500,000 Hits!

fireworks1This morning, I became aware that this blog, storiesbywilliams, has just reached another milestone. Yes, after three and a half years, this humble site has reached half a million hits. And as usual, I’d like to include a few other pertinent numbers to help put this all in perspective. For example, since this blog went public, it has reached the following:

  • 500,180 hits (as of writing this)
  • 7041 Comments
  • 2089 Followers
  • 1834 Posts

Once again, I can only say thank you to all those folks who have helped make this possible. You know who you are 😉 And just for once, I thought I might let be things brief and poignant. So thanks and congrats all around, and onto the next thing!

New Milestone: 500 Follows!

fireworks1The good people that run WordPress have just informed me that this humble blog o’ mine has reached an important milestone. As of 3:00 AM this morning (Pacific Daylight Time) I received my 500th follow! Combined with followers from Facebook, Yahoo, and Twitter, that brings the grand total to 2,091!

I’m especially happy about this because for some time now, I’ve had trouble breaking the 2050 mark. It seemed that with every new follower, I would lose one, and that’s never nice. Sounds greedy, I know. But it seems that the more people you have willing to listen to you, the more concerned you are about keeping that following.

https://wordpress.com/wp-content/mu-plugins/achievements/followed-blog-500-1x.png?m=1391188133h

Naturally, I want to thank all those people who have signed on to follow Storiesbywilliams. This past March marked its third anniversary, and for those who have chosen to stick with me over the past few years, I am especially thankful. The support and encouragement I have received since deciding to go public with my writing have made quite the difference.

Not only has it helped me to bring my written work to publication by giving it the feedback and constructive criticism it needed, it has been the difference between toiling in anonymity and making meaningful connections with people. This is why I began writing in the first place, and knowing that there is a receptive public makes all the difference.

Here’s to three years more and (fingers crossed) another 500 followers! And to those I’ve been following myself, I hope I have managed to make a similar contribution to your work. None of us is alone on this journey and we all need to know that we are doing matters to others. May it lead us all to somewhere joyous, fruitful and (God willing) profitable as well!

A Kinder, Gentler Internet: Youtube Algorithm Screens Comments

youtube_commentsThere’s scarcely a soul among us who hasn’t watched a video on YouTube. But have you ever stuck around long enough to read the comments section? It’s like a leper colony for the mind, a vindication for misanthropes everywhere. And after many years of being at the forefront of rudeness, racism, and generalized dumbassery, the YouTube comment section is getting a clean up.

Whereas the old system worked by placing the latest comments at the top nearest the video, regardless of their relevance or lack of redeeming content. The new system will employ a series of algorithms to determine what each viewer will find most relevant. This includes comments from your friends, from the video creator, and from “popular personalities” (i.e. celebs of one type or another).

youtube_convoBut it doesn’t stop there. Currently, since comments are displayed as they come in, making the act of following a conversation difficult at best. But from now on, the site will feature threaded conversations, which is consistent with Google policy, the site’s now owners. As for private conversations, the new platform will be powered by Google+, allowing users the option of deciding who they want their posts and videos to be visible to.

Additionally, there will be a sort of cross-posting between YouTube and Google+. If you post a YouTube video on Google+ and some one comments on it there, the comment will show up on the video over at YouTube, too. Alternatively, they could choose to have their comment only show up on YouTube, or only show up on Google+. There’s a lot more control.

googleplus-conversation

But perhaps most importantly of all, there are new filters that will be in place. As it stands, YouTube commenters enjoy total anonymity, which allows them to post racist, sexist, homophobic and vitriolic comments without fear. And while content creators can choose to allow all or no comments, or manually approve each comment, this is completely impractical for videos that garner millions of views a week.

But now, YouTube is introducing filters that will make it easier. The new filters basically allow content creators to not only be able to assign people to an Approved list or a Blocked list (which will auto-approve or auto-reject comments, respectively), they will be able to add keywords to a Blacklist. This will flag comments that contain those words and send them into a special list which can be reviewed and approved/rejected later.

ConversationPrism_2880x1800The threaded comments feature and began to be put into effect a little over a week ago. Filters were made available at the same time for channel pages only, but in the months to come they’ll become available for every individual video, giving content creators and commenters more control over the conversations they participate in. Basically, it will still be YouTube, but with some Facebook-like privacy and content filters.

And while many might deplore these new rules as an example of heavy handed “internet censorship”, there are many more who believe this change is overdue in coming. And given that the control rests with the users, who have the ability to share or be private, and to filter specific kinds of content, the basic spirit of a democratic, open forum remains.

