Learning to Cope with the Evolution of a Weblog

At February 13th, it will be 4 years that I posted my first blog entry – I am still lovin’ it! Let me tell you about some of the changes I had to deal with in those 4 years and what you can do about them.

The most important changes were:

  1. My Weblog has moved to different domains (from zzoss.com to sandrozic.de to groganz.com as of today).
  2. I changed the software several times (from b2 to a self-made eZ Publish-based blog to WordPress).
  3. There were times when I blogged actively (~5 blogs per week) and less so (1 entry per month).
  4. My focus on certain topics varied over time (e.g. from general LAMP-based Web development to ECM, from development to marketing).

Points 1. and 2. lead to the fact that I repeatedly lost some link love, especially on Google and Technorati, because Trackbacks and Pingbacks got lost. Just recently, I managed to import all posts I wrote in my first 2 years of blogging – it’s amazing to see that some of them made it back to be listed among the most visited pages in my site stats (mostly referrals from Google).

What’s most unfortunate is that I could not recover comments to old postings. Well, I could, manually, but that would mean a lot of work. Lost comments is like lost friends.

If you want to avoid the same mistakes, make sure

  • to keep your blog at the same domain at all times to keep your permalinks valid,
  • to choose a Weblog software that is well supported to avoid migration problems.

When it comes to point 3., it has a lot to do with point 4.: The level of active blogging correlated with what I did. I blogged more actively while I was self-employed, simply to raise awareness which would lead to consulting contracts. After getting employed, there were times when I was simply buried with work that did not require me to blog.

Concerning point 4., I believe that there is nothing you can do about the shifting focus of what you write about. I even think that Weblogs are there to show how individuals change over time and how their interests change.

If I narrowed down my blog to one specific topic (e.g. Open Source ECM), it would not be in sync with my personality. My general interest is in being open and combining Open Source software with the knowledge society. That’s a rather broad topic, but also a thrilling conjunction where most new things happen these days.

The only problem I see is that my tagcloud does not reflect the change of interest. Some tags (e.g. “pear”) appear much too prominent, although they are outside of my scope of interest these days. Hm, I should get a chronological slider for my tagcloud, just as they did here to display Microsoft’s evolution based on a tagcloud.

In the end, it’s all about transparency and authenticity in the blogosphere, including the ability to deal with changes. Blogging is a lot about learning to cope with evolution, reflecting upon what happened and letting others know how to avoid some of the traps. Hope that helps!

Migrating Old Permalinks to WordPress

Now that I migrated to WordPress for blogging, the permalinks of my previous blog entries have changed.

For example:

/article_php_5_enterprise_edition_available_online

changed to:

/2006/11/26/article-php-5-enterprise-edition-available-online/

My initial idea was to use mod_rewrite by adding a RewriteRule for each old link redirecting to the new location, but that looked like a lot of copy&paste to me and would not teach me anything new.

Instead, I chose to redirect requests for old links to the WordPress search page. Try it out yourself: Click on this old permalink /article_php_5_enterprise_edition_available_online and you will be redirected to the search page, which displays the blog entry to you as a search result. This looks like a more flexible solution to me, just in case that my permalinks might change again one day.

The implementation was simple. I added a few lines of PHP code to the 404.php page of my WordPress theme as described in the support topic 404 Search Function for WordPress. I also added a header redirect directive.

This is the full code:

[php]

// Adjust if WordPress is located in subdirectory,
// e.g. http://www.example.com/weblog. Otherwise leave empty.
$blog_uri = ‘weblog’;

// Don’t change from here.
$search_url = $blog_uri.’/?s=’;
$search_term = urldecode( substr($_SERVER[‘REQUEST_URI’],1) );
$find = array(“‘”.$blog_uri.”‘”, “‘/'”, “‘[-/_]'”) ;
$replace = ” ” ;
$new_search = preg_replace($find, $replace, $search_term);
$new_search = urlencode($new_search);

// Redirect to search page.
header(“Location: /”.$search_url.$new_search.”&http_status=404″);
exit;
[/php]

Notice that for security reasons, I use urlencode() for the search page URL to avoid HTTP Response Splitting.

