Welcome to my new home!

A warm welcome to everyone visiting my blog!

Ah, you found me! Come on in and make yourself at home. Put your feet up and I’ll go put the kettle on. I hope you like the look of my new home. I certainly spent quite a while decorating it, and to be honest I’m still unpacking, so if you can’t find things that were in my old home it’s probably because they’re still in a packing case somewhere. Oh and just one more thing, please don’t lean against anything white – the paint is still drying! smile_regular

* * *

On a more serious note I would like to offer a warm welcome to all my existing readers and those new to the site, as I relaunch my blog in its shiny new home here on WordPress.com.

Why did I move? That’s a good question and there are probably a number of answers to that ranging from wanting more control over my blog to complete and utter despair at the way Microsoft were treating their Live Spaces product.

Back at the beginning of 2008 when I was toying with the idea of setting up a blog, I had no idea how to go about it or indeed what products were available. I’d done a fair bit of writing over the years but had never attempted to publish anything. So the whole concept of blogging was new to me. All I really wanted to do (at first) was to keep everyone that I knew up-to-date with what was happening to me. Because I knew that I was heading for major disability and may not even be around for very long I didn’t want anything too difficult to use or administer. So I chose Windows Live Spaces as I figured I wouldn’t go too far wrong choosing a known company like Microsoft.

And so for a while everything was rosy. But as the scope of the blog began to expand I started to notice the limitations of the software I was using. I found myself increasingly having to compromise on what I wanted to achieve compared to what the software would allow me to do. My front page started to look very cluttered as I was forced to work within the design constraints of a single page layout. On top of this it was starting to look like Microsoft were already losing interest in the product as no new features were being introduced. It was beginning to look like I had backed the wrong horse!

Earlier this year my brother showed me what he had achieved on his own relaunched blog using WordPress software and immediately I was impressed by the range of features and control it offered. I wanted to do something like that myself but common sense was telling me that I had 2 1/2 years of blog material tied to Windows Live Spaces and that there was no magic button that I could press which would automatically export my blog completely intact to a new site. If I wanted to do it I would have to completely start all over again. Did I really want to do this considering the state of my health, the level of disability I now face compared to when I started, and the amount of time I probably have left? The answer was of course no. I still had other projects that I had started and wanted to spend more time on. I didn’t really want to tie myself up for goodness knows how long recreating one blog whilst trying to maintain another.

I probably would have left things as they were, no longer completely happy, but also not really willing to invest a large amount of time in correcting it, had it not been for Microsoft updating Windows Live once again, and to the detriment of Spaces! The Wave 4 upgrade seems to have relegated Spaces to the sidelines, almost as if they are positioning it ready to be phased out. What leads me to this belief are the following clues:

  • The statistics feature which kept me informed of traffic to the site has now been removed. The loss of this feature meant that I had absolutely no idea if anybody was visiting the site.
  • All my guestbook entries since day one completely disappeared at one point although they were able to successfully recover them. I believe however that there is still a bug present limiting the number on display.
  • People have also commented to me that there appears to be a limitation on how much you can write in a blog comment. This is a limitation imposed by Microsoft not me! It is also well nigh impossible to contact anyone in Spaces now as the internal messaging system has mysteriously disappeared.
  • Microsoft are no longer allowing add-ins to Spaces which allowed for increased functionality. They say it is to maintain a level of consistency across the platform, but I thought the whole idea of blogging was to express individuality not fall into line with some corporate identity?
  • The Windows Live Spaces team have been disbanded and their blog closed. There was a time when if I experienced problems with Spaces I would be able to contact someone directly and receive an e-mail back. Now however there is just a community forum and its potluck if a Microsoft employee decides to answer your question.
  • There seems to be a greater emphasis on aggregating data from other sources such as Facebook and MySpace rather than being a home for original content.
  • On top of all this I’ve started to notice problems with the links in my posts. Although they were created correctly (I check each one before publishing) something seems to have corrupted some of them. I’ve also noticed some missing pictures that were there when I created them.

Cumulatively the problems faced by this latest upgrade, the stripping out of features, and a big question mark hanging over the future of a product that hadn’t seen any real development in quite some time, was enough to convince me that it was indeed time to move on. So I started looking around for alternatives and settled on WordPress, a true dedicated blogging platform that only does one thing but does it very well indeed compared to say Windows Live that tries to be many things to many people. WordPress offers great support (which I’ve tested already), an active forum and a continually evolving list of features.

