Looking back

I started 2006 with a massive traffic spike when Lifehacker linked to two of my posts: how to color-code tasks in Backpackit using The Printable CEO as guide, and how to get things done faster on your phone by using Float’s Mobile Agent. Since then, my site’s traffic has tripled and certain posts have been to the front pages of Digg once and del.icio.us thrice.

I blog because I want to improve my writing. Instead of the notebook writing coaches tell you to keep for regular jottings, I keep a blog. My measure for success is simple: once in a while I’d go over old posts and see how I would have written it better. I’d spot passages that could be sharpened, details that could be clarified and grammatical errors that could be corrected.

But blogging, being the medium that it is, provides a lot of bonuses. I’ve gotten feedback, through this blog, that helped me improve my writing and technical skills. Comments have pointed me to scripts and programs related to my field of interest: content management systems. Blogging has also brought me into contact with people whom I share an interest with.

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Media Temple falters on 100% uptime promise

Media Temple, in the first days after launching its widely-hyped GridServer hosting, seemed to deliver on its grandiose 100% uptime promise. The figures I was getting in early monitoring of Media Temple uptime, and a host of other web hosting services, was tempting me to sign up with them for a project that was still at an early stage.

I’ve since changed my mind. I will be using my current web host, the dependable A Small Orange, for the new project. MediaTemple has apparently failed to sustain its 100% availability, based on my monitoring using mon.itor.us and the posts of scores of its own customers. The downtime was significant that it generated an article in Netcraft.

And even if it got good http uptime performance for several days, there were a lot of complaints regarding Media Temple’s database connections, a huge issue for those that depend on PHP/MySQL scripts, such as WordPress, to run their websites.

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New screencast on using a TiddlyWiki

I’ve recreated my earlier video guide on using a TiddlyWiki, a single-page wiki you can use for your notes and task lists. Instead of Wink, I used CamStudio to capture screen activities this time.

Wink is an easy to use free software to capture videos of your screen activities and it’s great for creating tutorials. My only problem with it is that it doesn’t offer an option to capture screen activities in video format (i.e. mpeg or avi) so that it can easily be uploaded in video sharing sites like YouTube, Metacafe, and Revver. Wink outputs the screen activities in .swf and .exe formats.

My previous screencasts– one is on how to turn any web template into a WordPress theme–are in .swf format and hosted in the Internet Archive. I’ve had complaints on its playback quality and how it can be slow at times so I decided to try hosting it other video services. These services, however, do not accept .swf files so I spent days trying one application after another to convert the files into .mpg or .avi formats to no avail.

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Using phones to capture data from whiteboards, cards, documents

I’ve been meaning to try the services of scanR for a long time but somehow I’ve been pretty successful in avoiding meetings–and those I attended didn’t use whiteboards–that I somehow forgot about it.

scanr WHITEBOARD DATA processed by scanR. Compare it with the original photograph below. Images processed by scanR are great for printing as handouts. Click on photo to enlarge.

I was finally able to try it yesterday. Metro Cebu staged a dry run yesterday of the traffic re-routing to be implemented during the Asean Summit in Cebu. As is usual with major news events, reporters and editors held a story conference to thresh out news angles, discuss gathered data, and look for issues to follow up.

Sol Amante, our managing editor for news and the writer behind Peryodistang Pinay, presided over the story conference using a whiteboard to take down notes. She was about to copy her notes on paper after the meeting when I told her I’d reprint it using scanR.

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Do you have a complaint against a Cebu newspaper? File it online

And here’s the link to the complaint form.

Our editor-in-chief, one of the driving forces behind the Cebu Citizens-Press Council (CCPC), asked me to build the council’s website in time for the Cebu Press Freedom Week celebration in September.

CCPC website CCPC WEBSITE, as featured in a recent issue of Philippine Journalism Reports. Click on image to enlarge.

The requirements for the site were simple: the ability to post articles and reports and an easy facility to get feedback–features easily managed by my favorite open source blogging platform, WordPress.

I briefly considered using another content management system (CMS) with more advance portal features, some form of document tracking or online file repository but the person tasked with updating the site said these aren’t needed. Complaints, she said, will be handled offline.

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My column has been republished by a sex site

I spotted this before but I just showed it to colleagues in the office and forgot about it. I got another email recently telling me that my column on porn in Globe’s mobile blogs had been reprinted by the Asian Sex Gazette.

Here’s the link (it’s not safe for work and may contain images some might consider offensive). When I first spotted it, I went around the newsroom to show to colleagues what I said was the new publication I’m writing for and everyone had a good laugh. It wasn’t the first time that a Sun.Star Cebu story got reprinted in the site.

The site had once reprinted this story (again not safe for work). When I showed it to the reporter, she blushed. The way the sites presented the stories, you’d think the reporter and I are their staff writers. You don’t see any hint it was lifted from Sun.Star Cebu.

I showed it to our editor-in-chief and the first thing he asked me was how I spotted it–“you mean you visit these sites?” I actually got it from an RSS alert on a search for Cebu. Maybe I should add porn site writer in my resume.

Using activeCollab to manage blog posts, article ideas

I’m spending a lot of time in my activeCollab installation these past weeks. ActiveCollab is an open source project management and collaboration script that had been described as a clone of the popular Basecamp service (but I think it’s much more than that).

activeCollab CREATING FORMS. ActiveCollab allows you to create forms that automatically add data to your to-do list or message. This allows me to replicate my Wridea workflow in my activeCollab installation. Click on photo to view larger image.

I’m using the web-based script for several projects. I’ve also been using it to manage blog posts and articles for my publication that I’m working on. This makes sense as I have my activeCollab screen a third of the time I’m in front of the computer.

Before I stumbled on activeCollab, I managed my blog posts using Wridea. But a really good feature in activeCollab allows me to replicate this functionality in my installation.

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Track your blog visitors’ sessions with Clicky

If you’re still waiting for that MeasureMap invitation, don’t fret. A new service has opened that will more than make up for the time (what is it now? several months?) you spent waiting for the still unsent service invitations.

Clicky is a new service created “to complement” other website metrics tools. What Clicky does is help website owners “track individual users, to see where they came from, what they did, and how long they stuck around.” I signed up for the service two hours back and the stats I’ve been getting so far are really interesting.

Clicky dashboard CLICKY DASHBOARD. Clicky is a new website metrics tool that will help you track visitor sessions: how website visitors found your site, how long they stayed and the last page they viewed before leaving. Click on image to enlarge.

Clicky does the usual tracking of unique visitors and page views as well as browsers used and search engine and keyword referrals.

But what differentiates Clicky from other free services I frequently use is that it tracks visitor sessions. Not only would you know how a particular visitor (identified via IP address) got to your site, you can also get information on how long the visitor stayed and which pages he or she read and clicked.

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Running a web server, WordPress on my phone

I was finally able to run an Apache, PHP, MySQL server on my Sony Ericsson K750i. I did it on my second attempt, the first was disastrous, and that’s putting it mildly, as I crashed my phone and I had to reformat its memory card, wiping out several photos I haven’t been able to save to my PC yet.

I have long wanted to set up a development web server in my K750i, which also serves as my primary USB drive.

wordpress in k750i WORDPRESS ON MY PHONE. Installing WordPress on my K750i, using Uniform Server. The phone doesn’t actually run it, its memory card is merely being used by the PC to run the server. Click on image to enlarge.

I use my shared hosting space for my WordPress-related work and experiments as well as tests on PHP/MySQL scripts that catch my interest. This setup is such a hassle. I have to FTP files to and from the server and sometimes connections can be so slow that frustration creeps in.

The files in my account have also become such a mess because I’ve tried quite a few scripts, each with its own sub-domain.

I decided I should have a “web server on a stick,” a functioning Apache, MySQL and PHP server on a thumb drive. The Sony Ericsson K750i, as with most multi-media phones, also serves as a USB mass storage drive. This makes it possible to set up an Apache server on its memory card.

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Paying bloggers to write about products, services

(Note: This post is not part of the ReviewMe program). I got an e-mail early this morning from the people behind Text Link Ads (referral link). The e-mail said this site was pre-approved for their newly launched ReviewMe advertising program.

I was intrigued because I never signed up for the program. I was set to just ignore it and continue playing with Drupal but I found that Abe Olandres, one of the country’s top bloggers, signed up for it. In his blog post, people were discussing the rates for their blogs and I got curious how much ReviewMe will be charging for reviews in this site.

ReviewMe REVIEWME VALUATION. My blog’s rate for ReviewMe when I signed up to check the service. I’ve since signed out as I only wanted to know my blog’s rate. Click on image to enlarge.

I signed up to check their service and found that if I join the program, advertisers will have to pay $100 for reviews in this blog, half of it will go to ReviewMe and I get to collect the other half. It was ego-boosting to note that I had the same valuation as Abe’s blog and even Pinoy Tech Blog, the country’s top technology group blog.

I signed out of the program after getting screen grabs of my blog’s valuation. The program isn’t for me.

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