‘Retiring’ teblog from Typepad to WordPress

Every post older than this one is taken from teblog – my blog that ran on Typepad from 2005 to 2015. The explanation for the move is in the previous post.

While the transfer was reasonably straightforward (it was only 530 posts), WordPress didn’t like certain characters. In fact, it wouldn’t even allow me to edit any posts with those characters in. (They showed up in the public posts as black diamonds with question marks in.) The characters I’ve found thus far are the pound sign, the ellipsis (three dots), angled brackets, forward slashes and angled double quotes. If you need to do this, use these abbreviations – pound, hellip, lt, gt, frasl and quot respectively. Precede each one with an ampersand (&) and finish with a semi-colon (;).

[Later: It’s not happy with accents either. I found it most reliable to use codes like #232 and #233 for grave and accute accents on an e. You still have to start and end with an ampersand and a semi-colon.   Here’s a decent collection of character codes. Mouse over each character to see all the possible codes for it. I found the last one on each list worked fine in WordPress. ] Here’s my set of dodgy characters (there were 286 in the blog altogether:

Dodgy chars

[ Just discovered that WordPress has trouble with the em dash as well. I used #8195 with the ampersand and semi-colon as before. ]

Since Typepad exports a text file, it’s a relatively simple (although tedious) task to go through searching and replacing the offending characters. Which is what I’m doing right now.

Once the offending posts and comments are deleted from WordPress, it should be a simple matter to re-import the cleaned up Typepad file. WordPress ignores duplicates of what it already has. Tip: Empty the ‘Trash’ of your faulty posts and comments before you start otherwise WordPress will skip them.

[ Later: Darn it – I didn’t change cross-links to other posts – they still go to Typepad. I should be able to fix them inside the WordPress posts. I pointed TextPad’s ‘search in files’ at the exported file to list them. I copied and pasted the results list to a text file for a permanent record.]

[ Later still: It was a bit tedious – yet only 57 posts and comments had cross-links in them. You have to find the linked-to post to get its  URL then paste this in to replace the cross-link. If you have loads, you might prefer not to do a manual conversion and use an automated service like TP2WP. This currently costs $49. It’s probably worth mentioning that its security certificate expired on 7 Dec 2015 and you may be denied access to the service. It does, however, come highly recommended, so I assume it does all this donkey work for you. I’ve asked one of the co-authors about both things. Will report back here. ]

Elastic writing is all very well, but…

Blogs and other online writing platforms allow people to write as much or as little as they want.

However, it shouldn't be about what 'they' want but about what the reader wants.

A well-known blogger recently wrote a very long piece making good, but very few, points.

I'd like to know how long the average reader persevered. I read to the end and wished I hadn't.

I was tempted to add the dismissive tl;dr (too long; didn't read) comment. But, since I had read it, that wouldn't have been fair.

I realised that genie is out of the bottle and online writers feel they can do what they like, but now that most of us are online, it means that we have to fight for the right to be read.

And one way to earn that right is to respect the reader's time.

Make your website multiplatform in less than a day

Common sense (and Google) suggests our web pages should be accessible on all devices, from smartphones upwards. As the proprietor of a desktop-centric website, I decided to look for the quickest way to become ‘multi-platform’.

After many false starts – I won’t bore you with them – I found the quickest was to adapt a free template of a site that already worked. You need to feel comfortable about tweaking HTML (it’s only text editing) but you don’t have to be an expert by any means.

I also found it best to plan for mobile rather than start with a desktop system. This led me to a single-page main site with a menu bar that jumped (mainly) to internal parts of the same page. (Okay, I added my YouTube channel to the menu as well, but this really wasn’t difficult.)

The free one-page template I chose, called Urbanic, came from template.mo Download at http://www.templatemo.com/download/templatemo_395_urbanic

I could have just used a text editor to twiddle around with the code but I actually used Microsoft’s free Expression Web 4. Download at https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=36179 This lets you look at and tweak any of the files in your downloaded template folder.

Open the index.html file and (I would recommend) save it as something personal to you. I called mine newtebbo.com. This will save you heartache later on when you try it out on your live site. Instead of overwriting your existing root page – index.html – you can test it to death under its pseudonym. Only when you’re completely happy do you need to rename it to index.html. (I would strongly recommend that you first rename your existing index page to oldindex or similar. That way you can always revert if need be.)

Apart from three early lines at the top of the <head> section (title, keywords and description) your changes will all be in the <body> section of the web page. The source code is laid out neatly in divisions which start and end with <div> and </div>. These are followed and preceded by a note of the section you’re in. Just chop out any entire sections that aren’t relevant to your design.

Replace your chosen template’s text with your own. Add images you want to use to the images folder and edit the references. (You will need to add all the template’s folder contents to your existing folder contents. If a template folder doesn’t exist in your existing site, simply copy the template one across. I suggest doing it this way so it’s easy to revert to your old site if you need to.)

You’re probably best off changing only things you’re confident of. Leave the CSS and other folders well alone  – unless you take deep exception to some of the colour schemes or section layouts. (My recommendation would be to stick with your template’s design for a while, it might grow on you.)

If you want to see what I did to the Urbanic template (assuming you downloaded it) – just right click and View Page Source of www.tebbo.com/index.html

[You probably don’t need this but I use Firefox’s right click/inspect element useful when fiddling around with the more techie aspects – you roll your mouse over the left panel and it highlights the part of the page you’re on and gives you all sorts of information about the CSS elements that support the section you’ve chosen.]

