March 18, 2014

Social justice travesty generator

Filed under: Humour, Media — Tags: , — Nicholas Russon @ 07:32

ESR linked to this. It’s a generator site for “social justice” that produces simulated Tumblr and blog post rants that are indistinguishable from the “real thing”:

Generated social justice post 1

Generated social justice post 2

March 6, 2014

Getty Images changes their licensing policy to allow more sharing

Filed under: Business, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:26

BBC News is reporting that Getty Images has made a huge swath of their photographs free to use for small websites and social media users:

Millions of images — including famous shots of Marilyn Monroe and Barack Obama — will now be available without cost to blogs and social media sites.

The photos will be “framed” with a code that links back to Getty’s website.

Getty said it had made the move after realising thousands of its images were being used without attribution.

“Our content was everywhere already,” said Craig Peters, a business development executive at the Seattle-based company.

“If you want to get a Getty image today, you can find it without a watermark very simply,” he added.

“The way you do that is you go to one of our customer sites and you right-click. Or you go to Google Image search or Bing Image Search and you get it there. And that’s what’s happening…”

I’m delighted to hear this, as one of the things I would like to do with my blog posts is include more images, but it’s often too difficult to locate photos that I am legally allowed to share without having to pay a licensing fee (this blog is a hobby and I earn no money from it). Here’s the wording from Getty’s website:

Embedded Viewer

Where enabled, you may embed Getty Images Content on a website, blog or social media platform using the embedded viewer (the “Embedded Viewer”). Not all Getty Images Content will be available for embedded use, and availability may change without notice. Getty Images reserves the right in its sole discretion to remove Getty Images Content from the Embedded Viewer. Upon request, you agree to take prompt action to stop using the Embedded Viewer and/or Getty Images Content. You may only use embedded Getty Images Content for editorial purposes (meaning relating to events that are newsworthy or of public interest). Embedded Getty Images Content may not be used: (a) for any commercial purpose (for example, in advertising, promotions or merchandising) or to suggest endorsement or sponsorship; (b) in violation of any stated restriction; (c) in a defamatory, pornographic or otherwise unlawful manner; or (d) outside of the context of the Embedded Viewer.

Getty Images (or third parties acting on its behalf) may collect data related to use of the Embedded Viewer and embedded Getty Images Content, and reserves the right to place advertisements in the Embedded Viewer or otherwise monetise its use without any compensation to you.

Here’s a totally unrelated photo embedded using Getty’s Embed Images tool:

SIMFEROPOL, UKRAINE – MARCH 05: A statue of Lenin is viewed in the Crimean city of Simferopol on March 5, 2014 in Simferopol, Ukraine. As the standoff between the Russian military and Ukrainian forces continues in Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, world leaders are pushing for a diplomatic solution to the escalating situation. The United Nations reports that the poverty rate in Ukraine is now at around 25%, with a falling population in recent years due to both a low fertility rate and migration to other parts of Europe and America. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Searching the Getty Images site, not all search results provide images that are embeddable under the licensing terms, so this isn’t a “free for all” on everything Getty publishes, but it’s certainly a welcome change for even making a portion of their holdings available for legal sharing without charge.

December 31, 2013

Blog traffic, 2013

Filed under: Administrivia, Media — Tags: , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:43

While the blogging “revolution” may be over, I think that providing links and interesting posts that generated nearly 1.5 million unique visits shows there’s still a bit of life in the blogging world:

Quotulatiousness 2013 traffic

Quotulatiousness visits and hits 2010-2013

As I took these screenshots at about 10:30 in the morning, the final numbers for 2013 will be 2,000-2,500 higher than shown.

October 25, 2013

QotD: The dangers of reading internet comments

Filed under: Humour, Media, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 00:01

I joke — hilariously — but there is a serious issue here. At least, I assume there is. Frankly, I can’t remember, because I made the mistake of scrolling down to the reader comments about the visa story. Reading online comments is like letting someone punch your brain in the face with a fistful of stupid. If you doubt this, consider that I’ve been hit with the “fist of stupid” so many times, I now think brains have faces. Kudos, Internet.

