P.S. If anyone would like their own blog on our domain just let me know. I can set it up for you lickety-split and even manage it for you if you like. For free. Yes-suh.
While screwing around with my blog today I did notice something missing that I used to enjoy from the Plinky site that I used to use for blog prompts for interesting things to write about. WIthin Plinky you could put a word down and search Flickr for images you could use in your blog. That was a really cool feature and it made including pictures in my blog very easy. I didn’t have to worry about stealing photography from someone else as it only used pictures that were released under the Creative Commons licensing model. Since I don’t make any money from this blog, the Creative Commons has really helped out.
So I went looking. I could still futz around with Google Image search which is annoying as you can’t define a default (only Creative Commons licensed) search that I could find – yes, you can go in afterwards and mark up an Advanced Search, but it’s annoying. In fact, I don’t want to ever leave the WordPress interface at all! So, thanks, perhaps, to PhotoDropper Plugin I won’t have to. I’ve seen some people complain about it but so far I haven’t seen any of the damage they have noticed on my blog. If the plugin behaves itself, I’ll enjoy it. Let’s see how it works with this post.
I’ve been blogging actively on and off for years. Much of it started in LiveJournal and when SixApart, the company that wrote LiveJournal were sold to a russian company it was time for me to leave. I left for a few reasons, one was because I didn’t trust my writings to a company that was owned by a foreign country – the laws get murky once your thoughts and opinions leave the USA; the other reason was a general eroding of english users as more cyrillic users started to appear on LiveJournal. The language barrier between english and russian was the little push that I needed to leave that and get on with WordPress.
My use of WordPress continued a-pace until one of my work blogs was tagged as suspect by a WordPress.com robot and the company deactivated my blog. After explaining what I was using the blog for, they re-enabled it however that identified a problem for me, mostly that my blog was being measured – if not by a person then by an automatic process and as such, it had a definite stink of censorship about it. At work, and in my private life I already had a separate hosting company and that’s when I discovered WordPress.org, the DIY blog platform based on the technology that powers WordPress.com. I installed a constellation of new blogs both for work and for personal use and that had a bunch of added extras – specifically unlimited storage of rich media which I would have otherwise had to pay for with WordPress.com as well as direct control of the content. There were no robots or censors wandering around turning off accounts willy-nilly in this other arrangement. Also, and more to the point of this blog entry, the shift over to WordPress.org also enabled the use of plugins which really extend the WordPress platform even further than the nice presentation that the WordPress.com system provides. I’ve been having a devil of a time remembering to tag my WordPress blog posts. I went fishing for a new plugin to maybe help with tags and I found the WP Calais Auto Tagger and so far I’m quite impressed with it’s quality. Now when I make a post, the post is sent to OpenCalais where it is processed for relevant tags and I get a list of possibilities that I can elect to use or not. I take the category part of my blog posts very seriously and now I can rely on this bit of technology to help me with the tags as well. If you run WordPress blogs, I suggest you look into this.
Generally speaking, if you are a friend of mine and would like a WordPress.org blog for your own, I’m more than happy to help you out. I can set it up quickly and support it even – if you are interested, just drop me a line. Those that know me know how to reach me. I suppose everyone else could leave a comment. This offer isn’t valid for anyone at Western, sorry.
When I’m on vacation I have lots of free time and so I start coming up with ideas for blogging. The biggest challenge I have is balancing these moments where I have lots of free time and can blog prodigiously versus those times when I am so busy I can’t possibly blog. It’s either feast or famine. There are times when I wish services like Plinky had some sort of tracking ability. I hate the idea of having to keep a list of what Plinky prompts I’ve taken up as blog assignments and which ones I haven’t and the site doesn’t seem to have that as a capacity. Is there anyone out there who would like me to write about specific items maybe? I just blog about what occurs to me or things that are remarkable in my Pocket queue.
