Tagged: Blogging

Dating + Blogging

Currently single, I find myself more and more aware of this dilemma of when to tell a potential “someone” about this blog. On the one hand I think it would be great if we could get to know each other the regular way, before I reveal that there exists this vast online repository of information about myself– which may be a huge turn off for someone I’ve only just met. On the other hand it’s nice to think that someone wouldn’t be scared off, and that it might actually help them to get to know me better (although of course there is always going to be a lot about me which doesn’t get recorded here, it is still very much me ).

Then there’s the practical issue, of exactly how one hides a blog which is already public. Right now, if someone knows my name then they can google me, and from there it’s only a click or two to get to my front page. I could try removing all references which link my name to this site, but then I don’t really want to hide my identity here– that’s not what blogging is about for me.

So currently I figure that at least if I tell someone about it it saves me having to wonder if they’ve already discovered it themselves and are secretly learning all my strengths and weaknesses.

… But then, if I did somehow keep it secret I’d be free to use an anecdote without worrying that they’d already read it on the blog… and the fact that I’m already imagining this post being read by someone I want to impress, and considering not posting it for that reason alone…

Hmmm.

If I do decide to make it less traceable to my name (just enough to avoid the casual googling) I will do it at the same time I change the domain and remove stinky WordPress (which means probably sometime within the next 5 years).

Update: A very cute and slightly pertinent comic from xkcd

This blog is 5 years old!

And an unexpected anniversary present is a bunch of new traffic via a comment I made on Rory’s recent post about XP vs OS X, which later was linked to by [inexplicably popular] Fake Steve Jobs. The target is a post I wrote a few months back on what annoyed me about OS X, and looking back I still feel pretty much the same way about it. If Apple really wants people to "switch" they should pay a little more attention to how 90% of the computer users in the world already do things, because [believe it or not] not every single thing about Windows is bad. I run both operating systems all the time, and it would be a delight if not for these basic keyboard/UI grievances that make it so damn hard to jump from one to the other. If only the real Steve Jobs were listening…

I guess this isn’t much of an anniversary post (I must dig up my graphics tablet and draw some pictures again), but then the actual anniversary was two days ago. My first post is dated August 28 2002, and interestingly makes reference to the HTML Editor in which I compose my blog entries to this very day!

If you want to try web development…

Download Web Developer Server Suite (for Windows). It includes Apache, MySQL and PHP, and comes preconfigured with additional stuff like WordPress, PHPBB2 and other popular web applications. A simple install and you can be running and testing PHP/MySQL code locally, which is a lot bloody easier than uploading files for every minor code change (which is what I’ve been doing until now, for some reason).

So my tiny blog software is now coming along much faster. It is still very small, making use of very basic PHP and SQL functionality, and yet has nearly as much functionality as I require. I am especially keen to switch over soon since my hosting provider (ICDSoft) just started blocking access to xmlrpc.php because of its use by spammers and hackers. As I’ve mentioned previously, I’m sick of XML-RPC and will be replacing it with a simple HTTP POST approach (this is the mechanism by which online forms send their information, and has been in use since the early days of the web). I’ll also be using POST to replace FTP for uploading images.

Features I will not be including: Trackbacks and pingbacks, which are more annoying than anything; Support for any character encoding besides UTF-8.

Features I will be adding: private comment checkbox so comments can be marked for my eyes only (a good way of encouraging feedback from the shy).

Any other suggestions…?

Testing Upgrade…

Have upgraded both MySQL and WordPress… hopefully nothing is too broken.

Comment pages/permalinks are currently broken, but I know how to fix that. It will require a small tweak to support the date-stamp style permalinks I like to use.

BTW I am sick of wordpress, it is too big and requires too many upgrades. My blog could almost be handled by a single page of PHP, and yet there’s about a gazillion of them in wordpress, so debugging and customizing is a super pain. If I had some time I think I would write a “Lite” version which uses the same database but isn’t full of rarely used cruft.

The 2006 Annual Intepid Awards for Online Goodness

Pharyngula – Best Science Blog. I only discovered this recently but have found myself reading (and commenting) a lot. In a sense I read it more for the politics than the actual science, but hey, it’s still a science blog.

Neopoleon – Best Personal Blog. Entertaining and shamelessly narcissistic. Needs more cartoons.

