June 21, 2006

The Dust Settles

Lo! It’s been quiet around here. As mentioned before, I’ve been updating a bit of stuff on the site. Well, I’ve recoded everything from the ground up. The basic rundown, for those interested:

  • Ditched XHTML Transitional and moved to XHTML Strict. All of the main pages are done, but I’m still piecing my way through older entries
  • I stopped using bold Georgia for links (and I believe most cases of bold Georgia, other than for emphasis). When I first made this site, I had to spend a lot of time at work on a PC. Windows has such abominable font rendering that I think I chose to use Georgia bold to compensate a bit.
  • Revised the page structure so it’s no longer Javascript aided. I used to use JS to extend whichever column was shortest to be the same length as the longest. I originally revised it by using Alex Robinson’s One True Layout, but had to abandon the Equal Height Columns technique because I use named anchors (see Appendix J for the problem). *Grumble* Oh well, I just had to learn to accept the columns for who they really are, regardless of height. I love you columns.
  • Totally revised header (h1, h2, h3, etc) scheme (especially in the archives). This was probably the most needed of updates.
  • Ditched the calendar on Archive pages, because I was probably the only one who used them. I think they were only there in the first place because I found out I could do it.
  • Using the fairly new Basename field in MovableType for individual entry file names
  • Drastically simplified commenting area, getting rid of extra explanatory text and moving the “permitted tags” key up near the fields to be more useful.
  • Improved the site Search by adding sorting options in the Advanced Search
  • All links from Oddities & Diversions now have permalinks (the daggers)
  • I’ve closed submissions for the Best Band Name Ever. The link has been removed from the nav, but the page still exists and can be reached from the About page for all eternity.
  • A sprinkling of font related updates: subtle underlines for links, larger post titles, improved nav text, graphic headers now use Dispatch Extender Regular instead of Light.
  • Lots of other random nagging housekeeping chores

None of this is that revolutionary, but I’ve been pecking away and putting it aside for over a year now, so pardon the giant sigh of relief. This was the first site I ever made with CSS, and back then I knew very little about the joys of descendant selectors and semantic value. After learning more and working with CSS further, I realized just how wretchedly my site was coded. Which isn’t to say it’s a coding marvel now, but it is giant step beyond where it was. “But Jason, if you are going to re-code the entire site, why not just redesign it too?” I thought that same thing. But the plain fact is, I hate redesigning things just for the sake of it. I’m not tired of this design, it still suits my needs, and remains fairly unique. So, it stays.

I’m still cleaning up some rough edges, including some browser problems (I believe the sidebar breaks in IE PC 6). I have been extremely busy between client work, travel, home-ownership, and a thoroughly wonderful new side project, but what I have done here will allow me to make some new additions I’ve been planning. And last but not least, finally get back to some semblance of a publishing schedule (especially for the Under The Loupe series).

One last thing: I am now using Geoff Stearns’ awesome Flash Object for the SWFs in the Photography section, but you may notice I haven’t updated with any new photos in quite some time. This is because I’m conflicted. I would love to show the photos larger, but I would have to recreate the photo viewer I made to be a bit more flexible. I could use Dominey’s handy SlideShowPro, but the shrinking for vertical photos is less desirable. I could just say screw it and start really using my Flickr account… but I would have to get over this odd need to have my work on my site. Hence the conflict.

Commentary (27):

1. Neil Kelty says… jun 21, 2006 | 2:08 pm

Well, I checked out the sidebar in IE 6 on several of your pages and I couldn’t seem to find any “breakages.”

I’m running Windows XP SP2.

2. Dean says… jun 21, 2006 | 2:13 pm

I’m feeling a bit like yourself regarding the photography section. I’m thinking of just moving everything to Flickr and not maintaining my old (custom-hacked) code on my personal site. The process and maintenance is tiresome and Flickr makes it easy - plus the community aspect is a plus.

