Friday, November 23, 2007

New ways of getting to the same place

It all started when my server at home started acting up. It happened about the same time that a new version of my server's operating system came out. I use Ubuntu Linux. Rather than try to fix the problem with the server I decided I would do a complete reinstall of Ubuntu and in the process upgrade everything to the latest version.

But reinstalling the server meant there would be a day or so of down time. So I decided to move ipsoSacto to a commercial server where I rent space. The idea was that this would be transparent and there would be no downtime.

I've been building web sites for many years and I've moved from commercial server to commercial server. I should have known that something that worked perfectly well on my Ubuntu server at home wouldn't work on the commercial server. These commercial servers always turn off some feature I'm using. It is always a different one. It is always for security reasons.

Anyway, it was only after I installed everything on the commercial server that I discovered that I couldn't do my trick with the Google Reader shared pages. Big security problem, the commercial server rep said.

As a result I had to figure out a different way to do the same thing. Turns out it wasn't that difficult; just annoying.

Now ipsoSacto is back working as before. If it is not, let me know.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Disappearing feeds

Had a problem today with the feeds received from Google Reader. They all disappeared.

When this happened I was fearful that something I've been doing angered the Google gods, but apparently I wasn't alone in suffering this loss.

Fortunately, the export.opml file that I maintain on the site worked as an instant restore.

Nothing appears to have been lost in the process. (Knocking on wood repeatedly.)

Anyway, if you notice any unusual stuff when viewing the topics -- or the topic feeds you are subscribing to start acting up -- the problem is apparently widespread in Google Reader land.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Just Headlines back

The "Just Headlines " feature is back.

When you are viewing a topic you will see a link near the top of the center column that says, "Click here to shift to just headlines." Once this is toggled you will see only headlines as you page through the content or you choose a new topic.

When you are viewing "Just Headlines," the link at the top of the center column switches to "Click here to shift to headlines and text." Clicking on the link switches back to the traditional view with a 300 word length limit.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Sound of knuckles knocking on noggin

Apparently I've fixed the problems with displaying the topic content within ipsoSacto. The long posts are chopped down to about 300 words and a link to the full post is add -- and appears to be the right link!

I'm still working on getting the headline-only feature back.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Bigger deal than I thought

I've been working for a couple of hours rebuilding how ipsoSacto takes the Google Reader's shared pages and reformats them to display the topics.

I think I have everything working EXCEPT the 200 word limit. Right now, when you select a topic you see the entire posts. Eventually, I hope to restore the word limit on posts.

Also, I noticed the "headlines only" function no longer works. Sheesh! I'll get to that after I fix the word limit.

float:right;margin:0px 0px 10px 10px

Arrrrgh! The "Read the full blog item" links are all screwy again today. At least the "More [topic] Blog Items" link at the bottom of each topic appears to still be functional.

I'm going to turn off the "Read the full blog item" link since you can click on the title of the post and get there that way. Unfortunately, the FTP server is not working (!) and therefore I will have to wait until this evening to make the changes.

I am such a dilettante.

If you see anything ELSE that's not working as expected, use the contact form to tell me.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Sorting out some problems

Google Reader has changed the formatting of the "shared" pages that I use at ipsoSacto to display the various topics.

The "More [topic] blog items" link wasn't working. I've fixed that.

I'm still having problems with the "Read the full blog item" links. Most of these are working, but some are still broken. You will find the link at the top of the item will take you to the full article.

If you notice anything that is doesn't work as expected, please let me know.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

A new Feisty server

OK. Everything appears to be working. That's not unexpected but it's still something of a surprise. I upgraded my laptop and didn't have anywhere near this much luck.

Anyway, if you are looking for an alternative to Windows, I strongly suggest looking into Ubuntu Linux.

And if anything doesn't appear to be working, let me know. If the contact form isn't working, I can be reached at jomariworks at gmail dot com.

Server upgrade

The server running is undergoing an upgrade. This is disrupting the web site. I hope to have it all working again before 9 p.m.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Back to the future

I've restored the ability to toggle between displaying 200 words of blog content or just headlines.

When looking at a blog category you will now see a link that says "Show just headlines." Clicking on that link will display the same articles, with just the headlines and names of the blogs. The "More..." button will continue with just headlines.

When looking at just headlines you will now see a link that says "Show blog content." Clicking on that link will display the content for the same articles. The "More..." button will continue with showing content.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Subscribe to your favorite blog topics

Decided I didn't like the front page format at and also figured that people might prefer to just use a feed reader to follow specific topics.

You will now see the news feed icon next to each topic and at the top of the page when viewing a topic. The icon is linked to the feed address for that topic. Add that address to your news reader and you won't need to visit ipsoSacto to follow that topic.

When you are viewing a topic, the table of other topics will appear at the bottom of the page. I think this works better, especially for people using smalled screen sizes.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Recommending blogs for new Blog Watch

The Forum editor is going to put together a weekly Blog Watch article. If you know of a blog post that should be considered, send an e-mail to Gary Reed at or use the form here.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Analysis of the Blog Watch project

Below are a couple of spreadsheets that examine the blog watch content generated by the project.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Best 25 Regional Blogs

There is a Web site called Sacramento's Top 25, which was one of the first Sacramento-focused sites I found when I first started looking for regional blogs to monitor. What I need today is a list of the Best 25 Regional Blogs.

