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The Courting of Bing

After our many recent problems with Google, we wound up launching the courting of Bing. I’d heard that Bing was getting its act together after a somewhat shaky start, and that a lot of the people who used Bing now swore by it. Since my primary business is helping clients build web sites and adapt to social networks, I figured it was about time I re-visited Bing to see how it might help some of the web sites I maintain, and especially the Malleus Maleficarum web site.

The first thing I needed to do was to add the Malleus web site to Bing’s webmaster tools. Honestly, the last time I looked over Bing, they didn’t have webmaster tools. So after the pleasant surprise of finding them, I set out to see what this might mean to us and our campaign to recover some of our dwindling traffic (or at least figure out where it’s going).

Much to my surprise, our traffic doubled overnight, and tripled by the third night. Apparently there are a lot more people using Bing than is generally admitted. At least by Google.

So. Where does that put us? Well, nowhere, really. This isn’t a grand announcement. We’ve just sort of discovered a whole new audience for the Malleus Maleficarum web site. Or at least a new way to make our searches available. We’ll see how this Bing thing turns out. But for the moment, it looks promising. And it’s oh, so satisfying to be able to thumb our nose at Google a bit.

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Sparring With Google

Our never-ending sparring with Google seems to be as problematic as ever. We mentioned on our Facebook page a week or so ago that we had noticed our web traffic at MalleusMaleficarum.org had suddenly plummeted. While none of our users reported any problems, you don’t just suddenly lose hundreds of daily visits without a reason. And since, to the best of our knowledge, we hadn’t done anything to particularly offend anyone (no more than usual, anyway), that left only one possibility – Google had throttled our web site.

These kinds of things are annoying. Firstly, Google has a virtual monopoly on the web search business. Sure, there are other alternatives. Some folk swear by Bing. Yahoo! is still out there. But for the moment, the only real game in town is Google. So if your web traffic suddenly dies, you can pretty much bet you’ve done something to annoy Google.

The thing is… Google won’t really tell you what that is.

There are a number of ways you can get into trouble with Google. The easiest way is to post too much duplicate content from other web sites. We don’t really do that here, but we do occasionally post excerpts from news stories about witch hunts or witchcraft with links to the original pages. Given that we don’t post a lot of original articles (we’re an archive site for a historical text, not a social networking site), it could perhaps appear to Google’s meat-headed bots and algorithms that we’re some kind of spam site.

Of course, we’ll never really know. Google’s not talking. Our statistics at Google Webmaster show clean. And when you search for the Malleus Maleficarum, we are still the second link like we have always been. But when Google throttles your web site, it’s the subsequent searches that don’t show up.

For example, one popular search is for the phrase “hardly clear of the ground”, which people remember because it refers to a suspected witch being suspended in mid-air by her thumbs. It is directly from the Malleus Maleficarum. And yet if you search for that phrase on Google, our web site doesn’t show up until the end of the second page of results. Even when you search for that phrase accompanied by the word “Malleus”, we are still far down the bottom of the second page.

So, you may ask?

What that means is that we’re being throttled by Google for some reason known only to them. The organic searches which should be bringing up many results from text queries and other Malleus related searches are simply not returning results. We’re not being seen. Who really makes it as far as the bottom of the second page of search results?

In the end, there’s not a whole hell of a lot we can do about it. We’ll do what we’ve always done and keep our web site free of malware, and hope that one day Google will let us back in the game. We’ve also start playing footsies more directly with Bing. So we’ll see. In the meantime, if you’ve had trouble finding parts of the web site through Google searches, now you know why.

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Exploring Mobile Options

We’ve had some frustration of late exploring mobile options to accommodate those good folks who use the Malleus Maleficarum web site on mobile devices. The basic problem has been finding a decent theme that does everything we want it to do. So far the options have been between simple, utilitarian themes that function like they’re supposed to but generally have no “pizzazz”, or gorgeous, fun mobile themes that just don’t work like they’re supposed to. A good example is a premium theme we just purchased, which looked great, had exceptional functionality, and which thrilled us during testing. However, that theme stopped working when WooCommerce updated their scripts. So… it worked for about three days.

For now, we’ve decided to stick with one of the themes that came with our theme switcher. It’s the one that’s in place now. And while we always regarded it as a temporary measure, the damned thing works. What we’ll probably be doing is modifying the headers and menus of that theme to have better functionality than what it did out of the box, and generally make do with what we’ve got. Any suggestions or tips will be welcomed.

Please accept our apologies if you’ve experienced any frustration over the mobile experience here at the Malleus Maleficarum Online project. Rest assured that our intention all along has only been to provide our users with the best online experience possible on our web site. Sometimes that hasn’t worked out so well. But, as always, we’re working to improve.

Thanks for your patience.

