Tag Archives: wordpress

Welcome to AppleTalk →

Last week, I quit MacTalk. Yesterday, I, along with a number of other co-conspirators, launched AppleTalk Australia, a new site for Apple enthusiasts to chat about anything related to Apple.

Yours truly on the welcome post:

So, this is us. A new name, a new front page, a new discussion platform. A fresh start in many respects, and a clean slate in every other. We’ll still be covering all things Apple, Mac, and iOS, and we’ll do so from that unique Australian perspective you’ve come to know and enjoy. For starters, we’ll be taking it slow with a daily news summary from the world of Apple from yours truly. Over time, we’ll add reviews, how-tos, and editorials into the mix, and we’ll see where things go from there.

It’s our own foray into the big, bad world of online publishing. We’re funding the entire thing ourselves for the time being, and once we get something resembling a readership, we’ll look into sponsorships, running ads, or other alternatives for revenue. We’ve put a bunch of effort into it, and it’s turned out pretty well so far — I can only hope it lives up to our readers’, and our own, lofty expectations.

If you’re wondering whether I knew about it before I left MacTalk, the answer is: yes, of course I did. After a number of years writing the daily news, I just wanted something of my own — a property (besides this blog) I could be proud of, one that I could look back on and pat myself on the back about.

The front-end is powered by WordPress, and the forums are powered by Discourse. I’ve been using WordPress for years, but Discourse is an entirely new thing.

Ever since it was introduced, I’ve wanted to work with Discourse. Something about it just seemed like the future of online discussion platforms — and from everything that I’ve seen of it so far, I’m wondering why people are even bothering with the alternatives, the established players in the forum space (phpBB, vBulletin, etc). There’s just so much to love about it that everything else seems outdated by comparison. It’s modern. It’s open-source. I have no experience with Ruby, the language that it’s built with, but thankfully I haven’t had to dive into any code thus far — the admin panel is well-organised and fully featured enough so that hasn’t had to happen.

There are those that think Discourse looks “samey”, and like any default theme, I agree wholeheartedly. We’ve customised the AppleTalk install a little, and it’s amazing what you can do with a splash of colour and a few custom avatars.

As Mr Wells said on the Reckoner podcast (where I spilled the beans about AppleTalk before it was actually live), it’s been a long time since there was a good Apple forum for Australians, by Australians. It’s my fervent hope that AppleTalk becomes that new forum, and I, along with my partners in crime Toby and Bart, am prepared to commit as much as it takes to make that happen.

As they used to say, “this is my next”.

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Barley for WordPress →

Barley for WordPress is a super-cool plugin that lets you make changes to posts on the front-end, rather than having to dive into the WordPress editor to make your changes. Great for if you spot a typo, updating a link, or re-writing entire paragraphs.

But I don’t think I’ll be using it, because as Shawn Blanc discovered, it converts posts into HTML from the WYSIWYG/Markdown backend that I enjoy using. That’s a super-minor issue and shouldn’t discourage “normal” users from picking it up, but it just doesn’t work with my post workflow, you know? I’d rather edit in Markdown than have to write messy HTML in posts.

Hopefully one day soon the WordPress folks will bring native Markdown support to self-hosted WordPress blogs, not just ones hosted on WordPress.com, but until then, I’ll be sticking with the excellent Markdown on Save plugin.

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Words

We’ve become obsessed with fancy designs, responsive layouts, and scripts that do magical things.

But the most powerful tool on the web is still words.

I wrote these words, and you’re reading them: that’s magical. I’m in a little city in British Columbia; you’re probably somewhere else. I wrote this early in the morning, June 20th, 2013; you’re probably reading it at a different time. I wrote this on my laptop; you could be reading this on your phone, a tablet or a desktop.

You and I have been able to connect because I wrote this and you’re reading it. That’s the web. Despite our different locations, devices, and time-zones we can connect here, on a simple HTML page.

I wrote this in a text editor. It’s 6KB. I didn’t need a Content Management System, a graphic designer, or a software developer. There’s not much code on this page at all, just simple markup for paragraphs, hierarchy, and emphasis.

via Words.

