Historical & Future Writing Patterns

Let’s have a look at the what content has been the most popular here on johnbeales.com over the past several years, what I’ve written the most of, and what I’m hoping to write more of, (this is part of the 10 Days to a Better Blog series I wrote about on Sunday, and is a bit introspective).

The two posts that are by far the most popular are ancient: Using VLC to transcode an Axis Camera’s video stream, and stream it out again from 2008, and Transferring OS X and Boot Camp to a New Hard Drive from 2011. In the case of the streaming post, transcoding or transforming video streams from IP cameras for public viewing on the web was a new concept, using VLC, which is free, to do it was very attractive, and there was very little information available on the web about how to turn the stream from an IP camera into something consumable in a web browser. As for the post about transferring to a new hard drive, the post is a detailed step-by-step, and there’s a large audience of people who buy new macs and want to transfer their info. These are one-hit-wonders, though, I could update them, but they would no longer be new. In the case of streaming the answer was “Use Wowza” even when I wrote the post.

Let’s look at content categories that have done well. “How To” content is popular, probably because that’s most of what’s here, but things I write about most often, like WordPress and Javascript, are not consistent leaders. Some WordPress posts have good traffic numbers, but it’s the weird posts like Improving Trac’s Tickets by Milestone Report or How to Update an Updated Subversion Repository from a Working Copy that have generated the most comments, excluding the two hero posts discussed above.

I’ll keep writing How To content for myself, I have some sketched out already, but I should explore writing about weird things a bit more. There are a couple of new categories that might show up here as well: Comment on social issues, (I touched on exclusion of women on Monday), and sometimes Photography, which used to be a lot more active than it is.


Posts two days in a row. Why?

After many months of silence this is the second day in a row that a post has appeared here. Why?

The story starts on May 1 when a tweet by Tim Ferriss about Coach.me, caught my eye, (he’s an investor). I downloaded the app and am trying the “Habit of Waking Up On Time” challenge. One of the suggestions is to replace the habit of sleeping in or hitting snooze with a new habit, which brings me to John Saddington, the programmer behind Desk app. In November John posted 10 Days to a Better Blog! — a series of exercises to get people blogging. I’ve had it bookmarked, and blogging exercises are much more productive than sleeping, so I’m working through the exercises when I wake up. Today’s exercise is to post about why I write. I’ve read ahead and some of them are a bit navel-gazing, like this one.

So why do I write?

I write to avoid forgetting. There’s a sweet spot where I use a technique a few times a year, but not all the time, and it requires some almost-repeated code, often SQL. I like to get those things into a blog post so the queries are easy to find, such as analyzing web server logs in MySQL. Sometimes I solve difficult problems and I don’t want to forget how. My posts on transferring a Boot Camp partition to a new hard drive and transcoding live video streams from IP cameras are examples of these.

There’s a second reason I write: to rant, hopefully constructively. This doesn’t happen often, but it has, this is a blog after all.

The third reason I write is to try to refine ideas. This kind of writing rarely ends up anywhere public, but writing, then editing, helps me figure out things I’m having problems with, from code to business to gardening and beyond.

Opportunity in Tough Times

It is the dawn of the 2009 working year.  After spending a few days celebrating the new year, I spent the morning going through my inboxes, answering E-mail, and seeing what some bloggers out there have written over the past few days.  In NetNewsWire, I discovered Goldfish, by Greg Storey.  Greg suggests that in 2009, a year when many good designers, coders, and everything in between are losing their jobs, those of us who are fortunate enough to have more work than we can handle ourself should spread some of the wealth by hiring or sub-contracting to those who have lost their jobs.

In this new year,  it is simply not going to be enough to just meet your bottom line, but to help others who may not be in a position to be so entrepreneurial or carefree.

There in the comments on Greg’s post, there are commenters who are having a rough time and commenters who are still doing well.  To those having a rough time, reach out to those who are doing well, it is likely that they will have some work that needs doing.

I have work that needs doing, more than I can comfortably do myself.  I do a lot of development in collaboration with designers and occasionally take the lead on various projects.  If you are an (X)HTML/CSS, PHP, or Flash developer, give me a shout.  If you are a designer, I may need your skills too, so you should also give me a shout.  You can use the contact link on this page, (look up), or E-mail me at john at johnbeales dot com.

2009 has the potential to be the worst year ever, but it also has the potential to be the best year ever.  Tough times lead to change and opportunity.  Seize the opportunity.


Goodbye to the old Summer Fun theme!

Goodbye to the old Summer Fun theme!

After over two years it is time to say goodbye to the old “Summer Fun” theme.

This new theme has been created in my spare time over the past couple of months. It is designed to highlight what I post. The sidebar, footer, and metadata all fade away unless they’re moused over, there is lots of white space, and with the introduction of ClearType I have updated the fonts to be more like a printed book. The new theme also uses no images!

There will, of course, be some tweaks to be made over the next while as I get some feedback, but for now, enjoy!

WordPress Exploit Scanner should mean Fewer Hacked Blogs

A couple of weeks ago an article about hacked WordPress sites came up in my WordPress admin dashboard.  I hadn’t been paying attention to all of the noise that was apparently going on about hacked blogs, but this article got my attention, and I read it.  I learned a lot about how to see if my blog was hacked, but a lot of it consisted of searching for strings in all of my wordpress files, which would involve downloading them all to my computer.  What a pain in the ass.

Well, that was two and a half weeks ago. Times have changed. Donncha has come out with the WordPress Exploit Scanner, (currently version 0.1).  It does the work for you!  Download it and check your wordpress blog.  I did, (and I came up clean).