Posts Tagged ‘blogging’

555.5 gigabytes, approximately

Feb 25th, 2010

Collection of storage media


The Twenty Twelve Photography project is still underway, and can be followed on flickr. The uploaded files are lagging behind a bit, but so far I have only forgotten a day, and even then I remembered only 53 minutes too late.

The photo here is fairly atypical, with the collection being of more interest than the photo itself. I’ve tried to gather together as much storage as I could, although stopped short of sticking an entire spindle or two of DVDs on the desk. Similarly the total storage capacity is based on advertised capacity, and thus ignores issues such as formatted capacity and differences between kilobytes and kibibytes. The floppy disk is there more for show than anything else, I don’t even own a floppy drive. While the diversity of formats and capacities is interesting in its way, what is more surprising is how many of them are redundant. The iamakey performs the role previously taken by a hoard of floppy discs, and even the blank CDs and DVDs rarely get used on a day to day basis. Indeed, formats and devices has become the determining factor in how many bits of storage media we’ll need, far more than capacity.

Meanwhile, in other news the thesis progresses, albeit slower than I may like. One of the most disheartening aspects of the thesis is seeing the flaws in your data, especially when you weren’t aware of them before hand. It is an unfortunate element of the PhD, that by the time you’ve learnt one of its lessons, it is often too late to do anything about it. Despite promising myself that I’m never doing another — A promise distinctly easier to keep than most — part of me still feels that if I did do it again, I could do a vastly better job. Of course, this ignores all the critical health troubles brought on by the further stress this would impose.

As well as the photography, I’ve also been giving consideration to this site. In the past I have bemoaned how the organic evolution of this place has caused a lot of the earlier content to have lost its context. This is becoming increasingly important when I realize that I shall be entering the job market shortly, and while I don’t intend to put my url on my CV, I can’t pretend that an employer wont Google me. When they do, I’d prefer that it is obvious what was written when I was sixteen, and what was written yesterday. Even the name of the website dates back to my early days on the internet; I haven’t gone by Jasp for a long time.

There is also the evolution of the web. CSS3 now has decent support in most of the web browsers, and HTML5 is close to being finalized. My online identity is spread across the worlds of flickr, twitter, facebook and several online forums. While pages like my lifestream help bring some of these elements together, I still see room for a greater fusion of these elements under a dynamic, exciting and modern looking website. Unfortunately seeing that this needs to be done is easier than doing it. I’ve tried several abortive designs, and all of them have ended up looking more bland than the current template. As a personal website this place provides no obvious theme to latch on to, and trying to represent ‘myself’ in design terms is challenging for someone who isn’t a professional designer. However, I hope to have a new design of this site up within the next few months, possibly with a new domain name to follow shortly.

Favourite WordPress Plugins

Apr 10th, 2009

One of the benefits of using an extremely popular blogging platform, such as WordPress is the diverse range of plugins available. This allows for the easy addition of new features to a blog, and the latest versions of WordPress provide excellent tools to make it easy to install plugins and keep them updated. In this post I will mention some of my favourite WordPress plugins, and describe what they do and why I like them.

Akismet

Akismet is one of the most popular anti-spam plugins, and has replaced spam karma 2 as my plugin of choice after the latter was discontinued. Akismet is incredibly simple to use and configure, requiring just a WordPress API code. It then sits quietly by, monitoring all comments and trackbacks and filtering out the spam. At the moment it is working overdrive, thanks to an overzealous spambot operating form a small set of IP addresses.

Unlike some anti-spam solutions, akismet uses a centralised server which serves as a filter for thousands of different blogs. This allows the service to take advantage of the repetitive nature of a lot of comments spam, and to rapidly isolate dodgy IP addresses. Of course, it also adds a central point of failure, but I haven’t noticed any issues in this respect.

Obviously the most important stats with respect to a spam filter is accuracy, and while Akismet has a low rate of misses, I haven’t been able to assess false positives as this blog doesn’t get enough traffic.

