Friday, July 19, 2013

Please Sign Our Guestbook / Homepage

Is Blogger (where this is being hosted) running slowly, at the moment? If you'd like, you can go over to the mirror page that I have on the Gunnar's Ringlink ring I'm running or its companion on the W.O.W system (at the time of this writing, both links take you to the same page on Atspace). The other server (or servers) might be running more quickly, and as these sites link together and have the same ring code, you should have no trouble finding your way back to your ring. You shouldn't even have any trouble finding your way back to this post, if that is what you want to do.

Yes, the ring code is on an entry page, and yes, I wanted to post the code on the guestbook, itself. So close, but so far, even when I was going to use Bravenet. There wasn't enough space allotted to the text for this guestbook for us to be able to put even one navbar on the guestbook itself, even there, and the other hosts offered even less space for such customization, so this will have to do. At least, until providers realize that diskspace goes for a fraction of a penny per Meg and that ssnb is not evil.

Yes, you are on a blog. No, that isn't a mistake. The system has not misfired and the ring manager was not under the influence of any controlled substances when this site was approved for membership on the ring, as far as I know. Free homepage hosting services (other than Webring Webspace) have a bad habit of vanishing without warning, annoying ring managers whose rings are suddenly broken, and ring members, whose sites suddenly have to be uploaded again (or worse, rebuilt because their computers broke down at the wrong time) and who find themselves having to reapply to the rings from which they've just found their sites removed. A good time is then had by none. Webring Webspace was set up to deal with that problem, I believe, and if so, it was a shrewd move on the part of Webring's management, and a great service to the users, but one that doesn't entirely help me as I'm setting up this page, for TOS related reasons soon to be explained. But if one is willing to think a little outside the box ... Blogger almost certainly won't vanish. The major blogging hosts have shown themselves to be far more durable (and a lot less flaky) than the free homepage hosting services, and Blogger will let us insert javascript into the widgets, some of which can be put at the foot of a blog hosted on this service. We can install SSNB, and use the horizontal version of the navbar, something on which a number of ring managers insist.

That's why the homepage for the guestbook is on a blog, and not on a standard homepage. There are other advantages, as well. Suppose, for reasons I don't need to know, that a visitor doesn't care for the service on which I currently have the guestbook hosted. This is not a problem. This blog, itself, can and will serve as as secondary guestbook. I (and whoever joins me in writing this thing) will write brief posts introducing pages on the ring, maybe the owners of the pages will link to those posts, and visitors will be able to post comments on those posts, if they wish to do so. For some visitors, this will let them back into their comfort zones, and again, I don't need to know the story about that. I'm happy to accommodate them without judgement. For other visitors, they'll be able to comment in a more focused manner, attaching their comments to a specific page instead of to an entire site, or to something a bit larger than a site.

This is an introduction to a guestbook (OK, two guestbooks, then) for a pair of rings, in their entirety, and not just for a single website.It serves the "Abouting Your Passions" rings on Gunnar's Ringlink and the Abouting Your Passions: After Hours ring on the W.O.W system, and no, the latter is not an adult ring. The name is a joke. I'm offering this as a service for my future membership. This blog, itself isn't much of anything on its own, at least not yet, other than a way of dealing with some coding problems which I'll explain, toward the end of this post, and as an explanation of the slightly unorthodox point of view I'm following as I run this thing, as I suspect that you've already started to see.

You can see why I couldn't use Webring Webspace? Neither of these rings is hosted on Webring, and Webring has suggested that it might disapprove of the use of Webring Webspace in order to host the homepage for a ring. This is sort of like that, so I've shied away from using my Webring Webspace for that purpose, reserving it for other uses, later. There are, however, more than a few non-webring rings belonging to rings on Webring, and the company shows every sign of approving of that - there are even rings that specifically refer to other companies in their description - so if this page is hosted off of Webring Webspace (as it is), we should be on solid ground as far as the TOS goes.

Commenting gets taken seriously here, so much so that what is being tweeted off of this blog are the comments, not the posts, the former also being bookmarked on Delicious and Diigo after they've been approved. Not every comment is going to get approved, not even every friendly comment. Think about it. Suppose that you were following our twitter and you kept finding yourself following links to one liners like "awesome side, d00d!" - how long would you stay subscribed? As I run this guestbook, I can serve the interests of those who make an effort or those of the people who don't. I find it bizarre, beyond words, that the general assumption has been that I'd be more supportive of the latter, but not incomprehensible - the latter are far likelier to make a fuss, and there is a lot of enablement of PITAs online, usually from people who take a misplaced pride in their roles as self-appointed peacemakers.

Let's be blunt - as ungracious as deleting a comment like "love your site" might seem, usually (99.9% of the time) those comments are little more than a tool for sneaking in spam, in the form of the links back to the homepages of those posting the comments, some of which move discount pharmaceuticals, and none of which have much to do with what was being talked about of the pages to which the guestbooks graced by such sunny cheer have been attached. That's not good anywhere, and on these pages, how could one expect the badness to be accepted? When one sees the words "philosophy" or "philosophical", one should expect that more will be expected of one. Those posting will be expected to have something of substance to say about the sites on which they are commenting, to articulate their points. Long comments, even comments that have to be posted in installments are fine, as long as one has something intelligent and constructive to add to the discussion.

