After years of frustration with TypePad, this blog has moved. It’s still here, though, in that you don’t actually need to do anything. The URL is the same. Thanks.
Amit Agarwal at Digital Inspiration points to Adobe’s new version of Contribute 4.0, which now lets you compose blog posts from within Microsoft Office. As Amit points out, who is going to shell out $150 for something which Windows Live Writer and a host of other tools let you do for free?
(These tools allow people with blogs to write their posts while they’re not online. I use them because I don’t like working inside a browser for reasons I haven’t really explored. Mainly, I think it’s because keyboard shortcuts don’t work very well in the browser-based software that players like Typepad offer. I have other grumbles: The silly restrictions on window size in which one can type, the dearth of options for inserting images, and perhaps most importantly the difficulty of moving between web pages and editor when they’re in the same browser.)
That said, Contribute is primarily web publishing software, and while blogging is now well supported with a range of good tools, updating non-blog pages is still a major nuisance. Might be worth trying out just for that.
What’s intriguing about this Blue Security/Blue Frog episode, where angry spammers attack the anti-spam company with a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack, which in turn directs traffic (unwittingly or wittingly, it’s not clear yet) and temporarily brings down blog hoster TypePad, is this: The guy behind Blue Security, Eran Reshef, is founder of Skybox, a company “focused on enabling the continuous enterprise-wide assessment of vulnerabilities and threats affecting corporate networks.”
This is at best somewhat embarrassing for Reshef, and for Blue Security, at worst it exposes him and the company to ridicule and lawsuits. Getting involved in battling spammers is not a task taken on lightly, and the one thing that Blue Security had going for it was that it seemed to know what it was doing. Users download software and register their email addresses in a central database. Spammers are encouraged to remove those email addresses; if they don’t, the software will respond to subsequent spam by visiting the website advertised and automatically filling the order form. If enough people have the software running this, in theory, creates an overwhelming amount of traffic for the spammer and brings their business to a halt. Blue Security now says it has tens of thousands of members.
But then came last week’s attack. Reshef initially said that that no such DDoS took place on the www.bluesecurity.com server, something contested by some analysts. He has since said that a DDoS did take place, but against operational, back-end servers and not connected to his company’s front door. This, he said, he only spotted later. He says that when he redirected traffic to his blog at TypePad there was no DDoS on the bluesecurity.com website; that, he says, came later. This appears to be borne out by web logs provided to TechWeb journalist Gregg Keizer.
Blue Security’s handling of this raises more questions than it answers. Many are highly technical and not ones I understand. But there are some basic ones. Was the company not prepared for spammers to retaliate? Did it not have any procedures in place? Why did it redirect traffic to TypePad without informing them first? Why did it not coordinate closely with its ISP? And why, given Reshef’s expertise on DDoS attacks with Skybox, was he not able to spot the DDoS attack on his backend servers?
Loose Wire Blog has finally moved to loosewireblog.com. This won’t affect anyone that much, especially if they’ve never heard of or visited the blog before, but for those of you who do read it, first off, many thanks, and second off (that doesn’t sound quite right), this is, I hope, the first step in a redesign that will make the site easier to use, and with more stuff in it.
Technically speaking, accessing loosewireblog.com would take you to the Typepad site via domain forwarding; now the site is actually mapped to the domain, so while the content can be seen at both addresses, it would be best if you use loosewireblog.com as your bookmark from now on. Thanks again for reading, and remember that emails and comments are always very welcome.
One of the scary, but compelling, bits of having a blog is seeing how people found you. TypePad offer referring addresses which make this very easy, but all it does is make you wonder whether most of the people visiting you are on their way to somewhere else. (It also reveals how well trackback spam works.) Here’s a sampling of the past few hours:
- Google search for ‘gay male sex’ took the hapless user to my Directory of Firewalls (this may have something to do with some nasty trackback spam I hadn’t spotted, but don’t you think the page title would have given the game away? Or does ‘firewall’ mean something different to some people?);
- Some lonely soul in Argentina searching for ‘free horse sex’ found my piece on Yahoo! buying Oddpost (same trackback thing, it turns out);
- Some dissatisfied worker bee looking on Google for ‘how employee revenge company’ may actually have been satisfied to read my post on Spam As Revenge, which wasn’t supposed to be a primer;
- A lot of folk seem to be looking for cracks — serial numbers, or software that’s been tampered with so it will run without a serial number. Sorry, guys, don’t have that kind of thing here.
