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Blogging Ettiquette: Trackbacks

People sending trackback pings from weblogs that don't have any link to your weblog seems to be a popular subject today. In my book, this ranks right up there with commenters who say "Nice post!" just to get their blog's URL on your comments page.

My policy is pretty much the same as what I've read on other weblogs today: the trackbacks are summarily deleted. In addition, I usually consider it about the same as trackback spam and therefore a death penalty offense - I also add the weblog's domain to MT-Blacklist, so I'll never see that weblog's URL in a trackback or comment again.

Hat tips (but no trackbacks): A Small Victory (great post title), Daily Pundit, INDC Journal, Cake Eater Chronicles

At not so regular intervals, I look at the web server access logs to see who's accessing the site and where the bandwidth is going. One of the things I look at is bandwidth used by IP address and/or User Agent.

One issue that always causes high bandwidth usage is someone using an RSS feed reader / aggregator that is mis-configured or badly programmed. After an RSS feed has been retrieved the first time, an RSS reader / aggregator is supposed to check with the server and see if the RSS feed has changed before downloading it again. RSS readers / aggregators that do not check first repeatedly download a feed, usually once an hour (but I've encountered ones downloading 3-4 times per hour), 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Just one person's RSS reader / aggregator misbehaving in this way will chew up a minimum of 250MB of my bandwidth in one month.

There's really not a good way to deal with this abuse, other than to block the IP address from retrieving the RSS feeds. (Apache's mod_rewrite is a very good tool for accomplishing this.) The IP address alone is usually not sufficient to identify the user and contact them about whatever RSS reader / aggregator they are using. Until now, I had been using mod_rewrite to just serve up a blank html page to banned IP addresses and hoped they would take a hint.

I wasn't satisfied with that solution, so I've created a special rss-abuse.xml feed that will be served to IP addresses that have been blocked for RSS feed abuse. A user from a blocked IP address trying to retrieve one of my RSS feeds will see this message in their RSS reader / aggregator:

IP address blocked for RSS feed abuse

Your IP address has been blocked from retrieving RSS feeds from this web site, because your RSS aggregator is not properly checking whether my RSS feeds have changed before downloading them again. The repeated downloading of my feeds every hour, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week when they have not changed, causes excessive bandwidth usage for this web site, constituting RSS feed / bandwidth abuse.

If you wish to be unblocked, you will need to correct the problem with your aggregator, or use a different aggregator, then contact me and let me know what you've done to address the problem.

Part of the reason I'm posting this is that in addition to the two new IP addresses I've blocked today, Bloglines is currently abusing my blogging category RSS feed (downloading it every hour even though it has not changed since January 24th). Bloglines users are currently subscribed to 4 of my RSS feeds, but only the blogging category one is being abused. I've sent a complaint to Bloglines through their contact form to address the issue.

So, if you see the message from the rss-abuse feed in your RSS reader / aggregator, hopefully this post will shed some more light on why you're seeing it and what you need to do to fix the problem.

Update 18-Mar-2005: One user who has been blocked since January saw the rss-abuse feed and contacted me. He was using the built-in RSS reader in Mozilla Thunderbird. Mozilla Thunderbird's RSS reader does not appear to properly check whether RSS feeds have changed before downloading them again, based on this currently open bug. As a result, I am now blocking Mozilla Thunderbird from retrieving any of my RSS feeds.

This weblog has been quiet for a while, but not for the lack of anything to write about.

I've been spending a lot of time helping users with MT in the MT Forums. With the release of MT3D in May, then MT 3.01 a few weeks ago, the forums have been pretty active with users facing installation and upgrade issues, as well as issues with the new features in MT3.

Before MT 3.01 was released, I thought it would be a good idea to have a local installation of MT to test anything I wanted to on it (like new template designs or plugin code) without disturbing anything on the MT installation on my host account.

The Tweezer's Edge is one year old today!

I've learned a lot during the past year - HTML/XHTML, CSS, XML & RSS, JavaScript, Radio UserLand's UserTalk macro language, and even some Perl. The weblog was initially created with Blogger; later it was migrated to Radio UserLand, and migrated again to Movable Type.

When I began writing my weblog, I thought that I would write commentary on social and political issues. As I read more and more weblogs, I found that others wrote about these issues much better than I ever could, and in much more depth. One good piece of advice I've tried to keep in mind is "Write about what you know". As I grew in my knowledge of Radio UserLand, I found that what I know best is technical stuff - writing about how to do cool things, explaining bugs, writing code and documentation, etc. So that's what a large percentage of my posts ended up being wrote about.

