December 02, 2011
Why I think the euro is going to last for a good while yet
December 04, 2011
The most expensive crash ever?
January 01, 2012
Why “influence” over the European Union probably isn’t worth having
January 02, 2012
What’s wrong with “managed decline”...
January 08, 2012
Who needs trade agreements?
February 04, 2012
The world in 1912 (according to the Times)
February 12, 2012
Why fear deflation?
March 06, 2012
Making predictions about war is a tricky business
March 11, 2012
The War of 1812: two questions
March 17, 2012
Why the Germans confuse me
April 01, 2012
Why the Germans confuse me - a follow up
May 11, 2012
Samizdata quote of the day
July 21, 2012
Well done Bradley Wiggins, ruthless professional
August 02, 2012
What would change your mind?
August 09, 2012
Britain third in Olympic medal table. What a disaster!
October 18, 2012
Governments are stupid Part 3792: Railway franchising
November 02, 2012
Was Britain right to fight the First World War?
November 23, 2012
Democracy: mother of tyranny or innocent bystander? I record a podcast
November 24, 2012
Gun re-legalisation may mean less crime but it does not mean no crime
December 08, 2012
Samizdata quote of the day
December 09, 2012
Fact checking the President
December 12, 2012
Libel then and now
…(assuming there are such creatures) that’s where I am these days. While I don’t rule out posting the odd piece here from time to time from now on Samizdata will be the best place to find me.
Which is true.
But it begs the question. Why, assuming that Downing Street's email system wasn't hacked by Guido himself, did the leaker contact Guido? Why not go straight to the MSM? Maybe, he did, of course. But assuming he didn't the reason he contacted Guido was because he knew the story would be published.
Guido: the scandal sheet of last resort. And good thing too.
So, I put up a comment on Samizdata, which gets picked up and made into their Quote of the Day, which in turn gets picked up by Sir Instapundit himself. Bingo, 200,000 readers*. Sure as hell beats toiling away in this blogospherical backwater.
Many thanks to Johnathan, Samizdata Illuminatus and Glenn.
*Estimate based on Instapundit’s Sitemeter stats and my very own fudge factor.
Some people don’t half hide their light under a bushel. Under the title 1888: A More Than Mind Games Film and described by the producer as, “… a rough, experimental one at that.” we get this:
It’s only the first-ever film - all 18 frames of it. Plus, as an extra special bonus, the similarly succinct second-ever film. And they’re great. Three-hour Hollywood blockbuster directors, take note.
Bearing in mind that the film itself has precious little to do with football and James Hamilton’s blog has precious little to do with anything else it does raise the question of whether it should be there at all. Since the dawn of blogging I have accepted that, just as Ronseal does exactly what it says on the tin, blogs should do exactly what they say in the title and description.
But should they? The blog EU Referendum never talks about the EU Referendum (not that there’s much of one to talk about) and not even that often about the EU. But is it any worse for that? Do I, as a reader, lose out? Not as far as I can see. I find their digressions fascinating.
Perhaps it’s time to propose Crozier’s Specialised Blogging Rule: while a specialised blog must start off specialised, it can branch out into any damn thing it likes once the author gets bored.
I’ll come to Guido’s pre-record later. It was the panel discussion, with Jeremy Paxman in the chair and Michael White of the Guardian as guest, that did the damage. Guido’s attempts to conceal his identity have always been amusing. I think I managed to work out who he was in about five minutes. But to persist with it on the show when everyone knows who he is was ludicrous.
You have to imagine the scene. Guido is in shadow with the exception of his trademark flash of Dickie Davies-like grey hair.
“Why do you conceal your identity?”, asked Paxo.
“So that people can’t recognise me.” Or something like that. Yeah, that flash of grey is so common that I have to dredge out a TV personality from the 70s to illustrate who I am talking about.
Two minutes later White had spilled the beans anyway. Guido is Paul Staines. Golly, who would have thought it?
All along the Paxo/White tag team managed to make Guido look petty and inconsistent.
Now the pre-record was sort of OK but its central argument - that journalists are far too cozy with ministers - while true enough, was insipid. Here was his opportunity to go on national television and give the world the hardcore libertarian line - that politicians are a bunch of good-for-nothing parasites and the sooner that they find alternative employment sweeping streets the better - and he didn’t even attempt it.
But the real problem was always with the panel discussion. The golden rule with panel discussions - a rule that until yesterday Guido understood and does once again today - is don’t do them. They give the producers much too much power and allow them to claim balance while giving the debate a slant rarely seen since the final moments of the Titanic.
Ah, Guido agrees. Sort of.
Adriana addresses a worthy but is still in no mood for taking prisoners:
Individuals often have more control over the online environment than off-line. Paradoxically, many commentators bemoan the fact that people online are self-obsessed, they talk about the echo chamber. At the same time, they also complain about the lack of awareness, sophistication and professionalism of online interactions. Both may be (and are) true but this points to something else that is going on - people are learning something. They are learning self-determination and unlearning decades of one-way communication and mass broadcasting. The ability to express and respond to things on their own terms and their own way is what this is about.
“...unlearning decades of one-way communication and mass broadcasting.” Yes. Yes, indeed.
I don’t think I’ve ever used one of these round-ups to link to Samizdata before. My guess is that anyone who comes here also goes there. And also because - for various technical reasons - Samizdata articles tend to slip through the net, round-up wise.
But I think there is a principle here. If this is to be any good as a round-up I should be giving space to articles I like even if every single reader has already read them. This is where to find the best articles in the Blogosphere, n’importe quoi.
Anyway, Samizdata is always good but this week I particularly liked:
...as people get richer and no longer have to rely on big families to support parents in their dotage, birth rates fall. It seems to happen pretty much everywhere, including in those countries with very different religious and cultural traditions.
