Writing

My habit of sharing content hasn’t changed much over the years but certainly the ways and or the means of which have. Like most people I have gravitated towards Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or other platforms to spread whatever point or message I am trying to get across. It’s easier and we get that satisfaction from ‘numbers‘(likes, hearts, impressions) which have supplanted other forms of feedback.

As I am about to start something new, and though it’s not entirely certain it will happen, or for how long (I’m leaving Taiwan), I am going to start sharing more of my activities here. Partially due to being inspired by a couple other bloggers who have done the same, and partially out of necessity — connecting to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram will be spotty at best.

Outside of work and my own personal diary, I’ve never had much patience for writing, so this might just be very twitter or instagram like in form.

Thats the plan anyway.


I miss reading blogs

I miss reading blogs. Not the sometimes highly polished, magazine length, writing for ad views type we see today, but the decidedly personal versions of years past. I haven’t discovered anything new in ages, and they do seem as was reported starting 3 years ago (and likely before that) a dead form of publishing, at least in the form of “the unedited voice of a person.”

I used to learn so much about these strangers lives and learn so much from what they shared. Much of my early learning about user experience was the result of articles and recommended books on blogs. On the rare occasion that I would get to meet them in real life, it was like connecting with someone I knew for years.

There are still a few I read on a daily basis — John Gruber’s, Tina Roth’s, and Peter Rukavina’s. But while they all have a distinct voice, only Peter shares much of anything about their lives.

Of course, Facebook, Instagram, Vine, Twitter, Periscope, and others I don’t frequent have all taken over the conversations that I used to find on blogs. Algorithms have somewhat unsuccessfully replaced curation. Facebook is where most short form writing and conversations seems to take place. But it’s decidedly impersonal to me, and not as raw as what I read before; its’ like most people on Facebook never have a bad day.

These roughly 250 meandering words with links is where I’ll end; as I ponder why I still on occasion come here to share.


Own Your Words

Article-dump sites take away your editorial control, and reduce you to one voice amongst many. You have no influence over who’s up before or after you, and you have no deeper identity. There’s no sense of inviting the reader in to try what you have to offer, then hoping they’ll stay for more.

I think a lot of people haven’t made that realisation, and that’s a sad thing. Your words, and the stories they tell, deserve more than being the latest morsel on a buffet of tiny, fashionably-circular author photos, to be sampled and then forgotten as the next thing rolls around. Where’s the identity? Where’s the commitment?
Own Your Words

Matt Gemmell writes why he doesn’t post on sites like Medium and instead writes for his own site. This has been my reluctance from the very beginning, when sites like these have appeared, not just for words, of which I write infrequently, but also with my photographs, which I used to share a great deal. This isn’t an activity I pursue with the interest I once had but I still hesitate to share much of anything on services that stand to gain, how ever small, from my thoughts, my content. But mostly it’s a question of warmth and ownership. It just feels different reading words amongst the noise and crassness of Facebook compared to a purpose built space.


What is a Splog?

A splog, the illegitimate lovechild of spam and blogs, is a website made to look like a blog by streaming fake posts. Instead of musings about politics and technology, splogs are filled with computer-generated gibberish meant to entice search engines to link to them and get people to click on the ads. Utne.


Where Art Thou?

weblogs.jpg
I haven’t written much here in the past few months as I struggle to maintain a difficult schedule of client work, projects, family life, and writing for other weblogs.
Since I am writing elsewhere I am trying a little experiment with an extra column to the right, on the homepage only, to track all my entries on those weblogs that I publish on my own. So far I don’t dig it much but I will give it some time to see if it’s worthwhile or not.
I have another project in the works which will likely influence greatly what I write here. For years I have wanted to publish a magazine in Chinese on topics related to the many facets of developing good user experiences online. Time has past and others have jumped into the fray with some excellent efforts but certainly there is room for another. Hopefully I will be able to announce that here soon and can get back to sharing all the great things I find online related to the topics here on this weblog.
In addition to this weblog I also publish the following:

  • Minzoo – Modern gear for babies and their dads
  • Pop Wuping – Modern stuff for a mobile lifestyle
  • Shao Kelake – Off-the-cuff commentary and destinations of interest
  • 35togo – snapshots of life in Taiwan and other parts of Asia

You can find some of my work here:

  • Quiet Please – I make interactive products, installations, and weird sound art
  • My Portfolio – design, research, photography, writing, and yes weblogs

Moveable Type Parent Category Display

I want to share this in the hopes that someone else who searches for an answer to the question I had earlier today might save some time. It’s very simple but the answer isn’t easy to find in the all too sparse Moveable Type documentation.
I wanted MT to return the name of the parent category when in a sub-category. So if we were in the “red” it would return the parent value “color”.
Here is what worked for me in a category template:

<MTTopLevelParent&gt<MTCategoryLabel&gt</MTTopLevelParent&gt

It took trial and error which is fun but always a time waster.


