Archive for the ‘Content Management’ Category

I am using WordPress for ten years now, and I have always appreciated the fact that WP is a solid piece of software. I know I’m not using all of its possibilities and functions, but until a a few weeks ago I have never encountered anything that could be considered a “bug”.

However… since the change to the Block editor for editing Posts and Pages all my editing sessions regularly show me this message:

Conflicting messages: did WP save the post or not?

What does WordPress mean, by the way, when it says I’m not allowed to edit my own Post? And if I’m not allowed to edit it, where did it save the Post? Why do I find parts of what I wrote in my site, even when it tells me that the update failed?

This is, of course, a nice example of how not to inform your user. Because just to be sure I keep clicking the “Save” or “Update” buttons, only to see the same message popping up most of the time!

Worse: sometimes the editor says “Saved”, but does not save the Post, thus forcing me to retype it. Having experienced that on a few occasions, I even started to write my Posts in a separate text editor program on my Mac or PC before copy-pasting them into the block editor – and that can and should not be the right way to use a tool like WordPress that can handle a minimal but complete editorial flow from writing over revising and approving to publishing.

Back to the message shown above: it occurs when I create a new Post, but also when I edit older Pages and Posts that were created with the Classic editor. Until very recently, I always preferred the Classic editor: it gives me a certain measure of control over the HTML code, something I (like many web developers) appreciate a lot. By the way: the Classic block in the Block editor may look like the Classic editor, but it isn’t the same and does not allow the same measure of control over your content. So  it’s not a good equivalent.

I know I still have to learn to get to grips with the Block editor, which is by definition better than the Classic editor when it comes to structuring content in a web page. That’s a big plus when changing the look and feel of a site, or when you move content from one site to another. So from a Content Management point of view the Block editor is way better than the Classic editor.

But the Block editor should be able to handle existing “classic” posts and pages without strange hick-ups (I seen a few of those as well) and without trying to apply the Block editor rules on those old Posts. It would be better if WordPress could simply revert to the Classic editor if it notices that there is no “Block” stuff in them.

And certainly the Block editor should save my edits correctly and without fail – and without dubious messages! Because that’s a bug, in my view!

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Who would have thought that this blog would last for at least 20 years? Not me – at least that was not my plan when I started exactly 20 years ago, on December 23, 1999. I started this blog not on WordPress, I admit, but on EditThisPage.com – thanks to Dave Winer. Dave gave away a great gift at the time: a way for anyone who wanted to learn about how to edit a website in a simple way. I am still grateful for that opportunity!

The start of this blog was also the start of my interest in what later would be called “content management systems” for internet sites. Like this blog, that “interest” is still going strong.

Happy birthday, blog!

PS. A present that allows you to learn stuff: isn’t that the beste present you can receive?

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A week ago, Dave Winer complained about the loss of “essential” (or important) web pages on the Web:

Earlier this year we lost the handle on Radio UserLand weblogs because the new owner of weblogs.com was unwilling to maintain a DNS entry pointing to them. That and Google’s marking HTTP sites as not secure have been huge blows to the web as an archival medium.

I too am a big fan of keeping stuff of all kinds (let’s call it “archiving”, shall we?). I also would like to keep web pages around indefinitely. I hate it when I find a reference on my blog responding with a 404 error, since I pride myself to write only (OK, mostly) about serious subjects. But the Web by itself is too human and too complex, I fear, to avoid deletion of pages and sites.

What I have learned the hard way, after losing part of my first website in the mid-1990’s, is that you have to your own “curator”. If you want to “keep” certain information from the Web, just keep a copy of it on a location that you control. By the way, “information” does not necessarily equal “web page”: text, images, movies, sound, etc. can be stored separately from a “web page”.

When I find “linkrot” on my blog, I do try to check the existence of the corresponding page on the Internet Archive, also known as the “Wayback Machine”. There’s an extensive archive over there, but no one should expect it to be complete. But it remains useful, so let me propose a neat little software project: a browser extension that automatically goes looking into the Wayback Machine when it encounters a “Page not found” error?

