Draco Torre

writing code, writing words, creating magic

Rename or Move Blog Location in Octopress

The default location for your blog posts in Octopress reside under /blog with your post index on the landing page. Moving your posts up a level or renaming “blog” to something else requires some modification. For this tutorial, I’ll show all the changes to rename “blog” to “stories” with a home page as I have done at www.KandyFangs.com.

rename the “blog” folder to “stories” and move your index

To have a home page, move the index.html from the root into stories and add an index.markdown to your root for your home page. You’ll also need to edit this index.html to replace an instance of “blog” with “stories” as described below.

changes to _config.yml

Basically, search for “blog” and replace where needed.

  • change the “permalink:” key for your blog structure by date or category.
    • permalink: /stories/:year/:month/:title/
    • permalink: /stories/:categories/:title/
  • change “category_dir:” key
    • category_dir: stories/categories
  • change the “paginate_path:” key to match your structure.
    • paginate_path: “stories/posts/:num”

changes to files

  • update the blog index file, index.html, you moved into the “stories” folder. Update the line under pagination:
    <a href=“/stories/archives”>Stories Archives</a>
  • update your menu in /source/_includes/custom/navigation.html
    <ul class=“main-navigation”>
          <li><a href=“/”>Home</a></li>
          <li><a href=“/stories”>Stories</a></li>
  • update the archives page title in /stories/archives/index.html to “Stories Archives”

The Noise Age

Databases connected on the net improve access to information and allow quicker dissemination between scholars. News delivers within minutes shared by observers, journalists weighing in within hours. Education reaches out to remote students. Employees stay connecting outside of the office. Access to information comes with a price including how to manage it.

Technology allows all of us create and share our work and art to potentially all interested. Write and publish a book, with or without a publisher (Bowker 2013 stats on self-published books). Artists try to become marketers, shouting upon millions of soap boxes and sharing related materials, trying to build platforms (Michael Hyatt, “Why you Need a Platform to Succeed”) within a giant sea of noise. Consumers wade through the noise by focusing on their niche, a section of the web. Sometimes we’re not even sure what to do with the tech, and play with, building canvases of noise (Pinterest) to pass the time, even if at the expense of the hard work of others.

In 2009, Kristine Catherine Rusch asked, “What’s Louder Than Noise?” Rusch pointed out the decline of the “Great American Novel” a book discussed by many and familiar to nearly all Americans, along with the disappearance of the “household name.” Building a brand means choosing your niche and learning how to stand out from the noise.

On the web, trolling and flaming (Urban Dictionary definitions) flourishes, and we make changes at the cost of openness as noted in “The Bullies of Goodreads” by Nathan Brandsford.

People love to make noise and respond to noise. We are not all that different from the hooting and howls of apes. Chit-chat and quick reactions take precedence over thoughtful discourse. When a person doesn’t know what to say, they often feel the need to say something, anything, and make more noise. We add to the noise, using social media services, sometimes spreading copyright infringement (Wikipedia) or ignoring ethics (Slate.com, “Facebook Unethical Experiment”).

Employees, staying connected inside and outside of the office, become distracted by noise. Some employees tweet or post on their employer’s dime (The Telegraph, “Twitter time-wasters annoy bosses”) to chat or self-promote, and an occasion express their dissatisfaction with their job or paycheck (Fireme tweet tracker), adding their ignorance to the noise. While stuck on a problem, a quick check on social media becomes a growing distraction for students (USA Today, “Students say social media interfere with homework”) robbing time from study.

Matt Gemmell points out that “Letting Go” of frequently checking email and social media results in more creativity and productivity. Before reaching the information age, we must wade through a period of uncertainty while learning to master the information.

Welcome to the noise age.

Cindy Vaskova’s The Dorley Cycle

From the start of The Dorley Cycle web-serial, Cindy Vaskova’s writing flows like a dream into a horror drenched in madness. A touch of the surreal at times, and quick jabs of horror in others, the web-serial dishes out single shots for Friday Flash stitching together a journey. The series is great for those looking to take a quick trip during lunch break, or enjoy several pages at a time.

Jackson Dee (unnamed in the first episode) returns to the fishing town of Dorley finding a mermaid caught in a fishing net on the beach. The strange sight is a reminder of the stories from childhood about the monsters in the sea. The second episode continues with a brief argument between Jackson and the mermaid about those old stories of the siren’s call. Jackson promises to let the mermaid go, insisting that he is not bad, but watches himself bash the mermaid with a rock. And so begins Jackson’s descent into horror uncovering the town’s dark secrets.

