Miscellaneous Blog

Odds and ends that don’t fit neatly into any other category.

New Look!

As you will probably have noticed, I’ve redesigned the front page of the site. Let me know what you think in the comments…

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The Guardian’s Marina Hyde thinks meetings should be banned for a month, as a way of improving productivity. I think she may be on to something here. But I wonder how much attitude towards meetings is an extrovert/intravert thing. Do extraverts ever understand how much introverts loathe meetings?

Posted on by Tim Hall | 1 Comment

Is Twitter Pivoting?

Dalton Caldwell thinks Twitter is pivoting. This is what Twitter is now, at least to me:

The core user experience of Twitter is the sending and receiving of messages with other people. It’s a communications tool.

But that model is less effective at selling eyeballs to advertisers. So it may be turning into this:

the future of Twitter: a media company writing software that is optimized for mostly passive users interested in a media and entertainment filter.

Now, I love Twitter in it’s current form. It’s a great place for conversations and connecting with cool new people. Unlike some, I’m far less interested in following celebrities, especially those who aren’t interested in interacting with those who follow them. It may be premature to announce the death of Twitter, but it is a reminder that nothing last forever on the net.

Social networks come and go. When was the last time you logged on to MySpace? Or sent a message in last.fm?

I’ve been on the net long enough to remember when AOL killed off CompuServe. But I’m still in contact with some of the friends I made through that network. Never forget that the relationships with actual people are far more important that whatever social networks you communicate on.

And there is a reason I’m now posting more on this blog rather than on social networks.

Posted in Miscellaneous, Social Media | Tagged | 4 Comments

RSS Feeds

I have no idea how many people read this blog via RSS rather than checking back on a semi-regular basis, since RSS views don’t show up in my site stats.

For those of you that do use RSS, did you know there are separate feeds for each of the main subjects of this blog?

The Music Blog, covering reviews, music news and stuff

The Software & Testing Blog, related to what I do in my day job.

The Science Fiction and Gaming Blog

The Trains Blog

The Politics and Religion Blog, containing

And the entire site in “Firehose mode” for those of you that really do want to read everything.

There are tag feeds and comment thread feeds too, to many to list them all. Just put “/feed” at the end of just about any URL on this site and you’ll get an RSS feed you can add to the RSS reader of your choice.

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This blog has had a new front page format for a couple of weeks now, long enough that almost all the content on the front page is more recent than the revamp. What do regular readers think of it? Is it an improvement? Let me know in the comments.

Posted on by Tim Hall | 2 Comments

A Bit of a Makeover

I’m part way through giving this blog a bit of a style makeover, as you have probably noticed. I’ve introduced “asides”, which are those short one-paragraph posts that don’t have any headers and categories displayed on the blog pages.

The changes aren’t complete yet. One thing that still needs doing is to sort out the headers of the category pages – They’re really subject-specific sub-blogs, and I’m considering giving each one a different colour scheme to differentiate them further.

I’m also changing the front page so it’s no longer an all-category firehose but something more cut down and intended to lead people to the individual category sub blogs. Another thing in the pipeline might be to completely restyle some of the individual category pages, especially the record review and live review pages.

What does anyone think?

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A Question for Readers

This blog got it’s name because it covers a diverse range of different subjects – I neither want to force myself to blog about one and only one subject, nor deal with the overhead of maintaining half-a-dozen separate single-subject blogs, each of which gets updated once in a blue moon.

Since I can’t imagine anyone out there is really interested in every subject I write about, what I’ve done is subdivide it by the different subjects you see on the menu above, using WordPress’ category feature, and each category functions like a separate sub-blog. Several of them, like Music or Testing have their own unique header images to make it clearer which part of the site you’re in.

I’ve considered getting rid of the all-subject fire-hose view on the front page altogether, replacing it with a static introduction page, and encouraging readers to bookmark individual category pages instead.

So, before I make any more changes, I have a few questions for those of you who read this blog.

Which of the subjects on here are you interested in reading about? Do any of the other subjects make you less likely to read the blog on a regular basis?

