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Gus Van Horn blog

Reblogged:Friday Hodgepodge

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Four Things
And when to break them. (Image by geralt, via Pixabay (license)).
1. From the Paris Review come three writing rules to disregard, by Benjamin Dryer of Random House. Perhaps because I never put much stock in any of these, I was amused by the following famous counterexample by Winston Churchill:
This is the kind of arrant pedantry up with which I will not put.
In addition to Never end a sentence with a preposition, Dryer dispatches rules on split infinitives and starting sentences with and or but.

2. A new version of the Firefox browser will start blocking automatically playing audio and video. I can't greet the news any better than the following, from a comment from Hacker News (and agree that they didn't go far enough):
It's frustrating seeing video everywhere when you're just trying to read an article. If I wanted video, I'd turn on my TV.
Because autoplaying media I am not interested in is ubiquitous, I bought a head jack switch years ago simply because it made it easier to mute my computer at writing time during the wee hours, for when I forgot to disable audio the day before.

3. Here's a funny sign of the times: a font designed to help college students pad essays with a page length requirement.

4. Venture capitalist and computer programmer Paul Graham, in the process of explaining why his adaptive spam filtering technique would drive up costs for spammers:
The reason the spammers use the kinds of sales pitches that they do is to increase response rates. This is possibly even more disgusting than getting inside the mind of a spammer, but let's take a quick look inside the mind of someone who responds to a spam. This person is either astonishingly credulous or deeply in denial about their sexual interests. In either case, repulsive or idiotic as the spam seems to us, it is exciting to them. The spammers wouldn't say these things if they didn't sound exciting. And "thought you should check out the following" is just not going to have nearly the pull with the spam recipient as the kinds of things that spammers say now. Result: if it can't contain exciting sales pitches, spam becomes less effective as a marketing vehicle, and fewer businesses want to use it.
After reading this -- which is worthwhile because it is a great example of someone explaining a difficult problem in a straightforward manner -- it amazes me that anyone still sends spam. Of course, it amazed me a couple of decades ago when my inboxes would get flooded with it. They don't now, though, and I suspect Graham's work was a big part of why. Indeed, I see spam in one of my inboxes about once every few months.

-- CAV

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