Welcome to WordPress, reprise

I realize my post about Movable Type and WordPress the other night may have been a little incoherent, particularly if you’re not familiar with blogging software. The engine that drives this blog is now provided by a software package called WordPress. Up until the beginning of this week, it was provided by Movable Type.

I had been thinking about moving to WordPress for some time, but I am a late adopter and generally lazy. It was the comment spam that finally put me over the edge. Movable Type has comment spam blocking tools, but I tried several and I couldn’t get them to work. I only have a certain amount of time each night to spend on this kind of thing, and if I blow through that installing and re-installing something that doesn’t work, I get very irritated. Someone at SixApart (the Movable Type folks) had written what looked to be a very nice spam-blocking plugin. I was excited to try it and be done with my spam scourge. But there was a long involved process to install it that involved unzipping archives, FTP transfers, rebuilding the site, inserting a special string in three different files, rebuilding the site again, then swearing when it didn’t work.

I took my troubles to the support site for the plugin. In an uncivil moment, I mentioned that I had “blown two hours trying to make this work” and was “feeling frustrated.” The plugin author responded quickly, and pointed out quite rightly that he hadn’t charged me a dime for his plugin, and that if I followed the steps carefully I would probably get it working. Upon reading his reply, I quickly concluded that we were both right. He didn’t deserve to be chastised for a gift, but I had good reason to be frustrated. The problem was Movable Type. It was just too damned fiddly and it smelled of overripe perl scripts. It was just never going to be easy to install a spam blocker.

This finally kicked me in the pants and got me to move my bags over to a newer cleaner architecture with WordPress. And it’s working for me very well. Aside from my inauspicious start the other night, flushing my very first post…

Beautiful colors on Flickr

I’ve discovered a really fun Flickr party trick. If you want to turn your brain off and just stare at some amazing eye candy, pick a fun term to search for. Suppose you choose Hawaii. But what you really want are dramatic, luscious pictures of Hawaii, not somebody’s bad holiday snapshots. In that case you just click on the “View: Most interesting” link. Then you get a set of Hawaii pictures sorted by the interestingness quality algorithm, which is something like Google’s PageRank. On beyond that, suppose you’re going to do a conference talk about Hawaii and you want to punch things up a little. You’re probably going to want some freely distributable Creative Commons interesting pictures of Hawaii. A quick visit to the Advanced Search page makes this no problem.

But here’s the grand finale: from tag search results page, you can dial up an automatic slideshow sorted by interestingness. And you can roll it all into one juicy URL like this:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/tags/hawaii/interesting/show/

Now you’re ready to blow some time. Pick one and go… color, burning man, Barcelona, Yellowstone, splash.

Now that’s the internet I used to dream about back in 1995.
[via O’Reilly Radar]

Moved to WordPress

Here’s a sad story. I wrote a long post explaining why I was so happy to be moving from creaky old Movable Type to shiny new WordPress.

And then I saved it.

And then WordPress ate it.

So now I am writing this short, sad post instead of my long happy post.

Nevertheless, I am glad to be moving on from Movable Type.

Wordie and Ninjawords

If you like words (and I know that you do), then you need to pay a visit to Wordie. They have a really good tag line: “Like Flickr, but without the photos.” The premise is so simple that you can’t possibly suspect you’ll get sucked into it until it’s too late.

Here’s how it works. Get a free account, start typing in words. Any words will do, but if you’re a natural fit for Wordie, you’ll start creating lists of personal favorites in no time at all. In addition to my first list of words, I made Fancy-pants words for rhetorical devices and Words that sound naughtier than they are. Like Flickr, there’s a social aspect to the whole thing that links you, through your words, to other people’s lists. Not much to it, really, but good clean fun.

And since I’m on the topic of words, here’s a resource that you may find useful: Ninjawords.com. It’s just a really fast dictionary. Again, it’s a very simple tool, but well made. If you use a dictionary server very much, you’ll find that they have long load times, mostly because of all the ads attached to them. Ninjawords is based on a non-proprietary dictionary, so they don’t feel the need to advertise. Also, they have an appealing URL structure, if you’re linking to definitions from a document: http://www.ninjawords.com/tundish. Couldn’t be simpler.