New Subscription Feature Delivers Full-Text Content from this Site

Another way to get new content here.

A while back, I switched to summary post format for RSS feeds. I did this, in part, to stop the feed scraping activity that was violating my copyright to the contents of this site. This disappointed a lot of people. They apparently preferred reading content in their RSS reader application or via email instead of coming to this site.

While I understand the convenience of reading sites in a feedreader — I use a reader on my iPad to keep up with my favorite sites — I don’t have enough subscribers to justify putting my content at risk for scraping. And I figured that people who really wanted to read what’s new here would take the extra effort to follow the link in their feed reader or email notification to go to the site. Hell, it only takes one extra step.

In the meantime, the WordPress folks added a new subscription feature that makes this kind of moot — provided you like to read new content via email. They’ve added email subscription capabilities. Extremely easy for bloggers to configure, it adds a subscription widget to the sidebar. All the reader has to do is enter his/her email address and click a button. Moments later, an email confirmation message arrives in their inbox. Click the link in that message to start the subscription.

Sample MessageThe resulting email messages are nicely formatted to present the entire contents of the blog post. This is an example from earlier in the week; I subscribed to test it out. I chose the HTML format, but there’s also a plain text format. This even looks good in a mobile device like an iPad.

Links in each message give you easy access to settings and the ability to unsubscribe at any time. In addition, all of your subscriptions to WordPress sites are maintained in the same place, so it’s easy to modify settings for all of them at once. In addition to email format, you can also specify delivery frequency: immediate, daily, or weekly. The Delivery Frequency settings lets you specify what time of day or day or the week you prefer. You can even click a check box to temporarily turn off the email messages when you think you might be too busy to read them.

I think this is a great compromise between full-text RSS feeds and summary feeds. After all, if you want the convenience of new content delivered to your mailbox, you have it. My content is protected from feed scraping because it never appears in an RSS feed. But if you prefer to check in via RSS reader, you can continue to do so as you may already be doing — you’ll just need to take the extra step of clicking a link to read the full text of a post that interests you.

What do you think? Your comments are appreciated.

Declaring RSS Feed Bankruptcy

When there are just too many posts to read.

When I started subscribing to feeds about a year or so ago, I only subscribed to a handful and quickly read through the new posts each day. In fact, I recall asking other readers for suggestions on feeds I should subscribe to.

Things change. I began accumulating feeds. I use endo, an offline feed aggregator, and I’m very pleased with it. It sucks down my feeds each morning when the computer starts up and presents them to me as I’ve organized them, so I can read them at my leisure.

Unfortunately, I started subscribing to a number of feeds that put out 5 to 10 new posts a day. And there were more than a few days that I didn’t read any new posts. And then days when I felt rushed and put aside certain feeds for another day. And another day.

The problem got serious. At one point, I had over 2,000 unread posts in endo. Not acceptable. I killed off a bunch of feeds that were just too heavy with a low percentage of content that actually interested me.

But today I decided to take drastic steps. I went into endo and deleted any unread post that hit the Web before August 1. That brought 1300 unread posts down to 124. A much more reasonable number.

Did I miss great content? Possibly. But one of the things I’ve noticed — especially in blogs about blogging — is that the same basic topics come up over and over again. If you missed the “5 Ways to Energize Feeds” this week, you’ll catch the “7 Ways to Make Your Feed Pop!” next month. You get the idea. Same old, same old. You can read this stuff for two months before it starts to recycle with very little content that’s really new.

Hmmm…I feel a new topic coming on. I’ll have to put this on my list of things to write about here.

After I’ve gone through those 124 posts waiting for me in endo.

I Don’t Like Being Seriously Dugg

The activity finally winds down — I think.

In yesterday’s post, “Getting Seriously Dugg,” I reported the history of a blog post that rose quickly to stardom in the world of Digg users. But that report was done early in the day, before the shit hit the fan (so to speak).

The Heat is On

The Digg count continued to rise throughout the day. And the hits kept coming. All morning long, there were at least 100 visitors online at my site at once. This is not normal here. And it was rather frightening. I kept expecting something to break.

But it wasn’t just the popular Digg post that was getting hits. It was the post about getting Dugg, too. Soon, it had more hits than the dugg post — even though it wasn’t dug by anyone at all. I’m still trying to figure that one out.

