quirky things you can learn from having a blog

Yes, this is self indulgent, but I’m doing it anyway.  Why? Because this is kind of interesting to me… and maybe I’ll take a similar look in another few years and see if any of it changes.


Well, not sure these really count as things I’ve learned from having a blog.  More like some things I can wonder about, some things I can guess at, and some things that are obvious.

  1. it appears a lot of people are still using OS X Mountain Lion.  And that a lot of people are still having problems with it’s DNS Cache.
    • suggestion:  try a system update folks.  at least get the security updates, there are recent ones available from 2015.
  2. folks from the Bahamas, Jamaica, and the Cayman Islands don’t spend a lot of time reading obscure blogs.
    • I’m going to assume they’ve found better things to do.
    • If I were there, I would have joined them rather then write this.  🙂
  3. folks from Russia are not real big on Apple products.
    • not really a surprise, given Moscow’s approach to most foreign corporations.
  4. my blog consistently gets two to three times the traffic from Germany (population 80 million) than from India (population 1.2 billion).  In fact…
    • German traffic has been one of my top five country sources since starting this blog.
    • and, German traffic has been higher than almost all other “non english speaking” country sources combined.  I know Germany has very high english literacy, but the stats are still interesting.
  5. some posts about managing Apple IDs have actually seen traffic double over the same time the rest of my traffic has dropped off.
    • although aging, those posts are accounting for a very significant portion of my traffic, and the stats keep increasing.
    • in addition to views/visits, I’m getting a lot of search hits and click throughs on those posts.
    • feels like a lot of people are getting frustrated with Apple’s haphazard way of managing IDs across Apple services, stores, devices, and applications.
    • wonder how much traction I’d get if I did an updated series including descriptions/guides to how all of the wacky two-factor-authentication variations currently work.  Actually, I don’t think I could… unless I enlist some additional people.  Some (er, many) of the Apple ID Authentication scenarios vary based on hardware and iOS version, and cannot be recreated in the Xcode simulator.
  6. Big surprise ( /sarcasm ), Google really dominates search.
  7. Web Crawlers generate so much comment spam that I thought they would account for a lot of views/visits… but not so much… actually a minuscule amount of traffic.
  8. Apparently VMware and Excel spreadsheets are both quite popular.  Fortunately, VMware related traffic edged out the Excel related traffic.  LOL.
    • Unfortunately, Excel edged out serious security topics.
  9. Wow, if I’d enabled Apple App Store bounty links (kinda like Amazon referral links), I could have reaped, hmm… carry the three… I could have reaped about $0.03 in referral bounties this summer.  LOL.
  10. Cross posting (WordPress Sharing) to Twitter yields dramatically more blog views than Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+.
    • Twitter yielded more than the other three combined.
    • That one surprised me a bit; but then I’ve never really gotten into the twitter client usage.  I usually bail out and go back to information sources which use sentences and paragraphs. ( /snark )
  11. Overall, most of my posts are literally just notes on how I performed some specific technical task.  Occasionally I take notes (which don’t contain any customer proprietary information) and post them in case I might need to refer back to that sequence again six or eighteen months later.
    • those HowTo / InstallConfig notes account for more than 95% of my views and visits.
    • I’ll pretend everyone found those notes really helpful.
  12. A couple of my posts with the best traffic were closer to being long form articles.  Despite being very heavy in dry technical topics, the traffic and comments were quite positive.
  13. Fortunately, on my blog at least, a mention of laser beams beat out a mention of YouTube.  There is hope for humanity after all.  LOL.

Well, that was interesting review.  I’ve accumulated hundreds of notes on various design, development, testing,  installation, configuration, and maintenance issues.  It appears that it would be worthwhile to sort thru and find a few dozen relevant items for posting.  queue things to do on the eleventh snow day.

