If in doubt; then delete

The title is a joke. I hate deleting things. A digital packrat, it takes knowing that deleting something will likely fix an actual problem to delete it. And my delete is to move it out of the way not actually destroy the file.

Anyway, I discovered this blog was hosed. I had noticed Gotcha Jerks Part II was missing from various social media sites. So, I went to post it and found the whole blog hozered. It just displayed a Fatal PHP Error for class.jetpack-tracks.php and so I started to look on the WordPress.Org support page when I decided to move the whole Jetpack plugin directory to jetpack.bad and “see what happens.” Well, that restored the blog. The plugin claimed it needed an upgrade, so I ran that. All is well.

Easier than my initial resignation.

I went to “diff -r jetpack.bad jetpack” to get a comparison of the differences between the bad one and the good one, but the bad no longer exists. Thus the title. I am considering deleting and reinstalling Jetpack to ensure what I have is pristine. I have a nagging feeling that the upgrade moved jetpack.bad to jetpack then updated some files. Delete and rebuild would give me more confidence I purged lingering bad code from the plugin. Additionally, the lingering issue from WordPress and SSL a month ago might be related? In sum, I suspect there are subtle issues lingering and a clean sweep is in order.

Interactive Archives

My jaw dropped at the end of this blog post Cloud Hosting and Academic Research.

There is a value in keeping significant old systems around, even if they no longer have active user bases.  A cloud hosting model seems so right to me–it’s scalable and robust. It just makes sense. But the hosting costs are a problem. Even if the total amount of money is small, grants are for specific work and have end dates. I can still be running a 10+ year old UNIX box, but I can’t still be paying hosting fees for a research project whose funding ended years ago, no matter how small that bill is.  Grants end–there’s no provision for “long term hosting.”  Our library can help us archive data, but they are not yet ready to “archive” an interactive system.  I hope companies that provide hosting services will consider donating long-term hosting for research.

Opening up a new area of digital archives by preserving the really cool works of the faculty seems like something I might enjoy.

My mentor in web design and server administration might have been described as a pack rat. He… Well, I guess, we kept around versions of web pages a decade old. Nothing really found deletion. The public just missed it by use of permissions.

When building my portfolio, my mistake was not gathering up the whole files to replicate the sites I designed. I’m no longer doing web design or even programming. So it is okay.

A professor in Geology had a pretty cool Virtual Museum for Fossils. The site moved around a few times, eventually ending up on the main web server also hosting WWW. Of course, HTML, images, and Flash files are easy to archive. Take the files and place them on a web server. Since they are static, it is easy to keep around for a long time. As long as the standards remain honored, they should be good. Developers of web browsers have pressure to go for the new, which potentially abandons the old eventually.

Scripted web sites using Perl, PHP, ASP, or JSP, JavaScript, or AJAX require a working interpreter. Still, some things might not be backwards compatible.

About a year ago my mother ran across 8mm video film. An uncle found a place who converted it to DVD. Will we even be using DVDs in a decade? Maybe the 8mm needs to go on Blueray?

Going back to the scripted web sites, should an archived web site’s code be updated to work on the new version of the interpreter? Maybe. If makers of the interpreters allowed for running in a backwards compatible mode, then all would be good. Even better, to be able to add to a script a variable that tells the interpreter which back version to pretend to use. For administrators, they could have the programmers check non-working scripts by just telling the interpreter to simulate an older version.

Me Social Media

Dan Schultz doesn’t like Facebook or Twitter because they are too focussed on individual expression rather than the community.

That may be because he is using them wrong. I liked photography as a kid, but I didn’t know any photographers. Flickr happened to come into my life just after I bought my first digital camera. My participation in photography exploded. Not because I had a way to post my photos but because I had a way to find other local photographers for mutual encouragement. Even better was forming local groups to encourage people to meet. The value of Flickr is developing the community.

Worldwide Photowalk Panorama

Similarly, I got into Twitter because my community, peers at other universities running the same software as myself, were seeking help there. Any place with answers to the problems we face, which is where people with the answers are watching, is where we go. Twitter was the place to get the attention of the right people not a forum like phpBB. (There are already lots of email lists.) My other community, people using the software I run are also on Twitter. I’ve resolved issues for many clients by finding their public complaints and offering solutions. When my focus changed away from using Twitter for the community is when I stopped liking Twitter.

