February 18, 2011

Changes to My Site

I’ve been trying to get back to blogging for the past couple of years, but so far out of all of the things I do in the 24 hours of a day, it’s the activity that’s fallen by the wayside the most. I still hope to blog more this year, but the reason I implemented the lifestreaming back in 2009 was to provide an aggregated glimpse into my overall online activity in the meantime.

Unfortunately, the wp-lifestream plugin I was using died for no apparent reason last October. I spent a couple of months trying to get it working again but to no avail. I haven’t been able to find a good replacement that lets me import my activity into my site (as opposed to just displaying something that only lives elsewhere) and publishes it as a daily blog post.

The best I’ve been able to do is hack the heck out of the complexlife plugin to display my lifestream on my home page. It’s not as comprehensive as the sites available in wp-lifestream, but it’ll do for now. Right now, it’s displaying my public Flickr pictures, my tweets, tweets I’ve favorited, my public Diigo bookmarks, things I’ve liked on FriendFeed, shared items from Google Reader, and posts I’ve made on ALA Connect.

If you want to track even more of what I’m sharing online, you’re better off looking at my FriendFeed stream until I figure out how to add more sites here in complexlife. If you want to subscribe to my online activity to get daily updates pushed to you, I’d suggest using my FriendFeed RSS feed.

So now if you visit the TSL home page, you should see a link to the latest blog post at the top, followed by 30 days of lifestream activity. If/when I get back to blogging, I’ll probably play around with the home page again to better display the blog posts, but for now subscribing to the main RSS feed will again show just the posts; in other words, not much.

You can also go directly to the blog page to view just the posts. Overall, my goal is to post shorter, tumblr-like posts going forward to try to get back in the swing of things, but we’ll see how I do.


7:39 am Comments (3)

August 17, 2009

Experimenting with My Stream

I’ve finally been able to slow down my external (non-ALA) work enough to circle back around to working on my own stuff again. I’ve been wanting to get back to blogging, but I readily acknowledge that I’m still not likely to blog at my 2002-2003 levels ever again.

Watching Steve Rubel change his focus from his blog to his lifestream made me realize that the tools are finally available for me to do something similar. Other long-time bloggers such as Robert Scoble and Jason Griffey have been re-examining their online presences, and it’s exciting to follow the experiments everyone is trying.

While I admire what these folks are doing and appreciate the fact that they’re openly thinking out loud, I knew I wanted to try a different approach. Because as much as I love the cloud, I’m getting a little tired of being bitten by the companies running it. Don’t get me wrong – I love most of those companies, I’m very appreciative of the fact that they offer these services for free (usually at a monetary loss), and I still plan to participate in them, but I’ve also decided that I want to own my lifestream and have an archive of it.

So as I started looking at my options, based on my understanding of each tool, I ruled out possibilities such as displaying my FriendFeed stream as my home page or using a third-party site such as Posterous. Those solutions work well for others and are super cool at what they do, but they don’t let me backup or own my cloud. I’m also not interested in sending the same update to every service because I use them all differently.

Lifestream for WordPress logo The solution I’ve come up with is to use the Lifestream plugin for WordPress, which kind of lets me run a stripped-down version of my own personal FriendFeed (but without the comments on individual items). It totally rocks, so a big thank you to David Cramer for writing and sharing it.

By default, it lets me set up feeds from my major sites, such as Flickr (pictures), delicious (bookmarks), Twitter (microblogging), Google Reader (shared items I’ve read about that day) , YouTube (videos), and more. It also lets me add the RSS feed for any service that’s not already listed (this is one reason I still think RSS is the greatest thing since sliced bread and is still very important). Most major ones are already there – I just don’t use most of them. Surprisingly, FriendFeed isn’t listed yet, but I was able to easily add a feed for items I’ve liked. Since I don’t post much original content to FF, it shouldn’t get too recursive there.

screenshot of the Lifestream plugin's default feeds

There are two ways you can use this plugin. The first is to create a separate page with your full stream, which updates at set intervals. The alternative, which I’m using, is to do a summary post of all of your activity at a specific time each day. This way, I can aggregate all of my non-blogging activity in one post at the end of the day.

Even better, the Lifestream plugin seems to actually import each item so I have a copy of it. I’m assuming these are in a database I have access to, but I still need to follow up on that. Ideally, this means I have backup copies of all of my text updates on any aggregated service, and I can access it in the future if one of those services ever disappears. In addition, adding the stream to my blog means things like my Google Reader shared items, tweets, and delicious bookmarks get indexed there, so I can search for most of my stuff in one place. It’s not really organized in any way, other than chronological, but I’ll be interested to see if having a searchable version gives me any advantages down the road.

