31 December 2006

Blogger Beta and XHTML, a no go?

One of the things that had plagued us during the time of the old Blogger was the invalid mark-up that Blogger forced us to use so that it could work. When Blogger Beta was announced, this was one of the things that I had genuinely thought could be worked around. When I saw the new template language of Blogger, relying on a more XML based structure, and the errors it asked us to constantly check before we could preview or save our pages Most of them are tag nesting or Blogger Layout tags gone awry. Seems like a start to making Blogger pages more XHTML valid. It still doesn't catch inline styles (not allowed in XHTML) and wrong use of data tags, which could save us hours of head banging later on if you plan to make the switch to XHTML., I was happy that now we could have well formed XHTML Not that it is a prerequisite, but keeping in the mind the various uses and advantages, it is always good to stick to something a application is looking to receive, rather than give it a jumbled up mark up to sort through first. valid templates.

Unfortunately, that's not been the case.

For whom the bell tolls

I had done some serious testing of Blogger templates (both default and custom made) for a hack that I have been developing, and the results were pretty bad. None of them strictly adhere to the standards, and many give multiple errors. I know for a fact that their can be no 'perfect' check to test our templates, since they contain practically all data (scripts/style/mark-up) in one place, but some level of standard (better than the current one) should be enforced by Blogger's template editor. The reason I blame Blogger a bit apart from people is because many of the things Blogger auto-inserts (like the Navbar) don't follow XHTML standards, and you can't do anything about it. You can't remove it, and hiding doesn't make a difference since the code is still there. It is in the long run that having well formed HTML, and even a valid XHTML mark-up will show its advantages. What advantages you ask?



To begin with, because XHTML follows the guidelines of XML, it becomes much easier to work with them in other applications other than a web browser like search engines. RSS feeds are plain XML, and see how useful they are. Extend them to web pages, and you can imagine how much more functional they become. They become more 'accessible', and easier to understand for programming languages. It also enforces clean coding habits, which improves readability and correcting. XHTML demands the seperation of style from content, hence no inline styles to be used if you want your document to be valid. W3C lists the main advantages as:

Extensibility: As an XML application, XHTML is extensible by definition. This makes future changes to the language much simpler in comparison to the process of changing HTML. Most browsers are already XML-compliant, so adding elements to the language is simply a matter of changing the document type definition and namespace. It's no longer necessary to wait for browser developers to implement support for new elements.

Interoperability and portability: A properly structured XHTML document can be reformatted for use on a variety of display devices, including cell phones, PDAs, and other handheld devices. An XHTML document is also interoperable with other XML tools and applications.

So how does one start making their templates XHTML valid? Well, there are some rules to be followed. It is not a 'whole new language' and the rules aren't that different from what you have been following with HTML, just more strict. For example, values for attributes must be put in quotes, like color="#FF0000", and no colour names. Empty tags (like br and hr) should be implicitly closed by putting a forward slash before the angular bracket like <br />, and so on. For a complete list, you can refer to W3C's documentation, but a brief beginner's list can be found here.

Following standards isn't hard at all, just takes a little bit of effort. Other platforms like Wordpress and Expression Engine do offer a higher level of standard strictness by formatting posts and comments automatically, which Blogger has yet to equal. Blogger should help us tidy up our work more than it does at the moment, and Blogger users/template designers should try to keep this in mind and stick with a 'more' valid mark-up. It'll ensure that your pages and designs survive longer, and are more functional/usable in the long run.

Now if only someone from Blogger were to read this, they could do something about it!


Microformats - the next big thing in automatic content recognition and relation, is majorly helped by proper systematic and semantic HTML, or XHTML. Suppose you have added the contact information of someone you blogged about. Any of the microformat recognition extensions (Tails, Operator) will recognise the relevant details if the details are semantically marked-up, and offer you quick links to save them if you choose to. Map locations to whatever application you use for maps, contact information to your contact list, and so on! Cool, ain't it? Here's a good starting point if you want to know more!


30 December 2006

Tag, I'm it!

As it turns out, I've now been tagged by two people. The first, good friend and a hacker in his own right, Efendi. And the other is our very own Avatar, staying on top of everything with the word 'blog' in it! He demanded this post from me, and I shall comply. Although a good friend had made a post Things you didn't know about Aditya Vikram Mukherjee on these lines quite a while back, I guess I could add some more to the list :) So, here's my list of the five things you didn't know about me :)


  • I'm one of the biggest music freaks you'll ever get to know. I play five different instruments, and I sing. People say I can dance as well :P I can play the Piano, Keyboards (they are different!), bass, guitar, a little bit of the drums and (one I don't count) violin :) I listen to 'anything' rock, and anything else, you should think twice before recommending it to me. Very strict and hard headed that way.

  • Until 3 months ago, the only computer I had used on a parmanent basis was a 7 year old HP Brio, with 64MB RAM, 800 Mhz Pentium 3, 10 GB HD space and Windows 98 SEThese specifications were amazing for the time and price when we bought it in January 2000! The Brio series isn't meant for home use, and I think it has been discontinued since then, with the merger of HP-Compaq and the Presario's and Pavillion's taking over.. I used to design my sites, write my scripts and work with that configuration. Heh! Yep, it can be done!

  • I began coding only a year back. I knew a little of Javascript, but whatever I know, I've learnt it through writing hacks and coding for pages that I made. Now, I know 4 languages, and one at a basic level. Javascript, HTML & CSS (I'll count them as one), Java, C/C++, and beginning with PHP :)

  • I love reading fantasy novels and story books. A few good examples would be everyone's favourite Lord Of The Rings, Dragonriders of Pern, Harry Potter and Eragon. However, I'm 'not' a fan of Harry Potter as a lot of people are. I think after the fourth book, it lost the shine and glow of a quality story. LOTR seems eons ahead in terms of quality, and out of the new books, DOP seems the most promising!

