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Dispatch from the Trenches #3

I advise clients who are frustrated that they can’t get a domain that they had in mind to pick another, something short, easy to spell.
Something evocative. Anything, really, as long as it ends in dot com. We can build a brand and message for a new, sensible domain. But if you pick something other than .com your consumers will still end up at whatever site does end in .com.

Modern Marketing 101: There Are No Domains But .Com — First Today, Then Tomorrow

The number of new top-level domains are nauseating. The top-level domain is the last part of a domain name. For this site, it’s .com. For schools, it would be .edu and government is .gov. There are now many, many more.

I get confused by the new TLDs, like .ninja, or .social imagine how other people who are not web natives feel.

If you’re appealing to everyone then stick to .com. Since like Randy says, that’s where they’re going to end up anyway.


Read a book instead

Reading books makes me happy. Being on my phone makes me miserable. So, I made a wallpaper for my iPhone’s lock screen to remind me that I have a choice. You can download a copy for yourself right here.

Read a book instead

It’s easy to get stuck into the loop of lock phone. Open Twitter. Close Twitter. Lock phone. Repeat.

I like books. I enjoy reading but my reading has tapered off. Even listening to Audio-books has slowed down. This is a good reminder to break the loop of phone staring.


With all those photos being taken, chances are you and I have at one point accidentally wandered into someone else’s frame. It’s likely, however, that you’ll never really know you’ve photo-bombed someones shot. That’s why I was surprised by a Twitter message that I received
out of the blue from a photographer I’ve never met.

I Was Hidden on This Guy’s Hard Drive for Over 6 Years

I often think about this working in Washington DC a block from the Capitol. On my lunch breaks, I often walk around the Capitol Building or the Capitol Reflecting Pool.

Even in poor weather, there are always people there. Tourists. Government workers. DC Residents showing their out-of-town friends and family the city. And they are all taking pictures.

They snap pictures of the building. Of themselves in front of it, or “holding” the Washington Monument. They snap photos of friends, family and themselves. The ducks are also a big hit with the new batch of baby ducklings furiously swimming along behind mama duck.

On my walks, I often wonder just how many people’s photo albums and Facebook posts I end up in. How many times have I been captured as I walk around on my lunch break?


March2March

I like long projects. I like them because it’s a fun challenge to keep something going. That said, I dislike starting from January 1st. There’s so much going on the first of the year. I don’t like to start anything new on the first of the year.

So I started in March. I decided to take and post a photo everyday for a year. I chose March2March because I intend to post from March 1st, 2014 to March 1st, 2015.

March 12, 2014 at 01:28PM

Will I make it? Only time will tell. I’ve already missed a few weekend days in the first month. I’m not perfect. It’s not about perfection. It’s about taking pictures and sharing them.

After nearly forgetting to post a photo a couple of days, I decided I needed to make this project as simple as possible. I needed to automate it.

I’m not a programmer or anything fancy so I used a simple solution. I turned it https://ifttt.com.

I take all my photos with my iPhone, so I started there. First, I needed to differentiate March2March photos from the rest.

So I made a new album on my iPhone and named it March2March. Any new photo I want to post, I add to this album.

April 01, 2014 at 08:21PM

Then IFTTT takes over. I used a recipe to post from that album to Flickr.

IFTTT Recipe: iPhone album to Flickr connects ios-photos to flickr

This will post the photo to my public Flickr stream and tag is with March2March and Project65. Now that the photo is somewhere I can easily find it later. Then I share it using this recipe.

IFTTT Recipe: Flickr to Tumblr connects flickr to tumblr

It takes any new photo from Flickr tagged March2March and posts it to Tumblr. Originally I had it add the photo to the queue but sometimes it would not get posted for a few days, depending what I had there, so now I have it post automatically.

It’s not a perfect system. I still need to go into Flickr and manually add the March2March photos to a set there. And sometimes the IFTTT recipe doesn’t trigger because my phone has to be on WiFi for it to fire due to cellular data usage.

But it works well enough for me and allows me to easily share a photo I take nearly everyday.

March 18, 2014 at 08:45AM

On Self-Hosting

I predict 2014 is the year when we see more popular services go away. Either because they’re unsustainable businesses or they’re bought up and immediately integrated into larger companies. Either way, they go away and all we’ve left with is a message saying how much we, the customers, mean to them.

Because of this I’ve started to bring some services in-house and run them on my server. The following tools are what I’ve chosen to use.

Author’s Note: I am not saying they are the best thing out there. Nor am I saying they are perfect for you. They’re just what I use. I use them. I like them. You may not.

With the pile of services that will host your text and images, I still prefer to host my blog. Congratulations! You’re here.