How do you read the blog? Do you just keep checking back on a regular basis, use RSS feeds, or follow the links I post on social networks? Or are you one of the many who just stumbles on random pages as a result of Google searches?

Answers in the comments sections.

Posted in Miscellaneous | 10 Comments

Does Blogging Still Have A Future?

Has blogging had it’s day, or does it still have a place in the world of social networking?

Yesterday was not a typical day for this blog. I posted an opinionated and provocative rant that aimed a broadside at the cynicism of the record industry and the conservatism of some so-called progressive rock fans. It got picked up by a couple of very high-profile people on Facebook and Twitter, and my hit counter went through the roof.

But normally, when I’ve spent hours writing something like a detailed album review, the sort of readership I get is a fraction the number of people who’d read a pithy one-line status update on Facebook. Given my annual hosting bill for this site, sometimes I wonder if it’s an effective use of my time and money any more.

Social networking has already killed off all but the highest traffic web forums just as web forums killed most internet mailing lists before them. Is it now killing blogging as well?

Twitter has certainly killed off link blogging. There is no point maintaining a real-time stream of topical links using a blogging platform any more; Twitter just does that so much better. But for longer opinion pieces?

One thing I’ve noticed is that I’m often getting little in the way of discussion in the comments section, although I often get a lot of intelligent and civilised discussion on my Facebook page when I link to a blog post here. That might be down to my curating of an intelligent and civilised friends list, when I only accept requests from people I know and trust, and am not shy of defriending someone who turns out to be disruptive or offensive on a regular basis. Meanwhile my blog gets a disproportionate number of drive-by trolls like the “You are a moron” guy on my Wishbone Ash review. Maybe my Facebook friends are unwilling to expose their opinions outside Facebook’s walled garden. Maybe they find the drive-by trolls make the atmosphere too unpleasant. I don’t know.

The big weakness of blog comments is a lack of identity management, which is one thing social networks do well. I’ve often heard it said that anonymity is one of the causes of bad behaviour on the internet, and trolls will go away if only you force everyone to use their real names all the time. This is only half right; what’s actually needed is some form of trusted identity, for which your public posts across multiple sites are searchable. On high-traffic sites which allow that sort of thing it’s surprising how few of someone’s posts you need to read before you get quite a good picture of where they’re coming from. You can usually tell if they’re drive-by troublemakers, or people with a passion who occasionally let their enthusiasm get the better of them. Whether you use a real name or not, a strong online reputation does take a lot of effort to built.

I wonder if it’s possible to create some sort of decentralised equivalent of social network built around the RSS feeds of existing blogs with some kind of trusted identity management for commenters? Or is the march of the social networks unstoppable, and blogs need to find a way to exist in the cracks between then?

Posted in Miscellaneous | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

Administrative Note

As you might have noticed, I’m experimenting with putting Google Adsense ads on this blog. At the moment I’ve just stuck a single ad in the right-hand sidebar, where it’s visible but not over-intrusive. I’m going to experiment with different positioning, and will probably be installing a WordPress plugin that stops adverts appearing to people who have previously left comments on the site. That way it will serve up ads to people who randomly come in from Google searching for Swiss Kettles without annoying the site’s regular readers.

Since this is my own Adsense account, and I’ve therefore got some control over what categories of adverts get displayed, I’ve blocked some of the more annoying and sleazy stuff. So hopefully we won’t be seeing those awful belly fat or white teeth ads, which are actually for glorified Ponzi schemes anyway.

Let me know if you do see anything offensive, inappropriate or sleazy.

Posted in Miscellaneous | Tagged , | 2 Comments

New Look

As you have probably noticed, I’ve given this blog a bit of a revamp, based on a far newer WordPress template. The header image reflects the music-centric focus of the site – if you don’t know who any of the performers are, I can tell you’re not a regular reader.

Navigation links are a bit of a work in progress at present – I’ve given record and concert reviews a higher profile by putting navigation links for them on the main menu.

The layout may yet see a few more tweaks.

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