Tuesday, March 31, 2009

a short aside (part 2) (second go-round)

This time it didn't work -- wouldn't upload the text file. This time, what worked was to copy and paste the text into a blank Google Doc (at which point it was one long line running off the righthand side of the page), select the whole thing, then choose Format: Styles: Normal paragraph.

Go figure.


It may have just been the day I tried it, but I had a heckuva time trying to register my blog. The site kept giving error messages saying to try again later. I started in the morning and finally, after repeated attempts, succeeded that night. How did it go for any of you others out there who've tried it?


This is another one I'll have to live with awhile before I figure out its everyday impact for better or worse.

And, as with the blogs, I already have a system in place that works very well and is more colorful. On my hard drive I have several nested HTML pages of links on various topics. The arrangement is such that the links are easier to find (IMHO) than browser bookmarks.

So this feels sort of like re-doing the same work. However, having it online can be useful when I want to blow off time by surfing at work. (Just kidding!) On the other hand, it brings up another of those privacy issues. Like a list of books one reads, a list of websites one likes gives strangers clues to one's personality. But holding back on true favorite sites would make the list less useful to onesself. And making the list private would also limit it's usefulness; logging in every time would be a royal pain. So, o.k., here goes -- hey, world, I'm one mega nerd!

One minor complaint: sites that aren't shared by at least two people don't show up in a search. Yes, I know that's still a very low popularity threshhold, but one of the great strengths of the almost-infinite world of cyberspace is the "Long Tail." I don't want to know about some site that everybody else knows about. I want to find a site so esoteric that only one person has discovered it.

The main complaint is that tags are separated by spaces rather than commas, which means they must be only one single word. I want to be able to tag by phrases. This inability is especially limiting (or rather, not limiting enough) when the tag is a proper name.

a short aside (part 2)

Although a file copied and pasted from my Linux computer won't preserve its word-wrapping, nor accept word-wrapping added by the blog page, it turns out that if the file is saved as plain text (in the plain-vanilla text processor rather than Open Office) and then uploaded to Google Docs, it will work just fine.

-- Which means I can post from my itteh-bitteh cutie-pie sooper-kewl netbook. :)


I agree with Mr. Horse -- No, sir, I don't like it.

When I looked for topics I knew were on the websites I chose, sometimes it couldn't find them, and sometimes it gave me dozens of useless links first. There seems to be no way of telling it to search the websites in a certain order, so that one could search small, esoteric, narrowly-focused sites first, and then if there was no match have a broader backup, like, say Wikipedia.

And the interface is not only spare (and therefore boring), but it also reminds one of a certain discount chain.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

library thing

This gets to one of those changing cultural issues, namely, privacy. Within the memory of middle-aged adults, a person's reading habits were considered to be private information, shared with only a few close friends. After all, what one reads discloses who one is. (Although it's not necessarily a perfect match. For instance, some people regularly read books with which they heartily disagree -- precisely because they want to learn about (or laugh at) a different point of view.)

But upon consideration, this kind of self-disclosure comes more naturally than other kinds. After all, I'm a book-pusher both by inclination and by profession.

Library Thing is but one of several book-sharing applications out there. The main reason I haven't signed up for it before is that I already have enough trouble keeping my Facebook Visual Bookshelf and the "Books" part of "Interests" on MySpace up to date. So I decided to make this list something different. Instead of adding books as I read them, I'm listing some favorites. These books aren't necessarily ones I've read recently, nor are they necessarily books I own. For example, one is from the bookshelf of my second grade classroom.

In general, I greatly prefer Library Thing for its flexibility, ease of use, and robustness. I like the ability to edit all parts of the record, especially the ability to easily change the cover to match the book you're actually thinking of, and even upload a cover if need be. The one thing I don't like is the free version's paltry 200-book limit.

Just for fun, while we're on the topic of book lists, here are a couple of websites that list books owned by couple of more famous people:

Thomas Jefferson (1783)
Rudolph Valentino (1926)

a short aside

This is a test of an online word processor. There should be three paragraphs here, each separated by a blank line and word-wrapped to fit the screen. Yes, I'm aware that web-based apps are Thing 18, but while trying to upload the blog entry for Thing 11, I ran into a problem. I prefer to compose offline and copy and paste from a leisurely-written and proofread text onto a blog, webpage, or whatever. (Yeah, it's a digital immigrant thing; some of us even like to compose with quill and ink first.) However, from my Linux computer the blog template wouldn't word wrap, nor would it accept the word-wrapping from any file saved to emulate any format (plain text, rich text, or Open Office "MS Word").

Of course, Google Docs isn't offline, but it does have the advantage of saving just the text in a separate place. (In a probably unrelated problem, in the last entry I tried to put up, the blog site added a metatag that the blog site wouldn't accept. I don't want to have to re-write the entire post from scratch, just because the blog's website makes a programming error that may persist in any of the versions it saves.)

Why Google Docs instead of Zoho? -- I'll get to that when it's time to report on Thing 18.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

image generators

The Latin Motto program intrigued me, but strictly speaking, it's a word generator, not an "image" generator. Besides, it's too simplistic to translate the best Groucho quotes.

So I went with creating a St. Patrick's Day button.

In case you're curious and don't speak Gaelic, it means (or so I was told by a native Irish speaker) "and they all went off drinking." (And yes, I know there should be an accent mark over the "o.")

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

rss huntin'

Bloglines Search vs. garden-variety googling:

Only searches posts, but what if I only want to bother with blogs entirely devoted to a certain subject?
The "exclude my feeds" (meaning "I want something I haven't seen before") option could be useful.

It's probably the nature of blogs vs. web pages, but if you're looking for scholarly information, you'd do better with Google, to avoid getting a preponderance of boring, real-world, modern-day, personal junk. When I type in "monticello," I want the famous building, not what some stranger's kid is doing on some school sports team in Monticello, Illinois.

In a Google search for "monticello" and "blog" the first two hits were of a political blog named "Monticello," metaphorically evoking Jefferson's home, and the third was someone blogging about visiting Monticello, Jefferson's home.

A bloglines search for "monticello" yields, at the top, two references to state wrestling matches with some team from Monticello, Nevada and something about someone going to Lake Monticello (Arkansas?).


"Monticello" brought up a list of towns and lakes in various states. Tried browsing by category. There is no "history" category. That makes it useless to me right there. Maybe logging in would bring up a better search function, but I don't want to register for yet another thing, especially one that, as far as I can tell, I'd never use. And the inteface is plain and businessy -- boring!


Literally news feeds, but that's o.k., since it doesn't pretend to be anything else. It could be quite useful to many people. I probably won't use it much, since I already have links to more news sites than I can read. Still, I'll make myself a link to it, as it may be come in handy sometime. Kinda creepy, though, how it comes up with the city I live in, even though I'm not signed in nor have ever even registered.


Well set up for browsing (although it doesn't have a "history" category, either; I doubt that any general search site does {sigh}), and tends to present interesting links on the home page. (Bias admission -- this is a techno-nerd oriented site and I'm a techno-nerd.) One can waste quite a bit of time surfing here. This site also gives videos in its search results. Three of the four shown were definitely about the real place. (I didn't take the time to view them, since it takes forever to download video, but one of the pictures was a famous dome shot, another showed part of the terrace railing, and the other showed Annette Gordon-Reed, a historian who has just written a book about the Hemings family at Monticello.) The plain search didn't immediately bring up any good posts, but there is an advanced search which includes the option "Blogs about."

You can also search tag words and posts that link to a specified website. Using a tag brought up, on the first search page, a couple of pages about vineyards in the area.


Icerocket is a blog search engine not mentioned in the 23 Things list. Its home page is somewhat pop-culture oriented, and has less packed on it than Technorati's. Besides search tabs for Blogs, the Web, News, Images, etc. it has tabs for Twitter and MySpace.

A search for Monticello, brought up, on the first page, three references to the original Monticello. Searching for "monticello" and "virginia" brought up the best results of any of the blog searches -- seven good results, including the first four on the page. There is an option for an "Advanced" search, but it doesn't show up until you've done a plain search.