Friday Flash Fiction: Remembering Lisa

28 11 2008

This post has moved. You can read it here: http://www.neilbeynon.com/fiction/remembering-lisa/

This week’s flash, feedback – as ever – is welcomed:

Remembering Lisa
By Neil Beynon

You’re always most tired before you die or so all the uploads used to tell me. That was back when I worked on the Nets as opposed to living on them. Actually, I guess I probably spent more time on them when I was alive – I used to dream about them. Now, when I dream, it’s not about the Nets. Why dream of endless night punctuated by blazing blots of binary? People go mad in here, they told me that as well – I didn’t believe them and I don’t expect you will.

In the dreams I have these days it’s not the Nets I see but Lisa raising her sleepy-eyed face from the pillow, the flower of trapped heat blossoming across one cheek and a cascade of curls falling over her bare shoulder. In other dreams it’s Vikki and Joe running across the beach towards the ocean, their shrieks and laughter lifting the seagulls into the sky, I can smell the brine.

This post has moved. You can read it here: http://www.neilbeynon.com/fiction/remembering-lisa/





How to kill your blog and other lessons

27 11 2008

So apparently posting about CMS was not a smart move as my traffic has done a great big swanny. Ah well, worth a try. However, that’s not why I’m making a post so short it’s practically a tweet.

You will recall my appeal for donations for fellow blogger Abbi and the Movember appeal. I’m pleased to report she did indeed reach target and is currently sporting a large comedy moustache, proving of course the danger in making rash promises on the internet. 🙂

You should really pop over and take a look. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go back to laughing my arse off. (Yes, I am easily amused).





Feature: Web Content Management (CMS)

26 11 2008

Perhaps because I work in online, or possibly because I read digital media at university and maybe because I blog a fair bit I periodically get asked for advice on how to manage a website. Hence, last night I found myself emailing a friend of G’s about why a Content Management System (or CMS for short) would be a good idea for her site.

And before I knew it I’d written a short essay (or blessay as Mr Fry would refer to it) on CMS and when to use one. Tired of moaning about not having time to produce useful content I thought others might make use of the information within. Here goes:

You know how it is: It seemed like a great idea at the time to start a website – your own personal space to hock your stuff, promote your services, spout off about whatever was on your mind, share your mind-bending expertise on whatever niche interest floats your boat (delete reason as appropriate). Dusting off your self-resolve you either grabbed some poor HTML literate friend or picked up a HTML manual and grabbed some free webspace. Before long you have yourself a website and – if you’re dedicated – an ever-growing list of content, an equally long list of features you’d like to add to the website and you can’t help noticing the paint job needs some work. It all takes time and that’s the one thing you don’t have.

Sound familiar? If so you should seriously consider a Content Management System.

Why use a CMS?

You use a CMS for the following reasons:

1. Loads of content! If you have large amounts of content you will inevitably need some kind of administrative console for the purposes of keeping track of what’s on the site, keeping links up to date and generating site maps (for search engine optimisation) at the bare minimum. A CMS is an absolute must for this type of site whether your content is news, information, blog posts, fiction, whatever…

2. I just want to write! Your site requires updating by users who do not have advanced web skills and/or do not want to have to manually code content. Most good CMS software will have what is called a What-You-See-IS-What-You-Get editor (or WYSIWYG editor) and this can save you a ton of time when writing content up. It also – in good systems – makes a doddle of adding meta keywords to articles as well as enriched content.

3. No money! Relying on the good will of a web development or software development employed friend is OK but it makes it hard to keep your site up to date. This doesn’t just go for content but for other stuff like site structure and design. You can download brilliant, user friendly and most importantly free CMS systems that act as admin consoles for pretty much the entire website. Better yet these systems have legions of developers working on constantly improving the software and through a few simple plugins you can get your site upgraded at the click of a button.

4. I like to redecorate! CMS works by breaking out the content (text and images) from the layout (colour, positioning and style) of the website. If you like to change your site appearance either for a temporary purpose (festival or special day) or just because you get bored easily then CMS makes this a couple of clicks rather than lots of coding. For the main systems there are tons of existing templates you can download for free or at a nominal charge meaning you don’t have to be a designer either.

5. My tags don’t work! A really cool features of current CMS systems has been the provision for web analytics tags (most typically Google Analytics). Hard coding tags into HTML is hard, boring, tedious, prone to error and means you have to remember to put the thing on the page. Any CMS worth its salt will have a facility for putting standard tags on all pages via a user-friendly interface.