~ Wicasta Lovelace

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Keep Your Mitts Off Women’s Rights

I try not to insert politics into the discussions here at the Malleus Maleficarum web site. People are passionate about what they believe, and it rarely goes well for anybody. But someone pointed out that a t-shirt we recently posted to the store could be perceived as a comment upon what some consider to be a “war on women” by a particular political party. Well, we were not blind, of course, to the political implications of the design. In fact, given the very history of the Malleus Maleficarum and its effect on women, I feel that it is in keeping with the tradition of challenging ideas and imagery which we like to post here. Just as some folks object to images of women being burned at the stake, and some people object to stories about accused witches being hacked to death with machetes in Africa, some people will no doubt object to this design.

If you are offended by this design, please accept my apologies. But I would invite you to look into the history behind the statement, and perhaps ponder the truly engaging question that has, thus far, not been asked. In a contemporary society, does this design belong as a valid part of the discourse? And if so, what does that say about the ongoing relevance of the Malleus Maleficarum?

With all that said, I encourage you to go buy the t-shirt and help us keep the lights on. Make your voices heard, whatever you may believe. That’s the only real way to participate in American democracy.

~ Wicasta

Keep Your Mitts Off Women’s Rights – T-Shirt
$18.99 – sizes Small to 5X
@ Floozees Doozees

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Smacked Down By Google

Due to a server configuration error, we were recently smacked down by Google. We discovered that the web site had been removed entirely from their search index. So if you’ve searched for us and come up with nothing, that’s why. We were in a time-out. We made adjustments and the web site is showing up in Google searches again, but it’ll take a few days for us to be back at the top of the indexing. Please be patient.

This is just part of playing the game with Google. We apologize for any inconvenience, but these occasionally happen. It’s unavoidable when the people who are dealing the cards are also the people who get to make up all of the rules. Sometimes they change rules without telling anybody, and you wind up with a losing hand. That’s just the way it is.

Anyway, we’re back on track and hope things will settle down soon. Again, sorry for the troubles.

~ Wicasta

 

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You Can’t Please Them All

We have been soundly confused about the reaction to some of our recent changes around the web site. Admittedly, we floundered a bit when we went searching for a new theme for the web site and made some clear mistakes with some of the themes we tried. But when we settled on our current theme, there was, for a time, peace in the valley. But apparently you can’t please them all. Over time, some people began to complain that they missed the old web site theme, insisting that it was simpler and easier to use, and pointing out that it put the Malleus Maleficarum front and center without a whole lot of ancillary material as a distraction.

Well, since we’ve watched the number of visitors go down over the last month or so on the web site, we found ourselves pondering those complaints. Perhaps those people made some valid points. After all, if less people were visiting, there was clearly a problem of some sort.

So… what did we do? We switched the format of the web site to put the Online Introduction to the web site front and center, just like it used to be with the old web site theme. Problem solved! Right? Right?

Well… actually… no…

Oi vey!

After that last change we received a deluge of e-mail that supported the last web site design, with some people pointing out how much they liked the inclusive information and the opportunity to get a quick glance at ways in which witchcraft and the persecution of those alleged to be involved with witchcraft is still a very real problem in many parts of the world, and appreciated being made aware that the so-called “Burning Times” are not solely a relic of ancient history.

Honestly, after that we just threw our hands up. It was easy to switch the theme back to displaying more information, so that’s what we did. The web site is now what it is, and will remain so for the foreseeable future. We’ve moved some things around and made some adjustments, though.

  • Table of Contents has been restored to the sidebar.
  • Ancillary material has been moved to the footer slots.
  • Sponsor links have been moved to the footer slots.
  • Featured products tabs have been moved to the footer slots.

We hope these changes will make folks happy. In the end, though, the Malleus Maleficarum web site itself suffers from being too successful at what we were trying to do way back in 1999 when we got the ball rolling. Our plan all along was to promote the Malleus Maleficarum so that this blood-stained work would not disappear from the public consciousness. In 1999 most people had never heard of it. Now, thanks in part to this web site, public awareness of the Malleus Maleficarum is on the rise. Our PDF files have been pilfered by some of the brightest minds on the Internet and have been used as the basis for most of the e-books you’ll find across the Web. Almost 24,000 people have downloaded our PDF file on Scribd in just the past year alone.

In short, the Malleus Maleficarum can now be found in so many places all across the Internet that the popularity and importance of this web site is on the wane. That’s just fine with us, because it means that we’ve been successful at what we set out to do, and the Malleus Maleficarum is unlikely to be forgotten in the modern era. Sure, there’s a little sadness involved. You always hate to see folks move on. But it’s the nature of the beast, yes?

Anyway, here we are. The web site is how it is, and will likely stay this way for some time. We’re finished noodling. Some things can’t be improved upon. As ever, we are appreciative of your regard and support, and we wish you well in all that you do. Whether you’ve used this web site in your college studies or just came here out of curiosity, rest assured that you will always have friends in us.

