A blog post every work day for December

Dear Reader,

I’m planning to do a personal challenge the month of December.  I’m going to write a blog post every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of the month (excepting any holidays).  Most of the topics will be technical, but some may focus on leadership.

I’m writing this blog post and publishing it in late November to give you a ‘heads up’.  Some of you receive my blog via email, and I wanted to give you a warning and let you unsubscribe if this flurry of posts wasn’t intriguing.

Thanks!

Dan


Dan Moore! Turns 13

number-437931_640Thirteen years ago, I wrote and posted my first blog post, about RSS. Since then, this blog has been a great journey for me: over 750 published posts and over 1300 approved comments.  I can’t even bear to count the number of spam comments!  It has been moved around three different blogging software platforms.  The world has obviously changed radically as well.

I’m not going to post any “best of” links, but I will say I’ve enjoyed blogging tremendously.  It’s allowed me to track progress in my career, test out ideas for books and engage with others. And, like all writing, blogging forces me to really think.

I wrote recently about why I blog (for myself), but I’m also very thankful for the emails, the comments and the pageviews.  Thank you, audience!

Who knows what will happen as my blog continues to grow up?


Blog for yourself

In my perusal of Twitter, I came across this piece by Dave Winer (the creator of RSS and an interesting, provocative blogger): What I learned from Om and Hossein.

The whole piece is worth a read (it’s short), but here’s the quote that resonated for me:

I write my blog not because I want to write a “good” blog post, or even one that’s read by a lot of people. And my own self is not scattered, it’s right here, and as long as I live it will continue to be here. And my online self doesn’t exist for the benefit of others, it’s here to help my real self develop his thinking and create a trail of ideas and feelings and experiences that I can look back on later.

Blogging for me has always been about the ability to engage with my ideas and experiences, and if others gain from it, the more the merrier. Of course, it’s hard not to check stats and subscribers, etc, etc, but the real win for me comes from when I’m searching for the answer to a question and my blog pops up.


How to maintain motivation when blogging

clock photoAnother year slipped by! They seem to come faster and faster, just as promised by all the old men in the comic strips I read when growing up.

I recently had a couple of conversations about blogging: how to start, why to do it, how to maintain it. I thought I’d capture some of my responses.

After over twelve years of blogging (that’s correct, in 2016 my blog is a teenager!), here are the three reasons that I keep at it.

  • Writing crystallizes the mind. Writing a piece, especially a deep technical piece, clarifies my understanding of the problem (it’s similar to writing an email to the world, in some ways). Sometimes it will turn up items I hadn’t considered, or other questions to search on. It’s easy to hold a fuzzy concept in my mind, but when written down, the holes in my knowledge become more evident.
  • Writing builds credibility. I have received a number of business inquiries from my writing. (I suspect there’d be more if my blog were more focused. The excellent “How to start blogging” course from John Sonmez is worth signing up for.  The number one thing to have a successful blog is subject matter focus. But I have a hard time limiting myself to a single topic. Maybe I’m building credibility as a generalist?) And I’ve had a few people interview me for positions and mention they found this blog. It’s easy to say “I know technology XXX” in an interview or consulting situation, but I have found it to be powerful and credible to say “Ah yes, I’ve seen technology XXX before. I wrote a post about it six months ago. Let me send that to you.”
  • Writing helps others. I have had friends mention that they were looking for solutions for something and stumbled across my blog. In fact, I’ve been looking for solutions to issues myself and stumbled onto a post from my blog, so even my future self thanks me for blogging.  I don’t have many comments (real ones, at least. The spam, oh, the spam), but the ones that are left often thank me for helping them out. And I know I have been helped tremendously by posts written by others, so writing pays this help forward.

Of course, these reasons apply to almost all writing–whether magazine, comments on social networks, twitter, medium, answers on stack overflow or something else.  So why continue to write on “Dan Moore!”?  Well, I did try medium recently, and am relatively active on Twitter, HackerNews and StackOverflow, and slightly less active on other social sites like Reddit and Lobste.rs.  All these platforms are great, but my beef with all of them is the same–you are trading control for audience.  As long as I pay my hosting bill and keep my domain registered, my content will be ever-present.  In addition, my blog can weave all over the place as my available time and interests change.

If you blog, I’d love to hear your reasons for doing so.  If you don’t, would love to hear what is keeping you from doing so.


Year in review, aka what did I ship in 2015

What did I ship (or help ship) in 2015?

(I did this a few years ago, and then became an employee.  Though it is probably even more important to think about what you ship as an employee, when I am a contractor it is easier to publicize it.)