Best to just ‘have a go’ and keep it simple to start.

Good luck. It took me less than a day.

Journalists and robots – nasty dream

Just woke from a nightmare. I'd submitted a piece to the Guardian and, when it appeared, it contained all sorts of stuff I hadn't written.

I was used to sub-editors gently straightening my prose, but this was wholesale wrecking of my original intent. I didn't mind the historical, factual and statistical additions too much – when not too intrusive, they enriched what I wrote. But it was the wholly new paragraphs that put a commercial spin into the piece that made me hopping mad.

I quickly realised that this was a barmy attempt by the newspaper to earn money from erstwhile advertisers who had found that neither print nor web models were working any more.

Fellow journalists shared my horror – mainly appalled that something was going out with their name on that they hadn't actually written. They were also horrified by the thought that their hard-won reputations for objectivity had been destroyed at a stroke by the insertion of automated 'puff'. We collectively decided to stop writing for any paper that did this to us and to make sure readers knew what they were being served.

As I say, this was a dream. (Really – it happens to me several times every night, but this is probably the first that I thought worth sharing here.) When I woke up, and before I wrote this, I dug into 'robotic writing' and found this piece from The Guardian of all places: And the Pulitzer goes to… a computer

 

 

Time for (blog) retirement?

Hi Folks,

I'm very seriously thinking of closing this blog. This one started in 2005, following some experimentation in late 2004 after hearing Adriana Lukas speak on the subject at a conference. As a writer for Information World Review at the time, I had to try and understand this new world.

In my very first post I said I wouldn't "feed the beast" in pursuit of rankings and, rightly or wrongly, I stuck to that principle. If I don't think I can inform or entertain you, then I don't bother.

Now, the posts are few and far between and, as a precaution (against tuture regrets), I have made backups of this blog and the one I ran for Guy Kewney before he died and for tributes after he passed away.

Other places seem more appropriate for my efforts these days. I add selected useful stuff to my tebbo.com website as I discover it and I still write on interesting topics in various publications – sometimes anonymously. I occasionally speak up on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. And Alison O'Leary quizzed me on Business Writing and Media Handling in a bunch of useful YouTube videos.

The question for my (very few?) readers is therefore, "Can you think of a single good reason to keep this blog going?" No need to respond if your answer is "no".

I'll just say, "Thank you for visiting and maybe see you in another place."

Kind regards,

David Tebbutt.

 

Help the reader and help yourself

No-one needs to tell you that the reader is the most important person in the world to a publication.

Conventionally, the journalist is responsible for maintaining this focus. Sadly, a great deal of journalism these days, especially online, is 'churnalism' in which barely disguised press releases take the place of reader-centric writing.

There is another way. It probably won't win me many friends among my journalistic peers (although it could save their financial bacon) and that is to ask vendors themselves to write reader-focused and informative, non-selling, articles about their specialist subjects. In my case, the readers being focused on are those responsible for technology in law firms.

The trick is to have a good editor who will help the contributors to get it right – i.e. send it back with recommended changes, seek clarifications and corrections or simply give it a light polish. Having handled a couple of dozen pieces for LawTech magazine, I'm amazed how few had to go back for a rework.

Let's come back to the journalists and their 'financial bacon'. The document properties of one or two of the pieces revealed that they were ghost-written by freelance writers. If vendor staff are too busy to do the writing and publications are too strapped to pay decent rates, this represents a good 'halfway house' for a writer. They're not involved in writing 'puff' pieces, the vendor gets a mention and a web address in the magazine and the reader gets some solid information which contributes further to their understanding.

To add a little colour to what I've said above, here's my latest editorial from LawTech magazine. It also introduces Tom Foremski and his Every Company is a Media Company philosophy.

TNLTMayWhat a terrific bunch of people we have writing for us this month.They are all experts in their various fields and, despite the majority working for vendor organisations, they've all made a real effort to talk to you and address your needs. It's not easy for them; they must feel tempted to give their products and services a little mention in every paragraph. But they've resisted heroically. The result is a collection of articles, which we hope you find interesting and informative.

Yes, each is written by someone who knows his or her company better than any other, but show me someone in a senior position that doesn't have wider experience of the marketplace. Most bring a broader perspective, and it shows. You will find that some articles overlap others but these different points of view will all help to round out your own perspectives.

We are not here to guide you in a particular direction but we hope that by laying out these different viewpoints, article by article, issue by issue, that you are better placed to make your own tough decisions about which strategies to pursue and what sort of vendors you'd like to work with.

For me, it's a great honour and privilege to be able to take this fresh approach to publishing. No one who's been aware of changes in the media over the past fifteen years can fail to have noticed a rise in the "Every Company is a Media Company" sentiment. This phrase was first coined ten
years ago by Tom Foremski, a former journalist who left the Financial Times after 30 years to found the Silicon Valley Watcher blog. He's seen first hand how important it is for companies to share their knowledge, usually through their own online media. He has helped many companies achieve this by applying strong editorial standards to the process.

And this is where we come in. We're an independent publication with a strong editorial ethos that believes in giving the experts a chance to engage with a carefully selected audience. And that's you.

Thank you for reading LawTech magazine.

We have some great issues planned for the future. The feature themes for the coming year are detailed on the website. The backdrop of 'security' and 'cloud' will always be there, but if there's anything else you'd like us to cover, please drop me a line.

David Tebbutt
Editor – LawTech Magazine