A roundup and subscription


Plenty is going on with the site, so I interleave some instructions on consuming feeds with some recent site updates

Table of Contents

I feel the need for yet another quick summary post. I have scribbled more this week than usual, as well as writing some letters to friends and grandparents, on top of making a concerted effort to use VisageFolio more. What’s up: well, read the posts. Some posts are private, so as ever, please log in if you want to see them. I try to avoid to many self-referential comments in posts, so I’ll apologise here instead for the excessive number of obscure references. What I write I write; what I publish is imprinted forever, whether right, wrong, good, or bad, and that’s just who I am, as authentically as I can manage.

1. Feeding time

I realise that some people I know (and in my family) need help easily consuming online content. The way is works is that I write stuff, it appears here, and people I know read it, plus a load of guys from Russia and America who come for the computer articles (I’m at the top of Google hits for a few specific searches, which do get impressions). Now, it would be a pain to expect everyone to check the sites of all their friends, newspapers, magazines, and so on regularly, which is why the web has run on things called feeds for a while now. The idea is that there is a directory of all the stuff on my site which a piece of software can read and and use to notify my friends whenever I write something, so they never have to bother checking for updates. I guess most people my age in the Facebook generation of social media couldn’t survive without a feed reader, but if you’ve yet to jump onboard, there are loads to choose from. I use Google Reader which works pretty well for me [geek note—it chews up the maths posts majorly; only my patched version of Firefox supports those at the moment].

If you have a reader and want to subscribe, your browser either has an orange square icon in the address bar above, or a ‘Subscribe to this page’ option on the bookmarks menu which you can use to add my site. Easy! There is one important proviso: when you log in, you get a special feed that includes the non-public posts too. So, make sure to log in below before you subscribe to the feed in your reader.

On the other hand, if you don’t have a reader and there are various sites (like BBC news, other news sites, some friends’ blogs, and so on) that you check regularly, now might be a good time to try one out.

Finally, if this is all just too much for you and want a dead simple way to keep up to date, there is a tool which converts feeds into emails and will notify you each time I post something. Just pop in your email here: and (but again, do log in below first!). It’ll be more spammy than a feed reader, and I’d rather give my users a premium feel to their experience, but it is simple and convenient if you don’t follow too much content online.

2. Geeky details

I’ll just mention in passing that I have tweaked the site with more flashiness in the past week, including better Opera compatibility and MathML support for Chrome using MathJax (disgusting pile of corporate bloat, but it’s very fast, compliant, and give excellent results on all platforms; why Chrome doesn’t compile in WebKit’s native MathML support is beyond me).

Also new this week is the fact that I have turned on wall commenting on the VF (Facebook) links to my posts. This is experimental, and I may turn it off again soon. I am bothered by the thought of VF stealing people away from my site to interact with the content there, but then again, it is true that I am also reluctant to flip the switch on comments here, so it’s hardly like VF can be meaningfully said to draw people away from commenting here. I’ll see how long I can bear it.

Of more relevance, I should note that actually since the start the site feed has been rather clever, and accepts a few parameters to make it less noisy. The idea was I might get family members to subscribe if they could filter out the programming posts. I never documented it, so it’s not really useful, but the cool feature is that you can subscribe to a subset of my posts classified not just by category but also by Google site search. Google gets a hit every time a subscriber grabs the feed, but my conscience is easy until the world and their dog start using the feature. Try it! The Google bit is more of a novelty than anything else, but I wrote the dozen lines of PHP it took for the ordinany site search, and there was no point writing another few lines to turn it off for the feeds. The problem is that Google terms of service forbid reordering their results, so there is no way to make it give results in date order, only most relevant.