I wrote my own HTML and CSS for dougbelshaw.com 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.
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 dougbelshaw.com/feeds in response to people complaining that they miss my stuff because I post it in different places around the web.
Dai Barnes reminded me on the latest episode of TIDE just how annoying pop-ups are. That led to me thinking more generally about my blog and how I wasn’t happy with the theme I’ve used here for the last six months.
As a result, I searched for a new, clean theme. I think I’ve found it in a lightly customised version of Rams. I ensured the sidebar was the same colour as my consultancy website, and that I used the same fonts.
(Email and RSS subscribers will need to click through to see the change)
I’ve felt for a while that I should make this blog better suited to mobile interfaces and, in particular, touchscreen devices. This is known as responsive web design and I’ve been particularly impressed with Microsoft’s ‘Metro’ design language leading to a tiled approach on Windows smartphones. To my eyes it seems streets ahead of Apple’s skeuomorphism.
Yesterday, when I was browsing architecture blogs and came across the Contemporist site, it reminded me of that clean, touchscreen-friendly approach:
I did something I always do when I see blog themes I like: right-clicked to ‘View Source’ as you can tell which blog theme is being used. Judging by the CSS it’s a custom job, meaning I couldn’t simply download the same theme.
That was a shame, but it spurred me on to look for Metro-inspired blog themes. I was looking for something with a tiled, fairly squarish look but that didn’t scream Microsoft. Beautiful though it is, the Subway WordPress theme (from €39) was out of the question. I’d have looked like a Microsoft fanboi:
I also found the MetroStyle theme ($45), which I rejected for having too many boxes at the top:
I downloaded and installed the WP Metro theme (£FREE), but I had trouble making it look decent with my content:
In the end, after considering signing up to a course to get the Anaximander theme, I decided to pay $35 for a WordPress theme entitled Metro:
Like many premium themes it comes with an extremely easy-to-use configuration dashboard in addition to the usual WordPress options. Nevertheless, old habits die hard and I delved into the CSS to tinker about a bit!
I hope you like what you see, and if you want to see the ‘responsiveness’ in action, either resize your browser window or visit this site on a mobile device. It’s only my first attempt – I’ll be tinkering around making improvements here and there over the next few weeks.
There’s several reasons for my wanting to keep a record of the stuff that I do in my role as Director of E-Learning. These include:
An aide-memoir when dealing with other people
Interest – how much of my time do I spend on various activities?
Does it work?
If you’ve got this far into a second post on the subject, the question you’re probably asking is probably something like Does it work? or Is it useful? The answer to both of those questions is YES!
What’s harder to answer is whether it’s left me more organized and productive. After all, entering even a one-liner (and adding tags) takes time. When you’re flat-out busy (like I am most days at the Academy!) that could be seen as a bit of a waste of time.
So I suppose the best way to answer questions relating to organization and productivity are to take the politician’s approach and not really answer them. Instead, I’ll tell you what I’ve used the WordPress + P2 system for. So far, it’s been for three things:
Checking when I emailed someone and tasked them with a particular activity.
Counting how many of a particular meeting I’ve been to.
Seeing which individuals I interact with most often (the tag cloud is very useful for this!)
I can’t help but think that this system would go from good to great if it were being used by more than one person. For example, ICT technicians could use it to keep a record of what’s going on, cropping up, and taking their time. This could be viewed by their line manager, who could make comments. And as with my personal work record, it could be password-protected yet internet-based for secure yet easy access! 🙂
P2 is available as a pre-installed theme at WordPress.com. A standalone version for self-hosted WordPress-powered blogs can be downloaded at p2theme.com.
Ever since I read Matt Mullenweg’s post How P2 Changed Automattic I’ve been thinking about how I could best utilise a similar system. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, watch this video:
But then it dawned on me this morning: there’s no reason I couldn’t use such a system for private, me-only stuff!
As E-Learning Staff Tutor last year and as Director of E-Learning this year, I’ve been keeping a record of what I’ve been up to. This is as much about me being able to cross-reference stuff as proving to others (if needed) that I’ve been fulfilling my role. Up until now I’ve been using Google Docs, which looks like this:
Now, however, with WordPress, the P2 theme and a plugin called Absolute Privacy, I’ve got a close, web-based system that should hopefully be a lot more flexible and powerful:
We’re discussing productivity for educators tonight at EdTechRoundUp‘s weekly meeting. Why not join us? I’ll post my reflections on this system next week! 😀
If you’re reading this in a feed reader, you might want to click through or click on the images below.
