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A Short Dry Spell

It’s been a couple of weeks since I published anything here, so I wanted to just provide a brief update. I know that posting something about why I haven’t posted something is…odd, I guess you could say. In any case, a number of factors—some personal, some professional—have contributed to why I haven’t been able to generate some useful new content in the last couple of weeks. Of course, there are blogs that go for months between posts, so a small gap of a couple weeks isn’t really a big deal. After over 8 years (I started blogging in May 2005), I think you can rest assured that I have no intention of shutting down anytime soon.

However, despite this dry spell, I am determined to continue with my Learning NVP blog series (part 1 is here), as a great many people have expressed interest. Fortunately, I made some headway on some blockers that were preventing progress, and that gives me hope for new content soon. I’m also exploring new posts on Puppet, Open vSwitch (OVS), OpenFlow, and—who knows—maybe VMware will have some snazzy announcements at VMworld that will give me new fodder for posts. We’ll see.

So, bear with me as I work through this short bout of writers’ block. I hope to be back soon with some new content. Thanks!

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In some of the presentations that I give on productivity and efficiency, one of the things I mention is reducing the friction; that is, making processes more streamlined so they’re easier to perform. In this post, I’m going to describe one way I reduced the friction for producing and publishing blog posts using BBEdit, TextSoap, MarsEdit, and some AppleScript.

It’s no secret that I’ve become a huge fan of Markdown, the human-readable plain text “markup” format created by Jon Gruber. The vast majority of all my content is now created in Markdown, and then converted to RTF (to share with my Office-using co-workers), PDF (for broader publication), or HTML (for publishing online). Until very recently, my blog publishing process looked something like this:

  1. Write the blog post in Markdown, using TextMate.
  2. Using a built-in Markdown binary in TextMate, convert the Markdown into HTML.
  3. Run the raw HTML through TextSoap (very handy tool) to remove smart quotes and curly apostrophes.
  4. Paste the parsed HTML into MarsEdit for publication to my blog.

While it seems complicated, it wasn’t terribly complicated—but it wasn’t as seamless as it could be. So, I set out to improve the process. The first big change was a switch from TextMate to BBEdit, which is more extensible (and kept up to date by the developer). That change allowed me to do two things:

  • Switch from the built-in Markdown support in TextMate to using a separate (and more up-to-date) MultiMarkdown binary maintained by Fletcher Penny.
  • Introduce an AppleScript (BBEdit has outstanding support for AppleScript) to automate some portion of the process.

My first pass at automating the process just got me back to where I was before—writing Markdown in BBEdit, converting to HTML, cleaning the HTML with TextSoap, and pasting into MarsEdit. Not too impressive, but acceptable, and a process with which I was familiar. I stuck with that process for a while, primarily because it was a known entity. A couple of days ago, though, I asked myself: Can I do better? Can I be more efficient?

So, my second pass at automating the process is much more comprehensive. The AppleScript I wrote as a result of challenging myself to reduce the friction does the following:

  • Takes the Markdown from BBEdit and converts it to HTML.
  • Using the HTML produced by the standalone MultiMarkdown binary, it then calls TextSoap to (in the background) clean the HTML according to a custom cleaner I’d created (the custom cleaner, called “Replace HTML Entities,” just replaces curly quotes and curly apostrophes, which don’t translate well on my site).
  • Creates a new, blank blog post in MarsEdit, into which it pastes the cleaned HTML as the body of the post.

I store the script in BBEdit’s scripts folder, which means I can invoke the script easily from within BBEdit.

Here’s the AppleScript itself (click here if the script doesn’t show up):

Now, I can write my Markdown in BBEdit, invoke the script, and get dropped out to HTML code sitting in a new blog post in MarsEdit. All I need to do to publish the post at that point is supply the metadata (tags, categories, title, excerpt) and click Send to Blog. Done. (I used this process for this post, in fact.) How’s that for reduced friction?

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Every now and then, it’s kind of fun to look back at the content that I’ve generated in my 7 years of blogging here (soon to be 8 years). With that in mind, here are some “posts from the past” for early December.

4 Years Ago (Early December 2008)

Installing the VI Power Documenter
Continuing the FCoE Discussion

3 Years Ago (Early December 2009)

What is SR-IOV?
Snow Leopard, Time Machine, and Iomega ix4-200d

2 Years Ago (Early December 2010)

VLAN Trunking Between Nexus 5010 and Dell PowerConnect Switches
Using Device Aliass on a Cisco MDS

1 Year Ago (Early December 2011)

Some Initial MPLS Reading
Examining VXLAN
Revisiting VXLAN and Layer 3 Connectivity

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Everyone else is doing it, so I figured I might as well also: publish something about how the site fared during 2010. I’m going to do that, yes, but I’m also going to talk a little bit about my commitments to the site (and to the readers) for 2011.

Looking Back: 2010

The site ended the year with just shy of 1.2 million views during 2010. That’s a pretty impressive number (at least to me), but it’s barely unchanged since last year. I guess I’m going to have to find new ways of driving visitors to my site!

Here are the top 10 articles on the site (these articles could have been published anytime, not just in 2010):

  1. ESX Server, NIC Teaming, and VLAN Trunking
  2. VMware vSphere vDS, VMkernel Ports, and Jumbo Frames
  3. vSphere Virtual Machine Upgrade Process
  4. Linux-AD Integration with Windows Server 2008
  5. ESX Server, IP Storage, and Jumbo Frames
  6. VMware ESX, NIC Teaming, and VLAN Trunking with HP ProCurve
  7. Understanding NIC Utilization in VMware ESX
  8. Linux, Active Directory, and Windows Server 2003 R2 Revisited
  9. Linux-AD Integration, Version 4
  10. Creating a Bootable ESXi USB Stick on Mac OS X

The top 10 articles published in 2010 is interesting as well; I found that all of the most popular articles on the site were published in previous years. I don’t know if this means my content is getting worse (so older content is better than newer content) or if it just means the older content shows up better in search results. Anyway, here are the top 10 articles published in 2010:

  1. PXE Booting VMware ESX 4.0
  2. The Future of NetApp
  3. The vMotion Reality
  4. Setting up a CCNA Study Environment with GNS3 and VMware
  5. Enabling RAID 1 on a Mac Mini Server
  6. A Couple GeekTool Scripts
  7. Understanding Network Interface Virtualization
  8. EMC Celerra Optimizations for VMware on NFS
  9. New User’s Guide to Configuring VMware ESXi Networking via CLI
  10. vMotion Practicality

The thing I found interesting about this list is that some of the posts I expected to be on there—like some of the FCoE-related posts—are nowhere to be found. Interesting…

Looking Forward: 2011

For 2011, I have a few commitments to the site and to the readers:

  1. One thing that I haven’t done a good job with over the last year or so is responding to readers’ comments. So, this year, I’m committing to do a better job of responding to readers’ comments here on the site. If you post a comment, I’m going to do my absolute best to respond to your comment, even if that means simply saying “Thank you”.
  2. I am committing to continue to provide full RSS feeds and not just summaries. I’m also committing to not include advertisements of any sort within the RSS feeds. That being said, I might end up switching to excerpts or summaries on the home page in order to draw more readers deeper into the site.
  3. A lot of readers have asked for the return of search functionality. So, this year, I’m committing to bring back search functionality to the site.

I do appreciate every single person who visits the site, subscribes to the feeds, or posts a comment. To each and every reader: thank you! I will strive to provide solid, useful, pertinent technical information that will make it worthwhile to continue to be a reader!

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Hiatus

I just wanted to let everyone know I’m taking a blogging hiatus for a while. I don’t know yet how long. I do know that things are busy at work, I have a VMworld session to prepare, there are books to work on, and I have a family to enjoy while there is still time.

After five years of creating content for the site, it has become part of me. As such, I’m sure that I will pick up writing here again soon. For now, though, I’m going to take a break.

I do appreciate everyone who has read and responded to my work anytime over the last five years. I’m glad that I was able to help in some small way.

God bless!

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This will be a very quick blog post just to address a growing trend I’ve noticed. It started with the wave of prominent bloggers getting hired by EMC for the vSpecialist team. With the recent VMware vExpert 2010 awards, this trend has gotten even bigger. What is the trend? The trend I’m seeing is people starting blogs just to get attention in the industry.

Of course everyone wants to be noticed in their industry. I understand that. I respect that. I want to be noticed in my industry, too—there’s nothing wrong with that. But I cannot stress strongly enough that if you are starting a blog simply to make some noise in the industry, maybe win an award, or get hired by <Insert Company Name Here>, you are blogging for all the wrong reasons.

