Thoughts on aggregators / planets

Just in case you are unaware, a planet in the blogging context is an aggregation of content from a list of individual sources such as blogs, journals, articles etcetera. Some examples of planets in no particular order:

Over the last couple of weeks there have been some heated words on various planets about what is acceptable content for that planet. I don’t run any of those planets so I’m not going to comment on specifics. I’ve also seen people who operate planets asking for people to join them, but only if they will post on a particular topic — in fact I’ve recently seen a request on a mailing list, which itself receives off-topic personal posts from members of its community, for bloggers who will only write on-topic posts on that community’s planet. And I’ve been added to planets which then later ask me to obey posting guidelines.

To me all this is very odd. I personally read various planets because I want to know more about the people who are in those communities and what they are up to. I appreciate the on topic posts they write but often I appreciate the slightly more personal ones even more. I like to see what people are interested in and what their values are, so to then restrict the posts to a particular topic to me seems to be counter-productive.

For the one planet that I do run, when I ask people if I can add them to it I sometimes receive the response, “Do you want me to use a tag?” or, “I’m sorry I don’t have a tag set up for this, you might get a lot of non-technical posts.” Great! If I was going to have expectations over what you are writing about then I would expect to be paying you to be a technical author for me. I don’t want that; I’m interested in what you are about.

Someone else said something like “in this day and age we have the technology to have the aggregator provide custom feeds with some people removed, and this is the way forward in dealing with people you really can’t stand to read”. I’m paraphrasing that, and I don’t remember who said it or where, but I couldn’t agree more. To me the planet is a view in to the community it represents and being a member of that community is usually all that is required to have a feed included. It does not mean that the planet operator endorses everything they say, that the reader should agree with their viewpoints or that the reader will find them an interesting person! We are presumably all grown-ups here and we can decide what to read or not.

If you are a paid blogger or if you want to make a name for yourself writing articles about a given subject then fair enough, I can understand why you might want to mark only certain articles for publication to a certain audience.

I don’t write much of value or anything contentious. I don’t write much at all, except links to strange things. I haven’t ever had a planet operator tell me that something I wrote wasn’t appropriate for their planet, but that’s probably because I’m not syndicated to many of them. But I would definitely ask to be removed before I would agree to tag posts.

Is it ever healthy to run an aggregator of personal blogs and then expect to exert editorial control over that?

Harassment of photographers

I’m getting increasingly disturbed by reports of members of the public being harassed whilst innocently taking photos. I’m going to start keeping a list of links to this sort of thing here.

See also:

Spell check in vim7 / mutt

Perhaps this is widespread knowledge but I didn’t know about it, and in the short time since dg pointed it out to me I have been loving it, so I thought I’d mention it here.

A few days ago I made stupid typos twice in a row in emails of a professional nature that I really shouldn’t be making typos in. It’s easy to say that I should be spending an extra couple of minutes to proofread, but it’s also easy to forget to do that. I commented on IRC that perhaps it was time for me to sort out spell checking in mutt and / or vim. Straight away dg said:

<dg> grifferz: just use vim 7 and:
     au BufNewFile,BufRead /tmp/mutt* set ai et tw=70 spell
<dg> or something
<grifferz> dg: I have vim7!  and this appears to work.
           thanks for the tip
<dg> vim's spelling support is pretty nice

vim 7 is standard in Debian Etch so really not all that new. And yes, it really is very nice. Here’s what I added to .vimrc:

set spelllang=en_gb
set spellfile=~/.vim/spell.en.utf-8.add

au BufNewFile,BufRead /tmp/mutt*  setf mail
au BufNewFile,BufRead /tmp/mutt*  set ai et tw=68 spell

Words that it thinks are misspelled are highlighted in red. z= when over the word to bring up a list of suggestions. zg to permanently add the word to the spellfile.

Start wearing purple

(OK, the Gogol Bordello guy is from Ukraine not Poland but I am lacking in inspiration at this time)

At mbm/Mel/Tom‘s triple (yeah, really) leaving drinks Friday night, I was talking to Kvik about his forthcoming wedding. It went a bit like this:

Me: When is it you’re getting married?
Kvik: August
Me: Wow, not long to go…
Kvik: Yeah! I asked everyone if they wanted to come but only mbm replied…
Me: What!? I never heard about this. Where did you say this?
Kvik: In [obscure IRC channel]
Me: People go days without looking in there!
Kvik: Meh.. you want to come?
Me: Yeah! Of course!
Kvik: Excellent!
Me: Great..! Well, as long as it’s in London..
Kvik: No, it’s in Poland!
Me: [pause] Ah.

Today I’ve examined this to be sure it wasn’t just the effects of alcohol but, well, why not? So I guess I am going to Poland in August.