There will often, if not always, be a delay on approval of comments, not just because I don't log in every day, but because if you make a claim that somebody wrote this or that, I'm going to actually pay a visit to one of the libraries in my area (Chicago) to see if he actually did write that. It gets me out of the house, and it will probably get you out of the house, as well, because I'm going to expect to see bibliographical references to back up such claims - book title, author, and page number, at the very least. This is why bibliographies exist, one might recall - so that such claims can be checked by means short of surveying an author's entire life work and the entirety of the biographical literature written about him. Or her, as the case may be - the masculine, in this case, is only generic. You will, therefore, will have to do something absolutely revolutionary by online standards, in order to participate in this discussion - you will have to periodically turn off the computer, go out into the fresh air, and walk over to a library, yourself, to get that information. "Just to post to a guestbook?", somebody will ask. No, because these are things that people ought to be doing, anyway. The Internet is no substitute for the kind of reading one can do in the real books one finds in a real library. It's an even poorer substitute for the great outdoors, even if we're only talking about a few blocks down a city street. One of the more unhealthy consequences of the rise of the Internet has been that this has been forgotten, so often.

"All of this work writing something up, and maybe you'll approve it and maybe you won't, just letting it all evaporate and putting the equivalent of a small blog post to waste. That's a lot of trust for me to put in a total stranger, don't you think?" I can already hear some people saying that, and I don't blame them. I've commented on blogs, before, and I know that even perfectly respectful, perfectly reasonable comments will be wiped away, for any reason or for no reason at all. How to respond to this? I won't promise to approve all comments, if for no other reason than because I'm familiar with the sort of visitor who shows up when there is no moderation - the sort of person who, though his remarks make no sense whatsoever, has learned that he can "win" arguments by getting in the last word, or at least thinks he has learned this, and who won't shy away from misrepresenting the points raised by his opposition or otherwise responding to them in a misleading way, "putting words in the mouths" of those with whom he has a point of disagreement. Those he has so defamed, with only the slightest degree of subtletly, will then respond, and he'll continue playing the game of trying to get the last word, until either they leave out of boredom and frustration, or until the entire audience has tuned out. "Moderation is censorship" has been the rallying call of the craziest people on the Internet for a long time, for a reason, a reason which I haven't forgotten.

But the problem is still there, isn't it? That disagreeable image of you toiling away, hitting "save" and then waiting to see if your work has been consigned to oblivion. As I say, I know the feeling, but I do have ways of ensuring that my work won't be lost to somebody else's editorial choices, ways that should work for you. Before I click on "save", I'll cut and paste my comments, doing at least one of the following, if not all of them.

1. Emailing copies of my comments to myself using my Gmail account. Gmail is great for this, because unlike Yahoo and a lot of other free email hosts, Google doesn't purge the contents of your inbox just because you've been away for a few months. Gmail also has an extremely effective spam filter, so as long as you aren't moving massive amounts of data, Gmail can offer a decent (though not risk free) backup archive.

2. Cutting and pasting my comments to a file which I'll store on my own computer's hard disk. Periodically backing up the contents of that hard disk on CD, of course, just as a standard practice, because computers do break down and the hard disks usually seem to be the first part of the computer to go.

3. Cut and paste my comments into a post on a side blog of mine set up to store my comments on other people's blogs. If one doesn't wish to have one's comment appear in stereo, in public, I suppose that one could save the post as a draft in Blogger or set it to private on Wordpress. I then link from the post on my side blog to the post on which my comment was placed, the link being set to open in a new window.

Problem solved. If I do the third, I will generally do all three of these, just for my own peace of mind. No, I won't take it at all personally if you do the same. I have encountered people who will get their backs up if one shows even the least sign of wariness around them, but remember - I'm from Chicago. We respect wariness around here, at least most of us do, and I think any reasonable man would. You don't know who I am, so why would you trust me? I haven't earned it, yet. Besides which, even after I have earned your trust, I'll still like the idea of you backing up your work like that, because if there is one thing you'll learn online, sooner or later - things go wrong, often in ways you never imagined. Aside from the obvious - a scenario in which you see value in your own contribution, even if I don't - there will be noise on the line, bugs in the software, and one way or another, something which I intended to save will be lost. Things like these happen all of the time, so please, be safe and back up your writing in other locations.

If you do disagree with my editorial decisions and choose to post your comments elsewhere, as I suggested, that's fine. Yes, seriously, I mean that. I do know that a lot of admins say that and don't, but as long as this doesn't descend into cyberbullying in some form or defamation, as long as you were honest and civil ... as long as I don't have to be crazy to welcome you back after what you posted, I'm almost certainly no going to take that action personally. I have some interest in running my own site; I have little to none in running yours.

Please respect the fact that if one of the authors on this ring has asked that entries about his site not appear here, that I'm going to respect that, and that I'm not going to approve any entries which I do not believe would be welcome by the author of the page on which you are commenting. Please be patient, as I don't log in every day. Appropriate entries will eventually appear. Inappropriate ones are subject to reposting in the location or locations of our (my and the author's) choice, so I hope that everybody will behave.

To be sure, I do believe that one should have the freedom to express one's views, however uncomplimentary they might be, but that's what blogs are for, not guestbooks. No, this is not censorship. Chasing somebody's blog from place to place, in order to keep a critic from being able to find a readership - that would be censorship. This is merely me, as a ringmaster, respecting the privacy of my membership, and acting to ensure that the favor I'm trying to do for them doesn't end up creating a hostile environment for them or for those visitors who have come to us with good intent. I am familiar with the arguments of the "moderation is censorship" crowd, and I have not been positively impressed by them or by the people offering them.

When you're ready to return to your ring or to wander around and see what else is up on my rings, just go to the bottom of the guestbook and click on the link marked "back to the website" and you'll ... get back to the website, which is to say this one, and you'll be able to continue on from there. Or here, I guess.

The main page for the blog is here, but there probably won't be any posts for you to post comments on for a while, because the ring is just starting up, as I'm writing this. The guestbook is this way. Thanks for taking the time to drop by.


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