Mobile version of site now available

If you happen to browse my site via a mobile device like an iPhone or another web-enabled smartphone, you will automatically see an optimized version of the site that downloads and navigates a lot faster than the regular version on your mobile device.

This was made possible by the folks at MobilePress, who’ve put together a wonderful (and free) WP plugin. My thanks go to them, to Digital Inspiration for writing about them, and to Chris Nixon for sharing that post through Google Reader for me. That’s how I found out about it.

Changed all site URLs

I pushed through some major changes to site URLs tonight. Every single site URL has now changed as a result, but the change is good, and all old URLs should still work just fine, seamlessly redirecting visitors to the new URLs. Just in case though, please let me know if you find a non-working URL.

The changes have to do with how post, category and tag URLs appear. WordPress, my site’s platform, allows me to change URL rewrite rules (the way a certain URL is generated when you visit a page on my site). I’ve wanted to make this change for a long time, and finally bit the bullet after first trying it out on one of my other sites, Dignoscentia.

Here’s what this means for you:

These changes may not be important to some, but they are to me. Once I get something like this in my head, something that I think will help me organize my content a little better and make the URLs a little shorter and easier to type, I have to go through with it.

I have some more changes planned for the actual categories themselves, such as re-organizing my content into more logical categories. I also need to finish tagging all my posts (currently 1242 posts and counting).

This is all part of my long-term efforts to properly curate my content. You may want to have a look at the site news tag to see what other changes I’ve made to the site over time. It’s been an interesting journey with quite a bit of work behind the scenes, but I like doing this sort of stuff a lot.

Sorry about the growing pains

My sites were out of commission yesterday afternoon, evening, and part of the night as well. Each outage lasted anywhere from half an hour to a couple of hours, and drove home very clearly this message: I need a web server upgrade.

While it was certainly frustrating to see my sites go down, and to see that no matter how much I tuned Apache or MySQL, I couldn’t meet the traffic demands, it’s also encouraging to see that I first outgrew shared hosting plans, then outgrew a small dedicated server, and had to (now) upgrade to a more powerful dedicated server. My site stats show this same trend. Traffic levels have been growing steadily throughout this year and even more in the last few months. October in particular has been rough on my little web server.

Yesterday, Google and Yahoo had been indexing my sites, on top of the usual, fairly heavy traffic. I started having serious performance issues during the afternoon, which led to a small outage. Google got done with my sites after that, but Yahoo kept going, and Cuil, the new search engine on the block, joined the party as well. Cuil is known for taxing web servers heavily when it indexes sites, and it was merciless on me last night. It, together with Yahoo, brought my server down and kept it down for close to one and a half hours.

I got it back up and re-tuned Apache and MySQL with Chris Johnston‘s help, but at some point during the night, it went down hard, and stayed down. When I woke, I decided enough was enough. It was high time I upgraded.

Thanks to my awesome hosting company, SliceHost, I was able to double the specs of my previous server in less than two hours. Before non today, my little web server morphed into a larger, more powerful one that can handle the current traffic levels with ease. We’ll see how long it can keep up before I need to upgrade again. You can help there. I don’t mind at all if I have to upgrade again in the near future, should my traffic levels warrant it.

Thank you for sticking around!

Photos back in the site feed

A few weeks ago, I took my Flickr photos out of the site feed [reference]. Last night, I put them back in. Turns out taking them out cut their views by about 60-80%. That taught me two things:

  1. Showed me how few of the hundreds of people who’ve added me as a contact at Flickr actually care about viewing my photos, which was an interesting realization.
  2. Sometimes the desire to keep things organized and neat is trumped by convenience and practicality. Keeping my photos in the feed allows them to be viewed by more people, and for me at least, it’s no fun to share photos if no one looks at them.

The photos are back in the feed for now. We’ll see how long FeedBurner continues to offer the option to do this, or if they improve it to allow daily photo summaries, as they’ve been asked to do by others (including me). FeedBurner’s site has gone strangely silent lately (after their acquisition by Google), and I’m not sure how long they’ll stay in their current iteration. But don’t let that concern you.

Enjoy the photos!

Removing photos from my main feed

At least for now, I’m removing my Flickr feed from my main feed. If you are a feed subscriber, you’ve been able to see my Flickr photos appear as separate feed items in my main feed, thanks to a feature at FeedBurner that allows me to splice my site feed with my Flickr photos feed.

But I think the implementation of the feature isn’t well suited to my main site feed, because a separate feed item is created for each photo. Considering that I may publish 3-4 text articles per week but up to 25 photos, this means you’ll see 3-4 feed items for my articles, and up to 25 feed items for my photos, which skews the proportion of my content in a direction unacceptable (to me) for my main site feed.