Walk in light and peace.

~ Wicasta Lovelace

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Do Christians Know About Malleus Maleficarum? About Inquisition?

Witch BurningsEver the trouble-maker, I found myself responding to a question posed on Yahoo! this morning. The full question was – “Do Christians know about Malleus Maleficarum – Hammer of the Witches ? Know About Inquisition?” Well… no. Not really. Most Christians don’t know what the Malleus Maleficarum is, if they’ve heard about it at all. And most of those who have are fairly determined to regard it as an obscure work from a different time. The familiar restrain is “We’re not like that now. Really. We’re not.”

What followed the question were several of the expected responses from people who prefer to think of the Malleus Maleficarum as an anomoly which has little to do with modern religion.

  • “‘Bad’ or perhaps evil Christians exist as do good ones.”
  • “Catholicism was behind that evil stuff. Do not blame Christians. There is a huge difference.”
  • “That was the church of Rome that did that, way different than a true Christian.”

Here’s what I think:

Christians have tried for centuries to distance themselves from the Malleus Maleficarum. Baptists and other denominations have said “Oh, that was those wacky Catholics”. I notice someone cast the Malleus in light of “bad Christians” vs “good Christians”. Most frequently what you hear is “that was a long time ago”. The fact remains that the Inquisitions lasted from the 1100’s all the way up to the mid 1800’s, and were most notoriously active during the 1400’s and 1500’s. During that time, if you were a Christian, you were a Catholic. The first Baptist church was formed in 1609. Methodists didn’t come along until about 1790. And Protestants only date back to 1520 or so. So, basically, the “bad Christians” vs “good Christians” argument doesn’t hold up, not does the “wacky” Catholics argument unless one concedes that all of the major alternatives (ie Baptist, Protestant, Methodist, Mormon, etc) are relatively recent creations (during the last 500 years or so). I guess all I’m saying is that it’s hard to distance yourself from the Malleus Maleficarum without rejecting 1,500 years of Christianity because Christians then were “those wacky Catholics”.

It’s understandable why people would want to distance their faith from the Malleus Maleficarum. Another technique that Christians use to distance themselves from the work is to suggest that it was added to the Catholic Church’s list of banned books. That much is true, but not entirely. The Malleus WAS banned by the Church, but the part those people leave out is that it wasn’t banned until over 70 YEARS past its first publication, during which time it was second in popularity only to The Bible and during which it served as a de facto handbook for witch hunters, Inquisitors and even the secular courts.

Catholics have a vested interest in distancing themselves from the Malleus Maleficarum for obvious reasons, just as they’re none-too-happy about discussing the Holy Wars. Members of more recent denominations such as Baptists, Methodists, Protestants and Mormons are afforded a convenient escape from any related blame by pointing out that the atrocities of the Inquisitions, for which the Malleus Maleficarum bears some blame, were committed by Catholics, not “true Christians” as the more recent denominations call themselves. Pretty much, no one is interested in taking blame for an infamous work, and dozens of convenient explanations and re-direction exist to absolve modern Christians from taking ownership of a work which was born of the Christian Inquisition. Who could blame them? Germans distance themselves from Mein Kampf for the same reason. In the end, if most Christians don’t know about the Malleus Maleficarum, it’s because most Christians don’t WANT to know about it, and most Christian organizations and churches don’t want to talk about it. Most Christians want the Malleus Maleficarum consigned to the dustbin of history where they think it belongs, where uncomfortable questions about culpability and blame can be avoided, and where modern Christians can absolve themselves of any remorse or guilt over a work which helped Christians commit some of the most horrific acts in the name of God that have ever been recorded in human history.

In short, most Christians don’t know about the “Malleus Maleficarum” because most Christians don’t WANT to know about the Malleus Maleficarum.

What do you think?

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Malleus Maleficarum Available For Kindle

Our new Kindle version of the Malleus Maleficarum is now available in the Amazon.com Kindle store for $1.99. This e-book features a fully interactive Table of Contents, but its most useful feature is the detailed Notes substructure embedded within the work itself. Every note in every chapter is linked to its corresponding notes, making our Kindle version of the Malleus Maleficarum perhaps the most useful version out there (far more useful than the existing Kindle versions, which are almost universally nothing more than converted versions of our old PDF files). This new Kindle edition will provide an invaluable tool to students, and indeed anyone, who are studying the Inquisition, Medieval history and the witch hunts.

Our standard PDF version of the Malleus Maleficarum will still be available for free via our links on Scribd for those who don’t want to pay the $1.99 for the Kindle version (or don’t have an e-book reader). If you prefer, use the PDF version with our compliments. We just thought that the electronic version of the Malleus Maleficarum was long overdue for an upgrade.

