Tips for Publishing

September 2018 ยท 3 minute read

Originally published by bitreich at gopher://

This document will give you a few hints about publishing through gopher.

Line length

The rendering of content is client specific. However most clients will present the user with a text based interface, so you should be conservative on the maximum line length in your menus. As clients will add a couple of characters to mark item types, a line width of 69 characters is recommended.

The menu

The main entry point and user interface between your readers and your content is the gopher menu item (item ‘1’ as you may recall). The selectors in a menu will define the information hierarchy. Choose a flat hierarchy if you can so readers will get to the content easily and without traversing too many menus.

Use helpful item descriptions for your selectors, this will aid both human and nonhuman readers: indexers will most likely index menu items only. Be as specific as possible. If it is a binary item type hint at its intended format, so your readers will know what to expect. Using a useful filename scheme for selectors is also helpful.

You may decorate your menus with informational items (item ‘i’). Clients will display them as is without additional tags. Around the gopherspace a lot of ASCII art is used to create a pleasant appearance of a gopher site. Some services also include explanations for the specific menu, and use ‘i’ items for grouping selectors.

There are clients that do not offer a ‘back’ button. Be kind to those users and provide navigational selectors in your menus. Make the journey through your gopher space easy!

On your travels through gopher sites, you will encounter gopher sites that use menu and informational items to mimick a page with embedded links. There is an ongoing dispute whether this is good style. We do not recommend this style as it delutes the meaning of the menu item. For starters you should stick to single file items to store your content. Once you gain more experience with publishing content in gopher you can always change your mind later!

Selector hierarchy

By design a gopher site should present a hierarchy of content selectors to the user. These mimick a file system by intention. However this does not need to mtch the real hierarchy of your storage filesystem. An example:

Alicia has a gopher blog (aka ‘phlog’). She writes daily posts. To make it easy on her users she has a menu item on the phlog/ selector that presents the latest 5 posts and a selector to an archive menu linking to all her posts. On disk however both the menus and the articles reside in the same directory. A script creates the selectors in the menu files and rotates them. The post files however remain untouched and their selectors will not change over time. This means that external links to her post will still be valid later.

Site generators

The easiest creation of content is done manually. If you would like to automate some task then there are site generators. Most of these consists of a collection of shell scripts you can adapt to your needs. Search veronica for cl-yag or burrow for starters.