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Archive for May 2012

The African refugees living in Israel

Recently, there is talk of African refugees that have been infiltrating Israel, and are now, by some counts, 13% of the population of Tel Aviv. There is increased crime, and a lot of people think they should be deported to “not our problem” land.

My unpopular opinion about this matter (translated from Hebrew on Facebook):

1. I don’t consider breaking the law a moral problem. E.g. in a world without police or punishment, I would never obey the speed limit while driving.

2. The right to pursue happiness, ranging from wanting not to be butchered by gangs in Africa, through wanting a better life and education for you and your children, is universal. It does not belong only to “us”, for any given definition of us, be it Jews, Israeli, White People… but rather for all human beings.

3. The state of Israel must have solid borders, that would be very difficult – impossible to infiltrate (Today it’s rather easy to skip the border into Israel from Egypt).

4. The African refugees that are already in Israel … should get working permits, food, shelter, and education. For starters, let’s try giving each a third of the minimal money allowance given to poor Israeli citizens. It will improve their lives by hundreds of percents.

5. We have to catch and punish criminals. Theft, rape and violence are not acceptable. There is an organization that is supposed to deal with this, its name starts with P and ends with E.

6. Yes, I’m a “hippie leftist”, or whatever the term שמאלני יפה נפש is translated into. To all those suggesting we should just deport the refugees back to Africa, please remember the holocaust.

7. No, Israel can’t accept all the refugees in the world … this is obvious. However, shutting our hearts, drawing a very clear line between “our problem” and “their problem”, and always choosing the solution that is best for us, disregarding how much pain we inflict, is immoral, and it won’t work over time. The world is now global … deal with it.


OK, so how do I start blogging?

OK, so you’ve read my previous post about why you should start blogging today, and you want to give it a spin. What’s next?

Let me give you a very quick getting-started guide from my angle, along with a few tips for those of you not afraid to get their hands dirty.


You have two options – buy your own top-level domain (e.g., or use a “subdomain”, under some company (e.g. or I highly recommend going with the former option and buying your own domain from the start.

Even if you’re just experimenting with blogging, and not sure it will stick, the cost for using a custom TLD from the start is so small ($5-$11) that it’s not worth the trouble. The big win about using your own domain is that you own 100% of the content down to the URL structure, and you can start building good, long term SEO for your site (essentially, start accumulating good page rank in Google). If you start your blog on a on someone else’s domain, and two years afterward you want to switch to another provider, your links will have to change (e.g. to, and this might affect your Google ranking. There are workarounds for this, but it’s better to just do it right from the start.


There are a lot of blogging platforms out there, but IMO there is one clear winner, popularity wise, which is wordpress (5 million wordpress sites, much more than the alternatives). WordPress has gotten to be real easy to use in the last few years, with one click updates, improvement on its editing and plugin mechanisms, and just overall richness of the ecosystem.

WordPress is open source, so even if you don’t know PHP, there are a lot of coders out there hacking away, fixing bugs, submitting new features (mostly in the form of plugins), and you can rest assured that whatever feature you need from your blog in the future, someone will add it sooner or later.

I migrated my blog from Blogger to a self-hosted WordPress blog about four years ago, and never looked back.

Self-hosted vs “Hosted”

I recommend you start with opening a Hosted solution on, and register your own domain. This will cost you around $20 a year total, and you get all the advantages of a custom domain. You will not have the full customization/plugins options of a self-hosted blog, but when you start out, you won’t need it … there are plenty of customization options given free, out of the box (check under Appearances–>Widgets).

Sooner or later you might discover that you need your blog to do something that is not supported in the Hosted option, like automatically push your posts to Facebook/Twitter, connect your blog to Google Analytics to see powerful data about your visitors, post code snippets in Java, or have automatic backups of your blog sent to your email. For these, you’ll have to migrate off the comfort zone of, and into a more professional hosting. This might cost a bit more (you can get decent hosts from $5-$10 a month), and won’t be covered in depth in this post.

If you’re willing to pay extra for the comfort, you can get the best of both worlds – a fully customizable blog, with almost zero maintainence and setup time. Check out WPEngine … they’re rather expensive (starts at $30 a month, not including the domain name), but at least they have a 60 day free trial period.

Ask Questions!

If you have any question about WordPress blogging, go to and fire away, there’s a community of professional bloggers ready to assist you.

