ConFusion 31 Schedule

For those of you who are interested in finding me (or alternately, avoiding me) at the ConFusion 31 science fiction convention this weekend, here’s where I’ll be and what I’ll be doing:

When: Friday, 10pm: Media Year in Review
What: We discuss the movies, television, and comics of the past year.
Who: Cathy Raymond, John Scalzi, Kiel Phegley
Notes: We’ll be doing this against the second half of a concert given by Guest of Honor Emma Bull and Toastmaster Steven Brust, so I’ll be interested in seeing if anyone actually shows up.

When: Saturday, 11am: Blogging: News, Opinions, People, Life
Where: SALON G
What: Blogging as a replacement for actually seeing people. Blogging to tell people your opinions and ideas. Blogging to get the news. Blogging is here, but what does it accomplish?
Who: Jeri Smith-Ready, John Scalzi, Kathryn Cramer, Larry Kestenbaum
Notes: Clearly I’ll have much to say on this topic, not the least because I just sold a second novel through my site.

Aside from these, I’ll be at least a few panels. I’m particularly interested in the Universe Happenings with Brother Guy panel, as it features a talk on the latest astronomical happenings by the curator of the Vatican Meteorite collection, and I just think that’s a cool position to have. I also think his personal intellectual positions are interesting. His talk actually starts as the Bull/Brust concert begins, so he may have even fewer people at his panel than I do at mine on Friday night. Still, he’ll have at least one person there. There are also some interesting panels on Saturday. I may flit about to see them.

Beyond that: Dunno. I imagine that people will eventually gravitate barwards or party wards, and I doubt I’ll be an exception to the general rule. Otherwise, if you see me and want to say hello, please feel free to do so. It’s a con, and I’m aware people will approach me randomly, so I won’t grab the mace. This will actually be my first non-Worldcon SF convention, so I’m looking forward to seeing how the differences in scale play out.


The Return of the Disclaimer

After a couple months in storage, I’ve restored the Whatever Disclaimer to its rightful position on the Whatever front screen. For those of you unfamiliar with it, it’s me admitting that I may in fact be a fatuous blowhole, but I can be a fatuous blowhole if I want, so there, nyah nyah nyah. If you are reasonably new to the site (or have just never read the disclaimer), I invite you to read it.


Comment Spam

Google has announced that it and other blogging software companies will be implementing a new html attribute to reduce comment spam; this new attribute — rel=”nofollow” — will keep Google’s spiders from following urls left by people who comment on someone’s blog entry, thus reducing the motivation for spammers to leave comment spam for Google page rank purposes. I don’t know that this makes a difference for this site, since I’ve disabled HTML in comment text areas anyway (I figure you all know how to cut and paste a URL), but if it gets spam comments down overall, I think that’s groovy.

This is some interest to me because recently I’ve noticed an upsurge in comment spam activity here — I’ve been having to clear out close to 100 posts a day. The good news is that it’s pretty darn easy to do in Movable Type 3.11; I cleared out about 70 this morning in three minutes. But of course, it’s still annoying, and there is the unfortunate side effect that while clicking the little boxes to remove comment spam, I occasionally and accidentally remove a legitimate comment, too. I hate it when that happens. I could make my life even more easy by implementing the MT Blacklist functionality, but that involves installing things, and I can already hear my database screaming at the thought of me tinkering with it.

If I were to make a wishlist of things I’d like for Movable Type to implement to make it easier for me to combat comment spam, here’s what I would wish for (and if you know these things exist as add-ons or part of the native MT functionality, please let me know):

1. The ability to delete comments from the actual comment thread, as opposed to having to fire up the MT backend to get at it. Interestingly enough, AOL Journals user have this functionality — they see buttons to delete comments right there as they read; the functionality is keyed to their screenname so no one else can delete anything, of course. Could see MT doing something similar using cookies on a specific browser or through some sort of sign-on implementation.

2. The ability to semi-moderate: I’d love to be able to let messages without HTML coding go through but sequester off html-laden comments until I approved them. This would mean general conversation would continue, since very few “real” commenters here reference URLs, but comment spam would be blocked from showing up at all in the threads; I’d throw them out before they got there.

