Performance Evaluation & State of the StenoWeb

2009-October-20

No, I haven't had my performance evaluated at work recently, however I was recently told by one of my friends online, who for whatever reason had read my blog all of the way through, that it, if I can remember what he said, was a good read because of the way I have interspersed bits of my personal life with opinions abouttechnologyacademics and other things I've observed around campus, etc.

It's along those thoughts that I have started to think about the State of Stenoweb, as it were. Maybe mid/late October is a bad time to think about it, but it came up recently, and so I'd like to share a few more thoughts about the state of this web site, how I use it and what I think its purpose is, and how I think I am or am not achieving that purpose.

I maybe don't say it or think about it often enough, but especially once I got here to the university, one of my goals with the blog has been to make my blog something anyone can read. If for whatever reason something I write about technology is linked to by a far more popular blog, I want it to be something people are comfortable with continuing to read other articles on, even if they're related to my personal life. An important extension of this is that I want to be comfortable with the idea that if another site or person were to link to mine, and people I don't know might read my blog.

One of the things I did a lot in previous iterations of this site (Basically, when I was on Blogger and then when I moved to a WordPress installation) was included a lot of images and tables. I've been working on including images, however mediawiki does make the formatting somewhat awkward some times, especially as I'm using a theme where I don't have control (that I know of) over the width of the page, meaning that attempts to align images to the left or right of a paragraph ultimately end in the visual failure of a post.

What I may need to do, for images, is work on integrating them into the post in such a way that it works well. As an example of this, in Hand Sanitizer" I used just a single image, and dumped it in the corner of the page. "Photography Adventure" failed slightly on the use of images, because I tried to make them alternate from left to right, but there simply wasn't enough text in the post. However, neither of those posts fails at the use of images quite as much as [2009-09-27 A few of my Favorite Windows 7 Features|"A few of my Favorite Windows 7 Features"]] just because it used far too many images and they really are not organized in any good way at all. The Windows 7 post would have been a good place to use a table to exert more control over the overall appearance of the page.

Another thing I want to look at is the overall look and feel of the site. Right now, it definitely has a very "wiki" feel, which is appropriate only because it really did start out as a wiki. However, because the installation of MediaWiki is and has been the front page of my site for quite awhile, it may be appropriate to start considering how to make it look more like a traditional home page. I don't necessarily need the traditional "blog" look and feel, which I will admit I have always disliked a bit. However, reducing the number of menus, tightening up the layout and re-thinking the front page could definitely help. I'd love to be able to integrate a twitter widget, but I'm not sure if there's any way to force MediaWiki to accomodate such shenanigans. In the mean time, some new colors and a theme or otherwise set up of the menu system may be appropriate. I just need to find the time to actually do it, instead of just writing about it.

One thing I will need to start thinking about in the next year, especially as I move off of campus into my own apartment, which I'm thinking needs to happen this coming summer, is whether or not I want to get hosting for this site, continue to run it out of my home on my personal Internet connection, or if I want to invest in running my own server hardware in a co-located environment, such as the Mac Mini Colocation place. I really like having everything on this site, however hosting it somewhere like Nearly Free Speech is a bad idea purely because of how much they charge for simply warehousing a lot of data, which is a lot of what this site does, especially given the frequency with which I upload huge PNG files. (Warning: I am not kidding when I say huge.) The MySQL database for this wiki alone is just about 13.5MB, which on its own is two or three megs bigger than the last time I checked, and it shows no signs of getting smaller any time soon. Again, nothing I can't deal with eventually, but it's something to think about as I work on what I want to do with my online presence.

Another thing I need to work on is the overally functionality of the site. If this is to be my primary on line presence, I would love to figure out some better gallery management techniques for MediaWiki, even, I suppose if it just involves manually creating pages for galleries, with tables and all. The cost of having my own server and site means that to use it for galleries isn't a bad idea, especially as I am unlikely to continue paying for the Flickr subscription if I don't feel like I have to in order to get some sort of space where I can put an unlimited number of images at any size or resolution I want. Like maybe the global MediaWiki gallery! Other types of files too. In addition to gallery functionality, I want to put my resume up on the site, and I do of course always want to work on the organization of the thing.

And that's the State of Stenoweb. Have I missed anything? Hopefully not -- especially since there isn't really any good way for anonymous parties to add comments, because I've got the hatches on this thing battened down hard-core, after having dealt with spam on every previous incarnation of my web site. (There are even some remnants of spam events that have targeted MediaWiki here on this site, but I'm not going to tell you where to look for them, because then I would look bad.)