- One guy — a John Dvorak fan? A classical music lover? Or John himself? — was looking on Google for ‘all praise Dvorak’, and found only my piece on John’s dislike for tags (and A list bloggers);
- Another guy was using Google to find out ‘where to sell porn material’, and found my posting from a couple of years back on the growth of porn (he’s not going to be happy that the title sounds like it was just up his street: News: Wanna Get Rich? Sell Porn. Once again, not intended to be a primer. Good luck on the porn selling, dude.
That said, most of the searches seem to be pretty good matches. Only now I dread to think what kind of search results this posting is going to end up in.
Just got back from a ‘wake’ for the Far Eastern Economic Review, which, after 58 years, went monthly last October under the ownership of my employer, Dow Jones. I won’t get into the politics of that decision, but it did occur to me, listening to some eminent former FEER personnel talking this evening, that three things go into a publication like FEER, if you ignore distribution, financing, marketing and the non-editorial side. And it’s worth considering, from a blogger’s point of view.
First is material. You’ve got to have good material. Not just off-top-of-head stuff like this, but real material, gotten by use of footwear, dialling numbers or other forms of real digging.
Second, editing. Common wisdom is that material is no good if it’s not written and edited well. This includes writing style — an important part of traditional media that sucks up a lot of the whole publishing process.
Third, production. I’m an editor right now. A lot of our time is spent on layout, fitting stories to length and making everything look nice.
If you look at this from a post-print, blogging perspective, only the first remains a necessity. Editing? If we can write ok, who cares if it’s brilliantly written? I think it was Paul Graham who characterised as incongruous some NYT reporting when read in a blogging context. Print media need to look closely at how stories are written and why they’re written that way, and ask: Does it need to be like that anymore?
The last thing: production. Blogs, by their nature, involve very little production. In fact, part of the beauty of blogging is not just the lack of effort in producing something (write it up, post it. If it needs editing again, edit it), but in the fact that it looks good on the page. Blogs, well most blogs, actually have strong production values built in. It’s hard for a blog not to look nice on the page. Some look wonderful, really very aesthetically pleasing. At worst they look like this, a bog-standard TypePad template I’m too lazy to change. But who cares? You’re probably reading it in a RSS reader anyway, or using GreaseMonkey to tweak the formatting. (Then there’s efforts at standardising this sort of thing a little more, like StructuredBlogging.)
The bottom line is: Blogging is a powerful publishing force, not just a voice. Blogging has established a way to publish on the net and be noticed, without huge capital and design resources. Traditional media need to look at that and realise that the battle is not going to be over allocating resources to the second and third elements of the game I mentioned above, but the first. It’s going to be about material. It’s not going to be about the medium. Blogging — and the Internet — has already won that round.
Five Across, Inc., the guys behind the ‘blog and website creation service’ Bubbler, are going to start charging for the service now it’s about to come out of beta.
On May 16th, 2005, we will be launching Bubbler version 1.0 along with a paid subscription-based Bubbler Hosting Service, which will also include our innovative messaging and collaboration tool InterComm Pro.
I have to confess I toyed with Bubbler but couldn’t get as excited about it as I’d hoped. I’m with TypePad, and while it’s starting to creak a little through lack of new features (and introduction of some unnecessary ones, such as HTML comment notifications), I’m not about to switch without good reason. I couldn’t see one in Bubbler.
Bubbler is offering existing users a special deal, however: $50 for two years, but you have to sign up by Wednesday. Given it’s more of a collaborating tool and a (simple) web design than just a blogging one, it might be worth it.
Google has given Blogger a new look, courtesy of a company called Adaptive Path, “the industry’s leading user-experience consultancy”.
It’s not bad, certainly an improvement on the old interface. But is it enough to win over all the folk who have migrated to places like Typepad, which offer many more features? In a news release it’s clear the emphasis has been on ease of use: Evan Williams, co-founder of Blogger, says, “Our goal for this redesign was to enable people who had never even heard of a blog to be publishing their own blog in less than five minutes.”
There are some new features: lots of new templates, comments, permanent pages (rather than just mere chronological archiving) and some other stuff. And, I think, it’s still free.