The Politics of Blogging

My transfer from WordPress.com to WordPress.org is complete. Well, the transfer itself was completed within the space of a few minutes quite some time ago. However, installing a theme, the required plug-ins and tidying things up – that took a little while longer. But it’s almost done now. Apart from any bits or pieces that I may have missed. Feel free to let me know if you find anything broken. Continue reading “The Politics of Blogging”

Happy New Year

My new year wishes come late, I know. I blame my inner Mexican. But then again, everything tends to be delivered late, if at all, on this blog these days. I’ve tired of blogging. Or at least of the sort of blogging I used to do. Long, rambling posts. It requires thought, time and effort. None of which I have spare to dedicate to this little part of the web. You’ve all noticed, I know. It’s there in the stats. The visitors graph reads like the value of the peso. It’s been tumbling year on year since 2011, the year I returned home from my six year stay in Mexico.

It turns out that whilst people liked reading about adventures in Mexico City, they are less interested in hearing about life in Bournemouth. I understand. Entirely. I can demonstrate this with a couple of images from the annual report that WordPress automatically generates. Firstly, let’s look at how often I post these days, shall we? Bearing in mind that last year there were 122 posts. In 2013 there were 146. In 2012 I crafted 196 literary masterpieces….



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Yes, it’s a sorry story, isn’t it? And it has to be said, if I’m not writing anything new, then visitor numbers are going to fall. But let’s move on to the next graph, which rather shows that the dire state of affairs that the Mexile currently finds itself in is not entirely down to a lack of new content. Let’s have a looky see what visitors do read once they’ve gotten here…

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Well, three of those top five were all written when I still lived and played in Mexico City. The other two? Well, they do appear to be about Mexico. I think my medicinal advice on how to clear up a bit of psoriasis of the scalp must be my most read post ever. By some margin. That’s two or three years running that it has topped the charts. I wonder if anyone ever gave it a go? And if so, did it work for them?

Anyway, despite all this doom and gloom, some of you still take the time to look in and see whats going on now and again. So the final graph. It’s the biggie, too. Who wins the prize for leaving the most comments this year?

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Why it’s Kim G. For the fourth year running. Well done Kim. William made a good go of it though, pushing up to second place from last year’s fourth spot. He swaps places with Norm, who tumbles to fourth.  Steve is consistent. Third again. Colm is a new entry displacing….me. Apparently, I was the fifth most frequent commenter last year. That, I think was an error.

But this is all a bit by the by. You see, as I mentioned, I’m a bit bored of blogging. Especially now that I have a new job with plenty of overtime available. And money to spend on going out when I have a day off. This all makes blogging feel like work instead of a hobby. I’ve no intention of retiring from blogging, mind you. If this were a job, then I’ve moved from being a part-timer to a zero hours contract. Shorter posts. Published less frequently. Mostly photos. Such is life.

 

The Mexile 2014

Every year, the magic pixies that power WordPress, crunch up the numbers and produce some facts and figures for their bloggers. Just to let them know how they are doing. Alas, my blog is clearly in decline. But I’ve know this for a long time. It all went a little downhill the moment I left Mexico. But I still enjoy it, so I’ll plod on for another year. Let’s look at the numbers anyway. It’s just a bit of fun rather than the whole story.

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My previous posts from 2012 and 2013 show that I can’t quite fill the Sydney Opera House as many time over as I used to be able to. With 37,000 visits in 2013, I would have filled the place for 14 consecutive nights. The year before, I had enough visits to warrant being measured against the Cannes Film Festival. Fifty thousand visits were enough for a dozen festivals, apparently. I post less these days too. Last years tally of 146 was down from 196 the year before. Now we are down to just 122 posts. I’ve become lazy. Or busy elsewhere. Take your pick. I’m clearly not controversial enough either. I obviously need to jump on an extremist bandwagon of some sort and stir a few people up!

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Normally, there’s a couple of posts from the current year that make it into the top five. Not so this year. My most popular content is all old stuff. I do wonder where all those people interested in the Mexican Psoriasis Cure come from though. I have noticed over the last twelve months that it’s one of the most read posts on most days. Weird. I know where most people come from though. Google and Steve Cotton. To be struck off Steve’s blog roll would be akin to being struck off the internet.

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Who is it that visits anyway? For the most part, a big bunch of lost souls who were looking for something else and quickly went elsewhere in search of it. Then there are the lurkers. Those people who like to have a little read now and then but prefer not to be noticed. Sometimes the lurkers say hello at an appropriate moment, sometimes not. I’m not criticising. I am a lurker myself on other blogs.

