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WordPressing Ajax with BloxPress Theme November 6, 2005

Posted by Leita in CMS, Design, Internet, Wordpress.org.

.. or rather, Ajaxing WordPress … with a theme no less!

I like to call it featureability, or futureability.. I can’t decide and should the “e” be there or not?

No matter, I almost missed this one. Posted in WordPress Planet and not quite ready for beta testing, I am hankering to play with bloxpress, a modular ajaxy WordPress theme. It sounds like a cms/ajax hybrid, something I’ve always wanted since (happily) switching from Mambo to WordPress.*

Think Google’s personalized option or Microsoft’s live.com; nothing makes me grin bigger than my cursor turning into one of those multi-directional crossy things.

The modules of a standard CMS should be mouse-moveable. So should side bar items. In fact, everything should be moveable if for no other reason than to save the general public from weekend “webmasters.”

Straight from the site, here are the goodies (source: bloxpress):

  • Complete Drag and Drop Front-end
  • Users can customize your Blog the way they like and save it.
  • Multi-site modular design (users can take custom layouts and settings everywhere)
  • Unlimited number of blocks and columns. Choose if you like to have 2, 3 or X column layout
  • Search-As-You-Type, Live Comments and on demand loading of Content (AJAX)
  • New and easy template tags to customize your BloxPress.
  • Create layouts and make them selectable to your visitors
  • Adding Blox is easy as coding. Just drop them into the folder and add them to your preset
  • Users without Javascript are served too! Fit-to-viewer, from LYNX to IE7
  • XHTML valid

That’s a lot of doodads for a theme.

* Reasons why I made the switch from Mambo to WordPress.org:

  • Faster setup (minutes instead of hours and hours and hoursszzzz…)
  • Better SEO – Don’t believe Google thinks WordPress sites get noticed faster than Mambo? Do what I did and try both with brand new domain names, identical content and see which one gets the most unique users and where they come from. It’s amazing.
  • A default Mambo is thick/heavy/overloaded for most sites. The only feature I really miss is front page management. I liked the option of not listing new content up front if I felt the site looked better if it was placed in a category.
  • Plugins galore – easy to install, easy to edit, just plain easier than futzing with components, mambots, modules and templates (although once the learning curve is crested, it does get easier and even enjoyable in a “Poking my eye with my finger feels good” kind of way.

CMS Matrix


Web Fads: The Future “Don’t” List October 15, 2005

Posted by Leita in Browsers, CMS, Design, Internet, Wordpress.com, Wordpress.org.

Here is my list of current trends that will eventually be considered as stale as the half-eaten sandwich nestled between the sofa cushions. (Admit it, you know you have one, too.) Note: Inclusion in this list in no way means it is disliked, only that its popularity will fade.

Still popular, some even gaining momentum, they are not on their way out just yet but will be:

