Welcome to the syndicated version of the 119th edition of The Newsletter Leaf Journal. We mailed the original on Saturday, January 21, 2023. We had a big week, beginning with our being blacklisted by Bing (that issue persists through January 23) and concluding with my making some substantial changes to the site, some visible and others not. Below, you will find what is mostly the same newsletter that went out to your email and RSS subscribers. If you enjoy the content, you can read our newsletter as soon as it comes out by signing up by email or adding its RSS feed to your reader. In the alternative, you will find it syndicated here at The New Leaf Journal on Mondays.
1. Leaves from the week that was
Despite most of this week’s work being done behind the scenes, I still managed to publish five full articles and several shorter pieces.
We begin with our five new articles…
- Saving Internet Archive URLs in Wallabag
Nicholas A. Ferrell. January 14, 2023.
For the un-initiated, Wallabag is free and open source software that generally replicates the functionality of Pocket. It has trouble saving some URLs, especially when Cloudflare is involved. In this article, I explain how to leverage the Internet Archive to save some troublesome cases into Wallabag.
- Subscribing to category-specific RSS feeds
Nicholas A. Ferrell. January 16, 2023.
Tips for keeping your feed collection (you should have a feed collection) under control.
- The Tame Canary Bird (Bonner)
Nicholas A. Ferrell. January 17, 2023.
Last week, I introduced my new series of reviews of short stories in Mary Graham Bonner’s 1923 365 Bedtime Stories with a short biography of Bonner. This week saw the first story review – The Tame Canary Bird.
- The modest virtues of self-awe
Nicholas A. Ferrell. January 18, 2023.
Justin and Justina’s newest dialogue tackles self-regard. But the star of this dialogue is neither Justin nor Justina. We welcome back Justin’s friend, Proton Von.
- My heroic broken link report to U.S. DOJ
Nicholas A. Ferrell. January 19, 2023.
I don’t like to brag, but…
Leaflets and Leaf Buds
I published a number of short posts in the last week. But on Friday, I replaced our Notes section (which lasted all of 13 days) with a new section called Leaf Buds. Leaf Buds are the same as notes, but I am implementing them with a custom plugin instead of the IndieBlocks plugin that I had been using. I converted most (but not all) of our Notes to Leaf Buds. This clogged up our short post feed, but here I will feature the short posts that were actually published in the last week. However, one gets into a News Leaf Journal issue, so I will reserve that for the later section.
- Re; South Pasadena relocates local peafowl
- Bookmark: Url Forwarder and Hypothes.is
- Bookmark: Death of Feedburner?
- Revisiting a Texas sea turtle rescue story
- Review of privacy-friendly WP analytics
2. Leaves from around the web
Time to go back into the to-share on newsletter backlog in my Wallabag account…
- Website: gamingalexandria.com
Yukinu. January 11, 2023.
I discovered this very interesting site after Yukinu shared The New Leaf Journal as a recommended site. The site has an interesting aesthetic and many other interesting website recommendations. Here we have a link to Gaming Alexandria, a video game history site which is joining Yukinu’s blog in my feed collection.
- More Than 400 Invasive Fish Dumped From Aquariums Found in Texas River
Margaret Osborne for Smithsonian Magazine. January 31, 2022.
“Plecos grow rapidly and can survive out of water for more than 20 hours. The fish has armored skin and no natural predators in Texas. All of these factors combined made their population explode, causing problems for Texas rivers.” (What could go wrong?)
- Just how important is eye contact between musicians? And what does it signal?
BBC Music Magazine. May 27, 2022.
Focusing primarily on classical music orchestras.
- New unlimited cat subscription service in Japan blasted online
Master Blaster for SoraNews24. December 27, 2022.
Important internet debates of our time.
- La Crosse virus is the second-most common virus in the US spread by mosquitoes – and can cause severe neurological damage in rare cases
Rebecca Trout Fyxell for The Conversation. September 9, 2022.
- In stepping down, Benedict XVI carved out new role as ‘contemplative’ pope
Zelda Caldwell for Catholic News Agency. January 2, 2023.
Looking back at the 2013 resignation of the late Pope Benedict XVI and its effects on the Church and the Papacy.
- Tsuki ga Kirei: Better Late Than Never
Guardian Enzo for Lost in Anime. January 3, 2023.
Tsuki ga Kirei, a 2017 anime series, is not only one of my favorite series and my 2017 anime of the year, it inspired my tsuki ga kirei research project, which is our second most-read article at The New Leaf Journal. The author of this post is also a fan of the anime, but his article focuses on visiting Kawagoe, the Japanese city in which the series takes place.
