147 spams

In the 24 hours this install of WordPress has been running, the blog has received 147 pieces of spam. A few bits of spam were even made before I even finished installing the application. Thank the lord for Akismet.

Welcome back!

Well, hi! It’s been a long time…

Unfortunately on this blog the posting frequency really dropped off over the last year, work just got the better of me! Compounding this, I kind of lost interest in web development issues which was the main topic of the blog and it didn’t feel right to write about other topics on the blog whilst it was still primarily a web development blog.

So what I’ve done now is to relaunch the blog with a new design and software (we’re running WordPress now). I still haven’t worked out what this blog is really going to be about, but we’ll hopefully see as time progresses!

This is in fact the third reincarnation of Cow’s Blog. We started off in April 2004 using Postnuke before relaunching with Geneone in August 2005. And now in February 2008, I’m pleased to switch to WordPress.

Continue reading

Priorities and Interests

The posting frequency on this blog over the last few months has been decreasing. In many ways, it’s a real shame. I love this blog and I’m so proud of the things it’s managed to achieve over the last few years, but recently my interests and priorities have changed.

Part of the reason for starting this blog was because I wanted to pursue a career in IT. This blog was a wonderful way of communicating some of my thoughts on technology and trying to gain a better foothold in the world of technology. It was also a really nice way of publicizing any scripts or projects I had and get ting feedback.

My interest in web development has waned over the last few months. I’ve barely touched a line of PHP or even HTML in the last three or four months. Web development doesn’t play any part in my future plans. I think it’s the idea of web development as a career; to me it sounds like a dead end and I’m really not sure how long the industry will be around.

I’ve spent six years or so doing web development and I certainly don’t plan to "forget" these skills overnight. I still keep an active interest in things such as Mozilla, JSON, "Web 2.0" and HTML5 but perhaps not to the extent where I can blog about it and provide analysis.

With technology it’s similar; I haven’t been keeping up to date with the latest processors, Windows Vista or Ubuntu although I still have a keen interest in technology and gadgets.

So this blog has become a lot quieter over the last few months and I don’t think this will change too much over the coming months. Although one of the rules of blogging is not to deviate too much from the core focus of your blog, I do want to experiment with blogging about some other things.

I’m really not sure about whether Geneone will be finished any more. I’m dead proud of it but it’s still got quite a lot of work to be done before it becomes production-ready. I’m not totally sure if I have the time or desire to finish it.

My del.icio.us bookmarks have taken the place of many blog entries. I’ve not added any analysis but the pages I’ve bookmarked I’ve found interesting and may be of interest to readers.

Cheers for your support and I hope that you’ll choose to keep reading through 2007

Why Blog?

I’ve been asked by several friends recently questions along the lines of "Why should I write a blog?" and "How do you motivate yourself to blog?"

And it’s true; a lot of people lose motivation. There is a lot of "blogrot" in the blogging community. An article on BBC News last week said:

The blogging phenomenon is set to peak in 2007, according to technology predictions by analysts Gartner.

The analysts said that during the middle of next year the number of blogs will level out at about 100 million.

The firm has said that 200 million people have already stopped writing their blogs.

I’ve certainly been through quite a few blogs. Generally I’ve tried to keep a technology/computing blog running as well as a personal one which I write for friends and family. Cow’s Blog has been doing pretty well. It’s been running since April 2004 (running for 32 months).

Cow’s Blog has generally been updated about twice a day, although this has fluctuated. More recently this has gone down to around three or four posts a week due to other commitments, high workload and part of it is to do with the fact I haven’t written a line of HTML or PHP in quite a while…

So why blog?

Everybody has different motivations for blogging. These could range from writing for fun, writing for practice, just wanting to keep in contact with friends&family or blogging to make money. For me, it’s for the fun of writing, sharing opinions and hearing those of others. Before blogging I used to post quite a lot on forums and blogging has essentially replaced that. The posting frequency of this blog has gone down a little recently but it’s been supplemented by the other blogs I maintain.

The main reason why people stop blogging is because they don’t enjoy it. It’s possible that it was never fun in the first place, or you can lose interest because not many people seem to be reading or commenting on your writings. Another reason could be because the time it takes to maintain the blog has risen – for example if you get a lot of spam comments.

I thoroughly enjoy blogging and writing and I encourage others to give it a go. You might lose interest after a while or "run out" of things to write about, but I still think it’s a thoroughly worthwhile thing to do.

Does anybody have any tips on how to make blogging seem less tedious? Or perhaps you’ve learnt or done some amazing things from your blog? Are there ways for us to be able to encourage our friends to blog and combat blogrot?

Blog Spam

Blog spam is so, so, so annoying. I looked through the server logs and I have over 3200 requests to create a comment on a single blog entry of which none have gone through. So it’d seem like my CAPTCHAs have saved me the hassle of having to delete 3200 comments. And that’s just on one blog entry.

A lot of people use Akismet to deal with their spam needs. We don’t use this at the moment because Geneone lacks the support for Akismet and the CAPTCHAs seem to be a pretty good measure for stopping spam.

Even though I have CAPTCHAs, I still get blog spam. This started off several months ago and tended to consist of posts with a ton of links and junk in HTML and BBCode. I suppose the idea is that the blog software would support at least one of those input languages. This kind of obvious spam has more or less stopped.

Non-Obvious URL Link Spam 

Since then, I’ve been getting up to 3 spams on a bad day. The difference is, these commenters will often take the time to write something such as "Nice script, works in all the major browsers, I’m going to implement this on my site. Thanks!" It’s quite obvious that it’s spam as they will specify their name as "Trucks" and link to a website which just sells a ton of trucks. 

Sometimes people will take the content of an existing comment and paste that as a new comment to save them from having to write them. But they’re dead easy to spot.

CAPTCHA Sweatshops 

Even though I have CAPTCHAs, I still get spam. Why? Most likely because a human has been paid to sit there and to spam websites. This is when spammers employ people in developing countries a few cents an hour to go online and to solve CAPTCHAs. Solving 12 CAPTCHAS a minute, all day long.

An article on the Guardian website a few days talked about people in developing countries being paid to spam blogs.

Whilst we’re on the topics of blog spam, check out the blog entry from a while back about why nofollow is the wrong solution to blog spam. 

New Blog Design

I decided to freshen up the design on this blog. After 6 months, the old dark blue design has been retired. I’ve updated the blog to use this new theme which is the third major design iteration. This new design is based around the blues with a hint of purple and green. 

With this design, I hope to present a bigger emphasis on other content besides the blog entries. I also wanted to improve aesthetics and readability. You’ll see links from del.icio.us and photos from Flickr around the place.

I also wanted to turn the website into a better resource of useful content. As well as the del.icio.us bookmarks, the "Blog of the Week" feature has been integrated into the site. 

The Design

I based the colour theme of the site around the colours I found in the following photograph which I took in Victoria, British Columbia in Canada. 

Victoria, B.C. 

This design marks a return to using sans-serif fonts, a dark on light colour scheme and a fixed width design for better readability. Oh, and a sensibly sized footer 🙂 

The design still isn’t totally final and the paint still needs to dry. I’ve been pointed towards several issues such as the fact it is quite hard to find your way home from blog entry pages, and the green header doesn’t always look in place (maybe it’d work better being purple).

I won’t claim to be a professional designer or somebody who has done a substantial amount of website designing, so any pointers in the right direction and critiques are welcome and greatly appreciated!

Old Designs

Just for comparison, here are screenshots of the two previous designs:

Salmon

Design 1 – Salmon – October 2005

2.0

Design 2 – Two Point Zero – May 2006 

Plans for Cow's Blog

Longtime readers of this blog may have noticed a drop in the frequency of updates at this blog. This is due to several reasons mainly boiling down to the fact that I’ve now got so little free time.

The amount of work and commitments is stacking up and generally life has been a lot more busy. I haven’t managed to update Geneone, Evolution or Reflection.js recently for exactly the same reasons.

I haven’t written much recently simply because I haven’t been able to research material. I’ve tried to turn the blog into a hub of useful links and resources – into a homepage for my activities across the internet, into a useful resource of links and blogs.

The "Blog of the Week" feature provides an interesting blog each week which I hope will be of interest and I’m bookmarking a lot of pages on del.icio.us.

I’m hoping to redesign the blog sometime soon with a bigger emphasis on these features. I hope to keep the blog active as well but it probably won’t be running the two-updates-a-day routine which I’ve maintained previously.

Interestingly enough, I made a very similar post this time last year. Do autumns always spark downturns for blogs?

User Profile Pages

I’m currently rewriting the user profiles feature of Geneone, my community management system.

To date, the profile pages have been very basic and have been modelled off the profile pages found on forums. Forum profile pages generally just list some interests, show your signature, avatar and contact details.

In contrast, MySpace almost gives you total free realm over your page. You can customize the whole look of the page, add photos, quizzes, videos, music, comments and all kinda random stuff. Myspace is built on it’s user profiles.

With Geneone user profile pages, I wanted to go somewhere down the middle. We don’t want totally stupid customization, crazy colours and animated GIF backgrounds like Myspace, nor do we want the boring, drab profile pages you find on forums.

Additionally, Geneone is designed very differently from most blog/forum softwares – it should be dead easy to integrate other applications. Evolution is a game which was integrated into Geneone around a year ago. It should be easy for Evolution to add game information onto the user profile pages.

Geneone is also designed to be extensible and versatile. On one installation of Geneone, you could run several blogs, a few hundred forums, a few content pages or maybe even a wiki. The profile pages should integrate information from these sources.

I’ve modularised the user profile system and added hooks for extensions and other scripts to add their own fields, customizations, etc. to the profile page. We’ll be replacing the existing Evolution profile system sometime soon with a slightly customized Geneone profile system.

To make the profile pages a bit more interesting and more personal, I’ve introduced "personal pages". With these personal pages, the user has free realm to add photos, links to their favourite websites, a list of interests or whatever their creativity permits! To edit a personal page, you get the same TinyMCE WYSIWYG interface found everywhere else on Geneone.

Example of new profile page 

Old Profile

Example of old profile page 

An example of things which could be possible with the new profile page:

  • Flickr/Delicious/Youtube-stream, etc.
  • Polls and Quizzes
  • Music
  • Buddies List
  • Comments
  • Latest Blog Entries/Personal Blog integration
  • Forum, blog stats

Sorry I haven't posted in a while…

Bloggers always seem to go through phases where they blog loads and then go through phases where they don’t post much, or don’t make a post for a very long time. 

In the blogosphere, it is common practice to make a "Sorry I haven’t been posting" post. There is a collection of "excuses" found on blogs. I like the following: 

  • This guy says he hasn’t blogged in awhile because he’s busy becoming a full-time blogger
  • "I just don’t enjoy it as much as I convince myself I do"
  • "I just haven’t found the need to express my thoughts for the whole world to see lately."
  • "I’ve been in a state of flux."
  • "I forgot my password…"
  • "Both lazy & busy or just busy being lazy."
  • "I haven’t posted in awhile and still really don’t have much to say."
  • My cat Ralphy managed to hide my keyboard again and refused to divulge it’s location. He apparently apreciates the irony of going after the keyboard and not the mouse.

I’ve cut down on the amount I’ve posted recently simply because I’ve been so busy and I’ve not really been coding much recently so I’ve not much to write about.

Cow’s Blog 1 year ago: