Category: Blogging

I applied this morning for Facebook Instant Articles. There’s a plug-in for WordPress that will create FBIA feeds, so fingers crossed that it’s easy to get working.

Blogging Web

radioProductShotIt may take some time for the DNS change to propagate, and there are certainly going to be some broken incoming links, but I just finished the bulk of the work to port my Radio UserLand site here.

All of the posts from jake.userland.com are in a new Jake’s Radio ‘Blog category, in addition to preserving their original categories (some of which overlap with ones that were already here).

That leaves just one site to port in before my entire blogging life will live here at jakesavin.com.

(Of course I have a bunch of other sites too, and I have yet to decide what to do with each of them.)

 

Ps. I fixed the problem I was having with redirecting old content into the new site. Turns out I wasn’t properly escaping backslash characters in the script that generated my .htaccess file, so mod_rewrite was looking for “d{4}”, meaning “dddd”—instead of “\d{4}”, meaning four digits in a row. So all of the incoming links via jake.userland.com should now work—the ones I know about at least.

Blogging Jake's Radio 'Blog WordPress

Hi all—here’s an update following my previous post asking for some WordPress advice: I pulled the trigger, and now all of the content from Jake.EditThisPage.com is ported over to JakeSavin.com. Amazingly it worked right the first time! When does that ever happen?

Most, if not all of the links into the old site now redirect to the right place here. For the moment they’re temporary redirects, but after a bit more testing I’ll make them permanent so they’ll get picked up by search engines and the like. And contrary to my initial fears, the problem with pages living at multiple URLs was able to be easily resolved by redirecting via mod_rewrite rules in my .htaccess file.

404: Just say no!

The content of that site spans the period from December 22, 1999 to March 11, 2003, and all of the posts from that site are in their own category to make them easy to find.

Next I’m going to write some code to export my Radio UserLand site to WXR (WordPress eXtended RSS) format, so I can merge that content in too. I know a lot more now than I did when I started this work with Manila, so it should be quite a bit easier. After that, a one-off exporter for my custom WebsiteFramework site, Jspace.org. That one goes way back to 1997!

Blogging Jake's Brainpan WordPress

Dave Winer:

As Walter Isaacson points out  innovators need to be both humanitarians and scientists, we have to touch the human spirit, and be masters of the scientific method. In the bootstrap of blogging it was enormously important that I was both a writer and a programmer. We had to learn to write for this new medium, and we had to figure out how the software worked.

I was lucky in 1994 that I was completely free to explore, and that the world was ready to make this leap. So I began a trip, that led to something wonderful , every bit as big as I thought it might be back then.

Read the whole thing.

Blogging

Alex King posted an interesting rebuttal of Santiago Valdarrama’s missive explaining why he’s building his own blog engine.

Taken together, these posts pretty much sum up the reasons why I went with self-hosted WordPress, rather than try to roll my own solution, or continue to lope along indefinitely with Manila.

A couple of Alex’s points in particular stuck out for me:

Santiago: There’s always a learning curve. Every platform is different, specially when you want to fine tune your layout and deviate from the provided templates.

Alex: This one strikes me as a bit silly. There is a learning curve when building your own system too – especially if you haven’t written your layout/templating system yet.

Then:

Santiago: You’ll never get to experience the satisfaction of engaging in a conversation about how you developed your own platform from scratch.

Alex: … if what you want is engagement then joining a bountiful and vibrant community of developers is a much bigger opportunity than the potential for a conversation with another NIH hacker.

Santiago finished his post with:

It takes a few evenings of work to get it done. It’s that simple.

Honestly I doubt it. Although I’m an experienced web developer, if I were to attempt to roll my own solution from scratch, it would be a huge undertaking, fraught with many potentially fatal problems:

  • First I’d have to choose a programming language and platform, with very little in the way of criteria with which to make the right decision—at least not without doing a lot of research first.
  • I’d need to decide what features I really need and what I could do without.
  • I’d have to write (and debug) the code—probably a lot of code.
  • If I wanted to be able to use a native app to post to my blog, I’d have to implement a well-known API, with a dialect that the app understands. (Mo code, mo problems.)
  • I wouldn’t be able to take advantage of the vast universe of WordPress plugins: I wanted a feature a plugin implemented, I’d have to write it myself. (Mo code, mo problems)
  • And so on…

And after all that, I’d still have to find a way to export the content from my current site, and import it into the new one, which was something was going to have to do anyway. 🙁

Plus, as Alex hints at by pointing out the vibrancy of the WordPress community, I wouldn’t be able to leverage the experience to actually learn WordPress (and some PHP, and some optimization, and some Apache config, and…).

Update: Santiago has a follow-up post:

“I’d never ask someone to do this. Rolling your own engine means a lot of work, and unless you are really on the nerd side (like I am and Brent Simmons is), it will be a waste of your time.”

Update: More dialog on Twitter

Ps. In the end Brent decided to stick with the self-built engine he’s been using for years, and write an iOS app for himself to post to it remotely. Moral of this story: Stick with what you know?

