About

I'm Mike Pope. I live in the Seattle area. I've been a technical writer and editor for over 35 years. I'm interested in software, language, music, movies, books, motorcycles, travel, and ... well, lots of stuff.

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It's always been incredibly challenging for me to put pen to page, because writing, at its heart, is a solitary pursuit, designed to make people depressoids, drug addicts, misanthropes, and antisocial weirdos (see every successful writer ever except Judy Blume).

— Mindy Kaling



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Blog Statistics

Dates
First entry - 6/27/2003
Most recent entry - 6/2/2024

Totals
Posts - 2654
Comments - 2677
Hits - 2,672,094

Averages
Entries/day - 0.35
Comments/entry - 1.01
Hits/day - 349

Updated every 30 minutes. Last: 9:57 PM Pacific


  08:16 AM

Twenty years ago today, I posted the first entry on this blog. As I’ve recounted, I wrote some blog software as an outgrowth of a book project I’d been working on. The book purported to teach people how to program websites, and a blog seemed like a good exercise to test that.

It’s hard today to remember how exciting the idea of blogs was 20 years ago. Before then I’d contributed some articles to a couple of specialized publications, and I was proud to see those in print. But dang, with blogging, you could sit at your desk and draft something, press a button, and presto, anyone in the (connected) world could read it instantly.

In the early days, there was handwringing and skepticism about blogs. “The blogosphere is the friend of information but the enemy of thought,” according to Alan Jacobs.[1] And in an editorial in the Wall Street Journal, Joseph Rago dismissed blogs as “written by fools to be read by imbeciles.”

Despite these Insightful Thoughts from pundits, somehow blogging survived. (haha) In my world—software documentation—blogs turned out to be perfect for a niche that otherwise could be filled only by conference presentations, or occasional articles, or books. Blogs became a way to get news and information out fast. They were also unfiltered, as compared with company-created documentation: authors could provide personal and opinionated information. And in blogs like The Old New Thing (about Windows) and Fabulous Adventures in Coding (about programming languages), to name only two, readers got all sorts of insights into how and why software was developed as it was.

And it was all free!

Once blogging overcame the initial doubts, people and companies were keen to learn how to do it. In the mid-oughts, I was teaching classes in Microsoft Word and in editing at the local college. The woman who ran the department called me up one day and said “I think we need a class about blogging.” So I put together a curriculum and taught that class for a couple of years. Which naturally I blogged about.

A bit ironically, in my own blog I didn’t follow some of the advice I was dispensing. My subject matter was (is) all over the place, as the Categories list on the main page suggests. I also was not very disciplined about adhering to a strict schedule, about planning my posts around specific dates or events, or about optimizing for SEO. (In my defense, I’ve never thought of my blog as a commercial project, so I wasn’t very concerned about maximizing traffic, building a corporate or personal brand, etc.)

And here it is, 20 years on. Counting this entry, I’ve made 2,648 posts. A rough count tells me that I’ve written almost 900,000 words. The pace on this blog has slowed considerably, but the process has been valuable to me in many ways:

  • Blogging is writing. Putting together all those blog posts has given me lots of practice and I’m sure it’s improved my writing skills.
  • It’s a resource. Countless times I’ve reached back into the blog to look something up that I wrote long ago.[2]
  • It’s helped people. Perhaps the high point was when some Microsoft documentation pointed to one of my blog entries as the quasi-official story on something. Per my reckoning, the blog has gotten about 2.5 million hits, so hopefully some folks have gotten some value there.
  • I "met" many people via blogging, and some of those in real life, even.
  • It’s helped me in my career. I’ve used the blog to (in effect) draft things that were later turned into “real” documentation. I’ve used blog entries as writing samples when applying for jobs.

But over time, a couple of things changed. One was that Google killed Google Reader, a tool for tracking blogs, citing declining usage. This seemed to indicate that the popularity of blogs had crested, but I think that that change itself also contributed to making it harder to keep up with blogs.

The real change, of course, was social media. In particular, Twitter, which sometimes has been referred to as a “micro-blogging platform”, really took the air out of blogging. (For example, you're probably reading this because of a link on a social media site, not because you saw the post in your aggregator app.)

Although Twitter isn’t a good way to capture long-form posts, its immediacy became the default first-reaction medium for breaking news. And it was a perfect way to post from a smartphone; Twitter’s original 140-character limit was dictated by the constraints of the SMS protocol that was used with phones. Some will remember that as with blogging, early Twitter faced skepticism—“Why would I want to know what someone had for lunch?” for example—but it, too, found its footing.

But, gee, what goes around. In 2012, right about the time that Google Reader went away, the Medium website was launched. “Williams, previously co-founder of Blogger and Twitter, initially developed Medium as a means to publish writings and documents longer than Twitter's 140-character (now 280-character) maximum.” (Wikipedia) And there’s also Substack at al., platforms that let authors publish newsletters, as they call them, and push them to your email. Maybe I’m a bit cynical, but the difference between a blog entry that appears in your aggregator and a newsletter that appears in your inbox seems pretty small to me.

Although the software that originally inspired this blog (Web Matrix) is long gone, the blog persists. For about 19 years, I’ve been telling myself that I’ll rewrite the code to modernize it. We’ll see.

It’s had a good run, this blog, and I think it still has value to me and who knows, maybe to others. I’ll check in again in five years. :)

[1] He updated that thought a few years later.

[2] The funniest example of this was just recently. I was having an issue with the blog, so I did a search on the error message I was getting. Google pointed me to an entry on my own blog that outlined the fix.

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  06:27 AM

Today is a notable anniversary for me: 15 years ago today, I wrote the first entry on my brand-new blog. As I've recounted before, the blog started as a programming project that was an outgrowth of a book I'd worked on. And a certain amount of "how hard could it be?"

I've got just over 2500 posts, which averages .46 entries per day since I started. (Needless to say, that was before Facebook and Twitter.) Per a somewhat crude count, I've written about 804,000 words. Plus there's a lot of code.

What we write about when we write blog entries

The themes I've addressed have changed over the years, depending on what I was doing. I wrote a lot in the early days about programming, since I was doing a lot of that. When I glance over at the list of the 25 most popular entries, I see that 20 of them pertain to programming in ASP.NET.

But there are some gratifying exceptions:

As I shifted in my career, I wrote more about the process of technical writing and then about editing in general:

I occasionally put together something about Microsoft Word:

I've written about motorcycling, which occasionally intersects with my obsession with traffic:

People who've come by the blog recently will of course know that these days, I post Friday words, about new-to-me words and fun-for-me word histories.

A community of bloggers

One of the great things about blogging in the pre-social media days was the community. You'd comment on a blog, or someone would comment on yours, and you would become blog friends, the way we are now friends with people on Facebook or Twitter who we've never met in person.

I still "know" people on social media who I met originally through blogging. Among them are Ben Zimmer, Colt Kwong, Jeff Atwood, Jerry Kindall, Melanie Spiller, John McIntyre, Jonathon Owen, Lauren Squires, Leon Bambrick, Michael Covarrubias, and Nancy Friedman.

Some of these people I've even managed to meet in real life. :)

But mostly it's for fun

There's serious stuff on the blog, and there are posts here that I have submitted in the past as writing samples for job applications. Writing a blog for this long has—or so I like to think—helped improve my writing. As the world of technical writing moved toward a more friendly voice and tone, the practice I'd had in writing many, many blog entries proved to be professionally useful.

But in the end, it has all been, and continues to be, primarily for my own amusement. Now and then I'll open up the big ol' can of worms that constitutes the code for this blog and make some sort of tweak, which always takes me back to the first days when it was kind of amazing to me that I could even do this. I would never have guessed all those years ago that I'd still be posting here.

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  09:19 PM

This is an update to an earlier post, People who work at "___" call themselves "___". At the time I wrote that piece, I worked at Microsoft, which is to say, I was a Microsoftie. In the interim, I spent a couple of years as an Amazonian. Late last year I joined a new company—Tableau Software. Naturally, one of the first things I wanted to learn about is what people inside the company called themselves.

It turns out that people in the company have given this some thought. So much so, in fact, that there are factions. One of the senior executives is fond of the term Tablets. But the rank and file seem to be converging around the term Tabloids.

Update I had a discussion in Facebook about this and got two excellent suggestions: Tablafarians and vizards. The latter probably requires some explanation. Tableau software is used to make data visualizations, which the in-crowd refers to as vizzes (singular: viz). Thus viz-ards. Brilliant.

Update #2 Nancy Friedman reminds me that a while back she investigated the surprising etymology of the term tabloid.