I’ve been kicking around several ideas including more work-related blog posts, especially when it comes to getting things accomplished, using our ticket system, and running a help desk in general. I think that will take more planning because I have to tread carefully. Work tends to get rather picky about what I write and share, and there has been heavy drama time in the past and I’d rather not have to deal with that malarkey again if I can help it.
I also have to remind myself now that my blog is all paid and all bottomless. I can share pictures and even video all by myself without having to deal with YouTube or any of that “passing under the eyes of a censor” kind of thing. Then again, I don’t think that recording video would be the best thing – but maybe so – I’ll really have to come up with things worth talking about if I’m going to do that. Unless I open up to Q&A and swing the doors wide open for anonymous Q&A.
So many ideas… thankfully I have a lot of time to plan and put these things in operation, or not.
Yesterday I opened my Google Plus page and discovered to my surprise and initial pleasure that Google had brought a new interface to their social network system. As I started to explore this new interface I started to immediately notice that things had changed not for the better, but rather for the worse. Google had unilaterally included their chat system on the right side of my browser window, it’s something I rarely ever use so that system is all wasted space. I noticed that the stories in my circles, the things I really care about are now shuffled off to the left in a column that lost 10% of space on the leftmost and 50% on the rightmost, being moved over for some controls at the very top of the page that now occupy this dreaded whitespace region on my Google Plus page.
It’s this whitespace, and the meaningless chat talker system that I can’t stand. Facebook attempted a similar move by presenting me with a chat-talker screen on the left side as well months ago, when I still used Facebook. When they made the changes to their interface, along with privacy concerns and workplace issues with social networking I left Facebook. Now it just languishes as an identity marker, if content gets on my Facebook page it’s wholly accidental. Twitter’s web page also underwent this columnar approach, as they reconfigured the entire interface out from underneath their users. For Twitter, I stopped using that because it was more noisy than useful, the people I wanted to engage with were just human billboards, and the interface changes were really the straw that broke the camel’s back.
So what is there to do? Complaints about the interface changes are really the only channel you have to express how much you dislike when a service does this to you – but you have no real power. Just complaining is one easily ignored tiny little voice in the darkness and doesn’t amount to anything at all. The only real power that any single user has is the power of choice. In the end, the only choice I have to make is, do I want to still use the system? It’s actually a matter of abandonment. I abandoned Facebook. I abandoned Twitter. Because they changed the interface and made it less useful to me, I am facing the idea of abandoning Google Plus. I don’t need these social network systems to give my life meaning. They need me, or rather, they need aggregate me’s, lots of people, to give what they do meaning. The less people use a socially networked system the less appealing that system is to everyone else. Facebook is only compelling because everyone uses it. There is no real value inherent in Facebook itself. This is a lesson that the classic business models these companies use can’t take into account – that their popularity defines their success. If they make a grossly unpopular change to the interface, then people will flee and their success will go tits up.
I don’t care to encourage other people to abandon these systems if they like them. Each of us has to make these kinds of decisions on a wholly personal level. I find it obnoxious that Google, and Facebook, and Twitter for that matter all force interface changes on users without giving the user any control whatsoever. It would be more elegant if there were a batch of controls we could select from and build our own interface. Put the bits and pieces where we want, opt out of things we don’t care for and make the interface work best for us, as the users. None of these sites have done that, they all behave as if they have global fiat to make changes willy-nilly. The end user who has to contend with these changes can’t do anything really except make that singular choice surrounding the issue of abandonment.
So where do I go now? It’s comic, but in many ways I am looking forward to going backwards. There is one system that I’ve used, mostly as a category but the people behind what I currently use I regard as being the platonic form of that category, and that is WordPress. Going back to blogging. What does the WordPress infrastructure have that attracts me? It’s got stable themes, the site looks very much like it always has. There are changes, but they aren’t as gross in scope as these other systems have perpetrated. I can share links on WordPress, I can write long posts, short status updates, and WordPress has a competent comment system already in place.
