David Louis Edelman David Louis Edelman

A New Look for the Blog

You may notice that something looks a different on this website today. It’s a new theme for the blog that I’ve been tinkering with for the past couple months. So after much fiddling around in Photoshop, Dreamweaver, and WordPress, I’m ready to debut it to the world (though I might decide to revert back to the old one temporarily until I fix some of the kinks).

Why a new theme?

  • I wanted to make the blog a little more colorful and less visually boring
  • I wanted to display more information without sacrificing usability
  • I wanted to take out some of the old blog features and add some new ones

Some of the new features you’ll notice on the blog include:

  • Permanent links to the comments section of each article, and permanent links to each individual comment
  • Numbered comments that are a little easier to follow
  • Lefthand column with links to all my various websites, including stuff like my Flickr and MySpace pages
  • Slightly cleaner HTML behind the scenes
  • RSS feeds now show article summaries, not just the first paragraph of the article
  • A corner of rotating photos of Yours Truly

I’m a bit of a perfectionist, though, and so there are a number of things that I’m not quite satisfied with. Among those:

  • The top column is a little too cramped to accommodate the pictures in the posts that have them. (See this post and this post.) The all-text posts have a much cleaner look. (Update: Cleaned up most of the posts that were causing problems.)
  • The Infoquake promotional box in the left column doesn’t feel like it’s in the right place.
  • I messed up the CSS somewhere along the way, and as a result the left margin of the central column is two or three pixels off in some places. (Update: Fixed.)
  • The “Next Entries” and “Previous Entries” navigational links need graphical icons. (Update: Fixed.)
  • The footer doesn’t always land in the right place. Sometimes it’s too far down.
  • There should be a little bit more white space, especially at the top of the page where the sidebars live. (Update: Fixed.)
  • I need to add the coComment integration scripts back in. (Update: Fixed.)
  • I don’t like how the list of allowed tags in the comments box looks. Too cluttery. (Update: Fixed.)
  • The Firefox AdBlock extension blocks out the navigational icons in the link bar at the top of every article.
  • I still need to find a place for my blogroll. Ideally I’d like a sidebar box that displays 10 random links from a much longer list of friends and favorites, along with a link to the complete list. That way you wouldn’t have to wade through those interminable and unreadable blogrolls that include everybody in the Western hemisphere. (Exhibit A.) (Update: Fixed. Also, see Exhibit A (Teresa Nielsen Hayden)’s comments below.)

Of course, this being WordPress, and WordPress being as kludgy and temperamental as it is, there are a number of things I can’t get working properly. (Remind me to resume my rant about how overhyped open-source software is.) Such as:

  • An archives index that displays posts by month, year, or just post-by-post. You’d think that would be an easy task. No. The instructions for how to do it on the WordPress Codex are all but incomprehensible, and I can’t seem to get it working properly. You can navigate to individual months just fine if you edit the URLs, but I can’t get an automatically generated page to save my life. (Update: Fixed.)
  • Paged permalinks aren’t working properly, a notorious problem in WordPress. Try clicking on the Infoquake category, and then click on the “previous entries” link at the top of the article. You get — well, I’m not entirely sure, but it’s not what you’re supposed to get.
  • Speaking of permalinks, I’d like to redo the permalink structure altogether — so instead of http://www.davidlouisedelman.com/blog/index.php/2006/12/18/new-look/ you’d see something like http://www.davidlouisedelman.com/blog/new-look/. Good luck getting this to work on a Windows server. (And the first one who says “that’s why you need to switch to Linux and Apache” will get a swift kick in the teeth. Oh, not from me. The universe will just spontaneously deliver one to you for being so irritating.)
  • Category archives are sorting in descending chronological order (most recent article first), while dated archives are sorting in ascending chronological order (most recent article last).
  • I want to have an “e-mail this article” link in the gray navigation bar at the top of every post, but I can’t seem to get any of those plug-ins working. I think they’re conflicting with some of my other plug-ins (another notorious WordPress problem).

I’ve tested the new look in Firefox, Opera, and Internet Explorer for Windows, and it seems to display fine in each browser. Mac and Linux I haven’t tested. This screenshot (PNG, 65k) shows what the blog is supposed to look like. If anyone sees any drastic layout errors in their browser, I would really appreciate a comment below, or just e-mail me a screenshot.

And does anybody have any idea what that graphical symbol I put next to the headlines is? I found it while poking through Wingdings fonts, and liked it enough to make it a graphical cue for the story headline. It reminded me of a leaf. But now I’m looking at it and wondering if I’ve inadvertently stuck the Chinese symbol for leaky diaper at the top of every blog post.

Oh yeah — and what do you think of the new look? Be honest, now.

Comments RSS Feed

  1. Teresa Nielsen Hayden on December 18, 2006 at 12:42 am  Chain link

    And which of our friends and colleagues in the SF community do you think we should have left out of the list?

