A Blogger’s Dilemma: Categories vs Tags

    When I first moved to WordPress a year ago from Blogger, I came because of three main reasons:

  1. Categories. I really don't know why Blogger still does not have something like this.
  2. Static Pages. As your blog goes, it's good to have a static page or two where you can link to your best posts.
  3. Greater customization and the free FTP space that my previous host was giving me.

There's really nothing to be said about the last two, but of late I've been having some issues with categories. When I first started using WordPress, I thought that it would be a great way to organize my posts. But let's face it, how many bloggers actually use categories to organize their posts as such? And how many blog readers actually use the category links in the sidebar to look through previous posts? I certainly don't. Now that's not to say that categories are useless. On the contrary, they are very useful because of a wonderful little thing called Technorati Tags. Technorati, as every blogger knows, is pretty much the Google of blog search. Using the proper tags in your post can help drive a lot of genuine traffic to your site. The good thing about WordPress is that the categories can be read as Technorati Tags. To have Technorati read a post as tagged, just place it in the right category. Simple.

    Now here's the catch. A category is permanent, and once you use a category, it adds to your category list and appears in your sidebar. It's not really so big a problem, but it can get irritating to keep track of all your categories. Sure you can organize them by using sub-categories, but whatever you do, you'll still end up having to search through a long category list. And the categories you rarely use will still hang around even you've only used it once two months ago. 

    There is a workaround, keep a HTML file of all the tags you want and manually copy/paste them into your blog post, but that's not really efficient is it? For now I think that I'll stick to categories and sub-categories. 

Zoho Writer Review: Desktop vs. Online Word Processor

It's been about three weeks since I first decided that I would run my computer without a hard drive. It's been fun and I can say that my project is reasonably successful. I've found myself a nice linux distro that runs beautifully off a LiveCD and comes with everything that you would need to run your computer. Now, why would I want an online, web-based word processor, when I already have a great desktop one (namely Abiword)? Well, two reasons: First, not having a hard drive means that I needed to store all my documents online and downloading and re-uploading documents to the web everytime you make the tiniest change can be a bit irritating after a few times. And secondly, there's been a certain amount of hype about online offices and I wanted the proof of the pudding.

So where to start? Well, online word processors, like a lot of Web 2.0 software falls into two categories: those designed for the individual user, and those designed for collaboration. Writeboard is one of the latter. I had thought of testing out two word processors and then deciding whic one to use: Zoho Writer and Writely. As you may know, Writely was acquired by Google some time ago and ever since then their signups have been done (apparently they're waiting to shift to Google's serers, but I wonder how many months that could take?).

In the meantime Zoho has been plowing ahead. The first thing that impresses you is their dead simple signup. just type your email, your password twice, click the button and that's it! No filling in forms, no giving away personal information. Just email and password and you can go play. Honestl, it is the simplest signup I have ever donw in my life. now on to the actual thing. In three words; I love it. The interface is really intuitive and great. The features are none too advanced, but good enough for the average user. All the usual things like bold, italics, alignment are accessible as simple buttons. And there are no confusing menus or panels.

Now, there's no point in having a word processor if you can't keep your processed words somewhere, right? Again Zoho gives you the solution. They'll keep your documents safe for you and if you need to save it somewhere you can just "export" into one of a number of different formats like ,doc, OpenDocument Text, RTF and even PDF. And yes, you can do the opposite, you can upload your own documents to the space they give you by just selecting it in a dialogue box.

Enough talk, I'll let you take a look for yourself. Below are two screenshots: The first one is the default view, with a panel showing the documents you currently have stored online, and all the other tools on offer. The second has the edit space expanded and it has been taken with Firefox taking up the whole screen. (you can do this by pressing F11) In case your interested, the document is my essay on the Shakespeare play "Richard II".

Zoho Default

Zoho Writer in Fullscreen Firefox

Now for the cons: I have just one complaint: the load time. It takes a fair amount of time to load up into your browser, but once that is done, you won't notice any difference with a normal word processor. But now for the real question: should you turn in your copy of OpenOffice Writer, Abiword or the equivalent product by a certain very large software company? Once again that depends on what you're after. If you're looking for the capability to allows have access to your documents as long as you have a net connection, no matter where your are, then Zoho Writer may be the way to go. But if you're not going to trust your documents to someone else or if you the load times are too much for you, then you should probably stay away, at least for a year or two. Online Word processors still have a way to go, but let me assure you, they're covering ground pretty fast.

