Friday, 15 February 2008

Blogger Beatitude

Following a recent problem I had with Blogger, I had planned to move this blog over to my usual web hosting service. I had already installed the WordPress software, and was just getting ready to configure it, when my website server suffered a massive service outage. I use a small French web service called Ouvaton, which is supposed to be cool because it is a cooperative. But when one of the hard disks in their RAID burned out, they screwed up the replacement process so badly that the service was out for more than 24 hours. Small is beautiful, but imposing an accidental Denial of Service on several hundred customers is ugly. Is it utopian to wish that cooperative endeavours could also actually be effective and efficient?

That outage made me reconsider my decision. At least I can count on Google to maintain Blogger in a permanent state of adequate service. And they fixed the bug that caused my firewall to give me intrusion messages each time I looked at my blog. So if they can manage to avoid getting into conflicts with my anti-virus software, I think I can put up with a small amount of snooping about my consumer behaviour patterns. I've suddenly transitioned from Blogger Blowout to Blogger Beatitude. In the rest of this post I think I'll leave aside the big issues for a while, and just tell about what I've been doing in Second Life lately.

I've been going in-world rather infrequently, and for relatively short periods. I did however manage to attend the first meeting of the recently-elected new Representative Assembly of the Confederation of Democratic Sims, held on February 3rd. The meeting room in Neufreistadt was packed with a large crowd of observers. The session began with the new RA members taking oath to serve the CDS, its Constitutions and Laws. The RA members taking the oath (with their party affiliations) were as follows:

* Patroklus Murakami (CSDF)
* ThePrincess Parisi (NuCARE)
* Brian Livingston (SP)
* Sonja Strom (DPU)
* Bjerkel Eerie (CSDF)
* MT Lundquist (NuCARE)
* Beathan Vale (SP)

The first task of the new RA members was then to select the next CDS Chancellor. The two candidates for this position, Alexicon Kurka and Jamie Palisades, each briefly presented their reasons for wanting to fill the function. The RA members then stated in turn their preferences. The votes were three for each, and the hinge vote was left to ThePrincess Parisi. She dramatically built up the suspense, chopping her announcement into slowly-posted chat fragments, as follows:

*The next Chancellor of CDS ....
*On behalf of the members of New United CARE I proudly
*cast my vote for
*Alexicon Kurka

So Alexicon became the new Chancellor of CSDF, and the meeting broke up. The avatars hurried off, some actually walking downstairs to fly somewhere, the majority just teleporting away or logging off. I teleported to my house in Colonia Nova, and found myself in a woman's body, and with only half of my hair. The condition seemed to last, so I finally just logged off.

Other than that, I've been spending time teleporting around Second Life to see other regions. After reading Sleazy Writer's guest post on my blog, about what he calls "Sausage Land," I went to check out the Southern Continent. I can only agree with what Tony Walsh said, about the continents looking like God swallowed a yard sale, a Goth castle, a suburban mall, and a carnival, and barfed it all back up (as quoted by Prokofy). For comparison, I went to visit some Island regions reputed for better zoning, such as Anshe Chung's Dreamland and Adam Zaius' Azure Islands. Curiously, I found these to be rather barren stretches of boring "paradise." But perhaps I need to explore them a bit longer to discover their charm.

Then I read Prokofy's Tiny Reporters post, about Julian Dibbell's in-world interview with Prokofy, when Julian was researching his now-infamous Article on Griefing for Wired magazine. Prokofy starts by taking Julian to see the famous giant Refrigerator that mars the landscape in Ravenglass, facing the huge Celtic tower built by Foolish Frost. So I went over there, and found everything that Prokofy describes, including the Tatoo Parlour at the foot of the Celtic Tower.

I also read Prokofy's On Being Done With the Lindens post, in which he describes an extortionist "ad farm" put up by Umnik Hax in Highcastle, which contains a winking Happy Face with a Star of David for an eye. Prokofy maintains that this use of a Star of David is racist, in that it seeks to arouse anti-Semitic feelings. I wanted to go see that too, but when I tried to use Search to find Highcastle, Search told me there was nothing that corresponded! I've since been told that there is another way to search for sims, using the map, but I have yet to do that. In the meanwhile the Lindens have announced their new anti-ad-farm policy, so when I finally do get to Highcastle, the Unmik Hax horror may be gone.

And so it goes. Between a bit of touring in-world, and a lot of reading of Second Life blogs, I'm getting familiar with the place, with its populace and its particular culture. I imagined that one day I might proudly remind my children that I was an early pioneer of virtual worlds. But when I tested this idea out with them, their reaction was disappointing. They think I'm just a misguided fart making a fool of himself playing at a children's game.


