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.