Third time’s the charm…

All right. I’m back to Radio again after trying Blosxom for a few weeks. To recap:

On April 3, I decided to see if blogging could be a useful tool in my growing “personal knowledge management” toolbelt, so I downloaded a copy of Radio Userland and posted:

I’m giving this a try for a couple of reasons. One reason is that a great deal of attention has been given to “enterprise-class” knowledge management systems, but what about knowledge management on an individual level?

Everything I do during the day generates “knowledge” – that I emailed so-and-so about such-and-such, that I read an article about something, that I had a thought about how that article might impact something else I was doing.

However, the fact remains that it’s easier to find some obscure fact such as, say, who won the Oscar for Best Actor in 1968 (incidentally, it was Cliff Robertson – Google helped me find that just now in less than 10 seconds) than it is to find that document I wrote last month or that email I received last week, let alone that thought I had last year.

The first step is to collect these useful scraps of information, and blogging seems like a reasonably good way to do it. We’ll see how well it works for me.

All that being said, the biggest question here is: Will I use this or won’t I? Will others read it? We shall see.

A few weeks later, on April 21, I switched to Blosxom at the suggestion of a co-worker and posted:

Thus far, the experiment has been a success, for the most part. After just a few weeks, I’m finding the news aggregator indispensable. I don’t think I’ve visited a news site once this past week; the news comes to me now. Going forward, I don’t think I’ll be able to live without something like this.

Also, Radio was great in that it helped me get up and running quickly; I never would have gotten started doing this if it weren’t for that. I just don’t have the time I used to to spend lots of time tinkering just to get to the point where I decide a new technology is useful. Besides, technology is supposed to save time, not consume it.

However, one thing that got in the way of success was Radio’s free-form entry interface. I’m sorry, but a web browser text entry form just doesn’t cut it as an editor. I found myself posting quite a lot from the news aggregator, but rarely adding my own thoughts simply because doing so was inconvenient. That kind of defeated the purpose of doing this, given that one of my stated goals was to find a way to collect my own thoughts over time, not just other peoples’.

Also, as it invariably does, the ease-of-use that made it possible to get up and running quickly got in the way as I got more comfortable with the idea of maintaining a weblog and wanted to go above and beyond the out-of-the-box experience. I’m a Unix guy, and I appreciate the ability to “peel back the onion” when I want and how I want. “Ease-of-use” and “powerful, flexible, and customizable” don’t have to be mutually exclusive, though they often are. Or, perhaps it’s a mindset problem (more about this when I have some time). Radio does seem quite hackable, but I just don’t “get it” (and other things) the way I get the Unix command line, as much as I try to get away from these stone age tools. Perhaps it just has to be a gradual process.

So, why did I switch back to Radio?

Predictably, as I invariably do, I got frustrated with the very power, flexibility, and customizability that drove me to switch to the “powerful, flexible, and customizable” solution in the first place. The key phrase in “I appreciate the ability to ‘peel back the onion’ when I want and how I want” is when I want and how I want. Blosxom gave me power, flexibility, and customizability, but not much else – for instance, I ended up doing basic content management tasks by hand (“OK, what should I name this post to make sure I don’t clobber some other post”). (I have to say, though, that the hacker in me is still in awe at the sheer beauty of an app with a plug-in architecture that is only a few hundreds line of code in total. Wow.)

Furthermore, my main complaint with Radio – the free-form entry interface – was easily alleviated by using the WYSIWYG HTML editor. The first go-round, I violated my own “use the right tool for the job” rule that I’m constantly preaching to the people who work for me and was trying to remotely access my Windows 2000 workstation running Radio from Mozilla on my Linux laptop, which meant I couldn’t use the WYSIWYG HTML editor, as it is an IE feature. The simple solution, of course, was to put Linux on my workstation and Windows on my laptop. Problem solved, though I suspect some wag will eventually ask me how I can dare do such a thing and work for “the Linux platform company” at the same time. More on this later, when I have some time…