New Domain, Gumption, and Gumption Traps

This Wednesday, I found both the time and gumption to migrate my website to the new domain (marcusbaker.org). I had been procrastinating because migrating all the WordPress content and databases seemed like a massive headache. Additionally, it was easy enough to mirror the old domain (ens0.info). When I received a notice that the domain registration was expiring, the time to hesitate was through.

The migration was kind of a nerve wracking ordeal. I haven’t done much technical work in the last few years. I had to dust off my command line interface (CLI) skills to transfer all the content from the old server. And I did a bunch of SQL database manipulation to ensure all the WordPress files were pointing to the correct places. At several points over the multiple day ordeal, I was fairly certain that I broke the whole thing. However, since the migration required backing up everything, I felt pretty confident that even if I broke the install, it could be restored.

I want to touch on the concept of “gumption traps”, since this little project had several. Robert Pirsig explains gumption traps in his book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Pirsig defines gumption as a sort of inspirational energy, or motivation to complete a task:

“I like the word “gumption” because it’s so homely and so forlorn and so out of style it looks as if it needs a friend and isn’t likely to reject anyone who comes along. I like it also because it describes exactly what happens to someone who connects with Quality. He gets filled with gumption.

A person filled with gumption doesn’t sit around dissipating and stewing about things. He’s at the front of the train of his own awareness, watching to see what’s up the track and meeting it when it comes. That’s gumption.

If you’re going to repair a motorcycle, an adequate supply of gumption is the first and most important tool. If you haven’t got that you might as well gather up all the other tools and put them away, because they won’t do you any good.”

The problem with gumption is that it is a finite resource. One that can be sapped by gumption traps, which can be both internal (hangups) or external (setbacks). For this migration, I experienced a little of both:

  • Hangups
    • Anxiety about ruining my website, or losing all the content
  • Setbacks
    • Unfamiliarity with some of the software involved
    • Being rusty with CLI
    • Having to track down login/password info for both domains, both sets of SQL databases, secure shell logins
    • Not having proper user permissions

The setback gumption traps were easiest to overcome. I pick up software pretty quickly, and the tasks involved were well documented. It was a matter of finding the best instructions, and following them. The same can be said about using CLI. Fortunately, I had a fairly solid background with the shell from the first iteration of ens0, which was a small web/shell server that used only CLI. Finding the passwords scattered throughout my domain was tedious, so was fixing the user permission issues. It’s the buildup of these little setbacks that make one want to shelf the whole project.

The hangup of fearing breaking my entire website (and losing 5 years worth of blog entries) was certainly the largest issue for me. How I got past it was accidental: I misread the domain registration expiration date for ens0 as 4/22 instead of 5/22. Thinking there was less than a week to figure out and perform the migration meant I had to just start working on it, instead of fretting about the ‘what-ifs’.

I think the main takeaway was this: solid documentation and a bit of fearlessness is all that’s required for me to overcome most gumption traps.

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