Older blog entries for MichaelCrawford (starting at number 200)


I just published a new essay. It has a Creative Commons license.

I'll publish it here at Advogato if there is interest, but it has so far gone over like a lead balloon, both where I first published it at WebmasterWorld, where the moderators deleted it in less than a half hour, with a stern warning against claiming copyright over my own posts, and at Kuro5hin, where the revisions that were suggested after I asked for editorial help in my diary would have basically turned it into a completely different essay.

I can see how it could be improved, but I'm basically happy with how it presently stands. Please enjoy:

Most of the threads about copyright at WebmasterWorld have to do with how one can get the scraper sites kicked out of AdSense for stealing content, or even how to use the DMCA to get them shut down entirely. I hoped to offer an alternative viewpoint.

I emailed the link to RMS just now. I eagerly await his response. He's liked most of the other essays of mine that he's read.

Ask Advogato: How To Implement Site Search?

Can you suggest an open source package that will allow me to provide a search form on my pages whose search is restricted to my site? I need to be able to include a snippet of javascript in the search results to place Google AdSense ads in the results.

The is something called AdSense for Search, but it sends a lot of unpaid traffic away from my site. Paid ads are presented in the search results, but the pay per click is very poor, not enough I think to justify sending people away from my domain.

A short-term solution that won't make me ad revenue but should improve my site traffic is a hand-coded non-affiliate search box that uses Google to search my site by including a hidden form field that adds "site:goingware.com" as a keyword. Here is how such a search would result if one were to put such a search box here:

Now, I wouldn't get paid for ad clicks in those searches, but I think that's fair considering that I'm asking google to handle the searches. My reason for wanting site search is mainly to improve navigation at my site. I have already found that improved navigation on my pages drives up traffic throughout my site, as people spend time exploring it rather than going elsewhere. I figure offerring a search within my domain would improve that effect.

The adsense terms of service have been revised to allow ads to be placed in search results that adsense publishers generate. These are not the same as adsense for search, but are just like ads placed in static pages. The pay per click is much better, so that although I would lose a visitor when they clicked an ad, I would be paid well enough that it's worthwhile.

My web hosting service runs apache and mysql. I'm not sure what other web technologies they support. They're very busy people so I don't want to ask them to install any software they don't absolutely have to.

htDig is very popular but I've never been happy with its effectiveness. Maybe it is better now than it used to be. There must be many site search packages available, and I know I could find them all at Freshmeat, but I would prefer specific recommendations.

If you don't want to reply in your diary, send email to goingware (a|t) g m a i l dot com. My crawford@goingware.com email is deluged with spam because I have never protected it.

Thanks a million!

14 Jul 2005 (updated 17 Jul 2005 at 22:00 UTC) »

Greetings, Earthlings.

I have a new essay up at my site. It addresses my concerns regarding a proposed revamp of the Internet:

It has a Creative Commons license. Click the license notice and read the resulting Commons deed carefully to understand what that means.

I have many more articles and essays on their way. I expect I'll have something suitable for Advogato's front page before too long. It's been a while since I've published anything here.

Mike's Latest Windmill-Tilting Venture continued...


PaysWell's SourceForge project is live at:


PaysWell is a payroll witholding tax calculator, in the form of an OpenOffice spreadsheet. PaysWell is Free Software, released under the terms of the GNU General Public License.

Name service for payswell.org is not yet available but should be sometime tomorrow. My web hosting service Seagull Networks has generously agreed to provide DNS for free. They're good people - I've hosted with them for seven years and recommend them highly. (SourceForge provides VHOSTing for vanity domains but not name service.)

The SourceForge project page is:


Subscriptions and archives for payswell-devel and payswell-user can be found here and file releases here.

PaysWell 0.01 is my prototype that just does Nova Scotia witholding.

I plan to issue a press release, but decided I ought to wait until I have a production-quality spreadsheet available, even if it doesn't cover all of Canada. My prototype does the job but there are some serious (and documented) problems with it. I might also wait until I have one that does IRS and Maine witholding so USians can get started working on it.

Andrew Sackville-West very kindly sent me his payroll spreadsheet, which he's been using for a long time and so is much more advanced than mine. I expect I will learn a lot from his contribution. I'm not any kind of rocket scientist when it comes to spreadsheets. Figuring out how to look up tax table entries was an earth-shattering breakthrough for me.

The website is also pretty austere, downright ugly in fact, so maybe any press release should wait until it gets a facelift. I was in a hurry to get something up at all.

I won't have the time to do either for a few days, or maybe even a week as I have some pressing work that I've been putting off because of the time I've spent getting my new project started. But I will certainly have time to participate in any mailing list discussions.

Thank you for your attention.


Mike's Latest Windmill Tilting Venture

I am pleased to announce that release 0.01 of the PaysWell Payroll Witholding Tax Calculator is available for download at:


PaysWell(tm) is Free Software, licensed under the GNU General Public License.

PaysWell is an OpenOffice.org spreadsheet. Other formats such as Gnumeric will follow in due time.

This initial release is incomplete and only supports the Canadian province of Nova Scotia. The rest of Canada will be supported soon, with other countries to follow.

If and when PaysWell's SourceForge project is approved, PaysWell's homepage will be http://payswell.sourceforge.net/ For now that just gets a 404 page. A press release will be issued once the SourceForge project goes live.

For now, we're discussing it on the gnucash-user mailing list.

The reason I created my own spreadsheet is that GnuCash is not yet able to support witholding calculations. The reason I decided to GPL and release it is to help GnuCash achieve World Domination and crush Intuit for the crime of charging $199 a year for their undocumented QuickBooks format tax table "service". Intuit makes millions selling information that every national, state and provincial government in the world provides for free, often at considerable taxpayer expense by mailing tax tables in hardcopy form to every business in the land.