Personally, I have yet to find much sense of community in the phpBB, Google Wave, and Ning. So I find it strange these are the exemplars of community applications. They seem fractured so one finds dozens of groups to covering the same interest. Sometimes this is because some moderator upset a portion of the community with draconian behavior causing people to form an alternative community. Bad blood exists for a while. Other times people set up a new community unaware others exist.

Integrating With Facebook

At least a couple years ago, I set up the Facebook Notes app to import this blog’s posts as notes. By setting this up, a number of friends have taking to commenting on my posts. I get far more comments on Facebook than I do here.

However, this was a horrible way to get traffic to this blog.

  1. All of the text and images go into Fb Notes. Nevermind the terms of service. People looking at my blog posts think I wrote it in Facebook. Unless they are observant enough to see “View Original Post” links in tiny text, they have no idea about the blog which was originally the point. When I cross post stuff to multiple blogs I make it obvious the other places it exists.
  2. Embedded videos get stripped from Fb Notes. Lately, I have been posting embedded TED Talks videos here. So I have to think about how to change my posts to accommodate Facebook.

So, I discovered some friends who are also photographers on Facebook use an app called NetworkedBlogs. (They are Flip!Photography, Invisible Green Photography, and Stylized Portraiture.) Once configured, this app will post to my and friends’ (on my behalf) Facebook Walls a link to my wall. The format of the posts look similar to when a link is posted, such as a thumbnail.

The setup is also fairly easy. Enter the location, description, category, and email for your blog. Prove it is yours whether by having others verify it belongs to you or placing code on the site. Finally, go to “Feed Settings” link and click “Auto-publish to personal profile”.

I am hopeful this solves my problem. If so, then I have another blog to setup. (Someone asked to buy that domain. I guess I asked too much for it?)

Computer Metaphors

An effective way to explain something is to use a metaphor. This can be especially effective by picking an metaphorical object or behavior with which the audience is already familiar.

The one I see most often is comparing computers to a car. This morning I saw this on an email list describing a person’s experience  migrating to Vista 8 from Vista 3.

It is like I have traded in a familiar (though frustrating) car for one that has the lights, wipers, and radio in new locations.

Also this morning, Vista 8 was compared to a malfunctioning pen forced on faculty who would rather use a better pen. Nevermind all pens are not used exactly the same. (Fountain vs rollerball) Some require more maintenance and care than others.

A coworker always says Free Open Source Software like Sakai or Moodle are free as in free puppies not free beer. Nevermind proprietary bought systems like Blackboard are bought as in bought puppies.
🙂

June 15th – Nature Photography Day

For Nature Photography Day 2008, I made an NPD Flickr group and invited a bunch of people. The only rules were to a) post pictures taken on June 15th (thank you Flickr / EXIF) and b) about nature or destruction of nature. Unfortunately, I didn’t pay attention to the group as I should have. So a bunch of nature picture spammers (they post the same picture to dozens of groups) posted hundreds of rule violating photos to the group pool. A month later I closed posting to the group because the spammers wouldn’t likely stop of their own accord.

Anyway, I forgot about NPD until the day of. No one posted to the group of their own accord. Who remembers after a year? I cleaned out the photos not following the rules. Set calendar reminders a couple weeks in advance to publicize the group. Hoping NPD 2010 will go better.

I’m also considering bending the rules. Maybe close to June 15th is close enough. Something like anywhere in the range June 10th to 20th is close enough? What do you think?

Anyway, here are the pictures from the group:

Facebook Usernames

If you cannot find me, then you are not looking. If you search on Facebook for Ezra Freelove, then I am the only result at the moment. Maybe all you knew was Ezra and the city where I lived? Facebook search is not so great you could find me through my first name plus something else you knew about me (other than email or city). Probably this is for the best. We don’t want to make it too easy to stalk people, right?

Allowing users to make a username is a promotion. The blogosphere making a fuss over all this is a Chicken Littleesque. Sure Myspace, Twitter, and a number of other sites have addresses with usernames in them. No one is forcing people opposed to having one to make one. Only in the past month could one choose a username for one’s Google profile. Prior to that it was a hefty large number of numbers.

I think the reason some people prefer usernames comes down to elaborative encoding. To retain something in memory, we associate that something with existing items in memory. Short-term memory has only about 7 slots and digits are each a single item. Assuming a single incrementation per account created and over 200 million users, using a numbers means there ought to be 9 digits worth of numbers to memorize. Words occupy a single slot in short term memory, by far simplifying remembering. Which would you rather try to remember 46202460 or ezrasf?

