Unlink

I’ve been tinkering with my blog and online profiles1 – Twitter, Facebook, and the like – for years now, attempting to find balance in what gets posted where and how its shared, if at all. For a while, lifestreaming was The Future, so I experimented with it right here on my blog for about six months. Then Facebook became the place to share, so I sent many of my online activities there. My next strategy for dealing with all this stuff is a different direction, however. To quote The Offspring, “You gotta keep’m separated”.

I made the mistake of auto-posting my activity feeds for the same reason so many other people do – it’s easy. Click a checkbox, type a username, then set it and forget it. But in this case, easy is also lazy. It gives me yet another excuse to not take the time to think and post about something that interests me and possibly the people I interact with on a given site. I lost sight of the fact that the point isn’t to make things easy for me, but to show respect to those who give me a slice of their limited attention.

The Unlink Your Feeds manifesto put it so well, I’ll quote a full page from it in full:

I have a vision of a new social networking paradigm. Handcrafted social networks.

I imagine a world where people take each network for what it is and participate (or not) on those terms. Instead of a firehose slurry of everything buckets, I imagine separate streams of purified whatever-it-is-each-service-does. I envision users that post when they’re inspired and don’t mind skipping a few days if nothing particularly interesting comes up.

I’m like Thumper’s mother. “If you can’t think of anything good to say, don’t say anything at all.”

I imagine people taking the extra 10 seconds to reformat a post for each service if the message is so relevant and important that it needs to show up more than once. I imagine being able to choose who I follow and what subset of their postings I get with a high degree of granularity.

There may come a day when this vision gets implemented on the server side. When all the social networks give me fine grain control for hiding subsets of the updates sent out by my contacts. But until that day comes, it’s gotta be solved on the client side.

Here’s the Plan

So going forward, here’s how I’ll be using each of the sites I post to. If you’re interested in following one or more, please do. You get my personal guarantee that, unless noted below, I won’t cross the streams.

  • berbs.us: The blog you’re reading right now is for longish form writing that requires me to get my butt in a chair and move the cursor to the right. If you visit this site directly instead of in a feed reader, it’s also why I stripped it down to a bare bones style that gives you no choice but to focus on reading.
  • Google Buzz: I’m still not sure how I’ll use Google Buzz in the long-term (that is, if it’s still around in the long-term). Right now I’m mostly using it to follow people in the technology business. For now I am auto-posting items I share out of Google Reader here, but I’ll reevaluate that soon.
  • Delicious: My collection of bookmarks I intend on reading or referencing sometime later – mostly technology related and, oddly enough, recipes.
  • Facebook: Where I occasionally check in on people I know offline. While I’m finding myself spending less time here recently, if you know me in meatspace, look me up (just don’t invite me to play Farmville).
  • Flickr: Where I post photos, mainly of the family. New ones automatically get shared out to Facebook as an alternative to their own photo tool.
  • Last.fm: A running history of what I’m listening to at home and on my iPod. I had been sharing this info out to other sites in the past, but now you’ll have to visit my Last.fm page if you’re curious about my odd choices of music.
  • LinkedIn: If you’ve worked with me, went to school with me, or are a friend, feel free to add me on LinkedIn. I don’t visit it much right now, but you’ll never know if/when that’ll change.
  • Twitter: Out of all of these on my list, Twitter is by far getting the most of my attention these days. It’s given me the chance to interact with a number of fascinating people all over the world. I regularly share links, pointed opinions, and attempts at humor, so follow me if you’re not already.
  • Tumblr: Looking back through my blog archives, I used to post a lot of links to videos, other sites, etc. Since I’m trying to keep the blog somewhere I work on long pieces, I created a Tumblr link blog as a place where I can quickly post things I find online.
  • Vimeo: If and when I have videos to share (again, mostly of the family), I do it at my Vimeo account. If it’s worthy, I’ll selectively share it elsewhere too.

  1. I refuse to call it Social Media. Blame the Social Media Experts if you want. 

State of the Blog

I’ve grown to despise meta discussions (blogs about blogging, podcasts about podcasting), but sometimes they can’t easily be avoided. This is one of those times. My apologies in advance.

If you’re a regular visitor to my website, no – your eyes aren’t playing crazy tricks on you. The site does look completely different. I’m now using the WordPress publishing tool and the amazing Thematic theme framework to manage this blog – a job that had been done using Movable Type since I launched this little project way back in late 2003.

Besides the obvious design change of the site, does this matter to you? No, probably not. I’m hoping the change in software tools will remove a few mental barriers preventing me from writing more often, and that finding and reading my content will be as easy as possible for you.