Blogging WordPress

Today is Dave Winer’s 20th Anniversary blogging, starting with this DaveNet piece in 1994. Dave wrote a great piece about the occasion here: 20 years of blogging. As I read it, a few things came to mind. Oddly the number 19 seems to be a theme…

Another life on another continent

Twenty years ago today, I had just turned 25. I was living in Amsterdam, and touring as the bassist with an indie rock band called Painting Over Picasso. We had just released our first album. My life has changed a lot since then—enough so that today it feels like the “me” in Amsterdam might have been a different person altogether.

I started reading Dave’s writing online and getting into programming with Frontier some time in 1995, while I was still living abroad. Dave’s writing and programming in Frontier are among the few threads in my life that cross the K-T boundary between my music and tech careers.

The band stayed together for a little over four years altogether. I had been an aspiring musician for about five years before that, and continued performing in public with various bands until 2006, though not professionally.

Reflecting on 20 years of… anything

In total my music career lasted about 19 years, only seven of which were really serious.

19 years is the same amount of time between when I first started programming in Frontier to now.

19 years is also the time between writing my very first programs on the Apple II at my middle school, and joining UserLand as a developer in 2000.

I’d be pretty hard pressed to think of any single thing I’ve done more or less continuously for 20 years.

Starting a second career

I returned to the United States in 1996, with no job, no real prospects, a music composition degree, and a strong sense that I belonged in the software industry. Though I had been an amateur programmer off-and-on since 1980 or so and had created large-ish projects of my own, I had zero real work experience in technology.

Through a college friend, I managed to bully my way into an entry-level software test engineer job at Sonic Solutions in Marin County, which brought me to the Bay Area for my first tech job. My first day of work was my birthday, October 1, 1996, just over 18 years ago. (Huzzah for testers!)

I met my friend Vance who introduced me to Sonic in the fall of 1987 at Reed College in Portland, OR—the same college that Steve Jobs famously dropped out of. (Not that this fact has anything at all to do with me.) So I’ve known Vance for 27 years.

The number of people outside of my family that would call close friends for 20 years or more is… 4.

Doing anything or knowing anyone for more than 20 years is rare in my experience, but as it turns out my true friends have lasted longer than my career tracks to date.

And this comes as no surprise. 😉

A few quotes from Dave’s piece

These passages in Dave’s piece today resonated with me:

… You should create stuff because you enjoy being creative, because you have the creative impulse. Not because you expect to be loved for it. #

That’s how I’ve always felt about my own creative work, whether sculpture and painting I did in high school, making music, creating software, or writing (online or off).

It really is great to be admired for one’s accomplishments. But that’s never been the most important reason I’ve worked to create anything. People may admire someone or their work, but admiration doesn’t equal love. It’s an easy mistake to make, especially when you’re young.

This part about Aaron Swarts also struck a chord for me:

… I did him the honor he asked for, and treated him as a responsible person. One of the great things about the Internet is that our bodies are the same size here, and if you want to play with the adults, there’s nothing stopping a young person from doing so… #

I remember how surprised, and then delighted I was when I first learned about Aaron’s youth, as he began to engage with the RSS community. It was refreshing to see (much of) the community accept him as a person with ideas, and worthy of being listened to. Especially since I often didn’t fit in easily when I was younger, and I’d wished that being bright and engaged were enough to gain acceptance in the so-called “real world”.

Dave did me the same honor when I approached him and UserLand in 2000, and asked if I could work with them. At that point I had few accomplishments to prove my worth as a developer, other than some hacked together Frontier scripts that ran my own blog, a bit of incomplete online writing, and the willingness to ask for their trust.

The move to UserLand, and having worked with Dave and others there have had a very positive long-term effect for me, which is difficult to quantify:

  • I grew from a tinkerer into a real software developer working in Frontier, with Dave, Brent, and André as mentors.
  • Relationships I made at UserLand, and work I did both with and for Dave, continue to open professional doors for me even today.
  • My UserLand experience proved to me in a personal way that a few smart, dedicated people can have a big impact, if they stick to it over time.

Thanks, Dave!

So on your 20th blog-versary, I’d like to say “Thanks, Dave!” for sharing your thoughts and writing with us all, and for narrating your work on so many things, some of which now seem obvious—even taken for granted.

And on a personal note, thank you for the great opportunity and experience of working with you and the folks at UserLand. It was a great experience for me, and in no small part it was reading your writing starting about 19 years ago, that made me to want to work with you. 🙂

Blogging

From The Old Reader blog:

“Paid accounts will have some additional features, but the basic free accounts will still be 100% usable. We are not in this game to make money, but we want to give something special back to the people who are going to be supporting us…

“We reworked the plans according to the news today. Creating an API for mobile clients is the number one priority in our roadmap. We would love to collaborate with any developers who were making Google Reader clients. Please, spread the word about this if you can.”

This is the right move, in my opinion, however I do have two bits of unsolicited advice:

  1. Please clone the Google Reader API, even if you are going to create your own. By doing this you’d immediately make it possible for app developers to migrate their users from Reader to your service.
  2. Re-position your API as a more general service, not just targeted at Mobile. While there are many more mobile apps that depend on the Google Reader API, there are still desktop apps that use it too.

For now their web UI is under quite some strain. It took many seconds to load when I tried it just now (but it did load). They’re adding capacity as I write this, and I bet they’ll get it under control.

(Bonus link – Rob Fishman on BuzzFeed: Google’s Lost Social Network. “How Google accidentally built a truly beloved social network, only to steamroll it with Google+.” Amen, brotha.)

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