Recently in blog development Category

Blocked on Blogging

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Recently, I completed a number of arrangements to have more attention on a few projects that I consider the most important work for my continued vocation. 

That includes attention to my web sites, where I’ll be investing renewed attention, and my blogs, which need revitalization.

Although I have begun, I notice I’m not blogging about it.

That’s especially true at nfoCentrale Status

I know what the problem is in that case.  Although that blog tracks my activities and captures techniques to be reapplied elsewhere, the blog is not great as a reference.  The categories are out of hand and the archives are difficult to browse.  Then I let the setup fall into neglect, so now it is even more work to revitalize.

I have a solution for that.  It takes effort.  I will capture the important how-to techniques in web subfolders (what I call folios) so that there is an easy way to catalog and maintain the procedures and important clippings in an useful-to-me organization that I can always have access to.  That access is on the site and on my mirror of the site and in my source-code control system and system backups.  These provide mutual backups.  (My commitment to have the site and the blog serve static pages is part of that assurance.)

Besides nfoCentrale Status and Spanner Wingnut, the only functioning blog for non-development purposes is Orcmid’s Live Hideout on WordPress.  That blog is a stop-gap, created when Windows Live blogs were discontinued, strictly as an interim location until I manage to revive the intended permanent locations for those posts.  That has been delayed for a very long time.

There’s more coming.  It will be interleaved with other activities.  The ant is moving the mountain, one grain of sand at a time.  The ant is very determined.

Wait, ANOTHER Blog?

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Well, yes and no. 

I’ve just become one of the authors for the newly-created Apache OpenOffice.org blog

As I write this, the blog’s main page is blank.  I didn’t intend to have it be that way any longer.

Today’s lesson: Never ever do initial creation, pondering, and linking of a blog post using a browser.   At some point, I will do some fat-fingered fumble that causes the in-progress post window to close and be lost forever.

I will now collect myself, pour another cup of coffee, and check to see what is going at Apache OpenOffice.org email lists (not necessarily in that order). 

Cooled down, I’ll  maybe take another shot at creating off-line text that I can paste into the browser-based blog editing window without mishap.  The Apache Software Foundation blogs are housed by Apache Roller.   I have no idea whether there is a way to use Windows Live Writer to author for it.  Absent that, I suspect plain old text editing (via jEdit in my case) will be sufficient.  That seems to be a common foundation for the various ways of producing content for Apache projects.  It has something to do with document-management of everything via Apache Subversion and oversight by viewing change-commit logs.  This is a serious dog-food operation, and I haven’t quite got the taste for it yet.  (And folks think Microsoft NIH is excessive!).  I’ve concluded that tool-crafters, and I’m one, are a dangerous breed.

So, When Will Orcmid Get the Lesson?

Now, I already know to author wiki articles this way.  But it seems that this lesson is one that I will need to relearn every time I think I have a new way of intruding myself into cyberspace.  (Don’t ask about Google+, that is just too confusing.)

Fortunately, I was gifted with this lesson in my first attempt and I didn’t lose too many of my beautifully-crafted paragraphs.  (Sob.)

PS: I don’t propose to blog about the soap-opera around OpenOffice.org ending up in the incubator at the Apache Software Foundation.  You can get a taste for that in the related articles, below.  I intend for that to be the final mention I will make of that.

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I just learned via Twitter that an update is coming to Windows Live Essentials 2011.  That impacts me the most with Windows Live Photo Gallery and Windows Live Writer

I’m not sure that I am going to like it.  I won’t know unless I try.  What will it fix?  What will it break.  Can I roll back if it doesn’t work for me. Ah, yes, the real question: CAN I ROLL BACK IF IT DOESN’T WORK FOR ME?

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When I reported on 2010-05-03 that my Blogger blogs were all dormant, I remarked that the only blogs left standing were this first new one under Movable Type and the neglected but still-standing Orcmid’s Live Hideout.  Although my 2010-06-14 intention was to retire Orcmid’s Live Hideout at my leisure, I subsequently learned that Microsoft is abandoning Windows Live Spaces and I am forced to retire, convert, or otherwise preserve Orcmid’s Live Hideout elsewhere.  In preparing to migrate the blog, I learned that the option to download the blog is inadequate for Orcmid’s Live Hideout.

In case your Windows Live Spaces blog has not yet been closed or moved, here is some information about what you get by downloading the blog before you do anything else.

Downloading the Blog

The zipped-up download of the blog provides a single-page complete index that is valuable as a reference and a checklist.The downloaded blog arrives as a Zip file that can be expanded into a directory structure and navigated with a browser on your computer, much like the original blog on the web.

Although the downloaded blog does not preserve the Windows Live appearance, it is a workable static web of the blog content and can be the basis for producing a replica or simply keeping in backup.  If this is interesting you, consult the Download Details section, below, for how it is done.

I recommend downloading the blog because it preserves the textual content in case there is any subsequent misadventure.  It may also reveal some situations that, if they apply in your blog, will need to be addressed in a successful migration.

Finally, if you are going to attempt a selective migration as I will, there is a valuable result in the download: A single index.html file that provides a chronological index of the entire blog (left).

Limitations of the Download

Examining the download of Orcmid’s Live Hideout, I concluded that the download is inadequate on two counts: spam glut and missing images.

  1. There is an incredible amount of spam in the comments preserved in the download.  I hadn’t noticed these, but in the download they are seriously in your face:
       
    The downloaded blog articles contain all of the comment spam that was not so noticeable on the site itself.   
      
  2. Not all images are preserved.  Although there is a directory of images, not all of them are preserved.  I’m not sure why this is.  It may be because I uploaded the images to my Live Spaces separately and then included them in the blog post by reference.  Whatever the reason, images are missing for some of the posts:
       
    LiveHideout-2011-02-14-1530  

As part of any retention or migration, the spam will need to be cleaned away and the missing images will have to be found and preserved.

What Was Lost

Here’s the post as it appears on Orcmid’s Live Hideout where it is still online until March 2011 unless I delete it or convert it to WordPress before then:

LiveHideout-2011-02-14-1538

Download Details

The offer for a download is straightforward:

The upgrade offer appears on the blogs until closed or migrated to WordPress.  You can download now and take the other options any time before the blogs are automatically closed in March 2011.

Before the download is started, information about what is downloaded and what remains in Windows Live, along with later options to migrate, are explained.

The blog is packaged into a single Zip file and offered as a download to your computer:

F10xy62-2010-10-05-1539-LiveHideOutDownload

You will need to choose a place to store the file.  It’s useful to choose a more-descriptive name for the file while it is being saved locally.  For a recent Windows system, the Zip file will appear as a special sort of folder, LiveHideOut-space.zip in my case (showing after already having been saved once):

The downloaded space.zip package is recognized as a special folder on Windows.

The names of files for the blog pages and for the images (in their own folder) are inscrutable.   That is no problem if we extract the entire Zip into a regular folder using the right-click option menu:

F10xy64-2010-10-05-1723-LiveHideOutExtract

The Extraction request brings up a wizard for specifying what you want:

The Compressed Folder Extraction Wizard will provide the options necessary to make the blog work in a folder where you saved the Zip.

Specify a folder where you want the material to be extracted.  There will be many oddly-named files and an image folder, so it is best to name an empty or not-yet-created folder in a convenient location.  I chose a folder named LiveHideout in the same location (that is, next to) the downloaded Zip file:

Choose a fresh folder in a special location where you can review the individual files and also explore the blog on your computer using a browser.

At the end of the extraction, you can ask to view the folder with the extracted content:

Although you can examine the folder of extracted material using Windows Explorer, using the Extraction option to show the extracted files provides an interesting view.

Notice that there is an img subfolder, an index.html, and a style.css that is used for formatting.  If you double-click on the index.html file your browser will launch and present the folder as a little web site.

F10xy69-2010-10-05-1731-LiveHideOutExtract

It is necessary to have an extracted folder for the browser to be able to access and navigate the downloaded blog.  When you don’t need to view the blog, you can delete the folder that you used for the extracted files.  It can always be extracted again from the more-compact downloaded Zip file.

Tip: Using the browser and the index.html will help you match up the blog page as you know it to the cryptically-named file that carries its content.

[Aside: You might notice that I have used both Windows XP and Windows 7 to prepare these screen shots.  The newer ones are from Astraendo, now operating in stealth mode until I complete my backlog on the retirement of Scampo.]

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I must declare bankruptcy for the timeline and work items of “Got SMRs?” and my 2011 nfoProjects Launch Sprint.  I have completely fallen off the cliff into the rapids and that timeline and its work items are DOA.  I will update the current spreadsheet timeline documents to reflect that sorry state.

All of the activities are relevant, but I have been completely distracted from them.  Furthermore, it is clear that I don’t have the capacity to forward them in parallel.  This may have to do with having too much work in progress as well as lacking a sustainable pace (a major discrepancy between my vision and my perfornance).

I shall tear down my planned structure and create a fresh one with an honest and workable critical path.  That means finding what there is that is essential and indeed critical.   One problem is that there is only one resource (me), so moving something off the critical path means putting it beyond the essential immediate.  The dependencies must work for that.  I suspect that means creating technical debt and I will have to risk-manage that too.

In particular, I am still shifting gears in 2011, and the support for that includes straightening out the blogs, web sites, and the development procedure for them.  Now to identify and work on the critical path for that, with the critical end point being whatever that much takes.

Onward …

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Got SMRs?

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Whenever I write “SMRs” I think of smores, the Graham cracker, Hershey bar, and toasted-marshmallow confection that my family learned on my sister Carol’s return from a Girl Scout Brownie outing.  I think our mother already knew of them, but my recollection is that’s when they entered my experience.

That is, perhaps, my playing with the notion of Specific Measurable Results, the outcomes in reality of defined, actionable tasks.  SMRs as tasty morsels.  I did not realize how much the term has been taken over by business-coaching lingo.  I confess to first hearing the expression in 1993, from Landmark Forum Leader Linda Zraik, and it was already a catch-phrase in that setting.

The combination came up for me today when I realized that my nfoProjects Launch Sprint is too airy and lacks SMRs for me to chew on.  Consequently, it is easy to let days go buy without measurable results.  That was happening here:

Noticing that everything slips with no SMRs to produce each step of the way.

I noticed this because there were no simple actionable work items that led to SMRs, even basic, produce-this-today ones. 

Looking more closely, the labels on the stages that the boxes represent are conceptual.  It made sense for envisioning and looking at opportunities in the available time, but that isn’t concrete enough.

Today, I have been stepping back to create SMRs for the stages themselves, and then for those individual results that I will produce on the path to the SMR of the stage.  

Although it would be wise to start at the end point of the Sprint and work backwards, I will fudge and start by looking closely at the stages that I am managing over the current fortnight.  I won’t go long without filling the gap from the objective back to what’s next right now, but I am forcing in some small immediate activities to ground my effort in the meantime.

The tracking spreadsheet is not going to include all of that detail.  I will use my Personal Kanban board to manage them in a fluid way and also ensure that I provide supplemental envisioning, planning, and reflection on a weekly basis.

I’ve been looking at all of the projects that I have and the number of burners there are for my efforts.

In the past week, I realized that I needed a consolidated plan with defensible, risk-managed timelines for getting to where I want to be on New Years Day, 2011: Launching a family of interoperability-centered tutorial, test-fixture, and reference-implementation projects around document formats and their processing.  (Hmm, short enough for an elavator speech but not something I would be able to recite at gunpoint.  Needs work.)

I have gathered my envisioning into a spreadsheet that keeps my commitment and my management of it in a structure that holds my vision in existence.  Here is the finish line and, at the bottom, where I am standing right now:

2011 nfoProjects Launch Crunch tracking-document extract

This is a high-level perspective.  I blocked out the calendar weeks and arranged more-or-less week-sized chunks in which to make headway along four tracks.  Since I am a solo developer, this is enough for me to follow and use as an instrument for keeping my eye on critical setbacks and interdependencies that I must keep my attention on.  There’s an opportunity for some Personal Kanban  and Personal Software Process.

The OpenDocument Format continuation work is related to my current involvement on the OASIS ODF and OIC Technical Committees, as well as the ISO/IEC JTC1 SC34 WG6 working-group for ODF maintenance.   As ODF 1.2 moves toward ratification as an OASIS Standard in early 2011, there is a hiatus that allows me to devote more attention to Interoperability and Conformance and the alignment of the ISO/IEC and OASIS efforts. 

The blog, web, and development system (Centrale) efforts have been identified here in a piece-meal fashion.  This three-track view provides my first projection of a coherent feasible structure on those activities.  There will be many opportunities for adjustment and course-correction as progress is made and details of further steps are reviewed.

In simply arranging these activities, I found how to avoid a situation in which I was retiring Compagno and in a sudden-death gap on being able to move everything I needed to the Windows Home Server.  This was definitely sky-diving without a parachute.  What I had not seen until I placed the activities in this form, is that Quadro, my Tablet PC, can mirror Compagno perfectly and also assist in verifying how migration from FrontPage to Expression Web can be accomplished while preserving practices that serve me too well for them to be abandoned without a fight.

I have also noticed, already, how having my eye on New Years Day gets me out of bed in the morning, excited to make further headway on these activities.

I will be reporting results and updates here on the week-by-week progress.  And, for those playing along from home, here’s the tracking document  on-line:

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[Cross-posted from Spanner Wingnut]

For those wondering if the now-dormant blogs will every see the light of day anew, here are the dreary steps that will be confirmed before going farther:

  1. The procedure for configuring and maintaining images uploaded via Windows Live Writer will be fully documented on nfoCentrale Status.  The accuracy and completeness of that procedure will be verified by adding the support to Spanner Wingnut and also maintaining it there..
      
  2. The next visible changes will involve learning to adjust the sidebars on the blogs, including customization of plugins, templates, and styles for individualization of the different blogs operated under the single MovableType engine.  This will also be seen on both nfoCentrale Status and Spanner Wingnut.
      
  3. There will be some invisible work to support how a blogs features are adjusted over time but a record of changes and the progression can be maintained.   This will be accompanied by infrastructure adjustment as part of the deployment model for the various blogs, starting with nfoCentrale Status and Spanner Wingnut, with the big test being restoration of an existing, now-dormant blog.  The prime candidates for first restoration are Orcmid’s Lair, Pursuing Harmony, and Kiln Sitter’s Diary.
     
  4. There is also more work to complete and stabilize the nfoCentrale site as the repository of all of the procedures and template-development work that is promulgated across all of the blogs and sites.
      

My current thinking is to have this completed enough by the end of the year that additional blogs start waking up and there are useful developments on those blogs and their related sites.

As part of the acquisition of Six Apart by VideoEgg to become SAY Media, Ben Parr foresees Movable Type being abandoned.

So, I maintain my record of keeping all of my blogging eggs in obsolete but stable authoring products.  Hey, I am still using FrontPage 2003.

I suspect that the change in direction into advertising is going to be more significant with regard to Movable Type 5.  Movable Type 4 appears to be stable and in essentially maintenance mode.  It was also the best product for my transition from Blogger, since I wanted to continue having static pages and archive folders and not ones generated dynamically on access.  This also lets me find ways to blend in my pre-Movable Type archives in a coherent manner.

I will stick to that for now. 

Golly, I haven’t even brought my dormant blogs back to life on Movable Type yet.

I may at some point need to move to an Open Source fork of Movable Type, but I will not do that just yet.  I’ll be paying attention though.  I’ll continue keeping an eye on the MovableType.org Open Source development and only go to a forked distribution if this disappears.

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As I was setting up Windows Live Writer and the nfoCentrale Status blog site for uploading images, I realized that there were some useful adjustments I could make.

Previously, I had simply set up a single images/ directory per blog and allowed images posted through Windows Live Writer to accumulate there.  

A SLIGHT PROBLEM

Windows Live Writer creates a subfolder, with a name chosen by WLW, to hold the images uploaded for a particular post.  In looking for straightforward ways to back up these folders and images, I realized that it is cumbersome to have these images-per-post sets accumulate in an ever-growing, potentially gigantic single folder. 

ANTICIPATING BACKUP ARRANGEMENTS

To provide separate backups, I want to save compressed archives of the image sets.  The single archives will not reduce the space requirements by much, but they are easier to manage.  I can also include them in my source-control more easily than treating the individual folder sets as projects.  (This is a convenience for the continued use of Visual Source Safe; with other version-control systems, this part is easier.) 

The use of the source-control system is primarily a way to achieve versioned backup.  It is easy to expand a Zip archive back to the original folders.  And archiving the Zips as checked-in revisions provides a means for recovery in the event that older materials on the site are corrupted or lost in some way.

SUBDIVIDING BY YEAR

My initial solution is to annualize the images/ folder.  I will initiate that with images/2010/ and continue with images/2011/, etc. 

If even annualizing becomes ungainly, I am thinking that I will not drop down to a monthly level.  Instead, I will segment the year as needed.  For example, I might end up with the progression images/2010/, images/2010a/, images/2010b, …, images/2011/, etc.

ADJUSTING WINDOWS LIVE WRITER

For Windows Live Writer, I don’t need to change the FTP permissions I have already provided.  Those permissions already start at the images/ subfolder of the blog.  Any additional subfolders, such as images/2010/ are already accessible.

First, I prepare subfolder images/2010/ the same way I prepared images/ originally.  I will do this each time I need a new annualized folder.

Changing Windows Live Writer to use the new annualized image folder Secondly, I instruct Windows Live Writer to use the new location for all future image uploads. 

When I edit the blog settings for uploading pictures, I will need to provide FTP account credentials again.  Then I can browse to the new location on the server and confirm that new location.

At the time I did this, there was already an uploaded-image folder at the images/ location the FTP account starts at (and where ftp.nfocentrale.com is pointed in this case).  That folder is allowed to remain, since there is a blog post that uses images from there.

Once I selected the folder, Windows Live Writer confirms the settings it will be using.

There is no further action to take until a new annualized folder is to be started.  Every January 1, if not sooner, I will repeat this process to start the next annualized group.  I can also adjust the backup procedures to begin preserving the new folder at that time.

 

WLW Confirmation of the FTP Configuration for Uploading to the Annualized Folder

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