Google’s first home page as seen in the Wayback Machine

Clearly there will never be a complete copy of the Web as a whole. It would be nice if someone were to take on the role of “chief web archivist” and build a real archive of essential and relevant sites and pages. But shouldn’t that include the server-side resources as well as the resulting pages? I mean: what use is it to have the first version of Google’s search page if you don’t have the underlying search engine and its data as well?

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This blog is almost as old as ‘inessential‘, written by Brent Simmons. We both started in 1999, and I must admit that I did not know what I was doing at that moment! I certainly did not expect me to be sitting here, more than 18 years later, still writing in a language that is not native to me.

I do hope that you may agree with his view:

[…] to read a good blog is to watch a writer get a little bit better, day after day, at writing the truth.

Om Malik mentions how blogs help you understand a person:

And that’s precisely what blogs do. That’s what Dave does. That’s Gruber’s log. The words made you understand the writer, and the person.

That is exactly what Dave Winer means when he defines a blog as ‘The unedited voice of a person‘. A business blog usually is just a chronological announcement list, not a blog, making it a platform for the communication or marketing division. Useful, perhaps, but not a blog.

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In Wired’s “It’s Time For An RSS Revival“, RSS gets a bit of love – some would say: “much needed love”. RSS isn’t a new web technology; its original version was published in 1999.

“The most amazing thing to me about RSS is that no one really went away from it,” says Wolf. “It still exists…”

Well, of course RSS still exists, and there are many websites, personal and commercial, that publish one or more RSS feeds. What purpose do these “feeds” serve?

If you have never used an RSS feed, you may not know what you’re missing. RSS stands for “RDF Site Summary” or “Really Simple Syndication“, but that does not explain much. An RSS feed will publish a list of “items”, each pointing to a webpage on the site publishing the feed. Details about the link may include a page title, a summary of the link’s content or the whole text, an audio attachment (think ‘podcast’), publication date, etc. Usually, these lists are used to publish the latest updates on a site. That’s how they allow you to use them to discover new opinions, news, updates to pages, etc. without having to go to each individual page. “Feed reader” software combines the RSS feeds of multiple feeds, thus giving you a single tool to discover news from multiple sites.

Such feed reader software is what I have used for more than a decade now, to keep up with the many news sources I like to consult. Combining multiple sources in a single tool on a mobile device (tablet of smart phone) was the first driver for my decision to go that way. The possibility to read those feeds even when you’re not even online was the second driver: indeed, once you have downloaded the feed, you do not need an internet connection to get your dose of news – and that was very handy in those days when mobile internet access was hard to get and expensive!

Even today, when I’m practically always online, I still prefer browsing “the news” through a feed reader. That allows me to bypass the homepages of sites filled with screaming titles and adverts, and use just the item titles to judge their value to me. I find this so much more compelling than surfing from website to website, that an RSS feed reader was the first mobile app that I paid for – I’m using Byline on iOS, and I love it!

I can only encourage you to try out a web-based RSS reader like Feedly if you want to discover what RSS is all about. Then go looking for the RSS icon on the sites you care about, and add those feeds to your Feedly account. When you decide to use a separate application or app to read your feeds, there’s plenty of choice – and more may be coming, if Wired’s talk of a revival comes through. And no, you don’t have to be tired of Facebook to start reading RSS feeds – just don’t be surprised when you discover that RSS feeds are more interesting than a stream of messages on one of the many social media…

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On December 23, 1999, I wrote the first post on this blog. Remember Userland’s Manila? That was my tool of choice then, because it was available online, without installation, and free to try. In those days, I wasn’t ready to produce HTML by hand, and I still don’t want to do that. Picking a blog tool was the start of my study of content management solutions. Remarkably, the Manila website is still up and running, inviting you to start a trial site – I’m not certain where that will lead you, though.

When Userland seemed unable to continue to offer a good service, I started building a copy of my blog on WordPress. I did exactly what I tell everyone to avoid: I migrated each and every post from Manila to WordPress by hand. You see, Manila had this one feature that I also needed in whatever tool able to replace it: a complete, yet simple backup mechanism. The HTML from the Manila backup could be pasted into the WordPress editor without much intervention. That’s how this site remains what it became over the course of the years: a not so virtual memory for travels on the Web – and in real life as well, of course.