When I look through the list I have of other such names, I'm seeing just one other -oid ending (Proctoids), which surprises me. For reasons I cannot articulate, it feels like it should be a more commonly used particle. I still have not delved into this (future project perhaps), but there are presumably phonological, perhaps morphological, reasons why the names emerge as they do. Why not more -oids?

And then there is still the question of a name for this name. In the earlier post, I noted that folks had suggested corporanym, employeenym, idionym, and the somewhat esoteric ergazomenonym. A while back, I also challenged the readers of VisualThesaurus.com to come up with a term, and they variously suggested ergonym (work+name), salarionym, and emponym or employnym.

Well, just today I ran across an existing term, maybe two, that might fit the bill, altho these might require a little squinting: endonym (within+name) and autonym (self+name). Endonym is surprisingly obscure: the OED has no entry, nor does Dictionary.com, nor does Merriam-Webster.com. But Wikipedia does, in an article that discusses both endoym and exonym. These are (per the article) terms from ethnolinguistics:
... exonyms and endonyms are the names of ethnic groups and where they live, as identified respectively by outsiders and by the group itself. Endonym or autonym is the name given by an ethnic group to its own geographical entity (toponymy), or the name an ethnic group calls itself, often laudatory or self-aggrandizing. Exonym or xenonym is the name given to an ethnic group or to a geographical entity by another ethnic group.
I don't think a term like Microsoftie or Tabloid could be considered particularly "laudatory or self-aggrandizing." Nor would one necessarily want to suggest that company employees constitute an ethnic group, in spite of much talk (especially recently) about (corporate) culture. But such names definitely are endo- and auto-. So I'll try out endoym for a while and see how that goes.

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  10:23 PM

Because I apparently don't have enough to do, gah, I took a notion recently to make updates to this blog. I had seen something somewhere about Google Fonts, which made me think about updating the typeface from the venerable Verdana that the blog has sported for the last 10 years.[1]

Making that change required messing about in the blog's stylesheet, and that got me to wondering about the ungodly awful table-based layout that I threw together 11 years ago. I experimented a bit with a 2-column, div-based layout until I got something reasonable working.

If you have feedback, by all means, leave me a comment.

And here it is. I only played with the main page, and I still need to do a lot of weeding and pruning in the style sheet. There's no real effect for readers, I don't think. As with the whole blog project from the beginning, it's all just been about me learning about web development ...

[1] Should you be wondering, you're now looking at Lato by Łukasz Dziedzic.

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  09:26 AM

Just a quick note: this blog is 9 years old today. I started it in 2003 as a kind of example project for a book I was working on.

A few stats:

Entries: 2,268
Words: 701,668 (not counting code)
Comments: 2418
Hits: 1,426,013

Something that's kind of amusing (well, to me) is a page that shows the times of day when I've posted, by hour. It seems, for example, that my most productive blogging time (posting time, anyway) is between 11:00 pm and midnight.

I've been thinking about rewriting the blog pretty much since I started it, what with new and better ASP.NET technologies coming out all the time. Perhaps year 10 will finally see that happen!

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  07:54 PM

Ok, I think the feed works now. (Well, feeds, including the comments feed.) Sheesh. There's all this stuff to re-set up when you move to a new IIS server, and one of those is the custom mapping for file name extensions. My feeds end in .rss, which is "elegant", but requires that IIS know what to do with that extension. I configured that on my own server over 5 years ago, and I do this about twice per decade, so I tend to forget that it needs to be done. Anyway, I remembered, finally, and was able to do some remote tweakage of IIS on the hosting site, so I think it's working.

Reminders. You can subscribe to the entire blog feed this way:

http://www.mikepope.com/blog/blogfeed.rss

You can either get a truncated (2K/entry max) or full feed. The default is truncated. To get the full feed, do this:

http://www.mikepope.com/blog/blogfeed.rss?full=true

If you want to subscribe to only a specific category, you can do this:

http://mikepope.com/blog/blogfeed.rss?category=xxxxx

Examples of the latter:

http://mikepope.com/blog/blogfeed.rss?category=writing
http://mikepope.com/blog/blogfeed.rss?category=editing
http://mikepope.com/blog/blogfeed.rss?category=aspnet
http://mikepope.com/blog/blogfeed.rss?category=webmatrix

The truncated/full thing works here too. For example:

http://mikepope.com/blog/blogfeed.rss?category=webmatrix&full=true

I must note that the reason I started to suspect a problem was that I wasn't seeing accustomed levels of traffic. I pondered this problem off and on for a while and while I was doing something completely unrelated (isn't it always this way?), I had that aha! moment of realizing that it must be because the feeds were busted.

