The last few months I’ve been working on moving this site off WordPress. That meant transferring all the posts to Tinderbox, setting up all the links, and creating the templates that would produce the HTML output I wanted to have. Everything except the templates was donkey work and took days and days. The templates took time as well, but I was learning about export and HTML and that was useful and exciting.
And when I was done, the file worked like magic. All my posts were suddenly arranged in a sensible way based on content rather than chronology. I could build up links (both href and visual) and could write outside the framework of a timeline. I began to imagine ways of writing that involved something I thought of as “portal posts”: single posts that would appear on a blog timeline but which opened into a system of pages—a kind of mini-, discrete hypertext—accessible only by way of that initial post. I wrote the first of these to explain some of what I learned about export. (It looked like this.)
Then I uploaded the site with a welcome message and the first of what I hoped would eventually be many of these portal posts, and almost immediately, I realized I was in trouble.
The trouble is that I’m a tweaker. (No, not that kind of tweaker.) I like to fiddle and change things and I do this continually, everywhere on this site. There are posts on this blog that I wrote in 2011 that, when I looked at them while preparing my TBX file, were revised to fix problems I found. The movie log of La Mort de Louis XIV that posted less than 12 hours ago? WordPress currently lists 28 revisions to that post.
Once I posted my site, I immediately saw places to fiddle and since that’s half the fun of the site (maybe more), I fiddled and then re-exported and re-posted the site. And then I did this again and again and again. Then I started trying to just replace individual files. This quickly became complicated: I was doing it wrong and breaking things. I didn’t know enough about what I was doing on the server to be sure how to use the output TBX was providing. I’d fix things and then mess something else up.
This was fine: I was learning and I was sure that eventually things would become stable. I’d figure out what to do and become practiced at it. But at the same time, I also realized that I didn’t know enough to predict when I’d reach that moment of stability. I suspected though that I knew little enough to guarantee I’d be learning by crisis-management for a long while.
Clearly I was in over my head and was going to be spending tons of time figuring out basics on my own. I knew too that my patience for floundering with mechanics when what I really wanted was to be working on content would be very limited. So I gave up on the whole “manage a site manually” plan and went back to letting WordPress do the heavy lifting.*
Yes, that means dealing with the limitations of my chronological timeline, but I’ve got an idea about how to make my portal post concept work. What I’m leaning toward is to use my TBX file—which I now know works—to create and to export these tangles of notes with this change: I’d write their intro page with the starting links as a post on my timeline and all the rest sitting as flat HTML files in a subdirectory. I’m still thinking that through though, and so we’ll see.
For now, the export posts I wrote for the now-defunct “new” site will appear here as a series. Not great and not what I’d intended, but better than nothing. This series—posted here as I’d imagined it working on the new site—starts with this post.
And so that’s what happened and where things stand.
Onward and upward.
* The other factor was that a lot of the donkey work on the new site wasn’t done. I had all the post texts and links, but most of the images and videos were missing. Adding them back—and I wasn’t willing to lose them—was going to take a lot of time. It wouldn’t be worth the time to add them if I soon ditched the HTML site because I couldn’t maintain it. So there was pressure to make a decision quickly. With my quickly emerging sense of how to little I actually know about the running a web site—I’ve still not figured out how to make a relative URL from the root that works to throw out one (I thought) simple example—sticking with WordPress was the safer bet.