Blog Stats 2020

As convention dictates, a summary of 2020’s posts. 173 in total, which is up on 2019’s total of 130. No SQL needed, unlike previous years. I just have to look at the archive pages.

Month Posts
Jan 18
Feb 13
Mar 14
Apr 14
May 19
Jun 15
Jul 18
Aug 18
Sep 6
Oct 9
Nov 18
Dec 11

2018’s post; and 2017’s


How to Make Sure You See My Posts

If you’re reading this, it may not apply to you, but I want to let you know that there are a number of ways to make sure that you see all of my posts. Should you wish to.

Now With Added Email

If you follow that link on the left labelled ‘Subscribe,’ you’ll see all the ways.

RSS, Twitter, Micro.blog, WordPress.com; no surprises there.

But if you prefer to use the oldest protocol of all (at least for these purposes), there’s a form on that page that will let you sign up to get the posts by email.

So now you never have to miss a post again.


Site Update

As you might notice if you look around here, I’ve made some changes to the layout and presentation of the site. Nothing very dramatic, but the header and sidebar look a bit different.

I’m open to – and seeking – constructive criticism. How does it look? Is anything misaligned, or confusingly laid out, or hard to find?

Let me know in the comments, or on Twitter.


Returning Blogs

Here’s a reason (another reason) why feed readers are great: Tom Coates of PlasticBag.org has written his first post in seven years. There’s no reason to unsubscribe from blogs that haven’t posted for a while – no reason even to notice that fact normally – so up it pops in NetNewsWire1 today.

The post itself is good – a bit meta (entirely meta) – but there’s nothing wrong with that.

I keep seeing suggestions that blogging is undergoing a renaissance, and I think it might be true. Of course, lots of us never went away, either as readers or writers. But it’s good to welcome Tom back.


  1. Other feed readers are available. ↩︎


2019 in Bloggery

Only 130 posts in 2019. That’s disappointing after 261 and 163 in the previous two years.

Month Posts
Jan 15
Feb 7
Mar 22
Apr 8
May 10
Jun 4
Jul 6
Aug 5
Sep 11
Oct 7
Nov 11
Dec 24

Blogging the Bitface, 2018 Style

Like last year, I present the figures for my blogging in 2018. 163 posts in total, counting this one, broken up as follows.

Month Posts
Jan 20
Feb 13
Mar 11
Apr 15
May 23
Jun 16
Jul 11
Aug 8
Sep 9
Oct 13
Nov 12
Dec 12

The formatting has improved, as I mentioned last time. I’m not sure what I did that made it better. The SQL is the same as before, with the obvious year change.

100 posts less1 than last year, but not bad. I’ll try for something closer to daily in 2019.


  1. Some would say that should be “fewer,” but it turns out that was never a real rule, just some guy’s choice that got locked into style guides. 

I’m not at all sure about this new “Gutenberg” editor they’re adding to WordPress. I’ve installed the plugin version to try it out. Gutenberg is a change to the web-based editor in the WordPress dashboard, not a separate app. I typed up my previous post in MarsEdit, as is my wont, and uploaded it. The Gutenberg plugin imported it nicely and displayed everything as you’d expect. But it turned all my Markdown into HTML.

That’s not what I want, and it’s not how most Markdown-processing plugins — notably WordPress’s own Jetpack — handle Markdown. Instead they keep the source document as Markdown and only convert it to HTML when the page is requested. That’s what using a dynamic CMS means, after all.

It appears that you can get Gutenberg to keep the Markdown as it is, if you type it into what they call a Code Block. So I’ll have to hope that [@danielpunkass](https://micro.blog/danielpunkass) updates MarsEdit to send posts to that kind of block once Gutenberg is the default. Assuming the WordPress API lets you do that, of course.


2017 in Bitface Blogging

Well hello. It’s been a while. That daily posting thing didn’t work too well in the latter part of the year, and was particularly weak in the last couple of weeks. Weak weeks.

In fact I posted 261 times in 2017. It’s surprisingly hard to find that kind of thing out from Wordpress itself. I had to dig into the database and run some simple SQL:

select count(*) from devilgate_posts
  where  post_status = 'publish'
  and post_type = 'post'
  and post_date_gmt like '2017%';

261 is 72% of the days of the year, which is not too bad. Certainly the most posts in any year out of the past fifteen(!)

Here’s the monthly breakdown:

Month Posts
Jan 32
Feb 33
Mar 33
Apr 18
May 27
Jun 15
Jul 21
Aug 17
Sep 18
Oct 18
Nov 23
Dec 6

A strong start, tapering off in the middle, with a rally in November and then a complete collapse in December. I suspect the last is from a combination of post-nano slump and the festive season.

