Website Disaster Averted


During the Residency at Camberwell, the very morning of the group tutorial on the second day, my blog disappeared. It did not disappear entirely, it just looked as though I had never done anything on it: No posts, pages, images, nothing. It was as though I had never done anything other than choose the theme and put my name on it, in short installed WordPress and nothing more.

I did not panic because I had the latest export file with all the content and the images and other uploads in various files on the computer with backups. So I winged the tutorial by talking and describing alone, which seemed to work quite well. I had been momentarily transformed into a storyteller of sorts.

The residency is a busy time and I did not want to waste time trying to sort out the site, it would have to wait. I did manage to see that the site files were all in place. The assumption I made was that something had happened to the database. When I returned home, I contacted the host company and went through a series of checks and requests. The news was not good. In order to restore the database I had needed an SQL file of it. This I did not have and subsequently I have researched backing the database using MySQL software. I have only just started to look at this. It seems that in order to use it I need two more pieces of software. This will have to wait.

It seems what had happened was a vulnerable piece of code on a plugin called Theme Grill Demo Uploader. This plugin is associated with the theme I use but it really does nothing useful. What it does do is renders sites with it on vulnerable to attack from who knows where, two hundred thousand of them. The issue has since been resolved but too late for me.

I the meantime, I reinstalled WordPress on my host’s server. I experimented with some themes for a new look and purpose. I had previously spent a great deal of time researching and trying out different layouts and designs and had come to what I thought suited me best. No matter what I did, I kept on returning to the original theme, Radiate by Theme Grill.

I took a look at the export file which was apparently of no use to restore the site and decided to see how I could work with the coded content. I knew it contained all the posts, links, tags, categories, etc. I could input the information anew and restore all the work I have put into it. Here things started to look up. Not only were they coded and displayed in such a way that all I had to do was copy and paste into the code editor of WP, I have also started to refresh and learn about HTML. I am beginning to be able to read the code in HTML and know what each part does.

Finally, in a short time, I have regained all of my Unit 2 Assessment posts and pages with their metadata and begun Unit 1. It is actually very easy and I can tweak the design to improve the visuals. The theme is very similar to how it was but I have made some small changes, such as the background, which give me a sense of new beginnings and greater readability.

Now, I feel ready to recommence my delivery of the project proposal and all that entails including, as a priority, reorganising the studio so I have space enough to function in it.


A Place for Tags and Categories

It has taken me all this time to work out a useful function (for me) for these two classification criteria. This has been an important result of the blog curation process. Simply put, categories are very wide groupings similar to chapters in a book. They tell something of the area of interest but not its content. Tags can be likened to the contents section of a book. It is there where one searches for a particular term used, name, place, process, etc. Tags like content will list all the relevant words that I might find useful in the future if I wish to search for something. For example, if I want to look up a particular artist I have written about and cannot remember where to find it, I type the name and all the posts that contain that name will appear. There is an even more powerful function, and that is, if I want to refine the search because too many posts appear in the search, I can type two or more keywords, or tags. This will narrow the search results to only those posts that contain all those words. 

So far I have 1092 tags. This may seem a large number and no doubt will continue to increase. However, the number is of no consequence. It is only important if one wants the tag cloud plugin to say something useful. But the cloud plugins only deal with a small and limited number of tags. For this reason I have decided to remove the tag cloud widget from the side bar. As for categories, I have been able to cull them to be less confusing.

What to Do with Tags?

I decided to start using them today and soon found myself with a problem, which words to select. I know that it should be significant words but which ones are significant and which ones can be left out?

I put the problem to Janet and we had a long conversation where it was raised that the problem lay in my view of the process. You see, I have a tendency to view the search for certainty as somewhat futile. Everything I do tends to point to my trying to demonstrate this. But is that not trying to find a kind of certainty? Not entirely but I see the point. Using the tag cloud at first sight looked like a futile activity. This brings me back to what I said in my Symposium presentation, I am full of contradiction.

The clue in how tags work lies in the term tag cloud. A cloud’s shape is contingent on unpredictable meteorological conditions. The shape changes in a dynamic process that is beyond one’s control. Meta tags work in an analogous way. Put them in and they start to acquire an order, albeit simpler than those in the sky. They fall into a hierarchy depending on their frequency across blogs regardless of what you think. It is spontaneous.

For this algorithm to be of any use, to have a meaning, the tags have to be chosen without prejudice. Selecting words in or out, consciously or not, defeats the object of the exercise. The whole value of the tag cloud is that it is out of your hands, unpredictable. The tag hierarchy takes shape in unexpected ways outside of your control. This can have a number of positive consequences:

  • Contact with others you might otherwise not have made
  • Insight into one’s own thoughts and ideas
  • Spinning conceptual threads and links that can inform and connect in new ways
  • Fostering an open mind

I have decided to put down all words that confer meaning to a blog and see what comes. I have become somewhat indiscriminate. I cannot put in enough tags. This is much more exciting and interesting than putting down only what I think is interesting or significant.

Now what does this have to do with my work? Simply this, that my whole practice is like a tag cloud. I have worked in so many mediums with a wide variety of themes in disparate contexts and they continually move around in my mind, shuffling like marbles in a bag. They are tags, but for what? Perhaps they represent ideas, experiences, feelings, events. They obviously are connected but how. It is my aim in this MA to find those connections. The way I put it is, to uncover the connective tissue of my practice.

This is not to say that this is my sole aim. It is part of finding connective tissue that can stabilise the internal architecture of my practice as I  reach out to the outside.