  2. Peter on December 18, 2006 at 1:10 am  Chain link

    That’s why you need to switch to Linux/Apache.
    (I’ll let you know, but so far my teeth seem strangely to still be in place)

    But fwiw I think the new theme is beautiful!

    And btw, I’m a few chapters into Infoquake and loving it. In terms of all your promotional stuff goes, I purchased it because a) I like Lou Anders, b) I like Lou’s Pyr line, but have read most of the British and indeed Aussie stuff he’s licensing, so here’s a newie!, c) I read lots of interesting stuff about it via Cory and others… and probably also d) I came and checked out your blog and your special sites for the novel as well, although I didn’t read any of the background stuff on the book’s own site, prefering to check out the book itself first.
    So there :)

  3. Josh on December 18, 2006 at 2:14 am  Chain link

    Very nice upgrade. I will have to drop by more often to gaze upon the graphical loveliness. Great list of links too, by the by. Yet more sites to do daily surf-bys. Yippee.

  4. David Louis Edelman on December 18, 2006 at 2:24 am  Chain link

    Teresa: Sorry, no offense was meant by singling “Making Light” out for your long blogroll. It’s a great blog otherwise and one of my regular reads. It’s just that I find the design kind of… um… cluttery. :-)

    Peter: Thanks for the comments and the kind words about Infoquake/Pyr. I wasn’t aware that Cory (Doctorow, I assume) had said anything about the book… or did you mean Pyr?

    And you just keep a close watch on those teeth the next time you’re wandering through a dark alley.

  5. Teresa Nielsen Hayden on December 18, 2006 at 9:53 am  Chain link

    I must say, your new design is quite handsome: nice spacing, nice balance, admirably clear, and you’ve thought about how all the parts of it work.

    Making Light is deliberately packed tight. I’ve never been fond of white space. The way most designers use it just feels like a waste of my time and attention. Also, I’ve always thought there was something just a little bit overcontrolling about it: “Now I want you to look at this, and only this.”

    There’s a lot going on in what I persist in thinking of as the above-the-fold portion of ML’s front page. Start with the left side of the top strip: Making Light / Incorporating Electrolite (Patrick’s old weblog, back when Making Light was mine alone) / and then the memorial quote from Mike Ford. Right side is where Patrick announces his band’s latest gigs.

    Moving down: Particles and Sidelights are actually separate weblogs, set to display in their inset boxes in the left column. Unfortunately, they push down the “Recent Comments” list, which I consider some of the most important square inches on the page. That’s where readers can instantly size up where the hot discussions are going on, and who’s in them. They can see where misbehavior is being suppressed, because the commenters’ names lose their vowels: Rmplstltskn. And they can watch for anomalous postings in old threads, which forty-nine out of fifty times will be spam or drive-by trollings. By custom, the one who spots it posts from the same thread, appending a note to their own name, so that the comment lists as SERGE SEES SPAM ON “CHATHAM COUNTY ARTILLERY PUNCH”, or STEFAN JONES SEES PSYCHO RANT ON “WHY DIDN’T EVERYONE LEAVE”. They get public credit for spotting spam, as well they should.

    Over on the right, most of the column is lost to advertising: no help for that. The little bit that’s ours starts with our names and our contact information. The innocuous-looking section where you can alter the type size is the result of some hard-argued compromises. (Patrick wanted to re-spec ML for larger type. My reply was something like, “Not this side of the heat death of the universe.”) What’s underneath that is also important: a notice to new readers that the real action is in the comment threads.

    From there on down it’s ads on the right, blogroll on the left, until the ads end and you reach the miscellaneous bits of business: links to our home page, RSS and Atom feeds, archives, Making Lighter (for smaller screens and older machines), Electrolite, Patrick’s Flickr page, our list of recent and forthcoming books, the Evil Overlord Random Plot Generator, and our CafePress store. The long blogroll on the left is the descendant of Patrick’s blogroll from Electrolite: an elaborate and carefully-tended artifact.

    A further explanation of our long undifferentiated list of SF-related sites: we’ve lived and worked in the SF community for decades. We couldn’t begin to break that list out into friends, colleagues, students, mentors, respected fannish cronies, students who are also colleagues, close friends, friends who are also students, close friends who are also colleagues and fellow-instructors, et cetera. Instead, it’s a single list, in alphabetical order. Infinitely less fraught that way.

  6. David Louis Edelman on December 18, 2006 at 10:06 am  Chain link

    Thanks for that, Teresa. It’s funny, I typically browse with Adblocker so I didn’t even see the advertising on your site. I actually think Making Light looks much better with the ads.

  7. Armchair Anarchist on December 18, 2006 at 4:11 pm  Chain link

    It’s looking pretty sharp – much like that fellow in the suit to the left! 😉

  8. Soni on December 18, 2006 at 7:42 pm  Chain link

    According to the Wingdings Character Set and Equivalent Unicode Characters page, that’s a “Leaf counterclockwise north west” you got frontin’ yo verbiage, man.

    (Don’t ask – I’ve been around inner city grade schoolers all afternoon. It rubs off. Hey, at least it’s not a leaky diaper.)

