I almost forgot. A serendipitous trip to B&N netted a book I’m sure both J– and I will live to regret buying, No Plot, No Problem. As a writer (went to school, got degree), it goes against every instinct, class, experience, and method I can think of. Basically, you have 31 days to write 50,000 words. Other than that, there’s not much too it. The book goes into caging your Inner Editor, some motivational tricks, and the esprit de corps you’ll need to accomplish such a ridiculous goal; beyond that, it’s a fairly easy technique.

The hard part is that I’ve committed to doing it, not just to J–, but to myself. At around 1600 words a day, it’s something I would never set as a goal for myself precisely because it goes against everything I know about writing.

But, as I thought about it, I remembered trying to write like other authors (comon you writers, where’s you Hemmingway hack?). Doing something like this is a jump start to getting the fingers nimble and the juices flowing. My writers block has grown a beard and taken up paint-watching, so anything I can do to coax him out is a good thing. It won’t be publishable, here or otherwise, but it might be constructive.

Updates to be posted

Memo to Six Apart

I know everyone picks on MT for comment spam. They tend to get the Microsoft treatment about their products. They are the no.1 standalone blogging software, it’s only logical they would be targeted by spammers.

That said, however, it still irks me to no end that they haven’t implemented some real tools to fight the spam. MT-Blacklist is awesome, but only until a breach is found. Then it takes the only developer a long time to patch it. Worse for Six Apart, they have old installations out there that have upgrade instructions scary enough that even I thought twice about doing it.

(Sorry, quick aside here, but their installation instructions fail to tell you to upload the Javascript library. Yeah, things don’t work too well when that’s missing

Anyway, why do I post a beef about Six Apart on a MT-powered blog? Because I’m expecting to get a letter like Ken Camp did anytime from my host. I’m surprised this hasn’t happened with more hosts.

My installation is currently in the clear in the situation above. But I fully expect comment spam to be back. For all the chest thumping and high-fiving the development circle-jerkers had when the nofollow hack came out, there will be a way around it. Spammers always find a way (the bastards).

And every day that letters like the above go out, more people will do what Ken did; switch. WordPress has a new version out with some pretty impressive features. I have too much invested in the conversion back to MT, so I’m not quite ready to make the jump. But the option is tempting, and I know from experience the switch to WordPress is almost too simple.

Get it together, Six Apart. You’re not Apple; fanaticism only goes so far.

Those who can't, communicate

Communications is not for everyone. I know that’s not the most profound statement you’ve read today, but it is one of those things that needs to be said more often than it is. Communicating is difficult, challenging in a way that many people cannot grasp. It’s not language, it’s not grammar, it’s not even verbalizing important thoughts. It’s about being able to listen, to hear and understand (at the same time) what someone is trying to express and then, and this is the important part, take that expression and transmit it to more people. You as the communicator take that thought, the one someone felt was important enough to communicate to you, and expand on it, spread it around, make it known to more people.

That, in a nutshell, is what the function of a communicator really is. Notice I didn’t say their job. It’s not their job. The communicators job could be any of a vast number of things. Communication may not even appear in their job responsibilities, on their CV, or come up in a performance review. But it could be an essential ingredient nonetheless.

How do you know when someone’s job has communication as a vital component? When they aren’t able to communicate. In my brief career, I’ve had the pleasure of working with some of the most gifted communicators I can think of, people I’ve learned from and wish I could continue to learn from. I’ve also had the unfortunate experience of working with a sampling of the worlds most pitiful communicators. These are people who not only have a career centered around communications, they are so unable to perform that function, it boggles the mind that they draw pay every week.

And I have to sit back, remove myself from the frustration of the situation, and wonder: how does someone unable to communicate, someone unable to listen and project the message, continue? I don’t know the answer, and it frustrates me. I have a handful of standard reasons for maintaining one’s career in the absence of talent, but nothing concrete. I can’t imagine those I trust in my work—because, what else is work but trust of those you consider more knowledgeable than you—I can’t imagine them withholding a shortcoming from me. How can I improve if they don’t tell me?

But it must be this way for many communicators. They must muddle through the message they’ve been trusted with because they don’t know any better. They’ve never been given the guidance they need because their work, their product, is not viewed by anyone with perspective. They are, for all intents and purposes, casting their voice into the echo chamber. It pains me, as a communicator, to see this continue and, as a professional, it pains me to be reminded of the stifling politics and drudgery around me. I am blessed with a team that is not only motivated, but overly capable—a potent combination, to say the least.

If only it were that way in many more places.

For the love of… Come on people! It's candy!

In our steady tidal shift towards oblivion, death, and destruction (Cthulhu can’t be far away now), there were bound to be a few moments when even the most enthusiastic of us riding the wave would smack our heads and say “Oh comon”. Today is one of those days. The New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (that’s New Jersey), has decided to raise it’s objections to a candy. Yes, a candy. Why, you might ask.

