I have questions about this site, so it seems likely anyone who wandered past would have some as well. So, here’s an (i)FAQ for The Phantom City.

Q. What is this place?

A. It is a place beyond time and space, beyond your most terrifying…never mind, it’s just a blog. My personal > public journal, to be exact.

Q. Why should I be interested in it? What’s your hook?

A. Nothing in particular. It’s mostly for my edification. But try reading it. You might find something in which you didn’t realize you’d be interested. I’m doing that all the time (300+ feeds on Feedly and counting).

Q. Why a blog? Doesn’t it seem like everyone has one now?

A. Exactly, that’s the best reason to have one. How are you ever going to learn to conform if you don’t do what everyone else does?

Seriously, it’s mostly something to encourage me to write most days. I don’t get a lot of practice at it in my current job, except for occasional technical writing, but I used to do it for a living. Funny thing is, when I did it for a living, I burned out pretty easily on it. So, I’ll write about things I like, and maybe…just maybe, this blog won’t end up being just another dead site on the side of the superhighway.

Q. Who are you, then?

A. My name is Shane, like the movie, or the book. I live a pretty normal life in Durham, NC, USA, working on the Internet and enjoying my marriage to a beautiful, intelligent, witty woman. (Yep, somehow I fooled her into thinking I’m something neat as well. I wonder if she’ll ever catch on I’m just a geek…Sorry, thinking out loud.) No kids, no pets, no house. A few lists:

Work: Web Applications Developer; DevOps; Government Contractor Federal Employee; Web Systems Manager; List Moderator; Nonprofit; Research Triangle Park; E-Commerce; Content Management; ColdFusion; XHTML HTML; JavaScript; Elixir/Phoenix; HTML 4.01; CSS3; IIS; Oracle 11g; SQL Server; Windows 10; Editing; Meetings

Play: Reading; PC Games (Descending order: RPG, Strategy, Wargames, Sports, FPS); Basketball (watching and doing); Bad Movies (MST3K+); Genre TV (SF, Cartoons, whatever); Epic Stories of High Adventure, Love, Betrayal, and Mystery; Pulp Fiction (1920’s through 1970’s); UNC Sports (particularly Men’s Basketball)

Learn/Know: Political Science; History; PHP; MySQL; Linux; Apache; Ruby on Rails; Maps; Too Many Trivial Things

Q. Why The Phantom City?

A. Because, it is a place beyond time and space, beyond your most terrifying…never mind. It’s just because the name sounded neat, like one of the pulp novels from the Thirties where the hero wanders out into the trackless waste™ and runs across the seemingly abandoned, yet haunted, city. After all, isn’t that what life is about? (Okay, so life isn’t really about that sort of thing. But it is, sometimes.)

Anyway, after I came up with the name, it turned out to be the title of one of the few Doc Savage adventures I hadn’t yet heard of. Unfortunately, it’s not one of the better ones. It definitely has the city in the trackless waste thing going on, but the rest kind of devolves into a confused mess that requires the sort of villains who don’t practice basic metallurgy.

However, for a better story, there’s a Buddhist parable from the Lotus Sutra out there.

Q. Why WordPress?

A. When I was researching the software for this blog, I checked out Movable Type, pLog, pMachine, and WordPress.

While Movable Type had a lot of capability and a large user base developing new and interesting plugins for it, I didn’t really like it’s nature of publishing by creating and recreating physical files. It might make it more efficient on requests, but my blog isn’t likely to get large enough for database access to be a problem. Plus, it was in Perl, which I probably don’t understand as well as PHP or ColdFusion.

pLog and pMachine were both PHP-based solutions, but looking at the code and the large number of files, I didn’t feel confident in understanding what they were doing. (However, after I had already chosen, pMachine released very feature-rich blog software called the Expression Engine. Probably worth checking out, if you are looking for a pay solution.)

WordPress, on the other hand, is a breath of fresh air. Even though the documentation is only somewhat complete so far, looking at the PHP code it is very easy to understand what each piece is doing. Plus, with the 1.2 version, a new plugin architecture makes most new features easy to add and distribute.

While the community may be smaller, it is an open-source project (GPL) and the members are very involved. Plus, after the recent changes in Movable Type licensing, I’ve seen a lot more talented people heading to WordPress as well, so I expect the community will just keep growing.

Q. Anything else?

A. What else could there be? 🙂 Seriously, contact me if you’d like to see anything added to this (i)FAQ, and maybe some question will actually become Frequently Asked.