Is there a book in your blog? Convert WordPress to Scrivener

I found this great post from Liz Strauss with a great idea: Look through the archives of your blog and see if there is a book in there. She suggests that if you have 200 posts, there’s probably a book. I have over 400 – maybe even two! But seriously, it’s a good idea.

I’ve just started using Scrivener, and that would be an awesome tool to pull this together. It has great features for managing chunks of text, including a corkboard for arranging them. But how to get the posts into Scrivener?

It was an interesting problem to solve and I figured it out. It brought the posts in just the way I wanted them: Separate files, with images intact.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Use the wp2epub plugin to get the posts out as an .htm file. This is a subtle feature, but the htm file comes in the .zip file that is created with the epub file.
  2. Edit the htm file to replace the <h1 class=”main”> tag at the start of each post with the same tag but with ### on its own line in front of it.
  3. Import the .htm file into Scrivener. It will come in as a web archive, and images should be intact.
  4. Use Documents->Convert->Web Archive to Text to convert the file to text within Scrivener.
  5. Export the newly created text file as RFTD, rich text in Apple’s format.
  6. Import the newly exported file, but use the Import and Split function, entering ### as the split string.
  7. You now have your posts in Scrivener, each as a separate file with images intact.

Firewall Jail

The other day I tried to click on a tinyurl.com link while at work. I was surprised to see a site-blocked message from our SonicWALL firewall. Why block tinyurl? All it does is let you take a very lengthy URL (which are increasingly common for a lot of reasons) and convert it into a very short one. This is very useful for putting URL’s in email because some email readers break URL’s in half if they are longer than one line. This of course renders the URL useless, unless you take the time to paste it back together.

I did a short search, and it turns out that tinyurl is one of the sites that firewall companies have decided we don’t need to see. Actually, they classify it as a proxy bypass tool, but the net result is that they’ve decided tinyURL is guilty until proven innocent. Like the extra ounce of shampoo in the TSA security line, because it could be dangerous, it is dangerous.

This is fascinating to me because it creates a huge gap.

You see, tinyURL is blocked by default. You can unblock it, but the interesting part is that must be done by IT. IT, who has just about everything else to do but answer requests like this, and has a built-in defense against spending any time on it: It’s a default setting on the firewall, and we trust their judgement.

The employee probably isn’t motivated to get it unblocked, because going to some IT departments with a request like this is a great way to ask for trouble, even if you’ve got some ironclad business reason for needing it unblocked. Never mind that the tinyurl you can’t read may be pointing to a relevant article on a blog; It ain’t the Wall Street Journal or a company memo.

That leaves tinyurl.com. Or Facebook. Or Linkedin or a ton of other quasi-business sites to find a way to get firewall companies to not block them by default. They end up blocked in the first place at least partly because the firewall users block them, or some of them do.

From SonicWALL’s site:

SonicWALL CFS categorizes millions of URLs, IP addresses and domains in a continuously updated, dynamically rated database. CFS rates over four million URLs, with hundreds more added daily. Because the ratings are determined both by artificial intelligence and human observation, the database is highly accurate, and the instance of false positives is minimized.

I think it’s safe to say that part of the process is measuring how much time people spend on sites, so, ironically, the usage a site promotes might just be what gets it blocked.

Consider Linkedin and Facebook. Facebook is blocked, but Linkedin isn’t. I think that’s because Facebook came from the non-business end of the social networking space, but Linkedin came from the business end. Facebook can be a sinkhole for time. Between the applications, the photos, the groups and discussions one could really spend all day there and some probably do. Linkedin was the stoic busienss site. There wasn’t much to do except invite people, process requests, or tweak a rather limited profile. Linkedin has since tried very hard to become a lot more like Facebook. My prediction is that very soon Linkedin will cross the threshold, and will become a site that chews up so much time that companies block it.

The firewall blocks a site because a segment of it’s customers decide to, and by automation. The customer company probably has no way to check the list of blocked URLs in any reasonable way – it’s got to be in the millions – so probably has very little understanding of what they’re missing, so to speak. The user has the ability to lobby with their local IT group to get a site whitelisted if they choose, but that still leaves the site blocked elsewhere the firewall is used.

Here’s the gap: Suppose a site that started out blocked turns out to have a lot of value – does it’s rating ever decline? Automatically? Hard to say. SonicWALL doesn’t mention that, and I’m guessing that there’s only one way it ever happens, and that’s by people asking them to re-rate sites.

YOU can ask for SonicWALL to re-rate a site here.