Source: gizmodo.com

Leibster! Leibster! Rah-rah-rah!

liebster-award-e1355858473421It seems award season is upon us again, and I’ve received a nod from a respected colleague who decided to send a nomination my way! So thanks to Rami Ungar the writer, and best wishes on the Quiet Game as it goes into its third month since publication. And now, getting to the rules of this award, I must share the following 11 details about myself, make my nominations, and answer 11 questions. Here goes…

  1. I am an Aquarius
  2. I was born in Ottawa Ontario on a Saturday during the depths of winter
  3. I have a natural resistance to cold, being burly and furry, but have trouble with heat
  4. For the first twenty-five years of my life, people though I was older than I actually was. Now it’s the reverse! For some people, this may sound like a good thing. But for me, its just plain weird!
  5. I never really fit in with crowds. I always tried to, but found that I was destined to either stand on my own or make up my own social circles
  6. I have a natural thing for animals. Doesn’t really matter if they are cats, dogs, or a wild creature. We just seem to get each other
  7. I don’t get out to the theater much at all anymore, which seems nuts since I’m more invested in new movies than I ever was before
  8. In the space of a year (Dec 2006 – Aug 07), I traveled to southern Mexico, Europe, across Canada and visited New York City. It was a crazy and awesome year!
  9. Unlike a lot of indies, my desire to write and share goes beyond the desire to express myself creatively. Much depends on it for me, and the prospect of not succeeding is frightening to me
  10. I am very susceptible to germs, seeing as how I get sick with the seasons like clock work. You’d think a teacher would have better immunities. Sadly, no
  11. I love kids, but am not sure if I would ever want to have some of my own. But as I have been told many times, no one is ever really ready, so I don’t worry about it too much

Alright, that was deep. Now here are the 11 questions Rami came up with for myself and his other nominees to answer. A word of warning, I was not brief!

1. Do you consider yourself a spiritual person?

Yes I do. While I so often find myself railing against organized religion for its excesses and abuses, I have never been an atheist, nor do I consider it a likely possibility that we live in a universe devoid of any higher order. I guess I’ve always been a monist/deist, a person who believes that the universe is guided by a conscious force that underlies and connects all things, was responsible for its creation and the laws that guide it, but does not intervene or exercise direct control over things.

2. If you could meet any historical personage, who would you meet and what would you say to them?

Tough call. But if I had to choose, I’d say Montezuma II, the last emperor of the Aztec civilization and people. And once the troublesome problem of translating from English to Nahuatl was worked out, I’d give him one very simple bit of advice. “Kill the Conquistadors on sight!”

3. What scares you the most in the world?

The idea of something bad happening to someone I love, and that I couldn’t be there to stop it. Either that or that I could, through negligence or inaction. be responsible for something terrible happening to someone else. Don’t think I could live with myself either way.

4. Morning, afternoon, or evening person?

Definitely evening. Not an early riser by nature, and my most creative and active time is always late at night. Were it not for this incessant need to get a good forty winks a night, I’d work til the wee hours of the morning all the time!

5. What was the worst job you ever had the displeasure of holding?

Again, tough call. There was the two summers during school that I worked for the city doing maintenance on public parks and parking garages. For those unfamiliar with job-speak, that means you clean up garbage. During the months I worked there both years, I cleaned up a ton of puke, feces, urine, and disposed of I don’t know how many used needles, half-smoked joints and even a bottle of heroine. I also got solicited by a few prostitutes, and was accosted by several homeless people.

But then there was the few months I taught in a remote community on the west side of Vancouver Island. Out there, joblessness, idleness, isolation and the problems of drug abuse, suicide, broken homes and behavioral problems create a very tough challenge for teachers. I was there for three months, replacing a teacher who went nuts and ended up suing the school board over a nothing issue. That kind of hostile work environment and the politics of the dude’s lawsuit and how it effected work for the rest of us led to many people quitting and the school almost imploding. I slept very little for those 11 weeks, got sworn and freaked out at almost every day by the kids, and was happy as hell to get out when I did!

I’d say it was the teaching gig. No job was ever that bad before or since.

6. If you could dress up as anything for Halloween this year, regardless of price, what would you dress up as?

If price weren’t an option, I’d go as Iron Man. And the exoskeleton would be real!

7. What’s your dream job?

High-paid author, article writer and traveling guest-lecturer. Basically what I’m doing everything I can to become right now!

8. If you could be somebody else for a day, who would you be? (This could be anything from an actual person–President Barack Obama or Vera Farmiga, for example–or it can be anything as simple as “a dancer” or “a music producer”)

I would love to be Chris Hadfield and go around talking about science, technology, and what its like to go into space. And then I’d unleash a guitar riff on my classic guitar!

9. What is your favorite color?

Rainforest Green. That’s the kind of deep, dark green that puts me in mind of driving across this here island, breathing clean air, and then staring out at the ocean as the high waves pound against the cliffs and the sandy shore.

10. What do you think you’ll be doing in 10 years?

With any luck, living in a nice home in Victoria, writing novels and articles for an obscene (okay, decent) amount of money, and living with my wife and our cat and a dog. She will be working in government with a senior position, the animals will be happy and rambunctious, and we will be busy contemplating what’s next for our family 🙂

11. If you had to brave some sort of apocalypse or natural disaster in your city/town/village, who would want to brave it with?

Tossup. There’s my wife, the natural choice, but if we’re venturing into the realm of the fictional, I would say Daryl Dixon. He’s a good man to have around in a fight, and underneath his tough, redneck exterior beats a good heart.