  • I am completely self taught in almost all the things that I do. From learning those instruments, to coding and designing. I have never undergone any 'proper' formal training of any sort. Sometimes, that's a bad thing since you don't know what's the right way of doing something. But it sure gives me pride to be able to say that :)

There you have it! Five things you didn't know about me, which now you do! I'm not very good at revealing stuff about me, but it sure was fun remembering all those things, since they have somehow been pushed to the past now :) I believe the process now is to tag five more people? This one will be a toughy, because I want to tag people who will actually write about themselves! :P Heh! So here are my taggies:


  • Phydeaux3: One of the nicest people around and my good friend.
  • Singpolyma: As Avatar said, 'the' hacker of our times! :P
  • Ramani: One of the most creative hackers around!
  • Deepak: The newest coder on the scene.
  • Gregory: The man who's hack (Freshtags!) got me into hacking the first place! :)

Warning! You have been tagged! :P


28 December 2006

Making designs work for you

What is the first thing that catches your eye when you land up on a page? The text? Maybe second. The page title? Close. It's something that's so natural and background-ish, that you've probably never consciously paid attention to it. And that is the mark of the success of the developer. Yes, I'm talking about the design of a web page. If you sit in awe of how a page looks, 9/10 chances are you won't pay much attention to the content, and something else will strike you, distracting you away from it. It's happened to me tons of times, whenever I land up on a beautiful looking page! I see something, then I run off to figure out how it was done. By the time I get it, I've already forgotten what I went to that page originally for. You see? The purpose of the page was defeated.

So! How do you design a page that will keep visitors on it, and make them focus on the content? I'm glad you asked!

Why candy? Why not eye-lollipops?

The first thing you have to understand is that the more flashy, the more distracting. Sure, it's really nice to put up a few things that look beautiful and attractive. Like a really nice background wallpaper, or a shiny widget here and there, maybe a cool little script! But the keyword is few. Never over do something that you can do without in the first place. Analyse the function of something (a graphic/content element), and see if it's dispensable. If it is, don't add more than one of it, in case you really want one.

Your design should divert attention to your content, not away from it, as I said before. So any element you add, should compliment the content. If it's a flashy object, put it as close to the content as you can, so that there takes place what I like to call, an attention flow or transfer. That's when the eyes gently pass from one thing to the object close to it. It's pretty easy to achieve, and I'm sure you've faced it sometimes too. It's time to use that on your viewers.

Realise which spots viewers see first.There are many tutorials on the web which help you pinpoint the 'hotspots'. A few resources to start with are Eyetracker, Web Page Hotspots and Eye tracking. This is important, since you'll want to place maximum content in those places. One good strategy would be to use attention catchers to maintain the flow of attention. This will give you the pleasure of using your eye-candies, and not compromising on viewer attention. It's the perfect ploy! :D And it works to maintain that continuity in your page, and will cause people to read everything and then move onto other things.

Use nice and strong colours to highlight important parts of the content. It doesn't matter if it might break the attention. That's what you're trying to do. Take them out of the monotony of reading simple content, by giving them something related, but not expected! And make sure their attention goes towards it :) It's a tried and tested method.

Simplicity goes well too! You can actually make things as simple as possible, in which case your text will definitely stand out and will immediately catch the viewer's attention. The perfect example for this is Daring Fireball. His site is a beautiful dark gray, with light coloured text on it. No frills attached. Your attention goes straight to the content, and stays with it! If you don't get besotted by the look, you can call it a near perfect design! :)

You must have your greens

Alas, there is no real substitute to good and proper content. But lack of good content can be covered up for to a little amount by coming up with an eye pleasing design, since it'll make viewers stay that much longer, and hence (hopefully) cause them to see something they like. Don't try to substitute for lack of content with good design though, that is sure to fail.

Happy designing! :)


Update: This is 'not' something that you should do. I am sure you don't need to be told that :P I found this off Digg.


27 December 2006

Need a guide? #

A couple of weeks back, I read an article Cybernet News about a search engine which offers the user the choice of searching 'with another person'! Now, as expected, this got me a little apprehensive. It's not like we are searching amateurs, because we have been searching without help since we can remember! But not to come up with judgements before I checked it out, I went ahead and asked for a 'guide' (as they call 'em) while searching for a Psychology paper due in a couple of days. The results, honestly did surprise me! :)

ChaCha

But first a little background. ChaCha (Yea! That's the name...) was started by two entrepreneurs, Scott Jones and Brad Bostic. It is actually a 'deep web' A part of the web filled with databases and document/files which normal search engines do not look into. There are many other engines which search the deep web, like Complete Planet and Incy Wincy. search engine, although the guide I was with couldn't confirm this. Guides mostly use ChaCha's own engine to come up with the results for a user, and if they aren't satisfactory, use other engines (Google seems to be the first choice).

The guides themselves work from home, and are paid on the basis of how the user rates their 'performance' after the session is over. ChaCha monitors the search records as well, so it's pretty hard to rate unfairly. The guides are given, well, guides from ChaCha to help them search more effectively. These aren't the normal guidelines you're used to finding on the net. I'm guessing they're optimised for the ChaCha engine, and tells them how to get the 'best' out of it. They have their own community too! :) ChaCha, as an engine without the guide seems to be pretty evenly matched in the field of deep web search engines today, so nothing earth shattering there. Now, my experience with ChaCha.

Mission: search with guide

You make the choice of searching with a guide from the front page, which is an interface made all too popular by Google! :P You enter your term, and instead of hitting the normal search button, you click 'Search with guide'. You are taken to a page with three columns, the left most being a chat box which you use to communicate with your guide. The middle is for the results that your guide finds for you. The right most is for ads. Now, I began using it with Firefox 2.0, and for some reason the results being sent by the guide weren't reaching me. I switched to IE7 and it began working.

