On the 8th day, god debugged

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Mr. Roy Tanck, WordPress theme designer and web programmer extraordinaire, for volunteering to help me troubleshoot my beloved Tranquility theme.
With little more than a few descriptive emails he helped me narrow down my issue to my word cloud plugin and helped me test it. What a guy.

Now that my theme is restored my blog feels like home again. Apologies to any who’ve been inconvenienced by my experimentation with my live production site.


The ravages of age

I had to do a quick hack-job on my blog a few days ago when one of my plugins stopped working. It was a plugin that rewrites page titles to make them more search-engine friendly (by rewriting it so that the story title comes first and the blog name comes second) so it was no big loss – I found instructions on doing it manually.

Unfortunately, the next day 3 more plugins decided to go kaputski, even though my blog was displaying just fine that very morning! These were integral plugins too, including my beloved Spam Karma 2 whose impressive results can be seen by scrolling to the very bottom of any of my blog pages.

Heres’ how my blog looked when everything was hunky dory:

Demodulated of yore

And here’s how it looked with erroneous plugins activated:

Absolutely random and inexplicable. Individual articles rendered just fine but the home page and categories gave up before trying to display them. The only thing out of the ordinary that I’ve been doing lately is using the freeware desktop blogging client BlogDesk, but I’ve used it many times before and can’t fathom what it could have triggered that would cause my theme to crap out while idling.

And yes, I confirmed that the issue is my beloved Tranquility theme by Roy Tanck by successfully applying one of the default WordPress themes with all my plugins enabled:

The WordPress Classic theme, above, is actually pretty classy and attractive, but too white for my liking. To my great horror the official WordPress Themes site has been down these past 24 hours, leaving me with limited options and forcing me to wade through a sea of SEO-optimised pay theme sites.

With phenominal luck I happened by this intriguing theme, chasmogamous, designed anonymously for the website Free CSS Templates. Here’s what demodulated looked like for a split second before I pulled out my hacking shears:

My eyes twinkled at the endless hacking possibilities when I saw my site rendered like this. After familiarizing myself with widgets for the first time, removing the graphics and some other elements, increasing the font size, and adjusting the spacing, my blog already looked like this after barely an hour of effort:

It’s fun and fulfilling to tweak a new theme, but I admit it feels unnecessary and I do miss my old theme. I hope this drastic, sudden measure won’t be necessary again any time soon, but I am impressed that my old theme withstood over a dozen WordPress updates in addition to countless hacks and near self-imposed catastrophes.

How do you like the new theme? I’m not sure whether I’ll stick with it but I like it so far – especially the Trebuchet MS typeface of various elements such as the word “demodulated” in the title. The stylized lowercase “L” really speaks to me.

Thanks for your patience while I restore most of my old features and reconsider others (perhaps I don’t need so many links on the sidebar). I’m sure I’ll find elements to fix and tweak for months still.


WordPress fits all

I’ve been more in the mood for web design than writing lately. This has been the case both at work and at leisure. Lucky for me, both of those aspects of my life are flexible enough to accommodate these whims. At work I’ve been working on a beta of a corporate blog and researching the technical aspects of search engine optimisation. At home I’ve been looking for an excuse to author a site to use as some kind of content management system.

My first idea was a lofty one, but I couldn’t find an appropriate platform. My idea was to create some kind of self-serve CMS, open to the public, that would allow people to freely upload and describe their own creative works – music, poetry, art, whatever. I tried several Wiki platform and poked around the web looking for similar projects but they all seemed either too amateurish or too professional for my tastes.

In the end I tabled this idea and took some time to mull things over. I love mulling. It’s like thinking but much more lazily.

During this web design hiatus the day of the Hullabaloo 10-year anniversary rave, One More Group Hug, was rapidly approaching (I’ll write about this when I get my camera USB cable back!). As I got more excited I got into the giving spirit. I dug up an old tape of DJs SOS and Grimace playing at the Hullabaloo 1 preparty, ripped it to MP3, and posted it on the Hullabaloo message board. This was awesome because it gave me the opportunity to listen to this tape while I ripped it, and I got to share this enthusiasm with others.


With a little help from Tom Johnson‘s post about using WordPress as a CMS I slapped together a WordPress installation and played around with various plugins, most of which were not appropriate for non-textual content like audio files. In the end most of the functionality I needed was built right into WordPress – hierarchical categories, variable menu display settings, non-chronological organisation, and easy linking to static content.

Because CMS isn’t its primary function and there are few plugins to meet my specific needs I’ve had to dig under the hood a little more than usual. This has been hit and miss due to my crappy programming skills coupled with the fact that many functions (like the_category()) are missing some important array output formatting options. I’ve logged some suggestions on so hopefully they’ll be taken care of some time soon.

I’ve had a great time ripping my old rave tapes to 256kbps MP3s and so far I’ve posted three. My category tagging system is working okay for now but I might need to rethink my strategy if it gets too cluttered. I’m also struggling to find a nice way of displaying a tape’s tags below its description. By default WordPress orders the category list by the primary key ID number which is dumb and looks random, so I’ve been struggling to find a way to list subcategories by main categories and show them in ASCIIbetical order (0-9, [Aa]-[Zz]).

So it’s a work in progress and a labour of love! See what I’ve done so far at Download and enjoy the music, and kindly let me know how usability can be improved.