Month: May 2007

Something I said?

This blog has always been a little up and down, stats are never constant with spikes and .. um… the opposite of spikes… ohh yes, troughs, littering my reports.

However I guess I need to rethink things a little as comments have been very light the past few weeks. I know I know you are all very busy and have better blogs to read but, more as a little experiment than any form of ego-stroking… honest… I’m issuing a call to everyone who reads this post.

PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT.

Even if it’s just “Hi”, or “Bog off you self-absorbed wanker”, or “Twins? Twins that love pink? Ohh my worlds, Big Brother has gone mental this time”. I’ll leave the comment up to you.

But please, PLEASE, LEAVE A COMMENT.

(I’d threaten to quit if I didn’t get more than 20 different people commenting but… well I don’t want to quit, and I’m not THAT melodramatic)

UPDATE: Gosh, what a response. I am truly humbled, including those of you who decided to email instead of commenting (you know who you are, and those emails were appreciated as well). As most have rightly pointed out, a lot of people will be on holidays and these days it can be a case of too many blogs, not enough time.

If I’d actually planned this I might have been able to have a stab at how many people are reading via RSS but, roughly speaking, my daily hit count almost doubled yesterday… not sure how that translates but it’s interesting.

Arena Flowers

Arena Flowers

A while ago I asked “Would you take the money?” in reference to an email I received offering me a cash voucher in return for posting about my experiences using an online store. The answers to that question varied, but by and large you mostly agreed that, as long as I was upfront about everything, there wasn’t a problem with me blogging for cash, as it were.

I can now reveal that the email that sparked that question was sent by Will Wynne, the Managing Director of Arena Flowers a company I had used with some success back in February.

In the email Will said:

“We’re pretty happy with how we’ve put the site together and some of the fancier features we’ve developed and were wondering both what people thought of them as well as how blogging could help spread the word about Arena.

Of course you are under no obligation to write good things about us and, if you think we’re rubbish, please let us know. Privately or online, it keeps us on our toes, and we’d rather know something was wrong and fix it than be afraid of bad press. Of course you don’t even need to write about us; you’re welcome to use our service and get the free flowers with absolutely no obligation to say anything to anyone at all. In fact if you think this is a bad idea or feel a little uncomfortable, please let me know your favourite charity and I’ll happily donate the õ0 to them instead.”

So, with all that in mind, I took him up on his order and, as it’s her birthday soon, decided to order my lovely wife a nice bunch of flowers from Arena Flowers (and yes, I disclosed this to her as well, I’m not THAT cheap!).
Read More

Musings on X-Pubs

Next week I’m heading down to Reading to attend the X-Pubs conference, where I’m hoping to learn more about both how a solid XML publishing solution is implemented and, ultimately, why I need to bother. OK, I know why I need to bother so I guess I should re-phrase that to “how I justify all the effort involved”.

I’ve done my fair share of research in the past, and have previously implemented an AuthorIT based solution. That worked reasonably well for our needs back then, but I’m with a different company now and the needs have, naturally, changed. I know all about the benefits of single sourcing content (re-use), and why XML is the best choice for storing that content (re-factorability, if that’s a word!) but as yet I’ve still not seen the killer product/solution that makes things:

  1. easy to implement – I’ll accept some pain but most of the solutions I’ve seen have a fairly large knowledge mountain to climb
  2. easy to adapt – I have, currently, very specific needs dictated both by the company and our product, and by my the needs of my team.

Of course no such solution exists, or we’d all be using it, right?

And that’s why I’m attending the X-Pubs conference.

I do believe that single sourcing is THE way to go about things in technical communications, almost (implementation costs aside) without reservation for any size of team and almost without regard for what they are producing. Like here in the UK, which is trapped between imperial and metric measurements, the technical communications industry seems to be a mix of differing output requirements. Some audiences demand printed manuals, some want websites full of searchable content, whilst others are happy with PDFs or online help. And that’s before we start worrying about localisation (localization).

I’m not entirely sure what I’ll discover at the conference, and I’m doing my best to keep an open mind, but I truly believe that the power of single sourcing will remain the refuge of the few until someone comes up with a workable, affordable solution that everyone can use.

I’ll be posting from the conference (possible even “live blogging”), so come back on the 4th June to find out what’s going on.

Do you single source? Or have you consider it in the past but never pursued it, and if so, why not?

This week…

… I will mostly be blogging about… hang on.. bloody hell, what’s that noise? Holy mother of all things unseasonal, hailstones! And it’s almost June, what the fuck has happened to our weather, it’s like the whole environment has been turned upside down or something. I wonder if the authorities know about this…

Anyway, where was I?

Ohh yes, this week I will mainly be blogging about the experience of owning a shiny new MacBook, I’ll also be telling a tale of woe involving a certain courier company, and I’ll be revealing why I recently sold my soul.

Admittedly the MacBook stuff is a bit old now mainly because I deliberately kept that purchase quiet. Mind you I’m not entirely sure why I did that, but I’m sure I had a good reason at the time. However it does introduce a slight problem, one which I’m sure many bloggers are familiar.

Blogging is, by and large, about now, the current, events that are happening or are expected, or have just happened in the recent past. By it’s nature blogging lends itself to the immediate very well, and although I do keep a few ‘idea’ posts drafted, stuff that isn’t constricted by time, I rarely plan what I’m going to post here and I guess that’s why this blog has never really hit the heights like those of my peers.

Whilst it’s easy to say that I enjoy this style of blogging, this freeform meandering across the various topics that pique my interest, is the very reason I have this blog, there is a part of me that sometimes ponders why I don’t write about people more often… It’s not that I’m not a personable guy, but I look at other blogs with some degree of envy.

Bloody hailstones, they’ve set me into a winter gloom! How very dare they! Enough of this, I’m off for a bath to ease my aching limbs, all that walking and jogging over the weekend has me more than a little sore. Still, that upcoming 10K won’t run itself!

But before I nip off, which post would you like next, dearest reader? The one about the courier company, the one about owning a MacBook, or the one about the company who bought my opinion with a bag of silver?

New Lanark

Having read a feature in the local paper, we headed off to New Lanark today, primarily for a wander along the banks of the River Clyde to the Falls of Clyde. Alas they aren’t that spectacular at the moment, mainly because the water is held back to drive turbines at a nearby power station, and we deliberately decided to avoid visiting tomorrow to avoid the crowds. For tomorrow they ‘unblock’ the river for one day and whilst it would be quite something it would also be quite busy… so no thanks.

However we did have a nice walk and got to see a rare bird, nesting on a cliff face.

IMG_2349

Thankfully for once I had remember to take my zoom lens with me… and yes, it is a Peregrine Falcon and chick. More photos to be found via my Flickr account, and apologies to those with a queasy stomach. Yes that IS a birthday cake made of dog food.

Still here

Just not, you know, here.

My days have mainly contained watching crap TV or crap movies or sleeping. This has been keeping my mind off the fact that I can’t eat.

Nothing more than a stomach bug I’m sure. It’ll pass.

Back soon.

You're the inclination…

Wait, that’s not right.

Ahhh yes “You’re the ‘inspiration'”, ahhh the joys of the misheard lyric. However the misheard holds the truth for, dear reader, despite having a lot of ideas for posts, and a few things I need to do as well, I’ve had little inclination over the past week or so (e.g. posts about – my MacBook, my ‘paid’ post, a ‘new PC’ post that has been languishing for months and so on).

There is one reason for this, something so fundamental that it is having a dramatic effect on my computer usage. My internet connection has started acting up.

And yes, I’m aware of the irony.

Technically speaking it’s not the internet connection itself but the installation of a wireless router that is causing the problem. Ohh I wasn’t going to do this just yet but, hey, what the hell. You take inclination where you find it…
Read More

Mooo.. scellaneous

Nature is a wonderous thing, offering us such beauty and inspiration that sometimes it boggles the mind. Be it a particular cloudscape, a shimmering lake or the steaming placenta lying next to a just-born calf…

OK, it wasn’t ideal to see such a sight first thing in the morning but it certainly woke me up. Thankfully I hadn’t had breakfast (I’m munching on my All Wheat Muesli as I type this). However as spring rolls on, it seems that new-borns are in the air, so let me pause here to congratulate my mate Bill and his lovely wife Fran on the birth of their son, Gregory. I’m sure that, with the many years of loving and careful nurturing that they’ll give him, he’ll soon be a rampant alcoholic likes his Dad. I’m kidding of course, it’s his Mum that’s the alcoholic…

~

Since returning from Spain we’ve done little of note. That makes for a dull blog, but of course I can always fall back on techy stuff. Which is just as well as the ‘human interest’ side of life is a little flat at the moment, unless you allow me to rant on about the various arseholes I deal with every day on my daily commute. Ohh go on… BMW drivers aren’t all that bad, van drivers can be the most maliciously dangerous wankers, and don’t even start me on private taxis!!

~

Of course I’ll have human interest overload come Saturday as it’s blogmeet time again. For anyone travelling through from Glasgow, aim to take the 12noon train (GNER to London Kings Cross). The train stops at Motherwell, where I’ll get on, and Edinburgh Waverley. Let’s meet on the last carriage (the back of the train).

If you are still interested in going but are unsure of directions and whatnot then drop me an email (gordon AT gordonmclean DOT co DOT uk).

~

Which reminds me, a couple of people have tried to contact me using the contact form on this site. Unfortunately, since moving hosts it’s not been working. I think I know why (I need to check if my host has PHP mail() installed) but until then, you can use the email address given above.

~

On my last day of work before my holiday a calamity occurred. I dropped and broke my mug! This week I’ve been using the bone china, company branded, mugs but they are too small in both handle size and coffee holding ability, so the hunt for a new mug has begun.

As I’m sure you’ll all know by now, I’m a right fussy bugger, so I need a mug with a decent sized handle, and a nice design. My last one was a good size, and a solid dark blue colour with white interior. I’m thinking of going for stripes this time, but have to admit that I’ve yet to find a mug (online) that really catches my eye.

Anyone else tried shopping for mugs online? Any pointers?

And no, I don’t want one of those insulated ones, can’t stand them as … and remember, I’m fussy … the lip of the mug is usually way too thick to be comfortable. Yeah, I know, I know. I’m a freak.

~

Right, I’m off to price a wireless card for my PC, a DVI to HDMI converter, and a tub of Vaseline. The latter is required after wearing a slightly coarse top under my running jacket on Wednesday night; 45 minutes of friction is sore on the nipples!

Combine & Conquer

Combine and conquer

It’s been so long since I started this whole ‘oneman’ thing, combining all my online ‘identities’ into one amorphous mass, that it was quite good to take a break, step back and make sure that it’s working for me.

Ultimately the creation of onemanwrites.co.uk was to stop the build up of “work” related thoughts and allow me somewhere to expand my musings on Technical Communications and explore web design theories in a little more depth than I have here.

That leaves Informationally Overloaded as my “pop culture/diary/splurge” site. Simple.

Of course running two personal blogs, maintaining a side job (onemandesigns.co.uk – which started the whole “oneman” thing), and keeping on top of Scottish Blogs means I need to stay pretty well organised and, as I don’t tend to plan my blog posting that far in advance, I have been relying on a pen drive and a scattering of text files to store various drafts of posts for both blogs, as well as other items to be tracked for Scottish Blogs and one man designs.

It’s a clunky system which leaves me completely stuck if I forget my pen drive or, god forbid, it dies on me but it stops me having to login to two different WordPress installs everytime I want to re-visit a draft post before publishing it (ohh yes, and sometimes I edit them too). Admittedly this issue has become more prevalent since starting the new blog (onemanwrites, do keep up) as I’m actually making the effort to edit what I write before posting over there and, as you’ll no doubt have noticed, I tend to just dump stuff on this site without too much editing beforehand… yeah yeah I know, it’s THAT obvious.

My “system” for coping with all this isn’t ideal and largely evolved by accident, it’s quirks are known and unfortunately it’s starting to creak at the edges. I’ve hunted around for a better way, of course, and hadn’t really found one until I stumbled across this post on Matt Haughey’s new blog where he outlines how he is using various Google Apps (and others) along with Google Browser sync to maintain browser sessions across multiple computers allowing him to “work” from anywhere. It was like being slapped around the chops with a damp halibut.

Now I know there are naysayers that say that Google is harvesting our souls and we’ll all end up as slaves to lucifer but, frankly, I stopped listening to them when I purchased www.gordonmclean.co.uk (something else I was advised to be ‘careful’ about). It’s easy to be flippant when nothing has happened to you, but I’m a pretty easy going guy and file most of the frantic rhetoric on this issue in a big folder called “yeah… I guess…”. Don’t get me wrong, I value my privacy as much as the next person but I also quite enjoy living my life and not worrying the stuff like that too much. Shit happens, and gets dealt with as and when.

So, after noodling about a little I now have Google “Docs & Spreadsheets” as a central place to hold draft posts for both my blogs and a simple to do list, Google Calendar which syncs with Outlook at work, Google Mail for.. well.. all my personal email, and Google Reader to check what you lot are posting.

I now have one place for draft posts, one place to maintain simple To do lists (until such times as Thinking Rock goes ‘online’ that is), and one place for my calendar and email. I still ‘backup’ my email to Thunderbird, and I still use Outlook at work as my main desktop calendar app (syncing with Google Calendar) but, in the main, I am now solely using web apps for all of my personal information needs.

The key advantage to drafting posts in Google Docs is that it allows you to publish straight to your blog. It comes with a stack of APIs so most blog platforms are covered and it also handles having more than one blog. I’ve been using it this way for the past few weeks, and it is smooooth. Of course there are some quirks and funnies and I really do wish they had done something smarter with photo handling (in other words I wish Google had bought Flickr rather than Yahoo) but I can’t fault it on many counts.

The major, and obvious, gotcha is that I’m now solely dependant on the internet as part of my “workflow” but that really hasn’t changed. Sure I used to work offline but I still need to be online to post, or send/check email and so on and on.

All in all it’s working for me, and I have to admit that, privacy concerns aside, Google are pretty damn good at creating web apps. Or at the very least, buying the successful ones and adding their own little tweaks.

Information(ally) Overload(ed)

Note: Been meaning to post this for some weeks now but couldn’t find the right moment… I guess now is as good a time as any.

The title of this blog was, believe it or not, chosen more carefully than most of you may realise, and far more carefully than I let on. Mind you I do put some thought into this site from time to time, honest, so it may not come as that much of a surprise to some..

This blog has always been, and will remain to be, a place where I can dump my brain. A place I can spew out the various thoughts that assault my mind on a daily basis, regardless of where they come from, what prompted them, or what they contain (within my own set of self-censoring rules, obv.).

Over the past several years, more and more of my life, both social and professional, has been focussed around the internet and, by extension, I’m ‘plugged in’ more than I care to admit, even to myself. The recent state of near-death that my home PC found itself in only confirms my fears; I cannot live without a computer. It’s too ingrained, too heavily embedded in my life, not only does it store information that I would hate to lose, it’s also the focus of most of my thought processes.

Need to know a phone number? Or the location of a hotel? How about converting celsius to fahrenheit? Each question prompts the same response… fire up the PC, hit the internet. Any form of knowledge that I do not currently have is sourced there and I struggle to imagine not having such a resource so close at hand (and yes, I’m careful to verify what I read. Remember kids, not everything on the internet is true!).

Read More