Open Thinkering


Tag: redesign


I wrote my own HTML and CSS for back when I was at Mozilla. It was originally a template to be used with Thimble, and a few people ‘forked’ it to use it for their own site.

Although it had some nice features, however — like a JavaScript library that swapped out text, a custom DuckDuckGo search engine, and one of my photographs of Druridge Bay — it wasn’t responsive and, quite frankly, it looked a bit old-fashioned.

So, on the train on the way back from Dundee today, I thought I’d do something about it. I knew that I wanted something pretty simple and minimalist, yet with just enough to ‘delight’ visitors. It needed to serve static files, not rely on a database back end (as with WordPress).

I also wanted to link to something I’ve been tinkering around with that allows me to surface my most recent writing. I’d already put that together at in response to people complaining that they miss my stuff because I post it in different places around the web.

For those interested, I’m using the LazyGuy personal landing page template (cheap!) and the Font Awesome Favicon Generator (free!)

Please do tell me what you think:

(note that this redesign doesn’t affect the look/feel of this blog)

Weeknote #26

This week I have been mostly…

Attending my first PTA meeting

Eventually, I want to be a governor of my son’s school, but as a first step I’ve joined the Parent Teacher Association. Not quite the short-and-to-the-point meetings I’m used to, but enjoyable nonetheless. I’m not around for the disco that’s being organized, unfortunately, as I’ll be at Interesting North. Oh well.

Wrestling with my mobile review

As I’ve mentioned several times before in my weeknotes, I’m composing a mobile and wireless technologies review for the JISC e-Learning strand. This week I’ve begun trying to synthesize some of what I’ve collated.

Imagine a penny tossed into a paddling pool. That will give you some idea of the difference in scale between my proposal and what I’ll end up delivering. It’s. Just. So. Interesting… :-p

Being ill

After declaring (rather triumphantly) that, despite two sets of visitors and the rest of my family coming down with a sickness bug, I had managed to soldier on, unaffected – guess what happened? Yep, I had to take Monday and Tuesday off due to a sickness bug. Still, it meant that from my sickbed I managed to set about…

Redesigning this site

This redesign been a long time in coming and, I’m glad to say, it’s been well-received. Further details here.

Major blog redesign.

This blog used to look like this (click to enlarge):

Old version

Now it looks like this (click to enlarge):

New version


  1. More information
  2. Better user experience
  3. It was time to tinker

Continuities: things that have stayed the same

  • Reasonably similar colour scheme
  • Prominent links to social media profiles
  • Obvious links to RSS and About page for new visitors
  • Links to related posts
  • Evernote and Instapaper integration

Innovations: things that have changed:

  • New name for blog, to enable guest posts improve identity
  • Photos of real Doug, not just social media avatar
  • Use of @font-face web font (Orbitron from The League of Moveable Type)
  • Change of body font from Georgia to Arial (it’s easier to read online)
  • Recent comments in sidebar
  • Links to e-books
  • Better use of footer

You like? Wondering why Synechism?

Got 5 seconds? Help with the redesign of this blog!

Those who follow me on Twitter will have seen that I’m currently redesigning this blog. More on the theory and practice behind that to come, but I wonder if I could ask for 5 seconds of your time?

The first few seconds of visiting a website are crucial for visitors gaining an impression of its content and author. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to gain insights into what visitors think during that period.

Until now, that is.

Using a tool called Clue I’m able to take a snapshot of the new site and submit it for your consideration. The following link is available until midday on Wednesday 13th October 2010 – I’ll share the results. Take a look!

Things I learned this week – #5

Image CC BY-NC mikeabney

Top 3

  1. I thought that I kept myself fairly anonymous online to all but the people I want to interact with. Turns out I was wrong. Check out Panopticlick to start being worried about ‘browser fingerprinting’.
  2. Vooks look either cool or completely pointless, depending on your point-of-view and mood. (via @betchaboy)
  3. Dunbar’s Number is the theoretical maximum number of stable relationships an individual can sustain. It turns out that it’s about 150, which makes some people’s Twitter and Facebook profiles look ridiculous!



