jmiller's blog

What Happened?

Ian's Messy Desk posts this quote by Casey Stengel:

Some people make things happen, some people watch things happen, and some ask what happened.

Ian's site has a very cool graphical layout--something I miss when I convert to "all RSS, all-the-time" blog reading.

My visual layout here is very basic. It's one of the pre-packaged themes that comes with Radio Userland. One of the things I that fall very low on my priority list is a custom redesign of this blog. Oh, well, it is what it is.

Mugroll

I was thinking--wouldn't it be neat to display small pictures (when available) of the persons listed on your blogroll.

We could call it a "mugroll".

It would be a similar concept to the custom icon displayed for the website and/or bookmark for a website.

Now, there's always the question of how to standardize and automate such a project. Would you force a specific filename on a website like /robots.txt does for search engines and bots? Maybe a standard-sized (what dimensions?) PNG, GIF, or JPG file called /aboutme.png. I think requiring a specific path could help automate harvesting, but it might be too restrictive for more complex scenarios than a single-author website.

Or maybe we could add an optional <authorpic> element to the various syndication feeds.

And what about a multi-author blog? Could you have an OPML file with authorpic entries, one for each author? Just rambling here.

Would it be OK to reference graphics on the author's site? Or should we snarf it and host it ourselves to save the author's bandwidth?

Maybe we could add some kind of new HTML META or LINK tag that points to the picture.

Oh, and by the way, to get the "mug" rolling, here's my mug (in no standard dimensions):

A gem

This is a very simple post here, but I like Sam Ruby's bit of wisdom in response to Depak Alur's apology for being "inexperienced" in the blogging world, expressed in a comment thread on Sam's blog:

As near as I can tell, there is no right and wrong here. Everybody approaches the "blogosphere" differently.

I have been part of the blogosphere in some form or another since late in 2002. I have tried many times to keep up with the "A-listers," but time and life have beaten me many days, so my reading and writing frequency has been less than admirable.

But, as Sam asserts above, that's OK.

The Blogging Guru without an XML feed

I've been spending a lot of time lately cancelling email newsletters and switching to RSS/Atom feeds. A friend of mine referred me to Hugh Hewitt's website to look for interesting blogs. I looked and looked (around 5 minutes, including a Google search of his site) and found zero mention of a feed except his confession that someone else complained that he doesn't have one (via BeliefSeekingUnderstanding Update: now moved to "Apprehension"):

When, oh when, is Hugh going to get it about RSS feeds? There is no stinking way any person could read the number of blogs mentioned at the end of the book without one. Furthermore, he doesn't have a feed of his own, which is a total pain in the neck for his readers. I commend Hugh for being in front of the curve for getting the blogosphere, but it makes no sense that someone who gets the blogosphere doesn't get feeds and aggregators.

(emphasis mine)

Here's an excerpt from my email to Hugh:

I took a brief look at your website after receiving a referral from a friend. Try as I might, I could not find an RSS or Atom feed anywhere. I did, however, find an ad for a book on blogging that *you* wrote. Why, oh why, if you are a blogging expert, can I not find an XML feed for your blog?

I would like to learn more about what you have to say, but if I have to visit your site frequently, I'm not interested. That's not how I use the internet anymore.

Here's the kicker: he wrote a book about blogging. The guy's a published author on the very subject in question, and he doesn't have a syndication feed.

How do you think the blogosphere has taken off so much? I don't think 100% percent of the blogging and/or blog-consuming public sits around all day clicking through their favorite websites. No, they have their digital news delivered to their digital door using pull-based syndication technology.

How could he miss that? If he didn't miss the RSS wave, then how could he underestimate its importance so much as to exclude it from his own blog? I'm not sure, despite the good reviews (and I'll even use his Amazon link so he gets commission), that he carries enough credibility (I'm sure the pundits/A-listers out there will disagree) for me to buy his book.

His book is called Blog: Understanding the Information Reformation That's Changing Your World. But he doesn't understand. Not really.

A Contact Us link on *Every Web Page*??

Oh, the gall!

The automated response to my earlier message from TechRepublic's contact page had this to say:

If you need more immediate information or assistance, please review our
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's) section provided on our Contact Us page,
[URL], found at the bottom of every TechRepublic
Web page.

Is it really? At the bottom of every web page? I couldn't find it. I searched the text for the word "contact." No such luck.

Now, to be fair, there was a Help link. But is Help the same as Contact Us? Not in my mind.

Maybe in the monster content management system they use, someone forgot to add that one. Small thing, right?

Wrong.

TechRepublic fails to unsubscribe

Here's a quick excerpt of the feedback message that I posted to TechRepublic after their unsubscribe process failed about 10 times:

I have tried about 8-10 times to unsubscribe from your mailings, but each time, I still receive mail. I even tried changing my email on my account to a special alias on my server so I could bounce the email. I am still receiving email at my old address from you after multiple attempts and techniques to *unsubscribe*. Your unsubscribe *does not work*.

I am totally frustrated with all of the hassle from TechRepublic. I even tried to find your contact link, and all I found was FAQ after FAQ. Finally, I found a *tiny* contact link at the bottom of a FAQ. I know you want to cut down on personal contact overhead, but this is ridiculous. You should really make it easier to find a way to contact you. Don't hide it!

My goal was to switch all of my email newsletters to RSS feeds. But for some reason, I can't unsubscribe from your email.

Please remove me from your mailing list--all of them.

And while you are at it, please deactivate/delete my account.

We'll see if I get any kind of personal response.

SQL Server Command-Line Utilities

I found an article that describes several command-line utilities that can automate SQL Server tasks.

These commands include:

  • isql
  • osql
  • bcp - bulk data copy
  • dtsrun
  • dtswiz
  • itwiz - Index Tuning Wizard
  • We use a couple of these commands at my current client as part of our build/migration process.

    BlogWiki

    Richard Hall over at connexions has started BlogWiki, a wiki about, what else, blogging. There are some interesting tidbits in the works, but much more can be done. Let's help out and contribute to the effort. I've already edited a page, DesktopBloggingClients. Here's a thought, how about some external links to the software mentioned on the wiki?

    I like his comment:

    This wiki has been set up to enable bloggers to share information and advice and provide a forum for the discussion of blogging issues. Of course, this already goes on in blogs themselves, but it's in the nature of a blog that discussions quickly "drop out of sight". On a wiki this doesn't happen.

    (emphasis mine)

    On wikis, the discussion is maintained in the "Perpetual Now" where a conversation is fluid, evolving, and represents the current state of affairs.

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