Write Moves

Was time for a new logo too
Was time for a new logo too

After 11 years of blogging on what is now Google Blogger, I’ve exported everything and moved to a WordPress-powered site. It didn’t go all that smoothly and may still screw up, but so far I’m enjoying the platform, its modernity, and the apps/services I can now use with my blog.

During the process, I looked back on a couple of old posts and a few abandoned other blog projects, and discovered a younger, different sounding me. I suppose that was a time when everyone kept a blog instead of a Facebook page – but it all starts the same way, nobody thinks anyone important is ever going to read their nonsense or see their silly behavior.

But every time I read old writing, the same thing happens, and I’m sure you’re all familiar with the phenomenon: amidst the disposable are pieces you can’t believe you wrote; thoughts you could hardly string together today in quite the same way. Which is why I’m inclined to value these posts more than easy and fleeting social network updates. It seems the purpose of blog archives is to simultaneously inspire and shame our creative selves with examples of what should still be possible, and how far we have yet to go if we’ve discovered that the last few years were spent going the wrong way.

Missing comments and link posts

Switching from a “blog” subdomain to “www” has caused Blogger to lose all previous comments. I don’t know if I should be upset about it. There were good ones that offered useful information long after I’d posted on a subject, but there doesn’t seem to be anything I can do about it except switch back.

In the meantime, I’ve sorted out a format for outbound links. Their post titles are preceded by an arrow symbol (➟) and clicking on one brings you straight to the relevant page.

SANGSARA.NET changelog: April 2010

Here’s what has changed:

– This blog is now found at www.sangsara.net. It was previously at blog.sangsara.net, a distinction that became wholly unnecessary about five years ago, when I took down the other more static bits of the site. Eventually, all my online activities will be viewable here.

– The Tumblr-powered linkblog, blast!, has been discontinued. The original idea for that was to create a wall between the longer posts I write and the things I find interesting and want to link to. From this point on, those two activities will be merged here on this blog. Outbound link entries will be strictly text, an execution I’ve admired in John Gruber’s Daring Fireball blog, who was in turn inspired by Jason Kottke.

– I’m leaving behind my favorite yellow (E3C046), seen in every design since 2002.

– I’ll be using one of Blogger’s new features to add ‘Pages’ to this blog, starting with an About Me profile page.

– You’ll find an old-school Blogroll for friends’ sites in the right column. This is an experiment of sorts. Let me know if you’d like to be linked.

—-

Here’s what hasn’t:

– The RSS feed is still at http://feeds.feedburner.com/sangsara. Most subscribers to this site won’t even notice the changes listed above.

Positive Machine and Pocket Plastic will continue to be maintained as separate projects. Just in case you didn’t know, the former deals in strange, off-color iPhone app reviewery, while the latter is a place for me to post photos and look at developments in iPhone and toy camera photography.

– The archives are intact. I had wanted to wipe those earlier uncertain steps and start over, but decided against taking the easy way out. I’ve lost a lot of web content over the years and it hasn’t made me a better writer. You can build better things in the present when you have the past at your back.

New Google Blogger templates

Transparency! Three-column grids! An absence of lighthouse imagery!

Please join me in welcoming Google Blogger to the modern web. As you can see from the look of my site today, Blogger has rolled out a new beta feature called the Template Designer which allows users to assemble several thousand more combinations of layout, color, and graphics than with their previous selection of templates. Those spartan and occasionally cheesy designs were the main reasons why the service has been losing ground to the likes of Tumblr and Posterous amongst those setting up blogs for the first time, and also the reason why most people skin their blogspot blogs with horrendous amateur themes they find on sites with URLs like free-colorful-blogger-templates.com.

We all know ‘most people’ have no taste, so the Template Designer aims to save them from themselves by having a fixed library of background images from iStockPhoto (you can’t upload your own). I have chosen the least distracting and colorful one, a silhouette of the Parisian skyline, but look forward to experimenting with crazier options now and then. Why not? It used to take a deep dive into the HTML code and some tedious asset uploading to change the look of my site – those who’ve been here before will know that I hardly bothered anymore, and reverted to the most minimal of themes over a year ago – but now it’s all just a matter of clicking around and moving sliders.

Some of these features, like the dynamic width resizing and comprehensive inspectors for changing text/background colors, fonts, etc. replicate the best innovations of blog hosting company Squarespace. That service does a little more but costs money, and incidentally so does Six Apart’s Typepad, which now stands as the only hosted blogging platform remaining whose templates look so hopelessly mired in the early 2000s. Assuming that Blogger doesn’t just push out this one update and leave it untouched for another six years, they’ve got a fair chance of soundly beating the competition. A few weeks ago they added the ability to create standalone Pages, the kind you can use for an About Us page or FAQ. With a few more templates, perhaps some built for microblogging, some for magazine-style sites, they’ll be able to do everything Tumblr can. They’ve got post-by-email functionality that isn’t too far off from what Posterous does, and WordPress.com can’t compete with the freedom Blogger gives you to add third-party scripts, widgets, and ads.

