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More Enhancements to My New Reading List Page

Yesterday I introduced a beta version of my new reading list–everything I have read since 1996–hosted here on the blog as opposed to in GitHub where I’ve been keeping it the last several years. If you’ve been checking out the page, you may have noticed some changes in the last few hours. If you want to check it out, you can find it here:

What I have read since 1996

It is still in beta, still a work in progress, but here are some of the enhancements I’ve added since yesterday:

  • Switched to a different table tool, which is simpler but more functional (so the table may look a little different than it did before).
  • The table is still sortable, but I’ve fixed the date sort so that it now behaves correctly when sorting the date.
  • Removed the “Format” column from the table and replaced it with an icon ahead of each title. The legend at the top of the table provides an indicator of the format in which I read the book.
  • Fixed many problems with bad symbols in the data. I still have more to do there.
  • You can now search the list! Type anything you want into the search box above the table and if it is in the list, it should find matches. For instance, to see how many times I’ve read E.B. White’s One Man’s Meat, I just type it into the search:
  • Converted the “Format” column to a “Topic(s)” column which is useful for searching for books by topic. For instance, how many Presidential memoirs have a I read1:
  • I removed the Length/Pages column and replaced it with what I call BEq. “BEq” stands for “Book Equivalents.” I took an average of the length of all 1,100 books that I’ve read on my list, and it turned out that the average book length is 410 pages. I then degreed that for my purposes, 1 book equivalent = 410 pages. I like this number better because some years I read fewer, longer books, some years many shorter books. The BEq gives me a nice way of seeing how much more or less I read a year focused length not books. A BEq of 1.00 means a book of 410 pages. A nice side effect of this is that a BEq of 2.00 is a book of 820 pages. Have I read any books that are longer than 3 BEqs? It turns out I have read 4:

As I said this is still a work-in-progress. Here are some of the things I will working on over the weekend, so you can expect to see things change more:

  • I noticed that my data export was imperfect and some titles don’t match the authors correctly. I’ve been fixing these as I go along.
  • I still have to go through an add format icons to about 7/10th of the books on the list.
  • I still have to complete adding topics so that all of the books have topics.
  • I also need to add all of the 2021 books to the list.

Once I’ve gotten those things done, my next steps are:

  • Add related posts to relevant titles. You’ll see a handful of these in the current data, but I’ve actually written on the blog about many of the books on the list, and I plan to try to link to the posts from the list as best as I can. Here are some examples of what is there now:
  • I’m toying with the idea of having “top” page for the list which would have a table of individual lists by year along with some stats. Clicking on a year list would take you to a table like the ones above, but filtered for the year in question. There would still be a page for viewing the full list.
  • I want to add pages for things like recommended books, or themed lists.

So, those are the changes that I’ve made so far, and some of what you can expect over the next few days. The feedback I’ve gotten from those of you who have provided it has been incredibly helpful, so keep it coming. I’d like this to be as useful and fun for you as it is for me.

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  1. Note: I’ve only added topics to about 1/5th of my list so far, so these examples are incomplete.

Beta-Testing My New Reading List

ETA: I’ve made some additional enhancements since writing this post.

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I would be adding some new features here on the blog. For one of those features, I’d planned to move the list of everything I’ve read since 1996 back here to the blog. I recently began that process and now have a page ready in beta for people to take a look at:

What I Have Read Since 1996

A few notes about this initial testing phase:

  • Currently, the list includes what I have read from 1996-2020. I have not yet added the 50 or so books I have read in 2021. That will be coming shortly.
  • I have not yet enabled responsive design, so it may not look right on mobile devices, yet
  • You can sort the columns by clicking on the sorting arrows. Sorting on the Finished column doesn’t work right yet because I don’t have the date formatting correctly.
  • To get back to the default sort, sort on the first column.
  • The Related Posts column is intended to be a place where I will link to posts I’ve written about the book in question. I’ve added one example so far.
  • Want to see the longest book I’ve read? Do a descending sort on the Pages column

If you are curious to see an example without clicking on the link, here’s a screenshot:

screenshot of my new reading list page
Screenshot of my new reading list page.

