Still moving

Back from the dead! It feels strangely personal like that to me, this undertaking I’ve been involved in for two weeks now after I inadvertently destroyed the web magazine Moving Poems, which had begun the way so many good things do, on a whim and an impulse, became far more influential than I’d ever expected or even perhaps wanted, and died in a moment of panic. Here’s the video I featured long ago in its very first post:

Moving Poems was actually two interlinked websites, one for the extensive library of poetry videos, the other for news and opinion pieces about the international poetry film and videopoetry scene. Between them, they had garnered several thousand posts from more than 40 contributors since I founded the site on the day before my birthday in 2009. The main site had gotten infected with malware, and I paid someone to clean it up and thought the problem was solved a month ago, but the hackers had already taken over its companion site and by the time I figured this out had effectively seized control of it. In my panicked reaction, I managed to correctly export all the posts from the news side, but I deleted the database for the main site. Gone!

For the next 24 hours or so I just walked around in a daze. But once I accepted the gravity of the situation and all but gave up hope, solutions began to suggest themselves to me — solutions that still involved several days of manual data entry, but because I am an utter slob and never clean out my email inbox, I was able to recover several years of lost posts from the weekly MailChimp newsletter that’s automatically generated from the RSS feed. That was after figuring out how to wrest control of a four-year-old backup of the site from the proprietary software I’d used to migrate it to its now-former, disastrous web host. Fortunately, there are a hell of a lot of forums out there where geeks are very generous with their time. Thanks to them, I was able to recover the site.

In recent days, I’ve been cheered to discover that the WordPress theme we’ve been using for the main site since 2012, the Origami theme from a small shop called SiteOrigin, has recently been revived and updated—I hadn’t been getting the updates simply because I was using a discontinued premium version—so any security concerns that I had had about continuing to use a potentially compromised theme pretty much vanished.

SiteOrigin appears to make much of their revenue by selling a premium version of their WordPress page-building plugin, which has been fairly widely adopted, apparently—a number of other theme developers have built themes designed to work with it. My main concern is that it remain under active development so the developers live long and prosper and I can keep using the same goddamn theme forever, because like nearly every aging person I am tired of continual upheaval for novelty’s sake, simply because a carnival economy must continually generate new circus tricks.

But yeah, page builders! Never used one before, but here’s a case where I had to learn a new thing in order to continue having an old thing. In order to fully merge the video library and the magazine into one, coherent website, I knew I needed to keep the two separate for browsing and indexing purposes, which in WordPress terms means one database, two loops. Hand-coding this in php would’ve required me properly learning php and I’ve always been too lazy to do that. But then I learned that the new full-site editor in WordPress included a query loops block, so I spent a day flailing around and trying to teach myself how to use one of the new themes, only to find the next day that I couldn’t get the site editor to load for me at all! After a day of trying everything, including contacting the geeks at my hosting company, I gave up.

And it was only when I gave up that I realized that I could do all this with the SiteOrigin page builder. The next day, a WordPress bug fix and security update solved my issue with their obviously buggy new full-site editor, but I went the SiteOrigin route anyway and have mostly been having a blast in the days since. The new architecture required two new, top categories in the hierarchical native indexing system; once I’d done that, it was easy to construct a new front page with a carousel-style slider for the latest News and Views posts, followed by a full-column selection of the five most recent posts from the Video Library, with pages for each archive in the top menu bar alongside an index, which includes three native taxonomies we’ve always used to further categorize the videos by poet, filmmaker, and nationality of poet. My dad was a reference librarian. The apple may not have fallen too far from the tree.

The latest major WordPress update included a ton of free web fonts, so I spent a happy day playing with them until I realized that I’d best go with the boring Noto Sans font for the headings, because Moving Poems post titles sometimes include characters in non-Latin alphabets (for videos in foreign languages with English subtitles, such as this one) and Noto is by far the most internationalized family of Google web fonts. I badly wanted to use my favorite Google display font, Josefina Sans, but I’d already put that to good use in my Woodrat photohaiku blog, so I’ll just have to be satisfied with that. For the title font, I think I’ve settled on a very lightweight version of the same font I was using before, which is called Oswald—the contrast with 700-weight Noto Sans is pleasing to my eye.

ain’t it purty?

I can’t deny I’ve been having fun, at least for the past five days or so, after it became clear I’d be able to do what I’ve always wanted to do at the site, but had put off because I thought it would be way too much work. And perhaps it has been, but we’ve been blessed with a string of rainy days so I suppose I’ve put them to fairly good use. Inputting the last four years of posts one by one at the beginning of the month, when the weather was warm and mostly gorgeous, felt like necessary penance for my carelessness and dereliction of duty as a web publisher, by not taking security more seriously and not having regular, scheduled backups. I hope I’ve learned these lessons well enough to preserve Moving Poems and my other websites until such time as I can gracefully retire. I’ve been grateful for the kindness and support of Moving Poems’ other contributors and readers.

It’s been kind of revelatory to see how much of my identity is wrapped up in web publishing. Just because I’ve managed to avoid the career treadmill doesn’t mean I’m entirely free of that quintessential American equation of self-worth with what I do: post stuff on the web and write poetry. No wonder I feel as if I’ve brought myself back from the dead.

6 thoughts on “Still moving

    1. Thanks, Ian. Kinda slow-loading still, so I guess my next task is trying to speed it up – set the videos to show cached images on lazy loading, etc. It never ends, does it?

  1. Word press came to feel like a sisypheon task. I put so much work into a storefront and everything else, when the theme was discontinued. Then again. So I know how you feel. I’m so happy you got things fixed!

    1. Thanks. Yeah, I’ve seen geeks who haven’t drunk the WordPress kool-aid dunking on WooCommerce as a terrible mess. It’s a shame. I so loved all that Web 2.0 open-source idealism. but that era is gone for good, I guess. If/when Mailchimp starts trying to charge for our newsletter, I may move most Moving Poems activity to Substack and just keep the archive on WordPress – or indeed migrate everything, which is one reason why I wanted to combine the two sites.

    1. Thanks. It was, but most of it is stuff I’ve been meaning to do for years, so it feels good to finally have the makeover.

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