The editor of the Forum section wants to continue the Blog Watch feature, but without having to monitor more than 300 regional blogs. So he has asked me to produce a list of the 25 blogs most likely to produce copy that would work in a typical Blog Watch article.

The desired blog posts would be short (less than 400 words since the whole column gets less than 800 words in all), well-written and focused on a personal experience with a regional topic. These are guidelines, not rules. A very funny regional post on a national topic isn't out of bounds.

In the next few days, I'm going to research which blogs I used between July 30 and March 18 and come up with my own prediction of where the best written local posts can be expected.

If you have a favorite blog that's regional (see the list; if its regional -- Stockton to the Oregon border, Fairfield to Tahoe -- and not there let me know) add a comment below this post. I'll gather these up and talk about them in the future.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Changes at ipsoSacto

Close observers will note a couple of major changes at

1. The main page includes unfiltered regional blog content.

2. The Sacramento Bee Blog Watch article connection to has been severed.

When was created I had several hours each day during work hours to devote to this project. That time has been progressively reduced until today it amounts to minutes stolen here and there.

In an effort to keep some relevance in the remaining site, I have stopped the pretense of manually reviewing all of the blogs and sorting them into categories. The time interval between updates had stretched as long as 20 hours. That's just not useful.

Each of the more than 300 blogs that are monitored have been given a basic topic label. These labels represent individual feeds that flow automatically from Google Reader. If a blog has a specific focus, it has been labeled. For instance, the SacPD blog has the label "crime" and "localgov." Each time the feed created by the SacPD blog gets updated, Google Reader updates the stream for "crime" and "localgov." When you click on the "Crime and Law Enforcement" button on the front page, you will see the latest blog posts. Before this change, you wouldn't see these posts until the next manual update occurred.

Most of the blogs don't have an identifiable topic. These blogs have been given the "general" label. Clicking on "All the rest -- unsorted" gets you an eclectic sampling of the regional blogs.

Manual updates will continue, but they will be less frequent and may be less thorough. As I review the posts, I will add additional appropriate labels. For instance, a "politics" blog that posts a discussion of the 2008 presidential primary, will be added to the "2008" category. A "general" blog that comments on the happenings in midtown will be added to "citylife."

Below the category buttons at the top of the site is a notice telling when the last manual update occurred.

This lack of time to thoroughly read the blogs each day during work has made it impossible to continue to be responsible for producing the article in The Bee's Forum section.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Blog Watch disappointment

It is necessary that you first read this Blog Watch article from The Bee's Forum section.
Fridays are exhausting, and coming off two days in bed with a nasty bug I was numb this Friday as I slogged through my daily tasks. So I will admit that a deep dread greeted the news that the Blog Watch article I had put together "didn't work."

As I have explained before (see here), I see myself as the victim of a one-armed bandit that eats my free time and then tosses back a few coins when it senses I might get up and leave (see The Fever). The occasional success of putting together a fun article provides just enough reward to keep me monitoring the regional blogs.

The problem this week? A matter of expectations vs. the reality of the regional blogs.

Last week, the Blog Watch article featured a tale of winter fishing, an explanation of life, death and reincarnation and a discussion of the south Sacramento crime wave. The week before featured the experience of watching the bike race, a psycho chicken and other strictly personal themes.

These locally focused blog posts have become the favorite for the Sunday article. This is a major change from the original idea for the Blog Watch column and has evolved over a period of weeks. (See this discussion.)

It was against this expectation that this week's discussion of Ann Coulter calling John Edwards a faggot and a national columnist's discussion of homosexuality grated.

After 19 years of defending my selection of letters to the editor I'm not a rookie when it comes to explaining the decision process that produces a particular package.

Ann Coulter, I explained, has been a very real subject of discussion in the regional blogs, so much so that I created a "What's Hot" category of Ann Coulter. In addition, I felt the first blog did a very good job of making its point. The next post, which technically isn't regional, offers a quick and direct defense of Coulter. Both posts were well within lengths that could be made to work in the very limited space available for the column.

The blog post about New York Daily News columnist Stanley Crouch's analysis of Tim Hardaway's egregious “I hate gay people” comments qualified as local in my book because the column had been reprinted in The Bee.

Together, the three also worked well as a package.

And the bottom line: I don't write the blog posts considered for publication. In my reading, which admittedly was circumscribed by two days in a sick bed, I didn't see any of the preferred posts, at least not with enough shelf life to last until Sunday and short enough to be useful.

Since this discussion took place after the article was already edited and ready for publication, the exigencies of producing the Sunday section weighed on my side and the article went ahead as proposed.

But I'm not home free. It has been suggested that an "introduction" or "explanation" should now be added at the top of each weekly roundup, presumably so that readers expecting the more personal posts won't be put off by unexpected content.

More problematic was the additional suggestion that each blogger should be introduced with a brief explanation of who they are. This might work for those blogs that have detailed "about" pages, but this just wouldn't work for many of the bloggers who have been featured in the past.

I am loathe to embrace any concept that eats up even more of the already limited space for the Blog Watch article, and I see very limited value in turning the blog roundup into a personal column about blogs.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Back to the salt mine

Two days in bed (with brief waking periods that coincided with the Champions League schedule) and its back to the salt mine. I need to figure out something else to put on the front page if I'm not going to have time to update the "best" feed. Today, it was 21 hours between updates.

