Now auto-detecting Windows Mobile devices

If you visit this site from a compliant mobile device, you’ll now be automatically re-directed to the mobile version of jasonclarke.org. I’m still working out some kinks in my mobile version (permalinks are not mobile-friendly yet), and of course I also need to add auto-redirection for other mobile devices. But overall I’m glad to be taking incrimental steps towards mobile compatibility.

New mobile version

Last fall, I released a mobile version of this very site. At the time, I wanted something quick, so I used a third-party RSS-to-HTML service, FeedDigest, to port my blog’s feed back into a stripped-down HTML page. As I wrote back then, I knew there was a better way. Here’s what I wanted to implement with an upgraded mobile edition of this site:

A simpler URL: My original mobile URL was http://mobile.jasonclarke.org. While this is something (and I stress something) of a standard, I felt the domain was too long too ‘disconnected’ from the brand of my main site. So I chose to go with jasonclarke.org/m (something else of a standard), as I hope it will be easier and quicker to type.

A better back-end: As I said, my initial implementation was lacking. Relying on (even a great) third-party service isn’t entirely optimal, especially with the excellent WordPress as my blog software. Now, the new version relies on WordPress’ native custom templates, and a doubling of the WordPress loop, to create a stripped-down, mobile page that automatically grabs posts directly from my database rather than porting them through a third-party. Even better, I have direct, integrated control of the page via my WordPress admin area, either via editing the page itself or editing my templates within the Presentation editor. This beats my old system, where I had to get at the separate mobile domain via straight FTP.

In addition to these WordPress hacks, I also made a variety of modifications to my theme files (header and footer, specifically), to detect via a variable whether or not a particular page is defined as “mobile” (as opposed to standard). This way, I can utilize single headers and footers for both types of sites without having to create nominally different versions of my theme’s headers and footers just for my mobile site.

So if you’re a mobile web user, check out http://jasonclarke.org/m and let me know what you think.

My new short story: an experiment in self-publishing

A Hard Word to Pronounce coverAs you may have noticed, I have a new short story out, and I want to tell you all about it. It’s called “A Hard Word to Pronounce”, and it’s about a young twenty-ish guy on the day of his best friend’s wedding.

Because it’s a short story- and not a novel, or collection- I’m releasing it in e-book format, which basically means that it’s a great quality PDF. When you get it, you can either read it on your computer (or iPod or whatnot), or choose to print it out and take it with you. It’s $2 to own, and you can read an excerpt and purchase it right here:
http://jasonclarke.org/hardword

Whoah…a short story, in PDF download format, for two bucks? That sounds a bit crazy, no? But really, if you think about it, it’s kind of cool- because besides the fact that it gives you the option of saving some trees (and hasn’t it been a while since you had a chance to do that?), it’s also neat because it dramatically lowers the costs of production- savings which are passed directly on to you, dear reader.

Let me tell you just a bit more about this process, because I think it’s a direction that publishing is moving in. In this case, instead of packaging the story into a larger book– and that has to be done, because most printed books have set minimum page counts– you’re getting just one short story, but for much less than you’d pay for a typical book. That’s because it’s being delivered instantly (another benefit), without the interruption of a vast set of fixed costs such as printers, shippers, and even publicists and marketers.

That’s it for now. Even if you don’t care about the future of publishing, or saving a tree or two, please head over to my website, check out the story, and perhaps purchase it for yourself or a loved one. You can find all the info, plus order it, right here:

http://jasonclarke.org/hardword

And please do send me your thoughts and/or comments. I look forward to hearing from you, and I promise to keep you updated.

Happy Thanksgiving

Xmas lights 2006

Xmas lights 2006,
originally uploaded by jgclarke.

The second annual shot of our house on Thanksgiving eve, immediately after the Xmas lighting ceremony for 2006. Unlike last year, it’s not snowing, but we still have much to be thankful for. Here’s to your own traditions, and a Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, wherever you are.

Announcing Maine Impact

After much hard work, I’m pleased to announce my latest project! It’s called Maine Impact, and it’s a podcast covering news, politics, and technology with a focus on Maine and an eye towards the world at large.

My good friend Lance Dutson of the notorious and heralded Maine Web Report has graciously agreed to lend his keen wit and eye for issues by co-hosting and co-producing Maine Impact with me. Our goal is to produce two original episodes per week- released at 6am on Tuesdays and Thursdays- and to work hard to integrate comments and editorials from listeners into our shows.

Maine Impact Our first episode debuted yesterday. You can subscribe to it, download it, or listen to directly within the browser here. Next week, we’ve got interviews with two Maine House candidates coming up, and we’re exicted about that aspect of the show. During and even after election season, we’ll bring you more interviews with Mainers from politicans to bloggers to regular folk.

