Articles about blogging

How to increase your writing frequency

Around this time last year, I gave myself a challenge: Write at least 52 blog entries throughout 2010. I signed up for Project 52:

a personal challenge geared toward getting fresh content on your website.

I haven’t completely risen to the challenge, but I am still hanging in there and it has massively improved my blogging efforts and how I deal with them.

mentalized.net in 2009

A new year has arrived — what better time is there to look back at the year that passed?

The decline of blog readers

The number of visitors to mentalized.net keeps declining. This is hardly surprising; I don’t write as much as I used to here (I have a feeling Twitter is eating up a bunch of potential articles), and a lot of content is probably being consumed off the site in news readers and other aggregators.

Still, I am quite happy having more than 125000 people visit my humble website and I owe each one of you my thanks.

What people came for

My collection of totally free, animated GIFs for showing Ajax activity continues to reign supreme as the most popular content on mentalized.net. It is followed by my satirical web 2.0 webdesign tutorial.

Both of those were published back in 2005 over 4 years ago, yet they still continue to draw readers to the website. The only article on the content top 10 that’s actually published in 2009 is my response to a Java developer spreading some FUD (which unfortunately detoriated into more FUD and mud-slinging).

Top content on mentalized.net in 2009

  1. AJAX Activity indicators
  2. Building your very own web 2.0 layout
  3. No such file to load — mkmf
  4. Java kicks Ruby in the what now?
  5. Hello Ruby on Rails World
  6. Rails 2.0 deprecations
  7. Browser size does matter – Actual numbers
  8. Hunting down VBScript error codes
  9. Setting the request content type in Rails
  10. AJAX activity indicators ":http://mentalized.net/journal/2005/11/29/ajax_activity_indicators/

How people got here

Google is still, hands down, the biggest source of traffic for mentalized.net. Almost half of all visits have been referred by Google. For comparison, the next search engine on the list is Bing with less than 1% of Googles referrals.

Social media sites like Digg, Twitter, and Facebook still aren’t providing me with a lot of traffic. I must be “old media” – or perhaps my content simply isn’t the kind of content that cries out for immediate attention.

The only post I’ve made in 2009 that was in relation to “current events” (link) did in fact get some traction on the social sites with roughly half the visitors coming from various social sites.

2010?

I am looking forward to redoing the above stats for mentalized.net when 2010 is over. I signed up for Project52 fully intent on accomplishing the goal (“to write at least 1 new article per week for 1 year”). Hopefully, getting back into the thrill of writing regular content should provide for better content that can at least break the decline of visits. Time will tell.

Krak wants money for links

“So you want to link to our free, advertisting supported website? Sure, that’ll be 4500 DKK + VAT (around 979 USD)”

This might sound absurd to you, but it’s the reality this blogger (in danish) faced when he linked to danish mapping service, Krak.

According to the (well hidden Terms of Use) for Kraks website (I’m reluctant to link here, who knows what bills they might send me?) linking to maps on Krak is forbidden without written consent for commercial entities.

Read that again, then try to grasp the fact that a company like Krak, whose website is plastered with ads, willingly says no to free traffic and Google juice.

Now, the case of Krak vs. Kennel Kaarup (in danish) from above have been resolved with Krak backtracking and issuing a formal apology (“Oops, we figured you were a business entity”), however it’s probably too late by now.

The Digg hordes already picked up on the story, and the entry on Digg is closing in on the actual Krak entry when searching for Krak on Google.

The story is also making its rounds in the danish (and international) blogosphere and more mainstream media.

It sure seems to me, that Krak doesn’t want the traffic from you or your website visitors. I am sure both Google Maps and -mashup, Find Vej, does though, so do link to those excellent map services if you wan’t to show people where you live.

2006 in retrospect

It’s a new year, and of course, this calls for looking back at the year that passed. The short version: 2006 has been a great year for me on several levels.

Professionally

Career wise 2006 has been coloured primarily by Ruby on Rails.

I founded my freelance web application development shop in January and started having fun building Rails stuff for clients (with the launches of Pluggd and MedBillManager being the highlights).

On the day job, my boss finally caved in after hearing me evangelize and rave about Ruby, and in March we started looking at the possibility of Rails as our new platform.

The final decision, which was luckily a go, came in July and the actual rewrite began making my dayjob ever so more interesting.

On the more social side of Ruby and Rails, 2006 also became the birth year of the Copenhagen Ruby Brigade. By now we hold (almost) montly meetings usually with around 20 smart and fun participants, healthy discussions and unhealthy fast food.

Virtually

The life of mentalized has been a exciting ride throughout 2006 as well.

