Monthly Archives: December 2010

WordPress 3.1 coming soon

WordPress 3.1 is coming soon, and it really seems it’s getting some serious CMS muscle. Features such as internal linking are right out of every major CMS’s playbook, and post formats are a very interesting WordPress-based answer to the different post types Tumblr provides. I’m not sure how much mileage I’ll be getting out of those features, though, as I do a majority of my writing in MarsEdit and leave the WordPress control panel to handle system administration tasks. It’s unclear if WordPress’s developers have added anything extra to the XML-RPC API to allow third-party clients to take advantage of the post formats (I suspect not, given that they are theme hooks). The other consideration: data portability. Most, if not all, WordPress blogs to this point have implemented asides using theme logic to find posts in a specific category (In Brief here on jaredwsmith.com). This works well and is inherently compatible with all sorts of third-party clients from MarsEdit to Flickr’s auto-post. If my mischievous, tinkering side somehow convinced my rational, change-resistant side that moving jaredwsmith.com to something like Melody was a good idea, it would be trivial to write Melody template code to format posts in my In Brief category in a special way. If I implemented asides (or other post types, for that matter) using WordPress’s hooks, it is less clear whether it would be so easy. Thus, I’m likely to stick to my category-based way of differentiating posts; it might not be the most elegant solution anymore, but I know it works and I know it will remain compatible even if I switch platforms.

Snow over the holiday weekend

I can’t remember the last time I saw snow in December in SC; that’s what made the snow showers over the weekend that much more fun. Accumulation was very sparse (definitely not like snows we had back in February) but it was still a good time. Here are some iPhone photos I took during the snowstorm. There are a few photos of the heaviest snows still stuck on my mother’s point-and-shoot that I should extract and upload. Also, don’t forget this video of one of the snow showers.

The Base64 Hack Rises Again – Seriously?

Old, unpatched WordPress installs on DreamHost are under the same type of attack that afflicted many sites early last year (including this very blog). For all the work the WordPress team has done to make updates as painless as possible, I wonder if the next step is a silent update system a la Google Chrome. (That would probably piss off a lot of sysadmins who actually do care enough to keep their systems patched.)

Drafts I probably should spend more time on

I’ve been looking through my drafts tonight — both stored on the server within WordPress and in MarsEdit’s “Local Drafts” folder — and have found some topics I probably should revive, including a post about my workflow on the Mac, my verdict on the iPhone from a BlackBerry switcher’s perspective, and a few more missives about the Brightkite shutdown (including how end-users are losing more and more command-line access to social networks — I’ll explain that if I can piece together enough time). The oldest draft? A November 2007 post tentatively titled “The Sabermetrics of Dating,” in which my formerly frustrated single self attempts to rationalize said singleness by comparing dating to baseball statistics, which further proves that some drafts are better left unpublished.

Pivot towards a cliff: Brightkite (Checkins), RIP

Removing the Brightkite app from my iPhone.

Letting go: removing the Brightkite app from my iPhone.

Today marks the end of Brightkite’s location-based social network, as the company repositions itself firmly in the “group texting” camp. It was my first introduction to location-based social networking, and I’m going to miss it. Brightkite was the only location-based social network that really nailed privacy controls: you could set privacy per-post, per-checkin, be vague to some users but not others, and more. It amazes me that none of its surviving competitors have similar privacy controls today. Placestreams were a really useful feature, featuring notes and photos of people who have left them behind, telling a story about a location. The market leader, Foursquare, still does not yet support attaching pictures to a place. What’s with that?

Update, 12/20/2010: Foursquare will now support photos on checkins and tips.

Brightkite’s check.in service is another example of forward thinking in location-based networking. By doing the work to match disparate locations between several different services in the database, it provided for an accurate checkin across many services. Gowalla recently released a crossposting feature in its latest client; as I discovered the other night, though, it doesn’t seem go to the trouble of using an already-created Foursquare venue to check in. Rather, it will create a temporary place and check you in there. Angling for a mayorship to score a discount? Avoid the Gowalla app. check.in will help you get there, though. (It, too, is waving in the winds at the moment, but hopefully will be picked up for active development at some point.)

In the end, though, a social network is only as good as the number of friends you have on it. (If technical considerations were how social networks won the race, Pownce would have bought Twitter out.) I also think that Brightkite may have been ahead of its time; Foursquare made the placestream concept easier to grok (“venue” is, indeed, a more accessible term) and gave users a reason to check in other than for the sake of checking in.

Brightkite as a company will live on as a group text company — just like PingChat, Kik, and many, many other players. I wish them the best of luck, but I have no need for another group text app right now — as the screenshot above illustrates.

A boost to Chrome performance

I’d noticed that Google Chrome (on my Mac, at least) was taking longer and longer to get started, and then I’d still have to wait for several minutes for any of my autocomplete history or favicons on the bookmarks bar to show up. As it turned out, I’d never cleared my history before, and that was really killing startup performance on what is otherwise a very, very fast browser. Of course, after clearing my history, all the URL auto-complete history I’d built up over months of use has to be restored, and that is mildly frustrating — but not necessarily as frustrating as waiting for the browser to get started.

Holy Philadelphia starting rotation, Batman

The hot stove is pouring smoke: Jayson Stark’s got an interesting breakdown of the new Phillies starting rotation after Cliff Lee signed late last night. On paper, this looks to be as dominant of a rotation as we’ll probably see this decade. I enjoyed Leo Mazzone’s take on how this rotation might fare in comparison to the 1993 Braves rotation of Maddux, Smoltz, Glavine, and Avery. Only a couple more months before pitchers and catchers report…