So I will give Google Plus until May 1st to do something better with their interface, to recognize the value in the stream and give us users the choice of what systems we want to see on our Google Plus page. Google should give us the ability to turn off the whitespace region, we should be able to turn off the chat talker region, so that we can maximize the stream region. If they fail to correct these glaring human interface deficits I will do to Google Plus what I did to Facebook. I will abandon Google Plus. I will keep the account running but I will no longer actively use it. Things that end up on Google Plus will end up being the same sort of things that end up washing up on Twitter, specifically links to content on my WordPress blog. Google’s loss will be WordPress’ gain. WordPress has always done right by me, and I respect them. I do not respect Twitter, nor do I respect Facebook. My respect for Google is quixotic at best. I used to believe in their “Do No Evil” company mantra, but that has been shed as Google has done some very evil acts, they aren’t what they once were and this sullying of their image makes the pending abandonment easy.
Will my abandonment hurt Google? No, of course not. I’m not so full of myself as to think that me leaving will change anything about the service, that Google will even notice my absence. However if I can inspire other people to give another look at WordPress, maybe see that progress forward can be achieved by regressing to earlier systems may be a worthy pursuit if what you get in the trade is interface stability. That this single raindrop encourages others to fall. The raindrop doesn’t believe it is responsible for the flood. I can only hope that I help the flood along. These massive changes that these social network sites perpetrate on their usership should be punished! We want it all, we want to use the service and we want to control it as well. We want the interface to be regular, logical, useful and static. When we want to make a change, we want to be the ones making it. We do not want to be victims of someones good intentions, Google! I would say this for Facebook as well, but that’s a lost cause.
So time is ticking away. If Google does not act, then the stream on that service is terminal. If that comes to pass, I will be migrating to my WordPress blog.
I hope to see some of you there.
It struck me that I have an entire archive of my old tedious LiveJournal entries stored on my Dropbox. I think it would be interesting to look back using this archive and see what was going on in my life in the yesteryears. At best it’ll be entertaining, at worst, a reminder of LiveJournal.
I suppose it started when LiveJournal, the journal I used to use was sold to a russian company. SixApart couldn’t hack it anymore and sold out – about that same time Facebook and Twitter were starting to garner some real attention and I couldn’t justify writing on LJ anymore, few people remained. It was a lot like IRC. Once everyone left, it went by the wayside.
Oh how times have changed. Everything that is old is new again. Twitter’s limit for 140 characters is certainly perfect for their design but sometimes my thoughts and, lets face it, my ranting and raving takes more than just 140 characters. Sometimes it takes a heapload of characters for me to express myself completely. Facebook could have been a blogging platform, but there is no way AFAIK to write a “Note” and then share that with anyone you like. Perhaps they’ll work on that, in the mean time I can work with WordPress.
I’m not expecting a readership, mostly it’s a vent for me to express things that otherwise would get bottled up inside. I imagine a fair amount of this blog will pertain to my job, higher education in general, politics, weather, as well as my odd beliefs and faiths. A secular humanist-deist. If you like what you read, I invite you to continue. Be prepared however, for these things:
- More Left and Liberal than most people
- Critical – Both for Gadgets, Companies, My Workplace, <grin> Everything.
- Passionate – I’m outspoken, I don’t hide my feelings and I share compulsively.
- Purposeful – I know what my purpose is in life, I’m not guessing, I’m not fumbling.
- Technical – I’m a Geek. I’m a Morlock. I hunt Eloi for sport. Tech is a passion.
- Gay – Gloriously Gay. While my sex life isn’t on display usually, I am what I am.
- Angry – I get angry a lot. I share that anger, a lot. If you don’t like it, don’t read.
So here we are, a blog again. A personal journal again. I have HTML from my old LiveJournal blog, over time I might dredge some of that back up again, we’ll see.
So be it, Jedi.