The year was kickstarted when my satirical Building your very own web2.0 layout reached the Digg hordes in February and became the most visited page on mentalized in 2006 with 175K pageviews.

The runner ups in the category “top content of 2006” are my free AJAX progress indicator images with 107K pageviews. These are still going strong and getting a fair amount of hits every day.

Third place goes to this entry – wonder why…

Honorable mentions go to some of my Rails related tutorials: No such file to load — mkmf and Putting Debian on Ruby rails.

It looks like the advice I can take away from 2006 is that writing jokes, giving stuff away for free, and posting images of scantily clad women are great ways to increase your pageview statistics…

Optimus 103 keyboard less than optimal?

Art. Lebedev Studio should now have been taking pre-orders for their Optimus-103 keyboard, which is based on what used to be the probably coolest keyboard ever; the Optimus concept keyboard.

However, somewhere along the process from concept to production the keyboard has:

  1. Lost a bunch of keys (fair enough, we probably didn’t need them and losing them shaves 10% off the price).
  2. Lost the ability to display color icons (which unfortunately means it lost quite a bit of its appeal, as well).
  3. Had a pre-order pricetag set to $1200(!), with promises of sub-$1000 in late 2007 ($1200?! we knew it would be expensive, but seriously, that’s way too much for mostly everyone).
  4. Had the studio owner post a sour post claiming it would have no displays and a $10K pricetag (ranting has its place, but I am not sure a post like that is a good idea for any company).
  5. Had it’s pre-order date pushed from mid December 2006 to February 2007 and regained support for color icons (makes me wonder if this means the $1200 pricetag is still real or what?).

So apparently we have to wait until February until we know anything. Until then, you can enjoy the Optimus’ 3 key baby brother instead.

PS: Kudos to the Art. Lebedev Studio team for blogging about this process, even though hearing peoples reactions can be frustrating at times.

What's going on around here

It’s been pretty quiet around these parts lately – if you ignore the posts about Copenhagen.rb meetings at least. That’s primarily because I am having tons of fun at work, which for some reason doesn’t leave me much time for blogging. Not that I would ever think of blogging at work, no siree…

Anyways, here are some tidbits about what’s be going around my life recently:

MacZOT! offering SubEthaEdit for (sort of) free

I’ve been eyeballing MacZOT! before. Basically they offer you handpicked Mac software for greatly reduced prices, and I learned about them when they offered a “MysteryZOT” – you buy a package of software, but you don’t know what you get. Funky stuff.

They are currently offering SubEthaEdit from CodingMonkeys at a $6 discount, but not only that, for each approved blog entry writing about this, they will lower the price by $0.05. If the collective blogosphere manages to lower the price to $0, MacZOT and CodingMonkeys will simply give out SubEthaEdit registration keys for free to all who participated.

In other words, MacZOT and TheCodingMonkeys will award $105,000 in Mac software. That’s viral marketing with an edge.

Read more or buy SubEthaEdit over at BLOGZOT 2.0 on MacZOT.com.

Podcast musings

I’ve been getting into podcasts recently, for various reasons. The concept of podcasts is great. Listening to smart and funny people is always interesting, and someones voice has a way of getting to you that letters on a screen rarely can.

I don’t, however, see podcasts or videocasts or shoutcasts getting anywhere near as popular as, say, weblogs or wikis. Audio and video as an online information-delivery vehicle carries a bunch of inherent problems.

Clearing up my thoughts about DIA06

In a previous post I took a few easy and cheap shots at some danish web development agencies. I did this since their websites irked a pet peeve of mine. Unfortunatly, in my eagerness to rant I ended up writing a post, that was utterly confused, drawing conclusions that were only partly cool. I apologize for the hodgepodge of that post.

I never meant to imply anything about the abilities of the individual jury members. I am sure they’ll do just fine awarding the Danish Internet. Also, I am sure they “get it” (some of them are even blogging) even though they work for companies that after a cursory glance appear not to. After all, I work for BiQ – a company with no weblog, no newsfeeds, and with validation warnings, and I still like to think I “get it”.

Also, thumbs up to Jon Lund, one of the DIA06 organizers, for noticing and replying to my post. Keeping up to date with the blogosphere and replying to negative posts is a sure sign of someone getting it.

Now, I am still pretty sceptical about DIA06 for various reasons.

Judging the judges of Danish Internet Award 2006

This post is inspired by the announcement of the Danish Internet Award 2006, sporting a 1999-style website complete with Flash intro and invalid markup (They do have a weblog, though).