Right, enough of Samizdata. Now for what has been going on elsewhere:
- Adriana doesn’t think much of television:
I stopped watching TV a few years back soon after I started blogging on Samizdata.net [did I speak too soon?]. These days when I switch it on for whatever reason, it feels oddly one-way and restrictive. You can’t choose what and when you are watching something you are interested in, the controls are pathetic compared to what I am used to online.
That’s exactly how I feel about television these days. Who else one wonders?
- Christopher Hitchens writes on Ayaan Hirsi Ali and “bogus equivalences”.
- Douglas Murray reviews Nick Cohen’s new book and picks out this gem:
I feel like a class traitor when I say it but the first lesson from the “heroic” age of the Left in the Thirties is that it never works like that in a conflict in which your own society is involved. You can be a critical friend of one side or another, a very critical friend as often as not, but you have to choose which side you are on, and those who don’t usually end up as the biggest villains of all.
- And finally… Latvia: they do things differently there
- ‘Vietnam troop commander William Westmoreland gruffly announced during one commission hearing that he was not interested in leading an army of “mercenaries.” Friedman coolly replied, “Would you rather command an army of slaves?”’ From a Reason bio of Milton Friedman (hat-tip: A&L)
- “In the first government defeat, the Lords voted to rule out using sexuality, criminality and cultural or religious beliefs as grounds for diagnosing a mental disorder.” Yes, you read that right.
- Squander Two fisks Tony Blair. At some length. He also defends Blogger from the techno-snobs. I am inclined to agree with him. The days of the permalink crisis are long gone.
- Jackie reviews an Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison, a psychiatry professor who also suffers from manic depression. Jackie also manages to get to the root causes of gang culture in a sentence:
One of the girls made a good point about the fact that lots of the boys who have these guns are more afraid of those around them than they are of the law…
- The other week I linked to some colour photos of Russia from the 1900s. Here are some (coloured rather than colour, I suspect) from the 1890s.
- Harry Hutton considers the issue of smoking inspectors:
If we can raise a fighting fund of £500,000 we can probably drive many of them into exile, arranging for gangs of hoodlums to break their windows, drag them from their homes and tar and feather them.
Ha! Unlikely, for sure, but looking to the future, is it really beyond the bounds of possibility?
- Just when you thought it was safe to surf free of pop-ups, WordPress (of all people) bring them back. Jackie isn’t too impressed either.
- Free market think tank sets up school. Or does it?
- The standard version of the Madrid train bombing is that the government tried to pin it on ETA when, in fact, it had been carried out by Islamists. John Chappell begs to differ.
- A photo of Roman Abramovich from the 1980s. Seems there’s nothing new in the blank expression, even when, as it would appear here, he has plenty to smile about.
- Helen Szamuely feels the need for a German national identity. Which begs the question, if they don’t already have one, what is it that is keeping them together? Also check out Helen’s article on Willi Munzenberg - Josef Goebbels’s propaganda nemesis.
- France’s Socialist Party has selected a good-looking woman to be its candidate in the up-coming Presidential election. This has implications. But only an economist can tell us what they are.
- Don’t fancy yours much… Mark… Anthony.
- I know this item is called: “If you haven’t already...” but I have never made it clear what you may not already have done - read it, or seen it. For instance, while I have read this article on bullying in the Russian Army I haven’t seen it and I am not sure I want to. The British Army, of course, is so much better. While we’re on the subject of English Russia don’t forget to check out, well… everything.
Big contribution from Brian Micklethwait.
Brian Micklethwait has a theory. He hasn’t actually written it down yet and he may not so you’re going to have to put up with my version which may, in all manner of ways, be wrong. If it is then, well, Brian, my apologies.
Brian’s observation is that while in the past everything got an average of three stars, these days everything gets four and a half. His theory about this is that in the bad old days newspaper reviewers got sent a lot of things they didn’t want to review but had to anyway. But these days reviewers are amateurs, they only encounter things they are probably going to like, so their reviews tend to be good ones.
This has a parallel in my own life and probably yours too. I have noticed recently that unless I make the mistake of switching on the telly, I hardly ever encounter an opinion with which I don’t heartily agree.
The point about this is that the online world is fragmenting existing societies. We are starting to form into our little groups which have almost nothing to do with one another. Instapundit readers have little to do with their IndyMedia or Kos counter-parts. There are for all I know, Muslim discussion groups out there in which the participants earnestly but politely debate the merits of killing infidels by hanging or boiling.
What I find interesting (and indeed alarming) is the apparent contradiction between the physical and virtual worlds. In the physical world the Dhimmi-boiler could be living next door. We would be sharing the same streets and (more worryingly) the same polling booth. In the virtual world he might as well not exist - at least not from my point of view.
The frightening thing is the historical parallels. It is not as if this hasn’t happened before. During the Reformation, as new religious beliefs started to spread, many people must have found themselves totally alienated from their neighbours. The lucky ones, like the passengers on the Mayflower, were able to up sticks and found their own settlements, the unlucky found themselves imbroiled in the mother and father of all religious wars.
Is it to be the same again? If so, is there any way to escape the carnage?
Update. Seems I have prompted Brian into writing down what he actually thought rather than what I thought he thought. So, you didn’t have to hack your way through the foregoing screed after all. Sadly in his review of my review of his thoughts he only gives me four stars. Not the extra half? Oh well. As he says: “On the internet, if you get grumpy, you aren’t doing it right.”
Croziervision has been down for a couple of days. A very odd error (aren’t they all). In the end it was a fairly simple solution - repairing the database - but sounds a bit scary. Anyway, if you are using Expression Engine and your site suddenly gets replaced with an “Error 1016” this is probably the reason.
