Baby Punching or Not Loving Enough

One of things that kind of pisses me off about blogging is that when you discuss something that is inherently your view of a subject, particularly a technical one, the most common comments are: a) have you tried doing something else entirely (yes, but y’know the point of the post was talking about this thing) and b) how can you say X about Y?

The weird thing is that sometimes in the latter case you can say all this positive stuff and what gets commented on is the couple of things you didn’t like. Evanglists or just frothing converts can’t seem to consider that the thing they support is anything less than perfect. I’ve decided to call this Baby Punching. Every parent considers their baby to be the most special thing in existence; any kind of negative feeling is like punching that baby in the face.

These parental feelings are strongest early on when perhaps people are concerned that any kind of negative feedback from early adopters will kill their favourite outright. Which is a ridiculous attitude, feedback from early adopters is a chance to change things before it gets out to the wider public. The truth is that once something is established no-one goes back to look at what the early adopters thought.

Look at Steam, today its an invaluable tool that trys to balance the needs of game developers and gamers. Who remembers how awful it was initially? It was slow, Half-Life 2 took forever to decrypt and authorize and if you didn’t have always-on broadband then it was a pain to play, authorisation for other games was broken. It was not fun. Steam has improved over the years and not because it tried to stomp on the complaints of the early adopters.

So please, just because I don’t think your baby is as perfect as you do, don’t think I’m punching it.


Experimenting with Tumblr

I have recently hived off a few bits of posting that used to be in this blog to Tumblr, a startup that ValleyWag described as being, like Twitter, “unencumbered by revenue”. It’s been an interesting experience.

As this blog has become a bit more work-focussed and more formal I was feeling like writing about Doctor Who wasn’t quite the right thing to mix with the more esoteric tech stuff. I like WordPress a lot and I thought about starting up a second blog here. However I did feel that I wanted something that was a little bit lighter and light-hearted as the topics were going to be relatively trivial.

Signing up was easy (all very Web2.0: massive fonts, custom urls, etc.) but when I saw that you could use Markdown to write up posts rather than WSIWYG editors I was sold. Since I know it anyway it saves me a lot of time not frigging around with generated HTML. I also liked the AJAX UI that made it seem quite easy to just post a few thoughts.

In my mind Tumblr fits a kind of position between Twitter and WordPress. Where you have something to say that is more than a sentence but it isn’t a whole lot more than a paragraph. It is the kind of thing that Blogger should have become after it was clear that WordPress had completely whupped it on almost every front.

I have found Tumblr to be fun and also something that entices you into just jotting down a few thoughts. In terms of the experience it is all light, responsive and dynamic up front but you can dig around behind the scenes to take control of the visual aspects of your site via CSS and HTML (something that is paid for in WordPress) as well as get more options for posting.

So what do I miss from WordPress? Well the first thing is the Stats crack, obviously. WordPress has a killer feature in telling you exactly how many people are reading your articles and how they came to read them. There are also a lot of features that surround this like auto-promotion of articles to Google, the related articles list and the Blogs of the Day. Publishing something in WordPress feels like launching it into the world, by comparision Tumblr posts are a much more muted affair. It feels more like a secret club. I know Tumblr does the promotion as well but I guess WordPress does a better job of closing the feedback loop.

Not having comments on Tumblr is also part of that. Given that comments on your blog can be a very mixed bag I was surprised to find myself missing them. Somehow I must have gotten used to them and their lack now feels like silence. I know some people have used Intense Debate to add in comments but if I was really that bothered about it then I would probably have gone back to WordPress.

So I’m enjoying Tumblr but I am also hoping that they keep it simple and don’t get tempted to add every feature there is from other blogging software.



How long should a blog post be? The consensus is pretty clear: damnably short. My previous article about microblogging was meant to be a quick review of current state of play in microblogging but as I was writing it I was constantly aware of how long it is.

One thing that has changed blogging a lot is that more often than not no-one is subscribing to your newsfeed. Instead they arrive at your site through Google search, link sharing sites or (in the case of WordPress) tagging. If someone hits your site because they were searching for “cool insects in a hot tub” then they want to read some stuff about insects in boiling water.

So for the benefit of those people the next couple of articles have been broken down into individual topics rather than being grouped together as a review of “the new hotness”.

Since I am on the topic though, 2LDNR is serious the most annoying chatspeek (not chatspeak) acronym around. Why waste my time telling me what you haven’t done? Just smash your face into your keyboard and hit post like you would have done anyway.



I was annoyed at the Twitter outage last night (apparently caused by IM’ing) as I wanted to gripe about Play Greenhouse (they only allow passwords between 4 and 10 characters long, preventing me from using a passphrase style password). Of course that outage was followed by a database crash today. While I appreciate the good communication the Twitter folks have via their blog the service is extremely prone to outages.

I have only been using Twitter for a month (if that) and already it is already a really useful service for me. It’s handy for keeping up with what’s happening in a “distributed” (or perhaps just disorganised) company. But it also useful for publishing stuff too.

There are a lot of times where you want to make an observation or just note something interesting rather than getting into a detailed description of something. To date that kind of thing has gone into a note-taking program like Google Notebook, Sites or BasKet. Now with Twitter if something doesn’t seem personal or esoteric I might as well throw it out there. It also works the other way round, if something doesn’t fit into the Twitter limit then it probably is worth a paragraph in its own right in a “proper” blog post.

While Twitter was down I went to have a look at the alternatives: Jaiku has been bought by Google and is in one of those awful please wait while we spend months silently integrating modes. Pownce seems like a whole different service, the ability to transfer file links etc. strikes me as being more akin to Google Chat and certainly more than I need for microblogging.

If Jaiku had been available from my Google account at that moment I would have switched without question. Until then I guess I have to wait for Twitter to sort itself out.


Why I don’t Blogger much any more

On the weekend I tweaked the blog a bit and I decided to replace the useless archives widgit with the sexy new tag cloud. No-one ever used the archive links so I think it is a more helpful tool to let people find things on the blog they want. Having done that I thought I would go over to Blogger and do exactly the same with some of my older blogs.

Nothing going. Blogger has introduced blog tags (after WordPress categories but before WordPress tags) but looking through the widgits I cannot add a pre-made simple tag cloud.

It is a story of stagnation and one that makes Blogger more and more irrelevant for me. It was the first blogging site I signed up with and I love loads of other Google applications. The people who make things like GMail and Calendar should be pointing out to the guys at Blogger how quickly they are falling behind in both function and utility.

WordPress has a vast amount of information on who is visiting your blog and why, what pages and posts are popular and what people are searching for when they visit the site. Google Analytics could do exactly the same job but you have to do the hard work yourself. You have to put the Javascript into Blogger and check the stats in Analytics. Now naturally there are privacy issues in joining up these services but if I want to view an integrated set of data on my blog (as I can in the market leading software) surely it should be made easy for me to do.