So micro.blog certainly looks interesting — it’s essentially a RSS aggregator that heavily relies on things like microformats to produce a Twitter-like timeline from disparate sources. Thing I like about this approach is that I can just feed RSS directly to it, no problem, and I can leverage my own site that much more. Promising…
After four years, I’ve changed the design of jaredwsmith.com. It now runs on the extremely elegant and nicely responsive Twenty Twelve theme released by the WordPress team a few weeks ago. I never thought of myself as a default theme kind of guy until my life become incredibly busy and a much-needed redesign got totally out of reach. Twenty Twelve is an outstanding theme and should do well here for a while. At some point I’ll graft a custom design back on but it’s not a high priority.
What is a high priority going forward is spending more time working with this blog given the precarious state of third-party social networks and data ownership/display rights. Take Twitter’s much-maligned policy changes as an example — Twitter is about to really limit the power of its service, chilling its ecosystem and everything that attracted me to Twitter as a platform in the first place. I’ll still use Twitter and invest some time into it, keeping in mind the caveats going forward as it tries to become a profitable business, but if they restrict clients too much more it’s going to be tough to hang in there. (And I firmly realize that my issues with Twitter are from the standpoint of a power user, but something needs to be said for content ownership and display rights.)
Facebook is a family-and-friends communication tool for pithy thoughts with familiar folks. (I do have subscriptions turned on but I’m not sure who would want to watch.) Again, not a place I want to invest much brain power.
I’d invest more heavily in Google+ if they would open up the write API to, well, anybody other than HootSuite. (Nothing personal against HootSuite, but I prefer native desktop clients.)
Since I have this WordPress blog, I see less utility in installing a tool such as StatusNet or a Tent protocol-capable server. The ability to federate them is the trump card in their favor, and perhaps that’s something I should investigate more closely as an integration into WordPress — it’s just a protocol, and WordPress’s flexibility is why it survived the downfall of mainstream blogging (and, quite honestly, has thrived at an unprecedented scale).
It’s damn good to be writing here again. I seriously regret not doing it more. This blog has missed out on arguably the most important stretch of my life, and that really sucks.
Here’s to new beginnings…
From my 2011 blog statistics, as packaged festively by Jetpack on WordPress.com:
Guess I better blog smarter in 2012.
I think the creepiest thing about the decision against blogger Crystal Cox, in which a federal judge found she was not subject to shield laws protecting sources, was the definition of “official media outlet,” which excludes the Web in its entirety in the state of Oregon. Dan Gillmor is right: it’s about what journalism is and not about who is practicing it. Not all bloggers are journalists but the most innovative journalism (and, increasingly, the most profitable journalism) is happening in social media and the blogosphere.
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.
If you’re looking to check the performance of your blog, check out Is My Blog Working?, a nifty site that examines your blog for functionality and performance troubles. I discovered it a year ago but I forgot the name of it until this evening, when I was testing a couple random optimizations I made to jaredwsmith.com (most notably WP-SuperCache). It gives you all sorts of interesting tidbits about your server and blog software which might help you find any issues with performance that might be keeping folks away.
So the conventional wisdom is not to talk about a medium using the medium that is being discussed; i.e. you’re not supposed to tweet about Twitter, you’re not supposed to blog about blogging…whatever. These people who tell you this are the same people who tell you that auto DMs on Twitter are a good thing. Thus, I categorically reject this conventional wisdom, because we don’t break any ground with conventional wisdom ANYWAY.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but over the last couple months, I’ve more narrowly focused the blog on social media topics. There’s a lot about Facebook. There’s a cubic crapton about Twitter, all intermingled with some Brightkite, FriendFeed, and identi.ca. Sure, I’ve written about the Super Bowl, but I’ve kept the topics pretty narrowly focused. This is a side effect of my using Twitter; items that I might have posted as “asides” here often end up there because of its sheer convenience. Another thing I’ve discovered: FriendFeed is a stellar way to micro-blog, especially if I need more than 140 characters. It can offer instant feedback and viral promotion via “likes,” and the conversation there is tough to top right now. It’s not just using different services, either. Two of my big topics here of late have been Serious Business show notes and weather, and I’ve shifted both these items off to their own sites in order to let them flourish.
