Blogging


SABWhen I started this blog a few months ago I decided to try out the free, hosted version of WordPress (at wordpress.com). With things beginning to grow, however, it feels like the right time to switch back to my preferred CMS – Movable Type.

You’ll find the site at its new home at scottandrewbird.com. Pull up a chair; make yourself comfortable.

Why switch at all?

Most of my sites are running on Movable Type – and have been for several years. A large part of the decision to switch was simply based on the fact that I’m comfortable with MT. This certainly isn’t a WordPress vs Movable Type thing.

Transferring the content

No doubt there’s a simple way to transfer data from a free, hosted installation of WordPress to Movable Type 3.x . After spending a few hours looking for it (I like to automate things like that), I ended up just copying the data across manually. This didn’t include the comments; they’re still available on the old site if necessary.

A couple of thoughts for anyone who’s considering the WordPress -> Movable Type Move :

Currently, WordPress and Movable Type use very different formats for their exported site data (for backups). I haven’t yet taken a good look at the beta of the upcoming Movable Type 4.0 (which boasts far too many improvements to take in at a glance), but the WP 2.x vs MT 3.x situation is :

WordPress 2.x exports posts in a slightly customised XML format is calls WXR. The files exported here can be easily imported into other WordPress installations, but require a fair bit of tweaking before Movable Type 3.x understands them.

Movable Type 3.x by contrast still makes use of formatted text files. As with the WordPress files, there’s no problem importing these files into other MT 3.x installations; the challenges begin when the destination application changes.

One solution to the WordPress -> Movable Type problem is provided here; unfortunately that is aimed solely at self-installed versions of WordPress; not the freely hosted environments provided at wordpress.com. If anyone knows of a similar script to convert local files prior to import, I’d love to hear about it.

del.icio.usAfter my recent bookmark clean-up I’ve been getting re-acquainted with del.icio.us. I used it for a while a couple of years ago, and the few things that frustrated me then have now been fixed (primarily in the working of the Firefox add-on). It’s definitely time to dive right in.

After importing a few thousand bookmarks, one of the first things I did – perhaps a little vainly – was to bookmark a few of my own sites, just to see who was also saving them. I discovered a few people with similar interests that way; so it seems that even vanity has a positive aspect.

Now to streamline that process a little.

The quickest way I found to track a number of things regarding my sites has been through XML feeds, and this is no exception. To set up a feed which will let you know each time your site is bookmarked :

  • surf to del.icio.us/url
  • enter the address of your site
  • copy/paste the RSS link at the bottom of the page into your favourite feed reader

That’s it. Now you’ll be notified of new admirers whenever they appear.

del.icio.us bookmarksI currently use two computers, each with very similar setups – OSX, Firefox and thousands of bookmarks. Those bookmarks are different on each machine.

At least they were.

The cleanup fell into two distinct phases:

  • getting rid of the excess and putting them online (where they’re easy to share)
  • syncing the online bookmarks with the local machines

For now – today at least – I decided to tackle the first part. That would at least leave me with nothing to manage locally.

The process was broken down into the following :

Remove duplicates

For Firefox users, the simplest way to do this is with the BookmarksDD add-on. This is available from mozdev.org and it’s use is fairly self-explanatory.

Unfortunately it only deletes one duplicate at a time, so it may take a while; I’d suggest moving everything into just a handful of folders for now (and setting it to automatic).

NB : Don’t forget to take a backup of your bookmarks before you start deleting things. Just in case.

Manually delete unwanted bookmarks

Once the add-on has cleaned things up a little, you’ll probably see a number of bookmarks that really shouldn’t be there at all (especially if you use the ‘bookmark all tabs’ feature occasionally). Go through and delete any you find.

Sort into folders

Now’s the time to put everything back into folders. No need to get too carried away here; it will, however, help del.icio.us tag things (the folder names you choose will become the starting tags for the import).

Export bookmarks

Open your bookmarks (Bookmarks -> Organize Bookmarks) and export them to a file somewhere (File -> Export). The simplest place is your desktop.

Login to del.icio.us and import bookmarks

Head over to del.icio.us and either open an account (free) or sign in to an existing one. Once you’re in, under Settings you’ll find an Import/Upload option. Follow the instructions and import the file you saved above.

Tidy them up and share them

By default the newly uploaded bookmarks aren’t public. Go through them and share them as desired. This is also a good time to perform any minor editing of their saved names.

Delete the local bookmarks

Once you’ve made sure that everything looks fine online – and ensuring you have a local backup, in case of disaster – delete your local bookmarks. Most of them, anyway (it’s always handy to have a few for regular things such as your webmail account).

