World Naked Bike Ride 2005 photos

The San Francisco naked ride photos have just been put up — here.

Yes, it’s taken quite awhile — the ride was June 11. Only four months… but the organizer has done a really great job. There are separate albums from five different photographers and hundreds of pictures. (Does get a little repetitive after a while.)

This may be one of the best collections for WNBR 2005. If you want to check out the other cities, you’ll have to go to the main WNBR page and start looking yourself. Select a country, then a city. Most don’t have many photos, but there’s lots of other info. Many cities have their own discussion groups at Yahoo! or elsewhere.

Imagine doing this yourself next summer. Better yet, get involved, or organize a ride yourself. You can sign up for new cities at the pages for the appropriate country. If the city is already listed, just check back early next summer for further information, or join the discussion group. If you can’t find your country, you can be the first — sign up at the main page.

Originally published October 18, 2005

Blogging for naturists: syndication and aggregators

The following is meant as an introduction to syndication and content aggregation. If you’re already using a “feed reader” or a Web service like Bloglines or Newsgator, then you probably know most of what’s here. We’ll discuss some more advanced topics in a later post. So what’s here may be too elementary for you, and you may just want to skim it quickly. Otherwise, read on…

There’s so much information on the Web these days — and there has been for almost 10 years, in fact — that keeping track of what’s most interesting (to you) is a major challenge. The advent of blogs — which have been around in roughly their present form for over 5 years, but only recently have become especially popular — has only made the problem worse.

But for almost every “problem” like this that the ‘net has created, solutions have also arisen as well. Usually more than one solution, which can make things even more confusing. “Syndication” is an example.

There are many more-or-less conventional news sources on the Web, provided by both dead-tree publishers, such as newspapers, and Web portals like Yahoo! and AOL. And now, on top of that, there are millions of blogs, collectively covering every imaginable topic of interest. How can you keep track of them all?

The answer is, you can’t, not completely. But you can make a stab at it by taking advantage of syndication. That is a way for content providers to make their information available to you in a way that is a little more automated and structured than what you would otherwise have to do by visiting 10 to 100 different Web sites per day.

Think of the Web as a huge funnel. All the information that’s out there enters at one end. Somehow or another it has to be sifted and filtered and winnowed so that what comes out the other end is what is most interesting to you.

It’s not possible, of course, to do this filtering really well without help from you, because you’re the only one who really knows what’s most interesting to you. (But don’t doubt that content providers and marketers and your Big Brothers in government agencies everywhere are spending millions to try to figure out automatically as best they can what you’re interested in. Undoubtedly, the fact you’re reading this now is telling someone that you’re at least curious about naturism, if not already deeply involved. And that someone ain’t us.)

One way you help out is via the choice of Web sites you go to in the first place, especially the search engines and portals like Google and Yahoo!. And then, which parts of such sites you use, such as their financial news or their discussion groups. And then, which specific kinds of searches you perform. Blogs present a slightly different problem. Each blog assists in the filtering process because the blog owner has made a selection of only a few items that are most interesting to him/her. Your “only” problem is to identify which of the millions of blogs has an editor whose interests and tastes you share, and then to keep track of new things the editor selects. Fortunately, most blogs are fairly simple. Except for a few of the largest, they offer just a simple linear string of messages, which may or may not be grouped by topic.

What syndication allows you to do is to specify, in a fairly concise way, just which of all these information sources is so important to you that you want to be notified as simply and as conveniently as possible when new information appears at the source. This is where you make your real preferences known, near the narrow end of the funnel.

For example, let’s suppose you want to keep track of new messages from this blog. If you look on the right-hand side of the page, under “Meta”, there is a link called “RSS”. (And at the bottom of the page there are separate links to “RSS”, one for “entries” and one for “comments”.) If you click on one of these links all you see is mostly gibberish. What you’re seeing is a file coded using “XML”, a markup language for describing content. XML is related to “HTML”, which is used to encode normal Web pages. HTML is designed to be read by a Web browser, while XML is designed to be read by a different type of program: in this case a “feed reader”.

There can be a point of confusion here, because the XML can be written using different specifications as to its contents. The most common specification is called “RSS”, meaning “Really Simple Syndication”, and that in turn has different versions itself, such as 1.0 and 2.0. A different specification is known as “Atom”. You may or may not need to know more about the type of XML used at any given blog, as we’ll explain later.

The XML file is generated automatically, and it describes the information that the site is currently offering in what is called a “feed”. The program for which this file is intended is called a “feed reader”, which is what you interact with in order to actually select and read the proffered information.

Another name for this sort of program is “feed aggregator”, because it can collect information — in the form of feeds — from multiple sources and present them to you in a unified and (hopefully) user-friendly interface. Such feed readers come in several different forms. One form is as a feature or tool that is part of another program you use, like a Web browser or email reader. Another form is a specialized stand-alone program that runs on your computer. The third form is a program that is part of a Web site and which you access through your normal Web browser (though it isn’t actually a part of the browser). There are pros and cons associated with each of these.

In order to provide a hands-on demonstration of how this works, we’re going to run through how to “subscribe” to the “feed” for this blog. But we can’t do that without talking about the specific “feed reader” you choose to use. Since we’re assuming this is new to you, we’ll also assume you don’t already have a feed reader. To make this as easy as possible for everyone, we’ll give instructions for signing up with the online service Bloglines and getting started with it.

So to begin, just click here. Right in the middle of the page you’ll see “Sign up now. It’s free.” Click that (it really is free). You will be asked for an email address and password. Provide a real address and a suitable password — preferably one you can remember, but not the one actually associated with the email account. You’ll have to reply to an email message at that address for verification. (You can change the name and password later.) After you’ve submitted that information, go to your email program and reply to the verification message. You can then go to the main Bloglines page. If you see “My Feeds” in the upper left, click on it. Then click on “Add” in the upper left corner.

Now comes the only tricky part. Go back to the “RSS” link on the right side of this page under “Meta”. Click on that with the right mouse button. If you’re using the Netscape, Mozilla, or Firefox browser, select “Copy Link Location” from the menu. (If using the Microsoft Internet Explorer, select “Copy Shortcut”.) Go back to the Bloglines page, put the cursor in the box for “Blog or Feed URL”, and press Ctrl-V (or Shift-Ins). This should insert the URL into the box. Then press the Subscribe button.

Assuming there’s no problem finding the feed, you’ll then be shown an options page. The only thing you might want to change is the name of a “folder” in which to place the feed. This allows you to group related feeds together on Bloglines (and has nothing to do with your own computer’s folders). You might want to put this feed in a folder called “Naturism”, but that’s up to you. The other options can be changed later if you want. As soon as you press the Subscribe button, the feed will be added to the chosen folder, appearing on the left-hand side.

You can now explore for yourself how to access the feed. There are plenty of help files at Bloglines to assist you and explain all the features. Anytime in the future, you want to check this feed and any others you add, you need only go to the Bloglines home page, log in with your email address and password, and check the list of feeds.

The next thing you probably should do now is to add a few more feeds for additional naturist and other blogs. Some other blogs to check (if you haven’t already) can be found in the links in the sidebar. When you go to another site, the URL for its feed can be tricky to find. Often, instead of a text link as used here, there will be a button that looks like this: or . Usually this button is a link to the URL of the feed’s XML. In this case, simply right-click on it to get the link, just as we did earlier. Occasionally a site will give you a normal link to another (HTML) page that presents a number of different options, with some explanation of what each is for.

In case you are offered more than one option, the safest thing is to select generic “XML” or “RSS”. But it all depends on what your particular feed reader or aggregator needs. Bloglines prefers the RSS option. “Atom” will frequently work too, since most readers and aggregators now support all the common formats.

