It seems like since I've gotten back from my honeymoon I've been kind of on the ropes and running behind on everything. I picked up swine flu somewhere in Maine on our trip and was incredibly sick when we returned. However having missed two weeks of work already for the trip I headed back, only to pass the flu onto at least one of my co-workers and possibly two. After a few days, and a definitive doctor's diagnosis of H1N1 [wp] I ended up back at home for nearly another week.
I was just over that and back to work when I got the news about David [jks], and so blogging has certainly not been my top priority. Add to that two articles that I've finished off for The Georgia Straight, and I actually don't feel bad about ignoring this blog. Besides apart from an accounting of the honeymoon I've not had much to write about up until recently. Ironically when I have blogged it's been for the Straight and that has been about the new Kindle I got for my birthday [tgs].
Well actually I combined a few of my gifts into the Kindle, using the money my parents and my brother gave me to order it from Amazon. Since the Kindle was only available in America when I bought it I had to get it sent to a business in Sumas that specializes in receiving packages for Canadians. Since then the Kindle has begun shipping to Canada [tgs], though I've heard that it does not have the web browser.
I'm also likely going to be speaking at the 72nd annual Canadian University Press (CUP) National Conference in Edmonton this January. It's being hosted by the University of Alberta student paper The Gateway, where a number of my closest CUP friends worked at, and though it's been awhile since I've been to a CUP conference it should be fun. I've not gotten all the details nailed down, but I appear to be listed as a speaker [cup] so that's always a good sign. The last CUP conference I spoke at ended up with me writing for the Straight, so hopefully this will also be a good networking opportunity.
A fter admitting that I really had no idea what to do with my blog yesterday [js], I am pleased to announce that while I might not have figured out what I'm going to be doing with this personal blog specifically I have started a new blog. Yes, another new blog. This one is called Blogging Bendis [bb] and though it's only been a day, I'm pretty pleased with it.
A few years ago I tried to start a comic blog called Being Geek, which I felt was a pretty good title. The problem was writing about all comics was kind of overwhelming and with paid bloggers covering comics there was not much that I could do in my spare time that would be as good as those sites. Not wanting to simply run a second-rate-one-man Newsarama [nsr], I eventually deleted it.
It was not until I was in Seattle sitting on my friend Jeff's couch that the idea for Blogging Bendis came to me. I had driven across the border for the Emerald City Comic Convention which I've gone to the last four years, and I was skimming through Daringfireball [df] and found a transcript for the talk that Daringfireball creator John Grubber did with Merlin Mann about how to blog better [rc]. A lot of the ideas they talked about really stuck with me, but the one that eventually lead to Blogging Bendis was that niche blogging was important. As Mann put it:
Like, you’ve got something that you care a lot about, and you’re obsessed about — it’s almost like an intellectual fetish. And then you’ve got something that’s your angle on that. And to me, the more you zero in on both of those things — get crazy specific about the thing… Don’t just, don’t have a blog about Star Wars; have a blog about Jawas. Or, like, this one Jawa that’s just in the scene for a minute. Like, it’s gonna be so much easier for you to dominate, first of all; you’re gonna become the go-to guy for that one Jawa, right?
And so as the current sub-title of Blogging Bendis reads, Bendis is my Jawa.
I've got a more in-depth rational over why I chose to blog about one comic creator and why I selected Brian Michael Bendis specifically at the other site [bb]. However the new blog is a chance for me to try a few things that I've been interested in doing for awhile, including running a blog with no comments. I'm also spending more time on the visual look of the blog, and as you can see from the graphic included in this post here, I've been using software to touch up pictures and in some cases add reflections, shadows and depth to 2D pictures.
I've also finally set up the Canon printer/scanner/ fax that I got when I got my Macbook, so I'm doing a lot of scanning myself as opposed to needing to Google for comic art to go along with the posts. All of which I am sure is too inside baseball for you.
As I've said I'm still not certain what to do with this site, but for now anyway I do have something that's interesting me.
L ydia [iatl] and I were in Victoria for the weekend, attending the wedding of one of her high school friends. We carpooled and shared accomidations with her roomate Sarah [ywth] who was also attending the wedding. I'm not sure how Sarah, who did not attend the same high school as Lydia and Erin (her friend who got married) is friends with Erin. The part of my brain that keeps up with Lydia's legions of friends and their social circles is currently taken up by the plot of The Da Vinci Code, and there's sadly no way I'm going to be able to expunge that from my brain.
