This site functions as an archive of Conner's Blog, which was a blog from 2006-2014 located at http://connermccall.com. Images and links are likely to be broken.

External Comment Systems

A few weeks ago Disqus announced a new feature in their commenting system. Namely, it gave comment authors the ability to send a notice to Twitter about their comment. I really like this idea and since reading about it, I had been considering installing Disqus as the commenting system on this site.

Today I saw an update from Doni stating that she was going to implement another external commenting system, IntenseDebate. After looking at IntenseDebate I liked what I saw and decided to install the plug-in.

First, I want to congratulate the creators of IntenseDebate, you have an awesome Wordpress plug-in, it was easy to install, your admin interface meshes really well, and the plug-in didn't mess with my theme at all. I will admit part of the reason I wasn't thrilled with Disqus was the admin interface. Intensedebate on the other hand barely makes itself know. Anyone who has used the Wordpress admin interface would have no problems dealing with comments on a system run by IntenseDebate.
Unfortunately, after looking through it for a few hours I decided it just wasn’t for me. First, if you were a registered user of IntenseDebate, when you posted a comment the link that is shown for your name links back to your IntenseDebate profile. I understand the reasons for this, but I wanted the option to use my website address instead. This isn't a problem when commenting on this site, but if I comment on other sites I want them coming here, not going to IntenseDebate and then having to click through to my site. I also like to send my readers to my commenter’s websites if they choose to post their website. Not having this option was the first knock against the plug-in. Second, the comment system displays Gravatars and gives the administrator no way to not display them. Now many people like Gravatars and Avatars, and I think they have their place. Personally, though for a low traffic site like mine I don't like them. Additionally it relegates the readers that don't have Gravatars into second class citizens by giving them a generic icon.

After a few hours of trying out IntenseDebate I decided to give Disqus a quick try. Here is where I made a decision. External comment systems seem great but they have a failing. If your site is up but the external system is down, your site is going to run slow and it's possible users won't be able to comment. I came to this decision because the moment I decided to try out Disqus, I could not access the site.

External comment systems are beneficial. They allow users to maintain a history of their comments across multiple sites. It also gives you way to backup all the comments you have made across the web without worrying about them disappearing when someone decided to nuke their blog or a commercial site folds. Other users can follow your comments even if they don't visit the same sites as you.

However, even with all of these benefits I think the negatives outweigh them. First, you’re relying on an external site for your comment system. If that site goes down, has a network hiccup, or isn't accessible for another reason, your readers won't be able to comment. Second, a commenter who isn't a member of which ever system you are using, either has to register to claim their comments and has to trust that the 3rd party that they are submitting their comments to is trustworthy.

The alternative should be allowing users to post comments in whatever system they wish to, whether Twitter, Facebook, Friendfeed, Digg or your site, and be able to pull these comments into your site. Disqus and IntenseDebate offer some of these options, but for me the negatives outweigh the positives.

In place of Disqus or IntenseDebate I setup a system to pull comments about my posts from Twitter into this site. This works well because even if Twitter goes down, if my site is up then the comment is available. I’m going to start searching for ways to pull in comments from Facebook and elsewhere. I hope to share these at some point. For now, if you don't want to comment here, go ahead and post a link to my post on Twitter, my site will find it and put it here allowing other readers to view what you said.

(Image courtesy of Flickr user massdistraction)

Strawberry Jam, Biscuits, and other Goodies

My kitchen has been busy the last few evenings. Nothing overly exciting but just simple tasty food. First, last night I made cornbread. Unfortunately it wasn't that great, I think I may have needed a bit more sugar, just didn't seem quite as tasty as I remember it always being.

I also made some strawberry jam last night. I had bought a clamshell of berries on Monday and could tell they were on the verge of sprouting fuzzies at any given moment. The jam was really simple. I cut up the berries and stuck them in a pot, added a good amount of sugar and then slowly brought it to a boil. You let it boil for about 14 minutes and then remove it from the heat and let it fully cool. Once it's cool add about half a lemon worth of juice and refrigerate.

I tried it on my PB and J for lunch today and it was awesome. Yes that's Jif in the background, and the containers have applesauce and cottage cheese. Now you know what I eat for lunch about 80% of the time.

Tonight I kept things simple. I stopped by The Wedge on my way home from a quick bike ride around the lakes. I picked up some mushrooms, aspergras, and some spinach and feta chicken sausage. I sautéed it all together for about 10 minutes and served with freshly baked biscuits.

I had to make biscuits because I also picked up some honey from Ames Farm this week. I'm saving a few to have with my jam for dinner tomorrow.

Wednesday Where #22

I can't believe no one guessed last week's Where. It was the old Grain Belt brewery in Northeast Minneapolis. I thought I had chosen an easy location, but I guess not.

This weeks is tougher. Less context but also in a very heavily trafficed place. I know at least one of my loyal readers is a frequent visitor to the area.

Start your hump day off right, give it a guess and don't worry about being wrong. Your only here to have fun, right?

The Herb Garden Experiment

It should be no secret to my readers that I enjoy cooking. Whether it's pizza, pasta, enchiladas, or chili, I enjoy cooking food almost as much as I enjoy eating it. Lately I've been trying my best to purchase most of my food from local sources. I'm not fully committed to the cause yet, I'm only really picky about my eggs and meat right now, but with summer arriving in a hurry I'll soon be able to add local veggies to my diet.

One thing I've decided I need to do is grow my own food. Since I live in an apartment that lacks a balcony or patio my options for this are pretty limited. It's a bit dificult to grow potatoes and green beans indoors, but I thought I might be able to pull off some herbs.

I had been collecting containers for no particular reason for the last few months and had quite a few glass jars available. So last night I made a stop and purchased some seeds and soil. I had six jars at home and bought 7 different varieties of herbs. Happily I have another jar in my fridge that will be empty soon so I'll be able to plant the mint I bought.

So far I have (from left to right) Thyme, Oregano, Basil, Rosemary, Parsley, and Chives. I'm hoping to keep a running photo journal on Flickr as things start to grow.

My plans for Saturday include a trip to the Farmers Market and then I'll hopefully be able to hunt down some sort of shelf to put these on at a garage sale. For now they are sitting on my kitchen table. I'm not expecting much, but if I can get one or two to grow at least I might be able to get an idea of what works and what doesn't.

Thoughts, Links, and Photos 5/12 Edition

A change to my old Thought and Links posts that I discontinued a while back. I'll use a similiar format but also include some photos that don't really fit in a full post.

  • I ended up in Northfield yesterday for work. After finishing the meeting I was there for I stopped by the river walk to see what I could find. I was ecstatic to discover these little guys swimming around.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="1. Ducks, 2. Duckling, 3. Swim Fast and Free"][/caption]

  • The Heavy Table looks at a couple of new burger joints. Smashburger looks interesting, and if the 5 Guys in Edina is anything like the one in St. Cloud you should go. Now!
  • Les Petites Images gives us a two part series that teaches us how to make spinach Palak Paneer. I've never tried making Indian food before and may dip my toes in soon.
  • synapsecollapse shares a video and some links to local brewers. Go buy some local beer now.
  • I also stopped by Nakomis yesterday and got a few photos of the cherry blossoms. This one was my favorite.
  • I love these Cargo Bikes and this bookmark. via SwissMiss
  • Salon argues that parents should set their children free (via Kottke)
  • I made a few site changes today. First I added a Post to Twitter button to all individual posts. I also have setup Tweetbacks that may or may not import comments about my posts on Twitter into my blog.

Food Experiment - Taco Pizza

I've been having a hard time talking myself into grocery shopping lately, and my cupboards and fridge show it. Last night I decided I wanted pizza, so I whipped up a batch of pizza dough and stuck it in the oven to rise while I ran to the store. On the way there, I started going over my options, I already had some pizza sauce from a previous pizza evening and had some Colby and Monterrey jack cheese, but not much mozzarella. After a bit of pondering I decided to try to make taco pizza.

When I got home, I pulled the dough out of the oven and it was almost ready to roll out. While I was waiting on the dough, I browned some burger and added taco seasoning. To top the pizza, I mixed pizza sauce and taco sauce together, about 1 part to 1 part. After putting the sauce on the crust I mixed some of the taco meat with some re-fried beans, I stopped the pizza with the taco/bean mixture and then some diced onions and finished with Monterrey and Colby cheeses. After baking for 12 minutes, it came out looking wonderful. I garnished with lettuce and tomato and served it with sour cream.

I was happy with how it turned out. I really need to get myself a pizza stone though. I find myself making homemade pizza every 1-2 weeks, and crust baked on a baking sheet just isn't quite right.

Taco Pizza

  • Your favorite pizza dough (I use the recipe from the Joy of Cooking)
  • 1/3 or 1/4 cup pizza sauce
  • 1/3 or 1/4 cup taco sauce
  • Taco Meat
  • Re-fried Beans
  • Diced Onions
  • Cheese (Any cheese you would use on tacos will work well here)
  • Shredded Lettuce
  • Diced Tomatoes

Prepare and roll out your pizza crust. Mix the Taco and Pizza sauces together and top crust with sauce. Combine Taco Meat and Re-fried beans and top pizza with mixture. Top with a handful of diced onions and your choice of cheese. Bake according to your pizza crust directions. Once you have removed it from the oven top with lettuce and diced tomato. Serve with sour cream and salsa.

Defining Twitter (or Please Stop Defining Twitter)

Yesterday, I saw this tweet from @just_kate. "Question for everyone: Twitter - Social Network? Still just microblogging? Somewhere in between?" If you read my blog, you know that I do not think Twitter has rules or really allows for a definition and so I sent back the following. "It's whatever you make it, it's both for me."

