Tag Archives: blogging

A Crisis of Blogging Faith

With the rest of the blog world [angry over the Flickr/Yahoo imbroglio this week](http://strange.corante.com/archives/2007/02/02/bad_flickr_no_donut_for_you.php), I’m going to focus my nerd intensity in a different direction.

I’ve been a loyal Movable Type user since 2002. (For the non-nerds, MovableType is the blog software that powers this site.) I burned cycles beta testing MT 3.0. I bought the unlimited personal license for MT 3.0, before the licensing terms went back to being free. I’ve done proof of concepts on MT at both of the companies I’ve been at since graduating from college.

While new blog software like [WordPress](http://www.wordpress.org/) and [Typo](http://trac.typosphere.org/) came onto the scene with a bang, MT didn’t continue to evolve. But I stayed put. I had faith in Six Apart.

While the energy at 6A was poured into their other products – TypePad, LiveJournal, and Vox – and MT continued to stagnate, I stayed put. I had faith in Six Apart.

When Movable Type got an enterprise version, I perked my eyebrows up. I asked about pricing for work – we’re always curious about expanding into new services. But the pricing, even for education, was absurd. So I stayed put. I had faith in Six Apart.

When the “Movable Type News” page became “[Blogs @ Work](http://www.sixapart.com/movabletype/news/index)” and began focusing on all of the case studies and hosting partners that 6A has lined up – and thus, barely meeting the definition of “news about the software” – I stayed put. I still had faith in Six Apart. They were expanding their markets, it made sense…in a way.

When the ProNet mailing list started having monthly conference calls – again, *a mailing list about blog software is having conference calls* – I stayed put. I had faith in Six Apart, that they would shake this absurdity. Isn’t the point of having a mailing list so you can communicate? Isn’t the point of having blog software so you can communicate?

As I had more and more emergency requests for consulting from my friends who use MovableType to power their businesses – things like “why aren’t comments scaling” and “why is my server dying under the load” – I could only shrug. These were the reasons I had to stop non-authenticated comments and trackbacks on this blog. Still, I stayed put. I had faith that so long as I decided not to make any sudden changes in the functionality of my blog, MT would continue to do. It’s not like I’m driving tons of traffic.

I’ve continued to have faith for over four years. For me, to stick with the same piece of software for four years is unusual. Web browsers, text editors, mail clients, feed readers – I’m constantly cycling the apps I use. Four years is a show of resolve, a show of faith.
My faith was broken last week.

As seems to always be the case, the thing that broke my faith wasn’t a personal technology nightmare. It wasn’t my server crashing, it wasn’t a new version that broke my layouts.

It was an email. It was this email, with a subject line of “Movable Type News”:

Since we haven’t sent out a Movable Type newsletter in a while, we wanted to start by sharing the biggest recent news in the Movable Type world: Movable Type Enterprise, an entirely new platform built on the rock-solid MT foundation. After five years of success with Movable Type, Movable Type Enterprise was added to the lineup to help blogs scale gracefully within the most powerful and demanding environments.
Movable Type Enterprise has been one of the most successful launches we’ve ever had at Six Apart. The energy that MT Enterprise has brought to our whole community will be paying off in a lot of ways in 2007, but first we wanted to mention why MT Enterprise might be right for you if you need to take your Movable Type blogs to the next level.

It then continues on with five “great” reasons to upgrade from Movable type to Movable Type Enterprise – none of which apply for personal users.

I’m not exactly sure when or how I signed up for said “Movable Type newsletter” – but back-digging through my email, I’ve received the following emails in the same vein:

* 7/26/06 – “A major upgrade to Movable Type now available”
* 9/12/06 – “Movable Type Price Promotion Extended”
* 11/1/06 – “Movable Type Makes the Most of Business Blogging”

The last email, I should note, covers the release of Movable Type Enterprise 1.5. Not 1.0 – 1.5. Of course, Movable Type Enterprise was actually [announced on March 7th, 2006](http://www.publish.com/article2/0,1895,1934831,00.asp), so it’s not as though the product is brand spanking new.