An argument against usernames comes down to using the memory of the Facebook database or other computer memory. Computer memory is better than human memory for stuff like this.

All of these work and go to the same place:

  1. http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=46202460
  2. http://www.facebook.com/ezrasf
  3. http://www.ezrasf.com/fb

Pick your poison. Enjoy.

No Hiding From Blackboard

Some former WebCT (bought by Blackboard) customers switched to ANGEL rather than move to Blackboard products. PDF Apr 14, 2009 Today, Blackboard announced it is buying ANGEL. You can run, but you cannot hide from Blackboard.

Some light reading for you…

  1. Learning, Together ANGEL Learning and Blackboard® have decided to join forces.
  2. Blackboard Plans to Buy Another Rival, Angel Learning | Chronicle.com
  3. Why HigherEd is rejecting Blackboard … | Laura Gekeler
  4. Open Thread on Blackboard/ANGEL Merger | mfeldstein.com

So the options left are…

  1. Blackboard-WebCT-ANGEL
  2. Moodle
  3. Desire2Learn (currently in patent troubles with Bb)
  4. Pearson eCollege
  5. Sakai

The Twitter Timesink

Glenn asked: “What is it about Twitter that makes it more of a time sink than Facebook?”

I consider a time sink something where I invest a high value of time for boring and poor value.

My contacts mostly duplicate in Twitter what they provide in Facebook. The time I spend reading Twitter posts I’ve already read in Facebook is a waste of my time. My Twitter contacts respond about a 1/5th as much as Facebook users (it used to be higher in Twitter). So I get more out of Facebook.

Twitter Replies suck. The Replies system makes it look like my contacts reply much more to me than others which I find highly unlikely. More likely the Replies implementation stifles conversation by requiring either everyone to be public or to allow all the participants to follow each other for there to be one conversation. Instead its many different (sometimes hidden) duplicate conversations. Facebook comments are attached to the status update so following a conversation is significantly easier.

Twitter Apps suck. Last Friday, I looked at Facebook Connect for AIR. My complaint about it was my interactions with Facebook would be as limited as Twitter. The promise of Twitter apps is to do more than the Twitter.com web UI provides. Many just provide easier ways to do the same thing: see your Twitter timeline. Others let you see quantification of your usage. Facebook apps by contrast provide access to content not within Facebook, so more of the web because part of my Facebook access so I can actually do more.

Except Socialthing and Tweetdeck. They are exemplary implementations of Twitter Apps. They extend the functionality of just Twitter by itself and are primary reasons I kept at it for so long. Socialthing unofficially died a while ago and official stoppage of support was announced last week while I wasn’t using it. Tweetdeck probably will stick around for a while.

Twitter lacks granular privacy. In Twitter, either you are private or public or ban specific users. I’m torn between public and not. So I opted for private with sneezypb where I mostly subscribe to friends. My other account, ezrasf, was where I subscribed to Blackboard community members, educational technologists, etc. Facebook could improve some in privacy as well. Compared to Twitter, Facebook makes a great attempt at granular privacy. Plurk, another microblogging / status update site, represents the privacy  Holy Grail for me. It allows for making specific posts public, private, available to groups, or individuals.

Losing My Mind

CPR/AED training requires time on the floor rescuing dummies. Objects in pockets, like my Digital Elph, interfere with rescuing dummies. Digital cameras on desks without supervision have a tendency to disappear. (Not so much from coworkers kleptomania but from my distractions.) So I put it in my work backpack. 

Today is the First Day of Ridvan. So earlyish this morning I went down to the Botanical Garden since I wasn’t going to be at work and didn’t go this past weekend. I spent ten minutes looking for the Elph in the work backpack. So I went and just shot with the Rebel. I chalked it up to having left the camera at work. After all, the last place I recalled seeing the thing was at work.

I decided to look at what I took. So I looked for the card reader in the main part of the camera backpack. To my surprise, the Elph was right there in the wrong backpack. The only thing that makes sense is I moved the camera but forgot I did so. 

Perhaps better brain food could help? Fish providing omega-3 fatty acids is already a healthy part of my diet. Maybe more eggs with choline with the vitamin B precursor could help?