I Love to Say: I Told You So

I noticed a few months ago that the URL for an official Android app was in use, although hidden from public view. Well, we now have lift-off.

I’m using the new app to post this. I’ll edit to add links later.

Now, getting to the post on a laptop, I’m surprised to find that it wasn’t published. I thought I’d told the Android app to publish, not just to upload. It did seem to be working with a local, and locally-savable copy, which is good. Anyway, as threatened, here are some links:

Popular Themes at WordPress.com

Which WordPress themes are most widely used? That question is broad and difficult to answer. Luckily, there are related questions that are more focused and easier to answer. For example: which themes are most popular at WordPress.com? which have the most downloads from WordPress.org?

This post is about the answer to the first of these more specific questions. If I, as an admin of this or any other WordPress.com blog, browse themes I can request that the themes be ordered by popularity.

This is the current list of most popular themes at WordPress.com: ChaoticSoul, MistyLook, Ocean Mist, Cutline, Freshy, Black-LetterHead, Contempt, Ambiru, Digg 3 Column, Benevolence, Tarski, Andreas04, Solipsus, Blix, Rounded, and PressRow.

The first thing that struck me was the absence of Kubrick, which has been the default theme for new WordPress blogs for a while now. I suspect that there are indeed many Kubrick blogs, created but never really used, that the popularity algorithm excludes. I’ll add that Contempt is a close relative of Kubrick.

Second, it looks as though the typical popular theme has a custom header, and a sidebar on the right.

Third, only 3 or these 16 themes – Black-LetterHead, Tarski, and Blix – are currently in the free themes directory at WordPress.org. That’s unfortunate, since it’s particularly easy to install a theme from that directory at a self-hosted WordPress blog: you don’t need to leave the dashboard to use FTP.

I started looking into the initial question (Which WordPress themes are most widely used?) when I realized that using Typekit with WordPress is very theme-specific.

Typekit for Freshy

Freshy is popular, with me and more generally here at WordPress.com. So Freshy is the second theme for which I’m posting a translation of blog terms into CSS selectors.

You need a translation like this in order to be able to use Typekit on your blog. So a theme-specific translation might be called a ThemeKit.

  • Everything: body
  • Blog title: #title h1
  • Blog tagline: .description
  • Post title: #content h2
  • Title of sidebar sections, including widgets: #sidebar h2
  • Horizonal menu: .menu

Note: if you want the same font for post titles and sidebar section titles, you can use the selector h2, and it will apply to both. Freshy is a relatively simple (in a good way) theme.

Typekit Made Simpla

The previous episode of Typekit Tales focused on the hero’s struggles with Typekit at WordPress.com, and involved his getting help. Help did arrive, followed by some thoughts about easing the struggle.

This post is intended to ease the struggle for those who follow the hero along the Simpla path: in other words, for bloggers who use the Simpla theme, especially at WordPress.com. In order to apply change the fonts you use, here is how to refer to some of the parts of your blog.

  • Everything*: body
  • Blog title: #header h1
  • Blog tagline: #header p
  • Post title: .entrytitle h2
  • Title of sidebar sections, including widgets: #sidebar h2

* Note that everything means everything not overruled by more specific CSS selectors.

I used Anisette STD Petite for everything, then Intruder Alert for the headings. As before, I chose those particular typefaces because they are distinctive rather than because I think that they improve the blog. So they will survive at this blog only in the illustrative image.

The post title should probably read Typekit for the Simpla Theme, but I couldn’t resist the one you see above.

Trying Typekit

Intruder Alert! That’s the name of the font currently gracing the title (Changing Way) at the top of this blog.

I chose that particular font to check whether I could get Typekit working here at WordPress.com. It’s hardly a subtle change from Tahoma, the main heading font for this blog, and it looks nothing like Georgia, the workhouse here. For this testing, I wanted an intrusive font, and was amused when I found one appropriate in name as well as in appearance.

This isn’t the first time I’ve tried Typekit, or posted about it. In my earlier post, I recommended that Typekit be available at WordPress.com, and linked it to the CSS upgrade.

Typekit has since arrived at WordPress.com, but doesn’t require the CSS upgrade. Well, in a way it does. Consider the following barriers to changing the CSS on a WordPress.com blog: (1) it costs money; (2) it requires knowledge of CSS; (3) it requires knowledge of the way CSS is used in the blog’s particular theme.

I find the third and last of these barriers to be the highest. What heading level does a WordPress theme use for the blog title? for the tagline? for the post title? for headings in the sidebar? And what other selectors (besides h1, h2, etc.) are used, and how are they used? The answer varies between themes.

The theme I’m currently using, Simpla, uses h1 for the blog title. So to test Typekit, I used its kit editor to associate h1 with the distinctive Intruder Alert. That font was for some reason applied to the blog’s tagline (rather than to its title).

I emailed Typekit support over the weekend, and today received a response. I needed to use the selector #header h1. At a more general level, I need to be aware of CSS selector specificity.

My point, and I do have one, and I am getting to it, is similar to this one. Getting TypeKit to work on your blog can be frustrating especially if you are not familiar with CSS. That’s a quote from (and a link to) a guide to using Typekit at WordPress.com. The guide is good, but the quote could be more specific. You need to be familiar with the CSS of the theme.

My CSS isn’t terrible. I’ve tweaked a few themes, including Simpla for this blog. I found Typekit it harder to apply Typekit to that CSS than I did to tune the CSS itself.

I suspect that using Typekit is trickier than editing CSS. I’m generalizing, not only from my own experience, but from what others have written (in, for example, a post in the WordPress.com forums).

So, although Typekit has lower financial barriers to use than the CSS upgrade, it has higher overall barriers to use. I have concerns about this. One is that it’ll cause frustration for WordPress.com bloggers who see that they can try Typekit for free. The other is that Typekit support may be swamped. Anyway, time to email thanks to the Typekitter who supported me.

SoundCloud and Partners

Two SoundCloud partners seem particularly interesting right now: The Hype Machine and Automattic. The former partnership has just been announced: I first read about it at TechCrunch, but the post there seems rather hastily written; there is a better account of what it means for various creatures in the ecosystem at the SoundCloud blog.

The partnership between SoundCloud and Automattic takes the form of a shortcode enabling the use of the SoundCloud music player on WordPress.com blogs. This blog, despite its .org URL, is currently hosted at WordPress.com. So let’s use that player to hear a track on one of the albums I’m looking forward to.

(The Mumford and Sons album, Sigh No More, isn’t out in the USA yet.)

Edit, a little later: SoundCloud seems to be running really slowly today; I don’t know if it has anything to do with the Hype Machine connection. Of course, having criticized the TC post as hasty, I found a couple of things that needed correcting in this very post.

Thinking of Self-Hosting

WordPress.com has hosted Changing Way for almost three years now. I’m thinking of moving it to a different host, although sticking with WordPress. It would then go back to being a WordPress.org blog, that is, a blog running the free software that can be downloaded from the .org site. That’s not because I have complaints about WordPress.com.

I agree with timethief that due to WordPress.com’s free and premium features, wordpress.com is not only a great place to start blogging, but may even be your last stop. I agree with the rest of her recent post on making the move to self-hosting: the official account of the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org is very good; most people make the move to .org intending to make money from their blog.

My thought of moving is financial in a couple of ways. First, it’s almost time to pay for another year of my premium features (mapping the domain changingway.org to this blog, and CSS). Second, I’m paying for hosting and am running some WordPress blogs at WanderNote.com, so I could host this one there at no extra cost. But I don’t see Changing Way as a moneymaker.

But the two scissor-blades that might cut Changing Way loose from WordPress.com and send it to WordPress.org (and to WanderNote) are… WordPress.com and WordPress.org. There are some WordPress.com restrictions that I find irritating, even though I can understand why they are in place: no plugins, limited selection of themes, no MP3 files (yes, I could get another premium features, yes MP3s can live elsewhere and still be played, but…) and son on.

From the other side, WordPress.org became rather easier to administer with the release of version 2.7 just over a year ago. Upgrading to a new version since then requires just a single click from the WordPress admin interface, rather than leaving WordPress to move files around. Finding and installing plugins became similarly straightforward, and simpler management of themes followed in 2.8.

I have a few qualms about moving. For example, the WordPress.com shortcodes aren’t part of base WordPress.org. But I don’t see any of them as a showstopper.

More on this soon…

HootSuite Not Flying Right For Me Yet

HootSuite hoots that it is the professional Twitter client. It’s spreading its wings to allow the management, not only of multiple Twitter profiles, but also of profiles for multiple social media tools. Seeing that it has added WordPress.com to its list of such tools, I decided to give HootSuite a try.

So I got myself a HootSuite account, gave my Twitter name and password, and up popped my profile photo. I gave my WordPress.com name and password, and up popped someone else’s photo. I decided that if HootSuite gets me mixed up with someone else, then it might not be ready to have the password to this blog. After a further look at HootSuite, I found that it doesn’t have an Android app (although it does have an iPhone app).

I may use HootSuite as a Twitter client for a while. I may take a closer look at it as a social media dashboard when and if it comes out with an Android app.