Happy holidays!


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I like WordPress a lot. It is, in my opinion, one of the best content management systems on the market, and being available as a free and open source tool is a big added bonus. WordPress is also a big internet site, of course, hosting many thousands of blogs and sites. That is another matter, and it’s also what makes this article more than bit frightening: “WordPress ignoring terrorist propaganda, campaigners say” (on www.telegraph.co.uk). Core of the message:

One of the world’s biggest blogging websites is turning a blind eye to pages run by Isil, even after they have been reported, anti-terrorism campaigners say.

I hope Automattic, the owner of WordPress, has a good answer for that situation; better yet: I hope they can change their stance on this. Even freedom of speech has limits, and should not be an excuse to allow hate speech and terrorist exhortations on the internet.

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It’s been a long time since I suggested that a system like S5 should include an editing mode, and see my post of March 15, 2012 repeated that suggestion. As it turns out, there is now a very similar tool that does just that: remark. No, it’s not a Wiki, it’s a lightweight CMS, using Markdown (plus extensions) to do its magic.

To be honest, between my first suggestions in 2005 and now a number of similar tools have been created, many based on S5, by the way – just check out http://wiki.s5project.org/HTML_slideshow_tools. But things over there aren’t too lively anymore, it seems…

I’m waiting for a good opportunity to try ‘remark’ out, if only to see  on how many platforms it can be used for editing without too many limitations.

For a quick try-out, head over to Platon.io – it’s an editable webpage powered by remark.

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Bye Bye, Woozweb

I have been using the services of the french Woozweeb to monitor the availability and the performance of a few of my own websites since many years. A free Woozweb account allowed me to define up to five (later up to ten) URLs to be checked on a regular base (I don’t recall the exact frequency, but it was multiple times per hour). Woozweb would accumulate the responses, display a graph of response times as well as the latest HTTP response code, analyse the response headers, etc. Every so three of four weeks, I would check my account, to verify that the different providers were not failing to do what they promised: host a responsive website.

This should be part of your content management solution: after all, content isn’t worth anything if it is not available. So monitoring your site is an essential part of your CM system, even if you do so in a separate tool.

Although I received a mail to extend my Woozweb account just few days ago, an attempt to log into the site just showed a shutdown notice:


I will be on the lookout for alternative solutions like Woozweb (suggestions are welcome). And remember: if you’re going to close down your service, make sure not to send out renewal notices after the shutdown!

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Google is big, in numbers. Google is big business, in numbers. Google embodies “search”, and we no longer know Altavista and the like from a good decade ago. So I pretty sure that, given the task, you could find “26 Crazy Facts You Never Knew About Google“, a nice infographic with a few tidbits about Google.


But there are alternatives to Google, especially if you prefer a more private and less personalised search experience. OptiLocal presents an infographic comparing Google to DuckDuckGo.

I am a longtime user of Google, because of the quality of its search results. But I must admit that I’m no longer appreciating the barrage of “targeted” ads after any occasional search on websites that have nothing to do with Google, or so it seems. So I will be using DuckDuckGo the next weeks, and see what that gives in terms of results and in terms of how it feels…

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Here’s what I happened to see on April 17th, 2015, purely by accident, really – I wasn’t on the prowl for a example of bad website management.


The titles in blue are links to news articles published on the site; the text below is the latest comment on said article. This shows that a spammer has been at work on this site for at least two years or so…

Note: the image just shows a small piece of the webpage – but to be clear: those comments were next to one another at that very moment. No doctoring of the image was necessary to see them as shown.

I know it can be hard to read every comment on your website, especially if your organisation publishes a news website – but if you do not handle such cases, then you’re likely to lose readers (like me!) who visit your site in search of interesting, timely news. Spam on your site, even if it’s just in the comments, means that the website and its authors do not care about their reader’s feedback. So you’re just pushing news bits on your site, without a bigger story? Even that looks like a (mild) form of spam to me…

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Toni Ahvenainen has had a busy year 2014, or at least, that’s what I think he had after seeing his “Year of the Alpha” website. Here is the essence of his year-long project:

Idea of this photo blog is to share minimum of 2 photographs every week (Wednesdays and Saturdays) taken with Sony Alpha camera system and a small diary like description go with it.

