Making the Aberystwyth SSAGO Website

Many Moons ago the webmaster of a AberSSAGO asked me to redo their club website for them. Having a familiarity of the club through a good friend called AberMary (who many readers of this blog also know as Fearless Guider) I wanted the club to put its best foot forward so I thought “‘what the hey’ I could do with a bubbly and friendly piece to add to my portfolio” and got involved Continue reading Making the Aberystwyth SSAGO Website

How Blogging grew into Microblogging

So far I’ve written about how blogging got started, its fairly interesting from a historical point of view but the story doesn’t have any quirks. Microblogging has at least some irony to it as blogging, the writing of posts and articles grew into something smaller.

With the advent of Web 2.0 social media kicked in, rather than just reading about news or businesses people where encouraged to write about themselves for friends in a socially interconnected setting, most probably on myspace or bebo.

As you can imagine writing a decent blog post about what your doing can easily take an hour or 300 words (and even then its a little short) so with today’s small attention span people rarely made the effort. With people wanting updates but not willing to read/write that much posts got shorter and shorter. When facebook and its traditional 4-6 word sentence came along everybody jumped on-board, you could connect just as easily and small updates were the focus of the main feed.

Meanwhile, blogging and content management systems soon started incorporating smaller scale posts called ‘asides’ into their feature set. On a persons blog you’d find a long stream of content and in the sidebar (hence asides) were smaller, more frequent updates to keep your interest between the main article releases.

Now there are the above mentioned social networks focusing on connectedness and blogs concentrated on content. By combining peoples ability to mini post with similar content you quickly get updates on the variety of content you choose which gives rises to websites such as Twitter and Moodmill devoted to just the 30 second / 140 character post. No longer do you have a main feed with all the drivel about causes, quizzes and games controlled by a complex set of privacy and filter settings that few understand or care to adjust but a main feed of what you do or do not want to follow.


There you have it peer pressure turned what essentially started out as an intellectually stimulating analysis of the social scene into pithy comments on day to day rituals.

How Blogging got started

The 140 character twitter update has become common knowledge, by text or web you can publish a quick little thought, witty remark or titbit about what your doing. Somewhere just outside of your full attention you’ve heard the term microblogging, if twitter is micro-blogging then what is blogging?

The word blog is a portmanteau of website and log (as in Captain’s Log), usually when anyone starts saying something enough it’ll get shortened to maximize information conveyance and to save effort. (See what I did there?) so web-log was used, and eventually it was shortened to simply to one syllable; blog! Knowing the name explains a lot, a captains log is a journal of his activities aboard ship and so a blog was a website about what you are upto.

According to wikipedia it started off with one guy talking about what was going on around campus as an online diary of sorts, heres more on that article of blogging.

It was all self hosted then, certainly no social network websites like facebook or myspace, you would have to setup your server, make your pages, and if you were really good you could use a program to do it for you, and they were very hard to use compared to today’s standards.

As time does, it passed, better programs and tools became available and people not only started writing about their lives but their businesses, the first being journalists that wanted to share a story and created news blogs or j-logs (combination of journalism and blog). Soon entrepreneurs started seeing a niche for reading news as an online business and focused entire blogs and there posts around being read to generate revenue.

This practice continues today, however not all blogs are used with good intentions. There are things called splogs (spam and log) where people setup a site on Dogs for example and leave it to grab traffic from search engines to earn money from the ridiculous amounts of advertising on it.

Despite their use by the unscrupulous sort blogging has been a great source of information online, if you look at the resources section on wikipedia you’ll often see a few blogs listed. If you are really keen to learn about a subject there is more than likely a blog out there for you, finding a really good one though is quite tricky as there are so many listed online these days.


So far we’ve only looked at blogging and articles, Thursday we’ll quickly sneak past how social networking affected blogging and gave rise to microblogging.

Blog Design 3 and a bit

Hello to those previous few reading in RSS programs, I know there aren’t many of you but still you’re always welcome on the site, boot up your browser and drop by for a visit. If you’re viewing this post in a browser then you’re already looking at the improved site layout, it’s not a completely new layout but it certainly is easier to use than before and feels smoother on the eyes. Although, ironically, I have actually made the header image rougher, the sand it now grainy which changed the complete dynamic of the image, I applied this to the fire circle as well, hopefully I’ll find sometime to draw in some cooking equipment oneday…

Besides the cosmetic changes there are some usability improvements, I’ve tried to stick to as many intuitive practices as I can without making the site feel too corporate, which is what most tutorials on website design tend to do. I always try anything I add to the site first and if it works for me I keep it, what I’d really like to know is if it works for you. I’ve highlighted some of the noticeable changes below.