- Good hydration linked to healthy aging
National Institutes of Health. January 2, 2023.
This may be almost as much of a threat to me as the mosquitoes. Going to get a glass of water right now.
- Did Natsume Misspell Its Own Name in Harvest Moon 64?
Clyde Mandelin for Legends of Localization. May 3, 2014.
- Uganda: Computer Misuse (Amendment) Act Enacted
Hanibal Goltom for the Global Legal Monitor. January 5, 2023.
While this has more than a whiff of “what could go wrong?” – I’m curious how the “unauthorized sharing of information about children” provision works in light of some of my own writing.
3. The Old Leaf Journal
There’s going to be a trend this week…
- The Downstream Effects of Bing’s Tiananmen Square Censorship
Nicholas A. Ferrell. June 6, 2021.
On that time when Bing engaged in worldwide censorship on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party, and every search front-end for Bing (DuckDuckGo, Qwant, Swisscows, etc) was dragged along for the ride.
- Importance of Bing Indexing for Alt Search
Nicholas A. Ferrell. August 7, 2022.
Maybe all of these “privacy” search tools relying on Bing creates a bi[n]g single point of failure…
- Comparing DuckDuckGo Lite and Qwant Lite
Nicholas A. Ferrell. September 8, 2022.
They have their differences. But one thing they have in common is that they both rely on Bing.
- Peekier Search Engine Review
Nicholas A. Ferrell. February 26, 2022.
Peekier is a good project, but where do its results come from? …Bing.
- Brief Look at the Oscobo Search Engine
Nicholas A. Ferrell. July 1, 2022.
You’re not going to guess where the results come from…
4. Most-turned leaves of the newsletter week
I list our most-read articles from the previous newsletter week (Friday to Saturday) in each edition of The Newsletter Leaf Journal. These statistics come courtesy of Koko Analytics, our local, privacy friendly page-counting solution (see my review).
- The Mystery of Sōseki and Tsuki ga Kirei
Nicholas A. Ferrell. March 14, 2021.
3rd top five of 2023. 2nd top placement.
- Tom Cantor’s Change Has Poor Color Scheme
Nicholas A. Ferrell. August 3, 2022.
2nd top five of 2023.
- Biden, Lincoln, and Counting Back From the President’s Birth
Nicholas A. Ferrell. April 29, 2022.
2nd top five of 2023.
- Saving Internet Archive URLs in Wallabag
Nicholas A. Ferrell. January 14, 2023.
- The Pokémon Special Split in Generation 2 – Statistics and Analysis
Nicholas A. Ferrell. January 18, 2022.
3rd top five of 2023.
Due to circumstances to be discussed in the next section, this week’s top-five should have been unpredictable. Instead, four of last week’s top five return, and they were joined by our first 2023 article to make a weekly top-five, my Wallabag post in its debut week. The Wallabag post was propelled by being shared by the official Wallabag accounts on Twitter, and it took advantage to jump over more well-established articles into the weekly ranking.
My Ubuntu Touch post dropped out of the ranking, leaving my tsuki ga kirei article, which now has 91 consecutive appearances, and my Pokémon stats article, as the only “perfect” articles of 2023. This is a notable change from 2022, wherein we had the same top five for the first five weeks of the year and three articles made every top five for the first 23 weeks.
5. News leaf journal
This could be a bit long…
Bing being Bing
I do not often use Bing Webmaster Tools. Because I have been working on the site lately, I decided to check in and run a scan. Bing’s scan was useful in that it highlighted that our articles had a second, unnecessary set of meta tags (something I will note Google neither highlighted nor cared about). It was less useful when Bing, without warning or explanation, immediately removed The New Leaf Journal from its web search results upon completion of the scan.
I have written quite a bit about alternative search engines (see our Old Leaf Journal). In so doing, I noted that most alternatives are really just Bing front-ends. You can see the big problem with being removed from Bing’s search results. DuckDuckGo was our second biggest search referrer after Google. I say was because DuckDuckGo is little more than Bing with better privacy policies and a coat of paint. We have had 0 DuckDuckGo hits since early Monday morning because removal from Bing means removal from DuckDuckGo.
Bing provided no explanation for what happened, and other than the fact that our search impressions cratered to 0 after Monday, there is no other indication in the console that there is a problem. I resolved all of the issues and sent an email to Bing requesting assistance on Monday. I have yet to hear back. Interestingly, we are not removed from Bing’s image search results – but that does us little good.
