Category: Blogging (page 1 of 2)

WordPress and Its Amazing Longevity

Las cadenas se cortan por el eslabón mas débil / Chains break by the weakest link

I’m realizing now that I could write several posts that start with the title, “WordPress and Its Amazing …” However, this post tells a funny story about broken web links. I use a plugin on many WordPress sites, including this one, called Broken Link Checker. I get emails that notify me of any broken links on my site(s) and I am then able to modify the link or eliminate it altogether.

I did just that on this post from 2008. As I look at that post again, I see I need to do more updates on links for the colleagues mentioned. However, by updating the post, it sent out notifications to the folks mentioned in the form of pingbacks/trackbacks. One of those notifications was received by none other than Gardner Campbell – you know, that guy I worked with/for at UMW, and with whom I recently had a happy reunion.

How did I know? Well, because Gardner re-read that post from 2008, and decided to comment on my last post about WordPress. Ironically, the post from 2008 was some smack-talking about how much my colleagues were (or were not) blogging. As Gardner said, it generated a number of comments. That post reminds us all that it is forever thus – that we all struggle with wanting to blog, but don’t for all kinds of reasons – except for Jim Groom, he is always blogging.

So my excuse for this blog post is two-fold. First, is that Broken Link Checker is a handy little plugin that helps with the maintenance of your site and making sure links go somewhere. Second is that this Broken Link Checker “process” literally allowed me to reconnect with people on the web. For as long as I have been doing this blogging (since 2004), tweeting (2007), facebooking (whenever) thing, I have been amazed at the connectedness thing. Through those technologies I can know what people are thinking. I can visualize the nostalgia for days gone by. I can see the constant struggles that we work through in the present. It’s mostly at a distance, but it isn’t any less real. So thank you Broken Link Checker, and thank you Gardner Campbell, for keeping these links alive!

flickr photo by Hernan Piñera shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

Redundant Publishing with Evernote and Postach.io

Andy's Notes

The Internet is always on. Except when it isn’t. Except when you really need it.

OK. The Internet isn’t quite like water. It isn’t absolutely necessary for survival. But we’ve come to rely on it so much that we really miss it on the occasions when it’s not there. Over the last week, I’ve come to the amazing realization that Murphy’s law applies to the Internet – it is when you are about to hit the Publish button, or when you are right at your deadline, that your Internet will go out.

There are actually multiple points of failure, at least with my relation to the Internet. First there is the basic connection. I’m lucky because I have a work connection (that’s really fast) and a home connection (that’s really fast). So if things are down at one place, I can usually go to the other for those times when I really need to be connected.

The second point of failure is the places where I do my publishing. I’ve had several hosting “companies” over the years. I put “companies” in quotes because sometimes it has been university servers that hosted my sites. In my line of work, we have had lots of hosting companies that we have dealt with. Web hosting can be a lucrative enterprise, but it’s got to be stressful when customers are asking “where’s my site?”

So those points of failure happen. Not really that often on the whole, but 99.9% uptime still leaves a good portion of time when things are screwy.

So here’s two examples. I was recently working on some online documentation. As can happen with writing, you can get into a “groove”. When you get in a groove, you forget things, like remembering to save. This happened while writing documentation and when I went to save there was no Internet connection at the time. A few wrong moves later and I lost all of my work. I thought to myself “when will I learn”.

The second example is spurring me on to write this post. Right at the moment I can’t get to my host to write in WordPress. Bummer. I hope those Hippies are getting somewhere. I’m very grateful that they work as hard as they do. As I’m writing this I’m getting messages that they’ll be back up soon.

However, I’m realizing that writing offline and then posting is something desirable to me. I did it years ago with Microsoft’s Live Writer.  These days, I write in Evernote. Constantly. When I say write, sometimes it’s “clipping”, as in clipping websites (blog posts, product reviews, wish list items). But I find myself formulating what I want to write in Evernote more and more. I want to publish to the web from Evernote. It does do it, kind of, by “sharing” notes. But the notes all have the Evernote branding and I’d like a little more control over the look and feel of the posts. You know, like I have with my own blog.

So what if I could publish my posts to a “Notes Blog” automatically. Type up my words in Evernote, make it live somehow and have my note synched to the web host.

Well, it’s here. It’s called Postach.io. It’s early days still, so I’m trying to temper my enthusiasm, but I’m excited nonetheless. Here’s how it works. You need to be using Evernote, which is another tool with a passionate following. Evernote is the place where I put all kinds of stuff. The short description is that you have notebooks and you can tag stuff and get organized. It has replaced Delicious for me because it saves the actual webpage frozen in time and it will save the link so you can return to it. Also Delicious has been a bit of a mess lately.