New term coined – Tumblelogs

I created Shao Kelake (that list of links on the sidebar) as sort of a mini-version of this one. A weblog like what I used to have years ago before the proliferation of tools like MoveableType which force you into adding a title to all your babbling. It creates a sense of seriousness that I don’t always appreciate nor enjoy. Shao Kelake has just started and since I have the time I will be expanding it and this blog in the near future. It’s great fun even though most of my visitors to this site tend to be interested in only one or two presentations I wrote quickly a couple years ago.
As an aside, I am amazed as to the seriousness or effort people now put into webloging. Years ago it was people like Volumeone’s Matt Owen who encouraged me to continue doing personal sites (as they were simply called) as a means to learn and push “my limits of online creativity”. These designers always like to use these types of phrases. I’ve always taken that advice to heart though and I have self-published all kinds of crazy stuff over the years – some good, most bad. I’ve lost count as to the number of redesigns, attempts at online magazines, silly flash interfaces, wacky dhtml animations, and personal story telling attempts. Most of these sites required huge amounts of production effort and in some ways that was the point. After all I’m not a writer (yet).
News pages (later called weblogs, logs, and blogs) were different though. Frequent updates required more simple production as everything was done by hand. I eventually stopped trying to do fancy things and just had fun exploring and sharing what I found on the web. Weblogs were my secret weapon at the office as I had my own personal editors scouring the web for the information I needed. It was generally all loosely designed, personal, and fun.
Now look at weblogs. I have been spending a great deal of time lately looking at different sites, hundreds and hundreds of them, in order to inform myself for a few new weblogs I am creating. I am amazed at the effort people have put into the interfaces that frame their written words. CSS files so complete and complex it boggles. Sometimes it feels more about the hidden presentation file than the writing itself. There is allot of great content out there – written ala magazine style – with complete titles, tags, hierarchies, and archives. Bye bye news media, Hello bloggers. A select few are even making a living from writing their weblog. Imagine that!
I’m going to end this quickly and with a long quote from an immensely popular and old school blogger Jason Kottke who informed me today that my desire to create Shao Kelake was not return to the roots of what publishing these kinds of sites was about but a whole new “retro movement” deserving of whole new buzzword.
“On my web travels the other day, I came across a new (to me) kind of weblog, the tumblelog.”
“A tumblelog is a quick and dirty stream of consciousness, a bit like a remaindered links style linklog but with more than just links. They remind me of an older style of blogging, back when people did sites by hand, before Movable Type made post titles all but mandatory, blog entries turned into short magazine articles, and posts belonged to a conversation distributed throughout the entire blogosphere. Robot Wisdom and Bifurcated Rivets are two older style weblogs that feel very much like these tumblelogs with minimal commentary, little cross-blog chatter, the barest whiff of a finished published work, almost pure editing…really just a way to quickly publish the “stuff” that you run across every day on the web.”
His weblog entry: Tumblelogs


MTPaginate Template Example

I have been using MTPaginate on 35togo for quite some time now but I remember having some trouble in the past to get it to work on pages that are primarily text. I can’t remember why this caused so much trouble on that particular client project because it was remarkably easy to get it to work.
My purpose for using MTPaginate was simply to decrease the size of some of my archive pages and to allow for a longer list of entries on my index page ala Gizmodo (and a million other sites). For the archives the benefit is smaller more manageable pages, for the index page it reduces the need for people to enter the archives – those who don’t subscribe to all the feeds on the sight can still get a quick scan of all I have posted over the past 2 weeks.
Here are the tags I used, ignore all the fluffy div stuff:
<div id="content">
<MTPaginate>
<MTPaginateContent max_sections="6">
<MTEntries><MTDateHeader>
<div class="date"><MTEnglishOrdinal number='[MTEntryDate format="%d"]'>
<br /><$MTEntryDate format="%b %Y"$></div></MTDateHeader>
<div id="entries">
<h3><a href="<$MTEntryPermalink$>"><$MTEntryTitle$></a></h3>
<$MTEntryBody$>
<MTEntryIfExtended>
<p class="entry-more-link">
<a href="<$MTEntryPermalink$>#more">Continue reading: "<$MTEntryTitle$>" »</a>
</p>
</MTEntryIfExtended>
<div id="tags">
<MTIfCommentsActive><a href="<$MTEntryPermalink$>#comments" class="clink">Comments (<$MTEntryCommentCount$>)</a></MTIfCommentsActive> <a href="<$MTEntryPermalink$>" class="plink">Perma-link</a> <span class="tlink"><MTEntryTags><a href="<MTTagArchiveLink>" title="<MTTagDescription>"><MTTagName></a>&nbsp &nbsp</span>
</MTEntryTags>
</div></div>
<$MTPaginateSectionBreak$>
</MTEntries>
</MTPaginateContent>
<MTPaginateIfMultiplePages>
<div id="pages">
<MTPaginateIfNextPage_>
<a href="<$MTPaginateNextPageLink$>" class="emphasis">Next Page</a>
</MTPaginateIfNextPage_>
<MTPaginateIfPreviousPage_>
<a href="<$MTPaginatePreviousPageLink$>" class="emphasis">Previous Page</a>
</MTPaginateIfPreviousPage_>
</div>
</MTPaginateIfMultiplePages>
</MTPaginate>
</div>