Then there’s the regulars. The ones who prop themselves up on my virtual bar and put the world to rights. Kim, once again, leads the list. For the third year running….a hattrick. There’s two new names there too. Norm has been around for what seems like forever. William (or should it be Bill, really?) is a relative newbie. Steve has less to say these days, but then there have been fewer posts. He still moves up one place into three.

This is all becoming a bit too ‘Top of the Pops’. Let’s finish this off. Many thanks to all of those who visited, whether you fled soon after or not. Hello to all you lurkers. You are noticed. Maybe only once a year with this review, but still. You count. And of course, the biggest thanks to all you who leave a comment. Whether it’s just one or a few dozen. It’s nice not having to talk to myself.

Boom and Bust of the Blog

Many, many moons ago, on this very blog – albeit on different hosts – I earned a small fortune churning out posts with paid links in them. I’ve told this story before. Paid links can bring in a pretty penny, although not the fortune it used to make me. Last year I must have earned a couple thousand shiny British pounds from posting ads and including specific links in my posts. I even started another blog, Gary Denness Photography, with the intention of monetising it.

Alas, there’s a major slump in the Page Rank Spam industry. There have been slumps before. But this seems altogether more terminal. All of my revenue sources have dried up. Totally. Which is a pity – the money came in very useful. What has happened to paid posts? It’s hard to say. But at a guess, Google has had some input. A lot of input. I’ve had ‘representatives’ of companies who have run paid posts on my blog in the past emailing me en masse, pleading with me to take the ‘Google unfriendly’ links down. Matt Cutts should also be listened to. And other platforms have clearly come a cropper.

Whatever. It was nice while it lasted. Perhaps the platforms who used to organise paid posts will find a loop hole and reinvent themselves and bring blogging revenue back into my life. But I have not enough faith in that happening soon enough, or in a meaningful enough way, to justify running two blogs. Pft. I barely have enough time to post to one blog. So, my obituary of the paid post industry is accompanied with an obit for my photography blog. It is still there for the time being, till I figure out what, if anything, I want to do with the garydenness.com domain.

I’ve already imported all the posts from that blog into this one. I’ll fix the Camera Lust section into the menu soon. And I’m sure I’ll continue photography themed posts here. Just as I used to. I did like the ability to play around with the photography blog, which was a WP.org site, not  WP.com. But I feel more secure on WordPress.com. Less likely to be hacked. Does blog hacking happen? Oh yes, for all sorts of reasons. My blog isn’t too tempting a prize for hackers. But whilst in the Import page, I backed up the blog as well. It seems a sensible thing to do from time to time. You should too, if you have a blog.

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Forgive Me Pilcrow

For I have sinned. I strayed from the path, and experimented with Zoren. But I couldn’t quite get comfortable with the blocky look. I sampled Origin, a theme with so much promise. But let down by a frankly awful user experience when leaving or replying to comments. I lusted after Kent. The theme, not Clark. But alas, the $79 asking price was too much for me.

I find it utterly nuts that WordPress don’t allow limited time free trials for themes. The Preview feature isn’t enough. I know from experience (ahem) that sometimes a nice looking theme just doesn’t work out once you’ve had a few days to get to know each other. Nearly $80 is a lot of money to spend on something you might not like a few days later. The number of free themes that are released compared to paid themes is disappointing. The number of decent themes being released, free or not, is very disappointing.

So I’ve returned to where I started. The Pilcrow theme. It’s not perfect. I don’t like the widget style. I wish the homepage showed excerpts with a little image instead of full blog posts. I wish the theme was a little wider. But in an imperfect WordPress world, this is the least imperfect theme. I’ve jazzed it up a little with a diamondy background. Which I will probably soon tire of and delete in favour of a plain grey background.

And I’ve planted my political allegiance for all to see. My current political allegiance. In an imperfect Britain, this is the least imperfect party. It is, of course, an awfully long way from perfect. A post will follow on this subject soon, I’m sure. Till, then, welcome back Pilcrow. Are there any dissenters who preferred the other themes? Critique and comments welcome.  No dirty protests though, please…

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Welcome to WordPress

I recently, as in ‘two days ago’, faced the blue screen of death. A reformat of my hard drive beckoned. I’ve had to do this many times before. I dare say I’ll have to do it many times again. This time wasn’t terribly traumatic. Time consuming, yes. Traumatic, no. Traumatic would be the time I had a sudden HDD failure in early 2006. I lost a whole load of blog posts (my blog was a self produced and hosted creation back then) and several months worth of photos.