Scott Feschuk, “Mexico is ‘really mad’ at us, and it is so a big whoop: Diplomacy should be more like ‘Mean Girls’”, Maclean’s, 2013-09-20

September 25, 2013

Potential service interruption

Filed under: Administrivia — Tags: , — Nicholas Russon @ 06:49

A while back, I mentioned that my hosting service was moving the site to a new server. Fortunately, this change appears to have happened without disrupting anything. Today, however, I had to make a DNS setting change that may take up to 24 hours to take effect. If you get a 404 message that the site is unreachable, try again in an hour or so and hopefully the new settings will be in place. Or, I could be worried over nothing and this will also be a transparent change from the users’ point of view (fingers crossed, anyway).

September 8, 2013

There may be some slight interruptions in service

Filed under: Administrivia — Tags: — Nicholas Russon @ 09:23

I got notice from my site host that they will be making some changes to the server that this site is hosted on, and you may have difficulty getting to the site. The cutover to a new server is due in the next couple of days, but they don’t expect the interruption to last very long. If you can’t get the site to load at some point this week, just try again in a few minutes.

We plan to facilitate this upgrade as quickly and seamlessly as possible. Ensuring your total satisfaction with this maintenance is our primary objective. We will keep you updated via e-mail throughout. The upgrade process itself will result in an exact copy of your account being moved to new hardware and will ensure that the freshest possible up to the minute data is retained.

Once your data switchover is complete we will begin diverting all traffic to your new server so that you do not miss any traffic or experience connectivity problems. Please be aware that there may be minimal amounts of downtime, however we will do everything within our power to ensure a smooth transition. Please note, if you are currently using custom name servers, this process may require a change of IP addresses.

July 31, 2013

Vikings training camp in full swing … and evil genius Rick Spielman is proven right again

Filed under: Football, Media — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:58

The Vikings are at their off-site training camp in Mankato this week, and the various fan blogs are doing a great job of covering the event (especially The Daily Norseman which has bloggers accredited and attending all open sessions). 1500ESPN has filled the void left when the great Tom Pelissero moved on to USA Today‘s sports department with Andrew Krammer (to team up with Judd Zulgad), while the main ESPN coverage is by Kevin Seifert. I hit my “maximum number of articles viewed” limit at the Minneapolis Star Tribune earlier this week, so the coverage from the St. Paul Pioneer Press is filling that gap for me until rollover.

I know most of you don’t much care for sports chatter, so I’ll put the rest of this post behind the curtain…


July 28, 2013

Follow-up to “First world blogging problems” post

Filed under: Technology — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 00:01

All good things must come to an end, I guess, so I’ve bid goodbye to the old Tweetdeck, which has been a reliable Twitter client for me for the last several years. When the Twitter corporation took over the original Tweetdeck development, I thought it would be a good thing … until I saw the first release of the “new” Tweetdeck client. It sucked. It was as though the development team’s mission was to find all the good features of the old Tweetdeck and comprehensively ruin them. If that was the case, they succeeded terribly well.

I stuck with the old version of Tweetdeck until it finally stopped working earlier this week. Right now, I’m trying out Janetter, which has been relatively painless to install and configure, and replaces most of the functionality that Tweetdeck used to have. Hopefully, it’ll be around as long as the old Tweetdeck was.

Follow-up to this post from earlier in the week.

July 25, 2013

First world blogging problems

Filed under: Administrivia, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:48

I use a few tools to come up with items to post on the blog. The two most useful are Twitter and RSS. I’d been using Google Reader for my RSS needs until it was shut down at the beginning of July, so I switched to The Old Reader and it has been working quite well as a direct Google Reader replacement. Earlier this week, TOR had a server meltdown and multiple failures of drives while attempting to recover. As of this morning, they’re still trying to get back online and (hopefully) recover all the data. Fortunately, I’ve also been testing Newsvibe for RSS, and it’s still working well … but has a different set of feeds than TOR.