  • Apparently the iPad is ‘iBad’ for freedom according to the Free Software Foundation. They’ve got a point. But I’ll still be getting one. 😉
  • Stephen Fry weighed in, along with seemingly the rest of the world, with his views on what the iPad means for mankind.
  • Thankfully, the iPad supports the ePub format for ebooks. You can find lots of these at (via @chrispenny)
  • The Polarize iPhone app allows you to create photos that look that they’ve been taken with a Polaroid camera. Cool! (example here)
  • Screensplitr for the (jailbroken) iPhone allows you to output any app to another screen (via @wesfryer)
  • I found this 360-degree video of Haiti unbelievable. It uses the same YellowBird camera that Google uses for ‘Street View’ (via OLDaily) I was going to embed it here, but it auto-plays, which is annoying…
  • You can now upload email into a Google Apps email account using an (official) OSX app. This might be a good time for me to switch to an email address… 🙂
  • That button in Tweetie that I’ve never pressed (see below – looks like a business card)? Turns out it adds contact details from someone’s contact details from Twitter to your iPhone address book. Sweet!

Productivity & Inspiration

Education & Academic

  • I was shocked to discover that some UK Local Authorities are going to pay £10,000 on a filter to remove comments from being displayed when students visit YouTube. Kerry Turner (@4goggas) who gave the heads-up also pointed out which I hadn’t used before. Handy!
  • JISC published their final report into ebooks as (appropriately) a rather nice issuu document. Worth looking at the Executive Summary if nothing else!
  • Not having actually used one doesn’t stop some people ruminating on how the iPad will change education. Inevitable.:  (via @baldy7)
  • Futurelab has a really well put-together video about the future of education using the research from Beyond Current Horizons (from Beyond Current Horizons research) Apparently, half the population of Europe will be 50 by 2030 and will expect to live another 40 years (I’ll be 50 in December 2030 – scary!)

Data, Design & Infographics

  • Dan Meyer threatened us all with driving round to our houses to force us to watch this excellent video called Vanishing Point. No need – it’s great!
  • I bought Autograph for $6 this week (OSX only). It allows you to draw, in a simple way, using your Macbook trackpad – ace!
  • Turns out the type of font you use determines how hard you perceive something to be. There’s a reason I use Georgia in everything I do – I read years ago (when I was at uni) that it has a positive effect, psychologically-speaking… 😀
  • This chart shows the number of mobile subscribers, per 100 people, worldwide.
  • I saw this first time around but didn’t blog it. Some designers showed how much ink different fonts use by colouring in words with biros. If you’re concerned about the amount of ink you use, try Ecofont!
  • I’m rather pleased with the sparkline (mini-graph) I added to the footer of this blog. There’s a kind-of howto here, but I’ll be screencasting how to do this next week. In the course of doing this I was reminded about the Google Charts API. Lots of services provide a front-end for Google Charts, but this tool in particular makes it very quick and easy to make stunning charts!
  • There’s a guy who records everything he does. He creates wonderful and interesting visualizations in his annual report. Check it out! (try Daytum or if you’re crazy enough to do likewise!)



Misfortune shows those who are not really friends. (Aristotle)

If change doesn’t cost you anything then it isn’t real change. (John C. Maxwell)

Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm. (Winston Churchill)

Stress is an ignorant state. It believes that everything is an emergency. Nothing is that important. (Natalie Goldberg)

The quality of our thoughts is bordered on all sides by our facility with language. (J. Michael Straczynski)

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Back to (theme) basics.

Update (same day!) – well that didn’t last long: I’ve stripped it back even more with the Minimalist theme. :-p

Earlier this year I changed the theme on this site. I was reasonably pleased with it. It was faster-loading than the previous iteration. However, as I kept adding stuff to it the site became slower to load. As @MoodleDan pointed out, I had lots of images being loaded from external sites.

So I’ve stripped it down to look a bit like the default theme on Posterous. It’s a WordPress theme called Minimous. I like it, although I’ve got a plan to strip it down even further

What do you think? redesign

If you normally get content from via the RSS feed or emails, you might want to stop by the actual site. I’ve given it a bit of a facelift:

Why did I do this? Well the reason I did it today is because I’ve been off work due to illness. I must have a bug or something as I feel rough. 🙁 The reason I decided to make it look the way it does is for the following reasons:

  • had 3 columns and I found it helpful to be able to have two sidebars – more useful content near the top of the page!
  • It now features the avatar I use in most places online (a South Park character I created here)
  • My Twitter updates are now even more prominent. That’s significant as I spend a good deal of time interacting with people in my network. Now I just need a place to integrate the conversations, rather than just my side of them…

Please do feel free to give me some feedback on the redesign. I am aware, for instance, that it takes a while to load the page. Is that a big issue? :-s