Julie and Julia

I caught Julie and Julia today in a theater with all of three people (including me) while everyone else in town was at the first showing of Gamer. I wanted to see this because I was intrigued how one even goes about making a movie about a blog.

It did a pretty good job showing how the Julie character decides to do a blog and what it's like to write daily about yourself and how that can sometimes hinder your offline relationships. The concurrent storyline of Julia Child seemed truthful and sincere and overall I enjoyed it and left the theater feeling uplifted and inspired to cook.

But there was this one scene. Julie is in her cube and she's ecstatic that a post got 53 comments and she high fives her coworker, and moments later her husband calls and says he just noticed she's #3 on the most popular Salon blogs list and her arms shoot up out of her cube in victory and I began to cry tears of joy.

I sat in the theater thinking about my little blog and how it became a community large and a business small. I remembered walking into a coworker's office in December 1999, arms in the air, as I exclaimed "100!!! One hundred people hit my web server today! 100!!!" I remembered being so stoked that three thousand people hit the site in January 2000, when I won a web site of the day award. I remembered the first time a newspaper reporter called and wanted to talk to me of all people.

The tears kept rolling through the next scene and stopped after 5
minutes or so and I thought to myself how weird that I was brought to
tears by mundane shots about blogging serving as mere
story continuity to others in the theater.

Sure, it's just another romantic comedy that most people could say is forgettable date movie. But it's the first movie about blogging and the first movie that resonated in a way no other movie ever has with my own experiences. This will probably make sense to about a few dozen people with experiences similar to mine but my god did that film move me.

My new blog about cycling and stuff

I've started and abandoned a metric ton of blogs in my time, but my latest is one I'll be sticking to at least for the entire year of 2009 and likely beyond. My new blog is called Stronger, Fitter, Faster and it's about how I'm devoting a lot more time and energy into getting in shape, losing weight, and racing bikes.

Over the past year, half of this blog has turned to cycling related stuff but I felt like taking the next major step of having a cycling coach would mean I'd have a lot more to talk about and a lot more stuff that'd likely be boring to any non-cyclist, so I'm going to toss those kinds of things on the new blog.

This also means my internal flow chart for how an idea in my head ends up as a post on the web is even more complicated, with some stuff going to twitter, metafilter, this blog, the new cycling blog, or anything else I can post to. I should really draw up a visualization of this.

So yeah, cycling stuff will likely go over there from here on out, but I'll try to post more here in 2009 and not let twitter take every idea for a blog post away from me. No more of this "one post per month" crap.

Almost there…

If you're visiting this site in a browser, you've likely figured out I've moved to Typepad and there are a few bugs in commenting, in my archives, and in my feed (feed still points to my old blog and permalinks). Things should be working as intended soonish.

update: yay, everything seems to be working now. Comments are out of order on my old imported posts, and I don't currently have URL redirection for old WP urls yet, but everything basically works again and I'll likely be posting much more because heck, Typepad is kind of fun and easy.

Throwing in the towel (or the death of blog CMSes)

This blog is approaching 8 years old and after two years on a custom system I wrote myself, followed by four years on Movable Type, followed by two years on WordPress, I've given up completely on hosted blog software and moved this blog to Typepad. I really like Typepad and though I'm giving up things like custom .htaccess redirects for old posts and my old permalink URLs, I'm gaining things like the easiest to use posting UI available and most importantly, I'll never need to update any software by hand ever again.

It's been a long, frustrating week with several days spent trying to move off WordPress (I was tired of my weblog app chiding me for upgrades every two weeks) followed by several days trying to get MT to work followed by brief experiments with Textpattern followed by giving up and finishing here. There are so many things wrong with each and every blog app that I feel like developers really should revisit my anti-blog CMS screed from early this year.

Becoming an old (blogging) man

Today I realized that I’m part of the “old guard” of blogging because I remember a time when blogging was so new that very few sites had comments (it seems like MetaFilter was one of the first few?) and after a few years when they started to become commonplace, people were generally decent to each other because it was very literally turning a blog into a face-to-face conversation.

But I think the root of the problem (described in various media outlets over the past year or so) of snarky, or mean-spirited, or generally unhelpful comments becoming the norm has to do with the distance we’ve achieved from those original link-and-essay heavy blogs.

