Errata

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Since the 2011 redesign, it was the intent that comments would not only be heavily filtered and curated, but that by surviving that process, comments would earn a place of equal standing with the main body text.

We’ve finally gotten around to incorporating this intent into the way comments are displayed: removing the visual break between the main body and the comments, and removing any formatting differences between the two as well.

Finally, I’ve switched the formatting syntax in the comment processor from Textile to the more well-known Markdown, specifically Michel Fortin’s MarkdownExtra. This means readers have access to the full range of MarkdownExtra — footnotes, definition lists, tables, etc. — but also HTML, since the Markdown spec allows for HTML markup.

Fortin’s recommended method of installing MarkdownExtra for Textpattern is to rename markdown.php to classTextile.php and drop this file in place of Textpattern’s old one. This works well, but it brings a big security hazard: Markdown syntax explicitly allows the use of plain HTML, but Fortin’s class does no filtering for malicious content (unlike Textile, which escapes all HTML). This means that if you don’t do any extra work, you leave yourself pretty wide open to XSS attacks.

My solution was to bolt on the excellent HTML Purifier package. After installing it on the server, edit the new classTextile.php, and add this line just above the definition for class Textile:

require_once '/path/to/web/plugins/htmlpurifier/HTMLPurifier.standalone.php';

Then change the TextileRestricted function to read as follows:

function TextileRestricted($text, $lite='', $noimage='') {
    $purifier = new HTMLPurifier();
    $text = $this->TextileThis($text, $lite);
    return $purifier->purify($text);
}

Update: The code above has been corrected so that Markdown is applied first, then the purifier. If you do it the other way around, the purifier will break certain Markdown features (such as using > for blockquotes).

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With the relaunching of the site as The Local Yarn have come a number of changes to past content, with more on the way.

  • New series have been created, and some articles have been retroactively re-categorised under the new series.
  • A couple of articles in the ‘Journal’ series have been retired, because they comprised unstructured reactions to current events, and lacked both voice and substance: June 6, 2004, regarding the death of Pres. Reagan, and November 5, 2007 about a trip to Chicago.
  • Another three articles in the ‘Journal’ series – Spring 007, August 6, 2010 and October 1, 2010 – have been retired because they are only brief re-posts of content from elsewhere, and we have Tumblr for that sort of thing now.
  • Yet two more articles in the ‘Journal’ series, July 6, 2007 and July 21, 2007, have been retired because they are comprised mostly of quotations and/or links, with little added substance.
  • The article Faith from the ‘Journal’ series has been retired due to structural problems.
  • The written policy for comments/footnotes has been softened somewhat, although the intent remains the same.

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In the course of writing and researching for this week’s podcast, it was discovered we have been, for many years, misattributing the authorship of a poem long featured on the About section of this website:

Here no state chambers in long lines unfold,
Bright with broad mirrors, rough with fretted gold,
Yet modest ornament with use combined
Attracts the eye to excercise the mind.

The poem turns out to be an excerpt from Epistle to a Friend by Samuel Rogers, first published in 1798. We first encountered these lines unattributed in the 1842 book Cottage Residences by A.J. Downing, which was why we for many years believed he had written them.

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I’ve begun implementing a feature we’ve been thinking about for years (and never seen anywhere else), a book-style index of all posts. One of the difficulties of the site’s layout has been making older writings accessible and and enjoyable to browse through, and hopefully this will provide a new angle for people to peruse through past posts.

We’ve been faithfully typing in keywords for every post for years, mainly for use in meta tags to help out the search engines. All we needed was some code to access the complete list of all keywords ever used. I found this in the tru_tags plugin for Textpattern. Since tru_tags cannot use custom fields (where I had been storing my keywords) I copied them into the keywords field proper with a SQL command:

UPDATE `textpattern` SET `Keywords`=concat(`Keywords`, ',', `custom_1`)

I then set up my “tag archive page” according to the tru_tag usage instructions, altering the format to achieve a book-like effect (Textpattern article IDs work nicely as page numbers). I was able to break out the keywords by first letter, just as in book indices, by adding a custom function to the tru_tags plugin to return only the first letter of the current keyword.

The index page would ordinarily be dynamically generated every time the page is accessed, but as this was found to present a noticeable performance penalty, I set up full-site caching using the asy_jpcache plugin, version 0.9.8, which worked flawlessly out of the box on our Textpattern 4.2.0 installation. The page is now served as a static, cached version (very snappy) which is updated once every 12 hours (a plenty small-enough window for this site).

Many of our posts’ keywords still need cleaning up and updating; this being the first time they have really seen the light of day on the website, numerous errors and omissions have inevitably popped up.

Typographically, two limitations remain. First, the problem of preserving title case in keywords (i.e., in proper names and book titles) — tru_tags prefers to fold everything into lowercase. Second, the problem of the added space before as well as after each comma - a byproblem of the way Textpattern evaluates conditional code in forms.