Woot! – Best…errr.. something. A perfect example of how clever writing can really make a difference.

Language Log – Best Language Log. Lots of great stuff here, about language in media, politics and everyday life.

The Perry Bible Fellowship – Best Web Comic. Surreal and slightly rude, in a variety of visual styles.

Crooks and Liars + Wonkette – Best US Political Commentary. Shamelessly liberal, both of these sites act as clearinghouses for media snippets that will make your blood boil with righteous indignation.

Drawn! – Best Art Blog. Constantly showcasing different work, showing just how much talent is out there (makes me jealous, in a good way).

Zooma

zooma zoom zoom

My pictorial output has been pitiful lately, what with all the working, moping, eating and hair-coloring. Jujusketch is still in super crappo prototype concept phase, in spite of the fact that people have expressed interest everytime I’ve talked about it. Meh. One of these days I’m going to put aside a bit of time to work on Drivey too– it’s been so damn long since I had anything new to show.

I seem to have a lot of visitors at the moment but I’m not sure where they’re coming from (no obvious surge in referrer traffic). Hi to all who are new here, hope you’re real people and not just some weirdo forcing a refresh on my front page every 5 minutes…

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BTW Drivey related posts can be viewed using http://intepid.com/sub/drivey

Feed Readin’

I’ve been using Bloglines for ages as my preferred method for reading RSS feeds, but I think I may be ready for a change. Google Reader has been revamped to be much more useful than its previous suckful incarnarnation, and it now does two things which I really need: 1) It loads progressively– ie the more entries you read the more it loads, and 2) It sorts by newest even where there are multiple entries from the same blog. Check it out, especially if you’re already a gmail user:

http://www.google.com/reader/

With Bloglines, once the massive "all items" page has loaded then all entries on it are considered read, which means that if you get halfway through it but then close your browser, when you come back to it later you won’t see those unread entries again. If you have limited bandwidth as I do this also means the page can take a long time to load. Google reader loads 20 entries at a time, and tracks read items as you scroll down the page (also because by default it uses a newest-first order you are free to continue reading into older entries).

So dear Bloglines, screw you and your lack of innovation, there really is no excuse for not improving a web based application– unlike us poor sods in the world of desktop applications you have the luxury of rolling out a new feature any time you want, so when you fail to do this you piss me off. Google’s initial offering was crap, so they just replaced it with a better version, and you should consider doing the same.

Forums?

nothing to do Recently at work we decided it might be useful if we set up an internal message board for the software engineers, to improve communications and share ideas a little more. Technical issues could be discussed there without flooding people’s inboxes with layer upon layer of quoted CC’s.

The first thing we tried was Sharepoint’s discussion boards, since we were already using Sharepoint for our intranet, but after a few days the verdict was unanimous: it totally sucked! So then we tried the other thing we already had installed: Outlook– Specifically the "public folders" support, which is really just a terrible name for a message board.

That seems to be working out ok… deficiencies in the interface are made up for by a couple of major conveniences:

  1. Everyone already runs Outlook all the time anyway, so this didn’t require any extra software to be run, nor any additional signup, and meant that you could set it up to easily monitor new posts appearing on the board.
  2. Being integrated with Outlook means that message formatting and composition is identical to regular mail, including the convenience of being able to copy-paste images into posts. This is a massive plus for me as I really like being to be able to illustrate messages with screenshots.

Another option considered was a third party PHP based system, but this required someone to install and maintain it. PHPBB is well regarded, and used on many popular sites, but after doing a test install here I decided it was a bit too complicated with its enforced categories/subject/thread heirarchy.

I was considering implementing forums here to enourage free conversation without necessarily tying it to a particular post, but figure since my readership is relatively small that the current system of comments works pretty well (and you don’t need to sign in/register or anything, which is a big benefit).

I probably should rethink my skinny column layout for the cases where comments go past 10 though…

2+2

Four short years ago today I posted my very first blog entry, published as static HTML on jujusoft.com. It was more than two years later that I finally got around to porting jujublog to a proper blogging platform (WordPress) – in the process changing the name from Jujublog to intepid.com. The conversion made life a lot easier, and also meant that I could support reader comments for the first time, something I was initially concerned about but ultimately turned out to be a very positive move– Thanks to ScottB for leaving the first ever comment!

big headed snakeyThis is the 611th entry posted, and to date there are 795 comments (not bad considering comments have been enabled for less than two years). I had my doubts I would still be posting after this long, but I haven’t gotten bored with it yet, so I see no reason not to continue the habit indefinitely.

