Recently, in the News Goat category…

For anyone looking to learn about Movable Type, I’ve started writing a series of articles about MT for Devlounge. My most recent was published a couple of days ago and covers how to use the Action Streams plugin, which I’ve talked a bit about before.

And while I’m mentioning that, I thought I’d also talk about the various ways I’m publishing these days. Like a lot of people, I don’t post to my blog as often as I used to. Over time, this has turned into a place for longer articles, and short “link posts” just aren’t what I want to do here. But I see things all the time that I want to share, so here’s how I’m divvying them up:

  • Really short, of-the-moment type stuff goes on Twitter.
  • Links that I’m saving for my own reference get saved at
  • Links that I don’t necessarily need to save, but that I want to others to read — and thoughts that are longer than 140 characters — are shared via Google Reader.
  • And, as I said, longer blog posts go here, and MT tutorials go on Devlounge.

Of those, Google Reader’s shared items is the one I’ve really gotten into lately. Since they added notes and sharing anything, it makes a decent tumblelog. I’m hoping they continue to move it in that direction.

So that’s where I am with blogging. What about you — how do you publish these days, and how has it changed since you first started blogging?

If this posts successfully, I’m going to guess my upgrade to Movable Type 4.1 went just fine.

I may write more about it later, but my 30 second review is: looks good. The new layout of the entry screen is definitely an improvement. However, they still haven’t fixed what I consider a usability bug: Tabbing from the Title field takes you to the text format drop-down (Markdown, Textile, etc.) before going to the body edit box. How often are you going to change the format on a post? Almost never, so it’s a wasted keystroke, and not the expected behavior.

First, apologies to folks who read this site via feed reader: You probably just found ten new posts from me in your reader, but only one is actually new. On the one hand it’s annoying, but on the other it’s a signal that you need to go to the site and see what’s changed.

In this case, quite a lot has changed. The Sandbox theme is gone. WordPress is gone. Now I have my own design—“TreeGoat”—built atop Movable Type 4.

I don’t know about anybody else, but I sure feel better.

The last 2.5+ years with WordPress felt like my blog and I were openly hostile towards each other. We never could see eye-to-eye. It didn’t want to do what I wanted to do, and vice versa. That’s what I like about MT—it always wants to do what you want to do.

Anyway, it’s late and I should be in bed. There are no doubt things that are broken. I’m sure there are pages missing, and posts that have been carried through countless redesigns that now look bizarre. Some of those things will get fixed, others won’t. Such is life on the web. That’s why we all stopped using “under construction” signs.

It’s something of a tradition when I come to SXSW: Rather than listen to the panels I’ve paid good money to see, I overhaul my blog. In this case, it was long overdue. I was still running WP 1.5, while the rest of the world had moved past that version long ago. So I decided to just do it, and I figured while I was at it I would shed my old design and work on a new one. This is the Sandbox theme, a nice utilitarian design for folks who like to start with an empty canvas.

I’ve got some design ideas percolating, and a ton of new tech stuff I want to play with. This blog was originally supposed to be a place for me to experiment with design, development, and writing. Lately, none of that has happened here. But, inspiration and renewed energy are also SXSW traditions, so maybe some of that will show up here.

Speaking of SXSW: Twitter is the new black. I can’t say I understand the appeal just yet, but I’m having fun playing with it. There are screens around the convention center showing what people are Twittering.

So far, we’re having a great time here. Bad timing has kept us from doing some of the things we wanted to do, but that happens. I’m taking notes, so I’ll have more to write about it when I get back.

Oh look, it’s a blog. And it hasn’t been updated in over a month. How quaint.

I’m happy to announce two of the things that have kept me busy lately: NegativeArticles and AffirmativeArticles. Depending on your disposition you may prefer one over the other. Or you may find reading both is the closest you can get to a true zen experience.

Our writers at those sites, Joe and Willy, are a couple of, um, characters. I like to tell people we met Willy while we were visiting Tulsa. He came up to us on the street, recognized we were from out-of-town, and offered us money and a place to stay. We found Joe in San Francisco, selling water shoes on the Golden Gate Bridge. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

The sites have been a lot of work to get up and running, but a lot of fun, too. They’re running on Typo, which is built with Ruby on Rails. As a blogging platform, Typo is rapidly becoming one of my favorites. The interface is great. The templating system is just RoR, but it’s real easy to customize, which is all I ask from a templating system. I’ve had some stability issues — I don’t know if that’s because of my host or because I’m running off development code. Things have been better the last couple of days, though, so maybe it was just problems with the server.

Just so you know, I haven’t forgotten about Gift Goat. I’ve just been busy with other things. I still plan to get it working in time to have my family (and anybody else that wants to) beta test it over Christmas.

I’m also working on a site for a local realtor, going to Webmaster Jam next weekend, and planning my next NaNoWriMo.

So… See ya next month!

Like a lot of people, I rarely visit blogs anymore. Anybody I want to read I add to Bloglines. Almost all of them offer full feeds — in fact, a site has to be really good for me to subscribe to an excerpt-only feed. The web site, in these cases, is irrelevant: It’s the content I’m after. About the only time I visit someone’s actual web site is when they announce a redesign.

It occurred to me, as I was testing a client’s site in 10 different OS/browser combinations, that perhaps feeds are an acceptable replacement for cross-browser compatibility. There are plenty of quality feedreaders out there. Chances are, a person could find one they liked. If I’m publishing all my content in a format that can be presented any way the user likes, is there really anything else I need to do? Is there any reason not to design my site solely to my browser of choice, and let anyone who can’t handle it subscribe to my feed?

I’m not sure I’ve even convinced myself of this argument, but I think it’s an interesting possibility created by the blogging/feeds phenomenon. One could even take this a step farther and publish a blog that was only a feed. A good writer could pull this off — with trackbacks and off-site commenting, they could even build a community. All without an actual web site.

Ultimately, it comes back to the same question that has always plagued web designers: Who’s responsible? Where does our responsibility to provide good design and usability end, and the user’s responsibility to learn and adapt begin?

The answer seems to always be the same: it depends. It depends on the blogger and the audience. If you find most of your visitors are reading your feed, then maybe you don’t need to worry about what your site looks like in IE. Maybe, you don’t need to worry about what your site looks like at all.

Then again, maybe it’s time for another redesign. That always brings you lots of visitors.

As promised, I’m participating in NaNoWriMo this year. The story has been rattling around in my head for a while now. I’ve visualized most of the major scenes, but the subplots are still a mystery even to me. It’s something of an action/thriller novel — I’ll give more details when I start writing it. In fact, I’ll probably post excerpts here from time to time.

I’ve finished a few small web sites recently. I’m doing on-going maintenance for one, another in development, and another that will probably be starting soon. I’m really hoping to have my plate pretty well clean going into November, because I have my own project I want to start. I’d really like to be working on my project during the day and my novel at night. And watching television. Sweet, sweet television.

Oh, and if you haven’t noticed the Red Cross link in the corner, please do. I’ll most likely leave it there for the rest of the year. If you can give, I highly recommend it.

I think I’m done with the major changes to this site. I may still tweak things here and there — I had some icon ideas I might still do — and there are some problems in IE that I should fix. But, from a feature standpoint, things are done.

This design is completely different from the one I had been planning to do for over a year. I just couldn’t get my original idea to work, so I put it away for a while. Then, I happened to be browsing iStockPhoto when I came across a collection of scans of old papers. The textures were just great, so I bought one and started playing with it. The header image was done with a wood-burning technique.

It was after I created the header that I came up with the book idea. I realized I could put a mirror image of the paper next to itself and get the illusion of an open book. With the book not centered, you get the feeling of a liquid layout, even though it’s not really — the sidebar can vary in width, but it doesn’t really need much width, so it works at a lot of different window sizes.

One of the goals of the new design was to add some new features I’d seen on other sites, and to integrate some of the online tools that I use. For example, the “Margin Notes” are powered by, the social bookmarking system. I’m really enjoying — it’s rediculously easy to use. I’m finding more and more that tags/labels/keywords are a much better way to organize things than a structured hierarchy.

To put my links on this site, I wrote a script that uses this PHP class, which wraps calls to the API in an easy-to-use class. My script pulls my 10 most recent links that I have tagged with “” and writes them to a text file. I specify that tag just in case I create a link that’s not worth posting here. I have a cron job that runs that script every two hours.

I’ve also been playing with Flickr and 43Things, so you will probably see posts generated from those sites from time to time.

And, yes, I’ve switched this blog from Movable Type to WordPress. Just so we’re clear, I’m not abandoning MT — I still use it for OKMensa, and I’m working on integrating it into Smart Goat. I’d heard good things about WordPress, so I wanted to give it a try. I like trying out new systems and being able to work in multiple platforms. So far it’s been… interesting. I’ll have a full review up soon.

Here it is, finally: The blog redesign that’s been 28 days in the making: News Goat 3.0, “The Book of Goat.”

This is very much a rough draft. I have several things I want to add/change/delete, but I wanted to go ahead and get the design up by the end of February. There’s nothing like working right up to the bitter end. Some lessons from college you never unlearn.

I have a whole lot more to write about this, but it’s late and I’d rather fix a few more things on the site before bed.

Wow, that was a long time without an update, huh?

I have a very good reason, though. I’ve spent the past month working on a new design for this site. I’ve noticed I tend not to post anything right before a redesign. I guess it seems like a waste — I’m not sure. Of course, that doesn’t explain the lack of updates in January. But, some things just can’t be explained.

Anyway, this is fair warning: This site is going to be torn down and rebuilt. Hopefully it will done tonight, but if it’s not, well, that’s ok too. It will get finished. In the mean time, expect some strangeness.

And if that’s not good advice for living one’s life, I don’t know what is.