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Project Wonderful, 2006-2018

Thursday 14 June 2018, 16:15

Project Wonderful, a banner-ad network popular among Web comics authors, suddenly announced a few days ago that they would be shutting down. I've used them off and on almost from the very beginning of the system in 2006, at that time to bring in traffic for my own Web comic and later for some other projects, both buying and selling ads. There was a Project Wonderful ad box on this very Web site for several years, now replaced by a permanent ad for North Coast Synthesis Ltd.

Web site status review

Wednesday 25 October 2017, 17:55

The start of November will mark one year of my current round of living in Toronto. Slightly more than a year since I ended my 15-year stint in academic research. My main activity now is running my company, North Coast Synthesis Ltd., and I've been writing weekly Web log entries there. Writing those is one reason I've posted relatively few updates here.

This is why your Shopify storefront has no sales

Sunday 8 October 2017, 11:03

Since launching my own Web shop on Shopify in August, I've spent a fair bit of time on the Shopify forum, reading comments from other shopkeepers. There's a specific genre of discussion thread that comes up there about once per day: the "Why don't I have any sales?" thread. Someone will post that question, with a link to their own shop, and ask for advice from the other shopkeepers. I don't have all the answers, but I have noticed some pretty consistent habits of shopkeepers who have no sales and are asking the forum for help.

Crowdfunding for LambdaConf

Friday 1 April 2016, 00:12

A "tech conference" called LambdaConf, after a blind reviewing process, accepted a technical presentation proposal from someone who had written about unpopular views on politics. Pressure groups demanded the conference exclude him; when the conference organizers decided not to do so, the pressure groups campaigned to have corporate sponsors withdraw support. Much to their discredit, most of the corporate sponsors did in fact do so. A "crowdfunding" campaign has been organized to replace the money those sponsors could have provided. I have donated, and I hope you will as well.

Serializing Shining Path

Sunday 13 December 2015, 12:09

Shortly after I finished my PhD in 2008, I took about half a year off from other work, and wrote a 100,000-word science fiction thriller called Shining Path. That was half a year for the actual writing. It was a synthesis of notes and other material I'd been collecting for a number of years previously. I then spent the next three years or so looking for an agent to represent it.


Friday 13 December 2013, 13:09

TeXとLaTeXで画を書いたらTikZは便利とポピュラーです。 みんなはきれいなグラフィクスを作っています。 たとえば、これがtexample.netから一つのクリスマスツリーです。


しかし、ただのグラフィクスには興味ありません。 今日は1984年からノスタルジックの画を書きましょう。 マック・ペイントを思い出しませんか? そう…


Saturday 7 December 2013, 10:07

今年「TeX & LaTeX Advent Calendar」に入りました。 14日に私の書き込みを書きます。 それ前このサーバにGeSHiと言うプリティプリントソフトを備え付けています。 この書き込みはGeSHiのテスト・ポストです。

Firefox mouse copy and paste in Twitter

Wednesday 27 November 2013, 12:41

PROBLEM: Since just before the Twitter IPO, when they changed their site code, mouse copy-and-paste no longer works on Twitter's Web site viewed in Firefox. Where before one could highlight text with the mouse and then middle-button click to paste it somewhere, now that either causes the former contents of the clipboard to be pasted, or the string "witter.com". Copy and paste still works if and only if once uses explicit "copy" and "paste" commands with the keyboard or menu bar, but that is much less convenient, and is annoying to discover on the fly. Observed in several versions of Firefox under Linux; similar problems have been reported with other browser and other operating systems. Problem is specific to Twitter.

SOLUTION: In "about:config," set "dom.event.clipboardevents.enabled" to "false." Explanation below the cut.

Removing things from Firefox's location bar NO REALLY

Sunday 21 July 2013, 06:40

The Firefox GUI becomes more annoying with each "upgrade." I don't know if they're taking bribes from Chrome, or if they took advice from the same "professional" UI designer who broke GIMP, or what, but it's really become a problem. For those who haven't given up on Firefox yet, however, and for my own future reference, here's something useful I managed to figure out after a lot of hair-tearing.

You start typing a partial URL into the location bar, and the drop-down list of suggestions appears. But there's a URL on that list that should not be there. Maybe it's something embarassing you don't want other users of your browser to see; maybe it's merely a site other than the one you want to be the match for the few characters you typed, and yet for some reason it keeps coming up as the preferred suggestion.

Comment icon

Tuesday 21 August 2012, 09:48

Hey, anybody have suggestions on what would be a good comment icon? Since I'm moving away from PivotX, I'd kind of like to stop putting the PivotX saw-blade logo on every comment.

SOPA/PIPA protest disappointments

Wednesday 18 January 2012, 13:40

As you probably know by now if you live under a rock and get all your news through the Net, several popular sites are protesting current US proposed Net censorship laws. I'm glad to see that happen, and I'm glad that a lot of people are paying attention, and I don't want to understate how glad I am of those things. But I'm also disappointed by a lot of what I'm seeing, too.

First thoughts on Google Plus

Wednesday 13 July 2011, 14:19

M. "Doc" Skala tries things so you won't have to!


Sunday 24 April 2011, 15:02

Here are a few notes on the current state of my life.

So much for Twitter

Saturday 4 September 2010, 16:52

I have a Twitter account under the name mattskala, but I no longer endorse Twitter because their newly-mandatory "OAuth" system treats open-source client software as second class. We were warned about this, and apparently it's been in effect since September 1, but the first I knew of it was a vague awareness that my automatic word counts weren't getting posted. It turns out that now it's no longer possible to authenticate to Twitter with HTTP "Basic" authentication; you must go through the human-readable Web interface, or authenticate via something called OAuth. So it's a lot harder to just send an HTTP transaction with a simple utility, and have an update posted. The API has become much "heavier."

A note on similarity search

Monday 19 July 2010, 19:26

Hi! I'm a scientific researcher. I have a PhD in computer science. My doctoral dissertation is mostly about the mathematical background of "similarity search." That means looking at things to find other things they are similar to. I've travelled the world to present my work on similarity search at scientific conferences - and some very smart people with very limited funds chose to use those funds to pay for me to do that.

Argument from authority has its limitations, but I would like to make very clear: I am an expert in the specific area of how computers can answer questions of the form "Which thing does this thing most resemble?" Gee, why would I mention this right now?

Wisdom of Tvtropes

Tuesday 8 June 2010, 00:15

I spotted this buried deeply in an otherwise-boring discussion on tvtropes.org, and it has much wider application and deserves much wider distribution. I made a mental note to re-post the quote on my site, then couldn't remember exactly which page it was on, and spent many hours searching, over the course of a week. Now, I finally found it again.

Let me paraphrase the OP's point: "I have this opinion. I don't understand why people have differing opinions. But instead of genuinely asking why other people hold those opinions, I'm just going to say: you have those opinions because you are defective. Tell me why you are defective." Way to go, Ace.

Bus plunge kills 16

Thursday 27 May 2010, 16:42

Yesterday a bus plunge in Turkey killed 16 Russian tourists and injured 25 more. Thanks, dagbrown, for bringing the phenomenon of bus plunge stories to my attention. Oh, and Facebook changed its privacy policy again.

What's wrong with Facebook? (part 2)

Tuesday 18 May 2010, 11:01

In my previous posting I discussed human issues, which might be specific to me: they are reasons that neither Facebook nor anything else with a similar purpose to Facebook would necessarily be a good thing for me to use. I also discussed technical issues, which are serious but should be easily correctable; Facebook could fix the technical problems without changing what Facebook is. In this posting I'm going to talk about what I call "corporate" problems, issues I have with the people and corporate entity who run Facebook. These would be reasons not to deal with Facebook in particular, even if I wanted to deal with something exactly like Facebook that might be run by a different corporation.

What's wrong with Facebook? (part 1)

Monday 17 May 2010, 12:04

I thought it would be sufficient to just announce I was leaving Facebook, and all my friends who would care about such things would already have a pretty good idea of what the issues involved were, and would be making their own peace with those issues. I'm not the first and surely won't be the last among my circle to do something similar. Last night, though, I had a chat about it with some of my friends who aren't so well-connected to the Internet culture, and it became clear to me that there's room for me to write something laying out some of the issues surrounding Facebook and why those issues are important.

Let me start by saying it's not about "privacy."

The Terrible Secret of Livejournal, part 3: what to do?

Thursday 9 August 2007, 03:00

Link to Part 1.

It should not be thought that Six Apart have completely clean hands here. I'm not by any means a big fan of Six Apart.  It's partly because I'm not a fan of Six Apart that I've left Livejournal and given up my paid account.  Nothing in the previous section should be taken as my saying that Six Apart are perfect.  I think they're basically doing the right thing, but what have they done wrong?

The Terrible Secret of Livejournal, part 2: avoiding notice

Thursday 9 August 2007, 02:00

Link to Part 1.

In the previous section I mentioned that fandom itself is considered a perversion. I don't think most people in fandom are willing to admit that they know that. It might be another terrible secret - the terrible secret of fandom. The thing is that fandom is about creating a line that separates Us from Them. That's the point. That's why you joined - remember? You wanted to be among your people and escape from the ones who aren't your people. The trouble is that when we separated ourselves from the mainstream, we created a really good reason for the mainstream to separate from us too.

The Terrible Secret of Livejournal, part 1: the Secret

Thursday 9 August 2007, 01:00

I'm hearing another round of rumours about Six Apart, the company that runs Livejournal, and its deletion of Livejournal users.  It sounds like they've changed their code to make it less obvious when a user has been deleted (by hiding usernames or something, instead of showing them in strikethrough), and they're continuing to not follow their stated policies of issuing warnings and conducting reviews and so on.  The fandom community is up in arms, and the current situation is seen as an example of Six Apart not sticking to the promises it made last time there was a round of deletions.  I think the time has come for me to reveal the terrible secret of Livejournal - the one big issue behind this situation, that neither side wants to admit even to themselves.  Because of this one big issue, I think that fandom is making unreasonable demands of Livejournal.  This is a sort of open letter or reality check for the fandom community:  you can't expect Six Apart to give you what you're demanding, and you need to recognize why.

The UFP and the Filthy Humans

Friday 2 April 2010, 19:16

Re-posting of an article first posted in September 2008.

You are an officer, say a commodore, in the military-diplomatic-exploration organization of an interplanetary nation with United Federation of Planets (UFP) membership. You've been tasked with asserting your nation's interests with respect to a certain out-of-the-way planet that happens to be rich in natural resources. Unfortunately, it's already inhabited, by a race of disgusting natives we will call the Filthy Humans.