With the strong push about MT Enterprise, I’m left with a gut feeling that *I should not be using MovableType for my blog*. Even without the email, it’s not hard to come to this conclusion – the [Six Apart homepage](http://www.sixapart.com/) plainly says that Movable type is the “best choice for business blogging”. The [Movable Type homepage](http://www.sixapart.com/movabletype/) says things like:

* “Helping Every Company Start A Blog”
* “The most popular platform for professional blogging”
* “Build your business on the shoulders of Movable Type”
* “Blogging Platforms for Small Businesses, Enterprises & Publishers at Movable Type”

The only indication that MovableType may not just be for business blogs is the “Recently Updated Sites” box where, depending on when you look, either a good portion or a significant majority of the sites listed are personal blogs.

There are other signs, too: Mena Trott, president of Six Apart and [baby squirrel](http://weblog.burningbird.net/2004/05/14/never-kick-a-sleeping-giant/), updated her official company blog “Mena’s Corner” four times in 2006. Four posts for the entire year. This blog is prominently advertised on the front page of the Six Apart site, billed as:

[a] chance to show the inner workings of a start-up and give the outside world a glimpse into our challenges, our achievements, and our professional passions.

Meanwhile, Mena’s [personal Vox blog](http://mena.vox.com/) has been updated (publicly) eight times so far this year. One month on Vox equals two times the volume of the company blog. And it’s not like there aren’t posts about the inner workings of the company – posts like [the CES post](http://mena.vox.com/library/post/weve-come-a-long-way.html), or [the one about the Vox World Tour contest](http://mena.vox.com/library/post/what-happiness-looks-like.html) would fit perfectly on Mena’s Corner.

Why am I counting this as a sign? Mena’s Corner runs on MovableType; DollarShort runs on Vox. Vox is new, MovableType is not.
I’m not trying to sit here and take potshots at Mena, or Ben, or Anil, or anyone else who works at Six Apart or loves their products. I am not a shareholder. I am not actively paying for any service, support, or product. It’s their company, and they’re welcome to run it however they want. And I certainly understand the enthusiasm for new products – I work in much the same way.

Simultaneously, I understand the need to drive into the enterprise. The research companies keep banging the pot and ladle about business blogging, and I harbor no grudge towards Six Apart for wanting a piece of that pie. But I feel like the software I’m using is being sacrificed to these ends.

That said, I have to be a bit selfish. I have a vested interest in this site: after all, this site is me. This blog has been running for nearly seven years – over a quarter of my life. In that time, I have graduated from college, gotten married, moved three times, crossed thousands of miles, met hundreds of people. I have seen the world, experienced so much, and grown into who I am today. As I have grown, so has this blog.

But the blog cannot solely be powered by me; I can only use the tools available to channel my thoughts and experiences. If the tools refuse to grow, neither can the blog.

If someone from Six Apart is out there and reading this, I leave you with only one question that needs answering:

**Is there any future in Movable Type as a personal (non-business) blogging platform?**

Vox Me

I’ve been “blogging” (quotes make it seem like I may have been doing something else!) for over six and a half years. In that time, I’ve had a horrible dilemma to grapple with: what exactly am I blogging about?

Faced with this, I have always chosen the dyslexic path. Political strife one day, geek howtos the next, wacky anecdotes the third day. My lack of a central topic has given more than one person whiplash.

This will never change.

However, there is one form of blogging I’ve been remiss from doing across practically the entire duration: short and informal. I would reckon that this might be called “Livejournal-style”, as it’s terribly popular over there. Memes, polls, one liners, single links – all the sort of stuff you tend not to want to use when trying to reach an audience.

But, still, there is an itch to scratch. And thusly Six Apart has stepped up and created Vox, essentially LiveJournal crossed with TypePad. In terms of use, it seems to be getting a lot of mileage from established long-form bloggers who want to pretend like they’re on LiveJournal with their established long-form blogger friends.

This just happens to be up my street, so I have joined thanks to a friend-of-a-friend invite.
So for those of you who want more spontaneous Dan, who’s mostly going to focus on little events or music reviews or what have you, make sure you go over there and/or subscribe. I’m not ditching this blog by any stretch (and those of you who are reading on LJ, the syndicated account isn’t going anywhere either), I’m just expanding the business.

The business of giving you the business.

EDIT: Those of you on LJ who want to keep up from there should subscribe to remy_vox. Thanks, starcreator!

New Template

It’s that once yearly time where I get tired of the layout I have and switch to an entirely different one.

This one finally cures something that’s always bothered me immensely about most MT themes – the artificial 500px content boundary. I’m sure 500px is great for keeping people focused on text, but it’s horrible if you want to post a picture with reasonable size.