If you’re subscribed to this blog, you’ve likely seen my last 10 entries reappear in your news reader. Sorry about that. It was a side effect of the change that I hoped to avoid, but couldn’t. Once you mark the entries as read, you should only see the new stuff from then on.

Finding Focus

Two social networks have had a bigger impact on my blogging than anything else: Twitter and Facebook. Twitter letting me fire off a quick thought on a topic I previously may have written an entire blog post about, and Facebook making it trivially easy to share links to articles and videos with my friends. Since these sites reduce the sharing friction to practically zero, it means I end up using them a lot more. As a side effect, it also means I also means I posting here less. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Use the best tool for the task, I always say.

My real concern for this blog has always been who my ideal reader is. Family? Friends? Random Google searchers? Me? The answer to this important question significantly guides the direction of my writing, which is probably why I’ve tried hard not to think about it. The time has come to ponder this, however.

Thanks for Reading

I want to say a big thanks for being a reader. There’s a lot of good content out there on the internets, so it’s humbling that you took the time to read mine.

A view from the break room window at the Center For Innovation in Grand Forks, ND.

A view from the break room window at the Center For Innovation in Grand Forks, ND.

Catching Up

Uploaded on May 28, 2008<br />
by (Erik)

Despite my infrequent blogging lately, I want to assure you that I’m alive and well. I’ve got some ideas brewing, but am lacking the motivation to put them down into properly formed words and sentences. I have no doubt that I’ll get my mojo back soon, so please bear with me in the mean time.

[Read more...]

An Experiment in Lifestreaming

Starting today, I’m going to try a little experiment on the front page of my blog. And you, my faithful readers, get to be the guinea pigs.

Fact: I don’t get around to writing new blog posts as often as I’d like, thanks to a rather busy life.

Fact: At the same time, my various online activities leave lots of “digital footprints” that might be of interest to you.

Say Hello to Lifestreaming.

So, starting today, in addition to the occasional blog post, you’ll see a variety of items posted from my different online activities to the berbs.us homepage. That means that anytime I post a new photo to Flickr, write something on Twitter, save a bookmark to Delicious, etc., it’ll show up there too.

So, if you’re interested in keeping up with what I’m up to, this should make that a lot easier.

Note: If you’re subscribed to this blog’s news feed, my intention isn’t to overwhelm you, so you will not see these show up in your news reader of choice (you could always subscribe to an almost identical stream of events at my Friendfeed page if you really want to). The berbs.us feed currently only gives updates for when I post new content here on my blog and when I save bookmarks to Delicious. If there’s any interest, I’m also willing to add in my new Flickr photos. If that’s something you’d like to see, please add a comment to this post.

Let me know what you think.

I’m interested to hear what you think about this experiment, so please let me know – good or bad. You can shoot me an email from the contact page or leave me a comment on this post (preferred).

My Wife the Blogger

Casey is currently participating in the National Blog Posting Month, which challenges you to write at least one blog post a day, for the entire month of November. She’s off to a great start so far!

If you want to check out her work, she’s posting over at her blog, The Beautiful Letdown.

The New and Improved berbs.us

Welcome to the new berbs.us. The migration took just a little longer than I was hoping due to some issues I had in moving all of my content over to the improved Movable Type 4 templating system. I need to note here that upgrading Movable Type 3 to Movable Type 4 is, in itself, a very easy process. It’s only if you decide to trash your old templates and move to the new ones where things get more complex. But, in the name of progress and learning, I did just that.

Besides the new look, there are some other public-facing changes you might notice. First, the site’s search engine is now powered by the really great Fast Search plugin. This not only returns results almost 10x faster, but they’re more relevant too.

Next, if you’re a commenter, you’ll find a few new ways to authenticate when posting. OpenID is now an option, though I’ve been having some problems with it myself, so it might be a little buggy for you too. Anonymous commenting is still an option too, though you’ll be asked to complete one of those CAPTCHAs when submitting. This should greatly reduce the amount of spam I need to deal with.

You may find that pages seem to load a lot faster now than before. All content is now being published as static HTML files, which means your browser no longer needs to wait for my database to give you data before being displayed.

Soon, I’ll be adding some additional non-blog pages to the site too. This might include spots to find my most recently updated photos, book recommendations, etc.

Finally, an apology to subscribers of my blog feed. Republishing the site today resulted in every post in the feed (about 16 of them) appearing as new. This should be a one time deal, but if you continue to experience any weirdness, be sure to let me know.