If you can’t find a link for a blog’s feed anywhere on the home page, it’s possible that the blog doesn’t offer a feed for some reason. (Privacy, for example.) Or sometimes the blog owner has simply forgotten to provide the link. If you don’t see a link, there’s usually not much you can do, short of contacting the blog owner. However, if the blog is hosted at Blogspot (or Blogger, which is the same thing), the feed is normally in Atom format, and may have a default URL of the form http://blogname.blogspot.com/atom.xml. As a last resort, you can try using the URL of the blog itself, since many blogs provide the URL of their feeds in such a way that it can be “discovered” automatically by the reader or aggregator.

You may have to guess or do some detective work to find the right URL for a feed, but it doesn’t hurt to try. At worst, the feed reader or aggregator will tell you if it can’t find the XML for the feed.

Bloglines has many other features, since it’s one of the leading aggregator services. For instance, there are many ways to search for and add other feeds you are interested in. The best thing to do now is to find a few other feeds and add them to your list. So the homework assignment is: get a little experience with Bloglines and feeds. In the next post in this series we’ll deal with some more “advanced” topics related to syndication and feed aggregators, such as:

  • Other feed-reading programs and aggregators to try
  • Explanations of how syndication works “under the covers”
  • How to make a file containing a list of your feeds that can be used with any reader or aggregator
  • How to search for interesting feeds
  • How to construct feeds based on search results

Originally published October 16, 2005

Blogging for naturists: finding naturist blogs

It isn’t quite as hard as you might think, because there aren’t that many of them yet. Or maybe that means it’s actually harder. Whatever.

Your first thought might be, “why not just use Google?” Actually, that has just become a possible strategy, because only in the middle of September it came out that Google has a brand new search facility just for blogs: Google Blog Search. (Here’s a news story.) Like the familiar Google Web search, this service lets you do many kinds of searches — by words in the blog name, message title, message text, by author, by date, and so forth.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that if you were simply to search with terms like “naturism” or “nudism”, you would come up with an incredible amount of junk, because there are so many soft (and hard) core porn sites that use these terms deceptively. You will also find a lot of posts that use these terms legitimately, but where the blog itself has little or nothing to do with naturism. The problem is far worse if you use terms like “nude” or “naked”.

One solution is to make the searches more specific, by including other terms like “California” or “nude beach” that must be in the post. But you still get a lot of junk. By default, Google supposedly presents the results sorted by “relevance”. Unfortunately, whatever their relevance algorithm is, it works poorly in this case. You can also request reports sorted by date. That’s much worse.

So what can you do? The good news is that there are other blog search tools, and a few work better for finding naturist blogs.

One of the oldest and most popular blog search services is Technorati. Like Google, it allows you to specify a variety of different types of searches. And you can also link directly to a search on the term “nudism” (for instance) with this URL: http://www.technorati.com/search/nudism. The search results are sorted by age (newest first), but there is far less junk in the results than what Google yields.

Technorati also allows you to search for blogs rather than posts in blogs, using descriptive terms provided by the blog owner. Unfortunately, this seems to find only blogs that the owner has registered with the term at Technorati, so you get far fewer results. Finally, you can search for individual posts that have been explicitly “tagged” with a term by the author. This too eliminates most junk, but also returns few results, because it finds only posts that the author has gone to the effort of tagging. But this situation should improve, since tagging is a relatively new idea which will be much more useful if it catches on more generally. We will discuss tags in more detail in a later article.

Here are some additional search services similar to Google and Technorati:

Unfortunately, when we checked these, they provided few useful results with the search terms “naturism” and “nudism” (but little junk, either).

Another type of search tool is a blog directory, such as the original Yahoo! website directory. At this time, it isn’t worth listing any of these. Whether intentionally or not, all of them have little or nothing very relevant to naturism.

However, there is one good technique you may not have thought of. Most of the blogging service providers, such as Blogger, have user profiles, which allow people to provide information about themselves and their blogs. Generally you can search the directory of profiles, so try a search on “nudism” or “naturism”. The nice thing about these is you can see what other interests the person has — which will probably eliminate many. The downside is that their blogs may have little or nothing to say about naturism.