Next (hopefully tomorrow) comes the interesting part; syncing the online bookmarks with each computer. Should be fun.

Skinned GmailI love using Gmail; and have used it as my primary email application for a couple of years now. The reasons for this lie in its power and flexibility, rather than its appearance. For a great piece of software, it looks as though the front-end was an afterthought. And that’s being charitable.

If you find yourself in the same boat, you’ll be pleased to know that there’s a growing community of users out there who are bent on tweaking the design. Same interface, different CSS. Simple.

Personally I’ve only tried this on Firefox – my weapon of choice. However, I’m sure it won’t be long before other browsers follow suit; and I’d love to hear from anyone that’s got everything working with one of them.

The process for Firefox is simple. Copy the code below, paste it into your favourite text editor, and save it as userContent.css (as plain text). Place the file in Firefox’s ‘chrome’ directory. Restart Firefox.

Log in to Gmail, and things should look quite different. Modify the CSS to suit your own taste, logout and restart Firefox. Repeat as necessary.

A note on the userContent.css – this was written by chezar, commenting on this article over at Persistent Info. Despite the article’s age, everything works just fine.

The code itself

Here is the CSS code. Just copy/paste it into a text editor and save it as userContent.css. Enjoy.

@-moz-document url-prefix(mail.google.com/mail/), domain(mail.google.com)
{
body{
background-color: #ebe2cd !important;
}

/* header image */
div#ds_inbox img {
display: none !important;
}

div#ds_inbox {
display: block !important;
background-image: url(http://skingmail.com/images/gmaillogo.gif) !important;
width: 143px !important;
height: 59px !important;
background-repeat: no-repeat !important;
}

/* regular links */
span.lk,
a.lc,
a.lk
{
text-decoration: none !important;
color: #9f3638 !important;
}

/* read/unread row colors */
table.tlc tr.ur {
background-color: #d3cbb8 !important;
}

table.tlc tr.rr {
background-color: #ebe2cd !important;
}

table.tlc tr.ur td,
table.tlc tr.rr td{
border: 0 !important;
}

/* message hovering snippet expansion */
table.tlc tr.ur:hover,
table.tlc tr.rr:hover{
background-color: #ffc !important;
}

table.tlc tr.ur:hover td,
table.tlc tr.rr:hover td{
border-width: 1px 0 1px 0 !important;
border-color: black !important;
border-style: solid !important;
vertical-align: top !important;
}

table.tlc tr.ur:hover .sn,
table.tlc tr.rr:hover .sn{
display: block !important;
white-space: normal !important;
}

/* and email address display */
table.tlc tr.ur:hover td span,
table.tlc tr.rr:hover td span {
display: block;
}

/* labels should still be inline */
table.tlc tr.ur:hover td span.ct,
table.tlc tr.rr:hover td span.ct{
display: inline;
}

table.tlc tr.ur:hover td span[id]:after,
table.tlc tr.rr:hover td span[id]:after{
content: attr(id);
display: block;
margin-left: -38px; /* hack to hide “user_” id prefix */
color: #b6af9e;
}

/* sidebar links */
div#nav table.cv,
div#nav table.cv td {
background: #ebe2cd !important;
}

table.cv td.tl,
table.cv td.bl {
height: 0 !important;
}

/* both current and other */
table.cv td span.lk,
div.nl span.lk{
display: block !important;
background: #d3cbb8 !important;
border: solid 1px #b5ae9f !important;
-moz-border-radius: 6px !important;
padding: 2px !important;
margin-right: 5px !important;
}

/* just the current one */
table.cv td span.lk {
background: #d3cbb8 !important;
border: solid 1px #b5ae9f !important;
}

/* unselected ones */
div.nl span.lk {
background: #ebe2cd !important;
border: solid 1px #ebe2cd !important;
}

div.nl span.lk:hover {
background: #d3cbb8 !important;
border-color: #b5ae9f !important;
}

/* hide “New!” super-script */
div#nav sup {
display: none !important;
}

/* side border */
div#co div {
border: 0 !important;
}

/* top/bottom bar */
div#tc_top table,
div#tc_top table td.tl,
div#tc_top table td.tr,
div#tc_top table.th,

div#tc_bot table,
div#tc_bot table td.bl,
div#tc_bot table td.br,
div#tc_bot table.th{
background: none !important;
}

div#co div#tc_top,
div#co div#tc_bot {
border: solid 1px black !important;
-moz-border-radius: 8px !important;
padding: 2px !important;
margin: 5px 0 5px 0 !important;
background: #d3cbb8 !important;
}

/* selection links in bar */
div#co div#tc_top span.l,
div#co div#tc_bot span.l{
color: #9f3638 !important;
}