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An improved chart has been created for the article This Is Your Life. Although the post is a year and a half old, we felt the corny Excel-isms stuck out poorly for the site, and we believe in continual improvement of our product. The old chart can be seen here for comparison.

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  • The masthead is now just my name. That makes sense, I think. Only the about page retains reference to the site’s full and original title.
  • Last fall the link text was changed to a bright red from the staid old navy color it had been for years. This was a reflection of the fact that I’d begun using red ink in my journals. But the red text for hovered links was too bright, so today I changed them again so that the text darkens to pure black instead.
  • Fixed the “print” styles for printing hard copies.
  • Added an audio icon to podcast posts. More of those in the future at some point. The icon itself is just a letter from the Webdings font followed by two sizes of right-parentheses.
  • Added twitter contact info in a couple places.

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New design principles have been learned, and changes introduced in the past six months:

  • The header now reduces in size and importance after you move past the front page. Principle: don’t restate the obvious.
  • Type is larger and now based on ems rather than pixels.
  • Headings are now in p22 Mayflower using sIFR. If you don’t have Flash enabled you’ll see everything in Georgia, which is fine.
  • All posts are now in one large pool, rather than having separate pools for poems, articles, and journal entries as before. Posts related to one another are strung together in ‘series’. This enables easy creation of new series, as opposed to the old system, where new structural and visual design solutions were needed every single time we wanted to add a new “type” of content.
  • Poetry is now set in tables, centered on the page based on the longest line.
  • The front page now displays the four most recent posts, instead of only the last most recent. I have moved towards shorter and shorter posts since I began writing online, and it makes less sense now to limit the front page in that way.

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Page-end quotations have finally been added to the bottom Article and Contra Versey index pages. Also, interestingly, we have had to correct the regrettable and consistent solecism of printing the word “errata” with two T’s throughout the site. What’s another word for ironic?

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The article What the Well-Spoken Man Is Saying (dated Mar 1, 2005) has been permanently retired. We believe we can do better.

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We receive so much traffic from illegitimate .info domains that we finally decided to reject all traffic listing a .info site as the referrer.

So if you are one of the two people in the world who use a .info site for something ‘normal’ (I actually only know of one), you will not be able to link to this site. You might consider getting a different domain; .info has been abandoned to the underworld.

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We thought we might clarify something about the Good Night, Irene pieces. The label “In 256 characters or less” is somewhat facetious. In fact, all of the pieces have exactly 255 or 256 characters, including spaces and punctuation.

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The article Textpattern Semantics has now been translated into three languages: Dutch, Chinese, and French. Thank you to Marvin Vek, Jenny, and Etienne Depaulis (respectively) for volunteering to do these translations.

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I have moved the site over to a new host, TextDrive. It’s run by people I trust, and who are committed to web publishing. What clinched the move, though, was a very good pecuniary arrangement, an offer of lifetime hosting for a one-time fee. I also have significant additional capacity that comes with this move; I will be considering how to use it judiciously.

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The following items will be receiving attention:

  • Update RSS tutorial to use Atom, best practices
  • Picture on “Papers” page to be changedDone
  • Find a better way to present the Volumes in the Articles page, possibly involving javascriptdone (for now)
  • Find out why ISSN application is going nowherethey need 30 working days. Thank you, Ms Houston.
  • Polish search resultsDone

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As the regulars have no doubt noticed, things look a little different around here. The site is now powered by Textpattern rather than being hand-typed XHTML. I’m hoping I’ll be able to focus on writing more by automating things. Using the computer to its best advantage. Textpattern cranks out standards-compliant pages and while not ultimately as flexible as the Old Way, does give a few features such as site search that weren’t available before. Feedback is welcome.

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Volume I, Issue II (the ever-popular Altoids article) has been updated, mainly with typographic changes, such as complete elimination of the FONT tag, proper use of double & single primes, quote marks, and ellipses, as well as line spacing. Two of the more stupid items in the list have been changed, but the total number remains 94. The image linked in item 47 has been changed to reflect this website’s new address (the .org version was underhandedly taken during my absence in 2001-2002).

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Changes to I Slept, and Dreamed a Dream: revised dialog for clarity. Also, the keywords and description in archived issues’ HEAD section have been updated to match their actual content (vs. being a copy of the index page’s keywords.)

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Images altered in various issues.

In attempting to be more consistent in the use of our sparse accents, some of the spot illustrations have been switched out:

  • The candle/book/glasses image is preferred for articles of a grand or thoughtful nature
  • The editor-as-archer image for caustic and spirited offense
  • The dancing quaker for light humour

The affected issues are Volume II, Issue IV, and Volume III, Issue I.