Things came to a head at 11:15 AM when I got an e-mail message from my ISP:

Our Hosting Operations Admins have alerted us to an issue with your hosting account. The account has overutilized resources within the shared environment. As a result, the account has been moved to an isolated server for Terms of Service violators. You have 30 days to research and resolve this issue. After this time, the account will be evaluated again. If the issue is resolved, the account will be migrated back to the shared environment. If it persists, you will need to move to a full Dedicated server.

I got on the phone immediately and called my ISP. To my knowledge, I hadn’t violated any terms of service by getting hits. My plan allows 2,000 GB of bandwidth per month. The billing month starts on the third — that day. So far, in all the years I’ve hosted there, I’ve never exceeded 6% of my monthly allowance. Just because I was getting 30 times the usual number of hits I get in a day, it was still not much more than I’d get in a total month. So there was no way I’d even come close to 10% of the monthly allowance — let alone exceed it.

The guy who answered the phone was extremely polite but equally clueless. He had to talk to Advanced Hosting. He couldn’t let me talk to them. They gave him a song and dance about too many domain names pointing to the same site. He attempted to hand the same thing to me. I told him that that shouldn’t matter since none of those domain names were advertised anywhere. Besides, there were only about a dozen of them pointing to one site and maybe 15 pointing to another. I wasn’t aware of any limitation.

“I’ve been dugg,” I told him. When I got no answer, I asked, “Do you know what that means?”

“No,” he said.

I explained that it meant that one of my blog’s posts had become very popular and that people were flocking to my site to read it. I told him this was a temporary thing and that it should be back to normal by the end of the day. I hoped.

He told me that if I continued to get so many hits to my site, I’d have to get a dedicated server. I told him I’d evaluate after I’d seen my stats for the day. (My account is updated daily in the middle of the night.)

We hung up.

A Brief Intermission

I went flying. I took a couple from Virginia on an hour-long helicopter tour in the Wickenburg area. I showed them mine sites and canyons from the air. We saw a lot of cows, too. Afterward, I goofed off at the airport, chatting with two jet pilots who’d come in and were waiting for passengers. Then I went shopping for dinner. I got home and had a snack. Then I looked at Digg. It was 4 PM.

What Happened in Five Hours

The post that had started it all now had more than 1,200 diggs. It had been viewed almost 30,000 times. The post about that post, which hadn’t been dugg at all, had been viewed more than 40,000 times.

But thankfully, there were only 33 people online. So the flood had begun to subside.

On the Digg Technology page, my dugg post was listed near the bottom, under newly popular. (Ironically, on the same page, near the top, was a post about how Digg was losing popularity. That had more than 1,200 diggs, too.)

The Morning After

It’s the next day. I can now look back objectively on my blog’s day with a Digg Top 10 Tech post by studying some of the stats for the day and how the differ from other days.

My ISP reports that for the first day of my billing period — yesterday — I used up .55% (that’s just over half a percent, folks) of my monthly bandwidth. That means that if every day was like yesterday, I’d still come in at less than 20% allowable bandwidth. So I don’t know what “terms of service violation” they were whining about.

W3Counter, which I use to track page hits and visits, says I got just over 27,000 page hits yesterday. Look at the chart below; it makes my site look flat-line dead before yesterday. Honestly — it wasn’t that dead.


Today’s hits are about 3 times a normal day. Nice, but I’m willing to bet it drops down to normal within the next few days.

W3Counter also sent me an e-mail message warning me that their free service doesn’t cover sites that get more than 5,000 hits a day.They say I need to upgrade to a pro account for $4.95/month. We’ll see how long before they disable my current account — I’m not paying them to tell me how many hits I get when I can easily set up some stat software with a free WordPress plugin. (ShortStats, which we wrote about in our WordPress book, comes to mind.)

(I have not been able to reconcile page hits as reported by W3Counter with article reads as reported by a WordPress plugin. I have a sneaking suspicion that the WordPress plugin counts bots.)

Digg, as a source of hits, kicked Google out of the top spot on my site. Google used to account for 54% of my visitors. Now, for the 14-day period tracked by W3Counter, Digg is the big source. Google doesn’t even make the list any more, with all the different Digg URLs people used to find my site. So my sources stat is completely skewed and pretty much useless for the next 13 days. And 93% of the hits in the past 14 days have been to the 18-year-old mouse story.

Meanwhile, WP-UserOnline reports that yesterday saw the most users online at once on this site: 375. I don’t think this site will ever see that many concurrent users again.

