Spreading my wings…

As is always the case when I find myself with a bit of time on my hands, I’ve been trying indulging in a little ‘project’.  I’ve finally decided to experiment with my own little space on the internet.  I had been reluctant for some time to go  down the whole domain/hosting route but I thought it was time I stretched myself a little and developed some new skills.  Much as I like the option to use a WordPress.com site, I thought it was time to try something that got me trying a few new tools (up until now I did not have a clue what an FTP was let alone use one!).

I have to say I have learnt a heck of a lot already.  Whilst I had some knowledge of HTML from my days using Blogger as my platform of choice, I was a little rusty and only really knew the basics.  I’m hoping that my creating this little space I will continue to develop and learn new skills – which I think in the current climate is very much a good thing.  So anyway, what about the site itself?

Well, after a bit of thought about what to call the website, I went for Infoism.  I was keen to avoid a domain that used either my name or my Twitter username and plumped for a ‘word’ that I think reflects my interests (information and politics).  I plan to use the site to cover a wide range of topics from libraries to information in general (perhaps with a particular focus on the information divide – which is one of my pet interests).  I was also keen to avoid creating a blog that provides hints/tips/useful tools for those in the profession. There are more than enough of those, all of which are far more eloquent than anything I could contribute.  Instead, I wanted to create something that is more focused on general issues facing the information society (I say that now, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that intention goes by the wayside!).  I suspect I’ll still use this blog from time to time, perhaps to share my continued experiences on my course or to post random stuff, but my new blog will become my main home.

Anyway, at present my home page is a little basic (don’t forget I am teaching myself HTML here – I perhaps should have used some HTML software!) but I have created a mobile version (woo!) and even a cool little icon when you bookmark it on your iPhone/iPad/iPod thing.  I suspect once I have access to Photoshop again I’ll create a more appealing, less texty front page…but it will do for now.  Oh, and I have also posted my first blog post here.  Be gentle with me, I’m still learning!

Turning blogs into apps

There’s been a lot of interesting chatter on the interwebs the past couple of days about a new application for the iPhone that enables you to create an app for your website. Seeing as Ned has already provided an outline of what it does, I won’t writing something detailing the ins and outs.  However, if you are intrigued to know more, Ned summarises it as follows (it is a handy post if you do want to give it a whirl):

The way Bloapp works is that you download the Bloapp app, and then subscribe to blogs within it that have been ‘apped’. (That’s not a real word, I just invented it; I mean registered with bloapp, basically). A bit like the Stitcher radio app works. So, you can download the Bloapp app from iTunes here, and then you can subscribe to this blog either by searching for thewikiman or, more excitingly, scanning this QR code within the app itself! (By the way, if you scan this QR code outside of the app itself, it just takes you to the normal mobile version of this blog).

As someone who plays around with a lot of web tools for Voices for the Library (and someone who is keen to encourage the whole ‘go on, give it a try’ ethos), I always have a bit of interest in the latest developments and try to find ways to use them to the campaign’s advantage, so naturally I was intrigued.

However, whilst I think this is an interesting tool, I’m not sure it really adds anything.  Admittedly, I do use a variety of website type apps on my iPhone (the BBC and Guardian apps to name two) and whilst they are quite good, they are not really satisfactory for seeking out news stories.  The free version of the Guardian app doesn’t allow search which is a real pain in the backside (guess I should upgrade really!) and you can’t even search the BBC app whatsoever (I really don’t like the BBC app, it could be so much better).  And that’s before we get into the whole closed web nature of apps *shiver* (although I guess this issue isn’t really relevant to this particular development to be fair).  Perhaps there is a search functionality on the app so I guess these are kinda moot points.  But, in general, whilst I sometimes use apps as my first point of call, I usually use the browser to poke around (old skool).

That said, I’m not sure of the other advantages.  I’ve bookmarked my blog on  my phone so I can access it quickly and easily.  The mobile version of my blog is also in-keeping with the style of my website so I don’t feel I am missing out on anything there either:

Mobile version of my blog

I can also share blog posts on Twitter/Facebook etc from the site so that’s not really an issue either (but then I think most mobile sites allow that don’t they??).  I know the pointed has been made about the decline in RSS, so I guess this is something where it may have some strengths.  But, well, I am in the unconvinced camp…

This does not mean, however, that I am against libraries making use of apps, quite the opposite (and as I have said before I am all for experimentation – I work on a ‘give it a try if it doesn’t work learn from it’ perspective).  In fact, I am in the process of putting together an event which touches on how apps can be used by libraries (more on that at a later date when things are finalised).  For me, apps should take full advantage of a smartphones capabilities.  As Chad at Hidden Peanuts points out:

Apps only make sense when they provide something above and beyond what a webapp can do. Do you need to use a device’s camera or accelerometer? Do you need offline access? Then an app is your thing. A blog doesn’t benefit from any of those doodads.

That quote is worth including alone for the use of the word ‘doodads’.

I will definitely keep an eye on developments and, should it emerge that there is something I have overlooked or there are some interesting developments, I may well give it a try and Bloapp the Voices website.  Until then, much as it pains me to say it, the jury is out.

Happy Bloggy Birthday

Have a Stormin' birthday, library blog type thing. (Image c/o Stefan on Flickr)

Normally I don’t mark my blog’s birthday, but I have been in a reflective mood of late so I thought I’d post one for a change.  Certainly when it dawned on me that it has now been three years since I started this blog and loads has happened in that time, much of which would never have happened without my little corner of the interweb.  It’s also a bit of a watermark as my previous blog lasted about three years before I abandoned it (it’s still there, I’m just not saying where).  So, will this blog make it to four years and outlast its predecessor?  I’m not sure.  I have ideas of what I want to do in the blogging world once I have finished my course.  Maybe there will be a space for librarianship, maybe there won’t.  I have many other passions that I feel I have neglected of late, maybe I should give them the attention I feel they deserve.  Or maybe a blog isn’t a place for me to explore those passions anymore.  Who knows?

Anyway, like I said, a lot has happened in the three years since I launched this blog.  I successfully submitted an article to The Guardian‘s website and was chuffed by the response I received (even making it on an ALA newsletter for God’s sake!).  I have had lunch with national newspaper columnists, politicians and the head of news at a national broadcaster (all at the same time!) due to the advocacy work I am involved in.  And, of course, I collaborated with others to launch the first dedicated library advocacy organisation in the UK (which just so happens to be approaching its first birthday).  It has been pretty amazing really and none of these things would have happened without this blog so thank you library blog type thing, you’ve been a star.

Enough words, here is my blog in numbers…

This blog in numbers c/o Wordle

205 posts
55522 total visits
1146 busiest day (May 28th, 2010)
5727 most visited post
4403 second most visited post
620 comments
491 tags
13795 total visits in busiest month (May 2010)
33 categories
442 Technorati authority
4915 Technorati ranking (out of 1276770)
14415 spam comments
2361 views via Twitter (most common referrer)
16671 views using the search term ‘ipad’
12 subscribers via WordPress*

(All correct at time of writing!)

* As Ned has kindly pointed out, I kinda overlooked Google Reader here.  At present there are 157 subscribers via Reader…which was very surprising but pleasing 🙂

A bit of virtual decorating

Doubling up on the decorating. Image c/o 2day929 on Flickr

I really should have mentioned this in my post yesterday but it seemed to slip my mind.  As you might have noticed, not only am I in the process of a bit of painting and decorating at home, I have also been indulging in a bit of decorating on this here blog.  I had the old theme for quite a while now and I thought it was time I freshened things up a bit with a new cloud photo and a whole new look.  This was mainly prompted by a chance glimpse of WordPress’ Twenty Eleven theme.  I thought seeing as I had Twenty Ten I should maybe upgrade to the new version.  I have to say I really quite like it and would be interested to know what others think.

Twenty Eleven has some quite nice features that I had either never used before or had not been aware of previously. For example, I really love the new ‘Featured Posts’ page that people land on when they visit my homepage.  It can feature up to ten posts displaying either the excerpt or the featured image on the post with the post title.  I had seen this sort of thing before and was unsure how it would work.  After a little playing around I managed to work out that you can set up a separate page for the blog (I thought that the only access to the blog was via the ‘Featured Posts’ page – d’oh!), so if people want to dig around they can just click on the ‘Blog’ link underneath the header image.  It will be interesting to see what impact this change has on my blog statistics.

The other thing I really like about this theme is the ability to choose which pages have the sidebar in it.  I’m pretty sure (although I could be wrong) that on my previous theme the sidebar appeared in everyone.  Now I only have it activated on the ‘Blog’ page making other pages less cluttered and much cleaner looking.  Furthermore, this theme strips the sidebar out altogether when reading an individual post, leaving the reader with just the text and images.  Again, I really like this touch.

Another fantastic touch is the ability to ‘pull quotes’ to either side of the post (like this)

Another fantastic touch is the ability to ‘pull quotes’ to either side of the post (like this). Quotes can be pulled to either margin to highlight key parts of the text that you wish to reinforce to the reader. I am not sure if this is specific to Twenty Eleven, but it is a fantastic tool that if used appropriately can be very effective.  I am tempted to use it all the time as I think it is so great, but I think overuse can lessen the impact.  Again, I am not sure if this is available on other themes (I’m not sure why it couldn’t be) but it is a great touch and another reason that I am so happy with this new theme.

So that’s my new theme and my reasons for liking it.  I would be interested to hear what other people think about this little spruce up of my blog.  Even if you hate it and prefer the old look, don’t be afraid to tell me!  Oh, and I forgot to mention that you can now sign up for an email subscription to this blog.  Never bothered with it before but I thought I might as well give it a go whilst I am fiddling around.  Now, back to the packing…this is going to take a while…