This is 100% true, one moment I may be talking (blogging) about my latest cooking adventure, only to end up in a conversation about what makes the best Guacamole. @just_kate responded "interesting! What about social networking vs social network? Blog/Twitter a social network or (micro)blogging platform??"

This got me thinking, and I sent a few quick responses using the 140-character platform. The main point that I came to is that people are constantly attempting to put Twitter on a pedestal and say it is special. The thing is, Twitter really is not that special, it's just a new way to share what we've been sharing since we learned to speak. It's a free eco-system that allows you to talk about what you want, but by limiting you to 140 characters it keeps conversations clean and neat. E-mail, instant message, and social networks will all be around for a long time, but you get messages that take minutes to read where Twitter's messages take seconds. This enforced brevity let’s you interact with a lot more people on a daily basis. Twitter just takes online communication and adds what events like Ignite add to presentations.

The second problem is our constant attempt to define web sites as “social networks” and acting like social networks are new. They aren’t new, it's as old as spoken word. I argue they have been online since the Internet first launched. Usenet, forums, and chat rooms were the precursors, and even without a comment system, a blog is a form of social networking. You're publishing for a reason and usually its so people can get to know you. Whether talking about car repair or your kids soccer game you’re building people's image of you. You do the same thing at work when your co-workers come over and ask for advice, or you talk about last night Twins game. You develop new connections whenever you go to a party and meet your friend's friend or meet with a new client. Social networking is just building and maintaining your social network. We can try and make online networking special but it's not, it's just easier because computers handle the physical pieces of our connections for us. We just have to worry about the conversation. Like I said yesterday, "[p]eople want to put Twitter on a pedestal, it's no different than the water cooler or networking at a conference. It's just online".

The truth is the web has always been one giant social network. It may not have been interconnected using terminology like friends/followers; instead, it's built on social connections called links. If you consider the web a university, you could consider individual sites to be clubs or fraternities/sororities. They are just networks inside of a larger network.

I say we stop trying to define these sites and start finding new ways to use them. The truth is, if you are publishing online you are networking, people are getting to know you and your viewpoints. We have always had the ability to create vast "social networks"; it's just easier to maintain them with the tools technology has provided.

If you wish to read the full conversation between me and @just_kate, go here.

Photo via eye2eye on Flickr.

Simmons for GM

I know most of my readers could care less about the Timberwolves, I have traffic stats that back this up. On the other hand I know my readers are awesome, so I"m asking for your help. Our lowly basketball franchise may be irrelevant and not much fun, but we have a savior in our midsts. Bill Simmons, aka "The Sports Guy" on ESPN, has offered to take over General Management duties.

Now I know the chances of this happening are pretty much nill, but if I can get the weight of the Minneapolis bloggers association behind it, at least I'll feel like I accomplished something. Many of you may be wondering why the heck we would want this. So here are my reasons.

  • The team would become relevant again nationally. Maybe not competitively but we would have more press coverage than we would know what to do with.
  • He is willing to work for free the first year.
  • He is one of the only NBA writers I respect, and he's pretty good at it.
  • The team can only get better.
  • He's on Twitter, and is actually fun to follow.

All I'm asking for is an email to Chris Wright wright@timberwolves.com, or a quick bit of linkage on Twitter or your blog. He couldn't get the Bucks to even interview him, and I know we can do better than the Milwaukee fans.

Wednesday Where #21

It's late, but I still got one done. It was a beautiful day for photos, especially this morning. Sadly, work kept me busy and I didn't have a chance to take any photos.

Last week's photo was guessed correctly almost as soon as it was up. Good job guys.

This weeks I bring you another fairly easy one. (at least I think it should be) Enjoy.

Have a great end of the week, and try to stay dry if it rains this weekend.

Sensationalism at Its Worse

I wouldn't be writing this if I hadn't met someone today who was actually worried about it. ABC published this article a while ago, and it must have aired on channel five recently. It's your basic public safety piece. It's about a "reformed" thief who breaks into a car and a home and steals a bunch of stuff and how the family is shocked to find out they are vulnerable.

These pieces always drive me a little nuts. Everyone's home would be an easy target if someone spent time learning their routine. In this example, the thief knew the family was at a Little League game so it was obvious he would have free reign of the home for an hour or so.

This was the part of the article the woman I met today was worried about.

Let's start with your car. If your GPS has a key lock, use it. If it doesn't, don't list your home as "home." Instead, call your address "ice cream store" or "supermarket." That way, a thief can't find out where you live.

Dear ABC, I really doubt car thieves make it a priority to rob the same person twice. Additionally, it's not difficult to find the home address in a vehicle. The last time I checked your home address is on a few items on your car including the registration and possibly your insurance card. If a thief was really stupid enough to intentionally rob the same person twice, its the work of a minute to open the glove box and put the address into your GPS.

For anyone reading this who might not have their address in their car. Please don't think your safe renaming your home address "Ice Cream Store" Security by obscurity is a poor form of security in any guise.