Testing a site-wide posts plugin

I’ve got a few testbeds splattered across my site right now for the purposes of testing a plugin that I’d like to pressgang into use network-wide. One major problem we’ve had historically is a lack of visibility from one blog to another. With everyone lamenting that Ed Brayton is leaving, and that that’s the only blog they read (outside Pharyngula), those of us hardscrabble waifs fighting over the crumbs of traffic after the big men get their share, I’d like to make sure that the fact that we’re scrambling for those crumbs is perfectly apparent to everyone.

You eagle-eyed readers have probably noticed that I have three new pages on my blog: Random Network Posts, Last 50 Posts, and Last 2 Posts on Each Blog.

The first shows a completely random post from every single blog that is both public and not rated Mature (as Taslima and Maryam’s blogs are — by necessity, to keep Google from freaking out about their frequently posting things like pictures of acid attack victims, etc). The second shows a sort of feed-like view, with the last 50 posts across the network (and three more pages of 50 if you want to drill backward). The third is something approximating the old homepage, with the last two posts from every single blog — sadly, with no visual break between the blogs, and unfortunately, with the two posts reversed time-wise.

Also, my widget does something unique — it shows the latest post from the last ten blogs that have written a post, rather than displaying the last ten blog posts in toto. This still advantages frequent-posters like Pharyngula, in that it’ll probably always be in that top ten, but it doesn’t spam out the rest of us.

The visuals are absolutely shit, right now, though. It’s not suitable as a front page in its current form. But with some CSS massaging, and maybe hacking the plugin a bit to suit our needs, it could be pressganged to provide some serious and much-needed cross-site visibility.

What do you folks think? How could it be improved? What sorts of sorting schemes would you like to see? How useful do you think these are?

Accounting.

I’ve been doing a lot of mental calculations lately, trying to triangulate on my courses of action that result in maximal good for all the people who deserve it the most. I have a lot of competing and mutually exclusive variables in my head, though. I figure if I lay these variables all out, publicly, putting all my cards on the table, someone can help me figure out which ones I can discard and redraw, and maybe point out where I might have a better hand than I think.

I’m going to pay a number of costs for writing this post, but I’m writing it because some people I love and trust have privately told me they think I’ve fucked up. I’m going to do my damnedest to repair that perception, and the only way to do it is publicly, because other avenues have been cut off to me.

Much of this is old business, and I’ve been bottling this up for a bit. Bear with me. Once that’s through, you’ll get to new info.

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FtBCon 3: Confirmed Participants

Cross-posted from FtBCon:
Here’s a preliminary list of confirmed participants for Freethought Blogs’ FtBConscience 3. This list is subject to change, but at time of writing, all participants have confirmed their availability for panels and talks for the conference.

FtB Bloggers:

  • Alex Gabriel
  • Heina Dadabhoy
  • Jason Thibeault
  • Miri Mogilevsky
  • Richard Carrier
  • Russell Glasser
  • Stephanie Zvan
  • Tauriq Moosa

Invited Guests:

  • Adam Lee
  • Amy Boyle
  • Amy Davis Roth
  • Ben Blanchard
  • Caleb Harper
  • Cerberus
  • Chana Messinger
  • Cindy Cooper
  • Dan Fincke
  • Dan Linford
  • Dan Williams
  • Danny Samuelson
  • Debbie Goddard
  • Donald Wright
  • Ed Cara
  • Elizabeth
  • Erin
  • Franklin Veaux
  • Harry Shaughnessy
  • Hiba Krisht
  • HJ Hornbeck
  • James Billingham
  • James Croft
  • Jared Axelrod
  • Josiah “Biblename”
  • Karen Hill
  • Karen Stollznow
  • Kaveh Mousavi
  • Kay Vee
  • Lauren Lane
  • Leigh Honeywell
  • Lilandra Ra
  • MA Melby
  • Mai Dao
  • Maria Greene
  • Matt Lowry
  • Michael Damian Thomas
  • Michael Nam
  • Michelle Huey
  • Misha Greenbaum
  • Misty Taylor
  • Monette Richards
  • Muhammad Syed
  • Neil Wehneman
  • Nick Fish
  • Nick Geiger
  • Niki Massey
  • Olivia James
  • Raina Rhoades
  • Razib Khan
  • Reem Abdel-Razek
  • Rich Wisneski
  • RJ Redden
  • Sakeena Almulhida
  • Sastra / Sue Strandberg
  • Scott Lohman
  • Shelly Henry
  • Susan Porter
  • Tim Farley
  • Trina Gardinier
  • Tristan Miller
  • Valerie Aurora
  • Vic Wang
  • Vivian
  • Vyckie Garrison
  • Wesley Fenza
  • Yau Man Chan

We hope to add more to our roster as panels are finalized in the run up to the convention. Hope to see you there!

