This Blogging Stuff is Slow

I am really starting to wonder what I am doing hosting my own WordPress install … I used to absolutely love tweaking things, trying out new plugins, remixing themes, and all the other things that go along with running your own install. But times have changed and I find myself more times that not fighting against my own installation. On top of that, I am really struggling with the lackluster performance and limited feature set. I know some of it is my dirt cheap shared hosting service, but even this process, you know writing in this editor just seems so outmoded to me.

The rise of one button publishing and drop dead simple services is taking its toll on my patience for the WordPress model. Every time I play with new services like Tumblr and Posterous I notice just how lame my own environment is for quickly posting and capturing thoughts, links, pictures, and just about everything else. I hate to say it, but I don’t like having to log into my dashboard and write — it feels like using a course management system. What I hate is that I come across something as I am in my normal workflow that inspires me to collect and share it. With my WP environment that means opening a new tab, going to my blog, logging in, copying/pasting a URL, grabbing a quote from the original article, writing, and then publishing. That is a lot of stuff to do and it reminds me of the world we put students in with our learning spaces — read content, log into CMS, find you course, switch to a discussion forum, write your thoughts, save, then go back to your work. That is all a bit insane and it kills flow.

I have the quickpost bookmarklet for WP in my browser bar, but it takes so long to load up and just lacks the functionality that I’ve come to expect by using Blogs at PSU, TypePad, Tumblr, or Posterous. Those are all infinately smarter and faster. I now more than ever need an environment that works the way I do and I have to say I am feeling like WP has fallen behind my needs. I’m sure it works perfectly for others so I’m looking for a blogging platform holy war, I’m just saying its model is dead to me.

Now, what to do? I have years worth of data here and it is really cheap — and I know I am getting what I pay for. I’d like to keep my domain, but I am done with managing my own environment. I’m contemplating a major switch to a new service. Right now, TypePad is the leading choice … it is a killer hosted solution that is fast, reliable, can publish to my own space, and has all the major features of the new kids on the block (killer email posting, one button publishing, and a community). The thing I want to say is that I am concerned with switching is that these new environments are coming to market so quickly and they can come and go. I need to be able to get my data in and out quickly and easily. Even if the platform space itself becomes commoditized, my content and publishing habits are not.

Getting from here to there is daunting, but I think I need to jump. Advice?

Looking for Some WP Help

So after a couple of years of not being happy on my host and wanting to shut down the current domain I blog from (, I am working to make the leap. The plan is to move this blog to another domain I have on a different host, I toyed with switching platforms to MT, but at the end of the day I think WP is the better choice for my personal needs. I am however having a hell of a time making progress on moving forward.

Here are the dilemmas … any help/advice/guidance would be greatly appreciated:

  • My database is huge! Doing a raw SQL dump works every now and then, but the new host will not allow the DB that size … and to tell you the truth, I’d like to start over. When I go through the tables there is so much stuff in there that I am guessing causes some of my site’s performance issues. I’d prefer not to do the standard database export and inset on the other end.
  • The way I’d really like to do this is via the built in XML export. I like the idea of only dealing with the posts, comments, and assets in that way. I am able to sort of make that work, but not quite. When I do an export, I do not get all of my posts. It stops giving them to me from sometime back in August. It is driving me crazy — I have posted a couple of times to the WP forums at, but I haven’t gotten any help there. Does anyone know what the story is with the XML export and why it might be doing this? Anyone at all have any advice for me?

The Intranet — Gee, That’s Exciting

That seems to be the general reaction I get from people when I start talking Intranets. Back in the day we didn’t really think about how we worked to use the web to influence what was going on inside an organization — we were so damn busy just trying to build and launch some sort of externally facing site. I recall our first Intranet at Cogence Media back in 1996 … it was an old Apple FileServer that we discovered we could deep link into via a browser. The funny thing was that we didn’t do this deep linking via web pages, we did it from a bunch of individual Word documents that we kept on the shared space of the file server. I embarrassed to say that I was part of the web team and it just didn’t dawn on us to use real web pages to manage the knowledge of the organization. But when I really step back and think about it, we were doing the best we could with the tools of the day — sort of.