You may find the production quality in these first few shows to be lacking that of an NPR or another typical radio program. And although we never hope to be just another typical radio program, we do plan to improve the overall production quality of Maine Impact as we become more epxerienced at the form. All that in the way of saying, please bear with us, and please stick around. We plan to get better.

Maine Impact

Presenting a mobile edition of jasonclarke.org

I’m pleased to announce the launch of mobile.jasonclarke.org, the mobile-friendly edition of this very website.

The mobile market has taken some pretty signifigant leaps over the past year and I think it will break out in an even bigger way in 2007. That’s why I’m getting the jump today in experimenting with the process, benefits, and challenges associated with launching a mobile version of a website.

mobile.jasonclarke.org is a stripped-down, graphics-free, text only version of this site, with full posts and should read well on a mobile device such as a Blackberry, handset, smartphone, or etc. The site is essentially a web-based RSS feed, except much of the same metadata (about, copyright, search) present on the full version of jasonclarke.org.

To render the mobile edition, I’m taking a slightly non-optimal approach. That’s to say, rather than utilizing the existing content manager for this site (WordPress) and figuring a way to grab its data and display it on my mobile domain sans styles, instead I’ve opted to use a third-party service to grab my RSS feed, convert it to HTML format, and re-display back on the mobile site.

This approach presents two major drawbacks: One, the third-party service (the highly-recommened FeedDigest) I’m using does not update the mobile site instantly- there will be a lag time of anywhere from 15 minutes or more between when I publish a post and when it hits the mobile version. Secondly, because I’m not using my native content manager to display data on the mobile site, I can’t bring in helpful tools such as my archives and/or categories.

Obviously, my next step will be to overcome these disadvantages by integrating my content manager more fully with the mobile edition of my site. But for now, I’m pleased to be able to offer my urban-dwelling friends a chance to take this site with them wherever they go.

UPDATE: The mobile site has now moved to http://jasonclarke.org/m

A new start for Moorelies.com

Over at ActiveTopic, my hobbyist blog network site, I’ve announced a new direction for Moorelies.com, the site that I founded and ran from April 2003 through today.

Today, I made the decision to send off one of my oldest friends. Moorelies.com, the political weblog that began in April 2003 and which launched a bestselling book on its way to 5 million visits, is now officially out of the hands of me and ActiveTopic and is now an entirely separate entity.

Chris Hata and Mike Faulkingham, the two bloggers who helped relaunch the site with me this past July, are taking over the reigns of the site and I think it’s in great hands now. Chris is a bright young college student and Mike is a bit more seasoned in terms of years, but they’re both excellent writers and well deserving of readership and success.

It’s not easy to let go a product that I built- figuratively and literally- up from nothing during a warm spell in the early spring of 2003. Though, while it may not be easy, it certainly is time. Much has changed for me since I began the site, and I find myself now with, graciously, little time or energy to run the site and with personal and professional interests that lie elsewhere.

I leave Moorelies.com in the capable hands of Chris and Mike and I hope you’ll join them as they continue to make it a success by their own rules, with their own words. Best of luck, Chris and Mike.

Testing Windows Live Writer

This is a test of Windows Live Writer, a new desktop blogging interface just released by Microsoft. Get your own right here.

Here’s what the “Insert Map” function is like:

Interesting…it offered to let me specify margins, but it doesn’t appear to be respecting that.

The biggest thing I want out of a desktop blogging interface is spell…the #1 feature that WordPress, my platform of choice, lacks.

Wow…the spellchecker worked great…except, it failed to recognize the word “blogging”, even though this is a tool designed specifically to write weblogs with. Funny thing is, it DID have the word “Microsoft” in its dictionary.

So this isn’t too bad…oops, it just moved the map on me for some reason after I italicized a sentence…that’s not good.

So this is okay, but the big question remains…what kind of code will it spew out? Only way to find out is to publish this post. Here we go!

UPDATE: So, even though my blog allows image upload, this program couldn’t upload the map image for me that was supposed to appear above (next to the part where I was talking about image upload). Not sure if it’s a feature or a bug, but at that point it failed to upload my post. I guess that’s cool, assuming the image would be central to the post. However, I’m annoyed by the fact that it didn’t give me any kind of error letting me know the post didn’t publish.

Also…why is the “Publish” button way up at the top of the toolbar, not down at the end (or side) of the main content box?

So far, this gets a so-so grade…maybe a B- or C+. I’ll keep playing with it.

UPDATE AGAIN: So I forgot to categorize the post- then noticed a helpful category drop-down. When I opened it though, I discovered it had imported my categories and is displaying them not alphabetically, but instead in some random order (probably by primary key or something). That’s not that big a deal I guess, just jarring as I’m used to selecting a category alphabetically within WordPress.