On Avicenna, plagiarism, and thanking those who regularly cry wolf while flailing us raw

Today, on the heels of a very bad overnight shift that had already despoiled my mental resources and spoiled my mood, I woke up to learn that one of our bloggers, Avicenna, had committed a cardinal sin and was kicked out of the network as a result. He’d plagiarised large sections of text from a wide variety of sources and incorporated those appropriated words into his post without attribution, and he’d done it serially, on a number of occasions.

In comments, much is being made of his quality of output, that it is unpolished, rambling, unstructured; these are absolutely forgivable in my eyes because what he was passionate about, what he decried or wrote in support of, I largely felt the same way. My main problem with his writing now, knowing that he’s plagiarized with such aplomb, is that I’m now inclined to wonder if every moment of lucidity he had actually came from someone else.
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Beta-testing a new feature.

I’ve had the plugin that I’ve been talking about for Freethought Blogs mostly-done for a few weeks now, and I’ve had it installed on the live server for that time with no ill effects. Tonight, I managed to get the final pieces of the puzzle out of the way, and it’s ready to go live.

However, I never like to go into production without a slow rollout, with only the bravest of the brave testing out the features and making sure things are kosher. So, here we are.
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The contact form is now changed…

Ed got annoyed after one too many letters like this:

Name: kristopher kusch
Comment: I would start off by saying that even though I disagree with your faith, I do respect that you have one. Faith is believing in things that you cant see,so with that thought yes by definition people who believe in Jesus are opperating in faith. The fact that you haven’t seen him and dont believe in him follows that same amount of faith. I would add that my heart isn’t to prove you wrong. What I’m asking you to consider is this, is it possible that you are angry with God.

SNIP.

My only response to this, was “*sigh*”.

So, because of his annoyance, the contact form has been modified to be for technical support only. I included the language he gave me verbatim. (With a slight tweak to retain the “we will do whatever we want with the info you put in this form, be warned” language I inserted the first time around. You know, the language that gives me carte blanche to post this.)

The full rant is below the fold, if you’re interested.
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Weird login redirect issue should be fixed

Some folks have complained that when clicking on the FtB logo above the comment forms at any blog where anonymous comments are allowed, they were being redirected to a presently-useless dashboard page and had to manually navigate back to the thread they wanted to post at. This isn’t the behaviour exhibited on blogs that require sign-in — the login links send you back to the post you were at, after logging in via the WordPress login form.

I’ve committed a change on the live site that should fix this, constructing the “log in” link added by the theme, identically to how the Graphene-stock link is constructed. As an added kindness, I’ve also changed the top “Account Dashboard” icon (the WordPress icon) to go to the blog’s dashboard, rather than the whole site’s, just in case you happen to be a subscriber / submitter / author. Regular users shouldn’t be affected, but I’m letting you know regardless.

I’ve tested these changes, but I’m not 100% sure I’ve covered all border cases. If there are issues, let me know here please.

Solidarity at #wiscfi

You might have seen this FtB solidarity photo from Women In Secularism 2 floating around, where the members who were on-hand after Maryam’s talk got a group photo taken with our signs expressing solidarity with the atheists in Muslim countries who are being persecuted for daring to think freely — whose lives are made miserable, and in some cases made forfeit, because they dare disagree with the majority.

Stephanie Zvan, Ophelia Benson, Brianne Bilyeu, Maryam Namazie, Jason Thibeault, Kate Donovan, Miriam Mogilevski, PZ Myers, Ashley Miller. Photo by Brian D. Engler.

Stephanie Zvan, Ophelia Benson, Brianne Bilyeu, Maryam Namazie, Jason Thibeault, Kate Donovan, Miriam Mogilevski, PZ Myers, Ashley Miller. Photo by Brian D. Engler.

Left to right, signs say:

Free
Happy
Defiant
Ateist
– Stephanie Zvan

WE ARE ATHEIST
WE
ARE
WITH
YOU
– Ophelia Benson

Recognize The
WORTH of
Non Believers –
– Respect The
RIGHTS of
Non Believers
I stand in SOLIDARITY with
ATHEISTS!
– Brianne Bilyeu

THOUGHT
IS
NOT
A CRIME
– Jason Thibeault

We stand
with you
– Kate Donovan

Secularism for
ALL women –
NOT just Western!
– Miriam Mogilevski

ATHEISM
IS A VIRTUE
NOT A CRIME
– PZ Myers

Together
We are
Stronger
– Ashley Miller

(You might also have seen a photoshopped version of this photo stripping it of its important message and making it all about a certain self-promoting asshole. That’s, I’m sure, SLIGHTLY more important than decrying the human rights violations perpetrated on fellow atheists, right?)

But you may not have seen the full scope of this effort.
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The Petition to Ask Freethought Blogs and Skepchick to “Return to Critical Thinking”

I’m not going to pretend that this petition by Rocko 2246 from Australia is going to succeed, but it merits discussion at least. In fact, unless we have a crowdsourced effort by people at this blog and others on “our side” of the great rift, I seriously doubt they could get 100 unique signatures per their current goal, which is at 21 signatures (at time of writing).

If any part of this petition were unequivocally true, I would throw my full weight behind it because the picture it paints of our community… oh, it is dire. It is evidently a response to Adam Lee’s petition to the leaders of our communities, asking them to not fall for Thunderfoot’s framings on certain issues — given that the Foot has apparently spread a few of these videos around to the leaders of our communities asking them to “shun” the feminists “pouring poison” in the ears of said communities. This petition is apparently the third motion in a back-and-forth that started by Thunderfoot.

Stephanie alerted us to this petition’s existence, otherwise I’d never have known it was created. It is vitally important that we know, though. Considering we’re the subject matter, and if they succeed in getting a hundred signatures FtB will be the recipient of an email that reads as follows, I figure I should make sure everyone’s absolutely aware what 21 people (at time of writing) want us to do:

To:
Skepchick.org, FreeThoughtBlogs
Return to critical thinking and respectful free exchange of ideas
Sincerely,
[Your name]

So, if this petition fails in its goal, I want to make absolutely certain that it does not fail as a result of being underpublicized. Basically, I want to make sure it doesn’t fail on account of me. And I will consider it, in its entirety, on its merits. Because that is what one does with the respectful free exchange of ideas: thinking critically about them.
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Trolls are spoofing commentariat and authors (Update: countermeasures!)

Thanks to the spate of trolls (who are, in fact, members of our rationalist community!) spoofing our users, owing mostly to their levels of immaturity and the realization that they can type other people’s identities in the comment fields, a few blogs are turning on comment registration. I strongly advise that, even if your primary hangout is a blog that does not require registration, you should consider registering your username/email address anyway.

If you’ve already registered your account, and you need to edit your profile because the display name or email address are no longer valid, the top bar shows a “Howdy, username” link on the right. Hover over it, then click on Edit My Profile. You should also be able to get to it by clicking here — but that link might change depending on your user access level and future WordPress changes. The top bar should always be right.

I have no intention of turning on comment registration at my blog. I am instead working on making changes on the network (via a plugin or via editing the core of WordPress) to ensure that anonymous users cannot use a username or email address of a registered user. If you want to protect your name here, I strongly advise you register your account.

The registration process can use Facebook, Twitter or WordPress as authentication tokens, so you don’t necessarily have to build an account unique to Freethoughtblogs. Our software will rely on those sites’ auth APIs, and won’t ever see your login information. However, if you use these options, I strongly advise that you also log into your profile per the above instructions before making a comment, and set all the options appropriately. Otherwise your display name will show as “sc_{random characters}”, which is dead ugly.

Update: I’ve installed a plugin network-wide that protects login names and email addresses from being spoofed by anonymous users. It doesn’t protect the display name though — if your display name is something different from your login name, this won’t help you much. On blogs where registration is required, people shouldn’t notice a difference. And I’m sure asshats can still spoof people with a fair degree of fidelity to casual outside observers (I can think of two ways myself — there might be more), but this at least gives us an idea of when it’s happening.

Regardless, register your accounts.