Category Archives: Blogging

Sorkin On Writing

I saw this write up about Aaron Sorkin and the writing on Newsroom just after posting Blogging-Write More and found the part about meeting a weekly deadline for a series interesting – hugely paraphrased he says that you have to write it and let it go, there just isn’t time for perfection. If you think you feel pressure about blogging, how would it feel to write a TV show and send an episode to production knowing it’s not perfect?

You and I get to practice on a much smaller stage and with a much more forgiving audience.  It doesn’t mean we can be lazy, but it does mean we can make some mistakes and live to write more another day. Go write something.

Blogging-Write More

Blogging isn’t easy. You have to come up with a topic, write about it, and then release it for the world to see. That’s three kinds of pressure. Now most of us don’t have hundreds or thousands of readers, but the pressure is still there, and it can lead to the trap of not writing. Not writing because you don’t have any ideas, not writing because someone has already written about it, not writing because you don’t have time or energy to write it perfectly, maybe even not writing because no one reads the posts or comments on them. Here’s my Zen advice: write more. Write about things that interest you, that you learn about, that you care about. Posts don’t need to be an arbitrary length. Post a sentence, a paragraph, or more – whatever you feel like writing. Blogging is about writing. Just write.

Does writing more make you a better writer? Yes and no. Like most things in life if you do it enough you get past syntax, past the fear of saying “it’s done, you can look at it”. Writing more, especially quickly, isn’t going to magically improve your spelling and grammar. Work on it,or not, as you prefer. Writing more will make you better at taking thoughts from your head and getting them into a shareable format. That has value far beyond blogging. It will change how and when you communicate, especially via email.

How long does it take before it gets easier? It’s not 5 posts, it’s probably not 50. At 50 you’re making progress and somewhere between there and 500 you feel like you can at least write about a topic when needed and you’re a lot – a lot! – better at finding topics.

Want to take a break from writing? Absolutely! Just put a post up that says you’re on break. To me that looks so much better than a blog that is active, then abandoned. Which do you think looks better then the next client/employer happens across it?

I’ve written this in about 5 minutes and it probably shows. I’ve got an hours worth of thoughts on this, but I don’t know when I’ll find that hour, so I’d rather put this out now and maybe, just maybe, spur someone to start, or resume, writing.

Embedding Flash Video in a Blog Post

I recently needed to figure out how to embed Flash streaming video in a blog post. LiveWriter does Youtube ok and I thought about moving the content, but was looking for something I could get done faster. I had used the JWPlayer for streaming on a web page and they had a WordPress plug-in so I started there.

Installing the plug-in was painless. If you add the video via their tools it adds the video (which can be externally hosted) to the media library and then references the mediaID. In the blog post you end up with a shortcode, like this (I changed [ and ] to { and } so you can see the code:

{jwplayer mediaid=1}

Worked fine, just more work than I wanted to do a couple hundred times. A quick experiment verified that you can skip the mediaid – if minimalist works for you – and just reference the file directly:

{jwplayer file=”rtmp://……..my.flv”}

Maybe there is a better way, but this worked fine. Lots of config options if you want to do more with it.

Updating to Live Writer 2012

My 2011 version of Live Writer didn’t seem to want to embed a Vimeo video, so I checked for an update and was surprised to see that a new version of Live Writer was released in August. I’ve always been happy with the product, so I decided to upgrade to see what was new.

It’s part of the Essentials pack. Starting the install gave me the option to only update Writer, not install the other stuff, though it did force me to replace Live Mesh (which I don’t use any more anyway) with Skydrive (which I don’t use right now either). Smooth upgrade other than a required reboot, presumably due to Skydrive.

I’d like to tell you about the new features of 2012, but I don’t see any. Didn’t see any obvious change at all. Searched some and found some worry that it might or might not be supported in Windows 8 (hard to imagine it wouldn’t run) and a post about Writer alternatives if you want to plan for the worst – though none seem to be quite as good.

Maybe there is something new I don’t see?

