After disappearing from this blog for a couple months, I’m trying to climb back in the saddle and get back into posting our happenings. Not sure exactly what it will look like, but it’s always been something of a mish-mash of information. I would like to come up with a way to publish general topics to all and have family posts hidden behind a username and password. I’m still looking for a WordPress plugin to do that. I really don’t want to have to build one, but that’s an option as well.
I’m also trying to get back into my photography and then scanning of old family photos. I’ve done some of it, but it can be time consuming. I’ve come across some great pictures though, so it’s worthwhile.
So I’m going to stay motivated and at least put down a few random thoughts.
As I’ve been more and more turned off by Google’s corporate behavior, I’ve been motivated to stop using non-essential services provided by them. This week I removed my Google+ profile along with my circles. It wasn’t a huge loss as I didn’t use it much. I think Facebook and Twitter provide plenty of social activity for me. I’ve been finding Twitter to be more useful than Facebook recently, but that’s another post.
Another Google service that I dropped this week is their web site traffic analysis Google Analytics. Analytics provided a staggering amount of information on site visitors, but it was definitely overkill for me and the few sites that I manage. On top of that, it probably collected a lot of data on my site as well. In it’s place, I decided to use the Automatic (business side of WordPress) developed Jetpack plugin and it’s statistics module. Not only does it include site stats, but a lot of other features as well.
Some of the more interesting items in the Jetpack plugin is the ability to post popular pages on the sidebar (determined from the stats), sharing/liking icons at the bottom of each post, nice Twitter widget for the sidebar and support for subscriptions from guests. I started off by setting up these things and plan to revisit the different options over time. I don’t tweak the site too often, but it is fun to make some changes periodically. If you see problems or a feature that’s really annoying, let me know about it.
I’ve been using the same CAPTCHA system (click the link for a definition of CAPTCHA) since 2008 and it’s generally been successful (a few bumps here and there). Recently I’ve been getting a lot more spam and bot registrations (new users that are obviously fake just looking at the name and email). So since the machines have the other one figured out (at least for the moment), then I’m going to be switching to one that uses generated math questions to stop the bots. I’m not sure this one will be any more secure, but I’ll find out. Hopefully it doesn’t cause anyone a troubling flashback to elementary school.
I was getting a little bored with my other blog theme so I thought I’d pick a new one to use for a while. There’s always this cascade effect where other things much change as well. I’m not using a new plugin for the “lightbox” effect that you see when clicking on images in posts. This one works a little better than the other one since it can also be used when there is only a single image. I’ve also posted my Xbox gamertag in a more prominent location. So for those that hate change… sorry.
It seems that the success of Facebook has led to an increase in the size of everyones “friend list”. Even a relative hermit like myself can end up with hundreds of friends. This sort of leads to the problem of what is safe to post? You have “dangerous” as in “a security risk”. In this case, you can post information about your schedule that the hoodlum on your friends list uses to break into your house. You also have the “dangerous” as in “creates a social stir”. In this case, you post something that upsets a subgroup of your friends list. Either way, maintaining the social aspect of the service becomes more trouble than it is worth. I think Facebook has reached that level for me. It’s easier just to pull my info and stop using my account.
I think a better social connection for me is my blog. There isn’t a friend list in this case (there is a blogroll though). I post whatever I feel like posting and if people don’t like it, then they can make the choice to not come back. I don’t want to know about it or get involved as it is just too difficult to please everyone. As it is, it’s a ghost town anyway. For small items such as random Jack Handy quotes and other missives, Twitter fills the role just fine. On Twitter, I don’t post anything that I wouldn’t want my mom, employer or future employer to see. I try to keep it light and too the point (sort of encouraged by Twitter). At first I kept my Twitter feed private and required people to have authorization to read, but that just felt too much like Facebook. After a little of that, I made it public and just posted items that are okay in public.
I don’t think it’s just me either. I’ve seen people sort of make the rounds with the social sites. They are on for a while and then seemingly gone just as quickly. I’m not trying to pick on Facebook or any of the other sites either. There success is part of the problem. Even though it’s great to see what everyone from high school is doing (it really is), I’m reminded that those were relationships that I didn’t maintain over time for one reason or another. It seems that two hundred plus friends are just too many for me to maintain.