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Testing latest version of MarsEdit (continued)

Summary of MarsEdit capabilities for WordPress.com blogs:

  • It does work offline.
  • Imaged can be inserted and uploaded with blog post.  Text can sort of flow around left or right aligned images.
  • Blog categories are available offline; existing categories are downloaded from WordPress.com.  Tags can also be added offline.
  • Existing blog posts can also be downloaded from WordPress.com and stored offline.  The default setting is to download the 30 most recent posts.  
  • Offline posts are stored in various folders under ~/Library/Application Support/MarsEdit/ as XML.
  • If you use WordPress.com “Publicize” features to automatically post to Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, or other sites a new post published from the MarsEdit client will automatically get what ever settings are configured as default in the WordPress.com dashboard.If you want to modify the publicize choices, you’ll have to upload the new post as “Server Options | Post Status: Draft” and then make the final changes at the WordPress.com dashboard.  This would also apply if you use similar features on a self hosted blog.
  • If you wan to modify the date of blog post, that option is tucked under MENU | POST | Edit Date.
  • The app really doesn’t make any attempt at providing an offline version of the posting features available in the WordPress.com dashboard.   
I find myself wanting to like this application.  Probably since there just isn’t much available for offline blog editing.  But once again, I just can’t see $40 worth of value in what little is here.  
 
For short and simple posts, it really doesn’t offer anything over the web client accept being able to queue up a post while offline.  But short and simple posts can easily be done with the WordPress app for iPhone or iPad.  As for offline writing… there’s no shortage of note taking apps available.  
 
Since WordPress can let you email a post, writing an email draft while offline for a quick send whenever a connection is available may actually be a simpler travel solution than lugging this app around on a laptop.

For longer posts with more than basic plain text, it doesn’t remove the urge to write in a more capable application and copy/paste later.  

 MarsEdit could be a nice offline blogging utility… if they’d:

  • clean up the menu and interface to make important features more accessible and quit wasting so much screen space.  Providing the option of placing some basic formatting buttons on the menu bar would be nice.
  • make some effort to better match the feature of WordPress and Blogger.  Since those two dominate the blogosphere, it shouldn’t require a disproportionate amount of effort to learn their most common features.
  • expanding the “Server Options” group with more of the WordPress or Blogger options would be nice.
  • provide a more thorough offline listing of a blog site’s contents.  i.e.., list the last few hundred (if not all) posts and lists the contents of the online media library.  This would make it easier to reference (link) existing content when writing follow ups.
  • lower the price to something more reasonable for a utility app with limited usefulness, or find some amazing features to justify the price.
 
 
 

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misc notes:

 

 

During the creation of the previous MarsEdit testing post… the editor preference was set to “HTML text“.  In this second test, I’ve changed the preference to “Rich text“.  I’m just using the built in editor, but the preference panel does indicate you can choose other editors.

Modifying portions of text to bold and italicized displays the desired result in the editor window and the preview window.  The menu bar for formatting is pretty limited and placing all of the choice in a drop down list under a menu button labeled “Format”.   Navigating that button’s menu(s) would get pretty tedious very quickly; fortunately, keyboard shortcuts work.

rich text mode

try a numbered list:

  1. one
  2. two
  3. three

try a bulleted list:

  • one
  • two
  • three

drat… every line return ends up looking like a double space… but numbered and bulleted lists appear correctly.

Test inserting an image in this mode (Rich text editor).  Select same text image as before and attempt to right aline the image.

Result:  that seemed to work much better.  The image is displayed in within the editor window and appears to be holding the selected alignment.  It appears this option should work for placing a photo into a post and wrapping text around it.

New paragraph. Just inserting some extra filler text (formatted with italics) here to get around the image.  SprocketgoboJust inserting some extra filler text (formatted with italics) here to get around the image.  Just inserting some extra filler text (formatted with italics) here to get around the image. Just inserting some extra filler text (formatted with italics) here to get around the image.  Just inserting some extra filler text (formatted with italics) here to get around the image.  Just inserting some extra filler text (formatted with italics) here to get around the image. Just inserting some extra filler text (formatted with italics) here to get around the image.  Just inserting some extra filler text (formatted with italics) here to get around the image.  Just inserting some extra filler text (formatted with italics) here to get around the image. Just inserting some extra filler text (formatted with italics) here to get around the image.  Just inserting some extra filler text (formatted with italics) here to get around the image.  Just inserting some extra filler text (formatted with italics) here to get around the image.

Ok, that’s enough for now.  The dog wants to go out.  This is a good place to test saving a draft, close down the app, and then come back to it to resume editing later.

 

 

 

 

 

Next… try centering an image and see what happens with text around the image.  New paragraph. Just inserting some extra filler text (formatted with italics) here to get around the image.  Just inserting some extra filler text (formatted with italics) here to get around the image.  Just inserting some extra filler text (formatted with italics) here to get around the image. Just inserting some extra filler text (formatted with italics) here to get around the image.  Just inserting some extra filler text (formatted with italics) here to get around the image.  Just inserting some extra filler text (formatted with italics) here to get around the image.  Just inserting some extra filler text (formatted with italics) here to get around the image.  Just inserting some extra filler text (formatted with italics) here to get around the image.  Just inserting some extra filler text (formatted with italics) here to get around the image. 

SprocketgoboJust inserting some extra filler text (formatted with italics) here to get around the image.  Just inserting some extra filler text (formatted with italics) here to get around the image.  Just inserting some extra filler text (formatted with italics) here to get around the image. 


Result: Apparently text can fit along side a right or left aligned image, but won’t “wrap” around a centered image. Didn’t really expect that to work; but it worth giving a try anyway.

 

Test: Insert an image which was previously uploaded to my WordPress.com Media Library.  As best I can tell, this only works with files or images which the MarsEdit client uploaded (and therefore remembers).  So far I can’t find a way to have the client app get a list of the media that is already on the server.

JunkBoat 540x367

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note: Using the same image multiple times appears to queue it for multiple uploads.  I made several different insertions / positions for the muppet dog image, have two remaining in this post, and can see that it’s queue to be uploaded three times.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Test post using latest version of MarsEdit

Trying out the Nov 10, 2012 update to MarsEdit (version 3.5.8)

Want to see if it’s gotten any better since my last look at it.
Back in April I looked at version 3.4.4 and was disappointed in the lack of text layout/format capabilities. Giving it a new look today to see if things have gotten any better.
Test one. If this works, this line should be single spaced from the previous and indented slightly.
Test two. If this works, this line should be single spaced from the previous and indented slightly.

Test three; enter a list. This line should be double spaced from the previous. And now a list of stuff:

  1. one
    two
    three
    four

Well… that was unimpressive. Instead of showing the text items above formatted as a list (desired result), the editor is showing me some markup tags wrapped around my text.

Format test number four: make some italicized text.
Format test number five: apply some additional font changes to this line.

Format text number six: insert an image. JunkBoat 540x367

Result six: Instead of showing the image, or even a place holder / outline, the editor shows a quasi URL like HTML tag. Another preview displayed the image in the preview window.

That’s enough for this test… going to try the upload/post now and see what happens.

WordPress dot com’s “Visual” editor sucks, and it’s “HTML” mode sucks worse.

Update: This post title started out as “Figuring out WordPress dot com’s Visual and HTML editor modes”.  However, as I spent more and more time sussing out the workings of these, my opinion dropped a bit.

Since my search for an offline WordPress.com editor was a bust and my efforts to learn their online interface aren’t going well either, I suspect my best long term option is going to be using Composer to develop some custom templates which I can fill in offline and then Copy/Paste to the WordPress online “HTML” interface.

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If you’ve stumbled across this entry and are hoping it will help explain the mysteries of the WordPress.com online editing interface… well, don’t count on it.  I’m still struggling to wrap my brain around their concepts of of “Visual” and “HTML”.

Visual it isn’t.  That would be a “WYSIWYG” editor.  And this thing falls way short.  Pretty bizarre considering it’s an editor dedicated to solely to writing for their web service.  Other “offline” WYSIWYG editors have had to contend with never being sure what kind of a web server the resulting pages would be displayed from.  The WordPress team has the luxury of only needing their editor to be correct with their website.

As for “HTML” mode, it’s not what I was expecting either.  It hides some of the basic HTML tags, probably in the interesting of being more “beginner friendly”.  Unfortunately there aren’t any menus to guide a beginner with selection/application of HTML tags.  So the “beginner friendly” idea falls flat too.  I’m not HTML guru, but in the past I have hand coded some web pages using plain text editors.  For years I used Netscape Composer to create and maintain project documentation and reports.  Composer supports pure HTML editing as well as a WYSIWYG mode.  Fortunately Composer is still alive and well in the Mozilla SeaMonkey Project.

If the WordPress.com teams want the “HTML” mode of their online editor to be friendly, they should include some menu options.  If they want it to be expert friendly, then it should really show all of the tags.  In either case, I hope they at least look at some of the other tools out there.

Below are the results of some testing I’ve been doing to grasp the behaviors of the “Visual” and “HTML” modes in this editor tool.  It’s fairly random, nonsensical stuff.  Just a lot of typing things in and switching between Visual, HTML, and preview modes to see what effect things have.  I started out trying to solve one of my most glaring frustrations with the editor… single spacing vs double space.

I’ve found the line spacing tricks.  Either have to switch back and forth between Visual and HTML modes, or while in the Visual Editor mode, the key combination “SHIFT+RETURN”  will do a normal new line (without the double spacing).  Note: solving the next problem brought the double spacing back.

Next is finding how to get the editor to respect indentation of the first line in a new paragraph.  None of the normal HTML tag tricks I’ve used elsewhere work here, and I don’t like the idea of embedding transparent images to force alignments.  Quite a few folks across the web recommend using CSS, but I wanted to try inline HTML tags first.  Some further searching turned up a suggestion to wrap the paragraph in a tag like this:

<p style="text-indent: 2em;">  Put the text of your paragraph here. </p>

Of course, that led to the question of how to quote source code in a WordPress.com post. Fortunately I found the answer from WordPress support.

Time for another save and preview.

Wow! What a waste of time.  Anyone reading this will probably notice that the paragraphs are still double spaced.  Added the indentation tag modified the paragraph spacing (this is starting to remind me why I’ve never enjoyed coding web pages).  And the extra “code” which was supposed to display embedded source code is actually displayed right along with the HTML that I was trying to display.  In other words, I did not intend for the [Source language blah blah blah] stuff to be visibly displayed… only the actual HTML tag contained within should have been displayed.

Using the HTML editor to “fix” the source code quoting seems to have turned it into a pre formatted paragraph ?  Time for another preview.

Well, that was closer.  Returning from preview I think I can see what needs to be fixed in the Visual Editor.  The embedded HTML tag for paragraph formatting should now display as an inline code snippet.

Ok, I’ve had enough of this for now.  When I pick this up again, I’m going to focus on creating an offline SeaMonkey Composer template that can be pasted into the WordPress HTML editor interface.  I’m sure that will require some trial and error to figure out compatible tags and fit things within the active “Theme” layout.

Additionally, I need to do some more Theme research.  I’ve got a couple web pages (which I built nearly 10 years ago) that have displayed just fine on four other hosting services, but the every WordPress theme I’ve tried mangles them.  Redesigning them isn’t an option, so they may just remain with the other hosts.

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How now brown cow.

How do you get the line returns to use a smaller spacing?

The editor seems to be “double spacing” each new line.

Really looks like 2nd grade.

On other hand, if you keep typing more sentences without a line return (ie., run on paragraphs), then the automagic line spacing seems to like “single spacing” just fine.  So what does this WordPress “Visual” editor have against single spaced paragraphs?  And how to you override it?
Continue reading WordPress dot com’s “Visual” editor sucks, and it’s “HTML” mode sucks worse.

Seeking an offline editor for WordPress (for OS X Lion).

With a need to write up additional notes on several projects, I’ve decided to search out some options for offline writing which could later be uploaded into WordPress.  Copy/paste is ok for occasional notes, but I’d much prefer a more robust solution.  I already have apps which do plain text which can be used to copy/paste a simple note into the WordPress web interface.  What I’d like is an offline app to do more advanced formatting, so blog posts look more like structured articles rather and less like random blobs of text.

Since I spend a lot of time working in Xcode, it needs to be a Mac desktop application.

Results of testing WordPress posts from some apps I already have:

  • Apple Pages – no export to HTML. No easy way to post to WordPress.  Leaves me back at the copy/paste situation.  I have previously posted content from Pages documents.  While it wasn’t as bad as a root canal, it required enough format re-jiggling to make it impractical for everyday blogging needs.
  • Apple iBooks Author – great application, but no export to HTML and only publishes to iBook store.
  • Apple Keynote – similar situation to Pages. Requires using copy/paste and re-working the results to appear correctly.
  • Seamonkey (a mozilla based editor) – this is the successor to the old Netscape Suite, and one of the components of the suite is Composer.  Composer is the only component of the Seamonkey suite that I use, so I’ve configured the settings to always open a new Composer document.  It’s a decent little HTML editor.  The “publish” options seem to accept the recommended settings for WordPress.  Composer’s publish operation shows a successful WordPress login and completion status; however, something doesn’t match up because the results never appear anywhere in my WordPress account.  In any event, Seamonkey’s publish feature is designed for updating specific webpages, so I’ll continue looking at other apps for a better solution.

Results of some apps found listed on WordPress:

  • Scribefire – mentioned on a blog entry about about WordPress editors.  It’s a browser plugin.  Versions are available for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari.  First things I noticed were mostly bad reviews and an extreme lack of documentation. I tested the Firefox version, and didn’t care for it.  It wasn’t clear where the draft posts were being stored, but the dialogs in the “export” option seemed to confirm work was not being saved in a document format that could be accessed without this plug in.  That doesn’t work for me.
  • Blogo – Website states Blogo won’t run on OS X Lion.  Reading their blog from July 2011 showed they weren’t even going to try updating for Lion.  Movin’ on.
  • Ecto – Website indicates “illumineX” bought the app from it’s developer in 2008.  Website seems to have been neglected since then.  A described iPhone app never materialized (was a pre-IOS app if it existed at all).  Their support forums shows a SQL crash error code and looks like it’s been neglected since 2007.  Despite all of this, I decided to download their trial version and take a look.  Download was a 5.9MB ZIP file containing a 12.4MB app file dated April 15, 2010.  Surprisingly the app launched, ran just fine, and was able to log in and download my previous WordPress posts.  After editing a draft via the web interface, Ecto detected and showed the difference between the local offline copy and the server copy.  Everything seemed to going quite well, I created a blog entry from the app and was able to adjust categories, tags, and other attributes.  But attempting to publish the post resulted in an error and a loss of all of the edits made in the app (despite enabling an autosave feature).  Showed promise, but not worth troubleshooting given the apparent lack of activity with the company.  And we’re walking…
  • MarsEdit – a $40 app available from developer’s website, or on the Mac app store. Website is up to date, shows plenty of activity, and developer’s blog shows he is working on learning/adopting Apple’s new app guidelines for the Mac App Store.  I downloaded the trial version from website.  Currently version 3.4.4 with a 6.6MB zip file containing a 15.2MB app file dated March 9, 2012.  First (simple) tests worked well.  MarsEdit finds existing posts from the blog, edits new ones, uploads to Publish or Draft, and saves offline copy in a Library folder than can be read with other tools if need be. Testing more advanced work such as text formats and image layout didn’t work so well.  It was easy enough to paste an image into the editor, but there wasn’t any way to adjust the image properties.  Additionally, the editor showed options for laying out the text around the image, but it didn’t work.  There were problems within the editor, and the layout was ignored when uploaded to WordPress.  Conclusion, MarsEdit would be great for “syncing” plain text notes into blog posts… but not at $40.  Unfortunately I don’t see $40 worth of editor/layout features in this app.

I’ll keep looking for an offline editor to use with WordPress.  But, in the meanwhile, it looks like I’ll stick with using Pages, Keynote, or Notes to write things up offline and then use copy/paste to post later.

For now it appears anything more than plain text will continue to require using the web interface to make adjustments prior to publishing a post.  I suspect the long term solution will be to get more familiar the WordPress HTML options and investigate whether some Themes are easier to work with than others.