Category Archives: blogging

Back On The Grid

In the past half year, I’ve posted three times. That just won’t do. I’m back on the job. And while I risk this commitment falling through before it even starts, since I don’t have a pipeline of posts just waiting for me to click Publish on, I’m bursting with topics I’ve wanted to write about, but haven’t been disciplined enough to find the time for.

So many things have changed over the last half year.

The Next Chapter of Random Process

It’s time for Random Process to move on to the next phase of its existence.

I started Random Process, née Nfiniti Plus One, in 2005 to keep in touch with friends and share my thoughts after moving from childhood home of Prince Edward Island. Since then, I’ve charted my progress through university, showcasing my changing interests and passions. I am about to graduate from my engineering program and enter the working world, and it’s time for this blog to grow up as well. Writing about my day to day thoughts and activities is no longer very appropriate for the environment I’ll be in.

Photography has increasingly become a significant part of my interests and I’m going to repurpose Random Process to show my work. I’ve posted a photo or two in the past, but the design of the site was never conducive to displaying the work in a pleasing manner. What you see here is the design I’ve come up with to put the emphasis on photography.

Hopefully this will also be an incentive for me to get off my butt and process the sea of photos on my hard drives. Enjoy the stay.

Human Comment Spammers – What To Do?

Yesterday, a comment on this blog irked me more than I’d like to admit.

Blog owner runs a fake dofollow blog. Goes and sneakily deletes all links. FUCK YOU!name (required)

I believe in rewarding conversation, and I’m more than happy to allow links to a user’s website if they show they actually care about adding to the content. In the past, it was pretty easy to tell. Spam bots posted garbage. Anything that seemed even a bit unique was probably human and okay to let through. But with automated tools like Akismet doing a better and better filtering out spam bot-generated comments, it’s the human spammers that are starting to take over my spam box.

SPAM

And that fellow above? I deleted a link back to an advertisement website, but left the comment up. At the time, I didn’t feel that the comment, ‘What is the monthly fee on that GPS unit?‘ deserved a link back to a spammy website. In retrospect, perhaps I was a bit harsh in that judgment. Clearly, with the response I got, the author of the comment felt that was so. Still, let me be clear: I don’t delete all links. Far from it.

I can usually categorize human-generated spam comments in two main groups. The first is exemplified by an SEO’ed link back to a blatantly spammy website, with the comment body made up of no reasonable content whatsoever. These are easy to deal with, as they add nothing and only attempt to push their sites up in ranking engines.

  1. Thanks for the info. Great stuff! – Perth Photography
  2. I must download this version. I’ll give it a try and see. – How to edit pictures

These make up the majority of spam comments that find their way past Akismet. I delete these without remorse.

The second category of human spam is trickier to deal with. Usually, they have something to do with the post, but the comment isn’t exactly enlightening. The links are a bit spammy, but it’s usually not a keyword link. Most of the time when a comment like this shows up, I either let it through, no holds barred, or try and categorize it in the first category, deleting it altogether. I try to not let many comments into this second category, but then they do make it, I delete the links and leave the comment standing. Some examples:

  1. Nice post! I really like your site design. Just thought I’d drop a line, take it easy!
  2. I hate the iphone, too much hype.

The thing is, all too often, I get comments with weak content that are simply looking for traffic back to their site (which usually is most often commercial in nature), or very good comments, but with no link at all. The latter are typically from people who are truly interested in the topic and comment based on that fact, not for ulterior motives. Some of the reviews I’ve done have great comment threads, as do many of the articles I wrote on the Dell XPS M1330 and ones discussing WordPress designs.

After reading all this, what do you think of my comment moderation rules? Are they too harsh? Too lax? I’m very curious how others handle these sorts of comments, as they are cropping up more and more. I haven’t seen much discussion on this topic.

Hiatus

There’s been a pretty lengthy silence here at random process, first due to recuperating from a hectic time towards the end of the work semester at Indigo, and then re-recuperating from eating and drinking too much over the Christmas break.

Starting next week, expect to see much more regular updates, including some reflections on my wonderful semester at Indigo, the random doo-dads I purchased during Boxing Day and a look forward to two semesters in a row of university.

Got Hacks?

We random process certainly got hacked in a major way. About a week ago, I noticed my Google search referrals dropping like a stone. After a few days, searches were down from several hundred per day to less than 10. Needless to say, I was ripping my hair out. I don’t do any weird shady stuff with my website and I didn’t think I had stepped on Google’s foot anywhere along the way. I was pretty stumped. My only lead was the thought that perhaps the links back to my site in the themes I’ve released over the years has linked me with some ‘bad neighborhood’ sites around the internet. I ended up sending in a reconsideration request to Google, in the hopes that my case would be excused, if that were even the problem.

As it turns out, that probably wasn’t the problem at all. By complete random change, I fired up the updated Windows Live Writer to work on the long-time-coming Microsoft Zune review only to find that footer of my site was filled with garbage keywords in the preview, selling prescription drugs for cheap and the like. This was especially curious since I had never seen any of these links when on my site previously. Quickly, I navigated to my site in Firefox and found nothing. A view source showed nothing either. Bewildered, I checked WLW again, and there it was.

