Five years of blogging

My little blog is five years old today. Ahhhh. Please excuse a brief metabloggy interlude.

This site started when a friend of mine began blogging and I thought ‘that’s a good idea. I’ll steal it’. So I did, with a dubious design involving unicorns – really, I have no explanation for this – based around Movable Type 2.something. The name ‘wongaBlog’ came a few days later, based entirely on a short story I’d written in which the main character had a site called ‘wonkaBlog’, I think because he liked chocolate.

Since then it’s become a big part of my life, and I passed 3000 posts last month. It’s also, in no particular order::

  • briefly bathed in a pagerank of 5
  • been banned in libraries for swearing
  • pissed off two girlfriends – I think both eventually stopped reading entirely
  • been made fun of by the Guardian
  • regularly attacked by Russian spammers, which is quite the problem for my webhost but as close as I’m going to get to being in Spooks
  • served as a terribly cowardly way to ask someone out (not linking to this one, but it’s in there somewhere)
  • become the go-to-blog for Googlers of ‘wank-a-thon‘.

There’s lots more, but those are the ones that popped into my head while typing.

I love blogging. It gives me a chance to write, which is pretty much my favourite thing, and it’s also cathartic as hell. It helps me stay in touch with far-flung friends, as well as acting as a reasonably decent diary. And the very best aspect of blogging is a cliché, although none the less true for it: it’s the people you meet. I found myself in Bloggers4Labour a few years ago (not quite sure how, but I’m glad I did!), and I’ve met – both electronically and physically – lots of lovely people as a result. The same with various atheist / skeptical sites. It’s great, and makes me happy.

I don’t remember starting with a blogging goal, and I’ve never really developed one. Norm‘s Friday profilees are always asked for one piece of advice to a novice blogger, and a common reply is ‘know what you want to write, and who for’. I’ve never done that – this blog has always been for whatever I feel like at the time, with no plan or target audience – but I can see the attraction. For me the hardest part of blogging is discovering you’ve been read by people you respect, but don’t know personally. For a while it’s nigh on impossible not to second-guess yourself and think ‘oh god, what must they think of that‘ every time you click ‘post’. I can happily research and write a long piece on the problems of organised religion, say, then follow it up with a post on why I’m scared of women, or a snapshot of a particularly fascinating twig, or something. I’ve never come close to stopping, but it’s the thought of boring the hell out of interesting people that’s given me most pause.

I know this is silly. One of the best features of blogging is that it’s passive – if people don’t want to read, they don’t have to. It’s why the occasional hate-spewing trolls are so funny. But related, and trickier, is that many, if not most, people I know are by now aware of this site, and often mention it to me. Which is great, but does sometimes complicate things. I’ve a few posts permanently assigned to Drafts (over 100 at last count) because I never quite had the nerve to post, knowing they’d resonate with particular people. Sometimes it’s polite to spare people’s feelings when there’s no reason to post – I was at a really dull party this evening – but more often it’s over ideological disagreements. And it’s silly to worry about discussing those.

So my aim for the future is to worry less about what people will think. I shall write whatever I fancy, and if people stick around, great, if not, that’s fine too. And as long as I’m not rude and feel I can reasonably back up the more contentious stuff, that’ll do too – if I’m wrong, as I often am, people can tell me why.

Ok, enough wankery. I figure a five-year anniversary is an ok excuse, but I promise not to do this again for a long while. Incidentally, I was going to title this post after the appropriate anniversary material, so I hit Wikipedia for the list and discovered that four years is a ‘silk’ anniversary – how nice is that – while five years is ‘wood’. Wood. That’s crap. Plus I have no intention of ever typing ‘anniversary of wood’.

Finally, just to say thank you to anyone who comments, links to me from their own site, or just drops by and reads anything I write. It’s really very nice of you.

Books and blogs and miscellany

Last night I went to a friend’s birthday party at a Chinese restaurant, tonight I was in a Harvester for pre-dance socialising and eats, and tomorrow I’m going to my grandparents’ for a meal. It’s almost like I have a social life, sometimes.

Sorry it’s a little quiet around here at the moment. I’m fairly busy, but it’s not just that. When your blog is an outlet for whatever’s going through your head, it becomes tricky during times when your thoughts are revolving around things you can’t really blog about. Good grief that was a badly composed sentence. I apologise unreservedly for that sentence. There’s not much I don’t blog about, one way or another. Is nothing bad. Apologies, this is uncomfortably close to being a tease, which wasn’t the intention. I shall stop.

Things that need mentioning, in greater detail than this:

  • I have now read Scepticism Inc. and The Great Gatsby.
  • I finally entered a whole bunch of my books into LibraryThing (I have a lot of Michael Connelly). I feel like it’s not a very deep collection, and I am in a battle with the part of my brain that is worried people will laugh at the lack of serious / classic tomes. I will not start thinking like that. A random selection should appear on the front page’s blogroll.
  • Match.com asked me to complete an insane survey that was obsessed with sex, for example ‘[i]f you were to sleep with someone before you were ready, what would be the reason you would do that?’. Answers included “[i]f I felt I was losing interest in them so they no longer ‘counted’ as a potential soul-mate”, which took me about five minutes to even understand. I like questions that create hypothetical situations then ask how I got into them.
  • I bought a red nose! It is made of foam. I want to do something for Red Nose Day. Two years ago was the beard incident. Hmmm.
  • I don’t really know who Russell Brand is. I’ve come across many thirty-second clips, but have never seen him present/appear in anything, and have no idea what he’s like. Apparently I’m the only person in the country for whom this is true.
  • The writer of Severance has a good blog.
  • As does the editor of New Humanist magazine.
  • This afternoon I realised that floating swans look a bit like dead cows if you turn your head sideways:
    If you turn your head to one side, it looks like a bull
  • Running From Camera is great. Put camera on tripod. Set timer. Run like hell.
  • Darwin Day is coming up.
  • I missed National Gorilla Suit Day.
  • I should also mention the holiday for people with not enough problems.

Plenty for me to catch up on, there.

Bedtime

There’s a certain irony in writing “today’s the first time for over a week that I’ve finished writing before midnight, and it’s nice to have a relaxing evening” in the course of typing blog posts until midnight. Still. Was relaxing nevertheless.

Embed Flickr slideshows into a blog post

Just thought some bloggers might be interested in how to embed an official Flickr slideshow into a post. I discovered it here and here and although neither post gets it quite right the commenters have ironed out most of the problems. The basic format is:

<iframe src="http://www.flickr.com/slideShow/index.gne?user_id=YOUR_ID" frameBorder="0" width="500" scrolling="no" height="500"></iframe>

The unique flickr ID is in the form of 12345678@N00, which you can find out from idgettr (or, if you haven’t set up a nickname on flickr yet, it comes after “http://flickr.com/photos/” when you look at your own images).

The flickr link takes various arguments:

  • contacts – Photos from particular contacts? Not sure what this does.
  • text – Unknown.
  • tags – Display only a certain tag. Doesn’t seem possible to use multiple tags?
  • tag_mode – Unknown
  • favorites – Presumably it displays a particular user’s favourites, but I can’t get it to work.
  • group_id – Displays photos from a group – the group id can again be found from idgettr. Use without a user_id.
  • frifam – Include friends and family-only photos? This is clever, and will only display them to visitors who are checked as friends/family via their flickr cookie.
  • nsid – Seems to duplicate user_id?
  • single – Unknown.
  • firstIndex – Unknown.
  • set_id – ID of the set, found after http://www.flickr.com/photos/username/sets/. Use with or without a user_id.
  • firstId – Unknown.

I imagine their uses can be found in the flickr api documentation, but I don’t have a key. Other sites suggest that “photoset_id” is an option, but I can’t get that to work at all. It doesn’t seem able to filter sets by tag, either.

So:

<iframe src="http://www.flickr.com/slideShow/index.gne?user_id=1234567@N00&set_id=9873987987&frifam=yes" frameBorder="0" width="500" scrolling="no" height="500"></iframe>

would display a user’s particular set, including friends and family images for logged-in friends/family. While the iframe is resizeable, the flash slideshow is fixed at 500 x 500. I can’t find a way to prevent it playing automatically, either. Mop fair pics example after the break…

Continue reading Embed Flickr slideshows into a blog post

B4L, and personal posts

Recent comments on a few Bloggers4Labour blogs have, in particularly caustic style, suggested that B4L bloggers should not discuss anything other than politics, and discussing anything else (particularly sci-fi) makes us look pathetic. These people happen to be your basic trolls, but more polite versions would raise three issues:

  • The idea that discussing sci-fi / other ‘geeky’ topics is something to be ashamed of, and that others will laugh at us. I think I demonstrated my contempt for that particular theory here.
  • The idea that personal posts have no place on blogs ostensibly about politics. Jo has an excellent response here: “What I’m trying to say is that this is my blog about my thoughts, my opinions and my life. I just happen to be a Labour activist.”
  • B4L should only aggregate political posts. This, as far as I’m concerned, is entirely up to Andrew of B4L. He built the system, and can choose to aggregate whatever he likes. I like the community feel of B4L, as the inclusion of non-political posts makes it feels much more like a group of real people than just political pundits (edited – original phrase wasn’t really what I meant), but it’s really nothing to do with me. I’m not trying to pass the buck, I’m just saying that B4L is whatever he wants it to be. WordPress blogs can supply category feeds, and if Andrew were to ask for a feed that only contains political posts (and I’m certain he’d be a damn sight more polite about it than random commenters) I’d be happy to supply it.