  • Rewrote my farm share directory to support multiple states, numerous bugfixes and a new feature to let folks add reviews.
  • Sent seven newsletters for said farm share directory.
  • An email course to educate consumers about farm shares.
  • Helped take a video to structured data project from failure to success.  I was brought in as a senior engineer to a team and helped with porting an admin app from one environment to another, reviewed and fixed python program which took video and generated images, managing datasets for training, writing java microservices around C libraries, documenting processes, and coordinating with an overseas team as needed.
  • Set up secor to pull logging from kafka to s3, as well as setting up java processes to log to kafka.
  • Helped integrate Activiti into a custom workflow engine, and promoted a test first culture on the team I worked with.
  • Dropped in and helped troubleshoot an e-commerce system with which I was totally unfamiliar during an emergency.
  • Learned enough ruby on rails and Stripe to add an online order form to an existing Heroku website.
  • Helped build a backend system to monitor phone and car locations to prevent texting and driving.  My role on this small team varied between devops, java development, QA, code review, defining process and documentation.
  • Installed and tuned an elk stack used for business intelligence and developer debugging.
  • Took my wife’s writing and turned it into a book (best surprise ever).
  • Wrote 34 blog posts.

Of course, there were other personal milestones too, like camping with the kiddos, getting solar installed, road trips, and date nights with the wife.  All in all, a great year.  Here’s to 2016.


The power of SQL–WP edition

lightning photoI’ve noticed a lot of comment spam lately, and had been dealing with it piecemeal. I have all comments moderated, so it wasn’t affecting the user experience, but I was getting email reminders to moderate lots of comments that were not English and/or advertising something.

WordPress lets you turn off comments for a post, but it is tedious through the GUI. So, I dove into the wordpress database, and ran this SQL query:

update wp_posts set comment_status = 'closed' where post_date < '2014-01-01';

This sets comments to closed for all posts from 2013 or earlier (over 1000 posts).  The power of the command line is the ability to repeat yourself effortlessly.  (The drawback of the command line is its obscurity.)

I should probably write a cron job to do that every year, as posts older than two years old aren’t commented on much. To be honest, the comments section of ‘Dan Moore!’ isn’t used much at all–I know some blogs (AVC) have vibrant comments areas, but I never tried to foster a community.


RSS Pick: Dion Almaer

dion almaer photo

Photo by marcosfernandez

I think that the RSS reader is such a fantastic invention. It lets me monitor many bloggers and news sites, and see new content.  This lets you have an eye on lots of writers, including some that haven’t written for a long time.  I’m going to be highlighting blogs that I follow, one per month.

The first is Dion Almaer’s, who, unfortunately, has moved most of his writing to Medium.  But Dion is a great technologist.  He currently is employed at WalmartLabs Mobile.  He’s written such gems as:

Your coding voice:

When people ask me about Java and why I don’t often write applications in it, my answer is not that I think “Java sucks”. I think the JVM is amazing technology, and there are a ton of fantastic APIs. Using Java is a great answer for many situations. However, the least amount of fun that I have had programming has been when using the Java language. It isn’t just that it feels frustratingly verbose, although that is part of it.

and Browsers are Finally Catching Up (in 2009):

But, the browsers are finally changing. The new crop come with technologies that show that the browser vendors are thinking about building a platform for desktop quality applications. The Chrome comic book was full of this.

Remember the Chrome Comic Book?

Dion, thanks for sharing your knowledge, please resurrect your blog!  (Dion, I know this is an old photo–feel free to send me a new one and I’ll update this post.)


Throttling Back My Writing Schedule

For a while, I have been writing a post a day.  Then I took a vacation, and cut back to 2-3 times a week in order to spend more time with the family.  I actually like the 2-3 times a week schedule because it lets me take time that I was previously using to write and spend that investigating new technology and tools.  Or to write meatier posts.

So, I think that will be the new normal.

Just wanted to let you know.

PS If you don’t want to check back periodically, you can subscribe to my blog.



WP-Inject Rocks

inject photo

Photo by MattysFlicks

Inspired by Drew Meyers over at the Geek Estate Blog, I’ve made an effort to start putting images into my blog posts. I manually searched Flickr for commercially licenseable images, upload them to my server and put them into my post. After I did this a couple of times, I thought–surely there’s a plugin for this. And if not, I should write one!

A quick search turned up WP-Inject. I installed it and never looked back. It takes care of searching Flickr (and another site that I’ve never heard of called Pixabay). It takes care of the attribution link. It uploads the file to my server. It puts the image into my blog post. Well worth the install if you want to add any images to your posts at all.

My only wish is that it handled captions a bit better, but this could be a config option I’m overlooking. And that’s a small flaw for such an awesome plugin!



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