Sunday, September 17, 2006

Blogger's Block #1: Joelprah

Part 1 of an N-part series of short posts intended to clear out my bloggestive tract. Hold your nose!

Ever since my last entry I've had blogger's block. Haven't been able to write a thing. I've tried, but haven't made any progress on anything.

Partly it's because I hinted I'd be writing about a controversial technical topic next. I was going to, but I can't seem to bring myself to talk about it. I've tried exactly umpteen approaches, many of them over half finished. None of them quite hit the mark. You make a promise like that, and I think you'll find it hard to keep. I know I have.

It's also partly because I was finishing up a long-ish project at work, and then I went on a much-needed vacation for 2 weeks. Of course I just stayed at home and worked on a new Ruby on Rails site, which might not sound like much of a vacation to you, but if you've been working with the web technologies I've been working with lately... let's just say RoR is like having a pillow surgically removed from your face. I can breathe again.

Incidentally, my game-and-blog server has been down for a week, since I decided to shepherd it into our current century by upgrading from RedHat 7.3 to the latest Ubuntu. Wow. Ubuntu rocks. Everything just works, including apt-getting a smp kernel and rebooting. So now I can drag the server back to the dismal concrete bunker in downtown Seattle where my ISP hosts the thing.

I moved the old Drunken Blog Rants, though. They're now all hosted in They were (inexplicably, as always) getting a lot of traffic, and it was really eating into the CPU and bandwidth for my game, so I've moved them to a place where they'll presumably have better latency and availability. When my old server comes back online, I've just told Apache to do permanent redirects for the 50-odd articles.

Putting them in Google Pages was pretty easy. I eventually wound up getting to where I could port one in about 90 seconds, so the whole exercise only took a few hours. It really was the perfect place to host them: they're mostly static content, and I just needed a permanent place for them to live. Google has a way of creating things I actually use. Blogger's just good enough. The spreadsheet is just good enough (I use it for my diet log). Google Pages is just good enough. And so on. I'm living more and more in my browser now because of Google.

I work there now, you know. A teeny fish in a big ocean of brilliant people. I'll blog about that a bit in one of my upcoming bloguettes, I think.

So where was I? Oh yeah. Blogger's block. It wasn't just the Mystery Tech Topic that's had me blocked, nor was it entirely the vacation. There are some other weird things going on, and I'm going to have to learn to deal with them or I'll never be able to write anything again.

First, my blog got really popular after Joel Spolsky linked to it. That guy is like the Oprah Winfrey of tech blogging. Yeah, I watch Oprah. I can't help it. When my wife's watching it, I try to ignore it as best I can. But then I sneak a peek, or I laugh at one of her jokes or one of her guests' jokes, and then I'm hooked until it's over. My wife Linh says Oprah is the most powerful woman in the U.S. Linh says that if Oprah told every woman in the United States to go jump off a cliff, they'd do it. Oprah, don't do it!

Well, if Joel told all the techies to go jump off a cliff, I'm sure only a handful of them would do it, probably just the parkour wannabes. But when he tells them all to go read my blog... well, I used to get a max of 8,000 to 9,000 hits a day. After Joel linked to me a couple of times, about 70,000 people came and peered at my blog, most of them newcomers.

After your blog gets that popular, even for a little while, you'd better grow a thick skin fast. I've seen people praise Joel and bash on Joel (more of the former, generally), and I've been able to read both sides with interest but without emotion. Just try doing the no-emotion thing when they're talking about YOU.

I mean 70,000 people is like a stadium-full. Imagine all of them glaring at you. Imagine them wanting to lynch you! Some of them did!

So I'd been planning to write an entry once a week, even a small one, and thanks to the Mystery Topic and Oprah-Joel and my work project and my vacation and whatnot, I haven't posted in over a month.

To help me overcome this block-thing, I'm just going to post small stuff for a while. It's the #1 rule of blogging, you know: when in doubt, spew it out. If you say something incredibly stupid and insensitive, no big deal, everyone will just despise you.


Well, we'll see how it goes. Maybe writing short articles will help. I have a whole bunch of things queued up that I'd like to write about. Maybe just writing about them will clear this whole blog-constipation problem up, and I can get back to pooping out entries with my usual, um, ah... my metaphor has stretched to the breaking point here... with my usual "aplomb". Ahem.

If that fails, I might just start writing under a pen name. Heck, my blogs would probably be a lot better for it, and more frequent to boot.

This is a hard problem. We'll see how it goes!


Blogger Thomas David Baker said...

This is a hard problem.

Yesterday I posted a 10 minute dashed off article to for the first time. More as an experiment than anything else. In less than 24 hours it's had 78 comments. At least 20 of which basically call me an idiot. Mostly for slagging off Python.

