Monthly Archives: April 2003

New What’s Playing

This plugin looks like exactly what I’ve been searching for. Right now I use one called DoSomething to ping a URL that inserts the data into a database, presumably so I can do something with all that juicy data later. (Right now it has over 9000 rows.) However my current plugin has a lot of drawbacks, mostly that it won’t read any data from ID3v2 tags and doesn’t work with Winamp 3, neither of which are a problem with this newer plugin. So this is mostly so I can find it later, as while I’d like to install this, figure out the POST variables, update my ping script, and come up with some novel ways to parse all the data I have, there are a thousand things I need to do first. I can’t recall ever being this busy. Hat tip: Dougal.

Spam in a Can

I usually clean out my spam folder nightly and watch for any false positives, but partly because I’ve been quite busy and partly because I have gotten one false positive in the past month it has slipped my mind for about a week. I just checked it and between my two accounts I had gotten 691 spams. What’s great is I don’t mind a bit. Every bit of spam I get, especially the ones that aren’t caught before they get to my inbox, makes my personal filters a little smarter and more likely to catch the next one. It’s a beautiful thing. For the first time since I’ve been online, I feel like I’m winning the war against spammers.

It’s Over

The best part about that gig was seeing the mayor of Houston, a decidedly unhip looking guy, singing along with the Temptations. (From his table, thankfully.) It was a very fun performance, but really too loud for the room and it seemed a tad long, though the audience seemed to love every minute of it.

Afterward I headed to Cezanne’s to check out the last set of David’s gig with pianist Andy Langham, Anthony Sapp on bass, and Joe Ferrira on drums. Andy and David are both amazing, and when they play together it’s something that affects you deeply. Hung around for a bit after the gig was over and chatted, met some new friends and some old acquaintances.

Finally the night wouldn’t be complete without some 24-hour Mexican food, so that’s how everything ended. Now I’m looking at the clock and I just realized that I have a rehearsal at 10 tomorrow morning. I better go catch some sleep while I can.

(There have been some good comments lately, check it out.)

Moving On Up

I feel ashamed posting this, but #10 on Yahoo. Not sure why I’m 10 on Yahoo, and I’ve moved from 13 to 12 and back on Google, but does it matter? I get these things from my referrer stats, honest! You can insist on my quest for search engine domination by linking to me with the Matt. Slight variations like “Matt Mullenweg,” “photo matt,” “I love Matt,” and “Matt is a _____ (fill in blank)” should be alright as well.

Let the Good Times Roll

Just got in from is one of the longest and latest rehearsals I’ve ever been in. Look at the timestamp. I would like to take this brief oppurtunity before I collapse from exhaustion to advise you of some upcoming performances.

Tomorrow (Friday) at 8 I’m going to be playing at the Intercontinental Hotel for the National Conference of Black Mayors. I was up at the hotel tonight and, man, those guys know how to party; the gig should be a lot of fun. The music is Mo-Town, complete with singing and dancing and me in the back tooting my sax. It’s impossible not to nod your head and tap your foot. Technically it’s a private gig but if you wanted to crash the party I’m don’t know if anyone would notice since there are just so many people there. Plus I’ll be wearing a tux.

This coming Monday and Wednesday are more casual gigs with the downbeat at 7:30 PM on the Kemah Boardwalk. The music is big band to the bones, and should be interesting. In between sets I’ll be doing a smaller combo that will do some straight-ahead jazz. If you’re in the area come check it out. Now if only I had time for the two papers and a test I have on Monday.

On Syndication and Rolling Your Own

Tantek and Jeffrey have both written quite nicely about handmade sites and aggregation, respectively. I’d like to address some of Tantek’s points first; since I am writing content management system (by his definition), I found his ideas particularly relevant.