The guide took some time, because she was getting the generic results of Universities offering Psychology courses. It was certainly different this time around since I didn't have to see those results. The guide didn't post them to me, so in a way, the guide is an effective 'filter' for irrelevant results. That definition got stronger as the session continued, and the guide admitted to not getting proper results. She posted links to online libraries and databases I had never received in my searches however, and hence I discovered some new sources of content next time when I'm looking for things. We, however, reached the verge of giving up and ending the session, that she sent me a link to a paper submitted by a Professor which was probably the best reference I could have gotten off the Internet. I was quite happy with the end result, with the session being much more of a success than I had hoped for. I am more inclined to believe that I got lucky and landed up with a good guide, because subsequent guides haven't been that accurate as the first one! :|

The Last Word

ChaCha is definitely a novel approach, which believes in simplifying solutions. Where Google and other biggies crank out research on killer algorithms If you remember, Google recently bought an algorithm to improve their searches by displaying the exact data that matches the search query, and a few more things (Article)., ChaCha puts people in because the smartest processor out there, at the end of the day, is the human mind! Although this does make the experience slow (I had to wait for half an hour to get that one accurate link), and hence shouldn't be used for mission critical tasks, or when you're on a short time leash. But then again, if you are on a short time leash, you won't be searching anyway.

Not forget that ChaCha is very young, and it will only grow and become better from now on. With the engine as well as the guides gaining experience, it can only improve. Although, they'll need a 'lot' of people serving out to people if this method of searching catches on. Eventually they will have to have algorithms to help guides search faster and easier. Plus, with pioneers of tried and tested methods like Google on the stage already, I don't know how much the prospect of a novelty can drive users to it. After all, Google 'is' now synonymous with search, followed by constantly improving and well funded players like Microsoft and Yahoo! (even if they are bad!). It'll be a fight for ChaCha definitely, but it's service like nothing else in the field!

Go ahead! Give it a try, and tell me how it went! ;)


Qunu logo

Update: This is not as unique as I thought. Qunu seems to offer the same thing, but offers 'experts' to help you out. I have yet to try out the service, but it does 'look' more modern with it's shiny graphics and nice pictures :) I bumped into it while looking for good skinnable Jabber clients, of which it gave me a nice list. Note that I didn't search for it on Qunu, but Google. This means that they probably store consolidated 'answers' pages of past queries. Cool!


25 December 2006

Ho Ho Ho!

Merry Christmas and happy holidays everybody! Hope the week treats you well and kind, and that you've been nice all year round for Santa! :D

P.S. I really made that on my own! :) Well, photoshop-ed it at least! :P


23 December 2006

Keep Current Date/Time On Posts #

Update (05/04): Thanks to Phydeaux3 for stepping in. Some people were complaining on Consuming Experience about the script breaking the post editor buttons. These have now been fixed.

Update: Thanks to Improbulus for reminding me about this. I have now fixed the script to auto check the box when you’re editing unpublished drafts. I don’t know how stable my method is though, so if it doesn’t work for you, or breaks under any condtition, please let me know!

This script breaks Blogger’s inbuilt Spell–check. I think it has something to do with the repeating check for the time. I’ll look more into it and try and come up with a fix. In the meantime, this will be a good opportunity to try out Firefox’s wonderful spell check :)


Blogger Beta doesn’t fix this still, so I had to take things into my own hands! I missed the functionality of the original by Jasper, which broke in the new post editor. Hence, I have redone it to do the same thing, but now for Beta. Except a few known bugs, it works quite well! :)

For Beta!

It works the same way. A little toggle checkbox will show up right at the bottom of the post options box. It’ll be auto–checked for you if you’re starting a new post. However, I couldn’t figure out how to check for difference between editing a published post and an unpublished post, hence couldn’t create conditions to auto–check the checkbox. It’s a minor glitch which shouldn’t be a problem for most people. Just check it, and it’ll update your date and time! :)

As an added feature, it also keeps your post options open for you by default, as compared to the Blogger default of having to click the ‘Post Options’ link :)

I'm not very sure if the date formats differ depending on what you set as your time zone. The favonian format is MM/DD and rest of us follow a DD/MM format. If you see a discrepancy, please let me know, and I’ll make the necessary changes! As usual, any bugs or glitches can be reported here! I’ll get back to you as soon as I can!

Toodles :)

User script

Keep Current Date/Time on posts
All my userscripts


22 December 2006

Integrated solutions

The notion that something done alone is done well, isn't really selling well. If you make something that communicates in just one mode, or works with (or for) just one thing, chances are people will lose interest quickly. This is not a rule, and I don't want people coming knocking on my door citing examples where my theory falls. It's an observation, not a prophecy! :P

Amalgamation of good things

Take for example something we use everyday, and yet not notice the importance of it. A chat client! Which one do you use most frequently? Windows Live Messenger? Yahoo! Messenger? Or maybe the underappreciated Gtalk? Chances are, if you're not a power user, you use one of the above listed. If you are one however, in 9/10 cases, you'll be either using a open source multi-protocal IM-er. Something like Psi, or Miranda. If you're not one for OS, you might go for Trillian!

My point, is that today people who like to get the most out of what they use, go for integrated solutions in their most frequently used things. I'm sure no-one likes to switch around applications and things to get their things done. If offered one application that does most of the things decently, as compared to ten applications that do their parts well, most people would pick the one application solution. Why? Ease and convenience of use! Your work gets done faster, much more easily, and let's face it, with the least amount of looking and hunting around. We are all lazy somwhere deep down! :D

I take the example of IM-ers because that's where the most amount of examples struck me. But I'm sure if you think carefully enough, you'll see the pattern emerge in your everyday life. Do share them with me, I'd love to make my point stronger! :)

The mistakes corrected

Now, companies are looking to join up their core competences, to come up with products that are superior in more than one facet. The recent tie between Microsoft and Yahoo! to combine compatibility of Yahoo! and Windows Live Messenger is a perfect example (although Google and AOL got their first! :P ). They are realising that instead of trying to outdo each other, it's much better to work together to come up with a truly superior product, that everyone can use and enjoy. Trying to deny usability and compatibility with others just to keep an edge over the competition, is not only lame, but puts the proverbial 'thorn in your side' as you use the thing everyday. But you can't leave it because it does just that one thing which you love so much! Thankfully, this is being reduced slowly and steadily as access to data is opened up.

