You Down With FTP? (Yeah, You Know Me)

File. Transfer. Protocol. The three scariest words in the Blogging Language. FTP is the Freddy Krugar of your blogging dream. Speaking of which, did you see that there is a new Elm Street movie coming out? can tease me with all the Michael Bay you want; there ain't no way in hell I'm doing that shit to my brain.

Anyway, FTP. If you use a hosted blog platform like Blogger or Squarespace, you will never have to worry about this science-fiction double-feature. Go read something interesting {may I recommend some Polite Fiction?} and have a happy Friday. If you're a slave to the Wordpress, or other fun platforms that make you upload shit to your server just to function, please join class after the jump to learn how to survive the claw-handed, backwards clothes wearing, wiggedy-wiggedy-wiggedy wack nightmare that is FTP.....

There are two basic elements that makes your blog go zoom zoom, HTML and PHP. HTML is what makes your blog look the way it looks. Your stylesheet, those fonts and colors and shit, that's HTML. HTML is the walk-in closet of your blog. PHP is the nerve system. It's how your blog's heart beats without you telling it to. It's how you don't have to think 'kick', it just kicks.

Your history lesson for the day: Some dude in Greenland created the first PHP code for his personal home page (see, Personal Home Page? Clever boy) in 1994. He created the second one, too, and that one could talk to databases. Hence, the dynamic webpage was born. And then a couple of Israeli dudes tweeked Rasmus' code a bit, and you have PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor today.

That's the really short story.

Basically, PHP takes input from a file or stream containing text and/or PHP instructions and outputs another stream of data, which is usually HTML. And you blog goes. That's all you really need to makes your blog go, until you fuck it up royally. And you WILL fuck it up royally, given the chance.

You don't really need to know how it works, because God gave us FTP clients and programmers give us handy little zipped filed containing Comment Luv plugins and complete blogging templates and twitter feeders that are all properly written. All you have to do is find the program you want to run on your blog, unzip it, and use your FTP client to upload it to your server. Voila! It works. Wordpress now even lets you search for the plugin you want, click install, and wait 5 seconds. No unzipping or uploading required.

This could take a very porny turn any second now; yes, I am aware.

The only thing you really need to know is how to login to your FTP client and access your server.

Your server is where everything your blog needs to run and be read is housed. Every post, every font color, every little last thing sits on a server. That's what you pay for....server space. It's the Public Storage of the Internet, complete with the pickled heads of cross-dressing psych patients.

But I'm digressing. We'll get to servers and storage space and decapitation of your blog another day.

If you self host, you have an FTP login. There are several different ways to access your FTP. When I was on PC, I used FileZilla. Now that I'm on Mac, I use Classic FTP. These let you find something you want to use in your blog...say, some plugin, on your computer and with one slide of a mouse, upload them to your blog's server. The file you've chosen then just runs with the rest of your blog, because they're written to, and you have some new template or function.

Or you know, you could use it to share song files between friends, without all that hairy email uploading wait time.

If I gave Vodkapundit the keys to my FTP*, he could log in, open that music folder, click Camper Van Beethoven, and slide it right into his own music folder. THAT'S how FTP works.

I tell you all of this to tell you how to use FTP when you see something like THIS:

If you see that pop up when you open your blog, you're fucked. Or, better put you've fucked something up. These Syntax and Parsing Errors seem to be as contagious as a yawn or person gets them, everyone seems to get them.

If @Jim can break his blog, you can break your blog. And you will. Resistance is futile. What isn't futile is learning how to fix it.

What I'd done to garner the affections of the White Screen of Doom is try to insert some stupid, funny only to me, message into my blog for when your comment gets held in moderation. I've gotten that screen before, trying to add plugins or trying to customize my comment box. What I forget sometimes it that blogs are like scarves. They're knit together. Just because I find one line in my php that handles comment moderation, that doesn't mean there aren't 10 other lines of code that work with it, and if I only edit one of them, the whole thing unravels. I unraveled my blog.

And once you get the white screen of death, you can't do shit. You can't get into your dashboard, you can't see your blog, nothing. You. Are. Screwed. Even if you know *exactly* where you made your mistake, you can't undo it. You have to go into your server, by means of your FTP, and fix it there.

This is scarier than all the Freddy Kreugars combined. But you can do it.

When you see that SYNTAX ERROR glaring at you where your dearly beloved blog should be, the natural reaction is to freak the fuck out. Once you uncurl your body from the fetal position it reverts to underneath your desk, the first thing you need to do it READ.

That error message tells you everything you need to know to undo your wrongs. You just have to follow along with it's instructions. Mine told me that my problem was in:

So now, all you have to do is re-read all that stuff up there that I explained and you skimmed over, then log in to your FTP and on click each of those folders in the order it tells you. Once you get to Functions, it's going to pop out that Functions code. You then count 20 lines down and there you are, at what you need to fix.

You have to use the left-pointing arrow to download that popped-out sheet to your computer, then you change your mistake to what it should be, save it, click that right arrow and upload it back to your functions folder.

It sounds complicated, but it's not. I mean, I did it, and I'm kind of an idiot. Class dismissed. And what the hell should we cover next Friday?

*Stephen has been trying for years to get the keys to my, um, errr...FTP. Fat chance, buster.