If you’re interested, here’s the SQL that got me that table:

select
  date_format(post_date_gmt, '%b') as Month,
  count(*) as Posts
  from devilgate_posts
  where post_status = 'publish'
  and post_type = 'post'
  and post_date_gmt like '2017%'
  group by date_format(post_date_gmt, '%m');

As to this year, we’ll see how it goes. I hope at least to keep the frequency reasonably high. And improve both code and table formatting.


Micro.blog iOS Going Universal | Manton Reece

I’d like to be able to use Micro.blog from the iPad — well, I can, but it’s iPhone sized scaled up (or tiny in the middle of the screen) and doesn’t rotate to landscape, so I can’t use it with the keyboard. Manton tells us he’s going to fix all that, which will be great.


Holding Pattern

I’ve been working on a more substantial piece about music and gigs and nostalgia and my gig-going plans for the year, but it’s getting long, and possibly out of hand. So I’m going to delay it till later.

Consider this a placeholder.

And so it’s got some content of value, let me just draw your attention to the National March to Parliament next Saturday, 25th March. Meet from 11:00 in Park Lane.

I don’t know if it can do any good, but if you believe, as I do, that Brexit must be stopped, then you should try to be there.


And Then it Was All That

One of the blogs I follow is called And now it’s all this, by the mysterious Dr Drang. He writes mainly on engineering and provides lots of interesting Python scripts.

What I’m interested in his blog’s title and subtitle, though. “And now it’s all this”; and “I just said what I said and it was wrong. Or was taken wrong.” I’ve been reading it for years, and had only idly wondered about why it was called that, or what it really meant.

I’ve also been listening to, and reading about, The Beatles for years — for a great many more years. And so I was very familiar with John Lennon’s “more popular than Jesus” line, and the subsequent furore.

But not that familiar, it turns out. Or not with his apology, at least.

We recently watched the excellent Eight Days a Week film, which has lots of Beatles footage I’d never seen before, and puts it all together into a compelling narrative.

Of course, it covers the “Jesus” period. So there was John, at a press conference, making an apology of sorts. And out pops:

I just said what I said and it was wrong. Or was taken wrong. And now it’s all this.

Oh. OK. Right. I should have seen that years ago.

Of course there are two remaining questions:

  1. Why did the good doctor choose to name his blog that?
  2. And what does the “leancrew” mean in his domain name?

Misbehaviour Again

I'm sure you all pay great attention to the goings on at this here blog. You'll almost certainly have noticed things going very strange yesterday, with the same post being repeated three or four times, in various forms and ways.

No? Well, in case: what we had is (probably) a glitch caused by a Wordpress plugin. Or maybe not. Maybe it was something else entirely. Really, we’ll have to see what happens when this one posts.

But I’ve turned off some of the sharing features for now. So you might not even see this if you’re used to being notified via Facebook or Twitter.

Actually since that’s where most of the interaction comes from, it would be interesting to know who if anyone is not reading it that way. Is anyone subscribed to the feed? that’s how I still do most of my blog reading.


Whether You Want To Or Not

Note: If you've seen multiple copies of this post, it's because I had trouble with accidentally posting it in the wrong format, and then Wordpress refusing to let me change it. Hopefully be all right now.

“Write even when you don’t want to,” say some people encouraging us to write every day. That would be me right now. The “don’t want to” part, not the “encouraging” part. It’s late and I haven’t written anything yet and I’ve made this daily rod for my own back.

On the other hand, I do love to write, and I can’t deny that I’ve done more of it in this last couple of months.

Though, not, as I hoped I might, any more fiction. I’m still stalled in the middle of the novel which in idea, at least is nearly five years old. It’ll be starting school soon!

And I need to get round to submitting some of the other, finished, things I have. Because they’re no use just sitting here on my hard solid-state drive.


Maybe

Sometimes you just want to write something. Maybe you have something specific to say, maybe not. Maybe you have nothing to say at all, but just want to get something out there.

Maybe you’ve set yourself a target, and having missed a day (and being aware that you’ll doubtless miss others) you’ve decided you want to keep the average up. So that at the end of 2017 you’ll be able to look back at at least 365 posts in the year.

Maybe at the start of the year, that was about as many posts as were on your blog in its whole history. So it’s a major challenge. But maybe you keep going, even with nothing to say.


Whoops!

OK, I missed a day. Obviously it had to happen sooner or later. But yesterday I just totally forgot.

Oh well. We pick up and keep going.


Daily Posting Harder When You're Away

I may not get to do a proper post today, as I’m in Edinburgh visiting friends. As well, my phone’s battery has become increasingly erratic, so it could go down at any moment.

So this is my post for today, unless I get round to writing more.

Have a good weekend, everyone.


"Thread" Dread

I don’t mind people posting a tweetstorm, wherein they have a lot to say and do so via a series of linked tweets. I think there are better ways to do it; better places to host medium-length pieces of writing,1 but whatever works for you.

And of course I don’t mind other people tweeting a link to the top of the thread and urging others to read it.

But I really don’t care for the habit of doing so while saying nothing other than, “Thread.”

I mean, come on, people: if it’s worth linking to, it’s worth writing few words to tell us why you think we should read it.

This post could fit in five or six tweets. I suppose I should have posted it that way. Except #OwnYourContent.


  1. Actually the typical tweetstorm is probably still quite short. ↩︎


Should a Blog Have a Theme?

Yes, yes, it’s all very meta: all I ever write about is blogging.1 But that is exactly what I want to talk about today: is a blog better if it is only on one subject?2

I suspect that the most successful blogs in terms of size of readership are fairly closely focused on a single subject. I read several technology blogs, such as Daring Fireball, Six Colours and MacStories, which all write mainly about technology with an Apple slant. They have all achieved success by keeping that focus.3

On the other hand, there are some highly enjoyable ones that take a broader scope: Tim Bray’s Ongoing, John Scalzi’s Whatever, or Wil Wheaton‘s blog; those authors write about whatever4 takes their fancy.

I, as you’ll have noticed, take the latter tack. But the question is, should I be more focused? Should I concentrate on writing about politics, say?5

It’s worth considering, certainly, but here’s the thing: I’m not actually sure what I would focus on. I don’t think I have the single-mindedness to keep to the same subject. I value the flexibility of the old-school, personal blog.

Which is just as well, since that’s what I seem to be writing. So there you go.


  1. Or politics. ↩︎

  2. However broad that may be. ↩︎

  3. Though it’s worth noting that recent world events have caused some of them to get a bit more political than previously. ↩︎

  4. The clue is even in one of the names. ↩︎

  5. Some would say that wouldn’t be so very different from now. ↩︎


Some More Bitface Thoughts

Something I forgot to mention yesterday was that I thought the “bitface” term was useful not just to refer to people who manipulate bits for a living (or hobby) — programmers, like myself. It can also work to discuss anyone who makes digital content: websites, blogs, podcasts, videos, photos, and so on.

We’re all moving bits around. We’re all labourers at the bitface.


The Origin of the Bitface

Things go quicker than you think. This tweet post1 was inspired by a tweet, and I thought it wasn’t too long ago. But in fact it was April last year.

My friend Yusuf’s tweet inspired me to finally write about the term “biftace” and why I chose it and what it means. Actually I thought I had written this before, but it seems not.

So a long time ago, when I was first thinking of a name for my blog — before it even existed, indeed — I thought about the way the press used to refer to teachers working “at the chalkface.” The analogy with miners at the coalface was probably originally meant to disparage the labour of teachers as being less than that of miners. I’m guessing here, but considering the term seems to have originated in tabloid journalism, and tabloids tend to be disparaging of anything intellectual — though to be fair, they haven’t exactly been friends to miners either, over the years.

Anyway, I quite liked the term, and wanted to come up with something similar to refer to my own industry, that of programming. I tried out one or two for size, at least in my head. “Byteface” felt more accurate (it’s rare for an application programmer to care to much about bit-level things, and I mainly write Java, which compiles to bytecode); but it didn’t feel right.”Codeface” would have been another, but again, didn’t feel right.

“Bitface” did feel right, and so an early version became “The Bitface Diaries.” I don’t think I ever made that live.

When I started my Livejournal (which nowadays is just one of my syndication targets) I went with “Tales from the Bitface,” which I still like. And then when I decided to set up my own site I went with “A Labourer at the Bitface,” which harked back to the original impetus for inventing the word, and also alluded to my support for the Labour Party.

Which means I’m considering a rename now, as I consider my future in said party. But that’s another blog entry.

The conversation with with Yusuf was about hardware, which is not what the term was about. But I never worked out what we should call working with hardware in similar terminology.


  1. Post! This post, not this tweet. ↩︎


Success for Micro.blog

Manton Reece’s Kickstarter campaign for Micro.blog, which I wrote about before, was successful. In fact very successful. He made his stretch goal, which means he’ll be able to employ a part-time Community Manager for the service, which should help with the kind of abuse that we’ve seen on Twitter over the years.

So congratulations to him. And as a backer I look forward to getting the devilgate username shortly.

Not that I’ll actually need a username on the site, I don’t think, as I expect to be using it to post short entries here, syndicated to Twitter. But it won’t hurt to have it. If only to stop someone else masquerading as me, like on Ebay.1


  1. OK, they’re not actually masquerading, but last time I looked (a long time ago) there was a more-or-less dormant account called devilgate, which wasn’t me. I mean, unless it was, and I had somehow set it up using an email address that I no longer have, or something. ↩︎


One Month Gone

As you’ll know if you’ve been paying attention, I’ve challenged myself to blog every day this year. Well, the first twelfth of the year (approximately) has gone, and I’ve succeeded so far (my problems posting last Saturday notwithstanding).

