Off the Top: Blog Entries


January 1, 2016

Happy New Year - 2016 Edition

Happy New Year!

I’m believing that 2016 will be a good year, possibly a quite good year. After 7 years of bumpy and 2015 off to a rough start on the health front it stayed rather calm.

I don’t make resolutions for the new year. It is a practice that always delayed good timing of starting new habits and efforts when they were better fits. The, “oh, I start doing this on on New Years” always seemed a bit odd when the moment something strikes you is a perfectly good moment to start down the path to improvement or something new.

This blog has been quiet for a while, far too long in fact. Last year when I was sick it disrupted a good stretch of posting on a nearly daily basis. I really would like to get back to that. I was planning to start back writing over the past couple weeks, but the schedule was a bit filled and chaotic.

Digging Through Digital History

This past year I did a long stretch working as expert witness on a social software case. The case was booted right before trial and decided for the defense (the side I was working with). In doing this I spent a lot of time digging back through the last 5 to 10 years of social software, web, enterprise information management, tagging / folksonomy, and communication. Having this blog at my disposal and my Personal InfoCloud blog were a great help as my practice of knocking out ideas, no matter how rough, proved a great asset. But, it also proved a bit problematic, as a lot of things I liked to were gone from the web. Great ideas of others that sparked something in me were toast. They were not even in the Ineternet Archive’s Wayback Machine. Fortunately, I have a personal archive of things in my DevonThink Pro repository on my laptop that I’ve been tucking thing of potential future interest into since 2005. I have over 50,000 objects tucked away in it and it takes up between 20GB to 30GB on my hard drive.

I have a much larger post brewing on this, which I need to write and I’ve promised quite a few others I would write. The big problem in all of this is there is a lot of good, if not great, thinking gone from the web. It is gone because domains names were not kept, a site changed and dropped old content, blogging platforms disappeared (or weren’t kept up), or people lost interest and just let everything go. The great thinking from the 90s that the web was going to be a repository for all human thinking with great search and archival properties, is pretty much B.S. The web is fragile and not so great at archiving for long stretches. I found HTML is good for capturing content, but PDF proved the best long term (10 years = long term) digital archive for search in DevonThink. The worst has been site with a lot of JavaScript not saved into PDF, but saved as a website. JavaScript is an utter disaster for archiving (I have a quite a few things I tucked away as recently as 18 months ago that are unreadable thanks to JavaScript (older practices and modifications which may be deemed security issues or other changes of mind have functional JavaScript stop working). The practice of putting everything on the web, which can mean putting application front ends and other contrivances up only are making the web far more fragile.

The best is still straight up HMTL and CSS and enhancing from there with JavaScript. The other recent disaster, which is JavaScript related, is infinite scroll and breaking distinct URLs and pages. Infinite scroll is great for its intended use, which is stringing crappy content in one long string so advertisers see many page views. It is manufacturing a false understanding that the content is valued and read. Infinite scroll has little value to a the person reading, other than if the rare case good content is strung together (most sites using infinite scroll do it because the content is rather poor and need to have some means of telling advertisers that they have good readership). For archival purposes most often capturing just the one page you care about gets 2 to 5 others along with it. Linking back to the content you care about many times will not get you back to the distinct article or page because that page doesn’t actually live anywhere. I can’t wait for this dim witted practice to end. The past 3 years or so of thinking I had an article / page of good content I could point to cleanly and archive cleanly was a fallacy if I was trying to archive in the playland of infinite scroll cruft.

Back to Writing Out Loud

This past year of trying to dig out the relatively recent past of 5 to 10 years with some attempts to go back farther reinforced the good (that may be putting it lightly) practice of writing out loud. In the past few years I have been writing a lot still. But, much of this writing has been in notes on my local machines, my own shared repositories that are available to my other devices, or in the past couple years Slack teams. I don’t tend to write short tight pieces as I tend to fill in the traces back to foundations for what I’m thinking and why. A few of the Slack teams (what Slack calls the top level cluster of people in their service) get some of these dumps. I may drop in a thousand or three words in a day across one to four teams, as I am either conveying information or working through an idea or explanation and writing my way through it (writing is more helpful than talking my way through it as I know somebody is taking notes I can refer back to).

A lot of the things I have dropped in not so public channels, nor easily findable again for my self (Slack is brilliantly searchable in a team, but not across teams). When I am thinking about it I will pull these brain dumps into my own notes system that is searchable. If they are well formed I mark them as blogfodder (with a tag as such or in a large outline of other like material) to do something with later. This “do something with later” hasn’t quite materialized as of yet.

Posting these writing out loud efforts in my blogs, and likely also into my Medium area as it has more constant eyes on it than my blogs these days. I tend to syndicate out finished pieces into LinkedIn as well, but LinkedIn isn’t quite the space for thinking out loud as it isn’t the thinking space that Medium or blogs have been and it doesn’t seem to be shifting that way.

Not only have my own resources been really helpful, but in digging through expert witness work I was finding blogs to be great sources for really good thinking (that is where really good thinking was done, this isn’t exactly the case now, unless you consider adding an infinitely redundant cat photo to a blog being really good thinking). A lot of things I find valuable still today are on blogs and people thinking out loud. I really enjoy David Weinberger, Jeremy Keith, and the return of Matt Webb to blogging. There are many others I read regularly (see my links page for more).



March 18, 2015

Blogfodder and Linkfodder

Not only do I have a blogfodder tag I use on my local drive and cross device idea repositories and writing spaces, but I have a linkfodder marker as well.

Blogfodder

Blogfodder are those things that are seeds of ideas for writing or are fleshed out, but not quite postable / publishable. As I wrote in Refinement can be a Hinderance I am trying to get back to my old pattern of writing regularly as a brain dump, which can drift to stream of consciousness (but, I find most of the things that inspire me to good thoughts and exploration are other’s expressions shared in a stream of consciousness manner). The heavy edit and reviews get in the way of thought and sharing, which often lead to interactions with others around those ideas. I am deeply missing that and have been for a few years, although I have had some great interactions the last 6 months or so.

I also use blogfodder as a tag for ideas and writing to easily search and aggregate the items, which I also keep track of in an outline in OmniOutliner. But, as soon as I have posted these I remove the blogfodder tag and use a “posted” tag and change the status in OmniOutliner to posted and place a link to the post.

Linkfodder

Linkfodder is a term I am using in bookmarking in Pinboard and other local applications. These started with the aim of being links I really want to share and bring back into the sidebar of this blog at vanderwal.net. I have also hoped to capture and write quick annotations for a week ending links of note post. That has yet to happen as I want to bring in all the months of prior linkfoddering.

I have been looking at Zeef to capture the feed from my Pinboard linkfodder page and use a Zeef widget in my blog sidebar. I have that running well on a test sight and may implement it soon here (it is a 5 minute task to do, but it is the “is it how I want to do it” question holding me back). In the past I used Delicious javascript, which the newest owners of Delicious gloriously broke in their great unknowing.

The Wrap

Both of these are helping filter and keep fleeting things more organized. And hopefully execution of these follows.



December 2, 2014

30 Days Had November

Well the attempt to blog every day in November didn’t get as much wind in its sails as I had hoped it would have. November had 30 days, but I had far fewer posts than 30. I didn’t get a new habit set. But, I am not yet deterred as I am keeping this attempt going.

One of the things I’ve thought about doing is doing a weekly link dump of items I found of interest through out the week. These are some of my favorite week end reads when I curl up with the laptop (or iPad), a cup of coffee and a blanket. I have long been a fan of Om’s weekend delivery of his 5 (or 7) things to read this weekend as they are nearly always high quality, in depth, and decent (meaning on the longer side) length. I’ve also grown to head toward Josh Ginter of “The Newsprint” weekly “The Sunday Edition” link dump of the week. Recently Michael Sippy has been back sharing on the web (just like the days of yore) and his Filtered Week series on Medium is an annotated link list gem.

One of the reasons I have been considering this (and actually tucking links away for posting) is the past few weeks I realized my blog’s link list on the side of this blog that was posted from Delicious is now dead and gone. The link roll that was a staple of Delicious from 2004 or so was nuked with many other helpful features and functionality that kept Delicious as one part of my workflow. I moved most of my social bookmarking to Pinboard a few years back, but I still fed Delicious and then Delicious fed Pinboard. Well, that was the case until the new owners of Delicious (sadly Delicious gets passed around the IT community like a hot potato with each new owner thinking they are going to update it and improve it, yet lack a rat’s clue of the basics nor how to keep (now kept) the workings that underpin many parts of the web running) fumbled things and Pinboard stopped automatically ingesting Delicious. I really missed the change at Pinboard (was heads down on a project when that happened), but now all my social bookmarking is happening there.

The lack of a link sidebar is the push to share things that I find as gems from the week. I could repoint the Delicious javascript to Pinboard, but Pinboard also captures all my starred / favorited items (I don’t use starring in Twitter as a favorite, but more of a hook for things to hold on to and / or come back to) and things favorited in Instagram, and imports from other services. Pinboard, because I use the paid archive service is an endpoint that serves also as a place to do full text search of the items bookmarked there. Until I can sort out a good filter or means of tagging in my workflow, I am keeping the link list off the sidebar. But, in its place I am likely going to do a weekly link list.