/* mailbox contents */
div#co div#tbd {
background: #ebe2cd !important;
border: solid 1px black !important;
-moz-border-radius: 8px !important;
padding: 4px 0 4px 0 !important;
}

/* labels */
div#nb_0 {
background: none;
padding: 0;
margin: 0;
border: 0;
}

div#nb_0 div {
background: none;
padding: 0px;
margin: 0;
border: 0;
}

div#nb_0 div div {
border: solid 1px #56765e;
-moz-border-radius: 6px !important;
padding: 0 1px 0 0 !important;
}

div#nb_0 div div div {
border: 0 !important;
padding: 0 !important;
background: none !important;
-moz-border-radius: 0 !important;
}

div#nb_0 div.s,
div#nb_0 div.h{
padding: 1px 3px 0 3px !important;
background: none !important;
border-bottom: solid 1px #56765e !important;
-moz-opacity: 0.5;
}

div#nb_0 table,
div#nb_0 table td.tl,
div#nb_0 table td.tr,
div#nb_0 table td.bl,
div#nb_0 table td.br {
background: none !important;
}

div#nb_0 table.nb {
background: #d0e7c5 !important;
-moz-border-radius-bottomright: 6 !important;
-moz-border-radius-bottomleft: 6 !important;
}

div#nb_0 table.nb div.lk {
text-decoration: none !important;
margin: 3px 0 0 3px !important;
}

/* edit labels links */
div#nb_0 table.nb div#prf_l {
margin-right: 50px !important;
-moz-opacity: 0.7 !important;
}

/* hide invite link */
#il {
display: none !important;
}

/* hide footer */
div#ft {
display: none !important;
}
}

WritingCompetitions are always great; especially when then involve both writing and prizes. Copyblogger currently has one that does just that. Very interesting.

Incidentally, the starting point for the landing page is this one for Straight to the Bar. I’m looking forward to the challenge.

Clock faceWhen people first realise just how many blogs I maintain, the first thing they always ask is ‘Where do you find the time to write all of that stuff?’. Here’s a look at how I generally go about it.

Firstly, only a few of my sites are updated daily. Of these, only one – Straight to the Bar – regularly contains ‘time-critical’ content. Things which are in the news or on other blogs.

The remaining oft-updated sites (this blog and 99 shades of grey, an environmental site) contain articles that can be written in advance. In fact, they usually are.

I’ve effectively reversed the typical 5 day / 2 day week; in which most people work 5 days then take 2 days’ break. I work solidly for 2 days, and perform minor maintenance duties on the remaining 5. Oh, and spend 5 days enjoying the things that most people only have a weekend to enjoy.

How does this actually work?

During Saturday and Sunday each week I aim to write 5 articles for this blog, 5 for 99 shades of grey and at least one major one for Straight to the Bar (whilst many posts on the site are quite brief, the Monday article series’ more than make up for this). I don’t always reach my target 11 pieces, but that’s always the goal.

Any articles that are not written during these two days are simply written as required during the week. Perhaps 2 or 3 are done this way.

NB : these articles are always written in a simple text editor (usually just TextEdit), and are not transferred to the relevant blogs until complete.

Once the weekend’s frenzied writing is over, the articles are copied to the blogs, links created and images found. This part of the process can itself take quite some time. The articles are then scheduled to appear automatically during the week. Whilst I’m usually there to oversee the final stage (the actual publishing), it doesn’t really matter if I’m not. The article is still released into the wild.

How did I switch from a 5-day-week to a 2-day-week?

I can assure you, it didn’t happen overnight. More to the point, I actually changed from a 7-day work week to essentially a 2 day one.

This was accomplished through two types of changes :

  • Improved efficiency. Through a number of means (many of which are the basis of their own articles), I reduced the time it took to do things. As an example, the time I spend checking email dropped from around 2 hours to 30 minutes per day.
  • Self-employment. Once I was self employed, this type of switch became possible. It’s rarely feasible when you work for someone else – the idea itself sounds unusual to say the least.

Future improvements

I quickly discovered that spending time actively working on my personal development has one major long-term benefit : the drive never stops. There’s always a new way of looking at things, and a more efficient method to perform any substantial task.

Whilst I rarely share my concrete goals with the world, I will say that the current amount of time (2 days per week + maintenance) should be much smaller by this time next year. Much, much smaller.

Chitika BlogBash 2007Just came across a great blogging resource via Darren Rowse’s Problogger : the Chitika BlogBash 2007 eBook. Free download (there’s a direct link to the .pdf on that page, no forms to fill in). Excellent.

Next Page »