I mean I watched the movie and then read half the book, as if I was expecting that to be better and both featured heavily death by peanut. A classic work of fiction this was not.
As a consequence of not knowing anyone I mostly spent the wedding standing about with a bottle of pop in one hand and a vacant expression on my face. Lydia calls this being unfriendly, though I call it just not knowing anyone and not being outgoing at the best of times. Everyone seemed to know both Lydia and Sarah, and nearly everyone seemed to expect Lydia to blog about the food at the wedding. Everyone complimented Sarah on her always funny Twitter [twt]. I wanted to point out that I had a Twitter account, and I also had a blog. Of course my blog at that point was password protected and only I had the code.
There's a few reasons that the blog was password protected for a spell. The most pressing one was that in my last post before the blog got shut down I had revealed the ending to The Da Vinci Code and lawyers for Doubleday and Sony Pictures must have hacked into my account to shut me down.
If I'm not allowed to give spoilers for a book that was first published in 2003, then I'm not sure if I want to keep blogging. So this might be me saying, "Jeff out."
Take care of yourselves.
"Sweet, I'm sleepy. It feels like the real thing. The doctors are confident the pills always win." — Matthew Good, "Suburbia" extended live lyrics
I don't think it's any secret that the ol' blog here has become a little bit stagnant. I keep announcing that I'm back and that this time it'll be different but at the end of the day it's still laying fallow. Recent real life events have made it even less likely that I'll have any interest in posting here. I've got a lot of places where I can write with constraints, and I don't really feel like this is the place for that.
I'm not blogging one way, I'm unlikely to blog another way. It's all very difficult to tell what to do. I've had better success writing about specific subjects and topics but that's never been really what I've been interested in doing here, I've got side blogs for that sort of stuff. So that's really poop.
I'm tired, and I'm cranky and I have to be in Surrey at a ridiculous hour tomorrow morning. The problem is, with the exception of Surrey, that's pretty much always the case. The internet is already full of sleep deprived yahoos venting their spleens online and maybe now that everyone and their local Social Media Expert has a blog it's outgrown me.
Live blogging is kind of a weird duck. I regularly read the minute-by-minute match reports for overseas Premier League Football matches from The Guardian's website [tg] and it's increasingly gaining popularity in regards to covering technology conferences. People regularly live blog Steve Jobs' keynotes now, and even local tech talks get live blogged.
It's a mixture of live radio coverage, play-by-play and live novel writing. What's live novel writing? Glad you asked.
It might be a snowy week in Vancouver but that doesn't mean I have not been blogging.
Okay I've been breaking my own rule number 1 on how to get blog hits [jks]by not posting here for a few days, but I have been writing over at Metroblogging Vancouver [mbv]. There is a list of my recent posts in the sidebar, but for those who might have missed them I've written about:
While nothing in blogging is certain, and there's no silver bullet that promises hits, here's a few things you can do to increase your traffic.
I might come off as youthfully naive about this whole "blogging" thing, since I'm not one to talk about personal branding or how to monetize your readers. However I've been around long enough to know that there are a few tricks to driving traffic to your site.
Tricks and traffic are the key words here. What follows is not a guide to being a better blogger, to writing more compelling material or getting your readers to engage on a deeper level with what you write. What follows is purely about the hits.
All of this might make me seem like some Jedi Master whose laid down his lightsaber to take up blogging. The truth is I don't follow all of this stuff, though I know if I did I'd have more hits. Again hits and readers are not always the same thing and it's up to you which you value more.
It's also worth nothing that as far as bloggers go I'm a nobody. In the fairly small Vancouver blog scene I'm mostly known for writing on someone else's blog [mbv] or interviewing other bloggers.
The article I wrote for The Georgia Straight on virtual worlds, most notably Second Life, is in today's issue and online [tgs]. Because of the backlog of tech reporting the Straight currently has one of the virtual worlds I wrote about, Google's Lively, has actually closed down since I submitted the piece.
The closure lends some weight to a blog post I wrote for the Straight earlier this month about Pownce closing, and how it's important to keep local backups of anything you store in the internet cloud but want to know is safe [tgs].