3. Jason Santa Maria says… jun 21, 2006 | 2:14 pm

Neil Kelty: I have a sneaking suspicion that it may be an older build of IE 6. Thanks for checking!

4. Flip says… jun 21, 2006 | 2:21 pm

”…a thoroughly wonderful new side project…”

When you say something like that, people stop sleeping in anticipation. Could this be something hinted at in some of your latest Flickr photos?

5. Ian says… jun 21, 2006 | 2:48 pm

So when are you going to turn the comments off?

6. Jason Santa Maria says… jun 21, 2006 | 2:54 pm

Flip: Don’t stop sleeping on account of me. No, the Flickr photos are not the project that I’m referring to. The project I am working on is independent and unaffiliated. If all goes well, it will be fantastical.

Ian: Hopefully never :D

7. Dan Boland says… jun 21, 2006 | 3:21 pm

Just curious… why the move from Transitional to Strict? I’ve found adhering to Strict to be, well, too strict for my tastes.

8. Adam Spooner says… jun 21, 2006 | 3:42 pm

Good housekeeping is always a must in the web…and you’ve done a beautiful job. The subtleties are a wonderful touch - attention to detail is what makes your designs so lovely to look at.

Have you ever considered plugging flickr into your site? I’m not a huge fan of flickr…but their are some nice ways to tie it into a site. Jeff Croft has done a very nice tie-in with his flickr.

Just a thought.

9. Daniel Curran says… jun 21, 2006 | 6:22 pm

I have seen some excellent ways to use SlideShow Pro. You should look into it a little more…

10. dan says… jun 21, 2006 | 6:59 pm

Oh good - I’d noticed bbne had disappeared from the top nav, and hoped it hadn’t been entirely decommissioned.

I just thought of a funny band name the other day, and although the bbne list is closed, live on stage tonight, ladies and gentlemen, I give you ‘The Braxton Hicks’!!

11. Matt Johnson says… jun 21, 2006 | 9:48 pm

beautiful, just beautiful!

12. Jason Santa Maria says… jun 22, 2006 | 12:38 am

Dan Boland: I wasn’t far off from Strict before, but when I was just starting out on the whole Standards train, Strict seemed a bit imposing. So, I’m just trying to keep moving forward. Plus, promoting separation of structure and presentation still makes all the girls go crazy.

Daniel Curran: I have too! But in researching (and talking to Todd himself), not being able to show vertical orientation photos at the same size as horizontals is a consolation I’m not willing to make.

I really am on the fence with keeping my photos here or not. Flickr does seem like the way to go… I just have this urge to keep my work here. Blah, I need to just decide.

13. Web says… jun 22, 2006 | 10:44 am

I love your columns too, there witty yet not overbearing. Cute but not bubbly .. and boy they have a sence of humor!

They tend to have a little big of a drinking problem, but dont’t most the columns thier age also have a drinking problem?

Wait — what we talking about here? Kate and Ashley Olsen right?

14. Emil Stenström says… jun 22, 2006 | 11:39 am

Good updates! If I may add something to your ToDo: does anyone use the “Archive by month”? On any blog? I can understand “by category”, “post by number of comments” (like on my site), “posts by popularity” but I can’t undstand why all blogs have those monthly archives. I’d say just skip them.

15. Richard Parsons says… jun 22, 2006 | 12:34 pm

Nice updates Jason. The small stuff adds up. I have started many designs and along the way my co-workers have mocked and taunted but when the final details are added and site goes live the ooo and aww :)

As for the monthly archive thing, I actually do use it. Who can ever figure out if the author and myself are actually going to categorize an article the same? It easier for me to just remember he/she posted it about 5 months ago and start looking from there (that’s assuming searching hasn’t worked). Just a thought.

