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Currently exploring the potential of weblogs for disseminating our thoughts, projects and development ideas

Mobile blogging from iPhone using TypePad, Blogger, Flickr

Sony Ericsson blogging client for Blogger.comI've been running a mobile blog site for a long time now (since 2006), and although my main blog has been rather quiet over the past few weeks, I've found time to reflect on some recent activities using my new iPhone. In the past, I have used the Sony Ericsson software on the handset to send photos captured by the mobile phone's camera straight to a Blogger.com site.

Clearly this software wasn't available on the iPhone, but as with all sites that have a programmable API, there are plenty of other routes for creating blogs, many of them not new of course. Email to webpage technology allows web content to be authored within an email client and then published by sending an email which is read by the server and published. It's a really neat solution and although it has been around for at least the last 6 years it hasn't, for me, had a use until now.

The iPhone has a great web browser, and handles forms really well, so it's great for posting to any website. However, it won't allow you to upload photos because of the restrictions to being able to access the file system (with the exception of hacked iPhones.) The iPhone also has a great email client, which overcomes the problem of uploading images to a blog site.

iPhone email to web technology using Blogger.com

Using Blogger.com's email to blog option, I can take pictures on the iPhone, choose the Email Photo option and send it to a private address that only I know about, but one which Blogger.com receives and then publishes as a blog entry. A perfect solution, and quick too. Here are some of my most recent entries, all taken with an iPhone and blogged straight to Blogger.com using Mail.

Of course, it's not just Blogger.com that enables this technology as Flickr does this too, see my iPhone pictures on Flickr, in fact, you can see everyone elses iPhone pictures on Flickr.

Flickr will also publish your photos and accompanying annotation to most popular blog sites, or to any blog that supports xmlrpc, such as WordPress, Drupal, Movable Type.

For those of you who have a TypePad blog, the developers of TypePad have already created an iPhone interface.

More Than Just Us, a bloggers group for the Hindhead, Haslemere, Grayshott and Beacon Hill area

A little while ago I posted an article looking for bloggers in the Hindhead, Haslemere, Grayshott and Farnham corner of the world. A few people responded and met up in a pub in Haslemere, the White Horse. We now call ourselves, More Than Just Us... rather appropriate really, as 'more than just us' met up for the second time at a pub in Beacon Hill, The Woodcock.

On Thursday of this week (22nd March 2007) we head to the Fox and Pelican in Grayshott, we'd welcome people to join us - you need only live in the local area, and have some interest in blogging!

I love the thought of building interest groups that meet face to face - some things just can't be emulated in a virtual setting, and it's pretty lonely drinking beer in front of the computer! The inspiration for creating a group like this came from Tom Smith and his group of web developers and designers based in York who call themselves "We Are The Monkeys (hey hey!)." The getting together bit is cool enough, but the group didn't stop there and set about helping others in a Code-a-thon. The group designed a new website for a local children's charity. This is a fantastic achievement and with the collective talents of all involved have produced a website which would surpass all others.

Visit the Snappy website.

Ambitious? Sure, but I'd quite fancy doing something similar. Anyone up for it?


No comment: take heed of error logs and messages

Having moved my blog to another location following my departure from Ultralab, I was blissfully unaware that I hadn't copied across some dependancies that made 'captcha' comments (y'know, the little graphic containing letters to verify a genuine post) work on the comments form. Arghhh, and so I began thinking how rubbish software is for not alerting us to the fact that something isn't working...

Well, it's not surprising to learn that actually the software was doing a very good job of alerting me to the problem, the error log was full of people trying to comment, but unsuccessfully :-(

A note to us all, check your error log file periodically and find out what your web visitors are trying to do, but failing at. Big apologies to those who have tried to comment, but couldn't, also, thanks to Juli for emailing and pointing out the issue.

Hope there aren't too many bugs...    


New horizons

So a week into the new role at Stepping Stones and the National Hemiplegia Organisation and I feel as though I have achieved quite a bit already.

The week began with a visit from Alison Gee who came to talk to our staff about undergoing a work place degree programme. Home from home :-)

I spent Tuesday setting up some online tools for team collaboration. The online diary is now password protected having learnt a little about .htaccess files. I now understand the purpose of the username / password dialog box in iCal when publishing diaries. I used this nifty .htpasswd file password generator tool.

On Wednesday, I gained some further insights into marketing strategies at the COINS offices, in Slough. A meeting in London with CARE International explored developing a site in India on the basis of our World Classroom concept - joining communities of learners from around the globe, together. A location in India, has already put some of the technology in place and would make an ideal starting point.

Pupils at Stepping Stones have been learning about the possibilities of podcasting, they have also been studying Shakespeare's Macbeth, here is some of their exploratory work into podcasting.

In the week coming, I shall focus my attention towards the Stepping Stones website. One essential feature is to enable pupils and staff to contribute to the development of the site.


