Web Site Has Returned

Yes, this web site is finally back up. The fact that it was down is, well, largely my fault. I hadn’t updated WordPress in a while, and a hacker took advantage of a vulnerability to hack the web site. WebFaction, my hosting service, detected the hack and automatically disabled my site until I could address the problem.

It couldn’t have happened at a worse time. I was notified on June 13th, while I was running A/V for the RubyNation Conference. This was on top of some major family issues that I’ve been dealing with lately.

So it took me a while to get the web site properly scrubbed and negotiate its return with WebFaction. And boy, do I have a backlog of content to be adding to thus site.

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I Must Be Doing Something Right…

My Klout Score of 47 Yup. I must be doing something right, at least as far as promoting myself via social media. Klout is an online service that measures your reach on the Internet, passes the data through some sort of proprietary algorithm, and spits out your Klout Score. Mine has just reached a new high of 47.

According to their service, my Klout Score of 47 means that I’m in the Top 30% of people who are active in social media. By comparison, Seanan McGuire, the author of the October Daye series, has a score of 60. Internationally best-selling author Hugh Howey has a score of 70. And George Takei, who played Sulu in the original Star Trek and has gained current notoriety with his sparkling online reviews of odd products, has a score of 92.

Apparently, I still have a ways to go in my social media endeavors.

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Keenersaurus: My New Twitter Handle for Fiction

I just created a new Twitter account, @keenersaurus, for my speculative fiction. I felt that my fiction warranted a different Twitter handle than my technical alter-ego (you know, the version of me with the day job that actually pays the bills), who tweets about Internet technologies.

I put a couple of tweets out there using @keenersaurus, retweeted a couple of interesting things, and soon found that I had gained my first follower — Gail Carriger, author of the New York Times best-selling Parasol Protectorate and Finishing School series. This was pretty cool, so I decided it warranted a plug for her books, which are actually quite good.

Parasol Protectorate Series - By Gail Carriger

For the 5-book Parasol Protectorate series, imagine a steampunk London with vampires, werewolves, dirigibles, tea, and all sorts of nefarious factions plotting mayhem. Mix in Alexia Tarabotti, a spinster with: 1) little hope of ever securing a good marriage, 2) impeccable manners, 3) a trusty and unusual parasol, and 4) a streak of stubbornness destined to land her in all sorts of trouble. The books are good fun. Highly recommended.

Oh yeah, by the way… Would you like to follow me on Twitter at @keenersaurus?

Editorial Note: One of my friends asked me, “Why did you pick keenersaurus for a Twitter handle?” Well, I couldn’t get my name as a Twitter handle. I could have chosen some variation of my name, but that seemed counter-productive. There’d be multiple Twitter handles out there like mine, only slightly different — not good for branding.

I decided that I needed something different for my handle, something that clearly referenced me in some way, but was memorable. A handle that might spark a conversation (like this one, actually).

As a child, I developed a passion for dinosaurs, which I never outgrew (my wife would say it’s because I never grew up). I liked the sound of keenersaurus. I thought it sounded memorable. It also instantly spawned ideas (which I’ll be implementing soon) on how to use it in unique and interesting ways. So that’s why I chose it.

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Akismet: Preventing Comment Spam

Tools for Writers: Akismet Plugin - for Preventing Comment SpamI’ve been getting so much comment spam on my WordPress blog that I needed do something to resolve the problem. I was, quite frankly, spending way too much time reviewing comments (and getting increasingly irritated every time I had to do so), and not doing some of the things that I wanted to be doing. When I went to Scotland for vacation this past December, I accumulated more than 2500 comment spam messages. Buried in that batch were some real comments that I wanted to approve for inclusion on the site, so I actually had to scan through all of them.

My solution for this problem is the Akismet plugin. You download the plugin, activate it and then get an API key from Akismet. Once you’ve added the API key to your configuration, Akismet tests each incoming comment and filters out most, if not all spam, into your spam folder.

It’s been awesome.

I recommend the Akismet plugin to anybody who operates a blog. By now, this should include all writers, whether traditionally published or self-published.

The most popular plugin version of Akismet is for WordPress, but they support around 20 different blogging platforms, so you should be able to integrate Akismet into most viable blogging tools. The service is free for personal use, but they do request a modest amount of money if you’re using it professionally or on behalf of a business. They even allow you to set the price that you pay based on the value you feel you’re getting from the tool.