Apologies for the sparsity of posts over the last couple of weeks. This is because I am working on a little project that is taking up a lot of my time. Hopefully, you will see the fruits of this before too long.
Blogs are great. They allow us to get things off our chests and to be read. But they lack depth. As a friend likes to put it: “I have met many people who have changed their minds from reading a book but never from reading a blog.”
What would be good is a guide to libertarianism. Something that describes what it is and why it would be a good thing. Something that has all the arguments and all the facts (or, at least, as many as possible). Something that answers the reader’s questions.
Describing libertarianism is easy but assembling the facts and arguments difficult. Brian Micklethwait described this in the Tyranny of the Facts. He argued that it was pointless for libertarians to indulge in fact fights because our opponents were simply too numerous and too well-funded.
That was before the age of the internet which changes everything. In theory, the internet allows every libertarian in the world to collaborate with every other one to create a guide that is thorough and constantly up-to-date.
But how? Blogs don’t really cut the mustard. Although collaboration is possible, editing (pretty much) is not. Once a post is up that’s it. Wikipedia, on the other hand, postively welcomes editing. Watch this online lecture (hat tip Adriana) about the evolution of the Wikipedia page on the heavy metal umlaut. See how it evolves from one line (a stub as it is known) to a comprehensive page. See how it resists attempts at vandalism. See how good it gets and remember that every single word has been written by volunteers.
Wikipedia’s only real problem is when it strays into controversy. Everyone in the world can edit a page - and they do. Victory goes to the biggest bully. This is a problem for libertarians. Firstly, there aren’t that many of us. Secondly, we have better things to do than take on those who make up with persistence what they lack in rationality. Fortunately, there is a solution: membership. And Wiki software (yes, they have that too) allows you to do this.
Looks like I’ve just given myself a job.
When I first heard about Technorati I didn’t see the point. Yes, all the bloggerati were getting excited about it and filling in their Technorati profiles but it didn’t seem to do much.
Now it does.
This is because in recent weeks they have added searches and categories aka tags. This means it is much easier to find out what is going on in the blogosphere something which has long been one of my bugbears.
It’s not quite there yet. For instance, there are too many tags with different names that mean the same thing eg Great War, First World War, World War One, World War I. A tag search will bring up the most recent posts first, so there tends to be a lot of junk.
But I think they are on the right lines. This may well end up supplanting feed aggregators as the first port of call.
Someone (who clearly ought to get a real job) has followed the trail. As he says:
“Mysterious. It seems to have come over from the UK, entered into the sex-blogosphere and then was picked up by Catholic bloggers. From there it went to Libertarians, then lefties, and now the GG.”
Is there something wrong with internet advertising? I ask because I notice that I pay precious little attention to internet ads. I don’t pay that much attention to normal ads but it seems to me that ads on the internet grab even less of my attention than the more traditional variety. For the most part, whether they be on blog sidebars, above blog banners or on newspaper web sites I simply don’t notice. If they are those annoying pop-up types I make a mental note to blacklist the advertiser for forever and a day.
Is it the internet, the advertising or just me? I don’t think it’s just me. I note some of Tim Worstall’s frankly desperate attempts to generate click-throughs which suggest that most other readers aren’t paying much attention either. (Note to Tim: it’s not you that I am having a go at but the situation.) Also, while it is easy to name publications that have retreated behind paid-subscription walls eg The Spectator and The Independent it is difficult to name publications that have moved the other way. It implies that readers aren’t noticing the ads, or at least, not in the way the advertisers would like (I am thinking click-throughs here).
I hope it isn’t the internet as a medium. As I have said before, all this content (well not all of it but certainly a lot of the reportage and the professionally written commentary) has to be paid for. I don’t mind paying for it as such but I do object to paying for it on a publication by publication basis. I want to be able to access everything, from the Times and the Independent to Peruvian Railways Monthly, for a flat fee, perhaps on the same sort of basis as Napster To Go. It’s just that I don’t see how that is going to happen, at least, not in the short term.
But if pay-per-view won’t work that leaves advertising which, as I said, doesn’t seem to be doing well. It could be that the internet and advertising just don’t mix. Why that should be I do not know. The internet seems to me to be very similar in terms of distance from medium, content, size (more or less) to the daily paper. But dead-tree newspapers make a fortune from advertising while their live-electron cousins do not. Is it because the albeit slight, size change makes all the difference? Or is it, perhaps, because internet advertisers demand click-throughs when actually they should just be concentrating on getting their name known in much the same way they do when the sponsor sporting events? Or maybe, they are quite right to concentrate on click-throughs but have yet to work out a way of making those click-throughs happen.
The entire point of the Internet—or at least the reason for its success—is that it takes money about as far out of the equation as it can get. Tens of thousands of blogs can reach as many people as are willing to listen for dollars a month. Sure, not every one of these blogs has the capacity to create fancy videos, animations or other bells and whistles. But a lot of them do—and not just those in league with moneyed interests.
Apologies to regular readers for the lack of posts over the last couple of weeks but I haven’t been very well. Anyway, I am a lot better now and hopefully, I will soon be back into the swing of things.
Regarding British blogs:
En tête de liste, le blog de Guido
According to Radio France
This was the line that caught my attention:
British papers need not worry — as yet. Such much-cited blog triumphs as the toppling of Eason Jordan, the CNN executive, and the humiliation of CBS’s Dan Rather would not have needed the web to expose them in Britain. They would have been splashed across every tabloid. The American press remains timid. The Patriot Act suffered nothing like the press mauling given to Tony Blair’s control order legislation.
Remember Piers Morgan. The internet didn’t figure. Up to now I have assumed that where the US leads the UK will (eventually) follow. But maybe not.