Today, all my photos are on Flickr. I did that within days of that 2006 HDD failure. Heck, I put everything in the cloud. Google’s ‘Not As Evil As The Rest’ Empire has its flaws and security/privacy issues. But I have allowed it to consume my digital life. My music collection. My mobile photos are backed up to Google the moment they are taken. I don’t bother with MS Office or any of the free variants, and just have Google Drive installed with their office suite readily available for online or offline use. My browser is Chrome and plugged into Google to save all my bookmarks and browsery stuff.

As for my blog. That was the first thing I moved onto a hosted platform. I had used Opera’s browser for years. They had a blog service called MyOpera. The community was brilliant, and I still keep in touch with a select handful of characters I met there. I stopped using the browser when it hit version 10 and broke, and Google brough out Chrome, which was slick. I stopped using MyOpera for blogging in 2009 after I had whored it doing paid posts to the extent it had become a virtual disease unto itself. I later got caught doing those ads, and was banned. Such is life. The $20,000 I earned before that happened was worth it….!

But I discovered yesterday that the fat lady had cleared her throat. She’s gonna start singing in March. The Opera experience is coming to an end. MyOpera is shutting down, and its users need to find a new home. There’s lots of genuinely good free blogging services out there. None match the built in community of MyOpera. But the platforms themselves are better, in my opinion. Tumblr is quirky, dead easy and fun. Blogger is incredibly versatile and can’t be beat when it comes to customisation. But WordPress is the most professional of the free services. It’s my choice and my recommendation. A recommendation I have passed on to my Opera friends.

To those who decide to walk this path, I welcome ye to WordPress. It’s a fine new home for your literary masterpieces/entertaining epics/rambling waffles. It’ll take a while to settle in, figure out where everything is kept and to feel truly at home. But I’m sure if you have a good play around, you’ll soon pick up what you need to know. If you get stuck, there’s a section to add comments below, just like in MyOpera. I’ll be glad to help out if I can. But I’ll try and help out straight away. Here’s a quick list of Eight Helpful Hints to start getting the most out of WordPress today….

Archives

One thing you’ll probably do straight away is import all your old posts from MyOpera. There’s instructions on doing that here. Once your bits and bytes are on WordPress you might want a way to access your archives. There’s a couple of ways to do this. You can add a Calendar or an Archive widget in the sidebar. But they are difficult to navigate. My preferred method is to create a page, imaginatively called Archive, and just type [ archives ] into the text area, but don’t leave spaces between the brackets and the text. You can look at my Archives page, or the image below, to see the result. Every post in a list. So easy to search. I wish it showed the dates, but you can’t have everything.

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Shortcodes

Are you wondering what the deal is with that [ archives ] code? Opera used BB code, if I remember rightly. And you could play with the CSS – I used to do that a lot. Those days are over amigos. WordPress isn’t the most customisable platform, unless you want to shell out of a $30 upgrade to access the CSS. But you can still add stuff. The way to do this is with Shortcodes, as described here.

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Rotating Header

You can customise the header image of your blog though. Every theme has a different sized header, so make sure you’ve chosen a theme you’re happy with before you spend too much time playing with the header images. The best bit here is that you can upload a whole load of header images and have them set to rotate. So everytime someone visits your blog, there’s a new picture at the top to greet them.

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Mosaic Gallery

There’s lots of ways to add images to WordPress, but the Gallery function is excellent, particularly the Tiled Mosaic option. Upload a whole selection of photo, choose the option to create a Gallery then tick the boxes as shown below, to create something that looks like this.

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Future Proof Images

Although I often upload images to WordPress, most of the time I embed photos from my Flickr account. The problem here though, is that if you change theme, and your new theme has a different text box width, then your old images are now the wrong size. There’s an easy cure for this. See the code below. You can see what I’ve done in red. The top set of code is the original. The bottom is the code I publish. It’s width is set to 100% and I’ve removed the height tags. That photo will now fill my text area no matter what theme I use.

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Upgrades

There’s lots of ways you can spend money on WordPress upgrades. I’ve been tempted to buy a package and remove the ads, but never taken the plunge. But there is one upgrade I have always paid for. The custom domain name upgrade. I do remember from my MyOpera days that the inability to have a custom domain was a source of frustration for many. The wait is over folks. Go get yourself your own fancy domain name today.

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Kill Spam

WordPress comes with Akismet built in, to combat spam. But it is far from infalliable. I regularly get blanat spam getting past Akismet’s sensors. No one likes spam. There’s an easy cure for this though. See the image below. Right at the bottom is the key section – make sure you check ‘comment author must have a previously approved comment‘. By checking this box, every comment on your blog by a new user will go to the Pending tray.  And it’ll stay there till you mark it as Approved or as Spam. You’ll only have to do this once per user, providing they log in to make their comments under the same name each time.

