It is that time of the year. After ignoring my blog for months, I come back and is instantly dissatisfied with the theme, the content, pictures.. pretty much everything . So after spending about 7-8 hours, most of it spent searching for a new theme, I present before you the same old wine inÂ a newÂ bottle.
This blog has always been and will always remain a work in progress. It looks prettier than its previous incarnations over last 9, 10 years. But the sloppy work I did then is showing up with each new theme I try. I would have to go through each post, all 190 published and 30+ unpublished checking for mistakes, setting a “Featured image” for each post and updating/removing links.
The picture ofÂ Jupiter (above)Â and Venus (brighter) was taken over a years back on my D5000 with standard kit lens.
- ISO 800
- 30 Sec Exposure
- Date: Aug 12, 2012
- Location: Kochi, India
Over the last week, this blog has gone through some subtle but drastic changes. The changes were done with a few things in mind that will improve your experience on my blog.
Faster loading: One of the feature that was removed from the blog was drag-to-share from Meebo. Previously you could select a few text or click and hold an image to share a post on Twitter, Facebook, e-mail etc. But this was not a feature that would be used often. The Meebo bar at the bottom of the page was also scrapped. A site which loads faster is better than a feature that is seldom used.Â Previously the home page would take about 12-13 seconds to load. By removing certain features which were not used that often, I was able to bring down the load time to just above 7 minutes. My blog is now 40% faster.
Link Luv: Those who blog and also comment on my blog would be interested to see a new option just below the comment box which will allow you to post the link to your latest blog post. If you select the option the latest post will be pulled automatically when you enter your website in the comment field. The screenshot towards the left will show you what I mean. Do give it a try and let me know if you like the feature.
Since this requires your blog address, make sure you are logged into the blog using your Gravatar ID (Name/E-mail, Website) and not using Google Friend Connect.
“U Comment, I Follow”: There are few people who visit my blog often and express their views through their comments and I felt the least I could do for them was to make their comments Do-Follow to search engines. Search engines will see their website address in the URL field as something it should follow and might have some impact inÂ Page-rank. Not all who comment will get this link juice, but only the regulars.Â However, any URL that you enter inside the comment box will still beÂ No-Follow to discourage those who are too greedy.
Again, you need to use your Gravatar ID, or enter your Name/E-mail/Website instead of Google Friend Connect.
I am sure there will be a lot of spam on my blog, as if I am not getting enough, now that the blog is DoFollow. My spam filter is configured to block any comment with links in it as spam. So, avoid putting any links inside the comment as those will not be DoFollow and it might get deleted.
When I started blogging a few years back, the easiest name to remember was www.blogger.com (AKA: blogspot). The article where I read about blogs did mention WordPress as well as some other name. But I chose to try my luck on www.blogger.com. Few years and a hundred odd posts later, I decided that blogger was not challenging enough and I decided to dip my toes in www.wordpress.com. But as soon as I tried it out, I realized that it was much more restrictive than blogspot. I continued posting on blogspot until my earlier attempt at webdesign paid off.
When I tried my hand at having my own website, the hottest name was Geocities (RIP). When they shut down their services and took off all the websites that were hosted offline, Dream Host offered me 2 years of free hosting along with a free domain name. And that is how I ended up with this domain name. www.suniljoseph.net
With a domain name, unlimited bandwidth & webspace, it took me just one day to take the plunge into wordpress, but this time it was not wordpress.com, but wordpress.org. I did spend a lot of time trying different themes, configuring the settings, adding additional codes to various parts of the default template to make this as it is today. The truth is the time I spend designing my blog was much more than the time I spend writing it. I don’t consider myself to be vain, but as the biker in me would say, the journey is much more fun than the destination and it truly was as far as playing with the wordpress installation was concerned.
I am not much of a social animal, my friends are few, but those I have are the best. Unlike the stereotype Geek who is the most popular guy online, I am pretty much the same in my real life as I appear to you now. So I went through most of my blogging period without anyone knowing that I had a blog. I am inclined to think that most of my visitors ended up on my blog because of some unknown bug in TCP/IP which dropped their packets on my blog. I didn’t mind that there were hardly any visitors since what I had written was mostly for myself. But that was until I came across postaday2011 and postaweek2011.
The reason I posted so few was not because I did not want to write, but mostly because I never could hold on to a thought. I would think of something all day long and when I finally sat in front of the computer, I would be thinking of something else and forget what I wanted to write about. Postaday2011 and postaday2011 was actually the kind of push I was looking for, some reminding me to write something, anything, every day. With that came the need to be read. Unlike my earlier posts, which were an outlet to my thoughts, these posts were suggested by someone else and I wanted others to read it. In the beginning it was fun to wait for the topic of the day and then publish as early as possible. It was a race, it was fun.