Of course, this does beg the question why the tabloids (and indeed the broadsheets) don’t lay into the BBC more often.
Incidentally, I’ve also set it up so that www.croziervision.com is now the URL for the home page. No need to update existing links, though - these will still work.
In a follow up on IDS’s Guardian article Brian suggests that the Blogosphere may well serve to expose the Conservative Party’s divisions and thus to undermine it’s hopes. I don’t think so. The reason I think this is because the right-wing Blogosphere in Britain is remarkably united. There are very few issues upon which it disagrees. Thus it is not going to be exposing any divisions.
So the Blogosphere’s not going to be a negative. But will it be a postive? I think yes.
The Blogosphere’s main job is to keep the MSM honest. When that starts to happen Conservatives will get a better press. When they get a better press they will feel less guilty about being Conservatives. When they fell less guilty they will start to say what they believe. As they do Conservative policies will become more, well, conservative. And because they will be getting a better press they will also have a better chance of being elected.
The Guardian has printed something intelligent about blogs and Iain Duncan Smith is the byline.
Feeling better yet? Guardian? Iain Duncan Smith? I know, I know. Now while we can’t be sure that IDS wrote it we can be sure the Guardian published it. Instapundit says so, so it must be true.
IDS reckons that blogs are going to change the way politics operates in the UK. Who knows perhaps it will force politicians to stop taking the credit for the work of their poorly-paid minions.
The dead-tree-news medium is slow and lazy, the need to cozy up to political sources makes them unwilling to be as ferocious as they should be in a healthy democracy.
For those unfamiliar with the Easongate, I am probably not the best person to go to for a summary but here goes: Jordan was a CNN executive. In a meeting in Davos, Switzerland he is alleged to have claimed that the US military was assassinating journalists. There was a tape of his remarks. He was alleged to have prevented that tape from being broadcast. The blogosphere kicked up a fuss. The MSM (mainstream media) did almost nothing.
And now he has resigned.
In Rathergate the MSM did take notice. But in this case they didn’t. And still the guy had to go. How come? I am flabbergasted. The only explanation (that I can think of) is that the Blogosphere is so powerful these days that the MSM can no longer even protect one of its own.
But how is that? It’s not as if blogs are that widely read. Glenn Reynolds gets some 150,000 hits a day. That’s about one out of every 2,000 Americans. And he’s the biggest. But he’s clearly punching way above his weight. I can’t imagine the brahmins of the MSM particularly care or, indeed, know of his opinions. But they are clearly acting on them. The only thing I can imagine is that, in some way, opinions seep, partly via the internet, partly via word of mouth.
I get a namecheck from David Carr at Samizdata (which was nice) while he was wondering whether us bloggers were having any influence. Not yet he reckons and I think I probably agree with him. But I reckon it will come. As I say in a comment:
For what it’s worth, I think it’s just a critical mass thing. The US is a bigger country and a richer country so it has more bloggers. Plus it has Instapundit. Plus a lot of US issues are, in fact, global issues.
Crawling out into the light from my Transport Blog cave I was amazed to see how vibrant the UK blogging scene was. It’s a lot bigger and better than it was two years ago. Tim Worstall, Laban Tall, Norm Geras, EU Referendum.
It’s only a matter of time.
Most of which I still (after a whole 10 minutes) agree with.
The 30-minute Rule was suggested to me by Brian. It is that up to 30 minutes after posting something you are allowed to alter it. Which I think is reasonable. Certainly, in my case, it is only after I have published something that I start to notice the spelling mistakes, typos, missing words etc. Often it is only then that you find how it truly looks. Usually you find that new line breaks have magically appeared and old ones have (equally magically) disappeared.
What I don't think is reasonable is either changing the wording or the meaning - especially the meaning. If you didn't mean it you have to retract it either through a new posting or an update (which I think is OK).
Search is now up and running (see bottom of sidebar). The results page could be better but making the necessary adjustments could be quite a lot of work. So, some other day then.
Yes. There will be plenty of occasions when I want to find something I have written before; categories aren’t always that useful; Google would be too clumsy.
Update. Only it’s proving harder to implement than I thought.
I find writing difficult.
It's fine when I know what I think. That has been one of the delights of doing this blog: I have some very definite ideas about how blogs should be - so, for once, it's reasonably easy for me to sit down and say what I think.
But when it comes to politics I often don't know what I think. Or more to the point I know what I think but I find it difficult to explain why I think it. This matters. I spend a lot of time writing to my 16 or 17-year old self. He's not going to accept assertions. He needs reasons. Supplying them is hard work. But blogging isn't supposed to be hard work. The great thing about blogging is that you can just spout away.
I also find that when I set finger to keyboard I often come up with lots of ideas all at once. That part's not too bad. It's when you order them. That gets tricky. And then you have to polish the English (I have to do a lot of that). That's hard. Often you find that one idea rests uncomfortably with another. It's not so much that they contradict one another, more often that they are too similar or that if Idea A is true it is difficult to get it to fall into a logical sequence with Ideas B, C and D.
But the explaining yourself - that's the hardest part.
The strategy I came up with at Transport Blog was to fire off a “shoot first, ask questions later” post as quickly as I could in which I stated what I thought but explained absolutely nothing. Explanations, reasons and definitions would come later. Maybe in footnotes, maybe in follow-up posts and (it has to be said) maybe not at all. Some of the time it worked and some of the time it didn’t. Some of the time it was great because in the follow-ups you would create posts that could be used time and again. ”Safety is not the only thing”, ”Safety is dangerous” were two of my standards. But on other occasions the follow-ups were much more esoteric. One offs. The effort didn’t seem so worthwhile.
So, I don’t know.
We now have an e-mail link on the sidebar (labelled "Contact"). Many thanks to Jackie for the encoding.
