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It was about time for a makeover

I have some changes planned for this site. The first step was to give it a fresh new look. I’d love to hear what you think!

Sometime soon this website is going to become a portal to aggregate content from all of my various blogs. When I’m done this will be the one stop spot for all things Daisy Olsen.

Plurk. Another Twitter Clone with a really crazy name

The lifestream and micro-blogging trend continues with another entry into the fray. This one with the strangest name yet. “Plurk”

It’s not often that I catch one of those viral things on the web that goes massive in a short period of time. This time, however I’ve been sort of watching it happen. I registered an account and added some friends to find out if all the talk was warranted. I’m not ready to jump off the SS Twitter but I’m curious to see where this alternative platform goes and what it has to offer.

So the questions on my mind are these:

  • What on earth is a Plurk? -
    The Plurk blog has posted more about the name. If anyone can tell me what they are talking about I’ll give you a gold star.
  • What’s up with that unfortunate beheaded dog/dinosaur/whatisthatanyway image?

I really don’t even know what to say..The Plurk Image

It turns out that you are not limited to the disturbing image, here is another one that a newbie can choose(other image options become available if you keep talking, see explanation of Karma below.) I wonder why the default image needs to be so unappealing.An Alternative to the sad plurk image

  • Does the world really need yet another micro-blogging platform?
    I’m Inclined to say NO, it does not.
  • What makes Plurk different from Twitter?
    The reading experience is extremely different and there are a few very unique aspects.

    1. You are shown your messages in a timeline instead of a list
    2. replies are threaded and attached to posts, this is the one thing that Plurk has over Twitter.
    3. The web interface is slick.
    4. Some incentive to keep talking. I don’t know how much it will really matter to most people but you are given “Karma” points based on a variety of factors including uploading an image, using IM, posting, and replying. The reward for high Karma rating is the ability to choose a different screen image(remember the beheaded dog?) and also to access more emoticons.
    5. The character limit is the same however, you don’t use up valuable characters by entering @username and you can begin a post with a selection from a list of action words that don’t count in the 140 character limit
  • Would anyone have paid attention to Plurk if Twitter had not experienced so many serious issues over the past few weeks?
    Twitter has certainly had it’s share of problems, especially in the last couple of weeks. I asked around and it seems that Plurk started back in January(correct me if that is bad information) I first heard of it maybe a week ago. In the past 24-48 hours there has been an massive increase in talk about this service. In fact, according to my searches at Summize and TweetScan the term Plurk is the most highly searched term at the moment. Earlier today I did a search at Summize and found that it took only 15 hours to fill 100 pages of posts with that term in them. At 15 posts per page for a total of that’s a lot of tweets about a competing product. I’m guessing that the search misses many tweets that have just a “I’m trying this new site” posts that don’t mention it by name and have a shortened URL.

The Timeline View

The Plurk Timeline

Modifying the look of your timelineModifying Plurk Timeline Style

Other thought on the site:

  • The site apparently feels that they have some obligation to suggest how to use the site with a List of “rules”
  • I don’t know if it would be feasible to follow a large number of people in Plurk, it continually reminds you of how many postings you have missed. Twitter makes it easier to be selective in what you pay attention to by scanning rather than being deeply involved in every thread of discussion.
  • You must interact with the screen to see what people are saying. The timeline let’s you know whne you have new entries in your timeline but you must click to refresh and then click into the posts to see more than a teaser of the original post, the number of replies are displayed but you must click into a message to view them. This is setup, no doubt to limit the amount of clutter.
  • Plurk has a very slick web interface. I don’t know how extensible it will be. It will be interesting to see if an API will be released and what might be accomplished from there via 3rd party applications and services. Plurk definitely has more of a stand alone feel to it.
  • I don’t see Plurk having the same networking appeal as Twitter.

5 Great resources for Vector Images and Illustrations for Theme Design and Blog Posts

It’s relatively easy to find photographs available either in the public domain or released under a creative commons license to use in your blog. Using illustrations, though, can do a lot to bring color and life to your blog posts. I’ve compiled a list of websites that offer a huge variety of all types of illustrations including clipart, vector images, flash images, and more. By using royalty free images you can create highly engaging visual effects to your blog posts or theme without high per image fees.