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First Check from Google

Woohoo! I got my first check from Google, $102.24, for advertising on my web sites. Currently, I’ve got advertising on KeenerTech.com, my technical blog (I’m a web architect for my day job). I will eventually have some advertising on this site, my creative blog, as well, in addition to the Amazon links to purchase the books that I mention in my various articles.

My First Google AdSense Check

What this means is that my various web sites are verging on being profitable by themselves, and therefore virtually self-sustaining. How cool is that?

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Asteroids and Nature

A day after an unexpected meteorite exploded over Russia, I spotted this humorous gem on Facebook. It’s especially appropriate since the United States doesn’t actually have a manned space program, anymore.

Asteroids Are Nature's Way of Asking...

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Party Dresses and Hamster Cages

You can’t have a blog without getting a lot of spam comments. Usually it’s some generic message expressing love for your most wonderful and truly awesome site, often using bad English, followed by one or more totally unrelated product links. This is, of course, why I’ve set up comments so they’re moderated.

But the nature of the spam comments I’ve been getting lately, up to 40 per day, is very strange. Apparently, this site has attracted spammers advertising either party dresses or hamster cages.

Go figure. Need I say that you won’t find either here?

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Internet Everywhere!

Last Wednesday, my Verizon FIOS Internet connection went down for the entire day. What was amazing to me was how much this impacted me. High-speed Internet access is ubiquitous nowadays; we don’t even really think about it unless it’s absent. When it’s not available, you begin to realize just how much the Internet has pervaded every aspect of our lives.

Professionally, of course, most of my work has to do with the Internet. I build web applications of all types, small ones for conferences, large ones for government agencies, etc. I access my source code over the Internet (using remote source code management technologies like git and Subversion); stay in contact with team mates using technologies like Skype, IM and email; and sometimes monitor my live web sites online.

But the Internet means far more than work to me. The most important thing about the internet is that it provides information on demand.

Information on demand is a huge asset, and I think that even now we’re underestimating the impact it’s going to have on world-wide society. Want to know who starred in the 1957 movie, Bridge on the River Kwai? Check out the Internet Movie Database. Need to research information on the Battle of Midway for a Toastmasters speech? Check out Wikipedia; it may have a few flaws, but it’s still the most complete encyclopedia there is. Need to research how a web site can interact with Facebook? Use the Google search engine to track down articles, documentation, blog entries and other information sources.

What about entertainment? Want to catch up on that television show you missed last night? Check out Hulu. Or preview the menu of the restaurant you’re thinking of taking your wife to on Friday.

Let’s go even further. Pay your bills online using your bank’s web site. Order items from your favorite store online. Keep up with the news.

Stay in contact with friends, both new and old on Facebook or Google Plus. Chat with friends online using IM. Heck, I even work with a group of people to run two conferences, RubyNation and DevIgnition, and most of our communication is done online via email and IM.

Toss your favorite smart phone into the mix, and you now have Internet access, information on demand, just about anywhere that you go.

What does this all mean?

  1. We live in a connected world now. Geography isn’t a factor anymore. We can stay in contact with friends wherever they may be. We can form friendships online with people we’ve never met in person, as one of my friends discovered a few years ago. He met one of his best friends in person for the first time at his wedding. The Internet helps us build communities around common interests that transcend conventional geographic boundaries.
  2. Information on demand is a huge asset, and I think that even now we’re underestimating the impact it’s going to have on world-wide society (think of the recent Middle East unrest as being caused by a younger generation that has been exposed to new ideas via the Internet). The tools are becoming available so that anybody can educate themselves on any topic they find interesting, whether to enhance their career or simply to pursue hobby-level interests.
  3. Email, the World Wide Web, IM and social networks are all technologies that have been empowered by the universal accessibility of the Internet. And we’re not done yet. There are technologies like virtual environments and environment tagging that have incredible potential that we’ve only barely tapped into, plus new technologies beyond the horizon.
  4. We’re still in the early days of the Internet. We’ve yet to see the majority of the impact that the Internet will have. Just think about that for a minute…
  5. Welcome to the Internet. It’s going to be a wild ride, if Verizon can keep my connection up.

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