This isn’t ideal, but it’s enough of a first step for me to implement this for a while to see how it works. All lifestream posts from the plugin should appear in the Lifestream category, which I think I’ve now excluded from email updates for my site. I’ve also set Twitterfeed to only share links to posts from my site that have the tag #blogpost in order to avoid a recursive stream there. I’m still looking for a way to prevent the lifestream posts from appearing in FriendFeed. I have a feeling I have to add some magic behind the scenes to get an RSS feed for just the “blogpost” tag or category in order to feed just those items into FF.

Another issue is comments, but I haven’t found a good way to aggregate all of the comments on my items back into my site. I’d love to be wrong that this isn’t yet possible, so please let me know if you’ve done this successfully. It’s also unfortunate that I can’t use an RSS feed of just my comments from FriendFeed, because it counts my delicious descriptions as “comments.”

I also have to make a decision about Facebook and my status updates there. It’s the only site I post to that’s even remotely protected, and even though I don’t post anything there I wouldn’t want the world to read, I still like the idea of having one site that really is just my friends and friendsters. I’m torn, though, because it would be nice to archive those status updates along with the rest of my stream. We’ll see if that desire ultimately wins out over having a smaller online circle.

This solution won’t work for everybody, but I’m going to let this solution run for at least a couple of months to see how it works, and I’d be interested in your feedback over time, but I really like the idea of aggregating my own digital identity so that I have more control over it (especially under my domain). I do intend to keep blogging, although I suppose now technically my blog will be the blogpost tag for this site. The blog items won’t always be this long, but hopefully this will get me back into a flow where I can at least post starter thoughts or discussion points for future exploration.

For so long, my online presence was mostly my blog, but it’s become so much more, and this move helps pull it all together. I can also see myself using this process to facilitate that aggregation. For example, I may start posting more descriptive tweets in order to explain something that’s appearing in my stream that I just don’t have the time to blog about that day or maybe using a Flickr picture to augment a delicious bookmark. Regardless of what happens, it will be an interesting experiment.

I’ll try to post updates about how this new flow works for me, but let me know what you think, too.


January 7, 2009

Choosing Your Social Media Drug

Last week I noted that of all of the social media sites, I’m probably most engaged with Facebook right now. Twitter tends to fragment my attention too much, so I started restricting my time on it to about an hour a day. The conversation there is too disjointed for me, and it’s impossible to find and refer back to all the pieces of a conversation even just a few days later. The best I’ve been able to manage is to use TweetDeck to create groups to check in on periodically, as opposed to trying to keep up with everyone all the time. I still don’t let myself sit on Twitter for too long because as Ed Vielmetti says, “If you keep refreshing it will never, ever stop..” In fact, my rule of thumb on any social site is that I never hit the “older” button.

Then FriendFeed came along, which helped unify conversations and brought pictures, audio, and video into the mix. The breadth of services it aggregates is pretty impressive, so when a critical mass of friends hit there, I switched my hour a day to check in there.

Let me preface this next statement by saying that I love the serendipity of FriendFeed, and it definitely restores fun to aggregation. That said, it moves way too fast for me. As a result, I’ve come to the conclusion that FriendFeed is Twitter on speed, while Facebook is Twitter on Ritalin, and for where I’m at right now, Facebook is my primary drug of choice. I need something to help me control the firehose so that I can more easily focus on specific pieces, and the fact that I can separate the links and posts from the status updates on FB does exactly that. I have the status of about three dozen folks texted to my phone, which means I see what I consider to be the most important function of the site for me front and center.

I had been friending people there for a while, watched what libraries were doing, and gone through the “play with various applications” stage of Facebook love, but then I found myself using it less and less. I fell back in love with it, though, when they added the ability to comment on a friend’s status, because that’s the piece I was having trouble tracking and participating in amongst all of the conversations taking place on Twitter. Even better was a change in the way SMS responses are handled so that replies from my phone now appear as comments on statuses, not inbox messages attached to previous emails. That means there’s conversation around updates, and it’s at a manageable pace.

I still check FriendFeed a couple of times a day, but I’m swamped with enough stuff right now that I use my social networks first and foremost for friend updates, and Facebook turns out to be perfect for that, especially for my non-library friends. I can literally see others getting a lot out of Twitter and FriendFeed because they monitor those sites a lot more closely, and more power to them. There are a lot of conversations right now about the ROI of blogging versus Twitter versus FriendFeed, but it’s important to examine what you want to get from these tools in order to evaluate which one(s) are best for you at any given time, remembering that it’s all cyclical and is likely to change just when you get comfortable with your routine. Of course, that can be a good thing.