Tag: Blog

A Wargaming Blog

This year I’m doing something a little different, in that I’ve started a “side blog.” A Wargaming Blog will contain all the day-to-day hobby-related posts I normally only post to various social media channels. These posts are usually really small, so wouldn’t fit the format of this blog.

To get started, I’ve got a couple of posts:

I’ll still be posting hobby stuff on here, but it’ll tend to be either more in-depth, or finished pieces, rather than in-progress snapshots.

Reclaiming History

I’ve written previously about how the archives of my blog were less full than they should be – that, between domain changes, server/CMS moves, and times when I simply didn’t care, there were potentially hundreds of posts missing from the early years in particular.

Back up your crap, people – including your blog.

For the last couple of years I’ve had an on-off project to restore as much of this personal history as possible. Every so often I’d go ferreting through old hard disks, or exploring the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine for old content I could salvage. At first I had limited success, turning up only a handful of posts. Of those, I was fussy and only restored the “worthwhile” posts – usually longer posts about big events, or technical in nature.

This last weekend though, I revised my stance on this. If I was going to recreate my blogging history, I couldn’t – shouldn’t – just cherry-pick. I should include as much as I could possibly recover: the good, the bad, the plain inane. Anything less would feel a bit dishonest, and undermine the raison d’etre of the whole endeavour: saving the past.

The only exception would be posts which were so incomplete due to missing assets (images mainly) that any body text made no sense, or posts which were completely unintelligible out of context of the original blog – entries about downtime, for example. Also excluded were my personal pet peeve – posts “apologising” for the time between updates1!

A Brief Synopsis of the “How”:

To bring the past kicking and screaming into the present, I dove back into the Wayback Machine, going as far back on my first domain as I could. From there I worked as methodically as I could: working from the furthest back onwards, post-by-post. The basic process was:

  • Copy the post text and title to the WordPress new post screen
  • Adjust the post date to match the original
  • Where possible, match the original publishing time. Where this wasn’t available, approximate based on context (mentions of morning/afternoon/evening, number of other posts that day, etc)
  • Check any links in the post (see below)
  • Add any recovered assets – which was rare
  • Turn off WordPress social sharing
  • Publish

I started on the Friday afternoon, and manually “imported” around 50 posts in the first batch.

Turning off social sharing was done so I didn’t flood my Twitter followers with a whole load of links to the posts – some over a decade old. One thing I didn’t anticipate though, and which I had zero control over, was WordPress emailing the old posts to those who had subscribed to email notifications. It wasn’t until a friend IM’d me about her full inbox that I realised what was happening – so if you found your mail filled with notifications as a result of this exercise, I apologise!

To get around this, I ended up creating a new, private WordPress blog to perform the initial manual process, so I could later export a file to import into this blog.

Between Saturday, Sunday, and Monday evenings, I tracked down and copied over a further 125 or so posts. Due to the vagaries of the Wayback Machine, not every post could be recovered. Generally speaking, it was reliable in having a copy of the first page of an archive section, but no further pages. Sometimes I could access “permalink” pages for the other posts, but this was really hit-or-miss. A lot of the time the page the WBM had “saved” was a 404 page from one of my many blog reorganisations over the years, or in other cases, it would have maybe one post out of eight.

I made a rule not to change the original posts in any way – no fixing of typo’s/correcting something I was wrong about. The only thing I would do, was mark where there was a missing asset with an “Editors Note” of some sort, when appropriate. The only content I did have to consider changing were links.

Dealing with Links

One thing I had to consider was what to do about links which might have changed or disappeared over time. When copying from the WBM, links had already been written to point to a (potentially non-existent) WBM archive page, but if the original still existed, I wanted to point to that instead. In the end I would have to check pretty much every link by hand – if the original existed, I would point to that page; if not, I would take a chance with the Wayback Machine. In some cases I had to consider what to do where the page existed, but had different content or purpose to the original. I dealt with these on a case-by-case basis.

For internal links, I pointed to an imported version, if it existed, or removed it if there was none and context allowed.

Wrapping Up

In total, I imported around 175 previously “lost” blog entries, covering 2002-2006, with the majority from 2005. These years have gone from having a handful of entries, to having dozens. Overall, this has grown the archives by roughly 50% – a not so insubstantial amount!

At some point I will go back and appropriately tag them all, but that’s a lower priority job for another time.

2007-2010 were years when my writing output dropped a lot, so while I will look for missing entries from this period, I don’t expect to find many at all.

Side Note: History Repeats

I discovered, in the process of doing all this, that I had gone through the same exercise before, roughly 10 years ago!