This theme is “[darkhash](http://www.thestylecontest.com/designs/hash)”, with a couple tweaks to fit my overly particular nature. It’s my vote to win the [MT/LJ/TypePad Style Contest](http://www.thestylecontest.com/).

Some content has settled in transit and may be missing for the time being; it’ll be back soon, I promise.

UPDATE: I’ve ungimped the comment form, upped the font size to make the pages easier to read, increased the width a little, replaced a handful of icons, and added a tag cloud to the archives page. I appreciate the feedback I’ve gotten and certainly won’t mind getting more.

MT 3.2b3 Quick Thoughts

Six Apart continues to insist that there is not a party like their west coast part because the west coast party refuses to stop. Jay Allen et al have unleashed [MovableType 3.2b3](http://www.sixapart.com/movabletype/beta/2005/08/mt32_beta_3.html), hopefully the last beta before release next week. While I don’t have a whole lot to add over [my last review](), I do have two things I thought were worth pointing out:

One, the new default template looks damn cool. You can check it out at [Thom’s blog](http://vjarmy.com/thom/), which I used the Template Refresh plugin to migrate over to the new look and feel with.

Two, 3.2 is now a big torchbearer for [Atom](http://www.atomenabled.org/); there’s a template for Atom 1.0 (which I’ve updated to), and the default “Subscribe to this blog’s feed” link now points to said atom feed. This is a big win in my book.

All in all, it’s been a very solid upgrade, and anyone who uses MT should feel very compelled to upgrade as soon as the proper release drops. Anyone who hasn’t looked at MT lately should definitely give it another chance after the release as well. Congrats, Jay (and team!), great work.

Thoughts on Movable Type 3.2 Beta

I intalled MT 3.2b1 before I left for work this morning; I’ve had a bit of a chance to use it, and while I’m very impressed on a whole, there’s a few niggling points. Here’s the list:

+ The install process is considerably easier now. The mt CGI will automatically detect that it needs to do the upgrade, and will walk you through the steps. No more uploading, running, and deleting the 10 flavors of upgrade CGIs. Nice.

– The single distribution thing means that if you’re upgrading, you need to be extra careful. I remembered to not nuke my mt.cfg and DB password files, but not my plugins folder, losing the one custom plugin I’ve tweaked. D’oh.

+ The front page FINALLY shows the full range of quick links I’ve been waiting for:

This is in addition to a much revamped sidebar. Finally, I don’t feel like I have to dig a whole lot to get into the frequent places I need to hit on the install.

+++ The feedback spam settings actually work. I can’t believe it – no MT-Blacklist, no SpamLookup, and it’s successfully junking comments and trackbacks. The junk folder keeps the crap out of site/out of mind. Really nice.

– SpamLookup appears to be broken at the moment; I’d like to keep it just to flat out block the crap.

— I’d also like to see a way to set a system-wide feedback score tolerance; I’ve found that +3 works best for my blogs, and I’d like to be able to set this across all of them in one shot rather than going through by hand. I only had four blogs to do this to, but on larger installs this could be a real pain in the ass.

++ Aggregate views of entries/comments/trackbacks are awesome. The system-wide search is also awesome.

+ The ability to turn off comments and trackbacks for the entire site in one click is a godsend when a site is getting spambombed.

+ Individual plugin settings and activity logs per blog were much needed and quite useful.

— Comments aren’t showing up on the individual entries’ “Manage Comments” listing. Very strange.

= There’s a new advanced option to show a field where you can set the filename of an entry, but it doesn’t seem to be working for me.

– I keep running into issues where it says my login is invalid when I’ve saved my login with a cookie. Rather annoying, but hopefully easily fixed.

That’s all I’ve got for now. Cheers, Six Apart – it’s looking like it’ll be a great release. Just squash this small handful of bugs, and I’ll be a happy camper.

Tribbles Need Not Apply

Today, The Chronicle of Higher Education had a wonderfully misguided article entitled “Bloggers Need Not Apply“. Written by a “humanities professor at a small liberal-arts college in the Midwest” writing under the pseudonym “Ivan Tribble”, the article details how his college’s recent faculty search ended up disqualifying a lot of candidates largely because they were bloggers.

An article this misguided is not the sort of thing I’d expect out of the Chronicle. It illustrates the wrong line of thinking about blogs, the wrong line of thinking about interviewing candidates, and the wrong line of intersecting the two. This is worth picking apart. (Please click through for a full dissection.)

