Implicitly WordPress.com

This is something I noticed in two of my recent conversations about blogging. One of the attendees of my OOP training asked me that he wanted to form an archive of his own understandings. I said, of course, start a blog. When he asked me where, that is where I realised that I had stopped mentioning WordPress.com explicitly. I had stopped thinking about other places where a blog can be started, WordPress.com was implied. It offers so many things that other options seem inferior.

For starters, it is based on the excellent blogging platform WordPress, has excellent hosting quality, managed by the small-yet-efficient team of Automattic and has a lot of themes to choose from. The only other option is to host your blog by yourself where you have to arrange for your own domain name and hosting. It lets you focus on writing and not worry about a lot of other things like getting overloaded or backup. It pulls technology out of your way. I realised this when I moved my blog to self host it. The reasons behind that move included experiments and some other projects which I could not do here. But if you want to write, participate in a growing community and be least bothered about technology, nothiing better than WordPress.com.

Yesterday I received an email from one of my acquaintances about writing articles when I, again, asked him to start a blog. While reviewing the email I realised I had, again, not mentioned WordPress.com. It is so implied because it has become synonymous to starting a blog!

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Not Only WordPress But Even WordPress.com

WordPress family now has a full bouquet of products. But its not only the tool, the WordPress.com is now offering all the services for hosting your blog. You can now have your own domain name for WordPress.com blog along with the CSS Upgrade feature. You can choose the VIP hosting if you expect high traffic on your blog. Full marks to the Automattic team which works behind the scenes on all this.

Six Apart and Google now have to face the competition on multiple fronts – the blogging tool as well as the blogging service.

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Copyright Abhijit Nadgouda.

Blog Anonymously

Ethan Zuckerman has setup a guide for blogging anonymously (via Lorelle On WordPress). The suggestions include using the free yet fantastic WordPress.com platform and Tor for anonymity. I think howmuchever a technology is good, there will always be technology that will break it. Probably the best way to blog anonymously is to blog from different places.

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To Move Or Not To Move

I am contemplating moving to a self-hosted blog. Not because WordPress.com falls short of anything, just that I have become greedier. I want to control more and want to experiment more.

I will definitely continue with WordPress. It has achieved the privileged milestone of one million downloads and is coming up with some dynamic features. WordPress.com too has seen massive growth, it hosts 310 thousand blogs on its first birthday. WordPress.com has time and again shown that it is one of the highest quality blogging sites, with lot of high traffic and slashdottable blogs.

I want to dig deeper now, get more control and start some experiments. The new avataar will also host some projects and some personal stuff. After some research I have narrowed down to bluehost.com, dreamhost.com and mediatemple.net for hosting with a bias towards bluehost. Feel free to suggest if you have any information regarding this. I am looking at PHP, Ruby and Python support. Any kind of guidance will be appreciated.

I am trying to evaluate the costs of moving, some are apparent and I am sure some will raise their head later. Right now though, none of the disadvantages are heavy enough to outweigh the basic advantage of being able to do more with self-hosted WordPress for me.

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Copyright Abhijit Nadgouda.

Blogger Upgrade

Blogger (from Google) is redesigned and with it goes static publishing. Like Matt says, whatever happened to the static publishing pros. I think with this change, it should probably read Blogger is reborn.

For starters, static publishing is a way of exporting the post to HTML. A post when published, is processed, the HTML is composed and is saved as a page to be ready to be served. This was considered better as serving ready and composed pages did not go through the web server processing and increased performance. The lopside to this was that it was, for lack of a better word, static, which does not fit very well with today’s dynamic web. If there was a change, the post had to re-exported to HTML. Think of a change, like change in the sidebar or layout or design, that will affect all the posts and think of the trouble of republishing all of the posts. For all the ease that Blogger said it had, the user had to know when to republish all the posts, which actually can eat up lot of your time. This was a fundamental difference between WordPress and Blogger. Well, now its gone.

Another concept Blogger has embraced is the tags, or labels as they call it! It is very close to categories in WordPress. This will definitely bring in better navigation and better tagging for the users. However, the dilemma for lot of users would be whether to tag the existing posts done using the old blogger. If not, the tags will miss a lot of posts and not serve as good navigation.

Along with this, the hosted service, Blogspot.com will gradually get all these features.

Movable Type still supports static publishing. It does support a dynamic workaround, but it is strongly discouraged as a host of third party plugins don’t work in the dynamic mode.

Now that Blogger has got the new face it will be interesting to see if the demographics change. The existing loyalists would probably not leave, but new bloggers will have to compare a little more between the different blogging tools as the gaps between them is reducing.

More on this:

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Copyright Abhijit Nadgouda.

Missing Wordcamp?

Wordcamp – A WordPress Conference was announced and is on its way in San Francisco, California.

