The past weekend I decided my blog wasn't getting much TLC. It's actually 5 years old this year, and has had tweaks and upgrades here and there, but on the most part it's looked pretty much the same and hasn't used all the latest bells and whistles of Wordpress. It started innocently enough: add some snazzy thumbnail previews to my posts. This involved modifying code, which, like most of my Wordpress tinkering, resulted in a subsequent run of days where visitors were greeted with "error!" and a white screen, instead of an art blog. After much hair pulling, I discovered the offending piece of code was one single space (ah, computers are great that way). Anyway, along the line I started thinking about how my blog is different than my Facebook page is different than my portfolio page. I tend to use the blog a little more like a diary, with posts including everything from how the cat ate my latest computer cord to photos of the pumpkins we carved for Halloween. It made me want to change the look of the blog, and I stumbled on this diary theme. I'll try it out for a while and see if it fits - kind of liking it at the moment.
I was tempted to run some fancy find and replace function to delete all the rouge Â's that have peppered my blog since the Wordpress upgrade, but through some unforseen technical glitch I probably would have deleted all the real A's too, turning my website into "The rtwork of Shwn Flchetti". Since I don't want to be an 'rtist', I decided just to safely (and maddeningly) delete them one by one. Ah, now back to some rtwork.
I've developed a Pavlonian twitch every time I see the alert on my blog "A new version of Wordpress is available, click here to upgrade", since every previous upgrade has resulted in a subsequent "Woes of the Web" post, usually after a week of banging my head against the keyboard in frustration as I tried to figure out where exactly all of my posts had gone, what a "fatal error in line 62" was, and how on earth to undo it all.
This upgrade required updating my web hosting account with Godaddy from PHP4 to PHP5, as well as the mySQL version of the Wordpress database. The later part required backing up the current database, creating a new version, and restoring the data to the new version. Surprisingly all of that went better than I expected.
Except you may have noticed that every sentence of all my posts now ends with a capital A with an accent mark. Gah! So if you're reading my posts wondering why I have a strange fondness for capital A's, it could be worse. Ah, well.
After about a week, I've got my website restored to roughly what it was before my "err, didn't mean to delete that" incident. I took the opportunity to add a few improvements. You'll notice some visual tweaks such as frames around images, and a snazzy tag cloud at the bottom (click a keyword to see all related posts - for instance, all artwork done on blue colourfix paper). Now that it's been a week since the latest Wordpress upgrade, programmers have also released updates for many of the broken features ("plugins"). In particular, one plugin allows me to embed Flickr hosted images into any post or page as a Flash gallery. If you look at my header navigation menu, you'll see 'Photography' and 'Paper' links - click one to see an example. A subtle implication of this is that many of my images are now hosted on Flickr - so if I accidently delete a folder in my website, they still exist.
Earlier this year my laptop's hard drive became corrupted and needed to be reformatted. As most of my artwork scans resided on my hard drive, they were lost in the reformatting. In this case, though, I had copies on my website, so I was able to download them back to my hard drive.
The thing I've learned from all of this is, now that artwork has moved from the realm of slides to scans, it's worth noting that it is remarkably easy to destroy or otherwise lose digital files. It's good practice to have at least one backup - either hosted offline on a service like Flickr, or burned to a DVD. I'm becoming increasing fond of offline backups. Paired together with my own copies, it should provide a good failsafe for lost files.
After some head scratching, my fears were confirmed as I realized my deleting frenzy during my Wordpress reinstall resulted in deleting a folder called 'wp-content'. As the name might suggest, it contained the content of my site (doh!).....in particular it happened to contain an 'uploads' folder which was home to everything I've ever loaded onto my website. So, in the true spirit of computers, the void which all of my images disappeared into was actually triggered by me unknowingly hitting the delete key. It reminds me of the old "To err is human. To really mess up requires a computer."
My website provider did agree to restore the missing files for me - for a starting price of $150. Considering I could do most of this for free on my own - it would just take a couple days of uploading a gajillion files - I opted for the DIY option. Tonight I spent about 3 hours putting all of the colored pencil images back. Over the next few weeks I'll start replacing the photography, shows and events, and personal photos. A few things are gone for good - not all images I have backups for - in particular some of the work in progress photos for older drawings like Pensive - but on the most part, bear with me and the photos will slowly rematerialize.
Before the crash, I was kicking around the idea of offline photo systems like Flickr. They have the advantage of archiving all of your images elsewhere in the event your computer hardrive goes up in a small mushroom cloud, and you get delete happy with your Wordpress directory structure. Something to consider a bit more.
This weekend I felt a tinge of nervousness when I saw that the software I use to publish this art blog (Wordpress) offered a version upgrade to 2.5. Nearly every previous version upgrade has resulted in disabling of my website for several days - mostly due to incompatibility with many of the plugins I use (bits of programming that add features to the site). This time the upgrade started a chain reaction of little tweaks to get used to the new version. The last of which, a little plugin that would let me work on the look of the website without taking the many pages offline, quietly crippled the site, even after I disabled and removed the offending plugin. After reinstalling many files from backup, the site is up and running - sort of. You'll notice many images have disappeared throughout the pages. So, bear with me for a while until I figure out how to get them back, or, worst case, upload them all again. It got me thinking about the increasing technological demands on the artist. Where our domain was previously paper, pencil, and slides, now we've moved to digital images, webpage submissions for juried shows, and online blogs. Webpages can require anything from a little bit of technical savvy, to writing actual code to get what you need. The exposure you get from webpages is terrific - but the requirements are getting increasing technical as well. Just a little rambling as I ponder which digital void to begin searching for my missing images.