Does this make me an award winning blogger?

Absolutely amazed.

Actually, there’s another word that fits in the middle of that sentence, but I don’t swear on the blog.

Absolutely [redacted] amazed.

I was very pleased to be shortlisted in the IT Professional (Male) category for the Computer Weekly Blog Awards but, I was really treating the Awards ceremony this evening as an opportunity to network (and, in some cases to meet people in person that I previously only knew online). When I saw that Microsoft’s Steve Clayton was runner up, I thought it must have been a really big blog that won.  Me, accepting the award for the IT Professional (Male) category in the Computer Weekly Blog Awards 2010Nope, turns out it was little ol’ me (OK, so I’m not so small, but my blog is!). Computer Weekly’s awards may not have the glitz and glamour of some awards ceremonies, but they are at least recognised, and it’s pretty cool to have won an award this year.

So, a massive “thank you” to everyone who voted for me – your support was absolutely vital.  But, more importantly, thanks for continuing to read this blog.  I’m doing less and less technical work and It’s getting harder and harder to find the time to write original content (most of my online contributions come in 140-character busts these days – @markwilsonit); but knowing that people out there find it useful and are willing to support me in things like this is a great comfort.

[Updated 19 November 2010: added photo – copyright Computer Weekly (linked at source)]
[Updated 25 November 2010: added video]

Reminder: Computer Weekly IT Blog Awards 2010

My blog needs you!

The deadline for voting in the Computer Weekly IT Blog Awards is fast approaching and, even though I don’t seriously expect to win, it’s great to have been shortlisted, and I don’t want to come last either!

It’s sometimes a struggle to balance work and blogging (especially after almost seven years of it) but, please can I ask you to vote for me in the IT Professional (Male) category?

If you’re sick of reading posts that are begging for your support, I’m sorry: this is the last time I’ll ask you and I do have some more tech advice and commentary posts in the pipeline!

Computer Weekly IT Blog Awards 2010

It’s that time of year when Computer Weekly magazine runs its annual IT Blog Awards and, I’m delighted to say that markwilson.it has been shortlisted in the IT Professional (Male) category.  This category is for blogs that detail an individual perspective, not a company line, of life in the IT industry.

Looking back, I’ve produced less content this year than I have done previously – and some of it has been photography related, rather than IT but I’d like to think there’s still some useful and relevant information on this blog – and it would be great to have your vote.

For those viewing this site directly, there’s a badge on the right hand side of the page.  RSS subscribers won’t see that so this is the link to vote and you can vote for a number of blogs in various categories (as well as the best Twitter users – I didn’t enter that category) but you’ll find me in the IT Professional (Male) dropdown.

(And, for everyone who voted earlier in the week after I tweeted about this – thank you!)

New job/full disclosure

For some time now, this site has carried a disclosure notice and I generally avoid talking about my work here (for reasons of confidentiality – but also to prevent potential conflicts of interest).  Today I’m going to make an exception, because it’s the first day of a new job for me.

I’ve been a Senior Customer Solution Architect at Fujitsu since August 2005 and, in that time, I’ve worked on customer-facing project implementations; pre-sales consultancy and bid work; and, more recently, have carried out some internal roles evangelising technology, developing capability within our architect community and leading the technical strategy and direction for client device services, including the adoption of Windows 7 within our desktop managed service offering.  Whilst these roles have been interesting and varied, I was recently presented with an opportunity to join the Office of the CTO as a Strategy Consultant and today is my first day in that new role.

I’m not going to say too much about what I’ll be doing in the new role except that I’ll be promoting Fujitsu brand and opinion on a variety of topics and that’s why I felt it appropriate to write this blog post.  Regardless of my professional activities at Fujitsu, this site will still concentrate on the technology issues that I find interesting and it’s not going to become a marketing channel for my employer!

I’ve spent 6 years and many late nights building up this site, along with another year building a my reputation on Twitter and in other social media outlets – that’s my personal reputation as “Mark Wilson, Technologist” and not “Mark Wilson, Strategy Consultant at Fujitsu”.  So, just to make sure there’s no confusion: this site (markwilson.co.uk/markwilson.it or whatever domain name I might assign to it in the future) is my personal website;  the views and opinions here are personal and are not endorsed by my employer; if you see me commenting elsewhere on behalf of Fujitsu… well, that’s the day job – you know, the one that pays the bills!

