Another theme switch

Switched to the Scrawl theme this time for a minimalist view. Most of the previous links are now hidden in the sidebar menu. Also made it a light on dark theme for a different readability experience. I’d love to hear your feedback on the change.

2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog. Nothing spectacular, but archiving for future reference.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 9,500 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Return of the daily links from delicious

By now you have probably noticed that I’ve reverted to posting daily links from delicious to my blog (this time with more description hopefully) even though I had thought at one point in time that they were cluttering up my blog. One of the main reasons I did this was to keep the blog active as I seem to be bookmarking & twittering a lot more nowadays, and don’t make the time to come up with lengthier blog post.

Quite a lot of water has flowed under the bridge during this period, of which the most notable change is the new delicious interface going live. The other handy feature is the ability to post to twitter and email contacts while bookmarking through the firefox extension. I also refreshed my memory for posting from delicious through this blog post on posting to wordpress from delicious and also noticed that Steve Rubel had recommended daily links post as an essential blogging hack (too bad I gave it up for over a year and a half). So, now the daily links posts are here to stay.

delicious blog posting settings

Another thing I noticed while setting up the delicious service was that they’ve tweaked the interface slightly. Now the password field is no longer plain text (whatever made them do that in the initial phase is a mystery to me), and there is a way to effectively utilize the category field to keep the bookmark posts organized. All you need to do is figure out the category id by going to the wordpress blog dashboard –> Posts –> Categories to view the list of categories in the blog. Each category is hyperlinked (something like ….wordpress.com/wp-admin/categories.php?action=edit&cat_ID=4360) and the last portion of the URL gives the category id (out_cat_id in delicious). In my case, 4360 is the id for the “bookmarks” category that I had created for such posts. The setup is pretty convenient & should help keep the blog active in some way till I finish my Management course next year.

Adding the Socialvibe widget

I’ve added the Socialvibe widget to my blog after I saw the wordpress announcement. Seems to be a pretty useful way of gaining volunteers. So, if you happen to drop by, do check out the widget and help in any way you can. The widget is on the sidebar below the archives. I chose the charity: water cause with truth as the sponsor.

If you have a wordpress blog, you can also add the widget through the blog appearance->widget settings.

University 2.0 ideas

In the last few weeks, I’ve come across quite a few presentations regarding University 2.0 (links: 1 2). They seek to make use of several Web 2.0 technologies, that have become popular in the last 2-3 years, for educational institutions. This idea seems quite interesting to me, especially because I was trying to get some of those technologies like wikis and blogs implemented for our b-school. I have another year and a half of my course remaining, and I hope to implement as many of them as I can with help of my classmates and others from the school.

So, here’s a a basic outline of the ideas:

LinkedIn profiles

LinkedIn has become a standard in professional social networks, and it is quite important for professionals to have an up to date LinkedIn profile. My idea is to get everyone to set up their profiles and put the links on our school student profile pages.

Student & Faculty introduction videos

This will make the profiles richer, and should definitely look better than having just static photographs. There are several online video sharing sites, and any of them could be used for this purpose. It could be done initially for the students who are part of different committees, and later expanded for the others depending on the response.

Social network groups

There are several social networks out there like orkut, facebook etc, and our school has a group on each of them. They need to be streamlined a bit and kept up to date. The links to the groups could also be placed on the official school site to gain better visibility.

Online magazine

We have a school magazine L!VE that is published both physically and electronically. However, the electronic version is in a pdf form with only a few of the articles being published in html form. My intention is to make use of  a blogging platform to publish our magazine online. This will not only increase the visibility of the magazine, but also facilitate interaction on the articles and get the content indexed on search engines. WordPress seems to be an ideal platform for this purpose, and there are quite a lot of magazine themes for this purpose.

School blog

Currently we do not have a blog for our school. However, we do make use of blogs during our annual b-school fest like we did for AVENUES 08 this time. The idea here is to make blogging a continuous phenomenon. This should again facilitate interaction, increase visibility, and keeps notifications up to date.

Wiki

I had already started a wiki some time back, and did manage to put up some content on it. Over time, it can become a very important knowledge repository with different kinds of information on our school.

Once set up, these avenues should definitely help the school from different aspects. Moreover, most of these services can be setup or for free. There are of course several other services that can be used in addition to the ones mentioned here like photo sharing, social bookmarking etc. So, the main investment required will be time, which is quite an important commodity in management courses :-).

However, there are several challenges and constraints to be overcome before these become a reality, the biggest of which is going to be getting participation and garnering critical mass from the various stakeholders so that this initiative can be sustained in the long run.

Some origami video to start with

Over the last week, I have been thinking about doing some video content creation, specifically some kinds of do it yourself videos. I have a liking for origami, and thought this should be a good starting point. I did have a youtube account, but there were also numerous other similar services.

I was wondering which service would be a good choice, and this is when I came across Andy’s post on his choices of online video services. He has given a nice comparison of some of the services like youtube, viddler and seesmic, finally favouring viddler:

Viddler is just so easy to use. It accepts a whole range of common video formats and will transcode them for you. You can tag your videos – and even better than that, you can add comments and tags at particular points in the video. I can embed the videos on my WP.com blog (which is not possible with Seesmic). It’s easy to find and connect with friends. There are groups. There are excellent stats which show where hits on your videos are coming from, including when a video is played through an embed on your site or another one…

The viddler features seemed quite attractive. So, I signed up for it and uploaded my first video (a flapping bird origami). I also did some digging to see how the Viddler videos could be embedded into a WordPress.com blog, and it seems there is a tag to do this:

At the Viddler site, if you click on Menu in the lower right of a video screen, a row of menu selections appear at the top of the video screen. Select “embed” and then click on the “wordpress.com” button and it will give you the code that will work with [WordPress].com.

Here’s the embedded form of the bird origami video (there’s also a flickr photo set for the step by step photos):

I’ll be creating more origami videos along with corresponding flickr sets (also an origami collection for the sets). The only problem for me right now is the slow upload speed (64 kbps), due to which I am uploading low resolution videos (320×240) without audio. As for the video creation, I used my digicam, a Canon Powershot A630 mounted on a Gorillapod to shoot the video, and VirtualDub to re-edit the video (re-encoding to DivX and removing audio).

Some discoveries on the way to the WordPress domain upgrade

I came across a few useful features in the WordPress.com FAQs while researching the domain upgrade/mapping functionality. One is related to embedding content (digg, videos) to a post, and another related to the filtering of the site feed.

Embedding stuff

WordPress.com has a pretty strict policy against scripts and objects in a blog, and due to this not many widgets can be embedded in a post or in the sidebar. However, certain items can be embedded by making use of special tags.

One of this is the digg widget, for which the post needs to be submitted on digg first to get the corresponding URL. I gave it a try using the most popular post on my site currently, and it seems to work as shown. Just add , where <URL> is the link obtained from digg. The only drawback seems to be that I had to digg my own post – not something I’d fancy doing on a regular basis.

There are also other tags that allow you to embed videos (youtube, Google video, kyte.tv), but I haven’t tried them out yet. However, I’ve seen many people embed videos on their WordPress.com blogs, so I suppose the feature works fine.

Category feeds

The Lifehacker feed has a feature using which you can subscribe only to certain tags, or exclude certain tags. WordPress.com offers a similar feature albeit only for category inclusion. For example, the feed corresponding to the bookmarks category for my blog can be accessed using https://abaditya.com/category/bookmarks/feed/. This can be useful when subscribers want to filter the content right at the feed level, though the support for the exclude feature would have been quite useful too.