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Publicize

Ok, so WordPress doesn’t have the tightly knit community that MyOpera has. But you can overcome that. You probably have communities built elsewhere. Probably Facebook. That’s where Publicise comes in, sending your posts to your Facebook wall as fast as you can publish them. It couldn’t be easier.

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I hope some of that helped out! 🙂

The Liebster Award

Once upon a long ago, I received a letter through the post. This was very long ago. Age wise, single digits. So long ago that receiving a letter through the post was rather exciting. I didn’t get letters, generally speaking. The occasional statement from Midland bank, referring to me as ‘Master Gary’. Or a reply from a short lived school sponsored foreign penpal. But this letter was entirely unexpected. It was my introduction to the infamous chain letter. The sort where you have to respond to six friends, or bad luck will surely befall you. After all, this chain letter has been going around, unbroken for decades. Centuries. Maybe King Henry VIII once participated.

I was uninterested in the chain letter, put off by the threat of a house potentially falling on me whilst walking to school. Yet bothered enough by the threat to participate. Chain letters are an investment free practice run at pyramid selling. When I got another a few years later, I binned it. Chain letters still exist, but they are digital know. The purest form is spread on Facebook, with soppy messages that you must copy and paste for 1 hour as your status. I’m more likely to defriend someone posting those than join in.

There’s another digital form of the chain letter. One just for bloggers. The most popular of which is the Liebster Award. It is a bit cheesy. But I enjoyed reading the entry on Kim’s blog. And truth be told, I’d enjoy reading a bit more about some of my favourite bloggers. It’s kinda an extension of the Workstation Photo, started by Señor Calypso.  I shouldn’t just lurk, being the internet voyeur. I guess I should participate.

Official Rules for the Liebster Award

  1. List 11 random facts about yourself.

  2. Answer the questions designated by the blogger who nominated you.

  3. Place YOUR nominations for the Liebster Award! Nominate five (or more) other bloggers that have fewer than 200 followers. Make sure to notify them via comment/email, etc.

  4. Make up a set of questions for those nominated bloggers to answer.

  5. Display the Liebster award badge on your blog!

Liebster Award Questions : Eleven Facts About Myself

1. I started smoking when I was 15, and shot up from a shortish 5’6″ to a lofty 6’2″ in less than a couple of years. 2. I punctured a lung in my late teens, due apparently to my growth spurt. 3.My first friend at my first proper school was on Jim’ll Fix It. I wrote in, but was never invited on. I’m no longer as jealous as I was. 4. My favourite bridge in London is the Albert Bridge. You’ve seen it in the movie Sliding Doors. 5. I still have a piece of pencil lead embedded in my wrist, 30+ years after it got there. 6.  My first ever pet was a goldfish called Fred. He died while I was away for a weekend, so our neighbour replaced him hoping I wouldn’t notice. My mum joined in and called him Fred. I did notice, but a tradition was set and I subsequently owned over 30 goldfish all called Fred. 7.If I had to pick between Shakira and Jennifer Lopez, I’d have a nervous breakdown. Perhaps I’d just settle for Cindy Crawford, my original teen crush. She’s still pretty hot at 50. 8. The first football team I ever supported was Arsenal. For just two weeks. This is my dirtiest little secret.  9. I was born in Perivale hospital in Ealing, West London. 10. I was once robbed of £2 after winning a game of pool by a boy who went on to become the 2000 Olympic Super Heavyweight boxing gold medal winner. He ran away from me when I gave chase. It’s perhaps best I never caught him. For me, not him. 11. I have never had the BCG, nor had Measles or Mumps. I live in fear of germs.

When did you first consider moving to Mexico, and how long did it take to make the dream reality?

At the end of 2002, I’d truly had enough of working for Chevron Texaco. The Area Manager was an abysmal chap. The job was unrewarding. I’d served my time. I fancied moving abroad. Mexico wasn’t on the list of potential countries. But when looking for cheap places to do a TEFL, an institute in Guadalajara came up trumps. It was so random. I went to Mexico in the middle of the next year having booked my course. But I spent three months travelling around the country without ever seeing the inside of a classroom and then came back to the UK. I had to consider Mexico as a permanent base a second time for it to become reality. And I will have to consider it a third time to make it permanent.

What do you like the best about living in Mexico?

The sun and blue skies. It’s as simple as that. If you don’t understand, then you aren’t British.

What’s your favorite Mexican movie?

Like Water For Chocolate. I’m not much of  a Mexican movie buff to be totally honest. I’m guessing Machete doesn’t count as a Mexican movie. Shame.

What’s your favorite and least favorite Mexican foods?

My favourite is Barbacoa, which is always at its best when served in a little road side eatery just outside Huichapan.  Least favourite? I can’t remember the name. It was served on tostadas, and I thought it was a tough bit of vegetable. It was actually part of a cow foot. I didn’t finish it. I’m also not fond of putting chili powder on fruit.

Who is your favorite Mexican musician?

I guess Mana. Or maybe Molotov. Naming a musician is hard. I love the sound of mariachis. Can I name a song instead? I think I will then, if that’s ok. There’s one song which brings memories of Mexico flooding back. And there’s one version which particularly brings the background smells, noises and atmosphere of Mexico DF to life. It’s a corny choice, but I truly love this rendition…

Flickr Blogging

If I were a pure ‘stats junkie’, I’d use Flickr not just for my photos, but to blog from to. I get far more exposure there than I do here, or on the Mexile proper. Check out the screenshot above. Only twice in the last month did I get fewer than 200 views. Eight days saw more than 1,000 visitors. One day topped 3000. Th rest were mostly between 600 to 800. It won’t be long before I hit half a million views in total.

I might experiment one of these days, and write a blog post to upload with a photo. Just to see if it increases views on that photo and whether I get much interaction from visitors. I’d be interested to see what happens. I won’t make a habit of it though. While you can blog from Flickr, the comments system is a bit meh, and the whole operation is nowhere near as slick as WordPress. But perhaps I should try and utilise those views more, given my desire to monetise my blogs. Perhaps just adding my web address to each photo I upload.

Profiteering Masterclass

Recently I came across an advert on the Guardian – Blogging Masterclass courses. They’ll take you by the hand and guide you through the jargon, how to sign up a WordPress account, how to customise it, how to add a domain name, how to use social media and how to use text and images. At a staggering £400 per person. I kid you not, £400 per person. Pound Sterling. Real money.To be fair, the price does include lunch. Which really, really needs to be caviar and champagne. And plenty of it.

What the heck?! I’m in the wrong bleeding job! Seriously. I need to start my own business providing basic tuition to gullible old folk with more money than sense ‘beginners’. The first course will be entitled ‘How To Get Online And Survive The First Hour On The Web Without A Nigerian Scammer Emptying Your Bank Account‘. Anyone who is willing to pay £400 for a WordPress beginners course is surely going to be interested in what I have to offer. And by emptying their bank accounts myself before any shady character in Lagos has the chance, I will be delivering the service as promised.

I’m sure there is a career out there somewhere for me in web design/tuition/writing/something or other. I just need to find my niche and then find the time to fill it. Till then, I will continue to regale anyone who passes by with whatever I am droning on about in this here blog. Writing a bloggers guide did occur to me, but I dropped it. It’s been done before. A million times.

I will say this. Blogging is free. Don’t be paying anyone £400 to essentially teach you what you’ll pick up yourself within ten minutes of loading up your web browser. Just plough ahead, and learn with experience. If you’re really unsure, then watch someone else have a go. This is where I introduce the most famous non-blogger on the Mexican blog scene. Now an ex-non-blogger. Gringo Suelto is up and running, after many years of vague but unfulfilled threats to start scribing his own blog rather than scribbling all over other peoples, in their comments sections.  Kim G has generously scattered his wit and wisdom far and wide across the blogosphere for years, but now has a blog of his own to call home. Yay!

Gringo Suelto is going to be an interesting blog to read. First of all, because the writer has so much to share, so many stories to tell and a way with words that is always thought provoking and engaging. But it will also be interesting to see how he develops the blog. What style or theme he settles on. Is there a ‘technical art’ to blogging? I have my theme. One of them is to base a post around my photographs. So here are four photos. Completely irrelevant to this post, but there’s just not enough to say about them to merit a post of their own.

Four photos on A4 that I found recently. I took them ten years ago. My old Honda Pantheon scooter, a couple of snow scenes from our garden/field and my sisters pet owl. I sold the scooter when I fled to Mexico, the snow eventually melted and the owl escaped one day, never to be seen again. Yes, I’m pretty short on inspiration. Scraping the dregs from the bottom of the blogging barrel. I just have nothin’ far ya. Perhaps now is a good time to click on the link to Gringo Suelto and escape the tedium of the Mexile…

 

Zoren

It’s time for a spring clean of the Mexile, Mexican style. In other words, about five months late. I’d been using the Pilcrow theme on WordPress for years. I liked it. Still do. It’s clean, slick and just plain old looks nice. My only complaint was that it’s a little too narrow. Which made my photos a bit small. I often look at new themes, and preview them. And dismiss them. My most comment complaint? They’re too wide.

