Man oh man! Now it’s SquareSpace 7

Regular readers will know I have been dithering this way and that about upgrading my site from SquareSpace 5 to SquareSpace 6. In the two years since SquareSpace 6 was released I have not done it.

Now SquareSpace have released SquareSpace 7.

The writing is on the wall. Sooner or later, and it looks more like sooner, I am going to have to upgrade from SquareSpace 5.

The two biggest concerns are:

  1. I will lose all my ‘tight’ formatting—the careful way I have positioned pictures and the way the text flows around them. After upgrading to SquareSpace 6 or 7 my text might say “See picture at right” but because the pictures and text were re-aligned by the upgrade the picture is no longer “at right”.
  2. I will not be able to compose my postings off-line and then, when I have them ready, upload them and post them. Many of my posts are crafted over a couple of days using Microsoft’s Live Writer and then when I have them ready I upload them. With Live Writer I can see exactly how they are going to appear when posted.

There are some upsides to SquareSpace 6/7 that I like.

  1. It manages pictures better. I would not need to post the hi-resolution versions of pictures over at SmugMug and link to them. They could reside right here in SquareSpace and would only need to be uploaded once. I might even be able to close the SmugMug account and save some money.
  2. Pictures and text are automatically re-sized and re-aligned by SquareSpace for people using smaller display devices such as tablets and smartphones to provide optimum viewing on the device being used.
  3. Better integration to Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc. Not that I need or use this but it might be useful.

So I might have to add a task to my list of jobs to do. After I have finished cleaning out my study, sorted out my technology (including upgrading my main PC to Windows 8.1 and re-building/re-configuring my QNAP server), gone through all my old slides and worked out which ones to scan, then I should probably move the Abalook site over to SquareSpace 6/7.

So much to do. So little time.

BarryMark

Working towards more posts about photography

TagCountsWhen I first started this site the plan was to use it mainly for photography posts. If anyone has noticed the credo on the right hand side of the masthead says “All time is wasted wot (sic) is not spent taking photographs”. So I am sure wasting a lot of time because I have not spent much time taking pictures over the last ten years or so.

There were a couple of amazing outings a couple of years ago with SCN. But since then there have been zero serious picture taking outings. I have a lot of ideas but I don’t execute them.

So my new plan is to increase the number of posts relating to photography. My goal for the end of the year is to have more photography posts at this site than any other posts. At this point, based on my tagging, the highest number of posts are related to technology and computers. This count is currently at 151.

The count of tags for photography is 124.

By the end of the year my plan is that the number of tags for photography will be the highest of all the tags.

Taking pictures is a bit harder for me because I don’t want to take “yet another sunset” or “yet another beach picture” or “yet another pet picture” or “yet another boring landscape picture”. You get the idea. I want to take pictures that are a bit different. Pictures that, if you were to search for them on Flickr or Photosig or Instagram or 500px you probably would not find anything with the same name or tag or description.

I have put a reminder in my calendar to check the counts again in the middle of the year to see if I am closing the tags gap between tech/computers and photography.

BarryMark

Site Maintenance: Lots of SPAM; a few new comments (Parkerville)

After a short period of not doing any site maintenance for this Web site—for about the last two months—I have just gone in to check the status of things.

When I first went to the SquareSpace site administration page I had few seconds of panic. For a brief instant I could not remember the username for the site. And then the first password I entered was incorrect.

Whew! But it’s okay. I got in. Maybe I should write this down somewhere. Seems my memory is not quite as good as I thought it was. Probably something to do with old age creeping up on me.

I have had a couple of new comments, and I will get to one of them later, but I could not believe the amount of SPAM comments posted in the last two months. It is almost like those people doing the SPAMing of Web sites from around the world somehow realised that I was not watching the site; which I haven’t been for a couple of months.

I did not count them but I would have easily deleted over 100 SPAM comments. But it takes a little while because you (I) don’t want to delete any real comments—real comments are way too valuable. At the same time you don’t want to leave behind some SPAM comment that ask people to go to some cheap watch selling site or some porn site. So you sort of have to do a really quick read of every suspected SPAM comment.

Hopefully I have not deleted any real comments. I was very careful.

So that brings me to one of the ‘real’ comments, shown below.

Parkerville_Comment

Clicking on the comment above will take you to the original posting where the comment was made which is titled “Parkerville Amphitheatre: Returning to Nature”.

Based on this comment from Geoff C it sounds like the old amphitheatre at Parkerville might be getting a bit of a clean up.

As I have nothing to do this afternoon I might take a drive out there and have a look see, and, depending on what I find, I will report back.

BarryMark

The ‘Serial’ comma

There is a saying in the world of writers that there are two kinds of people in the world: Those that know when to use the serial comma and those that don’t.

The serial comma, sometimes also called the Oxford comma or the proper comma, is that comma that needs to go before the ‘and’ when you compose a sentence that contains a comma separated list. Incorrect usage of the serial or Oxford comma can completely change the meaning of a sentence.

The following graphic found on the Web provides a great example of this.

Oxford Comma

The first sentence above is “We invited the strippers, jfk, and Stalin”. With the serial comma used before the ‘and’ this sentence clearly indicates to us a list and tells us that at the party there were:

  • Strippers.
  • JFK.
  • Stalin.

In the second sentence—which contains the exact same words—the serial comma has been dropped. Now this sentence is no longer presenting a list; it is telling us that at the party they had strippers and the strippers were named JFK and Stalin.

This shows the care needed in use of the Oxford or serial comma.

Another example sometimes used in underlining the use of the serial comma is the statement “I’d like to thank my parents, Elvis, and Marilyn Monroe”. This statement clearly says his is thanking:

  • His parents.
  • Elvis.
  • Marilyn Monroe.

If we omit the serial comma this becomes “I’d like to thank my parents, Elvis and Marilyn Monroe”. Now it is staying something a little silly. It is saying he wants to thank:

  • His parents.
  • And a married couple called Elvis and Marilyn Monroe.

BarryMark

Thinking again about moving over to SquareSpace 6

Regular readers will know that my site is hosted by SquareSpace and that I am using the SquareSpace 5 model. These readers will also know that I have looked at moving my site over to the new SquareSpace 6 model that SquareSpace introduced late last year.

The three biggest upsides to converting over to SquareSpace 6 are:

  • A much wider posting width—I would have 900 pixels of posting width, and possibly more depending how I set the site up; this is compared to 650 pixels of posting width now.
  • The site would would work much better for mobile users and I can see from my browsing statistics that about a third of my readers are now visiting the site using a ‘mobile’ device (basically meaning either a tablet or smartphone).
  • Better automated handling of photographs with galleries, with lightbox viewing, and with automated resizing to fit the viewing device.

The main downsides to moving to SquareSpace 6 are:

  • I will no longer be able to use Microsoft’s Live Writer to pre-key my posts.
  • When I transfer my current content over from SquareSpace 5 to SquareSpace 6 the precise formatting will be corrupted/lost—I would have to restructure every post after the transfer, or ‘not care’ and just leave them however they get transferred.
  • From what I can work out my tagging will not transfer over which will mean that I will have to do it all again—if I want to continue tagging posts.

None of these are trivial issues but the biggest issue is the first one: Not being able to use Microsoft Live Writer to pre-key my posts. I could key the text up in something like OneNote but the part I would not have is the ability to position and size images precisely how I want them—which is one of the amazing things Live Writer lets you do.

Is there anyone out there who has moved from SquareSpace 5 to SquareSpace 6 that has any suggestions or thoughts about this? I really am confused about what to do.

BarryMark

Testing on SquareSpace 6 continues . . .

As I think I mentioned a number of posts ago I am looking into converting my site over from SquareSpace v5 to SquareSpace v6. I don’t have to do this because the SquareSpace team have said that they have no intention of stopping v5. But there are two good reasons for me trying to convert from v5 to v6.

The first reason is that I would be able to post pictures up to 900 pixels wide, whereas my current limit with my v5 site is 652. This would allow me to post pictures almost a third wider. For a site that I sort of hope will become more photography focussed it would be of great benefit to be able to post wider ‘landscape’ orientation pictures.

The second reason is that v6 has been designed from the bottom up to cater for mobile devices. When people using any size of tablet or any size smartphone connect to a v6 site the engines behind the site know the type of device connecting. So then they automatically adjust the presentation of the site to better suit the device being used.

Also, instead of images simply being resized by the browser to fit the viewing screen size, they are resampled by the back-end SquareSpace engine before being sent to the viewing device. This means, generally, depending on the starting point image and the device being used to access the site, that the quality of the picture that ends up on the screen is much better.

It has not been easy duplicating the look of my v5 site in v6 but I am relatively close now.

Below are two screen captures. The first screen capture is from the test v6 site. The second screen capture is of the same posting from my existing v5 site. Both captures were done in the same size screen browser at full width. So this means, even though the images are reduced to fit my posting width here, that the relative size difference is perfect (i.e., the representation is to scale).