A fitting mark to the blog's anniversary: My SiteMeter crossed 15,000 visitors today. Many of those visitors wound up here from Google, looking for programming help or information about labor law (among other things). My weblog is not a high traffic site by any means, but its nice to know that people are reading what I write.

Considering the numerous changes in the structure and direction of my weblog writing in the past year, I really have no idea where the next year will lead, other than I plan to stick with the weblog.

I'd like to take this opportunity to acknowledge my blog friends - blogging is definitely more fun and interesting when its a shared journey: Thank you Lisa and Julie!
We do really need to get together sometime. ;)

Just to write something funny, I posted this one year ago today (my second post):

Coconut?

My fiancée says I'm a coconut head. Me thinks she's probably right.

If you ask my fiancée today, she'll tell you I'm more of a coconut-head than ever. (But that's something I'm proud of!) Thank you Rhye for your encouragement and support, even in the early days when you thought I was nuts to want to write a weblog in the first place.

And finally, a big thank you to my blog's readers - without you, this weblog would just be an echo chamber.

Dean Esmay's wife Rosemary has started her own weblog - The Queen of All Evil. If you don't know the Queen ("If conservatism is evil, then she's the queen!"), check out "Who Is The Queen of All Evil?" to learn how she came by her title.

Bill from INDC Journal had the following to say about The Queen of All Evil this past weekend:

In a recent thread, tempers flared and insults were exchanged. A couple of commenters made note that the typical level of discourse at Dean's World had hit a low point. Since I am at the con, I felt a bit guilty, especially because I've been one of the belligerents. That is, until I thought ...

What would Rosemary the Queen of All Evil do?

And my answer?

* She wouldn't put up with taking praise away from Pat Tillman just because the sacrifice of others may not receive enough attention ...

* And she also wouldn't put up with the morally equivalent horseshit that refuses to condemn moonbats that root for the forces that are killing our troops in Iraq and sabotaging our attempt to rebuild that country into a successful representative society.

She'd say something like, "You want pussy? Read Atrios."

Needless to say, The Queen of All Evil is now on my blogroll. If you like her brand of evil, by all means add her to your blogrolls too.

True photoblogging

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photoblog2.jpg

Sgt. Stryker points out how some of us don't understand what photoblogging really is:

Taking pictures of your cat or a tree isn't photoblogging, it's just taking a picture and posting it to the web. This is photoblogging:

This makes me laugh every time I see it - it must be because it's true. It's even more funny for me because of the many days I spent working on my ImageInfo plugin - basically a photoblog 'taking a picture and posting it to the web' plugin.

Stryker's photoblog entry really is a picture - I ran it through my ImageInfo plugin just to see what EXIF data was in it. The picture was taken at 04/18/2004 00:21:59 with a FujiFilm FinePix A205 camera.

This is just too dang funny!!

Again without fanfare or announcement, Sgt. Stryker's XML feed was switched from excerpts to a full post feed. Thank you, Sgt. Stryker!

Instapundit - Now with full XML feed

Sometime last night, without fanfare or announcement, Instapundit's XML feed was switched from excerpts to a full post feed. I don't know why it happened, but I'm glad it did.

I like full post XML feeds - it's fewer clicks to read an entry. Most excerpt XML feeds are useless - they're too short to figure out what the entry is even about, let alone if it's interesting.

Look Ma - no tables!

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A seemingly simple question asked a while back at MezzoBlue, one that I struggled with myself for a long time before giving up and using tables:

Is it possible to use floats to position a fixed-width sidebar on the right of a page, with a liquid content area, if the content comes before the sidebar in the markup?

Floating, and not absolute positioning is necessary for the sake of a clearing footer.

1) no changing the order of the code (although adding new divs would be fine), and 2) no using absolute positioning unless you can somehow make it work with the footer.

Ryan Brill came up with an ingenious solution using negative margins that seems to work in almost all browsers. I have re-done the templates on this site with a variant of that method posted by Janos Horvath, which allows a background color to extend the full height of the page regardless of whether the content or the sidebar is longer than the other.

Finally! Table-free! (Hat tip: Richard Eriksson)

Welcome Rhye to tweezersedge.com!

My girlfriend Rhye used up her free web space on her Earthlink DSL account, so she's migrated her weblog (Just Around The Bend) to a new home here at tweezersedge.com. Links to Rhye's latest posts can be seen in the home page sidebar, plus her weblog has been added to the blogroll.

Please help welcome Rhye to tweezersedge.com by taking a moment to visit her weblog and perhaps dropping a note in her comments.