There’s one additional effective strategy for finding good naturist blogs. Once you have found a few blogs you like, take a look at the list of links (if any) in the sidebars usually found on the left or right side of the main text. The links there are either sites that the blog owner likes and recommends (which is the case on this site) or else other blogs that link to the current site. Unless this list is especially long, the recommendations you find there can be very worthwhile.

And of course, whenever you find a post from another blog being discussed or mentioned on the current blog, it’s usually worthwhile following the link, even if the topic isn’t especially interesting to you. You may find that the blog that’s linked to has much other content which is interesting. If you see comments or trackbacks associated with a post, check those too, since people sometimes promote their blogs that way.

There are still more ways to find naturist blogs, but they have to do with topics we’ll discuss in future posts in this series:

  • Searches and directories that involve syndication and “feeds”, and searches that are part of “feed aggregators”
  • Searching in “social networking sites” which support blogging, such as LiveJournal
  • Using sites that provide “social bookmarking”, such as Del.icio.us and Furl

Originally published October 9, 2005

A little humor for Friday night

Insults, Taunts and Rebukes

From Randy Cassingham’s Jumbo Jokes.

And then there’s this, from the same source, except I’ve modified it a little.

Dear Continental, American Airlines, Southwest, Delta, United, et al.: I have the solution to prevent hijackings and get our airline industry back on its feet at the same time.

Replace all flight attendants with good lookin’ naturists. What the hell? The attendants have gotten old and haggard looking. They don’t even serve food anymore, so what’s the loss?

The naturists would double, triple, perhaps quadruple the alcohol consumption and get a “party atmosphere” going in the cabin.

Muslims would be afraid to get on the planes for fear of seeing naked people and the country would start flying again hoping to see naked people. Hijackings would come to a screeching halt and the airline industry would see record revenue.

Why the hell didn’t Bush think of this?

Why do I still have to do everything myself?

Sincerely,

Bill Clinton

Originally published September 30, 2005

Blogging for naturists

Let’s face it. Naturism is a fairly esoteric interest in our culture. Because of the deeply ingrained taboos against nudity in the culture, it has been pretty difficult for people interested in social (or even private) nonsexual nudity to find information about it and to discover social contacts and form friendships with like-minded others.

The cultural obstacles to forming a true nationwide (or even worldwide) community of naturists have hindered the spread of naturist ideals, values, and philosophy among those who are open-minded enough (whether they are even aware of it or not) to learn about and enjoy social nudity.

In the early days of naturism, naturist magazines and books were just about the only means of community building. More recently, personal computers and online computer systems have taken up this role, via “computer-based message systems” (CBMS).

Now we are entering a new phase of this process, with specialized and function-rich tools like blogs to make communication even easier. It’s possible that blogging by naturists (and potential naturists) will finally enable the development of a real community. But naturists as a whole seem to have been rather late in discovering the possibilities of blogging.

At the same time, there has been a proliferation of earlier types of CBMS used by naturists, especially mailing lists and (to a lesser extent) message boards. It can be very hard to find mailing lists or message boards with people you like and with discussions of naturist topics you are especially interested in. In the early days, there were just a few systems like rec.nude and the message boards on Compuserve, Delphi, and Prodigy. But now there are hundreds of active groups, and the online naturist community is quite fragmented. People have no good way of learning about interesting information that appears in places they aren’t even aware of. Blogging can help solve this problem, since the most interesting information and discussions tend to be propagated from one blog to another.

So I propose to do something about this fragmentation problem by writing a little series of articles here that provide readers with everything they might want to know about naturist blogging but were too intimidated by the technology to ask.

Naturists have been online (and NIFOC) for quite a while — some of the earliest bulletin boards and message systems for naturists were on services like Delphi, Prodigy, and Compuserve around 1990. Even before that there were PC-based bulletin board systems, email mailing lists, and (of course) rec.nude on Usenet.

These are all types of computer-based messaging systems, which have been around since the 1970s. I won’t even try to relate the ancient history, but I do go back quite a way with CBMS myself — I started using email and “computer conferencing” in 1977.

