— Middle [Name] James

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September, 2010 Monthly archive

I’ve been using WordPress to manage my own site for two or three years, but with a number of projects coming down the pipeline, I thought I would try another alternative that previously I’ve only ever heard about – Squarespace.

First impressions of SquareSpace

Squarespace is hailed by many as being the next generation in website content management and blogging platforms, and while I’m sure that there must be some downsides to it (there almost always seems to be a downside to everything) I have to admit it looks pretty impressive.

Signing up for the free 14-day trial was easy – I had to create a login name and password, confirm my password and enter the Captcha text then click Finish.

After completing this first step, which took less than a minute, my site was created on a subdomain at middlenamejames.squarespace.com and I was logged in, ready to edit my site using the the tool-bar controls.

Deciding whether to switch from WordPress to SquareSpace

At this point I am familiarizing myself with the user interface and trying to decide if this is a solution that I could see myself using. In some ways it feels strange to be building and editing a site completely inside a proprietary cloud-based interface, and I’m wondering if I go down this route, will I miss dabbling with PHP code and using FTP to transfer .css files for design and style changes. I have to admit, the thought of streamlining and simplifying the web development process so that I can focus more on the overall strategy and creative side of things is a compelling reason to use Squarespace.

Aside from getting used to the user interface and tools, I suppose my biggest question is whether or not I trust having the code and structure of my website in a controlled and hosted environment as opposed to maintaining the site files in a directory on my own web server. But when I think about the amount of time and headache this could potentially save me, like I said, it’s a compelling thought.

For the time being I have just under a couple of weeks to play around with Squarespace and see what I can do with it. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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Comments > Actual Visitors = Spam

As I mentioned in the previous rant, I get more spam comments than I do any other kind of interest on my blog. All that is set to change. I hope. At least, if I can’t get any legitimate visitors interested in my site, maybe I can reduce the amount of spam.

Every day I’ve been receiving a handful of comments with messages like this one:

Great article, I read with much interest, please. I add to bookmark and make many recommendation for your brilliant insights. Please check out someshadywebsite.ru and get Viagra for night out with Russian Girls at Online Casino.

Some of the comments are more discreet as far as their intentions are concerned and at a glance it is hard to differentiate between the more obvious spam and those which attempt to sneak their trackback link past me by writing something as simple as “Great article, thanks for the info.” This makes managing comments a real pain in the arse.

Identifying spam comments

The way my site analytics are looking, nobody is posting any legitimate comments anyway, so I might be tempted to just delete or mark all as spam without even so much as a glance. But wait, there are two – yes TWO genuine comments on my blog – one from a friend and the other from someone at Axure Software Solutions saying thank you for my post about the Axure Wireframe and Prototyping Tool. And since I have just reaffirmed my vow to keep this site current with interesting and inspiring content, well I figured I had better do something about this comment-spam conundrum. Like I said, even if I don’t get more genuine traffic, at least I can cut down on the number of messages I need to weed through.

Akismet to the rescue

I’ve heard people talking about Akismet before, but until today I had not enabled it in my WordPress Plugins. Now it’s up and running and I hope to see a significant reduction in the number of spam comments appearing in my WordPress dashboard. Aside from enabling Akismet, well I also came across a post which provides some more insight into the methods that hackers/spammers are using in their mission to exploit and piss-off people who are forced to work honest jobs. The article – Top 10 ways to stop spam in WordPress I found very informative and I intend to explore some of the other methods. For the time being though let’s see how Akismet measures up.

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This blog needs some serious work, and I plan to do something about it. I have every intention of using it on a regular basis to share my thoughts, ideas, work and other inspiration, but as it stands there is a lot missing both in terms of content and visitors. Here’s how my Google Analytics look for the past 2 months.

Google Analytics Screenshot

The peak you see (or don’t see, since nobody is reading this) around July 12th is 6 visitors. That’s right, SIX people visited my blog. But wait, the saddest part is that between July 1st and now I received around 45 spam comments and I’ll bet if I added up all the visitors represented in the graph above, all those visits would be accounted for by spam-bots trying to get me to click a link for Viagra, Online Gambling or Ukrainian Brides.

Lack of focus (and content) on my blog

Of course, it’s no surprise that nobody is visiting my site – there is nothing to see here. Not entirely true, but it might as well be. I mean the site might as well not exist, for the content here is sparse and there is no subject of focus. I don’t market my blog because there’s not much here to market – mostly old posts abut how I should be blogging or writing more, or doing SOMETHING with this resource. In short, my blog is a disgrace – everything that a good blog is not.

An example of an awesome blog

In contrast, I spent a bit of time last night and this morning looking at the awesome blog of Scott Hansen (or ISO50 as he is also known) – a California based artist, designer, musician, creative powerhouse, and no-doubt source of inspiration for countless other creative folks. To quote a tweet from @flashlight: “This is, by far, my favourite blog.”

Screenshot of Scott Hansen's blog

I don’t like to say I have any one favourite of anything. I have favourites for sure, and having not seen Hansen’s blog previously, it has definitely been added to my Favourites or Bookmarks for future reference. It’s inspiring. In a sense it’s almost intimidating or discouraging.

Positive action – do something about it

But wait, this is not a pissing contest, nor a measurement of, well, anything really. Besides, I can piss quite the distance and although I’m not super-tall, well I have quite large feet. And so, rather than continue down the path of despondency; rather than look at the shortcomings and the things missing from my blog, I have decided once again to do something about it. I’m redesigning the architecture and layout; I’m opening up the floodgates of creative energy that exists within me, and I’m saying “what the heck.” After all, if nobody reads my blog, it doesn’t make any difference if I post to it or not. But the chances are pretty good that if I don’t post something regularly then nothing will change. On the other hand if I post things regularly, well, anything could happen. Anything usually does happen. At the very least, something always does.

Anyway, enough of talking about wanting things happen. Enough of talking about using this site to post interesting and inspiring content. Time to get down to it. I have 14,000 or more photographs in iPhoto right now waiting to be explored. I have boxes full of ideas – sketches, writing, bits and pieces of information and inspiration waiting to be put to some use. I have music, art, illustrations, video and film concepts. I have time on my hands and I have the desire. I have inspiration all around me.

Thank you @flashlight for pointing me toward the ISO50 blog. Thank you ISO50. Thank you everybody (or nobody) whoever you are.

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