I looked at the list of people from the grand jury and figured it’d be interesting to see if their companies “get it”. After all, there they are, trying to give out “danish internet awards”. Obviously these are people that has an excellent feel for what’s moving on the international scene in regards to Web 2.0, the web in general, syndication, blogging, folksonomies and what have we.

To make it fair, I only considered the websites of companies that should obviously have a clue, ie the web development agencies. For spice, I added a viral marketing agency to see how they’d stack up.

Google Adsense Referrals

Google announced a new way for you to make a bit of cash from your website; Earn money by making other people sign up for AdSense.

This makes a whole lot of sense for Google. AdSense is obviously their cash cow so the more sites publishing their ads the better. And they’re probably trying to get as many publishers as possible before Yahoo comes around snatching them all.

What I do wonder, though, is what is the deal with those huge, clunky graphical banners:

I thought Google understood and realized the value of textual advertising. I mean, that’s what they’re selling, isn’t it? Shouldn’t they be taking their own medicine?

Also, I wonder if I will earn referrals from people coming in through the “Ads by Gooooogle” link that’s showing in my ad units? It’d make a whole lot of sense if I did.

Update November 10th

I contacted Google with the above questions and got their reply yesterday. Not surprisingly it was a “no” to both of them, with the added “we may add more options in the future and will take your thoughts into consideration”.

Mac noob on cupertino.dk

For some reason I’ve been invited to contribute to a newly launched Danish Mac user blog, cupertino.dk. Due to my Mac-noobness I’ve been watching from the safety of far away as bundles of energetic and enthusiastic people got stuff up and running.

I’m very much looking forward to try blogging in Danish for a change. By far most of my writing (here, at work, everywhere) is in English even though it is a secondary language to me.

If you’re into Macs and understand danish or like guessing, head on over, subscribe to the feed, tell us what you want to hear, and generally consume it.

Annual weblog geography mixup

My geography must be somewhat rusty. Last I checked, both the United Kingdoms and Ireland were part of Europe, and Canada and Latin America was placed on the American continent.

The Annual Weblog Awards seems to think otherwise though, with separate categories for “European”, “British or Irish”, “Latin American”, “Canadian”, and “American” weblogs. It’s a shame that in the online world, where geographical borders have all the opportunity to not be important, we cling to ancient beliefs and award prizes based on geographical separation.

Ah well, more categories means more winners, which is a great thing – big congratulations to them :)

New server, new Movable Type, same old inactivity

If you’re seeing this, something must’ve gone right.

I’ve moved Mentalized.net to a new host and upgraded my Movable Type installation from v2.661 to the newest v3.14.

I am now away from IIS and crummy ASP/VBScript and onto FreeBSD, Apache and a multitude of scripting languages. Yay!

Luckily the process of migrating Movable Type from one server with v2.661 and Berkley DB to a new server running v3.14 with a newer version of Berkley DB and mySQL was a simple gazillion step process that took days and made me want to strangle a kitten – well, at least give it an not-so-gentle push.

How to build traffic to your blog

This should probably have gone into a quicklink, but I figured I’d quote this points in it’s full:

1. Write Posts That People Will Want To Read

This should be common sense, but many marketers tend to forget that their readers are real people and that you need to use <the principles of online copywriting to make your headlines and copy interesting to your readers.

… and other good points at WebProNews.com

Website downtime incoming

Due to some server shuffling Mentalized will be gone for some hours or days starting later today. I hope both of my readers will cope.

Shuffling done, and everything seems to have worked out pretty much perfectly, let me know if not.

Selling out

Yup, it had to happen sooner or later. I’ve sold out. Soon the vastly popular Mentalized.net will consist of nothing but graphical and noisy ads popping up and over and under, you’ll be spammed, offered to install spywayre and you’ll be harassed by Viagra vendors.

Or perhaps I’ve added a single Google AdSense ad in the sidebar on my entries. It’s not something I expect to get rich on, truth be told I’ll be surprised if I ever see any money from this, but I wanted to get some hands-on experience, and that’s (partly) what mentalized.net is for.

Testing Meme Propagation In Blogspace: Add Your Blog!

This posting is a community experiment started by Minding the Planet to see how a meme represented by a blog posting spreads across blogspace, physical space and time. It will help to show how ideas travel across blogs in space and time and how blogs are connected. It may also help to show which blogs are most influential in the propagation of memes. The original posting for this experiment is located at: Minding the Planet; results and commentary will appear there in the future.

Please join the test by adding your blog (see instructions, below) and inviting your friends to participate — the more the better. The data from this test will be public and open; others may use it to visualize and study the connectedness of blogspace and the propagation of memes across blogs.