Once you’re using Evernote, you then need to establish an account at Postach.io. You then link your Evernote account to Postach.io and when you want to publish you write your note, save it in your notebook labeled Postach.io (or you can change it to another notebook if you like), and finally you give it a tag of “published” (you can change the tag you use as well). It’s a new paradigm of publishing. You move your notes into a shared area and then Postach.io does the rest. They have some very nice and simple themes that make it all look good.

In the past I have shared Evernote notes in the standard way here and here. But now I can post them in more of a blog setting so they look like this and this.

You can also get an RSS feed, so automatically publishing to a WordPress blog is a cinch (can you say FeedWordPress?). Which is where you get the redundancy part. Commenting is supported through Disqus which I need to look into further. There also automatic Tweeting and Facebooking, so there’s even more ways to get your message out.

So here’s to the experimentation. Hey, and look, my hosting “company” is back online!

So now this post is available at this site and my postach.io site.

Master of My Domain

andyrush.com godaddy parked page

It looks like 2013 will be the “Year of the Domain”. Most of the conversations in the DTLT office seem to have the word domain in them. Domain of One’s Own, “what’s your domain?”, “that’s a subdomain not a subfolder”. My 2013 started out innocently thinking about my domains and specifically my online identity. It also put me in nostalgia mode as I recalled the history of my domain ownership. It began even before the Bluehost Experiment. It was not too long after I moved to Fredericksburg that I decided to start a “Cycling Education Web Site”. It was 2001, and it was called velodynamics.com. It was my first real foray into domains and web spaces besides the university “tilde” sites, and the Geocities and Tripod stuff. I owned Velodynamics for two years. It was good experience and it allowed me to work on my Dreamweaver skills (version 4 and MX). I was very proud of it. Proud of the name, proud of my logo, and even proud that I contacted a cycling photographer in Belgium named Cor Vos to ask permission to use one of his photos as part of the website design.

I let velodynamics.com lapse in 2003. There was no way I could keep up with a such website in addition to a regular job, and more importantly, with a six-month-old boy running around the house.

Also in 2003, a mild-mannered English professor named Gardner Campbell became the Assistant Vice President for Teaching and Learning Technologies. In 2004, Gardner talked to us in DTLT (this is pre-Jim Groom era) about blogging and experimenting in spaces on the web that we could control. My first blog was not WordPress, but using something called B2Evolution. Our web host starting out was a service called “Bloghost” and my first personal domain was awrush.com. When Bloghost declared bankruptcy (and subsequently I lost my domain), we switched to Bluehost. I had another shot at picking a domain, and while andyrush.com was not available, andyrush.net was.

So back to the start of 2013. I returned to UMW from a much-needed holiday break on January 7th. As the DTLT conversations returned inevitably to the Domain of One’s Own project, I had the thought to once again check on the status of andyrush.com. To my amazement it was listed as “expired 12/29/12”. I immediately went through the process to grab it as quickly as I could. Well, not so fast I found out. There would be stages that I would have to go through if I was to have this domain. I read a few articles, but especially this one called How to Snatch an Expiring Domain. As the author states there is a 40 day process that you need to wait out, and while I thought about using a “domain snatching firm”, I ultimately just signed up for Godaddy’s backorder service (because they owned the domain) for about $20.

domain public backorder

The first email that I received after the backorder process started was this one on January 23:

andyrush.com at auction

On February 2 I got the notification of the winning auction bid:

Domain Auction Winning Bid

Today, February 10, 2013, the process is complete:

andyrush.com complete email

So the next step was to go to my web host (MediaTemple) and add the domain to my account (as you can see, I’ve done this before).

andyrush.com to andyrush.net

Following that I went to Godaddy to change the name servers to point to MediaTemple.

And now . . . andyrush.com. So it’s just a redirect right now, but it’s mine. The treasured “dot com” vanity address. I just keep staring at it. Like it’s a new-born. It doesn’t really do much yet, but there’s so much potential.

Skitch for Windows

Skitch for Windows screenshot

A while back I “gushed” about Skitch and hoped that a Windows version would be available soon. Well, it arrived a short time ago and I wanted to let folks know. It is very similar to the Mac version that I talked about and it even has the incredibly valuable “Drag Me” feature.

As I mentioned previously, the Evernote group took over the Skitch program and they have tightly integrated it into the Evernote program (which I also use and LOVE). They have also greatly simplified the program which I have mixed feelings about. It was quirky, and I imagine that it was slightly complicated for some, but I was used to it. However, it still works well for what it does, which is grabbing screens or bits of screens and publishing them. So if you haven’t installed it yet, go get it (it’s free). While you’re at it try out Evernote which allows you to take notes and sync them everywhere.

Skitch

I used to write a lot of posts about tools I have been using. Back when I did that I was using Windows computers. I tried to be conscious of Mac users and not recommend too many programs that were Windows only. Now that I’m on a Mac, I think about it the other way around. There is great software for the Mac. So much so now that I can’t think of anything on Windows that the Mac doesn’t do better. OK, maybe certain games, but I’m not that much of a gamer and there have been great strides made of late. Even one of the last holdouts of Windows only software that is considered truly great is Sound Forge by Sony (formerly Sonic Foundry). Recently Sony made the announcement that it’s coming to the Mac.

So I’m a bit premature talking about Skitch and Windows , but I’ve got this sneaking suspicion that it’s imminent [UPDATE – it’s here for Windows]. So what is Skitch?

Well it’s a program that was recently bought by the folks at Evernote. If you’re not familiar with Evernote, then you’re missing something special in and of itself. Skitch though is a screen capture program that I think is pretty special. Now the Mac is known for having a pretty good screen capture program built in, and when combined with the built-in Preview program there’s a decent system for managing screenshots to use in documentation or to send in an email to your family member who needs to see a picture to understand how something works.

A program needs to be really extraordinary to replace a pretty good built-in program. Skitch is one of those programs. Let me tell you about why it’s extraordinary. I’ll leave aside the integration with Evernote (using the Sharing feature), but that’s just one very cool aspect. No, Skitch’s functionality is truly great. Let’s say you need a screenshot for a blog post. There’s a feature in Skitch that makes it so easy to get those types of graphics into those websites.

There, I just did it. You simply click the insert image button in a WordPress post, go snap a screenshot in Skitch, and then drag the “Drag Me” tab into the WordPress “add media” window. There’s no extra steps of saving the screenshot to your hard drive, then finding and uploading. If you save your images to Flickr, you can use the same procedure. Just drag the “Drag Me” tab into the Flickr uploader window and it’s soon in your photo stream.

By the way, I’m listening to some music on Spotify as I write this. Wanna see? Here let me drag an image in . . .

It’s just that easy (click the image above to see the larger version).

Skitch is also great at annotation. So where is the “Insert image” button in the WordPress editor? Let me show you.

I could do this all day, and if I had to, Skitch would keep me from tearing my hair out because it’s just so easy (almost fun). It’s completely appropriate that Skitch’s icon is a great big heart! We’ll be talking more about Skitch at the UMW New Media Center, and hopefully soon I’ll update both posts to say that Skitch for Windows is here, but I can’t contain myself any longer and I had to show you Skitch NOW!

Here’s a quick screencast demonstration of Skitch and the “Drag Me” feature.

Skitch from umwnewmedia on Vimeo.

Posting My Tweet

Here is where the Tweet goes:

So all I did was paste the URL for the tweet in the HTML editor in WordPress. It looks like this:

https://twitter.com/rushaw/statuses/215078754266001408

More info on Embeds here:
http://codex.wordpress.org/Embeds

Breaking Wind


cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by tedreese

A little over 5 years ago I wrote two posts titled “Winds of change” (I and II). The first post highlighted a video from Kodak titled “Winds of Change“. The video has since been removed by the user who posted it, so I’m republishing it below because it was terrific then and it still is terrific. And now at the same time tragic as well. Kodak declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy this week. They exuded confidence 5 years ago that they were going to conquer this digital thing. Heck, they invented the first digital camera! But, obviously they didn’t conquer it – at least not in their current form. Kodak is one of the true icons of American culture. Kodachrome is lauded in song, and phrases like “Kodak picture” and “Kodak moment” are still used today. Even though when those phrases were coined it referred to film.

The second “Winds of Change” post was about Windows Vista, which I still argue was better than its predecessor Windows XP. But I wouldn’t ask my worst enemy to use it now. However, Microsoft is in a go-either-way position right now. Many are starting to write them off as has-beens. Others are saying just wait, it’s Microsoft’s year. Microsoft can keep trudging along for years before they are in Kodak’s position, but they do need to start innovating again.

The point of this post was originally to just get you to watch the Kodak video again. But it’s also a helpful reminder of many things. First, things change. Constantly. No revelation here. How we manage the change will determine our success. I’m managing some change in my life right now. Some days are better than others. I’m also embarking on some new ventures soon. Some that I hope to write about soon. It involves writing, blogging, and posting more content. About stuff that I enjoy. I hope that it spills over into writing more on this site (or at least cross-posting). That would be a change for the better. This first post of the new year is me managing change – better late than never.

There’s Nothing I Like More Than Experimenting

Storify screenshot
Photo by rushaw on flickr

Right. So I am experimenting with Storify. What is here is great. I can add tweets from my friends (my timeline), tweets that I posted (my tweets), my favorite tweets (Fav) of from a specific user or list (User/list). Cool. I can do Facebook stuff, but I don’t do much Facebook stuff.

