MacVoices Interview Now Online

Scott McNulty and I talk to Chuck Joiner about WordPress.

One of the things I like to do — but don’t get a chance to do very often these days — is talk to podcasters and other media people about the projects I’ve worked on.

MacVoices LogoEarlier this month, I got a chance to do just that with Chuck Joiner, the host of the MacVoices podcast. For the first time ever, Chuck did a double interview, killing two birds with one stone as he spoke to author Scott McNulty and I about WordPress. During the Interview, we talked about our separate WordPress-related projects and how they might be used together to help someone learn the ins and outs of using WordPress.

Here’s the blurb on the MacVoices Web site:

Thinking of starting a blog with WordPress? Maria Langer, the author of Self-Hosting a WordPress Site and WordPress.Com 2.7 Essential Training on Lynda.com and Scott McNulty, the author of Building a WordPress Blog People Want to Read, share some tips from their respective projects to help you make the right choices. Maria and Scott talk about deciding on using WordPress.com or selecting your own host, one-click vs. user installs, why permalink structure is one of the first things you should think about, and finding and customizing a theme for your blog and more. Backup options, favorite plug-ins and why their video and book compliment each other are discussed.

If you’d like to hear the podcast, you can download it directly from its page on the MacVoices Web site.

Five Years Blogging

How time flies.

Yesterday, while I was busy working — yes, I do work, too — I missed a major milestone in my writing life: my fifth anniversary as a blogger.

I latched on to blogging very early. I saw it for how it was originally intended, as a “Web log” or journal. I’d been wanting to keep a journal of my life and thoughts but could never stick with it. By blogging these things, I put it out there for feedback from others. With an audience, I felt a good reason to write these journal entries. I kept it up.

For five years.

I started blogging on October 15, 2003 with an offline blogging tool called iBlog. I’d use it to compose blog entries offline. When it was time to publish, iBlog would generate all the HTML necessary to create all of the pages for the blog. Publishing was time-consuming, especially as the blog grew in size. It was published to my .Mac disk space and co-existed with my Web site.

In 2004, when I went up to the Grand Canyon to fly helicopter tours, I found it necessary to start a new blog so I could blog from my laptop. This was a shortcoming of iBlog and it soon drove me nuts. Later the same year, I found a way to synchronize my two blogs back into one.

In August 2005, I discovered podcasting. I set up a podcast using Blogger (of all things). Maria Speaks was born. I podcasted quite regularly for a while, but have since let things slide. I hope to pick up podcasting again soon. In the meantime, I discovered AudioFeed Creator, which automatically translates all of my blog posts — including this one! — into an audible podcast feed.

In December 2005, I finally saw the light and switched to WordPress. While I was brave enough to install it on my own Mac OS X Server — and even got it to work! — server problems convinced me to move it to a hosting service. It’s been there, running smoothly, ever since.

All this time, I’d been blogging about whatever I felt like. This included the kinds of “days in my life” posts you find here, as well as how-to articles I wrote for the readers of my computer books. But in November 2007, I decided to split off all the computer articles into their own blog-based site called Maria’s Guides. There was a lot of technical tasks required to pull that off without 404 errors, but I think I did a good job. Sadly, I’ve been neglecting Maria’s Guides a bit lately. I’d rather think — and write — about other things.

That brings us pretty close to today. My blog continues to chug along on the Internet, with me at the helm. I enjoy the ability to say what I want in a forum where others can read and comment on it. I enjoy the interaction with most (but admittedly not all) readers. I find it amazing when certain posts become extremely popular. For example, “Flying At Lake Powell” has been read nearly 19,000 times since it was written in April 2006 and “Cynical Humor” — which is based on content sent to me by a friend — was read more than 2,000 times just the other day. Other blog posts have resulted in a chain of comments which add valuable information to the original post. “The Helicopter Job Market,” which has been read over 18,000 times and has collected 75 comments so far, is a good example.