I contacted FeedBurner to ask if at some point they might put through an enhancement that would allow users to select a “digest” option for the Flickr feed. It would work the same as the “digest” or summary option on their Link Splicer features, which publishes a single feed item with all of that day’s bookmarks. It’s been a while, I haven’t yet received a reply, and I’m not waiting any longer.

So, at least for now, the photos are out of the main site feed. You can still find them in my photography feed (they’ve been there all along), so if you’re interested in getting them along with my photography posts, please subscribe to that feed as well.

Do let me know if you really want to see them here in the main feed. If I get enough responses, I may put them back, but I didn’t want to distract or deter folks who are interested in reading my usual content.

Thanks for reading my stuff!

Wondering why I write less these days?

I came to the realization that too much work around the clock is not a sustainable lifestyle. When you hold down a full-time job, write on two websites, have a consulting practice and you’re also a photographer, there’s little time to decompress. And I’m determined to carve out more time for relaxation. I have to. It’s not really a choice. My body is telling me so.

It’s nice to see that a few weeks after I started writing less, other, more authoritative sources, have chimed in with their findings, validating my own thoughts. It’s not like this stuff is new. People have been saying for decades that our American lifestyle moves too fast. And I noticed the effects of too much work on my own body back in December of 2006, but failed to take proper action.

Now I’ve done something about it. I’ve rearranged my schedule so that my wife and I spend more time together. I work from 11 to 7 instead of the usual 9 to 5. Just one of the benefits is not having to deal with rush hour traffic during my commute. In return, Ligia and I use some of our free time to exercise, or just spend time at home. I write less, and I publish less photos. And I’ve cut back on my consulting work.

Sure, I miss not being able to say everything I want to say and giving full outlet to my creative side, but my health is more important than a few paragraphs or photos. There are real, tangible benefits to be gained from slowing down. Life gets more manageable, more enjoyable. I realized that in the end, I’m the one that sets the pace, and if I don’t take the initiative, I’ll keep going full tilt till I crash. I don’t want that to happen.

Where are the Condensed Knowledge posts?

Good question. Some of you have gotten quite accustomed to those daily Condensed Knowledge posts, and they’ve gone AWOL since last week. On the other hand, others have told me they were distracting, and detracted from the substance of my site.

I’d been giving the matter some thought myself, and in the end, sided with the folks who said I should stick to writing original content. You see, while I enjoy sharing the information with you, and while I also believe that it’s important to highlight valuable content on the Internet, those posts were distracting me from writing. Since I had something to post every day, other than my own writing, I tended to do less of it, and that was not good.

So, for the time being, no more Condensed Knowledge posts. That’s not to say you can’t access them anymore. You still can, but in a separate feed: feeds.feedburner.com/FavoriteBlogPosts. Subscribe to it if you’d like. The feed is actually more reliable than the method I used with the Condensed Knowledge posts, which was to share items from Google Reader, publish them to Twitter, then use the Twitter Tools plugin to collect them in a daily summary. That method was highly dependent on Twitter’s uptime/downtime, and that meant you weren’t getting the full link list every day. With the feed, you are getting everything I share from Google Reader.

I can’t deny I’d rather have the same link summaries present in my site feed, just like with my daily del.icio.us links, and perhaps at some point in the future that’ll be possible, but until then, the separate feed will do just fine.

If you have any questions, let me know in the comments and I’ll see if I can answer them.

Seems quiet, but it's not

I’ve been helping Ligia launch her re-designed personal site over the past several days. While my own site may seem a little quiet (except for the regular Condensed Knowledge posts), I’ve been quite busy behind the scenes.

Ligia has been working on her own line of greeting cards since January. She makes them by hand, from scratch, using only sheets and strips of paper and glue as her materials. Having seen her do the work, right here beside me, I can tell you it’s painstaking, slow and hard. I fear for her eyes if she keeps going like this. All that meticulous work is bound to have an effect. It takes her about a half hour to 45 minutes to craft a single card. It’s hard to understand why it takes that long until you sit there and watch her at work. You can’t argue with the results though. They’re beautiful.

She’s really excited about the cards, and has asked for my help in setting up a little shop on her site so she can sell them. I helped her do just that, and modified her site design to allow her to post nicely-sized photos of the cards. I’m happy to say her site is pretty much done now, and yes, it’s open for business. I made the store within her WordPress install, using the existing options, without extra plugins. Simple is better in my book.

