Blogging 101 Day Five: Love Your Theme

So I’m not doing the Blogging 101 Lessons in order (I was like this in school, if Hamlet was assigned I read King Lear. Not particularly admirable, but at least I did read Lear).

This assignment is “love your theme” with the advice to try at least three different themes. “Even if you’re happy with the one you first chose. Try one you’re drawn to, and one you would never use.”

As I have blogged before, trying out themes is something that I do a lot–in fact it’s a problem.  (See https://afewreasonablewords.com/2015/06/14/words-of-advice-the-tragedy-of-theme-addiction/)

2015
My current theme, 2015, from WordPress.

What’s more I’m very happy with 2015 (one of the standard WordPress themes) when it comes to my personal blog. I don’t do anything particularly tricked out in terms of features, widgets, doodads, and the like, so haven’t encountered anything it can’t cope with  and it’s responsive and works well with my signature image (a blue sky over Monhegan, ME).

But in the spirit of trying of doing the homework as assigned for once, I checked out two different ones; here they are and what I learned:

cyanotype
Cyanotype theme

Here’s Cyanotype, love the color and type, and how the photos pop. Not sure if the antique photography inspiration works visually or editorially with my content. Seems a little too spare. (This is the one I chose because it appealed to me).

 

And then there’s Patch, which I chose because it was one I would never use. It’s all “cards” (how is that still an Internet design thing, aren’t we on to the next idea?)  But I will grant that 1) this kind of approach dissolves the distinction between content for mobile and content for desktop sizes (by making it mobile first, not a bad idea). 2) It pointed out to me that featured images and tagging are  as important as what you post.

patch
Patch WordPress theme. You can smell the hipster mustache wax. Can see it being great for a news-oriented blog.

 

A useful exercise, but I’ll stick with my current rig.

 

 

Reasoning Words: Should Public Libraries be TOR Exit Relays?

The Electronic Freedom Foundation reports that a a pilot project at the Lebanon, New Hampshire, Library to serve as a TOR exit relay has been temporarily halted, and potentially totally scotched, by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. ProPublica has a rundown as well.

To shed some light on the the question of whether this is an outrage or reasonable, here’s a quick TOR 101 lesson.  TOR (name comes from The Onion Router, but no relation to the satirical web site) is a means of using the Internet anonymously. Individual computers (of volunteers) provide entry into and exit from anonymous, encrypted network paths–sort of a series of safe houses that let computer traffic pass from one to the next without recording from whence it came or whither it goest. (Disclosure: I’ve not used it, got as far as downloading the software, installing it, and chickening out. So somebody who has it running live can no doubt improve and correct that description.) Also: lots of good explanations around the web, including one from EFF’s “in plain English” series. The key thing is that the set-up provides a theoretically untraceable way to navigate the Internet, and can be installed on any computer.

The library proposes to offer an exit for TOR, meaning people could use its computer network to download materials anonymously. A bunch of questions ensue: what do people do in TOR, and does this activity matter as a point of library policy? The dark speculations come easily: Deal drugs? Send a bomb threat? Plot insurrection or worse? Just steal software? But in the other column, there are better possibilities: evading censorship for for political art? Blowing the whistle on unconstitutional surveillance? Negotiating a job offer across international borders or protecting a trade secret? Organizing for rights in a closed regime? Negotiating safe passage for a political prisoner?

Since it’s software, TOR is simply a platform for human purposes, be they benign or malignant. It is no more culpable than the library card catalog of a previous era: those listed  how to find books on the shelves, providing neutral access to anything, be it The Anarchist Cookbook or Charlotte’s Web. What patrons did with the books was their concern, and librarians at least aspired to stay out of that question.

Were I still a librarian, I would be vexed by this one. It’s a first-amendment loving profession, and access is central (both characteristics resonate with me). At the same, criminal activity such as Silk Road, or ransomware bots, may live in TOR, organizing capacity for hate groups, and human trafficking networks could lurk as well. Yet, TOR’s stated goals are to support free expression, privacy, and human rights, and libraries, in their nerdy, sometimes quaint way aim to live that mission every day. If some teenage Ai Wei Wei-type in is trying to get her message out, and my library is her exit relay, should I say no? Access is entwined with the right to privacy: being able to checking out the oft-banned Ulysses, for instance, means being able to check this out more or less anonymously. If I use a library terminal to tap the Internet, what content is fair game, and what level of privacy is appropriate?

