Bill P. Godfrey et al

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Adventures in websites - Epilogue

This is the last in a series looking at personal web sites. You may or may not wish to read the earlier installments.
Part One - Student days
Part Two - Bishop to Blogger
Part Three - Beyond Blogging
Part Four - Lettuce to the Editor

Way back in my student days, just as GeoCities (formerly GeoPages) was getting big, a friend of mine joked that he would build The Ultimate GeoCities Site as a work of satire. Loads of fluff but very little content, and what content there is hasn't been touched for a year.

It would never have worked, as the satire would be too close to reality. If we were to have the same conversation today, we would be talking about The Ultimate MySpace Page in the same vein and it would fail as satire for the same reason.

So, if you want (or already have) a personal website, why?

Perhaps you are a creative type, musician, writer, artist, photographer, film-maker, etc and you want to show-off your work. That's great, websites are good for that.

In my case, although this site ended up being for my writing and photography, I didn't really know what I wanted a website for. I had a strange inkling that it would be some sort of "business card". For that, it seems to me that a niche "social networking" site would be preferable. Find the one that all your friends or collegues are using and join that one. For me, that would be LinkedIn. Its a bit like MySpace for professionals. (And that should be their slogan.)

If you want more than just a business card page, I'd recommend setting up a personal website. Two things you'd need...
  1. A domain. (Like - say - "".)
  2. A web host service. (Where the work of running the site takes place.)
Personally, I recommend getting those two things from separate organisations. This is in case you ever want to change web host services. That way the old web host service can't decide to lock you into that service by keeping control of the domain.

In the first part of this series, I said;
"It frankly amazes me that MySpace and its ilk are so popular with students and teenagers when a fiver a month can get you a website and there is so much free PHP based software for blogs, forums, photo galleries, etc. Clearly I have different values."

Unfortunately, installing software onto web services is a skilled task. Some of these free software projects try to provide step-by-step instructions, but there is no standard way that web host services are set up. So it's rare for the instructions to be tailored properly for your particular web host. The user might be instructed to "cd" into the "htdocs" directory. Many wouldn't know that cd meant change directory and would be defeated immediately. The one's who do understand "cd" might not have a "htdocs" directory on their server and wind up being deafeated as well.

This is one area where I feel that web host services could expand. There is a real need for what I like to call medium service. People (but mostly small to medium businesses) can hire "web design" services who will do everything for them. We'll call this full service. That is, setting up the server, coming up with a nice basic design and training the customer in using the "easy-to-use" software to add personalized content to the site.

My idea of medium service would just be taking the web services' current offering and ramping it up a bit. Mainly, that would entail setting up some free blogging/gallery/forum/etc software and keeping it patched. This could be semi-automated by a skilled technician. The user wouldn't have to know about directory structures or MySQL databases, but they would have to design thier own templates and train themselves from a book or downloaded text file.

I know what you're thinking. "He's just made the case for My Space and others like them."

Not really. You see, a medium service account would allow you to:
  • Take your business elsewhere without changing your address just by reconfiguring your domain's records.
  • Place your own adverts on your site. If you wanted to
The added bonus would be complete control over how your site would look and your own domain name. Which, in all honesty, might look more "professional" than - say - a MySpace URL.
Is medium service worth paying for? I know how I feel about it, but you'll have to make up your own mind on the subject. Then, pursue which ever best suits your values.

Either way, the world of personal web sites will continue to be worth watching. Well, to me anyway.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Ba da, da da da da da.

Ba da, da da da dah.
Ba da, da da da da da.
Ba da, da da da dah.

Da da da daaaah, da. (Bowh!)
Da da da daaaah, da. (Bowh!)
Da da da daaaah, da.
Da da da da da da duh...

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Have it your way?

Whomever has the gold, makes the rules.

So I was in a cafe in a seaside town and I fancied a breakfast. They had an English breakfast which I ordered at the counter. She asked if I wanted baked beans or tomato (tomato), toast or friend bread (toast) and how I'd like my tea.

I was about to give my usual preference (white with one sugar) but I wasn't really in the mood for a hot drink. So I asked if I could have a cold drink instead.

Apparantly, I couldn't not have the tea. It was part of the breakfast and thou shalt not modify the breakfast. I was given two choices already and that should be enough choice for anyone!

I asked how much the cold drinks are and she ran through the price list. Somewhere around the price of a cola can, my enthusiasm for the breakfast left me and I told her not to worry about it and I motioned towards the door.

With the prospect of losing business, suddenly, we could be flexible. "Would you like an orange juice instead of the tea?" With that, my custom was saved! Hurrah!

But really, why not allow anyone to make reasonable substitutions? Is inflexibility such a virtue?

(Note for my American buddies: In England, tea is typically served as a hot drink.)

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Clapping along to the music

I've just been reminded of one of my pet hates, and I felt the urge to write about it.

So I'm watching television and there is a band performing some music. That band is rather good, but suddently, its all spoilt.

Some members of the audience decide to start clapping along. I hate that! "Excuse me, I'm trying to listen to the music here!"

Even worse is when the music will change tempo, but the audience will take a few claps to realise they are no longer in time.

Once, I saw someone do a novelty act on television. He had an electric organ on the floor and he played it by bouncing tennis balls at the keys while he was standing up. Once he got started and picked up the tempo, the audience started clapping. Just then, the performer stopped and looked at the audience with an "Are you lot all on drugs?" look.

After a nervous laugh, the audience kept quiet and allowed the performer to continue after being firmly put in their place. But with that act of defiance, he lost the love of the audience. It didn't matter how good he was, he only got polite applause at the end.

I really felt sorry for that guy. I can imagine he's still doing his act, but he keeps his audience in handcuffs.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Mr Blue Sky Redux Redux

Remember Mr Blue Sky by James Roberts?
(If not, go watch it again.)

He's made an out-take video and it looks quite painful.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

"So you married an Atheist?"

This made me smile. Enjoy.


Saturday, September 02, 2006

Bad Flag!

Flags are (to me anyway) an interesting art form. Simple designs but they work very well when done right. To me, a good flag has a design that child could draw, but isn't too simple. Long straight lines that can be drawn with a ruler, crosses, simple diagonals. All good.

This is due to a bad experience in school when I was around 8. We had to draw the various flags of Britain.

The flags of England, Scotland and the Union Jack were all easy enough to do, but then I came to this one...

As much as I love Wales, I did not love it's flag that day. It was then I knew that I would not be a sketch artist.

A flag can also be too simple. Too many flags around the world are just two or three stripes. Draw two lines in a rectangle an colour in. YAWN!

But award for dullest flag ever goes to...


Now really, what sort of flag is that? Just green? Did you just run out of different coloured pens that day? I know its meant to be symbolic of Gaddafi's green revolution, but c'mon guys. You can do better than that.

Anyway, I still love Wales and I plan to retire there. Its my first rason to be happy. Please don't hate me.