The Future

I’d like to try to get a bit more variety happening here, and maybe start posting a bit more on the technical side again. It seems that it’s become quite rare for me to write about programming or mathematics except in the most general sense, and I think this is largely due to an awareness that a sizeable portion (the majority?) of my readers are not engineers, and may be turned off by content of a dry technical nature. My original solution to this problem was to move technical articles to my jujusoft blog, but it’s hard to find the motivation to write something for such a small audience, so now Jujublog consists of little more than updates on my software [which are so few and far between that some people might even assume that it's been abandoned].

I still have an irritating habit of telling everyone I know that they should try blogging (because it’s really quite therapeutic/empowering etc) so on this auspicious occasion I hereby resolve to stop doing that, because I know it’s annoying, and if you haven’t started already it’s probably because you’re just not interested.

Link away!

Hotlinking is a practice which is generally considered a nuisance, because it means someone is using both your content and bandwidth without necessarily asking or giving credit.

I’m quite ok with people copying images from my site as long as they don’t try to pass them off as their own (and provided they give credit where appropriate). What’s more problematic is when people link directly to an image hosted on my server, because while it might at first seem more "legal", ie there is no actual copying going on, in truth it’s just kind of annoying because it costs me bandwidth.

Some webmasters respond rather aggressively to hotlinking, setting up scripts to return obscene or abusive images. This is a totally idiotic way to deal with the problem, not least because there are bona fide reasons why an image might be linked from another server. For example, a user might see an image on my site (say a diagram) and post a hyperlink to it in a comment or forum, in order to illustrate a point. This seems like fair use to me, and I think it would be very rude (although in some cases amusing) if this image was automatically replaced with a picture of a horse’s penis and the word THIEF in block letters. It’s also an entirely inappropriate solution for blogs, since RSS feeds mean you can never know where an image might be accessed from.

hotlinked image So I’ve tried to come up with a mature compromise, to mitigate my bandwidth loss without being an asshole about it. To this end I have added a script which will limit the sizes of images requested remotely (currently to a maximum dimension of 256 pixels), also adding a small caption at the bottom to indicate where the image is hosted. The image is not obscured by the caption, and simply copying the link will allow you to obtain the original.

This means that from now on images being hotlinked from other sites will be [slightly] modified into mini banner ads– everybody wins! (except people who hotlinked to animated gifs– they’re screwed)

Awwww

Rory finds love, via the internets: Someone googles his site, writes to him, he writes back, and a few months later everything’s smoochy.

I’d be lying if I said I’d never entertained the notion that something similar might happen to me… although the thought of someone taking an interest via intepid is also slighty discomfiting, because she would have instant access to nearly four years of entries with which to form an opinion. So by the time we meet she’d have done all the research and know everything there is to know about me– and I’d still know nothing about her. This is why I generally don’t tell people I meet about my blog until I’ve gotten to know them a little.

I try not to self-censor too much here. Although I’ve always avoided writing about the private details of my life (which could fill a small notebook) I don’t avoid exposing my weaknesses and insecurities. That I’m comfortable doing so is probably because I’ve had such a good run at it, with virtually no nastiness or abuse coming back at me via comments and feedbacks– As far as I can recall I’ve only ever deleted one non-spam comment, and that wasn’t abusive so much as merely tactless.

So thanks everyone, for being so damn nice :)

Adding sound to blog entries

Something I didn’t realize I needed until I saw it implemented so damn well was this slick little Flash mp3 player, perfect for embedding in a blog post. Created by Martin Laine, who like all us programmers looks kind of serious and weird in his photo.

Since I haven’t actually recorded any new content to play in this, I’ll just point it at an old, bad recording of me singing the politically incorrect [not in a proud way, just naive] Dixie, with Dave Winer and a bunch of other bloggers. Just because the player is so simple and nice and looks nothing like Media Player or Quicktime.

dixie-5-plus-1.mp3

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Update: I have switched to using the more standard "enclosure" tags which may be interpreted by aggregators, and place a player at the end of the post when viewed on intepid.com.