Shutting down 404s

In my continual war against 404 errors (I’ve cut out over 200 so far!), I’m taking the next step and shutting down my old LiveJournal and Xanga accounts. At one point I had my blog cross-posting every entry to those sites so people could subscribe to my content however they wished, and I really meant well when I set this up. In retrospect, however, it was a terrible idea. Not only was I creating competition for myself on search engines, but I have also discovered that cross-posting potentially creates an SEO nightmare. Now I’ve got 101 broken links left, and a lot of those are incoming from LiveJournal and/or Xanga to pages I’ve moved or deleted in the last several years.

Therefore, I decided to shut down those last two blogs to cut down on the errors Google is perceiving (because no actual people, to my knowledge, come to my site through LJ or Xanga–it’s just search bots that are running into problems), and in the process I discovered yet again why I ditched them.

First, I made sure that I could comment on people’s blogs on those sites without accounts, because Xanga/LJ used to require you have an account on their blogging service to comment. Now that they allow anonymous or OpenID commenting, it’s not such a big deal, so there’s no harm done in shutting down the blogs. LJ was a snap, and it was shut down within a minute of logging in. Xanga, on the other hand, errored repeatedly. Whenever I tried to cancel the account, it went into a redirection loop that timed out the browser. Being the tech-savvy user I am, though, I thought I’d contact them to let the know of the issue. Clicking on “help,” I was taken to a search page with lots of articles and absolutely no way to actually contact Xanga Support.

When I searched “shutdown,” I was presented with this: ((I received this error both on Ubuntu 9.04 running Firefox and on Windows XP using IE7, so it’s not an OS/browser thing I also think this error is separate from the earlier redirection/loop one I experienced earlier.))

Xanga Error

Ah yes, the Xanga Crash. The unreliability of Xanga and LiveJournal is why I left them in the first place. Irony of ironies, it is also why I can’t cancel my account.

I’ll try again later, but at least the number of 404 – Not Found errors are on the decline. It hasn’t affected my pagerank in any noticeable manner, but it makes me feel better to know that I’m hunting down some of the bugs and broken links and getting those taken care of, one URL at a time.

Why I don’t care about Facebook changes

I have to admit, I underestimated Facebook at first. As a User Support Specialist at Missouri State University, I was given the opportunity to beta test Facebook before it was released to everyone. You might remember that Facbook was only available to colleges in its infancy, and so the creators wanted to make sure it worked for colleges while at the same time we wanted to make sure we wanted it on our campus.

At that time, you had to have a .edu email address to create an account on Facebook, and the institution in question had to agree to let their students log in (else their email address wouldn’t have been able to create an account). That was all thrown out the window a year or so later when Facebook was opened up to high school students, then business users, then everyone.

I’ve seen every change Facebook has undergone since it was first shown to the public, and I’ve also seen the backlash and subsequent responses of the Facebook team as the community has struggled with a fluid service that is constantly undergoing changes. Every change, no matter how small, elicits an outcry from people who will quit the service if the change isn’t rolled back, followed immediately by a flurry of rumours that Facebook will soon start charging for its use. Everyone freaks out constantly about this free service that has set the bar for a successful social networking site.

And I just don’t care. That isn’t quite as flippant a statement as it seems, because I often wondered why I didn’t care. I’m not in love with Facebook (when we first tested it, I thought it was a rather shallow service and didn’t see the point–I especially disliked how locked down it was, a walled garden of social networking), but I certainly use the service to schedule events and parties, send out announcements to groups, and check in to see how my friends are doing and what they’re up to. So if I use it, why don’t I care? Why haven’t I joined the slavering masses, a’feared that my primary social networking service is going to be destroyed by megalomaniacal despots?

I guess because I never really took ownership of my Facebook page. Similar to my MySpace account, I saw it as complementary to my primary online presence and never came to rely on it. My personal website is my core, and these are just extra services to help me connect with people.

It is the relationships and lines of communication I have established with others that makes these services worthwhile, not their appearance, arrangement, or colours. To that end, Facebook has finally improved their messaging service to make it quick and reliable, it auto-imports my blog entries via RSS, and its group feature is pretty decent. I can find people easily and they can find me. Beyond that, I don’t care.

They can do whatever they want to the home page, the photos, and how the information is displayed on the screen. I generally find their changes to be acceptable and even pleasant down the road, and though I don’t particularly like the current iteration (having status updates be front-and-center like a Twitter feed; I particularly dislike that when I click “notes” on the left, I only see other people’s notes, and getting to my own is more difficult now), my life doesn’t exist on Facebook. My online presence isn’t centered there.

That’s why I made a website to begin with. I was tired of Livejournal and Xanga jerking me around, screwing with my stuff, so I sought out autonomy. If you get all worked up about social networking services jacking with your pages, maybe you need to move your web presence elsewhere. Climb over the wall, take some control back, and quit’cher’bitchin’. You don’t own Facebook and never will, so if you really want to take ownership and make something how you want it to be, go out and do it.

And along those lines, if you’re looking for a designer for your site, I can recommend a top notch one 😉 He’ll make you something beautiful and it’ll be all yours.