So, why not give this Kindle version away for free? Well, we were sort of hoping that sales of the Kindle edition will not only help keep the MalleusMaleficarum.org web site online and these resources available, but that that it might also help us fund the publication of iPad and Nook versions (which both have pricey ISBN number requirements). Obviously, at $1.99 no one here is looking to get rich off of this. We actually wanted to sell this new Kindle version for 99¢, but the arcane intricacies of Amazon.com necessitated charging a little more for it. All we’re hoping for is to defray some of the costs of our server, as well as some of the other Malleus related resources we’re hoping to add to the web site soon.

We also hope that by making this new version available via Kindle, our files will be harder to pilfer. Most of the e-book versions of the Malleus Maleficarum available online are little more than repackaged versions of the PDF files we’ve had available online all these years. We’ve never had a problem with our users sharing our PDF files. After all, spreading awareness of the work was our intention from the beginning.  But we definitely take exception to anyone trying to sell them for a profit. Hopefully a $1.99 version of the Malleus Maleficarum, hand-coded and optimized by the people who brought the Malleus to the Internet in the first place, is cheap enough to dissuade our users from patronizing people who are essentially ripping all of us off.

In the end, the choice is yours. Feel free to continue using the English and Spanish versions of our PDF files with our blessings at no charge whatsoever. Or buy the new, fully interactive Kindle version for just $1.99. Either way is fine with us. We’re just proud to have finally upgraded the options for our users, and we will continue to look for ways to make the Malleus Maleficarum more accessible for a modern audience. As we have said all along, and continue to believe, “some things should not be forgotten”.

Walk in light and peace.

~ Wicasta Lovelace

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So What’s Taking So Long With That eBook?

I seem to be getting that question a lot lately. Why, in a world full of easily accessible PDF file converters and generally instant gratification, are we taking so long getting that eBook version of the Malleus Maleficarum ready?

Well, the answer to that is fairly simple. The same people who took a year to transcribe the Malleus to minimize inaccuracies rather than rely on much faster OCR software are the same people who are painstakingly putting together an eBook version of the Malleus Maleficarum. Basically, I looked around at the eBook versions of the Malleus that exist out there, and found them lacking. Most of the existing eBook versions of the Malleus are little more than conversions of our PDF files (which people have been pilfering with abandon for years). In short, what is most readily available is a converted PDF file, not a bona fide eBook.

This will not do.

Rather than add to the pile, what I’ve been doing is converting the existing master files that I still have on hand (from my aborted effort to put together a print version of the Malleus) to eBook format, doing all the conversions and coding by hand so that there are not nasty surprises. This has turned out to be rather involved, since there are a hell of a lot of links and other information that must be preserved.

In the end, what we’re going to wind up with is a definitive eBook version of the Malleus Maleficarum that has a very useful substructure of links that will make the notes embedded in each chapter more interactive. In short, if you’re reading a chapter and you come up to a Note link, you can activate that link to find out what the note on that particular subject is. With over 250 notes embedded in the text, you can imagine that it’s taking some time to code all this.

I expect to finish the coding by the end of this week. The first version is going to be made available for the Amazon Kindle, and is going to be sold through Amazon.com for $1. Hopefully a handful of the people who have been willing to pay for the pilfered versions of our PDF files will be willing to pay for an officially approved eBook version (that is actually useful and more than a little interactive). Honestly, I could use some help keeping this Malleus Maleficarum web site online.

Other formats will follow. I’m hoping it will be a fairly simple process to convert the Kindle edition over to eBook format for Apple iPad and the Nook. We’ll have to experiment with that a bit starting next week. In the meantime, you can expect a fully interactive version of the Malleus Maleficarum for the Amazon Kindle to be completed by the end of this week. I imagine it will be uploaded to the Kindle store sometime in the following week, as soon as we’re certain that the links substructure is sound.

I’m excited to finally bring a fully interactive eBook version of the Malleus Maleficarum to the public. Honestly, I’m rather surprised that no one else has done it. Although, really, after realizing how much work it’s been to convert all this text and ensure that it’s properly formatted and all the links work the way they’re supposed to, I shouldn’t be surprised.

Anyway, it’ll be ready soon. Walk in light and peace.

~ Wicasta Lovelace

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Let There Be Peace With Google


We have ceased all hostilities with Google and have removed our troops from the border of the Google campus in California. You may notice that the Malleus Maleficarum online web site is showing up in Google searches again. It finally determined that we had been removed from the Google index due to a technical glitch in one of our Feedburner feeds. While I still think Google’s response to the glitch was bit heavy-handed, what are you gonna do? They own half of the known Universe. Anyway, the problem has been solved and all is right with the world again. At least where the Malleus Maleficarum web site is concerned. Let there be peace in the valley. Or at least a truce.

~ Wicasta Lovelace