Writer is mature, has a decent plug-in architecture, works well, and is free. A lot of what makes it good is that it’s light and targeted, it’s not MS Word. I’ve wished at times for a grammar checker, but not much else. Maybe the right thing is to keep it in maintenance mode and not try to add features just to justify an upgrade.

Still,I can’t help but be annoyed.

Bloggers–Don’t Make It Hard to Comment

Lately I’ve hit a couple blogs that wanted me to enter some kind of credentials before I could post a comment. On my laptop that’s fine, I have the credentials stored and available, but on a different machine I rarely can remember them. Most blogs also have the option to just enter an email address and a name, but these didn’t – and so they didn’t get my comment.

Comments are hard to come by. It takes precious little to have someone – me at least – decide it’s too much effort. Let Askimet spot the spam, or enable moderation, but don’t get so caught up in spam that you put up barriers to your readers.

The Brain Dump Blog

I was chatting with a friend recently and he said he could never blog the way I do. Which way is that? His take was I just dump my thoughts, and that doing so required some amount of courage to put unpolished thoughts out for reading by others.

I haven’t ever thought of the way I write as courageous, and probably won’t. I write to think, and the way I do that doesn’t require every idea to get fully and perfectly written. I enjoy sharing some of my thoughts and ideas, but I don’t – at least right now – worry about page views or popularity. I write to think, to grow. It’s a lot like the conversation we’d have if we sat down to talk about this topic right now.

That’s my style. You get to pick your style. Be who you are. Try to be better, try new things. Or not. In the end, you can write, or not. I hope you’ll write.

Need a Blogging Nudge? Try Plinky

If you want to blog you need ideas, something to write about, and sometimes that leads to the blank stare as you realize you have no ideas in mind right then. Enter Plinky. It gives you a topic to write about every day (if you need one that often!). I’m not saying you should just live on Plinky alone, but it gives you a starting point, a problem to solve using your writing skills.

Here’s an example from today:

image

Wrapping Up 2011 and a Blog Break

I’m writing this on December 17th, thinking back on 2011, and it has been a good year. Not always simple or going where I thought it would go, but a good year. 2012 will bring more change as I finish my current work project in April or so and decide what to do next. Not easy to know. Not bad to have to figure it out, an interesting puzzle.

I have some other ideas that need some thought, so I’m going to take a break from blogging so I can put that time into thinking. I’ll be back sometime in January, and by then hopefully I’ll have decided where I want to spend my time in 2012.

Wishing you all a happy and safe New Year!

WordPress 3.1 on SQL Server

I’m now running WordPress on SQL 2008 R2 SQL Express, no issues with posting and related items, haven’t loaded many plugins yet so it will be a while before I can tell you that everything works well. It seems to be a decent setup, you install a must-use (MU) plugin and aside from putting a file called fields_map.parsed_types.php in the wp-content folder it’s all in once place.

If you want to give it a try, this page is definitely the source. Good instructions, I was able to get it running without much problem on IIS 7 and then got stuck with some kind of permission problem where I couldn’t get it working from the outside network. I suspect that was lack of IIS 7 experience or some server weirdness, because the initial set up went fine. I used the MS Web Installer for PHP, the SQL driver, and some related items, and then downloaded the SQL specific WP distribution. Finally I gave up on the IIS 7 plan and put it on a different server with IIS 5 and that worked fine, even with pointing it back to the first server that had the data. I don’t know that my experience is typical – if you look at the directions it’s a straight forward list of steps.

It’s a relief to be back on SQL Server, back in my comfort zone. Nothing wrong with MySQL for blog hosting (or many other things),but the combination of less mature tools and me having more experience with SQL just make it a much better solution for me.

Back to Blogging

I’ve been on a break, due in part to just being overloaded, and in part due to some server changes I’ve been putting off, and now can get back to writing on a more or less regular basis. It was a struggle the first week to not write. I’m used to it now, it helps me think, helps me relax, and it was hard to not do it. But by the end of the week that had dimmed some. I still wanted to write and knew I would again, lots to say, lots to think about. Even though I typically write a week and sometimes two weeks in advance, it was nice to just let go and not worry about writing.

For those of you that blog frequently I recommend the break. Good to recharge, good to see how much you miss it, and which parts.