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Dear friends, I'd like to talk about our interview series and the blog infrastructure. This is our current workflow for publishing an interview:

  1. We close the interview, limiting its beginning and end. In this step, I usually create the chatroom bookmark.
  2. I get the whole text from the interview and try to organize it by reordering the sentences to make it sound more linear.
  3. Once I have a preliminar text, our reviewers work on this draft.
  4. The reviewers return the text ready for publishing.
  5. We create a new blog post and add the content.
  6. I perform some checks on verbatim text, links and references.
  7. Once the interview is reviewed, I need to reformat it in order to comply with our dialogue guidelines (cf. Clearer formatting of dialogue in TeXtalk). I have a script that does this for me, so it's a semi-automatic process.
  8. The interview is published.
  9. I update our meta thread with the blog post and chatroom bookmark (cf. TeXtalk interviews).

Our blog runs on top of a Wordpress installation, provided by StackExchange. IMHO, this infrastructure works very well for the majority of the network sites, but I'm afraid is does not work for us. At all.

By default, Wordpress only allows a subset of HTML entities and it has the bad habit of removing some existing ones for the "sake of simplicity" (and it's usually wrong on its assumptions). It's always a pain to format the interview with the current scheme. Visual mode sucks, and HTML is not any better (interchange modes and you are in hell).

Markdown support is not good. And sometimes you are forced to use it with HTML (so no advantage of using Markdown at all). And again, things you type are still subjected to the good will of Wordpress.

What I actually mean is, as it is, Wordpress does not offers us a good, simple way of typesetting interviews as we would like. There are some hacks and tricks to make them look as our heart desires, but they take a huge amount of time. And it's counter-intuitive.

I wish the blog infrastructure could be built on top of the SE framework instead of Wordpress. The Markdown support we have here is amazing and, even if we could not fully comply with our dialogue guidelines, it would be easier for everybody to collaboratively work on the text. At least less painful, for sure.

I'm not sure if the Powers That Be have any plans to improve the SE blog network. I was thinking if we could provide the interview as a PDF file, and of course, with the source code available. I know that a PDF approach is not ideal, since users might prefer reading the interview online in a browser instead of opening a PDF viewer in order to see what's going on. Sadly, as it is, the interview format is not fluent for us that work in the backstage.

If we opt for a PDF format, I'd like to call our TeX experts for us to come up with either a document class or package providing an interview-like format, publicly available (reaching CTAN at some point). Every interview would be typeset with this class/package, and it would be easier for our reviewers to work on the text. Besides, the blog posts would not be complicated to come up, since no heavy format would be required, just a link for the PDF file.

We are open to suggestions. :) Feel free to add your own views and also some pointers on what you would like to see on TeXtalk. After all, community matters! :)

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    First of all Thanks to you for being our interviewer and Best volunteer editor of Interviews at tex.sx. As a reader I am satisfied with TUG format at tug.org/interviews . Both html and pdf format would be nice instead of only pdf link for easy browser readability. may be we should develop from It's guidelines at tug.org/TUGboat/tb30-2/tb95berry-interviews.pdf – texenthusiast Sep 10 '13 at 15:33
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    @texenthusiast: thanks for the kind words. :) The problem with our current approach is that we don't have any control over the generated HTML - our HTML is usually trimmed or modified by the Wordpress filter, so the task is quite tedious. :( – Paulo Cereda Sep 10 '13 at 16:08
  • I understand the effort it takes for not having control over the current wordpress blog format. May be @Moderators as you said ("Powers That Be have any plans to improve the SE blog network") should chip-in to build some format based above TUG guidelines link. – texenthusiast Sep 14 '13 at 15:43
  • @texenthusiast: Indeed, I'm really hoping for the best. :) I really like the idea of also providing a .pdf version, and Karl's article looks like a starting point. :) Maybe I could contact the community manager about our ideas (Anna, I guess). I'll talk to Joseph first. :) – Paulo Cereda Sep 14 '13 at 15:55
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Some of us on the Community Manager team are interested in improving the Blog Overflow experience. One of the proposals we are considering is to use the Stack Exchange engine or parts of it. There are lot's of little issues to consider, however. It's also effort that would be expended on a feature that most sites don't use and tends to be tangential to the primary mission of the sites that do. We've been operating under the assumption that WordPress is "good enough" for most sites and blog authors.

All of this is to say that we are hoping to make the blog less troublesome for the sites that do take advantage of them, but there's no timetable or even a reasonable expectation that it will happen. Your question and the unique situation of TeX.SE's blog provides evidence that this is something worth pursuing, however.

  • Thank you very much for your answer, Jon! (I actually missed it, I'm sorry) I 100% agree with you: WordPress really works for the huge majority of SE sites, but I'm afraid we are part of a naughty troublemaker minority. :) If we somehow can help the SE team, say, with tests or even providing some use cases, please by all means let us know, we are very open and eager to build a better user experience for all. :) Thank you again! – Paulo Cereda Oct 24 '13 at 11:01

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