Blog Archives

Commentluv & IntenseDebate BFFs

Just a quick post.  Pretty much my favourite plugin here has been Commentluv by Andy Bailey.  Unfortunately, enabling IntenseDebate meant that Commentluv stopped working.  However, our favourite programmer/purveyor of fine food has written a Commentluv plugin for IntenseDebate.  Cool, eh?

So we get threaded comments, single sign and Commentluv all in one place.  If you wish to take advantage, there is an extra field under the comment box for you to put in your site URL.

Enjoy.

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Moving

Soon, this blog shall be moving home.  Mine host has decided to go for a better deal.  And no matter what you all say, I trust him on this implicitly.  There will be some preparatory changes, most of which you won’t notice.  The one that you will notice is that I shall be disabling comments during the move.  This is so that none of your wonderful comments are lost during the move.  If the move happens close enough to my extended holiday/honeymoon they will be re-enabled sometime in week 3 of June (or maybe week 4).  Otherwise, I’ll just tease you by re-enabling them and then disabling them.  Depending on how the mood takes me.

If this all goes as well as I think it will, you won’t really notice the move.  Otherwise, well, stock up on tinned food and ammo and batten down the hatches, it’s gonna be a cold cold winter.

News on Robert Lancaster

Who he? You may be asking.  Robert Lancaster is the mastermind behind two great sites:

Stop Sylvia Browne!

Stop Sylvia Browne!

StopKaz” and “Stop Sylvia Browne“.  If you read any sceptical sites, particularly the James Randi Educational Foundation site, you will know about him.  Read on and you will discover why the second reference looks like that.

A note on Robert Lancaster: his first site, Stop Kaz, was created to expose the fraudulent activities of one Dr. Kaz deMille-Jacobsen.  To quote the site:

Back in June of 2004, I was visiting my mother at her house, when she started talking about “Dr. Kaz,” a woman who had recently spoken at her church.

My mother was obviously quite impressed with this woman, but the more she told me about “Kaz’s” story, the less believable I found it.

It was quite a story, full of this woman’s supposed connections to celebrity, wealth, a heroic struggle and escape from the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center, miraculous recovery from injury and disease, all leading to a current humble life of poverty, and spreading a Christian message.

Even before I heard some of the wilder parts of the story, I found it extremely hard to believe. But amazingly (to me), my mother – and evidently her minister and much of her church’s congregation – believed this woman!

Her story was so newsworthy, I felt that if it were true, I would definitely have heard about it on the radio, seen it on the TV news, or read about it on the web somewhere. Wouldn’t I?

Researching “Kaz” on the web, I found frustratingly little out there about her. Finding this to be a huge “red flag,” I continued digging at her claims, and cataloguing the holes and inconsistencies in her story.

This led me to the conclusion that little (if any) of “Kaz’s” story was true. And if I was correct in that conclusion , then she was making money off of the pain, suffering and death of those people who were in the World Trade Center towers on September 11th, 2001.

When I shared my research with my mother, and subsequently with members of her church, one thing struck me: a few of these people, while accepting “Kaz’s” story, had experienced nagging feelings of doubt, and had gone to the web to search for more information about her. When those people found so little information about her there, they didn’t know how to pursue it any further, and just gave up, accepting her story.

Hearing that, I decided to create a web site from all of my findings and questions, so that people searching the web for information on “Kaz” in the future would find it.

It seems that Kaz is still doing the rounds.  He then created the excellent “Stop Sylvia Browne” site, which is where I first came across him.  To explain more about the site, let us once again quote Robert Lancaster:

Over the years, Sylvia Browne has been the focus of a number of skeptical pages on the web, but I don’t think that there has ever before been one site which focused solely on her. The goal of this site is to fill that void by providing a central place where she, her track record and all of her claims are examined and analyzed.

Although I will be approaching the subject from a skeptical viewpoint (the name of the site should show that), I will try to do so in as fair and factual a manner as possible.

Where I state a fact, I will try to back it up with references. Where I state an opinion, I will try to clearly label it as such.