Blogging about Communication

As some of you may be aware, SilverPen Pub has been around for a while. Despite its ostentatious name, it isn’t really anything more than my personal website where I throw whatever I want for posterity’s sake; a place to backup documents, share writing, and ramble about whatever I please. But as I continue to grow and change, this site continues to evolve, and in regards to content, I think I’m ready to take another baby step.

In the past, my blogging was simply a means of communication. It kept me in touch with a group of friends, and by interacting through LiveJournal and Xanga, we were able to keep up with each other more easily. Then my blog transformed into a collection of theological essays, where for the better part of a year I wrote something about religion, the Bible, or answered theological questions nearly every day. Once I got burnt out on that, I began to put all of my writing on the web: poetry, short stories, class essays, etc.

Transitioning from simply posting my writing on the web, I had the crazy idea of doing 100% of my writing through WordPress. I would publish items as I wrote them, with the goal of garnering feedback from readers to see what should be improved or changed. The problem with this is that it required too much linearity, and since I was working on uncompleted ideas without even an outline, it made that kind of rough. I recently decided to stop posting everything like that.

I’ve always wanted a theme for my site: some over-arching concept that pulls everything together. But finding such a theme was difficult, because I want to write about half a dozen different topics and the only unifying factor between them is that I’m doing the writing. As I climbed the stairs to our student union on campus, though, a surprising thought occurred to me.

Blogging has changed my life, just as it affects so many others, but it’s more than blogging. Simple communication is the key. Me talking to you, you responding, and the two of us sharing our thoughts and ideas with others. It will come as no surprise that a lot of people are uncomfortable with intimate communication, even if the subjects aren’t all that intimate, because they’re afraid to let people close or to show who they really are.

I’m fascinated by communication between people, particularly on the Web, and it is this fascination that influences most of my work anymore. In a year or two, I’ll be pursuing a Masters of Science in Administrative Studies with an emphasis in Communication, and I’ll probably try to write my thesis about the economics of social networking. Not how Facebook and MySpace are doing financially, but how the exchange of ideas brings value, and how people simply talking with others, forming relationships across the Internet, is directly contributing to those same people’s income.

So if I’m looking for a theme, and I love studying and writing about communication so much, maybe that should be my focus. At least for a while, so I can see how it goes. My core topics won’t really change, but I’m going to be doing a bit more research and come at things from that angle of communication.

Everyone uses their site, their clothes, their interests, and whatever else to communicate something about them. I want to look into this more deeply and talk about how we talk, why we say the things we do, and where we go from here.

I don’t know where it’ll lead me, but my curiosity will lead me along.

Ending Crossposting

For the last couple of years, entries to this blog have crossposted to a few different places. They automatically appear on Xanga and Livejournal, and I also have a blurb go up at MySpace when I publish something. Facebook picks up my posts through an RSS feed, but that’s not really crossposting and so isn’t addressed here.

I’ve decided to stop crossposting entries to Xanga, Livejournal, and MySpace. There are a few different reasons for this, but what it really boils down to is that

  1. It’s buggy and slows my site down, sometimes breaking things entirely, and
  2. I don’t think many people subscribe or read my blog through those sites.

If you do and would like to continue reading, there are a few options. I recommend foremost that you subscribe to the RSS feed. You can do this through any RSS reader, though I particularly recommend Google Reader myself. Some people use Netvibes, and that’s cool too I guess. There are a few others out there, so whatever floats your boat, just subscribe.

You can also visit the site directly. I usually update daily, Monday through Friday, though the time isn’t set.

If you can give me a compelling reason to keep crossposting, I’ll do it, but I don’t think there is one. Therefore, this will be the last post that shows up on Xanga, MySpace, or Livejournal.

Livejournal, and then Xanga, were my first blogging sites, but I can’t say that I’m sad to leave them behind forever. Adieu, adieu, adieu.

I Eat Poetry

After Parting
by Sara Teasdale

Oh, I have sown my love so wide
That he will find it everywhere;
It will awake him in the night,
It will enfold him in the air.

I set my shadow in his sight
And I have winged it with desire,
That it may be a cloud by day,
And in the night a shaft of fire.

When I first began considering the revision of my website and online presence, I questioned how involved I wanted to become in the online community. To build a strong relationship among bloggers, one must read and comment on the work of others if one wants to develop ties and gain readers of their own. It takes a lot of time and commitment, and I wasn’t sure I was interested for or capable of devoting such effort to this cause.

However, I did join a community on LiveJournal where people post poems they like, and have been gratified by doing so. It’s wonderful to constantly be receiving different poems with a wide variety of topics and styles, and they are almost all good because people only post the poems they really like. Moreover, unlike so many communities I have seen, these aren’t poems the posters have written (which often aren’t as good), but published works by fantastic authors. It has led me to authors I’ve never heard of, and I can easily mark individual poems I like for later perusal.

One of the most important things for a writer to do is to read. One cannot write good poetry, for instance, if one does not read good poetry, and so I find communities like this invaluable.