From August 2008

Forcing DISQUS To Sync With WordPress

DISQUS is a pretty good service which makes it easier for people to comment and track their contributions under a single profile across multiple sites. To use it with WordPress you install a plugin which is supposed to sync comments between itself and your local database. Whether it was a problem with the plugin or something I did I’m not sure but unfortunately something went wrong last night and I ended up with my local WordPress database containing duplicates of all my comments (not good).

Having first disabled the plugin I tried to restore my comments from the previous days backup but unfortunately due to a character encoding issue that didn’t work either and I was left in an even bigger mess! Using the import feature of the DISQUS plugin didn’t seem to do much good either as only about 1/5 of my comments were being synced back to WordPress and there didn’t seem to be a way to force it do the rest.

After contacting their very helpful support people I managed to find a rather unorthodox solution which I thought I’d share in case anyone else comes across the same problem. The following assumes that all your comments were successfully imported into DISQUS prior to any problems and that now you want to sync them back into WordPress (it’s also not for the technologically faint of heart!) –

  1. Disable the DISQUS plugin and backup your WordPress database (essential).
  2. Create a new empty wp_comments table in your WordPress database by running this SQL script (e.g. mysql -uusername -ppassword databasename < wp_comments_table.sql). This drops the old one before creating the new version. If you’re not familiar with MySQL commands there are plenty of reference guides available online.
  3. Re-activate the DISQUS plugin. If you click “Import” under the “Advanced Options” tab of the plugin you may see some/all of your comments re-sync but in my experience this didn’t work fully.
  4. You’ll notice that every time you visit a post that it syncs any comments back to the WordPress database. This is fine, but if you have hundreds or even thousands of posts it’s going to take a long time. You could wait for Google to re-index those pages but that usually takes weeks or months so the quicker way is to use a tool to crawl your site automatically. I used Xenu’s Link Sleuth (free) which is designed to find broken links but by running it over your site will also trigger the sync for each post.
  5. Depending on your host you will probably want to change the rate at which you crawl the site otherwise you may get timeout errors. I found that by setting Xenu’s Link Sleuth to 10 parallel threads was the optimum speed (you can find the setting under “More options”). You may also want to exclude certain directories such as /wp-content/ to reduce the crawl time.
  6. Sit back and wait for the crawl to complete. You’ll notice all your comments begin to appear back in your WordPress database, the number of which can be seen under the main dashboard 🙂

Your millage may vary with the above and I hold no responsibility for any adverse effects but hopefully it may be of help. Apparently the latest version of the plugin (2.02) fixes the duplication issue I experienced.

Overlooking The East

There have been some amazing advances in CG animation over the past few years with Pixar having a string of hits which seem almost unstoppable and meanwhile a new level of sophistication is emerging both in the visual style and story telling departments. What I find strange though is that the creative output of the Japanese animation (anime) industry is still largely ignored by the west (with a few exceptions) even though they produce more content than every other country put together. I would suspect this has something to do with the cultural gap which can be particularly evident if you are unfamiliar with that part of the world although for me makes it all the more interesting…

Recently I’ve seen two anime films which I’m sure most people will not have heard of but which use cutting edge animation to great effect and if you enjoy that sort of thing definitely worth getting your hands on

Appleseed Ex Machina

Following on from first film in 2004 Appleseed Ex Machina takes the unique look to the next level in evidence by a greater depth of detail and texture than its predecessor. Whilst some of the character articulation needs work it’s still a visual feast to behold. Cyborgs and mecha eat your heart! [Review]

Vexille

Whilst borrowing on a similar visual style Vexille is an altogether darker film in both its appearance and tone. Set in a self-isolated Japan of 2077 the visuals are outstanding and, even though the score by Paul Oakenfold is unorthodox, it’s refreshing and compliments the excilarating action scenes. [Review]

Neither of the story lines here are totally unique and the character development is sometimes lacking but if you’re after eye candy they might just blow you away!

Conceptualising The Future

While the digitally-empowered of today may find the concept of searching for information in a library full of dead trees rather quaint how will future generations see the way in we navigate the sea of hypertextually linked information today and what will they be doing differently?

