How to Ban Someone from Your Facebook Page

This morning, I discovered that a rather inappropriate Facebook Page had “Liked” the Emerging Scholars Network Facebook Page and was starting to “Like” posts. I figure it was only a matter of time before they started making comments or adding Wall comments to draw attention to themselves. I was able to ban them permanently from our Page, but it wasn’t an obvious process, so I thought it might be helpful to others to post instructions. Step-by-step instruction (with pictures!) follow below.  Continue reading

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Andy Crouch on Steve Jobs, The Secular Prophet

Mr. Jobs’s final leave of absence was announced this year on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. And, as it happened, Mr. Jobs died on the same day as one of Dr. King’s companions, the Reverend Fred L. Shuttlesworth, one of the last living co-founders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Dr. King, too, had had a close encounter with his own mortality when he was stabbed by a mentally ill woman at a book signing in 1958. He told that story a decade later to a rally on the night of April 3, 1968, and then turned, with unsettling foresight, to the possibility of his own early death. His words, at the beginning, could easily have been a part of Steve Jobs’s commencement address:

“Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now.”

But here Dr. King, the civic and religious leader, turned a corner that Mr. Jobs never did. “I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land! And so I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything, I’m not fearing any man! Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!”

Google…the Nonprofit?

This post – “On Google, and Evil” by John August (HT: Daring Fireball) – got me thinking. August writes about being offered to write a screenplay focused on Google’s “Don’t Be Evil” motto, but his suggestion that the founders “become evil despite themselves,” a la Animal Farm, goes nowhere. One example of Google’s evil is their search results, increasingly heavy on search-engine-optimized junk sites:

How do these content-grinders make money? Largely through Google ads. It’s created a situation in which inferior search results make more money for Google. Yes, they still want to organize the world’s information, but it’s become easier to see the gray text after it: “…so we can sell ads next to it.”

Here’s the thing that occurred to me: Google doesn’t need to sell ads anymore. It simply doesn’t. It now has enough money to, well, retire.

Google currently has over $33 billion cash on hand. If they took even half of that and endowed a foundation, it would instantly be the 2nd largest foundation in the US. With a little bit of creative accounting and off-loading some assets, it could even become the largest foundation in the world. Google could then get out of the sordid advertising business and focus on organizing information and, er, not being evil. Maybe they could even get their Books project cleaned up.

Of course, there are issues with this. They would have to cut staff – though that might be a good thing, freeing up all those bright and ambitious engineers to go do their own things. It would remove the profit motive from their work, so there’s the danger of becoming complacent if they aren’t sufficiently motivated by their mission. And there’s the whole nonprofit transparency thing, though that pales in comparison to Sarbanes-Oxley.

So – will the next stage of Google’s evolution be as a nonprofit? I doubt it, but it’s a fun speculation.

On Citing Wikipedia

Let’s be clear: You should never, ever cite Wikipedia in an article or book, unless you writing about Wikipedia itself. But it drives me crazy when people hear the word “Wikipedia” and immediately respond, “Wikipedia? Give me a break. It’s so unreliable.”

There is nothing wrong with using Wikipedia to get a quick sense of a subject and to lead you to more reliable sources. Encyclopedias, survey-level textbooks, desk references, and similar resources have been used the same way for generations. If you are trying to nail down some definitive piece of information, then you should never settle for Wikipedia. As your starting point, however, I think there are few options that are much better.

For that matter, Wikipedia is an excellent resources for certain subjects, such as:

  • Controversial subjects that many people, with many different perspectives, care a great deal about. Theology is a great example. If Catholics, Calvinists, Wesleyans, Orthodox, and even Swedenborgians can come up with an article on justification that they all more or less accept, I bet that’s going to be a pretty decent article.
  • Obscure pop culture facts, like alternate versions of the comic book character Nightcrawler.
  • People you are encountering for the first time, and need to get a quick triangulation on them, like Emanuel Swedenborg.

I use Wikipedia everyday, and there’s nothing wrong with it. If Wikipedia is your only source of information, then there’s something wrong with you, but don’t blame Wikipedia.

How to Back Up Your WordPress Website, Automagically!

I maintain several WordPress-based websites, all of which are, well, important to me, including this one, and it would seriously stink if something happened to any of them. Jason Tarasi posted a great how-to at ProBlogger.net with easy instructions for backing up a WordPress blog using the uber-simple WP-DB-Backup plug-in. I installed the plug-in, and my WordPress installations started emailing me daily copies of their databases. Awesome.

But what to do with these backup copies? Well, I have a Dropbox account (that’s my referral link) that I can use for safekeeping. Dropbox is a great app that lets you synch files and folders on your hard drive with an online file-sharing service, even keeping files synched across multiple computers if you want. You can share files and folders with others, so, for example, your wife and you could use it to work on your Christmas letter. Each time one of you made a change, it would be synched across all computers. It’s great for larger documents or things that are more complicated than Google Docs can handle.

So I have a place to store my WordPress backups, but I don’t really want to manually save the new backups every time they arrive. How could I make this process automatic and invisible?

After several failed attempts, here’s the process I created. Continue reading