Monopoly isn't always a good thing. It stagnates the field, and makes us resistant to change. The classic debate is Windows and Macs. There is a story on Digg every 3-4 days about how some big business man changed over, and now is seeing his productivity increase! They make me happy, not because Mac wins in the tussle, but because it shows that people are waking up to better possibilities and doing something about the things they use. They are looking for more productivity than a comfort zone. This means that startups and other companies can offer smaller, but better solutions, and actually expect people to use them. But finally, it just proves that people have brains! :) After all, its the ability to think that makes us human, isn't it?

Have you made a switch or change you were glad about? What do you recommend in place of an estabilished (big but comparitively bad) product? Share them with us! :)


20 December 2006

Blogger Beta no more!

Yep! That's right ... Google has officially taken Blogger out of Beta (the quickest of any application to face so). You will see the announcement as a small link at the top of your dashboard, like this:

The list of new features have been finally round up on a nice old Blogger style tour page. I'll list them here for anyone, and the tour page is here.


  • Customise your templates in two ways. First is to use the new Layouts manager, which allows you to create, drag and drop, and remove page elements. The second is the old Blogger way, to get your hands dirty and go to the heart of the code itself in the new HTML Editor.

  • Create a private blog, only for a few selected people. You can now specify who can see your blog, by simply adding their e-mail addresses!

  • Many more feeding options for advanced users, with feeds for posts, comments (whole blog or per post) and labels! :)

  • An updated Dashboard which gives you links to your most used parts right on the front page. Also shows you any unmoderated comments, all for one-click blog management!

  • Instant publishing (Blogspot hosting only). You won't see the publishing spinner anymore, because the changes will be made to a central repository, and all pages will be dynamically generated when called. So no more republishing hassles!

Three cheers for Google and Blogger! :D


Update (31/12): It seems as though Blogger has removed the page to suggest/request new features. I had found this page some time back to request custom variable fields, but since then I can't find it.


19 December 2006

Blogging networks

It is always a nice feeling to be among people who share the passions, interests and likes as you. It's human tendency to be in similar minded company. Blogging is a hobby, a profession and a way of life. Not surprisingly, Blogging networks are beginning to gain exposure, interest, members, and respect. In the past, I have received invitations to join a few networks, but I never did because I really didn't see the point. But with time, I have realised that being part of one, gives you exposure, and helps you improve in the blogging world, just as you'd improve as a human depending on the social circle you hang around in. It seems the future of the web's content lies in group creation and development. What do I mean by those?

Groupeees!

Group creation and development is effectively the creation of groups, networks, communities, and their development to make sure each group generates quality content, in fixed quantities. Being part of a well known group automatically puts you above the others around you, because now your content is certified (by your 'well-known' group) to be quality content. Ofcourse, the content should be good enough for you to become a part of the group in the first place! :P For example, one of my favourite communities is 9rules which is not that different from other networks. The difference lies in the reputation. You know when you see a blog with the 9rules logo, that you can expect regular updates, stimulating content, and justice to the blogs topic. These are the rules that 9Rules stands for, and based on which inducts members. It filters down to all the members, and that immediately promotes them! See how it works?

Groups, ofcourse do more than create exposure. It helps you learn as well. Being among people who have same interests, can help you learn from their perspective and knowledge. You'll gain experience, and gradually understand what to look for, how to present it, how to make it more interesting, etc. in your field of interest. Everything, at the end of the day is a learning experience, and being in a community just helps speed up the process! :)

There are quite a few groups out there, some of which are listed at the end ↓ of this article. You could apply for any one of them. But you should take care to understand what your network asks of you. 9rules has some simple but (seemingly) strict rules These rules involve regular posting habits, generate quality content, not deviating too much from the theme of the blog, and so on. Such are rules are common to practically all the networks. How strictly they are followed is what makes the difference.

Some networks will begin to slack off the rules so that more people join in, and that's where the quality begins to wane. You should watch out for such networks.
they follow to induct members and keep them in. You should join a network which suits your style and topic of interest, as well as by your idea of how seriously you'll incorporate the ideology and demands of the network.

Why? Why Martha why!?

If you're wondering exactly why you need join a network or community in the first place, the simple answer is you don't! If you see, there are tons (literally) of blogs out there that are not a part of any group, and are doing just fine on their own. There is no real need to be part of a group, because you can gain exposure and be well known in your circles by other ways as well. You also don't need a group to certify that you generate quality articles and content. That is decided by the number of regular viewers and people who comment on your blog. Yes, it can be done individually.

But! If you see all the great blogs out there, which you like to visit pretty regularly, chances are they are part of a well known network. The network might not have drawn you to the blog, but it does many others. And this is the basic advantage of a network. Everything you do individually, a network gives you more of the same things. More exposure, more experience, more knowledge... Little more of good things never hurt anyone, did they? :P

Looks dandy!

Here are a few Blog networks that I got off The Blog HeraldThe Blog Herald was the very first blog dedicated to blog related news and information. It is still considered to be one of the most reliable sources of information regarding the blogosphere by many. , ranked in order of popularity and quality (according to them).It's a good list to start with, to get your head around them and see which one works for you! I personally prefer 9rules, which has many really nice looking blogs, with decent content. You can start from wherever you want! :)

Weblogs Inc. : The No.1 blog network from Jason Calacanis

Gawker Media : Nick Denton’s gossip, tabloid and soft pawn empire

9rules : Collaborative network which I still think wins the award for nicest looking blogs

Blog Logic : Paul Short’s multi-blog network

Darren Rowse : Technically Darren hasn’t got a network in name, but he certainly has a network of blogs, some that are also part of the Breaking News Blog Network.

Maxira : Brad Jasper’s network of blog and webmaster related blogs, tools and forums


16 December 2006

Native Blog Search improved!

Edit: I've updated the instructions and code since some people were complaining of it not working. I'd also like to mention that for some reason, external data calls aren't supported from the preview page, so please save your template, and try it again from your home page. If it still doesn't work, I'll be glad to help!

Update: I've made a few more changes, to make it check if it needs to paginate the results. Plus, a ironed out a few bugs.


