WordPress: Permalinks

July 21st, 2008 · No Comments

Warning: Technical Article

While some things like our Theme can be a work in progress, Permalinks are one of the configuration options that strike me as an immediate necessity. If you’re not aware, permalinks link to your specific blog posts that will always point to that same entry. So if for example you want to mail the url of one of your posts to a friend, you would use the permalink. For more detail you can go to the WordPress Codex.

So by default WordPress uses a reasonable but kind of ugly (by their own admission) url format for your permalinks. The url will look something like: http://www.protoscopic.com/?p=123. Why should this bother you? I have no idea, I don’t even know why it bothered me. However for some reason I felt that a link using the ‘slug’ was more appealing. So I went through the process of changing mine. Its simple but not quite as simple as advertised so I thought I’d share the step I used in case you find them useful.

As the article states you can go to Settings->Permalinks and pick your option of what you want the links to look like. If you’re anal retentive like me you might be somewhat stressed by this consideration. Whatever I pick, I’m stuck with forever. Well I’m sure I could change, but by the time I make that decision millions of rabid readers will be linking to me from all over cyberspace and I don’t want to annoy them.

So one thing I was sure of off the bat was that I wanted to use the ‘slug’ as the main content of the permalink. The only rationale I can justify for my neurotic desire to pretty up my permalink is that I want someone to be able to tell what they’re going to based on the url. Thus the ‘slug’ is a must. So my immediate inclination is to just use the slug and nothing else so it would look like http://www.protoscopic.com/article-slug. That looks fine to me, but the article warns that this will basically screw everything up.

The system uses mod_rewrite to look at the url and change it into the original ugly request internally. So if you have too broad of a rewrite rule then its going to try to turn every request into a ugly post request, including things like style sheets. I also have some javascript and images that are part of static pages that I need to be available so the “%postname%” only option is out. I then tried %post_id%/%postname% to get the numeric element they advocate, but the whole point of that exercise was the ugliness of the number.

I was just about to settle on some nonsense involving the date when I decided to throw caution to the wind and do what made sense to me (always a dangerous proposition). So based on my vague understanding of their mod_rewrite situation I figured as long as my url definition had something at the front to eliminate non-article directories it would be safe. So for now I’ve settled on “articles/%postname%”. My main concern was it would break things like the Passive Stream Calculator. But everything still seems to be working so I’ll roll with it.

As usual the WordPress documentation is good, but there are a few things that could use a slight expanding upon if you’re not overly familiar with Apache. For the mod_rewrite stuff to work you have to set it up in the .htaccess file. This file will be located in the same directory as your index.php, the root of your wordpress installation. Depending on your system administrative settings, the WordPress scripts may not be able to write that file, in which case you’ll have to copy and paste what it tells you to into that file. So your .htaccess file should look something like this:

<IfModule mod_rewrite.c>
RewriteEngine On
RewriteBase /
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-d
RewriteRule . /index.php [L]

I don’t think this file changes when you change your rule, so once you’ve written it you can probably live without WordPress being able to update it. I don’t really see any reason to be overly permissive so I went ahead and left it read-only. So now you’ve set up your configuration for your pretty permalinks, of course if your system is set up like mine then it still won’t work.

The slickness of the WordPress installation is such that my httpd.conf section for this site looked something like this after install:

ServerName protoscopic.com
ServerAlias *.protoscopic.*
ServerAdmin webmaster@protoscopic.com
DocumentRoot /var/www/wordpress/

I’m always impressed at how easily these php sites work, I barely had to do anything to get most of the WordPress features running. However to allow the mod_rewrite rules to work I needed to change it as follows:

ServerName protoscopic.com
ServerAlias *.protoscopic.*
ServerAdmin webmaster@protoscopic.com
DocumentRoot /var/www/wordpress/
<Directory />
Options FollowSymLinks
AllowOverride FileInfo

The AllowOverride tag defines what the .htaccess file is allowed to override. In this case all we need is FileInfo so that’s all I added. I don’t see any particular harm in adding All, but when I doubt I tend to be less permissive. The FollowSymLinks Option tells Apache its okay to follow symbolic links in the file system and is required by mod_rewrite for security reasons as well. For more detailed information see the mod_rewrite documentation and Apache Directives documentation.

Once I’d done all of that my permalinks worked like a charm…now lets just hope I’m still happy with my url decision next week.

