Site News

Themes

The observant may have noticed that the look of this site has suddenly got rather gaudy. There is a good reason for this - I've been creating a WordPress theme which I want to be as flexible as possible. I.e. a 'bare' theme, which can then be styled easily with css. I know these themes already exist, but I wanted my own, m'kay?

The reason for the gaudy colours? Testing. I wanted the default colours to be fairly obvious, with each main element being distinct so that I could be sure that I had the no typos in the CSS selectors.

I'll leave the theme running for a little while, I'd be interested to hear about any usability issues (other than the horrible colour scheme).

The theme should be fully widgetised, it should have comment threading, avatars and so on.

The theme should be fluid and resize gracefully, as screen width reduces, the images reduce whilst keeping aspect ratio.

Things I know I want to fix - some of these are purely 'behind the scenes':

  1. I want, at most, one sticky post on the front page. At the moment, it'll put any number on.
  2. I want to have a tags page which shows the tag cloud.
  3. Behind the scenes, the entry formatting uses the same template, called when needed by index.php and archive.php. I need to get the single.php template to use this as well in order to minimise maintenance (requires some 'if' statements).
  4. Do I *need* single.php and archive.php once I've done that?
  5. Author pages, ideally automatically pulling in gravatars.
  6. Decent 404 page
  7. The comment form gets screwed up on a narrow screen and doesn't resize gracefully. I don't know why.
  8. I want the theme to be accessible. I.e. Good for screen readers and the like. I have no way to test this however, so if you know anyone with a screen reader, please do point them in this direction and ask them to comment (or, pass on their comments should it *really* be unusable).
    1. Is the order of elements okay?
    2. aural stylesheet hasn't been done, for me, that'd be coding without testing - I would want a sheet though!
    3. The tags/related tags stuff - does there need to be a way to, ideally optionally, skip that for screenreaders.... I wonder how (without introducing new screen cruft)
  9. I'll then package up this rough theme for release, create a duplicate and change the look and feel to customise it. If I find that I have to customise anything other than a stylesheet, I'll need to amend the 'raw' theme.

Things I'm unsure of:

  1. I've appended categories to tags (with a different class for styling)
  2. Do I want to keep the related posts thing? It relies on a plugin, so isn't essential for the theme (plugin may be disabled as a recent update caused a problem behind the scenes... I hope I remember to remove this sentence when fixed, but I've couched it as a conditional just in case)

I'm Back!

After much wailing and gnashing of teeth when the host I had murky.org on went belly-up ("I had missed the sorry, but we're closing" email) I am now back. I must nod the head to Nap who supplied me with an up to date backup (which I did not have.... I know... I know....).

The look and feel isn't right at the moment, but the data is here, and for now, that's wonderful!

(Edit: Regarding look and feel.... copy and paste from backup, change preference for display, enable a plugin or two... and it's 95% done - Murk )

Site Updates

I've tweaked and prodded the site this morning:

  • When in a category view, you should see the parent categories and subcategories listed at the top of the page
  • Category views only show excerpts (to keep things lean)
  • The categories have been moved about a bit within their hierarchy (this is to allow for a future template change I'm considering)
  • When reading a single post, previous posts in that category are listed underneath
  • Any comments I make are styled differently - it should be possible to style regular commenters specially as well, ask if you'd like me to try (hmm... perhaps I could even have a user icon for regular commenters)
  • I think I've got the excerpt thing worked out, and will try to remember it if I discuss spoilers for TV shows. I will test it after this list

If I've broken anything, please do let me know. Similarly, if something doesn't work the way you expect, or like, I'd like to hear that too - though I may not be able to fix it immediately (or at all!) it'll go on the list.

Another New Theme

I've got yet another new theme going. It's been tweaked a bit for functionality, e.g. breadcrumbs, RSS links and so forth (different RSS links appear on different pages, depending on context) A problem with CSSThere is one bug, as demonstrated here

(The problem is fixed, link removed)

I want img tags in posts to be floated, so the text wraps around them. No problem, but I want the next post to clear the img.