Useful Extensions for WordPress and MediaWiki

These are the WordPress and MediaWiki extension I use on my site:

WordPress Plugins

  • Ultimate Tag Warrior: Very nice and powerful plugin which lets me add tags to my blog entries and display the tag cloud in the sidebar. It also allows me to retrieve tag suggestions from Yahoo! for a post – easy to install and configure and very helpful!
  • WP-Leftycats: A mini patch which makes the feed icons display to the left side of a category name. I was just too lazy to hack it myself 🙂

MediaWiki Extensions

  • GoogleMaps: This extension allows me to show where I am located on the page with my contact details.
  • XFeed: Aggregates RSS feeds and displays them from within MediaWiki. Look at the startpage of my site to see it in action. There I show the 5 latest blog entries. I had to tweak the code a bit though, from $feedItems = array(); to $feed->items = array();. The author had it the right way initially, don’t know why he changed it.

My site with new design and software

I have made myself a little christmas present and redesigned my homepage on sandro.groganz.com. Furthermore, I have changed the software to WordPress and MediaWiki. Some long evenings and short nights have come to an end.

I am particularly happy about using MediaWiki now. Hey, weeee, I use the same software as Wikipedia does :). While transfering the contents from the old homepage to my new one into MediaWiki, I was quite suprised how well the default CSS formatting works and how we all got used to it by using Wikipedia. Hence, I did not change the formatting of contents. Actually, the same is true about the default CSS of WordPress, which is also widely used on the Web.

Big thanks go to Gassi of Netzwirt, who helped me very quickly by moving my domain to a PHP 5-enabled server. I am very happy with his hosting service for my site – no problems since 2,5 years.

Merry christmas to all of you!

Goodbye eZ systems

… and thanks so much!

I have had a great time at eZ systems, both from a professional and a personal perspective: Having started as a System Developer in Nov 2004, I learned more about the technical details of eZ publish. My following roles included consulting, training, conference and customer presentations, pre-sales, etc. After 1 year at eZ and having gained a good overview of most business areas, I became part of headquarters management and ended up being the VP Communication, doing strategic governance of all global marketing and knowledge management at eZ systems.

Now it is time for me to start something new, with a different focus, where I can apply and further extend the broad skill set I was able to develop at eZ.

My New Role: Chief Knowledge Officer

I have been appointed Chief Knowledge Officer (CKO) at eZ systems. Some of you might go “Uh, CwtfO???”, so here is what Wikipedia has to say about the CKO role:

A Chief Knowledge Officer is an organizational leader, responsible for ensuring that the organization maximizes the value it achieves through “knowledge”. […] CKO responsibilities include such things as (1) developing an overall framework that guides knowledge management, (2) actively promoting the knowledge agenda within and beyond the company, (3) overseeing the development of the knowledge infrastructure, and (4) facilitating connections, coordination and communications.

That’s quite a nice description. One special thing about eZ systems is, that it is an Open Source company, thus the borders between internal and external communication often do not exist. In fact, an Open Source company is just as much about an open communication as it is about open software.

This is actually the part I am most excited about: to explore the potentials of open knowledge management, which includes the eZ systems team just as much as the developers community, the partners, etc. In an Open Source ecosystem, knowledge management is very much a joint effort of all actors involved and can only follow a bottom-up approach.

With the CKO role, eZ systems is the only Open Source company I know of with a dedicated role for managing its knowledge and that of the whole ecosystem. It shows that eZ systems is serious about its slogan “Share your Information”.

If this all sounds too abstract to you, stay tuned, as I plan to write about concrete KM projects and their results in my Weblog.

James Blunt in Concert

I have seen and heard several Pop concerts where the CD sounds so much better than the live performance. Quite the opposite with James Blunt live: The concert was even better than his fabulous CD, his voice is simply great Рon CD and live. Although he only played roughly 1h+, he deeply impressed the audience in B̦blingen/Germany at January 21st 2005.

I am really happy that Pop can still be more than Britney Spears!

If there’s a James Blunt concert close to you, go and hear him!

Winter in Biberach

I live in a tiny little village called “Bergerhausen”, which is part of Biberach. We had quite some snow lately and here are some freezy cold pictures.

Shadow on the snow: my wife and me.

View from my home office onto almost all of Bergerhausen.

That’s the house we live in, right where the windows in the roof are.

South-eastern view from my home office at the winter morning sun.