The last couple of years that has all changed though — especially for me. I have become just as interested in the conversations that go on inside an organization as the ones that are directed at customers, readers, audiences, or whatever else you want to call the people you are speaking to on the outside. The emergence of web 2.0, especially in the last year or so has given rise to many new ideas I am banging around in my head related to increasing opportunities for internal dialog. I have started reading more and more about the notion of Enterprise 2.0 (mainly from Andrea McAfee from Harvard) and I have to say it seems to be a perfect blend of my interests in communication technologies, organizations, and people. One of Dr. MacAffe’s posts that I have gotten a ton of mileage out of is a simple profile of one organization’s use of MediaWiki as a very powerful Intranet tools et. In it, he profiles this organization and the way they are using this site as a hub to both changing internal and external communication. To me it is a fascinating, yet simple study in how to get organizations to pay attention to important internal conversations.

One of the things I discovered when coming to ETS 21 months ago is the importance of an online place for sharing organizational information. This stuff takes the form of posts, stories, wiki pages, travel reports, and all the things that make a medium to large sized work-group go. What I found is that without some sort of hub at the center, keeping up on it all is just too difficult. Once we jumped the hurdle of simply providing a platform and the encouragement for people to participate as a part of the organizational story, we have started to think about how to better organize it all.

I have been working with one of my colleague here at ETS to rethink our Intranet space … let me say that I feel our local Intranet (it supports about 100 people within Teaching and Learning with Technology) is successful at helping us all share information in a somewhat organized way. We still struggle with architecture, but we are getting better at it. We are also getting better at bringing content from outside sources in … currently there are dozens of staff who are blogging, tagging links in, and photos in Flickr that are relevant to what we do and we are working on. The goal is to make all that “meta-content” seamlessly integrate with our internal content. It has been fun and an interesting little project. Just today I did a wire frame to share my thoughts on how we could mix the internal with the external to provide access to dynamic and organizationally important content in one location. As it comes to life, I’ll share more of it. Now that people are writing as much as they are around here I am struck with the need to have greater access to it all.

At any rate, the real reason I am posting is a cry for help … I have recently been asked to help with creating a new Intranet strategy for my parent organization here at PSU — Information Technology Services (ITS). ITS at Penn State is a very large and diverse organization that takes residence in no less than a dozen buildings on campus. This creates all sorts of challenges as it relates to sharing information in an efficient and effect manner. We do a good job, but it is high-touch and requires a ton of work. With that said, we are just too big to get together as much as we should and now that many of us are blogging the discoverablility of content is very low. One thing I would love to learn more about from all of you is what type of Intranets are you using within your organizations? How are you leveraging your understanding of information technology, people, communities, and web 2.0 to create new opportunities for computer mediated communication? I’d like to know more and I’d like to find ways to talk with you and explore what you are thinking and how you feel it is impacting the organization. Any takers?

MacBook Shootout. What to Do?

Let me start by saying that this post is about making a decision … I don’t want it to be viewed as anything but me thinking out loud about a couple of really solid products. With that said, let me get rolling with it. For those who know me I don’t think it is a secret that I am an Apple guy — that may actually be a little bit of an understatement. I try to get my hands on most of Apple’s stuff for a ton of reasons, but design is at the top of the list. I love the way they make things, package things, market things, and execute in the marketplace. It honestly started way back in 1984 when the family got an original 128K Mac on my 12th birthday. It was mesmerizing … the whole thing was just amazing to me. I used that machine for 6 years until it literally blew up when I was a senior in high school. From there I got a Mac SE to take off to college. Things got a bit out of control over the next several years … here’s a sample of the Macs I’ve had in my possession over the years, an LC III, Performa 600 CD, PM 7200, Blue and White G3, G3 All in One, Newton 2100, SnowBall iMac, DP G4s, DP G5s, PowerBooks, iBooks, Intel iMac, MBP, and more … let’s not even get into the iPods. I will say that after the Blue and White most of my machines have been either a work or consulting machine, so its not like I’ve been buying everything that Apple brings out — really!