Usability again... this time, with tagging content

Tom Smith accurately points out the usability gaff in being able to tag content 'on the fly' when creating the page using most blog or content management tools. This blog is powered by Drupal, Tom is right...

And here's the rub. Tools like WordPress require you to create a category BEFORE you have created the item you want to add that category too. This is so backward. It'??s a simple usability error. Most web-based software does this and it is such an obvious gaff.

With it being such a source of frustration, I tend not to bother and forget.

It can't be that hard to make a little pop-up window that submits tags to the database as you write the content... else, why doesn't someone just modify the form to create a space to add new tags as you submit the page... easy?


Stephen Heppell's RetroBlog

Stephen Heppell has begun a RetroBlog... a blog that looks back at the past and places some of Stephen's thoughts and thinking into today's context.

Take a look at some of Stephen's writing over the last decade and his reflections on what progress, if any, has been made on topics including technology, learning, school design and the Internet.



I arrive home to find a spam comment, grrrr! How could this be... yet I've installed Captcha (see Comment Spam article)

I guess some spam engine has managed to screen read, interpret the characters in the Captcha box and submit the form...grrrr

The lengths these spam engines go to.... surely there are easier sites to leave spam on.... why mine? Not that computers have 'intelligence' to understand one site is easier than another...

What do I do next? Perhaps make the image harder for a computer to read? Add a textured background? Add more characters? Change the font? Maybe use a picture of a house instead and ask users to type the name of the image they see? Thoughts?

You do have to see the funny side however...


Google Page Rank status in Firefox

Just found a Google Page rank extension for Firefox. It's an easy extension to install - just click the link to install in a Firefox browser. You might have to tell Firefox that it's okay to allow this to be installed (security feature which you'd rather have than didn't)

With the advent of (Tiger's) Dashboard widgets, I've chosen not to install Konfabulator and the Page Rank Widget... I figured that one set of Widgets is enough for anyone... plus the floating panel was either always hidden behind browser windows or on top getting in the way!

Read more about Google Page Rank. Stephen Powell refers to it as a measure of Google Juice...

Comment SPAM


Drupal spam ... arrghhh


Favicons - the devil?


Blog revamp....


Navcon 2K4: Action Enquiry in the Classroom using Blog technology

Still catching up with my time in New Zealand and at Navcon 2k4. There is still much to share with my colleagues about my experiences... the people I met and the friends I made, the presentations I gave and the presentations I attended.

Stephen Powell and I gave a presentation 'Action Enquiry in the Classroom using Blog technology'.

I think we continue to make the mistake of not fully appreciating how many people just want good online tools that they can appropriate themselves. I spent much of this session talking about how participants, once back in their organisations, can work with the many online tools that are available and with a bit of time, create tools that work for them. For some, this is much harder if there is not the support from schools to allow them to explore and play with technology.

At Ultralab, play and experimentation is a key element in our work.... how else can you find out what the possibilities / limitations are?


Blogs: a purposeful activity?

Having read Stephen Powell's blog entry called Blogging for learning, I began thinking again about why I find it a useful activity.

Here are some of my reasons why:

  1. a chance to reflect on what I've done or been thinking about
  2. share my work or sound out my ideas (if they are a bit too wacky, people usually say so!)
  3. establish short-term dialogues with others, sometimes like-minded people
  4. build relationships
  5. create a portfolio about me including what I do, what interests me

I'm sure there are other reasons to blog.


Explosion of Drupal powered sites

Looking back over the past few weeks, there have been an explosion in Drupal powered sites, here are some I have been working on:

  • Design Council: Online Metric
  • Rural Nolfolk Federation
  • SummerSchool
  • Matt's Blog


Paying for Moveable Type

Looks like Moveable Type have introduced a new pricing structure for their blog tool application - yikes!

So does that mean that Moveable Type is not strictly open-source....or can you sell open source software now?

Watch as people drift to Drupal.... ;-)


Jonathan's Blog now supports adding names to comments!

At long last, and almost completely by chance I have worked out how web visitors can attribute their comments with their name rather than be identified as simply 'visitor'

Stephen stumbled past the other day and commented on my blog....he happened to put Stephen in the 'Subject' field.....well... that's enough isn't? So I just changed the field label from 'Subject' to 'Your name' - perfect!

Cheers Stephen....funny how solutions to problems stare you in the face for months and it isn't until someone gives you a slap across the face with a wet fish that you realise the answer!

Today BiddyCam, tomorrow the.....

Click on the image to make it bigger.
When your name has been mentioned on BiddyCam!, you know you've made it...

When Ace Blogger, aka Matthew Eaves, first began his blog - he knew he was bidding for stardom. With a fan base in tow, I stand back and applaud his name and quote on the BiddyCam! website. Putting the ethics of all this to one side, amazing stuff mate!