First he lists a number of hand rollers, presumably as examples of the kind of “pushing the envelope” that he posits is easier without the burden of a content management system (even one that is designed specifically for the purpose of blogging). Let’s take a look at the list:

  • Jeffrey Zeldman — The epitome of doing it by hand. He has a URL scheme that doesn’t change, a novel multi-level permalink system, and damn fine structure. No complaints here.
  • Derek Powazek — Derek’s site, at least in its current iteration, is powered by Movable Type. Disqualified. 😉 {Fray} would have been a much better example, but even that is moving to a database-driven backend. (The Storyblog there is also MT powered.)
  • Eric Meyer — Again, no complaints. In a perfect world he could lose the class on his permalink, style it through contextual selectors, and add rel="bookmark" but that’s a nitpick and I know it. Kudos to Eric.
  • Brittney Gilbert — This looks hand done. Update: Tantek was right, a little to harsh here. Sorry! My intention was to say that, looking just at the code, this site does not push the markup and style envelope the way the other sites listed do. Does that make it bad? No. Read on.
  • Simon JesseyNice. Added to bookmarks.
  • David Baron — Not a whole lot going on here, looks like there are only a few posts per month. It seems very Tantek-influenced and well done, but with the frequency of his updates, I doubt that making his pages by hand is that much of a burden. Which brings us to my next point…

For the moment let’s look at hand-coding specifically in the realm of blogging, in its most general sense. In my view, for something to be a blog it really only needs permalinks and entries arranged in reverse chronological order. Feedback mechanisms– trackback, pingback, plain vanilla comments, a nice way to browse the archives, a search— are nice, but aren’t really required. Blogging (or whatever you’d like to call it) by hand requires discipline, and honestly few outside of the Çeliks and Zeldmans have what it takes to create a document for all time. Things like permalinks and archives are a pain to do manually; I know, I’ve tried.

There are some good reasons for doing a blog by hand, but I don’t think Tantek explicitly states the most important one. Lack of support from your host is not a good reason; there are too many options out there, from free and up. Along that same vein, cost should not be a barrier, as some of the very best systems out there are free (as in beer). Difficulty setting up shouldn’t be a problem either, as there are a number of people (including myself) who are familiar with a number of blogging systems and wouldn’t mind you setting up any one of them. Tantek comes closest when he likens what he does to a craft, implying that hand-coding his website is not merely a means but an end. Whatever you do should put as little as possible between yourself and whatever it is you love about creating your little corner of the independent web. This above all other things is the driving force behind WordPress, where my chief inspiration is myself, a lazy philosophy major. Tantek is happy writing the code for his page, just as I get a buzz typing in a box and having everything else happen automagically.

The question then becomes what makes Tantek happy about coding his site, not suppositions about the relative merits of hand coding something that could be easily automated. So what makes Tantek happy? I don’t know, but I can relate a story that might shed some light on it. At SxSW I had the pleasure of spending some time with Tantek and I got to see him update his site several times. (Watching people blog is fascinating in and of itself, because I’m convinced that everyone does it just a little differently.) Anyway when he met someone new Tantek would whip out his Powerbook and add that person to a list of people he had met so far at the conference. It was surprisingly fast, he could do it offline, and overall I got the feeling I was peeking behind the curtain of his web presence and seeing a well-oiled machine at work, the happy cogs of OS 9, his editor (BBEdit?), a Wifi card, and a simple FTP program all spinning away in what could only be described as a highly evolved process. It rocked my world; a process so radically different from my own, yet if we had raced, it would have been close.

I’m sure Zeldman is the same way. I’m sure of very few things in life, but I know that he wouldn’t still be doing what he’s doing if he didn’t enjoy it. So I guess in some sense, I’m a blogging hedonist. Do what makes you happy.

Just to clarify, I’m referring to coding by hand specifically for blogging, which I think is a tad daft, and not general hand-coding web pages, which I practice because there is no tool out there to my liking. If there were a perfect tool I still might not use it, but I’d definitely give it a try. However, in any hand-coding situation, you still shouldn’t make things any harder on yourself than need be. Noel Jackson uses Texturize with PHP’s output buffer to add typographic niceties on the fly to pages he hand codes. I’ve started doing this myself and it saves a tremendous amount of time, and it’s terribly simple to use. With two lines of PHP I was able to update a 450-page site, something that would have taken hours to do manually. (Not to mention us poor PC folk don’t have access to Dean Allen’s scrumptious Preflight Cruncher.) I’ve written similar tools for acronyms, line breaks, and pretty much any other mundane task that can be easily codified.