The default categories sort automatically, but they are usually too broad -- politics, business. And then there are the hundreds of blogs without any general category. I think I will work on putting every blog into some category, if it's just "personal" and then my "value added" will be the subcategories and the "what's hot" feature. Of course, those still suffer if I don't have time, but the other stuff will gain some value.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Sick days

Updates at will be intermittent over the next couple of days. I'm home sick. I still need to find a couple more ideas for Sunday's Blog Watch column.

(And, no, my illness doesn't have anything to do with the Champions League schedule.)

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Football Sunday

On Sundays I enjoy getting up before everyone else and settling in the family room to watch English Premier League football live on the Fox Soccer Channel.

Today's match wasn't expected to be much of a game. West Ham United is last in the table, with every indication that they will be relegated to the lower Championship League. West Ham was playing host to Tottenham Hotspur, who sit eighth in the standings.

Since the game's outcome seemed a foregone conclusion, what held my interest at the start was how well West Ham's Argentine striker, Carlos Tevez, would perform. Tevez, who played for Argentina in the World Cup, made a name for himself first with Boca Juniors in Argentina and then in Brazil with Corinthians. Since arriving at West Ham he has been a glaring disappointment, failing to score a single goal. On the occasions when I have watched him, his performance has been uninspired. There would be moments of skill. After all there is a reason why he is touted as the "new Diego Maradona." But for me he always appeared to spend too much time whining about not getting the ball and not enough time chasing down the ball himself.

But today it was the "new Diego Maradona" on the pitch and joining him was a squad that looked every bit up to the challenge. The game was made even more enjoyable by a referee who was willing to allow some very physical play on both sides.

In the first half it was hard to understand how the West Ham players could be the same guys who had not won a game in 11 matches. And it was equally hard to see why they had such trouble scoring. Sixteen minutes into the match, Tevez chested a ball to an on-rushing Mark Noble, who fired a low, powerful shot past the keeper and into the corner of the net.

Then in the 41st minute, Tevez was fouled just outside the 18-yard box and awarded a free kick.

Tottenham set up a wall of its tallest players in front of the goal, but Tevez expertly struck the ball so that soared over the wall and dipped down just under the cross bar and over the outstretched fingers of the Tottenham goalie.

I have never seen a goal celebration like Tevez put on. He took off his shirt, waved it in the air as he ran to the stands behind the goal. He leaped over the field boundary ad wall and into the arms of the cheering West Ham fans. Tevez literally disappeared in the crush of bodies as security personnel attempted to reach him and pull him to safety.

It is simply hard to imagine a person who makes as much money as Tevez for playing football demonstrating such overwhelming enthusiasm, and especially his tribute to the fans.

The West Ham goalie did his part to keep Tottenham off the score sheet, and with the score 2-0 at the half there appeared reason to hope for a stunning upset. But six minutes into the second half, Tottenham was awarded a penalty kick that former West Ham player Jermain Defoe easily converted into a goal.

A side that wins many games can weather a challenge. A side that lacks faith wilts, and that's what happened to West Ham. In the 63rd minute Tottenham found its equalizer and it looked like a miracle would be needed to keep Tottenham from finding the winner.

But then, with five minutes left in regulation time, West Ham was awarded a free kick well outside the penalty area. Tevez took the kick and sent the ball looping high toward the far end of the six-yard box where Bobby Zamora rose high to head the ball forcefully into the net.

But West Ham could hold the lead for just three minutes before Tottenham found another equalizer.

The score was 3-3 when it was announced that four additional minutes of stoppage time would be added. Both sides did their best to put the game away as the minutes ticked off. But for some reason the referee didn't call the game at 94 minutes and instead let play continue. Then, with 95 minutes showing on the clock, West Ham made what was surely to be the final effort on goal, only to see Tottenham launch a counterattack that saw Defoe fire a shot on goal that West Ham's goalie could only block, spilling the ball into the path of Paul Stalteri, who knocked it into the open net for the game winner.

As the BBC story after the game pointed out: It was a dramatic and cruel end to the game for West Ham.

It was certainly a memorable Sunday of football for me.

Friday, March 2, 2007

A matter of time

The Blog Watch voting is fun. The random blog page is amusing. The Watch List of all the regional blogs is useful. But what about all of that stuff on the front page of -- the stream of "live" content?

The whole reason was built was to create practical applications. But just how practical is "live" content that's more than 13 hours old?

In theory, content could be streamed unfiltered. The timeliness would be controlled by how often the bloggers update their feeds. Everyone would be getting the stuff at the same time. There are two problems with that: sorting by topic and what I will classify as suitability. Many blogs could be categorized as "personal," but they also contain "politics" and "citylife" and "schools" content. Suitability encompasses the issue of profanity, taste and other value judgments. A lot has changed in the decision of what's interesting (see this Blog Watch project post), but does anyone outside the immediate family care about the indoor soccer game?

So far, the only way to deal with those issues is to have a real person (me) read (or at least skim) everything. This does provide an additional value to the content when it is timely. But when it is not timely, it devalues the entire effort.

On a weekend such as today, I can fit in a few minutes here and few minutes there and keep up with the flow of new blog posts that Google Reader identifies for me. But on work days, I'm limited to breaks between my regular production work. And those breaks have become much fewer and much shorter.

Last week was a good example of why the original idea to create live feeds of regional blog content just can't be done if I'm the only one working on the project.