So where does that leave the ol’ homestead? Scrambling to adjust, and reacquire its voice.
Something I’ve always struggled with is my blog’s focus. I tend to zero in on topics for a little while and then drift to something else. It quite fits my semi-neurotic personality — I’m definitely a “phase” kind of guy — but I realize that for the few folks who do read me from time to time that my lack of focus can throw you off. Some people come here for my weather updates; that’s cool and all, but what if I go on a binge of technology posts about FriendFeed and Facebook and leave the weather alone for a while? What if people showed up for me to talk about the Padres when I haven’t mentioned them on here since April? Writing such a blog can be tough on the readers because that noise makes what one might perceive as “the good stuff” that much harder to find.
I’m trying to mitigate some of this issue in the next design by reinforcing a topic-based scheme that should more easily direct folks to what they’re looking for. I’m doing a little of that with my weather section right now, but I’m planning on doing the entire blog in a topic-based navigational scheme come redesign time. The goal is for folks to be able to see on the homepage a quick overview of my posts by topic, versus one giant aggregation that could be all over the place. I’ll still retain the all-over-the-placeness on the blog homepage (equivalent to jaredwsmith.com/blog now), but the homepage should at least help people be directed to what they’re interested in that I might write about.
This will help me be able to produce more content in more topics and give each topic pretty close to equal time. If I go on a binge of personal posts — I’m in something resembling a quarter-life crisis at times, so this is entirely possible — the noise generated from those won’t drown out my weather posts, so those who don’t give two rips about me ;) can still find out what kind of damaging winds will inevitably not materialize because I blogged about them. I’m really hoping that this works out the way I intend. There are some avenues I want to explore via the blog that I haven’t really felt like exploring yet because the necessary organizational balance has not been in place. I’m looking forward to those controls coming into play, and I’ll be interested to see how it affects readership down the road.
Tonight’s Serious Business was a resounding success. Thanks to everybody who stopped in and really made it something great. Here’s hoping next week is just as good.
Here’s the recorded show, in case you missed it — and it was a good one. We went in-depth on PR practices with bloggers, new vs. old media, and you’ll even find out what my baseball bandwagon is this year…
Remember that, for now at least, we’re doing this every Sunday at 8:30 over on Ustream.tv. Check out the show’s website for links to the show as well as a link to the Facebook page. Fan the show if you deem it worthy. :) I’ll have more at the show website soon; it needs a WordPress install, I just need time.
Yesterday’s Wednesday Why at Lowcountry Blogs asks “Why do you have a blog?”
For me, it simply starts with the ability to have some sort of voice. I feel as if I can get whatever message I want out much more effectively through this medium than, say, if I stood at a street corner shouting my lungs out. I’ll sound less hoarse and blogging is generally far less obnoxious (unless I started tYpInG lyKe tHiS OmG FoR ShiZZle! [which I won’t]). Blogging lets me engage in a conversation about whatever I want with whoever is willing to listen, and that’s cool too. I can’t go around to random people and start throwing out baseball stories or talking at length about BlackBerries without being slapped at least once. It’s certainly a great outlet for my eclectic interests that I would not have otherwise. (I know I won’t meet anyone within a 100-mile radius who will willingly [and seriously] discuss Weather Channel local forecast computers with me.)
More importantly, though, I feel blogging gives me a great historical record to look upon. I’ve been doing this for quite a while (as my old site and archives attest to). Every once in a while I get a serious kick and a great laugh about some of the ridiculous stuff I wrote in high school. It’s helped me to measure my progress not just as a writer or Web designer, but also as a human being, still finding his way in the world. Having a reasonably complete record from late age 15 to age 23 (and going!) really gives me a kick (though I am incredibly pissed that my Realm 4 database, covering 2002-2005 appears to have been lost forever — but that was a dark period, so maybe it’s not so bad). It’s wild; I’ve never kept a private journal. I don’t like writing things that nobody else is going to read; I don’t see the fun in that, or much of a release in that. I feel I get much more out of my writing and my experiences when I can share them with others — and ultimately, that’s why I take to the blogosphere, because in the blogosphere, you’re never alone.