In my never-ending quest for a new blog theme, I’m constantly on the lookout for something that looks similar to the ideal theme I have in my mind, which is as whimsical as a light summer’s breeze. I’ve used the current theme for around two years, and as much as I like it, it might be time for find something new.

Choosing a new theme is harder than it might sound: you can’t just pick any theme that you think looks good. Most of the time, the live demos of potential themes don’t really give you a feel of how your content will look in different skin. When looking for a new theme, you have to consider things like typography and layout, and even then, you still have to worry about the WordPress-specific stuff; post formats, video embeds, images with captions, and so on. You have to be super picky about the theme that you do eventually choose, because it’ll likely represent the whole look and feel of your blog/website for years to come. It’s no small undertaking, if you take it seriously (which you should).

And honestly, one of the hardest things about making choosing  a new WordPress theme is that it’s kind of hard to find something even vaguely suitable, never mind one that has the layout and features you might be looking for. There’s an absolute tonne of themes out there — which you might think is good, until you actually start looking for something that suits your particular site. Check out any theme catalog and you’ll see a million and one themes which are totally unsuitable for a blog. I know that WordPress is now a fully fledged CMS and whatnot, but remember when it was about writing content that you could publish online? What’s with the portfolio/magazine/everything-but-a-focus-on-actual-words themes all over the place? Look at the first nine or so themes on WooThemes — apparently one of the better WordPress theme shops out there — and tell me how many would be suited to, you know, publishing actual words.

Even those statically-built websites (Jekyll, Octopress, and the like) have great default themes. As much as I like WordPress, I’ve been tempted to switch to blogging with Octopress in the past, but haven’t really looked into it seriously. There’s a lot of WordPress advantages that mean I haven’t left just yet. It has an insane community, for starters, and it’s extremely extensible and customisable. Plus, I’m kind-of, sort-of, familiar with PHP, making WordPress a pretty good fit so far. Unfortunately, it’s also a victim of its own popularity: it’s gotten to the point where trying to find the right thing for what you want to do might be more trouble than it’s worth. Maybe I should have backed the Ghost Kickstarter after all.

Either I’m not looking in the right places, or what I’m looking for — a minimalist theme with great typography that’s responsive and optimised for the kind of writing you see right here — just doesn’t exist. To be honest, I don’t think I’ll ever find the perfect WordPress theme. The current theme — Minblr, from Themify — is pretty good, but it’s not perfect. There’s honestly not a lot I could do to improve it without making some major changes, and if I’m going that far, it might just be easier to find another theme altogether, you know?

Of course, I could just go ahead and make my own from scratch, but WordPress themes are a lot of work. Besides, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel — if I can get by with customising something someone else has already made, I’ve saved a tonne of hassle, and probably extended my lifetime by a few years to boot. You don’t know pain until you’ve experienced web development pain.

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A change not of seasons, but of themes.

People keep telling me that change is good. Even though my own experience says otherwise, they say that change is almost always for the better, rather than for the worse. (Realistically, bad change is terrible. Horrible, even.) They say that change is good because a lack of change leads to stagnation, which leads to a lack of innovation, which is bad.

I propose a different hypothesis: change is only good of the change itself is at least as good as, if not vastly better than, what existed before.

Which is really why I chose to change my WordPress theme.

I’ve posted about theme changes before, but it’s been quite a while since the last theme change; in the beginning I used to change themes quite frequently, every couple of months wasn’t uncommon. As soon as I settled on Grid Focus, though, it seemed that I wouldn’t change unless I saw something even more minimalistic or clean. That’s not to say I wasn’t looking, I was always on the lookout for a lore minimalistic theme, a cleaner theme. In Google Reader there’s posts that pop up every now and again that showcase what’s new in the world of WordPress themes, and almost everytime I scrolled past them, dismissing them as “too busy”, or “just not what I’m looking for.

Until, that is, I found Minblr by the guys at Themify.me, creators of Awesome WordPress Themes. (Full disclosure: those are affiliate links. Click them. Or Don’t.)

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Twitter Updates Now Turned Off

Right, so maybe you liked them, maybe you didn’t. Maybe having a publicly-searchable archive of my tweets was a good idea, maybe it wasn’t.