Quote of the week : (From Matt's Blog - matt.ultralab.net)
"I predict that this website is going to be as huge as 'Penguin Smacking'"

Today BiddyCam! tomorrow the ....


Drupal 'Clean URL's and mod_rewrites' grrrrh


Backup, Backup, Backup...before a server upgrade

Q. What should you always do before you make any BIG changes to your system?

A. Backup

...and I didn't. In the latest Apple OS X 10.3.3 Server update, some changes were made to the MySQL package, uh oh. Luckily, I think I've got away with it this time, apart from one database table being screwed up. Not a show stopper though - it counted the number of 'reads' each blog article had. Useful data, but I've reset the counters today.

Might be worth reading this....

Data stored in MySQL databases with the version of MySQL that is pre-installed Mac OS X Server 10.3.2 or earlier must be exported and re-imported in order to be compatible with version of MySQL that is pre-installed on Mac OS X Server 10.3.3, in which a byte-ordering issue is fixed.

As with any upgrade install, you should back up your old data. In this particular upgrade, the following process is recommended to convert the data to the correct byte ordering:

Before the upgrade, use the terminal to export the data from your pre-10.3.3 database:

# ??mysqldump -p table > backup-file.sql


# ??mysqldump ??--opt database > backup-file.sql

After the upgrade, and after initializing the MySQL database, import the data:

# ??mysql -p table < backup-file.sql


# ??mysql ??database < backup-file.sql


Am I number one?

Fellow bloggers, Matthew Eaves and Pete Bradshaw are a little surprised that after Google has crawled their blogs, that they appear number one in the Google listings!

So how hard is it to get the number one spot? Well, that depends on several factors, from the 'search string', e.g. ultralab cheese to keywords used in your pages and how many links people have made to your pages.

There aren't very many Pete Bradshaw's around, nor many Matthew Eaves' though there is another Matt Eaves on the net! Likewise, not many Jonathan Furness' either.

I'd be really impressed if they made it to number one as 'matthew's blog' or 'pete's blog' - not such an easy feat. Getting Tom Smith to the number two spot is pretty staggering, and slightly bewildering - just what would it take to take the number one spot?

I'm going after Jonathan's Blog for the top spot, I'm currently number four, with my old blog taking the third place. My old blog has been running for some years now, plus it has a few significant sites pointing to it. Maybe if i let them know of my new blog, it might make a difference - I don't really want to kill it off.

URL's help a little too, having www.jonathansblog.net as the web address should count for something.


No Comment!

Cheers for the comment, whoever posted it! Sadly, the comment tool in Drupal is a little naff as it stands. The developers make a careless assumption that when people want to comment, they will either create themselves an account, username, password, profile etc etc, or be quite content with submitting a comment as an anonymous user. Maybe I'm taking this too far, but people quite like to be accredited or associated with the comment that they make - and in the case of blogging, want to do it quickly and easily. If I arrive at a site which forces me to register before I can make contributions, I very often tend not to bother, unless I feel I will get something of significance in return.

Worth mentioning at this point that I got talking to a guy called Pablo, (in the Drupal community, yes I did register!) who has written a simplecomment.module that offers a new comment form for submitting names, email address and comment - very cool - he's hoping to have something ready in the next couple of weeks. For now though, just add your name in the comment field.

Having spent a weekend looking at various blogging software, Moveable Type, Drupal, Serendipity - to find the one that would most suit my blogging needs. Truth is that any of these tools would be enough to run quite an extensive blog - but my criteria was more than that - I would looking for a blog tool that would be the most adaptable and extendable. After much exploration, Drupal seems to be the tool of choice here. As with the other tools, there is a whole host of plugins to add extra functionality. However, I favoured this tool because the core blog software and modules are written in PHP, a language I could at least hack around a bit.

I really like the way drupal allows you to build and customise your own themes - you can rack up a whole set of themes, and these can be a selection which have simply been downloaded and installed, or ones modified by the user.

Welcome to my new blog.....

For some months now, I've wanted to find some time to develop my Filemaker weblog a little. It lacks many of the features, such as trackback, RSS news feeds, that nearly all blogging software can do really quite easily. So I spent the first part of the weekend exploring how to develop these tools.

It wasn't until I started hacking around in the Filemaker database that I realised that i'd been running my old blog for nearly two and half years. Took me back a little - especially when I began reading some of my earliest entries, Software just got harder, much harder and Exploring Children's Creativity - absolutely fascinating. Have some of the issues changed since then? no, not really.

I also started me thinking why did I spend time developing my old blog in custom built Filemaker software - sounds like a crazy idea now. It quickly dawned on me that at the time, there just wasn't the range of good quality blogging software that there is today - so I built my own.

As you'll read.....I just couldn't get Filemaker to do even the most simpliest of tasks - create an RSS feed. I managed it - and it worked (kind of!)

Read on.....

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