At Chapter XI, Jackson faces a monster and gets sucked inside a reality-twisted Chapter XII where he must distinguish the truth to fight his way out. And Jackson does only to find himself in a prison cell. Even weekly visitors thrown off by the warping are swept back in by the end of the episode, and a smooth follow-through for those with good memories or reading in the same sitting. I love stories that distort reality so the reader experiences the character’s struggle within the mind and the strangeness of the environment. Vaskova does a nice job. For this reason, Chapter XII episode is my favorite so far.

Comments Closed

The question of disabling comments on a blog has been bouncing around for at least three years to my knowledge, and it wouldn’t surprise me if the debate started much earlier. My first reaction was that comments go with a blog post forming a discussion in one place for the community to keep up with, and closing comments would discourage discussion. Upon further thought, I realized this isn’t necessarily true.

Weeks after reading the post by author, and regular blogger, Icy Sedgwick, “Should you close your comments on your blog?” (posted in April), I gave it more thought. Sedgwick pointed out the benefit of forming a cohesive discussion without breaking it up all over social media, which is tougher to follow. I agree, especially for blogs that are more community oriented. My comment on her post was a quick response, as comments usually are, and could have benefited from more thought. I pointed out the need for a product to bridge social media services together to help form a more cohesive discussion without the reader having to do more work. At the time, I hadn’t truly yet considered the benefits of turning comments off.

Conversations are going to continue on other services or blogs anyway. They should. That’s what happens to interesting conversations. Discussions spill over into other communities and other homes.

A post linked within Sedgwick’s post, “The Argument for Keeping Those Blog Comments Open” by Deb Ng, makes the strong case of interacting with other blog readers. A few blogs have conversations. Mine do not. Ng mentions engagement. Bloggers engage with each other through their blogs, email, and social media. Comments aren’t necessary for engagement.

Some blogs have moved their comments into social media requiring an extra login or barrier. Moving comments is another matter. This is where the web needs more services bridging networks together to better connect conversations without barriers.

On Sedgwick’s post, validation comes up as a benefit of having comments. The commenter acknowledges reading the post, and the blogger knows someone read it and cared enough to respond. I agree, and I like comments. However, my sites get far more visitors than comments. Kandy Fangs sees regular traffic from several reader sites including Friday Flash and Webfiction Guide, and occasionally the stats will show a visitor reading every single episode over several hours without commenting. That stat encourages me to write more, and it’s validation that an anonymous reader truly enjoyed my stories.

Two of the best responses to my stories I have ever received were on Twitter, and provided the same validation, but more openly. A recent tweet by Miss Alister linking to my story is an example. Very much appreciated.

Unlocking the Apostrophe in Style

Forming the possessive of nouns can be one of the more confusing rules in writing when it comes to words ending with s. Besides differences with plural and a few exceptions, the answer depends on who you ask.

To form possessive singular of noun, add ‘s

  • Augustus’s favorite book is Code Complete by McConnell.
  • The vampire’s fangs sank into the duchess’s neck.
  • Read Aaron Hillegass’s book on iOS programming.
  • The debris’s cloud smothered the ship.

This is the first rule appearing in The Elements of Style by Strunk and White, and according to the text there are exceptions for ancient proper names ending in -es and -is such as Moses’ laws, and “such forms as for conscience’ sake, for righteousness’ sake.“

One could avoid uncertainty by removing the need for an apostrophe as in laws of Moses.

To form possessive plural of noun, if noun ends in s then add apostrophe only, else add ‘s

  • The students’ questions were about GPU performance.
  • The women’s room is closed.
  • The Obamas’ reside in the White House.

I’ve seen writers leaving off the extra s such as, Dickens’ novel or Kansas’ laws. Are they right?

Notice that Strunk and White’s rule fits speech. It’s (nearly) common to pronounce an extra s when saying, Dickens’s novel, but not when saying, for righteousness’ sake, which becomes a tongue-twister when adding an extra s. However, pronunciation of Kansas’s laws may cause some stumbling, but not as bad as Kansas’s schools. Style guides try to take pronunciation into account resulting in exceptions and different approaches. For instance, Pocket Fowler’s Modern English Usage suggests for proper names to defer to common pronunciation such as Dickens’s book, Bridges’ film, or Mars’ moons. Mars follows the ancient name rule, and Bridges follows the ends in iz-sound rule.

According to “[Apostrophe Catastrophe (Part 2)]” by Mignon Forgarty aka Grammar Girl, the rule on forming possessive singular of nouns comes down to a style issue. The Associated Press Stylebook recommends leaving off the extra s for proper nouns. The Chicago Manual of Style allows for either way, but prefers adding ‘s.

The different style guides disagree on the exceptions, too. Take a glance at this post on AP vs Chicago (find the contradiction in the examples for bonus points) showing the differences between The Associated Press Stylebook and The Chicago Manual of Style on using apostrophes such as for appearance’ sake vs for appearance’s sake. My flowchart at the bottom covers this and more.