One or two posts were extremely short, maybe just a link and a few words. But most of them have been more substantial. So I’m quite pleased with my progress so far. I’m not sure that it’s making me write more — well, by definition it is, as I have to write something every day.1

So: blogging about blogging. It’s a fine tradition. And thirty-two days in a row now.


  1. I could write posts in advance and set them to publish on a future day, but there’s no need for that. Maybe when I go on holiday I’ll have to do that. ↩︎


Lost Drafts

You may think my last post was late, in that I didn’t post it on Saturday, but rather today, Sunday. And that is literally true. However, I wrote the original draft of it on Saturday morning. I then saved it as a draft in WordPress (or so I thought).

Later that day, while I was out and about, I tried to put the finishing touches to it and post it. But I couldn’t find it. It didn’t appear in the list of posts in WordPress.

And it was nowhere to be found. Luckily I had written most of the draft in a text editor (Bear, to be specific), and that was still there. So I was able to recover it. And WordPress lets you override today’s date when you post an entry, so I was able to make it be dated on the day it was actually written. I’m giving myself that one, as meeting my challenge. I wrote it on the day, even if I didn’t post it till the day after.

But ths is the second time recently that I’ve lost a draft. An email the last time, but it feels like a worrying trend. I’m going to have to be more careful with things.

On the positive side, today’s post just wrote itself.


Social Media is Like the Railways?

There’s a piece in the Guardian entitled “Why social media is like the railways – and must be saved. I’m not sure about the title, but it’s a good piece, by Paul Mason (in fact, looking at the URL I suspect that wasn’t the original title).

He starts by talking about SoundCloud, which is, for me at least, one of those sites that you would never think of going to; you just follow a link to something on it. Mind you, increasingly many sites are like that, and have been since perhaps the early days of blogging. Anyway, Mason says:

The Berlin-based music service started as a super-cool platform for people who made music and wanted to share it. Last week, its owners admitted it was losing a million dollars a week, and could run out of cash before the end of the year.

The whole future of the little orange cloud now rests on whether it can get people to subscribe – for money.

Which is interesting, and it’s one of those things that the net is a better place for it existing, and I’d be sad to see go away — but I can’t imagine ever subscribing to it.

In the same week, another achingly cool online publisher, this time of blogs, Medium, also hit trouble.

“Achingly cool”? Medium? I’m not convinced (disclaimer: for what it’s worth, my posts are automatically crossposted to Medium, among other places).

He goes on to talk about how none of the social media sites is profitable, except of course for Facebook. He refers to

the ailing internet platforms – not just Soundcloud and Medium but Ello, a wannabe rival to Facebook, and Tumblr

Tumblr is ailing? that seems surprising, considering how popular it is. But who knows (it’s also one of the other places I mentioned above). He goes on to exhort us to return to these sites, dust off our old user IDs and so on, and enjoy them again:

It will feel a bit like time travel – back to the period around 2010-12, when social media was associated with postmodernity, self-produced music and revolt, not fake news, white supremacy and rule by old men. But usage alone will not save the collaborative tools. We need new, cooperative ownership models. If basic word processors are effectively now shipped free with every device, so too could be a nonprofit music-sharing service, a free blogging platform and a place to keep in contact with our friends, without intrusive data-farming and a deluge of ads.

As to that, a free blogging platform — while not “shipped”, is easily available: Wordpress. And there are others, of course. But it links back to what I was saying the other day: you’ve got to own your own content if you want it to be safe from services disappearing.

As to that “railways” reference in the title, here’s how he finishes:

Medium, Soundcloud and ultimately Twitter are – like the railways – worth saving even if they cannot be run at a profit. 2017 can and should be a year in which the users of platforms reclaim these freedoms not as privileges but as rights.

I’ve got a lot of time for that view, actually, but those sites are mostly set up on a capitalist model (even if they have a community spirit), and I can’t see that changing any time soon.


Blog Misbehaviour

This blog runs, like so many others, on Wordpress. Recently I’ve noticed some strange behaviour.

When I posted an entry, it wouldn’t show up. Not at first, and sometimes not for a long time afterwards. The entry was there: you could see it if you followed the link, for example if you came from Facebook or Twitter, to both of which I automatically distribute.

Eventually I did a bit of googling, and it turns out that caching plugins can have this effect. I had caching plugins installed. I disabled them, and suddenly everything was displaying normally.

You want to cache your content to help with the site’s performance. Cached pages should be served from the webserver’s filesystem, rather than generated from the content in the database each time they’re requested.

So I’ll need to investigate getting a plugin that isn’t problematic, but for now, if you’ve noticed anything odd about the site, it should all be be OK again.