A little anniversary passed me by in November:

pedal:data alan$ whois

[…] Updated Date: 17-nov-2011 Creation Date: 25-nov-2001 Expiration Date: 25-nov-2012

Creation Date: 25-nov – 2011! I’ve held this little vanity domain for ten years now, making both it and me unquestionably ancient in real- and internet-years.

As I ego-dove a few years ago:

… due to a squirrely web host disappearing entirely one night, I don’t have any records of the first site I built except for a few miscellaneous graphics floating around. It was wicked cool (I maintain), though, using a simple perl-based templating system to display the most recent of a set of dated text files within a design and with navigation around index to the other files…

Seriously, it was awesome. That’s how we rolled in the aughts: We cobbled together our own custom templating tools and uploaded text files to our web host using some godawful Gnome FTP client. My hosting has been more stable (well, none of them have vanished, anyway), so now I have the complete blog record from January 2002 onward.

So I pulled the numbers to see my activity over time (which, by the way, is one good reason to work on a platform that one can control directly, rather than a hosted service: Want to make data from a database? Just run a query against it!). Here’s the per-month data for 2002 through November 2011:

Cool, right? Check that downward slope into 2007 as I finished graduate school, spent some time in Seattle, and thought about what to do next. Aside from a bit of a bump towards the end of 2008 (I was doing a lot of Lightroomn tinkering and writing then), I’ve kept it pretty quiet around here the last few years (lots more casual posting to twitter and facebook, family-blogging at posterous and brief flirtations with various devoweled-platforms). I don’t know if more blogging is on the horizon, but it’s fun to explore the past ten years a bit (Kieran recently did this in style, producing full-on ebook).

Embed LaTeX in Wordpress

I don’t run Wordpress, but this is pretty cool: you can embed LaTeX right into your Wordpress posts. (Official announcement at


It was supposed to be like flipping a switch, changing over to this new look for the blog, but of course it was nothing like that. I think that most of the kinks are worked out, although I have some stylesheet cleaning up to do later on and a bit more restoration—the sociology blogroll is missing for now, for example, but it will be back soon. I was going for a simpler, one-column design here. Did it work? Finding anything horribly out of whack?


On the way to a broader site update, I just installed the new version of Textpattern. Things look mostly normal for now; if you encounter anything hinky, please let me know.

We got to go in and visit the penguin

A quick observation: That one of the alleged thieves planned to use his share of the loot to fund his band only makes this story better.


Burning Bird has a neat idea for a trackback-style system based on Technorati tags. Tagback would assign a unique tag to each blog post; followup posts (or photos or links) labeled with that tag are picked up by Technorati and compiled at the page for the post’s tag. For example, all the tagbacks to Shelley’s “introducing tagback” post can be found right here.

Aside from potentially solving some of the problems of trackback spamming, this is a pretty neat way to add trackback-like functionality to blog software that doesn’t yet have any built-in support for it, like Textpattern. All it takes is a link from each post to its tags page, and all the heavy lifting is done off-site. It should be easy to make a quick Txp plugin to create and display the appropriate tagback link based on post titles.

Denial of service

There’s no doubt that spammers, like those who clog my logs with bogus referers and make trackback unusable are Assclowns of a High Order (I think that was also the title of a Gene Simmons solo album). Since making the switch to Textpattern a year ago, I haven’t had a single comment spam, and since Txp doesn’t have a trackback feature (yet?), I have been safe from the kind of attack that hit Crooked Timber yesterday. But the referer spam is heavy; and I don’t even display referers, so while it’s quite useless to the spammer, it still overloads my logs and takes up bandwidth that I pay for. Patching my htaccess with the latest batch of spam referer domains—a tedious, stupid, and ultimately ineffective thing to have to do—I noticed that the bogus web sites have something new: They all include a form for reporting abuse.

Ha-hah! Reporting abuse, and of course, they want you to leave your URL. Hey, a turnip truck!

But it occurs to me that the form leaves some opportunity, because all the domains that left spam in my logs use the same form. I’m not one to advocate misuse of network resources or anything, but I imagine that a hearty use of that form might make the spammer’s own ISP take notice.

Just sayin’.

Site wonkery

I’ve been tinkering with a few elements of This Old Site this afternoon, adding the ability to send information to Technorati Tags. Tags will be familiar to users of or flickr. This kind of tagging system has lately been dubbed folksonomy. When you view individual entries here, you’ll now get a bit of extra information displayed below the link (for items in the linklog) or formal category (for regular articles): One or more tags will show up, and, when clicked, they will lead on to the Technorati page associated with that tag.

That page displays some cool information: It starts with tags sent directly to Technorati, and adds to it links with the same tags gathered from and flickr. See for example the page for the sociology tag. So from a single entry here, it’s possible to navigate within this site using my set of categories, or to navigate through external links that have some association with that topic. Pretty neat. When a textpattern tool to navigate by tags within a site is put together, the formally-structured categories may drop out entirely—in the meantime, there is some redundancy between categories and tags.

For Textpattern, see ajw_technorati_tags for a plugin to enable tags.

About, the short version

I’m a sociologist-errant. This site is powered by Textpattern, Pair Networks and the sociological imagination. For more about me and this site, see the long version.

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