Tracking the original page 23

Some days ago the Page 23 concept was infecting the blogosphere on end, including this very journal. In short people all over the world were posting a set of instructions and a quote from a nearby book.

Inspired by a comment by J to my Page 23 meme, claiming the instructions had mutated somewhere along the way, I started clicking back through the history of Page 23, trying to trace the single, original page 23 post.

Death of the referrer tracker

Sigh, yet another jerk decided to spam every single goddamn entry on this website pretending to be referred from a certain URL (which gives an error 404, good job!) hammering the final nail in the referrer trackers coffin.

I will no longer record or display referrers on my entries. I am not willing to provide Google juice to referrer abusers, neither am I willing to waste my time trying to limit the amount of fake referrals. This saddens me since I have found a good deal of interesting sites by following those referrals – not to mention I will be missing the stroking of my ego every time someone follows a link to my humble site.

Feel free to contact support@visualsoftsys.co.uk and sales@visualsoftsys.co.uk and tell them what a bunch of inept twits they are. “Visual Software Systems – marketing results you can see” – not on my website you can’t.

Actually, since I have no way to prove that it is actually Visual Software Systems behind the abuse I am naturally not recommending or suggesting that anyone should take any action against or judge said company.

What search engines think I know

I’ve been looking at some of the phrases that people have used to find mentalized on search engines and much to my surprise I seem to be the #1 hit on Google for a few select things.

Those examples are somewhat plain, but then it starts getting funny.

Mentalized vs the world

  • Spammer IPs – Yup, check out mentalized.net for Spammer IPs
  • Mining emails – If only I could use my favorable ranking to stop people from doing it
  • leech protection and anti leech protection – I hope at least one person have read those entries and reconsidered their need for bothering their users. That would be a minor victory in the battle against stupidity.

But I don’t stop there. No sir, I won’t settle for taking on spammers and stupid javascripts, I have to go after multinational corporations:

Mentalized vs Nike

My rant about Nike Plays ignorant browser check ranks higher than Nikes actual website, wow.

Mentalized vs Samsung

So a person looking for this very specific monitor is likely to end up reading my semi-rant about Samsungs website usability instead of actually finding the monitor on Samsungs website?

And I am still the numero uno spot in the world for female butts in tight leather pants :)

Feed readers at a glance

Since my favorite news aggregator, FeedDemon, is out of the beta phase and has started costing money, I’ve decided to take a look around at the alternatives before I invest the $30.

In general, I have a few criterias for an aggregator to stay installed:

  • Must support opening links in my default browser (ie not the internal browser or IE).
  • I must be able to easily navigate to the next unread item.
  • Feeds must be able to be categorized (in folders or the like).
  • I have to be able to import my OPML list of feeds, exported from FeedDemon.
  • The 3 pane view is the only way I care to read feeds. No website display, no tossing them all into one list.

Furthermore I’d like it to not look like something a developer designed just because he needed it to have a GUI.

Following are my initial thoughts after spending upwards of 5 minutes with each aggregator. None of these are fullfledged, thorough reviews, merely hastily formed opinions. With the amount of aggregators out there I need to be hooked within a very short timespan or the program gets uninstalled and I am on to the next one.

Movable Type: Easier edit/removal of new comments

Apparently some people are receiving a good deal of spam comments on their blogs. In an effort to do something about this Kalsey brings up the idea of making it easier to delete comments:

When someone posts a comment, MT automatically sends me an email. That email should include a link to delete the comment and rebuild the entry. Then when a comment does slip through, its a simple matter to remove it.

This small hack doesn’t quite do this (no automatic rebuilding), but it certainly makes it easier to edit or remove new comments.

FeedDemon as my aggregator of choice

I think I finally found the RSS aggregator of my life. Going through Lockergnome’s RSS resources, basically trying every single (free) aggregator for Windows, I finally ended up sticking with FeedDemon .

Previously its low beta version numbers had kept me from really giving it a go, but I must say the current beta 5 is quite nice. It does pretty much everything I want from an aggregator: It can launch links in my default browser, custom update intervals for feeds (it even respects the TTL set in the feed), single-key reading of entries, and quick and simple adding of feeds.

The interface is pleasant to look at, intuitive, and shows an attention to usability details you don’t usually see in Windows programs. As an added bonus I can define my own style for showing entries using XSLT so I can make my daily RSS reading look exactly like I want it.

So far the only real downside I have noticed is the yet unknown pricetag. Hopefully this won’t be too much and I might even be able to not be a cheapskate for once and support Nick Bradbury and his kids.

Buhbye Salma

Creating website designs is fun. So I did it again. Welcome to yet another look of Mentalized. This time the change of look also features some changes under the hood, so except things to break until I get everything worked out.

