A long time ago I decided to get rid of my other blogs, Shutterclicks and Satunnaisia leiskahduksia. Both blogs content has now been aggregated into this blog. With SL the merge was easy as had the same URL structure and all that. With Shutterclicks the change wasn’t so simple and unfortunately all post from there will redirect incorrectly due to a different URL structure. Also, it seems that the featured image etc. information of at least some of the latest Shutterclicks posts didn’t come through correctly. I guess I’ll go and try to fix all of that at some point. Maybe…

Setting a direction

For a long time I’ve been adrift when it comes to most of my blogs (Life of Jalo being an exception). Especially here in randomfire I’ve been trying to decide what kind of content I want to publish to attract and keep readers.

Sure, it’s a personal blog and I’m supposed to be allowed to ramble about just about anything, but if I want to cultivate a readership base in my blog, it needs some kind of focus. The problem is that I’m just interested in too many things at any given time.

One of my main issues has been on how and where to blog about my professional life. I decided that anything related to my profession (information technology), I’ll blog about internally on a company platform. Working for a large organization has its benefits and it is also a way for me to get my expertise public to different parts of our organization. And I won’t have to worry about disclosing public information etc.

My Finnish blog, Satunnaisia leiskahduksia, will be revived and will concentrate on fire fighting and dogs. They are both topics that I deal with in Finnish and most of the vocabulary is somewhat cultural / localized and I don’t want to deal with the hassle of explaining terms in each post.

Shutterclicks will be activated. It isn’t as if I didn’t take pictures worth posting, but somehow I just find the time to procrastinate too much and never get them posted. I do have some workflow issues that I’d like to resolve to make matters easier, but in general the amount of processing that I do per image shouldn’t take all that much time.

Which then leaves me with this blog. Even though I’ve always tagged it with random ramblings, I’ve decided to focus on two main topics: guitar and photography. A bit over a year and half ago I finally bit the bullet and started to pick up the guitar a bit more regularly and am slowly progressing. But it won’t only be about guitars, music in general will also be a topic that will get more attention. Music and guitar playing have been close to me and are topics that I’d definitely like to write more about. But don’t worry, I won’t be submitting you to any of my playing anytime soon ;)

Photography has been dear to me for quite some time. Slowly but surely there’s been a flood of photographic equipment that has begun to flood our house and I’ve been getting better at getting the shot I want. Since it is on my mind quite a bit, it’s also quite natural that I’d want to write about it as well. And to be honest, since a lot of my photography consists of dogs, it’ll also be a chance for me to talk about them here too.

The change in focus also means that I’ll be changing the layouts on each blog at some point, but don’t expect any quick changes – I have too many incomplete projects on my plate at the moment to start new ones. But hopefully sometime during this winter I’ll get all three redesigns up and running.

And naturally, I do reserve the right to blog about what ever if the need arises :)

Until then, enjoy your new years celebrations!

A long hiatus

I’ve really been neglecting all of my blogs this year. Earlier this week I vowed I’d change this. So if I do have any readers left, be prepared to finally see more frequent posts and a change in the layout sometime (hopefully soon) in the future.

I really have more than enough ideas on what to post about. I just need to get around to writing them instead of just thinking about writing them…

WordPress and custom URLs

While customizing WP to suit the needs of our public site at work, I noticed some interesting issues with how WP (at least version 2.0.x) handles customized paths. If I start the permalink URL with /current/%category%/… and set the category URL as /current, the category archives will open, but the permalinks don’t work.

This strikes me as odd behavior, if not a bug. And no, I haven’t searched to see if someone else has reported this issue or entered it as a bug. I don’t have the time now.

P.S. randomfire’s been neglected for a long time. Hopefully soon I’ll have the time to work on a new layout and such.

News half-life

PhysicsWeb reports about a study done on how the number of people reading a news story decreases over time (via). The studies results are interesting, if fairly logical, results. Naturally, my mind went immediately into overdrive in thinking on how the results affect website design.
At least based on the PhysicsWeb article, the researcher have come to the conclusion that the average half-life of a news item is 36 hours. This

…implies that people could miss a significant fraction of news by not visiting the portal when a new document is first displayed, which is why publishers like to provide e-mail news alerts. The results also show that people read a particular web page not just because it looks interesting but because it can be accessed easily.

Of course this assumes that we\’re talking about a site with very requently updating news content and not a site with a fairly slow update cycle. Most sites with a fast cycle of publishing updated news are sites that deal specifically with news items, i.e. journalistic sites (be they professional or not), or sites that aggregate news from multiple sources (e.g. Newsvine or Ampparit).

In journalistic news sites, I\’d expect (and require) differentiating content that is deemed important enough to stay in the headlines to be highly visible on the front page and easily accessed even when looking back at the archives. For example, our local newspaper Karjalainen differentiates the online content of that days newspaper from the smaller daily newsitems that are updated during the day by separating the online only news into a sidebar. This approach works quite well, especially for someone like me who doesn\’t often read the dead-tree version.

A quick look at CNN and the New York Times didn\’t offer a clear distinction on how they differentiate highlighted news items from the smaller, constantly updated stream of news. In these cases I\’d think more IA is needed to highlight the content the journalists think is important. After all, that\’s what is done in the paper and broadcasts. At a professionally produced, journalistic site I am not interested so much on what other readers are interested in as what is important.

My lack of interest in knowing what newsitems others have liked comes from following the listings of the most popular news items in Ampparit (Ampparit is a Finnish site that aggregates news items from many different sites). Currently the most popular items are Angelina Jolie becoming a Kung-Fu instructor and Montoya leaving McLaren. Meanwhile, there are news items up on the memorials in Srebrenica, the situation in Somalia, and an accident in Bangladesh. While Ampparit is a great source of news and I follow it actively, my ability to catch noteworthy news items is very much dependent on how actively I visit the site, since items older than an hour or two drop quickly off the frontpage during the day. Here, the half-life of news items is brutally fast.

Newsvine is a fairly recent entry to the world of online news and reporting. It mixes news from professional (commercial) journalistic sources and news from citizen journalists, e.g. bloggers. What Newsvine enables is a way to follow how news is reported in various sources and how various sources have commented on the news. As such, it is a way to get an in-depth and multi-faceted picture of events. Of course, this all depends on the activities of the users and as such is vulnerable.

Whatever the half-life of news items is and however you decide to consum it, the internet is changing the way news is reported and consumed. A recent interview of media influencers in Finland by Helsingin Sanomat (as reported by Verkkouutiset) shows that even the leaders in media in Finland have finally realised that the Internet has an effect, in fact is changing, how people consume news. Now news publishers can’t rely on the fact that news will be consumed at predetermined times.

The ease of using multiple sources also means that publishers have to compete even more for their audiences. While some have voiced the concern that increased competition means less journalism and more tabloid-press, Helsingin Sanomat has chosen to compete by adding more background information and follow-up to their reporting. Which is exactly the kind of journalism that I want in addition to the reporting of breaking news.

As an active consumer of news from various sources, I can only be grateful of all the new tools that help me consume news – and not only the news that I’ve pre-determined an interest in. It’ll also be interesting to see how Newsvine affects news publishing. Unfortunately I’m not in a position to evaluate how Newsvine influences reporting, since Finnish news isn’t very actively reported or discussed there.