24 May 2010

Psst! Flotsam has moved!

As I suggested last week, I have made the decision to move my blog to a hosted WordPress version to replace this blog. I'm not moving over the content, just the operations. I'll be reorganizing all the blog pointers and feed tweeters and all that so, fear not, if you don't come to this page directly to read Flotsam, you'll still get a reminder. In the meantime, here's the new Flotsam & Jetsam.

20 May 2010

Thanks for nothing, Google

Dear Google,

Your Kool-Aid is tasting bitter these days. If you don't want to be seen as EVIL, please bring your Blogger service up to standard.

After trying WordPress, I now understand why people questioned my staying on Blogger. One very big difference is in the ability to moderate comments and users. On WP, comments are moderated by default, but once someone is recognized by the blog owner, they can post freely ever-after. So when I, for example, pick up a nasty troll, I can simply ignore the comments. Poof! I can also block or moderate specific IP addresses, email addresses, names, words -- so much more flexible.

Seriously, Google, you are GODS in the arena of info tracking, how come you make this so difficult? Sure, there is a "report abuse" button but that is only to be used for reporting an abusive blog -- which mine is NOT. In fact, there is nothing in your terms of service that covers comments specifically and yet many people sign up for Blogger primarily to comment or follow blogs.

I have had this blog for six years and it will tear a big part of me out to abandon it for a new address but that seems like the only option you are giving me. I do not blame the troll for this; I blame you, Google, for failing to support Blogger and its users.


Oh good, my troll is back.

OK, everyone. I apologize but "Anonymous" is back and filling my comments area with obscenities. Please don't feed the troll.

17 May 2010

My new Garden History blog

While I listened to the presenters at WordCamp on Saturday, part of my brain was whirring away, plotting out my new blog. Yes, it was to be a "niche blog" -- it combines three of my interests:


Originally my thought was to basically transcribe and annotate the text of the "Profitable Instructions..." book but I knew that was too focused. As soon as the words "garden history" escaped my lips, I knew this was the spark I'd been seeking.

I wrote the About page first -- I started drafting it in a Google Doc on Saturday evening -- so that I could really get an idea of how the site might evolve. While the inspiration was one book the goal I settled on was,
"This blog aims to glean some history — not only about gardening but also about gardens themselves — from books and other writings from the past 400 years, give or take."
With that in writing, I could then start thinking about where the blog might go in the future which may be why my brain would not shut down on Saturday night, long after I walked away from my laptop.

Sunday, I asked Hubby how to do the WordPress install on one of my domains (I chose my personal one, for the hell of it). After some initial fumbling to find my admin panel login and password and later realizing I needed more space (Hubby reallocated things and increased my capacity tenfold), the install was ridiculously straightforward. I spent the next little while fiddling with various templates until I found one that will do just fine for now.

To cut the tale short, I finished a shareable product by 11:00 last night and if you haven't already seen it, you can check out Garden History: Looking back at backyard gardens.

15 May 2010

Reflecting on WordCamp

I had no idea what to expect going in but I have to say that WordCamp Victoria was well-organized, well-run, and informative. It was broader than I was expecting; the content of the sessions went beyond Wordpress itself to cover topics such as picking what to write, keeping the user in mind when you write for the web, and dealing with comments -- good, bad, and ugly.

The session I most enjoyed was the first session I attended: "Knowing & Knurturing Your Kniche Blog: Starting & Running A Successful Niche Blog in WordPress," presented by Mike Vardy. Refreshingly, his presentation did not rely on tech -- he used the blackboard. The basis of his talk was to pick something that you care about, that you know something about (and are prepared to learn more about), and then build it and promote the hell out of it. Kind of a Field of Dreams approach.

When I asked him what to do if the thing you pick is in the scrum -- one of a thousand blogs on a given topic -- he had two words of advice, "Write well." OK, Mr. Vardy, I will try.

I may even apply some of what I learned from Cathie Walker who talked about the way (most) users read websites (short answer: they don't -- 80% skim), what level they read at (generally below grade 8) and how you can cater to their needs.

That tied in well to what Lorraine Murphy had to say about moderating comments on a blog or forum. It made me think back to how I managed that ridiculous troll thing last year and how I have handled other tricky interactions online over the years. I'm still thinking.

I also attended sessions more specific to Wordpress -- about themes and plug-ins and alternate posting tools.

What now? Well, I am going to try to put my planned Wordpress niche blog into action -- sooner than later -- plus Hubby and I are scorching and rebuilding ThoseDeWolfes and (drumroll, please) we have set Kiddo up with her own blog. Cue the Yakkety-Sax...

EDIT: Cathie Walker's presentation, Writing for the Web is available as a pdf