November 13, 2014

Finding Voice and Freeing my Mind

The effort to return to a habit of regular blogging has been really helpful. But, it has also not solved some inner conflict I thought was going to be a breeze to push past. In my initial push the Refinement can be a Hinderance post really is a tough speed bump to clear. I have a long list of blogfodder queued up for my more formal and work focussed blog, Personal InfoCloud, but now I’m noticing a queue here on this blog as well.

Part of this effort on this blog is to just get things out of my head and shared. I’m realizing time is a hurdle (more correctly lack of time), but getting things framed well and not making a fool (there is a huge part of my inner self that loves to play the jester) of myself. In blogging I’m trying to work writing as an easy sprint again. I am trying to not pay attention to voice, nor what sorts of things I am finding of interest to share. I have been hoping it would evolve, has it did in the very beginning and again with a few other reboots. In this I am finding I am noting things of interest, but not fleshing them out quickly and marking them as to do later, which was my counter intent. Part of this shifting ideas to blogfodder lists rather than knocking it out is there are other things that get my attention as I sit to write.

I am ending up with a few new category terms to add to my pick list. I am also wanting to use this blog to frame and shape ideas and maps forward for the Personal InfoCloud blog. I’m likely going to list out all of the 14 or 15 Shift Happened posts that are brewing as a post here in the near future. I’m also thinking of listing all the social lenses as an outline - downside to this is I want to point to all the existing posts over the years that have become part of the social lenses.

Potentially Adding Linkblogging Back Again

I am also thinking of doing quick link blog posts, which fall into a longer Pinboard or Delicious social bookmark and add more narrative. I keep thinking I want a slightly different input form for those (I had one for Quick Links years back before Delicious started, but it doesn’t quite fit the bill these days). I also have a love / hate for blogger’s link blogging as the header link goes way from their blog and not to a permalink page with a little more info. The user interface is not differentiated in any way, or done incredibly poorly on most sites. But, I am trying not to let the short comings of other’s sites deter my own use of link blogging, but I would keep the header link consistent and link it locally to a node page and have a proper link out to the site or object in the text.

No More Meta - Maybe

With each of these meta posts about this blog as post in this blog, I swear it is my last one.

I also realized my new hosting server (sat in New York I believe) is not using local time, but GMT instead. This is better than the time stamping of blog posts on my old server / host in Sydney (yes, I know I can fix this with a simple conversion, but that requires writing the conversion). One day I may fix that. One day.



November 5, 2014

More Short Blog Pushs

It seems like this small blogging exercise is catching, as Colin Devroe brings it up in his “Twitter is not a replacement for blogs” post, which brings in Marco Arment’s “Short Form Blogging” post. While a few well placed web digerati are back trying to put traction to their emphasis of blogging on their sites, the drop in blogging is more than Twitter and other social platforms, but they really ate a chunk of the great minds sharing.

I look at my 64,000+ tweets since I started using the service in June or July 2006 and I see a lot of ideas and a large collection of conversations. Those 64,000+ tweets quite often have near the maximum characters of 140 characters (something that just sort of magically happened). But, that is roughly a decent size book of content - no the whole of the tweets is not book worthy.

Twitter didn’t eat my blog posts, life did. Putting focus on a kid and a five year stretch of life getting quite challenging with a whole lot of personal challenges put my elsewhere. I did blog a few of the things that ate my focus - my dad having a year long battle with stomach cancer then moving on to the other side, followed by my mom 11 months later. But, shift in work patterns ate posts and many for Personal InfoCloud just sat on hard drives and cloud services to be picked up and honed. Part of them sitting was the lack of good like minds with depth to help give sanity checks, but also it was a battle of what and why to share.

Getting back in to a blogging mindset where sharing comes first helps fix my just sitting on things. But, getting back to regular blogging is also getting the practice of knocking out ideas in a format that provides the means to set, frame, flesh out, and express. While tweeting a lot pushed a lot of my longer thought into a short series of 140 character tweets, it shrunk and shifted how I thought about things and formed them. I lost some of the rathole diving, but I lost the habit of medium form of 300 to 800 words. But, I’m not working at not writing to word counts, but sharing things out.

This morning I woke from a night of the crazy dream farm working overtime. I lacked the time to get it out. While it is good, if not great blog fodder, it is rathole worthy of easily drifting in to 1200 to 3000 words. The time and practice needed to get that sucker out in a 300 to 800 word framing was going to take a lot of work. Today I gave a couple short synopsis of the dreams rather briefly (under 2 to 3 minutes). It was then the lightbulb went on where my mid-length content went.

It wasn’t Twitter that killed my blogging, it was me having the time to really knock it out succinctly without editing. I’ll get there and it is working its way there.



October 30, 2014

Refinement can be a Hinderance

Refinement can be a hinderance.

We learned the lesson in early blogging years (late 90s and very early 00s) that just getting things out there in rough form has value. I look back at my early blogging at vanderwal.net from 2001 to 2003 and it is not exactly refined.

(Now for the big but)

Those early blog posts, up through 2006 are the ones I continually go back to and refind (or more of Google surfacing them for me when thinking I need insight on something that I want more insight on). They were a paragraph or few. They were straight brain dumps. Most importantly they were nodes that brought conversation, next thing colleagues, invitations to explain at conferences, and a great cadre of like minds.

Over time I was encouraged to be more refined and edited, which slowed things down. It slowed down to the point I am sitting on a massive amount of text and markdown documents tagged “blogfodder”. So, much I fear being called the godfather of blodfodder.

The past year my most valuable inbound content has been from a few voices sending things in TinyLetter. A few blog friends have sparked up their old blogs with old school medium length (one paragraph to eight or so) blog posts. Both TinyLetter and these medium length posts are most often stream of consciousness, not heavily edited, and are incredibly valuable as they are good smart insights from real perspective, not contrived want to be smart BS that just rehashes what was common knowledge for the last 6 to 15 years.

Enter the Tilde

This past month Paul Ford popped up Tilde.Club and the old internet and web was reborn. It is pure nostalgia, less for the tech, but for the mindset of discovery of people, how to do things, how to do things better, and connecting like souls and minds. Everybody was a maker and striving to understand the tools, but also to connect to a wider world. It was the new way forward, which didn’t exactly play out at all like that as the band of hacker / maker / understand deeply to make better for all was just an incredibly small group that connected in a couple thousand or so in the early 2000s out of the billions of people on this planet. We thought it was the mainstream as a couple thousand looked like a lot of people to have in a convention center in Austin (in 2001 there were about 1200 and that was the best tight group of similar minded people I’ve ever run across).

But, the early 2000s the hackers and makers blogged. It was unfinished. It was raw. It was fluid. It was quite valuable.

I’m loving Tilde (yah, most don’t understand it and may never and that is all good too). Also loving those back to writing and sharing regularly, nearly daily with short blog posts.

Manufacturing a Habit

I’m going to make an attempt to get back and make a habit of posting daily. I’ve been writing daily and just not posting. The more I write the shorter the pieces. The more I write the more I focus on writing better. But, this blog on vanderwal.net is going to be rough and non-edited (okay maybe lightly and after posting), while Personal InfoCloud will have a little more time and editing put into it (I have 40 to 50 social lenses related posts and about 15 Shift Happened posts to get posted there, along with a lot more that fits in neither of those categories).

As I found in the early 2000s getting things out there in rough form has a lot more value than just sitting on my hard drive, now tagged blogfodder. Sitting on things to refine may be the dumbest thing I’ve done in a long long time. I’m tired of the dumb things ruling.

Others that Pushed This for Me



January 16, 2014

Brett Terpstra Focusses on His Work Full-time

I have been a fan of Brett Terpstra for some time. I found his site through a few buds who focus on productivity and personal workflows (including scripting). I have followed his Systematic podcast since the first episode and have found it is the one podcast I listen to when my weekly listening dwindles to just one podcast. His nvALT became an app that is always running and where a lot of writing snippets get stored on my Mac (that content I also reach on my iOS devices to edit and extend). His Marked2 app not only is my Markedown viewer, but a rather good writing analysis tool.

Not only all of this but Brett is a tagger and not only tags, belives tagging is helpful for personal filtering and workflow, but has built tools to greater extend tagging in and around Mac and iOS. If you talk folksonomy and pull the third leg of it, person / identity back into just your own perspective and keep the tag and objects in place you have the realm that Brett focusses and pushes farther for our own personal benefit.

Brett Steps Out to Focus on His Work

This week I have been incredibly happy to learn that Brett moved out of his daytime job to and his new job is to focus on his products, podcast, writing, and new projects and products. This is great news for all of us. Brett took this step before, but we can help him keep these tools and services flowing by supporting him.

If you have benefitted from Brett’s free products of want to ensure the great services and tools that Bret has created you paid for keep improving go help him out.



January 1, 2014

Tipping into the 14th Year of This Blog

Pwhoooo… Pwhoooo… Just blowing a little dust off this blog.