Should I have pics? I know I’ve jumped the gun here a bit what with the pic from Andy Wood’s blog only a few postings down but if we imagine that never happened then do I still have them? The answer is, of course, "yes". A picture can speak a thousand words. And they look nice. What more is to be said?
How to do them? The null option is to simply bung them up. The danger is that they may be too wide for the column in which they appear. So that means either cropping or re-sizing to make them fit.
The next danger is that they will be so big that (for some readers) the page will take an age to load. Now, for some bloggers like Brian this isn’t a problem (he effectively says: "I don’t care if it takes an age to load, this blog is going to have lots of images. If you don’t like it don’t read it."), but I don’t think I can. In other words I have to reduce images in size even further.
This is precisely the same situation I found myself in with Transport Blog. The solution was to thumbnail images (setting the smallest dimension to 120 pixels) while hyperlinking them to the original image. Most packages will allow you to do this. To my mind it worked pretty well with Transport Blog and I see no particular reason to change it.
Next question. Where to put the image? I love it when text flows round images. It looks wonderfully professional. Again, I have a pretty good way of doing this. It’s a refinement of what I (though not Brian) was doing with Transport Blog. It also allows me to add in captions which I like a lot. The only drawback is when there isn’t much text. I use tables (I’m not aware of another way of doing this) which leads to the image from one post encroaching upon the text of another. Not good. The only solution I can think of is to strip out the tables which is a bit fiddly. That will give me an image but (as you can see below) a slightly odd one - it’s too near the left-hand side and too close to the text above. If I want to solve these problems I am going to have to rootle around in my style sheet and create a new style. A bit of a pain but I can’t think of an alternative.
Incidentally, yet another plus point for Expression Engine is that it allows you to set it up so that it automatically surrounds the image with all the tags and parameters it needs to display correctly.
Update. New style for pics with little text now done (see below)
Update II. We’ve got the flowing working. Only problem is that it seems to indent the first line of the accompanying paragraph. But we can live with that.
I saw some chart recently (don’t know where but I think Instapundit linked to it) showing the growth of the Blogosphere. When I started (March 2002) there were some 200,000 blogs up and running. Now that figure stands at nearer 5m.
It certainly feels like it. Every day it Mark Holland (he is particularly good at this) seems to be flagging up yet another excellent blog. Which is great. It shows the vitality of the Blogosphere and means that there will always be plenty to read.
The question is: how do I find out about the good stuff? I do what I can to keep abreast of the blogs I know about via Bloglines. But the list is starting to get big. It’s not too bad yet but one feels that at some point things are going to become unmanageable.
I have another fear. Mark can’t be flagging up every new blog. There’s bound to be stuff I am missing. And if I’m missing it so are lots of other people. Which is a shame.
I suppose what I am hinting at is the idea of a Blog Central - somewhere where all the best postings get flagged up. I could do that here but there’s only one of me and I can’t read everything and I can’t do it every day (unlike Glenn Reynolds). No, I’d need other people. So, it would have to be a group blog. And that implies all sorts of personnel issues that I would rather not get involved with right now.
Anyway, there’s an idea for someone seeking fame if not fortune.
We now have the category or categories at the end of each post
I don’t have to. Brian, for instance, doesn’t. He reckons that it would just get him all obsessed by the hit rate rather than the more important business of writing stuff.
As it happens I do have a server-side counter as part of my package with Hosting Matters. So, debate over? Not quite. I find that server-side counters (as opposed to their on-the-page equivalents) tend to measure funny things, like, for instance, control panel log-ins. It also seems remarkably difficult to get them to tell you things like where people surfed in from.
The other advantage of on-the-page counters is that they are comparable. If, as I did, you make your stats public then you can see that while you get 200 hits a day, Instapundit gets nearer 200,000. Of course, the key thing here is that you have the same counter - counters have a sneaky habit of counting different things which can lead to different counters coming up with wildly differing results.
I suppose, in summary, it is just about worth having one. And if you are going to have one it had better be the same one as everyone else. And that means Sitemeter.
One of the great pros of blogging is interactivity and in the form of already-enabled comments and trackbacks this blog already has plenty of that, or, at least, the potential for it.
But this is only present for specific posts. What if someone wants to contact me for some other purpose, like, for instance, inviting me to a party (well, you never know)? Now, they could hijack an existing post and say: "Very sorry, but had to contact you." which is a bit Heath-Robinson if you ask me. And there is the element of confidentiality. What if, for instance, it was to tell me that the test results had come through? Nope, e-mail is best.
But, in my experience, if you publish your e-mail address anywhere online all you ever get is a torrent of spam. The way I got round it on Transport Blog (rather late in the day as it happened) was to compose a special page which alluded to my e-mail address and to hope that people were able to read through the lines. It seemed to work though it was rather clumsy. Having said that, now that I have moved to Hosting Matters (another decision I haven’t regretted) I seem to have the option to activate a spam filter. I think I may give this a go and see what happens.
You know when you’ve made it as a Blogger when the national press choose to plagiarise you. Well done, the Copper!
By the way, I can’t find a link to the original plagiarism. Maybe it’s not available on line.
Permalinks are essential but where should they link to? I always dread a MovableType link because it takes you to a page with just that entry and nothing else. When you follow a link it’s often the only opportunity you’ll ever get to check out that particular blog. If it’s not blogrolled right there and then it probably never will be. What you really want is to see some other posts along with the one you originally wanted to see. That way you can get a feel for the blog. But the thing you don’t want to do is to have to do any further clicking plus waiting. Strangely enough, I think old Blogger got this right first time round. Their permalinks link you to the monthly or weekly archive and then scroll you down to where the entry is to be found. That way you can read the post and do some browsing.