The trouble is that when I give the appropriate class for the start of the next post a 'clear' attribute, it clears the menu sidebars as well! I could cludge in a wide img that forces a new line, when it's floated, but that has two problems as it will be 'squeezed down' creating whitespace when the window is narrowed, and it won't work if the window is widened. This'd mean the site would only look as expected in a narrow range of window widths.

Not good. It's not critical, the next can be seen for the next post (it wraps too), but it isn't what I want.

I suppose I could complicate the html for img tags to get around it, but that's inelegant and inpractical (lots of back-editing).

There has to be an elegant fix, which doesn't involve loads of edits, I've tried a <br clear="left" /> in the template, but that has the same problem. I don't mind adding HTML to a template, just not to the post!

Any bright ideas out there? Help gratefully received. (If in the mood to fiddle directly, firefox has a web developer extension which allows you to affect the CSS of a site you're viewing, on your browser, it doesn't affect anyone else)

Future plans: I'll keep changing themes until I have a nice selection that all work as expected, then put in a theme switcher to give user choice.

Problems with wordpress

Firstly, generally it's fine - works behind the scenes - and 'just does it'. Disadvantages are that it's php based, and I don't know php. This makes modifying it a pain. In addition, all my permalinks are slightly different. This unfortunately means I'll have broken links within the site. This should be minimised as the old site is still there (and some links will go to that) - however, it does mean that the internal consistency isn't what I'd like, and I can't see a fast way to fix that. The only method that springs to mind (short of lots of programming, having first taught myself HOW to do it) is to scroll through and check links manually. A bit of a pain, and I'm not going to be able to do it anytime soon...

... so, I would appreciate a comment if you see a broken link (or if the link suddently changes the look of the thing, that means you've gone to the old site). I'll fix anything commented as a priority.

Wordpress

After much wailing and gnashing of teeth caused by 'upgrading' to movabletype 3.3, I've installed wordpress. Long story short, first MT looked fine, but it would not save new entry - and for the last 24 hours it's been producing server errors. Not nice.

Anyhow, things are still ongoing - I may swap back as I'm more comfortable in MT than WP, but in the meantime.....

I've now got the thing running again, I'll save the modification of styles (and a lot of modification is needed) for later....

Template Woes

Whoops. I wanted to make a template backup, and so intended to save the current template over the older template. My clicking went faster than my brain and I saved the older over the newer.

Fortunately, I was able to reconstruct a similar looking homepage quite quickly - but it's lost a lot of the modifications I made.

This just brings forward the day that I redo the templates completely. I'm not sure when I'll get around to doing this, but I'll get there sooner or later! Decluttering the homepage is a key aim - but decluttering isn't as easy as people think, the hard part is decluttering whilst keeping utility. There's also the issue of changing over whilst keeping things working at all times!

I've a few things in mind, I'll just have to add them to the list and they'll bubble to the top once I've dealt with urgent and important, urgent (but not important) and important (but not urgent). It may be some time.... unless I need the distraction and want to geek for a bit.

RSS - Live it, use it, love it!

It's been a little while since I mentioned RSS. The title is rather corny, but once you're using RSS you will wonder how you managed to keep up with things before. RSS is a pretty easy to use thing, many websites use it. It allows you to keep track of many sites in one place. In fact, I find that the vast majority of the sites I use utilise RSS, from Flickr to the BBC News, from del.icio.us to Slashdot.

To use RSS, you first need an RSS reader. One of the easiest is bloglines. You need to create an account on the website to continue.

Alternatively, you could use 'Live Bookmarks' in Firefox or Thunderbird, or one of the many other programs out there.

The next step is to copy the address of the RSS feed into your reader of choice. Look for the RSS feed on the site. this is often a little orange button.

Entries Feed

Quite often, clicking on the link will launch your feedreader, you may need to right click and 'copy the link'.

Paste it into your feedreader (sometimes called an aggregator).

Updates to the site now come straight to your desktop.