It's been quite a long while since this hack was updated, even though it's been my most successful one! I'm sorry about that, but I guess it's better to follow the 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it' method. But I can sure as hell improve it! :P So now I present to you a slightly updated version of NSS. The original and first version can be found here! :)

This update was triggered mostly by Avatar's list of ideas for coders to tackle. If you think you have what it takes to tackle the others, check out the post here. Now, on to the hack itself. The only change at the moment is that you can now access results as an AJAX pagination type approach. Your results are preceded by the number of posts being shown, and a link to get the previous or next 10 results. I'll be soon adding a Google AJAX type search for other blogs, or Google services (as demonstrated on Hoctro's blog). I'm not adding that in this update because it'll need some major changes to the implementation, for which I need to come up with a simpler explanation than the one I have at the moment. That update to the hack itself is complete though ;)

The code

You might as well start by removing all the previous code, since all the functions have been updated. This will not confuse you later on! Start by adding this piece of code in your area of the template:

<script language='javascript'>
//<![CDATA[
var blog_name="BLOG'S NAME";
var _num=0, _para, p;

function $()
{
  for( var i = 0, node; i < arguments.length; i++ )
    if( node = document.getElementById( arguments[i] ) )
      return node;
}

/* ```````````` NATIVE SEARCH ``````````````` */
/* <license resource="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.5/"> */
/* Coded by Aditya Mukherjee (www.aditya-mukherjee.com) */

function d_script(para, num, paged){
_para = para;
_num = num;

var url = (p=='paged') ? "http://xoxotools.ning.com/outlineconvert.php?output=json&classes=item&url=http%3A%2F%2Fblogsearch.blogger.com%2Fblogsearch_feeds%3Fq%3D"+_para+"%2Bblogurl%3A"+blog_name+".blogspot.com%26hl%3Den%26ui%3Dblg%26ie%3Dutf-8%26num%3D10%26output%3Drss%26start%3D"+_num+"&submit=Convert&callback=json" : "http://xoxotools.ning.com/outlineconvert.php?output=json&classes=item&url=http%3A%2F%2Fblogsearch.blogger.com%2Fblogsearch_feeds%3Fq%3D"+_para+"%2Bblogurl%3A"+blog_name+".blogspot.com%26hl%3Den%26ui%3Dblg%26ie%3Dutf-8%26num%3D100%26output%3Drss&submit=Convert&callback=json";

var script = document.createElement('script');
 script.type = 'text/javascript';   
 script.src = url;   
 script.id = "app-script";
 document.getElementsByTagName("head")[0].appendChild(script);
}

function json(rss){

 function paginate(){
    if(_num>=10) {
   $('stext').innerHTML="<div class='search-paginate-links'>Displaying "+(_num+1)+" to "+(_num+10)+". <a id='prev' href='javascript:d_script(\""+_para+"\","+(_num-10)+")'>Previous 10</a> | <a id='next' href='javascript:d_script(\""+_para+"\","+(_num+10)+")'>Next 10</a></div><br />";
   }
  else {
   $('stext').innerHTML="<div class='search-paginate-links'>Displaying "+(_num+1)+" to "+(_num+10)+". <a id='next' href='javascript:d_script(\""+_para+"\","+(_num+10)+")'>Next 10</a></div><br />";
   }
}
 
 function display_search(){  
  $('stext').innerHTML='';
  $('stext').style.display="block";
  $('stextcont').style.display="block";
 }
  
 var i=0;
 var results = [];
 if (!rss.item) {
  alert('No Entries\!');
  }
 else if(typeof(rss.item[1])=='undefined') { 
  results.push(rss.item); display_search(); 
  }
 else {
  results=rss.item; display_search();
  alert(results.length);
   if(results.length>=10){
    paginate();
                p = 'page';
   }
  }
 
 for(i=0;i<10;i++){
  app=document.createElement('a');
   app.href=results[i].link;
   app.innerHTML=results[i].title;
   app.title=results[i].title; 
  dv=document.createElement('div');
   dv.innerHTML=results[i].description;
  sp=document.createElement('br');
  
if(app.innerHTML!='undefined' && dv.innerHTML!='undefined'){
  $('stext').appendChild(app);
  $('stext').appendChild(dv);
  $('stext').appendChild(sp);
  }
else
  $('stext').appendChild(document.createTextNode('No results!'));
  }
}
//]]>
</script>

Just put in the name of your blog in the variable named 'blog_name' right at the top! For example, this blog would have it as 'var blog_name="lastword";'. Update: The links positioning can now be styled by styling the class 'search-paginate-links' :) Make 'em look good! Now, the form itself:

<form action='javascript:var q=document.getElementById("query").value;q=q.replace(/\s/ig,"%252520");d_script(q, 0);'>
     <input id='query' name='as_q' onfocus='clearDefault(this)' type='text' value='Your Query'/> <input class='preview' id='searchbtn' type='submit' value=' Search '/>
<div style='text-align:center'>Powered by <a href='http://lastword.blogspot.com'>Aditya</a></div>
</form>

To display the search, put this bit wherever you want the results to show up:

<div id='stextcont' style='position:relative;display:none'><a href='javascript:$("stext").style.display="none";$("stextcont").style.display="none";void(0);'><img id='close' src='http://images.google.com/images?q=tbn:ReDgICpawihOsM:http://lubeselector.bpmadeniyaglar.com/Images/bpClose_icon.gif' style='position:absolute;top:0px;right:0px'/></a>
<div id='stext'/>

That's it, you're done! :) Simple? Good! Go ahead and give it a whirl. Any comments and/or doubts should be asked and will be answered in the comments. Don't mail me your doubts b'cuz I want everyone to benefit from them, not just you! :)


15 December 2006

Blurring the line

Weblogging, or blogging, as we call it today, has existed since the creation of the Internet. As Blockstar chronicles it, the first ever blog was probably Tim Berners Lee's (sometimes called the father of the Internet) list of list of new and upcoming sites. Blogs are basically web journals which are used to chronicle one's thoughts, ideas, activities etc.. But, it is a chronicle. Or is it?