Ignore the sidebar gibberish in the v6 screen grab. At this stage in my testing I have not done anything with the sidebar.

v6-Test-1

v6-Test-2

You can instantly see the obvious difference. While the sidebar is effectively the same width (it is actually a tiny 12 pixels wider), the main posting area is much wider. It is now 900 pixels compared to 650 pixel previously.

There are downsides. There are ALWAYS downsides. Following are the two biggest downsides.

Firstly, due to the way v6 works, none of the desktop content creation tools will work with it. This means Live Writer, which I use for v5, and am using now to create this entry, cannot be used to create content for v6. Basically to key up posts for v6 you have to log into SquareSpace and do it there.

This is a big hurdle for me. I love Live Writer. I have Live Writer configured so it works from Microsoft’s Skydrive. This means I can use Live Writer installed on any computer anywhere and create and edit posts stored in the Skydrive.

Also, I seriously hate entering content into Web-browser based tools. They are slow, all the short-cut keys I know and love do not work, they typically don’t have as-you-key spell checking (in fact the SquareSpace 6 online editor does not have any form of spell checking), and the interfaces are generally clumsy due to the limitations of working via a browser.

Secondly, when I import all my existing content from my v5 site the formatting that I took care to get just how I wanted it (with each an every post) is going to get wrecked. The only way for this to be ‘fixed’ is for me to review all of my past postings and, one by one, fix up any really bad formatting failures caused by the import.

See … it is not easy running and maintaining a quality site.

If anyone who has converted to SquareSpace 6 has any thoughts or ideas to share then please post a comment or e-mail me.

BarryMark

Might move site over to SquareSpace 6 (allows for larger pictures)

As long time readers will know, my site is hosted by SquareSpace. When I set the site up it was SquareSpace 4 which then became SquareSpace 5. In the last six months SquareSpace have released v6 but, unlike the change from SquareSpace 4 to SquareSpace 5, the move to SquareSpace 6 is a big change and is NOT automatic.

Because of the big changes (and the hard work) involved in moving from SquareSpace 5 to SquareSpace 6 the poeple at SquareSpace are retaining and maintaining SquareSpace 5. This is so that people like me, who were not sure about upgrading, could stay with SquareSpace 5.

But now I am thinking of changing my mind.

One thing that has always sort of bugged me about SquareSpace, and most of the other easy-to-use Web site hosting products, is that there are tight restrictions on the maximum width of photographs that can be posted. By and large the maximum pixel width of a picture posting is somewhere between 500 and 750 pixels. With my site is it 650 pixels.

With even the most basic PC screen on a desktop or notebook unit now being 1,366 pixels wide that means my ‘full’ width pictures show at less than half the screen width. And on a HD 1920 screen they show at a third of the screen in width.

Sure you can then link to the full sized picture somewhere else but that then means also setting up another account somewhere, and it means that people reading your site need to link over to another site to see the larger picture.

Because of the above I am seriously considering moving my site from SquareSpace 5 over to SquareSpace 6.

Firstly SquareSpace 6 allows for wider pictures to be posted. Just how wide depends on the template you choose, but I should be able to post pictures about 900 pixels wide. Maybe wider.

When it comes to posting and showing pictures SquareSpace 6 does it right. When pictures need to be shown smaller, for whatever reason, they are resampled to the correct size and not simply resized—so pictures stay crystal sharp and do not become fuzzy or jaggy due to resizing.

Also with SquareSpace 6 there is a ‘lightbox’ option. This means people can click on the picture in the posting and the picture will then be shown full size in a ‘lightbox’ without the reader having to link over to another site.

The fourth upside to converting to SquareSpace 6 is that it caters for mobile devices. So when someone accesses my site from a smartphone or tablet then SquareSpace 6 will automatically, on the fly, change the way it shows the site so that it better suits that device.

But, as always, there are downsides. The single biggest downside is that all my existing content and pictures may not transfer over to SquareSpace 6 ‘perfectly’. Text that I made wrap around pictures just the way I wanted is likely to get messy. Pictures are likely to get repositioned. Tables are likely to come unstuck (column made wider or narrower).

Anyway I will have a play with SquareSpace 6 over the next few weeks and see how things work out. I will let you know if I make the final decision to transfer over to SquareSpace 6.

BarryMark

Word of the week — marginalia

Okay. I know. Abalook doesn’t have a “Word of the Week”. Well it didn’t up until now, and it probably won’t have any more after this, but then it might—if I come across any more great words for a ‘word of the week’.

