Gaping Widget

Is the absence of javascript widgets from WordPress.com a gaping void? Is the consequent absence of Hugh MacLeod’s gapingvoid widget from WordPress.com blogs a great pity? My answer to the first question is that it’s not as big a hole as the security hole javascript poses for sites like WordPress.com.

I provided my answer to the second question on a blog on which I could have used the gv widget, but chose not to. The best way to destroy what’s special about HughToons is to succeed in having them all over the place… by which I mean, in the sidebar of too many blogs.

Although I don’t subscribe to gapingvoid these days, I enjoy dropping by now and then to read something like this recent post. My favorite HughToon is Mistakenly, by the way.

WordPress and OpenID, the Week After

The blogging about WordPress.com being an OpenID provider, but not (yet?) an OpenID consumer, goes on. We can see (here and here, for example) the conversation turning to the question of whether a site should be a provider only.

My main thoughts on the issue are:

  • There’s no lack of OpenID providers.
  • There is a lack of OpenID consumers. To put it another way, not accepting OpenID is beginning to seem like a lack in many web services.
  • Therefore being a provider only doesn’t seem to be much of a favor to the world, or even to one’s users.
  • However, being a provider only may be a step along the way to full (i.e. provider and consumer) OpenID support.
  • I think that the arguments for full support apply with particular force to WordPress/Automattic, given their declared support for standards, openness, etc.
  • I’m too busy to sprinkle this post with all the relevant linkage, some of which would be in the results of searching this blog for openid.

WordPress.com OpenID, the Morning After

Many have already written about WordPress.com becoming an OpenID producer. For example:

WordPress.com Produces OpenIDs

There’s a new entry on the WordPress.com FAQ today: What is OpenID? The answer is that it’s “an open standard that lets you sign in to other sites on the Web using your WordPress.com account.”

In other words, WordPress.com is an OpenID producer. As the Jyte user who claimed that WordPress should support OpenID, I have to hail this as a step in an excellent direction.

I hope that it won’t be the only step. A second and even more welcome step would be WordPress.com becoming an OpenID consumer. That would mean that WordPress.com would accept (with the appropriate caution) OpenIDs at login.

Some specific examples might help. http://changingway.org/ is now an OpenID. This illustrates that: an OpenID is a URI; and that WordPress.com domain mapping applies (that URI maps to changinway.wordpress.com). http://claimid.com/andwat is also an OpenID. claimID is an example of a service that is both a producer and a consumer of OpenIDs.

AddThis Here

Four stages of adding AddThis to this WordPress.com blog: (1) attempt; (2) hey, it seems to work; (3) no, it doesn’t; (4) providing bonus links; (5) returning a few weeks later and adding AddThis to the sidebar.
AddThis Social Bookmark Button
(1) Original post was as follows. Right now, I’m just trying to see if WordPress.com will allow use of an AddThis blog button… will edit this post later.

(2) Here’s the later, rather optimistic edit.

You’d like people to bookmark your stuff, especially if they use a social bookmarking service. So you’d like to put a button (or other link) on your blog (or other site) to make it easy for visitors to bookmark you. The trouble is, there are so many social bookmarking services that you don’t want to include a button for each of them.

So you’d like one button to rule them all. AddThis provides such a button. Actually it provides several, the smallest of which appears in this post. Now, down to business, via TechCrunch.

AddThis is gathering some very interesting data that can form the core of a business model now that they have fairly deep penetration. They’re releasing some of this data… AddThis also sees what stories people are bookmarking.

I’m considering putting the AddThis button on the sidebar of this blog. That’s saying something, given my current minimalist tastes.

There is an AddThis blog. The current post tells us that AddThis is now serving over 2 million buttons each day. The blog uses WordPress. I hope that this will encourage AddThis to continue to produce widgets that don’t use JavaScript. (Such widgets aren’t allowed on WordPress.com, although they are allowed on WordPress blogs hosted elsewhere.)

