blogging

The Morning Commute

Recently, a Buzzfeed list has done the rounds which has resonated well with my fellow commuters. It reminded me of this old, long-unfinished post that I actually started writing in early 2011 but never got round to finishing. Still, as it has a few points the Buzzfeed article missed, I decided it would be worth finally finishing it…

Let’s face it, the morning commute is, for just about everyone, pretty horrible. Even if you removed all of the people and had an entire train to yourself that wouldn’t leave the station unless you were on it, you’d still have the getting up, getting to the station, and the inevitable problem that all the free seats would be either broken, covered in chewing gum, or have a stain and odour about them that you wouldn’t find all that comforting.

Despite that, the worst thing about the morning commute is usually the people you’re travelling with. You share your journey with hundreds of other people on your train alone, and they all have to be somewhere quicker than you do for far more important reasons. You’d have thought that the free world wouldn’t be quite so dependent on so many people.

So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at the most annoying things people can do to make your morning commute just that little bit more unpleasant.

 

(more…)

Finding A Place

Picture: unrelated. | Source: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

As of late I’ve struggled a bit with this blog. Since last summer I’ve been concentrating mostly on Creative Splurges, which isn’t doing all that badly (it has over 300 followers). This blog, intended for the most part to contain personal rants, anecdotes and the odd amusing discovery, has slipped into the background quite significantly over the last few months.

This is partly because Creative Splurges is taking up a fair chunk of my spare time, in terms of processing images and writing posts, partly because the inspiration is lacking (this time last year almost anything turned into a blog post in my head; as of late this hasn’t been happening), and partly because some of what used to constitute content on this blog has become tweets and been left at that. Currently most of my stray observations end up expressed in 140 characters or less.

It’s not just rob-howard.com that has suffered. Outdated by Lunchtime, my fledgling technology blog, hasn’t had a post since January. It’s not like I haven’t been keeping track of technology news, far from it, but for some reason the urge to write about it has been lacking.

Something happened last October. I don’t know what that was, but most of my blogs fell largely silent around that time as I became distracted or unmotivated on the whole blogging front. It was late November before I managed to kick myself back into rhythm on Creative Splurges, but none of my other blogs really followed suit. Since the start of 2012 Creative Splurges has published 45 posts; here has posted six, and Outdated by Lunchtime only two. This should give an indication of where my priorities lie.

I want this to change. That said, I still see Creative Splurges as my priority. In many ways I have to, since it has approximately infinity more followers than this blog (this blog, technically, having none, and Splurges having over 300). I’ve managed to keep a post a month on this blog (which, I admit, is a big reason why this post exists), and I have over two dozen drafts in various stages of completion, of which some could still conceivably see the light of day. I’ve made a couple of half-hearted attempts at working on some of these over the last month or so, but these haven’t really gotten anywhere. I have some time off coming up; maybe I’ll be able to find the time to have another look.

Outdated by Lunchtime is a touch trickier. I could just return to what the blog was doing from time to time, and parrot breaking technology news, but that’s not particularly satisfying, even if it does drive hits to the site. What I would far rather do is comment more objectively on the technology rumours and stories. I’d done it from time to time – and contributed some to apparently-now-defunct tech blog GrindGadget – but if I get Lunchtime going again it will contain predominantly if not solely this sort of commentary. It won’t be quite as simple to revive the blog compared to rob-howard.com simply because the content on ObL is far more topical and the few drafts that I had been gradually working on are now mostly obsolete.

I’m not making any promises. Life is pretty busy at the minute, and I’m still enjoying working on Creative Splurges too much to consider dialling it back just yet. But never fear; its siblings are still on my radar.

Anyway, I’d better go. I took 360 photos yesterday and I want to try to get them processed, edited and posted on Creative Splurges before the week is out.

Ta ta
Rob

The eternal search for the right look

One of the shortlisted options.

Things are, once again, looking a little different around here. I’m still not entirely satisfied so don’t be surprised if things end up changing again. In fact, since I wrote that, they’ve changed twice.

The problem is this: the ‘look and feel’ of WordPress blogs are dictated by the theme, which sets the style of the blog, and, to a lesser extent, some of the behaviours.

There are numerous themes available for download. The theme that was used on this blog up until today worked very well, but I was never really very happy with the look of it (and I’ve had a few complaints about its small white text on a black background).

For months now, I’ve been looking around for a suitable replacement theme. Ultimately, however, themes always seem to fall into either one of two categories: ones that look good, and ones that work properly.

I have thus far found a few that look really good, but they are both let down by how they deal with my all-important Photography page. For some reason, they display the individual images too small, and don’t let you navigate through the gallery without clicking back out to the main page and back in again. Unfortunately my knowledge of CSS is far too limited to be able to solve the problem.

For now, I have decided to live with the problems on my photos page (grudgingly) in order that the main page looks presentable, and will hopefully figure out how to fix things in time (if anyone knows anything at all about stylesheets etc that might be able to lend a hand, let me know!)

In the meantime, I apologise if you refresh this page and find it looks totally different again. I’m fickle like that.

In other news, Creative Splurges has a new theme, and has now passed over 2,000 hits. Just in case you wanted a reason to visit.

Okay, own up

One of the nice background features of the software that powers this blog is the ability to see a variety of stats for site visits. I can see the number of visitors, what posts have been viewed, the other webpages people were on when they followed a link to this site (in other words, mainly Facebook) and search engine terms that have directed people to this site.

I check this stats page periodically to satisfy my curiosity. Sometimes, however, the page only serves to pique that curiosity.

For instance, here is the Google search terms that have apparently brought people to this site over the last seven days:

Ignore for a moment the slightly depressingly low view counts, and take a closer look at the terms that led people here. See anything?

Let’s highlight the part in question if you’re having trouble.

Right. Now who the heck was looking for that? And why the heck would you want to?

Gettin’ Back in the Game

Well, as you may have noticed, I’ve just managed to – entirely accidentally – go an entire month without making a post. A very disappointing turn after managing to average over a post a day in March.

I could lay the blame on many things; drafts not coming together properly, my new job occupying more of my time than I intended, a lack of inspiration, tiredness, an iPad that distracted me more than I expected it to – so that’s exactly what I’m going to do. It’s all their fault.

Still, I have a handful of drafts with merit in them, and hopefully I’ll be able to find the inspiration that I’ve temporarily misplaced. Let’s see if I can at least get a post a week out in May.

Maybe.

Rob

Status Update

In early January I began to concentrate more on blogging. There was no new year’s resolution involved, just a desire to actually find something productive to do with my spare time, something I tend to have a fair amount of over Xmas. I got this website up-and-running, created a couple of new blogs and, for reasons I haven’t yet actually been able to fathom, got on with it.

This hasn’t been my first foray into the blogging world (some call it the ‘Blogosphere’, but that is one of my least favourite words, along with ‘lush’ in its current slang state). I began my first blog last May, the Long Dark Teatime of the Soul. Unfortunately due to a lack of drive and a lack of focus, I never really kept it up-to-date, and it had less than a dozen posts from its birth to the end of last year.

In January, however, I sat down and registered this domain. I would’ve preferred robhoward.co.uk or some such thing but all the good ones were taken. Annoyingly, although taken, most of them weren’t actually in use, but hey ho.

Whilst in the process of setting up this blog, I came up with the idea of Creative Splurges. This put me, for a little while, in a bit of a quandary – I’d registered rob-howard.com but had a new blog idea that I didn’t want to waste, or put on a URL that didn’t match. So, I registered Creative Splurges at WordPress.com.

Shortly thereafter, it hit me – my old blog failed in part due to a lack of focus. So, I should set up a handful of more specialised blogs, so that I wasn’t left with a single blog that had a random assortment of posts. To that end, I also set up Outdated by Lunchtime to cover my slight fascination with new tech. The Whimpering Pen has actually been registered since last August but I’ve still not actually got it going. One day, people. One day.

So, there it was; I had my creative outlet, my tech geek outlet, and my press rant outlet, and rob-howard.com to pull them all together and provide a spot for the posts that weren’t related to the other blogs. Not wanting to waste the work I had previously spent on my old blog, I took all of its old posts and shared them out between this blog and Outdated by Lunchtime depending on their content (which is why this blog has posts on it dating back to last May).

And that was it: my own bogging network set up. Now all I had to do was write stuff.

It started slowly. I managed a total of seven posts in January; three here and four over at Creative Splurges. The three on this blog were pretty much warmups whilst I got my oar in – if there was anyone checking this site back then they’d have seen the appearance of this place change almost daily for a while as I tried to settle on a design I liked.

In February, however, things took off. I started posting on Outdated by Lunchtime on the first day of the month, and managed to make quite a few posts here and at Creative Splurges. All told, there were 37 posts across the three blogs. And that’s with a blackout mid-month.

So far, March has seen eight posts, not including this one. Not bad for only the twelfth day of the month. That said, Outdated by Lunchtime seems to have been singularly devoted to the iPad 2 this month, and that is probably likely to continue because, truth be told, I’m a little obsessed with it.

I still can’t actually work out why I’ve been able to keep this up when all previous attempts at this sort of thing have failed. In mid February I announced this blog to my Facebook fraternity and declared that most future correspondence would be coming through here, rather than in the form of Status Updates. In many ways a bold move and one that no doubt has helped me keep writing – I actually have an audience now, albeit one consisting of my small group of Facebook friends. I don’t think that’s it though; I seem to have managed a shift in attitude that encourages me to turn random thoughts into blog posts. Having a WordPress app on my iPhone has helped immensely too; being able to grab my phone and quickly write down stuff whilst being nowhere near a computer (more often than not on a train) makes this sort of thing quite a bit easier.

Hopefully I can keep this up. Admittedly things seem to be slowing down a little this month. Don’t worry, I have excuses prepared. Firstly, I have written a few drafts, but they are proving to be a little difficult to wrap up and present nicely and so are, for now, staying as drafts. I guess my standards are raising. Secondly, I have had a few off-putting experiences which have managed to knock a bit of wind out of my sails; the iPhone app I was praising only in the last paragraph managed to get itself in a tizzy and destroy one of my more delicately crafted drafts, which now needs to be restarted from scratch, and I’ve also encountered a few issues with the hosting of this blog, namely Server Errors which I still haven’t gotten to the bottom of and which have also occasionally destroyed work (and if you’ve experienced them too, then I apologise).

Still, I’m moving onwards and trying to not let those pesky little issues hold me back. March is already approaching its halfway point, let’s see if I can average a post a day again.

I wouldn’t hold your breath though.