A change of theme…

After sticking with Andreas09 for so long, I have been lured into using Prosumer instead. A spot of tweaking has turned it from a fixed width layout into something a spot more fluid. It’s more edgy than its predecessor but I hope to make things appear a touch more harmonious, to my eyes anyway, over time. The level of personalisation might be even greater too, never a bad thing when it comes to standing out from the crowd. While on WordPress.com, I did try with Andreas09 but the greyness that I added got to me in the end and I stuck with a brighter scheme after moving the blog. We’ll see how it all goes on from here…

Now, I know why my site layout changed on WordPress.com…

One of the caveats of using themes authored by others is that you don’t quite know how things are set up. The reason that this has come home to roost for me is that I was trying to change the title of a widget last night and was wondering why it wasn’t filtering through to the blog pages. I went for a spot of googling as you do and it dawned on me what might be going on. The plug-ins used by the Andreas09 theme are defined in its functions.php file and I was being scuppered by naughty piece of hard coding in there. If it was using the standard widget from widgets.php in the wp-includes directory, then everything would have worked as expected. A quick spot of code porting resolved the issue and all was well again.

What this has to do with WordPress.com is that they seem to have encountered the same problem and fixed it using what could be viewed as a more ham-fisted approach: deleting the widget functions from functions.php for Andreas09. This would have meant that the default widgets shone through, thus explaining the changes that I had seen and why my nice categories listing now grabbed less attention. I reckon that my more surgical approach is the better one: at least, I still have my categories looking how I want them…

TechnologyTales.com has moved server…

The last week on WordPress.com has featured decisions that some may question, to say the least. For instance, the death of Feed Stats was something that I saw as a retrograde step. Next, I saw a slight change to the appearance of my blog that led me to take full control of the situation; a previous discussion with WordPress.com staff about changing a theme to the way that I wanted it to be got me nowhere so I wasn’t about to try again… I might miss having advance notice of where WordPress goes next but I am not sure that I want to be a guinea pig either.

So, you now find this hosted by Streamline.net and, apart from a lengthy hiatus (at least, it felt like forever thanks to recurring thoughts of PageRank loss; yes, I know that sounds silly…) spent awaiting FTP access to be sorted out, the set up ran smoothly enough; I think that my request for transfer from a Windows server to a Linux one might have been the cause of the delay. Setting up a MySQL database was a breeze and it’s part of the package too. In fact, the Pro package that I am using is £31.99 ex VAT per annum, not bad at all, and, teething problems out of the way, it’ll be interesting to see how things will fare from now on.

Having a self-hosted WordPress installation is nothing new to me since I do it for my hillwalking blog and everything came together very quickly this time around. knowing what plug-ins add real value was a definite help: Bad Behaviour and Ultimate GA headed the list but a Spam Karma 2 is another option. Feedburner integration is another potential item on the configuration list. I have stuck with the Andreas09 theme but am unsure as to how far I will take customising it; it’s not a high priority right now. In fact, I may find another three-column layout that takes my eye now that I am not limited to the offerings available from WordPress.com.

The posts from the old blog have arrived over here and that seems to have worked fine first time around thanks the WordPress’ import/export functionality. I still have to get the images over but there’ll be time for that yet. Another thing on the to do list is to transfer over the links and set up any text and RSS widgets that have been a feature of the previous rendition of the blog. That means linking to wp-links-opml.php on the old blog using the import links functionality. There is no other link export function and you can only import into a single category; a link import/export plug-in that retains the link category information would be a bonus.

While I wonder if I have made a rod for my own back with my having two self-hosted WordPress blogs, it does feel good to have more control and it’ll be interesting where where this journey goes next.

Using blog widgets

The theme that I am using for this blog, Andreas09, allows me to add widgets to the sidebars. And most of these are customisable to varying extents. I have selected a few for mention here but there are others like Tag Clouds (very Web 2.0 and, I think, very inelegant) available too.

The most customisable of all is the Text widget; you can add practically any (X)HTML to it and it’s how added my online photo gallery teaser. Don’t try adding any scripting or it will be removed for security reasons. Even JavaScript suffers this inglorious fate and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the same for PHP.

Next up in usefulness, at least from the content point of view, are RSS feeds (just look for the headings with the orange logos beside them). The ability to show shared items from you Google Reader is a nice piece of convergence. Speaking of convergence, I also added the feed from my hillwalking blog too. Taking things further again, I have added ones for InternetNews, A List Apart and The Blog Herald and I wonder if RSS feeds will not replace email newsletters now that we have tools like Google Reader.

Moving to the navigation side of things, the Categories widget can be collapsed to a drop down menu like I have for the Archives one. I prefer things to be the way that I have them because I want people to see what’s here. The Calender widget makes up for visitors not spotting what the drop down represents; that’s why the Archives widget can be a drop down menu rather than a list.