My other main tool, Twitter, seems to be having some issues today … or it might just be that my old Twitter client is finally giving up the ghost. I’ve been using the desktop TweetDeck client for years, but I really disliked the “new” version of the tool introduced when TweetDeck was taken over by Twitter itself. Over the last several months, the old client (version 0.38.2) has been slowly losing bits of functionality — for example, sometime in the last week, I lost the ability to send a direct message from Tweetdeck, and earlier this year it became impossible to use the “old” retweet method and more recently to retweet at all.

Today, when I started up the client, it was unable to retrieve any data from earlier this morning. This might be a general issue with the Twitter API or it might be yet another bit of creeping feature-fail. It’s picking up new Twitter posts, but one of the more useful features was that it would also collect tweets from my several lists that had been posted overnight. This morning, only the main feed column in Tweetdeck is being populated, the rest (Mentions, Direct Messages, various list and search columns) are empty.

Old Tweetdeck

I may need to shop around for a new Twitter client. Either way, it puts a crimp in my usual blogging habits.

June 29, 2013

Finding replacements for Google Reader

Filed under: Media, Technology — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:39

If you use Google Reader, you’ve got until Monday to find a replacement tool or give up on your RSS feeds. Lifehacker wants to help:

The first thing you’ll want to do is back up your data as an OPML file through Google Takeout. You won’t be able to access it ever again once the service shuts down, so this officially qualifies as crunch time. Luckily, it’s really simple, and we’ve shown you how to do it in three easy steps. Once you’re done, I’d also make sure you have several secure backups saved at home and on the cloud, just to be sure.

As soon as your data is safe and sound, it’s time to go shopping for a new RSS home. Feedly is the most popular alternative at the moment, but there are tons of other options if it doesn’t check all of your boxes. In case you missed it, we’ve rounded up some of the best to help make the transition a little easier. All of these services will import that all-important OPML file, but some can pull your Reader data directly off of Google’s servers while it’s still available, including starred and read items in many cases, so it’s probably worth it to set up a new account over the weekend. In fact, if you haven’t settled on one alternative yet, you might want to sign up for several to hedge your bets and preserve this valuable metadata.

I’ve been using Google Reader to stay on top of news for my weekly Guild Wars 2 community round-ups at GuildMag, so finding a replacement was necessary. I settled on The Old Reader for my GW2 feeds and I’m experimenting with Newsvibe for other feeds.

I’ve been very pleased with The Old Reader, which has been a great replacement and the transition was nearly seamless. I’m still not completely sold on Newsvibe, as it has a couple of issues that reduce its usefulness to me: the session times out very quickly (less than an hour) and it can’t handle certain RSS feeds and refuses to indicate why (it just fails to add the new subscription silently).

June 13, 2013

MySpace revamp pulls the plug on blogs

Filed under: Media, Technology — Tags: , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:16

I heard about this the other day, as an author mentioned on her mailing list that her MySpace blog had apparently been replaced by someone else’s music files. It was part of a deliberate change to make MySpace more “modern”:

MySpace, the Justin Timberlake-owned social network that refuses to die, is back yet again with a new desktop interface — and minus several years of users’ blogs and comments.

Blogs don’t form part of the new MySpace — sorry, Myspace, they’ve dropped the capital S — and neither do home pages full of pinned videos and user comments.

It’s all about music streaming and discovery, much to the chagrin of loyal users who’ve seen years of blogging disappear at a stroke as the platform narrows its focus.

[. . .]

Myspace might not lament the loss of users who only came back to read their own postings, but it highlights an interesting point about all social media platforms. What you post can vanish at any time, and emotion-laden rants content remains available solely at the whim of the site owner — which could surprise a generation brought up to expect everything on-demand.

Myspace could relent; there’s no indication that the content has been binned, and backups could be dispatched to customers wanting to leaf though their digital past. But that’s not part of the future — if, indeed, Myspace still has a future.

May 23, 2013

Pollster finds about 1/3 of Canadians trust the media

Filed under: Cancon, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 14:49

However, as Richard Anderson points out, they prefer to trumpet the finding that only eight percent of Canadians trust what they hear from bloggers:

According to the referenced survey only 8% of Canadians trust bloggers.

Which begs the obvious question, indeed so obvious that the professional pollster quoted above didn’t bother asking it: Have 8% of Canadians even read a blog?