Here at vanderwal.net this blog started in the final hours of 2000. It started on Blogger and within a year moved off onto my own held build platform, which occasionally still gets tweaks. The volume and frequency have gone through vast swings over the years, lately things are a bit more sparse, as words floated into various services, like Twitter and Facebook, and more professional posts over to my other blog that started in 2004 or 2005 , Personal InfoCloud.

This blog has remind my personal space on the web. It tipped over 2000 posts a year or two back even in the relatively sparse posting of the past few years. But, I still attend to this blog and post things. Between here and my Personal InfoCloud blog there is a lot of content brewing to be finished and posted.

Blogging Still Matters

One of the best summaries about blogging was posted this week by Euan Semple, on why blogging still matters is brilliant and nails it. Blogging when done successfully is not about proclaiming brilliance and answers (as those never meet their goals as the world is too large and there are millions of people with more experience and understanding who can and often will point out the flaws). Blogging is about sharing perspective and experience, often not fully formed, but are a part of a collective of humanity in trying to think through things in out in the open. The best business and professional blogs (best meaning they get passed around like mints at the exit gate of a garlic festival) follow this model. They are open and honest. They are full of observation, good thinking through things, explaining perspective, and honest. Honest as in humanity is embraced, in the we are all in this together honesty.

One of the best quotes I stumbled into in recent years, nails the blogging perspective (from the from The Book of Tea):

Those who cannot feel the littleness of great things in themselves are apt to overlook the greatness of little things in others.

The humility and finding great things in others and the understanding of the little things that make a difference is key.

Your Blog is Your Own Home

Along these lines I really liked Frank Chimero’s Homesteading 2014 post sentiments of bringing things that were placed elsewhere and posting them on one’s own site. Along these lines my KM World articles, which I have rights to do what I want with I will be posting fully into Personal InfoCloud.

As well, there are some vanderwal.net site wide changes to the CSS I have been wanting put in place for quite some time. The code for the whole of the site was last widely tweaked in the 2001 to 2003 timeframe (a mobile version of the blog was made then along with a mobile blogging interface, which logged the impending entrance of the kid to the world from my HipTop / Sidekick as I walked from parking to the hospital maternity ward). It may be time to up date it a bit more. There is a long list of mods to the blog categories (160 or so) and discovery for the blog, including in site search, that I may tackle. Also considering a full rebuild and redesign using Zurb’s Foundation. Who knows what or when it will happen. I think writing may take some precedence, but I am badly missing building things and the long latent hacker mind is itching to build, hack, and test.

Here is to a Great Blogging Year

Here’s to a great 2014 to all. Maybe it is time to think about blowing the dust off your blog and let things fly again.

[Oh, by the way, this is posted on United States Eastern Time and the blog date and time pick up those from the server, which is in Eastern Australia (I fixed this on the development site and then over wrote the adjustment before moving it to the production side of the house - features)]



February 9, 2011

This Blog Goes All the Way to 2,000

This blog post (yes, the one you are reading) is number 2,000 in this blog. The blog turned 10 years old on December 31, 2010, but other than a quick mention of it on Twitter, I more or less let that pass.

Starting the Blog (Under the Hood)

The vanderwal.net domain name started was initially purchased in 1997 and was used for a general personal website, of which my links page is a early remnant of that (it is a continuation of links page I had on my personal website initially hosted in Compuserve in 1995) and it has moved to all versions of my personal site since then. The blog was started in late 2000 as it was on my to do and try list and I started in with Blogger while waiting for the New Year’s ball to drop on tv. The first post, is now gone (it was likely the very profound “hello world” sort of thing or “FuBar is testing”. I, like many others who were using Blogger, then a product of Pyra, went through the growing pains of Blogger with its outages (all pages from Blogger were sent via FTP to my site) that meant no new updates could be made using that service. Pyra imploded one fine day and was left with just one employee, Ev Williams to run it with bits and pieces of help until it was later bought by Google. But, I only lasted on Blogger for nine months or so as I had been pulling together a travel blogging tool that would allow me to post to my blog and not have to use FTP.

October 2001 I moved to my own hand build blogging tool that also included a redesign. This has all pretty much stayed since then. In October 2004 the commenting was turned off after I woke to 1400 porn SPAM comments and I deleted the SPAM comments and removed the code for commenting. I had intended to bring comments back at some point in the my own tool, but then comment SPAM got worse my thought was to move to add an external commenting service (none have been satisfactory enough to move forward with). I then have been planning to move all of these posts into another blogging tool that had an easier to manage workflow for editing and also had a good commenting system. That has yet to happen and increasingly I am fine without there being any comments here. I miss the days of old when there were great conversations in a blog’s comments, but those days rarely happen any more outside of four or five blogs I can think of. One of the reasons I went with building my own blogging tool was the ability to have multiple categories assigned to each post to make aggregation of like posts much easier. The volume of content here has made that ease of use, much more difficult to pull off and it is one of the things I am back playing with in a dev version of the tool.

Blog Writing Style Changes

When I look back to my first blog posts that were created in Blogger, I see a huge change in the writing style and content from where posts have ended up today. The blog is named “Off the Top” as it was posting of things that were coming off the top of my head and were just a random collection of things (hence the URL naming for where the blog sits). The rough gathering and sharing of ideas shifted in after the first few months to a longer and a little more serious style. My style shifted a little bit when I moved to my own blogging platform, but the biggest shift was when I added headers to posts in March 2002. The style of the posts went from many short (paragraph or so) posts highlighting of things found and shared for others, but also shared for a future me to comeback to. By 2003 the posts were getting longer and there were fewer posts per day.

Delicious, Twitter, and Personal InfoCloud Ate Content

The changes on blog writing style were paired with other services and blogs easing content out of the blogs pages here. The catchall blog I started with included posts of a sentence or two and occasionally a paragraph or so, changed quite a bit over time.

Delicious was the first to really move content out of the blog here. The small snippets pointing to web pages and putting them in context all fell into Delicious (for a short time I built a my own bookmarking tool, but it lacked the social benefit of seeing others interactions around the same pages).

Twitter altered the site by the quick bon mots going straight there. The short snippets not only disappeared, but the frequency of blogging really slowed down. The posts that still showed up here were longer and more detailed.

This shift was somewhat good as it allowed me to really focus on subjects I was working through. One of the longer early pieces was in 2002 and was not posted in the blog as it was very out of character. When I moved to my own blogging platform I not only set it up to have multiple categories / keywords, but to classify posts as blog posts, journal, or essay. This last classification was statements and short pieces, longer more personal pieces, and essays were longer. Over the time, most everything has been classified as a blog post, but fits my initial framing that these would be called essays.

The longer pieces were also trending to a more central theme that I was working around. The mixing of work and much more fun content was getting a lot of feedback from people reading that it should be separated. That more professional writing also seemed likely to benefit from comments, which were not coming back anytime soon here. At this point I used my TypePad account and pointed www.personalinfocloud.com to it. For quite a while I was cross posting, but that slowed down in 2008 or so.

Where Does This Go from Here?

This blog is continuing on. I have a lot of pent up content that fits well here. I really want to get back to posting things about what I am reading and have a means to capture and share other ideas out. The demarkation of what goes here and what goes over to the Personal InfoCloud blog is a little fuzzy. But, I am fairly sure I am not going to add comments back here on this blog. Watching other blogs the number and quality of blog comments have dwindled, drastically. There are few blogs that have great comment threads anymore, but far fewer than benefit from tools like Disqus that aggregate poor comments (most are not comments and not really relevant to the posts) from elsewhere around the web / internet.

Here is to another 2,000 posts! Perhaps (I didn’t plan 2,000 posts when this started and would have called anybody crazy should they have suggested such a little over 10 years ago).



January 22, 2011

Traits of Blogs with Highly Valued Content for Me

I was going through my inbound feeds of blogs, news, and articles and catching up on the week. In doing so I open things that are of potential interest in an external browser (as mentioned before in As if Had Read) and realized most have some common traits. Most don't have Twitter feed (most Twitter feeds run at a vastly different information velocity and with very different content areas that distract from the content at hand). As well, many do not have comments on them any more or have moderated comments using built-in commenting service/tool (very rarely is Disqus used).

Strong Content is the Draw

The thing in common is all are focused on the that blog post's content. The content and the focus on the idea at hand is the strength of the attraction.

Some of the blogs are back to their old ways of posting short ideas and things that flow through their lives the want to hold on to, but as also comfortable enough to share out for other's with similar interest.

Ancillary Content Can Easily Distract Attention and Value

Sorting out what the focus of a blog (personal or professional) is essential. The focus is the content and the main pieces on the page. It is good to help keep the focus there without any swirling tag cloud (these seem to be the brunt of the fun poking sticks at conferences these days as they add no value and are completely and utterly unusable, so much so those with the mike continually question what understanding somebody has to add them to their page or site) or any other moving updating object. When talking with readers most say they do not notice these objects, just like web ads have taught us to ignore their blinking and flashing and twirling. As is often said personal sites begin to look like entries in a NASCAR race, where the most anticipated outcomes are the wrecks.