So yesterday, with no fanfare at all, the fifth anniversary of my first blog post came and went. If it weren’t for a recent reader comment that my blog is “as big as the Grand Canyon,” I would have forgotten this milestone completely. But the comment made me think.

It should be big. I’ve been at it for five years.

This Blog Now Available as Podcast

Let a computer read it to you.

A few weeks ago, I quietly added a few feature to this blog, mostly as a test. Provided by AudioFeed Creator, it automatically creates audio files from the text in my blog entries. Visitors can then subscribe to the audio content as podcasts or listen to individual entries from their Web browser or Web-enabled mobile phone.

AudioFeed Creator LogoAll of this is done automatically for me, based on my full-text RSS feed. And no, there isn’t a group of people locked up in a room and forced to read all these blog entries aloud into a microphone. AudioFeed Creator uses voice synthesis. The result is actually pretty darn good.

Best of all, it’s free.

At this point, I’m considering the experiment a success. The entries are being created on a timely basis and they’re easy to listen to and understand. There’s absolutely no effort on my part. It seems like a complete no-brainer to add this feature to the site permanently.

Who might listen to it, other than people who like my words of wisdom read to them by a computer? I can see only two other groups:

  • People who like to follow this blog and have more time to listen (usually while on long drives) than read.
  • People with visual problems who can’t read the blog at all.

This second point makes is pretty clear that the audio feed adds accessibility to this site. While I realize that accessibility issues are important overseas, it’s something that most U.S. based blogs ignore. I’m not an accessibility expert, but I assume that making each blog post audible must increase accessibility somehow.

Anyway, I invite you to try it out for yourself. Let me know what you think by adding your comments to this post.

And if you have a blog with a full-text RSS feed, why not give AudioFeed Creator a try?

Now if only I could figure out how to change the voice to a female’s.

Maria Speaks Episode 37: KBSZ Interview

Maria Speaks Episode 37: KBSZ Interview.

I was interviewed yet again by local radio station KBSZ 1250-AM. Pete’s a great interviewer and always makes his guests feel comfortable. We talked for about 40 minutes, mostly about the Internet and flying. You’ll hear my layman’s explanation of my recent experience getting seriously Dugg. Keep in mind that the station’s audience isn’t exactly computer savvy, so I do a lot of explaining and simplifying when discussing some computer topics.

This podcast starts in the middle of a commercial; the interview starts about a minute in.

February 17, 2010 Update: KBSZ went under back in 2009. The Web site was taken down and all podcasts removed. As a result, the podcast of this episode is no longer available. Sorry!

NPR Playback

An excellent podcast for those interested in history.

Last October, National Public Radio (NPR) began a new monthly series called Playback. Each month, the show explores the stories that were making news on NPR 25 years before.

NPR PlaybackI’d heard commercials for the podcast on the other NPR podcasts I listen to, but never got around to checking this one out. This past week, I found NPR Playback on iTunes and subscribed.

The show is hosted by Kerry Thompson. She introduces segments with a few facts and plays actual news stories and interviews from those days. Some segments include current-day interviews with NPR reporters who were covering the story back then. Each monthly 20- to 30-minute episode is an amazing look back at the past, brought into perspective by the events that came afterward.

For me, however, I think it’s more interesting. 25 years ago, I was just getting out of college, starting my new and independent life. News was going on around me, but I was only 21 and how many 21-year-olds really think much about world events? Playback brings these events back to the forefront of my memory and gives me the information I need to think about them as an adult with a more fine-tuned sense of what’s going on in the world, what’s wrong, and what’s right. I can think about these events the way I would have if I’d been 46 back then. It’s helping me understand what the world was like in the early 80s and why it has become what it is today.

I can’t say enough positive things about this podcast. If you’re interested in history and world events, give it a try. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

You can learn more on the NPR Playback page of the NPR Podcast Directory, on NPR.org.