Future Plans for Reader Services

Where I'd like to take Ftrain. Some options.

Multiple paths through a hierarchical content base.

The Reader Services tool will provide annotated context. “You're reading all the Humor pieces on Ftrain. The next unread humor piece in this path is $LINK.”

This could easily be: “you're reading the documents related to the BR9 Gyrometer. The next unread document is $LINK.”

Technologies: XML/XSLT pre-filtered; GDBM data store; PHP server-side. Paths are generated by adding metadata to the XML content base.

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Context-Responsive Documents

A basic if-elseif-else display:

if the reader has seen a given document
display block of text A
else-if the reader has seen another given document
display block of text B
display block of text Z

Technologies: XML/XSLT pre-filtered; GDBM data store; PHP server-side.

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“Token” based-browsing.

Similar to interactive fiction and based on the same principles as 2; this allows people to receive discrete tokens as they pass through a narrative and have them sorted into an inventory; it is impossible to access certain areas if you do not have a token. (i.e. you cannot get onto the train without your metrocard, etc.) Allows for a more explicit degree of simulation and role-playing in the narrative. (Useful for tutorials.)

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Basic expert-system/database stuff

“Find all the pieces in which Scott Rahin and Paul Ford speak to one another.”

“Find all the comic essays on the site written after 1999.”

“Find me essays that more than 4 people linked to.”

“What is the most popular work on the site?”

“Find me all the stories set in West Chester, Pennsylvania.”

This is accomplished by adding a lot of metadata to content.

Technologies: XML/XSLT pre-filtered (RDF?); MySQL or RDF data store; PHP server-side.

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Multi-form presentations

A version of a given piece can be presented as an MP3 reading, or an MP3 reading with Flash slideshow of images. Alternatively, a story can be viewed as a play. This is going to be so much work there probably can't be much of it, but the possibilities are interesting and figuring it out would be fun.

Technologies: XML/XSLT pre-filtered (RDF?); MySQL Data Store; MING library (for Flash), PHP server-side.

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Cached Searching and Highlighting

A search should result in a list in the Reader Services of the the top 10 search results; this should persist until the reader (1) removes the search or (2) does another search. Search terms in documents should be highlighted ala Google cache.

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Using technologies like CSound, GraphViz, VRML, GNUPlot, SVG or POV-Ray it would be possible to generate a variety of different views into content - sound, directed graphs, 3D Visualizations, audio representations mixed with spoken word, etc.




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 time.


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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 ford@ftrain.com 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


@20, by Paul Ford. Not any kind of eulogy, thanks. And no header image, either. (October 15)

Recent Offsite Work: Code and Prose. As a hobby I write. (January 14)

Rotary Dial. (August 21)

10 Timeframes. (June 20)

Facebook and Instagram: When Your Favorite App Sells Out. (April 10)

Why I Am Leaving the People of the Red Valley. (April 7)

Welcome to the Company. (September 21)

“Facebook and the Epiphanator: An End to Endings?”. Forgot to tell you about this. (July 20)

“The Age of Mechanical Reproduction”. An essay for TheMorningNews.org. (July 11)

Woods+. People call me a lot and say: What is this new thing? You're a nerd. Explain it immediately. (July 10)

Reading Tonight. Reading! (May 25)

Recorded Entertainment #2, by Paul Ford. (May 18)

Recorded Entertainment #1, by Paul Ford. (May 17)

Nanolaw with Daughter. Why privacy mattered. (May 16)

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...) (May 13)

That Shaggy Feeling. Soon, orphans. (May 12)

Antilunchism, by Paul Ford. Snack trams. (May 11)

Tickler File Forever, by Paul Ford. I'll have no one to blame but future me. (May 10)

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. (May 9)

Bantha Tracks. (May 5)

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