Over the last few days, I’ve been working on the archives of my old site; cleaning and recategorising them. Today, I have added them to the archives of Pixel Meadow.

These additions represent everything that was left of ChrisMcLeod.Net. Over the course of its life many changes occured and data was lost – so these additions don’t represent everything that I’ve written there over the years.

You would think I might have learned from this mistake back then, but obviously not! Fingers crossed it’s finally sunk in.

  1. Though only where they had no other content to the post. 

Desk Blogging App

Desk is a new blogging app from an indie developer, with a goal to be as simple to use as possible. Naturally it suppoorts most of the major platforms, and features both Markdown and WYSIWYG support. It’s piqued my interest, so I’ll probably give it a try on my Mac Mini (which, admittedly, isn’t turned on very often these days).

The only downside I can see, so far, is no iOS version. I’ve still to find an iOS blog editor I “click” with. I spend a tonne more time at home on my iOS devices than I do my Mac, so it would be great to find an app for my iPad/iPhone which fits into my blogging workflow. If you have any suggestions, feel free to let me know in the comments.

The Things That Will Last On The Internet Are Not Owned

My blog’s older than Twitter and Facebook, and it will outlive them. It has seen Flickr explode and then fade. It’s seen Google Wave and Google Reader come and go, and it’ll still be here as Google Plus fades. When Medium and Tumblr are gone, my blog will be here.

The things that will last on the internet are not owned. Plain old websites, blogs, RSS, irc, email.

Brent Simmons, commenting on “Community Services”.

These days I use Social Media more than I write in this blog, though it wasn’t always that way. Mostly that comes down expediency – it’s quicker to share a trivial thought or link on Twitter than write a post about it. Social Media, to get all Silicon Valley on you, is for ephemeral sharing. I don’t expect any of it to last, or be noticed beyond the <20 seconds it appears at the top of someone's "feed." It's fleeting, and I think of it as such.

If I want to record something more substantial, or which will last, I use this blog. Maybe not as often as I should, and sometimes I've not cared for backing up the archives as much as I should have1. But the blog has endured anyway.

  1. If I'd looked after it properly, there would be hundreds more posts in there, particularly from 2000 to 2008. 

A Blog is a Bonsai. It Needs Careful Pruning and Feeding.

I’ve spent some time this weekend making doing some much-needed housekeeping here, in order to keep it tidy and in a healthy state.

I’ve always found good blogging is more than just adding post after post. It takes a bit of effort behind the scenes; tending to the older content, keeping the “static” pages fresh, and removing any crud that’s accumulated in the sidebars. Keep these things in order, while feeding in good content, and your blog will grow. At least, that’s my theory. Things are slightly different on this particular blog, because it’s a personal blog, not a topic blog – so growth isn’t a primary concern. Hence the title: it can grow and be healthy, but I don’t expect it to be big.

With all that said, what have I been up to?

Site Theme

I decided the new(ish) Twenty Thirteen WordPress theme just didn’t work for me or how I see this site. It was nice and colourful, and good to have as a change, but it wasn’t really “me.” Instead, I’ve switched back to the “Standard” theme (which has been “retired” it seems), with a few tweaks. It’s more structured, and described as a “meticulously designed, hand-crafted theme.” I like things to have a bit of craftsmanship to them, and within that show an element of “control”; Twenty Thirteen felt just a little too chaotic for my tastes. I may still adjust some small parts, but mostly I’m happy with things now.

“Elsewhere” Links

For a while now I’ve maintained a sidebar list of other places you can find me: social media, profiles on various sites, etc. I’ve tidied this up to remove services I no longer use, or don’t use frequently enough for you to bother with. The  four sites in the sidebar now represent the other places you can find me, that I care about. Apart from Google+… not many people really care about that one, and I’m no different (maybe one day). Google+ is there to maintain my authorship information in Google.

Pruning Dead Content

Last year I would cross-post a lot of my Instagram shots over here. Then I deleted my Instagram account, and all those photo posts started showing as broken images. I’ve finally got round to clearing them out. I may have missed one or two, so if you spot one, please let me know!


Over the last couple of years I got it into my head that my blog had to present a “professional” image. An employer (or potential employer) might read it and decide not to hire me based on something I posted. As a result I fragmented my personality across the web, using a different site or service to post content in tailor-made silos. This site was just for technical posts which would show my expertise and how “professional” I am.

It was a stupid idea. It was stressful to maintain, and not as enjoyable. As a result, each site would languish for months without any update, and anything I did post was as much out of guilt as anything. I’ve given up trying to manage these sites, or “reboot” them. From now, this site represents the one “true” me. If an employer isn’t going to hire me over, say, one of the hobbies I’ve written about on my blog, then chances are they’re not somewhere I’d be happy to work at.