A self-hosted wordpress installation will always beat wordpress.com blog when it comes to features, but there is one area where wordpress.com beats a self-hosted wordpress with hardly effort, because that feature is not available for self-hosted wordpress, and that is Global Tags. All blogs have tags, but the tags on my blog will show other posts on my blog with the same tags. But in wordpress.com the tags are global. If you click on a tag in wordpress.com blog, it will show you all posts with the same tag across wordpress.com, no matter who wrote it. The likelihood of people with similar taste meeting each other are so high when they are searching for tags they are interested in. I did spend some time trying to figure out if there was anyway to get my tags included in Global Tags. After a few hours I had to face the truth; even with all its restrictions, wordpress.com had a trump card up its sleeve.
I don’t give up that easily when there is an opportunity to hack the system, and after trying a few things, I found something that allowed my posts to appear in the Global Tags. I am not going to claim that I invented this because I haven’t done anything on my own, I just used something that was already there. But I know there are quite a few people who are trying to find this hack.
Path of Enlightenment
I am pretty sure that most of the people who have self-hosted wordpress like some adventure and so I am not going to rob you of the chance of discovering this on your own. You could try to figure out how I did it without losing my traffic to wordpress.com blog by looking up my blog at the tag wordpress hack in Global Tags. Do let me know if you do figure it out, because you would be the kind of person I would like to know better.
Update: Automattic hasÂ introducedÂ Jetpack which bridges the gap between wp.com and self-hosted wordpress installations. Read more about it here. And read this post to know why JetPack is important for WordPress.
One of the browser plugins that I have come across that makes your blog posts, e-mails rich in content is Zemanta. You can get it as a bookmarklet as well as a plugin. I prefer the plugin as it will recognize the page that I am on, new post page in WordPress, Email compose page etc, and adds content to a side bar based on what I am typing. It will also detect keywords in the post so that you can insert links to those posts automatically. I have been using Zementa for a while now, but never thought about posting about it until I came across this post from Rose.
Keyword linking: This is probably one of the best feature of Zemanta. I post on various topics, but that does not mean those who are reading it will know about it. They might want to find out more about certain things and if I can provide those links that would probably make it easy for them. Zemanta can suggest links to different websites, in some cases the official websites of a company or to aÂ WikipediaÂ article or links to article from reputed sources. What Zemanta cannot do is provide links to different articles at the same time. If you want to link to both the official website of Microsoft as well as the Wikipedia article, you will have to do one manually. I am also not able to find a way to select a keyword and get Zemanta to find links to it automatically. So you will have to rely on Zemanta recognizing the keyword and finding the link. Most often you will find links to certain keywords that is not really necessary. Too many links can lead to the reader ignoring all the links, so use your better judgment.
Images: Zemanta can get you images based on its keyword analysis. It is not always the best images and sometimes it can give you images which has not relation to what you are writing. For eg: I am not sure why Zemanta dug up some pictures from Wisconsin (There is a place called New Post in Wisconsin). But the image attribution is added automatically, which makes it easy for me (If you didn’t figure it out yet, I am pretty lazy). I just noticed I can add only one image from Zemanta. I am looking for other plugins which will find me contextual images and also add the necessary attribution automatically. Do let me know if you find one.
Update: Just drag-&-drop images to add multiple images.
Related Articles: This is another great feature I like. I do not like to leave the reader wondering what I said is right or wrong. I enjoy it when I can make them curious enough to read more on it. The best way to do that is to provide some links to similar blog posts or news articles, and Zemanta can do that pretty well. I would say my post was good when someones checks some alternate sources of information and comes back to tell me that I was wrong. Do check out the Related Articles below. There were too many that I had to stop myself from clicking on all of them.
Got some tips that I missed? Know about some better plugin? Do let me know in comments…
- Zemanta For Blogger ?! (sedatkurtulus.blogspot.com)
- Zemanta – Trying it as well (klcollins.org)
- How to Enhance Blog Posts with Zemanta (devicemag.com)
- Tutorial: using filter function with Zemanta (zemanta.com)
- How to configure Zemanta (zemanta.com)
- Blogging With Zemanta – Content Linking and Tagging Made Easy (codemyownroad.com)
- Zemanta – Zemanta – contextual intelligence for everyone! (developer.zemanta.com)
I am going to cheat on postaday2011 byÂ rehashingÂ my old post. I was arguing with a friend about when I got Gmail. I had the date around the end of May. Today I checked an old post and found that I had blogged on 9th June after finally getting my Gmail account. He had claimed he had it before 2004 which I knew was not possible. Wikipedia confirmed that Gmail was launched as an invitation only beta on 1st of April, 2004.
Why am I not posting anything new?
When I started blogging it was justÂ cursorilyÂ about the new medium whereby you create your own website instantly. This was long back, when GeoCities where considered great for hosting websites (It offered 5 MB of storage) I was studying at that time, (mid to late 2000) and the blog was at blogspot.com. Soon it lost its novelty and I stopped blogging for a while. Later when life became more and more complicated, I needed an outlet to dump all my thoughts. I created a few other blogs (wonder where), but when I finally moved to WordPress self-hosted blog, I used the import feature to get most of the blog posts. I had to drop some of those old posts, because looking back I still wonder what possessed me to post those.
So there you go, even though I started with the intention of not posting why I started blogging, I ended up doing just that. That is life, you end up doing things you didn’t want to do, becoming a person who you didn’t want to be…