I have seen many attempts at personal homepages and personal aggregation pages, which are of big interest to me (for personal archiving, searching, and review), which are a better place for pulling together the Twitter feed, Flickr, Instagram, Tumblr, etc. Aggregation of this content in a feed option is good too, but keeping the blog page content to a main focus on content is good for the reader and attention on the written word.

Yes, over on the right I have my social bookmarked links. It has been my intention to pull recent items with tags related to content tags, but that has yet to happen.



September 22, 2010

Good Night Sweet Six Apart

Odd how news of business transactions hits. Today I saw Six Apart was bought by VideoEgg (yes, Six Apart that makes TypePad and MovableType). This news made me a bit sad and nostalgic.

Movable Type is Old Skool

As the young people used to say (they were still young back then) Movable Type (MT) is OG. MT was far from the first blogging platform, as Blogger and others like Grey Matter (this influenced the blogging platform under this blog a lot). MT was started by the couple Ben and Mena Trott out of their house in the dust of the test boom bursting. It was started as a blogging platform and build to be a well thought through platform for others to use. By 2002 it had been launched user tested and was the first underpinnings of Boxes and Arrows Magazine (as deployed by Jay Allen).

Those were good days and MT was a solid product. MT turned in to Six Apart and offered a hosted platform, TypePad, which my Personal InfoCloud blog is hosted on. The became the first real blogging platform company and it grew into a solid company.

The Show Goes On

The announcements around the purchase state MT and TypePad will continue to be supported. The big change is a new owner, a new company name (SAY Media), and possibly a new direction. I've had a lot of friends work at Six Apart or work with them.

The days of sitting up late talking blogging platforms in the early days at SXSWi and how all of this was more than just something the "broken one's" did. We have seen WordPress surface out of another platform and thrive as have many other personal sharing social platforms that have not only changed the web, but have also largely changed the world for the better. MT and other blogging platforms gave nearly everybody a printing press with a wider reach around the globe than any personal printing press ever had. As well the readers or people with affinity to the ideas shared, or even trying to get a new or different view.

I look forward to my new TypePad overlords and hope they are as inspiring and gracious as the kind, smart, gentle, and caring folks at Six Apart always have been. I also have my own hand rolled blogging platform that sits under vanderwal.net, as well as my vanderwal on Tumblr blog, and all those other social platforms I share things within and on. Be well Six Apart as you move from a blogging platform company with a name on the door, to our collective blogged memories.



October 29, 2009

I Too Miss Blogging

Ian said it best in the header for his post I miss blogging. There is so much good in Ian's brief post as well as the linked to Dan Cederholm post WoodPress. Before the thoughtless "15 ways to...", which rarely state anything worth reading. I am beginning to believe that the number lists are not meant for reading and only for SEO hits and ad revenue, which is not anything related to user experience but site owner's revenue experience.

I repeatedly am finding things I blogged years ago in Google searches when looking for answers. Sadly, at some point I had the answer and was prescient enough to blog my thoughts knowing I would need the answer in future years (sticking with that story). I have dumped a lot of snippets into Twitter that I know exist or did, but can't recover (thanks Twitter, well not really).

I really miss blogging and hoping drop things here again and stick with it (yes, been said before). There has been a lot that has taken my attention from here in the past 6 months to a year, including a separation, divorce, dad getting cancer (stomach that spread to liver), thinking we nearly lost him a couple times after collapses, economy ripping apart most of my work, and then seeing many of those things start to turn around. But, what I miss is sharing out snippets of life, understanding, misunderstanding, and half baked thoughts to get feedback.

Yes, get feedback. I know, I know! Comments are still off. Still planning resolving that, but not touching my code again. It needs time, possibly a new host, and some mapping things out.



March 12, 2009

Catching Up On Personal InfoCloud Blog Posts

Things here are a little quiet as I have been in writing mode as well as pitching new work. I have been blogging work related items over at Personal InfoCloud, but I am likely only going to be posting summaries of those pieces here from now on, rather than the full posts. I am doing this to concentrate work related posts, particularly on a platform that has commenting available. I am still running my own blogging tool here at vanderwal.net I wrote in 2001 and turned off the comments in 2006 after growing tired of dealing comment spam.

The following are recently posted over at Personal InfoCloud

SharePoint 2007: Gateway Drug to Enterprise Social Tools

SharePoint 2007: Gateway Drug to Enterprise Social Tools focusses on the myriad of discussions I have had with clients of mine, potential clients, and others from organizations sharing their views and frustrations with Microsoft SharePoint as a means to bring solid social software into the workplace. This post has been brewing for about two years and is now finally posted.

Optimizing Tagging UI for People & Search

Optimizing Tagging UI for People and Search focuses on the lessons learned and usability research myself and others have done on the various input interfaces for tagging, particularly tagging with using multi-term tags (tags with more than one word). The popular tools have inhibited adoption of tagging with poor tagging interaction design and poor patterns for humans entering tags that make sense to themselves as humans.

LinkedIn: Social Interaction Design Lessons Learned (not to follow)

I have a two part post on LinkedIn's social interaction design. LinkedIn: Social Interaction Design Lessons Learned (not to follow) - 1 of 2 looks at what LinkedIn has done well in the past and had built on top. Many people have expressed the new social interactions on LinkedIn have decreased the value of the service for them.

The second part, LinkedIn: Social Interaction Design Lessons Learned (not to follow) - 2 of 2 looks at the social interaction that has been added to LinkedIn in the last 18 months or so and what lessons have we as users of the service who pay attention to social interaction design have learned. This piece also list ways forward from what is in place currently.



April 16, 2008

Social Tools for Mergers and Acquisitions

The announcement yesterday of Delta and Northwest airlines merging triggered a couple thoughts. One of the thoughts was sadness as I love the unusually wonderful customer service I get with Northwest, and loathe the now expected poor and often nasty treatment by Delta staff. Northwest does not have all the perks of in seat entertainment, but I will go with great customer service and bags that once in nearly 50 flights did not arrive with me.

But, there is a second thing. It is something that all mergers and large organization changes trigger...

Social Tools Are Great Aids for Change

Stewart Mader brought this to mind again in his post Onboarding: getting your new employees cleared for takeoff, which focusses on using wikis (he works for Atlassian and has been a strong proponent of wikis for years and has a great book on Wiki Patterns) as a means to share and update the information that is needed for transitions and the joining of two organizations.

I really like his write-up and have been pushing the social tools approach for a few years. The wiki is one means of gathering and sharing information. It is a good match with social bookmarking, which allows organizations that are coming together have their people find and tag things in their own context and perspective. This provides finding common objects that exist, but also sharing and learning what things are called from the different perspectives.

Communication Build Common Ground

Communication is a key cornerstone to any organization working with, merging with, or becoming a part of another. Communication needs common ground and social bookmarking that allows for all context and perspectives to be captured is essential to making this a success.

This is something I have presented on and provided advice in the past and really think and have seen that social tools are essentials in these times of transition. It is really rewarding when I see this working as I have been through organization mergers, going public, and major transitions in the days before these tools existed. I can not imaging thinking of transitioning with out these tools and service today. I have talked to many organizations after the fact that wished they had social bookmarking, blogs, and wikis to find and annotate items, provide the means to get messages out efficiently (e-mail is becoming a poor means of sharing valuable information), and working toward common understanding.

One large pain point in mergers and other transitions is the cultural change that brings new terms, new processes, new workflow, and disruption to patterns of understanding that became natural to the people in the organization. The ability to map what something was called and the way it was done to what it is now called and the new processes and flows is essential to success. This is exactly what the social tools provide. Social bookmarking is great for capturing terms, context, and perspectives and providing the ability to refind these new items using prior understanding with low cognitive costs. Blogs help communicate people's understanding as they are going through the process as well as explain the way forward. Wikis help map these individual elements that have been collectively provided and pull them together in one central understanding (while still pointing out to the various individual contributions to hold on to that context) in a collaborative (working together with one common goal) environment.

Increasing Speed and Lowering Cost of Transition

Another attribute of the social tools is the speed and cost at which the information is shared, identified, and aggregated. In the past the large consulting firms and the slow and expensive models for working were have been the common way forward for these times of change. Seeing social tools along with a few smart and nimble experts on solid deployments and social engagement will see similar results in days and a handful of weeks compared to many weeks and months of expensive change management plodding. The key is the people in the organizations know their concerns and needs, while providing them the tools to map their understanding and finding information and objects empowers the individuals while giving them knowledge and the means to share with others. This also helps the individuals grasp that are essential to the success and speed to the change. Most people resent being pushed and prodded into change and new environments, giving them the tools to understand and guide their own change management is incredibly helpful. This decreases the time for transition (for processes and emotionally) while also keeping the costs lower.

[Comments are open and moderated as always in the post at: Social Tools to Efficiently Build Common Ground :: Personal InfoCloud]



December 31, 2007

Another Blogging Year

Another year is passing as if it were just a brief moment and blink. I am not one for making New Year's resolutions, but I often look back and often look at what needs improving and do my best to make modifications along the way.

Starting Blog Year 8

New Year's Eve is my blogging anniversary as I started on New Year's Eve 2000 on Pyra's Blogger. So in 7 years things have changed on this blog quite a bit. The technology has changed a little, but since 2002 there have been very few modifications (other than turning off comments in October 2004, for what then was intended to be a brief moment, but they are now still closed waiting for the ever coming move to a real blogging tool).

