Archive for the ‘This blogging life’ Category

On the spam train

September 12, 2014

While I was sleeping, the tally of spam comments reported by Akismet for this blog passed two million; at the moment, it seems to be 2,000,736. Obvious trash is filtered out automatically, without my even seeing it. But every day there are requests from Akismet for me to moderate comments, most of which I’d characterize as non-obvious trash, some of them fairly clever attempts to get me (and my readers) to link to a url that usually turns out to be a commercial site of one sort or another. Recently, many of these come from sites in Germany, I don’t know why.

Some of them are content-free congratulations on the marvels of my site. I have to look at congratulatory comments fairly carefully when they come from people I don’t recognize: a few of them mention specific content from one of my postings and have no commercial link, so they get a pass.

Others masquerade as requests for technical help of some kind.

And then there are the “advice” comments, designed to get a rise out of me: they report that there are a lot of misspellings (not specified) in my postings; or complain about some posting that I provided only “visuals” (images), when I should have posted more text; or complain about some posting that I provided only text, when “visuals” were necessary. Sigh.

Clickbait schemes

July 17, 2014

Andras Kornai wrote me on Tuesday to comment on a prominent pattern he’d seen in online clickbaiting, exemplified by:

You Won’t Believe What This Cop Did When The Cameras WEREN’T Rolling. WOW!

Man Attempts To Hug a Wild Lion. What Happens Next Stunned Me

He’s collected hundreds of similar examples and wondered whether others had noticed the pattern (many have in fact been annoyed by it) and whether it had gotten a name (not so far as I know). In this particular schema, the “hook” is an expression of astonishment or surprise, which can be expressed in a number of ways, referring to the reader (“you won’t believe”, “you’ll be amazed”) or to the presumed writer (“… stunned me”, “I couldn’t believe”), in a variety of syntactic constructions. As a temporary expedient, I’ll refer to this as the SURPRISE! clickbait scheme.

The scheme is “semi-formulaic”, in a way that’s reminiscent of the precursors to snowclones (see “The natural history of snowclones”, here): a culturally significant idea is given a number of formulations; one version achieves special status (in a formula); and then this formula serves as a template for new expressions. The SURPRISE! scheme hasn’t yet crystallized as a formula, but it’s nevertheless recognizable by its form(s) and functions.

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Karenispam

June 20, 2014

A moment out from posting more or less serious things to note this entertaining comment, which was snagged by my WordPress spam filter and turned up at the top of the queue (so I noticed it):

[N N fountain pens] On hearing this Anna sat down hurriedly, and [N N] hid her face in her fan. Alexei Alexandrovich saw that she was weeping, and could not contro [N N Fountain Pens] l her tears, nor even the sobs that were shaking her bosom. Alexei Alexandrovich stood so as to screen her, giving her time to recover herself…

A brief digression with Alexei Alexandrovich Karenin and Anna Karenina. And their damn N N fountain pens.

Three blog notes

June 12, 2014

On AZBlog, three developments: still more spam comments; revisions of Pages; and the “About (academic)” main Page as the descendant of my old Stanford webpage.

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goldilocksian

June 10, 2014

Several correspondents have written to compliment me on the content and organization of the “About (academic)” page on my website (here). One went so far as to refer to the goldilocksian mean — not too small, not too big, and (though this isn’t in the Goldilocks fairy tale) “everything easily discoverable”.

These nice comments inspired me to spend yesterday adding to the “Handouts for conference papers” section of the page, adding links to handouts from four Stanford Semantics Festivals.

And then there’s the nice derivational formation goldilocksian ‘just right’, a useful (and, given that you know the fairy tale, easily comprehensible) innovative adjective, moderately frequent (on the order of 6k ghits, dupes removed) but not in the OED.

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Self-awareness and a milestone

May 29, 2014

Self-aware cartoon characters come up here every so often — most recently, in a Scenes From a Multiverse strip (#2 here). Today’s Zippy brings us to self-aware diners:

With this posting, we reach a milestone: this is the 4000th posting in this blog. No wonder I have trouble remembering what I’ve posted on here!

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Two more on Memorial Day?

May 26, 2014

Two more cartoons that came in this morning, entertained me, but presented some question as to whether I should in fact post them. They were both of a sort that I have posted about before: a Zippy with remarkable proper names, combining brand names, food names, names of real but obscure people, and/or words that merely entertain Bill Griffith (who is given to word enthusiasms); and a (Bizarro) cartoon noting (and illustrating) the fact that (most) characters in the comics don’t age over the years that tick past in the outside, non-comics world.

These are entirely suitable items for posting on this blog. The problem is that I’ve posted about these two topics again and again. so that it’s not clear to me that a new item of either type is worth posting, unless it presents some remarkable feature.

There’s a parallel in my postings about certain kinds of widespread linguistic phenomena: verbings, nounings, back-formations, portmanteaus, ambiguities, for example. Every so often I post to say that I do not propose to catalogue every instance of these phenomena — that would be an impossible task — so I ask people to send me only cases that seem in some way especially interesting.

Maybe it’s time to do the same for some comics-oriented topics. I’m not sure. In any case, here are the two I’ve been puzzling about.

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Annals of spam comments

March 20, 2014

Sometime during the night, the register of spam comments on this blog passed the million mark (since 2008). And, of course, continues to climb. I find this mind-boggling,

Meanwhile, 8,322 approved comments — but many of these are pingbacks from my own postings on this blog.

Comments puzzle

March 9, 2014

As the spam comments on this blog rapidly approach the one million mark (since 2008), I’ve been coping with a variety of puzzles, comments that I have to moderate by hand. Most of these are quick decisions — they come from people I know, or at least recognize, though in one case the writer mistyped his own e-address, so I had to do some checking; or they have the stigmata of spam: links to dubious urls, dramatically non-native English, empty praise of my postings, queries designed to get me to reply, or at least link to their websites (for whatever dubious purpose). I’ve been very cautious, since I’m now getting a rising tide of spam e-mail as well as spam comments. But some cases are tricky.

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Formatting

February 23, 2014

Another item from Elizabeth Daingerfield Zwicky: the formatting on the English Language and Usage Stack Exchange:

(#1)

Beige background on the title, conservative, somewhat old-fashioned typeface; English Language and Usage is dull stuff.

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