(3) On later checking, the link from the button doesn’t work. A new window comes up, and allows me to choose a bookmarking site. But when I select a site, and get to it, the URL of the blog page isn’t there. So, apparently WordPress.com does strip out some of the AddThis code.

(4) There’s a thread on AddThis on the WordPress.com support forum.

(5) It now (a few weeks later) seems to work, so I’m putting the button in the sidebar.

MyBlogLog

I used MyBlogLog on my previous blog, and thought it was pretty neat. I don’t use it here. That’s partly because I checked the MBL widget and found it used JavaScript, which is not allowed here at WordPress.com. But it seems that you can use MBL on WordPress.com after all.

Then there are a couple of things that make me less keen on MBL than I was a month or two ago. The first is ease of spamming. Techcrunch reported a demonstration of this by Michael Jensen. My own email box is starting to show evidence of MyBlogSpam.

The second is that MyBlogLog WILL be moving to Yahoo IDs for login purposes. This doesn’t make my life more complicated, since I use a couple of Yahoo services already. But one of the things I liked about MBL was that it was independent of any one blogging tool or provider. I’d like to see it using OpenID rather than, or even as an alternative to, Yahoo ID. On a related note, it’s annoying that the spam email I get from Yahoo-owned MBL is not caught by my Yahoo email spam filter.

Having said all that, my main reason for not using MBL here is that I like my Simpla theme, and don’t want to make it less simple. Hence the sidebar content is sparse, and will remain so.

WordPress.com Outage?

I don’t know if the whole of WordPress.com was down, but this blog certainly was, and so was the main page of the site. It lasted for about 20 minutes, I think. We seem to be back now.

Update: Matt not only commented here right after the outage, but also posted to the WordPress.com blog, describing and explaining the outage, and describing the impressive and growing hardware powering WordPress.com.

Simpla Way: Widgets

SimplaWayThis is the third in a series of posts about the current appearance of this blog. The first post explains why I’m blogging here at WordPress.com, and using the Simpla theme. The second post explains the custom CSS I use.

This post is about the sidebar widgets I use. For example, there’s the popular Categories widget, which does what you’d expect: lists the categories in use at the blog.

Most of the widgets I use are what I would call “HTML widgets,” but which go by the official name of text widgets. Such a widget gives me a box into which I can type heading text, and a box into which I can type HTML.

At the top of the sidebar is a widget with the heading “My Identity” and HTML including an image from, and a link to, claimID. Rather than having lots of About and Profile pages for the multiple blogging and other web services I use, I want to have one main place, and claimID currently seems to me to be as good a host as any for that. I find it strange to call things like this “text widgets” because, apart from the heading, there is no text in this particular widget.

Right under the categories widget is… another text/HTML widget. Under that comes the Search widget. This blog is part of a family of blogs, and it probably makes sense to direct most search at the family rather than only at the currently active member. I’ve used Google to create a custom search engine to do just such a search.

Google provides code to include custom search engines on web sites. Unfortunately, this code includes javascript, and so is not allowed by WordPress.com. My workaround for this is to provide a link to my custom search engine page, and to put it in a text widget. There was a recent discussion about this at the WordPress.com forum.

Right under the text widget linking to the custom search is the Search widget, which provides search of the current blog.

The widget with the heading Subscribe and the feed symbol is another text widget. No, it’s not the RSS widget. You use a text widget to put your feed in your sidebar. Yes, I too was confused at first.

The Share heading and the Creative Commons license comprise the last text widget in the sidebar. There is a Creative Commons widget, but it’s not available at WordPress.com. I wish that it was.

So now we’ve reached the end of the sidebar and, for now, the end of this little series. There will probably be a fourth episode of the trilogy, especially if anyone actually reads the first three. Thank you for reading this far.

Simpla Way: CSS

SimplaWayThis is the second in a series of posts about the current appearance of this blog. The first post explains why I’m blogging here at WordPress.com, and using the Simpla theme.

