Disqus Sucks Dick

I am beyond frustrated with this stupid Disqus commenting system, people. It either prevents me from commenting at all or attempts to reveal my real name. Which I never in a million years authorized it to do or entered into any boxes connected with Disqus. It simply accessed my private data without my permission and is now attempting to make it known to the world.

Recently, it has become fashionable among bloggers to adopt the stupid sucky Disqus as their commenting system. I, for one, have not been able to find a way to publish comments with Disqus in the format I prefer (one which would link to my blog, so that people know who I am and the blog gets promoted.) This means that I will not be commenting on blogs that have adopted this policy any more.

My advice is: if you thinking about adopting Disqus, think again. I can promise that you will lose commenters. One has to be really desperate to post a comment to subject oneself to the aggravation of this nasty system.

Blogger Still Malfunctioning

It sounds like Blogger is still unable to recover from its recent malfunction. Bigger sites that are hosted by Blogger have been having issues with posting and editing today and yesterday. Here is, for example, what the folks at College Misery report:

It is still impossible for most of us to edit posts. Commenting seems to be working for everyone. These problems are widespread. Many readers have asked me this, and I have tested WordPress as a possible location for this blog. But I do not like the formatting options available there. So I ask your patience as Blogger continues to recover from their major meltdown of last week.
This makes me feel glad that I moved to WordPress and saved myself the aggravation of waking up to yet another bout of issues with Blogger. In the aftermath of the meltdown, it never felt like Blogger achieved any degree of stability. I’m afraid their issues are too major to be repaired any time soon.
I wish the people who blog with Blogger a very fast resolution to these blogging troubles.

Blog’s Appearance

What’s weird is that my blog looks a lot better on my work computer than on my home computer. When I look at it at home, the template is not aesthetically pleasing to me. When I looked at it at work today, it was much better. Of course, I can’t spend any time in the office right now because it still stinks of dead bird. And there is a huge gaping hole in the ceiling right above my computer chair. Who knows what’s going to fall out of it next time? People said that deer can come out at you unexpectedly in this area. I wouldn’t want a deer falling on my head while I write. You’ll say that’s unlikely, but then I also thought it wasn’t likely that a bird would get into a windowless office that is located on the second floor of a three-story building.

Moving from Blogger to WordPress: Pros and Cons

Pros:

– WordPress is faster and has fewer glitches, especially now that Blogger’s programmers have tried to overhaul the entire system and failed miserably.

– WordPress remembers trusted commenters and doesn’t make you approve their comments every single time they post. This eliminates unnecessary delays in commenting which become especially annoying when a lively discussion is taking place and the blog owner can’t moderate because she is at work, asleep, eating, etc. The blog author is still in control and can easily unapprove comments but, in general, her work is cut in half.

– In WordPress you can answer specific comments in a way that makes it clear whom you are responding to. You can also quote other people’s comments without having to copy-paste them. In Blogger, all comments are placed underneath the last one, which makes it very hard to keep track of who said what to whom in long discussions. (Try participating in a discussion that had between 200 and 350 comments, like I had to several times on Blogger and you’ll see what I mean).

– Inserting quotes is a lot more difficult in Blogger. I quote a lot, so it matters to me that it is easier in WordPress to insert quotes and they don’t mess up the post aesthetically.

-WordPress doesn’t insert huge unnecessary spaces between paragraphs that in Blogger you have to remove manually by editing the HTML code.

– WordPress has an app for BlackBerry.

– The “Most Recent Posts” widget on Word Press does, indeed, show the most recent comments. On Blogger it took up to several hours for the widget to update.

Cons:

– It’s easier to moderate comments by email in Blogger. In WordPress it takes an extra step.

– Widgets are more numerous and more fun in Blogger (when you manage to get them to work). Some templates in WordPress offer better widgets than the one I chose but those templates had many characteristics that made them unsuitable for the purposes of my blog.

– Moving a blog to another url makes you lose visitors. Many regular readers will be understandably annoyed with the change. All of the backlinks that you have accumulated in the years of blogging will be lost.

– There is no way to make Blogger redirect individual posts to the same posts you have imported into WordPress. I scoured the Internet for a working code that would be able to do that. I tried many different bits of code. None of them work.

I’m sure I will have more observations as the time progresses, so keep checking in.

How to Become a Member of Amazon Vine?

