Because of a cyberstalker who disagrees with my literary taste, I’ve made two changes in my computer programs. One is that I added a widget, and the other is that I finally activated the “junk” category in my mail program. The results have been revelatory.
I’ll explain the junk thing first. This is a “learned” action on the part of the computer which watches for a while until it figures out that you do NOT want to know about magazine subscriptions nor the wonders of Viagra and thereafter dumps those off to the side. If a person is untrusting and thinks maybe Aunt Irma is also getting dumped, one can check out the category before deleting it, and -- my usual paranoid self -- in the past I’ve been individually reading and deleting everything that came in, which kept me very busy. But I enjoyed playing thumbs up/thumbs down and thought I was getting lots of messages I wanted. Now, having waited so long, “junk” is quite accurately recognized and diverted. When I finally turned it on, ninety per cent of my messages DISAPPEARED!! This was a bit of a surprise. But I WAS getting tired of deciding whether I wanted my penis enlarged, since I don’t even have one.
I’ve never encouraged long windy back-and-forths with people who need chatting in their lives, so they were already gone. Some conversations with people have migrated into comments on either my blog or theirs, because they are focused on issues rather than gossip. For a decade I’ve subscribed to Listservs with an academic context, but those people post less all the time. I’m not quite sure why, except that many of them are carrying such huge class loads that they have no time, and some of those academic contexts -- like Native American literature or Western Literature -- have begun to lose territory in the university world, so that jobs and whole departments have been closing down. This is not true of the environmental and animal-based listservs where hellzapoppin’. I'm not always in sympathy.
I used to believe in eliterature -- online anthologies and magazines -- until I realized how many of them are a con. Sure, you can send in stories at $20 a pop and maybe win a couple thousand bucks -- out of the $10,000 or so taken in. No way to know whether the stories are actually read by anyone. Or you can believe in an ezine capitalized by humanities grants, until it fizzles after the first few issues. No record of where the grants went. I’m getting off the topic. “Junk” is saving me a LOT of time except the small amount I lose in reflecting on where all that I had thought was communication went.
The second item, the “widjit” called “feedjit” did indeed reveal the cyberstalker, though he uses cloaked relays when he opens my blog or posts to my email. They were obvious because the places are so exotic that they barely showed in my Atlas. I suppose they need the money more than ethics. You can see this yourself by using the link on the right-hand edge of www.prairiemary.blogspot.com, though the worst appears to have fled like a cockroach when the light is turned on. Also, I put feedjit on www.scriverart.blogspot.com and was surprised to see how many hits I was getting. I never did put a sitemeter on that blog. I don’t post on it that often, though I’ll speed it up now.
My friends and myself were a little surprised by the locations of our ISP’s, the entity that relays our material onto the Internet. I was even more surprised that my missives are sent alternately from Dutton and Conrad, both in my county but down the road towards Great Falls. Maybe one is a backup in busy times, or maybe they alternate according to the availability of electricity, since these things consume awesome amounts. Three Rivers, the telephone company that hosts my connection, is in Fairfield and I’ve driven past a location in Great Falls plainly labeled “Three Rivers.” So ISP’s can exist in several places at once. Like radio stations.
The next surprise was that when I could see who was coming to my blog for what, it turned out that MANY of the 1500 or so hits I get in a week are people arriving through Google by asking for something sort of tangentially related to something I wrote. Some may be pretty disappointed when they open suggestive titles like “Male White Body” which is actually a category in gender studies. Daily, people look at an offhand post asking “Are Suspenders Sexy?” No one has opened the one about beasts that I deliberately misspelled. I get a lot of hits from both Michael Kitchen and Robson Green fans. And every day I get hits for “Moral Strength.” All this time I had assumed that people were reading my blog as though it were a newspaper column, following the new posts. Certainly, I write it that way.
Several people I know have begun to blog, gone around to their friends to ask whether anyone had read it (no one had -- as my sister-in-law said tartly, “I haven’t got time to read all this stuff you write!”) and when the response was discouraging, dumped the blog back off the air. Clearly this is a mistake. Old blogs are read as much as new ones. Esp. in the case of historical material, serious blog archives gain value. I get constant inquiries about Blackfeet clothing, which I can understand, but also many hits on the notes I took from early Browning, Montana, newspapers when researching Bob Scriver’s biography.
This is also a caution to me to be careful about what I write, not that that isn’t a high value already. But, for instance, terrified people are trying to understand their newly diagnosed diabetes and I don’t want to lead them astray. Maybe I should do more with diabetes links to other blogs that I trust. In fact, maybe I should do more about providing context in terms of who I am, why I write, and so on.
Another question I turn over all the time is whether I should allow advertising, which can be in direct opposition to what one writes, since they pick up phrases but not negatives. (One excellent diabetes blogger made a case that diabetes was NOT an eating disorder while the banner at the top proclaimed books that said it WAS.) Maybe I’m not understanding it. I COULD use the money. I don’t want to find a sponsor because the whole point of the exercise for me is being uncontrolled by people with their own interests. The trade-off is freedom because of no payment.
Even if a cyber-stalker, a self-appointed censor, tries to take over. This morning I couldn't get on the Internet and my paranoia flared like the fires around LA. A simple phone call to 3Rivers revealed that the wind has started no fires here, but it DID blow down the main satellite link!