‘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 topmost ‘Goodbye’ 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. ]

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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.

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

 

 

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

 

 

Do what you love. Love what you do.

I’m a lucky person. Not only have I enjoyed almost all of my work, I’ve also had wonderful things drop into my lap out of the blue.

It happened in January this year. The circumstances were tragic. But the outcome has been brilliant. I was asked to help out with a magazine while the editor was in hospital. I went to meet the people and, the very day I turned up, the editor died. As I say, tragic circumstances but it meant they needed an editor; quickly. And there I was.

Because it was a quarterly magazine, it meant I could slip the effort in between other work. And thus began an unexpected lifting of my spirits as I settled, once again, into the editor’s chair. (It soon became clear that I’d be slipping my other work in between pauses in the editorial work, but that was okay too.)

I love everything I do – writing for magazines and businesses, training people (mainly in media skills), rummaging around the technical highways and byways of the computer world and the web. But, most of all, I just love putting magazines and minibooks together. To have something concrete in your hands, that you’ve shepherded through, is very satisfying. Dealing with loads of new people – contributors, vendors and PR folk mainly, is good fun. Even giving contributors guidance on rewrites is great when what comes back exceeds expectations. (I only had to do it twice, mind.)

I’ve been lucky to have worked with an excellent publisher – we collaborated amiably, which hasn’t always been the case in the past – and an excellent designer. All of our work was shared through the cloud, which meant we dropped stuff off for each other and picked it up as and when it suited us. It also meant we didn’t silt up each other’s mailboxes or get into those tedious email chains.

As soon as my first issue went to press, I re-started the moribund news blog. Of the hundreds of news items that waft my way each week, it’s actually hard to find more than two that are worth following up. Perhaps I have too many sources. (As ever, I used Yahoo! Pipes to help filter the RSS feeds and consolidate them. I’ve also been using InoReader as my feed reader, which has worked out well.)

My second issue is about to go off to the printers and the whole process has been astonishingly smooth. I’ve worked at least twice as hard as I planned to but – don’t tell the publisher – it doesn’t feel like work. It would make a fantastic hobby, except that I still have to earn a living.

Sometimes, life just delivers an opportunity to do what you love. And, if it happens, almost regardless of the money, seize the chance with both hands. The fulfilment and joy of loving what you do completely outweighs any financial considerations.

A treasure trove for writers and communicators?

A slightly belated Happy New Year to you all.

It occured to me that you might be interested in a lot of links that I’ve either created or found useful in my writing and training activities. The current list is on my main tebbo.com website.

In the videos – either two of around 20 minutes each, or two sets of eight mini-videos – Alison O’Leary (PR and coaching wizard) asks me pointed questions about business writing and handling traditional media. I answer from the heart and hopefully provide food for thought.

The other links are mainly to material that I’ve read that inspires me. Although, in one case, it irritated me at the same time.

There are no catches – I don’t ask for contact details or fire ads at you.

Enjoy.

Here’s an extract:

Writing links:

George Orwell, Why I write

Publisher, writer and poet, Felix Dennis, on Journalism or Churnalism? (PDF download)

(Felix died on June 22, 2014. A great loss, and a personal one too. My wife and I were lucky enough to spend nine days as Felix’s guests in his Mustique hideaway in early 2014. I blogged about his passing here.)

The Inverted Pyramid of writing from the Air Force Departmental Publishing Office (AFDPO)

 

Writing books:

Writing Tools, by Roy Peter Clark

Grammar & Style, by Michael Dummett

Essential English, by Harold Evans

Lost for Words, by John Humphrys. It’s a bit of a rant.

Writing that Works, by Kenneth Roman and Joel Raphaelson

 

Other useful links:

Inspiration from Tom Foremski – how every company is becoming a media company.

How to handle the media – an interactive reminder of how to handle journalists (and others)

YouTube videos (me and Alison O’Leary) on business writing and media skills

 

Another giant: cocoate.com

A final thank you (not really belated, I found them after the previous post) to cocoate.com

A flaw in my HTML mark-up was causing some screen elements to misalign on a few devices. Nothing really serious, it was just that the third column on the people page dropped on some of the less popular browsers.

cocoate's explanation of the 960-grid mechanisms was wonderfully clear.

Thank you folks. Or should I say "Merci bien mes amis"?