My photo of my broken iPhone keeps popping up on Wired's blogs. Too bad I'm not seeing any money love.
Almost every decent photo that I take ends up on my Flickr [fkr] account, which is an on-line photo storage site that doubles as a gallery. My photos, like this blog, is all covered by a Creative Commons license meaning that anyone can use them as long as they attribute the work to me, and as long as they're not making any money off of it. So I'm sure my some of my photos probably end up being used somewhere, and most of the time I'll never know given how big the internet is.
Sometimes the internet isn't quite as big as you'd think.
I was checking through the Tweets of the people I follow on Twitter, when I came across one linking to an article on one of Wired Magazine's blogs [wm]. At first I was a little surprised to see a photo like one I took when I first dropped and broke my old iPhone, before I paid someone in Richmond $200 to fix it. The fact that the picture was so similar that it included my work schedule, peeking out from underneath the phone, was kind of uncanny.
This is actually the second time that Wired has used this photo on one of their blogs, as they did so a few months ago. Both times the story was about problems with the iPhone and Apple.
The first time my photos were used without me knowing was when eVent! [em] used one of my Matthew Good Band pictures in an interview with Rich Priske without letting me know or crediting me. I ended up freelancing for them, so my loud editorials about a lawsuit that I published in the Phoenix never came to anything.
Having said that eVent! still owes me money, so maybe I should go back to threatening to sue.
Wired though, they can keep using my photos. They're cool by me.
I guess it dates me to say that when I was in high school nobody brought laptops to school. When I got a very old Powerbook to take with me to France, and would use take it in class on my return to Canada, it was a novelty. Even when I hit university the only other students using laptops tended to be the special needs students who the school supplied with computers to aid in their studies. There certainly was not wi-fi available anywhere around campus, and if I wanted to get my laptop online I needed to unplug one of the computers in the Phoenix's office and stick the stolen ethernet cable into my computer.
By the time I left it was more common to see laptops, but university wide wi-fi was still in the future. In the newspaper office we'd finally set up our own private wireless network, simply because we were always short on ethernet ports, and that seemed cutting edge.
These days though wireless internet is the norm in post-secondary schools across Canada. Karen Pinchin wrote an article for The Georgia Straight about how that's taxing student's attention spans in class [tgs], and I guess the fact that I'm blogging as the teacher is trying to get his laptop to display the correct slide, is proof that it does divide attention. Myself though I'm of the opinion that students basically find ways to let their minds go on mini holidays with or without technological advances.
I was generally attentive in high school but when the teacher was having to go over a concept for a third or fourth time for someone my mind would wander. Back then I'd write short stories, work on terrible lyrics to terrible songs that I intended to write one day when I finally learned to play guitar (I never did and likely never will), or came up with names for the terrible band that would never perform my terrible songs.
On notable class was grade eight English. I was an avid reader and would generally finish a novel within a week, which since we studied a novel over a month or two, meant that I had a great deal of time during the class' reading time. Seeing this, and seeing that Curtis Seaman was also reading ahead, Mr. Brooks would send the pair of us out to wander the school and write short stories and plays for extra credit. This never resulted in any great pieces of literature, since they were generally very silly parodies that only really made us laugh.
Still it was the type of thing that made us really enjoy the class, and I think that year was probably the best mark I ever got in English.
So here I am blogging. The projector is almost fixed, and the class is ready to continue so I guess I'd better go. I probably won't get extra credit for this, but at least I'm not unleashing more terrible lyrics to terrible songs to a yet unformed terrible band out into the world.
My most recent article appeared in The Georgia Straight today [tgs] in one of the paper's regular tech focused issues. I'd mentioned this article awhile ago [jks] when I was talking about advertising on blogs, a subject I am still thinking over. That part, the role of advertising on blogs, did not really get touched on with the exception of a few words during the interviews but it really did not fit into the article as a whole.
This is the first article that I've done for The Straight that's had a photo run with it. That photo, which is to the right, was taken by the technology editor Stephen Hui and of the bloggers interviewed he went with a photo of Jeannette Ordas who blogs at Everybody Likes Sandwiches [els], a food blog that Lydia is into.
If you're in Vancouver then pick up a copy of the article on almost any street corner. The paper's free so you've got no excuses. If you're not in the lower mainland you'll find a link in the first sentence of this post that will take you right to it's online version.
