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Weekly Digest

 •  Filed under Posts, Digests

I’m still a couple of weeks away from finishing for the holidays, plenty of work to keep me busy.

Drew had a great weekend with the golf club Christmas party on Saturday and Jennifer took him down to the winter festival in town this morning. Despite the cold he had a great time.

I finished watching The Punisher this week on Netflix. Jon Bernthal was great as Shane in The Walking Dead. The violence might be a bit much for some people but the story was great. One to watch.

Looking forward to The Last Jedi on Friday!

Weekly Digest

 •  Filed under Posts, Digests

I missed last week's weekly digest due to an ongoing battle the sniffles that I have only recently came out on top of.

Last weekend's highlight was a Sunday afternoon at the golf club with Drew taking part in a putting competition in the clubhouse. The kids were supposed to play on the course that day but with some snow on the course the kids had to make do with the putting competition. Drew had a great time up there and as always, Ethan was there guiding him with each putt.

Me and Jennifer hit the shops on Friday to finish up the Christmas shopping and then on Saturday we got round to putting up the Christmas tree. We're not the earliest to have our tree up, we already seen a few up before December even started.

The biggest downer of last week (and the month) was the release of Star Wars Battlefront II. I loved the first game and I really wanted the new game to have all the elements of the first game but on a wider selection of bigger maps.

I can't begin to describe how much of a disappoint the game has been and that is without the controversial loot boxes. What it boils down to though is the amount of hours you need to put in to progress in the game. I am not going to give up completly on the game though. I expect there to be some major changes coming soon and hopefully this will address some of the issues.

The Facebook Pages Organisation

 •  Filed under Posts, Social Media

This morning I got a text message from my kids' primary school. It was a reminder that this week was book week for the kids. Good stuff, I thought. I wonder where I can find more information on this? Reading on the message rounded off with 'check out the Facebook page for more info’.

Well, I did check out the Facebook page, but I couldn’t see anything. I don’t have a Facebook account (anymore), so I don’t even know if it’s a private post and only intended for those that follow the school’s Facebook page.

The school does have its own website, but it is rarely updated and close to being unreadable as it’s running on a stock Wordpress theme with a few slightly choice changes.

Did I find the information in book week?

I didn’t. I gave up. However, the lack of content isn't the issue here. The problem is the school's reliance on a single platform for communicating with parents. The school is just one of many organisations and businesses that choose to be more active on a Facebook Page than any other websites and social media accounts they might own.

The sad truth of the Internet today is that for many, it begins and ends with Facebook. There’s nothing else on the Internet that matters. If you don’t have a Facebook account, it doesn’t matter. It’s an appeal to the masses, and with most parents having a Facebook account the school has chosen to focus on updating its Facebook page.

The problem of the school using Facebook isn’t the problem though, it’s how they are using Facebook that’s the problem.

When an organisation chooses a single place to publish content they make it difficult for others to find that information. So how can organisations rectify this?

The answer is quite simple.

  1. Update their website frequently with relevant content.
  2. Share the content of the website to social media platforms.

That’s it. Sounds easy right? Well for the school it might not be so easy.

Schools are busy. Education of the kids come first and rightly so. If the teaching staff are working with the kids, then who’s going to ensure that the website is updated?

The headmistress? Office staff? The janitor? Classroom assistants?

All these people have other duties as well, not to mention the fact that they might not have the confidence to update the website. We know that the school can update the Facebook page when it needs too, but Facebook has teams of engineers and designers who have made publishing content one of the most natural things to do on the web.

When it comes to CMS like Wordpress however, it’s a whole different matter, and that may be the reason why websites, like the school’s website, are rarely updated.

When I look at other school websites in the area, my kid's school website isn’t alone.

Schools are a hive of activity. Not a week goes by when there isn’t something on for pupils and parents to get involved in. With all this action you would think that the school websites would frequently be updated.

Sadly not.

Facebook Pages is an easy way for many organisations and businesses to publish content, but like the school, they could be missing out the very people that want that information.

Whether you’re a school, business, a sporting club or any other organisation has a group of people following you, you’re content should start it’s publishing cycle on your own website. That’s the centre of your web presence, and as long as you invest in an excellent hosting platform and use a hosted solution or manage to keep the website up to date and in working order on your own, then you’re always going to have that space for people to turn to.

When you want to tell the world about something, put it up on your website and then share it to your social media accounts for others to see.

If you don’t like the idea of sharing to social media platforms, then start a digital newsletter that people can subscribe too. This is something that I would like to see the school implement as we’re still getting bulletins printed on paper and jammed into the kid’s school bags.

A weekly newsletter of the following week’s activities would be a great way of letting parents know what is happening at the school. And of course who doesn’t have email?

