Replacing Google Reader

In my ongoing search for a replacement for the sorely missed old Google Reader, I happened upon The Old Reader, which is pretty good. Good enough that I’ve moved my own reading and sharing activities over there, and updated the “Interesting stuff” item in my sidebar to point to the stuff I share out of the things I read via RSS.

It was the loss of an RSS feed of the stuff that I share that made me leave Google Reader, which was otherwise excellent. For a while I’d been using Tiny Tiny RSS, which was okay, but which put too much of a load on the server that my brother and I share. The Old Reader, although it’s not as quick about finding new items as they are posted, seems stable and functional.

If you’re interested in the stuff I share, feel free to follow that feed.

My shameful integer posts—and my shameless ones

You know what integer posts are—the ones where the title starts with an integer. I scorn them when I’m reading, so I tend not to write them. I’ve ended up writing a few, though. Seriously—sometimes they just pop out.

I knew I’d written three, but looking back over my list of Wise Bread posts, I see that I’ve actually written six, a fact that I’m somewhat ashamed of:

These last two are sliders. For one thing, the integer is spelled out, not written as a digit. For another, the posts are organized as a logical sequence, rather than as a lame list. I don’t know if they count or not, but the title begins with an integer, so I’m including them.

This next list, though, don’t count. They’re posts that quite legitimately include a number in the title because it’s part of what the post is about:

Those I’m not ashamed of at all. I mean, 401(k) isn’t even an integer!

Oh, and I almost missed this shameful integer post, because I’d hidden the integer in the middle:

And what about this one?

Shameful? Or shameless?

Sadly, integer posts do seem to work, if by “work” you mean “get more reads.” Perhaps the title of this post should have been “7 Shameful Integer Posts”! Hmm?

Doctor Emery’s Nightmares

If you’re a fan of anime-influenced art jam-packed with memey goodness, I’ve got a treat for you: Doctor Emery’s Nightmares.

[Update 2013-12-06: Doctor Emery’s Nightmares is back! I’d take the original link down when the site was taken over by some advertising crap. Now Doctor Emery has a new tumblr site, so I’m pointing there.]

When it comes to physical objects, I’m at least a generation behind the cool kids. (I not only still have an iPod, my iPod still has a hard drive.) But when it comes to internet memes, I figure I’m only two or three steps behind. I mean, I read BoingBoing. I have an account on Reddit! Even so, I usually have to visit Know Your Meme two or three times for every one of Emily Mongeau’s comics.

But if that’s not you—if you already know your memes—then you’ll find Emily’s comics great fun. And if, like me, you’re a few steps back on your memes, you can still enjoy the art.

Oh, and I should also mention: Emily drew the picture I’ve been using for my favicon for a while now. It’s a picture of my totemic animal: the sloth.

Here it is in slightly less faviconic form. Have you ever seen such a handsome creature?

Drew Breunig on “Content” Creep

I think of myself as a writer, not a “content creator,” so I find Drew Breunig’s warnings of doom to anyone whose business is built around “content” to be hopeful. Those same warnings ought to terrify the owners and managers of those businesses.

My writing for Wise Bread has given me a particular perspective on this. The Wise Bread admins have done a pretty good job of seeking out and paying for high-quality writing. They have fallen prey to the idea that winning in this niche is all about SEO and monetizing, but that’s not so bad.

The SEO thing tends tends to work in favor of a writer who wants his work to be read. A Google search for budget categories finds my article Refactor Your Budget Categories, despite a lot of other articles on budgeting. (I was going to say that I wouldn’t do so well if I just posted the article on my own blog, but when I tested that theory, I found a Google search for rich country finds my article How to Have a Rich Country just fine. Maybe I could do as well on my own site.) In any case, there’s nothing wrong with SEO, as long as it’s in service of good content—good writing.

The monetizing thing is more of a slippery slope. If you let your browser do so, it’ll run scripts from at least 15 other domains every time you load a page on Wise Bread. I haven’t looked at what they’re all for, but most of them either serve ads or provide some sort of analytics or tracking of who’s viewing what. As a reader, I don’t care about any of that stuff, so I generally don’t let my browser run those scripts. As a writer, I tolerate it as a way to make more money, but I don’t think it makes my posts look better. (Wise Bread does at least avoid the very worst of the interstitials and floating boxes that cover the page and so on.)

So, as I say, I hope Drew Breunig is right. I’d very much like to see the revenue potential of a content farm article fall to zero. Or, at least, low enough that there’s no point in paying some semi-literate buffoon a nickle to cobble together a few paragraphs that look like prose and are stuffed with keywords. Not that I begrudge the semi-literate buffoons their nickles; I’d just like to see the incentives in the system shift so as to make it pointless to hire writers who can’t write.

It would take a lot of those nickles to add up to a reasonable wage, but there are a lot of those nickels. A world in which we swapped 10,000 worthless articles for one worthwhile article—and paid one writer $500 instead of a thousand buffoons 50¢ each would be a better world.

Less social media, more blogging

I’m glad I have a Facebook account, so I can see what my friends are doing (or obsessing about). I enjoy reading my Twitter feed, for the occasional brilliantly pithy comment. I’m pleased with Google+, because it solves two big problems with Twitter (by letting me group the people I’m following into categories and by eliminating the arbitrary 140-character limit).

And yet . . .

Sunset out the window of the study

I’m glad I have a Facebook account, so I can see what my friends are doing (or obsessing about). I enjoy reading my Twitter feed, for the occasional brilliantly pithy comment. I’m pleased with Google+, because it solves two big problems with Twitter (by letting me group the people I’m following into categories and by eliminating the arbitrary 140-character limit).

And yet, whenever I post anything substantive in any of those venues, I end up regretting that I didn’t post it here, and just link to it there.

There are several reasons, but they’re all related: the material is harder for me to find, harder for me to link to, harder for me to relate to all the other stuff I’ve written (and am going to write). When I post it somewhere else, the material is less useful.

So, I’m going to re-center my social writing here. I’ll still use Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ to comment on what other people write, and I’m sure I’ll occasionally use them to post brief items that I think will be of interest to my readers in those places in particular (and to re-share interesting bits in the place where I find them). But my substantive social writing will be here.

New website theme

As if I didn’t have better things to do with my time, I just spent most of the morning making changes to my website, including updating to a new theme and then fiddling around making changes so that things would display right in the new theme.

I like it.

Website revisions

I’ve made some revisions to my website.

  1. I’ve updated to a new theme that includes support for “asides” (brief posts like this one) and thumbnails (pictures to be featured when only an extract of the post is shown, such as on the category and search pages).
  2. I’ve removed the “sticky” post that had my picture and text about me, and replaced it with an abbreviated version at the top of the sidebar.

What do you think?

Crossposting

After I quit keeping the writing journal that grew out of my Clarion journal, I found that my occasional urge to post journal-like stuff was easily enough satisfied by an occasional post on my LiveJournal Bradipo Rigardas LiveJournal-on.  (The name, which means “A sloth looks at LiveJournal” was a pun on the name of my Esperanto blog Bradipo Rigardas Esperanton.)

Of late, though, I’ve once again felt like keeping a writing journal, and found that, for various reasons, LiveJournal wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do.  However, as I do have a number of friends on LiveJournal, I thought I’d see if I could get a crossposting plugin to work.

Hence, this post, which is largely an test of crossposting.

If you are also spending less time on LiveJournal or for some other reason would rather read my blog directly or in your feed reader, check out https://www.philipbrewer.net/ for posts, feeds, etc.

[Updated to allow commenting on LiveJournal as well.]