Monday should be the day with the most opportunity to monitor the blogs. Certainly, it is not as bad as, say, a Thursday or a Friday. But last Monday I didn't have any time to look at the blogs until 12:40 p.m. -- 15 hours after the last time I looked at the blogs Sunday night at home. Wednesday wasn't much better -- 14 hours until 12:40 p.m. And Friday was a disaster. I didn't have a chance to even look at the blogs until after 5 p.m. and didn't clear the day's posts until well after I got home.

And what about all of this time I'm working on this at home?

OK, so its a hobby that also has some application at work. I should either quit monitoring the blogs or quit whining about it.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Vote early, vote often

An odd pattern has developed in the Blog Watch voting for the blog posts to be included in the Sunday Forum newspaper article.

People don't rate each post. I understood the guy who voted for one post (gave it a 5) and against two others (gave them 1s), but he left unranked the remaining posts. The rest of the voters are just rating one post and ignoring the rest.

Now, I will confess that since I created the voting system I am able to vote as many times as I need to get the result I want. (Think Florida 2000 on a more blatant, if less significant, level.) But that is no reason for visitors to miss the opportunity to pretend their vote counts in the selection of the blogs to be featured in Sunday's column.

Here's an opportunity to vote early and vote often. Every vote counts. Some votes are just more equal than others.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

ipsoSacto trouble

10 a.m.: Just got to work and checked ipsoSacto. Something is delaying the loading of the pages. I can reach the server and access the database, so I know it's not the server itself.

I suppose I might be under some sort of Denial Of Service attack directed specifically at, but I can't check that from work. Otherwise it might be one of the modules locking up.

UPDATE at 11:47 a.m.: I've disabled the site. After the last trouble I had with the server, I turned off the features that allowed me to remotely access the basic operating system. (Didn't want to invite more trouble.) As a result, I won't be able to determine what is going on until late tonight.

I'm hoping this is a temporary problem. But it is looking more like someone doesn't want this site accessible.

UPDATE at 12:24 p.m.: I've turned the site back on. Appears the problem has disappeared -- for now. It there are more problems, I will post updates here. Tonight I will do some exploring and see if I can determine what went wrong.

Monday, February 26, 2007

The Big 300

Spent much of my free time today exploring all of the blogs that have "Sacramento" tags on Technorati. I didn't get through all 3,423 blog posts, but I did find 11 more blogs to add to the Watch List. is now monitoring more than 300 blogs, depending on who is counting. Google Reader says I watch 303, but the actual Watch List I maintain shows just 300. In any event, this is a fine milestone. I think I'll celebrate by going to bed. It's 11:25 p.m.


I love when this happens...

... although I'll admit that the people looking for the post will be annoyed that they can't find it readily. The problem, of course, is that the blogs on the front page roll off. To find this post, you'd have to know to look under the "iraq" topic.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Blog Watch rewards program

Years ago, when I was city editor of the Lodi News-Sentinel, I worked with an older gentleman who had been around newspapers for a long time (although obviously his presence in Lodi indicated he had not been particularly successful). I recall a conversation in which he explained that the problem with syndicated columnists was that they couldn't produce a winner every time. I've found that holds true for the Blog Watch articles I produce.

Two weeks ago, I wrote of my disappointment with the prior week's Blog Watch article. This week, the pendulum has swung to the other side and I'm excited about the article that will be published Sunday. (Get your free early peak here.)

When the idea of watching regional blogs was first discussed, I was urged to focus on the official voices, the knowledgeable insiders, the important issues of politics and government. Like the good soldier I marched to my orders, but I kept stumbling across these neat personal stories with compelling narratives, slices of everyday life.

From July until around November, the weekly Blog Watch articles reflected those early priorities. But eventually the personal stories gained enthusiastic supporters and the content of the Sunday articles shifted. For me, the Dec. 3 article signaled the change.

The Blog Watch article this Sunday is an excellent example of everything I like about focusing on the personal rather than the officious. It is a smile factory.

Since I have started alerting bloggers that their posts are being considered (see here and here), I've found it necessary at times to explain what motivated me. This was especially true this week with the very short, two sentence post at WickedSmaht’s blog. My nomination prompted another post under the headline A wee bit mystified... that said, "So my previous post was "nominated" by (hello, cutest name for a website ever, eh?) for a Blog of the Week feature in the Sacramento Bee. While part of me is as pleased as punch, another part of me is asking, 'Really? This blog?' "

Here's the answer I offered:

Having nominated your post, perhaps I should confess a certain self-interest.

First, The Bee offers less than 800 words for the entire article. But, of course, most bloggers, being people who like to write, gush out 800 words in a single post. Seems unfair to let one blogger hog the whole show. So I'm constantly searching for the short posts that can stand alone.

Second, I've worked as a newspaper copy editor for more than 25 years at The Bee. For 19 of those years I worked with a women [sic] who hated exclamation marks. I would put together batches of letters to the editor with all sorts of exclamations, only to have the other editor come behind me and take them out. For me, a 45 word blog post with seven exclamation points is just irresistible.

As for the rest of this week's article, I confess that I picked the "No dogs allowed" post for all of the cat lovers as an answer to a blog dedicated to a poodle and a dog. I also had hoped to use some of the photos taken by the blogger who fought to keep her spot on the race route, but the editor had other priorities.

As I explained last week, I'm in a Twilight Zone story in which a one-armed bandit gives me just enough winnings to keep me from leaving.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Return of the Blog Watch, too

In the immortal words of California Gov. Ronald Reagan, "that noise you hear is the sound of concrete cracking around my feet."

The Blog Watch is back in operation, and I am back at work monitoring the regional blogs.

