Archive for Administration

More meta-commentary

Someone using the moniker "Tarlach" tried to post a number of comments last night. This one, related to Chris Potts' post "Probably they shouldn't", was typical:

Actual speaks of language have no problems with antecedents. They are completly un-noteworthy, and I don't understand why people make posts about these un-noteworthy language events on here. If Obama's slogan was "Yes, Fred can!" with no common perception of who the hell Fred is, that would be noteworthy.

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LL to be down 10:00-16:00 12/20/2008

Due to a scheduled power interruption in the building where our server is located, Language Log will be unavailable between approximately 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. tomorrow, Dec. 20. (That would be 3:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. GMT, if I've done the arithmetic right.)

[Update 12:07 12/20: Or maybe not — in fact, things seemed to go down in the wee hours of the morning, and they're back as now, which is noon, and might be down later. Anyhow, everything seems to be OK…]

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A comment about comments

Earlier today, someone calling himself (?) Baishui submitted this comment on Victor Mair's post Burlesque Matinée at the Max Planck Gesellschaft:

My comments were deleted twice here. Apparently, someone is offended by me saying 'this incident shows how ignorant the West (and its academics) are of the non-Western world'. What pettiness!

I deleted this comment, just as I had deleted the same individual's first attempt, which consisted only of a one-sentence indictment of Western academics, and the second attempt, which added the accusation of censorship.

In an attempt to maintain a reasonable signal-to-noise ratio in the comments section, I'll continue to be skeptical of comments that lack specific and relevant content. To put this skepticism into context, though, you need to understand something about how comments work in a standard WordPress blog.

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Take our survey

For some weeks now I have been assigned to the Financial Good News Desk here at Language Log Plaza. It took me longer than it should have done for me to realize that this was just some sort of practical joke aimed at making sure I did not write anything, apparently because of pressure from the office of the Vice President of the United States (because of posts like this one, I suppose). I eventually applied for a transfer, and have now been assigned to the Research Survey Department. So I have to send out surveys. Please answer the questions below in your own time despite the considerable difficulties with format and the obscurity of the questions, and return by email at our convenience to surveys@research.languagelog.com, where an automatic system will use it to generate data entirely for our benefit rather than yours.

Do you believe the world has gone survey mad and that nearly all surveys done are a gigantic waste of time? __ strongly agree
__ sort of agree
__ utterly undecided
__ hardly care
__ sort of disagree
__ strongly disagree
Do you think surveys asking for people's opinions about the way things are, rather than verifiable things they have done, are an even more extreme form of stupidity, resulting in nonsense like "43% of employees believe managers may be snooping on them" being passed off as news or even social science? __ strongly agree
__ sort of agree
__ utterly undecided
__ hardly care
__ sort of disagree
__ strongly disagree

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Taking Sunday off

Because of scheduled work on power lines in the building where the Language Log server sits, we'll be off the net between midnight and about 4:00 p.m. on Sunday, September 28.

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A little spam

A bit of frivolity…

As the spam queue on New Language Log approaches 9,000 items (rapidly), I offer four comments from my favorite spammer, which combine the congratulatory content of so much spam commentary with astonishing syntax:

I is pleasantly amazd! Thank!!!

This simply prodigy!

There was merrily!

The Good lad an author! I much like site!

There's more, of course. This particular spammer hasn't been around for a while, so that the minute or so I take each day to mark items as spam and to de-spam misclassified items  is more boring than it was for a while.

Note to commenters: if you put a URI "in the clear" (printed out, rather than inserted into an "a" tag) in your comment, Akismet is likely to mark your comment as spam (because one variety of spam comments consists almost entirely of lists of such URIs). I sometimes do that myself, when the URI is the main content of my comment; but then I expect to have to de-spam my own comment.

 

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User fees?

Please note: Mark's passing along of today's Cathy comic should be seen before reading this post.                                                                                                                               We get amazingly few complaints about the organization and management here at Language Log Plaza, perhaps because currently we have no surcharges or extra hidden costs. In case you haven't noticed, we actually have no charges at all. So we can't be accused of having middlemen, speculators, price-fixing, lack of transparency, add-on fuel consumption charges, or less than full disclosure of our accounting procedures. In fact, it appears that we don't even have any of these. Come to think about it, compared with utilities companies or, ugh, airlines, or the websites of many journals, Language Log can't be accused of being very cost conscious.

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Myriad

My posting on glass as a technical term, with both mass and count uses, elicited an off-topic thread on myriad, which I'll reproduce below, after some (more) discussion of the Language Log comments policy.

The thread began with this query from kip on 8/1 at 9:58 a.m. (times are U.S. Eastern Time):

Does anyone else have a mass/collective distinction problem with the word "myriad"? I see uses like "the movie has myriad problems" and in my head I change it to "the movie has a myriad of problems" because that's what sounds right to me. Maybe I'm alone in that though…

So what's the problem with this comment?

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Comments

Did you know that Language Log has a comments policy? Have you read it? If not, go and read it now, and if so, refresh your memory; look at the bar at the top of the main page, where it says

Home   About   Comments policy

and click on "Comments policy". There you will find the instruction

Be relevant. As bloggers, we write about whatever we want to. As a commenter, you should comment on the contents of the post you're commenting on. If you want to write about something else, do it on your own blog.

Commenters have violated this injunction again and again (for reasons I think I understand). The comments policy goes on to say

Comments that violate these guidelines will be deleted. Repeat offenders may be banned.

but in fact we've been extraordinarily tolerant of errant comments, even allowing comments that explicitly introduce topics that have nothing to do with the topic of the original posting. These are the most flagrant violations, but there are more subtle ones.

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Admin update

I've recently done a bit of site-administration hacking — more details are below, but the bottom line is that URLs like http://languagelog.org now do the right thing. Despite this progress, a few problems remain. There's one problem in particular where suggestions from readers with expertise in website administration would be appreciated.

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Comments

The best part of blogging is the conversation. From the beginning, some of our most interesting content has come from readers' emailed suggestions and reactions, or from online interactions with other bloggers. However, our experience with online comments has generally been a negative one.

Since our new WordPress software makes it easier to keep down spam, and also offers some new options for managing comments and commenters, we'll be trying some new experiments with comments over the next few weeks.

As a result, we can look forward to conversations like this one:

Because of our focus on language, we'll benefit from the added energy that led (for example) to this outpouring of 3,429 deeply-felt and well-informed linguistic opinions. And since language connects with every aspect of human biology, culture and society, we can also expect to be enlightened by lengthy ideological manifestos on topics connected to our posts by gossamer threads of associative thought.

I can't wait.

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WYGIWYS, please

Our new content-management software, WordPress 2.5, has generally been a pleasure to install, administer and use. But I have a complaint. The solution is probably covered somewhere on the helpful WordPress forums, but the problem is annoying enough to document here.

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Change is bad

I have no idea why everyone here at Language Log Plaza is so pleased with the new hosting software and editing environment. <i>WYSIWYG</i> web editing indeed! &amp;quot;What You See Is What You Get&amp;quot; is neither what I want to see nor what I want to get. I have always entered my HTML code <b>by hand</b>, not with some fancy show-me editing product for wimps, all decorated with little icons and buttons to press; and I have done it <b>myself</b>. My cited data is properly placed in <i>in italics</i>, my indented quotes are in <blockquote>...</blockquote> environments, and when I want non-breaking spaces I simply insert non-breaking&nbsp;spaces. I intend to continue working as I always have. &quot;Progress&quot; is not always a good thing. In fact it is mostly a bad thing. And if the Language Log editorial staff want to try and cut me off for editorially incorrect formatting they will just find that the

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