For Flickr I can search for an image, find a specific user’s pics, or search just Creative Commons. And on YouTube I can do a general search, or search a user’s videos, or a user’s favorites. Also cool.

I can also include Storify stories, search Google web, news, or images, and even include RSS feeds.

I would love a Vimeo tab to add videos from my Vimeo account. However it would have to add code that is iPad/iPhone compatible. You can just add the link to a Vimeo video. It will add the necessary code to embed the video in the page. It uses the embed.ly service. As I write this I haven’t tried it, but I’m guessing that the code will NOT play nice with iOS.  I’ll update here if it does.
Update: Indeed the embed code for Vimeo uses iframe so it is iOS friendly. Way to go Storify!

Lots of promise here as well as some fun experimentation.

Blog Publishing with Storify Part Deux

Let me make this clearer

So Alan was very helpful with comments and even a post about how to directly publish using Storify.
Tweet Like Phillips Seafood – CogDogBlog

Just to prove to Andy Rush that you can publish from storify to your own blog and have all the content there. This was done with the One-click publishing at storify that I connected to my blog. This is how a business can make a customer feel valued- tweeting back in a way that you know it is a person behind the tweet.

The problem is that I had already discovered the “one-click” publishing, and I didn’t make it clear in the original post that I had used that feature.

I also discovered that when I edited the HTML in the post on my blog, the changes didn’t appear. That’s because at the end of the post, Storify adds a piece of Javascript that forces the loading of the “story” from the Storify website. Taking the Javascript out makes the post look meh.

So I’m still playing around here trying to see what is the best approach. I really like the Storify editor. Pulling in the elements on the Storify site is done in a nice Ajax-y way. It’s just that the elements look blah when you aren’t pulling them from Storify (in other words without that Javascript stuff).

I’m going to add a tweet just to see what it looks like.

CogDogBlogged: Tweet Like Phillips Seafood http://cogdogblog.com/7340
cogdog
September 7, 2011
I’m still in experimental phase, and I like @timmmmyboy’s idea of maybe a Storify plugin for WordPress. I’d like to cut out the middleman and just have the Storify interface built into the WordPress editor.

Dreaming.

By the way I removed the Javascript from this post as well.

Blog Publishing with Storify

Learning about Storify and making the stories permanent on the blog.

So our newest, bestest Instructional Technology Specialist, Tim Owens (aka @timmmmyboy) came back into the office talking about Storify

Over the summer, I saw Storify for the first time. A summary of “The Battle of Oblivion” by Michael Branson Smith (aka @nottrivial)

As I researched Storify, I noticed that CogDog did one back in March, featuring his Mom, the late great #CookieLady

Quick Play with Storify (trying to avoid the “c” word) – CogDogBlog

cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by misterbisson "Curating" web content has been a medium flying buzzword over the last year. I’m not going to wade into the definitions or the tension from the museum quarter.
It usually takes three times after hearing about something from others before I check it out. Actually, after DS106, I had heard several people talk about Storify. Tim wrote a blog post today . . .
Timmmmyboy » Design Matters

So often I have lengthy discussions on Twitter and keep telling myself "I need to be blogging this! 140 characters isn’t enough for my rage!" but to grab the bits and pieces of what was said on Twitter and codify it here on my blog can be difficult at times.

 . . . and demonstrated that the stories could easily be embedded into a WordPress blog (as had the others).

The big question for me was is it possible to assemble a story and put it in a WordPress blog and make it permanent at my own site. I’d rather have the permanence of the HTML at my site instead of just an iframe embed. That way, if Storify is down (or goes away permanently), I still have a blog post, instead of a space filled with an error, or a blank space.

The idea of Storify is natural to me. It allows me to put together posts in a way I like. I feel like it should be the editor that is built into WordPress. I’ve used WordPress editing clients like Blogo on the Mac, and Blogsy on the iPad. These haven’t necessarily been tools that have led to an increase in blogging on my part. The way I communicate my ideas most often is with Twitter – a tweet with a link or a picture, or both.

What Tim demonstrated today, is that a tweet or tweet conversation leads to an interesting way to assemble a post, fleshed out with more rich information than a tweet by itself. With it’s capabilities to include Flickr and YouTube as well, it allows me to at least imagine the ideal way that I would put together a blog post. Let see if it succeeds (meaning more posts on my blog more often).

Update: Editing is a bit wonky. I tried editing the HTML on my site but it didn’t update. Confusing.

Update 2: I didn’t make myself clear in the original version of this post. I did use “One-click” publishing to send the post to this blog from Storify. It’s just that I attempted to edit the HTML here and it didn’t update…

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