odd-lot thoughts

Monday, August 29, 2005

Be careful out there -- a blogger gets sued.

There's some controversy swirling around the blog world the last few days. Apparently, a blogger is being sued over comments someone left on one of his blogs. Amy Gahran's post on this subject is one of the most comprehensive I've found. This issue is understandably making a lot of bloggers nervous and concerned, and has sparked a lot of conversations about liability, libel, and free speech. Some bloggers are seriously considering turning off the comment function in their blogs.

We bloggers do have to be concerned and aware of this problem, but turning off comments in an effort to play it safe would be a mistake. Here's why.

  • Comments on blogs are one of the ways we hear what others want to say to us. Yes, we'll also hear from a few wackos, spammers, and other internet creatures of the night. But those problems can be mitigated and they do not outweigh the value gained.

  • We can't play it safe, anyway. There's just no way of knowing who will be offended by something and no way of completely bullet-proofing your blog. Even staying silent has its risks, as the Kryptonite lock company discovered.

Blogging is still a new phenomenon and there will be problems, like this bullying by lawsuit, which will arise and be worked out in the days to come.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Blogger takes steps to combat spam

I've noticed that Blogger blogs have started being hit by peculiar spam messages about stock picks. They're peculiar because they have no links in them, and no URLs are mentioned, either. Instead, they consist of long screeds about how important it is to snap up shares of some stock that's poised to "REVOLUTIONIZE" some industry or other.

I'm sure the lack of links is due to the different anti-spam protocols, such as Spam Karma. These use the number of links in a comment as one way of filtering out possible spam.

Well, Blogger isn't ready to implement blacklists or spam filters yet, but they're taking a step in the right direction in at least stopping bots from spreading destruction, with their new word verification for comments.

I can't figure out what these peculiar spams are supposed to do, though. Do spammers really think they're effective? Don't they know that on the web, no one will ever read the comments because they're just too long!

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Blogger and FTP

I recently created a weblog using Blogger, but I thought I'd try hosting it on my own site. Yes, I've plunked down dollars so that I could have a neat sandbox to play in and explore stuff such as blogs, wikis, whatever.

The Blogger interface for creating a weblog can't be beat. It gets a little more complicated when you want to host the blog yourself, however. I thought I was doing everything right, but I couldn't see the blog -- just that directory view you get when there's nothing at home, and no index or default html page. I hate seeing that -- it's like seeing underwear.

It turned out that I had the ftp path incorrect. I should have omitted the "www" part in the path name. But Blogger gave me no indication that anything was wrong. It seemed to publish fine, and gave me success messages! So where did those uploads go? I wonder if there's a server somewhere out there with my initial efforts stashed away?

Once I corrected my ftp path, I was golden. The weblog is now up for all to see, except that it's in stealth mode at the moment. I haven't linked to anyone, or pinged anyone, so I haven't been "outed" yet.

I imagine Google could spider my site and find it, though. I'll have to see if that happens at any point.

I'm also experimenting with Word Press. It's an open source blog app, and it's pretty good too. But the posting interface is a bit more techy than some people would prefer. No wysiwyg editor, or "compose" mode, as Blogger calls it.

That's fine with me, it's still got little buttons to save on that tedious typing of code. For example, it has buttons for creating bullets and numbered lists. However, they're labeled "ol" and "ul."

Luckily, I know what those mean. And there may be a more novice-friendly posting interface in WordPress that I just haven't found yet. But I wonder -- how useful would a "ul" button be to the novice? And is that a barrier that we want to keep up? If I wanted a group blog for students, for example, I think I'd go with Blogger over WordPress.

But WordPress does have features, and more control. That's always the trade-off, and probably always will be.