  1. Background images that look like your daddy’s necktie. Add a nice serif font and ta-daaa… instant credibility and a look that is either duller than dirt or a nauseating salute to magenta and chartreuse paisley.
  2. Miniscule fonts – already on the wane but still viewable on a few fancy “Made with Flash” design sites. Any font with the words “mini” in the name or comes with the disclaimer “only to be used at 8 px” should be ashamed of itself.
  3. Tables – Also on the wane, but until more of the big boys put away their layout hacks and delete their 1px transparent gifs once and for all, it stays in the Future list.
  4. Bloated CMS – The emperor’s new clothes told backwards. Plugins, modules, components, no matter what they’re called, these toys can turn the most mundane website into one that looks like it should be good. (“Look Mum, the emperor has no content!”)
  5. Invite-only sites – Did Google really start this or was it copied from someone else? Matters not, people love feeling in while throngs who aren’t fill up comment space with requests to be included in the party. Ning, Flock, Orkut, 30gigs, WordPress (cough), the concept will stick as long as it is human nature to need to feel part of an exclusive group. What will not survive is the guarantee any product using this method will automatically succeed. (Which reminds me, anyone wanting an invite to ImPress: Build Your Own Invite-Only Community can leave a comment below stating why you are interesting enough to deserve an invitation.)
  6. Ning and the inevitable Ning wannabes – Anyone can call themselves a developer, even when cloning someone else’s work. Of course, I am biting my nails waiting for the officail email telling me I can create my own.
  7. The blog look – I don’t like including this one. The birth of the blog almost single-handedly killed the old “Website In a Night” look and did the world a favor. Blogs may look cookie-cutter but at least they don’t cause epileptic fits. Sadly, the two-column header, footer, sidebar, content with shadows on the edges format will be outgrown. Let’s hope it’ll evolve into something just as visually attractive. I feel confident it will.
  8. The High Tech Interface Look – Futuristic, brushed metal design popular with gamers and teen boys (redundant, but true).
  9. Dreamweaver – (Front Page was never really in, so is not included here) As more people turn to content management and blog systems, they’re finding it is damn difficult creating a site from scratch with this fine product. WYSISYG editors will gather dust and text editors make a comeback, separating the hand-coders from the weekend warriors who pass themselves off as (cringe) webmasters.
  10. Podcasts – Does Every-freaking-body need a podcast? Does Aunt Polly’s Recipe Blog need a podcast? Of course not. Be gone!
  11. Flash ads – Sure, they look better than blinking animated gifs, but not much. No ad, no matter how well done should compete with the site’s content for attention. (See below.)
  12. LowerMyBills.com ads – (See above.) Unfortunately, I don’t really see these obnoxious boxes of animated hell going away, I just wish they would.
  13. iPod Video – After the initial crowd of gadget junkies get theirs (see #5 above, many are invite junkies, too) and then feel compelled to buy the next version that will be on the market within the next three months, they’ll tire of the novelty. “Oh, Nathan, look! I am watching fancy moving pictures while trying to answer my iPod-enabled cell phone and maneuver down a New York City street at lunchtime.” Steve Jobs will joke about these someday. We all will.
  14. Adsense – Blogs with sidebar ads that direct viewers to sites selling blogs. Unless Google improves the relationship between the page content and the ads few blogs will make enough money for a cup of Starbucks.

WordPress vs. the Others October 4, 2005

Posted by Leita in CMS, Internet, Wordpress.com, Wordpress.org.

When Blogger introduced the MS Word feature, I almost went back to using them even though I prefer WordPress, both .org and .com. Call me old school, but I prefer working with word processing software or SciTE Editor over any blog’s Write Post page. So while I wish WordPress.com had the handy MS Word feature Blogger uses, I think I found a better alternative. Thanks to a Ben’s Blog post that led me to BlogJet I downloaded a free trial. The learning curve.. well, there isn’t one and once I figure out the login setup I can again save posts locally without performing a time-blowing copy/paste dance.

Over the years, I’ve tried Blogger, Mambo (not a blog, but CMS), WordPress and now WordPress.com. Some others, too, Xoops (CMS), Drupal (also CMS) and Movable Type come to mind but I didn’t stay with any of them very long. Each had their own set of handy tricks; each had their own shortcomings and in the end, WordPress won my heart. I can muck up the php with the worst of them; WordPress doesn’t seem to mind as much and has yet to dump a post before it is saved or leave me staring hypnotized watching the publishing percentage loop at 15%.


Mambo took too long to setup even with default templates. I think I liked it because it was not intuitive. Digging through the help files and forum was indeed that, adventures in digging and I was a dog with a bone. Not one to post a question on a large forum, I spent days grazing through off-topic threads looking for answers to basic newcomer’s questions.

(This is fun: click and view the official “Using Mambo? tutorial.)

Components, modules, mambots, sections and categories.. images are stored in a ‘Stories’ directory which makes no sense, obvious or otherwise. Mambo loves its jargon and if it’s not learned right away the system is unusable. A Mambo user cannot just download and start posting without spending a lot of time creating and installing the items above. Posts were sometimes called blogs, sometimes called news or the user could make up their own section and category names and become further confused. There was a front page, which I liked since not every post written belongs on the front page; I could pick which stories (not image stories, but actual posts) would be visible on the front page and which ones would go into a category.. or is that section…?


