Still Alive and Kicking!

Very, very busy!

Just a quick note to let regular readers know that I’m still among the living.

I’ve been incredibly busy since that last post with a trip to AZ for more divorce bullshit, a week-long vacation in the San Juan Islands with a friend, some earth work at my building site, and a lot of electrical and plumbing work in my building and shed. I hope to blog about a bunch of this stuff very soon.

Until then, stay tuned. And remember, you can always use the form in the sidebar to subscribe to new posts as they are published so you don’t miss a thing.

Viddler Content Being Pulled

I guess I deserve that for putting so many eggs in one questionable basket.

Back in 2008, I discovered Viddler, a site for sharing videos. For some reason I’ve long since forgotten, I decided that it was a better way to host my blog’s video content. I embraced it and uploaded dozens of videos to Viddler, embedding them in blog posts. I even went a step farther and wrote articles explaining to other WordPress uses how they could embed their Viddler videos in their blog posts.

Silly me.

Earlier this year, Viddler pulled the plug on all of its free accounts. Because I hadn’t used the service for so long, they did not have an up-to-date email address for me and I did not get notification of the change. As a result, I was unable to retrieve copies of my videos from their service. Now, if I want them, I have to pay a fee.

Yes, I have to pay a fee to get copies of my own videos from their service.

Needless to say, I’m not paying.

Understand that I don’t make a penny on this blog. I removed all the advertising years ago and don’t even ask for donations anymore. My hosting fees are low enough that I don’t mind footing the bill for that, but I simply can’t pay for additional services — like those offered for a fee now by Viddler. I need to stick to low-cost or free alternatives for anything related to my blog.

No More ViddlerA total of 65 of my blog posts contain references to Viddler and/or embedded Viddler content — including “video blog posts” I was creating back in 2009. I’ll be spending some time today editing these posts to remove the bad embedding code. I suspect I’ll wind up simply deleting a lot of these posts in their entirety.

There are two valuable lessons to be learned here:

  • Keep copies of all of your content. I know I have copies of the “lost videos” somewhere, but they’re likely packed with the rest of my office stuff. Or maybe they aren’t. Who knows? The point is, uploading them to a service isn’t necessarily any way to assure that they’ll always be available.
  • Stick to services that aren’t likely to change payment policies. YouTube has become the go-to service for sharing video for a reason: it’s free and it will remain free forever. In addition, being a part of a big company like Google makes it unlikely that it’ll shut down or be sold anytime soon. New services spring up all the time and they often seem like good alternatives for one reason or another. But will they stick around forever? And maintain their current cost policies?

At this point, anyone who has been involved in technology for at least 10 years can likely list several online services that have disappeared or changed policies. Viddler is one of the latest. It’s unfortunate that I relied on them the way I did.

Construction Posts a Big Hit

A quick note about site stats.

I just wanted to share a quick note about this blog and the new home construction posts I’ve been sharing for about a month now.

Traffic Stats
The weekly stats for this blog clearly show a consistent overall rise in hits since May 20.

I can only assume that the huge bump in popularity of this blog is due to the construction posts — the timing of the bump roughly corresponds to the timing of the first few construction posts. Site stats show about a 100% increase in total blog hits beginning around that time. The fact that these posts are on the radar (so to speak) is confirmed by a recent request by an advertiser to place a banner ad for construction materials on the site. (I don’t do advertising so you won’t see the ad here.)

What’s odd, however, is that none of the construction posts have ever appeared as the most popular post on any given day. For the past few years, the post with the most hits is “The Real Cost of Helicopter Ownership,” which gets about 60 hits almost every day. The construction posts fall at various points below that and sometimes don’t even appear on the list of the 10 ten posts for the day. Instead, older posts about flying and my divorce remain very popular every day.

So why the bump? I suspect it’s an overall increase in “Google Juice” — the mysterious calculation that makes sites appear high in Google’s search results. Somehow the construction posts have caused a rise in my site’s page rank, which had taken a hit when GoDaddy and Bluehost Hosting caused numerous slowdowns and errors. When a site’s response time is slow, Google page rank suffers. About half of each day’s hits come from Google searches with a handful of others from other search engines.

Is this boring? Probably. But I’m a stats person and this information fascinates me.

And I’m thrilled about the new attention this blog is getting.

Yes, I’m Still Around

But busy having a life and dealing with it.

I know I’ve been neglecting this blog when my sister mentions that I haven’t posted anything new in a while. Oops.

Truth is, I’ve been busy. House guest, cell phone lost on mountain top, two days of aerial survey work, rush to finish a writing job, plan a last minute vacation, search for a lost dog, cancel last-minute vacation, find lost dog, etc.

Life. Sometimes it interrupts blogging.

But wouldn’t you want it that way? I’m not complaining.

(Although I could have done without that lost dog episode.)

New Subscription Feature Delivers Full-Text Content from this Site

Another way to get new content here.

A while back, I switched to summary post format for RSS feeds. I did this, in part, to stop the feed scraping activity that was violating my copyright to the contents of this site. This disappointed a lot of people. They apparently preferred reading content in their RSS reader application or via email instead of coming to this site.