Hm, let’s see, what have I changed apart from the look – I probably should’ve kept a changelog ;)

  • First of all, the entire site now runs from Movable Type – details here .
  • Metatags on my various index pages should prevent search engines from returning the index pages as results, instead returning the actual archived entries.
  • Search for the entire site
  • Moved some pages to other locations, old URLs should still work
  • Employed my idea for using em’s for all widths, creating a fixed-width website that scales with the users preferred font-size.

So far the site has been tested and looks acceptable in Firebird, Safari, Internet Explorer (Win), Camino – all of which I believe are newest available versions. If you still come across something that has gone bonkers, please let me know, and remember to include your browsername and version, thanks.

Power your website with Movable Type

Using Movable Type as the backbone for my entire website is something I had been pondering for a while, I just never really got around to doing it. But Matt Haughneys and Brad Choates posts about doing just that lured me into taking the last step and actually do it. This explains how.

Quicklinks killed the blogging star

I am not sure creating a quicklinks sidebar was such a great idea for me after all. These days, whenever I see something on the Web that I find interesting and worth a comment, I mindlessly add it to my quicklinks. Why? Because it’s quick, it’s easy, and I don’t have to disengage my brains hibernation mode.

A few quicklinks every other day and I consider my blog updated. I don’t even have to do anything but press a few keys for it to work, although if I am hyperactive from too much coffee I might add a profound comment like “”http://www.mentalized.net/journal/archives/quicklinks/movie_clips_made_in_ascii/" title=“Quicklink: Movie clips made in ASCII”>Wow" or “”http://www.mentalized.net/journal/archives/quicklinks/this_is_the_way_to_game/" title=“Quicklink: This is the way to game”>OMFG" to cover my needs for expressing myself creatively.

What a poor excuse for content, huh?

Mentalized - the summer edition

I wonder if it is the hot weather and even hotter girls making me a bit frisky, or that my previous Matrix-theme was pretty hideous, that has incited me to (once again) redo the design of the site. 3 things I am sure of though: A new look is upon us, I am still tweaking a bit, and Salma is yummy (I know Michael is going to appreciate this look ;]).

I gotta give props to some people:

  • SquidFingers for the backdrop (I feel so retro-hip having one)
  • Antipixel for the br style=“clear:both;” trick – I was going insane trying to make columnized CSS based layouts before I found that.
  • Erm, some site I can’t find the URL of that inspired the look
  • Simon Willison for his excellent CSS tutorial.

Oh, and it probably should be said, that if you are using a legacy browser (like IE6) the site might not render like it was intended, but that’s your choice. I can only show you the door, not make you upgrade to a modern browser.

I wonder what all the RSS fuss is about

They are all doing it; advocating RSS and/or providing RSS feeds. Heck, I myself am providing an RSS feed for those who care, although I have never been one of those who cared for reading blogs via RSS. I have tried to care for it a few times, but somehow it didn’t appeal to me.

However, people praising RSS over and over again have persuaded me to give RSS aggregators a shot once again. So be it. AmphetaDesk, Aggie, FeedReader, and Syndirella have been downloaded, the hunt for the perfect acceptable RSS feed reader has begun.

Phoney slashdot.org referrers

Hm, somebody from 134.84.144.* have started requesting my index-page using “slashdot.org” as referrer. Needless to say that referrer is a straight lie as I have never been linked on the frontpage of slashdot, neither does the page http://www.mentalized.net/slashdot.org exist (which is what that referrer actually means).

It doesn’t appear to be a spider from slashdot either as slashdot exists at 66.35.250.150, not 134.84.144.*. Welcome to my blacklist.

Trackback RDF snippets

Dave asks:

Is there a test site that fully supports trackback? I get confused reading the spec. Why do none of the sites support the RDF snippet that they're supposed to?

I do! And I have no clue how trackback is really supposed to work so it must've been easy do. ;)

Blogger season

The hunt for the perfect blogger has started. Initially I used blogging-software made in ASP/VBScript (I have forgotten name and URL and I am too lazy to look it up, sorry) as I am running this site off a Windows-server ::shiver::

Luckily a mate (the same person who got me into this blogging-business) had enough wits to suggest that I installed perl and Movable Type on the webserver. The installation went surprisingly smooth (thanks to IIS answers) and Movable Type is now up and running.

I must admit, this is a really sweet piece of software and beats my old blogger by several lengths in all aspects. It is an relative easy installation, usability of the backend is pretty good, it's visually pleasing, it outputs almost valid xhtml and it has all the functionalites we've come to expect from software like this - and then some. Thumbs up!