The cards are priced from $2.95 to $4.95. It doesn’t take an accountant to figure out that $5 for three quarters of an hour isn’t optimal pay, but this is a labor of love for her, and I support her in that. She’s not going to get rich selling the cards, but she wants to make people happy with them.

Being the enterprising little woman that she is, she’s already gone into downtown Bethesda and walked around to find stores that might pick up her cards and sell them there. (It’s more than I’ve done for my own photography, and I’m ashamed to admit that.) She found three stores that wanted to keep samples, and she’s going to find out soon whether they’ll be interested in buying first batches.

Wish her luck, and if you like one of the cards, pick it up for your special someone.

Thanks!

Photography, take two, part five (finis)

I have completed the work of replacing photos hosted with third-party services. All of the photos that are published on my site are now hosted locally. If you’re not familiar with this effort, which took me a few months to complete, you might want to have a look at parts four, three, two and one. The main reason was to gain independence for my photographic content. Depending on third party services that might go down or go out of business for photos used in published articles is not the kind of strategy that can hold up in the long-term.

There were LOTS of posts I re-edited this time. Not only did replace the original images, but I also introduced new ones as well. This means that if you take the time to go through some of my old posts, you will see new photographs.

I’m not going to list all of the posts I modified. The list would be huge and it would dilute my message. Instead, I’m only going to point out the more significant ones. This post is the culmination of countless of hours of work. As a matter of fact, I’m going to have a little celebration. Enjoy!

If you’d like to see all of the posts that I modified in this last round of updates, just have a look through the Photography archives, and go all the way back to April 1st of 2007, starting from August 31st of 2007. Don’t worry, this is no April Fool’s joke…

A few feed changes for my site

Birds of a feather…

The transfer of all my content from comeacross.info to raoulpop.com has gone smoother than expected, which is great. I’ve been monitoring the feed usage stats, and it looks like everyone has migrated over to the new feed. Just in case, please check your bookmarks and feeds, and correct them as follows, where appropriate:

All of my other feeds have stayed the same. Here they are:

Of course, all URLs are getting automatically redirected (with a 301 status) from comeacross.info to raoulpop.com. That’s been working great, although some people reported issues during the first few days. Thanks for letting me know about those!

If you’re linking to my site in your sidebar, could you do me a big favor and check to make sure you’re no longer linking to comeacross.info but to raoulpop.com? And if you’re not linking to me, would you please?

A big thank you goes out to FeedBurner for migrating my email subscribers and helping with the feed redirect!

My photographic portfolio

Updated 8/16/09: I now have an entirely new standalone photo catalog with e-commerce enabled, which means you can instantly purchase prints (in varying sizes and finishes) or digital downloads (at varying resolutions according to your needs) of each of my published photos. The link is the same as below: raoulpopphotography.com. See this page for more details.

A few weeks back, I announced my portfolio site, Raoul Pop Photography, and I got positive feedback about it, which was nice.

Raoul Pop Photography

Updated 1/12/09: Since I wrote this, I worked to create a standalone photo catalog, outside of my Flickr photo stream, and that’s what you’ll find when you visit my photography site. I’m leaving the thoughts you see below for historical reference, but keep in mind they no longer apply.

Now I’ve gone through an extensive process of sorting, winnowing and re-organizing the photos I’ve posted to Flickr, and I’m happy to announce that my portfolio site is all the better for it. You see, my portfolio site feeds directly from my Flickr account via Satellite. The big advantage is that every time I make a change to my photos and sets on Flickr, the change is reflected instantly on my portfolio site.

On the whole, my photos look significantly better now, because I deleted many, many photos that I didn’t think were good enough any more. Going through my photos has made me think hard about the sorts of photographs I take, and categorizing them into sets and collections has given me a new and deeper understanding of what makes me tick as a photographer. It’s all pretty interesting stuff to me, and I think you can tell it’s gotten me excited. 🙂

Also not to be missed, if you’re interested in that sort of thing, is my list of photos taken with each camera I’ve used over time. These photos are grouped into sets, and they’ll give you a good idea of the sorts of images you can get with each camera. Don’t read too much into it though. Short of various differences that can be limiting or advantageous between camera models and brands, a camera is only a tool. While it’s important that the tool perform as expected and be flexible enough to capture the photo, there are three more parts to a good photo: there’s the photographer, who’s got to know what he or she is doing, then there’s the quality of the light, which can make or break a photo, and finally, the post-processing, to make the photo stand out.

Photography, take two, part four

I continued my ongoing effort to replace photos hosted at third party services with self-hosted ones, in order to reduce the dependence of my content on others. As part of that effort, I’m also re-processing some of the photos, and editing some of the posts to make them read better. Here are the posts I modified: