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.

Creative Commons

CCI just added a Creative Commons license to the sidebar, and hence to the content, of this blog. It was tougher than it should have been.

Creative Commons provides a guide to licensing your work, and the guide includes code generation. The WordPress.com FAQ on Creative Commons gives instructions about stripping out some of the code generated. Even so, it took me longer than it should have to get the linked image into a sidebar text widget, since WordPress.com kept on taking a dislike to the code and stripping out some of it.

There is a Creative Commons widget for WordPress. Nathan Yergler, who wrote the widget, also wrote the following:

Now if only WordPress.com would support WpLicense for their hosted blogs, even more happy WordPress users could be happy contributors to the Commons.

My thanks and support go to Nathan.

Ad-Free at WordPress.com

AdFreeBlogButtonI use this button to indicate that:

  • I do not accept money in return for advertising space on this blog.
  • To do so would be against WordPress.com policy, and hence against the agreement I made when I created this blog.
  • I think it’s a really cool icon.

If you follow the owl in the image, you’ll see a three-item list with some overlap with my three-item list. I’m not as implacably opposed to ads on blogs as is Laura, the owl artist and ad-free activist.

In fact, I’d like this blog to be a little more commercial than it is now. I miss the WP-Amazon plugin I used elsewhere. It’s not because I made much money as an Amazon affiliate. It’s because I think that product-related posts can be enhanced with an image and a link to specifications and reviews. Consider, for example, this review of a book on blogging.

WordPress Multi-User News

WordPress Multi-User (WPMU) allows multiple blogs to run off a single install of the software. Hence WPMU differs from what we might call WordPress Classic, under which each blog needs its own install of the software.

WordPress.com is a WPMU site. It is by far the biggest such site, currently hosting over half a million blogs. January 2007 saw the addition of 89,000 of these blogs, as well as 126 million pageviews.

You can see a list of other WPMU sites in the sidebar of How Do You MU? HDYM is another of my blogs, and is itself a WPMU blog. It is hosted at edublogs.org.

James Farmer, Mr Edublogs, has just announced a premium service for educational customers who want their own hosted WPMU site. I can recommend James, and hence Edublogs Premium, most highly.

M Ward Music and…

M Ward is one of those critically acclaimed folk-musicky types I tend to like. But I couldn’t get into Transistor Radio, his 2005 album.

I really like his 2006 album, Post-War. Having got into PW, I went back to listen to TR again, and was wondering how it left me cold, while I warmed so quickly to PW. I seems as though I need to listen more to both albums, and to his earlier work.

I also like:

  • I Am the Resurrection, the John Fahey tribute album MW worked on.
  • Being able to link to Amazon pages for CDs, books, etc. But it doesn’t seem easy to do this here. But more of WordPress.com, and the pleasure and pain thereof, in a future post.
  • The ease of embedding YouTube video here. For example, here’s the video for MW’s “Chinese Translation.”

Here Be Themes

One of the things I gave up in moving from WordPress classic to WordPress.com is theme editing. My previous blog had its own theme, or rather, user-switchable family of themes.

I’ve started off here with the Simpla theme. I’ve customized the CSS a little; for example, I’ve floated images at the right of posts. I’ve used widgets to build a different sidebar.

Lovely though Simpla is, I think I’ll be using a certain different theme before too long. The Sandbox is a theme for themers.