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Photo-a-day 128: Nine cakes

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I wanted to reflect my nine years of blogging in today’s photo-a-day, so had the idea of nine fairy cakes assembled in the shape of a 9… I’m not entirely sure I pulled it off to the extent that you’d realise it was a 9 without being told…

I wrote a bit more about my nine years of blogging earlier today, if you’re interested!

This 1,639th post was filed under: Photo-a-day 2012, .

Nine years of blogging, and the permanence of it all

Today marks nine years since I started blogging. Nine years. Increasingly, people are becoming concerned about the permanence of stuff posted the internet. Rick Santorum’s presidential campaign was hampered by the web, and the fact that for almost everything he said, he’d previously given an equal and opposite quote to some other source at some point in the past. And, of course, there’s many other less prominent examples of people’s online history coming back to haunt them.

Anyone with a blog, like me, can essentially make a choice. I could delete a load of old stuff. It wouldn’t make it completely unavailable online, as content from this site is cached all over the place; I guess it might make it slightly more difficult to find. But I’ve chosen not to do that. I’ve chosen to keep the complete sjhoward.co.uk blog intact. And I’m sure many people wonder why.

Firstly, let me say that it’s not because I think everything on here is great. It’s not. There’s some terrible stuff. There’s stuff that’s just plain dross. I’ve written things that I’m a ashamed of, like using “gay” almost as a punchline, or referring to the entire French population as “crazy frogs”. There’s positions I’ve asserted that, at best, are altogether blunter than I’d ever express now, like saying “I’m very anti-smoking”. And that’s before we even open the can of worms labelled “unnecessarily base humour”.

So why, you might ask, do I keep this stuff online, with my name written at the top of the page in a massive font size?

This is something I’ve thought a lot about. In the end, my reasoning was fairly simple. What I wrote in 2003 might have been unprofessional, but I wasn’t a professional then. It might have been immature, but so was I. The date is clearly and prominently shown on all the posts I’ve written. Of course I don’t hold all the same opinions I did when I was 18 – does anybody? We grow, we develop, our viewpoints and opinions change.

One of the more remarkable things about this little site is that you can how it happened. You can see the softening of my opinion on Tony Blair, from barely concealed hatred, to grudging admiration, to actual respect. My changing interests are reflected, from the 2005 election, during which I published daily “swing updates” based on a complex formula weighting different polls, to the 2012 local elections which were only mentioned in passing beneath a pretty picture of a bus stop.

All of this history, and all of these changing opinions, set out the path to where my politics and opinions lie today. And, of course, both will continue to shift over time.

In the end, I guess I came to the conclusion that if someone chooses to judge me on a personal opinion I held a decade ago, then so be it. Though I’d suggest that a far more interesting and intelligent approach is to ask questions: “You once said you thought x: do you still believe that?” or “Your position used to be y, now it’s z. What changed your mind?”

I don’t know exactly when the meaning of the term “flip-flopping” in political discourse changed from being about presenting different views to suit different audiences to being about actually changing your mind on a given issue, but I don’t think it’s a helpful change. I’m vaguely suspicious of people who claim to have “always believed” something – it has a slight whiff of valuing dogma above thoughtful and reiterative consideration of the issues. I can only speculate that the increasingly tribal nature of politics has led to increasing institutional derision of free thought: we must all toe the party line.

If you ask me, the sooner we lose the vogue notion that a change of opinion or reconsideration of position represents a weakness, the better off we all will be.

This 1,638th post was filed under: Blogging, Politics, Site Updates, Technology, .

My madcap Mencap challenge is over!

I’ve finally completed my Mencap Spellathon challenge, which was to learn to spell 2,500 words. It’s taken me quite a few weeks, but I’ve made it, and want to thank everyone who has sponsored me over the last little while. At the time of writing, I’ve raised £50, which is beyond both my own expectations and Mencap’s target.

But let’s raise even more! Mencap is a great cause, supporting 1.5 million people in the UK with learning disabilities. If you gave me a penny for every ten words – that’s just £2.50 – Mencap could make that go a long way. So get over to the JustGiving page Mencap have created for me, and give them some cash.

Thank you.

This 1,550th post was filed under: Headliner, , , .

New masthead

I’ve decided to give the site’s masthead a bit of a makeover, as the old one was starting to feel more than a little dated. The new one still has elements of the old: the same background image, the guillemet, and a bit of bold-italic verdana being the most obvious examples. But I hope the overall effect is a bit more modern, and a bit more typographically interesting.

The old one (see here) had remained basically the same since 2005 (see here), albeit with various different tag-lines, a couple of different size variations, and a short-lived change of background image. I can’t think of another website that’s had the same basic masthead for seven years – and the last masthead itself was an updated version of the original 2003 logo (see here).

Anyway, I hope you like it. I’m sure I’ll tweak it over the next few days and weeks – the curse of perfectionism, I’m afraid – but it’ll settle eventually!

This 1,526th post was filed under: Diary Style Notes, Site Updates, , .

Throw your money at Me(ncap)!

As you can see, I’m now 1000 words into my 2500-word Mencap spellathon challenge. I think I underestimated how many words make 2500 – it turns out that 2500 is quite a lot. So keep sponsoring me, and keep me spelling!

Mencap is a great cause, supporting the 1.5 million people in the UK with learning disabilities. If you gave me a penny for ever ten words – that’s just £2.50 – Mencap could make that go a long way. So get over to the JustGiving page Mencap have created for me, and give them some cash.

Thanks for your support!

This 1,523rd post was filed under: Headliner, , , .

Tweaking the design of my blog

Those readers who view my posts directly on this site can’t have failed to have noticed a few design tweaks over the last couple of days. I’ve been attempting to improve the readability of the text, and make it easier to delve into the archive. There are a few graphical changes too, to make things look a bit more modern.

A lot of the changes are really tiny – text sizes, contrast and line spacing, for example – but some of the more obvious ones are the improved handling of archive pages (which now show full posts rather than lists of titles), the ability to flick through the blog chronologically, and the vastly clarified “calls to action” under posts on single post pages.

The latter includes one-click access to similarly tagged archive posts. Unfortunately, few of my posts actually have tags, as they’ve never had any practical function from the front-end until now, but I am determinedly ploughing through the archive tagging away.

I hope the changes are to your liking – as ever, I’d be delighted to hear your feedback.

This 1,514th post was filed under: Diary Style Notes, Site Updates, , .

I’m coming home

I’ve been using Tumblr for a few months now, mainly because of ease of access on the move. However, having become frustrated with the limitations of a third-party service, I’ve leapt back to WordPress sjhoward.co.uk from today.

I’ve duplicated almost all of the posts from Tumblr – there weren’t all that many, and I don’t anticipate this transition shaking the Earth to the core. I tended to post more varied content on Tumblr that I historically did on here, and my posts were almost all shorter than typical posts here, and I plan to continue that style back on here. I’ll be doing my photo-a-day project via here, for example.

There’s bits of housekeeping to be done to tidy things up on here, which will no doubt get done in time. Feel free to comment on this post if you spot any glaring errors for me to pay some attention to.

Thanks for your support over the eight or so years that I’ve been blogging – I hope you’ll continue to enjoy reading!

This 1,465th post was filed under: Site Updates, , , .

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