When invited to guest write for another site, I was given a login to a WordPress backend. Like a hybrid of Blogger and Mambo, the best of both greeted me and hooked me into scrapping a half-gig of Mambo files and add ons and downloading WP. Like a CMS for blogs, WordPress was faster to set up with a cleaner admin interface and barely made a dent in my hosting account space. WordPress did not automatically log me out like Mambo (even when I set the clock to 99999, it still logged me out while writing a post.. arrgh.) Finding answers in the WordPress Codex was a hoot. I could pick from forum or wikiesque information within the same search. The writing was clear and coherent, written and updated by people who know how to gently assist a newcomer.


But Blogger was my first. I began with them in late 2000 or early 2001. Not only was it a good blogging tool, it was a great hands-on css tutorial at a time when some school instructors were still debating using css at all:

“CSS is for the future. Learn it if you must but do not use it except for colors and font sizes. Inline. Browsers cannot render it correctly and it will be troublesome.?

Blogger was great, especially for newbies. By adding it to an existing static website, clients had a place where they could post and edit their own content without screwing up the layout, or worse, bringing down the whole site. Since they didn’t mess with the source code (much), their pages didn’t look like a train wreck of centered blinking text, flying emails and bad color combinations. It saved me time, lots of time. I stopped getting as many calls from folks wanting to add a photo or change a little text. Later, Blogger’s new tool for blogging via MS Word was inspired thinking and remains one of my favorite features. When setting up a blog for a newcomer, I still point them toward Blogger. But I wanted something more for myself; hence my pilgrimage.


With WordPress.com, that’ll all change, at least for me. One of the features I like best is actually a lack of.. the templates. Take that option away and a writer is left to ponder the content rather than the design. This is important. The reader can focus on the words rather than the layout. The story becomes more important than the decoration to the writer and the reader wins.

Additional Links:


Xoops cms


Movable Type

Switching to CMS July 19, 2005

Posted by Leita in CMS, Internet.

I have been blogging on Blogger since August, 2002. It was just a sprout of a company back then, long before Google wisely snapped it up and added it to their growing arsenal of web thingies. While searching for the best CMS for a client, I tested several–some open source, others for a fee–and decided on Mambo. Since I’d never messed with php much except for forum setups, learning Mamboese wasn’t a cake walk, but it was tasty. I created one on my own space to test–I’d much rather crash my own site than someone else’s–and found myself finally building a site for myself. As I’ve mentioned before, advertising my own services is near the bottom of my priority totem pole, right below cleaning out the fridge and right above … hmm.. I can’t think of anything at the moment. My own site has always been sparse; there’s no information about what I do and if anyone needs information they either get it word-of-mouth or via email. Now, I actually have a little site built with Mambo. I can’t put a finger on exactly why I like Mambo over all the others, but I do. Probably the name since I like to dance. Plus it’s a happy name and I am happy by nature when I’m not pissed. The point is, I am moving this blog from here to there. A few months ago I lost all my old posts to a server crash which still ticks me off (when I’m not feeling happy by nature, of course) so it’ll be as sparse as this one until I get a few years’ posts written. But, if I give it proper attention, perhaps it’ll be more than just a personal blog. Go take a peek and let me know what you think. While it’s being built, you’ll need to register to see everything going on in there. I don’t do anything with the names–heck, put in a fake email addy if you like–and you won’t get [fwd:] emails from me with Today’s Joke. I do not mass mail a Sparktown Newsletter because I think they’re kind of dumb and I’ve never joined one that I really liked so I’ll never subject anyone to anything so ..zzzz. But I do like knowing there’s someone out there watching and reading. Who knows? I might even post something important or amusing. It’s what happy people do when they’re not pissed and at the moment, I’m pretty happy with CMS.

On selecting the proper CMS June 9, 2005

Posted by Leita in CMS, Flotsam/Jetsam, Internet.
1 comment so far

A couple years ago I switched to Flash for most of the sites I designed. It seemed to be the best direction to take at the time–it’s not exactly the kind of thing a weekend-warrior “webmaster” takes on–and I still think it is. But with most browsers handling CSS pretty well now and the end of futzing with tables and layout (I just won’t do them anymore) I am taking a second look at my methods and making changes. Enter CMS. I’ve browsed a bunch and I like them all. Yep, all of them. Prior experience with php was mainly in the message board arena, something I did enjoy. OpensourceCMS.com lists 33 different open source systems. After a week of piddling, I’ve played with four: Mambo, Xoops, Drupal and Siteframe. This is going to take a while.