A better luggage tag

Over at One Bag One World there’s a mention of a novel luggage tag idea. Red Oxx announced something similar, but I got one from them as a comp (they forgot to send me a plastic one I ordered) some time ago. It’s your basic dog tag with a nice threaded cable loop for attaching it to your luggage.

It’s a little annoying because it jingles a bit when I walk so I replaced with a non-metalic tag on my Air Boss carry-on, but I got what I thought was a clever idea when I got the tag.

Jim Markel asked me what I wanted engraved on my tag. My first choice was:

DO NOT MOVE BAG
DHS TEST LUGGAGE
CONTACT LOCAL
AUTHORITIES
AFTER 48 HOURS

But I figured with civil rights being what they were under the Bush administration it was a bad idea.

Instead I opted for my name, my email address, cell #, my website URL, and a password. My thinking was that if I end up on the kind of long trip where it’s good for the luggage finder to have my itinerary, I could just put a password protected page on my site, with a notice that anyone finding my bag could log in with the password to see my itinerary or leave me a message.

My travel died down, and I never implemented the idea, but I think it’s a good one.

I would also mention that the metal tag is a good idea because a) it’s hard to read from far away (think nosy stranger) but easy to read when it’s in your hand and b) the writing ain’t coming off and neither is the tag. If I check a bag, I’m using it.

The only thing worse than not getting what you want is…getting it.

So today the Big 3 are beginning their pleas to the government for loans to keep them afloat until they can return to profitability. It seems most people aren’t in favor of a bailout, and even resent the automakers for even asking for a bailout after they spent years making cars no one wants.

Wait a minute. No one wants? They may not want them now, but they wanted them then!

I don’t know about where you live, but here in Milwaukee Escalades are not uncommon. Neither are H2’s, Suburbans, and all the rest of the giant vehicles. Large pickup trucks are also very common. Before the collapse, these vehicles were not cheap. I’m not thinking people bought them as a result of coercion or some kind of conspiracy. They bought them because gas was cheap. Gas is fine. It’s cheap, and why shouldn’t we drive larger, safer vehicles? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been lectured to about how I’m almost being irresponsible by not having 4 wheel drive in the winter by someone who’s just fallen in love with their 4 wheel drive Canyonero.

Then gas gets more expensive. Way more expensive, and all of a sudden everyone regrets driving a gas guzzler. We all start wishing we could instantly buy cheap hybrids, or even better, electric cars! We should also think about energy independence – then a lot of this middle east nonsense would be irrelevant, and certainly the environment would improve.  Gas is now bad. Can you believe all these people are still driving SUV’s. We need hybrids! Ethanol! Electric cars!

Then we have a collapse. Gas is cheap again. Our automakers are suffering, first because spiking gas prices made the vehicles we demanded for years unattractive, then because even though gas is cheap no one has the job or the credit to buy any kind of car. The B3 come to Washington, beg for money, and we’re outraged. How dare they, after all those years when they could have been making electric cars, which nobody wanted,  and instead made tons of money on gas guzzling SUVs, which we loved, bought in droves, and happily paid high prices for?

Now the B3 are presenting plans stating they are going to embrace all things green, energy independence and full economy related. Hybrids. Alternative fuels. Electric cars. If only the government will give them the money, they will make the cars that will save the country.

God help us if we agree to this. The thing no one is asking is how many new, expensive, hybrid & electric vehicles newly recovering citizens are going to buy when gas is at $2 a gallon. The answer is not many. I’m no genius, but I do know enough about manufacturing business to know that demanding the expensive development of expensive products that have no market is not an effective way to rescue a struggling company. We may end up bailing them out, just to turn around and do it again in the form of subsidizing the purchase of vehicles American doesn’t really want to buy.

While I’m as offended as anyone about their flying to the meetings in their corporate jets, I don’t blame the automakers for making the cars customers wanted to buy. It takes years to get a car already developed into a manufacturing pipeline, and even if we could shorten that to only a year the automakers still wouldn’t have been fast enough to satisfy America’s fickle interests.

The real problem that must be solve for the B3 is their own internal inefficiencies and labor costs. Let’s worry about solving those problems, regardless of whether the best way is bankruptcy or bailout. Changes in these areas will help these companies no matter where gas ends up, or how American tastes change.

Energy efficiency & independence issues aren’t a B3 problem, or an oil company problem or a government problem. They are an American citizen making the wrong choice problem. Having efficiency and independence means making sacrifices in other areas – sacrifices America has not been willing to make. I don’t think there’s any evidence they will make them in the future.

If the American people are going to demand that development of speculative vehicle technologies is part of any bailout, how about we ask the American people to pre-order the vehicles as part of the bargain?