My content style has changed and what I write about has changed as my shorter notes to self (shared publicly) have moved to del.icio.us then Ma.gnolia as social bookmarks and I am now dropping things into my vanderwal on Tumblr. My content is also posted over at Personal InfoCloud, but that content is often syndicated here and then points to there, as the comments are open there.

Content here got longer, which lead to adding headers (h3) between ideas, often each paragraph will have a header so to make the content easy to scan. These days much of the traffic is related to folksonomy, social web, social software, and InfoCloud commentary, review and analysis. Other observations get thrown in as well, but nowhere as often as they used to.

Future Changes

I still hope to move off of my personally built blogging tool (part of an experimentation and testing for a CMS I was writing for work at the time, or was it the other way around). I have other projects ahead of this transformation, like getting the folksonomy book moving more quickly and finishing it (life took some large sideways moves this year, including the holiday acting as health attendant, both parents, and my regular load with my wife's accident). There will be some large posts in the very short future that are the result of unsticking my framework and perceptions around social software and folksonomy that has had me twisting and turning to write and represent ideas (it seems it has impacted many others too, as most everything I read runs into the same wall and leads to criticism that may not be on target).

A Great Year Passes and Another Approaches

I made an incredible amount of new contacts and friends this year with many people with the same and similar passions and interests. This was the result of the web, conferences, workshops, and social software leading to attracting similar mindsets together. I am looking forward to the workshops, presentations, and projects planned so far for 2008 as well as all that fills in the gaps and fills out the year. I am quite excited to get the New Year under way and enjoying the time and work with all interested.

Happy New Year!



December 4, 2007

Six Apart Sells LiveJournal

Yesterday the news came out that Six Apart sold LiveJournal. It is part sad news as the combining of LiveJournal was a good move when SixApart bought them, but as SixApart has grown their attention and focus has not been on LiveJournal. The upside is this shows SixApart is showing it is maturing and being clear-headed about their capability and focus.

Good Companies Focus

Good companies, particularly start-ups, focus (as much as possible) and it is done so to provide the best product possible. As start-ups grow and more importantly their market segment grows (getting more competitive with larger traditional companies getting involved) the focus must be there to provide a solid product.

It was very clear to the people using LiveJournal as well as people watching that part of the industry that LiveJournal was not getting the attention it needed with updates and improvements that were happening elsewhere. SixApart was aware of this and cares about the community using LiveJournal enough to do what it takes to keep that passionate community happy with the tool. The viable solution to do this was selling it to a company that can provide this solution.

Wins On All Sides

The LiveJournal community should benefit greatly by the sale (as the purchase by SixApart helped initially LiveJournal keep going and additional support of the SixApart team). This also helps SixApart focus on their existing tools of MovableType, TypePad, and Vox (somewhat of a competitor to LiveJournal but with vastly different group of people using the services).

Congratulations to SixApart for the move as it should help all parties.



June 21, 2007

Hotel Brings Back Blog Sentimality from Summer 2001

This trip to Boston for the Enterprise 2.0 Conference (more on that in a post to follow) turned out to be digitally sentimental. As the cab pulled up in front of the hotel on Tremont Street, I realized I stayed in it July 2001 when it was a Wyndam. That trip was special as I had written a bit of code so I could blog from the road and then pull it back in to may hand built pages when I returned. This was a tiny travel blog tool I had knocked out in a few hours.

At that time I was writing the blog by hand in TextPad and loading via FTP. This was after I started blogging in late 2000 in Blogger, which became one person, Ev, and crashed often. I wanted a means to not have to FTP my blog post up when traveling as I was continually finding hotels blocked FTP.

This simple travel blog tool worked well. When I would return home I would copy the blog posts written in my browser based tool (a few text fields and a location drop down) and then FTP the incorporated bits into this blog. It was in October that I built out that tool into a full blogging tool, which still runs this site today. Nearly six years later I am living with my simple tool that works well for me, well I still want comments back on (a long story and a fix that may take more time than I want to spend).

This travel blog tool was also used to blog on September 11, 2001 that I was in San Francisco and not exactly sure when I was going to get back to the Washington, DC area. It is how a place brought back a flood of captured digital memories all from a tiny tool.



August 4, 2006

Do Not Break the Web

On the list of things you should never do is Do Not Break the Web particularly for important resources. No matter what problems exist in winding down a partnership, never, never mess with the public good that has been done. This may be one of the most damaging childish acts I have seen in a while.

One only hopes that the Slidell Hurricane Damage Blog can come back to life as it was a central resource used by people and proved blogs have a place. Who cares who built it. It has real value to real people.

This site was informative, provided a central point of communication, and built community. It was about those that used it not those who made it.



May 2, 2006

Mis-Marketing

I have been needing to turn comments back on here in Off the Top. I get really good, er, make that great responses in e-mail to many of my posts here. There needs to be a conversation, which is what blogs are all about and it is in comments that much of this conversation takes place. But, as we all know having comments on is a large problem. Why is it a problem?

Problems Created by the Clueless

The problem with comments is the mis-marketers. No, not those mass marketing, but people with little clue about finding a good information space and bringing up products and ideas when they are coherent, which would be good marketing. Good marketing can be annoying, but it is not good marketing that has made an utter mess of blog comments. These people have not clue, they think they are on to a good idea that will make them wealthy, but like most get rich ideas they do not work. Not only do they not work in this case they create animosity toward the product and site. They are putting themselves on black-lists and lowering the value of what they are trying to inflate the value of. It is a clueless approach. They think they are marketing and creating value, but are actually doing the opposite. These mis-marketers not only have shot themself in the foot (or worse) they have ruined great tools.

I am curious if there is a convention or summit for mis-marketers? Can we get a little Cluetrain juice for them to sip?

Looking At My Options

The mis-marketers have made a mess of e-mail with SPAM, referrer logs, blog comments, and trackbacks (I know I am missing many other good communication methods). My blog is broken, I know this. I am still running my own blogging software from 2001. No, I do not have the time for upkeep. But, I keep looking at the time to convert my database to a format for MovableType or WordPress and keep the nearly 2000 entries still working for historical purposes. I do not see that time coming any time soon.



April 10, 2006

Now Blogging at Tagsonomy

Just because it was not difficult enough for you to follow everything I am writing, I am now starting to blog over at Tagsonomy, a group blog focussed on tagging (go figure). What will happen to tagging and folksonomy discussions here and over at Personal InfoCloud? They will continue, but may be syndicated. (Stop the snickering, there are things that are near posting shape for Personal InfoCloud and we have been a wee bit busy.)



January 27, 2006

Microsoft and the DOJ Data Search Request

Yesterday at the Microsoft Search Champs v4 Microsoft peeled back the layers around their dealings with providing the U.S. Government with data around search. Joshua Porter writes-up U.S. Government request and Microsoft responce. The Microsoft discussion was very open and but was closed to those of us in the room. Late in the day we were told we could openly blog the information and discuss it.

A few of us got together last night to discuss the information and recorded the discussion in a podcast the privacy and Microsoft response to DOJ (MP3 10mb 42 minutes hosted on Alex Barnett server). The podcast is a discussion between:

Robert Scoble was the first to break the news in his blog.

From my personal perspective it was very refreshing to hear Microsoft be open with their thoughts and openly admitting they may have dropped the ball, not in the data they gave (because the data given was not personal data in any shape or form). They openly admitted they need to be a more open citizen of the internet. They have responsibility to be open with the personal information and data, which we as citizens of the web trust those with our digital tracks. There is a compact between the people using tools and the providers of internet tools that our digital rights are protected.

I have a very strong belief that Microsoft is a good citizen that looks out for my privacy. This was a trust I did not think I would have at any point in my life. It is a trust today that I have with them, but it will be a trust they must continue to foster. There are many in the Search Champs that strongly believe all of the search and portal companies must work together to ensure they are consistent in protecting the privacy of the digital citizens that interact with them. There was a lot of Google love that was lost with their public spin to try and drive a wedge between themselves and the other search engines and portals. Google was very good in publicly pointing out the DOJ request and getting public attention on the request. But, Google must work together with Yahoo!, Microsoft, AOL to protect not only digital citizens but their whole industry.



January 12, 2006

A Better Day and Brigher Future

Things are a little better on this end today. I was able to delete the Photoshop French version and reinstall a Photoshop demo (I was very surprised I was able to do this and get back to the exact days left on the tryout where is left of yesterday) so I could continue to work. The shipment of the new package will be the fourth attempt to get this right by Adobe (their stock price is what?).

I have received many great suggestions on hosting and am looking at two of them seriously. E-mail has been up all day today as host hosting, which is good.

Along this front I am really getting tired of my own blogging tool. I no longer have time to keep running and the effort it takes to write, check, and post does not work for me any longer. I am doing too many things at once and not paying enough attention to the actual writing, which I really need to. I also blog adding all the mark-up needed (including needed character encodings). I really want to turn on comments again as readership here has grown and I really want to get back to "conversations" (not just monologues plus e-mail). There are things I want to build that I think would help the blogging community, but it is really fruitless to do this for a tool that has an install base of 1.