Feeds.App trial

I’ve spent the past week trying out various new plug-ins for Moveable Type as I go about redesigning a couple sites that use MT to manage them. One of the ideas I had, and I am a bit behind in this, was to be able to publish rss feed content within MT templates. There are quite a few services that allow you to do publish rss feeds on your site but I wanted to remove any outside dependencies. And doing it alone is just plain fun.
There used to be a neat little plug-in called rss feed written by Timothy Appnel that I thought would work just fine – it’s still listed on the MT plug-ins directory but it has been unfortunately been discontinued as Timothy Appnel has totally rewritten the plug-in and renamed it Feeds.App. I say unfortunately because despite following his directions to a ‘T’ it has yet to work. Some of the internal uri are wrong as well. It’s a shame that the older plug-in cannot be found and it’s unfortunate that MT doesn’t have a viable plug-in for this purpose. I wonder if developing for MT is slowing compared to the equivalent alternative content management systems.
If you are looking to publish syndicated content using MT you might want to give some thought to using CaRP instead. It works outside of MT but it does work and it is easy to install. As stated in Feed.app’s documentation ToDo, Feed.app is not. Your mileage may vary.
This isn’t all negative of course. I had great fun reacquainting myself with the command line as I had to install various perl modules in an attempt to get the plug-in to work. I miss using telnet and pine.
Edit:I should mention that Timothy Appnel was quite responsive to queries on problems installing the plug-in. The process just seems a bit hit and miss and far too time consuming at this point to make it worthwhile.


Learn to blog, blog to learn.

“Blogging pioneer Peter Merholz adds, "the power of Weblogs is their ability to immediately put form to thought. I can get an idea in my head–however [half] baked it might be–and, in seconds, share it with the world. Immediately, I get feedback, refinement, stories, and so forth spurred by my little idea. Never before was this possible."Also, blogs are easily linked and cross-linked to form learning communities. A few days after we met, Ashley emailed, "It was interesting how the next day you posted on your blog about our talk, about which David Carter-Tod commented on in his blog. One of my colleagues, Raymond Yee, noticed it after we had lunch, and I told him about our discussion. Then, Yee wrote a post about our circle on his blog. Of course, then I had to comment about it on my blog. It’s all an interesting little Web that blogs make happen so quickly."”
Read: Learn to blog, blog to learn.


Moblogging

I’m pretty much interested in any device that allows for interaction with or creation of information in a usable way. This is especially true if it in anyway can intersect with the web. So it’s unfortunate that of late my schedule at work and school hasn’t allowed me to keep up with all the latest cool info. artifacts that have been appearing.
I was involved with weblogs very early – now it has exploded and has become mainstream (even in Taiwan); I love my wap account and sms but that is old news for kids here; I tried mobile pdas but never could use them for more than reading news – who wants to read news on a pda?; my house in Hsinchu has become a public wireless access point – but it’s a secret; and now I am convinced that mobile “blogging” is going to a great great thing – but I am late to this party as well. Well I am anxious to catch up with this new trend.
So what is mobile blogging or “moblogging’? From the IMC website, “Moblogging is a blanket term that covers a variety of related practices. At its simplest, moblogging (from “mobile web logging”) is merely the use of a phone or other mobile device to publish content to the World Wide Web, whether that content be text, images, media files, or some combination of the above.
Location-specific content goes one step further – it relates and connects to the specific physical place where it was created and published. This permits any particular set of real-world coordinated to be “tagged” with relevant information, from instant restaurant reviews to ski-slope hazard warnings to contextual jokes.”
Apparently the term moblogging was first termed by Adam Greenfield back in November of 2002.
Unfortunately, despite being in existence for sometime there are not an abundance of tools that allow for easy interfacing with my chosen content management system, MoveableType. In fact there do not seem to be a great deal of tools at all. Most of the tools available use email as the posting mechanism. Here are the tools that I have identified to have the greatest chance of success with my set-up and needs:
Wapblogger is a WAP interface to popular weblog tools Blogger ,LiveJournal and any other weblog-style tool supporting the XML-RPC Blogger API. Post to your weblogs with a WAP enabled cell phone!”
Pop2blog was created specifically out of a desire to take the jpeg images which the Danger Hiptop (aka T-Mobile Sidekick ) is able to capture and email and post them as entries in a MovableType weblog. It can be seen in use on this site’s main blog page . Because it makes use of MovableType’s XML-RPC, it should be easy to adapt this script to work with any weblog backend that uses the Blogger API. ”
Mfop2 allows you to moblog without setting up any special scripts on your own mail server. To use Mfop2, all you have to do is register some of your blog details and you will be able to post to your blog from your mobile by emailing your blog entry with images attached to mfop2@bastish.net.”
I much prefer to install something on my own server instead of using a “free” or trial service. The scripts themselves that are available are quite easy to configure and install but unfortunately all require which extra CPAN modules which seem to be causing me some problems. It may require a more technical mind than mine to get this up and running.
All this makes for a great new product — software accessible from a mobile device and installable on your own server with a minimum of fuss. Either as a compliment to or a replacement for moveabletype.