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Reorganizing This Movable Type Blog: Mistersquid Refreshed

Before returning to California after a 17-year adventure in the world of higher education (one that may not quite be done done), I restructured the way I was developing material for this blog. That restructuring was born of a need to more seamlessly connect Movable Type which which hosts/runs this blog and Tinderbox which I use as a pre-CMS CMS.

For nearly three years now, I’ve been using Tinderbox to produce initial drafts of my web-delivered writing and a few months after that I began using Tinderbox as the main software I use to produce my more scholarly texts. I devoted many many hours to understanding the relationships between data structures that could be created in Tinderbox and developed a small battery of command-line software tools to facilitate the incorporation of data from the web, my local files, and third-party software into Tinderbox. This work took an enormous amount of time and I learned a lot about PERL programming, UNIX, and my limits as a programmer.

Much of that time came at the expense of my teaching and, more significantly, my traditional research agenda. None of my work developing custom software tools and deepening my understanding of cyberinfrastructure advanced my tenure case given my job description. But my work in digital print and publishing, electronic asset production and management, and software evaluation and deployment was and is a fire in my heart. Teaching was the only thing that interrupted my devotion to my personal research agenda because my contractual research agenda—scholarship and writing in the field of postmodern American literature—had become a subspecialization. Since 1998, I have been working primarily in the field of new media production with a strong secondary emphasis on cultural analysis of postmodern theory, literature, and film.

Put another way, my job at Ohio University was as a writer and researcher in the field of postmodern literature (ironically, self-generated!)1. I was and am interested in that area and was and am a beginning scholar in the area of post-psychoanalytic models of culture, technology, and the individual, but this area is in some ways secondary to my desire to work in and with digital print and to develop a set of tools that would help me work with and generate materials that are, to use a neglected but useful phrase, ”born digital.” Which brings me to the subject of the day.

Reconceiving the way in which one produces material—especially in the domain of writing which has an intricate relationship with academic life from the production of primary materials to the establishment of evidentiary procedures—can be a transformation of great and intense moment. Taking the steps to transform the production and delivery of ideas involves more than understanding how a new piece of software works, installing a new operating system, and exploring unfamiliar websites. The generation of scholarship in digitally native media differs from the generation of scholarship in paper print as much as the production of scholarship in print differs from the production of scholarship in mansucript. These changes are total and transformative and once the process has begun, there is no turning back.

Regarding the present interface/instantiation (this blog), I’ve added structure that facilitates short posts about things I am not yet prepared to analyze deeply. That bit of kit is bits.mistersquid.com. I’ve also changed the content of the main page of blog.mistersquid.com, using Movable Type’s MultiBlog, so that my blog’s main page incorporates the bits as well. The bits has a separate RSS feed, as does this blog. There is a second new feed which combines the bits and the blog. This structure might look familiar to those of you who have interest in things related to Apple, as it is influenced by the structure of John Gruber’s Daring Fireball.2

I spent about thirty hours building and refiniing this structure and though you might not be able to tell from the aesthetics of this site, the transition is mostly complete. This is not to say that entries from the bits and the blog are visually identical. Specifically, the div for this post is a blog entry, whereas the div for Thursday, 10 September just below (as of this writing) is a bits entry. The main visual distinction between bits and blog posts is the headline banner for bits is “hollow” and contains the day and date while biog posts have a solid headline banner containing the blog post’s title.

I had hoped to publish to this blog’s main page an absolute number of blog entries with bits posts collated (intercalated) in the appropriate places. I was unable to accomplish this because of the way in which Movable Type’s <MT:Entries>, <MT:For>, and <MT:Multiblog> tags presently work. I developed two approaches to this problem, neither of which work. Presently, the code I am using to produce this page is:

At present, Su (who I think is a developer for Movable Type), is looking into a fix for my second solution. If and when I get details of a workaround, I’ll post back with an update. Update here. Another update», with bug fixes.

Finally, there is no finally, but I do want to say that there are other changes afoot and I can’t wait to share them. For now I’ll note that a certain someone I know has noted that this blog is extremely text-heavy and that pictures are an excellent way to deliver information, a way I have underutilized. I wholeheartedly concur.

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1 This is a story for a different post(-mortem).
2 I was stumped about how to develop this structure, so I wrote an email to John, whose blog is based on Movable Type. He generously shared with me some of the details about how he produces the feeds and static pages for Daring Fireball, convincing me once and for all that the principal of Daring Fireball has mad PERL skills.