Moving to MoveableType

No, I’ve not quit blogging about Instructional Technology, I’ve just been distracted with one thing and another. I’ve returned to technical editing; one of the books I worked on, Dennis Cohen and Bob Levitus’ excellent
iLife Bible
, is out. I’ve been teaching, first composition, and now, English 10A, English Medieval and Renaissance literature, 800-1660. That’s a fair amount of blogging time right there. Secondly, I realized that I really don’t want to keep using Radio Userland. It’s just too awkward, clumsy, and crude. It has almost no real documentation, certainly not the sort you’d expect from a commercial product, it frequently fails to perform various tasks related to server communication with Userland, it’s unbelievably slow, it has an astonishingly poor interface, and it doesn’t even attempt to follow the basic HIG guidelines from Apple, or intelligent web interface design. Since I serve from my own domain, Radio really isn’t worth another $40.00 renewal fee, particularly since the support is non-existent. Userland hasn’t fixed long term bugs, and promised features from a year ago are still not implemented.

Given the elegant interfaces possible with Apple’s Cocoa tools (take a look at Nisus Writer Express, or Brent Simmons NetNewsWire, or even the somewhat quirky Mac OS X-only iBlog), I see no reason to stick with Radio. Indeed, the new Blogger supports Safari, is simple to set up, and though Blogger lacks Categories, it’s superior in every other way to Radio. Yes, I know, Blogger isn’t a news aggregator, but Radio doesn’t approach the efficiency, ease of use, and sheer elegance of NetNewsWire (which now also posts to Blogger, Bloxom, LiveJournal, and MoveableType).

I’m going to install Sixapart‘s MoveableType, and eventually, I’ll probably try Rael Dornfest’s Bloxom, which looks intriguingly spare. Then of course, I hope to be able to try Dean Allen’s interesting TextPattern, and then there’s the intriguing possibility of TypePad, also from Sixapart, the makers of MoveableType.

In the meantime, I’ll still be posting to DigitalMedievalist: Scela, and to my class blog. I’m going to be trying a new ISP as well, so wish me luck.

Radio Userland New Blog Backup Tool

Read step by step instructions here. I’m about to go try it out myself.

Later: worked like a charm, and took roughly a half hour. There’s an ongoing progress report, which is a useful feature. I, as a backup fanatic, immediately compressed the “Backup” directory that was created in the Radio directory, and added it to the list of files to be uploaded to my offsite backup drive. This is of course something that I should automate via AppleScript. I’m hoping this is a sign of actual interest in the product from Userland.

Weblogs, Outlines, and Writing

Dave Winer has posted aboout a new tool he’s working on, his Weblog Outliner.

I want this.

I think the ability to outline and post has enormous potential for not only blogging and writing, but for teaching writing. I don’t require students to turn in or use an outline, but I do require them to use any of a variety of pre-writing tools and techniques before they start. List-making and outlines are two that students seem particularly drawn to.

The virtue of doing the outline/listing publicly over the net are:

  • Public writing, shared writing, is taken seriously. Students are eager to revise.
  • If the writing is by its nature public within the defined community, then the temptation to plagiarize is less, since the source will be known to others of the community.
  •  I can help and interact with students “on the fly.” They can help and learn from each other.
  •  Structure, of piece of writing, and of individual paragraphs and sentences, is one of the hardest things to explain to students. Outlines and lists help make the structures of an essay and of individual paragraphs much easier to understand and manipulate.
  •  The web and good technology are intriguing, and fun, and their use in writing can help seduce students to write, and to find that they enjoy writing and communicating in and of itself.
  •   Having students post the final version in a non outline form, publishing their essays on the web, of course shares many of these virtues. Web log tools can make that much easier.

The problem is that Radio as it stands is too unfinished, too arcane and poorly designed in terms of UI to use widely in education. It’s too hard for consumers to set up and use, the documentation is awful, the Mac UI violates several basic Mac standards, and is needlessly arcane. OPML has potential, but it needs to be freed from Radio Userland’s bowels and set free so professional developers can employ it as a standard. Left to Userland’s developers, it will languish and choke.

Neighbors

I’ve added a link to my /”neighbors/” over there on the left, or you can see my weblog neighborhood here. It’s a new tool added to Radio. This is a Good Thing.

Why, you ask, is this A Good Thing? For a variety of reasons, including courtesy to the hardworking bloggers I read, to let them know that they are doing A Good Thing. But an even better reason is that allows me, and you, to find sites and blogs we did not know about, and would like to, and even should.

Already I have newly subscribed to Future of the Book News, the blog of a really neat site that I didn’t and should have known about, and Scobleizer, both of whom should be part of my data fix.

Stories

I’ve started using, or trying to use the Story feature in Radio. Writing the Story was fairly simple, and submitting it was equally clear. I’d like to add a link to the story I just wrote to my Navigation links on the left. It’s listed in the Story page , but clicking the link there points to my local file, not the one on the web. Supposedly if I use the name of the Story in double quotes like this “About this Blog” Radio will transform it into a link.

Well, that worked. Now, in order to get the link and add it to my Navigator settings, I went to the page and copied the URL. There’s probably a much smarter way to do it than that, but it works.