Why you should write a blog post today

Blogging was quite a trend a few years ago, but with the rise of Facebook & Twitter, it’s fallen out of favor with some. Well, I’m here to tell you that you should open your own blog today, and if you own a blog but haven’t posted in a while … you should come back to it and post some more.

There are several reasons for maintaining a blog, some of which I’m sure are relevant to you:

Reason 1 – A technical memento to your future self

I found out today how to do something cool. In a year, I won’t remember how to do it … but I might remember it enough to know what to look for. Once I’ve blogged about something, if I Google for it in the future I often find my own blog post, and save myself a considerable amount of time.

There are other venues for such mementos-to-self, but none as indexable and expressive as a blog post. Facebook content is poorly searchable … I searched for something I posted 2 days ago on Facebook and failed to find it except going over my stream/timeline. Twitter is very limiting … I guess it might be good for something, but not for keeping concrete knowledge about how to solve a problem, except that knowledge is just a link.

You could post a Stack Overflow or Quora question, and answer it, but that feels kind of akward. Actually, Quora has Boards which are rather similar to blogs for this purpose.

Reason 2 – Why not share the love?

An immediate followup to Reason#1 – if you worked hard and found out something, why not share it and save some time for other people who might run into the same problem? It’s just being a good citizen, and it doesn’t cost you more effort to share it rather than keep it in a private knowledge base e.g. Evernote / Google Docs. If you’ve ever Googled and found a blog post that solved your problem – now is your time to give something back.

Reason 3 – Professional Resume

Your blog tells the world about you. Whenever I interview for a job, the first thing on my resume is my blog. It shows that I am passionate about my profession. Even if your blog is just a collection of links, it shows what kind of technology stack you’re using or interested in, what your beliefs are, and what makes you tick. I’ll give a candidate with a personal blog a big +1 over a candidate without a blog any time. It takes courage to go out there and say “Even though I’m not worthy, I’m still out here, doing, writing, and sharing. I’m not the best software engineer / biologist / whatever in the world … but I’m trying my best, and I want to share it with you”.

Reason 4 – Alzheimer

This is an extension of reason 1. Reason 1 was about forgetting technical stuff … but as the years pass, you don’t just forget technical stuff, you forget who you were. Your life isn’t lived by a single personality, but is rather experienced by an endless series (or continuum) of personalities, each slightly different than the ones before it. I hardly remember what things we like twenty years ago … but I do know that 5 years ago, I felt the immense joy of leaving the army, didn’t like Google for a day, and had loads of fun playing Portal.

I recently started maintaining, in addition to this blog and social media accounts, a personal record of how each day worked out for me. My setup is simple – I setup a Google Calendar event to send me a daily reminder at 7 PM each day. I forward this reminder to Evernote, and prefix it with a number between 1 and 5 of “how much I enjoyed this day”, plus a one liner of key events that happened. I have a grand plan to one day go over these notes, chart out my happiness graph, and note any specific events … but for the time being I’m recording.

A blog can serve to record part of your history – the part you’re willing to be public about, of course. I picture my kids, ten or twenty years from now, reading through my blog (yeah right, all hundreds of entries :), to learn who their father was back on 2012, when we didn’t have hovercrafts and teleportation. Maybe it will happen, maybe it won’t, but I know that I would have been happy if my parents had kept such a diary.

Reason 5 – Helping semi-distant friends keep in touch

I have 267 friends on Facebook … guess with how many I actually keep in touch in real life? I guess maybe ten-fifteen max, and the real number is probably more close to five. But, thanks to Facebook, I get to not lose my other friends completely. Even though I don’t spend enough time with them, I get occasional glimpses of their lives.

The problem with social networks is you can’t possibly keep up with everything … I even miss cool posts like this one because they’re swallowed up in a huge stream of noise.

A part of the fix is blogging. When you have a blog, I’ll follow it with my trusty Google Reader, and it won’t get swallowed up, because I do read or glance everything in my reader stream. So please, if you’re a friend of mine, do me a personal favor and blog – I want to keep in touch with you!


Please, don’t give me bullshit like “You don’t have anything worth writing about” or “You’re not a good enough writer”. Perfect is the enemy of good … just start by writing something, it’s better by any definition than not writing anything. If you care about it, work on your writing and save up interesting bits to write later (I was saving the idea for this post for a couple of months now, until I got the time and energy to write it). Stuff happens in your life, both personal & professional. Save up the good parts, and write … your future self + children will thank you later.