I have a feeling that if you’ve only seen blogs in the past five years (which is probably 95+% of people reading blogs today) you consider comments to be de rigueur and they are entirely divorced from the original concept of a conversation between the reader and the author of the original post. It’s not an intimate conversation, it’s just another content management feature available to you on the web.

This has a de-humanizing effect that I’m seeing play out more and more often in the weirdest places. People will post about their idle curiosities on their personal blog (“Why does x happen when I do y?“) and instead of seeing friendly answers I would expect many years ago, I’ll often see someone early on read into the question and assume all sorts of accusations (“well, maybe it’s because you are a, b, and c, and everyone knows it!“) and watch most followup comments start from there and go into darker directions.

It’s tough because I love blogs and I love comments in blogs, but I’m starting to think there’s this “new generation” that has grown up online only knowing blogs as having snarky comment areas and never realizing it used to be a personal, intimate space where you’d never say anything in a comment that you wouldn’t say to a friend’s face. Also, know that I mean “new generation” in a way where age of person in it is irrelevant. You could be 50 years old and started reading blogs last summer and I’d put you in that group.

Of course, I could just be talking out of my ass, old people tend to do that…

Satisfaction – People-Powered Customer Service

Satisfaction has launched (more on their blog). Disclaimer: officially I’m a “member” of their “advisory board” (airquotes because it sounds more important than it seems — unofficially, I talked to Lane every so often over the past few months and they patterned some design/interaction decisions similar to the ways I run MetaFilter and Ask MetaFilter).

I’m happy to see the site going public, I think they’ve got some great ideas and a great design, and it’ll be interesting to watch them grow. At the moment, they’re a great way to get tech support help from regular folks instead of the large companies that typically have bad tech support and I’m sure a lot of smaller companies might just use them for all their support needs (why reinvent the trouble ticket wheel for the 1000th time?). If enough small companies get on board, it’ll be interesting to see how larger corporations interact with the service. I think the challenge out of the gate will be to keep things helpful and on a positive note, without descending completely into a consumer rant/spew/rage kind of thing that sites like Consumerist sometimes veer into.

Check it out — there’s not much there now but I think it’ll turn into something really useful and novel in a short period of time.

Boing Boing redo

I gotta say that I’m enjoying the Boing Boing redesign so much that I’m actually breaking down and making a real blog entry about it (as opposed to a witty twitter quip, or simple delicious link, or a lowly screenshot posted on flickr).

I thought the old design was showing its age and the ad layouts were very distracting (the jokes about it looking like NASCAR weren’t too far off). I even sent a mockup of a cleaner layout to Xeni and Cory a couple years ago, but I never thought it would change and assumed it would putter on for several more years in its previous state. I don’t know what prompted the change, but the new look is a great improvement. It’s way cleaner, easier to read, and the ads are no longer distracting. I disagree with Nelson on the change (though I agreed with his previous assessment). At this point in the lifespan of Boing Boing (one million dollars!), I no longer compare them to other blogs and instead to major media outlets, so I’m cutting them slack on three ad zones. Look at any page at even nicely designed media sites like the New York Times and you’ll see 3-5x more advertisements. So among top-shelf media sites, their advertising is barely noticeable.

I’m also happy to see a new gadget blog that’s unlike all the other million gadget blogs out there. It helps that it’s authored by my all time favorite gadget blogger, a man that deserves a medal for getting hired to write a regular column on Gizmodo, only to get fired after Gawker editors and readers took his first essay way too personally and seriously. It’s clear from day one of this new Boing Boing blog that this won’t be another shopping or wishlist gadget blog. Free from all the pointless gadget lust that powers other sites, this looks like it’ll be more along the lines of “interesting crap someone built that looks cool/works in a cool way.”

Bottom line, it was a great surprise to see Boing Boing’s new layout and direction today and I think it’s a huge positive change (and adding comments was nice too).

Ads good! No ads better!

If you’ve followed this site for a few years, you probably saw my old essays introducing Google’s Adsense to the blogging public and that time I said ads in RSS were a no-no. Today I wrote an extensive update on the same subject over on my new blog: How ads really work (superfans and noobs). I basically lay out everything I’ve learned from hosting ads for the past five years including some data from my own sites and those of several friends.