Trackbacks and comments and spam

According to Plasticbag’s Tom Coates, “trackback is dead.” I’m inclined to agree. If you’re not familiar with the concept, trackbacks are a sort of blog-to-blog automatic signalling system. If I mention your blog in mine, then your blog gets notified automatically and records that fact in a visible record. The result is that your downstream influence is made evident. Only it doesn’t work so well. Or rather, it works reasonably well, but is primarily exploited for spam. I’m turning off trackbacks for my site. It’s not much of a loss, since I only ever got a few trackbacks, but comments are also close to tipping over into the domain of not-worth-the-spam-hassle.

Mucking out the spam day after day is a noxious task. I kept thinking that spammers would eventually tire of buying new domain names pointing to still more Texas Hold’em poker sites, since the old ones are being continuously blacklisted. But no, they NEVER STOP. And they seem to be onto a new strategy that has me worried: the latest domain names are mild-looking places like My guess is that they are hacking into other people’s disused sites and using them as referral waypoints to their real sites. In other words, the domain names that I’m blacklisting day after day don’t even cost them anything. Which is to say, they can play this game forever, whereas I will eventually tire.

I’m switching to some stronger anti-spam filters. Hopefully it won’t cause my real friends and readers to be blocked. Please let me know if you have any problems posting comments.

Yahoo scores some buzz

Google google google, all day, every day. It’s making the people at Yahoo crazy. But they’ve got their own buzz machine going over at Yahoo, and some good work is starting to come to light. This kind of thing makes you love capitalism-inspired competition. The latest news is Yahoo’s Video Search tool. For a long time I have been trying to find a video of Diego Maradona’s famous solo goal run against England during the 1986 World Cup. I have tried often enough over the years that I can safely say this was once a difficult task (I never succeeded). But one quick search for Maradona goal on Yahoo Video Search took me straight to the object of my desire. I watched it. It was sort of a let down. Maradona makes the whole thing look so easy that it almost seems like a high school game. And if you enjoy soccer, be sure to watch the “Hand of God” goal from the same game, videos of which are returned by the same search terms. In this play, Maradona reveals his consummate skill at swatting the ball past the keeper with his hand (and getting away with it while the world watches). Soccer, you will recall, does not ordinarily involve the swatting of the ball into the goal with one’s hand.

Anyway: Yahoo. Google. Yahoo. Google. I suppose Pepsi and Coca-Cola sounded just as stupid a hundred years ago.

RUDUD (happy birthday to you)

My daughter Carolyn’s second birthday is on Sunday. She is very cute. But that’s not what I’m here to talk about. Try this: go to the Musipedia Melody Search web page and enter these characters in the search field: “RUDUDDRUDUDDRUDDDDURDDUD”. As it happens, this sequence is a perfect match for the Happy Birthday song (copyright Mildred J. Hill and Patty Smith Hill). The sequence uses the so-called Parsons Code, which simplifies music to such an extravagant degree that all it keeps track of is whether notes go up (U), down (D), or stay the same (R). Against expectation, this stripped-down format retains enough information to zero in on tunes you only know how to hum. Musipedia (“Inspired by, but not affiliated with Wikipedia” as they say) has a giant catalog of tunes to compare to, but many of them seem to be things like Mahler’s unfortunate “Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen No. 2 Ging heut’ morgen” (DUUUUUUUUD!). Still, it’s fun poking around. I found Another Brick in the Wall by typing in a random sequence (UUDDUUDDUU). I haven’t tried it, but they even have a way to whistle to your computer and have it look up the song automatically.

Until next time, we’ll sign off with the Rambles Weblog theme song…

Doubled vowels and Elvish ASCII

My Write Your Name in Elvish in Ten Minutes continues to be the leading traffic generator for my site. Since that’s where the crowd is, I spent some time tonight freshening things up a bit. In particular I’m providing more examples that treat doubled vowels, something I get asked about a lot in email.

I’m also unveiling my new text notation (which I modestly call “Gulley’s Practical Method for Elvish Text Notation”) that should help me communicate with people who seek me out for electronically moderated Elvish consultation questions. Read the article and you too can learn why AMELIE is rendered as

     A E I
   _ : M L _

Companies move into the network cloud

The early promise of web-based application service providers seems to be coming to fruition. Not only that, many of the most useful applications (like Gmail) are free. Evan Williams, creator of Blogger (and now at startup, talks here about running your company on web apps. As he says, “One interesting thing about starting a company today versus a few years ago: Lots of cool web apps are now available that you can more or less run you company on.” He rattles off a short list of online software they use and then continues, “The improved efficiency of having these apps available, and not having to install and maintain servers for them is huge.” Williams is certainly an early adopter in an immature field, but there’s no question which way the wind is blowing. is damaging PeopleSoft (er… I mean Oracle), because you can just hire sales people and not worry about hiring IT staff. Fewer IT staff means fewer ferrets in the bag when you’re trying to move quickly. Companies in the future will come and go like foam on the waves, because everything, aside from the actual innovative force driving the enterprise, will be virtualized and outsourced. Barriers are dropping and boundaries are blurring.