My RSS feed subscriptions have more than doubled. That’s great. (If you’re a new subscriber, thanks for tuning in. And don’t worry — I don’t write about Digg every day.) It’ll be interesting to see if that number continues to climb or if I manage to scare all the new folks off by failing to provide more Diggable content on a daily basis.

My Google AdSense revenue for yesterday was right in line with an average high day. When you consider that I got about 20 times my normal number of page hits yesterday, you might think that I’d get 20 times the revenue. I didn’t. Obviously, Digg users don’t click Google ads.

The last I checked, the 18-year-old mouse story got just over 1,357 Diggs. I think that I actually encouraged the extra Diggs by placing the Digg icon at the top of the post. I’ve since taken it away from all posts.

I’ve realized that I don’t want to be seriously Dugg. Other than the surge in new RSS subscribers, there really isn’t any benefit to it.

What do you think?

Have you been slammed by being dugg? How did it affect your hosting account or other services? Use the Comments link or form to let the rest of us know.

Using Creative Commons to Stop Scraping

An excellent article on PlagiarismToday.

As a blogger, feed scraping is one of my pet peeves. It irks me to no end that sploggers use automated tools to copy my copyrighted content from my site to sites that exist solely to attract clicks on AdSense and other ads.

Jonathan Bailey likely feels the same way. He writes about the topic regularly in his blog, providing well-researched and insightful commentary to help understand and fight the problem.

His recent article, “Using Creative Commons to Stop Scraping” on PlagiarismToday:

Many sites, including this one , have expressed concerns that CC licenses may be encouraging or enabling scraping.

The problem seems to be straightforward. If a blog licenses all of their content under a CC license, then a scraper that follows the terms of said license is just as protected as a human copying one or two works….

However, after talking with Mike Linksvayer, the Vice President of Creative Commons, I’m relieved to say that is not the case. CC licenses have several built-in mechanisms that can prevent such abuse.

In fact, when one looks at the future of RSS, it is quite possible that using a CC license might provide better protection than using no license at all.

The article then goes on to explain what a Creative Commons license is and what it requires of the licensee. As Jonathan explains, the automation tools that sploggers use simply cannot meet all of the requirements of a CC license, thus putting the sploggers in clear violation of the license terms.

If you’ve been wondering about copyright as it applies to your blog or Web site, be sure to check out this article. While you’re at PlagiarismToday, poke around a bit. I think you’ll find plenty of other good material to help you understand copyright and what you can do when your rights are violated.

Some Thoughts on Religion

And a few books to back up those thoughts.

In trying [desperately] to catch up with the RSS feeds I follow, I stumbled across a three-part series of excerpts from Christopher HItchens’ new book, God is not Great.

Lately, religion has been on my mind more than ever before. Our country is being led by elected and appointed officials that repeatedly claim that their faith in God is what guides their decisions. And we’ve been sucked into a war where religion is the motive or justification for extremists to kill themselves and others.

I’ve never been a religious person. I’ve always believed that doing the right thing whenever possible is far more important than praying or going to church or skipping meat on Fridays during Lent. I’ve always been satisfied to let others believe what they want — as long as they don’t try to make me believe.

But things are different these days. Religion is causing deaths. Deaths of innocent people. Deaths of patriotic young men and women who go to Iraq with the misguided belief that they are protecting America. And it hurts me — a thinking person — to see so many lives lost or ruined every day in the name of religion. In the name of God.

Am I the only person seeing it this way?

Religious Literacy

Religious LiteracyI’m currently reading Religious Literacy by Stephen Prothero. The book is really two books in one. The first part of the book explains how important religion has been throughout the history of the United States. With the country’s Protestant background, religion was taught not only at home, but in public schools. As time passed and immigrants arrived with other religions, less religion was taught in school. Supreme court rulings that stopped school prayer pretty much put an end to religion in school. As a result, Americans have what Prothero refers to as a religious illiteracy.

It’s interesting to note here that Prothero makes a very good distinction between teaching religion and teaching about religion in school. While he apparently agrees that school should not be used to preach religious theories or convert students to any one set of beliefs, he believes that a curriculum that covers the basics of all major religions would be beneficial. He believes that only through knowledge of what these religions involve — beliefs, rituals, histories — can an educated person discuss and make informed decisions about what’s going on in today’s world. I couldn’t agree more — which is why I bought the book. The President may not understand (or care about) the difference between Sunni and Shi’a Muslims, but I do.