Credit: photo of baby owl by Brian Scott.

Android: Anniversary, Avalanche, Automattic, etc.

The first Android phone, the G1, launched a year, less two days, ago. I got one about two months ago. Those who like their gadgets more up to the minute may have one of the more recent Android phones, or be eying the avalanche of new phones due out soon. TechCrunch offers a complete list of… Android phones. (That’s offers, in the present tense, because David Diaz promised updates to the post.)

Michael Arrington (also at TechCrunch) recently expressed a concern arising from the impressive number of Android phones and vendors. It’s that Android’s open source licensing may result in the platform splintering, thus creating much more work for application developers. The contrast with the tightly-controlled iPhone platform is obvious and troubling.

Closer to home, or at least to this blog, I’m interested in what Androidy things WordPress.com is up to. Will Automattic develop an Android app? There’s already an iPhone app, of which Automattic seems particularly proud, and a Blackberry app. Each of the two links in the previous sentence goes to the appropriate, Automattic-owned, WordPress.com-hosted blog.

When I typed in the corresponding URI for an Android app (http://android.wordpress.org/), I got a “blog is protected” message. That at least shows that the blog exists…

There is some Android-related, albeit not Android-specific, news about WordPress.com today. If you are viewing this blog on an Android, or other mobile device, you’ll see a built-for-mobile theme. The change was announced earlier today, with a link to the new Mobile Themes support page. I was at first disappointed to see that the CSS upgrade does not extend to mobile themes…

Sticking with disappointment, but going back to Android itself: the lack of a simple, built-in screen capture capability is ridiculous. To give just one example of how it would be used, I should really illustrate the theme news with screen captures showing this blog as it appears on my G1. I tried the fix described by Christina at Download Squad, couldn’t get it to work right away, and decided that I wouldn’t have time to write this post if I spent any more time on attempted screen captures.

That said, I’m bullish on Android, and will continue to post about it, grumbling only when it’s really merited.

WordPress.com Domain Mapping, Email, and Android

Domain mapping is one of the paid upgrades available for WordPress.com. I use it: that’s why this blog shows up as changingway.org (it was born as changingway.wordpress.com, and will still answer to that uri). I also use the custom email feature of the domain mapping upgrade: that’s why you can email me as andrew at changingway.org.

I recently got an Android phone, and I want to use my changingway.org email on it. I could of course use the Android’s browser. But I’d prefer to use its Email application. Why? I’ll defer that question until the end of the post.

This post is mainly about how to use the Android Email app with the custom email feature of WordPress.com domain mapping. Usually, Email setup is pretty much a matter of giving the app an email address/password combination. For custom email, you need to do more than that.

Instead, you need to do some manual setup. You’ll need to tell the Email app about some things you’ll find on your custom email web site. Starting at the web page from which you manage your custom email, click on Settings (near the top right of the page) and then on Forwarding and POP/IMAP. You want IMAP (see here for why it’s preferable to POP).

Make sure IMAP is enabled, and click on Configuration Instructions. This will take you to a list of email clients and mobile devices: Android is of course a mobile device. Clicking on Android will take you to some incoming settings (e.g., IMAP server is imap.gmail.com) and outgoing settings (e.g., SMTP server is smtp.gmail.com).

Tell your Android’s Email app about these settings. It’ll ask you for them after you provide your custom email username and password. Note that your username includes your domain (e.g., andrew at changingway.org, not just andrew).

You have a few decisions to make, some of them arising from the fact that the Email app can manage multiple email addresses. You’ll need to give your custom email a name, and decide whether it’s the default address when you send from the email app. For example, the app on my Android knows andrew at changingway.org as CW, and uses it as the default address for outgoing mail.

If you are the target audience – people wanting to use the Android Email app with the email they got when they mapped a domain to their WordPress.com blog – then I hope that this how-to post was helpful.

Now, from how to why, and to three specific questions of why.

  • Why prefer the Email app to checking email from the Android browser? My main reason is that the Email app can display a new mail notification icon at the top of the Android screen.
  • Why use the Email app, rather than the Gmail app that also comes on Android phones? After all, the custom email account is a Gmail account. I haven’t tried the Gmail app. My wife actually bought the phone, and had it set up with her Gmail. So I’m not sure whether a custom email could be used for the Gmail app. If it can, I suspect that some of the above will be helpful.
  • Why use this phone in the first place? Some have said that the G1 isn’t built for email. Well, the G1 is the phone I have, and it works pretty well, for email and for other things. And there will be many more Android phones, each seeking to improve on the G1.