This blog is 2

This blog's first birthday escaped my notice but I marked the occasion with a post that is, in retrospect, quite entertaining. But then, I'm always partial to reading a slagging-off of Bono even if the author is me. This year I have remembered the birthday but I don't have anything terribly interesting to say about it. It's been quiet on this blog recently but I don't plan to make one of those 'too busy to blog' speeches. This blog's few readers are subscribed via RSS (I hope) so the frequent periods of inactivity are unlikely to cause a problem.

The lack of activity here corresponds with an increase in activity elsewhere.

Why is The Da Vinci code so bad?

I haven't read Dan Brown's potboiler - my wife's reaction was so vituperative that it put me off. Life's too short, surely? I am intrigued, however, after seeing Tim Footman's new blog which sets out to analyse The Da Vinci code chapter by chapter and determine "why a book that ... is so egregiously badly written, is so successful".

I haven't read much of it yet but I can tell it'll be fun simply from Tim's post about the title: "So, as a title, The Da Vinci Code screams either "I have no idea what I'm talking about!" or "I have a pretty low opinion of the intellect of my potential readers" and I'm not sure which is worse."

I'm tempted to get a copy of the book and join in. I could probably use an emergency book for 26 books at some point.

Pruning the RSS feeds

I spent this morning and part of yesterday ploughing through the hundreds of unread blog posts that accumulated in my RSS reader over Christmas. Google Reader's new trends page informs me that I've read more than 1,700 posts this weekend. I've also been unsubscribing to a few feeds. I had 127 on my list and I'm trying to get it back down to 100. I'm down to 109 at the moment with a few feeds on 'probation'. Some of those ditched include Guy Fawkes, Ask MetaFilter and music blog Idolator.

Guy Fawkes has been a disappointment for a while now. Instead of sharp-witted political gossip it's devolved into lame satire and deeply partisan lame satire at that, which I imagine is a bore to all but the most faithful Tories. It had reached the point where I was finding something interesting on there only about once a month.

Idolator just never really hooked me. If I had more time I'd stick with it.

I really wanted to keep the AskMeFi feed. There's some great stuff on there but there are just too many posts everyday and too many of them aren't interesting to me, so it has to go.

Of course, there are those who devour far more feeds than I do. A very rough Technorati search turned up Chris Leckness, who has more than 600 subscriptions, and Mauricio Freitas, who cut back to 309 from a high of 600.

Of course, the number of feeds you can handle depends on the volume of posts. I could probably handle 600 blogs like mine, where I barely manage to post once a day, but if I added a few of the big boys - the BoingBoings, the Gawker stable and so on - I'd be overwhelmed in no time.

New year, new blog

Posting has been slow here so far this year because I've been setting up another blog. I've invited five other people to join my 26 books project this year and I've set up a blog - 26books.com - for us all to chronicle our reading. It's another WordPress blog and it uses the Freshy theme. I didn't have to alter the theme very much - the only thing I've done is replace the banner with a picture of the 26 books I read last year.

I'd recommend Freshy to anyone looking for a theme for their blog. It's very easy to customise. Many of the options can be changed from within the WordPress dashboard, which makes customisation a lot simpler. When I altered the design of the theme for this blog - the excellent Fast Track - I had to do most of the work in the PHP files themselves using Dreamweaver. Newer themes such as Freshy are changing all that, which is great.

I'll still post the books I'm reading at this blog but they'll be duplicated over at 26 books.

Turning off the radar

More than three years after I first started developing the site, I've decided to close The Music Radar. I just don't have time to do it justice. I doubt the news will come as a surprise to anyone who reads the site because it hasn't been updated since the middle of June. It's a shame that I couldn't carry it on because I think there is a niche here that is not exploited by reviews aggregators such as Metacritic. Aggregator sites gravitate towards the middle; the reviews that do best are the ones that most reviewers agree on. Not only that but Metacritic aggregates reviews from wherever it can and so over-represents generalists.

These two flaws seemed especially damaging for record reviews where the most ground-breaking material is usually being made outside the mainstream. What I tried to do with TMR was highlight instances where one or two expert reviewers had decided that an album merited a 'perfect' score. That's where the radar metaphor comes in: once a record reaches a certain level of acclaim it makes the radar.

I'll keep the site up for at least the next few months but from now on this blog will incorporate random thoughts about music alongside everything else.