I will still use some services for specific needs: Twitter for things too short to fit here, and quick conversations; Facebook or Flickr for sharing photos of the kids with family or close friends, etc. Anything else should end up here. I’ve already imported the content of some other blogs into the archives, and I’m picking through an export of my old Tumblr, to see if there’s anything there worth adding (not likely!).

Re-Injecting the Personal and the Personality

Directly related to what I’ve written above, it struck me when I was reading through the old posts I recovered from previous incarnations of this blog, was how personal I used to get on here. That has been missing for a few years now, and as a result, a lot of the personality and “voice” has gone. Somewhere along the line I became overly private and cautious about what I was posting, and I honestly don’t know or understand why any more. It can’t just have been the employer reason mentioned above. Did I think I would be seen as some sort of narcissist? This is something I will try to address going forward. I’m also thinking about addressing it going back too. There are large gaps in this blogs chronology which could easily be filled with retrospective and back-dated entries about what was going on at the time. Some of it could even be quite useful for myself, as a way to reflect.

I’m not 100% certain though. While it could end up OK, I don’t want to post something inaccurate because my memories of the events have been tinged or faded by time. Especially where there’s other people involved. It’s OK to make a mistake about something just about me, but it’s not OK when it could impact or upset someone else.

I have made a baby-step of a start though. I have added some photo galleries to the site. Most were taken in the last year, but I’ll be going back and picking out other suitable subjects/events to post up. Galleries are backdated to the event/date they were taken, to distinguish “old” ones from any I post in the future. There will be a mix of subjects, from holidays, random photo-shoots, modelling projects… whatever really!

What Next?

Going through this exercise ties-in to some thoughts I’ve been having recently about my “digital identity,” who controls it, and what it means. These thoughts inn turn, have spun out of me stepping away from Facebook for a while. I’m trying to shape these thoughts into something fully-formed so I can share them on here.

Where Will the Disenfranchised Tumblr Users Go?

Yahoo! today announced they’ve bought Tumblr, in a deal we first heard about over the weekend. I’ll leave others to go into the analysis, but what I’m interested in is what the very vocal Tumblr community are going to do now.

I’m pretty sure 95% or more of Tumblr users will carry on as they have up to now, but inevitably there will be a number of users looking to jump-ship in case Yahoo! break their promise to “not screw this up”. Where will they go though? To me, the answer isn’t obvious.

If I had to list the most important things any potential replacement needed to have, to capture the core Tumblr demographic, I’d say:

  • Images (photos + animated GIFs), videos, and audio should all be treated as equally as text – if not better.
  • Sharing between blogs on the service should be “two-click simple”.
  • Robust theming and customisation options. No two blogs need look alike.
  • It should probably be free, with some paid, non-essential, upgrades (i.e. don’t charge me to use a custom domain)
  • Rules and policies should stay out of the way of the community and content as much as possible (with only a few exceptions)
  • It should be easy to stay anonymous/pseudo-anonymous

Posterous used to be touted as the main rival to Tumblr, but they were acquired by Twitter and eventually shutdown earlier this year. Right now I imagine some of the original team are kicking themselves at a lost opportunity.

Automattic have added a lot of Tumblr-esque  features to WordPress over the last couple of years. Matt Mullenweg today blogged they’re getting a huge uptick in the number of  users importing from Tumblr (I can believe it – importing my small Tumblr site took over 2 hours to import). That may well be the case, but I took a look this evening and couldn’t find a single theme in the WordPress theme directory which I would count as a “Tumblog“, or which worked well enough with a wide variety of post-types out of the box to make switching painless. Top it off with most customisation features are a paid-for upgrade, and WP.com isn’t going to be an instant choice for most Tumblr users.

So who else is there? I don’t think any “traditional” blogging service is going to cut it, really.  Tumblr content is too varied to fit into the standard blog editor which focusses heavily on text (with a little bit of photo thrown in). Again, in this category WordPress.com comes the closest, using post types and media embeds.

If I was Automattic, I’d be trying to release a tonne of free themes matching the Tumblr media experience right now.

Researching this entry I came across a couple of lesser-known services – Soup.io, and Jux. Of the two, Soup.io resembles an cut-down, early version of Tumblr, and might be a good shout if you don’t need all of the bells and whistles. Jux seems more in tune with the art/photographer side of Tumblr; I can’t tell how well it copes with videos, GIFs, or audio. It was very pretty however, using a full-screen aesthetic.