Some sites, are even nice enough to provide single click buttons for popular aggregators, though these do assume that you have an account with that service. You don't need these special buttons if you're using that service, all you need is the feed link, there will be somewhere to paste that link when you log in to your reader.

Subscribe with BloglinesAdd to GoogleAdd to My Yahoo!Of course, I've been nice enough to supply direct links for some of the popular choices!

On this site, there are RSS feeds for comments, comments on individual articles, categories (you might want to get just the UK politics, without the day to day stuff, for example) and so forth.

Don't forget to click through to the sites from time to time to add comments to articles!

I'm Back!

After a week of downtime on the servers, things are now back... and what a week to be cut off!

Blair government in meltdown, Clarke sacked. Prescott removed from job (but not title or perks....), an apparent climbdown on the potentially disasterous Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill (I haven't had a chance to study this.. have we won?)

On the geeky side, I'm now up to 26 geocaches (having got a few in Dorset at the weekend), and I've discovered the wonders of Google Calendar - a lovely application - still in beta and needing improvement, but already pretty damned good!

On server issues, at the moment the email may not be working fully, and the web side of thing has been back for only five minutes - so I'd appreciate any bug reports via comments (or via gmail)

'Captcha'

With deep irony after my earlier post, I had an attack of the spams today. Some of which made it to the site. So after having a major spam cleanup (apologies to anyone tracking comments via RSS or email), I've implemented a 'captcha'. I.e. anyone commenting must provide the secret password. This is pretty easy for a human - but much harder for an automated script. This is not based on a graphic, but is instead based upon understanding a sentence. If anyone runs into bugs, please let me know on bugs (at) murky (dot) org. Thanks.

It is now also possible to ask the software to automatically email you comments on a post without having to comment yourself.

(Update: This is now removed).

Email Notification

I have finally got around to adding a feature which allows commenters to ask for followup comments to be sent to them by email. The commenter can opt whether or not to receive these emails, and before any emails are sent the address will need to be verified, this is to prevent the site being used to spam people. This is on a post by post basis. People who subscribe using this feature can cancel a subscription for a particular post, or for the whole site, by following the instructions in the email. This should prevent people becoming deluged in the unlikely event that a comment thread 'takes off'.

This is in addition to the XML feeds provided for each post.

Please report any bugs by commenting upon this (or indeed any) post, though this post is the best place!

Remember, if you're an 'unknown' poster the comment may enter moderation. Blame the spammers for this. I will 'whitelist' regular commenters to bypass this feature. If that applies to you, and I have yet to whitelist you, please comment here and I will address this).

Top of the British Blogs

This is scary, I'm currently number 9 in the Top of the British Blogs. Okay, it's a fairly small pool at present, but still - scary!

Of the other sites I recognise, Europhobia is at 16, Iain Dale is at 17, Chicken Yoghurt is at 33 and perfect.co.uk is at 50.

There's no way that I'm higher up than some of those guys. Conclusive proof, Britblog's algorithm is messed up! It must be, it's the only rational explanation.

Of course - now watch as I plummet off the list...

Stats are back ... and MSIE is at 50%?

After a hiatus due to a glitch, I was pleased to find that I now have access to the webstats again (and have done for some time). The webhost disabled them for a while to protect the servers. Anyway, to cut a long story short, roughly 25% of the visitors to this site are using Mozilla Firefox (Mozilla itself is a small percentage). Well done you.

Unfortunately, over 50% (but not much over, 52.7%) are using Internet Explorer.

Oh dear.

Whilst this is lower than the average for computer users (most just use what is installed at purchase time), the intelligent and beautiful people that you are can really do better that this!

I do encourage you to give Firefox a try, it is free, and very nice to use (especially once you get into tabbed browsing and extensions).

Firefox is available for PC, mac and unix systems, and in many languages.

For an example of why MSIE is worth leaving behind, have a look at CSSEdge - these (correctly coded) webpages look good in Firefox, but does not work as expected in MSIE, that is because MSIE is not standards compliant.