Trying to blog during PAX

So far my days and nights have been packed, so it’s been hard to keep up with writing about PAX. At this time, I’ve got all my photos thus far uploaded, titled/tagged/described, and blogged about, and I’m hoping to get one more post written either tonight or tomorrow morning about PAX Day 2. The photo side is far more time consuming than the writing side, which I guess is to be expected, but I want to do this right so I’ve been giving it a decent amount of attention and effort.

Right now I’m about to run out the door to hit the Ultimate Dungeon Delve, which is a Wizards of the Coast event in which we participate in a series of Dungeons & Dragons encounters. An encounter is essentially a combat event, and in this case it is timed at 45 minutes. If we can finish and survive it in that amount of time, we go on to the next encounter. And then the next. There are five or six in all, and if we make it to the end we get a book and our names in the hall of fame.

PAX has been freaking fantastic so far and it just keeps getting better. Stay tuned for more details, both photographic and descriptive, about the awesomeness that is this weekend!

Photos of New Furniture

New furniture! April tells me the cats are freaking out 😛

We’ve got a giant brown SumoSac on the way and a cover for the old sofa (linen coloured). The old dining table, three dining chairs, and old coffee table are in the basement. They will soon be joined by the armoire to make room for the sumo sac. We’re increasing our comfy seating from 3 to 8 total seats in the living/reading rooms.

(I think I’m going to stop calling it the formal dining room and start calling it the reading room. I actually prefer “family room,” but April likes “reading.”)

From the reading room Directly from the reading room New furniture

See more on Flickr.

RSS Full vs. Excerpts

Modify your WordPress Reading Settings though the Administrative interface.
Modify your WordPress Reading Settings though the Administrative interface.

RSS, short for Really Simple Syndication, is a wonderful tool that allows readers to subscribe to your content and passively pull it into an RSS reader. For the writer, this means that your content is being distributed more widely and conveniently, helping ensure that people will read what you’ve got to say. And for the reader, it makes it easier to remember to read someone’s work; you receive a notification every time they publish something.

But you don’t have to put all of your content into your RSS feed. WordPress very simply allows you to just submit a summary or excerpt from your entry into the RSS feed. I can think of a couple of reasons to do this, but truth be told, I don’t like them.

Why bother with summaries?

I think that, for most people who use summaries in their RSS feeds, the goal is to get people to come to their actual site. Maybe they have advertisements they want people to see, or they just think their site is pretty and feel that the article needs to be framed within their theme. By only providing a summary in the RSS, it lets readers know that something new is available on the site and teases them with a bit of content, encouraging them to click through to read the full article.

Part of me can sympathize with the plight of the site owner whose livelihood is based on advertisements, but I also know that it’s annoying as hell to me to have to click through and read the article on the site. Google Reader formats text much nicer than most sites do (due to line length, height, etc.), making reading more pleasurable. Having to open up Yet Another Tab is a pain, especially when you’re like me and usually have 20-30 open at a time.

The only semi-valid reason I’ve heard for RSS summaries is on sites with a lot of photos or other media. If your posts are photo-heavy, you may not want to put that bandwidth load into your RSS. It slows down people’s readers, and you don’t know that they’re always going to be on a high speed Internet connection.

But surely those people know what your site is like, else they wouldn’t have subscribed. I can’t really find a good reason to inconvenience people by only posting summaries.

Post your full articles, RSShead.

You want your stuff to be read, right? To my mind, the noblest goal is to make it as easy as possible for the reader to access your content, and the best way to do that is to post full articles into your RSS. If your site is worthwhile, people will probably visit to read additional articles or just to support you. What I’m saying is, if you don’t suck, it’ll work out. People will come, view, read, and click regardless, so there’s no point in being an inconvenient jerk.

RoB: Why Have a Website?

Part of me doesn’t want to begin this discussion with what I consider a series of very obvious statements, but it might also be important to begin at the foundation of it all. Therefore, we’ll start with the very basic question of, “Why have a website?”

My first website, for all intents and purposes, was on Geocities and served two purposes. First, it was a conglomeration of links I enjoyed and wanted to share with other people, because I thought that was important at the time. Later, it also became a collection of my poetry.

I put these things up there not just because I wanted to share them, though. In junior high and high school, I was beginning to recognize the significant power of the web and its advantages over my personal computer. Where my computer could die, lose data, etc., most web site hosting companies had backups and redundant power supplies and a variety of other tools to ensure the retention of data. Therefore, if I kept my poetry only on my local hard drive, I was almost guaranteed to lose it someday. If I put it on a web site, I had a better chance of retaining it forever. It also gave me the added benefit of being able to access it from anywhere, so if I needed to print something at school or the library, I had it all out on my website rather than locked away at home.

I have lost some very important files in the past due to corrupted or fried hard drives. Letters from people who are now dead, photos of loved ones I’ll never see again… but now, everything I feel is important goes here, on SilverPen Publishing. The photo gallery contains every photo I’ve taken with my camera in the last few years, though not all of them are visible to you. And I do all of my writing through WordPress, which means that as I write, my words are saved every 60 seconds or so to a remote server, with power redundancy and regular backups, as well as off-site backups in case the main data center ever got struck by a meteor. My data is about as safe as it can be, so I won’t lose anything again.

So, the site is largely a practical thing. On a more personal note, I find that blogging is very helpful and healthy for me on a variety of levels, and for whatever reason, I cannot keep a personal, private journal; I end up never writing in it. Something about this medium compels me to keep writing, journaling, and sharing, and I think it’s because I’m producing work that others will see. I want to share these thoughts, and I’ll discuss more in the coming weeks why I believe that is the case.