Either way, the “Twitter Weekly Updates for week BLAH” posts have now been turned off. Frankly they were just annoying walls of text that (probably) no-one actually read, and they just cluttered up my search results when trying to look for stuff I’d actually blogged.

Not to mention the timer which apparently had a mind of it’s own – Sunday 3am is NOT Sunday at 10pm, and there was even that post which was posted on a Wednesday… Argh, what?! The time difference never seemed to be consistent, so I got angry and removed it altogether.

Maybe you’ll notice they’re gone, maybe you won’t. Either way, it’s gone, and I don’t plan to add it back anytime soon. If I feel like it I’ll also be removing the previous archives manually with WordPress’ bulk actions.

Much love for WordPress’ built-in bulk edit actions.

10 Things You Need to Know About WordPress 2.9

oEmbed, as described at oEmbed.com, is a specification that allows media providers like Flickr, YouTube and others to provide data for consumer applications like WordPress about media. So by including an Embed (Use the File uploader and choose “From URL” and paste the link to the page that contains the media, not the media file itself) in a post or page, WordPress can retrieve the relevant specs on the media file and formulate a properly formatted embed accordingly.

via 10 Things You Need to Know About WordPress 2.9 — Technosailor.com.

You know, I probably couldn’t care less about oEmbed. So I can embed media from different providers, great. Sarcasm intended.

The thing is, I don’t work with media that much. Sure, I’ll stick in the odd YouTube video here or there, and I’ll also use pics once in a while to illustrate a point, but in those cases the standard tools just don’t cut it.

For example, I’ll Press something from a cool YouTube video, and while WordPress will automatically fetch the embed code for me, it’s usually miniscule and doesn’t represent the content I want. By using the custom embed options available to every embeddable video on YouTube, I get to customise things like the border, related content, and size – you’ll have noticed that videos seen on this website will have a grey border, show no related content after the video finishes playing, and, most importantly, are bigger than the normal YouTube size.

From what I understand about oEmbed, it won’t let me customise these options at all – “…and formulate a properly formatted embed accordingly.”

I’d say more about customisability and WordPress, but that’s for another time. 😉

Is WordPress A Thankless Community?

Over the past few weeks, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend. Many of the plugin authors I have spoken with throughout the community tell me that very rarely do they ever get a donation let alone a Thank You for releasing their work to the public. Based on the plugin authors feedback, end users demand more features, demand better support, and in the end, have this feeling of entitlement even if the plugin is available without a price tag. The reality is, that for a freely available plugin, you’re not entitled to anything. I don’t know about you, but I certainly would not like to be part of a community that is known as thankless.

via Is WordPress A Thankless Community? | Weblog Tools Collection.

I would err on the side of “yes, WordPress is a thankless community” with this one, but realistically, it could easily swing both ways.

I certainly don’t donate (but maybe I should), but I do try and help out exposure by blogging about awesome plugins/themes that I use.

To all those I haven’t mentioned, thanks. Thanks for all the hard work you’ve put in so that I didn’t have to. 🙂

New theme, huh? Looks like [redacted].

So… Hopefully you’ve noticed the new theme by now.

If you haven’t, I have no idea what you’re doing here at this very second. You do realise that you’re on the internet, yeah? :S

I hated the old theme for a number of reasons –

  1. Horribly commented code.
    One of my pet peeves has to be programmers (web or otherwise) who don’t follow good programming practices. In Satiorii’s case, it wasn’t just lack of comments – just a lack of readability in general. Ugh.
  2. Sidebars at the BOTTOM of the page.
    Uh, hello? Sidebars at the BOTTOM of the page? That’s just not cool – it might have been had you included links to jump down quickly, but in any case, sidebar widgets looked like they had been hacked together, and ugly as hell – misalignment, horrible formatting, etc.. 🙁
  3. No search.
    See 2. Because search was so horrible, it wasn’t even worth using.

The previous theme – you could clearly tell it wasn’t designed to be modified. Plus it didn’t seem to be made by someone who understood how wordpress works – at least, not in the traditional blogging sense.

However, it wasn’t all bad – I chose to look past it’s shortcomings to focus on the good, because that’s the kind of guy I am. 😀

I did like elements of it, otherwise it wouldn’t have stayed as long as it did – particularly the awesome header links that showed off my pages:

They’re quite nice – I love it how it placed those things front and centre, exactly where they should be.