So where will they go?

I really can’t see a clear winner. WordPress.com comes closest in features, but there’s still a big gap – largely cultural – between the two services that might be too big for many users to bridge. I’d love to hear any thoughts on this, or even recommendations of alternative services, so please leave a comment below!

When You Were Young

Over the weekend I started a fun little project. I’m tracking down and integrating as much of my old blog content as I can, across all of the sites I’ve written over the years.

When You Were Young cover artI’m not going to integrate every last bit of content I find, just the “highlights” (some things are best left forgotten…). Linkblog entries, and projects with no relevance will be left behind. So far I’ve added around about 26 entries covering from 2003-2009. No doubt I’ll go back over these years and add more, as the content resurfaces. Where possible I am preserving the original formatting and links, though in some cases I will have to link to an Internet Archive page.

The impetus for this little personal project came from realising I had neglected and discarded a lot of my history. As I’ve moved from site to site, platform to platform, I’ve usually wanted to “start fresh”, to see if it gives me that impetus I need to keep the blogging habit going. So far that approach has rarely worked, so why allow the old content to disappear? It’s a shame I thought of this so late. There’s large holes in 10 years of content charting my growth as a person lost to the void.

In the content I have found I have noted a marked difference to how I am now. I used to be quite open, generally had a more upbeat, less formal tone, and was more inclined to create something for the sake of releasing it to the world. Entries were generally short, and more frequent, but punctuated occasionally by something more in-depth. It’s interesting, and definitely something I’m going to reflect on.

As a side-note, with the content moving over, I’ve redirected traffic visiting the old domains to a landing page on this site. Although most of the sites had been inactive for a while, or the content otherwise not available, it would be wrong to just leave them to expire without giving someone the chance to find what they were looking for. Besides, Fickle Me might decide to reuse the domain in the future!

Of course, if you want to check out the “historical” content, head on over to the Archive page.

A Little More for You to Read

Yesterday morning I imported the best bits (plus a few other entries) from two of my old blogs

These blogs had languished unloved for some time, but it felt wrong to just drop them or completely abandon them. So now the highlights – such as they are – are here for you to have a read through, so head on over to the archive page to browse through them.

Blog the Mobile Web?

With all this iPhone hoo-ha happening of late, I’ve finally started thinking about this “mobile web” thing. It’s been hard not to, with all the noise about iPhone SDKs – or lack thereof. Personally, I’m all for the whole web app thing when it comes to phones. Maybe it’s just me, but it makes sense. Obviously there’s the local data storage issue, but I’m sure some bright spark will figure out a solution some day.

Anyway, where was I going with this? I forgot. Oh yes… Blogging from a phone. We have WordPressMovableTypeSimpleLogTextpattern, and so on, but they’re all desktop web browser dependent. Most are graphic – and JavaScript – heavy. Most which I have tried out reward larger screen estate. These are all major limitations of the mobile web as it stands.

This week I will be getting my hands on my new phone. It’s not an iPhone, but an HTC P43501. We’ve been using them at work for a while now, and they rock pretty hard. Yes, yes, I know I’m a Mac user, and it’s a Windows Mobile device… big whoop. Anyway, I’d love it if there we a nice blogging tool like the afore-mentioned WordPress, etc, which featured a nice, mobile optimised writing interface in addition to the fully-featured desktop version. Something which fits a 240×3202 screen nicely.

I have a feeling though that if I want something like this, I’ll have to make it myself. Which is a shame, because it means it’ll probably never get done…

  1. Catchy, huh? Maybe they should have stuck with the “Herald” code-name instead. 
  2. Well, 320×240 once oriented for use with the keyboard. 

The Human Touch

On Saturday, I blogged about my experiences of buying Photoshop Lightroom the Adobe.com store. Tonight I came home to an email from Tom Hogarty, Product Manager of the Lightroom team.

I’m not going to quote the email – there’s no need to, really – but for a product manager of a big, giant corporation like Adobe to even notice a single blogger talking about some trouble with the store, let alone take time to personally respond to said blogger, was something which took me by surprise. (I hope Apple are listening – I’ve got a whole raft of issues to take you up on!)

By doing so, Tom humanized Adobe (just a little). It’s nice when someone takes notice of you.

Anyway, the end result is that I’ve phoned my card issuer(s) and tried again at the Adobe.com store. The credit card payment seemed to go through, but my order is currently listed as “Pending” (it’s a download only purchase). However I’m sure before long I’ll be enjoying some full Lightroom goodness again.

[Update] Order fulfilled, and serial codes received. Happy endings all round!