Now we have the Internet, and within that environment many contemporary types of CBMS, such as:

  • mailing lists
  • message boards
  • chat rooms (text and video)
  • instant messaging
  • blogs
  • social networking tools (such as Friendster and Linkedin)
  • web sites associated with each other in a “Webring
  • “wikis” (like Wikipedia)

Each of these has its advantages and disadvantages. Perhaps it’s possible to understand blogs better if we think of them as a sort of “universal object” in the category of CBMS. That is, most of the things you can do with one of the other systems can be done with a blog.

Consider the basic components of a message board, for example:

  • users
  • messages
  • topics and threads

To begin with, you have “users” — just people who want to use the computer as a tool to communicate with each other. Some systems are open, and allow anyone to join the group. Systems that are very open even allow anyone who comes along to participate, while others require a formal registration process. Closed systems require prospective users to be added by an administrator who has special authority to permit or deny access. Users may be grouped along with others in subsets of the whole user community, as “special interest groups”, “committees”, and so forth. And these groupings can be overlapping or hierarchical, like the “divisions”, “departments”, and “sections” of a business. Membership in groups can be either voluntary or assigned by group managers.

The next feature any CBMS must have is, of course, “messages” — the information that the users exchange among themselves. Messages can consist only of text, or they can include almost any other type of data — pictures, sound, video, spreadsheets, databases, etc.

Messages, in turn, can be organized into groupings much like users. Such groupings are often referred to as “sections”, “topics”, or “threads”. These organizing principles are important enough to be regarded as the third major feature of a CBMS. There can be an arbitrary number of levels of hierarchy, but let’s stick with three just for simplicity. At the top level, a section is established by a system administrator, and usually represents a fundamental grouping of possible topics. In naturism, there might be sections of a CBMS devoted to things like “clubs”, “beaches”, “family naturism”, etc. Next, within each section there will be a variety of topics. These may be established by a section manager, but they may also be created by users to collect related discussions together. At the lowest level are threads, which develop spontaneously as each message entered by someone is followed by replies from others — often producing a deeply nested tree of responses.

We could examine how each type of CBMS mentioned previously implements all or most of these common features, but that would be getting into too much detail here. The basic point we want to make is that blogs allow for all of these features, and bring along special capabilities of their own.

Each and every blog can be regarded as a CBMS unto itself, or you can think of them as just the top level sections of one entity, the “blogosphere”. A blog can be entirely a personal thing, which is simply a diary belonging to whoever created it. But even then, most blogs allow for comments from blog readers, and if there are extensive comments, they either explicitly or implicitly develop spontaneously into threads.

Some blogs (referred to as “group blogs”) are jointly owned by several individuals who have special privileges to admit new users, create topics, and make managerial decisions. But both individual and group blogs are often subdivided into a number of predefined sections and/or topic areas. It’s generally possible to assign messages to more than one topic area, when appropriate. Sometimes topics can be created by any user, with techniques such as “tags”.

So blogs can effectively have all of the features of typical message boards, but they have unique capabilities of their own as well. In particular, there are several techniques for allowing linking and interconnection between independent blogs anywhere in the blogosphere.

This can be done in several ways. The simplest way is just by using the standard Web links between pages. In most blogs, there is a separate URL for each message in the system (but usually not for user comments), and this URL doesn’t change even when messages scroll off the main page. So it is trivially easy for a message on one blog to refer to messages on any number of separate other blogs. And just as important, there are tools for discovering external messages that link to a given message. Such linkages are formed spontaneously, or they may be facilitated with tools like “trackbacks”.

Another way that blogs can be accessed by whoever might be interested in their contents is through the process of “syndication”. We won’t attempt to explain it right now. It’s enough to say that this is a way for people to be informed automatically when new messages are posted at any blog they “subscribe” to, without having to periodically visit all blogs they are interested in.

Future messages in this series will deal with the following topics:

  • Finding naturist blogs
  • Syndication — RSS, atom, feed readers
  • Comments
  • Trackback
  • Technorati tags – taxonomies
  • Your own naturist blog
  • Social networking tools
  • Social bookmarking

Please feel free to comment here and in future messages if you have questions or want more information on anything discussed in this series.