Moving on…

I agree wholeheartedly with Jeffrey on the potential for aggregation to steal the soul of a site. Recently on my syndication page I included a quote:

Q: If you offered an RSS feed, I could read your stuff without visiting your site.

A: If you stored your groceries on the sidewalk, we could eat your food without sitting across the table from you.

That’s classic Zeldman, complete with the famous Playboy-inspired editorial “we” that we so dearly wish we could pull off too. That was then, and he’s obviously trying to be more diplomatic this time around, yet the thrust is the same. I have debated removing my feeds several times, but ultimately my ego won out. There are several people who simply wouldn’t read this site if it wasn’t available in a syndicated format, and my desire for readership—to be able to look at my stats and know I’m not speaking into a void—is greater than whatever it is inside me that wants my writing to be appreciated in the context of my site. Christine says she comments more since she started using an aggregator. Besides, I try to remind my RSS readers several times a week that they’re missing out on something. It’s “Nice. But not the same.” I haven’t seen any unbiased studies that compare the effects of RSS on readership and such, and on a personal level it’s hard because RSS stats tend to be inflated due to the automated nature of their updating.

I think a laissez-faire attitude will eventually prevail. I can primp and preen my design all I want, but when it comes down to the basics all my code is merely a suggestion, and the interpretation of that is at the whim of whatever user-agent is knocking at the door. I question whether or not RSS is the best format for this sort of thing, but it seems to be quite good at what it does. RSS boils away the fluff and leaves just the meat, but what sort of meal is that?

Vote It

You know you’re bored anyway, so go vote for PhotoMatt.net on Blizg which I used to not be crazy about but has me ranked consistently in the top 15 for a while now so I guess I can’t complain. Just click the plus sign above and right of the title and I’ll let you have an island when I rule the world.

Texturize Finished

I just stuck a fork in Texturize and I’m ready to integrate it fully with WordPress. I’m very satisfied with the speed and functionality of this latest version. Not much in way of feature changes, except for one I think is pretty significant.

The Q tag would be great if it weren’t for Internet Explorer’s lacking in the realm of CSS generate content. (See Hixie’s scathing remarks for a critical look at IE.) Anyway this is the first automagic quote curlifier to do this (cue 15 corrections) though I’m sure Textile and SmartyPants won’t be far behind. The great thing about this technique is it lets you markup semantically meaningful quotes in your writing without losing a majority of your audience. Even better it would be trivial to put some simple browser detection and send the markup to browsers that get it. What a concept, using browser detection for good and not evil. This post is the first one where I’m using this technique. Hope the sky doesn’t fall. Update: It didn’t.

Oh Beehave

Sleep? Breakfast, Emily, House of Pies. Study. School, paper. Walking through beautiful clovers. Bee sting. Study. Home and back out. Pizza, Sarah, water, sugar, driving. Study. Sarah #2, chairs. Ring ring. Josh, Diedrich’s, talk, House of Pies, talk, drive, talk. Left turn. Flashing lights. License, registration, heart beat like a humming bird. Drive home, 60 miles per hour. Study. Email, email, study. fin.

LINK Navigation

Now I know I just gushed about Opera, but I just found another reason why Mozilla kicks butt. Back in the day a number of link types that could be used by user-agents in an additional navigation bar or pre-cache some elements “to reduce the perceived load time.” Cool, eh? There are a number of possible applications in the blog format that lend themselves well to this, and I’ve tried to put as many as possible here. Viewing the source or visiting in Mozilla is the best way to get a feel for what’s happening and how neat the application is, but some descriptions are in order nonetheless. I don’t know the default setting for the “Site Navigation Bar” is for Mozilla, but to make sure it’s on go “View > Show/Hide > Site Navigation Bar > Show Only As Needed” to make sure you’ll see what all the fuss is about.