Today, we seem to be slowly blurring the line between the concept of a blog, a forum, message board and community board. The only difference that seems to have remained blogs and the remaining list is the fact that with a blog, only one person has posting rights and he is also the moderator. Otherwise, do you see any difference in the concepts? Thoughts, if that's what they are (I'll come to that later) are let out into the open for people to see and comment on. I will not go into the aesthetics of allowing people to judge and comment on one's thoughts, but the idea just seems absurd. It's probably this reason that most often the blogs we come across (even the personal ones) are usually general and don't delve too much into the person him/her-self but their daily activities and doings. Very few actually coin down what they are actually thinking of, and let it out to the public to view and comment.

Present blogging has become more of a pseudo journalism type activity. Almost all the blogs that I see fit into this category. True, you might say that I don't see the proper blogs, but you must admit that these are also classified as blogs, and hence should meet the requirements before they can be called blogs. These sites find news, and put them up with a few words on what they think about it. Is that what the idea of a weblog is? No! I can't take specific examples here to show you how what most blogs contain doesn't qualify as blog material, but if you look around yourself, you'll see how blogs have just become commentaries, not thoughts. They are not that different, but if you read between the lines, you'll see the difference. A commentary is always based off something which someone else has thought of. A thought, is usually something original. Why am I going into incoherent blabbering? :P Because instead of keeping things simple and true to its purpose, we are mixing them up and the result is a weird mash of low quality content.

How many blogs out there are there with truly quality stuff? How many of them do you know of? Why do you frequent blogs more than forums and message boards? Because you rather read text which makes sense and is from someone who knows that they are talking about! And that is what is reducing with time. Chances are only 3-4/10 blogs that you come across will be worth reading, and only one time reading. Out of them, only 1 might be worth actually subscribing to. Why is this the situation of something that caused so many people to rush to the nearest computer with an Internet connection and set up a blog?

I was trying to classify my blog under something today, since I just couldn't put it under one topic. My blog deals with a number of things, but all related to the Internet. I would call it thoughts and commentary on what goes around and what's new on the Internet. Thoughts and commentary both, because even I sometimes take stories and put up my thoughts on it. And thoughts, because quite a few of my posts are original thinking processes gone overboard. (Like this one! :P) What would you call it?


Edit: Techcrunch seems to be asking the same question! Well, somewhat...


11 December 2006

CoComment just became useless for Blogger

As Chris points out in the comments, this has been fixed now. coComment is working now with Blogger Beta popup comment forms! :D

There were things which changed when the new Beta hit, especially how third party applications worked with Blogger. I noticed this a few days back, but I thought it was just a glitch. But now, I think I can confirm that it's actually a problem, probably due to the way Blogger handles comments now (through encrypted pages).

CoComment now puts all comments made on the Beta under a Blogger: Post a comment topic, which unfortunately contains all posts made by anyone on the Beta with CoComment on. That means posts are no longer being recognised, and it's putting everything in one basket. There is the brute force way, where you have to enter all the details about the blog and the post yourself, but CoComment should be able to automatically do that. This is not good! Almost everyone used Singpolyma's excellent Comment Form and CoComment integated very nicely with it. But now, it just seems to be broken pretty badly.

I haven't tried other ways (such as the bookmarklet, or the userscript) to make CoComment catch comments and other nitty gritties posted on Blogger, but I think if this is broken, the others would be too. Do tell me if it's working for you, or behaving in a different matter than what I've seen!

C'mon CoCo! Get crackin, we need those comments chronicled!


10 December 2006

Feeded to the teeth

With the new Blogger came tons of new features. Ok, not tons, but many! And I'm glad to say that along with the features, came something that Avatar and I (and a lot of other people) had predicted. The rise of the feeds! Yep! If you've been following Bloggeratto well enough, by now you should be able to define what they are in your sleep. Avatar's obsession with them has made him chronicle every little change in the Blogger (and the Internet's) feed management system. That's a good thing, because Blogger Buzz hasn't, and with all the new feeds that have been added, it can get a little hard to know exactly what is available and what is not.

What the feed?

As far as I know, there are feeds for posts, comments, labels, and searches available to us to tap and hack. Each feed is available in the standard formats ATOM, RSS and JSON. You get them by appending a ?alt= at the end of the feed address and the name of the format you want it in. The basic path is http://yourblogname.blogspot.com/feeds/<data>/<default|summary|full>, which seems to be followed for all feeds almost to the T. This is a good thing, and a better thing being Blogger having the said feeds. They are actually letting people have all and any data that they want. Well, almost... One thing that I'd love to see Blogger do is offer post specific user set variablesBlogging platforms such as Expression Engine offer such custom fields. These can be individually configured to hold any kind of information the user wants. It's sometimes very handy to be able to add in 'extra' post info, and yet make it accessible 'with' the post. I hope Blogger adds something like this soon. and include it in their feeds. For example, you could have a variable set for particular posts which would have a summary (different from the actual post content), and you could check that value using a script in your template. If that variable exists with a value, make the post expandable, else show it as normal! This could be done by associating blogIDs and postIDs with a variable name using a little PHP coding, but it's too much effort when it could be done by Blogger very easily!

But let's not get sidetracked... the point is that finally you're getting data out of Blogger, from Blogger! No more scraping pages with PHP scripts or other paraphernalia to get content out of them! :D

What's the use?

The uses are limited by your creativity. The first thing that comes to your mind is recent comments, and scripters jumped the opportunity to come up with a widget for it! Next would be post summariesI have worked on and now developed an Asynchronous loading of expandable posts. It just needs to be tweaked so that it can be easily added to any kind of template alike. I hope to release it soon., but a way to do this won't be immediately clear. I use the JSON version of their feeds to write out posts in the left hand side panel below, but you can do whatever you feel comfortable with (including syndicating it through the in built Feed Syndication widget :)) There is nothing you can't do when you have the data to work with!

I am extremely happy with how things are looking as far as the feeds front goes, and the power it gives us. Let's see what we can come up with for the lovely gifts Blogger Clause has got us! :P


As pointed out with a question by Deepak, a feed for the in-blog search has not been discovered / offered yet. I hope this changes in the future, because that will call for some neat stuff. In the meantime, you can use the feed from blogsearch.google/blogger.com (either/or) and convert it via Singpolyma's Outline Converter to JSON. That works brilliantly! :)

Update: It seems as though none of the known GData parameters work with Blogger feeds. No num, count, sort, nothing. Things aren't 'as' great as I thought! If you think this is a false negative, let me know!


