Dumb Things I Have Done Lately

Friday, February 29, 2008

An Unexpected Blog Makeover

For a while now, I've been using a modified Snapshot Sable template; in addition to the usual sidebar tweaking, I'd also widened the main content column so it could take 500px wide photos (the Flickr medium size) and customized the header images.

Sometime overnight, one of the external CSS files changed. Or something. It ended up disappearing my text. So this afternoon, I did an emergency template switch -- I'm now using TicTac Blue with similar modifications, just as a stopgap measure. Though there are still a few problems with the layout that I need to adjust.

The reason why it's a stopgap measure is that I need to move to a new platform. I've pretty much hit the wall with Blogger. Plus, it doesn't help that my category pages are a mess -- the "dumb things" and "photos" pages are frickin' huge, since they're just one big page.

Plus, I want to add in a few new features, like private posts on a per-post basis. I also need to create a separate blog for the social media and community stuff -- it's getting too messy keeping everything together. So that means Wordpress.

Anyway, that's the plan. I've mentioned it before, but I really need to get it done. I just need to make sure I can migrate all my content and retain the URLs (I've bookmarked the appropriate articles), since I don't want to lose my superior search rankings for, say, the people looking for Reston strip clubs, who think "virginia" is a portion of the female anatomy, Asians trying to fight the flush, and the rest.

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Monday, June 18, 2007

Undoing the Damage Done: Blogger's Labels vs. Technorati Tags

I've been untangling 6 months worth of stupidness with my blog categories (Blogger insists on calling categories "labels," which in my mind is only outstupided by Salon's insistence on calling comments "letters").

Ever since I switched over to the Blogger beta, I've been trying to figure out the best way to combine the functions of externally-oriented tagging (tagging content so others can find it, primarily through Technorati searches), with internally-oriented tagging (tagging or "labeling" to have discrete categories to organize my posts).

For a while, I tried to do both (the categorization via labels and the tagging through the Greasemonkey Technorati Tagging Script), but having two sets of tags/labels was ugly and inelegant. So I decided to stick strictly to the labels.

Boy, was that a disaster.

What I failed to fully realize is that Blogger creates an aggregator page for each one of your categories/labels. So when I started using labels for single-use, one-off tags ("stupid html jokes" or "hot and ugly"), I was also creating useless aggregator pages with lone entries.

This created a whole bunch of unnecessary pages, which greatly increased the number of pages that need to be updated whenever I posted or edited an entry.

In addition, it basically made the categories useless as categories.

So after an initial cleanup this weekend, I was left with 261 categories... and 218 of them had only one entry. (And of course, editing old entries pushes them back up into the DC Blogs feed, in case any feed watchers wonder why 6-month old entries keep popping up.)

Now, I'm down to about 80 categories -- the number will drop a little more as I do some final cuts, then rise again as I start categorizing old posts and making new ones, but keeping it under 100 should be manageable -- as long as I can apply a little self-discipline.

Yeah, that's another trainwreck in the making.

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Perils of Standardized Keyboard Commands

In Google Docs, Control+S saves your current document. For most of us, even in the era of Autosave, hitting Control+S is an automatic and compulsive behavior, ingrained by decades of using Microsoft Word and a few traumatic document losses.

However, in Blogger, Control+S saves your current document by publishing it live. This is almost always not what I intend to happen.

This has caused problems for me in the past, and will continue to do so in the future.

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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Notes on the Blogger (Un-)Beta and OpenID

So, seeing how Blogger is officially out of beta, I finally took the plunge and switched over last week. Here are a few of my initial thoughts:
  • You know, it would have been nice to let me know beforehand that switching to the Google login would wipe out or otherwise make inaccessible my previous Blogger profile. (I'm not very original.)

  • Categories are nice to have finally, though right now, I have both Categories (sorry, "Labels", ugh) and Technorati Tags.

    I know it's awkward, but even though it looks like the Blogger Label tags are getting picked up properly by Technorati as tags, I'm still thinking about if and how tags that I use to label content for external consumption (e.g. Technorati) should co-exist in the same space as tags that I use to label content for internal navigation (categories).

  • Blog owners are recognized as owners when they leave comments and no longer have to go through the CAPTCHA, which is a welcome relief.

  • Layouts: I do want to mess around with the layout, designs and modules, but I need to try it in a test blog first. I'm generally satisfied with the current layout, but it's jarring to me to see another blog that shares Snapshot: Sable (albeit modified -- for example, the stock Snapshot: Sable is too narrow for the standard Flickr medium size of 500 pixels).

    However, at this point, I don't know how far under the hood I want to go with CSS and graphics , or just switch to Wordpress.

  • The settings and control pages seem a bit more functional, though I don't note anything completely different. I will have to play around some more.

  • Of course, I'm using the DC Blogs GMT time zone fix to make sure my posts show up at the top of the feed when published.

    If it weren't for DC Blogs live feed visits, the bulk of my traffic would be people looking for overpriced uncut currency sheets, big-boobed MLM infomercial hosts, and misspelled female genitalia.

Playing With OpenID

Thanks to this OpenID tutorial, I finally better understand what it's all about -- I mean, I understood that it was similar to other single sign-in schemes used elsewhere, but it's more open and delegated.

In it's most useful form, if you've got a Web site (including a blog), you've got a login.

For example, I've got a free OpenID account set up with myopenid.com, and I'm currently using www.joelogon.com as my delegate, which just means I, as the Web page owner, put a few lines of HTML code in the header of my page. (It's kinda-sorta like embedding the technorati claim code in your blog.)

When I go to a Web site that takes OpenID, I login by typing in my www.joelogon.com address. From then on:
  1. The Web site looks at www.joelogon.com
  2. It sees the HTML code I've put in, which redirects me to the OpenID provider I've previously specified (myopenid.com)
  3. I login at myopenid.com to confirm I am the owner of www.joelogon.com, which confirms my identity.
Because www.joelogon.com is my identity, I can change my OpenID provider down the road, but still keep using my URL as my ID -- I just need to change the HTML to point to the new provider.

I'm trying to come up with a good real-world metaphor; I guess a seasonally-appropriate one that comes close is the scene from Miracle on 34th Street, when they proves that Kris Kringle is Santa Claus, because the U.S. Postal Service sends letters addressed to "Santa Claus" to him.

I will have to come up with a better metaphor. All metaphors break down eventually -- this one, sooner than most.

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