Anyway, hopefully the number of issues with the blog is gradually going down, dang.

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  08:43 PM

The blog's been moved to a hosting site and seems, per some non-rigorous testing, to be functional. Now to discover over the forthcoming days where-all things are not quite working right.

All in all, the move was not a huge problem. For all the fancy deployment facilities in VS, it was possible -- in fact, easier -- for me to just FTP the files over. As for the blog database, I used the Publish to provider feature in Visual Web Developer Express and exported the existing database as one honkin' big .sql script. Then I used SQL Server Management Studio Express to attach to the remote/hosting site SQL Server and run the script. That took, dunno, maybe 5 minutes.

The trickiest part so far, and one that isn't 100% settled, was configuring the hosted site to send email.

Two things amused me. One was that they said that provisioning the SQL Server database could take up to 24 hours. It took, like, 1 minute. Likewise they said that changing the target server for my domain (mikepope.com) would take 20 minutes and up to 48 hours. Again, less than a minute. Not that I'm complaining, nossir.

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  12:00 AM

I'm going to try to move the blog to another server in the course of the next few days. As a result, the blog will be down for some period that might last up to a day, perhaps more, dunno. Anyway, that's why it will be offline starting sometime Monday. When it comes back up, it should look and work the same, just be somewhere else.

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  01:02 AM

Upon attending an SEO presentation this week, I learned that I should be enabling social media a bit better on this blog. So I added a Facebook Like button.

This is my first attempt, so I went with a button that shows up at the bottom of the entry. I was told that it's not bad idea to have a button at the top; a peculiar but attested behavior of users is that they'll sometimes "Like" something before they read it, or possibly without reading beyond the beginning. But let's see how this works out.

Implementing the button is not particularly difficult. The details are laid out on the Like Button page of the Facebook Developers site. In effect, what I did was add the following markup to the bottom of the layout for a blog entry (broken up here for readability):

<iframe src=
"http://www.facebook.com/plugins/like.php?href=%%1%%
&layout=standard
&show_faces=False
&width=450
&action=like
&colorscheme=light
&height=80
&locale=en_US"
scrolling="no"
frameborder="0"
style="border:none; overflow:hidden; width:450px; height:30px;"
allowTransparency="true"></iframe>

I had to add some code to the page to substitute the URL of an individual blog entry (e.g., http://www.mikepope.com/blog/DisplayBlog.aspx?permalink=2272) for %%1%% in the markup. (The blog code is something of a rat's nest anyway, so what's another 4 lines for this?)

You're also supposed to add some meta tags to the <head> element that Facebook uses (they say) to determine what title, URL, and graphic to associate with the content. For example:

<meta property="og:title" content="mike&#039;s web log" />
<meta property="og:type" content="blog" />
<meta property="og:image"
content="https://www.mikepope.com/blog/images/mikesblog_defaultimage.png" />
<meta property="og:site_name" content="mike&#039;s web log" />
One thing that's implicit in the way they implement this, and is noticeable to me already, is that there is a slight delay before the Like button is displayed. Each instance of the Like button has to call the Facebook site and get data about the blog entry that the button is bound to, then return a hunk of markup to display on the page. I display 10 entries per page; that's 10 calls to Facebook. (Only one call, tho, if you're looking at an individual entry.) On the plus side, this is done asynchronously -- not AJAX-y, just via a queued HTTP request, like images. That means that the actual blog content shows up as it always has, it's just the Like button itself that might show up slightly later.

Anyway, we'll see how this goes. If you have some feedback about this, please leave a comment. And, of course, be sure to Like this. :-)

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  12:02 PM

I think that one of the disks on my server computer is dying -- it's making that spin-up-spin-down noise that they make just before they break. (Break your heart, that is.)[1]

If the blog disappears, it's because I'm, you know, servicing the server.

Once again I wonder whether it's really worth it to maintain my own server. Hmmm.


[1] As an aside, I got this image from a site that obviously is auto-translated. From what language, who knows. Here's an excerpt about the warning signs of incipient failure:

Symptoms of harder drive failure

The pre-warnings of harder drive abortion are not consistently accustomed by declining harder drive, if sometimes the agnate absurdity letters may arise and sometimes not. The a lot of accepted signs are beat or abrading sounds, while others, lower in ratings, cover aspersing arrangement achievement and abrupt behavior.

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