Spam: 257
Not Spam: 13
Missed Spam: 2
False Positives: 0

BackType Connect

A recent addition to my blog, Backtype Connect is the offspring of the excellent Backtype website. Backtype initially began as a comments aggregator, bringing together a users comments across the entire blogosphere, all under one page. This move helped to solve one of my major problems with the blogosphere, a dispersed identity which can lack cohesion. A user visiting my blog would be completely isolated from comments I’ve made elsewhere, despite these comments being as important as those made on home turf.
From this beginning Backtype went on to consider another issue of the social web, namely that a lot of conversation remained divorced from the article being discussed. If someone were to tweet a comment about this blog post, I’d have little idea, and systems such as bit.ly and tinyurl.com obfuscate the connection even further. Backtype worked to index these references, extending pingback to places such as twitter and comments threads.
It is this latter service that the Backtype Connect plugin integrates directly into the blog. For example, a look at the comments of this entry will show the tweet I made to advertise this post, as well as any other conversations about it that may arise on other places, such as Digg or Reddit. (God forbid this blog should ever get dugg, it would be dead before it hit the front page.)

iBegin Share

Given my fear of getting dugg, it was possibly a mistake to add this plugin. There are many plugins which add share-this links to the bottom of blog entries, making it easier for users to share the content over different websites. I was already familiar with the author of iBegin Share after having used the fantastic lifestream plugin, discussed below.
iBegin share is particularly appealing, as it adds a compact link which opens up an in-stream list of possible options. The plugin is free and open-source, and thus is easily extensible with further options. It also offers the option of sharing the article via E-mail, and provides statistics regarding exactly which articles are being shared, and via what services.
You can see it in operation at the bottom of this post.

Lifestream

Lifestream is absolutely amazing. Just as backtype unifies comments made across different blogs, lifestream unifies activities across the social web. It does this my making use of RSS feeds and API’s for a diverse range of services, and combines this into a timeline for your activity across the web. Developer David Cramer is still adding to an already impressive list of services which can be monitored by the plugin. As it currently stands my lifestream tracks my activity on:

  • Twitter
  • Flickr
  • Steam
  • GfW Live
  • Backtype (obviously)
  • Digg
  • Facebook
  • YouTube
  • Last.fm
  • Delicio.us

It also supports many more websites which I don’t use, as well as any generic RSS feed. As well as generating a dynamic stream, the plugin is also able to generate regular digests, much like my summaries of weekly tweets.

Twitter Tools

Twitter tools is probably THE tool for intergration between your blog and twitter. Not only does it allow one to make tweets from within WordPress (admittedly a fairly useless feature), but also allows one to generate automatic tweets when new blog posts are made. This blog also makes use of its API for retrieving recent tweets, both for the status bar at the bottom, and for the widget in the sidebar. The option for weekly tweet summaries is also useful, although the ability to make a blogpost for every tweet is somewhat more questionable.

Others

I have plenty of other plugins running on this blog, many of which have been active from the beginning. WordPress.com stats allows a self hosted blog to make use of wordpress.com’s stat tracking tools, WP-Footnotes1, Collapsing Categories is a simple javascript widget which collapses down subcategories in the sidebar, Better Blogroll helps you configure the number and order of the links in your blogroll, while Configurable Tag Cloud provides additional layers of customisation for the tag cloud.

  1. Makes it very easy to add footnotes to blog posts, and is surprisingly customizable []

Resolutions

Jan 1st, 2009

“Your site’s a bit sporadic,” said Tim, presumably referring to the, slightly inaccurate, last updated 5th August 2006 message on the front page.
“Yeah,” I admitted, “but most my updates are in my blog.”
“Occasionally, but not often,” was his response.

And he was right, I’m a crap blogger, and even worse at keeping the main site up to date. I mean, it doesn’t help that I’ve not been all that productive recently. The few things I have made have usually found their homes elsewhere, be it on flickr, or Fallout3nexus. But still, that doesn’t excuse the fact that this place sucks.

Fortunately I now have the ideal excuse to post, taking part in a meme which extends far beyond the blogosphere, that of making new years resolutions. In the past I have failed to stop biting my nails on several occasions, so now a chance to fail at something new. I shall keep this blog updated.

Come the new year I shall strive to write something here at least once a week, updating on Sundays if I failed to say something previously. This will still be the usual boring rubbish that is no interest to anyone, so this resolution can pretty much translate to ‘I shall massage my ego once a week,’ but at least my low readership figures shall keep me fully grounded.

Meanwhile good riddence to 2008. Who knows, if things go exceptionally well this year, the 2009-2010 resolution may be signed Dr. James.

I am a corporate Wh*re

Jul 12th, 2008

Oh dear, and to be frank this post isn’t going to make things any better. I was playing arround on the website Wordle, which generates a tag cloud from any text. I ran my blog through the program, and company names seem to dominate somewhat. I’m not quite sure how MOO became so prominent, I’m sure I’ve only blogged about them once. A few sciency words get a look in, but not many. I’m also amazed at how few words there are related to computers or gaming. I’m now off to run a few more things through the generator.

Edit: Ahh, much better. I ran my blog through a second time, and I find this word list slightly less worrying. (Card is so large thanks to the ‘what have I got in my wallet post)