More information:

Wikipedia: Blogosphere

Originally posted September 26, 2005

Anything but naked

I wouldn’t normally spend any time on such a gloomy, antagonistic view of naturism as the following. But it seems easy enough to answer handily, so I offer that after a brief excerpt. Perhaps it will help others deal with people they know who have similar peevish attitudes.

Anything but naked

Freelance journalist Carol Glassman writes:

I won’t say some of my best friends are nudists, but I do know one couple that goes to nude resorts regularly, considering themselves to be naturists. We have never discussed it, and I couldn’t imagine asking nudists to share photos of their vacation.

For most of us, it’s difficult to think of nudity without the obvious, and unfortunately that elicits all the old jokes and clich├ęs with sexual connotations.

My response:

It’s a pity you feel this way about nudity and naturism. I’m sorry for you, since you’re missing one of life’s gentle pleasures and so much simple, uncomplicated joie de vivre.

Talk to your friends about naturism. Ask them to share their pictures with you. Unless your mien telegraphs disapproval, I’m sure they’ll be glad to.

If you are unable to think of nudity without the “obvious” clichés and sexual connotations, then that suggests to me your creative spark and ability to see life in new ways is failing. What a shame that you seem to be dying inside before the appointed time.

Florida has so many beautiful places to enjoy nudity. If you can’t bring yourself to try one of the fine naturist resorts around Tampa or the lively Haulover Beach in Miami, then take a day off to rent a canoe. Pick one of Florida’s endless, spring-fed streams somewhere, remove your clothes, and enjoy it to the fullest.

Remind yourself of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings friend Dess written about in Cross Creek:

She lives a sophisticate’s life among worldly people. At the slightest excuse she steps out of civilization, naked and relieved, as I should step out of a soiled chemise.

Read Rawlings’ Cross Creek yourself. It has only indirect allusions to nudity, like the above, but try to understand how a naturist vision suffuses parts of the book. Then visit Rawlings’ homestead at Cross Creek, near Gainesville. It’s a state park now. See if you can’t conjure in your imagination what a fine place it must have been in Rawlings’ day 60 or 70 years ago to enjoy life without clothes.

If you can summon the courage to experience a taste of naturism in whatever way suits you best, and if you still feel so negatively about it afterward, I’ll be very surprised.

Originally posted September 16, 2005

Growing up naked

Just as foretold, there’s another article on naturism/nudism in a magazine for female teens this month — I’m a nudist! — in the current (October 2005) CosmoGirl.

This one is a first-person as-told-to “confession” type of story instead of a documentary. Kim Lowery tells us what it’s like to grow up in a family that never wears clothes at home. Evidently, Kim has no regrets at all.

My family — me, my parents, and my two older sisters — lived our lives completely naked. We ate dinner, watched TV, and did everything you’d normally do around the house in the buff. Generally, the only time we weren’t nude was when we were expecting guests.

Kim’s story is all happy and fuzzy-kitten upbeat, which is interesting since not all of the other “real life” stories in the same issue are. (One girl discovers she’s gay, and her parents haven’t yet accepted that. Another girl’s family got trapped in a Christian religious cult.)

Kim speaks about things most naturists know, like the way being naked loses its potential scariness when everyone else around is also naked. But there is one aspect of going through the teen years as a naturist that Kim describes and is a little surprising: At least in her experience, naturism wasn’t even much of a problem when she found a non-naturist boyfriend:

When I first met my boyfriend Adam this spring, I told him right away. I was relieved that he saw it as an important part of who I am and that he was willing to try it too.

People sometimes ask if there’s sexual tension between guys and girls when we’re naked in front of each other at the resort, and the truth is that there isn’t. No one is expecting anything because we’ve already seen it all.

It seems Kim has nothing negative to say about the naked conditions in which she grew up. Sounds too good to be true. But you know what? Some people really are lucky.

Originally posted September 15, 2005