The Trials and Tribulations (and sheer JOY) of doing History digitally. or History, Work, Social Media, and Dreamweaver

Beth and I now approach Life 5.0. You know,

Life 1.0 – Youth, Learning, Loving, Courtship, and doing some incredibly stupid things:

Life 2.0 – Marriage (or a reasonable facsimile thereof) and family, the work-a-day world:

Life 3.0 – Success (move to the country), the empty nest, our own business:

Life 4.0 – Tragedy, Katrina, the Great Recession, disaster, losing business, home, savings, etc. Poverty.

Life 5.0 – Recovery, “reinventing oneself” ????, Retirement (i.e. working the rest of your life – on your own terms).

From the midst of 4.0, I turned back to my first intellectual love, History. Since I had nothing else to do, and some meager resources left, specifically rent and grocery $$$$, a well-stocked study and a Mac, I decided to write a history book. I was able to brag at a recent family reunion, that after all these years, I am doing what I always wanted to do – reading history and writing history! And since I now possess my very own printing press, aka the WWW, I can publish my history as well. Ain’t Technology Grand ?!?!?!?

Considering all that I have, there was still a guilt factor. I was not contributing to the household. Oh, sure, Beth would insist that cooking, cleaning, laundry, groceries, keeping the household accounts, merely occupying the house was a vast contribution. But I would do that anyway. I did it all through our working life. What I needed was an income, and human contact. Sitting in my study, out in the country,  doing History was all well and good (OK, its fabulous), but life cannot be lived in a vacuum. It’s also nice to have a few extra bucks to buy a snowball or a new book, or a tank of gas to take Beth out for pizza now and then. And Lo! and Behold! What would appear? but a part-time job in my local small town. Ain’t Recovery Grand ?!?!?!?

Speaking of social activity, despite the efforts of Mr. Zuckerberg and company, I am still an old baby boomer. One year away from social security, and after 25 years as a technologist (I even got paid for it on occasion), I remain mystified by “Social Media”.  Basically, I was taught that a wise man keeps his mouth shut, only fools prattle on. Bragging was for braggarts (see, there is even a negative term for it). Calling attention to yourself was a social faux-pas of the first order. Maybe this is a generational thing, maybe I am just weird – but this was how I learned to relate to the world. As an aspiring writer, I have registered on all the Social Media sites to advance my cause. Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Tumblr, etc. I am chest deep in social media. Looking at it, though, all I see is prattle, braggadocio, “look-at-me, look-at-me” posts. The producers of all those “build your (author) platform” advice columns all emphasize “don’t use the media to sell your book, don’t mention your website”, etc. Don’t say, “see my blog” or “buy my book”. Then, as I follow them through the various media, what do I see? My new blog is out! New book available on Amazon! The latest newsletter is available!

 HUH ???!!!!

 So what do I blog about? or Tweet about? or share on Facebook and Linkedin? Do you really care about my breakfast? or what happened at the store today? or what I’m watching on TV? My interesting, bloggable/tweetable activities are, as stated above, reading and writing history. How does one actually “build a platform”? without talking about the planks? or even the infrastructure framework beneath? I am eager to learn.

 Learning Dreamweaver, however, is another story. I have been pointing and clicking on my Mac (and other platforms) for a quarter century now. I began building web pages back when they came in any color you wanted, as long as it was gray. I discovered back in Life 2.0,(1975)  that while computers were great tools, I would never be a “programmer” (we used to call people who wrote code by that moniker back then). So when a little German company called GoLive made this great software called Cyberstudio for the Mac back in 1997, I was in hog (web) heaven. Through 2011, even after Adobe discontinued the product, I was happily designing and producing the website for my history project in GoLive. Then came Lion. There went GoLive and my true WYSIWYG web editor, and as far as I can discover after extensive searching and trial, the only truly advanced WYSIWYG web editor in existence. But the tech world, in its wisdom, moves on. This is perhaps the most accurate marker I can define for my entrance into Life 5.0. The future belongs to the social media – ly plugged-in coders.

 Anyway, strive as it might, Dreamweaver is close, but not entirely, a true WYSIWYG web editor. One cannot drag and drop images or text boxes where one would like without tweaking the code. Yesterday, I tried something simple (or so I thought) like changing some text color, but NOOOOOO. It’s hard to believe all of the monkey-shines one has to go through to accomplish this simple task. It reminds me of a well known historical concept, going back to the days of the Babylonian and Egyptian scribes. You know the one – take something simple, like -say- an alphabet or writing system, then make it so complicated that only experts, after a long training period, can manipulate it; then charge “an arm and a leg” for anyone else wanting to take advantage of it. This great tradition is continued today in the legal world by those folks Shakespeare and a lot of others would have us do away with. Now, the coders of the tech world may join their ranks. What I loved about GoLive is that it made elegant, professional websites without all of the programming nonsense.

Let me close with some good news. Today, I received my advance copy of the new Sigil User Manual by Suzanne Fyhrie Parrott. if you don’t know about Sigil, check it out at It promises to do for ebooks what GoLive used to do for websites. Combined with iBooks Author, I will be quite busy for the next few months. These tools together (yes, even including Dreamweaver) will be introducing to the world “The Culinary Adventures of Frere Gerard” by the autumnal equinox. Be looking for it.


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