3. The ability to ban commenters not just by IP (which is pretty useless these days if you’re not running MT blacklist) but also by commenter name. I doubt any real person is name “Phenteramine” or “Online Poker.” This would be a temporary stopgap, of course, as spammers would pick up on it fairly quickly. but what would be reasonably effective is the ability to ban by phrase: That is, have the MT scan through the text and if a specific sequence of words pops up, either block it or drop it into a moderation queue for approval. Since those “phrases” could include URLs which would be constant over many many comment spams, this could be very helpful.

If MT were to implement any of these, it would make my online life easier. Implementing all of them, of course, would make it a joyous skip through the park.

Update: As it happens, Six Apart (who make MT) have recently put out a guide to comment spam which notes a useful plug-in for quasi-moderating: MT-Moderate, which automatically puts comments as “pending” if they’re attached to entries past a certain age (the default is seven days), on the (largely correct in my experience) theory that older entries aren’t likely to get actual comments, they’re likely to get spam (the plugin also notes when a comment has been approved for an older entry and backs off a bit on moderating that particular entry for a day or two to let real-time conversation happen — a nice touch.)

I’ve gone ahead an added MT-Moderate, so if you decide to comment on an entry that’s more than a week old, be aware that there may be a time lag before it shows up, since I’ll need to approve it. But the flip side for me is that comment spam will largely be gone from the site. I love it when a plan comes together.


Recent OMW Notices

Some Old Man’s War nuggets out there on that InterWeb thing that all the kids are talking about these days:

Rick Kleffel of The Agony Column had nice things to say about Old Man’s War:

‘Old Man’s War’ by John Scalzi manages to set a particularly difficult but specific goal for itself and then achieves the goal with the kind of reckless ease exhibited by its hero, John Perry. John Scalzi has done no less than write an adult version of a Heinlein-juvenile-styled novel for the adults who grew up reading Heinlein’s originals. While the book is aimed at an mature audience it provides those that audience the warm thrills they experienced some twenty-thirty-forty-fifty-sixty-seventy years ago when they first read science fiction. But Scalzi’s success is not just nostalgia. He’s written a thoroughly entertaining addition to the science fiction canon of Space Adventures with a few original twists.

Blogger Waddling Thunder also posts up a positive review, and comments on the minor “is it anti-war or not” kerfuffle about the book:

I suppose, before saying anything else, I should note that this is not an anti-war novel, as some have alleged (Scalzi talks about this on his blog, to which there’s a link from Bainbridge). Certainly, there’s a sense in which the titular war is somewhat senseless, and the brutality of conflict is well depicted (at least from the perspective of someone who hasn’t been to war. Soldiers may disagree). But to believe those points alone make something anti-war is foolish – lots of people who have seen war and who can write tellingly of its horrors support wars nonetheless. The question, for all but the harshest pacifist, is whether this or that particular war is worth it. In any case, Old Man’s War is neutral ground for politicos from either or all sides. It tells a good story, and leaves politics to others.

SF writer Sherwood Smith checks in with a thumbs up:

The sense is that this is a short book, though it isn’t, really. It feels short because so much happens, there are many transitions and summations, there are characters who appear just to raise this or that issue then are swept away-and that is not necessarily a bad thing. The science is fascinating, the questions good ones, and there are some deft character touches (including a biggie that takes Perry utterly by surprise, and raises even more fascinating questions) leaving the reader by the past page wanting more. Scalzi writes with vividness and humor, the latter quality making bearable some otherwise grim scenes.

(She also gives a thumbs ups to Elizabeth Bear’s Hammered: “My expectations were high, and she met them head on.”)

There’s also a small feature on the book in the month’s Pages magazine; you can see the online version here (this link may eventually point to something else, so if you’re reading this many months after I posted it — sorry).

Oh, and, hey, my mom liked it. And that’s really the most important thing, isn’t it.

I promise to write about something besides my books soon. I swear.

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