Envisioning or conceptualising the future has always fascinated me. Some lucky people get to do this as a job and futurologists at Adaptive Path have recently produced some interesting videos (as part of the Mozilla Labs concept browser series) showcasing a possible future user experience on the web –

Aurora (Part 1), Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

There are some extremely cool ideas going on here with four major themes; contextual awareness (understanding and finding patterns in data), natural interaction (bringing the digital experience closer to a real one), continuity (a single interaction model between multiple devices and input methods) and multi-user applications (enabling collaboration).

Mashing-up and sharing data using an innovative interface lies at the heart of the demo and I liked the way that it allows you to organise people, things and places in 3D space. Whist it clearly needs further research and refinement I could see being extremely useful considering the mountains of information most of us sit on and produce daily.

The problem with concepts is that they rarely become reality. Steve Jobs hit the nail on the head when he talked about the development of concept cars

“You know how you see a show car, and it’s really cool, and then four years later you see the production car, and it sucks? And you go, What happened? They had it! They had it in the palm of their hands! They grabbed defeat from the jaws of victory! What happened was, the designers came up with this really great idea. Then they take it to the engineers, and the engineers go, ‘Nah, we can’t do that. That’s impossible.’ And so it gets a lot worse. Then they take it to the manufacturing people, and they go, ‘We can’t build that!’ And it gets a lot worse.”

Simply put, turning concepts into reality without loosing the integrity of the original vision is very hard. This applies across many areas in life but there’s nothing more exciting than when it actually works out.

One concept slowly being turned into a reality is that of the semantic web (which I’ve written about before here and here). The video below is not a concept; it’s an evolving reality and, dare I say it, rather an amazing one! –

Although it might not be ready for the prime time yet I can see huge potential in projects like Freebase Parallax for a radical shift in the way in which people navigate information way beyond the traditional boundaries of static pages hard-linked together. This is the first step towards the future of unlocking information in data and knowledge in information.

If you know of any other interesting projects I’d love to hear from you!

Spectacular

I only have one word to describe the opening ceremony to the Beijing 2008 OlympicsSpectacular!

China certainly knows how to put on show and with Zhang Yimou at the helm you wouldn’t really expect anything less. London now has a lot to live up to but I can already guarantee you it’ll be tame in comparison to this.

I’ll let the photos do the talking… can’t wait to download this in HD!

All photos © Getty Images – larger versions can be found at The Big Picture

Street View Comes to London

Google Street View, the system that provides interactive panoramic pictures of streets in Google Maps,  has recently been causing a stir in the UK with privacy groups fearing it might breach data protection laws. After assurances from Google that it would blur peoples faces and numberplates they have been allowed to proceed and there have been multiple sightings of its high-tech cars roaming the streets in and around London.

Some relatives of mine spotted one of the cars while they were having a walk in Surrey (just south of London) and had a chat with the driver as well as taking some pics of the gear he was driving around with.

Apparently the array has 7 cameras at the top with laser range finders just below (to record geospatial 3D information) and an extremely accurate GPS receiver to record the position. All the data is saved to a computer in the boot with 1Tb storage discs which he said he used several of each day!!  It’s controlled by a simple touch screen interface which sits in the passenger seat.

Not the most fun job in the world but the technology is pretty cool!

The amount of data they must be archiving alone defies belief and strongly reminds me of the philosophical issues raised by Jean Baudrillard in his book ‘Simulacra and Simulation‘ whereby he questions how can you tell the difference between what is real and what is a copy when the copy is as detailed as the original?

The territory no longer precedes the map, nor survives it. Henceforth, it is the map that precedes the territory – PRECESSION OF SIMULACRA – it is the map that engenders the territory, and if we were to revive the fable today, it would be the territory whose shreds are slowly rotting across the map. It is the real, and not the map, whose vestiges subsist here and there, in the deserts which are no longer those of the Empire, but our own. The desert of the real itself.

There’s a warning in there somewhere for Google!