links for 2007-11-13

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Twitter actually can be useful

Some of my Twitter friends who helped me this weekend. Thanks!

Lately I’ve gotten back into Twitter — the service that is strangely addictive, yet people often can’t clearly articulate why they use it. It seems to have struck the online community at a subconscious level, and is seeking a conscious purpose or rationalization.

I’m agahran on Twitter, if you want to follow me there.

Twitter — or any “microblogging” service that focuses on very short posts — is an odd medium. It takes some time and practice to get a sense of what works here. When you first start, it helps to just choose a bunch of people you know or are interested in to follow and get a sense of the different styles of posting.

Over the weekend, I found Twitter useful when I learned that my blog was hacked by a spammer. As I rushed to understand what happened and what I needed to do to fix the problem, I posted to Twitter about it. I quickly received several Tweets, private messages, and e-mails in response to what I was Twittering about — mostly from people offering helpful advice or context, or helping me diagnose the problem.

Yes, the comments posted to my blog were very helpful. But Twitter was also helpful.

In my feed reader, I’ve subscribed to a feed for all tweets from the people I follow on Twitter. I scan that usually every couple of hours, as I’m checking other things in my feed reader. (For me, that’s more efficient than jumping to the Twitter site.) There I’ve found some timely leads for items I’ve ended up covering in Contentious, E-Media Tidbits, and elsewhere. Also, I’ve been able to offer fast assistance to friends in need — just like they did for me.

That’s the thing about having a social network: It’s most useful if you’re available to each other. Twitter can create that availability, but in a manageable way.

I’ll write more about this later. But in the meantime, how have you found Twitter (or other microblogging tools, like Jaiku or Tumblr) useful? Please comment below.

(Oh, and I just enabled the Twitterfeed tool, which should post a tweet announcing each new Contentious post. We’ll see if it works… UPDATE: Yep, it works!)

Lijit search: Good start as a “me collector”

Lijit as a “me collector” — see it in action in my sidebar.

Yesterday I finally got around to implementing the Lijit search widget on this blog. I didn’t realize until I started playing around with the widget settings that this cool little tool actually goes a long way toward being the kind of “me collector” I’ve been wanting.

Over the summer I wrote a post, I want one place for all my content: Pipe dream?, where I bemoaned the fact that since most of my work is distributed across various sites, forums, services, and social networks, it sometimes is hard for me to find and retrieve my own work.

Lijit allows me to create a search box that works across any collection of sites and accounts that I specify. You can now see it in action on the top of this blog’s sidebar. I have Lijit set to search the archives not only of, but also content I’ve posted on several services (my accounts on, Flickr, Furl, Facebook, YouTube, etc.). Furthermore, it’ll also search my other projects such as The Right Conversation, I, Reporter, Boulder Carbon Tax Tracker, and more. I’ve also included the group weblogs E-Media Tidbits and SEJ2007, to which I’ve posted considerable content — although search results will pull up other folks’ contributions to those sites. And I’ve included my feed from Co.mments, the comment-tracking service where I track conversations I’ve joined on other blogs. (There again, Lijit returns comments by others in those threads, but my stuff is definitely included).

So now I can more easily find all of my stuff — and so can anyone who uses that search widget. Just remember that when you use my Lijit search, “blog” refers only to content on, while “content” pulls from all those resources I mentioned.

Also, I can update, add, or delete resources for my Lijit search widget and not have to generate new code and copy it to my site. I update my profile on Lijit, and the widget starts pulling from my updates list of resources. Way cool. Less hassle for me.

Plus Lijit gives me interesting search stats, too. That’s all free.

My “me collector” dream is still not completely fulfilled, however…
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More Gmail space; still waiting for GTDinbox update

A month after Google announced it was going to increase free storage space for Gmail users by an unspecified amount, I’m still seeing the storage space in my account creep steadily upward.

For context, a month ago my account had about 2.9 G of space, with 59% of it used. As of this morning, I have just over 4.8 G of space, with only 38% of it used.

Pretty cool!Also recently Google unveiled its new version of Gmail. The update hit my account Thursday. I haven’t had a chance to play with it yet, because I rely on the GTDinbox Firefox plugin for task management, which isn’t compatible with the new Gmail. The makers of that great plugin are working on a Gmail-happy upgrade. So for now I’m still using the older version of Gmail. A new version of GTDinbox may be out this week.By the way, if you’re a fan of GTDinbox too, please do consider donating to support its development and maintenance. I just did. They work very hard on this free tool.

– Nov. 14: 4927 MB
– Nov. 15: 4852 MB, 37% used

My blog got hacked, probably at Blogworld Expo

Where better to steal blog passwords than over the open wifi at a blogger conference?

…OK, I don’t know for an absolute fact that’s where and how this blog got hacked, but it does seem extremely likely. So Blogworld Expo attendees, be forewarned — and check your blogs. Specifically, check the source code of your most recent posts — especially if you use WordPress.

Yesterday I posted about how a reader let me know that a huge chunk of spam had shown up in a post I made from Blogworld Expo in Las Vegas. As I investigated this further with the help of readers (especially Mihai Parparita) and my colleague Justin Crawford, I learned that someone had gained access to my WordPress installation (most likely by stealing my password) and inserted spam directly into my post. This problem appears to have started only very recently — while I was at Blogworld, on the conference wifi network.