My goal here is to be able to provide a single authoritative place I can point people to for a list of everything I’ve read. Ideally, I’ll be able to add links to related posts for additional context for a given book. A few things I’ve been thinking about but am on the fence on:

  • I’d like to have one big list, but I will likely break it into pages by year before rolling it out officially. This will allow me to have a “top page” with a table that lists each year, along with some stats for the year and links to other things like recommended reads, etc.
  • I’d like to add an icon in front of the title to indicate the format in which I consumed the book (paper, ebook, audio, etc.)
  • I’d like to add an indicator for books that I recommend. Maybe a star at the start of the column? Or just a bold column? I’m not really into 5-star ratings so that’s a nonstarter for me.

Finally, keep in mind that I will be tweaking this as I have time, so you may see things change or disappear. But I wanted to get the basics out there for folks to see.

If you take the time to check it out, I’d love to hear your feedback. Please, let me know what you think, good or bad. I want to make this as functional as I can manage. Leave your thoughts in the comment. Or, if you prefer to provide them directly to me, shoot me an email.

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Retro Posts, Experimentation, and New Features Coming Soon

I have been doing some experimentation with the blog. If you follow me on Twitter or my Facebook page, you’ll have noticed that I’ve been trying to increase the visibility of the posts I’m writing. I’m doing this by spreading out the announcements of the posts at different times of the day, in order to catch different audiences. Buffer makes this scheduling easy. This is still in an experimental stage. I was hesitant to try this because I didn’t want to come off as annoying. For instance, when I look at my own Twitter feed, it looks as if I am Tweeting about the same post consecutively. What I realized, however, is that people generally don’t look at my feed, they look at theirs. So if a Tweet goes out when I publish a post at 8am and another goes out for the same post at 3 pm, it will likely be seen by different audiences.

Today, I also began to experiment with something new: Retro Posts. It seems like I should be doing more with the posts I have already written. To that end, I had two ideas. The first is a daily “Retro Post”. These are links to older posts that I select, and I note the year of the post in the message. Today’s “Retro Post,” for instance, was for a Going Paperless post from 2012. If you are interested in following along with these Retro Posts, you can find them on Twitter or Facebook. I have plenty to choose from: Here is a look at how many posts have been published in just the last 10 years:

I am also working on a couple of new features that help expose some of the posts I have here on the blog:

  • A curated index of posts that I think are among the better posts I’ve written. With about 7,000 posts on the blog, my goal is to pick about 10% of them that I think are the best, and have a index page that lists, by topic those posts. The page can serve as a place people can go to get a wide variety of posts at a glance, while also showcasing what I think is some of my better work.
  • I am in the process of moving my list of books I’ve read since 1996 back here to the blog. I have a design in mind that will make it easy to navigate my reading list. What’s more, if I’ve written posts about a book on the list, I’ll have links to the posts right there with the book on the list.

Both of these may take time, as they require a fair amount of curation to get them put together. You can be sure I’ll make an announcement when these new features are available.

As always, I appreciate everyone’s patience as I experiment here, and apologize if the repeated tweets and Facebook posts come across as annoying. Also, as always, I am open to your suggestions and feedback, what you’d like to see more of here, and what you don’t like so much.

