Sunday, July 27, 2008

FriendFeed: Ignorance is no longer an excuse

I've been out of the tech world for quite some time. This self-induced lull period allowed me to focus on other priorities. And while focusing on these priorities, the tech world was virtually ignored. A nasty side-effect though was that I was not happy about this isolation. I felt out of touch. I felt like a dummy, a techno-dummy.

Sure, there were little projects that popped up into my head. But I didn't follow through with this or that or something because a snag would present itself and my technical knowledge just didn't provide the path to completing the project. Most tech projects have been shelved until my knowledge gap is filled.

The Knowledge Journey Begins

In hopes to garner knowledge, I started looking around. The search began with the usual search engines and aggregating services. There were similar names posting blog entries. There were similar names writing tech articles. There were similar names commenting.

I was bored and nothing seemed to help.

Discovering FriendFeed

Out of the blue, though, I tripped over FriendFeed. FriendFeed is an aggregating service for RSS feeds and social networking services. There were new names and faces on FriendFeed as well as the old ones.

For weeks I've gathered subscriptions and read comments from people befriending FriendFeed. Adding hundreds of new subscriptions started to change the conversations I was reading. Here are some of the lessons I've learned from FriendFeed.

Tips on Better Blogging

I've blogged less in July than June. This is no concern because I've thought more about what I was trying to say. At some point during all of the blog posts that were scrapped, I would hit a brick wall and wonder if the post was really interesting. Did the post contribute or distract? Unsure? Toss it.

I spent a few hours on my last entry - and it still sucked. It was published and I later found out there were some errors and the story was misleading. At the same time, I was tinkering with live streaming (on hold until I learn more). Chris Baskind, a talented writer, made a few suggestions about streaming and I started to apply these to my blogging efforts.

Coincidentally, just as I was learning from FriendFeed, I had an important conversation with my sister.

My sister told me last night that she worked over 20 hours on a blog post. She explained she was tired of short blog entries. Sadly, only a few people linked to her entry. A few hundred read it on Technology Questions - but not enough to satisfy putting 20 hours into a blog post. She was sad and my words were not comforting.

I try to help my sister but usually end up messing up her site. In the past few months I've hesitated in making changes. Remember I said at the beginning of this post that there were little projects? My sister's site is one of those little projects. Last December I moved her domain to a Drupal environment. For months I've tinkered with modules, learned how to make little changes, and attempted to stabilize her site. I made a mess. She can post but the site design sucks.

This is where FriendFeed has been more than helpful. I want people to comment on her work. She has talent and a wonderful mind. So, I knew the comment system was lousy. I asked about Disqus on FriendFeed. People chimed in.

It seems people find it easier to comment on my blog once I added Disqus... - Anthony Farrior

I love commenting on disqus blogs. Easier to to actually put the comment there and easier to follow the convo if someone replies to me. I get tired of filling out forms to put a comment. Even though it may only be 3. Plus, I will probably forget where I commented. - Rahsheen Porter

I think it encourages comments. Agree with Andy that they need to move along with import/export, which will make us all feel more secure with the system. - Chris Baskind

I think twice about commenting on sites that DON'T use Disqus. I like the idea of all my conversations being accessible to me in one place. - Lindsay Donaghe

i'm a huge fan and now evangelist of disqus. i installed it on and we get over 250 comments a day. the threading, the ability to highlight top commenters, the ability to reply via email. and this is just the beginning of the services. when a blog doesn't have disqus, i'm MUCH less likely to comment. - Baratunde Thurston via twhirl

The disqus comment system was installed last night. I installed the Drupal module on Technology Questions first - making sure that I didn't screw up my sister's site. People are used to me goofing up TQ - but I needed to be careful with Lora's work. The installation took about two hours. The long installation time was because I was reading and re-reading instructions. The module appeared to work and I was set to install it on Lora's site.

Within a few minutes the module was installed. I was able to load the site. Lora IMed me that the site failed to load.


After a few moments of panic (and fighting back the tears because I was trying not to harm her site), the view source gave me a clue to the differences between TQ and WIN. I disabled the JTools module and the site loaded properly. Phew. Disaster was avoided.

The Journey Continues: Learning as I go

I have the people on FriendFeed to thank for getting me out of a tech slump. My blogging is getting a little bit better (a wee bit), the comment system is installed on TQ and WIN, and I didn't destroy my sister's site. Inch by inch - little projects are getting done and goals are being reached.

The Little Project That Could

I just need to learn a bit more to improve WIN and get the past blog entries back onto WIN.

You see, in the past ten years, Lora produced over 10,000 blog entries. They are sitting on hundreds of pages in two documents residing locally on my drives (I have multiple backups). Some of these entries were done in an html editor and posted as an html page. Some of the stories are from an export of a database (or two).

But for the life of me, I cannot figure out how to get them up on the Drupal installation. I'm an idiot and didn't think of how to get these into Drupal before moving her site. Does anyone know of a good way to get these entries back onto WIN? Short of manually entering them, can you think of a faster means?

You see - ignorance is no longer an excuse. I have Friends. I have you, the reader. Thanks for the help.