So far the feedback has been mostly positive. As always though these sorts of articles are by their very nature incomplete. I'm sure there's a few dozen other worthy local bloggers around town who deserve a mention, and at least one reason that Vancouver is such a blog-centric city that I didn't touch on.
last week I finished off an article for The Georgia Straight about local bloggers. I'm not quite sure when the article is meant to go in, their tech section is fairly well booked currently so there's a bit of lag between when I hand a story and when it hits the street. One of the things that two of the interviews brought up, but that did not make the cut in the article, was advertising on blogs and it's a subject that I've been struggling with on this site for sometime with no real resolution.
Raul who runs his own personal blog [h604] was for advertising, though in what he termed a "sustainable" way that had to be both transparent and social conscious. His model for the model of monetization of blogs is clearly Rebecca's [m604] who is one of the few local bloggers to really make a go of making a living through blogging. Rebecca's site isn't loading right now, so I can't confirm this, but she's mostly using Google ads with some specific product mentions and promotions from local companies.
I could be wrong about the Google Ads.
On the other side of the coin is Jeannette Ordas who runs the food blog Everybody Likes Sandwiches [els], a local food blog which Lydia reads and has a much more national and even global readership than a lot of the local blogs that focus on hyper-local events. Ordas has a strong policy of not taking ads on her blog and is part of an "Ad Free Blog" movement [afb].
Noting the bit about blogging that she didn't really like she Ordas said:
It’s sort of the business side of blogging, and there does seem to be a businessy side and I’m not interested in that. I guess just for me it’s an outlet for me because I enjoy writing about food and I enjoy taking pictures of food so for me it’s just for me. My zine was about me, and this is about me. Me and food.
i realize that I've never really told my Stephen Harper story here so as Canada heads to the polls today to potentially re-elect Harper as our Prime Minister I figured now is as good a time as any. It was in fact five years ago Thursday that all of this happened, so the timing is pretty appropriate. We can call this an anniversary retelling of the story.
It was October 16th, 2003. I was celebrating my twenty-fifth birthday and writing for The Phoenix at what was then Okanagan University College. Jay-Z and Beyoncé were "Crazy In Love", Outkast was riding "Hey Ya!" for all it was worth [mo]. The American lead invasion and occupation of Iraq was only in it's seventh month, and the big debate in Canadian politics was whether or not we'd follow America into Iraq after standing by them for the invasion of Afghanistan. The Liberals had stayed out of Iraq, and since the political landscape on the right was fragmented with the breakup of the old Progressive Conservative Party into the Conservatives and the Reform Party it looked like nothing was going to change.
In Kelowna The Phoenix as a news outlet had benefited from the breakup of the right because it had eventually lead us to having Stockwell Day as leader of the Reform Party and his George W. Bush-esque photo-ops and buffoonery were like mana from heaven for snarky student journalists. The party's switch to Stephen Harper was a sad day for us, since he was a) not local (Day had his riding in Westbank/Summerland) and b) he was not an obviously complete fucking idiot.
There were no more homo-erotic press conferences on the shores of Lake Okanagan in a wetsuit. There were no more hiring of criminals to spy on the other political parties. There were no more defections of MPs. There was no more fun.
looking at the incoming links over at Metroblogging Vancouver [mbv] I noticed one from The Province, one of the main newspapers here in Vancouver. Taking a look at the incoming link I couldn't find anything, but when I did a site search for "Metroblogging" I came up with quite a few times where they've quoted from the Vancouver based blog. Indeed these quotes go back at least since last year, and since I've never discovered it before today it suggests that we don't get much in the way of traffic from links off of the newspaper's site.
Now I'm pretty sure these quotes were just on the website, and not in the physical paper.
Subjects that I've been quoted on:
Meanwhile I've been blogging over at Metroblogging Vancouver, and a few of those are worth checking out. What should you be reading over there during my blogging lull here? Well check these out:
Lastly I thought I'd repost links to my two articles in The Georgia Straight for those who may have missed it:
fter touring the Joshua Tree for years, making the concert film Rattle and Hum and generally being the earnest big stadium band of the 1980s' U2 retired, or at least they considered it. At the final concert of the Lovetown Tour where they played with B.B. King, Bono came told the crowd that U2 had to go away and "dream it up all over again". The band needed a new direction, a new sound and a new pair of very big sunglasses.