Is she a well-intentioned spiritual leader, with actual psychic powers? Is she a fraud, making money by callously manipulating and using the bereaved? Or is she something else entirely?

This site will attempt to answer these questions.

Recently, and sadly, Robert Lancaster suffered a stroke which put him in hospital and off the web.  His wife has kindly been updating the sceptical community with his progress and I am happy to say that he appears to be healing.  I wish him all the best and hope he is back on his feet and can continue with the sites.

Unfortunately while he was recovering in hospital his domain http://www.stopsylviabrowne.com lapsed and expired.  Obviously renewing a domain name was nowhere on the Lancaster’s radar and so someone else snapped it up.  This person appears to be very pro-woo and so the site will not be put to the use it was originally opened for.  This is not necessarily illegal, though it is morally questionable.  However, it does mean that the site had to be moved to it’s new home.

The sceptical community is not taking this lying down!  The original site was well known and the media knew it was able to make contact with Robert Lancaster through it, so we are helping to publicise the new site in a few ways.  Where we linked to http://www.stopsylviabrowne.com, we are now linking to Stop Sylvia Browne – making sure that the word “Stop” is not in the hyperlink.  This will hopefully drop the old keywords and raise the 2 new ones: “Sylvia” and “Browne”.  I will let this post from Skeptical Software Tools list the rest of the methods.

To follow news on the progress of Robert Lancaster, read this thread on the JREF forums.

Again, I wish him a speedy recovery and all the very best to his family.

How Did You Get Here?

This may seem to be a little nosy, but I have been looking at the various visitors and posters that come here and while I can probably guess in some cases, I am genuinely curious as to how my visitors come here.

Now, my reason for being here is obvious – it’s my site.  Some people I know through other sites, but I also have regular visitors and commenters that I don’t know and can’t work out what brought them here.  I’m happy that you are all here, of course, but how did you get here?

So, please post a comment to let me know your route.  Did you search for Lesbians and find that this was not the site you were looking for?  (and that is still the number one search term that brings people here.  That and donkey sex.)  Were you idly browsing and found this place?  Did your computer crash and this was the only place your browser would open?

There is nothing riding on this, I am simply curious.

Woopra – Website Analytics

I have long been curious about how people find my site and what they do when they get here. There User made loyalty badgeare a number of plugins you can install for WordPress, but there isn’t (as far as I know) one tool which shows everything. And now there is.

Woopra is an application which analyses your site traffic and can bring up a number of facts about who they are and what they do. Signing up is free – you sign up, submit your site(s) and await notification. At this time of writing, it can take around 7 days but I believe they are working on ways to speed this up. Once you have signed up, download the WordPress plugin, install the app (with a few extra steps for Ubuntu users!) and watch the graphs fill up.

Woopra is in beta at the moment, but I must say that it’s one of the most polished beta apps I have used. For example, on starting up you are presented with the dashboard (click for bigger):

Main Woopra dashboard

Just on that one page, you can see how visitors find their way to your site (where they land and leave), which searches they do to get there, which referrers pass you the traffic and numbers of visitors by country. There’s also a little stock ticker at the bottom of the page which gives info on your numbers and tells you whether they are up, down or static.

The “Live” page gives live information on your visitors. For example:

Click to enlarge

Visitor number 304 lives in the US (in the Chicago area) and is a Mac user browsing with Safari. They are reading the Amarok Installation page and browsing at a resolution of 1600×1200 – useful to see if you are interested in making your site readable at various resolutions. I have hidden the IP address of this user.

I won’t bore you by showing screenshots of every page, but I hope you can see how detailed the information is and, by exporting to a .csv file you can analyse and manipulate the data to your heart’s content! You can view visitors by browser, by OS, a mix of the two and a variety of other mixtures. I have discovered that someone is using Windows 98 when they visit!!

This tool isn’t for everyone. If you have one or more sites that pull in revenue for you, this tool will be of great help. If, like me, you just like trying things out an are nosy it’s also a good tool 🙂

For one thing, the number one search for this site is “lesbians” – frustrated porn viewers ar emy greatest source of traffic.