A narrow theme works well with the text. A wide one works well with the images. There has to be a happy compromise somewhere. Pilcrow has a text width of about 480 pixels. Zoren, 800 pixels. I’m guessing my ideal compromise would be somewhere in between. I think 600 pixels would be just right. Alas, there are no themes I’ve found with a text width of around 600 pixels that I like.

Zoren is nice and clean, and I’ve added a dozen photos for the rotating banner at the top. All taken by yours truly over the last couple of years. I’m not so keen on the huge info bar across the top of each post. An excessive, unnecessary and space wasting bar. It also includes the comment link. Comment links should be at the end of the post. That way, people leave an intelligent comment when they’ve finished reading the post, rather than an uninformed diatribe before doing so. In theory…

I’m going to give Zoren a run for a few days. Maybe a week or two. Just to see if it grows on me. If it doesn’t, then Pilcrow may yet make a return. Feedback is hugely appreciated. What do you think of the change? Is it easier on the eye? Easier to read? Is the comments link placement a deal breaker?! Vote!

Lost and Found

To continue the theme of days gone by. While digging through my old sets on Flickr, I discovered (re-remembered) that there’s quite a few old albums with small image sizes. Just 640 pixels or 500 pixels wide, instead of the 2048 original width. Thailand, Sri Lanka and Central America. So I dug further into my stack of old CDs. Hurrah! The former two are there, and have already been imported ready for processing.

Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama, alas….the original digital images are lost. Or are they? I dug around under the bed. In the olden days of yore, I had this habit – terribly old fashioned nowadays – of printing out my photos. And I printed them out big. On A4 or A3 premium photographic paper. And I always invested in pretty decent printers, so the quality really isn’t bad. Sadly, I don’t have an A3 scanner, but the A4 images are all salvageable.

But I found something else in the CDs too. One of them was labelled ‘websites’. I stuck it in the tray and opened up the folders. All of my original websites were there. What’s more, when opened up in Chrome, they all still worked perfectly. I have no intention of uploading any of them again. A few screenshots will do.

The oldest, and original ‘edition’ of garydenness.com is the one with a black background and the little photos in the banner. This is, I guess, as original as can be. I see a couple of photos from Mexico there, and they were obviously put there after my Mexico trip ended. The white and green one? A separate site specifically for my six week Central America adventure. It even contains all the blog posts I wrote from that trip. They’ve been long lost, a gap in my current blog. I just read them. Meh. They can stay lost.

The red background site didn’t last long, and was replaced with the last remaining screenshot. That was built in Flash and was the most advanced site I ever built. It was pretty funky. But it didn’t last long either. But this trip down memory lane brought back another memory. I don’t have a copy of the site that followed on from these.  That site was the one I designed when I went to Mexico.

I bought a special domain for it, azteca.co.uk. I wish I owned that domain now, but someone else has it, and is just sitting on it. Alas, I lost that site, and a lot of photos from those first few months in Mexico in a hard drive failure. They’re not even on the Wayback Machine.

Ten Years of the Mexile

Only four days to go till take off, and just 2 days left at Texaco. Can’t wait, really can’t. And as usual I’m leaving half the planning to the last minute….all adds to the fun. So long as I remember passport, swimming trunks and cashcard it’ll all be fine! I have even managed to get this little website a domain name and a little place on the ‘net. For what purpose I’m not entirely sure, but I can use this bit as a record of my travels anyway, to remind myself of it all when I end up sitting in a hospice going slowly senile. It may yet turn out to be an easy way to get out of emailing each and every person seperately……..Of course, this is all reliant on me being able to update the site from Mexico, so this may well end up being both the first and last post!

And so, on the 22nd June 2003, I began blogging. Ten years ago today. It was the first post, but as things transpired was far from being the last one. My blogging skills have improved since then, I’m pleased to say. But anyway, Happy Birthday to the Mexile! Back then I didn’t call my blog the Mexile. And the domain was garydenness.com, not the garydenness.co.uk that I use today. The .co.uk domains are cheaper, and I’m from the UK. It made sense to make the switch. Although I recently bought the domain name back during a bout of nostalgia, and have a photoblog there.

Back then I also didn’t use WordPress. I could have, I guess. WordPress was created 26 days earlier. Blogger had already been going a few years, having been created in 1999. The first platforms, I believe, hit the virtual shelves in 1998.