So here I am, right now (2.01 p.m. Saturday, 22nd September) listening to episode 279 of Windows Weekly, which is one of my favourite TWiT podcasts, and Leo Laporte mentions ‘marginalia’. He is holding up Paul Thorrott’s latest book “Windows 8 Secrets” and telling us it has great marginalia.

Now for those that are not regular readers I will just point out that I have done a reasonable amount of ad-hoc training in documentation and writing over the years including three different page layout and design courses, Writing for the Reader (a seven week course for people involved in technical documentation), and I was a Microsoft CP (Certified Professional) in Word for a number of years back in the days of Office 95.

MarginaliaEven so, I had never come across the term ‘marginalia’.

So. What is ‘marginalia’?

Now that I know what it means I can tell you that I have often done this. I think all technical writers probably have, without knowing it had a name—although probably some of them did.

Marginalia is when you put comments, hint, tips, or other notations in the margin of a document or book.

This is very easy to do in Word. There are a number of ways of doing it but the method I prefer is to insert a text box, anchor the text box to the paragraph that the marginalia is linked to (see, I know the right word to use now), and then put the marginalia in the text box; which—despite the name—can contain more than just text (including tables and images).

So, now—for those that did not already know—you now know the meaning of ‘marginalia’.

BarryMark

Non-capitalised headings seem to be the ‘new normal’

I did a blog some time ago (back in June 2011 actually, here) about whether I should continue to use the old standard (going back hundreds of years) of formal capitalised headings; or to go with the new wave—brought about by the Internet era—of ‘conversational’ headings where capitalisation is not used

Well here we are now. Over a year later. There are still some papers and journals sticking with formal capitalised heading such as the Huffington Post (here) and the New York Times (here). But the majority of blogs, papers, and journals have gone over to the ‘new normal’ of non-capitalised conversational style headings—as you can see from the following examples:

  • UK Telegraph (here)
  • The BBC Online news (here)
  • The Continuous News Network or CNN (here)
  • News.com.au (here)
  • The Washington Post (here)
  • Engadget (here)
  • The Australian Financial Review or AFR (here)

So I have decided to give conversational headings a try out.

From this point forward, unless I forget or change my mind again, my headings will not be capitalised.

See. I am not that fixed in my ways. I can change with the tide if I think I need to . . .

BarryMark

Six Days Ago it Was Three Years

I got back from site last night and today I opened up my Outlook mail client. A reminder came up that I set for myself some time ago telling me that six days ago it was three years since I started my site.

SixDaysAgo

Yep. I have been posting to this site for three years. Well … three years and six days to be precise.

I remember back when I started Abalook I read a whole pile of stuff from around the Web on blogging. I even purchased “The Dummies Guide to Starting a Blog” (or whatever it is called). I learnt things like: keep posts to a maximum of 500 words (which I sometimes try to do but I generally don’t worry too much about this rule anymore); and to always put some kind of picture with every post (which I used to to do, but like the 500 word rule I don’t really bother much about this either these days); and to use Word or some online service to make sure your posting’s Flesch reading ease is under 55 and the Flesch grade is no higher than 7 (and I actually used to check the Flesch readability score before posting articles when I started, but I don’t do that much anymore—sometimes but rarely).

But one of the things I read that I was very aware of in the early days of my site was that 85 percent of people who start blogs don’t get past five months of regular postings and half of the remaining 15 pecent don’t make it past a year.

Well I have made it well past five months. I have made it to 36 months—although I will admit that my posting rate has declined heavily over the last two months. But the main thing is that I am in the 7.5 percent of people who make it past that first year of posting.

Just for fun I just Flesched this posting in Word and the reading ease is well over 55 (it is 67.4) and it got a grade level of 10.3 which means you need to have completed 10.3 years of school in order to be able to read and understand what I have written here. So this posting fails the Flesch limit of 7 rule for blog postings.

FleschScore

Even so, hopefully anyone reading this can understand what I am saying.

Writing has always interested me. When I was about 16 I typed a 100 page book using an Olympia portable typewriter my mum bought me.

In my time I have done two copy editors courses (one for technical editing and the other for user manual editing) and numerous writing courses including “Writing for the Reader” at WAIT way back when WAIT was called WAIT (Western Australia Institute of Technology) before it was called Curtin University. I am hoping that what I picked up from these courses has helped me make what I publish here more or less understandable; regardless of the Flesch scores.

And this post is almost the perfect 500 words (513 to be exact).

BarryMark