A custom of this now nearly dormant weblog is a post at new year. The first such post that I could find was for 2002. Back then I was using Radio UserLand as my blogging platform. WordPress had yet to be invented. By 2002 I had already been blogging for a couple of years. One of the things that I regret now is that I wasn’t consistent in where I posted. I ran several blogs at the same time so a lot of what I posted back then was spread over several sites, a number of which were hosted, from which I never took a local copy of my data. A lesson to us all, but thank goodness for the WayBack machine. I now self-host my own WordPress installation.
Dave Winer, without whom there wouldn’t have been a UserLand community, and Aaron Swartz. Take a look at this screen grab of one of my early weblogs that allowed anyone to post to my site via email. Dave and Aaron both posting to my blog on the same day! Aaron was only 15 at the time and had been working on the RDF/XML media type. He went on to do so many great things before his untimely death almost exactly a year ago. Also posting that day was Scott Lofteness, someone else who has achieved great things. I was in good company.
So as another new year starts and I reflect back on this weblog I notice that there has been a shift away from publishing to my own personal blog, and instead I post to different sites depending on the context or the medium. I use Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, and several other services that have fractionated where all my stuff goes. I can’t say yet whether this is a good or bad thing because these sites make it easy to create great content and I still have control of my data. But I do miss those late evenings and early mornings of the early days of blogging. These days however I need my sleep.
“In the Q&A, Mr. Gates predicted that MOOCs would not be “place-based” classes but would be led by a small subset of instructors who taught to a broad audience. There’s a set of people, he said, who are really good at it and who have big budgets and great support.”
I’ve been wondering where the money will come from to create MOOCs (who hasn’t). Right now most institutions are simply absorbing the cost for their own early ventures with MOOCs because this is a game that everyone wants to get into without necessarily knowing where it will lead, or even the rules of the game. A few of the lucky ones may have external funding to create their MOOCs. However if you’re a university with any ambition for online learning, can you afford not to be dabbling with MOOCs right now? But longer term, when the initial rush to go live is over and the revenue models are known for the big players, how many can afford to remain in this space? I think Gates is probably right. MOOCs, or whatever they turn into, may remain the product of a small number of players with big budgets and great institutional support. Those of us without the cash will have to come up with different sustainable models for production and support for our online learning, or else mooch rather than MOOC.
The retirement of Google Reader has forced me like many others to look for an alternative service to manage my RSS subscriptions. I’ve tried a number of services and apps and have decided to go with Feedly, at least for now. Feedly made the transition from Google easy because I started using it as an interface to my Google Reader account in the weeks leading up to the switch off so there was no need to export my feeds from Google. I like Feedly’s web interface, and use that the most, although I also have the iPad and iPhone apps and use those occasionally. There’s also an IFTT Feedly channel, so I might play with that too.
Some people are saying that Google dropping Reader is another small step away from the open web towards a closed walled-garden web composed of proprietary services. In terms of RSS at least, I’m not that pessimistic. For a long time RSS was my main route to getting all the news I read from multiple sources. But in recent years I’ve been getting news and updates via all kinds of other routes including Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin. I now mostly use RSS as a way of keeping up to date with various blogs. It fits with my workflow. I use Twitter to find out about updates to apps and web services that I use. I read one or two of the big news meta sites like TechCrunch and The Verge, and I subscribe to a number of Linkedin groups for professional interest. RSS has a place, and for that Feedly works well for me.
Dave Winer clearly has a view on this, as he was instrumental in most of us using RSS to read news in the first place (whether or not most people knew it). There’s much to be optimistic about for the future of RSS in Dave’s piece, even if he’s not sure himself. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.
As a result of all this unwanted excitement I’ve made a few changes. Most importantly I’ve changed my domain host. I’m now with Bluehost, one of the few hosts recommended by WordPress themselves. I couldn’t be happier. It was an easy switch and I’ve now got more control than ever before over my CPanel account. I’ve also paid for BulletProof Security Pro plugin. I can’t recommend it highly enough if you’re a serious WordPress user. I used the free version for a while and liked it. The Pro version is just terrific and for the first time I feel safe in my WordPress bed at night. The owner Ed Alexander is so helpful. Please do seriously consider this plugin if you manage your own WordPress installation.
As an extra layer of security I now also use CloudFlare. I’m completely new to the word of content delivery networks and web application firewalls.It’s early days to know whether I’m benefitting from the claimed security and performance improvements, but the basic version is free with Bluehost so I’m giving it a go.
If you have any WordPress security tips and favourite plugins please let me know in the comments.
It also ‘outs’ your moderated comments, without your help
I track my comments by revisiting the site again and again and again. CoComments is a way to track comments on a blog without constantly revisiting the site. In fact, it keeps up with all the comments you leave (very helpful for client tracking).
While the initial discussion on CoComments was interesting to me:
From Robert Scoble comes news of coComment. After I read the post – damn, it only had 12 comments at the time – I signed up for the beta, and actually got one. It’s pretty cool, and an interesting service. You download the bookmarklet and then add it to your Firefox toolbar, and prior to commenting, you click on coComment and … voila, your comment becomes tracked, as does any other comments on that post, and you have one page to view your comments and other comments. It’s an all-in-one stop to view comments and conversations on blogs, without the original post. Stowe Boyd has already taken the time to break down the system step-by-step.
It’s actually the moderated comments information that I found particularly useful:
An interesting sidenote … as most people know, I strongly dislike (read hate) moderated comments and only use them when I have no control/choice on the platform. Well, I posted a comment using coComment on another blog … and while it does not show up on the blog, it does show up on coComment. Here’s an interesting twist: a blogger can moderate all he/she wants, but on coComment it shows up immediately; it’s going to start showing out some people quite quickly who try to control the conversation flow for their own purposes.
This, in itself, is going to be dangerous and become ugly for PR: the outing of comment moderators, which includes clients’ blog. If clients have a blog and do not let through comments … well, that is now a wasted effort and perhaps more detrimental than letting through a comment and answering it. Likely, most corporations are going to opt to just turn off all comments, thinking that is the best way to control and not track elsewhere.