08 December 2006

Blogger post notes! #

There are people who are constantly running the need to post and post and post! My example comes from Avatar, who, everytime I speak to him, tells me how he has tons of drafts saved in Blogger, and more pointers and reminders in GMail and Word. His misery, and now my experience with the posting fever prompted this little idea into my head that Blogger has lacked since day one. So I dedicate this one to the hard working Avatar! :)

We cannot remember all the time what were thinking when we started writing a post. And if you leave posts half way through, to come back and finish them later on, you'd have faced the situation that you've forgotten half the points you had in mind that you wanted to make and/or elaborate upon. If you've added them in the content as points, it can get a little annoying to constantly scroll up and down to remove points as you elaborate upon it. Wouldn't it be cool to have a PostIt for your editor?

The solution

So now I give you the Blogger Post Sticky/Annotations/Notes (grab it here) or whatever else you want to call it! It's basically a small PostIt Notes type box which floats to the top right of your post editor, holding the points that you add to it. You can actually write out your whole post there, and it'll save it. Yes, it saves it automatically, and associates the points to the post's title. Which means that if you come back to edit the post after you've published it, your sticky will return with it, with all the points intact! :) Now ain't that wonderful?

I've not really bug tested this to glory, so if you run into any problems while working with it, please leave a comment with the exact problem (explained as well as you can) with a way to reproduce the problem if possible. I also don't know if this will work with the old Blogger, since I use an appendChild function to add it to the parent element of the posting form, which might have a different name in Beta. Also, take care to not change the title once you've finished adding the points. If you do, your points won't show up next time. To get them back, revert back to the old title, and then reload the post editor. Then put in the new title, and change your points. It'll save it again associated to the new title.

In any other case, you know what to do if you hit a spanner in the works! :) I will try and fix it as soon as my exams permit me to (yes, they are going on again! A pain I tell you!) Enjoy! :)


07 December 2006

Blogging for viewers

Trying to reason the existence of blogs, will yield many justifications. It seems like every person has their own unique reason for owning and maintaining a blog, and hence there exist almost as many reasons as there are number of people. What is interesting is that some of these reasons openly spell - 'I want more people to see my blog!'. Using any ploy, technique or resource available to them, to rope in as many people to view their blog and comment (to prove the viewership) is, though not common, but existent in the blogging community.

A few gooney birds

There are quite a few people out there who employ such methods, and are actually known for it. I won't go calling names here, but if you look around, you'll find them. Unfortunately for the preachers of content, these people actually do succeed in getting the viewers simply based off the hype and thrill of an argument the post beckons. "Fools rush in" as the phrase goes. Only difference, the people aren't fools. Some don't know the reality, and decide to do something about it. Some have a look just for the heck of it, and others, I really don't know what they are thinking....

But worse than the ones visiting, are the ones posting such rubbish. It's nothing but a public cry for attention. They are the ones who clog search engine results because people link to these pages while documenting their own arguments opposing the original. I'm not saying that search results are drastically affected by these. Let's face it, one in a hundred results will be a controversial rant post if you're having a bad day. But still, the number will rise exponentially if people continue to start up rant blogs and useless arguments. It's something like the news channel holding a poll, and asking for your vote via an SMS (for which you're charged premium rates). No one gains anything, the channel gives up a half an hour slot (very happily I must add) to hold a small discussion based on the result, and people are happy to see their names scroll by faster than you can blink. The news channel makes tons of money, and people are none the wiser. The same principle applies to these blogs. They get their SEO, their Adsense revenue, and the exposure. Bad publicity is actually good publicity. What more could a blogger ask for?

Clean up your act!

Just a simple request! Let's focus on proper, tangible and useful content. Let's not hoodwink viewers and be selfish enough to gain recognition for practically nothing. By doing that, you'll help make the blogosphere truly useful and usable by everyone for every facet of life. I was going through blogs which deal and help with education. Articles by students, journalists, college faculty, and what not ... they were all there! My own college batch has now made a blog of it's own, where plan to form our own proper community and get to know the batch better, while keeping it interesting with student submitted articles and content. And mine isn't the only one (as I found out). College departments keep blogs to update information and news about what's going on with the department and the members. A perfect solution to cheaply keep interested people updated.

There are numerous ways of making your blog interesting, all you need to be is a little creative! :) Even personal blogs get lot of viewership. Review blogs, preview blogs, journalism and creative writing. Topics just come if you look for them! How do you use your blog? :)


05 December 2006

Reborn!

Almost three months ago, I left the blogging scene because I had to attend college. There were quite a few best of lucks, and many goodbyes. I never really knew if I would be able to blog with the same vigour and enthusiasm with which I had been in the past. College is, after all, no easy feat, and it requires a lot of time and hard work. But as luck would have it, I did manage to find time to come online somewhere in the middle, and was suddenly bombarded by all the new stuff that had been happening with Blogger. I had left Beta Blogger as an infant, and in those two months, it had grown up to be a fine fine platform! How could I stay away from it?

So now, your favourite 'The Last Word' is back, and now in beta! Hehe! Yeah! I was getting a little tired of wanting to migrate and waiting for the magic link to appear in my normal Blogger, so I decided to make the change myself. Of course, I lose all my posts and comments, but I am not deleting my old blog. It'll be there existing on the Internet under the name of 'The Last Word Archives'. That's right, you can find all your favourite hacks and articles right there. But this is where all the magic will happen from now on :)

Now that looks good!