Anyway, from now on, that’s going to be the approach I (for the most part) adopt here.
I know everyone has one but, as is the spirit of this blog, that is no reason why I should.
The null option is to do nothing ie not have a blogroll at all. It is not as if I don’t mention all sorts of people as it is. And I think recommending an individual post is a much better way of giving someone a plug than a mention on a blogroll. However, there are also blogs I read every day which I tend not to link to - on the grounds that they don’t need a little imp like me promoting them ie Instapundit and Samizdata. I ought to at least give them a nod.
The only other real argument that I can think of is to have a handy list of links for my own benefit. But I already have that at Bloglines. You can see my list here. The drawback is that there is a hard core of RSS refuseniks who I can’t read that way. No, I have to log onto their sites on the off chance that they’ve published an update. It is so 2003. But still, I need the list. But I feel that if I mention them then form demands that I mention everyone else. Now, there is a potential solution here and it relies on a clever piece of code from those nice people at Bloglines. What it allows me to do is to automatically list all those thoughtful people who have provided a feed and then, at the end, the recusants.
But where should I put this list? Most people put their blogroll up on the sidebar. But I think at this rate it is going to get a bit clogged. What I think I am going to do is to create a separate page - possibly even post and then link to it from the sidebar.
That only leaves one outstanding gripe. I don’t like bald lists - especially long, bald lists. They give you very little idea what to read. My idea was to create a new post for every new blog with a little description and then, by the magic of categorisation, create a blogroll automatically. Sadly, what with all my existing Bloglines listings this isn’t really feasible - we’d be here until Christmas. Pity. Who knows, maybe Bloglines will set that up. After all, they’ve set up pretty much everything else.
I’m trying out Verdana as the font. Arial was getting difficult to read.
Surfers have different platforms, different types of screen, different screen resolutions, different browsers with different settings and for all I know different (insert here). And they all affect the way "Patrick Crozier" is displayed. Consequently, I have no idea if what I am seeing is what everyone else is seeing.
A good example of this is the sidebar. If you are browsing in IE6 it should look OK. If you are browsing in IE5 it’ll look a bit too near the margin and bit too far away from the main text. (Incidentally, if anyone knows what I have done wrong here please let me know).
These sorts of issues are hard enough for the professionals. They have to work long and hard to find a reasonable compromise. I can’t really afford to work long and hard. I have to find a quick and dirty solution. That solution is to make sure it looks OK on a PC, with IE6, with a CRT monitor at 800x600. If you happen to be on an Apple with Solaris, a TFT monitor and some grand resolution and can still read this without getting suffering a bout of epilepsy I think we’re doing well.
Oh, by the way, I design for 800x600 because one of my most important readers uses that resolution. Me.
As you can see I’ve added in a category listing to the sidebar. A couple of points. EE allows sub-categories. Content, Design and Navigation are, in fact, sub-categories of Blogging. EE does allow you to display them in such a way that these relationships become clear. Unfortunately, everything on the sidebar is right-aligned and doing it EE’s way would look silly. Not quite sure how to solve that one. The other point is that when you navigate to the page for a parent category you will get all the posts for the sub-categories. This is not a problem just yet but it could easily become one if we end up with one category containing lots of posts.
Well, it certainly wasn’t the name.
Over the last few months I have been experiencing some uneasiness about MovableType. It was not to do with their decision to charge - I always thought they would. It was more that I was finding that there were more and more things I couldn’t do with it. And re-builds kept on failing. Now, that’s not necessarily MT’s fault but I knew that identifying the root cause was going to be a pain.
I also couldn’t ignore the fact that some of the more techie bloggers have been moving away. They usually have a good reason to do so. So I started looking at the alternatives.
Originally, I had a completely different blog in mind. It was going to be quite novel so that ruled out the more basic packages like Blogger and Typepad. I looked at WordPress which is attracting quite a lot of attention but (from what I can remember of it) there seemed to be certain things it just couldn’t do.
I was impressed by EE. The company seems to have an air of professionalism about it. It had the guts to take a pretty good predecessor (pMachine), throw it away and start from scratch. I liked that. And they have never minded charging. In other words they have always known what they are about.
So, I signed up for a demo and was very impressed. My ideas on blogging changed but when I came up with the idea for a scratch blog, EE, with its enormous flexibility, seemed the obvious candidate.
I have to say that having made the move I find it difficult to imagine going back. It may not be the easiest package to learn (it has some fairly tricky-at-first concepts) but it rewards the effort you put in. The only real problem is that it is so flexible that you usually have two or three different ways of solving any given problem.
Thought I’d experiment with a few guest titles, just in case "Patrick Crozier" ever gets boring - well, you never know …
Update It occurs to me that this post isn’t going to make much sense in a month’s time. So, just for the record, today’s guest title is “The Blog’s Dollocks”
Should I have categories? What use would they be? I could have an About category which I could link to from the side bar. I could have a Best Of category and then list all its posts in a third bar on the right. Europhobia does this. It would be a good way of flagging up my best stuff to first-time readers. Should I go further and categorize everything? But what for? Would it make it more likely that people would delve into the archive? Possibly. It would make it slightly easier for me but I have no illusions here. I had lots of categories on Transport Blog and still had to resort to a search from time to time. And if I do have categories how many should I have? And what if a post occupies more than one category? I ask because when you write a post (I know this from bitter experience) the tendency is to try to put it into an existing category but often you find out later that it really ought to be placed into a new sub-category and then you have neither the time nor the inclination to dig out the old post and re-categorise it - which kind of undermines the completenesss of the new sub-category. I could try to have as many categories as possible right from the start but by the time you’ve got Franchising, Fragmentation, Network Rail, Subsidy, Punctuality, TOCs all set up, along comes a post which falls into all of them. Sure, you can categorise it as such but it does make a bit of a mess of the look of the blog (assuming they are displayed on the post in question). Can I make it so only the first, say, three categories get displayed, I wonder?