  9. David Louis Edelman on December 18, 2006 at 8:16 pm  Chain link


  10. tobias s buckell on December 19, 2006 at 12:51 am  Chain link

    Nice look homie!

  11. tricotomy on December 19, 2006 at 11:19 am  Chain link

    I like the look of the site. Looks much better than the old version but then I only seen that once.

    Finally picked up Infoquake yesterday. Funny thing was I was passing the store where I ordered it and went in to ask about a Jack Sarfatti book and while there pulled out my pre-payment slip and Infoquake was there. When I got home I switched my phone back on (I’d left it switched off because I was at this Christmas lecture and forgot to switch it back on again) The bookshop had left a message while I was on my way to the bookshop to say the book was there. slightly sychronistic given I was trying to order a Sarfatti book.

    Anyway I now have a queue of books waiting to be read so Infoquake will have to wait a week or two.

  12. Peter on December 20, 2006 at 6:18 pm  Chain link

    Hi David,
    OK maybe not Cory…? I somehow thought I’d read about it there. Sure, I read Lou’s Pyr blog and no doubt have read heaps about it there too 😉 But I’m sure there’ve been other places.
    I do read Futurismic too, so no doubt I noted your presence there. Clearly you’ve done your marketing job so well that I can’t even reliably list the places I’ve read about you!

  13. David Louis Edelman on December 20, 2006 at 8:45 pm  Chain link

    Tricotomy: Ain’t it great when things just come together like that? It’s like you were fated to read my book…

    Peter: No big deal where you heard about the book, really. Just curious. And yes, They do say that marketing works much better when people hear of you from multiple locations.

  14. Yaron on December 21, 2006 at 6:42 am  Chain link


    The new design is nice, and a bit more stylized and elegant.

    But there are a few issues:

    1. Providing a summary instead of a first paragraph is nice, but why not publish a full post feed?
    I actually remembered it as if it was full-post, but in this case I think I can trust what you see in the definitions more than what my poor memory claims. Normally I’d check the historical posts, but due to my point #3 that’s something I can no longer do.

    2. You removed the link to the per-post comment feed. So yes, it’s possible to just copy the post’s URI and append a “feed/” to it, but not everyone will know that. And it’s not quite as easy as having a link in the page.

    3. Nothing to do about it now, but sometime during the changes your feeds started to return 410 status codes. Which basically tell anything trying to read them that they’re gone for good, and won’t come back.
    They did come back, but the more “intelligent” feed readers should (and some certainly did) all refuse to pay attention to the fact.
    I had to unsubscribe and resubscribe to all the feeds from your site. It’s possible you had other readers who just lost your feeds without noticing…

    4. Is your IIS server your own, or do you have shared hosting with limited control? I haven’t worked with IIS much, but I do know there are a few free (and working and decent) ISAPI extensions that provide URL rewriting functionality, and that should allow you to do very similar things to what you’d do if you did have Apache.
    Especially if the main change you want is just to remove the “index.php” part of the URI.
    Oh, and just to lose some karma points I think I should mention that there are Apache versions for Windows, so you can keep windows and still switch to Apache.

    5. The problems you’re having with the category/archive pages are probably something more related to your template than WP itself. In most WP installations I know you don’t get an offer to see more pages than are actually available. And AFAIK the sorting order is optional and can be changed by a parameters, though I’m not entirely sure on that score.

  15. David Louis Edelman on December 21, 2006 at 10:57 am  Chain link

    Yaron: Thanks very much for the comments. I’ve done a couple of tweaks:

    Re #1: I switched the RSS feed back to providing the full post instead of just a summary. After you mentioned this, I thought of a couple reasons why I should be doing the full-post feed instead.

    Re #2: Believe it or not, I didn’t even notice that I’d removed this link. I’ve put it back in, in the gray links bar at the top of the comments.

    Re #3: Jeez Louise… not sure what happened there. All I did was switch the theme, and activate/deactivate a few non-feed-related plug-ins. I think my ISP has been having some downtime issues lately, I wonder if it’s related to that.

    Re #4: Alas, the IIS server is a shared plan with CrystalTech, and they don’t allow ISAPI extensions. I am definitely thinking of switching to an Apache account, but I haven’t felt like dealing with the headaches that would probably entail. (Not because it’s Apache — I really don’t have a problem with Apache, despite my little joke above — but because switching platforms is always messy.)

    Re #5: I’d suspect that my templates were at fault, except I can see exactly where they’re failing. The WordPress next_posts_link and previous_posts_link functions aren’t returning the data they’re supposed to. It appears that they both fail to see all of the stuff in the URL after “index.php,” which leads me to suspect a permalinks-on-IIS issue. I’ve figured out a very sloppy kludge for now that’s allowing the categories paging to work, at least.

    Oh, and I’m sure you’re right, the sorting order is something I can fix. Just can’t figure out where. The functions that call archive posts aren’t on the theme templates, they’re buried somewhere deeper in the machinery.

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