I’m a Little Busy At The Moment

I’m working on a newspaper article, a query letter to a national travel magazine, work for my Vancouver employer, and I’m putting back together (external link).

Among all those tasks, redoing the website is by far the most time consuming. I’m beset by technical glitches that keep me from rolling quickly ahead.

WordPress, though, is fascinating technology. I can try out a variety of looks or themes for the website without breaking the pages I construct. Usually. Getting four hundred pages together, though, is going to be slow and somewhat painful. I welcome you to check the site from time to time to see how I’m doing.


The Tyranny of Link Rot

As I prepare to resurrect, I am faced with my old nemesis: link rot. Links can be positive. External links help readers and they make a site more authoritative. Just as footnotes add credibility to the printed page, so do well chosen links. But some studies show 25% to 30% of external links die every year, as pages are pulled or changed. My experience in 11 years of running private bore out that statistic. What to do?

There are software programs that will scan your site to show you what links have broken. Those programs, though, will not fix dead links. That must be done manually. Off you go with each broken link, hoping to find a new page that replaces the old one. If one exists at all. private had hundreds and hundreds of external links over its 400+ pages and by 2006 I was done trying to repair them. It was a big reason I sold the site.

The problem is still rampant in 2016. This page gives an excellent presentation (external link) of the dilemma and offers ways to help reduce the number of dead links before you link over. The only partial solution I found was to archive vital material. That meant downloading and storing .pdfs, images, and entire pages in case a link broke. I could then restore the resource as an internal link. This is impractical for an entire site but manageable for crucial information.

One question that goes begging is that of copyright. Can you use someone else’s material, even if they have pulled it off the web? The short answer is probably not. You could ask permission but I have found that a dead end. No one replies. My response back then was to post the information, saying that a copyright holder could have it removed if requested. I think I got one request. No one seemed to care, anymore than they did in removing the information to begin with.

As I put the site back together I will put in far fewer external links. I may have the URL noted, but in static form like this: [ — accessed January, 2016.] Using Alexa or the Wayback Machine might permit a reader to find the page many years from now. But I myself will be spending less time documenting in the future.



I’ve Reacquired

Thanks to the generosity of Ken Schmidt of,(external link), I have taken back the domain was originally designed in 1995 as a complement to my hardcopy magazine about the telephone system private line. Over time the site grew to be a telecommunications writing hub, at one point spanning 400+ pages and in 2002 getting two million hits.

Those days are long past and I won’t bore you now with stories of text browsers, e-mail responders, or going to Def Con when it was new. Just know that I intend to bring the domain into the modern era, as a WordPress site that can be easily maintained. I’ll put the history content back up first, as I clear the dead links that have accumulated over years of being an archive.

Always something more to do.




Exploring Linkedin


I am starting to investigate Linkedin. Or is it LinkedIn? Like the freelance sites (internal link), it is another odd world to explore, with its own navigation and features. I say odd because there are so many people there that I don’t know, and have really no connection to. But perhaps I do know them. Perhaps they have been a reader of, which at its height attracted two million hits in 2003. Or perhaps they read my hardcopy magazine. In any case, I continue to add information to my Linkedin profile, which I hope will not take people away from this site, which is really my best connection to the writing world. Let me know if you have had any good experiences with Linkedin:

Private Line Magazine Covers


Why telephones? Q&A

Q. You’ve written a great deal on telephones, especially telephone history. You even appeared on the History Channel as an authority on Alexander Graham Bell. Why telephones?

A. The story of the telephone is the story of invention. And the story of invention is the story of America.

Q. A bold statement.

A. But very true.  Curiosity, persistence, and ingenuity — these are all traits of American pioneers and inventors. Invention is in our very nature.  I find technology fascinating for its own sake, but then things become so much more than the device itself: an entire story develops around the invention.

Q. Like what?

A. Alexander Graham Bell was absolutely consumed with inventing the telephone. He and Watson worked in a poorly lit attic that was a hovel; a firetrap they were lucky to have survived. Steve Jobs and Wozniak worked out of a garage.

In both cases they came up with a wonderful product, after a while, but in the beginning they had to struggle with little or no money, endless weeks and months of no sleep, wary investors, patent questions, and powerful forces as competition. With Bell and Watson it was the Western Union Company. With Jobs and Wozniak it would be IBM and Microsoft.

It’s not enough to invent something. To make your invention succeed, you yourself must succeed. All very American. All good stories.


A new site and a new beginning

tomnewphoto“I’m like a monkey with a transistor radio!” A friend used to say that whenever confronted with new technology. At this point, I, too, am feeling a bit simian. Although I developed a 400 page website over a period of ten years,, it’s been eight years since I created a web page and time has rushed on. This web site and blog uses, a web authoring service that you can use to endlessly edit. Like a word processor, it offers the promise of carefully groomed text or complete inefficiency.  How much time, for example, should you spend changing link colors from green to blue? Revisions and editing are acceptable to a degree, but at some point you must get your writing done, especially promised writing. Deadlines must be met, they are the one thing that technology will never change.