One interesting point: Microsoft IE6 is not supported by the editor or the templates themselves.

Intro video:

Pocket Plastic

The last post (a review of Nevercenter’s Camerabag Desktop application for Mac/PC) was also posted on my new site project: Pocket Plastic. I take a great deal of my photos these days with my iPhone, as I have done with all the cameraphones I’ve owned before – Sony-Ericsson made some great ones under their Cybershot brand – but the iPhone is unique. People are now in the habit of actually processing their photos and doing all their ‘darkroom’ work on the device itself, so the shots are ready to go up online before they’ve even rubbed their feet on their doormats.

There are some sites out there dedicated to helping others with this hobby, reviewing new photo apps and sharing tips, but I often find myself in some sort of disagreement with them. You know what they say: If you want something done right, you’re incredibly anal and have an inflated view of your own importance. Well that’s me, so I’m starting my own. It’s also going to be a place for me to send the photos I like best to, and fish for ever more compliments.

I’m using Posterous to do the whole thing, and if you’d like a site/blog that you can update simply by sending an email, I highly recommend it. You can send a post from your home computer or your mobile phone, attach photos, audio, or video, and Posterous will automatically put the thing together in the best possible looking way and you’ll look like a star. You don’t even need to sign up beforehand. Just send an email to post@posterous.com from your personal email address, and that will be your first entry. They’ll send you an email back with the location of your new site, which you are free to change at any time. This was not a paid advertisement, I just really like them.

Coming back, and Blip.FM

If you’re reading this on the website and not through my RSS feed, you’ll notice a new widget above the main blog text, under the Flickr photos, for a new service I discovered this morning via Leo Laporte’s Twitter. The intention is not to make this look like a MySpace page, but it’s nice having someplace to show off all the things I’m doing online. Qik video, the new multi-author Haiku Log, and all that.

About a year ago, I split up my blog into this one and blast!, which is reserved for links to things I find, with little additional writing and no original content such as photos I’ve taken, movie reviews, or whatever. Of course, it’s exceedingly easy to post to a tumblelog like blast!, and the idea of being “productive” on a daily basis can be very gratifying. This main blog has only suffered as a result; consigned exclusively to “long form writing” and Matters of Great Import – I almost never felt inclined to start a post. I suppose I intimidated myself.

Well, hopefully that will soon be changing. I’ve equipped myself with the latest version (3.0) of Ecto, a sleek and awesome blogging tool for Mac OS X, and BlogPress for the iPhone. The intention is to post more frequently, and more freely, for my own benefit (I have terrible, terrible, clinically decaying memory, and looking back on any record of my life is usually a revelatory experience).

I also recently made the decision to open up some previously locked accounts to search engines and the public, out of a desire to see if I would get stalked, and feel my online privacy violated in the way that young people are becoming increasingly immune to. This should all tie together nicely and see mundane elements of my daily life filling this page, and my mutilated body in a gutter by the end of the year.

So what was that about a new widget up top? Ah yes.

As a music discovery and sharing service, Blip.FM goes places one-time web favorite Muxtape never even thought possible. Yes, you can put up handcrafted playlists of great music to share with your friends, but by taking on the best elements of Twitter and other social networks, it also means that the experience of listening to what your friends (and like-minded/like-tasted strangers) have discovered is virtually automatic. In other words, it’s a Push model.

Say I’ve just gotten up earlier in the morning than I have in weeks, maybe months – true story today – and upon seeing my bedroom all lit up with warm daylight, I think of the music video for The Roots’ Birthday Girl (starring Sasha Grey, but that’s another story) and want to hear it. I go to http://blip.fm and search for it. Blip finds an MP3 of the song somewhere online, I suspect blogs and free file hosting sites, and starts playing it. I write a short note and “blip” it, which is very much like “tweeting” something. Now, Birthday Girl starts appearing on the Home pages of all my “followers”, or contacts. What this creates is an infinite playlist of music I probably want to hear. The site identifies with people with similar tastes, which makes it easy to make new friends and replace the ones you’ve suddenly discovered a distaste for.

Blip also integrates with Twitter, Friendfeed, Tumblr, and a raft of other online presence apps and blog platforms, so you can push out instant-play links to all your contacts. I only hope they’ve sorted out the legal side of their business model and stick around longer than Muxtape did. There are links to buy the songs you’re hearing, and I’ve read something about them winning additional VC funding, so things look sorta positive.

My DJ name is Brandmaster Flash, a reference to this man, of course.