And this is assuming that we are categorising by topic. There is another way (though I’ve never seen this tried): by purpose. So, State Failure in Health, State Failure on the Railways, State Success in Education (only joking) etc.
I have to make a decision pretty quickly. If I don’t create some categories pretty soon I know I never will. If nothing else I should have a Default or Miscellaneous category - uncategorised posts can be very difficult to find.
For the time being I think I’ll do that plus try to categorise the posts I already have.
And then I’ll have to get around to displaying them all.
With Home and About and Archives and Categories (which I haven’t got around to yet) just like everyone else. So, what’s all this about re-inventing the blog, eh? Well, just because I am questioning everthing doesn’t mean that from time to time I’m not going to come up with the same answers. Blogs are the way they are for a reason.
Anyway, just to say as soon as you add in a sidebar you open up a can of formatting and templating worms. Where should I put it? What colour? What fonts? The real problem is ensuring the sidebar doesn’t overbear the main text and vice versa. If you think I’ve failed on that one, let me tell you some of the other shots were much worse.
I’ve made a few more changes over the last day or so:
- Added trackbacks. What’s a trackback? It’s essentially a way for one blogger to tell another that he has referred to one of his postings. They are very like comments except that they are hosted somewhere else. Because they are like comments I have combined the two (see here). I have always found separate buttons for comments and trackbacks slightly irritating. I have also put the trackbacks at the top as I think they are usually better written.
- Made a slight alteration to the colour of the banner. It’s now redder.
- Changed the font. Originally it was MS Sans Serif which I really liked. Unfortunately, some symbols weren’t displaying and there was a tendency for italicised words to run into their neighbours. I don’t get this with Arial
- Made the column slightly narrower
- Increased the line spacing. These last two changes are a consequence of the move to Arial. I think it improves the look.
I have finally solved my comments problem. Boy, that was hard work.
Burgundy for the banner. See, I’m not entirely against colour.
A few days I sort of indicated that posts were inviolate and could never be interfered with except by the addition of a block of text preceded by the word “Update”. Well, that’s more or less still true for most things but there are some posts which are constantly being updated that this doesn’t really work for - To Do lists for instance. So, the To Do list - and any other post labelled “updatable” is going to be exempt.
In approximate bang for buck order:
- Back ups
- Decide what I’m going to do with my old blogs
- Sort out preview page
- Post titles only on Category pages
- Photo Album
- Special category?
- 404 Page
- Search page format
- Advanced Search
- Colour for the banner
- Italics problem
- Think about categories
- Navigation - Home, archives
- Why Expression Engine
- Sidebar positioning
- RSS Feed
- Display categories
- To Do list on sidebar
- Writing about the BBC
- Link Permalinks to Archives
- Categories on posts
- Work out how to do photos
- The 30-minute rule
- Variable width for Main Col
- Add IB links to feed
- Permalinks for IB
- Boxes and background
- Add feedback link to feeds
- Category listing on sidebar
- Domain name
- To write
- Best of
I’ve changed the way that links are displayed. They are now underlines and nothing but underlines. A not-so-cunning plot to expunge all colour from my blog? Almost. I’m certainly not a great believer in colour. Just because something is possible doesn’t mean it should be compulsory. I am a great believer that less is, indeed, more.
I never did solve that comment problem. Comments are by no means finished (although they work) it’s just that there are other, more pressing, concerns.
Incidentally, if you do click a comments link you will notice that it opens up a new window, that that window contains the post on its own with the comments area and that you are scrolled down to where the comments area starts. This is no accident - it’s how I designed it.
I finally managed to get captchas working - not easy - but then noticed yet another issue. If you submit a comment along with your URL then when it is published the link is to Patrick Crozier not to your site.
I am not even sure this is a bug. It may be to do with EE’s membership features forcing you to be a member (don’t ask) in order to have your URL displayed.
Anyway, right now I don’t seem to be able to get anywhere.
Comments have been implemented - sort of. They don’t have Captchas - couldn’t work out how to do them - and Trackbacks will have to wait for another day.
I didn’t mention why I was implementing comments; after all there are plenty of blogs eg Instapundit and Natalie Solent that don’t have them. It’s mainly to supply feedback in an easier form than e-mail.
The typical approach is to have a pop-up window. Occasionally, (and this is the approach favoured by EE’s template designers) the comments link takes the reader to the entry’s individual page. Apparently, this is slightly better for avoiding spam comments.
I think it is important that clicking on "comments" opens up a new window. It also seems to me that having the text of the original entry there in front of you is better than not having it there in front of you.
I’ve added in some of the incomprehensible (yet vital) guff you get at the top of HTML files. The main difference this seems to make is to change the label on the IE button on the Windows Taskbar.
Permalinks are working again. When I created the subdomain (patrickcrozier.tandrag.com) there was some jiggery-pokery involving a file called path.php. I got a setting wrong. Anyway, that has now been corrected and permalinks seem to be working just fine.
Seems I can switch titles on and off (see below). Yippee!
Titles. Some rather successful blogs eg Instapundit and Natalie Solent don’t give their posts titles. So, they’re by no means essential so long as your blog postings are short. They are also useful for archiving purposes so long as they are descriptive. I have always reacted against the tendency to write for the day. I want my postings to be read in the future too. So, that tends to imply titles. Having said that I have found that on many an occasion titles have a tendency to get in the way.
I suppose what I am angling at is titles that can be switched on and off. I think I can do that in EE.
