Wikipedia

My friend Randy, who is an academic librarian, recently posted an entry with a section on criticism of Wikipedia. His entry is called Various. He cites an essay called the Amorality of Web 2.0 by Nicholas Carr. I have to agree that the linguistic and cultural implications of Wikipedia are being oversold by the usual assortment of technical writers, visionaries, dreamers and loons. I also agree that the quality of the entries is inconsistent but I think it is not as bad as some of these comments suggest.

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More blog changes

Over the last few days I fixed the template for the page (Individual Entry Archives) with the Comment Entry fields to fix Typekey Login for commenters. I also experimented with some MT plugins – Stylecatcher, MTProtect, and CCode/TCode. I also spent some time redesigning and editing my web pages.

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Whitespace

After trying out different font families, I kept getting the same result as I mentioned in my last entry. Putting two spaces after the period (.) at the end of a sentence did not make a difference. After some research, I realized that this is a function of HTML, my font settings and my justification settings.The entry editing screen is a text editor. When the text is published in HTML, extra spaces are not counted. There is an HTML tag that will insert extra “non-breaking” spaces, and there are ways of automating that in external text editors, perhaps also by MT plugins. Many authorities favour using a proportionally spaced font and letting HTML sort it out. There are some reasons not to use two spaces, because in some applications, the extra whitespace can cause problems. It doesn’t seem to matter in an HTML page display in a browser window.
Many claim that the practice of putting two spaces at the end of a sentence started with typing teachers, not grammarians or printers. It was useful to add the extra space in typing with a typewrite, in a monospaced face, and that was considered as good practice. It may still be useful in processing text for output in a monospaced font-face. Adding the extra space in a text processor for HTML output requires special characters. Typing the spaces in the text processor has no impact.

Moaning about MT

I have been committed to Movable Type, but I have had some problems with it. When friends like Randy with history and good connections in blogging talked about changing to WordPress, I tried to compare the products. I think SixApart and MT will lose ground if SixApart doesn’t address some problems. I don’t want to spend time on importing entries and writing new stylesheets and templates for a WordPress blog. For the time being, the balance of convenience favours staying with MT and hoping for improvement.

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July 2005 Blogging

My blogging has slowed down this summer. I have been spending more time cycling and reading, and less time at the keyboard.
The spam situation has improved. There hasn’t been any spam on the blog for a long time. What I mean is that is that the spam attempts also seem to have dropped off. The maintenance on the spam logs was not time consuming, but it was annoying. I run MT Blacklist without getting Blacklist updates. I culled the list to a few dozen strings and a couple of dozen patterns. For a while, the log showed I was getting hits, but it seems to have dried up a few weeks ago. I also run Spamlookup and Keystroke which take care of everything that Blacklist doesn’t block. I think a lot of spam was probably coming from a few sources and they may have just taken me off their lists when they couldn’t get a hit.
Movable Type is beta testing MT 3.2. I am going to wait until they have a stable commercial release, tested to work with the plugins that I use, and then upgrade. I don’t want to move to another platform unless another platform offers clear advantages.

Spamfighting

I got an email from Garth advising me that he had been blocked from commenting on my blog. It turns out that he had used the word socialist, which was blocked by the text string “cialis” in the Blacklist. Cialis is some kind of drug or herbal – I don’t know what it is but it has been promoted through blog spam. I have been using a combination of MT-Blacklist, SpamLookup and MT-Keystrokes. I have cut out a lot of stale URL’s from MTB, but I still run it to screen for proven text strings found in spam relating to gambling, porn, drugs. SpamLookup and Keystrokes have been pretty effective. I think they basically take care of everything, but there is some question about server load running SpamLookup under a moderate spam attack. MTB intercepts incoming comments first.

Stylesheets

I spent several hours last week setting up the Sister Jane site, converting Word documents into text and marking up the text with html tags, and organizing the site and the pages. I decided to create a style sheet. The basic idea was to use the headers to break up text sections visually as well as logically. I used borders and background colours in the headers to turn them into visual bars. I applied a couple of levels of indentation to the text. After that, I took the same style sheet and applied it to the Sea of Flowers site with a different colour scheme. The results aren’t fancy but the sites seem to be more readable and slightly less generic.
The colour scheme on Sea of Flower site was inspired by the Dutch flags in the documentary on the Canadian Army’s fighting in Holland in 1944 and 1945 on Global last Saturday night. I like it and I have applied it to the blog too, as you can see.

Microsoft Word Grammar Checker

I found a couple of related articles which complain about the flaws in Microsoft Word’s grammar checker. This one at the Chronicle of Higher Education points back to Sandeep Krishnamurthy’s online article.
I find the grammar checker is useful at finding my common typographical mistakes like extra spaces and double words. It can get annoying because it tries to correct matters of taste and style – the passive voice error, and the use of which and that. I end up ignoring the suggestions most of the time. I should be able to change the settings but that means time with a manual and fiddling with the program. Configuring Word is not simple, and that is a drawback.
I was first forced to use Word to share documents with co-counsel on a case I did a few years ago. I hated it instantly. It does insane things to paragraph formats based on hidden commands. The last versions of Wordperfect for DOS and the Lotus versions of Wordperfect for Windows (6.1) gave the user much more control. However Word has become the standard and many clients and contacts require documents in Word format to open and print them. I tend to work in text and convert to Word only when it is required to print or send the content.

Naughty Spam Day

It’s Wednesday, and for the last 4 of 5 weeks, perhaps longer, that’s porn spam day. It doesn’t show up on my site, but my Blacklist log shows the comment and ping denials. I get a few email notifications telling me that some made it into moderation (until I installed MT-Moderate for Trackbacks, some pings showed up on the site).

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