And if you want to follow along with the retro posts, they’ll be posted daily to the following feeds:

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Why I Don’t Update Old Posts

Recently, I’ve been contacted several times to ask if I would update a post with new information. In one instance, it was a link that no longer worked for a post I wrote 6 or 7 years ago. In another instance, I made a reference in a 2014 post to “Angie’s List” and was asked if I would updated that to “Angi’s” since they recently rebranded. Most recently, I was asked to add a link to an older post. With these recent requests in mind, let me briefly explain why I don’t go back and update old posts:

  1. There are close to 7,000 posts on this blog going back 16 years. If I tried to keep links in all of those posts updated, it would be a full-time job and I wouldn’t get any actual post writing done.
  2. Old links and references (as in the reference to “Angie’s List”) are historical. They represent the world as I saw it back when the post was written. Since this blog doubles as a kind of public journal of record for me, I don’t want to update posts that have historical context.
  3. Old posts often express different opinions than what I hold today. Changing them could make it seem like my opinion was always the same. I don’t want to do that. I think it is interesting how my perspective changes over time, and some of that has been captured here. It is a slippery slope from updating a link to updating a past opinion or view point to match my current view. My instance that I could never listen to audio books is a classic example of this, given that , since I wrote that post 9 years ago, I’ve listened to hundreds of audio book.s

The request from Angie’s annoyed me out of all proportion. Were they really contacting everyone who ever mentioned Angie’s List in a post and asking them to change the reference and link to “Angi’s”? And did they really expect people to make these changes? It is like asking for free labor. And it is completely unnecessary when DNS updates could take care of this problem for them automatically.

For the record, I have gone back and updated posts when I have found factual errors outside of historic context, egregious misspellings (minor ones I just leave alone. See #2 above), or to add an “ETA” about some subsequent piece I’ve written that is essentially related. But none of these violate the reasons I list above for not updating old posts.

Just to be clear for any future requests: I don’t update old posts, I don’t update old links in posts, and I certainly don’t go back and add links to posts just because you saw I wrote a post on a subject that was tangentially related to a topic you have written about. See also my policy on link-exchanging.

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My Process for Writing Every Day for the Blog

I set a goal for myself in 2021 to try to post something every day. I wasn’t sure how that would go when I started out, but 217 days into 2021 (as I write this), I’ve been successful. I’ve made at least one post every day. On 28 of those days, I’ve made more than one post. Since I sometimes get questions about writing a blog, starting a blog, and the ever-popular how to build an audience, I thought I’d spend a little time writing about my process for posting every day on the blog.

The key word being posting, not necessarily writing every day. As I have said elsewhere, streaks can be a helpful form of encouragement, but they can also weigh you down. I don’t want that kind of pressure. So while I try to write every day, there are times when I don’t. Instead, I try to get a post out every day often by writing several posts ahead to give me a buffer.

With that in mind, let me tackle this a bit more systematically. I’ll start with the ideas and go from there.

Weeding: Separating good from bad ideas

For me, getting ideas is not a problem. It never has been. The challenge is weeding out the bad ideas and keeping just the good ones. On a typical day, I might jot down four to six ideas for posts. On a recent 2-page spread of my Field Notes notebook, I saw 7 ideas noted. I make ideas easy to identify by prefixing them with a P in a circle.

For those who may have difficulty deciphering my handwriting, here is a translation of the 7 ideas that appear on these pages:

Regular readers will see that some, but not all of these ideas were eventually turned into posts. Two of the 7 ideas never made it, yet, anyway. “Sounds of Santa Monica” was an idea I had for an internal blog I do at work, about the music I remember listening to when I worked in our Santa Monica office from 1994-2002. The “What to Say to WETA” post evolved into a recent post on Unposted Writings.

The trick to this is figuring out: what is a bad idea and what is a good one? If I had the answer to that, I’d have a development deal with a major studio and at least a dozen number one box office blockbusters under my belt. Here is what I can say about this: I’ve been writing this blog for nearly 16 years. I am coming up on 7,000 posts totaling 2.7 million words. I am just beginning to get an inkling of what separates a good idea from a bad one. And I’m still not entirely sure. Sometimes, I am just so excited about the idea that it practically writes itself. Other times, I ask myself questions:

  • Would this make a good essay? I tend to think of these posts as essays.
  • Have I written about this before? With nearly 7,000 posts it is likely.
  • If I have written about this before, do I have something new to add? Have I changed my mind about something?