My kid's school isn’t alone in their dependency on a single social media platform. Many other organisations like it choose to focus their time and effort on a Facebook page and end up siloing their content away from others.

Don’t be a Facebook Page organisation. Invest in your own website and let that be the starting point where people come to look for updates.

Weekly Digest

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The cold has been doing the rounds in the Lang household this week. The boys and I have gotten with light sniffles this week, but Jennifer been the worse affected. Hopefully, it will pass in the next couple of days though.

I took the boys to the Glasgow Golf Centre on Tuesday. I always take Ethanto here but Drew has been chomping at the bit to go, so he came along as well. Ethan did all his usual practices and drills, with Drew watching closely behind. It was a great experience for Drew, and I’ll be taking him back over the winter, but only once every few weeks.

We had the boys parent’s night this week as well. Both their teachers had nothing but praise for them, but Ethan could be doing with spending a bit more time reading. He’s never really been a reader, but we’re still trying to find the right book or genre that gets him reading just a bit more than he does now.

On Saturday we hit the cinema to see the latest Thor movie, Thor: Ragnarok. We’ve seen all the Marvel movies for the MCU with the exception of Dr Strange. Up to this point, the family favourite has been Ant-Man, but I think Thor: Ragnarok might just have stole that title. It was hilarious, and everyone thoroughly enjoyed it.

Hello PenMuse

 •  Filed under Posts, Products

I'm always on the lookout for something different to write about, but some days the nudge just isn't there. I started using my daily themes as writing topics but this can be somewhat repetitive, and it still falls on me to narrow down the theme to a topic that I can write about.

I started looking for writing prompts that fell into the category of my daily themes, but this was another challenge in itself. Frequently it involved digging through the thousands of writing prompts available online across different websites. What the problem with these is that they not usually organised in a way that makes them easy to search through.

I needed a daily random writing prompt but one that was geared towards my daily themes for the day. So I started making one. Here's how it looks so far.

Screenshot of the PenMuse website

The idea is simple. It displays a random writing prompt. If you don't like it, you can generate another one. As a nice tie-in with DailyMuse and my preference towards analogue writing tools, I've called it PenMuse.

Product playground

PenMuse serves a dual-purpose for me. While it does take the guesswork out of what you are going to write about, it also helps a much more significant purpose. It's a product playground.

The idea of this that you have a small service or product that you can use to flex your development skills. While this application doesn't have the complexity of a more significant Rails application, it does allow me to try things out on a smaller scale and it's proved to be helpful already. I'm going to re-design the DailyMuse website with a similar theme.

Plans for the future

There are a few things still missing that I hope to add shortly.

  • Allow people to suggest a writing prompt and give them accreditation when it is displayed.
  • Document the API for other developers to use.
  • Allow people to link to individual writing prompts.
  • Create a weekly PenMuse email that emails you the week's writing prompts ahead of schedule.

One thing that I could do with help on though is writing prompts. There are thousands of writing prompts online, but I don't want to copy these into PenMuse without thought. I want to curate these prompts so that they are easy to find and share.

What do you like to write about? What prompts would you like to see on PenMuse?

Contact me with your suggestions.

Weekly Digest

 •  Filed under Posts, Digests

Another week closer to Christmas. I've already had my first mince pie and it's still November!

A session at the golf centre and a practice session with Andy at the golf club seen Ethan getting a bit more speed on the ball. We’re getting as many lessons as we can in outdoors while we still have the light, but there are only a few more weeks left before even this will be impossible due to shorter days.

Over the weekend we went to Jennifer’s cousins 40th birthday party. It was great to see everyone together including a visit from Jennifer’s cousins and uncle from Wales. We’re planning a trip down for next year to see them. I am split though between taking the golf clubs or the mountain bike.

Last week Jennifer and I decided to start watching Stranger Things. With all the hype around it, I still wasn't even sure about the story or the characters. My sister-in-law described it brilliantly as the Goonies meets X-files. I might also go as far to add another movie in there, but that would give it away. Stranger Things season 1 was great television, but the best thing about it was the setting. The 80’s. There were so many things Jennifer and I could relate too. I highly recommend it.

On the flip side, The Walking Dead has been rather dismal for this season. It has peaked and dipped through each season, but I can’t remember it being as slow as it is now. Sure there have been some real low points when characters are killed off, but that’s just part of the story, and in a world of zombies it’s just one of two ways to go. There was only one scene for me in last week’s episode that had any emotion about it. I’m sticking with it though. I’ve watched every season so far, and I hope that it can get better before it gets any worse.

Also still enjoying Star Trek Discovery but with a busy couple of weeks we’ve fallen behind in episodes. Will be catching up this week though.

