On Working Through the Blog Coding

No, blogging world, I have not forgotten about you. I’ve been very, very busy, though I did squeeze in a Doctor Who drabble based on The Silmarillion. (Yes, really. Don’t be shocked. It works.)

Last weekend I was in New Jersey for Philcon. I took off Friday and Monday. When I got back to the office on Tuesday, I had a lot of writing to knock out on Tuesday and Wednesday. And I did, but this left me feeling mentally drained. Then there was Thanksgiving, then there was more writing on Friday, and yesterday I went to Virginia for my niece’s birthday party.

November is an insane little month. πŸ˜‰

Today, besides replacing the brake lights in my Beetle and doing my laundry on what is likely to be the last good outdoor laundry day of the year, I’ve done more work on coding my new website.

I mentioned on Monday that I’m thinking about doing a podcast when I relaunch my website in the spring. I have the title, I know roughly what the logo will look like, that sort of thing.

The problem was, I was not sure how to integrate a podcast into the landing page.

And then it struck me yesterday. I had this “spot” that I wasn’t sure how to fill, and I realized that was where it needed to go.

This isn’t a case of “Oh, I have this spot, and I have this content, and this is obviously where it should go.” Instead, it’s a case of, “I’ve sketched out this spot for something important, but I don’t know how something rates as important to go here.”

It’s actually three spots I had to fill. And what I realized was that 1) I needed a spot for a brief self-introduction and 2) I needed a spot for a bibliography introduction. Somehow, I’d overlooked both of these things. and they’re both important for the working writer. A podcast fits in well as the third. Firstly, these three spots, while they use graphic headers, the graphics are sized differently than the standard post thumbnails, so they’re going to look different. Secondly, these are essentially “static” spots; they won’t change in the way that the listing of recent posts will change with content moving down the line as newer content is added.

This necessitated a rethink of the way the WordPress loops worked in the home.php file. (And yes, I am fully cognizant of the fact that that sentence was as clear as mud to most of you reading this. I’m sorry.) I have an absurd number of loops, and they pull both pages (in other words, static content) and posts (in other words, blog content). The first loop pulls five pages to do a scroller. (This necessitated enabling tags on pages.) There’s a loop that pulls three posts in the spotlight category. There’s another loop that pulls six posts that are not in the spotlight and podcasts categories. Oh, and it also skips Twitter archive posts; my current blog theme does that. Finally, it runs loops that pull the “About” page, the “Bibliography” page, and the most recent podcast post. Six loops on a single page, that’s a little absurd. πŸ™‚

But I’m trying to build a magazine-styled WordPress theme and I’m thinking in CMS-terms rather than blog-platform-terms, which leads one into doing strange things like making pages taggable and putting six custom loops on a single page. πŸ˜‰

This leads to my next conceptual thought — I’ve widgeted the hell out of this theme. The footer has five widgeted areas, and I’m doing some different things with the sidebar. For one thing, instead of doing a single sidebar block, I’ve broken it up into three smaller blocks, each formatted differently. And then I’ve done something new — I’ve created widgets for areas I can use for banners, graphics, even ads if I want.

I’m trying to decide whether or not to use Post Formats. It’s a new feature in WordPress, one that I’m not familiar with. Post Formats give WordPress some Tumblr-like features, allowing different formatting for different types of post content. I’m going to study the Esquire theme and its implementation of the feature. The thing is, I’m not sure I would use this feature, so it’s possible that my studies here may be all for naught.

I knew there was a reason I had the Esquire code around and handy… πŸ˜‰

Otherwise, I think I’m nearing completion of this project. I have some CSS changes to make, and I still need to implement a “Share to Social Media” solution. (I know what I want to do, I know how it will work. I just haven’t sat down to do the coding necessary to make it work.) This is the same ten percent of coding that had still to do six weeks ago. I’m still weighing the feasibility of the custom mobile theme; I may leave this for a plug-in just so I don’t have to fret it.

That’s the thing. There are lots of things that I can implement through plug-ins. I’m trying to avoid using plug-ins when a built-in WordPress feature will suffice. It’s just… cleaner that way. I’m also trying to make things easy to maintain and update by automating some things (like the featured posts display) that I currently have to handle manually.

Then, once this is all done, I’ll hammer the hell out of the theme to make sure the code doesn’t break. And I’m likely to migrate the current website sooner rather than later; this week, my site became seriously flaky in ways that worried me. (And I never worry.) Early 2012 rather than June 2012. πŸ™‚

Enough about the coding.

On tap this week, besides work, is an essay for another website on an interesting topic.

And if you liked Peter David’s Sir Apropos of Nothing novels, give his latest Fable novel, Blood Ties, a try. The protagonist is positively Aproposian, and it’s been a pleasant read. πŸ™‚

5 thoughts on “On Working Through the Blog Coding

    1. I almost didn’t buy it; I found the first to be largely unreadable, and it went largely unread. I never got any footing in the book — I couldn’t even force myself to read it on the subway, which is what I’ve done with some books — and I gave up on it about a third of the way in.

      I read the first chapter in Barnes & Noble, found it to be surprisingly bawdy (but then I remember that, yes, Fable can be a bawdy game), liked it, and bought it. Better flow, better characters, I suppose.

  1. I did finish the first one—I didn’t have to force myself, but it definitely was rather bland compared to most of his other works.

  2. PAD’s writing just hasn’t gripped me the past few years the way it used to. I haven’t gotten very far into The Camelot Papers, for instance.

    Well, okay, to be fair, Before Dishonor gripped me, but that was like watching a slow-motion train wreck and I couldn’t not look.

    But I’m enjoying Blood Ties. Not having played Fable III, I had no idea that these characters were from the game, and I pictured them as nothing like as they are in the game. (I looked them up on a Fable Wiki.) Ben Finn, for instance, struck me as looking Nathan Fillion-like but with Matt Smith’s voice. Page I pictured as Eve Myles-like.

  3. Matt Smith, Simon Pegg, close enough. πŸ˜‰

    I have played Fable III, but it’s been long enough that I’d forgotten who Page was. So I’m not sure I’ll be all that much better off…

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