While I understand the convenience of reading sites in a feedreader — I use a reader on my iPad to keep up with my favorite sites — I don’t have enough subscribers to justify putting my content at risk for scraping. And I figured that people who really wanted to read what’s new here would take the extra effort to follow the link in their feed reader or email notification to go to the site. Hell, it only takes one extra step.

In the meantime, the WordPress folks added a new subscription feature that makes this kind of moot — provided you like to read new content via email. They’ve added email subscription capabilities. Extremely easy for bloggers to configure, it adds a subscription widget to the sidebar. All the reader has to do is enter his/her email address and click a button. Moments later, an email confirmation message arrives in their inbox. Click the link in that message to start the subscription.

Sample MessageThe resulting email messages are nicely formatted to present the entire contents of the blog post. This is an example from earlier in the week; I subscribed to test it out. I chose the HTML format, but there’s also a plain text format. This even looks good in a mobile device like an iPad.

Links in each message give you easy access to settings and the ability to unsubscribe at any time. In addition, all of your subscriptions to WordPress sites are maintained in the same place, so it’s easy to modify settings for all of them at once. In addition to email format, you can also specify delivery frequency: immediate, daily, or weekly. The Delivery Frequency settings lets you specify what time of day or day or the week you prefer. You can even click a check box to temporarily turn off the email messages when you think you might be too busy to read them.

I think this is a great compromise between full-text RSS feeds and summary feeds. After all, if you want the convenience of new content delivered to your mailbox, you have it. My content is protected from feed scraping because it never appears in an RSS feed. But if you prefer to check in via RSS reader, you can continue to do so as you may already be doing — you’ll just need to take the extra step of clicking a link to read the full text of a post that interests you.

What do you think? Your comments are appreciated.

A New Look

This site was long overdue for a facelift.

Last night, on impulse, I switched this site’s theme from a highly modified version of iNove to WordPress’s brand-new Twenty Eleven. Unless I’ve had an impulse to change it again since writing this, you’re probably looking at it right now.

The site was long overdue for the change. A while back, in an effort to show off more of my photos, I’d added a plugin to pull thumbnail images from my photo gallery and arrange them as clickable links in the header. I realized belatedly that this seriously slowed down the loading of the site. Some people even commented about it. Something had to be done.

There are several reasons it took so long to make the change:

  • I couldn’t find a theme I liked. Really. I have a terrible time imagining how I could modify a theme to meet my own needs.
  • Most themes I liked either looked too “bloggy” or too “magaziney.” I couldn’t find one in between that I could imagine changing.
  • I couldn’t find a theme that had built-in support for mobile devices.
  • I didn’t have the time to sit down and do the work necessary to make major modifications to a theme.
  • I actually liked the way my site looked with its current setup.

But after upgrading the site to WordPress 3.2, I noticed a brand new theme: Twenty Eleven. Like its predecessor, Twenty Ten, it had clean lines and a lot of built-in features. It also had the benefit of being created by the makers of WordPress, so I knew it would be compatible and show off WordPress features. Working with it would give me a good opportunity to dive into theme customization again. Even though I didn’t have time to play with it right away, there would be plenty of opportunities to tweak it over the coming weeks and months.

And if there’s something I really enjoy doing, it’s tweaking a WordPress theme to suit my needs.

So yesterday, I made the switch. And this morning, I dumped a few of my own images into the random header folder to personalize it enough for prime time.

I’ll be modifying it as time goes on. Would love to know what you think and am open to suggestions for changes. Use the comments link — well, “Reply” link right now; it’s on my list to change — to share your thoughts.

More Blog Posts…Soon

Still very busy, getting ready to relocate, but the end is near.

First of all, you need to understand that I really do like writing in this blog. It makes me feel good to post something each morning as I enjoy my morning coffee. Whether it’s a poorly disguised rant or a detailed account of my latest helicopter trip, it feels good to get the words out and share them with others. I am, after all, a writer at heart and writers need to write.

And that’s actually what I’m doing. I’m working on a revision to a 600+ page book and am about 3/4 finished. There’s a very tight deadline — one I’m not sure I’m going to make this time (don’t tell my editor) — and I’ve been working my ass off on it, getting very burned out in the process. I’m not complaining; this one book earns a whole year’s income so it’s worth what I put into it. But it does leave me too tired and burned out to write in this blog — and not really enough time to do it right anyway.

But the end is near! I’ll soon be repositioning my helicopter and RV to Washington State for the summer. (My house-sitter is already installed to care for the fish and backyard birds and keep an eye on things.) Once there, I’ll finish up the book and have a lot more time for other projects, including some videos and, of course, this blog.

Between now and then, I’ll be making two trips from Phoenix to Washington. On one, I’ll be a passenger in my own helicopter for a day or two. On the other, I’ll be driving my “rig” on a two to three day journey through Arizona, Nevada, Idaho, and Washington. On both trips, I won’t be writing about computers. So I expect to have a clear enough head to share some stories about the trips. Maybe some photos, too. With both hands free in the helicopter, I’ll have no trouble taking photos.

So bear with me just a little longer. New blog posts will come soon. I promise.