As you can see, I've completely redone the look once again, and a very big thank you goes to Phydeaux3 for that. He was extremely patient, and wrote 'freakishly long mails' answering all my questions and walking me through the (intimidating) new Blogger Layouts and template editor. And hence, the result is right in front of you. A much more polished, and cleaner look to everything. I would also like to thank Mark James, whose icons I have so generously used all over this blog. However, being in beta, things will continue to change. Features might be removed, to make place for more information or other features. Any thoughts and ideas on the template are welcome, but don't expect them all to get implemented! I'm finicky on that end! :P

The top part, as in this white and blue part, is where the main and latest post will show up. Under which is the 'My contents' area. To the extreme left is snippets from the latest three posts (after the first main post). After that is a label's list, so that you can skip right to the area you're interested in. In case you want to begin searching right away, hit Alt+Shift+S (sorry! Firefox only), and you'll see the search bar pop up on your right! :) Start typing, and you'll see the return of Search Suggest as well! Right at the end and to the extreme right is pictures from college, and my daily wanderings around campus and this new city (not that new anymore). It'll be regularly updated so that you can too share the sights of this beautiful place which is home for me for the next two years! :)

Under the my contents, is the 'External contents' area. Here you'll see syndicated feeds from other blogs which I keep a regular tab of, and would like you to keep track of as well. Again, these blogs can and will change, but at the moment you can look at the current blogs listed.

The clich├ęs

That is pretty much what is there at the moment. But as I said, little little things will change here and there, and the posting shall continue :) I'll post whenever I can, about everything that you've come to expect from me. Expect pretty much regular updates, and as usual, subscribe to my feed to make keeping track easier. I have made my feeds available in all three formats (Atom, JSON, RSS) so that you can feed yourself in any form you like! Keep your comments flowing in! After all, thoughts are meant to be shared :) I will be modifying the relevant external data to point to this blog now, so that you get the best and most up to date content and information! Like the Feedburner feed. The moment I have a considerable number of posts, I'll change it to point to this blog. You won't have to change a thing, except for the one bookmark pointing to the main page! :) It's that easy!

So, here's raising my glass to the all new Last Word. See ya around! :)


01 December 2006

Aditya Mukherjee is...

I thought it was time to reveal a little more about me, than what is listed on my Blogger profile. But sitting down to write and twiddling my thumbs for a little over half an hour, it's a little hard to figure out what to write and what not to write. How much to reveal, and yet not make this boring. I'm not that great when it comes to talking about myself. Ask my friends if you want :)

My full name is Aditya Vikram Mukherjee. My first and middle name comes by reversing 'Vikramaditya', the name of a well known king from our history. I think it was because my father had something against it, but had to keep it because my mother liked that name. He's not the most creative of people. I am 18 years old, and I'm a student at Manipal University, Karnataka. I'm studying Computer Sciences (Software), and hope to make something of myself in about 4-5 years time.

I can only describe myself as a 'geek'. All forms of the word's definitions fit me in probably some way or the other. I spend almost all my time on my computer, browsing coding sites, reading design, programming or humour blogs and trying to come up with the next 'big' idea for a hack or script that will make blogging on Blogger that much better. I am 'not' a nerd though, because I don't ace college or top my class or anything of that sort. I just happen to have a knack for programming I believe, and am smart enough to come up simple solutions for complicated problems (well, most of them atleast).

I'm a creative geek. I have worked on many designs in the past (regular readers of The Last Word would have seen the various design changes over time), and am currently working on my father's company's website. I design because I find it relaxing and soothing to my aching brain muscles. My other works can be seen at Three Halves, The ICAS Blog.

The only other big interest grabbing thing in my life is music. There is always sound of music coming from my hostel room at any given time of the day (after college hours), and it's not generally nice soft Backstreet Boys kinds. I've got Rock in my blood, and that's all I can listen to. I never get enough of it to try and switch to other genres, so that should give you an idea of how crazy it can get. I am currently hooked to Saliva, Keane, Papa Roach and John Mayer. Otherwise, I'm an obsessive fanatic of Pink Floyd, Guns N' Roses (Slash rules!), Red Hot Chili Peppers and Joe Satriani.

I'm quite a reserved person. If you're lucky, you'll get to see me out of my room without a proper reason. I love to sit with a hot cup of coffee, music in the back, my computer, snuggled in my bed and working on something new. That's probably my idea of a perfect way to spend time. I don't mind people's company, but after a while I start to get disoriented and just want to be alone. There are very few people who really know me, and anything you read here is going to be no more than 1/20th of what I'm about. It's just not in my nature to talk about myself and get people involved with my personal life at such a deep level. My friends get angry because of that sometimes, but hey! You can't change what you can't change!

The Last Word

This blog was born out of my love for the Internet and it's dynamic nature. There is something or the other happening at any given point of time, and it can get very exciting to try and stay on top of everything. Made even more interesting with the advent of blogs, and the whole concept of blogging, I wanted to have my own place to put up little ramblings and thoughts about things I saw and noticed around the web.

Being a sensitive guy, it soon strayed away from being a technical blog, to more of a personal one. I invited friends to join up as contributors, and all was good. I still wanted more viewers though, and coincidently I was introduced to the concept of Hacks for Blogger around the same time. I knew how to program a little, and seeing how seemingly small bits of code could create a rage, I decided to make my own hacks and stick to blogging about the web and three things I am very interested in, blogs, designs and codes. I was lucky lots of people came in to visit, and my readership grew steadily. Right now, I have 200+ subscribers, and 1700+ unique monthly viewers (latest Feedburner stats). All this, with a blog (technically) less than a year old. I am grateful to all my readers, and hope to continue the good work and see those numbers rise :)

I hope to stick with Blogger, although I have wanted to move over to Wordpress (I admit!) in the past. I was toying with the idea till a few weeks back, but now I have decided to stick around with Blogger atleast for this blog. The current template is called 'Golden Summer', and is the successor to 'Back in Beta' which I had to do away with because of it's sluggishness. I change my mind quite often, and am still in the hunt for a look I am comfortable keeping for a long time.

Get in touch

I'm not that hard to reach, and I usually answer all my mails in a day or so. Mails and comments (I prefer comments) are generally a better way to get in touch, because I really don't like adding a lot of contacts to my messenger. If you have good reason though, send me a mail, and I'll add you in. Hope you like this place. See you around! :)

  • Mail: aditya@aditya-mukherjee.com
  • Gtalk - aditya.vm@gmail.com - I will not authorize just anybody. You'll need to send me a mail, or I'll most probably reject.
  • Blogger profile
  • ClaimID Profile