Archive for category Personal Reflections

Start a new Blog? Or use the Menus Option on this one?


Introduction

I’ve been thinking about expanding the range of content which I post into the Blogosphere. The types of things I was considering posting include:

  • Recipes: Things I’ve adapted to suite my tasks and requirements.
    • Cooking Tips: There are things one picks up, learns or discovers, which could make useful reading.
    • I should start writing about “Cooking for One”. This I find is a very is a poorly serviced element in the cooking and culinary arts sphere. Almost all of the recipes I find are for family meals. So, unless you fancy eating leftovers for a week, or freezing the remainder until you feel like eating it again, they are not much help. Downscaling recipes is something which I do experiment with at time, and I’m getting better a doing this as time goes on. Oh, the joys of being a single cook.
    • I also have two other “niche” cooking styles which are worth blogging about. These are:
      • RC (Remote control) cooking. An old style of cooking which is often done mainly in the oven. The main principle is; set the timer, and forget, until the timer rings and dinner is done.
      • “Commando” Cooking. This is the “hit and run” cooking. The main principle here is a fast as possible. Switching the stove on,  to completed meal, in the minimum of time.
    • Guitar Stuff: Sheet music which I use to practice, maybe some Guitar Pro files as well.  If I start posting files, they will have to go on my “Sky Drive”, WordPress would not recognise Guitar Pro files as being a valid upload file type.
    • Creative writing: One of my motivations for starting blogging was to get back into doing some creative writing. This objective is something which I’ve been remiss in, thus far.

    The Pro’s Of Using The Menus Option

    There is a fundamental reason why utilisation of the “Menus Option” should work, or at least the experiment is worthwhile performing. That reason is that the structure of the menus can “invert” the nature of a blog. The meaning of “invert” in this context is that: A blog is a chronological series of posts where the latest entry is at the “top”. The “inversion” that the menu option allows is for the first written (the oldest ,or chapter 1 in the case of a book) to be presented as the first entry in a list (be that a menu, or a list of links on a page).

    There are a number of reasons to think that going down this track is going to be the most profitable approach. These reasons include:

    • the WordPress advice contained in the “Write a Book” help page. The nub of the discussion on that page is that it is possible to write a book on WordPress. The set up is something which will require some thought. The advice is around “Chapters” of a book. A present, I think, I’ll be writing short stories, rather than a book. But that is my expectation at present, which may well change when I start writing.
    • the WordPress advice contained in the “Custom Menus” help page. The demonstration of the implementation describes setting up the type of structure which some of the “new” content could be. So, again there is advice that expanding the types of content in a blog should work.
    • Looking around the blogs on WordPress, I’ve seen examples which seem to work. So, I’ve some other peoples good ideas, I can copy and adapt to my own ends.

    The Con’s of Using The Menu Option

    There are a couple of things which are potential negatives for the menu approach. These downsides include:

    • I’ve no way of setting the menu option up in a “sandpit” (a not online environment).  I’d not like to “kill” my live site with the modifications. It’s probably doable, only adding the top level menus when I’ve all of the underlying elements working right. I should post a question on the WordPress.com Forum about a “sandpit” environment.
      • And before I get the comment, just install the WordPress.Org version of WordPress, and work on that version. My poor notebook would melt down if I added another web server, web sites and the like to it. Time for an upgraded notebook, maybe, but that’s a story for another day.
    • I’m not sure that adding more topics into the current blog is “right”. I’m not sure what the correct blogging etiquette is. Is multiple topic blogging “best practice” blogging? This is a small concern for the following reasons:
      1. The title, and tag line, on the blog, “Craig’s Eclectic Blog”, and “An eclectic collection of thing that catch my eye”. These statements allow me to, within reason,  to pretty much include whatever I choose. There is a warning that there will be a mixture of subject matter found here.
      2. It’s my blog. The corollary of that is: “I make the rules for what gets blogged about!”.
      3. I blog for pleasure, not for money, and not for fame. So, mixing topics may be a commercially poor choice for professional bloggers. But for amateur blogging, it’s probably acceptable.

    A Plan Of Attack

    As alluded to above I think I will use the menu option for adding new types of content to this blog.

    The development and implementation strategy:

    1. I think I can quarantine the additions to the structure of the blog site from the main part of the site. This should prevent me “breaking” the main part of the site.
    2. This will be a process of developing the subpages independently. So long as I can get a URL to the page so I can test in the browser. I will be able to get to the pages as I development the through the “Administration Console –> Pages” menu as well.
    3. Testing components as I build them.
    4. When all is working, then adding the Menu to the “Top” (home page) of the site, and wire up the menu to go to the URL of the new page(s).

    That’s the theory.

  • Next comes the practice. But, “there’s many a slip, betwixt cup and lip”, and “the proof of the pudding is in the eating”.

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    Purchase the WordPress Edit CSS Option


    Introduction

    I’ve finally been pushed into purchasing the Custom CSS option on this site. There have been a couple of reasons why I’ve finally taken the plunge and done this. The primary reason for purchasing the Custom CSS Options was to simplify my blogging process.  I can be quite pedantic about fonts, and formatting, for the posts which I place up here. The HTML which Windows Liver Writer produces (I’m currently using the 2011 versions), and WordPress reacts to that HTML was less than satisfactory.  I would spend some time editing the HTML and imbedding the all of the font information I wanted onto every text carrying tag in the HTML.

    The Reasons

    The reasons I have decided to purchasing the Edit CSS Option have included:

    • I was turning blogging into an HTML editing and checking process. The process of creating a blog post was:
      • I would create a blog post in Windows Live Writer 2011,
      • Then  edit the HTML either in the Source pane of Windows Live Writer, or in Visual Studio,
      • Then post the blog post to WordPress,
      • Then go, “Stuff done it again, wanted to make it a draft and edit it up there!”
      • Then edit the post using the Web Interface on WordPress,
        • Correct any formatting problems. This can be a bit of work as WordPress can clobber some formatting in the HTML. So, it ends up being a cycle between the Source and HTML views in the WordPress editor,
        • Cycle between the Editor and the Preview,
        • Add in Tags,
        • Add in Categories,
        • Add in Possible Associated Links,
      • Then republish the post
      • Then check that it was OK
    • Posting Source code in a blog posts was even worse.
      • Checking the formatting at each step in the process.
        • Writing the bulk of the post and pasting the source code in using Windows Liver Writer,
        • Then to WordPress Web Interface, and check that things look OK. This involved swapping between:
          • the source view,
          • the HTML view,  and
          • the Page Preview
      • I was either:
        • Losing some of the formatting in each of multiple hops, or
        • Gaining formatting which would “stuff up” the presentation of the source code.
    • Getting the capability to fix the banner on my blog
      • When using IE9 the “Craig’s Eclectic Blog”, was displaying with a Black background, which was not aesthetically pleasing. Part of my initial CSS, was a quick bit of CSS which then forced the  “background-color=transparent;”, and that fixed that “gremlin”.
      • I should create a “please fix” with the WordPress “Happiness Engineers” this issue. I’m certain that I will not be the only person to find this “foible” of IE9 and the Fusion Theme.

    What Do I Expect To Get?

    So, what does the Edit CSS Option give (and this post will validate some of these assertions):

    • Control over the formatting of my blog posts, without having to edit the HTML along the way. I was adding in details of the font information in particular onto each of the text carrying HTML tags. Now, the customisation of CSS should (fingers crossed) take care of that.
    • Fix up the banner on the blog pages. I know this works as I’ve fixed that problem already. Although, I may change the font being used, the current Calibri does not look quite right.
    • Assert some better control over the posting of source code onto this blog. I’m not sure what I’ll be able to achieve here, but at least I have the “tool” to do this now.
      • I was using some of the source code plug-ins in Window Live Writer to format the source code, on Windows Live Spaces. Now, I’ll see if I can “convince” them to work with WordPress as the host.
    • Learn what CSS can do. I may need to get a book about this or, better still check my reference library; I may have enough CSS help in one of the volumes I already have.
    • Learn how to do things with CSS, using my blog as a “test bed”. This could prove to be a dangerous thing to do. The potential for fatally breaking things in this blog is something which I will have to assess, and work within.

    The Tools Dimension

    The developing, deployment, and maintenance of the CSS which supports my blog are new technical challenges for me. I’ve not needed, up till now, to know CSS. I have had a “nodding acquaintance” with CSS and an acknowledgement that it was part of the web that I could conveniently ignore.  Well those days are gone, and behind me now. Now I’ll be diving into CSS “head first”, and learning how to get my web pages to do the things which I want.

    This brings me to the topic of tools for creating, testing, and managing, of CSS. There are a multitude of tools for the development of CSS. I’ve “dipped” a toe in the water with a couple of them already, and will be exploring the possibilities of others. These tools include:

    • Internet Explorer Developer Tools (F12).
      • Pros and Cons:
        • This is a good way to trace how IE is interpreting the CSS/HTML combination.
        • It is useful for tracking down where in the HTML the text you want to style is.
        • It displays the class and ID’s which CSS selectors “grab hold of”.
    • Visual Studio
      • Pros and Cons:
        • It works reasonable well with CSS. There is good support for CSS properties and values.
        • Is disconnected from the blog posts (well I’ve not connected it up as yet – not sure you can)
    • Expression Web
      • Pros and Cons:
        • Never used it before, and am just installing it now. Not sure what I’ll find in the package.

    Conclusions

    Well, I’ve accomplished the things I started out wanting to do. The Custom CSS is not very long, but is now doing the things which I wanted. But, there is plenty more to come (I’m sure of that). I’ve the feeling that I’ve opened “Pandora’s box”, in that I will be tinkering with CSS to “beatify” my blog, and coding my Custom CSS to format more parts of HTML (things I’ve not used as yet: pictures, tables, code, links and on the list goes).

    Was it worth it. For me YES. But, I’ve plenty of experience developing software

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    WordPress: Categories and Tags


    Introduction

    If you’ve not read any of my previous posts, this blog has just moved from Windows Live Spaces.

    This post focuses on some of the “cleaning up” I’ve now done (which may, or may not be completed – I’ll expand on the testing of  the completeness of the”clean up” below) on the categorisation and tagging of  the posts in this blog.

    My Philosophy on Categories and Tags

    Categories and Categorisation

    Categorization is the process in which ideas and objects are recognized, differentiated and understood. Categorization implies that objects are grouped into categories, usually for some specific purpose. Ideally, a category illuminates a relationship between the subjects and objects of knowledge. Categorization is fundamental in language, prediction, inference, decision making and in all kinds of environmental interaction.

    From: Categorization in Wikipedia

    All schemes of categorization imply a taxonomy which is being applied.

    Taxonomy is the practice and science of classification.

    From: Taxonomy in Wikipedia

    Tags and Tagging

    My philosophy on tagging is one which applies far less structure than categorisation. I view tags as quick links in the text in a blog. I use tags as the “what would I like to find this by” hooks for the blog. The “thought experiment” is “If all my blog posts were in one text document, what would I like to find by to get back to this”.

    The tags I use are not necessarily just contained in the text, but they do “describe the how to find the text”. This may seem counterintuitive to some readers, so let me explain further. I would be quite possible to write a blog posts about a visit to the British Museum and never mention London, but I’d put a London tag on the post.

    WordPress Categorisation and Tagging

    WordPress gives the facility for the categorisation of blog post within a hierarchal category structure. T his allows a “careful” blogger to categorise blog posts within a meaningful structure (a taxonomy of blog post categories). This I must admit is a very big step forward from the Windows Live environment (which was a single level category structure).

    I’ve tagged my historical post, mostly with the tags I was trying to use in Windows Live. The question mark is because I’m not 100% sure that I’ve been using the tegs here on WordPress correctly. I seem to have “carved out” a bunch of tags which previously did not exist. This may, or may not, be how WordPress’s tagging system wants to be used.

    I must admit that the category and tag cloud widgets are great (particularly, coming from a blogging platform which did not have them – or at leats I did not find them). It would be good if then both used the “blue hyper-link” format (but that’s down to a 1% quibble).

    Conclusions

    • I’m not sure that I’ve used tags correctly (as per the Word press way of doing things). I guess I’ll find out, either I’ll get an email from the site administrators, or there will be none.
    • The category structure I have is not perfect. I’m not convinced that it is the most appropriate for my blogging, but it is better than where I started from.
    • The category structure will continue to evolve. As my range of interests develops, there will be new categories, or sub-categories required. 

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