I have my options narrowed down for me as I will be running two sites from it and be using it as a CMS as well as a blogging tool. The two candidates I am down to are Movable Type and Drupal. I am leaning toward MT mostly because they have a very active support system inside the company and user-base. Drupal has a killer user-base that is very innovative and the tool has many social and community aspects to it that I really like. I will most likely be playing with both. Both have a good track record running more than one site off an install and using shared components for the different sites.

Now it is sorting out, which I can dump my current site into most easily and clean out the mark-up and encoding so to let the blogging tool do it (will make for easier current specification RSS/Atom feeds). I am also wanting to keep the 1770-plus URLs the same (as well as RESTful), which I have not sorted out. Suggestions are welcome.



January 2, 2006

Off the Top Blog Turned Five

I forgot that 31 December 2005 was my 5 year anniversary blogging. A lot has changed on this blog and the whole blogging arena. Many of my short posts along the lines of, "I found this cool thing... " are now in my del.icio.us feed, which for those of you with JavaScript turned on is over on the right as the new incarnation of Quick Links. The same items and more I also post over on Yahoo! MyWeb, but because I can post to just myself or to a community of people I know with similar interests. (I really really hope their community functionality of MyWeb gets fixed soon in 2006 to better filter feeds from the community coming to me and allow something other than, "you can see all of my links and I will see all of your links". Life and real people's interests are not like that and Yahoo! is the people understanding people products on the web for people's lives. So, lets get to it shall we?)

Blogging seems to be more than the relative handful of people I followed in 1999 through 2001. It really exploded following that, partly because there were more options that were easy to use and options that became more stable. In 2000 I had been running this site (under a few different URLs) for five years and when I added Blogger as my tool to add content more easily it was a wonderful change for me. Not long after that Pyra (the company that started Blogger) imploded and we were left with just Ev and when Ev was away Blogger had separation anxiety. Not long after I turned to blogging by hand for a few months. I then put my own blogging tool in place that eased my workflow (Movable Type did not have the features that I wanted for my multiple categories and three entry types (essay, journal, and weblog). I had built my tool as a means to post information while traveling from any web browser when I was doing it by hand and needed FTP to regularly post. I have been running the same blogging tool with modifications since it launched 31 October 2001 (I had a post on my hand built page from October 2001 announcing it.

The look of the site has changed from the bright blue and bright green on black the blog launched with (this had been used for two years or so, and blogging with that use of the color palette was hard on the eyes). I moved to a less hard on the eyes color scheme not long after the blog launched. The current look was put in place 20 November 2002. Other than turning off comments (which I hope to bring back some day) and modifying the right-hand bar I have not made many changes since then. Life has been a bit busy since then.

I am still hoping that I will move this blog to a commercial blogging tool as my time is pulled elsewhere and I do not have the time or energy to tweak the underlying code that creates this blog. I have been quite happy with my use of TypePad since they launched and I keep my more professional blog, Personal InfoCloud over there. My happiness with TypePad and the full company of six apart there to support Movable Type will likely make it my choice. I have some other uses for the Movable Type software, other than this blog that is helping my choice. I am also a fan of WordPress and Drupal (Drupal has the capabilities under it to do what I want and need too and a large developer community). These changes come down to time available, so I could be a while.



October 16, 2005

Letting People Express What They Know

At the Euro IA Summit Euan Semple of BBC made a response to how you give people time to blog on their internal sites, "How you run an organization with out letting people express what they know, that I do not know.". This I think is an incredible frame for any organization to capture information to better its self.



October 8, 2005

Blogs for Select Audiences

Mena posed a clarification as a way to echo what Andre stated about closed blogging in Live Journal.

I can relate as I have been using Yahoo! 360 for much the same as what others post to Live Journal, it is closed and I have a decent idea who is reading what I post. For the last couple years I have been self-filtering and needed a venue to get about posting 50 percent of what was going on with me. Getting to 60 or 65 percent helped (the other 35 to 40 I save for face-to-face with people I know and trust, maybe it is LJ).

I am not a huge fan of Yahoo! 360, but it is decent and has serviced its purpose. It really needs a lot of social network filtering work (see granular social networking for a hint at the idea). Everybody I know has three or more lives and distinct and diverse social groups that they would like to keep separated for one reason or another (the poker night with the guys and your knitting group may not, well see eye to eye or you may not want them to). Providing a means to use one blog-space to write for more than one social group is a dire need. I know a few people who have more than one LJ persona they maintain.

We each have diverse lives, why are our tools not as malleable and diverse. We and our tools will get there. We have to.

By-the-way, I loved Andre's line, "The best weblogs are the ones in everyone's 'drafts' folder. So much of what I used to write and like to write about won't work today." I am hoping to get some of those things out, as I have time and/or I do not need to have a filter on some of those things any longer.



June 1, 2005

Focussing on Personal InfoCloud More

Things have been too quiet over at my Personal InfoCloud site lately. It is not for lack of things to write about, but more of the too much going on syndrome. A few things are happening that made me realize that is one of the more important things I need to be doing for now. It will also help me focus on the WebVisions presentation. In the last six months there have been a lot of very positive things transpiring around the Personal InfoCloud work I have been doing, which has greatly helped more my ideas around it move forward.

Aside from my having more serious allergy problems this Spring than I have had in many years, trying to stay on top of all that is going on outside of work lately has been nuts. I am not at a point where I could give up my day-time job to get 10 hours of productive time back to move all of the other things forward far more quickly. Currently I am balancing four different camps, not including family and sleep for this "free time" and nearly all of these things drawing my attention revolve around the Personal InfoCloud.



May 30, 2005

Academic Cites for Interested Parties

One of the things that I am still mulling over that came out of the Social Software in the Academy Workshop is the relationship between academic cites and interested parties (non-academics researching, thinking deeply, and writing about a subject). Over the past year I have had some of the work I have posted on my web sites cited in academic papers. These papers have been for general coursework to graduate thesis.

In the academic realm these cites in other's works give credibility and ranking. In the realm of the professional or "interested party" these cites mean little (other than stroking one's ego). These cites do not translate to higher salary, but they may have some relationship to credibility in a subject area.

Another aspect is finding a way to tie into academic work around these subjects. There are often wonderful academic related gatherings (conferences, symposia, etc.) around these subject matters, but these are foreign to the "interested party". There is a chasm between academic and professional world that should be narrowed or at a minimum bridged in a better way. At SSAW there were some projects I found out about that I would love to follow, or even contribute to in some form (advisement, contributor, etc.).

I have a feeling I will be mulling this for some while, and will be writing about it again.



April 22, 2005

O'Reilly Radar

I am adding the new O'Reilly Radar to my RSS aggregator to follow for a while to see if it is worth adding to my regular links page, which needs some pruning and planting. The Radar is a blog focussing on what four people at O'Reilly believe is new and interesting to them.

I found the link through a folksonomy feed, but found the developer mistook categories and general tagging for folksonomy and weighted tag use visualization for folksonomy. Both categories and tagging are very helpful tools, while weighted visualizations are already seeming passé due to over and improper use (sparklines are far more useful as are just having a numeric value). Folksonomy is not a tag applied by the content generator is is applied by the content consumer so the consumer can come back to find the information more easily. I like the irony that O'Reilly did not think a book on folksonomy would be needed, but they can not get it right on their own site (or their developer liked the buzz word and nobody knew any better).

What the do have is worth watching.



March 15, 2005

SXSW Mini-Redux Part 2

It is 1am and I am home safely, my laptop is recharging, and I will soon do the same. I had a great time at SXSW Interactive as I had many, many wonderful conversations. I am still digesting many of them, (as well as still digesting those from the previous weekend at the Information Architecture Summit in Montreal.

The end of SXSW (I really wish I could have stayed to the end of the Interactive Festival to continue soaking in a realm people who "get it") was fitting as I snagged a ride and good conversation from Robert Scoble, which I am thankful for both.

More to follow, once I get some sleep.



March 11, 2005

Blog as Personal Knowledge Managment

Last night I gave a presentation to the ASIST Potomac Valley chapter. The topic for the evening was blogging and I was joined by James Melzer and Christina Pikas.

I presented The Blog as Personal Knowledge Management (695kb PDF download). The presentation may not make much sense with out speaker's notes, which I can rebuild when I have a little more time.



February 16, 2005

All the Blog that is Fit To...

From the blog realm. Elise Bauer provides an excellent overview of available blog tools. This is a very good article on the business of weblog tool development and what the tools offer.

The fine folks at Six Apart launched their redesign today. Not only is there a new look, but the navigation is improved and is now consistent. All of the Six Apart properties are now united, which is also very helpful. Their site is looking less like a blog and more like a professional software company, but the secret it is their sites are run by their blogging tools. Great job 6A and Mule who did much of the work!



February 9, 2005

Personal InfoCloud has a Real Home

We finally (yes, finally) have Personal InfoCloud ( http://www.personalinfocloud.com ) up and running. This has been a long time coming. Items posted there will most likely be cross-posted here as well. The Personal InfoCloud will takes its place with some other things that are on their way in the next few months.