This Blog is on Lock-down

Not that I think many of you will care or be affected, I temporarily pulled down comments and trackbacks from this blog earlier tonight. I’m beginning the process of moving everything over from Movable Type 3.3 to the brand new Movable Type 4.01. It’s a fair amount of work, and I need a nice, well defined point to migrate content from, so I turned off commenting to help accomplish this.

I expect the updated site to be up some time this weekend. You’ll know when it happens – trust me.

Movable Type 4 vs WordPress 2.2

mt4-logo.gif

Just the other day I was considering moving this blog into WordPress instead of the various versions of Movable Type I’ve been using to run this thing for almost four years now. There were a few reasons I was thinking about doing this:

  1. I’m a tweaker, and like to try new things
  2. I’ve used WordPress to manage several other personal blogs, and have been very impressed
  3. I know PHP much better than I know Perl, so digging around and making changes to WP would be a lot easier
  4. A lot of other web developers made the move to WordPress a couple of years ago, so there are tons of new and interesting plug-ins available
  5. It’s released under the GPL open source license, which ensures it’ll always be free, in both senses of the word.

So although I like WordPress and will continue to use it for the other sites I run, I’m glad I didn’t make the switch on berbs.us quite yet. Just yesterday, Six Apart announced Movable Type 4, their first big release of the blogging software in about three years. A of the 50 new features got my attention and are making me excited to download and try out the beta:

  1. A New User Interface: Movable Type has had the same basic administration interface for as long as I’ve been using it. There have been improvements and tweaks, sure, but no big leaps in the experience have been made for a long time. Version 4 sports a completely redesigned UI, and looks like it’ll be very easy to use.
    Movable Type 4 User Interface
  2. OpenID: MT4 includes built-in support for OpenID, the distributed authentication system that is gaining traction and may someday be the method you use to login to websites.
  3. Content Management: The new version of Movable Type will include ways to create and manage non-blog content for your website. This is a really big deal for me (more below).
  4. Open Source: Movable Type 4 will be made available under the GPL license sometime later this summer. That means it’s not only free to use, you’re free to make modifications and improvements to give back to the community. There will still be a paid commercial version for businesses, schools, and others who need official support.

One of my biggest accomplishments while working at EduTech was a complete website redesign that used Movable Type as its content management system. The initial setup was not easy — I think it involved something like 10 different weblogs for each of the different sections of the site. It also meant using a lot of complicated PHP template files that still causes my head to hurt just thinking about it. I’ll just say this: If I were doing that project again today, I would not use Movable Type 3 to manage a complex website.

Movable Type 4 seems to be a completely different animal though. With the built-in ability to create and organize regular web pages, it could turn out to be a very capable light-weight CMS.

I’ve been using MODx CMS for several projects at my current job (which I’m still not at liberty to officially announce on my blog yet) with some success. There’s absolutely no integration with our Movable Type blogs though, which means two completely different interfaces for managing different parts of the site. It’d be great to bring everything in under the same system, and MT4 just might give me that opportunity.

I’m thinking of using our church website as a testing case for Movable Type 4. I still haven’t made any changes to it after I considered moving it to Drupal and MODx last year, so this would be the perfect opportunity to see what MT4 is capable of.

Blog Recommendation: Brazen Careerist

Though I didn’t have much time for blogging last week in between work and life, I wanted to pass along one of my favorite new blogs to you. It’s called Brazen Careerist, by Boston Globe columnist Penelope Trunk.

Penelope offers lots of great career advice to readers, especially those on the early end of their work life. She reminds us often that life is more than just work, that failure isn’t such a bad thing, and that the old rules of jobs and careers are changing as a new generation of college graduates enters the workforce.

I hope to find some more time to write this week, maybe even finally about my career and job as I mentioned a couple of weeks ago. It’s just not quite time yet, so I apologize for the false start. It’ll be soon though…

Revealed Soon: What I’ve Been Working on the Last Year

I’m excited to say that very soon I will be finally be able to tell you all where I’ve been working and what I’ve been working on for over a year. It took a lot longer than any of us expected, but all of that extra time means a product that is beyond anything we ever imagined a year ago.

So, please stay tuned. I can’t wait to fill you in on the details!

Unrelated: Several people have been looking for my contact info on this blog to reach me directly. That was an oversight on my part – I never intended to make it difficult to reach me. I’ve now posted an email address and phone number at the top of my homepage sidebar. So, go ahead and send me some email, or leave me a voicemail!