You can edit your comments, but it’s time-limited

Our crack web designer has taken a common readers’ (and my) suggestion on board, so you now have the ability to edit your comments.  You’ll see when you post your comment, though, that a little clock starts running beside it. That means you have FIFTEEN MINUTES to edit your comment before it becomes set in stone.

This allows people to correct spelling or grammar mistakes, or fix infelicities of prose, but not to modify comments in light of later comments. That seems like a fair solution to me.

There will be other changes, all of which, I hope will constitute improvements. Stay tuned.

Crowdsourcing new web designs and site features

For a possible change in the design of this site—which will be a conservative change as I don’t want major changes in appearance—I’m asking readers to comment below about what features they like and don’t like. I am aware of some of the glitches, like having to fill in your name and email each time you comment, while others I don’t know about (mobile appearance, as I never access my site on a phone). I also know that some of the links that used to be on the right sidebar are broken.  Futher, some people like the new “like” buttons for posts and comments, while others don’t.

At any rate, you have about a day to give me recommendations for fixes as well as features that you’d like to stay. I can’t satisfy everyone’s wishes, but I do want to make the site user-friendly—and the main user is me.  But, while we have a chance, you are encouraged to sound off below.


One more post about WordPress glitches

I’m getting fed up with the unresponsiveness of WordPress, which changes formats without warning, causing problems for this site and others. Yesterday I was informed, after several glitches over the past few days, that my “theme” is no longer supported, though I was told the day before that that everything would be fixed.

As a result of these problems, I’m informing readers about the changes that have occurred, how to deal with them, and then I’ll advertise for someone to redesign this site.

First, the left and right sidebars, with the search boxes, number of subscribers, and place to subscribe yourself, have somehow combined and migrated to the bottom of the screen, so if you want to find them, don’t look top right and left, but scroll all the way down. As for making comments, you may have to fill in your information when you do. (I have to do this as well, and never had to before.) Chrome autofill might make this easier. There’s also a new “like” button for comments, which appeared briefly during the last glitch about a year ago (it mysteriously disappeared). Use it or ignore it if you wish.

My own posting has become quite a bit harder. The site runs much more slowly, embedding photos is extremely slow, and I can no longer insert, say, New York Times URLs and have the article appear as a click-on shot. Instead, I must take a screenshot and then link it to the article. Saving drafts and resurrecting up past drafts takes a lot of time. I’m bearing with it, though life is short.

For me, the obvious remedy is to find someone to redesign the site, using a theme that is supported. (I’m sufficiently conservative to not want to migrate to a new host.) My wish is to keep the appearance of the site as unchanged as possible given the use of a new theme. In that way I’m also a conservative, though open to suggestions. Thus, I’m looking around for someone who can redesign a site to make it work well, but also to keep it much the same. If you have extensive experience designing WordPress sites, and are willing to play around with this one, please get in touch with me (email is best). I am of course willing to remunerate designers for their time and work.

My other alternative is to say screw it and stop writing here, but I’m not ready to do that. I know this because I felt pretty bad yesterday having to deal with these issues, which meant to me that I’m not yet ready to throw in the towel. But damn, WordPress is an unresponsive organization, despite the dosh I give them under the expensive “business plan.”

Some stats on this site (and some ducks)

I just noticed how many posts I’ve made on this site, and decided to do a few quick calculations.

This website began on January 22, 2009, with the first post being a short announcement that I’d published a Letter to Charles Darwin on the Oxford University Press website. Today, September 10, 2020, makes 4250 days since the site began. And, if you include this one, the total number of posts is 22,660, with the number of comments adding up to 1,113,584.

This works out to be 5.33 posts per day, 262 comments per day, and 49.14 comments per post (I was chagrined when it went below 50). I can’t believe I’ve written nearly 23,000 posts, and that doesn’t include the 1,587 posts that are drafts, the vast majority of which will never see the light of day.

I think it’s the equivalent of a large book, but nobody has read the whole thing. Looking at the early posts, readers have come and gone, some bored, some ticked off, and some, like the old faithful Ben Goren, getting married and adopting a much bigger interest. Still, subscribers become more numerous, and perhaps I’ll see 75,000 before I die. But of course this all becomes useless when I go underground, and then lost forever when the Sun burns up the Earth.

Well, the mallards will vanish too, but right now I have to feed them. The males are getting their green heads, and I’ve never seen them green up before. The sexually selected and iridescent raiment starts as a patch on their forehead and a mustache by their bills, and then spreads over their heads. Maybe they’ll be fully green when they leave.

They’re almost prettier when they’re half green than when their in their full resplendent sexual plumage.  The pictures below, taken today, show several drakes in Botany Pond. I think it’s fairly early for the males to get their colors, but it’s been a screwed-up year.

“New drake, who dis?”

A screw-up (mine)

About half an hour ago I put up a post (“Did CNN edit out a bit about the Jews from Martin Luther King’s last speech?”) about Martin Luther King’s famous “I’ve been to the mountaintop” speech, comparing a transcript from CNN with an “authenticated” one from American Rhetoric. As the website FirstOne Through noticed, the former had left out a bit about the Jews’ exodus from Egypt, taking this to mean that CNN had a bias against Israel or Zionism and deliberately edited out the passage.  I did a “compare documents” for the two transcripts, and while I found some changes in wording between them, I couldn’t find an omission as big as the removal of the phrase about the Exodus. So I left the CNN omission as a mystery, possibly, but not strongly, suggesting an anti-Israel bias.