After playing around with the software for a little while and familiarising myself with its features I took a deep breath and began the long and arduous task of recreating the entire blog. As I say, there is no easy way of doing this, especially when you factor in pictures, emoticons, comments and guestbook entries, all of which have to be recreated with their correct links. I started the project around the middle of June and have now just completed bringing the blog up to date. I’ve still got some work to do on the additional resources and news stories but these are a lower priority and will hopefully be recreated in the coming week or two.

Whilst setting up the site I took the opportunity to implement some much-needed search features. When I first started blogging I didn’t give any real thought to how I or anybody else would be able to find posts on a particular topic. It wasn’t a problem at first but now there are almost 150 posts it is getting difficult to locate anything. So now you will see that I have incorporated categories and tags. So for instance if you want to find out what I’m writing about equipment I use then just click on the ‘disability equipment’ category to call up all those posts. Tags allow you to drill down further so if you were interested in say voice recognition you could click on the ‘speech recognition software’ tag. To be honest I’m still tweaking the tags and categories as I’ve come up with some more ideas I want to build into my posts that might be helpful to people interested in plotting disease progression.

Now it is all up and running I take a particular pride in being able to say that the entire site you are looking at was created using the sound of my voice! That’s right, I didn’t touch the computer once! Where would I be without Dragon NaturallySpeaking? So never let it be said that just because a person is extensively paralysed, that they are incapable of creating anything! My body is certainly a shadow of its former self but my mind is still working fine, and together with the ability to harness modern technology I am still able to express myself, thank goodness.

Oh and before anyone asks why the calendar entry banner is still green when my theme colour has changed to blue, the answer is ‘because I forgot to make a new one in blue’. I only noticed the obvious when I was recreating the last couple of posts. I’m just a great big silly old Hector! Now there, that’s aged me! But just for you, and because I’m nice, we’ll have a different colour each year starting with blue in January. Deal? Trouble is I don’t think we’re going to get through many colours smile_sad.

So before I sign off let me once again welcome you. I hope you enjoy exploring my new site and the improved viewing experience it offers. Please be kind and leave me a comment and let me know what you think of the new site. Let me feel the love! The comments and guestbook system works a lot better now so I’m hoping that I’ll start receiving a bit more feedback than was previously the case. I think the problem with Spaces was that you needed to register just to leave a comment. I know that some people feel uncomfortable having to register with a website so hopefully now that’s no longer the case there might be a bit more participation. Let’s see how this flies!

Mark

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4 Responses to Welcome to my new home!

  1. Jane C says:

    Hey Mark!

    I’ve been away (looking after my dad who unfortunately has a DVT in his leg) and come back to catch up on your posts and found this shiny, new website! Wow! I can only imagine the time and effort this has taken you, so well done on the impressive result.

    Already there’s an improvement – I’ve been able to type more than two lines, so I can waffle on to my heart’s content again! Poor you! Glad to see you back home again, even if a little constrained in your surroundings until the extension is built. Hopefully, once they get going it won’t be too long – the new houses round me have been going up at a huge rate of knots so, fingers crossed, yours will hopefully be the same.

    Cheers,

    Jane

    • mndals says:

      Hi Jane,

      Really glad to see you made it across okay! Yes I took your comments about not being able to write much to heart so all of this is just for you 🙂

      Glad you like what I’ve done with the place. I’ve still got a few ‘decorations’ to hang up but at least the site is now operational and I can ease back on my workload a little. It’s been a challenging and exhausting but ultimately rewarding exercise.

      Regards
      Mark

  2. Peregrine says:

    Hi Mark,

    Congratulations on your new blog site! It is truly a testament to your tremendous tenacity.

    I very much enjoy reading your blog and find your courage and gentle humour both uplfiting and humbling.

    I wish you well.

    Peregrine

  3. Peregrine says:

    Hi Mark,

    I think you are a man of unimaginanle courage to share with us the very challenging circumstances of your recent trials.

    Thank you for your inspiring blog.

    With warm regards,

    Peregrine

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