By Paul Ford
Nice things about Ftrain that you may never have noticed before.
The Ftrain code, mostly by accident, has these exciting features:
- Allows for the creation of highly structured, linked narratives in fairly simple XML. Writing text for Web publication is
easy for those who know HTML and the basic rules of XML.
- Organizes these narratives chronologically, automatically producing “most recent” views, as well as organizing things into
larger, structured, multi-level narratives.
- Creates a pretty calendar.
- Has an, uh, integrated linking system that works nicely with your browser. If you see something you like, you click a button
link to an XML file. XSLT then sorts links by category and chronology, etc.
- Entirely written in vanilla XSLT sans extensions - the link CGI, and one command-line function that generates random numbers
both require a little perl, but other than that it's clean as a whistle. It runs fine with SAXON and LibXSLT. XSLT is a fairly
simple language and I've programmed everything by the book, using a functional rather than imperative style whenever possible
(although I could do better). Nothing would stop it from running on Windows (it was developed on Linux).
- Produces totally vanilla HTML - nothing need be done on the server, although if you wanted to spit out PHP code from the XSLT
for comment systems, or link things back to style sheets and the like, nothing is stopping you. If you run the XSL processor
locally and then use rsync to copy the files, even with few hundred files you can usually upload all your changes in about
- On a 400 Mhz processor it takes 44 seconds to completely process 2.5 megs of nested XML, producing 725 or so linked files.
Without the links, calendar, and random functions this is about 10-14 seconds. Thus you could churn the thing every ten minutes
or hour with no harm done.
Ftrain.com is the website of Paul Ford and his pseudonyms. It is showing its age. I'm rewriting the code but it's taking some
There is a Facebook group.
You will regret following me on Twitter here.
About the author: I've been running this website from 1997. For a living I write stories and essays, program computers, edit
things, and help people launch online publications. (LinkedIn). I wrote a novel. I was an editor at Harper's Magazine for five years; then I was a Contributing Editor; now I am a free agent. I was also on NPR's All Things Considered for a while. I still write for The Morning News, and some other places.
If you have any questions for me, I am very accessible by email. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask me things and I will try to answer. Especially if you want to clarify something or write something critical. I am
glad to clarify things so that you can disagree more effectively.
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© 1974-2011 Paul Ford
Recent Offsite Work: Code and Prose.
As a hobby I write.
Facebook and Instagram: When Your Favorite App Sells Out.
Why I Am Leaving the People of the Red Valley.
Welcome to the Company.
“Facebook and the Epiphanator: An End to Endings?”.
Forgot to tell you about this.
“The Age of Mechanical Reproduction”.
An essay for TheMorningNews.org.
People call me a lot and say: What is this new thing? You're a nerd. Explain it immediately.
Recorded Entertainment #2, by Paul Ford.
Recorded Entertainment #1, by Paul Ford.
Nanolaw with Daughter.
Why privacy mattered.
0h30m w/Photoshop, by Paul Ford.
It's immediately clear to me now that I'm writing again that I need to come up with some new forms in order to have fun here—so
that I can get a rhythm and know what I'm doing. One thing that works for me are time limits; pencils up, pencils down. So:
Fridays, write for 30 minutes; edit for 20 minutes max; and go whip up some images if necessary, like the big crappy hand
below that's all meaningful and evocative because it's retro and zoomed-in. Post it, and leave it alone. Can I do that every
Friday? Yes! Will I? Maybe! But I crave that simple continuity. For today, for absolutely no reason other than that it came
unbidden into my brain, the subject will be Photoshop. (Do we have a process? We have a process. It is 11:39 and...)
That Shaggy Feeling.
Antilunchism, by Paul Ford.
Tickler File Forever, by Paul Ford.
I'll have no one to blame but future me.
Time's Inverted Index, by Paul Ford.
(1) When robots write history we can get in trouble with our past selves. (2) Search-generated, "false" chrestomathies and
the historical fallacy.
The Moral Superiority of the Streetcar.
(1) Long-form journalism fixes everything. (2) The moral superiority of the streetcar. (3) I like big bus and I cannot lie.