Blogs

Tech in the Trenches is hosted on a WordPress installation I run off a Dreamhost shared server. I’m not fancy.

With the recent demise of Google Reader and Feedly’s questionable decisions, I’ve decided to host my own RSS reader. Sure, there are plenty of good ones out there. But it’s not something I care enough about to pay for.

If I didn’t have RSS, life would go on. I would go back to keeping folders of links just as I did before RSS. I would also use the various social media networks to let the good stuff bubble up from the muck of the Internet.

RSS

To that end, I found TinyTinyRSS and decided to install it.

It’s small, flexible and has a plugin community around it. But the reason I found it is Dreamhost blogged about installing it. What’s easier than that?

So a few minutes after reading the post, I had TT-RSS setup.

Once it’s running I would recommend finding a different theme as I don’t care for the default. I’m using the Feedly theme out of habit. There’s also a Google Reader-style theme if you want to relive the glory.

While there is a native Android client it didn’t help me out on iOS.

To get it working on my iPhone, I am using the Fever plugin. This allows TT-RSS to authenticate as if it were Shaun Inman’s Fever. It works with Reeder, which I use. It also supports Mr. Reader and ReadKit according to the developer.

To make this work you have to enable API access in your tt-rss account preferences (Preferences -> Enable external API) before using the client. I missed this step and couldn’t figure out why it wouldn’t work.

Analytics

I don’t keep a close eye on my analytics. But I am curious every now and again when I get more than a few hits on a post where the traffic comes from.

Piwik works well for me. It gives me what Google Analytics provides without the threat of it going away.

Photos

This is almost constantly in flux. For years I used Gallery. It was stable and robust. But then it grew bloated. I prefer smaller tools and went looking for an alternative.

I decided on Piwigo. It feels lighter to me. I don’t a complex set of tools. I want a place to make albums and show them off. That’s it. It’s simple and it works for me. If you’re a Dreamhost user, both of these are available as one-click installs.

I’ve also been flirting with TroveBox (formerly OpenPhoto). They have a hosted option that will use your own storage but also charges a monthly fee.

They provide downloads and documentation to get the software setup on a variety of server setups.

GIFs

Yes, I keep some animated gifs at my disposal. To do this, I use Eat My GIF. It’s a ridiculously simple drop-in installation and now I have a place to throw GIFs to deploy as needed. Yes, I realize this is very silly. But I like it and it’s developed by a friend.

So don’t hate.
Hates Gonna Hate

What I’m not hosting

Email. I have no desire to run my own mail server. I use Gmail and am perfectly happy with it for now.

Social Media. I see the value of a distributed social media network. However, I am happy with Twitter/App.net/Facebook. I don’t need anything else.

I tried out Tent in the form of Tent.is, which now appears to be Cupcake.io, for a short time but I’m not enough of an ubernerd to hack it.

OwnCloud I had running for a while. But I found I didn’t really use it. Dropbox is still fine for me. It’s on my radar and I may use it again for something. But I just don’t have a need for it.

It’s easy to get carried away and start hosting things I don’t need to host. It makes more work for me to support and keep it updated and working. Sometimes the trade-offs are easier letting someone else do the heavy lifting.

Just because I can do it, doesn’t mean I should.

Are you all self-hosting anything interesting? Tell me about it over on Twitter or ADN.

iPod Mini: My Apple Gateway Drug

This was my gateway drug.

The iPod Mini. I bought it in blue despite swearing I would buy the green one. I even went to the Apple Store with the promise I would not buy one unless they had the green one in stock.

I had saved my money for quite a while and I was excited.

They did not have the green one. They did have the blue one. So I caved and bought it.

I had broken a promise to a friend to not spend the money unless I got exactly what I had wanted. However, in the end, I did. I got precisely what I wanted.

The green iPod was not the shade of green in person I was hoping for as I saw on the display model and I was afraid the Blue would be too powder blue. But it wasn’t. It was a beautiful, rich, metallic blue that called out to me.

That little iPod wanted to come home with me, so I granted its wish and fulfilled my wish to own what I was coveting most at the time.

I had my little blue iPod Mini and it served me well for many years. I was very happy with it and it did not fail me. It fell out of fashion when I picked up a black 30GB iPod Video years later. It eventually got sold to a student at VCU who replied to my Craigslist ad because I needed the money.

I will always remember the little Blue iPod Mini as my gateway drug into the Apple universe. It was solid, indestructible even in my possession, which was a major plus as I am hard on my things. It never died. It never gave up. It was scratched and worn but it still performed perfectly.

I came across this one recently at a friend’s house and had to grab a quick shot of it since it reminded me of that happy day I bought one of its kin into my home and into my life.