, I can always switch back to the previous one. Or the one before that.

I get email…

I get a lot of email from that link over on the left side of this site. Interesting conversations, offers to review books, and the like are welcome and worthwhile. 

But spammers are everywhere, so 98%+ of it is an amazing variety of worthless trash. Perhaps even more amazing (and frustrating) is that much of it slips right through even the best spam filters, probably because it’s about politics instead of bobbydangler enlargement.

A warning if you’re ever considering doing political blogging and exposing your email address: the CAN-SPAM act has an exemption for certain political purposes. In particular, if Senator Bigslush ever gets your email address, he is free to send you whatever he likes until the end of time, or until he gets pushed out of office, whichever comes first. He probably won’t include an opt-out link. He has about as much consideration for your time as you would expect a DC politician to have. He probably thinks you get a charge from getting an email headed with "From the Office of Senator Ben Dover Bigslush".

Many political lobbying groups construe themselves to be exempted from CAN-SPAN as well. On top of that they pass email lists around like addicts sharing needles. Like true spammers everywhere, they don’t really give a damn whether you have any interest in their message. So when the crack whore next to them passes on your email address, you’ll start getting "press releases" about "sustainable wind farms" or other science fiction, whether you like it or not.

Media sites also engage in the spamming game. Politico is one of the worst; I’ve blocked them more times than I can count, and noticed a new round from them just this week. It starts “Good Morning! Here are today’s top POLITICO stories. Thanks, Stacy”, with no unsubscribe link of course.

Fortunately, gmail allows various ways to block such messages. For the politicians, I use easily constructed filters. I have 85 of those filters at last count. The science fiction “press releases” get marked as spam.

Then there are the PR flacks. A few are borderline acceptable. I’m not interested in an interview with the Director of Mining Affairs for Outer Framistan, but I could see where others might be.

Moving further into bottom-feeding territory, there are the search engine optimization (SEO) sharks. The people running these companies are some of the most contemptible in the Internet industry.

One of their annoying techniques is to pretend they’re doing me a favor. Their usual form is offering a "guest post", which strikes me as a strange way to say "unpaid advertisement".

Many of their messages are bot-generated, which does open up some humor possibilities. The blog Popehat often takes on these parasites, and recounts some of the nonsensical results. Here’s a small sample:

I would like to inquire re: your interest in blog post submissions. My associates and I have wide range of experience in many areas. I believe we can offer you web traffic driving articles of interest to your readers, on topics such as PONY , _INSURANCE , and FIRST AMENDMENT OPPONENT. Also of interest may be PONY VICTIM COUNSELING , MENTAL HEALTH , CRAZY FUCK!NG LAWYER, and BRONY PSYCHOLOGY .

These clumsy online marketing efforts typically offer slavish, insincere praise on what a great blog we have. Well, yeah, ours really is. But they don’t know us from a blog about knitting mittens for cats, because the only reason anyone connected with them ever visited the site was to harvest our email addresses.

These link whores also have another annoying characteristic. They usually send a helpful follow up spam message a few days later to make sure I saw their first spam message.

In some respects, that makes them worse than spammers for fake embiggening pills. Those guys rarely send messages that read "I wanted to make sure you got my last message about how much you must need a bigger bobbydangler."

Another SEO ploy is offering to purchase ad space – at rates so low that the time spent on paperwork won’t be recovered until sometime in 2025. The real bottom feeding vermin offer link exchanges: "I’m sure you are eager to link your site, which attracts thousands of page views a day, to my site, which gets five views a week, all from deceptive search results on Google." I completely understand and even appreciate such a request from another political blog, but not from people with the morals of a snapping turtle.

I love political blogging and wish I had more time for it. Dealing with various sorts of spammer is a small price to pay, and good email tools handle a lot of the load.

It does bother me, though, to realize that there is an entire range of people out there, from pompous politicians to media sites like Politico to SEO con artists, who have no compunction whatsoever about wasting the time of anyone they can find to annoy.

I’m live on Medium!

The guys who created Twitter and Odeo have moved on to a new venture, which, based on their track record, may show us the way to the future of online writing and publishing. It’s called Medium.Com, and it really is a different model of online writing that aims to promote better writing to more eyes.

I’ve been following Medium from it’s beginnings, and I finally received my invitation to start writing on medium.  I’ve got two articles up. One attempts to answer the question "Is Star Trek socialist?" and the other looks at what I’m learning as I start looking for a new car. Both are a bit tongue and cheek.

The way it works is that you can recommend articles you like. The more recommendations an article gets, the more visible it becomes to readers. Good articles get promoted to the top.

It’s a fascinating idea, and the track record of the guys who created it is pretty good. It may be a glimpse into the future of online writing.

By the way, if any of you like to write, and are a car person, I’ve created a collection called The Joy of Automotion that anyone can contribute to.

~
Dale Franks
Google+ Profile
Twitter Feed

One more time with emphasis

Please join us on Facebook.   If you spend any time there at all and enjoy QandO, we’ve put together a sort of “plus” version there that allows us to pop up things of interest that we don’t really get to cover here.  You’re welcome to comment away. 

That’s not going to take away from the blog as I, for one, have the need to blog. 

QandO will be 9 years old on the 29th of August.  The Facebook page is just a part of the evolution of the blog.  In this case, it actually improves content without cluttering the blog. It’s not exactly "micro blogging" ala Twitter (we’re on that too) but it is short-form blogging.

Our Facebook page is here.  If you haven’t seen it you’ll recognize it. 

Please come over and join us with a “like.”

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Facebook: QandO

Style Evolves

As you can see, the blog, once again, has changed. It seems as we go along it keeps getting cleaner, less cluttered, and less graphic intensive. It’s even less banner-y now, mainly because the Ammo guys’ one-year ad buy expired 2 weeks ago, as did the CWTT fundraising drive, several months ago.

The overall trend for web design seems to be getting cleaner and plainer. It’s funny, the web started as plain pages with no graphics, got hugely over-designed, and now is trending towards a simple, more content-centric design model. At this rate, in another couple of years, everything on the web will be plain white pieces of paper.

Another thing I’ve done is changed the width to a screen percentage, rather than a fixed 1000 pixels. It should fill 90% of the screen no matter what your resolution. There are also only two font, Georgia and Verdana, so text should look exactly the same on…well…every computer that exists, since those are the two universal fonts, whether you’re on Linus, Windows, or OS Civet cat, or feline incarnation Apple is currently in.

I wasn’t going to change the template tonight, but I did something I tell my clients NEVER to do. Never upgrade WordPress. If everything’s working let it work. But, no I decided to update some plug-ins and, lo and behold, they all work with the newest version of WordPress, but not this one. And I can’t upgrade to the newest version of WordPress, because it uses a newer PHP version than is installed on this server. And I can’t move the site to a new server, because then I’d have to upgrade all the old version of QandO to the most recent version of SQL Server. Which means I’d have to go in a reprogram the data connections for the old version of the site, which runs on .Blog, the ASP.NET blogging platform I created back in 2004.

So, I just whipped out Artisteer and created a new template. That opened a whole new can of worms. Trying to edit the PHP to add back in the Google+ buttons, the author pics, Google Ads, etc., became an enormous pain. Because I had a new version of Artisteer that wrote the PHP files for the template differently, doing things the way I did them in the old template blew up this new one. So, then I had to re-learn how to edit the right PHP files, which got so frustrating that about halfway through, I said, "Screw it", and switched back to the old template. Then, I thought, there’s no way I’m going to let PHP beat me. I’m a professional software developer for cripes’ sake. So I dove back in, figured it out, and finished it.

So here we are with the new, minimalist QandO. I’m not going to say "I hope you like it", because it’s now 2:21am, and I’ve been working on this for 6 straight hours. There’s no way I’m going to change it again after putting myself through all that.

Not with what you guys are paying me, anyway.

So here it is. Like it. Or Not. I don’t care. I’m sleepy and grouchy.

~
Dale Franks
Google+ Profile
Twitter Feed

Time to “like” QandO on Facebook

OK, guys, you’ve delayed long enough.  Head on over to Facebook and like QandO  (it didn’t kill Kyle8).

We’re actually calling it QandO Plus because we’re popping up links to content you don’t find over here.

So?

So go do it (we’re trying to get over 100 today and over 200 by the weekend … so help out, will ya?).

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Facebook: QandO

Finally … QandO has a Facebook page

I finally got around to setting up a QandO Facebook page (as you’ll see I actually started to do it in January and then, for whatever reason – life? – dropped the project).   There’s no question that Facebook, despite those that would deride it, is a big player in social media.  And it’s a way to both expand the reach of QandO and to expand what we talk about as well.   We’ve never been able to put up everything we’d like to talk about on QandO, but the Facebook format allows us to link to things we’ve seen in passing that are interesting and discuss them.  To me that’s a plus.

On August 29th, QandO will be 9 years old.  That’s very old in blog years.  This addition to the QandO format is, to me,  a vital part of the on-line evolution that’s taking place and necessary to keep QandO fresh and get it in front of more people.  Blogs aren’t going away, but there are other platforms that are becoming a part of the mix. This adds, it doesn’t detract, to the QandO brand.  We most likely should have done it sooner.

Anyway, go, like it, share it, get more folks to read it.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Facebook: QandO

Merry Christmas

I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and other appropriate greetings of the season.  I also want to take time to thank QandO’s loyal readers and commenters for another wonderful year.  A couple of weeks ago we rolled past 8 million unique visitors on Site Meter. Since that’s always been the way we’ve celebrated another million unique visitors, we’ll continue the tradition.

What it tells me, since we average about a million a year, is that QandO is and remains relevant after all these years.  That’s nice to know. 

We look forward to another great year in 2012 and a very interesting political season as well.

The best to you and your family … may this be the merriest of Christmases and all the best from the QandO gang.  Here’s hoping for a very happy New Year as well.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO