Memories : beGucho

Yesterday I came across a bunch of my old files. Some things dated back to one of my first jobs in 1999. Others were slightly more recent, but almost forgotten about. One of these recent collections of files was the beGucho project. I did it with a few friends of mine (Michael, Slava, and Igor – the guy who helped me with the theme of this blog), but somewhere on the way we got lost and the project faded out. It was actually released back in June 2006 (I blogged it) and survived for a month or two. Here is a screenshot of how it looked like (slightly resized):

beGucho screenshot

The idea was basically to have a mood-o-meter of the web in a sort of Twitter style. (We haven’t heard of Twitter back then). People would just come in and share their mood with the rest of the world. There were two short comment forms – one for bad mood and another one for good mood. Scales with a huge arrow at the top of the page were indicating the current mood of the web. History of all moods was available in archives and via RSS feeds. The whole thing was written in Embperl and was lightning fast and extremely simple.

But as I said, the project didn’t take off and was taken off the web without anybody actually noticing it. Still, we had a lot of fun building this thing, and I’ve learned a thing or two about team working and user interface design.

Blog 365 initiative

Via Web Worker Daily I learned about Blog 365.  That’s a nice idea which I heard and did before, and which I think is still valuable enough to bring attention to.

More and more people are joining the blogosphere every day.  More and more people ask the same questions over and over – “how can I improve my blogging?”, “how can I get more comments?”, “how can I promote my blog more?”, etc.  To all of them I answer – Blog 365.

You see, the hardest part of blogging is … actually, blogging – thinking about things, finding things, preparing content, and posting it.  You can have all bells and features on your blog, and it can be search engine optimized to no avail, but if you don’t publish any posts, nothing will matter.  Most blogs get lost and disappear because they don’t get updated anymore.

Now, if you are new to blogging, then posting every day may sound like a hard job to do.  I’ll tell you a little secret – it is, but for just a few weeks. The thing here is to make blogging into a routine.  Once your brain understands that it has to produce at least one post every day, it will start looking for and creating content by itself.  You won’t have to do anything, but pick the bits that you like better and write them down.

I did a “have to publish at least one post every day” experiment a few times myself.  The longest one was, I think, in 2004 and ran for about a year and a half.  My posts varied from thoughts, notes, and simple links to somebody else’s pictures and videos.  Eventually, I got it into my system.  I had no problems posting something every day.  Even better than that.  There was a period of time when I felt uncomfortable if I didn’t publish anything.

Sure, I did my share of polluting the web with crap that nobody cares about.  But that was all for the better.  Here are the benefits from the top of my head:

  • my English got better.  Much better.
  • my touch-typing  got better. Much better.
  • my Google skills got better. Much better.
  • my reasoning got better. I learned that if I say something, I might be asked for a reference, so I learned to check those references before I was saying anything.
  • my blog got more popular (more incoming links, more and better search engine results positioning, more people coming in and staying, more comments)
  • my understanding of many social (people, communications, other cultures) and technical (Internet, blogging tools, search engines) topics improved a lot.
  • I found a few more friends (not as in “close friends”, but as in “people with who I enjoy talking a lot”) that I wouldn’t have met otherwise.

These are just a few.  There are many more.  Like all those archives that I can search through and cross reference now…

So, if you are interesting in blogging, the Internet, or communications, take my advice – join the Blog 365 project.  It’s much easier to do this with several other people, than alone.  They understand what you are going through and how tough it is during the first few weeks.  They’ll help you out with ideas, tips, links, and comments.  You’ll get more out of it than you can imagine.  We all will. Just give it a try.

Blogging is a skill.  It’s like tough-typing, programming, riding a bicycle, or driving – you can read all about it you want, but you won’t get any better until you’ll sit down and start blogging.  A lot.  So, here is your chance.  Take it!

The 20% rule

Sidenote: it seems this is the third post for today, and the third one that is somehow related to Google. This is not intentional.

It’s a wide known fact that Google allows (or, depending on how you look at it, forces) its employees to  work 20% of the time on the side projects.  What kind of projects?  What do they actually do?  Where this time goes?  Here is an idea from the hilarious article at Cracked.com:

Google engineers are given “20 percent time” in which they are free to pursue their own personal projects. This incentive has produced such efforts as Gmail, Google News, and 20% more employee masturbation.

More thoughts on reorganization

Spring is here and, as always, it makes me think of reorganizing this blog a bit. Don’t worry, I’m not going to break it hard this time. I am happy with the software so far.

Instead, I will break the site into several more. I tried it before and, although not all parts worked very well, I’m glad I did. Reorganizations help me stay focused.

The reason for reorganization is that this blog once again turned into a little bit of everything. I write about everything – from technology to parenting – here and also do a whole bunch of pictures. That’s not very good. Looking closely at people who come here, I can’t find anyone who reads all of my posts. Some people read those, and others – read these, but noone reads everything, and that’s not right.

So, I am thinking about:

  • Creating a separate blog for my parenting posts. It will most probably be in Russian, and it will have all pictures of Maxim, Olga, me, and the rest of the family, when appropriate. Hopefully, Olga will join me in writing posts there. Maxim is getting more active and creative, and it’s a shame to leave all the fun that we are having out of the world history. The choice of Russian language, I think, is more appropriate here, as both Olga and I can describe things better in it, rather than in English.
  • Creating a separate blog for my movie reviews. Those are very well structured bits of data, and they are very specific too. These will continue in Engish and will use the same form. I am also considering the use of microformat to increase the audience, and to, hopefully, make a little bit of money via Google Ads.
  • Creating a separate blog for technology related posts, but this will be done (if it will be done) at a much later stage. There are too many things to worry about as things are.

As I mentioned, this is not the first time that I move things out of this blog. I did so before. Here are a couple of examples to remind you about:

  • XA-XA-XA – a separate blog for the Russian jokes. This one works pretty good. Postings are regular, resources are plenty, and my enthusiasm about it is pretty high. The audience is growing too.
  • Cyprus Scout – a separate blog for my Cyprus related posts. This one doesn’t do as well, as I originally hoped. My interests have shifted to other domains, and the audience wasn’t pushy enough for me to work more on it. I am planning to give a last try though, with call for editors. If one or more people will be contributing to it, I’ll be coming back occasionally to add my cents.
  • My LiveJournal – a place where I speak Russian. Rarely, and with no particular topic or direction. But I still feel pretty good about having it.

Anyway, I am still thinking about doing all these. My mind is not made up yet (although it’s heading there) and you can still influence my decisions. What do you think about all this?

Entering the wonderful world of podcasting

Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve officially became a podcaster. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts lately and decided to try to make one of my own.

My Pod Voice – is my new podcasting project.

I haven’t yet decided on the format and regularity for this show though. That is because such decisions need more information than I currently have. I am just sort of getting it out of the door and will improve it along the way.

The first episode has no music or any special sound effects. I’m just talking about my, myself, and my projects. (I was surprised to find out that I can talk for more than half an hour on such a simple subject.)

This whole thing is still pretty rough, as I am really a newbie in this area. If you have any ideas on how I can improve either the website or the podcast, or any suggestions on the direction that I should take, please let me know. Thank you.

I am busy, yet I have too much time on my hands

Paradox – I am busy, but I decided that I have too much time on my hands. Actually, I didn’t specifically just decided it. What I decided was that I am going to do a couple of other projects, although I am already pretty occupied right now.

I have a reputation of a starter, you know. I enthusiastically start a lot of things. But I rarely finish them. In most cases, the moment I can imagine the end of a project, or the moment I fully understand how it works and how to implement it, I lose interest in it.

I am surrounded by zombie projects. Yet I will start two more.

The first one has something to do with podcasting. In fact, it has everything to do with podcasting. I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts recently, and my inspiration was building up. I am going to do my own podcast. This will be mainly for two reasons – to improve my spoken English, and to teach me more about podcasting in general and sound editing in particular. And, the truth is, if I really want to do something – I don’t need any reasons to do it. And I want to podcast.

The second one is about photography. I decided that I became way too lazy with my photographic equipment and skills. I have to re-enthusiate myself. ‘Picture of the week’ project has been done, and I am not interested in another one. What I am interested instead is something similar, but different enough to get me focused. I will do a project on Cyprus (Limassol mostly) for which I’ll be taking pictures of people. Not only this will push me forward in my studies of photography, but it will teach me some psychology – street photography (and that’s what I am going to be doing) takes a lot of nerve. If you don’t believe me – try it yourself. Or ask any other photographer.

I am not starting any of these projects right now. I’ll need a day or two to think them over and decide what’s the best way to proceed.

Another showstopper

Just when I thought that only a couple of days were left before I could tell you my little secret – a project that I am working on, it got delayed. And it is entirely my fault. I haven’t thoroughly investigated available database alternatives and their limitations.

It turned out that MySQL is not the best alternative for this specific case, although I am enjoying it in many other projects. PostgreSQL seems to be the next best choice and it doesn’t have the limitations which are important for this project. In fact, it has a number of advantages that will surely come handy.

So, with this I’ll live you hanging until further updates…

Hold your horses

All sites hosted on my home server will work a bit slower for the next month or so. This because of one of the recent projects o’mine. The Internet link is not a bottleneck here, but rather my server’s CPU, memory, and hard disk resources are. By the end of February, beginning of March, the workload should be moved to a totally different machine and everything will go back to normal.

Unfortunately, I can’t give you any more details at this stage, but you’ll definetely have more information in the future. No, really. I promise.

Until then, please stay with me. If the siite is unbearably slow, you can always try reading it via your favourite RSS reader. But it shouldn’t be that slow anyway.