Don’t leave writing to writers. Don’t delegate your area of interest and knowledge to people with stronger rhetorical resources. You’ll find your voice as you make your way. There is, however, one thing to learn from writers that non-writers don’t always understand. Most writers don’t write to express what they think. They write to figure out what they think. Writing is a process of discovery. Blogging is an essential tool toward meditating over an extended period of time on a subject you consider to be important.

Marc Weidenbaum on the value of straight-up blogging, in a place you own yourself. All of this. I’ve been quiet here – less quiet at my work site – but not absent, and knowing that this is mine, and that slowly, what I’m thinking about was always present – even in the Pinboard links – has value.

  • "I try to write at every day, and plan to continue to. I often quiet down toward the end of the year, making plans for the one to come. Another year lies ahead, a year of more daily recommendations of online listening, of interviews with musicians, coders, and artists (three categories that exist in combination far more than they did in 1996), and field notes. If you’ve read this far — by which I mean this article, not for two decades — I just want to say thanks. It’s a central pleasure of my life." I too have greatly enjoyed discovering Marc's writing – and the Junto. I might really have to do something about the absence of writing in my life again.
  • Oh boy. Espgaluda on the iPhone; authentic bullet-hell for your fingertips. I have a feeling I might end up with this.
  • "Why would we want to play around with custom fields, or add stupid meta boxes in the Edit Posts page and then teach our clients and/or content managers to use them? Why not just get rid of all those stuff and have them seperately in your main menu, and the meta boxes are customized to match the exact needs of certain post types." Which is exactly how I use WordPress in commercial installations, and every time I hack around this, I long for proper Top Level Things. This is a great feature, and it's going to make my life considerably easier. Let's hope they don't screw up the 3.0 release.

My recent talk about what might happen if gamers ran the world made Digg yesterday, and went a bit big. Big to the point that I got a nice email from my host pointing out that my PHP processes were killing the entire shared host that I’m hosted on, and that I needed to rectify this immediately.

The fires were mainly calmed by installing WP-Super-Cache, which did pretty much what it says on the tin. That said, I did learn a few things from the incident. In no particular order:

  • WordPress’ PHP processes for rendering a page are really, really intensive. Most of the time, that’s not a problem, but when you’re being bombarded with hits, it’ll take it’s told. Flat HTML might be the way forward.
  • Super-Cache isn’t exactly difficult to install, but it requires permissions in lots of places. The best advice I can give is to walk through the installation instructions carefully, and when it doesn’t work, go over the troubleshooting guide in readme.txt one step at a time. The few issues I had were resolved by walking through the troubleshooting process.
  • Most importantly, a combination of the two parts above: you should assume that at some point, you’re going to need this kind of caching, and you’re going to need it fast. Installing and configuring WordPress plugins on a server being bombarded with hits really isn’t much fun. Instead, install the caching plugin of your choice when you set your server up, and make sure it’s working at that time. Then, when the horde descends upon your lowly shared host, you can head straight there and click “enable caching”, rather than having to fight fires for an hour when you really should be working, or in the pub. This also means you can configure the thing to not cache your feed, which is a useful thing to be able to do; I’m about to head off and do that now.

Everything appears to have cooled off now, and I’m not getting any more emails from Joyent about my usage. To Joyent’s credit, they were helpful at explaining the problem and tolerant of the time it took for me to fix things, which was appreciated. And next time I get an absurd amount of traffic, with any luck, I’ll be ready for it.


28 March 2007

Several anniversaries for me, recently. Last weekend was my college reunion; 30 terms since I matriculated (ie: went to university) means it’s time to get back together with my contemporaries. In real money, that’s three and a half years since graduation; not a vast amount of time for significant change, but still enough that our vectors have already begun to diverge more significantly.

A handful of marriages, at least two babies; quite a few (proper) masters’ degrees, some now on the way to PhDs; quite a few trainee lawyers. A smattering of medics, one policeman. Many people beginning to look to leave their first jobs. What you’d expect from 25-year-olds, I guess.

Most of us were apprehensive before it; it’s easy going back to see the friends you’ve stayed in touch with, but what of the people you barely knew? What of the relationships that were strained to begin with? They turned out not to be a problem, because it’s hard to remember that everybody’s grown up that little bit more since we left. Most of us have been away from there longer than we studied there. It makes a difference; it was an excellent night if only because of how calm it felt – people that, whatever their difference, were comfortable in each other’s company.

Our contrails may be scattered, but our origins are still the same; we settled back into old jokes, old routines, the old bar. And it’s a useful reminder of the things that we all share in common, not just that place, and the many different paths we could have all gone down. Several people asked about how the whole journalism thing was going, and I felt a bit sad to explain that I wasn’t really a journalist – I’d just worked within journalism and publishing, and from time to time had written a bit on the side. At the same time, it was a reminder that I really enjoy the software/design/web/media thing I do, but one that made me consider what would have happened if I’d pursued that more vigorously.

An excellent day, really, and a better night; it continued long into British Summer Time over Polish lager, bourbon and port. My brain bore the brunt of that assault.

It feels like a tiny milestone. Perhaps because it was the first thing this year I couldn’t really see beyond. But it’s in the past, now. 2007 has been exhausting, so far; busier at work, busier outside of work, feeling I’m falling behind in personal projects but having lots of fun nonetheless. The next goal is to try and bring some of those ideas to fruition. And to answer the eternal question: where next? I’m beginning to feel like I’m diverging too far from some critical path, but hey, maybe I misread the path to begin with.

12 months in this job, too. This year I’ve really begun to feel a bit more settled in it. It took me a long while to settle into the whole “corporate” atmosphere, and I don’t think I ever really will, but I’m generally left to get on with things so that’s good. I still wish the making process wasn’t so fragmented, though. I’m glad I made the move, though; it was the right time, and I’ve learned a great amount so far. I’m hoping that learning will continue.

12 months since last year’s ETech, where I gave a talk – my first real “speaking in public” as a professional (if that’s the right word – I’m still not sure). That was a scary and exhilarating time, but again, great fun: I learned a lot and made new friends, and that’s always worthwhile. It would have been good to go this year, but it’s no great loss. I’m going to be at Reboot again this year – at least in attendance – and am already looking forward to that. I’m a little concerned I’ve coasted a bit in 2007, and there’s nothing like Reboot to force you to raise your game.

Oh, and, finally: I started blogging a bit over six years ago. It seems like an age; it was, I guess. I still haven’t imported that content, like I promise so long ago. I probably should – but it’ll be heavily edited of teenage mush. I really just want to prove it was actually there.

Six years of this internets game, and look where it got me. I’m rather glad I ended up here.