16. Jason Santa Maria says… jun 22, 2006 | 12:41 pm

Richard Parons: Thanks for the kind words! Yes, I agree about the Monthly archives, I think they are still very useful. I did however ditch the Daily archives when it became very apparent that I never have the time to post everyday, let alone more than once a day :D

17. Chris says… jun 23, 2006 | 11:36 am

Your page, redesign etc looks fine, first class. I’m just confused as to why it is so important to go from Transitional to Strict, when your page is still served as text/html according to the source. You have no doubt seen this, which explains all about having the correct MIME types. Could have saved yourself a ton a work if you’d read that first.


18. Jason Santa Maria says… jun 23, 2006 | 11:46 am
You have no doubt seen this, which explains all about having the correct MIME types. Could have saved yourself a ton a work if you’d read that first.

Very interesting! I haven’t actually seen that before. Luckily, I really didn’t have to do much work cleaning up my markup… but, hmmm. I will have to think about this some more. I could always go back to Transitional for now, or even over to HTML Strict with minimal effort. This is what happens when you fall away from coding for a while, you get a bit out of touch :D

I’m going to have to do some more reading.

19. Patrick says… jun 23, 2006 | 12:23 pm

About the photo gallery: My site is entirely home-brewed (I wanted to learn php so I gave myself a project), and I’m not entirely sure how MT handles posts, but I just defined a new “class” of post in the DB.

Then I wrote a script that allows me to upload an image, PHP decides wheter it’s horizontal or vertical, resizes it and grabs a thumbnail. Then I wrote a little flash app that pulls an XML file (dynamically created by PHP) with the details of those posts for use in flash.

So now maintaining my portfolio is no work at all, it’s almost fire n’ forget.

Again, I don’t know MT, but maybe a custom plugin or something like that is an option?

20. Jason Santa Maria says… jun 23, 2006 | 12:27 pm

Patrick: Yup, another good point. The technical (how it gets done) aspect isn’t actually what I’m getting hung up on, it’s more the dilemma of keeping them on the site or not I guess. I may just cave and use my Flickr account.

21. Patrick says… jun 23, 2006 | 8:55 pm

Jason: I understand the desire to keep your work on your site, that’s WHY you have a site, and you don’t want to be sending people away from your site.

But if you aren’t worried about people leaving your site, Flickr is the way to go.

22. Emiliano says… jun 26, 2006 | 7:07 am

The sidebar breaks on IE6 PC if the settings are 800x600, otherwise it’s fine.

23. Ara Pehlivanian says… jun 26, 2006 | 7:55 am

Nice updates. It’s always good when subtle but important changes are made instead of sweeping redesigns (which themselves can bring more issues that need revisiting).

One comment though if I may about the .php file extension of your post names. Well, maybe I’ll just refer you to this article by Tim Berners Lee: http://www.w3.org/Provider/Style/URI

Take care!

24. Jason Santa Maria says… jun 26, 2006 | 8:05 am

Emiliano: Yup. Ok, I will add it to the list of things to fix (when I am around a PC again). Thanks!

Ara Pehlivanian: That’s on my list of things to do. I already locked myself into the .php with MovableType, so I need to figure out a way for old links to still work if I make the switch.

25. Ara Pehlivanian says… jun 26, 2006 | 8:10 am

Using MT doesn’t need to force you into using the .php extension though. The fix can be something as (relatively) simple as a MOD rewrite that does a 301 (permanent) redirect from any page that’s got a .php extension to its non-extension counterpart. WordPress does this by setting up your .htaccess file for you. (I can send you the part that does the rewrite in mine if you’d like.)

26. Jason Santa Maria says… jun 26, 2006 | 8:14 am

Ara: I realize MT doesn’t force me to, I just meant I’ve done it :D

My .htaccess knowhow is veeeeery meager. I would love to see code for it.

27. Jamin says… jul 7, 2006 | 9:29 pm

The real beauty of using Flash Object is that instead of a message saying that you need the latest Flash player, you can actually put in the content.

If you decide to keep the photos on your site, I suggest you figure out how to use the same variable that’s being passed to the Flash to display the photos. XML usually does the trick.