Dreamstime is my current favorite spot for finding all types of images. The prices are very reasonable and they are of very good quality. Downloading images requires that credits be purchased, the more credits you purchase at one time the lower the per-credit cost. There is also a monthly subscription option for greater savings when using many images per day. Dreamstime also has a separate search engine for free images.

IstockPhoto is very similar to Dreamstime the price per credit is higher and illustrations require more credits but the selection and variety of images is extensive.

VectorStock also sells images using a credit system but limits their selection to vector images and illustrations (no photographs) The images on this site seem to be mostly design elements rather than stand alone images. This site is a great resource for theme and template design.

VectorArt provides free and open source vector art. The selection is limited but being free, it’s a good place to look for images as a starting point.

Clipart.com provides a wide selection of clip art on a subscription basis.

It’s always a good idea to review the licensing agreement on any image before using it on your blog in anyway. Most free images require that the artists information be displayed on any page that has the image on it. Some royalty free images may have special restrictions placed on them and how they can be used.

Fixing technology blunders…or not.

Confusion arisesThis morning I stopped by a popular coffee/donut chain franchise. I went through the drive-up placed my order for two items. I had a vague idea of what the total should have come to. I pulled up to the window and was told by the cashier a price that was several dollars less than I expected. I asked if she had gotten both of my items and she responded with “shhh. I rung it up wrong.” Ok, now I’m not going to make a big deal about something that will save me a little money but something struck me about this situation.

I started to think about what might have actually transpired and it seems there are at least three possibilities.

  1. The cashier knew she made a mistake but was too lazy or disinterested to fix it.
  2. The cashier chose me for a Random Act of Kindness at the expense of her employer.
  3. The cashier realized she had made a mistake but didn’t know how to correct it.

While the first two options are possible, they don’t seem likely. This person didn’t strike me as lazy, disinterested, or enough of a radical to purposely enter the order incorrectly. This leaves option number three. This order was placed in a drive-up. This means that once one order has been entered it moves into the que to be paid and another order is taken. I’ve worked in fast food style drive-ups as a cashier, and while my experience is dated the option existed, even in the early 1990s, to correct an order at the time of payment. However, you had to be fairly comfortable with the Point of Sale system in order to make the changes. This lack of understanding could have been because the person was new on the job, lacked proper training, or just couldn’t keep the steps required to change an order in the computer in her head.

It’s possible to relate this situation to other areas involving technology and software. I’ve been really struggling with getting templates for a client project working just right. And just letting some of the details slide becomes very tempting when the software is jam-packed with bugs and “design features” that make template development a nightmare. How often do we ignore a problem or mistake because we are not comfortable enough with the technology that we are using to fix it? The problems could stem from glitches and usability issues in a piece of software, lack of documentation, or lack of time and inclination to really master the ins and outs of software. Do we use a workaround instead of finding a solution? Software is sometimes underdeveloped or released with so many issues that workarounds are the only way to survive, but what if the answer is there, hidden in a menu or a toolbar?

What level of effort do you place into making sure the work that you produce does not contain recognized but ignored mistakes or fixable workarounds? On the other hand, how much effort should be given to an issue before a workaround used instead? There must be a point where a workaround must be used when the solution is not apparent or just plain impossible. The challenge, I guess, is to determine when to strive for perfection and at what point to accept defeat.

Creative Commons License photo credit: aeu04117

Creating a Portfolio

Sølve's monumental collage workI’ve been thinking a lot about how I can display my work on this website as a sort of portfolio. I’ve struggled, though, with working out how to best present it. Most of the work I do is related to porting blogs across systems or servers, installing plugins and themes, and making modifications to said plugins and themes to meet the specific needs of each client. The largest portion of my work is not visual in nature so a visual gallery on it’s own will not work. I’m not creating original code so offering downloads is not appropriate either. That leaves creating a narrative of the process of completing each major component of a project. This all sounds very labor intensive, which is a little on the scary side! But I think that, if I want to pursue doing this type of work, I will need to show what I’ve done in an organized way. A secondary benefit will be that I can use it as a sort of archive to keep track of some of the little tweaks I do to achieve various effects. It will make it much easier for me to go back and say “oh yeah that’s how I did that before!” Lastly, i think that by documenting some of my more creative solutions I’ll be adding something valuable to the WordPress knowledge base. I hope to be able to dedicate some time in the near future to begin documenting work that i’ve done in the past.

Creative Commons License photo credit: thefuturistics