This post is about Custom CSS. Although blogging at WordPress.com is free of charge, there is a charge for custom CSS. For me, control over my blog’s style sheet is well worth the ~US$1/month; for others, it’s not worth it. If you have a WordPress.com blog, you can go from Dashboard to Presentation to Edit CSS, and preview the feature.

Note that: “Your stylesheet will be loaded after the theme stylesheets, which means that your rules can take precedence and override the theme CSS rules.” Most of my stylesheet came from cutting and pasting from the Simpla stylesheet, and replacing values.

But the CSS for images came from the stylesheet for my previous blog. I like images at the right of posts, with a little room to breathe.

#content img {
float:right;
border:0;
margin:10px;
}

I wanted the main heading for the blog to be more prominent than the Simpla default, so I made it twice the size of the post heading.

#header h1 {
font-size:4.4em;
}

I wanted the date of each post to be formatted consistently with the post metadata that appears at the foot of the post. In fact, I think that the date is post metadata, and as such belongs with things like the category. But CSS doesn’t control the placement of text, just the style. So the best I could do was copy and paste the formatting from the post metadata to apply it to the date.

.entrytitle h3 {
font-family:Georgia, "Times New Roman", Times, serif;
font-size:0.9em;
}

Turning now from the content to the sidebar, the Simpla CSS gives too much separation between the items on the Blogroll list for my taste. So I took out the dotted line it uses as a separator. But I used it to separate sections of the sidebar from each other.

#sidebar h2 {
border-top:1px dotted #ddd;
}
#sidebar ul li {
border-bottom:0;
margin-bottom:0;
padding:0;
}

Mention of the sidebar brings me to sidebar widgets, and to the third post in the series.

Simpla Way: Theme

SimplaWayThis is the first in a short series of posts about my “moving in” to WordPress.com as my main blogging home. In particular, the series focuses on the current theme of Changing Way.

I’ll start by noting why I moved here from Weblogs.us, where the parent of this blog still lives. I didn’t import the old content into this blog because it is my experience that moving or converting data usually gives rise to weirdness, and I’d rather spend the time on things other than coping with such weirdness. The experience in question is with data and software in general, rather than with WordPress in particular, by the way.

Here are the main reasons I moved to WordPress.com:

  • Everything is taken care of: upgrades, backups, security, etc
  • Your blog is on dozens of servers, so it’s highly unlikely it will go down due to traffic

I quote those reasons from the FAQ comparing WordPress.com with WordPress classic (as I tend to call WordPress.org). The main reason against moving to WordPress.com is that you have less control over your blog.

Having decided to move to WordPress.com, I needed to find a theme for the new Changing Way. A WordPress theme is “a collection of files that work together to produce a graphical interface with an underlying unifying design for a weblog.” That definition is from the WordPress Codex page on Using Themes. From it, you can find a list of lists of themes: the WordPress community has published about a thousand themes.

My criteria for a theme were as follows:

  • Available on WordPress.com. Not all the thousand themes are available there. That may be a mercy.
  • Simple and clean, partly because that helps as a starting point for customization, and partly because I wanted to end up with a simple and clean theme.
  • One sidebar, on the right. This makes content prominent relative to sidebar stuff.
  • Widgetizable. That non-word may be as superfluous as it is ugly. I think that all the WordPress.com themes support sidebar widgets.

Simpla meets all of those criteria. In fact, it exceeds the second by a rather large margin; it goes beyond simple and clean and all the way to elegant. Link-outs to the designer, Phu Ly, the Simpla page, and the blog post announcing the theme. As you can see from the comments on the latter, I am far from alone in admiring and using this theme.

I was thinking of using Sandbox, the “theme for themers.” But I like Simpla so much, and feel so pressed for time, that I’ll probably stick with Simpla for the rest of 2007 and beyond.

The next two posts in the series focus on features of WordPress.com that allow some limited control over blog themes: custom CSS and sidebar widgets.