It is a sore miss for those of us who could not be present there. Fear not, we have Matt Craven, Aaron Brazell and David Krug from The Blog Herald giving live coverage of Wordcamp. Thanks a lot guys! You can see (literally) them live blogging different sessions and contributing too to the barcamp style event. Live blogging is an efficient way to report.

More interesting stuff is expected to come out of the event. Hopefully we will get to attend the future ones. Or Wordcamp can start webcasts or virtual conferences :-) so that the world-wide user base can attend it. Nevertheless, we will see more coverage and more reports of the event later, till then continue to follow The Blog Herald guys.

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Copyright Abhijit Nadgouda.

Where Do I Click?

I could not but help to write about this when I read Lorelle’s blogging challenge – Testing Your Blog Clicking Experience. The reason it was so tempting was because just a month back I had consciously tried to identify what I clicked on while reading a blog. So here it goes!

Data and Metadata

I come to know of a blog either through other blogs or through search engines. In the former case, it is more of blog surfing and the latter is in search of content. The first time I visit a blog, and reading post(s) on the page I head to know more about the blog and the author. Usually, this is what leads me to decide whether I should return to this blog or not. Which brings us to the next important item I click on, subscribing to the feed. Some of the blogs still do not support feeds, which is sad, but most of them today do. There have been some exceptional cases where the posts were so fulfilling that I subscribed to the feed without reading anything else.

At this stage I have gone beyond scanning the blog. I click on categories or tags or whatever navigation provided so that I can try to understand how the blog is setup. This helps me make a mental note and map the blog to the kind of information I would come to this blog for. Next time I need anything there, I do check it up along with googling for it. In some cases, reading the blog before googling saves a lot of time and effort.

Author and Blogshelf

While reading about the blog I try to find more about the people behind the blog. More emphasis cannot be put on this than by saying that blogs are conversations. Some are not initiated, some are left halfway, but they are intended to be conversations. Not only through the comments, the whole linking phenomenon, which now even newspapers have started to adopt, ends up building a conversation on a topic. I like to find out what’s on that author’s blogshelf. The ones I like endup in my list of blogs to read and this affair with growing number of blogs continues. In my opinion, this recursive discovery of blogs is the hidden treasure of blogging.

Sometimes I do click on the photos or the listened songs but that is a rarity. I would not call it as a habit, in fact the habit is opposite of this.

Software and Design

Last but not the least, I gather some more information that stimulates the engineer inside me. I try to find out information about the design and the philosophy behind it. This adds to my experience, now I can enjoy the good points and I get to know the bad points that I should not repeat when I design. I try to test the blog on different fronts – usability, accessibility and performance. Then it is the software tool used to setup the blog. WordPress, Movable Type, Text Pattern, JRoller, … there are so many and it is so involving to see how the design makes most of the tool.

License, Help, etc.

Surprisingly I never used to read the license or the disclaimers, they never bothered me. But my blogging experience has taught me to expect the unexpected. I read up the license, disclaimers or any such information, especially if I am going to link to the site or quote something from it. Usually getting linked and quoted is a good thing, but someone might not like it and I have to respect it. I try to see if the blog owner has posted help for going about the site. I enjoy reading things like help, it makes me feel that the blog owner has thought about me and makes me feel more comfortable.

When I had started reading the blogs, I usually referred to them with the blog names. Today I refer to them by the people behind them, probably because of the way I read blogs.

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Copyright Abhijit Nadgouda.

Around The Blogosphere

I have not been reading too much into the blogosphere lately, I had been focusing more on the technical stuff than the blogging itself. I kept postponing it because of the standard excuse (uh, no time, in case you were not aware of standardised excuses). Anyway I came around doing it with my contribution to Lorelle’s blogging challenge. And came across some new things buzzing in the blogoshpere. So here is a roundup.

The invention of freedbracking is one more way of filtering the feedbacks from the customers. It stands for free feedback which should be immensely useful to developers. If any of the feedbacks can find their way in the roadmaps then the customers know they are being heeded. If not then they should be explained, and nothing better than a blog to do that.

Dell rising by finally picking up blogging and falling in a pit because of a comment was a climax and anti-climax. Frankly I don’t think Dell should be considered responsible for comment by an over-zealous employee (or tobe).

A psychology PhD lost her job with an university over some nasty comments. Dana Pico has come up with Bloggers’ Code Of Ethics (via The Blogging Journalist). I think a code of ethics will be an overkill, the fun in the blogging is partly because of its recklessness, informality and spontaneous (and emotional) discussions. Sometimes this might result into an undesirable situation, but then all of us should go back to the basics of blogging to handle some nasty comments.

I stay in Mumbai (Bombay) which faced terrorism and flooding due to torrential rains in the same week. During these times communication is very important and the phone networks are usually jammed. During these times of crisis The Mumbai Help Blog served as the communication hub. This was pleasantly surprising as blogging is still not as popular. What do you know, blogs do serve a purpose!