If you’re going to blog (or tweet), do it for the right reasons. I mentioned this in my recent chinwag with Mike Laverick. The successful bloggers are the bloggers who blog because of their passion for the topic(s) about which they are blogging. Consider some of the well-known and well-respected bloggers out there:

Why do these guys blog and/or tweet? Well, I’m not privy to their thoughts, but what I get out of their writing is that they are passionate about their topics. That passion comes through in their writing, it infects the readers, and their popularity grows. But I don’t think they started out with the intent of becoming popular or well-known. They started out because there was a topic that they were interested in or knowledgeable about and for which they had a passion.

So if you’re going to start a blog, fine. Do it. It’s fun (hard work, but fun). But be sure to do it for the right reasons.

UPDATE: If, for whatever reason, I didn’t list your name above, it doesn’t mean anything! Those names just jumped out of my head as some of the many virtualization-focused blogs that I follow. In addition, I know the writers of these sites on a more personal basis than the writers of most other sites. There are so many other excellent virtualization sites that I would be remiss to try to list them all. I’ll leave that to Eric Siebert!

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A Comment Policy Reminder

I encourage open discussion and conversation here on my site, and I’m thrilled that readers feel welcome to share their viewpoints (even when those viewpoints differ from my own). To help foster this sense of free discourse, there are two rules upon which I insist for all comments:

  1. First, all comments should be courteous. There’s no reason to personally attack another reader or author—simply state your position, why that is your position, the facts you feel support your position, etc. Leave the personal attacks somewhere else.
  2. Second, all commenters should provide full disclosure. This helps avoid even the appearance of wrongdoing. Where a vendor’s products helps to address readers’ needs, I don’t mind a vendor mentioning their products. That vendor just needs to be sure to provide full disclosure. If you have a business relationship with an organization, disclose that. Be transparent and provide full disclosure.

Recently, I’ve had one commenter leave a series of comments on the site that blatantly and bluntly promote his employer’s products. Unfortunately, this commenter has failed to provide full disclosure. For that reason, I’ve been simply deleting this commenter’s comments. And I’m going to continue to delete this commenter’s blatant, outright comment spam as long as he/she refuses to provide full disclosure. Other readers deserve the right to know why a commenter is pushing a particular product or feature!

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You know, it’s really irritating when you pour your heart and soul into something, only to find someone else riding your coattails and leeching off your efforts. It would appear that NetworkVirtualization.com is one such leech.

I have no problem with other sites syndicating my content as long as proper attribution of the original author and original site is provided. Do me a favor: visit some of the URLs below (I’m not going to hyperlink them and give the site a traffic boost) and tell me how any of the examples I’ve listed below provide proper attribution of the original author and the original site:

http://networkvirtualization.com/content/unified-fabric-inevitability
http://networkvirtualization.com/content/vmware-io-queues-micro-bursting-and-multipathing

http://networkvirtualization.com/content/tap-vsphere-pvscsi-performance-separate-vm-boot-and-data-drives

Let’s see…content from my site, Chad Sakac’s site, and Rich Brambley’s site, all syndicated on their site without any clear attribution back to the original post—except for a very small link near the bottom of the article. If you hadn’t been looking for that link, or if I hadn’t told you that the articles above were written by me, Chad, and Rich, respectively, would you have known? And those are just the authors I recognized! How many more are there that I don’t recognize?

To whomever is running NetworkVirtualization.com: if you are going to syndicate content, you need to provide proper attribution. Otherwise, taking someone else’s content and allowing people to believe that it’s yours is called plagiarism, and it’s wrong.

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Vote for My Site!

Last week, Eric Siebert issued a call for the community to vote on the top 5 VMware blogs. If you haven’t already voted in Eric’s survey, please go over now and be sure to cast a vote to keep me in the top 5 of Eric’s list.

Of course, I’d love to have you vote me into the #1 position, but if you’d prefer to put Duncan (Yellow Bricks) or Chad (Virtual Geek) there I completely understand. (It’s hard to compete with solid technical content like theirs!) Either way, be sure to vote and I’d appreciate your support!

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Train Signal, Welcome!

I’m very excited to welcome Train Signal to the list of site sponsors! I’m sure that many of you are probably already familiar with Train Signal and their extensive list of training products, and I’ve been told by Train Signal that they’ll have some VMware vSphere training products available soon. I’m looking forward to seeing those!

If you are in the market for technology training products, I encourage you to visit Train Signal—feel free to use the ad in the sidebar, which is linked to their site—and see if they have something that fits your needs.

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