Anonymous said...

Hi Danton,

Jusst a tip, but try - they offer a free and VERY easy blogging solution. I've used WP on my own host and on their own free .com site and I have to say that the free site was better as all the drudgery of updating, etc. is done for me.

They also offer an easy to use import-from-blogger solution which ported my old blogger account to the new wordpress one in minutes. I had to do some tidying up, but it was all there - posts, photos, links and comments.

I fell out with Blogger big time over the lack of finesse I had in how my posts looked and I've found WP a total joy to work with - and with 3G storage for free, I can't complain :-)

Danton Sideways said...

Thanks for the tip, HeadBurro. Danton will probably stay with Blogger, but I'm looking for solutions for a RL blog. I recently installed Wordpress on my web server, and realised that it will be a lot of work to get beyond the boring default blue banner. So I might try as an easier way to get familiar with the software.

Anonymous said...

You'll not regret it - easy, friendly and flexible - everything I found blogger to lack in.

Gwyneth Llewelyn said...

Hi Danton! Everybody has a "favourite blogging software" — and this is mostly a matter of personal choice and what you wish to accomplish with the tool.

I also previously used a (now obsolete) content management system for my own blog. I had to abandon it because it simply was too cumbersome to maintain — it was developed before RSS feeds or Sitemaps existed, not even to mention things like tags or trackbacks. So it was time for a change.

I've quickly narrowed it down to a small number of possibilities: LiveJournal, Blogger, Typepad, and WordPress. Of those, I thought that Blogger was the easiest to use, but it was also somewhat limited. But at the end, it was clear that none of those allowed me to do what I wished: tweak the blog, add things like my online status in SL, add all sorts of links and tags to other ranking tools, or get some income out of Google AdSense! For that, I needed to run the software on my own server.

Well, then the choice was clear: WordPress. It had a major disadvantage at the beginning: the WYSIWYG editor didn't work at all under Safari 2.X (it works now with Safari 3.X, but it still truncates a lot of content, specially the "newlines", which is a mess). Mostly because of that, I switched to the insanely slow and memory-leaking Firefox, specially on those days that I'm expected to post on several blogs ;) Apple has to seriously address the issue about the WYSIWYG editors; the only one that works is FCKeditor, but since this one is quite "heavy" on the Javascript, people use lighter alternatives like TinyMCE (used by WordPress), and these work very badly under Safari...

Still, in spite of that, WordPress is targeted to a wide audience. If you just want to set it up like Blogger/Typepad/LifeJournal/others, it's simple: log in to, select a template, and you're ready to go. There is a limited selection of widgets available, but it's a good start, and their service is good enough for a million users, so it should be enough :)

At the next stage, if you install the software on your own server, you can add anything to it. I estimate that there are perhaps 30,000 or so different templates to chose from, and probably as many plugins (or certainly it looks like that). WordPress blogs hosted on their own servers are notably famous for having so many things displayed there — and sometimes, thanks to the zillion plugins, they don't look like WordPress at all! The flexibility is tremendous due to the openness of its platform and the easy of changing it all.

At the last stage, of course, you even get the opportunity to fiddle with the code. It has a very rich library of function calls that can be used to tweak any template to do whatever you please; and another set of library function calls to design your own plugins (and widgets). If you're expecting to create things on your blog that require extensive change to the way the software works — like, say, allowing blogging from your own specialised HUD in Second Life... — WordPress is the only platform that allows that which has around 3 million users...

A good friend of mine switched over from Blogger to WordPress in just three days (during the week — so she did not have much time free). This meant importing all content (nothing was lost), keeping all the links, changing to a template that looked almost exactly to what she had on Blogger, and make sure everything worked flawlessly. She's no programmer, but she's pretty clever — with one tip or two from seasoned Wordpress bloggers, and googling for more information, she managed to do it all on her own. I find that a quite good recommendation for people looking for another software solution.

I still post irregularly to a Blogger-hosted blog. What frustrates me is how often the blogging fails, and how limited the blog looks like — I miss all the clever features of my own personalised WordPress installation (like, say, having a plugin that allows LSL colour-coding ;) ). On the other hand, WordPress is as good as the hosting provider that supplies the service — and mine just provides about 99% uptime (or about the same uptime that we usually get from Linden Lab's Second Life grid ;) ). Since that particular hosting provider is cheap enough, I manage to gather enough income from Google AdSense to pay for the whole hosting service, so it worked out well for me :) In a sense, I can claim that my own personalised and self-hosted solution pays for itself, so it's "as free as Blogger" but without any of Blogger's restrictions ;)