He has accomplished his goal of publishing at least 104 pictures; his counter is up to 130. In my view, he did a fine job: you can tell that he’s a “visual” person, with a keen eye (he’s a graphical artist and web designer).

(Click the picture to go to Toni's website)

(Click the picture to go to Toni’s website)

A blog is not the best way to publish photos, of course, so if it’s pictures you want to see, head over to his Flickr album (you’ll find the link on his “Photographer” page). But I love reading about how and why he made his pictures, and how he chose the shots for his blog. At times, he will make you think about your view of a photograph or even a photographic meme. That’s why I recommend reading his blog as well.

And no, you don’t have to be a Sony Alpha camera buff to enjoy the pictures ;-)

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I did not post on December 23rd, 2014, but nevertheless I am a bit proud that I managed to keep this blog / website alive for 15 years. Although started as an experiment, this site soon became important to me. Not because my readership is that large or important, but because it helps me reflect on what goes on in my life and in the world. Bacause it helps me think about the best way to formulate my opinion.

Anyway, the WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog. Don’t expect any surprises (except, perhaps, the number of countries that sent visitors to this blog!).

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From “Mustapha Hamoui’s Geek Blog::

Like email, the personal blog’s technology is not owned and controlled by a company. It’s a decentralized technology that goes whenever you go. If you choose to follow a blog, no company like facebook can decide whether or not you can read its posts. So don’t hesitate to blog away. If you think blogs are dying, ask yourself: Are emails going away anytime soon?

Right on. And don’t you call email “exciting”!

Click to image to read about "The Blog as Literary Genre"

Click to image to read about “The Blog as Literary Genre”

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We all turn to the Wikipedia from time to time, whenever we need a bit of authoritative info about a subject. You may not have noticed it, but the “look and feel” of Wikipedia essentially hasn’t changed in a decade. As an encyclopedia the Wikipedia focuses on its content, and the accessibility of that content in terms of search and navigation. “Content” is also the focus you’ll find in most Wiki software, and the basis of the Wikipedia is of course Wiki software called MediaWiki.

Ten years is a long time in the history of the web, and things have changed since the start of Wikipedia. Ten years ago, personal computers were the only way to access the web; today, an ever increasing number of users surfs the web on smartphones, tablets, PC’s and smart TV’s. Ten years ago, producing information for the Wikipedia was essential to get it up and running as an broad encyclopedia; these days, I’m guessing there are relatively much more consumers than writers of Wikipedia content. Ten years ago, there was only a web interface to interact with the Wikipedia; today there are apps on all kinds of platforms to access all or parts of its content in a specific form on all those different types of devices.

Thus it should not come as a surprise that someone decided to apply the user interface lessons of the last decade to the Wikipedia: meet WikiWand.

The Dutch entry for "Thee" ("Tea") in Google Chrome on a Mac

The Dutch entry for “Thee” (“Tea”) in Google Chrome on a Mac

There are two ways to use WikiWand: you can either access the Wikipedia through the WikiWand website (just use the search in the top right corner), or you can install the WikiWand browser plugin (for Chrome, Firefox or Safari) and set it up to be your default way of using the Wikipedia. I’m currently trying out the website, and I must admit: it looks good, on my Mac as well as on a smartphone. The smartphone version is perhaps a bit too visual, putting all the pictures before the text of the lemma. But the navigation menu on the left allows you to jump to wherever you want, so many pictures are only a problem if you access the web over a slow (and possibly expensive) network connection.

The Dutch entry for "Thee" ("Tea") in Google Chrome on an Android smartphone

The Dutch entry
for “Thee” (“Tea”)
in Google Chrome
on an Android smartphone

That’s all good, but a question remains. WikiWand is a commercial enterprise. So how will they be making money, without “ripping off” the Wikimedia Foundation? That remains to be seen: WikiWand says it wants to add “contextually-relevant ads for textbooks, articles and courses”, with 30 percent of its profits being donated to the Wikimedia Foundation – but only the future will tell whether they can stick to that “education only” ad policy…

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