Does the candy maker support a large badger crushing operation? No, oddly. Do all profits of the candy sales sponsor baby-seal-clubbing expeditions? No, although I like your way of thinking. No, the taboo this candy dares to market is… roadkill. Yep, the candy is shaped like roadkill, complete with tire tread marks. Now, how this is supposed to harm animals, I’m a little fuzzy on. Maybe Billy and Jane But-We’re-Only-Eight will jack mom and dad’s Expedition and go on a wild night of gummi-roadkill-animal-induced Vehicular Whack-A-Squirrel. I don’t know, but the NJSPCA is threatening *gasp* a boycott. Yeah, good luck with that.

I’m pretty sure that, were I giving money to the NJSPCA, I’d rather they spend it elsewhere. You know, like helping the critters already in their possession.


Spyware buys legitimacy (or, AdAware sells out its users)

Broadband Report users are fuming (rightfully so) over Lavasoft’s new comfort level with the WhenU program, an adware app that suddenly wasn’t being detected by AdAware. No notice was given, no patch was availble. Oddly, WhenU also cut deals with other spyware removal apps at the same time Lavasoft’s product changed, but Lavasoft has yet to cop to a deal with WhenU.

Their public response hit today, and if Lavasoft thought it had a problem before, the poop storm is in full effect now.

User: cdru

So it would be ok for Symantec or McAfee to not detect certain viruses because it wasn’t high on their threat assessment chart?

Ad Aware was (notice past tense) a program that removed adware and spyware. When you start removing that functionality because the authors no longer feel that its a threat to your system it defeats the purpose. WhenU is still adware and it’s still installed on infected systems. It doesn’t matter if WhenU is the greatest software serves a useful purpose. It’s still adware.

The fact that Adware has a free version is beside the point. If it wasn’t paying the bills it’s not the public’s problem. Their business method was flawed. When your product is advertised as doing one thing, yet it fails at it, then that is the problem.

Adware simply sold out. From the official response: “The new TAC will not only allow us to retain, but will allow us to add more content, as well as highlight improvements in vendor offerings through a detailed color assessment code that will be more obvious to the user and thus provide better information for their decision making.” (Emphasis added). When changes in adware/spyware goes from being bad for your system to highlighting “improvements in vendor offerings”, something is seriously wrong.

I can’t say it any better. Goodbye Ad Aware; you just gave Microsoft a huge void to fill.

Lavasoft Responds – About as clear as mud…

Politics and Business

Why do people find the need to associate their businesses with their politics? Aside from a few, lucky people, mixing your personnel politics with your business is just plain stupid. Business is about conversations and by asserting your political views to a potential customer, before you’ve even started a conversation, is akin to leading off a conversation with “How ’bout those women; now they want to vote!”

That might be a bit extreme [ed. a bit?!?], but the point remains. I had it hit me today, just casually surfing. I was in my daily tech-site surfing, and hit a link to The link was from a site which had an article about Cisco routers; very tech focused.

Then, I get to infowarrior. The top of his page has the standard nav elements: articles, books, events, consulting. Obviously this is this persons store front. And right there, on the bottom of the page, is a nice big political sound bite. He hates Bush, good for you. But by choosing a polarizing political issue, he’s basically threatening you to express your views. For most of those around me, this would be a hearty “good for you”. Maybe he doesn’t need the other half of the country as a potential customer, I don’t know. I wouldn’t rule him out because of it, but I could have. And I’m sure someone has.

And then there’s Joe Welinske, a Something at WritersUA, a tech writers conference. Joe thinks the world of himself, so much so that he decided one day, I hope without the blessing of his co-workers at WritersUA, to post a link to his personnel website prominently on the business’s homepage. If you clicked through to Joe’s personnel web page, you’ll notice a few things.

  1. Joe’s not a big fan of the current administration. Bully, but a bad thing to advertise on the front page of your business.
  2. Joe’s almost got a handle on this Internet thing, but not quite. For someone who is a very public face on a company dealing with online publishing, he’s certainly behind the curve.

If Joe hadn’t linked to his page from the front page of his business, no one would have ever wandered over to his page. Maybe that’s the point. The problem is that when you do that, everyone sees your page. And when did he put this link on the front page? When registration was open for the next conference. Brilliant. People flamed tech writing lists (which finally prompted me to unsubscribe from most of them) and cancelled plans to go to the conference. And for every holy warrior on a mailing list, there are at least two dozen lurkers. Memo to Joe’s co-workers; he cost you money.

As a side benefit, Joe cost three mailing lists at least one subscriber: me. Two of those lists run on advertizers money. Guess who’s not reading those ads anymore. Joe’s now costing other people money. Bet they’re happy about that.

Which leads me back to the beginning. Why do people find the need to associate their business with their personnel political views? For infowarrior, the impact is minimal. He’s likely an independent contractor; business he looses only affects him or the small group he works with. Small groups tend to be idealogically cohesive (not always, of course), but minimal impact just the same. With WritersUA, the link came down in a hurry, which implies that it may not have sat well with everyone at the company. Joe’s opinions also directly impacted his business and reputation. It indirectly impacted the businesses of others.

I don’t understand the compulsion. But, then, I’m not a business owner, so I get to express myself semi-anonymously without fear of affecting business.