Greg Mayer did a similar comparison, but using a better version of “compare documents” that shows all three documents (the two originals and the highlighted differences) in a single window, and found a number of disparities between the CNN and American Rhetoric transcript, mostly involving omissions of stuff from CNN that appeared in the “authenticated” transcript. As Greg wrote me:

Regarding the “Mountain Top” speech draft, the CNN transcript lacks a number of lines, scattered throughout the text– involving Greeks, sanitation workers, Vanderbilt University, etc.– that indicate there was no animus in the errors (assuming American Rhetoric is a correct transcript). The CNN transcript includes named mentions of Jews— “Amos”, the “Levites”— while the “redacted” bit is only an allusion.

The guy at First One Through may most charitably be viewed as paranoid.

Clearly I didn’t do due diligence in the comparison, so I’ve taken that down that post and apologize if you had to read it. CNN’s treatment of the speech must be regarded as slipshod and inaccurate, but there’s no indication of malfeasance or anti-Zionism.

Feedback on the site

I’m soliciting feedback on the content on this site, but, as a sensitive lad, I’m asking you to refrain from harshness or saying stuff like “I don’t like the Caturday felids” or such.  Rather, by telling me what you especially like, or want more of, I can get an idea of what doesn’t excite people. Note: I am not seeking affirmation that you like this site, but rather to know aspects of the site you like, and what you’d like to see more of.

Why am I asking? Well, as with many, the pandemic has taken some of the wind out of my sails, and so I was thinking of injecting some new stuff into the site. I have some ideas, but would like to hear more,, as there might be some good ideas out there. When I was fretful about not being able to travel, for example, Matthew suggested that I write about my past travels—something I hadn’t thought of.  And I enjoyed doing that.

Examples of regular posts that I make: Hili dialogue (this has been a fixture for years, and I’m loath to change it much), duck posts (ditto; they’re gonna stay!), readers’ wildlife, photos of readers, science posts, posts about the excesses of the Left, words and phrases I abhor, music posts, and so on. If you’re a regular, you’ll know the format.



New WordPress glitch involving commenting

All of us, including me, are now subject to a new glitch on the site. When you want to leave a comment, you have to do so at the bottom of all the comments, which will show your sign-in requisites. Further, if you want to reply to a comment already on the thread, PLEASE hit “reply” below the comment to which you’re replying. The same sign-in box will appear, but your comment will be properly placed as a reply.

I don’t like this any more than you do, and I am fighting with WordPress, who says it’s an unavoidable “occurrence” with an outdated site design. I don’t believe that, as surely something can be reversed to fix it. At any rate, I ask you not to be deterred by this new glitch. I’ll try to get it fixed, but please bear with it until it is fixed (or not).

—The Management

On restraint in commenting

I must note once again that some commenters are taking up an inordinate amount of space on threads, sometimes making 20 comments or so in a 60-comment thread.  While I like readers to comment, dominating threads in this way is something I speak about in Da Roolz:

9. Try not to dominate threads, particularly in a one-on-one argument. I’ve found that those are rarely informative, and the participants never reach agreement. A good guideline is that if your comments constitute over 10% of the comments on a thread, you’re posting too much.

Well, I’ll extend that to 15%, but that’s still almost one comment out of six, and that seems a bit domineering to me.  I also don’t like one-on-one arguments if they extend beyond a couple of exchanges, as they constitute a derailment of the discussion onto one’s own personal track.

Ask yourself this when you’re poised to comment, “Does this remark advance the discussion, or bring up some new or interesting point, or does it just allow me to flaunt my own views?” If it’s the latter, restrain thyself!

On blogger’s block

Yes, I used the b-word, as “website-writer’s block” has neither beauty nor alliteration. At any rate, I usually have a few things to read in the evening that I might post about here the next day. Yesterday I had nothing: everything I read, including a science paper, was either tedious, poorly written, said nothing new, or wasn’t intriguing.

And then I remembered that for about the first 8 years of this site or so, I wouldn’t have the slightest idea what I was going to write about when I walked to work in the morning. In fact, that was a pleasure: to see a website appear out of neurons and thin air.

Those days are gone. In fact, they’re so gone that, when I was in that situation this morning, I felt I had to apologize for it here. Why? I suppose I feel a greater responsibility to produce content, and that’s buttressed by the many people who write me saying that they’re faithful readers, with some averring that WEIT is the first thing they read in the morning with their coffee. While that pleases me immensely, it also has imposed a bit of pressure on me to keep the interesting posts coming. I remember fondly the days when I didn’t feel that pressure, though I haven’t looked back to see if I post more now than I used to.  (The total number of posts, by the way, has been 22,285, including this one, with 1,098,183 comments.)

One result is that I’m constantly starting posts and discarding them when I lose interest: the third figure below is stuff that you’ll probably never see:

There’s an 80-page list of draft posts, and I might as well delete them all save the Caturday felid posts, which I construct as readers send me cat items.

The other result—and not a good one—is that sometimes I weigh what interests me against what might interest the readers. When they coincide, it’s good. Often they don’t, as in cat posts, boot posts, duck posts, and even science posts. But when I think that what interests me might bore other people, I go ahead and post. When the converse obtains, I deep-six the post, accounting for the 1,586 draft posts.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the 10+ years I’ve been writing this site, it’s that I have to write about what intrigues me rather what I think would incite readership and discussion. (I could, for example, write a gazillion posts dissing Trump, but that’s just boring; go to HuffPost or the New York Times if you want that.) So nothing much will change, though I’m delighted to receive suggestions (except for those urging me to can the duck and cat posts!) The mantra will remain, “to thine own interests be true.”

Oh, I just thought of something to write about!

More improvements of this website for mobile devices

I’ve added, with the kind help of a tech-savvy reader, additional script on my dashboard that should further improve the appearance of this site on your mobile “device” beyond this morning’s changes. Try reading it on your phone and report the results below.  The tech person will be listening to comments.

This is how the appearance should improve, including larger font: