Thank you everyone that has been so encouraging during the stressful times of my many server woes. Truthfully, I've sort of been being lazy about maintaining these sites and therefore feel like I sort of deserved it when the back burner grew claws and mean teeth and bit my head off.
So, I took the weekend and got tried to rebuild the core of what I originally intended the site to be, and threw in a few other ingredients that I picked up along the way. The result is here:
I'll move it over to the default domain after another couple days... I haven't really done that much in the way of performance improvements, but now at least I have much better tools with which to figure things out.
A few notes on changes:
I focused on people with accounts. My original dream behind All Consuming was that nobody would actually need an account... that it would crawl weblogs and get enough information from that to be useful. I'm still very interested in that angle, but I've found that most people are more interested in the creation of book lists on the site itself, so I built that first.
Tags. I used to have a defined set of categories you could add items to: currently reading, favorite, never finished, re-reading, etc. I had a million requests to add to the category options, but it was a bit too much work for me to do very often. Now, instead of having categories, you can now add tags to things on your list, much the same way that you can on every other new website on the block: del.icio.us, flickr, 43things.com (my company's site), upcoming.org, and many more. Love tags? So do I... even more than the hype makes me. One thing I've done that I haven't seen much of yet is a way to assign a single tag to many of your items at once. Log in and go to a tag page to see what I mean.
More than just books. This has been the number 1 request since day one. I've always hesitated simply because I find books to be the most exciting thing in the world and music and movies and the such only less so. But I thought I'd throw it in as long as I was messing around with it. Now you can add albums, movies, and anything else you can possibly dream of to your consuming list. Woo!
Backfilling the data. I'm slowly backfilling the data from the old site to the new. It's taking a while because I changed a lot about the way the data is stored. So some pages will be slow until the backfill is complete because it'll try to backfill data on the fly if you visit a page that hasn't been updated yet. Let me know if anyone experiences problems with the backfill of data.
Many more things coming soon. Most likely, after I get back from Brazil though. I want to add the web crawl back in, and hopefully improve it so that it can actually go through all of the blogs that are now being created. As it is, I've had to cut back on some blogs simply because it took too long to check them all.
So, the server that hosts erikbenson.com and allconsuming.net has been hacked and I'm locked out. The process was gradual... and if I were any kind of server administrator I would've been able to figure out how to stop them. Or, if I had been on a managed server perhaps they could've helped. But on a self-managed server with my own lack of administrating skills, I slowly watched my hacking friend take over my email server (I moved all of my email off the server and turned it off). Then I found various scripts running that opened up access to the server from other piers or ports or loading docks and killed and removed those. But then yesterday I found that I could no longer run "top" and today I found that port 22 is closed off and my host can't log in either. So I'm going to have to recover the data and start over. Most likely it's going to take a while, and a few bucks. This sucks.
Update 4.4.05 My server has been recovered, wiped, and rebuilt. I've got the data and the old code, but all of the apache setup and database configuration has to be re-done. Not fun. :(
How many different ways are there for two things to be related? Billions, probably. I'm trying to make a short list of the most common ways:
identical: two things can be the same, as in "a cat is the same thing as a feline".
sequential: one thing can come before/after another, as in "the letter A comes before the letter B".
belongs to: (aka part of, kind of, quality of, child of) one thing can be a part of another, or a container for another, as in "a leg belongs to a body, or a body contains a leg", or "a cat belongs to the family of mammals", or "the color green belongs to/is a quality of a leaf"
substitutes: (opposites is a subset of this) one thing can be the reverse of another, as in "good is the opposite of evil", or one thing can be replaced by another, as in "a heater can be replaced by a good sweater"
complements: one thing goes well with another, as in "gin goes well with tonic".
caused by: (aka formed by, dependent upon) one thing is formed by another, as in "this book was written by this author", or "this canyon was created by this river", or "my sadness was caused by the break-up".
What am I missing here? Is there a name for the list of these things?
Every once in a while I hear about a new idea that takes over my brain for a while. It's usually something that I interpret as a kind of clue to the universe. A few from the last couple years include: randomness, probability, certainty, and lack of possessions. This last week Josh mentioned a title that immediately struck me: On Bullshit.
* Bullshit is not the same as a lie. Bullshit can be either true or false, it doesn't matter.
* Bullshit is protected in our society. Whereas people are adamant about rooting out lies where they occur, people tolerate bullshit and treat it as more of an entertaining pastime.
* Bullshit requires a certain level of creativity and craft.
* Bullshit is a skill that increases with your level of education, wit, and self-awareness.
* The aim of bullshit can be many things: marketing, cleverness, self-promotion, play, debate, and (I think) even religious experience.
One of the striking characteristics of bullshit is the way that it functions completely outside of the concern for truth. It's in a different universe. When it's defined that way, you can begin to see bullshit everywhere.
In advertising: Probably the easiest place to find it. A quick glance any commercial will show that nobody is really expected to believe that the ad is telling you the truth. In fact, commercials often delight in their own bullshit... it is a new artform, and it is entertaining.
In movies: Nobody expects movie plots to be believable anymore. They are bullshit fests that we partake in purely for their larger than life events and ridiculous claims.
In conversation: How often is it that you hear someone say that they're just playing devil's advocate. Or how often do hypothetical situations become the centerpiece of what you're talking about. Bullshit is a great way to enjoy interaction with people that you don't know very well, without the danger of getting into personal information that might not necessarily want to be divulged yet.
In Buddhism: One of my favorite concepts of Buddhism is that of "mu". It is the answer you give when to a yes/no question when neither yes nor no is relevant. For example, "Does a dog have Buddha nature?" Or, "Did you stop beating your wife yet?"
Wittgenstein also talks about this a lot... where he says that most questions should not be asked, mostly because all answers are unsatisfactory. Not asking the question is more insightful than asking it. He is most likely anti-bullshit, trying to remove all inquiries that don't lead to truth, but has some other motive like the lame excuse of intellectual exercise.
Harry Frankfurt made a point near the end of the interview that interested me. Is it possible that bullshit has cultural utility? Maybe truth isn't all it's been hyped up to be? Maybe a future of pure bullshit (aka entertainment, play, suspension of disbelief, creative license, however you want to call it) would be a good one... as truth is somewhat of an urban legend anyway. All we have is majority opinion, and bullshit is as eligible for majority opinion as truth ever was.