→ No CommentsCategories: Applied Use

Review: The 4 Hour Workweek

July 19th, 2008 · No Comments

Hack Through the Hype and Find Some Good Theory

Tim Ferriss' Four Hour Work WeekYou can safely assume that a book with the title ‘The Four Hour Work-Week’ is the product of a hype machine; at least you know you’re not in for a stately discussion full of nuance and trade-offs. While his writing style and all the promotion in and around the book can be off-putting, we think if you approach it with an open mind almost anyone can gain something from the book, even if its not quite as much as Mr. Ferriss intended.

Some of the book’s main points with which we heartily agree:

  • ‘Rich’ is a function of lifestyle, not net worth.
  • Freedom–and the ability (including the financial ability) to do what you want when you want–is more valuable than stockpiles of cash.
  • Strategies to obtain said freedom include:
    • Eliminating wasted time from your day.
    • Analyzing your income on a per-hour basis and outsourcing when you can.
    • Generating passive income.
Getting Past The Hype

To enjoy and find this book useful, you must “translate” it as you read, applying its ideas to your own life instead of getting wrapped up in specific examples. (If you’re the type of person who takes things at face value, you’ll get quickly frustrated with both book and self-promoting author.) So the key to getting past the hype of this book is disregarding those parts that don’t ring true to you, personally. True, there’s no reason to think that a 30-year-old author who launched a hugely successful company at 25 and has lived a fairly unconventional life overall would be able to prescribe the secret to success for the average person. (We find that guys in their early thirties who have no kids and little experience with ‘real jobs’ don’t necessarily know what 44 year old single mothers’ lives are like.) However, if you boil this model down to fundamentals, it has many implementable pieces.

FOR EXAMPLE: We have heard repeated criticism that, “This plan doesn’t work if you have kids.” We think if you take the message from this book to be that you should quit your job and travel constantly, then, no, the ‘plan’ is not feasible for parents. But if you look at the principles behind the ‘travel’ and ‘quit’ messages, i.e. “value freedom” and “identify why you’re really scared of risk”, then maybe his plan is more universally applicable. And as skeptical as many people are about ‘outsourcing’ things, there’s a good chance you ‘outsource’ your lawn work or housekeeping. The concepts are pretty easily translatable.


Re-Engineering Your Thinking…and Testing Out Some New Ideas

To us, this book is about re-engineering your thinking about work, how you make a “living,” and how you allocate your time. We think it should be used as inspiration and not necessarily as a how-to guide. That said, Mr. Ferriss’ efforts to take theory down to practice are not to be ignored when “getting started” on whatever your next venture may be. His highlighted websites and resources are quite useful in practice and his examples can be thought of as high-level templates for your own trial and error efforts. Transversely, sections like the end on ‘how to enjoy being able to do whatever you want’ seem largely superfluous, as do several of Mr. Ferriss’ “comfort challenges.” We didn’t find them useful or necessary to the book’s overall purpose.

→ No CommentsCategories: Books · Reviews

First Principles

July 18th, 2008 · No Comments

We are approaching this endeavor as something of an experiment or game. As such, we must have a list of rules of what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. Essentially our goal is to apply our knowledge in other areas to the field of “Net Business” and test its feasibility and methodology. To do this, we want to conduct an experiment to see if we can grow from relative neophytes with limited capital, to success. In doing this we will apply several standard paradigms:

Start Small
Our goal is to test the efficacy of various business models, tactics and tools. To do so, we’ll start with what we consider micro-businesses. By this we mean businesses that can be started from next to nothing. There seem to be many opportunities for this out there, and we’d like to see if through sound application of principles we can yield a return that is worth our time.

As we become successful (note the optimism) in each level we will try larger scale businesses. These may be related to the original ideas or may even be the original ideas expanded. Our goal is to progress up the ladder, however. So even if we don’t have the capital to advance these original phases, we reserve the right to move on to new ones once we’ve proven out initial levels.

Create Value
We will not pursue any business models that involve tricking customers. We want sustainable, passive income, and we don’t feel that taking advantage of people is a good way to achieve that. As such, we will be trying to create valuable Internet properties based on providing goods or services that people actually want.

Operate Ethically and Honor Intent
Similarly we will honor the intent of our partners, suppliers and clients. For example, we would not make a website dedicated to inflating a website’s PageRank, as that is contrary to Google’s intent. We would instead recommend relationships that improve PageRank by providing valuable content, a sure way to improve PageRank.

Try New Things
While we may not be interested in every single kind of Internet based business, we will go out of our way to try out different ideas—seldom sought as well as high-trafficked areas—in order to have a broader spectrum of experiences to share.

On both the blog and our businesses we will make use of affiliate programs and other advertising. However we will not advertise or endorse businesses we don’t think add value.

More rules will certainly follow as our experience grows, but these seem a good starting place.

→ No CommentsCategories: Main blog narrative