PaysWell is a trademark of GoingWare Inc.

Thank you for your attention.


Tilting at Windmills for a Better Tomorrow.

11 May 2005 (updated 12 May 2005 at 06:34 UTC) »

My new Kuro5hin essay is now posted. I was disappointed it only made section, but I knew from the start that such an inflammatory piece as mine faced an uphill battle. I'm relieved it was approved at all - I worked hard on it, but many Kurons were positively outraged. Please enjoy:

Please sign up so you can join in the discussion. Membership is free, and I'm much more hopeful than I have been in over a year that someday Kuro5hin will once again be the great community to be a part of that it once was.


This K5 comment right here is why I wrote what I did, and the way I did:

For what it's worth, your last one got me to dig up my password and start using my account again. -- destroyallofit

Sometimes dire circumstances call for drastic measures.

I realized I had succeeded beyond my wildest dreams when I saw the vigorous discussion that ensued in zrail's diary:

And finally, I posted a diary of my own at K5 tonight, on my thick skin, the advantages of being an egomaniac, and why I write the way I do:

I am quite close to being able to quit software consulting and live off the AdSense revenue from my programming tips.

All these years I have wanted to help out with many Free Software projects, but somehow never was able to find the time to make a meaningful contribution. But I have been able to write some Free Documentation, some of which has made a real difference to some people, as I know from some of the fan mail I get for it.

I am already able to devote much more time to my writing than I ever used to. As I transition into writing full-time, you can expect to see a lot more writing from me that isn't just Free as in Beer, but Free as in Freedom.

I am committed to it.

New Writing from MichaelCrawford

I just submitted a new story to the queue over at Kuro5hin. I worked on it all night long. I think I did a good job writing it, but if you're a K5 member, I need your support, as I'm sure my piece is likely to incite controversy, if not an actual riot.

Please go moderate:

  • Why Kuro5hin's Editors Need to Grow a Testicle
    Or, "What you can do to keep K5 from becoming the next Adequacy"

Thanks for your help.

If you're not a K5 member, membership is free, and I can remember a time when it was a great community to be part of.

3 May 2005 (updated 21 May 2006 at 03:48 UTC) »
Long Time No See

I'd like you all to read the Kuro5hin diary I just posted:

It's actually more about our decision to move to Canada, how things have gone since we've been here, and how I'm well on my way to changing careers from software consulting to earning my living through Google AdSense ads published in my programming tips.

It's long (6400 words, the longest diary I've ever written), but I worked for several hours to write it was well as I could. I think you'll enjoy it.

You might be surprised by what I have to say, but then, you might not.

Bonita's Career Change

Bonita was a chemistry student at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College here in Truro when we met back in '97. She also had a bachelor's degree in biology from Memorial University of Newfoundland in St. John's, and had done a great deal of field work, doing such things as collecting samples of salmon scales from remote Newfoundland rivers. When she came to live with me in California, she was able to get a TN-1 visa because she was offered a job as a biological technician at a biotech firm.

But she hated everything about her work. Based on what she said and what I knew about her, I suggested she change careers. Bonita is now nearing the end of her first year studying fine art at the University formerly known as The Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Halifax.

She is making blazing progress. I am convinced not just that she will succeed in her art career, but that someday Bonita is going to really Be Somebody in the art world. I am very proud of her.

Tonight she drew a portrait of me that I rather like as an exercise for her studio practice class. I don't have time right now but tomorrow evening I'll snap a digital photo and post it on my website for you to see.

My Career Change

I think I finally have a credible plan for getting out of custom software development, in fact, out of programming altogether. I know that to say such a thing in a place like Advogato is like farting in a crowded elevator, but I've been a coder for seventeen years. Although I am very good at what I do, the joy that programming once held for me has faded. Yet I continued to consult because I could see no alternative, as I cast about for a way to change careers.

I plan to earn a living as a professional writer, by writing technical articles of the sort that I already publish here. I plan to make money from advertising published along with my articles.

I've been running Google AdSense ads since September, and have just started featuring affiliate ads for books at Amazon and Powells City of Books. I thought that flogging books would pay well because I'm always recommending one book or another in my articles.

Late yesterday afternoon, I launched an advertising campaign aimed at promoting my writing. I'm starting with self-service text ads placed at Kuro5hin. I'm only running a few ads, but with wide variation in presentation and ad copy, so that I can conduct market research.

I learned what I know about test-driven scientific marketing back at Working Software when I worked for Dave Johnson, who saved the company from failing retail sales by selling via direct mail.

But the style of my marketing campaign is inspired by Christopher Locke's book Gonzo Marketing: Winning Through Worst Practices. He is also one of the authors of The Cluetrain Manifesto. I assert that both books are required reading for anyone wanting their business to prosper in the age of the Internet.

If you were to read either book, you would understand my reasoning behind the following press release which I wrote late last night, to announce the kickoff of my marketing campaign:

Send your comments to me at crawford@goingware.com

Writing isn't my ultimate destination though. I have a lot of work ahead of me before I can pass the entrance audition, but someday I want to go back to school to study musical composition. If you like, you can listen to my MP3s. Those were recorded over ten years ago though; I have come a long way since then, and plan to start recording again this summer.

Thank you for your attention.

-- Mike


You could really help me out if you could constructively criticize my upcoming Kuro5hin article:

It's not quite complete yet, but mostly there. I need to add a section where I compare my question (What is Music?) to my wife Bonita's question (What is Art?) She is an art student. It makes for interesting conversations in our house.

Send your comments to crawford@goingware.com.

I plan to submit it to moderation the day after christmas.

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