Of course, this also could have occurred on the ethernet at my hotel in Vegas (the Marriott Suites on Convention Center Dr.) Or when I turned sharing on for my laptop to give a friend net access from my room (because they sell ethernet access per connected device, not per room — a total ripoff).

My hacker attempted to be a little sneaky about it. He/she used the CSS command “overflow: hidden” to keep the spam from appearing on my blog. But it did come through on my feed. Oddly, I couldn’t see the spam through my feed reader application Newsfire; nor did it appear in the built-in feed reader in Safari. But it was clearly visible in web-based feed readers like Bloglines and Google Reader.

I’m working to lock out this hacker and upgrade WordPress. But I’m also investigating how to prevent this from recurring. I travel a lot and go to a lot of conferences, so I’m on open wifi and hotel connections a lot.

Got any suggestions for preventing blog hacks? Please comment below. I have to leave on another trip shortly and could use all the help and advice I can get. Thanks.

Spam in my feed… Ugh…

No, my post yesterday was NOT supposed to mention Viagra extensively. My blog has been hacked. I’m working on fixing it.

UPDATE: After I posted this, Mihai Parparita brought to my attention that he’s also seeing this spam in Google Reader. (Thanks, Mihai.) So it appears my blog may have been hacked. This totally sucks, I’ll try to figure it out. Oddly, I’m not seeing the spam in Newsfire (my preferred feed reader) or Safari. Contentious readers, I invite your help in solving this problem. And my sincere apologies while I try to get this fixed.

Here, for the record, is my original post…


I syndicate Contentious via Bloglines, a popular free web-based feed reader. My 50 or so readers there got an unpleasant surprise yesterday — my Nov. 9 post from Blogworld Expo contained a huge chunk of spam — text and an image.

No, I have NOT started hawking Viagra.

Somehow, Bloglines allowed spam to be inserted in my feed. I don’t know how this happened. I’ve notified Bloglines of the problem, and will update this post when I hear back. But I checked my blog’s original feed, and the Feedburner version No spam there. The problem appears confined to Bloglines.

This royally peeves me. One of the great advantages to using feed readers is that it helps you avoid spam. Until now, there hasn’t been a way for someone to insert spam into a feed; the publisher alone controlled which content got syndicated, and how.

Whatever this problem is, I hope Bloglines solves it quick and permanently — or else expect a mass exodus of Bloglines users.

Stay tuned.

(Thanks to Average Jane for alerting me to this problem.)

links for 2007-11-10

Tom Frey, Da Vinci Institute
The news biz is definitely at “Maximum Freud.”

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Why blogging conferences is so damn hard

Think it’s easy blogging a blogging conference? Think again.

(UPDATE: If you’re reading this post in a feed reader, you may see a big block of spam below. Sorry about that — my blog has been hacked. I’m working to fix it.)

The thing about conferences is that, in my opinion, it’s really damn hard to both attend the conference and blog about it much — unless I go to the conference specifically to blog it. A lot of things get in the way.

Right now I’m at Blogworld Expo in Las Vegas, where yesterday my blogging ethics panel went very well (thanks to my excellent panelist and a very engaged audience). More about that panel later.

Here’s a quick rundown of my reasons (or excuses) why I have a hard time blogging at conferences, unless that’s my reason for being there…

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Notes for blogging ethics panel

Amy Gahran
The Blogworld Expo lounge, wifi included.

I’ve been writing a fair amount lately about blogging ethics, and it’s all been in preparation for my panel today. Here’s some food for thought from my panelists:

Toby Bloomberg recently did an excellent podcast exploring Astroturfing: Grassroots Sleaze

Graydancer has written some thoughtful posts on respecting privacy, and on setting a responsible example in public behavior.

Josh Lasser writes: “The biggest ethical issue I have come across happened when I attended a trip to New Orleans which was sponsored by Fox to promote their new show, K-Ville (we were there to interview the creator and attend red carpet/premiere party). One of the other bloggers related a story to the rest of us about writing a negative piece about a show, and getting cut off from getting screeners from that network. The group was split as to whether or not this was acceptable. It certainly wouldn’t have happened if this “blogger” was seen as real press, but because they were not, some of the group felt that it was okay for them to be instantly cut off. I found this to be a true ethical dilemma. What is the duty of the blogger to the people providing them with review material (of any type, not just television shows)? If they can be instantly cut off from material and the life blood of their blog, they cannot succeed. However, if they only provide positive reviews, how valid are they? But, on the other hand, if the person giving the material feels as though they’re not being given a fair chance, ought they have the right to cut off the source”

Charlotte-Anne Lucas has written several posts about ethics, which “That include the back and forth about my being plagiarized by the Buc-ee’s blog. This example involves journalism ethics and shows blogging ethics and how to handle ethical dilemmas in blogs. (you can also get to the post by clicking on the Buc-ee’s tag).

She also notes, “I would also love to discuss corrections and transparency — both huge issues at online news organizations and in blogs. We’ve had lots of conversations about that in my journalism/blogging classes, and it was a major league difference between and MarketWatch in the startup days. (I was a managing editor at and we had blogs on the site back in 2000.”

And for me? Recently over on Poynter’s E-Media Tidbits I’ve covered a couple of intriguing ethical issues about the clash between journalism and blogging ethics (which led to one Ohio blogger getting fired and the subsequent collapse of a group political blog), and on privacy. And on Contentious, I recently found myself wrangling with a minor ethical issue about how to handle blogging a bad experience with a business.

OK, and now I’m off to Blogworld! I’ll be posting more about the conference later.