Having spent the last few hours first blogging about other people's blogs [mbv] and then trying to blog about my trip to Las Vegas I sort of feel like I need a new sound and a new pair of very big sunglasses. Having read through a lot of local Vancouver blogs I realize that the entire idea of personal blogging has really stopped being as appealing to me as it once was. Topic blogging is still something I like, and for example I remain very much in love with blogs like Daring Fireball [df] which for the most part has a purpose and a subject, but I've fallen out of love with the "and then I went to the park and it was sunny and the slide was fun and the sun got into my eyes but it was cool anyway and did I mention the sun? Sun!" sort of blog.
Goodness knows I can be accused of that; I've had this blog since December 2003, and that's pretty much the sole content of it. For a few years before I had a uJournal blog and it was quite similar except it had all the mood icons that I enjoyed setting to the frown-y gothic face on my posts. And yet reading through so many personal blogs I just could not shake the feeling that as much as I might dislike this about other people's blogs I was doing the same thing.
This isn't to discourage anyone else from blogging, or to say that I don't like person x's blog. I read lots of blogs, lots of personal blogs and enjoy them but I just feel that I've lost track of what I'm doing. I don't really have an audience in mind, am not sure that I have an audience at all and am not writing stuff that I myself would read.
So I'm not going to be blogging about Las Vegas, instead I'll direct you to check out my pictures from the trip on my flickr set that I made for it [fkr].
Photo from Young Wing's fickr account [fkr].
ince the great hard drive crash of 2008 [jks] I've been slowly rebuilding my computer from the ground up. No, wait that makes it sound like I'm doing something complex and technical. Rather what I'm doing is slowly re-installing applications onto my hard drive as I have a need for them. The first things on there was the software that I had on discs, like Microsoft Office and the Apple iWorks suite. From there I've been adding the programs that I've acquired from the internet, though I've been far more relaxed about getting those back on.
What applications have worked their way onto my hard drive and back into usage? Well how about a list of five just so that we can give an uneven number to go along with my uneven track record of regular blogging.
5) NetNewsWire [ng]:
NetNewsWire is one of my most used applications on my iPhone and the fact that both the mobile and desktop version of the world's most popular RSS reader is free is pretty damn cool. It's the best way to follow blogs, news websites and pretty much anything with a RSS feed. I don't use it to feed podcasts through to itunes, though it can do that as well. It's probably the best way to add new feeds, manage them into folders and also read them. The fact that it allows me to create blog posts from incoming content could be useful if i used it more.
4) iTunes [ap]:
Okay, this one is obvious. I figured it was so obvious that it might not be worth mentioning, but iTunes is my most used application by far. Whether it's loading music onto my Apple TV, my iPod or my iPhone or just giving my tunes to type by it's almost constantly running on my computer. I'm really enjoying the new iTunes 8 which seems to have solved a problem I had where, since I am using an external hard drive accessed through Wi-Fi to store my music library, iTunes would lose the library forcing me to spend about forty minutes re-acquainting iTunes with my music once a week or so.
3) Ecto [is]:
I have to admit I don't use desktop blogging software as much as I should. It really makes writing, editing and maintaining a blog so much easier, but because I use multiple computers plus my iPhone to blog I tend never to use it. However through Metroblogging Vancouver [mbv] I got a free copy of Ecto and I always give using it a go. It helps avoid having to struggle with HTML, which I often have to use when posting with Safari. Ecto's the first piece of software so far that's not free, but the fact that it's less than $20 should help make it a consideration.
2) Adium [ad]:
Apart from iTunes Adium is the only program that's almost always constantly running on my computer. This free application combines the capabilities of pretty much every instant messaging service known to man into one single app. MSN, Yahoo, ICQ, AOL and others are all there and with the addition of Facebook chatting it's got everything that I've ever used to talk to people online with. In fact between this and the very slick Facebook iPhone application I don't actually ever log in to Facebook anymore.
The one thing it's missing, and I'm pretty sure it's currently technically impossible anyway, is the ability to combine conversations with people using multiple platforms, so that you could merge a conversation you're having with someone on MSN into one you're having with someone else on Yahoo.