First, it was very tricky hard to get this all working with my current setup; whenever I try something new here my immediate thought to how it can be integrated into WordPress, but the steps I had to take were so convoluted that I doubt that any of this will make it into the next release. Anyway the first useful link that came to mind would be “bookmark,” something I specify the rel attribute on my permalink tags but no current browser picks up. So for example the bookmark link for this entry would be like so:

<link rel="bookmark" href="/p620" title="LINK Navigation" />

For any index, individual, archive, or category page you look at on the journal part of this site there will be a set of bookmark links to each of the entries on the page. I have created similar links for commenting and trackbacking entries, that personally I’ve found to be an extremely efficient way to get around. Check under your “More” menu in Mozilla to see it all. Mozilla also links nicely to the alternative representations of the content, such as RSS, and though it links to the same resources on each page it really should link to the specific representation of only the content on the current page, so for example the comments page could link to its unique RSS 2 feed.

Then some basic navigation elements were in order. The logic of these should be apparent from the code, but there is a link pointing to the top page of this site, a link to the search page, the FAQ, information about myself, and finally copyright information. When you are browsing a single entry you are offered links to the previous and next entry, as well as to the very first entry. This could be expanded once date-based archives are available to allow you to browse from month to month or day to day. Once you start using it, you’ll wonder how you ever navigated any other way.

Finally I set the categories to be “sections,” though I’m not sure if I’m entirely comfortable with this. If you envision all of the text of this blog as a document, then the “index” could be the front page, but after that it’s open for interpretation. Should categories be sections or chapters? Could chapters be say, month-based archives? What if I wanted some arbitrary division of chapters, say by whatever relationship I was in at the time? Sub-sections seem ill-defined as you can’t seem to define several sub-sections as a child of a section, though I may simply need to explore this further. Also I am feeling slightly constrained by the software I use to manage everything, but it would be fascinating to see how someone without those constraints such as Tantek could do with his structure. Ideally some common set of relationships specific to the organization of a weblog—much like the goal of the Weblog Metadata Initiative (where’d they go?)—could be agreed upon and implemented by default by the authors of the most common software and templates. Several people already implement a bit of this already, for example Mark, but there is a lot of unrealized potential here.

Opera is able to use all of the standard defined links, but doesn’t catch any of the extra ones. IE of course is oblivious to it all. Mozilla gets everything. If you have any information on other browsers let me know. I should be defining the extra rel attributes in a profile document, but there are only a few hours left before I’m supposed to “wake up” for my classes tomorrow, so some sleep may be in order.

Opera Coming Along

I must admit that I haven’t touched Opera for some time now, and I never really took it htat seriously as a browser. Tracking its market share is tough because out of the box it identifies as IE6 out of the box, but I always figured that there was just too much wrong with it for it to be that popular. What a surprise their latest version is! Not only is it blazingly fast like it has always been, it has what I would count as the best designed user interface I have seen thus far in a browser. IE is weak. Phoenix was better. SlimBrowser makes IE nice but puts too much clutter, and feels unpolished. Mozilla, well, good ‘ol Mozilla has become my main browser for the past couple of weeks and I can’t complain. Out of the blue comes Opera, with a interface so dandy I feel like I might be in OS X (someday…) if the garish start bar at the bottom of my screen didn’t bring me back to reality. The only thing chapping me is the banner, but I would have no problem supporting such finely done software even it wasn’t my primary browser, just to encourage its development. I can’t begin to detail all of the nice touches they’ve put into the interface, just try it out. It’s only a 3.2 MB download without Java! (And who needs Java anyways?)

Howdy

Being back in the City after the radically different environment is a strange socially organic feeling. It’s good to be home. And oh my goodness do I have some email to catch up on!