For now I'll just say that my bruised ego has been massaged enough to get me out of my funk and back to work.

I'll have more to say in the future if plans afoot actually bear fruit.

UPDATE: I've created a new block on the front page that lets visitors know immediately if the Blog Watch is working and how many posts are in the competition.

'Bill Gates Signature Edition'

I like Fry's Electronics . I can't go into the place and just get what I need. No, I have to browse, to luxuriate in the wealth of techie stuff, all of those things you never knew you needed. It takes real will power not to make out the credit cards.

I also like Fry's because they pay my salary with its full-page color catalog ads. Some days Fry’s runs six-page pull-out sections. Today, Fry’s takes up the back of the business and sports sections.

If nothing else, the ads provide easy reading during those conferences in the head office. (That's a Navy joke.)

And that's what got this blog post started.

There, near the lower left corner of today’s Fry's ad on the back of the business section, is an ad for "Bill Gates Signature Edition" of the new Windows Vista. The "Bill Gates Signature Edition" is the "Ultimate Upgrade**" That ** tells buyers they must have proof they already own a copy of the Windows operating system.

The price is $259.99 and just to underline what a great price that is, the Fry's ad warns: "Limit 1 Per Customer."

Damn, and I was going to get one for every member of the family and the dog. (The cats are OSX people)

Well, OK I wasn’t really going to upgrade to Vista. You see I gave up Windows a few years ago. The last two computers I have purchased – the server this web site runs on and my laptop – run Ubuntu Linux. The server started as a Windows box, and I then erased Windows and installed Ubuntu. The laptop came with Ubuntu preinstalled.

There are plenty of frustrations involved with running Linux, not the least of which is dealing with proprietary codecs for multimedia content. But not having to deal with the costly Windows upgrades, the expensive add-on software or the requirement that you have a paid subscription for virus protection makes up for any of the headaches.

The Ubuntu operating system is free. All of the software I run on the server and the laptop are free. All of my needs – digital photography editing, vector graphics, web site development, word processing and spreadsheet – can be filled without expending a dime.

After you have lived and worked this way for a couple of years, you really wonder why anyone would pay $259.99 for a “Bill Gates Signature Edition” of “Windows Vista Ultimate Upgrade**”

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

A ray of hope in storm clouds

The files that I feared had been deleted have turned up. So the level of crime here is more along the lines of a prank than something malicious.

However, I'm still going to have to completely reformat the hard drive and reinstall the files, so that I can remove whatever backdoor the hacker used to access the files.

Looks like this three-day weekend should be enough time to get things back in order.

(fingers crossed, knocking on noggin.)

ipsoSacto hacked

On Feb. 13 I discovered that select directories within the web root of my Ubuntu 6.10 server had been deleted. All of the files related to were lost. As a result, the ipsoSacto site is no more.

I will post updates here until I get the site back in operation.

Monday, February 12, 2007

The gambling addict

Another week, another Blog Watch article. Another Blog Watch article, another disappointment.

I've put together 25 of these articles so far. I may have felt a couple were really fun, but the last two have been major disappointments, especially today's.

It is just not possible to take something as dynamic as the blogosphere and render it in 750 words. This last week several bloggers commented on global warming. There was a really fascinating range of opinion. But that's not the impression that Sunday's article provides.

What's also hurting is the new work schedule. The loss of staffing has added to my daily chores and that doesn't leave time for blogs. One day last week I went 15 hours between updates. That is discouraging. Clearly the original idea -- a real-time feed of regional blog content -- is dead. At least, a feed that is monitored and sorted by subject matter by me is dead.

If it were not for the enjoyment I get out of reading the blogs, especially the personal ones, I'd shut down But if I'm reading anyway, even if it's on my own time, I might as well continue the Sunday Blog Watch article. I think this week's discussion of homosexuality, religion and schools could be a winner.

This all reminds me of a Twilight Zone episode. This guy is playing a slot machine. Each time he tries to leave, the machine teases him back with a small payout. He is never going to win. But he keeps getting just enough to stick around.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

What's new in the Watch List

At the suggestion of CoolDMZ, I have added a new feature to the Watch List.

Now you can order the list so that the most recently added blogs are first. As you see in this illustration, the date the blog was added appears next to each listing.

Watch List Reordered

Click on the image to see it in practice.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Notice ipsoSacto

As I mentioned last week , I am notifying people when I nominate their sites. While this may appear to be shameless self-promotion, the notification allows the blogger to object to the use of their post in the contest, which is something that wasn't available before.

Here's what I'm posting in the comments:

This post has been nominated for The Sacramento Bee's roundup of regional blogs, which appears Sunday in Forum. As part of an unofficial program, you can help decide which blog posts are included by voting at .

The Sunday newspaper column is limited to less than 800 words. Blog posts included in the column are often cut to fit. No editing is done other than to add ellipses to indicate deleted passages. The blog's main address will appear in The Bee, and the online copy of the article will contain links to the actual blog post.

A list of the regional blogs monitored can be reviewed at .

If you have questions (or you DON'T want your blog post considered for inclusion in the newspaper column), contact me at

John Hughes

This week it looks as if we'll have a hot global warming contest. I've already had one voter dissing the anti-global warming posts. Cool.

