When part A doesn’t fit into Slot B

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

To continue my work on ThreadNeedle, I needed to update my server’s Berkeley DB installation to take full advantage of the persistent features of the Redland RDF Application Framework. Since Berkeley DB is also used with our Movable Type installations, I felt it was only prudent to upgrade the weblogs on my server to using the MySql database system so they wouldn’t be impacted by any of my tinkering.

Burningbird and my other MT-based pages upgraded to MySql without a problem, but the conversion of Stavros’ weblog was less than successful, resulting in re-build errors and missing functionality (the Recent Conversations comments feature). According to Movable Type Ben, what most likely happened is that the version of MySql on my server can’t support the complex functionality used for this particular feature.

What to do, what to do. If I don’t upgrade MySql, Stavro’s weblog will either remain in its semi-broken state or he’ll have to back out his upgrade, and return to using Berkeley DB (leaving his weblog a bit vulnerable to my ThreadNeedle efforts, and that’s a lousy thing to do to my favorite Canuckian). But if I do upgrade MySql, I’ll most likely break other applications using the database system. As it is, I’ve already broken the Post Content prototype application, used to manage my moved and missing web pages, when I installed Redland and overwrote the Perl libraries used with it.

And to add the element of irony necessary for any good story, the Redland Framework isn’t working, either.

The software development process is an act of creativity. We have an idea, we conceive the final form, and we use the tools at hand to to bring this conception to life. The software that results from the development process is no less a thing of beauty than a dramatic photograph, a well written phrase, or a lively tune – for all of the software’s perceived useful rather than aesthetic nature.

Sometimes, though, there are impediments to creativity, and this is no less true with software development than it is for other forms of expression such as writing or photography. A case of part A not fitting into slot B. When this happens all that creative momentum hits the limitations and constraints and compresses in on itself until it resembles, at best, a misshapen accordian that plays only to a middle range of mediocrity.

Mark Pilgrim understands this, which is why he created the series, 30 days to a more accessible weblog, including the most recent entry Using horizontal rules. Ostensibly the tips from the series will help us create more accessible weblogs; in reality, Mark is showing us how to blast apart the limitations inherent with web pages and let the creativity of our weblogs flow unhindered.

(Most likely Mark would also tell me that ThreadNeedle’s current technical limitations would be eliminated if I just went with a Python solution.)

Jeff Ward understands this, which is why he put up a static page of thumbnail sketches of Invisible Light, his fascinating, disquieting photo essay based on images captured from various bars in Southern California. The thumbnails are the quick peeks, the fast throughs, the tip of the hat in compliance to those who travel from web site to web site in a race to see how many they can gulp at a time. And once the sop to those who live in a perpetual state of brain freeze is tindered, Jeff then creates a wonderous show for those viewers willing to spend the time to await the results, slow modem be damned.

Jonathon understands this when he spends hours investigating techniques that will allow his readers to resize the text in his weblog. What matters the time and effort expended on carefully crafting stories and tales, thoughts and opinions, if his reader can’t appreciate the effort because the text doesn’t render correctly in their browser, or is too small to read? Works of creativity aren’t complete until they’re consumed.

And I understand this. Which is why you all have to excuse me as I return to figuring out how to put part A into slot B with ThreadNeedle.

Anyone have a hammer I can use?

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