Proof of Life
As many of you noticed, and some of you regularly messaged me about, this blog has been offline for quite some time. There are many reasons for this: I was rewriting the software this blog runs on, the host that served it closed their doors, I had to take an extended break in working on it for multiple reasons, and, when I got back to it, my half-complete rewrite had enough bit rot that I decided to start fresh. The good news is that all of that mess has finally passed. As you can see, that means this blog is back is business.
If you are a long time reader and you have a good memory, you'll notice that I changed the name of my blog. That's because the old name was a not-so-clever play on my name that was later appropriated for a rather different collection of writing. I think that's worth resetting the Google credit counter to get away from.
Oh and there have been a few upgrades…
All of my posts are back. Some content is a bit dated and I've tried to add clarifying notes where they were needed, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that much of it is still useful today. I believe my coverage of Character Encodings is what readers missed the most and it's fully restored.
Rubies in the Rough
[Update: the Rubies in the Rough articles were originally available by subscription, but they are now free on this blog.]
I know this blog has been quiet for quite some time now, but I'm still writing about Ruby. In fact, I'm very excited about a new series of articles I am producing called Rubies in the Rough.
In that series, I am working hard not to teach the language or syntax or anything else that's trivial, but the thought processes behind how I program Ruby. I think this is some of the most important work I've ever done for Ruby. Anyone can learn a few keywords, but understanding how to think about problems and the solutions we code for them is key, in my opinion.
This new series isn't free, but it is a steal. It works out to two bucks an article and I often write close to 20 printed pages. This is some serious content.
If you want to learn how I think about programming, do yourself a favor and subscribe to Rubies in the Rough. It can teach you to see programming challenges as I see them and loan you my confidence as you solve them.
I've had an RSS feed for the entire blog up for some time now at http://graysoftinc.com/feed.xml. Yes, I know, it sucked. Several of you emailed me to tell me just how much it sucked.
In my defense, I wrote this blogging engine because I wanted to play around different aspects of how this software could work. Spam prevention was high on that list for me, because it affected me a lot. Not being a feed reader junkie, RSS was less critical to me. I know it was important to you though and I'm trying to make good on my promises, finally.
The number one complaint was that my RSS feeds did not include content, just descriptions. This is fixed. The full article is now in the feed.
I'm not sure how well that's going to work out yet. Regular readers know that I'm terribly wordy, so even just placing the last ten articles in the feed makes it quite large. I don't know how inconvenient that's going to be for you or me yet, but we can try it out for now.
As and added bonus, I've added category specific feeds and article specific feeds that show comments as they come in. Just click the feed link in the footer of any category or article page to try these out.
I'm sure everyone has noticed that my blog posting has dramatically fallen off from the rate I was getting articles out. Unfortunately, I've been spending my blog time fighting the endless war against spam. I've made some progress there and thought I would share some details that others might find useful.
As I've covered previously this blog now requires me to approve all comments. I'm super happy with this decision. I approve posts promptly, so there's pretty much no downside for users and this means you have not seen a single spam message on this site since I made the change. This was literally the perfect solution… on the viewer's side of the fence.
What it didn't fix was the hassle on my side. I don't mind approving messages at all, as long as I have a reasonable pile to go through. However, the spammers really ramped up their efforts against me lately and this blog received 11,134 comment posts in the month of November alone. Six of those were legitimate comments. That exceeds my definition of reasonable.
Death and Spam
The popular expression warns us that death and taxes are the only two certainties, but I'm worried we may need to add spam to the list. Publish any material that draws readership on the Web and invites reader feedback and you can be certain sure you will be swimming in spam soon enough.
One of the biggest reasons I switched to my own blogging engine was to fine tune my spam control strategy. Until today, the system was that I received an email anytime a comment was posted to this blog and it was a single keystroke to remove any offensive content. While that was as simple as I can think to make a process, the fact was that it still wasn't good enough.
The spammers ramped up their efforts until I was facing about 50 useless posts every 12 hours. While I didn't mind clearing them, the fact was that visitors were probably seeing spam due to the regularity of the postings and the time between the post and my clearing it. Obviously, there was at least spam on the blog while I slept each night.
[Update: This blog no longer runs on Serenity. I've created yet another engine to power it.]
I'll be nice and not name any names, but my old blog software was really struggling. I've dealt with numerous issues from it over the years I've run this blog and all of that extra maintenance finally wore me down.
I'm sure you've noticed the theme change here by now. That's the surface result of me having replaced the entire backend. This blog now runs on a blogging engine I invented called Serenity. It's a young engine at this point, but I suspect it will improve as I fiddle with it and find what I like.
I've moved all of the content over, so my hope is that nothing is missing. Unfortunately there have been some URL changes. I apologize for that and promise that I don't plan to change them again anytime in the near future.
Thanks for being patient with me during this transition. I hope that it will lighten my maintenance load and give me more time to write articles.