Prior to coming to ETS I was an avid 12″ PowerBook user. I loved it … everything about it. The size and industrial design still makes me smile when I see one. When I got to ETS I switched over to the 15″ PowerBook and since have been using a 15″ MacBook Pro. I love the MBP, but have found myself looking very longingly at the black MacBook recently. I am getting set to start on a ridiculus amount of travel over the next month and the smaller size and increased battery life of the MB is starting to really appeal to me. So after all that bullshit in the first paragraph, this is what I am wondering about … MBP v MB? I have spent the weekend with a MB testing it out and here’s what I am coming up so far:

The MBP gives me:

  • Lighted Keyboard … I am surprised by how much this helps. I find myself missing that b/c I do quite a bit of email late at night in the dark.
  • Bigger Display … Putting them side by side, the 15″ seems a lot bigger, but I’m not sure I absolutely need the extra real estate, but there are times when it is really nice to have.
  • Card Slot … Honestly this has been the MB deal breaker until now b/c I not only use, but need, my card slot to use my Verizon Wireless V640. More and more places offer free wifi, but when you rely on tools like email and Google Docs as much as I do I need a live connection.
  • Pro Looks … I hate to say it but the MBP looks more grown up. I am finding as I am aging that may not be as desirable as I once thought.

The MB gives me:

  • Killer Keyboard Design … I have to say I am digging on the raised keyboard design. It actually reminds me of the keyboard that shipped with my LC III — my favorite of all the keyboards I’ve ever used. I do miss the backlighting, but I have a little flexible USB light that I used to use with my 12″ that will work on a plane or in a pinch.
  • Size … The thing feels like a notebook — not a computer, but a real notebook. I can see myself just grabbing it to take into meetings much more than I do with my MBP. With the MBP I always put it in a bag and take all the stuff with me for some reason. Also, on a plane, this thing will be killer … being able to actually use it in coach is a big motivator here. I am a big guy and the MBP poses problems, especially if the person in front of me needs to recline.
  • Battery Life … I used it yesterday morning from about 7:30 AM until noon without hooking it to an AC power source. I even had the thing cranked to best performance. The MBP cannot even come close to that. Again on a cross country flight I might actually be able to make it without frantically searching for a power outlet during a layover.
  • Wireless … Yeah they are both wireless, but the MB seems to get a much stronger signal here in my house. Not sure why, but it is snappier when browsing, downloading, and uploading. Maybe it is just in my head, but it is noticeable.
  • Lack of a Card Slot … I know I said I need this, but one of my colleagues pointed me to the Verizon Wireless USB720 Modem. Essentially it is the same as the card only USB based. Sure it sticks out farther, but who cares. I once got stuck on the runway for a couple of hours and was happily surfing, emailing, and connected with the broadband … not once did I care if the thing would stick out.

Update: OK, here is one thng that is bothering me a little bit — the case design of the MB. It isn’t terrible, but this one is a little sharp around the edges. Where my wrists hit the wrist rest areas it is sharp edge. Are others dealing with that or is it just the one I am using?

Performance seems to be close to the same … I am a little dismayed by the lack of dedicated video memory on the MB, but if I am going to need something to do some real work on I use my 24″ iMac anyway. At work I hook the MBP up to an external display and I know the MB can drive it — it isn’t a 30″ display, so no worries there. So at the end of the day I still can’t decide, but I am leaning towards the MB. Anyone out there have a MB and want to share some thoughts with me?

A WordPress/Host Plea for Help

I keep coming to my blog seeing the following error (I changed the username myself):

WordPress database error: [User ‘username’ has exceeded the ‘max_questions’ resource (current value: 50000)]

I know my host, StartLogic restricts the number of MySQL calls in an hour to 50,000 … can I actually be hitting that limit or are there other causes? The other blogs and tools I have installed here at the domain continue to run even when this blog goes down. My host tells me I need to go to a dedicated server package, but I really don’t get that much traffic — during the last 8 months, according google analytics, my highest traffic month was November with around 5,000 unique visits … that is when this problem started BTW. Can anyone help me with decoding this? If I do need to change plans/hosts does anyone have a recommendation? If it doesn’t seem like I should need to, does anyone have any advice for me?

I Thought There Would Be More …

Hmm … maybe it is true. Maybe only 2-3 people actually show up here. Maybe it is a tired question … I don’t know. I thought I’d get more response to the question about blogging at a big University. I thought more edu-bloggers would have something novel to say to help move the thinking forward. Chris dropped the social notion on me, but I am looking for more insight before the next big PSU Blogger meeting. Any help?