I tried to find it amusing but it is actually kind of hurtful. I can only imagine what it is like with your kind of traffic!

One thing I would say is that this is one of the 2 or 3 blogs that I am really, really pleased to see has a new post. So pleeeeeease don't go quiet on us.

As for solutions to the problem, you can't change everyone out there. So I really can't come up with anything better than either turning off comments (not much fun) or just trying to grow a thicker hide.

I don't think most of the people that write nasty comments would write them if they thought they were hurting anyone. But perhaps they would, if they feel they are revealing "truth" to someone in that programmer/engineer way.

1:42 AM, September 17, 2006  
Blogger Charles said...

Glad to have you back, your rants are always great to read, although I was kind of worried when "Clothes of the Soul" was the latest post for a month or so. :P

4:38 AM, September 17, 2006  
Blogger Unknown said...

Well Steve, you could always move your server over to our stylish "data center in the sky" over at Westin. Since you always used to beat me when we raced trying to unscramble rubik's cubes in high school, I'll give you a 50% discount.

Jacob Stewart
[/Shameless Plug]
P.S., let's get together for lunch some day. . . .

2:26 PM, September 17, 2006  
Blogger dvnu said...

People will dispise you anyway, either long or short posts neutral or polemic.
They do because criticising is easier then writing an essay or a structured point of view.

4:04 AM, September 18, 2006  
Blogger Phil said...

I'm living more and more in my browser now because of Google.

This has been happening to me too, and it's really bothering me since my browser is not emacs, which sucks. How have you been dealing with this problem? w3m-mode? Conkeror? Or are you working on a hybrid to combine the power of emacs with the power of gecko?

It's a tricky problem, and it's been bugging me for a while now. What are your thoughts on how the situation could be improved?

8:43 AM, September 18, 2006  
Blogger Alexandre said...

I decided to shepherd it into our current century by upgrading from RedHat 7.3 to the latest Ubuntu. Wow. Ubuntu rocks.

Cool. Is there things you feel that could be improved?

3:51 PM, September 21, 2006  
Blogger bjkeefe said...

Steve --

I hope you've overcome your recent pledge to avoid reading comments, or that someone who knows how to get in touch with you tells you about this.

It's fine that you moved the Drunken Blog Rants to another server, but I think it is a fundamental matter of Web courtesy to create redirection pages for the stuff that used to live on the old server. There are any number of pages out there that link to your old stuff (which is way good, btw), and you shouldn't just abandon them/break those links.

Presumably, you could set up the old site so that it is serving nothing but redirection links, or, at least, one helpful 404-type page that points the surfers to the new location. This seems like a fairly inexpensive service to provide, in terms of bandwidth and CPU cycles.


8:49 AM, September 23, 2006  
Blogger Loki said...

Brendan - He addressed that. He has taken the whole server down that hosted the Drunken Blog rants to work on it as there are a number of huge issues with it that are causing problems for his game. So, the links are unavailable at the moment due to something that is totally unavoidable (players cannot even get to the webpages of his game to find out why the game hasn't been working recently and I'm sure many think the worst right now). When the server goes back up he said it would redirect them to where the Drunken Blog rants are now hosted.

11:01 PM, September 23, 2006  
Blogger Steve Yegge said...

Loki: spot on.

Alexandre: Yes. The biggest thing holding me back from putting my server back online is setting up a firewall. I'm a busy guy, and I have fairly minimal firewalling needs, so I'd prefer to use a utility rather than reading a 1000-page iptables tutorial and then screwing it up.

What I need is a convenient, terminal-oriented firewall configuration tool. I used to use Bastille, and maybe I'll go back to it. I'm currently trying FireHOL; it's a great idea but has comically crappy documentation, and it's already locked me out at least once.

I'm sure the graphical firewall utilities are great, but I'm going to be putting my server in a building that's hard for me to get physical access to, so I want one that can be administered via ssh.

It feels to me like Ubuntu has made everything insanely easy except for this. Firewall configuration is still too hard for the casual Linux administrator.

1:53 AM, September 25, 2006  
Blogger Brian said...

Always pleased to read one of your posts. Please keep them coming.

I agree about Ubuntu. Switched to it on my laptop about a year ago after years and years of RedHat something or other on desktops and laptop. It all worked and worked well. But the one thing really is the firewall. I recently used Bastille on a Debian 3.1 box. I'm thinking of using it on Ubuntu. Please do share what you decide to go with.

11:38 PM, September 28, 2006  
Blogger review said...

Nice post

4:02 PM, June 20, 2007  

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