Dr. Honeydew, I presume

We take a break from our serious discussions to announce:

You Are Dr. Bunsen Honeydew
You take the title "mad scientist" to the extreme -with very scary things coming out of your lab. And you've invented some pretty cool things, from a banana sharpener to a robot politician. But while you're busy turning gold into cottage cheese, you need to watch out for poor little Beaker! "Oh, that's very naughty, Beaker! Now you eat these paper clips this minute."

Web 2.0 illustrated

This video (hat tip to PushMedia) is a fascinating tour of the Internet and its future.

Friday, February 2, 2007

Weapons of Mass Distraction

It is hard to see how I'm going to keep up with the blogs and do the extra work now required of me. The only silver lining here is that Thursday and Friday are the worst days. The weekend is unchanged and Monday through Wednesday should be more tolerable -- until someone goes on vacation.

So we need Weapons of Mass Distraction:


Hat tip to beancounters

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Blog Watch voting

Got an excellent suggestion from beancounters :

Thought I'd drop you a line and make a suggestion for
Ipso Sacto. Particularly since it seems I am in the
running for next week's column.

I'd recommend that, for every blog post you consider,
you drop a line in the comments or by e-mail,
explaining who you are and that you'd like to consider
the post to be reprinted in the paper. This would give
the blogger the chance to watch for the results, look
for his or her words in print, or on the other end of
the consent spectrum, ask that his or her post be
taken out of consideration.

My mom was very pleased to be included in the column
last Sunday. I mailed her a copy this week. But at
first she was very puzzled as to who you were and why
people were visiting from your site. If she had had
any objection to having her content reprinted for
financial gain, you wouldn't have known in advance.

As I explained in my reply, my general reluctance to be sen as self-promoting is the principal reason I haven't done this already. But, starting next week, I'm going to post a comment after a blog post is nominated, alerting the blogger that if publication in The Bee's Blog Watch column is not their idea of a reward, then they can ask to be left out of the competition.

Anyway, there is a better than even chance that the whole Blog Watch idea will disappear. This month starts my new job, where I get to do my old job and the job of a person who took early retirement. Today, I had to steal a minute here, two minutes there, in order to process the 88 blog posts that filled the Google Reader queue overnight. The backlog wasn't cleared until 12:20 p.m. Thursday and Friday will be the worst so perhaps by Monday and Tuesday I'll be feeling a bit more sanguine about all this.


Tuesday, January 30, 2007

An appropriate discussion

Received a note this morning from a blogger fearful I was going to use his off-color Superman joke in the Sunday Blog Watch article:

John, I'm not sure how you select material from my blog House of Eratosthenes, Sometimes your page picks up nominations for "best" that I don't think are all that good. It's very quick about it, and I assume you've attached something automatic to my RSS feed.

Which is fine, but lately you've scooped up some Superman-related humor that I doubt is appropriate for a family newspaper. Thought I should send you a quick note about it.

I suspect others may also be confused by how this site is arranged. As I explained to Mr Freeberg, The content on the front page is not what is considered for publication. That is simply an aggregation of all of the regional blogs that I monitor. (Minus stuff that is much more offensive than the Superman joke.)

Only the stuff at Blog Watch 2.1 is being considered for the article that appears in Sunday's Forum section.

Freeberg's concern actually illustrates what the people at The Bee feel is the problem with my concept of adding live blog watching to sacbee. The Bee managers fear someone will be offended and therefore nothing can be allowed. A too narrow view in my opinion.

Here is Mr. Freeberg's response to my explanation:

For what it's worth, I agree with you. I'm not a newspaper of course, but my sidebar lists hundreds of blogs on a permanent basis every single day. Most of them are politically-leaning and very passionate; I disagree with a good chunk of them. This has minimal effect on whether or not I'll route people there. If they're informative and interesting, the decision is made and in they go.

I would expect there's a lot of similarity between how much I think about this in my "profession," and how much concern you folks have for it in yours: Do you gather information more effectively by staying away from ideas too much "out of the mainstream," be they on the right or on the left, or can you learn more by embracing those extremes, so long as you're balanced in interpreting what they mean? One of the central premises we keep in mind here, is that if an idea or theory is perceived to be "moderate" or to occupy some happy-medium in between two extremes, this by itself does nothing to make the idea more credible. In other words, sometimes one side can be all right, and another side can be all wrong.

I've seen evidence that this doctrine, which we call the Doctrine of Equally Suspect Center, seems to be a source of lingering controversy among those who bring news. I'm sure you call it something else. As a longtime Sacramento resident who for the last fourteen years has been both pleased and disappointed with Bee coverage, I can vouch for the merit of your product being directly attached to the approach you're taking here. Keep the information "dirty," and let the readers make up their minds what is middle-of-the-road. You start filtering it, you destroy your own value.

Everyone doesn't agree with me on that. I see from the Letters section there are a lot of folks from the "right" and the "left" chastising you with a tone of "why did you print such-and-such?" or some variation of that. They apparently see it as part of your job, to keep certain things secret. I honestly don't even know why you bother to print those. I buy your paper to get news, not watered-down pablum.

Keep up the good work.

I replied to Mr. Freeberg, saying what I've said in this blog before: Newspapers in general and The Bee in particular are in danger of becoming irrelevant -- just a point of interest instead of a focus of community involvement. I am privy in a peripheral way to some of the discussions about what needs to change here at The Bee. Unfortunately, The Bee is a very big ship and it could run aground before anyone can manage to change its course. Meanwhile, The Bee celebrates its 150th birthday this week.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Sex and equality and blogs and comments

This morning's blog watching spotted a very interesting post from Phoblographer about the perils of dropping feminine pronouns. I've nominated the post for this week's blog watch and took time to comment on the post as well.

Here's the comment I posted:

I agree with your post that removing feminine pronouns reinforces existing biases that perceive women as generally less than men. But I would argue against the notion that there is a conspiracy that holds back comediennes. Our culture simply lets boys play more and thus develop comedic talents.

In Decemember 2005, I wrote a commentary for The Sacramento Bee that touched on this topic. Here's the relevant part:

Take as an example female editorial cartoonists. In the first 19 days of December, The Bee published 33 editorial cartoons, not counting Rex Babin's work. Just four were drawn by women.

Signe Wilkinson of the Philadelphia Daily News drew three of those cartoons. (Etta Hulme of the Forth Worth Star-Telegram drew the fourth.)

I e-mailed Wilkinson, explained the disparity I found in both letters and cartoonists and asked her why more women don't speak out.

"It seems to me," she e-mailed back, "men like to mouth off in public more than women do. You can see that either positively (they have so many more brilliant insights to share) or negatively (they have so many more needs that can only be satisfied by public displays of whatever). In either case, it seems to me that on average women take things more personally than men so don't like getting random e-mails from strangers that say, 'You idiot.' I get that and a lot worse from e-mail correspondents, mostly men.

"There is a growing number of women in politics and in political commentary, but it takes a bold, brazen article to weather the backdraft from putting strong opinions out in the public."

When my son entered kindergarten in 1996, I helped out in the classroom. The thing that amazed me then was what happened at playtime. Nearly all of the boys would go racing out into the playground, climbing on the equipment and generally running around. Meanwhile, most of the girls would gather at tables as though holding high tea. Where does this come from? It certainly didn't come from the teachers or the parent observers. I would argue that it is something so deeply engrained in humanity as to be instinctive.

The place between instinct bred over thousands of generations and the world of desired equality seems vast.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Hot topics and Google Reader Trends

For those of you who have been away, the blog sharing portion of the site boasts some changes. It is now easier for me to create new "Hot Topics." I am particularly proud of the State of the Union topic, which I was able to start last night shortly after the speech. Separating a hot topic or two should add some interest for those who haven't the time to wade through the volume of posts here.

Speaking of volume, I've decided to dedicate a page for Google Reader Trends, rather than create a new story each time I update the images. These are the statistics generated as I process the original blog feeds using's Google's Reader.

Here is the most recent summary:

On the front page you notice that the "Disclaimer" link has been joined with a "Blog Trends" link. The trends link will take you to a standing page showing the most recent screenshots from Google Reader. Unfortunately, I can't just "share" the statistics. I'm limited to making screen captures and posting those.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

An example of some real nice technology

In the right column of this site you will see an icon that either says "Click for Live Help" and "How may I help you" (when I'm watching the site) or "Leave a message" (when I'm away). This is a free open source program that I've installed. I installed it not so much so that I could engage in live chats with visitors -- no one has done that since I installed it -- but for the program's ability to display live info on who is visiting the site, what they are looking at and what brought them to the site.

Washington Post blog watching icon OK. That's example No. 1 of some real nice technology. However, what really prompted this post was the latest demonstration of the Washington Post's nifty trick of including "Who's Blogging" about particular articles.

As you can see by clicking on the image from the Washington Post site, ipsoSacto was one of the top four sites listed. In the space of a couple of hours this generated 15 unique visitors to the site. Unfortuntely, the story they were looking for was no longer on the front page, but those who bothered to click on the Iraq war topic found the post at the top of the column.

The ability to incorporate live content into a static newspaper article is simply the neatest trick of Web 2.0 technology I've seen recently.

Friday, January 19, 2007

TGIF and whatever

Checked the blogs at home at 9:23a.m.: 88 arrived in the last 10 hours, 51 of which were the gifts of the Capital Press Agriculture News. Maybe these aren't blog posts. But they do make my job sound more important. "Cleared 88 blogs just now. Whew!" as opposed to "Just 37 posts were added in last 10 hours."

Meanwhile, Internet access at work is the pits. I keep getting this error message:

error 403
This would be really infuriating, but while struggling to process the blogs through the molasses of our Internet connection I came across this:

Give a dame
(Hat tip to SheGeek )

That makes this all a little easier to take.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The joy of blog watching

It is clear that the grand ideas that prompted the creation of this site have evaporated under the sunlight of reality. Just ain't gonna happen. But all is not lost. I still have the Sunday Forum Blog Watch column and after this week's candidates (Click Here ), I'm really inspired to continue. At least that's how it feels now. In February, when the staff cutbacks hit, my enthusiasm may go the way of my grand ideas.

Today, it's onward. Cleared the blog queue by 11:30 a.m.

Afternoon backlog: 59 posts but the day job got in the way of clearing things out. By the end of the shift there are 60 blog posts in the queue at 6:15 p.m.

Sometimes I share what I find with the big guys, the ones who are required to sweat over the future of newspapers. I sent this note tonight:

In all of the dispute over the role of MSM vs. outside sources it's always important to keep things in perspective, which is best done with tongue firmly planted in cheek.

While puzzling over that, read this.

Now it's time to call it a day. Signing off at 6:56p.m.


Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Midweek or the end?

Cleared the blogs by 11:06 a.m. Didn't bother to count. What happens in February will be the topic of a meeting today. Those left after two staff departures will decide how the daily work gets divvied up. I was going to propose that the Blog Watch be the first thing to jettison, but then this morning two people took enough time to log in and vote. So if someone else is actually interested, maybe I could keep this going.

The problem is that I'm not going to be able to clear the blogs as often, which means that the stuff here is going to be that much farther removed from real time. The Blog Watch can maintain some value in that environment, but the concept of sampling the regional blogosphere really suffers.

Beyond the parochial...

While this site focuses exclusively on inland Northern California blogs, that's not the limit of my personal interest. I encourage people to visit the blog maintained by Iraqis in Baghdad who work for McClatchy Newspapers. Inside Iraq offers an unedited and very personal view of what life is like there.

In other catastrophes, there's always life in Portland when it snows:

Hat tip to Trout Underground

After the afternoon walk, during which a Postal Service van tried to make a left turn over my body in the crosswalk at N and Alhambra, I find 43 blog posts waiting in line. Cleared by 4:31 p.m.

More blog WMD:

One last check at work: 26 blog posts in the queue at 6:37 p.m. Cleared by 6:47p.m.

And still more blog treats: Online to-do list at

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

More Tuesday is Monday confusion

10:51a.m.: 67 blogs in the queue
11:41a.m.: Done. This is taking too long.

If your blog reading doesn't provide enough WMD (Weapons of Mass Distraction), there's always these quizzes.

2:03p.m.: 27 blog posts waiting.
2:26p.m.: Done

My New Year's resolution was to walk daily and I've managed to do that every day so far. You see a lot at ground level at walking speed. What, for instance, does it say about the landlord of storefront property when the shop space is "FOR RNET"?

At 6 p.m. I cleared the queue. Didn't count or time. Getting tired.

But for a bit of inspiration try this video:

And cleared the queue at 9:30p.m.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

The lost Sunday

More than 18 hours between updates. If I were really working on something that actually mattered, if the blog watch project was watched by more than one individual, I might have someone to worry about, someone who wondered why 18 hours had gone by without an update. Instead, I just fret alone. I'm another step closer to abandoning this concept and settling for something I do just because I've found it fun.

At 6:13p.m., Google Reader reports 85 blog posts piled up in the queue.
7:09p.m. done

Part of this lost Sunday was spent in Midtown, first waiting for a table at Fox and Goose and then instead waiting at the Cornerstone Cafe. I've eaten before at Fox and Goose, but not at Cornerstone. I enjoyed the old school diner atmosphere.

What was the most interesting about the morning were the crowds. The streets were busy with traffic everywhere and at each restaurant we saw people waiting to get in. In 1989 I lived downtown in an apartment across from the Crocker Museum. Weekends were a surreal experience. It was like living two days a week in an abandoned city. Of course, that is what downtown Sacramento was then. Today, the city of Sacramento is a much livelier venue.


Blog Net News and such

The creators of Blog Net News contacted me about my efforts to monitor the regional blogosphere. While their content hardly represents a real view of Sacramento blogs, it is encouraging to see different efforts to monitor the blogs.

You can find out more about the idea behind BlogNetNews here.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Thursday again but which Thursday?

11:09a.m.: 78 blogs waiting in the queue.
11:44a.m.: Cleared.

Well, I guess it's going to be a less than stellar blog article this week. I suppose if I were to market this -- even just a little -- I might be able to tip it into self-sufficiency. But as long as I'm the only one working on this, the whole concept flops. And that's perhaps best as February and changes at work approach.

Anyone who has followed my notes to myself in this blog will understand why I found this blog post so funny.

When I first opened this site it was associated with the domain Soon after, however, it was suggested I use and that has stuck. I've noticed that people still arrive at using I suspect this was part of the problem I had a few weeks ago with cookies . People would come in under sbedletter and the site would lay down an ipsosacto cookie. That doesn't work. Anyway, I've turned off the virtual host directive the moved sbedletter traffic to ipsosacto. Now, defaults to my root server page. Doesn't make any difference here at

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Thursday blog watching

10:46 a.m.: More than 100 blogs in the queue. Of those, 48 are political.
11:28 a.m.: Finally clear.

Google Reader now offers some interesting stats on the blogs I watch. As far as I have been able to learn, I can't automatically share this info. Until I figure out how to share, I will periodically include screen captures of the charts that Google Reader produces. See this story.

3:10 p.m.: 52 more blog posts in the queue.
3:32 p.m.: cleared.

As if my self-esteem as my employer's principal blog-watcher isn't low enough already, I get to edit and publish this opinion from a co-worker:

The initial source of Boxer's concern was the blogosphere, that sometimes subterranean sewer of suspect journalism, where reputation-besmirching rumor runs rampant.

Thank you very much.

On a lighter note, the Washington Post includes dynamic content with its articles, including a listing of who is blogging about an article. ipsoSacto was credited and linked to in this article. Since this is "dynamic" content, I suspect ipsoSacto's 15 seconds of fame will have expired by the time anyone follows that link back.

This evening I added a "Last updated..." line for the main blog sharing. Eventually I'll automate this time clock I'm keeping.

10:50 p.m.: 51 blog posts in the queue.
11:13 p.m.: queue empty.

Stupid Lakers. Stupid Kings. Stupid NBA basketball.

My wife was at the Kings game vs. the Lakers. I watched just the last two minutes and the overtime. I missed the Kings come-from-behind race to take the lead and instead got to watch the team self-destruct. It must be very frustrating to be a Kings fan. I'll stick to English football.