As you can probably tell I’m a big proponent of CMS driven websites and I believe a well implemented CMS is one of the biggest cost savings any content rich website can invest in. The good news for individuals and small organisations is that CMS software systems are frequently offered for free; here are some examples:

wordpress
Joomla
wiki
Elxis
Drupal
Modx

The one you use depends on the type of site you want to run and how much effort you want to put into hosting. I use wordpress because it’s one of the best blogging platforms and has a huge amount of plugins that can be used to extend its functionality. It’s also available hosted by them* (useful if you don’t want to have to worry about servers and bandwidth) or as a download to host yourself** (useful if you have an existing URL, want to run advertising or use weird and wonderful plugins).

You’d use a wiki if you want to offer your content in a complex inter-linked kind of way like wikipedia (wiki’s use the same basic structure as wikipedia). Many people discount wiki’s because wikipedia is editable by everyone and they fear their content will be open for everyone to edit, although this platform is well suited to that type of site you don’t have to open it up to be editable to all.

Joomla is a bit more powerful and can be used for more complex sites, typically news sites that carry more complex content than just date-based entries (for which you would use a blog). I’d only recommend this for people who have a good developer to configure it in the first place as it can be quite fiddly.

There are no shortage of CMS systems out there whether you want to spend some cash or take advantage of the free systems. The best approach is to have a clear idea of what you want your site to do and be prepared to shop around for the system that most closely matches your needs. In most cases you should be able to find a demo or example site.

And that’s all you get without parting with some cash. 🙂

* this blog is hosted on wordpress.com
** bookrater.co.uk is run on the self-hosted version of wordpress available at wordpress.org





Movember

24 11 2008

I returned to the office today and, aside from feeling shell shocked, I was slightly perturbed to find most of the men in my team looked like rejects from Boogie Nights. No, they weren’t undressed. The reason of course is that it is Movember and they’re all sporting nose-mats. It’s all in a good cause but still: there were more police around today and I can’t help thinking it’s with good reason. 🙂

Anyway, acting as official cheerleader for the lads efforts is fellow blogger and colleague: Abbi. In a fit of rash foolishness Abbi has agreed to don a fake Mo for the whole of the 27th November if she can raise £100 towards the collective Movember pot, so far her and the boys are on £45. I dare say there will be pictures posted over on Where The Wild Things Are. In the interests of my amusement a good cause, if you can spare a few bob then please do so.

Who knows, if the donations get high enough perhaps I will demonstrate why I shall never wear a moustache right here on the blog… For now I leave you with the impressive lip-thatches of my team (photos courtesy of Abbi):

Lawrence - week 4

Oli - Week 4

Phil - week 4

Rich - week 4

Rob - week 4

Tom - week 4





Quiet

23 11 2008

Just a quick one.

Apologies for not being around much, I have been pretty much trying to get my eye better and so have had nothing of any interest to report. I go back to work tomorrow increasing the chances that interesting things will happen or at least amusing things.

Other than that I’ve been working on Forever and trying to get back on top of my reading which is now somewhat behind where I wanted to be. Forever is going OK – I am currently working on Chapter Six and finishing introducing most of the characters. I had a bit of a crisis of confidence while ill and was convinced that my second draft was a bust but a reread of the first 22k has enabled me to press on. It’s definitely tougher going than The Scarred God but I’m hoping the results will be better.

And I haven’t been doing much else. We have visitors coming down next weekend, my sister leaves for Australia on Friday and there’s a BSFA do on Wednesday that I may shuffle along for, eye permitting. I hope to return to my plans for making the blog more interesting and reanimating bookrater.co.uk soon.

What have you been up to?





Lame

21 11 2008

Apologies folks but I kind of lucked out this week on the Friday Flash front.

I think this is largely due to the eye and being somewhat limited in how long I can sit at a computer/read/write longhand. Anyway, all attempts to produce anything have either been lame or come in far too long but it does mean I have a couple more short stories to work on, result.

If you’ve not checked out my archive of Friday Flash Fiction please feel free to have a look round here, more recent entries are down the bottom of the page. Hopefully I’ll be back to normal by next week.





24 Ice Cream

19 11 2008

My eye is still bad but – I think – getting better but I’m limiting computer time to essential work stuff and Forever for now. In the place of real content here’s the rather brilliant Ross Noble:

Just don’t ask him about monkeys.