Amazon provides the following definition of its Amazon Vine program:

Amazon Vine™ is a program that enables a select group of Amazon customers to post opinions about new and pre-release items to help their fellow customers make educated purchase decisions. Customers are invited to become Amazon Vine™ Voices based on the trust they have earned in the Amazon community for writing accurate and insightful reviews. Amazon provides Amazon Vine™ members with free copies of products that have been submitted to the program by vendors. Amazon does not influence the opinions of Amazon Vine™ members, nor do we modify or edit their reviews.

As you can see, the only way to join the program is to be invited personally by Amazon. There is, however, a number of things you can do to maximize your chances of being invited. When I first heard about the program, I realized that, since I obviously write really great reviews (as witnessed by their popularity on this blog), there is no reason for me not to be in the program. People keep saying that the way Amazon selects its Vine Voices is completely arbitrary. I don’t know whether that’s true. I do know, however, that several months after I started working actively towards being included into the program, I got an invitation to it. The opportunity to get books by some of my favorite authors months before they appear in print is priceless. It is also pretty good to get the free products (sometimes, extremely expensive ones) through the program.

Sitting down and writing a huge bunch of reviews, though, is not going to help you get invited into the program. You need a strategy. The strategy should be aimed at giving you a very high Amazon reviewer ranking within a short period of time. This means that you need to get many positive votes on your Amazon reviews. In order to do that, you have to be the first or the second person to publish a review of a book that is going to be hugely popular. Reviews of such books appear extremely fast, and it will not help you in any way to be stuck at review #237. Nobody is likely to notice it and you will get no votes. So if the book already has over 20 reviews, don’t waste your time posting yours. Unless, of course, you are dying to express your opinion and don’t care about whether this will help your ratings or not.

After you have chosen a bestselling author who is planning to release a new book soon, you need to be among the first people who will get the book, read it and post a review. What I did was pre-order such books on my Kindle. New Kindle releases appear on your device at 3 am Eastern Time (or 2 am Central Time, which is my time zone.) The second you get the book, you need to read it. Reading in such a hurry and staying up all night, kind of spoils the enjoyment of reading. But everything in life comes at a price, and so does Amazon Vine membership. As soon as you get through the book, you need to force yourself to stay awake and write a review of it for Amazon. The good news is that if you choose your books right, you won’t need to go through this complex process more than a few times.

In order to receive good ratings, your reviews need to be fairly long and offer something of value to the readers. (Retelling the plot is obviously not one of such things.) Ask yourself what you would want to know if you were to consult a review before making a purchase.

It is a good idea to review a variety of products in many different categories. An object doesn’t have to be bought at Amazon to be reviewed there. Is there a particular piece of clothing or jewelry that you bought recently and can discuss in an interesting way in a review? A special gadget or a computer game? A favorite brand of cereal or raisins? All this stuff is sold on Amazon and can be reviewed.

The goal is to become one of the top 300-400 reviewers, and then you just have to sit tight and wait for your invitation. Of course, you have to be a resident of the US and it looks like it also helps if you don’t live in a huge city. Nobody is going to need thousands of Vine Voices from the same geographical area. This is where it finally becomes a good thing to live in a God-forsaken little town.

And once you get on Amazon Vine, the best piece of advice I can offer you is to keep as far away as possible from the community forum. It is populated by some really strange people who construct their entire identity around being a member of the program. There are, of course, many perfectly normal people there but the scary ones are too scary for the forum to make sense.

Have fun reviewing!

>The Ugliest Cake Ever

>Is it just me or is it the ugliest cake you have ever seen, too?

I wonder what the cake is supposed to symbolize. A jail for Snickers bars? I’m also curious what a psychoanalyst would say to a person who actually gave this monstrosity to their mother for Mother’s Day. 
I found the picture of the ugly cake here. There are many other repulsive cakes on that blog but this one is the definite winner.

>Princess Olga

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Princess Olga the Beautiful lived between 890-969. For almost twenty years she ruled Kievan Rus. Her very first act as a ruler was to take a bloody revenge against Drevlians, the people who had killed her husband, prince Igor. She burned down an entire town with all its citizens because her rage was so great. 
At the age of 45, Princess Olga gave birth to her only child and ruled in his name until he became an adult. She was a very active ruler who traveled incessantly around the country, trying to improve life in her realm. Emperor Constantine of Constantinople kept asking her to marry him but Olga remained faithful to the memory of her dead husband.
She was also the very first ruler of Kiev who converted to Christianity. The Orthodox Church proclaimed Olga a saint and considers her to be equal to the Apostles. The name “Olga” actually means “a saint”, so she was obviously destined for sainthood from the very beginning.