Blog Overhaul

A while back I upgraded our blog software and last night I finished the job by upgrading our theme to enable even more of the features. I’ll still need to do some tweaking of the style but I’m pretty happy for now. Here are some of the new features:

Gravatars

One of the most obvious changes is that you might have noticed some peoples pictures next to their comments. OK, well just Aubrey for now, but she seems to be the only one reading commenting on our blog since she currently hold 4 out of the last 5 comments. That little picture is a Gravatar. It isn’t coming from our site. You have to go sign up for one for your email address and then our site uses your email to go fetch your picture. You can go and change your pictures as much as you want. If you don’t have one setup for your email account, then instead of showing a goofy default image, I hacked it a bit to not display an image. But it is still my site and I reserve the right to replace your gravatar (or add one) with a picture I deem more appropriate.

Threaded Comments

When leaving a comment you can now “reply” to a previous comment and your comment will be indented below the comment you were replying too. This probably isn’t that cool to all of y’all because we don’t actually get that many comments, but it once in a while, especially when Tim comments, people often have reply comments.

Tags

You’ve probably seen “tagging” in other applications such as photo organizing software. Folders make sense for physical things like a photograph. It can only be in one physical folder at a time. But with electronic documents tagging makes way more sense. If you are organizing your digital photos or email (don’t even get me started on my email rant. that is a whole different post) in folders you are wasting your time. You are always going to have items that belong in two folders, but can only go in one. With tags you can simply add multiple tags to it and you can sort on any of them. We’re still keeping the categories around for course grain organization, but we’ll also be tagging posts. It also meant I got to add the cool tag cloud widget which animates the tags as if they were on a 3D sphere. Go ahead and move your mouse over it and see it react.

WordPress Features

The update made the internal software that we use to “run” the blog is a huge improvement. It went from something that took someone who knows about web hosting, php, and html programming to something that any average person could use and maintain. Updating in the past was tedious. Now you just click a button and it all happens automagically. It is all AJAXy and you can just drag things around to easy change the layout of the site. Overall, very nice. I haven’t used Blogger or other hosted blog services, but I can’t imagine they are better or easier to use. And that is saying something considering that WordPress is free and open source.

Text Widget

OK, so this is an internal feature too, but I thought other wordpress users should know about it because initially I didn’t realize how cool it was. To design the sidebar, you add widgets. There are some widgets that come with WordPress and other users can create more. But what if you want to add something that there isn’t a widget for? That is what the Text Widget is for. All you have to do is past in some HTML code into it and BAM, there it is on your sidebar. So when you want to add your Google Reader Shared items and not have it look all ghetto using some RSS plugin which kinda works. Just copy the javascript that Google gives you and paste it in the text widget. No more hacking up your theme which makes updating your theme a pain.

K2 Makes WordPress Better

OK, so this is just a plug for my theme which rocks. I’m not doing it justice with the lame header image. Yes, Jenny I am going to put something cool up but first you asked me to help with Violet’s announcement remember and plus I’m busy with all this blog stuff. But K2 is actually more than a theme as it is a mod to wordpress. For example it provides a better widget manager with more options.

Mystery Feature

OK, so it isn’t a mystery but more of a “what is that?”, although Jenny had a hard time finding it. I figured I’d try it out and see what it is. I mean, I gave facebook a chance. Just wait for the upcoming post on what is wrong with facebook. Feel free to use it, or just rail on me in the comments. Just remember I can replace your gravatar on my site if I want. You did go sign up for one right?