The Bing situation is out of my hands. I preemptively did my part in 2020 when I ditched Windows for Linux. But what is not out of my hands is making The New Leaf Journal better. I spent quite a bit of time this week making meaningful improvements to the site. If Bing ever decides to fix its Bing-ness, it will display results for an Improved Leaf Journal.
Site changes and improvements
There are many. Let’s work through them one-by-one…
- I fixed the technical issue highlighted by Bing regarding meta tags. When I switched from our parent theme to our child theme in WordPress, I did not notice that the theme’s native meta tag output was enabled. I use an SEO plugin for meta tags, so I want the theme tags disabled.
- I fixed a separate issue related to missing redirects for our site icon. I am now monitoring 404 errors and creating redirects to the proper resources when necessary.
- Our site had briefly crashed a couple of times in January. I believe I identified the issue as having to do with memory allocation on our server. After resolving the issue, I decided to finally enable Redis object caching for The New Leaf Journal (it was set up on our server, but I never got around to setting it up for the site).
- I discovered that our very old series taxonomy still existed in our database. This was a minor problem because it meant the links still existed. I not only cleaned our database of everything related to the series, I also cleaned out options related to old plugins that I had missed before (including some I uninstalled in July 2020) and information from our former SEO solution (Yoast).
- Since Bing decided to nuke us without explanation, I renewed my Yandex webmaster tools, which I had neglected. Yandex, for those not in the know, is basically Russian Google. Unlike China Communist Party-aligned Bing, Yandex did not de-index us, so I figured I ought to make sure that what may now be our third biggest search referrer (after Google and Brave) is in working order. I discovered an issue with old information related to Turbo pages (we no longer output Turbo feeds). Yandex noted I was changing settings and sent an email offering assistance. I had already fixed the issue, but I requested confirmation that I had done so correctly and asked how long it would take. I promptly received an informative and comprehensive response despite having no business relationship. Bing could learn something from them about customer service.
- (I must add we also got hits from Baidu, China’s biggest search engine this week – so Baidu, for which I have no webmaster tools, is now a bigger referrer to The New Leaf Journal than Bing.)
- We previously had a single page with every single New Leaf Journal article. With more than 750 articles, it was becoming too big. I split it into four. There are three pages with roughly 250 articles each and then the hub page starts after the third archive with links to the first three. You can see our new configuration here.
- I made one site downgrade. We had been using the Relevanssi Search plugin to improve our search. It worked well, but I noticed how huge its database is when I was cleaning up. Even though we have more than enough resources to handle Relevanssi, I decided that it is unlikely that enough people use our search to justify the resources it needs over Relevanssi Lite, a smaller version of the plugin that improves WordPress’s native search functionality. Thus, I switched from Relevanssi to Relevanssi Lite. There is a small downgrade, but I do not think it will make a meaningful difference in the vast majority of cases. I will make some tweaks to the search over the coming weeks to remove results that may not be useful.
- I also removed Syndication Links, a plugin which allowed me to add links to where I share articles under the posts. I like the concept, but I found the plugin to be too heavy and I could not fully control where it added CSS. I can manually add links to where I share articles when it is necessary or appropriate.
- In early January, I added a plugin called IndieBlocks to try and enhance our IndieWeb functionality. The plugin created the now-former Notes custom post type. Unfortunately, we cannot take advantage of much that IndieBlocks offers with our current theme, so I deleted IndieBlocks and created a new custom post type called Leaf Buds to replace the Notes. I transitioned the Notes posts to Leaf Buds.
Whew. That was quite a bit of work. The Bing thing is stupid and unjustified, but I used it as a prompt to fix a number of issues all at once. What’s on the future agenda?
- Update old site pages
- Create an off-site page for series and article collection links
- Build a new blogroll with WordPress’s built in links functionality
- Improve resiliency for handling unexpected events (like being removed from the second most important search index without warning or explanation)
- Spend more time writing articles instead of fiddling with the site, since none of the fiddling matters in the absence of virid articles
Because there was quite a bit of news this week, I will skip the Notable Leaf Journal section. Let us wrap up Newsletter 119.
6. Taking leaf
Thank you as always for reading and following The Newsletter Leaf Journal. If you have not done so already, consider signing-up for our weekly email or adding our RSS feed to your news reader (see options). I also syndicate the newsletter to The New Leaf Journal on Monday, two days after the official version goes out. At the moment, The Newsletter Leaf Journal is our project’s de facto official presence on Bing and its many front-ends, so I suppose its importance is growing in an unexpected way.
Until January 27…
Cura ut valeas.