Personal InfoCloud (PIC) will be home to discussions around the PIC and related topics. More than likely folksonomy discussions will move there as they are a subset of the Personal InfoCloud. This will become clearer in relatively short order, but folksonomy allows people to track information they have previously found using their own organization and vocabulary. Personal organization of information using one's own vocabulary is central to the Personal InfoCloud. Nearly a year ago I started using Flickr as an example of a site building for the PIC.

Enjoy the new site. Yes, now that the domain is attached we will be posting to it more often.



October 3, 2004

Jerks

Comments here are closed for the time being. All past comments are still online, but posting new comments is closed.

Yes, some jerk (far less caustic term than what these people really are, as there are kids around) decided to flood the comments with porn spam and other garbage. We have the IP address of the fool (who most likely had their computer hacked, at least this time it is not a military related IP, which is what many have been in the last three months that have been dumping the porn spam referals).

One thing about writing ones own blog software has been missing out on the flood of this garbage that those using the "off-the-shelf" tools have been dealing with the past year or so. This type of thing is one reason I have not moved this site to an already made blog tool, the other is I have features I have been working for this site that I have not found in other tools and they are things that I want. I know I am not greatly adding back to the community, but my time is horribly sporadic and I fit in work on the site tools when I can.

It looks like I may move to Typekey as a means to stop the comment spam. I may also upgrade the comment area when the comments return, so that HTML is not needed. It will take time, which is one thing I am very short on right now.



August 26, 2004

Quick Links in the Side Bar is not Optimal

Paul wants to "set up one of those link-sidebar thingies again" for his quick link list. Actually I am finding those the side link lists, like mine cause problems for folks tracking referrer links back and for search engines. Context of the links is helpful, but so is being able to find the date and page where these links came from. The way Paul is doing his quick links now works well. I was able to point directly to these links, the links he make have context, even if it is only a list of links.

Quite similar to the Fixing Permalink to Mean Something post the other day, the links in the side bar are temporary. I find links from Technorati back to my site from some poor soul looking for what comment and link vanderwal.net had placed. These links do not have a permalink as they are ever rotating. I have received a few e-mails asking where the link was from and if I was spamming in some way.

Why do I have the quick links? I don't have the time to do a full or even short write-up. I clear my tabbed browser windows and put the items I have not read in full in the Quick Links. Some things I want access to from my mobile device or work to read the info in full or make use of the information. Other things I want to keep track of and include in a write-up.

The other advantage of moving the quick links into the main content area is they would be easier to include in one aggregated feed. I know I can join my current feeds, but I like the sites that provide the feeds in the same context as they appear on the site as it eases the ability to find the information. This change will take a more than a five or ten minute fix for my site, but it is on my to do list.



August 25, 2004

A Wonderful Redesign

I need to give a pointer to one of the wonderful redesigns of late, Jeff Gates' Life Outtacontext is something I find wonderful. I have been enjoying it for a couple weeks now. I particularly like when I scroll to the bottom of the page. Jeff does not update his wonderful content frequently, but the design has me going back often.



January 11, 2004

Blogs highlighted on Meet the Press

While I am not a huge blog-for-blog-sake person, Meet the Press has a relatively long roundtable discussion on blog and the Democratic presidential campaigns. The talk about how Joe Trippi not only uses the blog to communicate with potential Dean supporters, but how he and others cull ideas from the blogs.

This highlight how new innovative ideas can quickly get posted by individuals, culled, and directly or with modification get implemented to better an endeavor. One clever idea that was culled from a weblog was the ability to have individuals share their unused weekend cell phone minutes and have the campaign use these minutes to call voters in Iowa. A rather clever idea and even smarter use of culling the Internet's vast cacophony of voices to find good helpful ideas to run a business/organization better and smarter.



January 2, 2004

InfoDesign is Now InformationDesign

Bogieland's InfoDesign has redesigned, restructured and moved to InformationDesign. The new site still has the great daily content and gems, but now includes sections for events, people, and others that have been part of the site, but not as easy to find. I also like the new XML feed, which will make seeing the updates more easily.

The new structure and design may make this site more than just my must read every morning before work, but also a resource to come return to regularly when I have more time. Peter and conspirators have done a great job with the new site.



October 18, 2003

Info Cloud and Personal Info Cloud weblogs setup

We have set up a couple new sites using TypePad to focus on Info Clouds and more directly, the Personal Info Cloud. The Info Cloud and Personal Info Cloud are extensions of ideas that came out of the Model of Attraction work.

The information posted on the TypePad sites will most likely be syndicated here, or vis versa. The use of TypePad is easing the need to have a separate location for these ideas and works in progress. Off the Top will not be changing, it will still be a melting pot of ideas and information. Direct access to more focussed information on topic or categories are still available by clicking on the category below each entry or using the category list.

The information cloud work ties directly to standards, information architecture, content management, and general Web development passions that drive me.



October 5, 2003

Making money from weblogs

Matt provides a great article on making money from weblogs. The article is well written and provides great advice and insight. At this point it does not seem that money from weblogs is a huge amount of money, but it does look like it will pay for hosting and provide extra cash, at the least.



August 22, 2003

Organge cone comes to life

Last night I stumbled across orange cone, the weblog from Mike Kuniavsky. I am looking forward to following his site and see how it comes to life.



July 28, 2003

Mobile edition added

We have added a mobile edition of Off the Top capturing the last 10 entries. This should work well on nearly all mobile devices, including PDAs. The entries are provided in plain XHTML and do not have categories nor comments.

Let us know how this works for you.



July 27, 2003

New music written and recorded before your eyes in 24 hours

This morning I caught-up with Scott and Shannon's blogathon, which is 24 hours of postings on their site. The donations go to a great cause and they also did an amazing thing. The two of them wrote and recorded two new songs.

The wonderful parts of this are they are 3,000 miles apart, the collaboration was on line in the blog for this purpose, their auditory updates were posted throughout the 24 hours, and their two voices and guitar tracks and other instrument tracks were all pulled together for two wonderful songs. I have been humming Southdown all day. I want to spend more time reviewing each of the steps to this transparent adventure.

This may be the coolest things I have seen on the Web in quite some time.



July 10, 2003

Spamotomy

Amit has launched Spamotomy, a site focussed on the complete removal of SPAM from our lives. The site keeps up on news as well as pointers to nearly 100 tools for SPAM removal and so much more.



June 23, 2003

WatchBlog for all political commentary

If you are looking for American political commentary and want Democrat, Third Party, and Rebublican commentary all in one place, you should check out WatchBlog: 2004 Elections.



June 14, 2003

Trackback hype debunked

Joshua picks up on the trackback conversation, but there are many problems with the comparisons of trackbacks and referrer tracking (I am posting this for clarity not to poke at my friend Joshua and comments are not turned on for his entry or I would post there). It sounds like referrer logs are not set properly in what Joshua is using for a comparison to trackback. It may be that Movable Type is not set to take full advantage of referrers, which is sad. Joshua and the posts he links to explain trackbacks properly.

Of the three comparisons of trackbacks to referrer only one is correct, trackbacks do not require an actual hyperlink to the article to work properly (why one would not have a link to what they are discussing is odd as it is the Web). The other two comments are not correct if referrer logs are setup properly. In my last 100 referrers page I can see exactly what page a link came from (I used Charles Johnson's referrer as a base for mine). If the hyperlink is clicked from a permalink page I can see the exact page the link came from and if it links to my permalinked entry I can have categorical sorting also.

I have not seen a need for trackback on my site my referrer log (real-time) and access log show me exactly what is going on. Oddly there is always a lot of talk about trackback on blogs, but very rarely are they ever used. This may point to a usability problem with trackback. Referrer and access logs on the other hand do not need this extra step for the site owner to get the information.

Once I get unburried with paper work for work and have a clear head that the completion will bring I may implement a referrer version of trackback for public consumption, unless the lazy web does it first.



June 8, 2003

Kevin Fox lifts the covers on his redesign

Following a current trend of public redesign process by designers, Kevin Fox puts his laundry out to air. I did part of my redesign in public, but not to the extent Kevin is doing (or Zeldman or Joshua Kaufman has been doing). Even post redesign overviews and commontaries are helpful.

Kevin is showing the steps many of us go through as a professionals. His analysis of audience usage patterns and wireframes are very helpful first steps that will frame the decisions made down the road. Many of us consider these the most important steps, but many more important steps will follow.

Maybe I should post the wireframes for this redesign. I think I ended up straying from the wireframes a bit as the header came to life one night and changed many things.



May 21, 2003

Joshua changes before our eyes

Things have been a little busy around these parts of late. One site you should be watching is Joshua's redesign. Joshua is learning many of the painful lessons in a CSS redesign. Joshua has not only been redesigning and documenting in front of our eyes, but he has been sharing his resources. Joshua just rocks as he learned the mantra of the Web is to share openly. He has also learned Windows IE 6 is not your friend as it does not render valid CSS properly. Go get 'em Joshua



April 26, 2003

Tantek on handrolling weblogs and hand built CMS

Tantek discusses Jeffrey Zeldman handrolling his own RSS feeds (as well as his own site). Tantek also discusses those who still handroll their own weblogs as well as those that have built their own CMS to run their blogs. This was good to see that there are many other that still build their own and handroll (I stopped handrolling October 2001 when I implimented my own CMS that took advantage of a travel CMS I had built for myself).