Robert Scoble has come up with concept of the human Web which he predicts will be the future of Internet. I completely agree that even if companies have adopted blogging they have failed to put people behind them. I guess it is true about any dialogue that it should be carried out between humans for a productive outcome. However, for the human web to be completely successful, it has to be still simplified. Web is still a technology and is hence limited. The best definition of technology I have found is something that has not worked yet. Web should no more be termed technology to engage more humans.

Last but not the least, Forrester has ranked (via Sadagoppan) different blogging platforms with WordPress just below iUpload’s Customer Conversation System and Six Apart’s Movable Type.

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Copyright Abhijit Nadgouda.

What I Know

This is a little late, but here it is, as a part of the blogging challenge set by Lorelle. In my case it is very simple to answer this question – software. This is my area of work, expertise and passion, and I feel most confident blogging about it.

Blog What I Know

As the challenge demands here I am bragging shamelessly about myself. I am good at understanding software, understanding its place in the real world. I am an expert at finding out what you need, recommending what you should use and providing what you can use. Software development is not only about the technology, it is about solving a problem, within given constraints and limits, with expected performance and results. I am good at achieving this delicate balance and providing the optimal solution.

I think the Web is unnecessarily and overly hyped and fitted in every single opportunity which has 2 millimeters of space free. I am good at finding out if it fits the bill, if it is required, if it is justified. If not, neither is the cost for it. I think the desktop is extremely complicated for the common man, it should be simpler and still simpler. The right applications of the web and desktop or web+desktop can make life easier. I think usability is underrated in software development whereas it should sit there right on the top along with the jewel in the crown. I am good at identifying this.

I think software should be used right to be useful. However great and usable the software is, it is rendered useless if not used in the right way. I understand this and make sure that the users understand this too.

It is important to understand and accept software as a solution closer to the real life, that we live. Only then will it be able to impact and improve our everyday life. I had read somewhere that technology is something that has not worked yet, anything else that works breaks the barrier of being a technology. Software is still a technology, but it is important for you, the user to participate and contribute in breaking the barrier.

And I am going to blog about all this here.

However, blogging has introduced me to new things, which I cannot brag about today but I feel it should be mentioned here.

Know What I Blog

As days have passed I have realised that blogging itself has become a source of knowledge for me. I try to do my personal research and gather facts and figures before I write. I have started keeping a tab on lot many things which has improved my perception and understanding. That is why in addition to blog what I know I have started abiding by the rule know what I blog. The subject of software is so dynamic and vast that blogging is quite a refreshing way of staying uptodate as well as keeping in touch with the basics. The ability to communicate with other peers in the same field and start discussions with them, without the physical boundaries of countries or industries, will probably give me more chances of bragging in future.

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Copyright Abhijit Nadgouda.

The Best Format For Blogging

Robert Scoble justifies why podcasting is sometimes better than plain blogging. Only recently technology developments have provided multiple formats for blogging – text, audio (podcasts, mp3, …) and visuals (photos, video, …).

I don’t agree with Scoble when he tries to promote podcasts by saying that they can be heard when driving or exercising. It sounds like one of the advertisements for promotional campaigns on TV. I would not like to listen to podcasts while doing something else, unless they are not important. It dilutes both the activities. I read feeds because the information is important to me, as it is with podcasts or videos.

However he is spot on when he says:

When I hang out with developers they tell me “use the right tool for the job.” If you want to communicate with other people text will do the job more times than not. But, if you want to reach people where they are likely to use an iPod then audio is better. If you have something visual, photos or video is better.

I think podcasts provide a unique combination of features that text blogging cannot serve:

  • excellent cohesive unit for conversations when more than one participants are involved, e.g., in interviews, debates, group discussions or public events
  • ease and convenience of recording with the new technologies in hectic places like public events or during travel
  • because it is easy, audio is one of the best formats for capturing interviews. Once recorded, transcripting the entire conversation can be lossy and tedious, providing the audio itself is quick and more straight from the horse’s mouth
  • listening becomes imperative when the content is about sounds and expressions, e.g., poetry or songs
  • listening to podcasts is infact quicker sometimes than reading because lot of times the context has to be built when writing, in audio the context is inbuilt

These would not have mattered some years back, but today there are blogs on all subjects and some of them warrant a better format than text.

Similarly, to express visuals, photo or video blogging is the best way. I would expect a photoblog from a photographer about photography.

A peripheral but technical problem is that accessibility suffers when it is purely in non-text formats. However, blogs are typically informal and the blogger has right to make his own decision.

However, it does not mean that everything should be podcasted. Text blogging has its own place, typically for content, entire or in parts, which you want to go through repeatedly. It is easier to ponder over when the text is in front of view and you can go back and forth without any additional conscious physical actions.

Your take?

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Copyright Abhijit Nadgouda.

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