  • We will remember them - Remembrance Sunday was yesterday. A chance to reflect on those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
  • Why not just ban guns and when people are upset about it, just send them thoughts and prayers? - Another week, another shooting. For me, this tweet sums up the situation. When it’s going to hit home that guns are dangerous?
  • Do we need to teach children joined-up handwriting? - While schools will always teach writing, it seems that joined-up handwriting is on the decline in schools. I’m not sure where I stand on this one. I can understand the arguments against joined-up handwriting in the digital age, why do we need to teach this? I am leaning towards the teaching of joined-up writing to remain in schools.
  • Paradise Papers: Dear Tim Cook - I love using Apple’s products, but I do wonder why the tax loops are jumped through for everywhere outside of the US and yet we have to pay more for Apple products in the UK.
  • The Value of Attention - A reminder that while many are still pursuing the lucrative followers count on their respective social media platforms, many people are killing it simply by using their balance sheet as a follower count.
  • RSS: there’s nothing better - The case for RSS in the age of social media.
  • The Case for RSS - Another case for RSS.
  • #RememberWebsites - Do you remember websites?
  • Basics: The Walk 7 - The basics of the walk. I’ve been taking a weekly walk on a Monday at lunchtime. As good a time as any to get out of the office and take in some fresh air.
  • Anker Classic Bluetooth Speaker - Added to the wishlist but it’s not an essential purchase. We already have Bluetooth speakers in the office/den, and there’s another in the kitchen. I can’t justify buying another, but Anker products are great. Perhaps in the future.

Back to GitHub

 •  Filed under Posts, Tools

A few months ago I started a GitLab account out of curiosity. I wanted to see if there was anything that GitLab offered that GitHub didn’t.

In the last two weeks though, I’ve been moving my repositories back over to GitHub from GitLab.

There’s nothing wrong with GitLab, it’s an excellent source code management platform, and it has many great features. However, GitLab just didn’t make the grade that GitHub has set when it comes to source code management and hosting.

Heroku integration

Heroku’s pipeline integration is an excellent feature for managing the deployment process, but the only dependency for this to work is that you need to use GitHub for your source code management.

GitLab does offer their continuous integration tool, but it’s highly dependent on some different configurations and settings, all of which I don’t have the inclination to read up about or even research. To be honest, I would love to use GitLab’s tools, but the problem with them is that they require too much fussing.

GitHub, on the other hand, does one thing well and that’s host your source code for you. Sure you can also do pull requests, code reviews and many other great things but this is all nice to have besides being able to have one place to manage and host your source code.

Issue management

I have to say that GitLab’s issue management tools are very much on par with GitHub but where GitHub excels is their project, milestone and issue integration with pull requests. I find GitLab’s way of handling pull requests complex. I tried using them for a few months, but the whole process just didn’t feel as straightforward as GitHub’s.

Maybe it’s a familiarity with GitHub that stopped me from getting on with GitLab’s issue management tools. I’ve been using GitHub with some clients, and I have to say that managing their pull requests is a simple process.

A bigger community

There’s no doubt that GitHub has the more prominent community and despite attempts by others to create communities elsewhere it just isn’t possible to do so. It’s a bit like building another Twitter. There has been plenty of attempts, but nothing compare’s to Twitter when it comes to micro-blogging.

It would be nice if all GitHub, GitLab and Bitbucket could integrate with each other seeing as they all support using Git, but then what would be the incentive to pick one?

I’ve been hesitant about the number of businesses and organisations the use GitHub for their source code management, but as long as GitHub continues to support them and the rest of the GitHub community with great features and integration with others tools, then I don’t see a problem in sticking with GitHub.

More features for GitHub please

There’s no doubt that GitHub is a much bigger and better-suited source code management tool for me. I’ve used Bitbucket in the past, but even it can’t compare to the ease with which I can use GitHub. It’s time to hang up my projects on the GitHub website and start creating more projects there for people to see.

That doesn't mean though that GitHub has all the features that I need. I would like to see a few more options and features on GitHub though.

A repository template for labels and project columns would be a good thing. I’ve managed to replicate the labels I used for my Trello boards in GitHub issues as labels.

Another thing I would like to see is the assignment of labels to issues as I move them across project columns.

I would like to see the addition of an avatar for repositories. GitLab is on to a winner with their avatars for repositories.

I would also love to see greater management of repositories. Being able to group repositories into folders would make my job a lot easier and would also let me create a showcase folder where I could highlight all my best work.

Between GitHub, GitLab and Bitbucket there’s plenty of options for developers of all types for their source code management and hosting. For me though, GitHub ticks all the rights boxes.