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Morning Musings

Too much for Twitter, so here it goes:

  • It’s primary day in Oregon. Too late to mail it in, but the county election offices will accept your ballots until 8 pm. Additional ballot dropsites will also accept you ballot. Get out an vote! (Or shut up after the election; take your pick…) I’ll be dropping my ballot off around noon today. I still miss going to the polls and voting in person, but I must admit that voting by mail gives me the time to vote carefully and informed.
  • Rain! I must be a true Oregonian because this weather just makes me happy. That, and I get to postpone turning on my lawn sprinklers just a little longer.
  • That cashier in Starbucks knew my name today — first time. I wonder if that should tell me anything. The warm glow I felt was diminished, however, when the barrista called me “sir.” So close, but not quite there. The cashier could have made my experience complete by writing my name on the cup.
  • Just finished reading [gblink isbn=”0805443908″]Simple Church[/gblink]. I’ll be forwarding it to my pastor, just after I write a short summary here. It’s the kind of book that can get a pastoral staff in trouble, but hopefully in a good way.

I hope your day turns out as great as mine is starting!

Intense Debate Doesn’t Allow Blog Owners to Edit Comments

I asked Intense Debate whether blog owners have the ability to edit comments using their commenting system and received the following response:

While I completely understand your interest in being able to delete profanity,shorten a URL extending into the margin, or fix a link, this would be an extremely controversial feature to add in. This feature would jeopardize a commenter’s trust that their comments would not be tampered with or distorted, and would potentially destroy the credibility of Intense Debate.

With that in mind, we cannot give blog owners this ability.

The search for improved commenting continues.

Update: Michael Koenig of Intense Debate responded to my questions on their forum and linked to this post. If you’re interested in this issue, go comment there to ensure Intense Debate hears your opinion.

The Disqus Experiment, Part II

My Disqus Experiment is over. I’ve disabled Disqus on blogan.net (temporarily losing a whole five comments in the process, which I may yet manually add to my WordPress database should I exert the effort).

The deal breaker for me was the complete lack of control over the comments on my blog. I could only approve them or delete them. I couldn’t:

  1. Censor gratuitous profanity in an otherwise valuable comment;
  2. Shorten an URL that extends into the margin or fix one that the commenter almost got right; or
  3. Delete personal information (e-mail address, phone number, etc.) that the commenter left in a comment and asked to have removed.

Disqus has no ability to import existing comments into its system so I ended up having two commenting systems on blogan.net. This may get fixed in the future.

There also is no ability to export comments from Disqus and then import them into my WordPress database. This is another feature that I expect will get implemented later, but for now, the longer I stayed with Disqus, the more I would be held hostage.

There is no documentation on what HTML is allowed in a comment. Bold and italics worked; images didn’t (and probably just as well without being able to edit the comments).

I’ll continue to watch Disqus. I want it to work. It’s just not there yet.

In the meantime, blogan.net has two features that make commenting better than on a barebones WordPress blog:

  1. You can subscribe to comments when you leave a comment. That way you will know if anyone has responded.
  2. You can preview your comment before posting it. You’ll know beforehand whether the HTML you’ve used will work.

What should I experiment with next?

15 Websites or Services I Like

Ryan Spoon writes “15 Websites / Services I’d Actually Pay For.” Like Spoon, I have a top 15 list. Unlike Spoon, I’m not willing to pay for any of them. If anything on my top list started charging, I could easily find a free alternative. Would I get exactly the same benefits? No, but I’m cheap frugal.

Here’s my list and some other free alternatives:

  • WordPress. The blogging application I use on blogan.net. I’ve used both WordPress and Blogger. Blogger just works but WordPress gives incredible control. Free and open source. Alternatives: Habari, MovableType, Blogger, and many others.
  • K2 WordPress Theme. Not so much a theme as a theme foundation. Supports menus, asides, sidebar modules (much superior option to widgets), live archives, advanced navigation, live search, etc. Has an active support community. Alternatives: Too many to list.
  • Akismet. Akismet has blocked more than 135,000 spam comments from appearing on blogan.net. That’s a huge time savings. Alternatives: Bad Behavior, Spam Karma 2 (which I’m using with Akismet) or outsourcing the problem with Disqus (see below, which I believe also uses Akismet).
  • Firefox. Tabs and addons. What more can I say? Alternatives: Internet Explorer 7 or Opera. I used IE7 until I couldn’t access a web app at work. Attempting to uninstall IE7 to go back to IE6 borked my OS.
  • Firebug. Let’s me easily determine which style(s) apply to the various elements of my blog. Also makes it easy to help others debug their issues. Alternatives: The Web Developer Plugin has some of the same features, but is not a real replacement for Firebug.
  • Google Reader. I used to use a standalone RSS reader until my computer died and I lost all my feeds. Google Reader keeps track for me and lets me access my feeds from anywhere. I like the share feature and am waiting for a widget that better integrates the new share with notes feature with my blog. Alternatives: Bloglines.
  • Google Search. Google is synonymous with search for me. Alternatives: you tell me. Ms Dewey?
  • Twitter. The best address on the web to expose my life in 140-characters or less. Like Google Reader’s share feature, Twitter has decreased the volume of my blogging. Alternatives: I could use “asides” on my blog for shorts posts. But the real value of Twitter is the community. I don’t think it would exist if Twitter charged.
  • Streaming Radio Guide. A comprehensive compilation of streaming radio stations. Alternatives: I don’t know. Once I found SRG, I quit looking.
  • Simple Weather. All the weather you need and nothing else. Alternatives: Lots, but they are so cluttered compared to Simple Weather.
  • Google Maps. Fast and simple. Google continues to add new features. I particularly like being able to compare travel times for various paths between two points. Alternatives: Do people still use MapQuest?
  • myvidoop. OpenID provider that also tracks my logins and passwords for sites that don’t accept OpenID. Initial login can be a little slow. Alternatives: myOpenID and claimID, though I don’t think they track your other logins and passwords.
  • Disqus. Comment system that can be added to blogs. I like how it lets me track my comments on other blogs that also use Disqus. Alternatives: Intense Debate and others.
  • YouTube. Publish videos and watch others’. Alternatives: Bunches of them, but when people think of video on the Internet, they’re likely thinking of YouTube.
  • Snopes. If more people read Snopes, we’d have less forwarded junk mail. Alternatives: Break the Chain.

So what would you put on your top 15 list of web sites and services? Would you be willing to pay for any of them?

Hat tip: Mark Ghosh at Weblog Tools Collection, who provides his own list.