To confirm, I performed a search, ‘site:randomprocess.ca prescriptions’ and lo-and-behold, tons of links with drug-related keyword links appeared. But curiously, clicking through to the links, once again, showed nothing amiss. Trying the cache also didn’t show anything wrong.

I then went over to Yahoo to double check; however unlikely, I had to make sure Google wasn’t improperly caching or doing something weird. But Yahoo showed the same thing. This time though, viewing the cache displayed the spam links in all their glory.

With some knowledge of the problem at hand, I did a search and many articles on the issue immediately appeared. It seems like this was no unique occurrence. Here’s a few of the articles I referenced in cleaning up my site:

As is explained in the utmost detail in those links, this hack is no trivial matter. It encompasses everything from database fields (new user, bogus plugins that activate PHP scripts that are actually stored as image types, jpg, gif, png, etc) to script injected into themes to htaccess changes. I hadn’t realized that WordPress 2.6 was susceptible, but I’ve now upgraded to the latest version. On the other hand, if 2.6 wasn’t exploited, then I can only shudder at the thought of when my site was hacked… back in the 2.5 days?

One thing’s for sure, I can stop ripping my hair out over the loss of search traffic. Just what I needed after a 10 hour work-day…

Mixing Internet and Work Lives

I’m experimenting for co-op applications this time around. Although it’s been widely recommended to keep one’s internet life and career separate, I’ve decided to place randomprocess.ca on my resume for all potential employers to see.

I’m far from perfect, which is absolutely reflected in the things that I’ve written here. However, I can’t continue denying that this website has become one of my most treasured hobbies. It is a very good reflection of the things I’m interested in. It gives some insight on how and what I think about various aspects of life and the world. It’s also an accurate measurement of the improvement in my written communications skills. I won’t lie; I sometimes cringe when reading some of the things I’ve written long in the past. But I don’t correct them or change the wording. I only cringe because I know I’ve since improved.

Yes, if you read through the archives of random process with the same criticalness as you would my resume, you’re bound to find poorly structured sentences and misspellings, but I also didn’t create this site to act as my resume. A significant amount of work has gone into creating and maintaining the content. And I now realize that it’s too much work to be kept hidden. It’s something I shouldn’t be ashamed to show anyone.

So here it is. I’m laying it all out. I’m blurring the lines between my internet and professional lives. I certainly hope this doesn’t come back to bite me one day.

Three Years

I’ve now been blogging for 3 years and 2 days. The inaugural post of my online writing career began on the morning of May 4, 2005, as I prepared for a performance of Seussical the Musical.

This site has moved through three different domains and has through that time, wracked up around a quarter million page views. The content has progressed from a decidedly personal nature at first to one that is more focused on my interests. It’s somewhat surprising to me that I’ve kept my interest in writing all this time. It’s not unusual for me to pick up a hobby only to drop it a couple months later, but that hasn’t been the case with blogging. That’s not to say that I haven’t gotten tired of it on occasion, but I always come back.

Maintaining this site has improved my writing and web design skills immensely, helped me to better communicate, and will hopefully act as a memory capsule one day. Thanks to all the readers out there. You’ve played a big role in motivating me to write and share my life experiences. Here’s to another 3 years.

Blogging At 35,000ft

I’m at an altitude of 35,000ft as I write this, sitting in a cramped seat in row 25 of an Airbus A320. Fortunately, I have a window seat to help break up the monotony of air travel, for the less-than-wealthy. Equipped with my M1330 laptop, I performed a quick space test of the fold-out tray in front of me. There is absolutely no way this laptop will fit on it. By the same token, the 0.5” thinner profile of the MacBook Air wouldn’t fit either. It’s all about footprint, not thickness. There, I’ve had my daily jab at Apple and at the same time scientifically proven my point. I’ve even attached a photo of what using a M1330 looks like on a plane. (For some reason, I don’t think photography is actually allowed on flights, so shhhhh.) Moving on.


Really not much space, even with the notebook on my lap…

I woke up at the painful hour of 6am this morning. Morning rush hour traffic can be unpredictable, so I figured I should play it safe rather than end up sorry. After arriving at Pearson very early for my flight, I went to the Terminal 1 Starbucks to pick up a light breakfast. The thing is, I don’t drink coffee – I rarely go to Tim Horton’s even, which is practically a crime in Canada. Given that, it was only natural that I became a bit overwhelmed by the beverage choices and their weird size-naming conventions. Whatever happened to small-medium-large? I ended up with a “regular-size” (Tall in Starbucks-speak) hot chocolate and a chocolate croissant, which I quickly consumed.

I also experienced my first run-in with the metal-detector ‘wand’ today while going through security. The culprit? My belt. In what was the most troublesome security check-in for me, I also had to remove my shoes. Perhaps it was the large amount of electronic devices I was pushing through the X-ray machine: laptop, battery, camera, MP3 player, BlackBerry.

I’ve been passing the time here reading a book a friend lent to me, The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. From what I’ve gotten through thus far, I think it’s prudent to pick it up for my own personal book collection, which reminds me, I need to start a book collection. I’ve also decided that we need to look at building cities in the sky, à la Cloud City from Star Wars. It would always be sunny that way, as my burning lap is telling me.

And although I’m writing this on the plane, I’m clearly not going to be able to publish this until I land at my connection in Halifax. I’m still patiently waiting for the day when Wifi becomes prevalent on flights.