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Where does he get those wonderful toys?

Nerdliness | Wednesday, January 17th, 2007 | 10 years, 4 months ago

As you can probably tell from my relatively graphic-free page layout I’m a proponent of minimalist, utilitarian web design. Those who visited my blog in the early days of my dedicated domain name know that I was quick to delete an attractive but superfluous flash animation from the gorgeous base theme. Toys for the sake of toys is hardly a sake at all.

On the other hand, I’ve broken down and included a couple of value-adds while attempting to maintain look and feel as well as, especially, fast load times. Here’s a summary of the features I’ve added, starting with the newest one about which I’m the most excited.

Snap Preview

I’m as guilty as the next blogger of haphazardly and excessively hyperlinking to numerous web sites within a paragraph or even a single sentence. I do my best to back up my claims with references, but indeed it appears rather selfish to presume that my readers are interested enough in my point of view that they will research every one of my sources. Maddox, the blogger that proved to me the validity of blogging, says it best:

The problem with this layout is that there’s too much shit to click on. Seriously, who’s ever going to click on all those links? The worst blogs are the ones that make every other word a hyperlink to another website so by the time you finish reading this sentence, you’ve forgotten what you were reading, or why you were reading it in the first place. Hey, this article is great but you know what would make it better? If I could read another article in the middle of it. Great design, morons.

You may have inadvertently discovered the feature I’m about to discuss! If not, hover your mouse cursor over any hyperlink in the body of this post. Don’t worry, I’ll wait. (if you use the NoScript extension for Firefox, and you really ought to, you’ll have to permit scripts from snap.com)

Done yet?

Just this morning by chance I was reading a website featuring Snap Preview and instantly knew that this would add value to my blog for the aforementioned reason. Installation took only 5 minutes and everything seems to work out of the box. The very intelligently crafted Snap Preview WordPress Plugin automatically injected the requisite code and even let me toggle off previews for internal links, so you won’t see graphical previews of demodulated.com hyperlinks.

Do you like this feature or is it one toke over the line? Please leave me a comment and let me know. Personally, I find this feature revolutionary and infinitely helpful – particularly for my format.

–edit–

It looks like secure links prefixed with “https”, such as the NoScript extension link above, are not thumbnailed. Smart!

Also, please note that anonymous info will be tracked by snap.com for distribution to advertisers. This happens every time you view a hyperlink preview. I read the EULA before adding this feature and it seems to protect you, my readers, and myself from being individually identified. Let me know if you don’t like this, or use NoScript with Firefox to selectively enable only trusted script hosts on all the web pages you view.

–edit 2–

I’ve since uninstalled Snap Preview. Here’s a screenshot of what it looks like:

snap.gif

Cloudy

At the bottom of my right-hand sidebar can be found my word cloud – a list of my fifty most-used words, sans the “the”s and “and”s, etc., with the most frequent words appearing proportionately larger than the others. I dabbled with this concept last year but discarded it as a one-off sideshow. Cloudy does a rather nice job of displaying this information as it updates in real time and considers my entire prolific blog history while ignoring the headers and footers.

Okay, so this feature doesn’t really add a heck of a lot of value. I still like it. It’s simple, immediately recognizable, and doesn’t detract from the load times or compromise the layout. I’m looking forward to the plugin being updated so that the words hyperlink to search. Maybe I can figure it out myself.

Search Meter

When I started working for my current employer my job description was Technical Writer. I was asked to create a report about our website’s search engine visibility one day, yadda yadda yadda, now I’m the company’s enterprise search specialist. I’m obsessed with search now, as a recent post suggests, and am enthusiastic about making it as easy and intuitive as possible on this blog. It’s unfortunate that Google Free Site Search is so cripplingly ad-laden as Google is certainly more effective than WordPress’ built-in search capabilities. However, WordPress’ search is rather mod-friendly.

Enter Search Meter. Simple and obvious, it displays the five most frequently user-searched terms. Period. I like this feature so much that I’ve given it prime real estate at the top of my sidebar. Too bad nobody searches my blog but me, but at least you can see *MY* top 5 searches.

I’m very picky about the toys I add to websites, but the WordPress hacker community is strong and dedicated so I’m always on the lookout.

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4 Comments

  1. Thanks for leaving a comment at my site — it allowed me to discover your blog. It looks really interesting. You asked about the Snap Preview plugin. I personally kind of like it. I know that Lorelle at lorelle.wordpress.com gave it the thumbs down because she says it interferes with the reading experience, but I think it’s cool. Good linking practice should create a predictable idea of what the link points to in the reader’s mind. The Snap Preview might allow you to break the predictability and provide more play in the way you link.

    I also like the tag cloud. I’m going to incorporate both into my site. What are your other favorite plugins?

    Can I recommend something for your site? A brief “About” page would have been nice. I’m curious who you are — a technical writer? A wordpress afficionado? Maybe you have an About page but I couldn’t find it.

    Comment by Tom Johnson — January 17, 2007 @ 7:01 pm

  2. It’s a real pleasure to hear from you, Tom!

    I really should write an About page. I seem to remember hiding the About page from my template for some reason and now I regret it.

    I was hired at my company as a technical writer but while working with SMEs I was enough of a big mouth that some of the up-and-ups decided I should act as a “Technical Specialist” as well. Nobody really knows what my job title encompasses so it’s been a real rollercoaster ride, but I love the variety of my job.

    In addition to the plugins I discuss above my favourite, by far, is “Akismet”. After 80 attempted comment spams this wonder plugin is batting 1.000. I also love “Advanced WYSIWYG Editor” which adds a bunch more buttons to the blog text entry box. I use “WP-ExtremeVideo” to embed YouTube and Google Video elements in my posts, “Google Sitemaps” to automatically inventory and submit my blog to Google, and “Popularity Contest” to generate reports on the most frequently-read articles. Finally, I’ve been lucky enough not to have to rely on “WordPress Database Backup”, though when I do I’m sure I’ll be grateful for how thorough it is!

    Thanks very much for visiting my blog!

    Comment by brian — January 18, 2007 @ 8:46 am

  3. Hi
    just going to your site i like to question you , what you gain from all these thing, do u enjoy it, or like to publish it, or like to fool it, or like to share the knowledge.

    But any way i like it very much and like to know more information to join u.

    Comment by M. AJAY SANTHOSH — February 16, 2007 @ 3:29 am

  4. What do I gain from running this website? Just pleasure, really. I hate it when websites have advertisements so I don’t put any on mine. I don’t even write for any audience but myself, though I love replying to readers like you!

    Thanks very much for visiting demodulated, Ajay. I enjoyed reading your comment!

    Comment by brian — March 1, 2007 @ 9:59 pm

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