Those of us who comprise the mostly unpaid army of bloggers are perfectly aware that we are a niche. Really thousands of little niches. Most people do not get their news or commentary from blogs, or at least from blogs not affiliated with an MSM outlet. It’s why we call the MSM the MSM, they’re the mainstream and we’re the outsiders. So when you ask Bob and Mary Canadian do you trust bloggers, a term they’re probably only vaguely familiar with, they’ll say no.

Does anyone trust something they know almost nothing about?

What’s impressive is that the MSM has trust ratings in the 32-33% range, despite decades of incumbency and powerful distribution networks. When most people are very familiar with your product, and still think you stink, that’s a huge credibility issue. Bloggers are doing this for the hell of it and some spare change. The MSM is doing this for a living. If upstart amateurs have one-quarter the trust level of professional journalists, that says far more about journalists than bloggers.

Pollsters, ironically, scored lower than journalists.

May 20, 2013

Yahoo’s Tumblr purchase

Filed under: Business, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:15

Yahoo is spending $1.1 billion to acquire Tumblr:

Despite the breadth and diversity of life online, there are relatively few opportunities to make the kind of acquisitions that make the industry stop and take stock. Yahoo’s $1.1bn deal to buy Tumblr is one of those moments: a bold acquisition that says chief executive Marissa Meyer means business.

Comparisons to Yahoo’s 1999 $3.6bn acquisition of Geocities are too simplistic. In internet years, 1999 is more like two centuries ago and Yahoo is in a completely different place, led by a woman with all the zeal of a convert. Repeatedly passed over for promotion during her previous (another internet lifetime) 13 years at Google, she has an opportunity to do something impressive with Yahoo, which seemed in terminal decline. One venture capital executive told me that during the tenure of Carol Bartz, Mayer’s predecessor once removed, the investors were expecting Yahoo to ditch all but essential staff, focus on core revenue-building products and then rinse the company hard for maximum profit until it ran into the ground.

[. . .]

Yahoo was easy to write off in the tech community because it lacks the cool factor and developer kudos of Facebook and Google. But Yahoo’s power has always been in its more mainstream (though ageing) user base and its powerful display advertising business. Herein lies the key to its Tumblr acquisition. Though the fit with this hipster lite-blogging, photo-heavy platform could seem a little awkward, it makes sense in the context of Yahoo’s ad strategy.

Tumblr founder David Karp has always said its advertising model is based on Twitter’s “the tweet is the ad” principle. That is, that being embedded in a customised, personal flow of information, being relevant to an influential and proactive community is the most valuable and meaningful way of presenting display advertising right now. That makes Tumblr, integrated with Yahoo’s enormous expertise in display advertising, a diverse and demographically important platform for Yahoo that is mobile-heavy and social-focused.

May 10, 2013

Nine years of blogging

Filed under: Administrivia, Media — Tags: — Nicholas Russon @ 00:01

Nine years is a very long lifespan for a blog. The vast majority of blogs don’t even make it to a first anniversary before the blogger loses interest and stops updating it. As I have no other particular claims to distinction, I’ll hang my hat on longevity. If I were to do it over again, I’d probably have come up with a different name for the blog, but for a spur-of-the-moment joke, it’s held up well enough. I guess.

One thing I don’t regret is not specializing in a particular area. I’m not an economist, or a military historian, or a political theorist, but I have interests in those areas that crop up relatively frequently here on the blog. I don’t generally post personal items, as there are lots of other venues (like Facebook) which are better suited to that sort of thing … and I live a fairly boring life, so exotic trips and exciting adventures are things I read about rather than experience directly. I especially don’t post about (past) employers or (current) clients in a way that they could be identified: that’s the sort of thing that tends to have only negative repercussions.

I did a retrospective round-up of the first year for the 2010 anniversary, the “best of 2005″ for 2011, and posts from 2006 last year. To stay on that path requires a look at what I posted in 2007 (and may still have some relevance or interest):

January, 2007

February, 2007

March, 2007 (a very busy month, resulting in very low blog output)

  • Our dystopian future?. “Brad Warbiany takes a moment to glance into his crystal ball and finds . . . shite”
  • “Good job, buddy!”. An extended comment from a regular reader becomes a full blog post.
  • Very disturbing development. “These guys are not exemplars of “warriors”. They’re parties to conspiracy and murder. That is not what soldiers do. The distinction may be a bit subtle for those raised on anti-war protests and anti-military propaganda, however. “

April, 2007

  • Toronto to export garbage at retail level. The social and political side of garbage collection.
  • The diet dilemma. The inevitable result of two trends: more sedentary adult life and cheaper food.
  • Why have an army at all?. A letter to the Toronto Star suggests that Canada has no actual need for any armed forces at all.
  • Everybody’s talking about it . . .. Some conversations just repeat on a regular basis. This discussion of how a criminal got his hands on the weapons he used in his crime could be copy-pasted into any month of the last decade.
  • Somehow, I’m not convinced. A long-standing problem with using US college students as guinea pigs for sociological experiments is that they’re not truly representative even of Americans, never mind non-westerners. Your results will be biased due to the sample you’re using.
  • Potential outages. Jon switched ISPs at the end of April. It took several days to get the blog up and running at the new ISP. An abortive effort was made to update to the then-current version of MovableType, but eventually he had to admit it wasn’t working properly and revert back to the older install.

May, 2007 (a death in the family meant another month of irregular updates)

June, 2007

July, 2007 re-employment took its toll on blogging output

August, 2007

September, 2007

October, 2007 (the job was consuming all my waking hours this month, so blog posts were very light indeed)

  • There’s no place like Florida. There’s just something … special … about Florida.
  • Voting day in Ontario. The election John Tory had to work really hard to lose. But he somehow managed the trick.
  • Micro microeconomics. I explain “Russon’s Law of Economics” as applied to the Ontario economy just before the entire North American economy hit the skids. In hindsight, this was a flashing red light about the near-term performance across all retail sectors.
  • The anti-age-effects movement. Rather than working toward mere longevity, put efforts into reducing or even eliminating the worst aspects of old age.

November, 2007 (deadline pressures at work kept blogging light)

December, 2007

April 18, 2013

PVFW heroically takes the fight back to disparaging military bloggers

Filed under: Humour, Military, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:46

You’ve got to admire their willingness to continue their fight against reality:

The Phony Veterans of Foreign Wars, the nation’s leading military fakers’ organization — representing fake members from all service branches — has gone on the offensive in the fight against military bloggers.

PVFW fired back with a public relations offensive, speaking with reporters and establishing a password-protected blog on their website devoted to peer-reviewed development of members’ stories of their superhuman valor and heroism.

“Because of these milbloggers’ relentless assault on our First Amendment-protected right to lie about brief, unglamorous or nonexistent military service,” PVFW chairman Michael Spurwick told reporters, “several of our members have suffered irreparable damage to their reputations, and a few have even had their businesses and careers ruined, after being exposed as frauds. Something had to be done.”

Spurwick, a former Army sergeant, who was promoted to General before retiring as a Captain, has a long and impressive career of made-up military service.

“We lost a lot of good men out there,” Spurwick said. “I don’t really like to talk about it.”

Born in 1965, he’s a veteran of every U.S. military action since his birth, from the Vietnam War to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Boasting unearned Special Forces and Ranger tabs, Spurwick served with both Delta Force and the Rangers during Operation Gothic Serpent in Mogadishu, Somalia. He’s participated in every combat parachute jump since 1967, when, at just fifteen months of age, he parachuted into North Vietnam with the 173rd Airborne during Operation Junction City — as well as a top-secret high altitude, high opening jump from the International Space Station during OEF VI and a LANO (low-altitude, no-opening) jump from a B-1 bomber during OIF V.

[Editor's note: According to Spurwick's DD214, obtained by The Duffel Blog through a FOIA request, he was discharged from the Army in 1986 during basic training at Fort Sill, Okla., as an E-2.]

I’m sure there is — or soon will be — an anti-bullying law of some stripe that will allow these brave imaginary heroes to launch legal counter-attacks against those who would deny them the ability to wear uniforms, medals, badges, and awards to which they have no actual right.

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