Major WordPress update completed

For all my words about how it’s important for sysadmins to patch systems, this website has been running on an old (approx 2 years out of date) version of WordPress, pending a major database cleanup and site redesign.

Eventually, my requirement to move to an up-to-date platform became more critical than the need to sort out my categories and tags (which date back to before WordPress supported tags), cleanup the database, and make everything all fresh and lovely (as Long Zheng did recently at IStartedSomething).  Time is something I simply don’t have much of at the moment but I have to say it was really simple:

  1. Backup the database and the rest of site (just in case).
  2. Copy over new WordPress files (taking care to preserve existing plugins and themes).
  3. Go to the administration URL and click the button to upgrade the database.
  4. Job done!

(there are more details on upgrading WordPress over on the Codex)

In fact, it felt a little too simple, if you know what I mean… like maybe I missed something?

I will still redesign the site.  I will still sort out the taxonomy and probably move to a clean database.  At least I intend to do those things, one day.  In the meantime I have a bunch of old plugins running against a new WordPress installation – if you notice anything that’s not working, please let me know (the easiest way is probably to leave a comment on this post).

[Update 18:25: Most of the plugins have now been updated too… but please do let me know if you see anything that’s broken]

Come in [Internet Explorer] number 6, your time is up

Bring Down IE6As from this evening, anyone who visits this website using Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) 6 or earlier will be greeted with a message advising them that their browser is outdated and suggesting options for an upgrade. I thought long and hard about this (just as I have thought about blocking anyone who uses an ad blocker) and, for a long time, I was of the view that it’s not up to me to dictate the web browsers that people use to access my site but, more recently, I’ve been convinced that legacy versions of Internet Explorer are holding back web development, or at the very least increasing the cost of developing for the web due to the need to integrate various hacks to address browser quirks. With the release of Internet Explorer 8 and many corporates starting to look at moving from Windows XP to Windows 7, I expect to see Internet Explorer 6 usage dropping off quickly in the next 12-18 months and it’s probably time to “encourage” people to update their browser even sooner.

I know that Internet Explorer 6 is still widely used in the enterprise (including at the company where I work) and many corporates have application support issues that preclude movement to a later browser but that’s why the move from XP to 7 on the desktop will be key – as organisations carry out application remediation for their desktop applications, they will also be looking at the intranet. Meanwhile, on the Internet, we’re seeing large sites such as YouTube dropping IE6 support and, whilst YouTube is owned by Google (whose motives are hardly altruistic), as more sites drop support for IE6, the movement to more modern alternatives is likely to increase. In fact, I just checked the analytics on this site and IE only accounts for 45% of my visitors (closely followed by Firefox with 39%, Safari with 8%, Google Chrome with just under 6% and Opera with less than 2%). Of the IE visitors, 46.5% run IE8, 37.5% run IE7 and just 16% run IE6. Effectively IE6 is already a minority browser on my site, although the stats for less technical websites are likely to show fewer users at the cutting edge.

The code I’m using to advise users is adapted from the IE6 No More site and the logo on this page relates to a recent article in .net Magazine.

I’m not saying that you can only view this site if you have a modern browser. That would be arrogant and reminiscent of the late 1990s when it was commonplace to see notices that said something like “this site is written for Netscape Navigator 4 with a screen resolution of 800×600”. It’s just that, these days, we have web standards and even Microsoft browsers support them.

My aim is to support all screen sizes from mobile devices, through netbooks (1024×576) up to multi-monitor and large displays (like my 1680×1050 and 2048×768 displays) and all modern (standards-compliant) web browsers on all operating systems. That’s a lot of testing and I’m just one guy so, if and when I get around to redeveloping this site using a recent version of WordPress, it will use semantically correct XHTML and there will be no hacks for legacy browsers.

If you’re running something recent (i.e. the currently released browser from Apple, Google, Microsoft or Mozilla) then your experience should be fine. Anything else and, as they say, your mileage may vary.

RSS feeds migrated to a new host – hopefully everything is still working

For almost as long as this blog has been up and running I’ve been using FeedBurner to manage the RSS feeds. It’s been working well for years but Google bought FeedBurner a while back and tonight my feeds were migrated to the big G.

