For anyone else who uses WordPress, or thinks they might in the future (reminder: I’m willing to host other Q-blogs and sites at ____.quakerism.net), here are the fruits of my many hours spent trying to make my blog look and work nicely, which you may find helpful.
I started out just customizing the default theme Kubrick, but I ran into a problem, because I really wanted a navbar, and I didn’t like having space between then top of the viewport and and the top of the content column. I tried in vain to customize Kubrick for both of these purposes, but I could never get it to work well on Internet Explorer (boo).
So I tried out Tarski, which I like very much, but I didn’t want a white (or other solid color) background; I felt that the cream-on-top-of-brown look I’ve had for awhile looked good, and changing it would be disruptive of readers’ expectations. I couldn’t get this look to work in Tarski though. (Also, the sidebar and main column have trouble in Mac IE 5.)
In the end I decided on K2, the successor to Kubrick. I had liked it for a long time, but stayed away because it seemed very slow to load. Apparently that is just due to some optional processor-intensive features (live search and AJAX commenting), which can be disabled on the options panel.
It takes a little effort to get it to work, but Headline Images will turn your post headlines into images, which is useful if you want to use a font that isn’t available on most computers. (To spell it out, a computer can’t correctly display text in a font it doesn’t have, but it can easily display an image.) The font I’m using is Igino Marini’s De Walpergen Pica Roman, which is pretty hep for a free font.
Simple Recent Comments is the best recent comments plugin that I’ve come across, because it lets you use whatever title you want (I leave it blank) and it displays the beginning of the comment, rather than something less interesting like what post the comment is on. I’ve wanted the latter feature ever since I first saw Lynn’s blog.
On a recent post several of us talked about the threaded comments feature, courtesy of Brian’s Threaded Comments. I used to be a huge advocate of threaded comments – I think seeing 1000+ comment posts on Dean for America was when I began to dislike linear commenting (at least in principle).
I’m on the fence though now, as it didn’t seem to work out very well on the above post, at least not all the time. (You can’t see it now though, as K2 isn’t displaying the threadedness for some reason.) I wonder if the narrowness of the column on the old theme was the problem? The paradigm for me of well-functioning threaded comments is the LiveJournal interface, where the “column” width is very wide (actually, the whole width of the page).
I’m going to leave the comments un-threaded for now and decide later whether to try to re-thread them.
WordPress comes with a plugin called Akismet which is supposed to be amazing at stopping spam, but it has bugs that prevent it from being activated, and I haven’t been able to fix it. The best plugin I could find for awhile was Did You Pass Math?, but due to a bug and a few complaints I looked again and found a better one called Challenge, which lets you write your own question (and answers). As you can see, I wrote a non-mathematical one, just to say I love you.
The just plain useful categeory
- ContactForm lets people email you via a contact form (like mine here), if you don’t want to post your email address online (like I don’t.)
Random Words is a simple but powerful little guy: you create lists of words (or paragraphs or phrases), give each list a name, and from then when you put the right bit of code into a page or sidebar (or anywhere), it will randomly display one item from the given list. For example, the random quote in my sidebar comes from the list sidebar_quotes, which I add to every hither and yon.
I’ve had thoughts of creating weirdly shifting posts using this plugin (imagine a post with multiple random words, phrases, sentences and/or paragraphs… with a little work you could create a post with thousands of possible “faces”…)
And on that note, all this work I’m putting into this blog, compared to the average Blogspot Q-blogger, makes me wonder which is the simpler approach:
- to use a ready-to-hand service like Blogspot – even though it’s actually very complicated behind the scenes and only “simple” to the end-user because Google is offering the service for free in order to attract bloggers, and therefore content, and therefore information, and therefore money and power?
- Or to pay for one’s own hosting, learn how to set up and maintain sites from scratch – even though it’s taking what feels like a lot of my time?
(A bit like buying some soymilk at a store vs. making your own, which is a pain in the ass I’ve found.)
I suppose those only apply to hosting, not to plugin/customization mongering, which latter question goes to the heart of Quaker aesthetics I think: where do you draw the line between simplicity and laziness? Exhibits A, B, C…