Where is my Google Operating System?

    About 9 months ago, on my former blog I wrote a short post about what a prospective Google Operating System might be like. At that point Google had not yet started it's massive Web 2.0 rollout in full steam. In fact, the only major offerings they had, besides search, was Gmail, Maps and Blogger. But 9 months on things have changed considerably. Google has put out a number of new Web 2.0 products, including Google Calendar, Reader, Notebook, personalized Start pages, Picasa for Linux and most recently, it's Spreadsheet. Also, let's not forget that it has bought Writely, released Google Desktop and come up with video search. So where does this all leave us?

    There are a number of things to consider. Firstly, Google has been getting a fair amount of falk recently for putting out too many new applications and not really concentrating on developing or improving existing ones. This is not criticism to be taken lightly, especially since there is a certain amount of truth behind it. Google Labs, currently has a number of projects that seem to be distinctly in suspended animation. Add to that the fact some ot it's newer offerings have been acutely mediocre. Google calendar falls behind other services like Kiko and 30boxes and Notebook seems like a poorly thought out cross between a del.icio.us competitor and post-it notes. Google's latest offering, Spreadsheet, came as something as a surprise, eapecially since they seem to have been sitting on their acquisition of Writely for the past few months. But as this recent blog post says, Spreadsheet may just be one of Google's better ideas for some time.

    Once again I ask: what is Google up to? Yes, we all know that they want to take over the world, but the real interesting question is: how? Google seems poised to release a fully-featured web-based office suite and be able to integrate it nicely with their existing superb email system, creating a one-stop online groupware product for enterprises and businesses. In other words, everything that your average office needs to do including writing documents, keeping track of data, exchanging that data, both internally and externally can be done using a seamless system powered by Google. the next step then, would be to integrate this functionality directly into the user's computer so that the net and Google's collaboration tools become an integrated part of your desktop. This could be done by expanding Google Desktop, but a far better solution already exists: Firefox. It's already a top class browser and it probably won't take too long to integrate it tightly with Google's server backends (especially considering the incredible talent they have hanging around). As you may well imagine, this would explain Google's extensive support of Firefox development. And in the long term, there's no reason why Google should stop there when they can build there own operating system, designed from the bottom up to break down the division between your computer and the World Wide Web (not to mention Google's Web 2.0 empire).

    Now I know what you're thinking: This is all very interesting, but what about Google NOW? Well, let's just say that Google doesn't exactly make it a point to make it's plans known to the public all the time. However by the end of the year we should certainly see a Google influenced version of Writely being made available (currently all signups are closed) and this would be tied in strongly with their Spreadsheet, Gmail and Calendar apps. Besides that there's not really much that can be said for certain. A Flickr or YouTube competitor may be in the offing and maybe more desktop products. But one thing's for certain; Whatever Google's plans may be,for the short term it doesn't look like they're going to let up their Web 2.0 onslaught, and as long as they give away their products for free, I think we can all just sit back and make use of some good software (and hope that the rest gets improved). 

    Tune in tomorrow for a look at whether Zoho Writer can beat your current desktop Word Processor. 

New Slashdot Look

My favourite technology news website Slashdot has revealed a new look and feel. Unfortunately, I can't say how long the look has been up because I get Slashdot newsletters in the email and usually don't actually go to the site. But now that I have seen it, I like it. Things look more organized and the sidebars and individual posts are better defined than they were before and the site looks far more professional now. Though I must say, I wish they had chosen a lighter colour scheme, maybe with a few blues or greens. One thing that recently struck be about Slashdot is that even in this day of news services like Digg and Reddit, Slashdot manages to remain the electronic Mecca for many thousands of technophiles, without any of the "community" features that newer news services provides. I guess it just goes to show that if you are competent and good at your job, you can do without bells and whistles. More later.

Puppy Linux 2.0 released

    Seems to be distro party this month. Not only has my favourite Linux Distro ubuntu come out with it's newest release, my current operating system and favourite LiveCD, Puppy has also released a new version. Although this doesn't feature many visible changes like Ubuntu does, there's been a lot of work done under the hood and some parts have been rewritten from scratch. So go ahead and give it go, don't worry about bandwidth, it's just 70MB. I haven't given it a try yet, but I will soon.