I think on the whole (particularly if I were a New Hampshire librarian–a state that has “Live Free Or Die” on its license plants), I’d brave the battle and provide the relay. Libraries are networks, and although its easy to stay out of the fray, and let others fight this battle, who is really doing it from the public interest side? Our Google overlords have already got a huge advantage, and are so unfazed by their ability to track our every move online that their position–something which I think the STASI would have been fine with — is “don’t do anything that you shouldn’t, and everything will be fine.” Privacy in our lawful actions is not something we should compelled to give up, nor do our intentions and our explanations of what we might do become property of the state, even if some of our fellow inhabitants of the planet have dark ones, and use tools to foment them. TOR is tool to keep things private, at least some of which should be, even at a public library, perhaps even particularly there, where there is a means to discuss the public good and answer to it.

 

Blogging 101, Day 3: Reading Other Blogs

Assignment #3 was learning your way around the WordPress Reader, and also thinking about your blogging in the context of others you read. The other bit was following five new blogs and five new tags. Useful prompt–I haven’t used the Reader that much (I just follow stuff on FB), and I didn’t know that you can just use it for RSS feeds, so have hooked in my favorites. Interesting to think about how varied the content of the blogs I follow is, and how catching a particular voice is what grabs me.

Also a reminder that tying into the (vast) community of WordPress is partially dependent on tagging and categorizing.  My self, my meta data.

 

The vast expanse of WordPress.com blogs. (Well, actually it's Big Meadows at Shenandoah National Park, but they're both big!).
The vast expanse of WordPress.com blogs. (Well, actually it’s Big Meadows at Shenandoah National Park, but they’re both big!).

Blogging 101, Day 2: Wrangling Titles & Taglines

Today’s assignment is “take control of your title and tagline.” Mine perhaps needs some help.

My title is:
A Few Reasonable Words
And the tagline is: “One should, each day, try to hear a little song, read a poem, see a fine picture, and, if possible, speak a few reasonable words.” — Goethe

With my usual tendency to over explain things, I see that I have used up the tagline space to gloss the quotation. Time to dump that (or do the explaining elsewhere). (Oops, already do.)

But, what to use as a tag instead? My blog is probably more often a Commonplace Book than anything else, also sort of a library reference desk display rack–things of (possibly infinitesimal) interest.  “More information than you require” would work, but that has been taken by the droll John Hodgman.

Some bloggy riff on “Books you Don’t Need in Place You Can’t Find” might fit the bill (that’s the motto of the Montague (MA) Bookmill). “Bits and bites you don’t need on a blog you can’t find…”

I think I will go with that for now. The beauty of the interwebs means I can change it tomorrow, of course.

And for good measure, a few famous taglines from a previous content delivery medium, newspapers:

"All the news that's fit to print," "the seven most famous words in American journalism" according to the the BBC. And inspiration for a perhaps legendary sign in the Times compositing room, "All the news that fits, we print."
“All the news that’s fit to print,” “the seven most famous words in American journalism” according to the the BBC. And inspiration for a perhaps legendary sign in the Times compositing room, “All the news that fits, we print.”
baltimore_sun
“Light for all,” a nice tagline, and the changes in the Sun’s vignette  are a mini-history lesson.
wgn
In an era in which newspaper barons were equivalent to the tech giants of today, Robert “Colonel” McCormick loomed large. I’m not sure if he named the Trib “world greatest newspaper,” but that was the motto for many years. It also gave his flagship radio and TV stations, “WGN,” their call letters.

There’s another one I couldn’t find an image for, but I love: the San Francisco Examiner’s motto,  “The Monarch of the Dailies” –the flagship paper of the monarch of the press lords, William Randolph Hearst.

Blogging 101, Day 1

Although I’ve been blogging for three years, I finally have gotten around to taking WordPress.com’s Blogging 101, a kick start for a new blog, or a way to rev up an existing one (something I’m ready for).

Today’s assignment (which I wrote while riding back from Maryland’s Eastern Shore (Chesapeake Bay shot below), write a post introducing yourself, “Who I Am, and Why I’m Here…”

Easy-peasy, lemon-squeezy: I’m a writer, media producer and sort of WordPress developer/would-be techie. I’ve been involved in editorial this and that for 30+ years, hanging around libraries, museums, performing arts organizations, and public media. Did my first website in 1995, most recent one last week. A couple that a lot of people visit, this one…not so much!

Why I’m here: have always interested in the intersection between content and technology (what happens when they duke it out?).  I also like open software, design, and fiddling with things, and god is WordPress fiddly. It also seemed to be a nice way to train up in a platform that over 20% of the web is using. So mostly I’m here to learn WordPress, and share a bit content that caught my eye.

So that’s me in a nutshell. More soon.

 

Chesapeake_Bay
View from the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, Labor Day 2015