Thursday, February 20, 2014

Larks' Tongues In Aspic

The cold weather must have caused some brain freezes or perhaps the silly season is simply upon us now but one member of The Other Dunwoody was witness to a bizarre sight right here in daVille. Seems that some poor bloke of a certain age and gravitas was approached in a local retail establishment by what turned out to be a somewhat ruffled pro-Dunwoody crusader. What ensued was described as indistinguishable from a verbal assault as the crusader opened a rather large can of Dunwoody Whoopass and gave the confused patron a super-sized portion. While clearly a case of mistaken identity this elderly gentleman fled the store and was last seen heading southbound in a Buick sporting Florida plates and an "Ask Me About My Shih Tzu" bumper sticker.

There does seem to be general consensus that this fractured fairytale that Dunwoody has become just might be getting a little out of hand. This matter was hotly debated at the most recent TOD editorial meeting and while the conclusion was this was most likely a spontaneous outbreak of cerebral flatulence caused by cabin fever it was decided TOD should do what little it may to bring the overheated rhetoric out of the real world and back into the realm where it is only the bits that bite.

To wit: a better blog.

Not that any content on this blog will substantially change. Oh no. But what TOD can do is re-affirm the observation that they really will give anyone a blog and offer a few helpful hints to get folks started.

Some say you need a theme to blog around. Perhaps. Perhaps not. If you want a blog dedicated to the Dunwoody Ship-in-a-Bottle Social Club then go for it. If you just want to publish the random drivel that spews from finger to keyboard that's OK too. Not particularly novel, but it is still OK.

What you will need is an account--probably on one of the two services that dominate the public blogosphere. First is Google's Blogger and the other popular alternative is Wordpress. Both are more than adequate, easy to use and supply a variety of themes. Blogger has plenty of cool gadgets and integrates to other Google offers (like calendar). Wordpress is big in academia, particularly where posting mathematical equations might come in handy. There is a JSMath gadget for blogger but this is not as well integrated or flexible as the Wordpress offer.

Both provide minimal analytics and with very little work can be hooked into other more powerful analytics systems. Most folks use Google Analytics but there are others if you have some philosophical opposition to Google running the planet. You probably won't need that at first since no one will be reading your blog. At least not early on and depending on what tortured souls actually visit you may wish for never.

Some consideration should be given to copyright of your material. You must decide if you want re-distribution (copying) or if you'd prefer back-links. You might want to look into the Creative Commons suite of licenses. None of this is enforceable without expending significant dollars but it does encourage the casual cut-and-paster to really read what they're copying before they republish. This can save everyone a lot of grief. Especially the poor SoB who copied your crap without reading it only find out that what it really says is exactly the opposite of what he thought.

Then there is the touchy subject of comments. If you've been paying attention to local blogs you've noticed some fairly recent changes in policy. One blogger dropped the gadget showing recent comments which had the immediate effect of dramatically reducing comment traffic. Others have moved to comment moderation where the blog owner approves any comment before it shows up on the site. Some no longer allow anonymous commenting though most still allow handles (like PollyAnne) which is not too far from anonymous. This tightening of the free-speech-free-for-all is most likely due to the inverse relationship between number of comments and total information content of those comments. Or it could just be that most commenters have gotten really nasty of late. Of course here at The Other Dunwoody this is not a problem because we simply do not allow comments. While this was initially met with cheers of enthusiastic support lately there have been some who would like to offer their witticisms using our bits rather than getting their own blog and the point of this post is to encourage them to exercise their right to free speech on a blog of their very own. Furthermore we suspect these folks may in some way be responsible for scaring that potential age-in-place taxpayer all the way back to Fantasy Land.

So are you a candidate to write that better blog? Well if you're reading this tripe you clearly have too much time on your hands--time that might be better spent writing than reading. And if what you read here really, really pisses you off, you owe it to yourself to point your browser over to blogger or wordpress and make a fool of yourself in the virtual world rather than down at the gas station.