Category Archives: Meta

Privacy

I had no online identity as a child. From 18 only an email address, an ICQ account which I doubt any logs survive from, all my old text messages are gone. I joined Facebook around 27, I’ve got a twitter account but I’ve never tweeted much.

I’m really glad about that. I found some of my old diaries and notebooks when my parents moved house. There’s nothing salacious in them but I still wouldn’t want them published. Writing things down is a useful way to help yourself understand them but that necessarily means that when you start writing, you don’t yet understand. Add that to a typical teenage lack of awareness and you get something which, out of context, is pretty cringe worthy.

That’s not what happens now. These days we can all read a young MP’s tweets from the age of 14*. So privacy and control of your online identity are now a real issue. As the boys grow up, I obviously want them to continue to be able to be open with me, so I should probably stop these posts being visible to the world. It seems insanely early to be worrying about this but with starting school this year, anything I write will potentially still be visible by the end of junior school when his peers will be more than capable of finding it.

* We have an MP who was 14 while Twitter existed ?.

SEO

Search Engine Optimisation is probably the most excessively covered topic on the internet (with the possible exception of “what do people look like without their clothes”) but part of the reason for this site is for me to have a fiddle with very basic bits of internet plumbing so I’ve been having a look at it. I didn’t want to change the content of the site because the main purpose of it is as a journal so I don’t actually care if anyone but me reads it. There are various seo plugins for WordPress but if a plugin could push you up the results without really changing the site, Google would be doing a poor job. That leaves performance improvements and tagging. I’d like to do more with tags, to make it easier to find things and easier to analyse what I am mostly writing about. It’s quite laborious work though so will have to wait. That just leaves performance.

I used gtmetrix to track the improvements then installed “total cache” which creates and serves compressed static pages saving lots of DB queries. That gave me a decent improvement but I was surprised to see at gtmetrix that I was now being held back by the fact I was serving full size images (ie straight from the camera) and downscaling them in html. With the front page containing several full posts with pics, it was 10s of MB which is ridiculous. I think this issue was caused by me uploading from the mobile version of WP. Deleting the photos and readding them from the desktop fixed it. That gave 90%of the improvement and felt much faster especially on mobile. The last little bit was to install “leverage browser caching”. That just adds a couple of lines to htaccess to tell browsers that all media files are long lived and cacheable.

The result was that I went from an average of 60 hits a month to 150. Well I say result. It’s hard to tie it together as definite cause and effect and of course a load of those hits are from gtmetrix! But I can say for sure the loading times are now faster.

In a similar vein, I’ve been using Google analytics which is how I know how many visitors I’ve had. The most striking stat from that is that my most popular post by a mile (33 views with the second most popular on 7) is the one on hand, foot and mouth disease.

Why self hosted WordPress?

Some of the posts on here are in depth but many are not much more than Facebook posts.  So why the hassle of running a self-hosted WordPress install rather than just post them to Facebook?

  1. I’ve got my posts forever.  It’s nice to look back on this stuff.  Maybe one day Miles will want to look back at it.  The only way to be sure I’ll have it indefinitely is for me to own it.  Facebook certainly won’t guarantee that I’ll always be able to browse through my old posts.  Wordpress.com are much nicer people but http://xkcd.com/1150/
  2. It gives me a curated photo album. The pictures folder on my laptop contains 45.7GB in 13,667 files (and rapidly rising with video).  That’s an overwhelming amount.  This blog has about 100 posts which is manageable to look through when I’m feeling nostalgic.   Digital cameras and big hard drives encourage me to keep snapping and never delete anything. Writing things down encourages me to think about and pick the best picture I took.

Because I’m trying to keep this stuff for a long time, I try to minimise the external dependencies.  That’s why all the videos are locally hosted despite that being a real pain.  Embedding vimeo or youtube videos would be much easier.  I went through a period of converting my videos to flash which was very self contained but horrible.  Now I’m using JW Player which isn’t perfect but it does at least mean that I can upload a normal mp4 video.

Update: With the latest release it’s finally possible to embed local video without plugins using the [video] tag.

For the same reason I use WP Geo rather than embedding google maps.  WP Geo doesn’t have anything like the functionality but it does mean that the Co-ordinates I enter all appear in my own wordpress database so I’ll always have them.