The term weblog, and the short form blog, have their origins dating a year prior to that, in 1997. The difference between a blog and a website is reasonably easy to differentiate now – are you using blog software? In the early days it was a bit blurry. I guess there might be some people hand coding a website that functions as a blog today. But there can’t be many.

A very old blog banner I once used.

When I launched in 2003, my blog was self hosted and created using Adobe Dreamweaver. That made it an intensely laborious process, producing new posts. But I persevered for two years. In those two years, I did indeed go to Mexico, as promised in that first post. And I came back, after several months of touring the country from north to south, east to west. I blogged during another two month trek through Central America. Again in Budapest, Madrid and other destinations. And there were a lot of silent periods. Until I returned to Mexico again in 2005.

I cancelled the hosting plan and switched to the MyOpera blogging platform. I lost some of my posts during the move in a hard drive failure, sadly. The bigger loss was about 9 months worth of photos. I quickly moved all my photos to Flickr for safe keeping and have kept them there ever since. My blog has changed platforms a few times though. I switched from calling my blog ‘garydenness.com’ to Mexile in 2006ish. I even considered buying the domain, but Mexile.com was already taken. Some sort of music band, featuring a Brit in Mexico.

A few months later I discovered that I had actually been working with that Brit for several months. It’s a small world, is it not? I felt there was only room for one Mexile, and he got there first, so I changed to Ay Caramba. Yes, I was a big fan of the Simpsons. Then my Brit friend moved back to the UK with his Mexican wife, so in 2007ish I renamed my blog the Mexile. Want to know just how small this world can get? About a year and a half ago, Mrs P and I were walking in the park down the road, and there they were. My Brit friend, his wife and their kid. It turned out they left Mexico for Bournemouth, just a short drive away. Mrs P had her first Mexicana friend in Inglaterra. As I write this, they’re on a day trip in London with some other Mexicanas.

wordpress

The original WordPress theme I used, many years ago.

I abandoned MyOpera in 2007, switching to Blogger. Blogger had so much functionality. Too much. A geek like me can’t help himself, and I made a mess of it with flashing lights, magic scripts and other bits of blog bling. I switched to WordPress in 2009 because it’s a solid platform, has clean looking themes and comes without all the unnecessary wizardry that I find so tempting to play with.  My blog has been award winning and famous, I’ll also have you know! With Opera, I won Member of the Week, with Blogger I was once Blogger of the Day and my post Mexican Chess was a WordPress Featured Post. It’s also been featured on BBC radio and Channel 4 television in the UK.

My most popular post ever? Do you remember the New Seven Wonders of the World thing a few years back? Probably 2007, or thereabouts. I ran a poll on my blog, and published the results the day before the real thing revealed the real results. There was no Taj Mahal in my New Seven Wonders. The next morning I woke up to find I’d had a surprising amount of traffic to my blog, and hundreds of comments from irate Indians desperate to give me a piece of their mind. The comments were lost during one of my blogging platform switched.

Hits

I wonder how many blogs that are still active in 2013 have been going for ten years. Not that many, I’d guess. Less than 1% of them? I reckon that might be a conservative estimate. What do you think? I’m darn well going to claim that as a fact until someone proves me wrong. I’ve always wanted to be a onepercenter. If someone proves me wrong? Screw it, I’ll just become a conservative and continue declaring it as fact. Ain’t no one going to rain on my party today!

So has all this blogging all been worth it? Sure it has. I’ve gotten to write down my life for posterity. I wish there was the option to buy the space and domain in perpetuity. So many memories are stored in these pages. I’ve made money from it. I’m really impressed that I’ve kept at something for a whole decade. But most importantly, I’ve made a lot of friends on here over the years. So here’s to another ten years of blogging. Cheers!

Mexile II

See the big red banner over on the right? My ten year anniversary as a blogger is rapidly drawing close. I started off blogging using garydenness.com as my domain. Nowadays I use the .co.uk version. But I’ve splashed out and bought the old .com address again, for old times sakes. And matched it to a new blog, imaginitively entitled Mexile II. I know, I do this sort of thing quite a lot. And generally speaking, my new splinter blogs become quickly superfluous and fade away into the virtual ether.

Perhaps this one will be different. Perhaps it’ll find a new niche that doesn’t fit this blog, and therefore doesn’t just fracture my content over multiple sites needlessly. I have in mind at the moment to simply use it as a showcase for my photography. Old snaps and new. With a brief summary or comment, not a long rambling essay. It’ll be simple, quick and easy to update.

I really like the theme I found. It’s clean, shows off full screen images on the homepage, has a neat sidebar, social network icons at the bottom and even has my latest Flickr and Instagram photos in galleries on the top menu. I really, really like the theme. If I were going to self host this blog, this is the theme I’d use. All it’s lacking at the moment are some posts to fill the blog section out a bit. And some comments to get the Comments widget in the sidebar showing some activity. I’ll add the content, you come and say hi… 🙂

Screenshot_2

Dear Mr WordPress

I use WordPress.com to produce my blog. I have a choice. Quite a wide one. But I like the simplicity of WordPress, the professional dashboard and publishing tools, the clean themes and the sturdy back end. I just worry about what I’m going to write, and WordPress.com does the rest. But no platform is perfect. There’s always room for improvement. And there are a few things I’d like to see WordPress do:

  1. WordsAds. I opted into Wordads when it launched. It was an opportunity to monetise my blog and get a little cash out of it. There’s just one issue. The implementation is hideous. Absolutely hideous. The extra money I could earn doesn’t make up for the uglification of my site. The answer is simple. Create banners and squares that fit flush with differing theme widths. Offer more flexibility is what ads go where. For example, I’d be happy with a 230×230 box in my sidebar, and that’s it.
  2. Advertising. As standard, WordPress runs adverts on blogs at the bottom of posts. They’re not too intrusive. But I’d rather they’re not there. Given that WordPress.com is free to use, one can’t grumble at a few ads. You can pay to have them removed if you want. But $30?! Seriously. Not cool. A fair price would be nearer the $10 mark. I think. What I don’t know, and would need to know, is how much WordPress make off the ads they run on my site. 
  3. Store. I could have included this in the grumble above. There’s extra features you can buy for WordPress, but everything is so overpriced. How overpriced? It’s $79 for the Pro pack – domain mapping, no ads, 10gb space, Videopress etc. You could go and buy web hosting and do it all yourself for the same money or less. And you’d get a lot more features through WordPress.org and the hosting service. A fair price? As in, what I would be prepared to pay? $50 absolute tops. But perhaps something closer to $30. I’d definitely pay $30. I definitely won’t pay $79.
  4. Media Integration. I reckon most WordPress.com bloggers embed their photos and videos into posts. Photos and videos that they host on Flickr, YouTube, Picasa, Vimeo, SmugMug etc. There are existing tools to add media, but it could be done in a much better way. How about, instead of making users play with slightly awkward shortcode, WordPress integrates the major media hosts into the platform. Users could sign into the services within WordPress, and then when adding media, they could select the images and videos directly from their third party accounts.
  5. Sidebar Widgets. I do wish that some of these widgets would get updated. The Flickr widget is hideous. I hate the way that the RSS widget shows the RSS icon at the top. Most of them are looking really, really dated now. Where are Instagram and Foursquare widgets? There’s so much work to be done there.

But I can’t lie. These are not deal breaking complaints. Some might even call them trivial. It just irks me that a product can get so close to perfection, but screw up on a few small issues.

Two Thousand

This is my two thousandth post. Across very almost ten years – that milestone is just a few months away. That’s about two hundred posts a year. Where do I find the time? I find I have less time here in the UK for such frivolous activities than I did in Mexico. Writing posts has become as much a habit as a hobby. I should cut back. I don’t though. Partly because it is profitable. But mostly because I like the people who hang around in this corner of the virtual world. Cheers to those of you who’ve ever commented. And to those of you who haven’t too. Especially to those of you whom I have met in person. And those of you whom I will meet. Beers all round.

I did once before reach the two thousand post landmark. That’s because I merged my 365 photo project into this blog. But I had a change of heart and un-merged them. I’ve also ‘lost’ a fair few posts over the last decade too. Some disappeared into the ether back in 2005 when I self hosted everything, and forgot to do a complete back up before cancelling my hosting plan. Duh.

Other posts of a commercial nature, hundreds of them, were left behind on an old blogging platform when I switched to Blogger from Opera. Blogging has been profitable over the years. How much is it worth. Tens of thousands of dollars. Not enough to live on, but certainly enough to have some fun on. But they don;t make good reading. Those who didn’t much like my guest posts will be pleased to hear there will be no more of those. Although I will still explore other lucrative avenues.

How to celebrate this landmark? Every post needs a photo. It’d be too much of a drag to go find my 2000th upload to Flickr, although that would have made a nice matching pair. How about my first ever upload to Flickr? It certainly wasn’t the first photo I ever took with a digital camera, nor my first photo in Mexico. When I joined Flickr, I sent an experimental batch to the service to see what it looked like.  I wrote yesterday of my need for some sunshine, so it’s a fitting photo…

Sunshine Tiles