Alright, that’s me done! And now we move on to my nominations and the questions I would like to see them answer. First, here are the people I would like to nominate for this award:

Nina D’Arcengela

Khaalidah

Professor VJ

Likeitiz

MythRider

Writerlious

Casey Sheridan

Raven Lunatick

Mona (Ramblings)

Eddie Two Hawks

Dangerously Daydreaming

The Wandering Gourmand

And here’s the questions I’d like all of them to answer:

  1. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would go and what would you do there?
  2. If you had a million dollars, what would you do?
  3. If civilization were to end tomorrow, what would be your first priority? Securing a source of food, water and energy? Procreating to ensure the continuation of the species? Or preserving the knowledge of mankind?
  4. Would you rather have:
    A. A puppy
    B. A kiss from your sweetie, or
    C. A well formatted hard drive?
  5. Describe your perfect relationship partner
  6. Who’s your favorite superhero and why?
  7. What was the best science fiction, horror, fantasy movie or television series you ever saw?
  8. If you had a chance to go to another planet, what would you take with you?
  9. Favorite pet (cat, dog, bird, etc.) and why?
  10. What stands out as the single greatest experience of your life?
  11. If you could do just one thing before you died, what would it be?

Thank you again, Rami, congrats to all the other nominees, and hope everybody is having a good week and looking forward to the weekend. Hope to hear from y’all again soon, and stay tuned for more on my end!

300,000 Views!

fireworks1Oh dear. It seems a milestone was passed this week, one which slipped under my nose once again. Ever since I hit 200,000 views, which seemed like forever ago, the milestones have been fewer and further between. You tend to stop keeping track of noticing when they roll around. But when the stock ticker hits a number with five zeroes behind it, you suddenly find yourself taking notice.

And when I did, I noticed some other important milestones had also slipped by unnoticed. For example, back in March  Stories by Williams celebrated its second anniversary. That alone was reason to celebrate, but since that time, the site also surpassed 2000 followers, 5000 comments, and 10,000 likes. Oh yes, and I also passed 1000 posts by a significant margin (1148, as of this posting). Awful lot of number here!

Oh yeah, it was also since the second anniversary – roughly one month later in April – that Whiskey Delta was published and sold over 1300 copies. A special shout out to all those who helped make it possible – Rami, Audrey, Carla (my darling wife-editor), and of course, Mr. Max Brooks himself!

Looking ahead, there’s always plenty more to do. First, I want to publish part II of the zombie-fiction series, Papa Zulu! And of course, there’s a few anthologies to take care, such as Yuva and Flash Forward. And then there’s the ongoing Revengers saga that’s been growing some serious legs of late. And I imagine there will be plenty of science, tech, and pop culture news to share in the meantime…

Dealing with Spam

No-SpamI’ll say it right off the bat, I hate spam. No, let me express that properly: I HATE SPAM! And not the cheap, spiced ham that comes in a can. No, that at least has some comedic value, and the Monty Python troop made such good fun of it that the name has a permanent place in my heart. No, I refer of course to the useless adverts and unwanted solicitations that appear in your comments section whenever you log on to your website to see who’s stopping by.

Seeing as how feedback, especially the kind that lets you know you are reaching people, is so encouraging, is it not the most annoying thing in the world to find yourself beset by these uncaring, fishing, and indifferent messages? Sure, we all have been forced to accept that such garbage is simply the price we pay for using an unregulated internet, where its an open sea and you can expect to find your share of trolls, scammers, pirates and thieves. But lately, it’s becoming a total nuisance for me!

In fact, it’s gotten so bad that I’ve actually had to delete a post just so I would stop getting the free flow of useless comments that its come to attract. It was named “Anatomy of the Xenomorph”, and it contained a simple video clip that explains how the Alien costume designers have tinkered with the concept over the years. Don’t ask me why, but something in this article sends up the green flag for people looking to sell me Gucci, Cartier, glasses, handbags, running shoes, sexcam membership, free credit checks, and no credit check loans.

Because of this, it no longer appears on this site, mainly because I sank it in the hopes that it would take the rats down with it. Weeks of this stuff and I still wonder why these buggers were targeting it specifically. I’m sure many of you have seen the stuff I am referring to,  either on your own site or one you cruise by regularly, so tell me is these ring any bells…

One of the most recurring are ones that come with the name “lista de emails”, and they usually contain some nonsense message that lauds your post in such generalized terms so as not to give away the fact that they don’t have the slightest idea what you wrote in it. Others are less subtle, advertising their product directly in the message, cramming a whole of lot poorly formatted verbiage about deals and discounts and even services you can use to improve your website.

Seriously, do these sound familiar? Is it not just me getting hit up by these desperate bungholes? If so, what are you doing to dissuade these people? More than once, I’ve actually approved a comment from a repeat offender just so I could write back and tell them to F off! And now, I’ve deleted a post so they wouldn’t find that open door when next they come around. Do I need to modify my spam filter settings? Because seriously, far too much garbage is getting through here.

Oh, and if any spammers happen to be reading this, do NOT take this opportunity to solicit me, post how much you love my site with an advert link, or tell me I need to upgrade to some service of yours. Seriously deadbeats, back yer sh*t up! Not interested, don’t care, and trying to run a serious, refuse-free site here. So look for a sucker somewhere else!