Those who are subscribed to http://feeds.markwilson.co.uk/marksweblog/ shouldn’t see any changes (at least not if I made the DNS changes correctly) but there may still be a few people subscribed using old feed addresses (e.g. http://feeds.feedburner.com/marksweblog/) and these might not always work (sadly this is outside my control). If you do find that my posts stop appearing in your RSS reader, please try resubscribing to the site feed.

Thanks for sticking with me.

[Update 31 January 2009: There seems to be a problem with the main feed as it’s returning HTTP 404 (Not Found) error pages (even where DNS propagation is complete)]

[Update 1 February 2009: The 404s are fixed; a full description of what went wrong has been posted; please let me know (assuming you can read this) if you find any other issues with the feed].

A new year resolution

As we entered 2009, I realised that I’ve been writing on this blog for five years (well, a little under five years really as the first few posts were back dated) but what started out as “Mark’s (we)blog” has become a full-time job.  Incidentally, Mark’s (we)blog was a play on words that was lost on most people – “wee” is a synonym for “small” in Scotland and is well-known south of the border too, so I thought that Mark’s weblog also worked as Mark’s little blog – which is precisely why I don’t have a career in marketing…

The thing is, whilst it’s become a full time job, it doesn’t pay very well.  And I already have a full-time job.  Meanwhile the number of blog posts has been getting silly.  For 2005/6/7 I managed to average about a post a day on week days but, looking back, some of those posts were just reporting tech news and there are better places to get news than this blog (a bit of comment should be expected but this is certainly not a news site).  In 2008 it looked at one point as though I would finish the year averaging a post a day (until I timed out – and burned out – in December).  I can’t keep it up: I have a demanding day job; a family who are losing out; friends I’d like to see more of; and I desperately need to get away from my computers and take some physical exercise every day (or at least on alternate days). 

It’s not just the blog either – in 2008 I started to produce some videos for Microsoft (which turned out to be very time-consuming); James Bannan and I finally kicked off the Coalface Tech podcast (which we hope to keep on a monthly schedule); and my MVP award was a fantastic achievement but it also presents new challenges for my time management abilities (access to information is great – but I need to continue working with the user groups and forums if I want to be re-awarded in October).  Now I’ve taken on a role as one of the forum moderators for the Windows 7 beta – so that’s going to be another demand on my time over the coming months.

So, what am I saying?  Well, markwilson.it will continue, and perhaps you won’t see much change at all – but I will be making an effort to only write something when I feel it adds value.  I’ll also be looking to reduce the amount of time that it takes to write each post: the useful links posts that I’ve been running on a monthly basis may become more frequent; I may publish more posts in bullet list/note form; and I will try to work though my backlog of part-written posts – but please don’t expect a post a day (I don’t think I can keep it up any more). I need to make some infrastructure changes too – a WordPress upgrade is on the cards, along with a much-needed overhaul of the site design (and a rethink of the best way to run ads on the site – making sure that they are unobtrusive but balancing that with a need to earn some cash).

This website has become more than just my little blog, storing the notes I write up from events I attend and key points from articles that I read.  It’s also the focal point for all my non-work IT-related output and I’m frankly amazed at how many people visit it every month.  So, thank you, to everyone who reads the blog; adds my feed to their RSS; leaves a comment; listens to the podcast; watches the videos; or comes up to me at an event and says “hey – you’re Mark Wilson aren’t you?” (which is very weird, but strangely satisfying).  THANK YOU – I wish you a very happy new year and I’ll try to keep producing content.  It’s just that there might be a little less of it in 2009.

New footer in site feed

This evening, I’ve made a change to the markwilson.it site feed (which, incidentally, makes me feel warm and fuzzy as I see more and more people subscribing – and is a good way to keep up with the stuff I post on this site). The change involved adding a footer to each item in the feed. It’s only short, I hope it won’t spoil your enjoyment of the content, and it looks something like this:

Creative Commons LicenseThis blog post was written by Mark Wilson for markwilson.it. Except as noted otherwise, this work is ©2004-2008 Mark Wilson and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 UK: England & Wales License. (What is this footer about?)

