Blog Improvements and the Backup

I tell my friends all the time how important it is to always back up their data. That to choose not to back up is to choose to lose data, and all that.

But yesterday, when I was making some changes to the left and right columns of my blog, I didn’t take the time to back up my current template before I made those changes. I am pretty good changing the html and scripts used to pull and display information, so I figured I’d be in and out in less than a half hour.

What I didn’t count on was the second half of my template page getting accidentally selected and deleted by mistake, along with those few lines I intended to delete. I still don’t know how it happened, and only realized it had happened when I went back to my blog later and there was nothing but random code on the page.

Big honking problem.

I have many old backups of my template, but none from the last few months. So I had to spend about 3 hours figuring out what was missing and rewriting the template. That is not a recipe for a relaxing Saturday afternoon. At least it was raining cats and dogs, so I wasn’t missing anything fun.

At the end of the day, my improvements were added. Here’s a summary of what I did and how I did it:

paint1) I added an automatically updating “recent links” list using Dave‘s advice given in a Comment to my WordPress Blues post. I tried that approach a year or so ago, and only got 3-4 links in the list. Technorati must have fixed it in the meantime, because now it seems to work reasonably well. One beauty of the blogosphere is that it allows you to have smart friends from all over the world who can help you out. Thanks Dave!

2) I added a tag cloud using ZoomClouds. It is easy to set up and configure (I had to make mine very narrow to fit in the column). The links lead to a page on the ZoomCloud site where the relevant portion of your RSS feed is displayed. I wish it linked to the actual blog post, but ZoomCloud has to pay the bills, so I can live with it the way it is.

3) I fixed my plug-in to J. River’s Media Center (the best media player on the market, yet one that is ignored by many writers), so my playlist will appear on my page. I also designed a weekly top artists chart, which I am not going to display all the time, but which I will post from time to time. Here’s how it looks:

4) I deleted all of the old feed buttons in favor of the standard one, and put it, my email subscription form and a new mobile feed via Plusmo at a better location, to encourage more visitors to subscribe. If you aren’t subscribed to Newsome.Org, how’s about clicking that little orange button over there?

5) After considering removing it altogether, I moved my Skype button to a less obvious place- below the fold. Anyone who ought to be Skyping me will know it’s there, and it will hopefully keep me from getting too many young, drunk and clueless calls.

6) I added an automatically updating list of people who recently Commented on my posts. Note that it isn’t the last 10 to Comment anywhere- it’s the last 10 to Comment on a post that is still on the front page. Not my preference, but that’s the way the system I found works.

The idea of a lot of the new features is to give people who link to me and Comment on my posts some instant and automatic return traffic. I am good about responding to people who link and Comment, but when I get busy or distracted, I don’t want links and Comments to go unrecognized. After all, blogging is about community and about back and forth.

Lastly, I updated my music and book lists. Many thanks to Donncha Caoimh, who recommended Bryan Peterson’s Understanding Exposure in a Comment. That is the most helpful photography book I have ever read. Bryan knows how to teach exposure. I just wish there were a few more photos of his extremely fine wife in that book. If you’re a guy and you’ve read it, you know what I mean.

Donncha is a fantastic photographer. Visit In Photos to see his amazing photography.

Back to backups. While I was finally able to get things back up and running with the new content in place, my failure to backup my data made a 30 minute job a 3 and a half hour job.

Do as I say, not as I (sometimes) do- go back up your data.