All bloggers do it at least once in their blogging career. It's remains pretty faux pas in my opinion, but here I am anyway. You know what I'm talking about, don't you?
It's the blog post that only exists to note that I haven't been blogging much lately. Gasp.
Sometimes it can be a sign of a dying blog, or a lack of personal creativity, but I assure you that's not the case here. No, I think we all get to have at least one of these kinds of posts once every few years or so. I think my last one was in 2005, so I'm due.
Every time I go on vacation or get a little bit of time to step back and think, I end up making long "to do" lists for myself. The lists are about projects I want to start, books to read, things to learn about, people to get in touch with. It's common for some significant chunk of those lists to be related to how to make my home, Richmond Indiana, a better place to live, work and play.
At the same time, I recognize that other people are out there coming up with their own ideas about how to make Richmond better. I hear those ideas mentioned at meetings, in casual conversations, in planning documents, and all over. Sometimes I hear people talk about idea overlap - how something they thought was a new idea was something someone else had worked on in the past. And then I start to worry that we might not be fully honoring the collective brain power we devote to improving Richmond, and I wanted to create a resource that would allow for some consolidated storage of all of those great ideas.
Thus was created the concept for a new website I launched this week, Richmond Brainstorm.com. It's a place where people can submit their ideas for how to make Richmond better, and discuss the ideas already on the site.
You may have noticed that I was playing around with the Twitter Tools plugin for WordPress, and that it was generating these weekly digests of my Twitter posts on Fridays. I'm not going to do that anymore, but you can always follow me on Twitter directly or with your favorite blog/RSS feed reader/twitter tool or by looking in the sidebar of the blog front page.
I'm removing Google ads from my blog. I'm tired of them, and they're not earning their keep.
You can now subscribe to the comments of a specific post such that you receive an e-mail message when new comments are posted. Look for the checkbox right where you submit your comment.
One of the weird things about blogs is that, as much time as people put into creating interesting and useful content for them, it's rare that anyone goes to the trouble to read back through older entries unless they're really looking for something specific, or are otherwise very committed to the content.
I don't expect that most of my readers here will bother with browsing through archives just for the fun of it, so I already make available a couple of topic-related mechanisms to find what you're looking for: the list of post tags (visualized in the image shown here), the category tree, the search form, the list of top-rated posts, etc.
Today I'm introducing another way to get to my core content, an index of my signature blog posts. This is a list of my more substantial and well-considered essays on a variety of topics, and I think it represents well the thinking and writing I've done on topics I'm passionate about. I'll try to keep it updated regularly, and I hope you find it useful.
Those of you who follow my blog may not always bother to check in on the other parts of my personal website, which is understandable since they're much more static than the weblog. I do try to use the actual home page of the site as a fairly current jumping off point for various other projects, events, and adventures I'm involved in, and today I launched a redesigned version that organizes all of that a little bit better. It also has a photo that reflects the facial hair experiment I'm currently participating in.
The only major content component that didn't come over from the old design is a sampling of my Flickr photos, but I didn't get the sense anyone was really exploring my photography through that channel, and there's still a direct link to the photo stream on the new page. And, I added direct links to a lot of the other sites/tools where I have content or information posted.
I've upgraded the WordPress software powering this blog to a more recent version, and added a few more ways to interact with my posts at the same time:
I'm now using Gravatars - "globally recognized avatars" - to display user-uploaded images next to the comments that people post. This creates a little bit better sense that you're interacting with real humans, and even adds a dash of color. If you want to try it out, just visit gravatar.com to upload your avatar today.
You can now choose to be e-mailed about follow-up responses to a particular post that you comment on. While you can always subscribe to a post's RSS feed to track comments, sometimes getting an e-mail is the easiest way to go - and don't worry, you can just as easily unsubscribe too.
Some time ago, I added a post rating system to the blog, allowing you to indicate what you think on a scale of 1 to 5 stars (5 being the best, of course). Posts with high ratings get a little more attention elsewhere on the blog, and each star you add also help an angel get its wings. It's a way to give feedback without typing out a comment - "thank you for helping us serve you better."
Also added some time ago, but now more prominently featured, you can see posts that are related to a new blog entry, listed right below the entry itself. I tend to circle around some similar themes, and so this is at least a helpful way for me to see how things tie together; I hope it's a useful way for you to explore my other writings too.
There ya go. Let me know how this stuff works for you; as always, this space is a work in progress.
There is a strange and unique destination out there in the political blogosphere called The Daily Kos. You may have heard of it - it's been called everything from one of the most defining websites of the modern political debate, to an analog of the Klu Klux Klan. I suspect it's actually somewhere in between (but for those who don't like encountering ideas they don't agree with, be careful about clicking through, you may find yourself uncomfortable).
I recently tried an experiment, where I took a couple of my blog postings from here, and cross-posted them on an account at Daily Kos. As a result, I got to learn about the strange culture that's evolved on this headline-making site. For example, a posting there is actually called a "Diary" (not a diary entry, just a diary). And there's apparently a whole crew of users of the site who go through reading the hundreds of diaries posted throughout the day, and they "Rescue" them, which means they highlight them for the rest of the users of the site to read. Apparently, I hit the Kosian jackpot of having my first two diaries ever rescued and discussed. Most interesting was how many people commented on the entries compared to their life on this site. I suppose that when you've built a critical mass in an online community, the content gets a lot more attention, no matter its quality.
Anyway, it was fun to know that a site read (and often condemned) by various national political and media figures had, for a brief time, a little linkage to my self-indulgent ramblings.
I'm a nut about organizing stuff just so, and making sure bits of information are connected, interrelated, categorized, and labeled just right. The "categories" I've heretofore been using for this blog were ample for my initial purposes, but as I creep up on 200 posts, have become a less useful way to organize and access the information.
So I'm turning to tagging and tags, a fairly widespread component of many blogs these days. Basically, each post will be assigned a series of tags that help describe it, and they'll be listed on the post page when you view it on my site (currently located in the right-hand column on each full post page). You can then click on a tag to see other posts that share that tag and are, presumably, related. For example, this post will have tags of "[tag]blog[/tag]", "[tag]meta[/tag]", "[tag]website_development[/tag]" and "[tag]blogging[/tag]", and you can click on any of those to see other articles that share those tags.
I've also added a "tag cloud" to the navigation bar on the front page of my weblog, which shows the most often-used tags. A similar display is now present on the front page of my site. Soon, I will also add an index of sorts that identifies some themes in my writing, composed of groups of related tags. Eventually, I hope to fade out the use of the traditional category system.
Let me know if you find this useful, confusing, or something else entirely.