Things I want to write about. I do (at some point) intend to start some actual, proper blogging as opposed to all this meta-blogging. So, perhaps it would be a good idea to think about what I want to blog about. Well, over the last 24 hours I have wanted to write about the Saville enquiry, the Euro-referendum and a few other things that I have spotted on the Blogosphere. I have also wanted to flag up good posts with which I agree. I have also wanted to initiate a discussion on the contents of the most recent edition of Modern Railways. And, as ever, I’ve wanted to have a go at the BBC.
Ordinary blogging is simple enough, if not actually all that easy. Flagging up good posts another question all together. And then comes Modern Railways, more difficult yet and then the BBC which really is tricky.
What next? Well, let’s make a list:
- Add in the Expression Engine button
- Think about titles
- Sort out the background and put posts into boxes
- Sort out the permalinks
- Create a feed
- Add comments
- Do some prettification of the permalinks ie control the colour and size
- Think about categories
- Archives - now that the oldest post has slipped off the bottom of the page
- Add in some of the header guff that posh websites have
I’ve spent quite a lot of today experimenting with subdomains. Not entirely successfully it should be said. But we’ll get there in the end.
To cheer myself up I decided to change the font - the old one was beginning to get on my nerves. It’s strange how important aesthetics are. I am not quite sure why but they are and (perhaps more importantly) they are important to me.
The other big change I would like to make is to the background. It is rather (as Greg Dyke would say) hideously white. I experimented yesterday with toning it down with light grey and the pastels of blue, green and red, none of which really worked. I think the long-term solution is to have a fairly dark background with text in brilliant white boxes. But that is quite hard work and something for another day.
Right, I’ve added in the dates. I’ve used the “header” function which most blogging packages now have which gives you the new date only the once.
Once I added the dates the problem then was that the title of the blog and the dates had the same prominence. So, using the magic of style sheets I reversed out the banner, toned down the background and added in a bit more jiggery-pokery to get it looking OK.
Posts should have dates. That seems fairly obvious. Not quite sure why, mind. But I always like to know when something was written so I guess other people do too. So, let’s do it.
The name. At the time of writing it reads "Patrick Crozier" but should it? Having my own name up there means there ain’t going to be anyone else writing here. At least, not on a permanent basis. I could have a guest blogger (assuming I am big enough, of course) but that would be on those occasions I am unavailable so maybe keeping the name wouldn’t be so bad.
It also means I can’t specialise like I can with Transport Blog. But, then again, I’ve given up (for the time being) with Transport Blog because of the inflexibility the title implies.
So, it’s swings and roundabouts. On the one hand I can say what I want (so long as I am happy to let it go out under my own name) but on the other I lose the advantage of niche. Right now that is an advantage I am quite happy to lose.
Another option is to go anonymous. A bit late for this blog but an option nevertheless. Big problem is the danger that one will confuse one’s real and anonymous identities. And my view is that if you go anonymous you’ve got to completely anonymous. So, no going along to all the right parties.
Another option is to call it something fun like: "We shall fight them on the beaches". Hmm&8230; but it’s really got to be something personal and inspiring. Right now, the nearest I can get is: "They say bombing has never won a war&8230;" but we’re not quite there yet.
Right, well I ‘ve just been messing about with style sheets and column widths. The text stretching the whole of the way across the screen was beginning to get on my nerves. But then, when I brought it down it seemed far too hard against the left-hand side of the screen so I put in a “margin-left” to lift things out a bit. I think it looks a lot better like that.
So, we now have permalinks but to where do they link? Right now they link to an individual page. But do I really want this? The alternatives are to link to the post within a page of posts from the same month/week or to a page of posts from the same category. I might want to do this in order to help expose readers to other things I have written. Can’t do any harm can it?
Right now I don’t have any categories though this is a subject we will doubtless return to. But I do have dates. So, I could have my permalinks point to the appropriate place in the monthly archive. If I had a monthly archive. We’ll doubtless return to this too. For now, individual pages will do.
Immediately after writing that last post, I updated the post it referred to in order to make the point that I had now worked out how to do escape characters. What I wanted to do was to link to the new post. But I couldn’t because I don’t (yet) have permalinks. Hmm, perhaps I should restate that: I can’t yet access the permalinks. That’s easily enough done&8230;
Earlier, I mentioned about escape characters and how I didn’t know what they are. Well, I do now. Or at least I think I do. This is a hard rule: <hr>. I achieve it by typing in <hr&ht;. I achieve that "&" just now by typing in &.
I got all this information from http://www.html-reference.com/Escape.htm
Oh dear, that title. Much too small, or, rather, indistinct. What can we do, I wonder?
A few observations about my blog:
- There’s no name. Or rather, there is a name but it’s not displayed anywhere
- There is no information on who is writing this blog
- Posts do not have dates
- There is no way for readers to contact me
- Posts do not have titles
- The text stretches right the way across the page (or at least it does in IE6). this makes it hard to read
Next problem. I have just remembered there’s something I forgot to say on the “What is this blog for?” post. What should I do? Options: a) Do nothing. That’s just fine but then I won’t have told people and the post won’t be so much fun to look back on in the future. b) I could sneak in an update but that sounds, well, sneaky. c) I could add in an update to the original post marked as such. That’s probably OK. And that’s what I am going to do.
Very first problem. Now I should point out that I am currently using Expression Engine which is a rather powerful blog management tool. I am also using about the most simple template imaginable.
The problem is that the posts have no demarcation - you cannot tell where one ends and the other begins. This is a bad thing. Simplest way is to put in an “hr” tag (sorry, it should look different but I can’t make it look different without it putting a line across the page. In techie: I don’t know what the escape character is). There are better and more complicated ways. But for the time being we are keeping things v.simple.
UPDATE. I’ve figured out how to do escape characters.