Continue reading Tribbles Need Not Apply

Workblogging: My Brain In Blosxom

Yesterday’s Take Note covered the first half of my work equation, the actual entry part. But what of the critical organization step? Sure, I mentioned I had Quicksilver and Spotlight to keep the structure hounds at arm’s length, but there needs to be some organization. I’ve never been one of those people who keeps every file I’m working with on the desktop, and I wasn’t going to start now.

There’s also the presentation issue, and the access limitation issue, and the categorization issue, and…man, I sure do have issues!

If you’ve read the title of this post, you probably know what the solution is, but I’m a big fan of nuances, so let’s take a look at criteria and how I picked the tools I’m using.

Continue reading Workblogging: My Brain In Blosxom

On Blog Audiences

I received an email on Sunday from someone on my blogroll. While I will keep their identity hidden to avoid potential embarassment, the message read:

YOU read MY blog? I’m surprised.

I could answer this in a snappy two line response, but it’s also an interesting question because it actually touches towards one of the weird internal issues of blogging. So I’m going to make a big deal out of what isn’t and subject you all to my babble once more.

First, the factual answer: yes, if you’re on my blogroll (the list of links to the right that just reads like a straightforward list of people), I read your blog. Even if you aren’t there, there’s a chance I’m still reading you. I’ve been an syndication addict for a few years now, and the primary benefit of digesting my friends’ pages in feed format lets me keep up with everyone equally. The other big benefit is that I no longer need to spend 8 hours a day surfing from web page to web page – I can now spend a mere 6 hours a day incessently checking my feed watcher and reading every last bit on my inbound feeds.

But the larger questions here – who reads my blog? should they read my blog? and should I be surprised? – have always been those questions that tickle me in odd and often times inappropriate ways. This may in part largely be to the change in how blogs – or at the very least, mine – are treated.

For instance, I was at a birthday party earlier this month for a friend from Cornell I hadn’t seen since graduation and only get to talk to about twice a month. I was attempting to catch up with her at said party, and after one story, the response was “Oh yeah, I remember reading about that on your blog”. Needless to say, I was surprised. (And incidentally, hi, Amy!)

But why should this surprise me by this point? I’ve been blogging for four years now, and while the first two were largely unread (and long since destroyed between ISP moves and blog-software switches), I should now be used to the idea that most everyone in my life reads my blog. Friends, co-workers, VJ Army users, the Bemani communty, 8BOP, customers, maybe a few from the Mac gaming industry or #joiito, and a handful of random people I have a hard time attributing. Even my mom reads my blog – and has, at least once, admonished me for not blogging often enough to the point where she thought I might be dead.

I don’t keep a blog to replace direct social connections (although it would certainly be easy enough.) I see it as a group conversation at a bar – here I am trying to tell this story, and you may not be able to understand me or get the joke, but you sit there and nod and smile and maybe hit me with a comment, and we all have a decent time.

(Half the time, to be honest, I don’t know how everyone can stand reading my randomly targetted and inside-joke laced writing style. But then I realize that’s the way I actually am instead of merely writing that way, and the guilt subsides.)

What does still surprise me is any time I am linked to by the “A-list”. For the Quicksilver tutorial, not only did I get trackbacks from a number of blogs I’ve read before (NSlog, Disobey, the guy who runs the CSS Garden), but I was also asked to license my post for a book from a well-known technical book company. The NY1 post yielding an email from Pat Kiernan had a similar effect.

The part that irks me about this isn’t that highly visible people are stumbling onto my blog, it’s that I’m now fighting this urge to make posts appeal to certain people. I’ve been cursed into believing that I have to be funny and/or insightful, when I know damn well that’s not necessary to have a decent post. So I become stuck in a rut where nothing I write feels suitable for posting.

Even this post has been revised multiple times – partially to fix typos and flow, but also in failed attempts to make it “more insightful”. You know, just in case I suddenly have that monster epiphany.

So my recommendation to everyone (including myself, albeit a bit too late) is to not think too much about who’s reading your posts, or what it means in the grand scheme of things. It shouldn’t affect you nor what you write. If you it does, you’ll dilute your efforts and lose the joy of sharing with people what you think and feel.

(Aren’t you glad it took me that much text to not really say much of anything? I am.)