A short post, this one. I’ve been working on-and-off for the past few weeks on a new blog theme courtesy of an excellent WordPress plugin by the name of Theme Test Drive. This allows administrators (i.e. me) see a different theme when they visit this blog than non-logged in visitors (i.e. you).
Some may say they prefer the old one. It’s certainly more ‘visual’. But I didn’t like the font and the amount of time it took to load. Serif fonts are much more pleasing on the eye and it’s certainly faster loading. Readers don’t have to click through to read the most recent post, and I don’t have to write a summary and crop pictures down to 90×90 to go next to that summary.
Whilst I haven’t tinkered with the theme for this blog (yet!) I’ve changed the landing page when you visit dougbelshaw.com. There’s a bit of a saga behind it. :-p
A tweet from Kathy Sierra directed me to Brynn Evans’ (@brynn) blog where she had a great post about an idea called ‘betacup’. What struck me about Brynn’s blog, however, was the clear and straightforward layout. Summising that she was running WordPress (most blogs, including this one, do!) I looked in the footer for an indication of the theme she was using.
Hmm… no dice. Another way to find out a blog’s theme is to use the ‘view source’ option in your web browser (View/Page Source in Firefox). Sure enough, this revealed the following:
In other words, the theme being used was in a folder with the title love_work. Again, summising that this was probably short for Love & Work, I searched Google for it. No joy.
Refusing to be beaten and now intrigued, I looked at the CSS by following the link above. CSS stands for ‘Cascading Style Sheets’ and it is the method used to ‘style’ the blog. Authors often put their details at the top of such documents:
Although a little downhearted that it would seem that the author – a ‘Chris Messina’ (@chrismessina)- created a custom theme (meaning it was probably generally available for me to tweak) I decided to visit his website – factoryjoe.com. I was impressed with what I saw:
I thought this was wonderful. Not only does it link to everywhere Chris is online (and deems important) but it tells a story. Unthinkingly (and to my shame) I set about copying him. I ended up with this (CC-NC-SA factoryjoe):
I did mention on Twitter what I’d done (in fact my network were very helpful in my tweaking it) leading to this tweet the following morning from Chris:
Whilst Chris was a gentleman and agreeable about it, others were a bit more to the point. The outcome was that I realised I needed to do my own thing rather than copy someone else’s design. After all, as someone who makes his living through web technologies, it’s only fair that Chris’ design is unique. 🙂
I spent a while thinking about what I wanted and, to cut an already-too-long story short, with the help of my Twitter network, I’ve ended up with this:
I’ll keep this short. I’m thinking about changing this blog for two reasons.
WordPress (which powers this blog) is database-driven. That means it’s not archived over at archive.org. That means if I died tomorrow, my work would be pretty much lost forever. This is the main reason.
I get bored of the same blog theme after a while. While the one I’ve got at the moment (Digital Statement) allows me contain lots of ‘stuff’, I’m thinking crisp and clean – like the Flickr blog, for example. There’s also some nice onces over at plaintxt.org.
So… suggestions for blogging engines that produce static HTML pages? (or do you know of WordPress plugins that allow the same?) 🙂
Oh, and before you say archive.org renders WordPress blogs just fine, have a look at the mess it made of the previous iteration of this one! (pic)
This is my first blog post using the powerful combination of my new (replacement) Asus eee and the Scribefire plugin for Firefox. 🙂
The purpose of this post is to demonstrate how I have setup my eee for better productivity (i.e. made it more powerful whilst retaining ease-of-use). I think you’ll agree that my setup at least looks good:
There’s two programs/scripts I used to get to the above. I was made aware of these by the excellent Eeeuser.com wiki, which should definitely be your first port of call! In particular, the following are very useful:
pimpmyeee (a script that turns on and turns off features – includes themes, icons, ‘Advanced Mode’, etc.)
TweakEEE (a program that is installed to the Settings tab and allows you to modify the Easy Mode user interface)
By using these two programs/scripts I now have the advantage of being able to use the fantastic Easy Mode whilst having the power and flexibility of accessing the Start Menu. This means I can install and access programs such as Frostwire and the GIMP quickly and easily using Synaptic Package Manager:
How have YOU modified your eee? Are you pleased with the results?:p
I visited a blog called John’s blog today; I can’t even remember what for now. I like what he’s done with the Hemingway theme for WordPress (the same theme that I use on this blog), so I nicked his CSS. I hope he doesn’t mind…