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Mysterious Traffic Spike–in November 2020

Normally, I don’t spend much–well, really, any–time worrying about blog traffic. I used to work at encouraging traffic, but, as I have explained previously, I stopped a long time ago. Once in a while a post triggers an email from an old friend or acquaintance, and that makes me happy, unless they hated in it, in which case, whatever. But yesterday’s post for Russian readers had me clicking on the little map in the right column, and that led me to glance at the stats.  They’re under-counts, since anyone who blocks cookies or some other things won’t be counted, and lots of my friends are in the privacy and tech community and likely block more than enough stuff not to be counted. But they do tell me something about trends.  And there sure was a big spike in the data back in September 2020:

Looking at the archive for September 2020, I can’t imagine what set it off, and I don’t have logs that go so far back; I did win an award that month, but at most you’d think that would cause a few hundred hits, not eighty thousand.

The 40,000 in July 2020 is also a mystery. My biannual local ballot recommendations for the Judicial elections are popular, but the idea that they get more than a few hundred hits at most strains credulity.

On the other hand, the chart just records hits and doesn’t say what they were to, so there’s no evidence that the traffic was caused by a then-recent post.  It really could be anything I’d published up to that date. Maybe some new search engine repeated Google’s old mistake and ranked my post “How Not To Pick Up Women Online” highly for people searching for a similar phrase without the “not”.

Any ideas, anyone?

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Troubles Under the Hood suffered a bad crash yesterday [Friday, July 23].

[UPDATE: Wed July 29. I’m hoping it’s fixed now?]

It should all be sorted out soonish, but until then, please be patient with site weirdness.

Sorry about that.

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Almost Old Enough to Vote

Apparently, I’ve been blogging here for…17 years?   

My first post, A New Blog, wasn’t much, but I think this early post, Rose Burawoy, Political Scientist (Sept. 23, 2003), is worth a re-read from time to time. Were the signs of today visible then? I can’t say that I saw it coming, but I was already a bit nervous.

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Site Stability Issues Resolved?

This doesn’t speak all that well for Dreamhost front-line tech support, but this afternoon I got an email from someone higher in the org chart. He explained that the reasons for the crashes were that had been moved recently to a server cluster that wasn’t ready for prime time, which is why things went haywire. So just now they moved it back. Allegedly, that should fix the problems I’ve been having with the site crashing 20 times per day, although it means a new IP number.

Let’s hope.

Oh yes, after the move my Let’s Encrypt cert didn’t work. Worse, Caroline’s blog Blenderlaw basically vanished. But at least front-line tech support was able to fix those issues….

To be fair, though, the hosting isn’t that expensive.

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Getting Hammered

No, this isn’t a post about Bret Kavanaugh’s high school or college drinking. It’s about the blog. It seems is getting hammered by bots trying to break in to it, so the site has been up and down like a yo-yo for the past 24 hours or more.

I’ve spoken to tech support, and their only suggestion was to activate Cloudflare.  That comes in two flavors on my host.  One is free, but requires some changes, including to the site certificate.  The other is $120/year, which would practically double my hosting costs.  So I’m going to try to wait it out a bit before maybe changing hosts or something.

Meanwhile, on the subject of Kavanaugh, a friend from Yale writes:

Just for the record, I overlapped with Brett Kavanaugh at Yale Law School. However, I did not know him. The only Kavenaugh I was then aware of in the Yale community was Kavenagh’s, a great burger joint which featured a cheeseburger made with blue cheese. I can testify wholeheartedly to the fine character, intellect, and morals of that burger. Perhaps it should be appointed to the Supreme Court.


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15 Years of Blogging

Hard to believe that I started blogging on this day in 2003, fifteen years ago.

I had imagined when I started that I’d be writing mostly about the ideas that animate my scholarly work. On the whole, that didn’t work out for me; the level of detail and precision I strive for in academic writing either didn’t translate well to blogging, or just took too darn long and got in the way of ‘real’ work. Instead, the blog became an outlet for legal musings — academic outtakes, if you will — and personal political screeds that ramped up as the nature of the Bush administration torture scandal came into view. Eventually it also became a form of political action for various causes, and an info portal on local elections, especially judicial ones. (Next up: the proposed Florida Constitutional Amendments.)

At one point I was getting thousands of visitors, sometimes in a single day.

But then, one day I decided I wanted to spend more time writing, so I dialed back. I decided I was first an academic, and only very much second or third a blogger, and I wanted to stay that way. I no longer wasted any time on publicity, and stopped making an effort to have at least one post a day. Traffic slumped. As projects like Jotwell and We Robot took more time, blogging languished further. And two rather serious health crises, one in 2010 and one that only resolved itself recently in this past year, brought blogging to temporary, but lengthy, near-halts.

Anyone still reading here is a die-hard, and I thank you. Drop a note in the comments below, or in Who Reads

There have been 20,316 genuine comments here in 15 years, and I am grateful for all but the trolliest. On the other hand, Askimet reports it has blocked 3,243,190 spam comments, and that doesn’t count the enormous number I deleted manually before installing Askimet. Even ignoring those, that means only 0.6% of comments here have been real? Fortunately, nowadays very little of the spam gets through the filters, so neither I nor anyone else ever sees it. It’s just a work tax on the server.

My first post introducing the blog wasn’t much.

My second post discussed the origins of a paper I co-authored with my wife, Caroline Bradley, on ‘Virtual Worlds and Real Rules’; I think the paper is still timely and relevant.

My third post could also have gone up last week: I wondered why the dollar was so strong, and bemoaned how hard it is for the individual investor to do currency hedges in an economically sensible way. (It also had what I think was my first comment spam.) Still true, although right now I don’t have a strong desire to hedge the dollar since I would not know what currency to buy instead; the US has problems, but so do most other major industrial nations.

But my fourth post, Rose Burawoy, Political Scientist, the one about my grandmother, well that one both has — and has not — withstood the test of time, and the ways it has not are dispiriting. The torture issue has not gone away: our current Supreme Court nominee could not bring himself to say waterboarding (or worse) is torture. Nor has the federal government been cured of its use of Gestapo tactics: refugee families ripped apart, children in cages, border Hispanics systematically having their citizenship questioned. Local governments are in on it too: the doctrine of qualfied immunity protecting police for a wide range of violent or indefensible actions, Blacks gunned down by police for what far too frequently seems no reason, consent decrees on local policing abandoned by the feds leaving bad departments free to continue to act wrongly, civil forfeitures even in the absence of criminal convictions back in fashion after it looked as if they might be on the way out.

I still don’t think the Nazis will take over America. But they are much more in evidence than I thought possible 15 years ago. We’ve seen them on the streets of Charlottesville, and the President thought that was just fine and dandy, which is hardly surprising since he employs Nazi sympathizers if not outright Nazis. ICE’s Border Patrol employs more than 40,000 officers and agents; their political and social views sound bad, so far they do not show many signs of becoming tomorrow’s Brown Shirts. Then again, who would have thought we would see the Nation’s chief official sympathizing with Nazis in the streets?

Democracy responds slowly to evil, but it often responds. Or, as Dr. King put it, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

It’s not too late. Yet. That is my story, and so far I’m sticking to it.

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