1) Handbrake [hb]:
Though it's kind of visually boring, hence the reason for no pictures, Handbrake is so incredibly useful. Basically it's the best, and as far as I know only, way to copy DVD movies onto a Mac. Loading television shows and movies from my DVD collection onto my Apple TV and my iPhone would be impossible without this little piece of software. Having recently loaded the complete series of Yes Minster into my iTunes library I've come to appreciate it even more. Again like everything else I've recommended, other than Ecto, it is free.
i t feels like every post I make these days is a post asking for forgiveness after another long period of this blog laying fallow. Each and every entry seems like it's asking for forgiveness for the length of time since I've last blogged and promising to be more attentive to you, my dear readers. Does it feel that way to you?
Again I've been writing for The Georgia Straight [tgs] and though I haven't been working as much this past week I've been travelling with Lydia. We took a long weekend and went to Vancouver Island to visit Tofino and Victoria. Lydia blogged about eating on the island [iatl] and I guess I don't have a whole lot to say beyond that, so I'll leave you with the link.
One of the things we did do in Victoria was look at venues for the wedding. We checked a few places, mostly heritage homes and none of them seemed to work for us. They were either not the right type of place, required us to use their expensive in-house caterers or had the overall feel of a bingo hall. After already mostly eliminating Kelowna from our list of cities to get married in, it seemed like we were crossing Victoria off the list as well.
I don't know how it came up, but talk turned to the Heritage Hall on Main Street in Vancouver [hh], and since I had been to Curtis's wedding there I sent him an email asking for a rough estimate on how much he paid. His reply was surprisingly inexpensive and so we booked a viewing for Wednesday and after looking at it and talking to the woman in charge of rentals we've booked the hall for August 9th 2009.
Which is a huge relief, since now that we've got a date and location everything else can slot into that. I guess the last really big thing is the caterers, and once that's sorted we're just having to deal with a few minor details like the flower arrangements for the tables and whether or not we're going to ask people to sit through speeches or a slide-show or possibly both. Lydia's for neither and I'm for both. I figure if we're feeding people the least they could do is pretend to care about us for half an hour, even if they'd rather be watching a rerun of The Office.
i will admit it's been awhile. I got busy writing [tgs], and then my computer crashed and I've spent the last three days fighting to get it working. Thanks to the Genius at the Pacific Centre Mall's Apple Store I figured out my plan of attack, but it's likely that I won't be able to save most of the files that I had been transfering from one computer to another for slightly over a decade. Though most of it was no big loss, I don't really need a saved game for each of the last three Sim City games, some of it was worth keeping.
Thankfully I'd actually backed up all my photos a few weeks ago onto DVDs. The last six months or so of photos that I hadn't backed up are mostly on my Flickr account [fkr] so that is not a major problem. Sadly I've lost a great deal of writing, and while most of it was just scraps and fragments it's still gone. Most of it I have backups in the real world, with the eVent! articles and a lot of the Phoenix stuff in boxes in storage. Some of it though is just gone. All of which makes me wish I'd have been more diligent keeping my writing archive site up-to-date [teotw].
It is though a clean slate, a chance to start again. My Macbook is running considerably faster with it's freshly erased and near empty hard drive than it was with a nearly full drive with programs and files migrated through three other Apple laptops (an iBook and two Powerbooks).
My only worry is whether I'll be able to reinstall Adobe CS2. I've got the actual purchased discs, but for some reason the registration code didn't work last time I tried to install it.
Now though I should be back to blogging on a more regular basis. Well, hopefully.
Nathan and I have been working on a podcast. Well that's to say we recorded it a bit over a month ago and he's been doing the heavy lifting editing required to bang it into shape. So now that he's done the hard work of editing, I'm onto the fairly easy work of distribution. That's right, he's the talent and I'm the manager. Or something like that.
Either way the podcast is quite a bit longer than we'll try to have it in the future. I'm thinking closer to around thirty minutes is long enough, more than that and we start to get more annoying than we naturally are. My voice in particular isn't something I'm particularly keen on, but since it's the only one I got I'll make do. If you're wanting to hear the podcast via the internet, then head over to my .Me page [.me] and you can listen to it there. Otherwise you can download the file below, or click on the Podcast feed on the right to subscribe in iTunes or an RSS reader.
Next episode will be in a couple of years at our rate of production.
Comments are, as always, welcome.
Photo by Lydia Skinner