The second part of the book is a glossary of the world’s religions. Important terms are clearly defined, giving the reader a good base of knowledge. I think of it as World Religions 101. And although Prothero is quick to say that the information in Chapter 6 of his book is not all inclusive, I believe it’s a very good start for anyone interested in learning about the beliefs and histories of other faiths.

In any case, I highly recommend the book. Although the first part is a bit dry and repetitive, the second part is sure to fill a lot of holes in your knowledge of world religions. Best of all, Protheros makes no judgments at all, so his book will appeal to believers and non-believers alike.

What I Believe

As I mentioned earlier in this entry — forgive me; I still have a terrible cold and am having trouble thinking linearly with a headache and hacking cough — for the past year or so, I’ve been thinking a lot about religion. And I’ve recently concluded that I’m probably an athiest.

I say probably, because I’ve always been agnostic, even as a youngster. The conscious conclusion that I’m a non-believer was not easy to make. But looking back on the decision-making process now, I can’t understand why. It makes more sense to me that there isn’t a God than that there might be.

Before I go any further, please spare me the irate comments about my beliefs. If you think all atheists will rot in hell, fine. You don’t need to clutter up the comments for this post or send me nasty feedback to warn me. For obvious reasons, I don’t believe that. And if you feel that you can no longer read my books or follow my blog because of my religious beliefs (or non-beliefs), you can keep that to yourself, too. People who feel that way are just an example of what’s wrong with religion in this country (or world). Too many closed minds, too much intolerance.

And, of course, I won’t try to convince believers that they shouldn’t believe. I have a lot of respect for people who can have faith in God or religion — both of which were invented by man. If going to church on Sunday or praying facing Mecca five times a day makes you feel good, great!

But if your religious beliefs are causing you to do evil things — discriminate in employment or housing, deface or vandalize private property, or harm innocent people — it’s time to take a real look at what your God really means to you.

God is Not Great

The God DelusionI’ve been waiting for a chance to read The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins for some time now. (It’s on my Wish List.) I’ve listened to Interviews with Dawkins on the Penn Jillette Radio Show (Penn is an atheist) and on the NPR show, Fresh Air. Although he comes off as a snobbish elitist — it might be the accent — I do agree with much of what he has to say. Listening to his views is part of what brought me to my decision about my own beliefs. It was the first time I’d heard anyone present the atheistic view in an intelligent, educated, and persuasive way.

God is Not GreatToday, I stumbled across excerpts from Christopher Hitchens’ God Is Not Great on One paragraph in the first excerpt really brought things home to me:

While some religious apology is magnificent in its limited way — one might cite Pascal — and some of it is dreary and absurd — here one cannot avoid naming C. S. Lewis — both styles have something in common, namely the appalling load of strain that they have to bear. How much effort it takes to affirm the incredible! The Aztecs had to tear open a human chest cavity every day just to make sure that the sun would rise. Monotheists are supposed to pester their deity more times than that, perhaps, lest he be deaf. How much vanity must be concealed — not too effectively at that — in order to pretend that one is the personal object of a divine plan? How much self-respect must be sacrificed in order that one may squirm continually in an awareness of one’s own sin? How many needless assumptions must be made, and how much contortion is required, to receive every new insight of science and manipulate it so as to “fit” with the revealed words of ancient man-made deities? How many saints and miracles and councils and conclaves are required in order first to be able to establish a dogma and then — after infinite pain and loss and absurdity and cruelty — to be forced to rescind one of those dogmas? God did not create man in his own image. Evidently, it was the other way about, which is the painless explanation for the profusion of gods and religions, and the fratricide both between and among faiths, that we see all about us and that has so retarded the development of civilization.

This is how an intelligent person looks at religion — all religion — from the outside. And — fortunately or unfortunately — this is how I look at religion these days, too.

Needless to say, this book is now on my Wish List.

Why Tell You?

I don’t know what I’m hoping to achieve by presenting my thoughts about religion here, in this blog. I think it’s just my way of getting things straight in my own mind.

Please remember that this blog began back in 2003 as a personal journal — my way of recording the things that go on in my life and mind. I think this entry is in tune with that purpose. Years from now, I’ll look back on these words and remember what I was reading and thinking in these sad, confused times.

But maybe — just maybe — my thoughts might help a few readers clear their minds on these issues.