Forced Conversions

I have been so deleriously busy in the last several months that I am having a harder time transitioning into summer than usual. I feel like a puppet whose strings have suddenly been cut. I am so accustomed to being driven by exigencies that the self-management of free time comes as an unfamiliar shock.

I have also been a little discouraged by changes in this blog resulting from the reformatting. Journal-meister McLennan has managed to make the “Older Posts” button at the bottom of the main page start working, but, unlike in the older format, I (and you) can no longer look up old posts by title, only by month, and by searching for unusual words. Some of my longer posts have had their line formatting entirely screwed up, making them difficult to read. Something similar happened years ago with our first platform conversion, and, in my free time, I painstakingly went through and reformatted a few hundred old posts to read smoothly again. (A particular issue is changing slanted quotation marks to vertical ones, the former apparently unreadable by some softwares.) That was 900 posts ago; I can’t possibly go through and redo all the injured ones now. I used to write my longer posts in Word and then paste them into the blog software. This, it turns out, was a mistake. I do think I’ve done some of my best writing ever in this blog, and I’m now facing the potential ephemerality of the venue. In partial amelioration, urged on by the usual Scorpionic conflict about being dependent on others, I’ve started a special page on my web site as an archive for my longer blog essays, where they can be looked up by title and where I can keep better control of them. I’m trying to retain the comments as well, and have figured out some “find and replace” tricks to make the reformatting less onerous.

In addition, my recent activities have not been very bloggable. I’ve been involved with the Charles Ives Society and the Society for Minimalist Music, and while interesting things are going on, I am not authorized to make them public. My laptop died the last weekend of the semester (no information lost, fortunately), and I am in the agonizing process of trying to reintegrate all of my music software on a new computer. Much tech support is involved. In short, my life revolves around technology, and I am in a period of resenting that changes in that technology get imposed on me, and that, for whatever reasons, such changes are not always improvements. Sibelius 6, for instance, seems more cumbersome than Sibelius 2 was. I can accept the decrees of the gods with some patience; I have less for the decrees of the super-nerds who, willy-nilly, redesign the tools of my trade.

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Comments

  1. says

    Glad to hear you’re still among the blogging; sad to hear those on top of the heap have the same tech issues as those closer to to bottom.

  2. says

    It’s fascinating that digital media may be the least permanent media since writing in the sand. Or, OK, since 8-tracks.

    I get irritated when my 15-month-old computer is too old to run new software.

    Best wishes with the conversion — and make sure you don’t lose things there!

  3. says

    Well, you’re right.. the “new” design has some flaws. Biggest one is that when you look at an expanded post there are no “next” and “previous” links to easily navigate from one post to the other. You have to get back to the main page and then select a post to read. Very annoying and frustrating when I’m trying to catch up to your latest posts.

    But do consider archiving the content somehow. This can be a real problem, as I’ve found with my own blogs.

    One unsatisfactory way is to print each blog post, or at least print to PDF.

    But you could never recreate the blog from a stack of pdfs. But most blogging software have archiving features, except that you need special software to read the archived files back.

    Even worse with photo blogs. I try to archive as best I can, knowing that should every thing go south someday it would be very difficult to recreate it all as is. Gives one pause about the permanence of information.

    Or, maybe it’s all for the best forgotten.

    We’ll see.

    KG replies: Hi Richard. I’m with you on every point.

  4. says

    Suggestion: ask the nice artsjournal people for a dump of the database of your entries in sql format. Find competent computing undergraduate, and ask them to set up a local wordpress installation on a laptop or something running a web server and mysql. Then get them to design a super plain theme that has an archive page that simply dumps out each of your posts in time order, then another in category order and so on, but in ascii format, no mark up.

    Then at least you have your text in large plain text files as insurance against the future. Ascii or unencoded text is going to be around until we are all in pine boxes.

    I did this when taking my low end web site back to static web pages from WordPress. It was about half a day’s work.

    KG replies: Thanks. If I can find a competent computing undergraduate, I will show him or her this e-mail.

  5. Eric Bruskin says

    I’m not an SQL expert, but … wouldn’t the above solution lose all of the hyperlinks?

    I save web pages to MS Word often. I think someone good with Visual Basic would be able to figure out a way to automate the process of cycling through all of your posts (the URLs are systematically named) and copying and pasting the text with formatting, pictures and hyperlinks (even the comments) into one or more Word documents, which could then be systematically touched up.

    This might be facilitated with a little cooperation from the keepers of the ArtsJournal website. They wouldn’t have to change anything, just allow access to the index page(s) that give direct access to all of the posts serially (so to speak).

    • says

      @Eric

      Hyperlinks to sites outside my wordpress blog were preserved. Hyperlinks to other pages of the blog needed to be made ‘local absolute’ so that I could ‘republish’ the original blog on a local webserver. That was just find http://originaldomain.com/blog/ and replace with /.

      I misunderstood Professor Gann to mean that he was worried about loosing the *text* of the 1000+ substantial posts on this site. Hence my suggestion of ‘special’ plain text archive templates dumping out articles in date or category order.

      Preserving the text and linked materials as a ‘legacy’ Web site on (say) a cd rom is also possible using something like the wget command….

      What I’m saying is that a well skilled Media/Computer Science undergrad could solve the problems given the database dump and a backup of the /content directory in the WordPress account. Well, I managed it after a fashion without too many formatting problems, and I’m no expert.

      KG replies: Well, I am worried that the text could disappear someday, and that I wouldn’t be in a position to retrieve it. More immediately, I’m afraid that some of it is so badly formatted now that no one would bother reading it. Blogs are designed to be ephemeral, I’m afraid, and I haven’t always really entered into the spirit of the medium.

      • says

        Get an undergraduate who knows visual basic (Eric’s screen scraping idea) or who has an Apple or Linux computer (wget) to make a copy of your words now. Plain text is malleable and can be marked up as needed. I’m sure the folks at artsjournal could dump the sql, and that would allow normalising of the formatting.