Another thing I quite liked was the awesome typography of the blog name and sub-heading – under OSX, it just looked awesome. However, under Windows it was a different story – it seemed to be borked for most people anyway (or maybe just Chris). Maybe it’s how the two OSs render fonts, or how the anti-aliasing was waaaaay nicer on OSX, or something.

Anyway, I hope you like the new theme. It’s (the somewhat popular) Grid Focus, by Derek of 5thirtyone.com – if you have a chance, head over to that site to check out more themes. I’m even thinking of using The Unstandard theme for the Radi8 website… Oops, probably shouldn’t have leaked that 😉

I won the FlashMint.com premium WordPress theme giveaway!

The final date has passed and the following people have won a FlashMint WordPress Template: Benny Ling, Simon | Teenius and Amanda. Congratulations to the winners!

via Giveaway contest – FlashMint.com Premium WordPress Themes.

So it turns out that I’ve won a free premium WordPress theme. Cool, yeah?

What isn’t so cool is that most of the designs suck. It’s not the designs themselves, it’s just that the design’s aren’t me. For a personal blog, that’s important.

What to do? If I do choose a theme and it’s not customisable to my own requirements, then I probably won’t use it. If I choose a theme and don’t decide to use it, well, there’s not a whole heap I can do about that either.

I’ll probably choose a theme just for the hell of it – and use it on another site I’m developing at the moment. Radi8’ers, this one’s for you. 😉

WordPress Counter Strike Theme

Counter Strike Theme

Free WordPress Counter Strike Web2.0 Theme Template, theme designed for first person shooting games blog. This is a fabulous theme, It has very interesting images, cool color scheme. Two columns and fixed width. This is an XHTML and CSS valid theme, tested properly on Firefox3, IE6 and IE7, works both well with WordPress 2.7 and older versions, and supports threaded comments coming with WordPress 2.7.

via Free WordPress Counter Strike Blog Web2.0 Theme Template » Free Web Templates and Themes.

I might install this for the lulz.

That’ll do, donkey. That’ll do.

Ugh.

Have I mentioned before how much I hate choosing new themes for my blog? Or for any website, for that matter…

It’s difficult because of three reasons:

  • It’s hard to find something that works for you. Being the admin of the blog, you know where it’s going. When you’re looking for a theme, you know exactly what you want – in the case of Benny Ling’s Bling, I wanted something that was simple but elegant – something that stood apart from the hundreds of other blogs out there.
  • Free is good. Unfortunately, being the poor student that I am, I don’t have much of a web budget – especially for things like WordPress themes. It’s like a wise man once said: “Pay peanuts, get monkeys”, as well as the age-old adage of “You get what you pay for”. Don’t get me wrong, though – I’d totally pay for a theme if I decided that it was going to work for me, assuming it is reasonably priced. US $50 is not my idea of reasonable.
  • Finding something that will require minimal tweaking is hard to do – especially when the theme is free to begin. It’s like the hardware and software problem – even though Microsoft make software that’s designed to work on every computer under the sun, sometimes it needs a little help. Apple, on the other hand, make both the hardware and the software – the result of which is that “it just works”.

With these three things in mind, I have managed to settle on Elegant Grunge, by Michael Tyson. I’ve had to compromise in some areas – while I haven’t given it a full test-run yet, I’m sure I’ll find something later on down the track that needs to be changed. So far so good, though – fingers crossed it stays that way.

UPDATE: No, I haven’t settled on Elegant Grunge. Instead, I’ve settled on Sator-ii, by Felipe Lavín. It’s got some pretty horrible CSS (no comments, c’mon), and has some funny spelling mistakes – but that’s okay, because I don’t think the creator is a native english speaker.

You may think I’m missing out something here – why don’t I just make my own theme? Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done – I’d have no idea where to start with a WordPress theme, let alone make a good one… Sure, I can hack my way around a CSS stylesheet, and I can diagnose and fix any formatting/styling issues with WordPress, but apart from that… Time constraints mean making my own them just isn’t feasible at this point in time. One of these days I probably should, but I’ll leave it to the experts for now. 🙂