March 26, 2003

PeterMe is free

In the joy of the moment and the agony of my cold I nearly forgot that PeterMe has opened up his practice again.



March 22, 2003

IA Summit Weblog

The IA Summit 2003 Weblog is up and running for those interested. This is running as a community blog for conference related events.



January 31, 2003

Hiptop Here

Yes, my Danger Hiptop arrived today. I celebrated by posting to HiptopNation. I already have a wish list of features for the Hiptop, like the ability to use iSynch for my calendar and addressbook. The boxmodel is not so pretty on the Hiptop/AvantGo browser.

I am happy with my purchase as I now have the ability to have my information follow me easily. The mobile e-mail is a great tool. Yes I know Blackberry has this funtionality, but the price and other added functionality, including phone was far more enticing. The form factor on the Hiptop is very inviting to the hands, although the thumb-fu has my bad thumb kinda wanting a rest.

I may build an administrative interface for Off the Top that I can use in the Hiptop and other mobile devices.



January 5, 2003

Blog odometer moves to 1,000 posts

Well my friends this is entry 1,000. The counting of each entry began June 1, 2001 when I moved off Blogger and began completely handcoding again.

In May of 2001 I put together my TravelBlog tool that allowed by to post from any Internet connected Web browser again. This step was only used while I was on the road or I did not have ability to FTP new content. In September 2001 I moved my hosting of vanderwal.net to PHP Web Hosting, which I had been using with great happiness for other projects for over a year. In October I began using the hand built CMS that I am still using and developing. This gave me the ability to set multiple categories for each post, which no other tool allowed at that time, and to set location and entry type.

I keep making updates to my own tool and it has served me well. There as some changes to the administration tools that I really want to make and a couple changes to the tools that will allow all of the pages generated out of the CMS to produce valid XHTML. I am also wanting to build a mobile admin tool that I can use from my cell phone, which would give me the ability to post information to myself from anywhere.

Each of you are basically voyeurs. This has been my place to post my thoughts and annotated links so that I can get back to them later. These offerings are open to all as they may spark and interest or help others resolve problems. Finding information that is helpful or entertaining is a blessing of the Internet and having a resouce like a weblog (the term makes me cringe - I do not know why) is a benificial method to share information. I learned most everything I know from others sharing openly or getting new ideas based on reading what others openly shared.

There is one posting that has out drawn all other posts. The why I bought my last Windows-based computer and why I love Mac OS X has received a few thousand readers (2,000 read it in the first three days it was posted). It seems there are many others that felt the same pain and dropped in to read it. More than half a year after it was written it still gets about 50 visitors a week.

I love having this tool at my use and enjoy the friends it has brought closer and people it has introduced to me. Thanks for reading and drop a note to just say hello.



December 18, 2002

Gawker outted

Gawker launched today as a weblog focused on NYC using NYC media for its sources. It is a wonderful design that is easy to read and the content has a slight bite.


November 19, 2002

James found

I finally found James site and I am much better off for it. Two guesses what James professional leaning is from the header?


November 15, 2002

Steven Johnson siting

Steven Johnson has his own personal site and it is offering a good read on a regular basis.


November 7, 2002

Window on Paris

Jason and Meg are in Paris and offering up wonderful stories. I am having a wonderful time dreaming though their relayed adventures. This is a wonderful time of year for Paris as the crowds are down and it is the balance tips toward a working city not a tourist destination. This time of year it is a little chilly and walking by the sidewalk crepe stands and feeling the warmth from the heat and the smell lifts the soul.


November 5, 2002

v-2 redesign

V-2.org redesigns, which is making reading the wonderful content much easier. Adam and others at V-2 provide great insights in user-centered design and information architecture. Adam is also a fellow Boxes and Arrows alumni.


October 1, 2002

AppleTechs gets moving again

Damien has his AppleTechs running again. This has been on hold since late April and it will be so nice to have this back and running again as both of these sites are great resources for Apple users.


Scott and Peter return

I am very happy Scott is posting again. His observations are always very welcome and helpful. In today's scottandrew post he notes the joy that Peter Gabriel's new album, UP brings. I agree wholely. UP brings back memories of the first 3 Gabriel albums as well as So. I picked up the album on Saturday, while running house errands and really enjoyed listening in the car and then in my home stereo. I was so impressed.


September 13, 2002

iCal ideas

A weblog on iCal seems to be a good resource for the new Apple application. [hat tip Adam]


September 9, 2002

OS X blog from one of the sources

Mac OS X's product manager, Ken Bereskin has a weblog with good stuff. [hat tip Andre]


August 21, 2002

New skin for xBlog

xBlog from Xplane redesigns. The change is more sparse and simple, which leads to an easier read, at least I think. There have been a great resource for links, but in the last few months it has really slowed down. It looks like it could be worth checking a few times a week.


July 14, 2002

CM and KM Blog

A new (to me) blog on content and knowledge management can be found at Column Two compiled by James Robertson.


June 14, 2002

Break Bread with Brad Brunch

This past Saturday I had a wonderful time at the Break Bread with Brad Brunch in DC. I met some great folks and got to see Mike and Dineen (whom I only tend to see in when I travel) and now that Brad has posted photos and links I really can tie the faces and names (and URLs). I will post the few photos I have in a day or so. I deeply appreciate Brad putting this together.


Break Bread with Brad Brunch

This past Saturday I had a wonderful time at the Break Bread with Brad Brunch in DC. I met some great folks and got to see Mike and Dineen (whom I only tend to see in when I travel) and now that Brad has posted photos and links I really can tie the faces and names (and URLs). I will post the few photos I have in a day or so. I deeply appreciate Brad putting this together.


June 1, 2002


May 29, 2002

NYC bloggers by subway station

NY City bloggers by subway station is a great idea. This greatly adds depth to some of the sites I read regularly. This brings to mind I really need another trip to the great City soon.


May 6, 2002

JavaScript without JavaScript

I read Scott Lepera's site on a daily basis because it is often offering bits like JavaScript links that work without JavaScript.


April 24, 2002

Blosxom offers RSS aggregation with perl

Blosxom is a Perl RSS blog aggregator that works well on Mac OS X.


February 23, 2002

Can't get enough about Mozilla? Blogzilla may be our answer. This is a weblog devoted to the Moz. (By the way Mozilla is extremely fast on OS X and is becoming my favorite browser on that platform.) [hat tip Scott]


February 5, 2002

I have a very strong feeling I am going to be living vicariously through Jay's site for the next few months or years. Jay is off to travel the world after leaving his job (well not really his choice), moving out, selling his possessions, and heading on the road then off to Europe. Sunday's posting was a great find and a wonderful travelogue piece.


January 27, 2002

I stumbled across Metropole Paris, a weekly 'zine about Paris (in English) in quasi-weblog style. The writing, stories, and photos are enjoyable in a friendly manner.


January 24, 2002

Can you say SXSWBaby? Knew you could. If you are going to SXSW Interactive Festival this is the place to get the dirt.


January 18, 2002

Eric Costello is back writing on his site glish.com. Eric is always full of solid insight and links to great uses of CSS. Oh happy days.


January 1, 2002

The folks at Digital Web - new have been busy finding the few new items over the past few weeks. It is always good to keep your eye on the DW-new page every day or two as it covers a broad spectrum of Web/Internet design and development issues. It is good to have Nick back and manning the daily post again as this means vacation is over.


December 19, 2001

I am very happy that Lou finally has permalinks. Not only this, but he has comments and they are attracting some of the thinkers and doers of information architecture. This may become an incredible resource. Wahoo!!


December 7, 2001

one.point.zero has integrated some very nice design elements into the site. It is nice to read that it is build using PHP scripts, but that is not important, the ease of reading and using the elements around the site make it worthy of examination. The site cleanly integrates some ideas that I have had on my to do list, like the calendar. This sets a nice high benchmark for personal sites. Bravo. [hat tip Jeffery]


December 4, 2001

Stewart has resurrected Sylloge. After discussing the Web and spatial metaphors I am glad Stewart has popped out of his shell to share again. There is much rejoicing.


December 1, 2001

December is the month to click to Lance Arthur's Glassdog as he is posting a new story everyday. Lance is one of the few people that can cause me to laugh so hard milk comes out my nose (I don't really even drink milk any more).


November 25, 2001

Shirley Kaiser has redesigned her professional site, SK Designs and provided a fantastic redesign write-up on her personal site Brianstorms and Raves. The redesign is quite nice and provides a nice job of chunking the information with headers and bullets for scanning. The write-up is a very good approach regarding when and how to go about a redesign.
[hat tip Nick Finck at Digital Web - What is New]


November 9, 2001

Thanks to Scott posting again regularly, I have come across youngpup, which is a fun interface with lots of good DHTML content.


November 5, 2001

Glish Returns. Wahoo!!

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