Why did I do this? Basically, it’s an attempt to make sure that where people scrape this site they don’t abuse the effort that I put into writing original content. The content here is copyrighted but I license it for non-commercial use, with attribution, as long as it is not altered or transformed in any way.

By including a footer which sets out where the original content can be found and highlighting the terms under which this content is offered (with a link explaining what the footer is about), I’m making it clear where the feed content originates from.

If you’ve come here by following a link from a site that is not the original source, please let me know.

In the spirit of Creative Commons, I should point out that I “stole” the idea from Merlin Mann, whose site at 43 Folders is much bigger and better than mine (I hope that this content is sufficiently original not to count as a derivative work) and that I use Sherief Mursyidi’s Feed Footer Joost de Valk’s RSS Footer WordPress plugin to make it happen.

What happened to not being evil…

A few weeks back, I saw the number of browser visits to this site drop dramatically overnight whilst RSS subscriptions remained constant. Thankfully, traffic is now back up to the previous levels and there could be many reasons for this but I have to suspect it’s down to Google’s latest round of cat and mouse with the SEOs.

Webstats for the last few weeks, showing a sharp dip and return to normal and last year's numbers for comparison.

markwilson.it is not a big-shot technology website – just the blog of a guy who works in IT, writes down what he learns, and publishes it for others to read. I don’t charge for that content, largely because I don’t think anyone would pay for it but also because I don’t think that to do so would fit with the spirit of the Internet. I like it when I meet people that read my blog. And I like it when I write something and someone gives something back, like a comment that says it helped them, or that they have something to add to the story. I like it when I find myself in conversation with the public relations agencies of some of the world’s largest IT companies. I also like that the advertising revenues, though still small, have been enough to cover my hosting costs and maybe buy me the odd gadget. Or at least they did until Google made its latest round of changes.

Google is trying to penalise paid links and, at the time of writing, I have a few (clearly marked under the heading of sponsors). There’s nothing wrong with what Google is doing (trying to increase the quality of the results in its index) but it’s the way they do it. I sell advertising here because I need to (somehow) monetise this site (although if I convert that into an hourly wage rate, I’m sure it will make me cry). Ironically, it seems to be OK to carry Google’s paid ads but not anybody else’s – even if they are relevant.

Prominent Google blogger, Matt Cutts, said (in 2005) that:

“Reputable sites that sell links won’t have their search engine rankings or PageRank penalized […] However, link-selling sites can lose their ability to give reputation (e.g. PageRank and anchortext).”

That’s fair enough. It seems that I can take some revenue from selling links but it won’t help the sites that I link to gain PageRank; however, if the paid links are relevant, there is a chance that people reading my site will click through to them and everyone’s a winner. Except that now that seems to have changed and selling links can hurt Google rankings. For what it’s worth, I have a disclosure notice and the advertising, sponsorship and other forms of compensation received do not influence the editorial content on this site. I also use rel="nofollow" tags where relevant to ensure that I follow Google’s directions (although I acknowledge the contribution that comments make to the blogosphere by removing the rel="nofollow" as appropriate). And after two months of tweaking links to fit Google’s model, this week my biggest sponsor ended our contract prematurely because they are dropping this form of advertising altogether.

Thanks for nothing Google. Cutts may be right when he asserts that:

“[…] Google has the right to do whatever we think is best (in our index, algorithms, or scoring) to return relevant results.”

but now they are hitting the small guys too. I can’t rely on AdSense alone. It varies too wildly (and has been declining in recent months, suggesting to me that people are spending less on Internet advertising – probably a reflection on the state of various western economies) and now you’ve started to hit the only form of regular income that this site has. What happened to the “don’t be evil” corporate motto?

I will continue to blog about things I find interesting. Maybe some other people will find it interesting too. Perhaps they will link back here and maybe the number of visitors will start to climb again as I gradually increase my placement in the Google index (however I look at things, I’m still 34.95% up on unique visits so far this month, compared to the same period last year, 47.71% up in pageviews with average pageviews and time on site also on the up, and a falling bouncerate – so the metrics all look good, it’s just the financials that are suffering). Until then, I guess I won’t be buying the MacBook Pro that I’ve had my eye on for so long.