Interestingly, what I don’t tend to ask myself is: is this something my audience would like?

Idea Drafts: Where I store the good ideas

Once I’ve decided I have a good idea, I immediately created a draft in WordPress with a title and possibly a few notes that happen to be in my head for the idea. The notes are usually just bullet points to remind myself of things I want to include in the piece. Here is what the idea draft for this post looked like after I got the idea back on July 26:

  • using drafts
  • post length, ~600 words
  • writing off the top of my head, rough outlines at best
  • what to write about? where do i get my ideas?
  • pure enjoyment
  • writing ahead when I know I’ll be unavailable
  • trying to stay ahead to reduce pressure

I don’t always write the post as soon as I know I have a good idea. The Idea Draft serves as a reminder of things that I want to write about when the mood strikes me. Sometime, I do write the posts immediately. The draft then moves into a “scheduled” or “published” state. But often times Idea Drafts sit in the WordPress Drafts folder for while. In this case of this post, a while was ten days. Having a bunch of Idea Drafts sets me up for my daily writing.

Daily Writing: Where the ideas become posts

As part of my morning routine, I set aside an hour to write. During that time, I can write, or I can stare at a blank screen. But I can’t do anything else. I generally aim for about 600 words on the average post and over the years, I’ve gotten a good feel for when I hit that mark. If things are going well, I can write a typical post in 20-30 minutes. That means, on a good morning, I can sometimes write two or three posts. On other mornings, I manage to write only one. Sometimes, that is because it is a longer post, or takes a while to put together. Other times it is because I am struggling with the idea and can’t quite get it to work the way I want.

This is where good ideas can die, and become unposted writing.

Generally, I look forward to writing every morning. For me it is pure enjoyment, even when I struggle. Struggling means I am learning the hard way, but learning nevertheless. The writing comes after my morning walk, and after my meditation, and with those two things done, I am usually keen to work on one or more of the Idea Drafts. Once I get started, I write off the top of my head, using or discarding any notes I’ve made as I see fit.

The hour each day is what I set aside for myself to write. It is not a limit, however. If I have more to write, I’ll look to carve out more time later in the day (usually in the evenings) to write more.

Planning ahead, or posting while ghosting

To help keep the pressure off the daily writing, I plan ahead. I try to have at least 2-3 days of posts scheduled in advance so that you are typically reading them 2-3 days after they were written. This isn’t always the case. Sometimes, I have a plan ahead a little more. For instance, I wanted to make sure I had no pressure to write every day on our recent road trip vacation. So in the week leading up to our vacation, I made sure I had posts scheduled throughout the vacation. I was largely successful–except for today. I left the Friday slot open (even though I’d scheduled Saturday and Sunday) because this is the slot that I’ve used recently for my Weekly Playbook posts. I was on the fence about whether I’d do one of these for vacation, and decided to wait and see. In the end, I wrote this post instead, because it had been waiting its turn a long time (ten days!)

This does help keep the pressure off. Knowing that I have a two or three day buffer means I don’t feel like I have to write something every day. My streak isn’t about writing every day as much as it is writing what I enjoy as much as I can. Indeed, I don’t even keep track of how much I write or how often I write day-to-day. The only thing I keep my eye on is if I am posting every day. That can make it seem like I am writing every day, but rest assured, there are days when I am posting while ghosting. I had a few of these days on our recent vacation.


This process may not work for everyone, but it works for me. I wake up each morning knowing that I have a post coming out, whether I can finish a new post that morning or not. I feel particularly good on the days when I can get two or three posts written and scheduled, knowing that expands my buffer a bit. A bigger buffer allows me to write the occasional longer post (like this one). Your mileage may vary. The important thing I’ve learned over the years is to try different methods until you find one that works for you. Posts like this provide one possibly method. There are many others.

