I’m moving my hosting from WordPress.com to MediaTemple in the next 24 to 48 hours. The site should remain up but I won’t be doing my daily posts until things are settled out with the move.
Expect theme and feature changes and improvements. By hosting it myself there are all sorts of plugins that I can add: like Facebook comments! There may be some (hopefully) brief wonkiness as I add them though, or the occasional broken feature on the site that was supported by some WordPress.com feature that I have to replace.
Since I’m waiting for both my line edits on Untimed and my proofreading on The Darkening Dream, I’m researching website construction. I have to morph, upgrade, or supplement this blog with a genuine author website and I can’t bring myself to hire someone to do it given that I’ve written far bigger and more complex websites and apps. It’ll just annoy me to no end to not be able to control it all myself. But at the same time, old school coding the whole thing manually (I’d probably use Ruby on Rails for that) is overkill and probably too much work.
So I read this Professional WordPress book yesterday and today to see if it would be reasonable to just extend WordPress. I think it is. A few plugins and some custom theme programming will probably do the trick. The problem is that I host on wordpress.com and they don’t allow you to install extra plugins (they have some installed by default) or add any PHP code. So I’ll have to migrate to a self hosted server. Maybe Media Temple VPS? Rackspace? Research. Research. Research. Anyone have any suggestions/experience with the good hosting platforms?
And I have to teach myself PHP, so I grabbed the bird book. PHP is one of those popular but slightly icky languages like PERL and JAVA that I’ve never been very partial to. It’s like Ruby, but 100x uglier and more primitive. I am a LISP (and Ruby) guy after all. Oh well. This is easy peasy programming, so I’ll just suck it up. Using something like WordPress will make my life much easier maintaining the site as it’s choke full of content management features. If I program it myself I have to go and code everything manually, which really isn’t very efficient.
I even wonder if one of these newer WordPress themes/frameworks like PageLines Platform isn’t a good idea. Anyone use one?
My original theme, Quentin, was getting a little long in the tooth and didn’t support custom menus, post formats, and the like, although it was attractive. So I switched to the brand new Quintus which is an updated version. This has necessitated a somewhat inadvertent new look. I played with the CSS a bit to customize it, but my patience for this is limited. The new theme is wider, which is cool, but some elements don’t look as good to me like the comments.
Be sure to check out the new top menu (below the old-school paper). You can click on the top levels and get inline filtering of the post categories, or find in the drop downs various indices and popular posts.
Let me know what you think. Here’s what the old one looked like:
Blog navigation is funny because the default themes make it difficult to to lure people into old posts. Given that my posts are often “references” (reviews of restaurants, books, films etc.) it’s useful to see a list of them by topic.
All ofthese indicies, including the existing Food Index can be found in the righthand sidebar under “MORE POSTS ON.” Just click the ghetto programmer art buttons.
As a note. WordPress.com sure could use some code to help making these better/easier. If one uses WordPress.org (have to host it yourself) there are a bunch of plugins and you can use php to automate the process. WordPress.com only has a simple code snippet thing for the archives, but it doesn’t allow any filtering by category or tag, sorting other than by date. In other words it’s lame. This is a totally obvious candidate for automation.
In an effort to tame the byzantine nature of my posts and the particular mechanics of a WordPress based site I’ve introduced a “Topics at a Glance” section to the sidebar and a Food Index page. You can click the little food icon on the right for it. This page will organize the food posts alphabetically by location. When I get the energy I’ll see about improving it further.
I’ve also put in quick hit buttons next to it (in the same section of the sidebar) for articles on writing and book reviews. At some point, particularly for the book and movie reviews I’ll probably do an index page.