As you can see from the last four posts, I’m using already-established headings that work well for me to handle goal-setting for the year. Unfortunately, now I come to the mother of all categories which is basically all my hobbies on a computer in a digitally-enabled life. The list is so extensive or pervasive that it normally takes up a whole separate whiteboard for me. Let’s parse it into more manageable chunks.
It likely seems odd that the whole area is about computers, and then I make the first sub-category “computers”, but generally, I’m talking about the setup of a computer — hardware and software. This area isn’t generally big or complicated, it’s a nice manageable chunk of sorts.
First and foremost, I have to do regular backups. This includes my computer, Andrea’s computer and Jacob’s computer. Sometimes those lists are pluralized for Jacob and I, but at the moment, not so much. We generally are only using one desktop each. He has a PC upstairs but never uses it, and I migrated all the components over to his gaming laptop for files. One system, one backup. Andrea has only ever had one, so no issues there. For me, I have usually had a second device, a laptop for streaming, and I’m not running that currently, so it is just my main PC. I am a bit out of date since my last backup, so time to do another. My main fear of things missing from the last backup are photos and ensuring proper storage, a recurring, nagging worry, even once backed up. What if there’s a fire? I want all the photos on off-site cloud storage, but not quite there yet.
Second, I also need to do some basic security upgrades to various devices, including Andrea’s and tweaking of Jacob’s. I’d also like us all to use the same password manager, if possible.
Third, I mentioned I don’t have a streaming PC setup downstairs, and I want to fix that situation to a more powerful setup than my basic laptop. I have an extra old PC, easy enough to upgrade and tweak to make suitable for the need. Equally, I have a few extra monitors I need to configure.
Finally, my desktop PC needs a tweak to the setup for both potentially an extra monitor (which I’m resisting) and a better webcam/microphone setup (that I really need for trivia hosting).
In the same way that I feel odd having a whole section about computers with a subheading for computers again, I have this one for the website when the next few are also about my website. But, as with computers, this is more about the setup while the others are more about content.
For my website, I launched my design for PolyWogg 5.0 this past year, and overall, I’m pretty happy with it. It includes all new Featured Images, restructured layouts for consistency, and everything is in one place. But in the same way that a strength can also be a weakness, the co-location of both PolyWogg (personal) and PolyBlog (writing) content and a single theme for all of it does create some branding challenges.
For example, when I create the layout for my site, I can do pages or posts as my default content. When it is a one-off blog topic, my musings so to speak, it’s a post. If it is more part of some more static content that I’m building, they are pages. But each page, normally, has the same header image and menu as the rest of the site. I like my theme, I’m not looking to change that, it works really well for me, but as I do more writing and building of content in a few areas, the default images and menus are not always the best combo for a page that could have a different message/branding than the default.
My basic menu structure would benefit from four separate options at the present time. For general blogging, I can do my Main Menu easy enough. It’s the one that I have been doing all along — my default menu. But if I look at a second area, my photo gallery, right now it is a single vertical menu item in the horizontal menu with lots of nested pages. It makes the main menu a bit big and unwieldy (plus slows down load time a bit). So, if instead, I had a site that was JUST my photo gallery, I would change the header image of course but I would also make those vertical menu structures more horizontal, spreading the years out differently. Maybe grouped in five year chunks, maybe current year would be separate. For my PolyWogg Guides that I’ll be doing more of in the future, I already am not entirely happy with the menu structure for the HR guide and want a better one for the new Astronomy guide. As I write more in the future, that problem will exacerbate the pressure on the menu structure. And it wouldn’t hurt to have totally different branding for the header. Finally, I have been wanting to get my trivia game going, and that is a totally different look and feel than the rest of the site. I say “finally” but I could group all my reviews together too, or a site for quotes, or a site for humour. Lots of “options” where the overhead wouldn’t be worth the separation, but for the four areas that I have already identified for growth? Absolutely there might be a worthwhile investment to be made in another structure.
So I could reconsider my decision to co-locate them, separate them into multiple sub-sites or run WordPress as a multi-site option, including merging my brother’s site that I host as well as Astropontiac. But the truth is that I really don’t want separate sites though, I want it all together. And my theme is designed to allow that, sort of at least. But when I tried it previously, it was a crapfest. Nothing I did seemed to work the way it was supposed to work.
In theory, I can create four different header images (done) and four different menus (done), and go into a page say for my PolyWogg Guide to Astronomy, tell it to replace the main header image with the Guides image and the main menu with the Guides menu, and voila, I should have a separate branding option like a sub-theme within my site. Except, as I said, when I did it all previously, it didn’t do it. The header didn’t change, the menu didn’t change. Same old, same old.
So I went on the support site for the theme, typed in what I had tried previously both within the existing theme and using other plugins, and asked, “Is there a combo of a good plugin with this theme that will do what I want?”. I pressed submit, aaaaand I broke their support site. Not completely but it somehow corrupted my account with them. Nice. While they were trying to fix that so I could ask my question, I went back to playing with my theme options, doing exactly what I tried six months ago and twelve months ago and even eighteen months ago, same general settings, and BAM! This time it worked. Son of a fudgsicle.
Which means I CAN do it. I can have separate branding for any of the pages I want. Not for posts, that’s a more complicated structure that doesn’t quite make sense with what I’m doing, but pages? No problem. Yay!
Or is it a yay? I had already accepted that it couldn’t be done in my site, I was really just doing due diligence, and considering moving my blog back to ThePolyBlog.ca, and leaving just my PolyWogg guides at PolyWogg.ca. Now I don’t have to do any of THAT change, but the other changes? They’re relatively easy enough, and in fact, I’ve already created the prototype headers and basic menus. I just have to tell those pages which header and menu to display when those pages are shown, as well as include an option to get back to the main menu. I like it, I just haven’t completely wrapped my head around it. It’s a significant change to my branding, so I want to be sure that it is the way I want to go before I do it. I think so, but I need to test a few things first.
But assuming it all tests out, I now have three significant sub-designs to figure out:
- Main menu (done)
- The Panda Family Photo Gallery
- PolyWogg Guides to…
- PolyWogg Trivia
When I get that done, it will definitely warrant a PolyWogg 6.0 classification.
In addition to all that structural work, I also want to tweak my backup settings, chron setup, and optimization settings with caching. I’m not obsessed about SEO or speedtests, but I’ll do the basics. Really what I want to do though is to uninstall Piwigo sometime soon, my “alternate” gallery setup, but I’m not ready for that big step yet.
I call this section blogging, but it goes way beyond simple blogging. Many bloggers have a goal which is to “blog regularly”, basically to deliver regular new content. That’s not my goal. I blog when I have something to say, not say something just to meet a word count. And I have lots to say. I have itches to scratch for:
- Book reviews: I have almost 200 on the site, but I need to update some links so they all show in the index page, and add some reviews from the last six months that I haven’t written yet;
- Movie reviews: I have about 5-6 six on the site, another 100 or so written but not uploaded yet, and another 10-15 that aren’t even written yet.
- TV reviews: I have 10-12 seasons of various shows reviewed and on the site, and probably about another 500 I could do as I’ve already reviewed the individual episodes. It’s just a time issue, and relative priority. I like writing them, but they take time away from more pressing issues in life. More just a “nice to have” at some point.
I have a big giant gaping hole in my plan for recipes. I know generally what I want for them, have a decent layout, can do them generally like my reviews for structure and internal web admin. But I don’t have a great workflow for including pictures of recipes or even getting the recipes up on the site fast enough after we make the dish and decide it’s a “keeper”, so by the time I get around to writing it up, I’ve forgotten which photos go with which recipe, or even WHEN we did it. I have photos of dishes from last February and I have no idea what they are. In an ideal world, I would have taken a picture with it of the recipe title so I’ll remember in future, but I didn’t. Was that the chicken with pasta dish and an unique sauce or was it the special noodle dish with Asian seasoning? Was it one we liked or we thought was only so-so? Eleven months later, I don’t remember. And after mentioning above about branding, I need to decide if I even want this as a blog post with everything else, or I want to make it into a page that I could style like a separate subsite for different types of recipes. Or is it both? A page for the recipe, a blog for the experience of cooking it for the first time? I haven’t figured that out, but I need to at some point. For now, it is just a general “Figure out the plan for recipes”.
I have another sub-area that isn’t quite figured out either: music reviews. Unlike the book / TV / movie reviews, the music reviews have a natural structure to them. For example, if I review the year 1943 (as I already have), should that be on a separate sub-site? Should I have separate pages for discography reviews too, such as all the albums by Elton John? I know I’m going to do the yearly reviews, but beyond that? Are they posts? Is it another PolyWogg Guide? Or is it a PolyWogg Guide of enough uniqueness that it should be a separate site on its own? And if it is, should HR and Astronomy be separated too? Enquiring minds want to know! And it would be far better to decide NOW before I get too far in the initial structure. I just need to decide.
Once I get past various forms of reviews, I have a bunch of other topics itching for me to write about them. Lots of them are one-offs, and I have a folder called Bloggable in my Gmail where I’ve saved articles, etc. Things that excited me. Like the Drake equation for predicting the likelihood of finding sentient life in the universe. Or a comparison of prices at grocery stores. Certainly I have a long list of topics as preparations for retirement. I started to write a series of posts about “Who do I owe in my life“, and I want to get back to that, as well as a series of posts about “What I learned in school” for various academic outings.
I also am way behind in some other topics I started and would like to get back to at some point. My spiritual journey and 12 questions, Being Jacob’s Dad, even a bunch related to photos like different day activities on our honeymoon. Plus finalizing a draft I did of a version of “grace” to say for dinners that is a bit non-denominational.
The main focus of my writing is usually my HR guide and the need to finish the damn thing. That remains true, of course, but I also mentioned above that I want to play with how it is laid out on the website. Maybe just a stalling tactic, with the perfect being the enemy of good enough.
Early in 2020, I started posting some of my personal writing, including the start of a story about a detective I have in mind for a series of stories. It was a prototype of a series of novels, and while I like the basic structure, I find myself throwing in too much backstory that I intended for prequel novels. It’s a bit of a rookie challenge, more experienced writers know not to do it and only throw it just enough to whet the appetite while letting the reader fill in the blanks. But I realized that in my mind, those are full-fledged stories. And quite frankly, it would be easier to tell them in sequence. So, I’m going to go back and redirect my story to start where it should have began. With the main character in law school. I have several other stories to consider in there too for the same character, and some with his friends. The big ones will likely have to wait until retirement, but I might be able to start working on the first novel this year.
In addition to that “detective universe”, I have an idea for a sci-fi novel, with a bit of an Expanse feeling to it, maybe a bit like Artemis. And I am years away from feeling ready to start my ultimate series combining mythology, Gods, challenges, and quests. But it’s on my list and I could start some of the research, plotting and outlining.
I don’t know what to call this category, honestly. It’s a mish-mash of things. Up first is simply media watching, with Jacob and I working our way through the Marvel Universe, Star Wars (with Andrea), and Lord of the Rings, plus a number of other series as we come to them. Just passive stuff.
More active though is getting our music streaming everywhere in the house for iTunes and/or Amazon Prime. Some of that starts with managing my music collection on my PC and doing uploads, but the goal is streaming everywhere.
And finally there is some organization and purging to be done for VHS tapes, DVDs, and CDs.
Remember back at the beginning that I said the list could be overwhelming? Well part of that was easily just all the website redesign stuff I want to do. And that by itself is daunting. But the over-the-top, drive me crazy and call me anal, item is the photo gallery on my website.
So, the explanation of what I want to do is simple. I want to upload all my photos and videos to my website as a gallery so that I can share them with friends. I don’t want to put it on Facebook, I don’t want the videos on YouTube, I don’t want to pay for SmugMug or Flickr. I want to use my OWN site. In WordPress, not Piwigo.
In theory, that’s not a lot to ask. I have the website, check. I have WordPress, check. I have a site that will let me display photos and videos, and enough space to save them, check. I have the know-how to get them up, check. So what’s the problem? The workflow is detailed and extensive, and if I want them to be consistent across the gallery, I pretty much have to do the same workflow each time properly. Except that a few things have changed since I first started, leaving inconsistencies that I probably could live with, but I don’t want to do all this work to not have it the way I want.
So the first overall step is to develop a single, universal workflow that gets me the first gallery up and running exactly as I want it to be setup. Then I just need to replicate it for an additional ~240 galleries spread across 16 years of pictures.
The tracker for the galleries and sub-galleries is long and detailed. And as I have done a few serious tests and prototypes, just before WordPress changed the way it handles certain media types, I now know that the 240 galleries may in fact grow to be about 400 galleries to make some things way easier to manage. Which means that the first thing I have to do is fully confirm the workflow for each gallery from start to finish. Some of the galleries are already up and running in the site, but I’ll need to tweak them a bit to the new layout and functions. I’m close to the final gallery layout, I just need to ensure a couple of functions work the way they are supposed to in 2-3 different configurations. But the workflow needs to be tweaked on the front end for filenaming for photos from Andrea and from Jacob, as well as scanning sources and/or importing into Mylio, plus for the back end for storage and creation of things like PhotoBooks.
The other thing I need to do is finalize the tracker for “all” the types of galleries. This includes:
- standard PandA Family monthly galleries;
- special galleries for trips, etc.;
- monthly galleries of extra photos for blogs, recipes, etc;
- an option for PolySpring sharing of photos;
- special content galleries for products like reviews, PolyWogg Guides or PS Transitions; and,
- a special layout and tagging option for Astro photos.
If I put the whole workflow and tracker on the whiteboard at once, it takes up a whole whiteboard. For the next round, I think I’ll just put up the area for the workflow and an area for a couple of galleries that I’m working on at any one time. My separate e-tracker can maintain the ongoing tracking.
What am I going to do in January?
So that’s my big list for the year. What am I going to include for January?
- Better webcam/microphone setup
- Web: Branding: Main
- Web: Branding: Photo gallery
- Photos: Workflow with sub-options for monthlies, specials, blogging, reviews and special products
- Photos: Workflow and basic tracker to whiteboard
- Photos: Full tracker in e-form.
This is an area that is important to me and I spend a lot of time on it as a result trying to get it where I want it to be. It might be anal but it is part of my choices. I choose to do this work, I choose to share the photos and videos as part of my sense of identity.
And that completes my to do list update for 2021. Now I just need to triage January’s list as I can’t possibly do them all, alas.