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My Annual Summer “I’m On Vacation” Photo

My 2021 I'm on my summer vacation photo

My vacation began just a few minutes ago and I couldn’t begin before taking my annual summer “I’m on vacation!” photo. It is nice to be on vacation after a very busy first half of 2021. We have some fun plans, which I’ll eventually write about here. There is something magical about the first few minutes of a new vacation. The waiting is over, and they entire thing is laid out before you. It is a great feeling and that is why I always look so excited in these photos.

For those who may wonder what my vacation means for the blog, it should be business-as-usual. I am on vacation from my day job, not from writing. And I’ve worked up enough of a lead here that I already have posts throughout most of my vacation just in case vacation fun eats into my writing time.

Here is a collage of various “I’m on vacation” photos from the last 6 or 7 years.

Can you tell that I am already having fun?

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Milestone: 3 Million Views on the Blog

Over the weekend, the blog passed a major milestone: 3 million views over its nearly 16 years life. It is creeping up on a second milestone, 1.5 million unique visitors over that same period of time.

When I started the blog (on LiveJournal! remember that?) I had no plan. I just thought it would be fun to have a place to write in public. The blog migrated from LiveJournal to WordPress (self-managed) back in 2009, and more recently to WordPress.com earlier this summer.

In the early days on WordPress (circa 2009), I remember getting 10 or 20 views a day and being happy that there was a handful of people out there enjoying what I wrote. Over the years, those numbers steadily climbed. I didn’t do much that I am aware of to make that happen. I just tried to write things that interested me. I remember when the daily views hit about 100/day that I was thrilled. After I began writing my Going Paperless posts, things really picked up and for several years, I was seeing 3,000 or 4,000 views per day on average, something that astonished me, but that also made me nervous. I knew most of those views were for the paperless posts, but I still wanted to write about whatever interested me.

As life got busier, as more of my attention was taken up with my kids and family, I wrote less. I “retired” as Evernote’s paperless ambassador, and retired the paperless column, which had always been an experiment in my mind. Readership went down on the blog and along with it, the daily views. I think last year (2020) was a low-point for the blog. I wrote less than ever before, and I missed writing here. That is part of the reason that I decided to try to write here every day in 2020. These days, the daily views on the blog are a tenth of what they were at the blog’s peak readership, but I’ve noticed a definite trend upward, and that pleases me because I am writing about what I want, and not trying to focus on one niche.

I used to obsess over the blog stats. I try not to do this anymore but sometimes, I can’t help it. I’m amazed that the blog has lasted as long as it has, and I’m grateful for all of my readers, especially those who have been around for a very long time. I’ve never tried to compare my stats with other sites, so I don’t know where I stand. I’m sure there are sites out there that get 3 million views in a single month (and possible in a single day), but I’m happy with the slow-but-steady accumulation I’ve managed over the last 16 years.

The first million views could have been an accident. The second million maybe showed that I was on to something. The third million just helps to convince me that there are people out there who enjoy what I write. What can be better than writing what you enjoy for people who enjoy what you write? I am eternally grateful to everyone that comes here to read what I write, who leaves a comment, or emails me with kind words, or questions. You have all made this more fun than I could have possibly imagined when I started out.

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204 Consecutive Days of Posts

I missed this milestone a few days ago, so I’ll mention it now. Today is my 204th consecutive day of posting here on the blog. My goal at the beginning of the year was to get back to writing and posting every day here, and so far, more than halfway through the year, I seem to be meeting that goal. In 204 days I’ve written 225 posts totaling 137,000 words, and averaging about 600 words each. It amounts to four times what I wrote for all of 2020.

Consecutive days of posting in 2021

It is not always easy. Sometimes I am at a loss of what to write about, but I sit down anyway and write. Some posts are better than others, and some posts that I think would get more attention go almost unnoticed. But I keep it up, and it is one of the highlights of my day when I sit down to write here.

I just bought myself a celebratory beer and am enjoying the milestone. And I’m looking forward to the 161 days remaining in the year, wondering what the heck I’m going to write about to make my quota for each day. Of course, thinking about what to write is one of the best parts.

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Original Fiction?

One thing that I have never posted on the blog over the last 16 years is original fiction: that is, fiction I’ve written that has not appeared anywhere else. The main reason I’ve never done this is because publishing a story on the Internet is considered a first publication. Since the “first serial rights” are not available once a story appears on the Internet, it can make it harder to sell the story to professional markets.

This was more an issue when I was still finding my footing as a professional writer especially when I was submitting and selling stories to the science fiction magazines and anthologies. Over the years, however, my stories have changed and it is really hard to classify them. I have two, for instance, that don’t fall into any category that I can name.

I was thinking of posting these stories here on the blog, but since what I write here is entirely not fiction so far, I wanted to get feedback from my readers to see if original fiction is something you’d be interested in. If there is interest, my thought would be to start with these two stories that I have sitting around and see how things go. Since I try to keep most of my posts relatively short (they’ve averaged about 600 words in 2021), I’d probably post these stories as serial, running one part per week over a period of several week.

What do people think? Would you be interested in seeing some original fiction from me here on the blog? Free, of course. At this point, I’m just looking for an outlet for these stories. Let me know what you think by leaving a comment. Or, if you definitely want me to post original fiction, just “like” this post and I’ll take that as a Yes vote.

(If you are uncertain and would like to see some of my published fiction first, check out my bibliography. I think all of the stories I’ve published on InterGalactic Medicine Show are now freely available. Keep in mind, though, as I said, that my writing has evolved, and I’m not sure how I’d categorize it today.)

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5 Blogs I’ve Been Reading Lately — And Looking for More

With all of the reading I do, my blog reading has dwindled a bit. In part this is because I have had a difficult time finding the kinds of blogs I enjoy reading. But there are five that I have been following lately that I enjoy and I thought I’d share them here in case anyone else wanted to check them out.

1. Melanie Novak’s blog

Melanie is a romance writer who also writes great posts about the golden age of Hollywood. As a Bing Crosby fan, I really enjoy those posts on old picture, and some of the backstories she provides.

You can find her at: https://melanienovak.com.

2. Paul Jacobson’s blog

Paul’s blog is pretty eclectic but includes some great posts on tools and technology. Dungeons & Dragons fans might enjoy his post on How I Use Obsidian for Dungeons & Dragons Games–a nice intersection of gaming and technology.

You can find his blog at: https://pauljacobson.me

3. John Scalzi’s Whatever

I’ve been reading John’s blog for as long as I can remember. Although he and I have different styles, his blog was an early inspiration for my own blogging, and I find his way of breaking down his thoughts into digestible points very helpful on many of his posts. His post on Being Poor is classic, even 16 years later.

You can find his blog at: https://whatever.scalzi.com.

4. Seth Godin’s Blog

I recently discovered Seth’s blog after listening to him on an episode of The Tim Ferriss Show podcast. This is another eclectic blog, with daily posts, many of them short and to the point, but occasionally longer ones. I like that Seth posts every day because that is what I try to do, too. I really enjoyed his post on Quality and Effort.

You can find his blog at: https://seths.blog

5. Brain Pickings

I’ve been reading Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings blog for years now. I even get the newsletters. If there is a hardest-working-blogger award, it would have to go to her hands down. I’ve been called prolific here on my own blog, but the writing she does on Brain Pickings make me look plain lazy. Plus, it is an incredibly eclectic site, where she writes on virtually everything. She tries to learn from everything she does (something I aspire to). Check out her post on 13 Life-Learnings from 13 Years of Brain Pickings.

You can find Brain Pickings at: https://www.brainpickings.org


And I’m looking for more

Reading through the above, I used the work “eclectic” an unseemly number of times, but that is what most look for in a blog. It’s what I try to do in my own, writing about anything that interests me. Given what you know of what I write about, interests I’ve expressed, and the list above, I’d love for any recommendations you have for other blogs I should be reading (feel free to include your own). Drop them in the comments, and if possible, include a reason why you like it or why you think I’d like it.

Updates to the Blog, July 2021

This past weekend, I moved the hosting of this site to WordPress, and in the days since, I have been delighted with the results. The WordPress Happiness Engineers (especially Paul Jacobson) did an outstanding job of making this a smoother migration than I could possibly have imagined. With this migration, I wanted to point out a few changes effective today.

  • I have updated to a more modern theme for the site, one that is compatible with WordPress’s Gutenberg engine. So things may look a little different here, although I did my best to keep things organized in the same manner.
  • I have changed the 90-day limit for comments on a post, reopening it for all posts. Previously, after 90 days, comments closed on a post, but I decided that there were enough posts worthy of further comment so I opened it back up.
  • I revamped my About page, providing information about me, and the blog. Over the next week or so you should also see updates to the Contact page and my Bibliography page.
  • During 2021, I have been posting every day. So far that as amounted to nearly 200 posts in the first half of the year. Going forward, I still plan to try to post every day, but I’m not holding myself to post every day if I don’t have anything to write about that interests me. It means that there may be some days that you see nothing new from me. Even so, you should expect 3-4 posts per week in those conditions.
  • That said, beginning tomorrow (Friday) I am introducing a new weekly series I’m calling “Weekly Playbook.” Each week I’ll post and discuss a playbook that I use to try to be more efficient and productive with my time. As an example, the debut playbook will be about my morning routine. You can expect to find this every Friday. (I’ve got lots of playbooks so they should last a while.)
  • Finally, at the bottom of each post you’ll see a box like the one below. I don’t write here for money. This is a hobby, an avocation that I enjoy doing. I don’t have ads on the site; I don’t even have an Amazon affiliate link when I link to books. What this box is asking of my readers is two things, and I hope that they aren’t intrusive: (a) if you like the blog, subscribe, either by email or by following the blog in WordPress or through the RSS feeds; (b) if you enjoy what you read, tell your friends about it. That’s it.

I’d love to know what you think of the new theme, or anything other comment or feedback you have. I’ve been doing this for nearly 16 years now, but I am always open to learning and really want to improve.

Thanks again for reading!

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Good, Good, Good, Good Migrations

I set a goal of moving my blog from a self-hosted WordPress install to one that was hosted by WordPress. My thought was that I would start planning the migration now, being the careful, step-by-step person that I am, and then execute the migration over the summer, doing my best to make it as seamless as possible.

It turns out the entire thing took about a day. So much for my great project management skills.

I think there are two reasons the migration went so smoothly: great tools, and outstanding support.

Some context

If you’ve been with my since the very beginning (circa, late 2005 — remember the trip to Hawaii?) then you know that this blog originally started on LiveJournal. An early 2010, I switched from LiveJournal to a self-managed installation of WordPress hosted with DirectNIC. That site became official on March 8, 2010. That worked well for a while, but I noticed that the hosting service wasn’t great. Performance was poor. I had to repeatedly open tickets with them. And finally, I moved hosts to GoDaddy at the end of 2011.

GoDaddy provided a reliable service for over a decade. But in January, as I really started to get back into blogging after taking much of the previous year off, two things began to bother me:

  1. The response time on the site seemed to be getting slower and slower. This got worse after GoDaddy moved me to another server to improve performance.
  2. After 10+ years, I was getting tired of the maintenance part of the job. I love writing here, but I didn’t want to do all of the maintenance work.

WordPress is a great tool, and after a little research and talking to people who I knew used WordPress to host their sites, I decided to move mine to WordPress’s Business plan.

The Migration Process

It turned out that the migration process was much easier than I thought it would be, in part because I was already paying for a WordPress plan that backed up my site regularly. Keep in mind, there are nearly 7,000 posts, just about as many comments, and countless media objects that make up this site, not to mention the templates, plug-ins, and other tools that make it work. It was still an easy process:

  1. Create a new site with WordPress.com using their Business Plan (which includes a free domain or domain transfer–I chose the latter).
  2. Run an import from the new site, pointing to the old site. The import uses the JetPack backup and restore capabilities. It backed up my old site, and then restored it to the new site.
  3. Choose a new template for the site. I didn’t have to do this, but I did it for two reasons:
    • (a) My current template was a customized version of a WordPress template from 2013.
    • (b) I wanted the site to look a little different so that when I transferred the domain, I could easily tell when the change had taken place.
  4. Point my domain to WordPress.com’s servers so that going to jamierubin.net gets you here.

It took about 3 hours for the backup and restore to happen. While that was going on I spent time looking at new templates and finally settled on Dynamico, which has a similar structure to what I had been using, but was a modern WordPress template that supports all of the current WordPress features. Once the restore was done and I had the new template setup, I updated the name servers for my domain. It probably took another hour or so for that to propagate.

I started this process late Sunday morning and it was all done by about 3:30pm Sunday afternoon.

The Secret Sauce: Fantastic Support

Probably the biggest factor in making this a smooth transition was the fantastic support I got from WordPress. As an I.T. professional myself, I know that support is a big part of the job and it is rarely just “okay.” In my experience, support is either very bad or outstanding. WordPress’s support was outstanding.

Paul Jacobson, who is a great blogger in his own right, and who works for Automattic, made all of the difference. I reached out to him for advice and he suggested I submit a ticket to WordPress support, which I did. He then saw to it that he handled my ticket. He answered the long list of questions I submitted about the over all process, and then made sure everything proceeded smoothly as I executed the transition, checking in with me as things progressed.

No migration of this scale is flawless, but in this case, the flaws were minor to the point of almost meaningless. “Likes” on posts made prior to the transfer did not get migrated for a technical reason. A few other little quirks showed up, none of them show-stoppers, and Paul investigated each of them, and was incredibly patient with my replies to him messages where I repeatedly made statements like, “Just one more question…”

There is no question that the support I received from WordPress made all the difference in making this a smooth, stress-free process. I would whole-heartedly recommend WordPress tools, services, and support. And if you are lucky enough to get Paul working on your support request, you’ve pretty much got it made.

The Results So Far

The general evaluation of success I use in most situations is: are things better than they were before? In this case, the blog and site are in much better shape now than they were before the migration. I noticed the performance improvement immediately. I mean, it was dramatic. There is also a sense of mental relief that I no longer have to do the behind-the-scenes maintenance work–upgrading, messing around with stuff to get things working right.

I also noticed a 50% jump in visits to the blog in the two days (so far) following the migration. It is too early to say if that related or a coincidence. I am, however, coming up to a milestone that will allow me to easily measure how well things go (in terms of traffic) with WordPress as a host. Sometime within the next few weeks, this blog will pass a lifetime 3 million views:

All-time stats for the blog, including the current number of views which stands at 2,993,869.

Once I hit that milestone, I can say that I transferred over to WordPress hosting when I had a total of about 3 million views and use that as a baseline going forward.

It seems like I jump hosts every ten years or so. This time may be different (assuming I can continue to keep this up for another ten years). The performance improvement is better than I could have imagined (just try doing a search for yourself and you’ll see how fast it is). And I don’t have to do nearly as much maintenance which frees me up for things like writing.

Coming soon

Now that I’ve got the transfer behind me and things are working so much better here, I plan on some changes for the blog in the near future (in some cases, in the very near future). I’ll have a separate post outlining these but in general they include things like: a new weekly column; a new schedule for posts; updates to some of the static pages like my About page, and more.

I want to once again thank Paul Jacobson, as well as Mariane A., another WordPress Happiness Engineer who also assisted with my migration for their help in making this a pain-free, stress-free process.