I saw some people blogging about their 20th blogging anniversaries, so I decided to check how long my blog has been up. And .. So! I apparently missed the blog's 20th birthday, as it started in November 2001 ...
... unless I blogged it and forgot about it. And I also missed my first (recorded) web page's 25th birthday ...
... as I started my website sometime in 1996.
So no birthday post for you. I guess I'll have to wait to the blog's 25th (or web page's 30th) birthday in 2026.
Recently, when digging through old posts, I was reminded that Classic Editor posts are broken in WordPress - all the paragraph breaks are gone, and the content is mashed up into one grey wall of text. Thanks, WordPress, for forcing everyone to switch to a worse editing experience AND breaking all our old content.
[hang on a second, i have to start clicking around at random places on the page to try to find the widget or control that will let me start typing again after inserting an image, because software USABILITY has been replaced by "user experience" folks from a graphic design background who have mistaken making things LOOK GOOD IF THEY HAD BEEN PRINTED for the very different ACTUALLY WORKING WELL AS A TOOL - I'm looking at you, WordPress Gutenberg, Dropbox Paper, and everything like you where you have to hover or click or click and select and hover random parts of the page to make it work. Okay, I can start typing again.]
[[ and yeah it just did it again while i was just fricking typing ]]
Ok we're back.
Anyhoo, I have like a thousand old posts (1371 published, according to the dashboard), but the block converter for fixing these no longer works. I wish I had discovered this problem earlier, but I just didn't expect to have to do blog archaeology when I moved to Gutenberg.
SO! I go down one entire page of results, opening them in a new window, until I've hit all the Classic Editor posts on that page. This creates a gazillion tabs, true, but then you can click on each tab in turn, and there's a simple three-click process which will activate the block editor, convert the old text, and - BAM! - update. Optionally, one more click will bring up the updated post so you can doublecheck it before closing the tab.
The process is laborious - but it's easy to get a whole page full of results at a time, and you can't easily lose your place, as you close your tabs as you go. I've gotten through 3 pages of results so far, each with 50 posts, so I've updated probably something north of 150 pages.
There are 25 more pages of posts to go, but it doesn't take more than 30 minutes, so I can do one a day for about a month and rescue all the old pages.
A lot of work ... but at least I now have a system.
Pictured: The House With The Impressive Tree In The Front Yard, found in a nearby neighborhood, as photographed in Night Mode on my Android phone during a walk with my wife.
Yeah, it's not supposed to be looking like that. Gotta track those down and fix them.
In other news, my Half-Cheetah policy is successfully training to "expected" levels of performance. Yay! I guess that means my code for the assignment is ... sorta correct? Time to clean it up and submit it.
the amount of work needed to put up that one-word, one-image blogpost was entirely out of proportion to the amount of benefit involved. I have fixed site errors with fewer hoops than it took to publish something via the WordPress app, and the fix was actually uninstalling and reinstalling the app, which apparently had gotten into some kind of cruftly state in which it could no longer upload posts.
To be clear, I'm not picking on WordPress here. But I have a Ph.D in Artificial Intelligence and used to work on the front end of Google search. If I can't post a one-word, one-image post on the world's most popular blogging platform using their own easy-to-use official phone app, how are people who have not spent thirty-plus years in the industry supposed to get any work done?
This experience I just had - almost the simplest possible post not uploading after a few minutes - in another industry would be like ... like .. like picking up a hammer and nailing one nail into a piece of wood, only to find the nails popping out a minute later and flying across the room. You ask your carpenter buddy, "what gives," and they say, "Oh, that. You've got hammer voodoo going on there. Just take the hammer back to Home Depot, return it, and buy a new one. Then the nail will go in just fine."
You know what? I'm going to learn from this.
I will endeavor to make the robots less irritating when something goes wrong.
P.S. AAAA! And this post didn't publish because the interface threw up an extra dialog box after I tried to publish, asking, "Are you sure?" I'm sure I didn't need you throwing up that extra dialog box AFTER I left the page so I spent time looking for it on the home page when it hadn't actually published at all. Aaaa!
So you may have noticed the blog theme and settings changing recently; that's because I'm trying to get some kind of slider or visual image above the fold. I love the look of the blog with the big banner image, but I'm concerned that people just won't scroll down to see what's in the blog if there's nothing on the first page which says what I do.
So I'll be experimenting. Stay tuned!
Pictured: Yeah, this isn't the only renovation going on.
As an author, I'm interested in how well my books are doing: not only do I want people reading them, I also want to compare what my publisher and booksellers claim about my books with my actual sales. (Also, I want to know how close to retirement I am.)
In the past, I used to read a bunch of web pages on Amazon (and Barnes and Noble too, before they changed their format) and entered them into an Excel spreadsheet called "Writing Popularity" (but just as easily could have been called "Writing Obscurity", yuk yuk yuk). That was fine when I had one book, but now I have four novels and an anthology out. This could take out half an a hour or more, which I needed for valuable writing time. I needed a better system.
I knew about tools for parsing web pages, like the parsing library Beautiful Soup, but it had been half a decade since I touched that library and I just never had the time to sit down and do it. But, recently, I've realized the value of a great force multiplier for exploratory software development (and I don't mean Stack Exchange): interactive programming notebooks. Pioneered by Mathematica in 1988 and picked up by tools like iPython and its descendent Jupyter, an interactive programming notebook is like a mix of a command line - where you can dynamically enter commands and get answers - and literate programming, where code is written into the documents that document (and produce it). But Mathematica isn't the best tool for either web parsing or for producing code that will one day become a library - it's written in the Wolfram Language, which is optimized for mathematical computations - and Jupyter notebooks require setting up a Jupyter server or otherwise jumping through hoops.
Enter Google's Colaboratory.
Colab is a free service provided by Google that hosts Jupyter notebooks. It's got most of the standard libraries that you might need, it provides its own backends to run the code, and it saves copies of the notebooks to Google Drive, so you don't have to worry about acquiring software or running a server or even saving your data (but do please hit save). Because you can try code out and see the results right away, it's perfect on iterating ideas: no need to re-start a changed program, losing valuable seconds; if something doesn't work, you can tweak the code and try it right away. In this sense Colab has some of the force multiplier effects of a debugger, but it's far more powerful. Heck, in this version of the system you can ask a question on Stack Overflow right from the Help menu. How cool is that?
My prototyping session got a bit long, so rather than try to insert it inline here, I wrote this blog post in Colab! To read more, go take a look at the Colaboratory notebook itself, "A Sip of the Tracking Soup", available at: https://goo.gl/Mihf1n
Welp, that was anticlimactic! Thanks, God, for a smooth update to WordPress 4.7.3! (And thanks to the WordPress team for maintaining backwards compatibility). And hey, look - the Library has close to 1,000 posts!
Expect major site updates in the months to come, as WordPress’s Themes and Pages now enable me to do things I could only formerly do with static pages and hand-coded pages, and it will all be backed up easier thanks to WordPress’s Jetpack plugin.
The things you learn helping other people with their web sites ….
Welp, it’s time: I’ve backed up the Library of Dresan three ways to Sunday, said a prayer … and now am planning to upgrade WordPress from 3.0.1-alpha-15359 to 4.7.3. I know that’s 1.7.2 full version numbers, but it’s been too long, and there are too many new features I need, so … time to press the button.
God, please help me! Everyone else, your prayers, please.