Design

I’ve always tried to treat this blog informally, trying out new styles without fear that a client will demand a refund or a potential employer will shun me. The transparency effect on the sidebars didn’t sit well and using a translucent image meant that if the site didn’t load quick enough then the background colour would just jump in a the end so I’m not using that effect any more. At least I know that the technique works for the most part and its potential limitations with current browser technology. Although nobody has mentioned it on here verbally its been mentioned that being too experimental has made using the site less enjoyable, as much as I have learned to date I’m going to start keeping my blog to a higher standard.

Twitter / Microblogging

I’ve added some asides, or microblog, to the sidebar. Mostly these will be one liners making updates to the site more frequent for you and more convenient for me as I won’t have to spend as much time making a substantial article. This is simply an import of my status updates on my twitter. As with all twitter updates these will be limited to the usual 140 characters which means a clean cut between my main and micro blogs.

Comments

I’m archiving the microblog encase Twitter changes its license or becomes a paid service, something although unlikely has happened in the past. With this new microblogging section the article layout is made a little bit ka-ka by the small content so I’ve just listed the date and text of each one and styled each mircopost like the comments beneath them making them a linear read. There is a new field on the comment form allowing you to subscribe be emailed about new comments on each blog post, similar to watching a topic on a forum.

Twavatars

With the new popularity of Twitter, and their gorgeous API I’ve plugged into a lot of their features. Now when you make a comment anywhere on my blog automatically either your Gravatar, which commenter’s on other blogs should already know about or use your Twitter Avatar (Twavatar) will be shown next to your comment.

Related/Recent posts

Having the ‘related posts’ out of the way in a posts sidebar for easy read through meant it didn’t get used much so its now between the article and the comment form, same thing for the recent posts sidebar block. Hopefully new visitors won’t forget to comment if they go to explore the older content.

Tweaks

  • Archive pages now show more posts so you can find what you’re looking for sooner.
  • Teasers are longer so you get a better feel of each post.
  • There is a links page for all the links in my sidebar, if yours is wrong or you’re not in there drop me a line.
  • Some of the custom coding is sleeker so the site loads faster.

Blog Design the Third

With the move to this new location I had hoped to get this envisioned theme up and running from the get go, however it took a little longer than I would like to get everything drawn just right and displayed just so.

There are still the odd things to tweak and the header image will grow; I’ll be putting more of my favourite things onto my little island. So far I’ve got, camping, Frisbee, UK and beaches/seaside I guess we’ll see just how much I can cram on there in time.

Continue reading Blog Design the Third

SSAGO Website, Phase II

If you set your way back machine for June 2006 you’ll see a stub about how I changed the SSAGO Messageboard to use phpBB and particularly the Categories Hierarchy modification. Well the rest of the site did follow shortly after but it didn’t sit well with those viewing in Internet Explorer because of their issue with list indentation, not to mention the design compromises embossed by democratic vote.

So a new layout was needed and whilst I was at it I wanted to deliver on my promise to provide a Content Management System for SSAGO News. Well I knew I couldn’t change the forum software again so I had to find something that someone had already developed an integration method for or one I could quickly bodge together myself.

I tried a Joomla! but it was far too complicated, I had to assume that the next Publicity Officer, whether this would be me re-elected at the Loughborough SSAGO Rally AGM or in Feb 2008. I went through a slew of them; I rejected Drupal for it’s unfriendly support community, e107 worked fine but I couldn’t figure out how to get it to work along side phpBB and XOOPS was just too obscure. (Thank God for Open Source CMS.)

Then it dawned on me, WordPress. I’d been using WordPress as my blog software for 6 months or so and I loved it, I’d gotten quite close to the community and familiar with the code but I wasn’t sure how robust it would be with dozens of pages stored on it.

After a quick bit of research I found a code edit to accelerate the static page listings page which had exponentially gotten slower as I added more. (link) Next issue was user integration, there was a plugin with some minor code edits that I tried for a time but realised the author hadn’t updated it in almost a year, I tried working out what he had done and update it myself but decided that it would be quicker to start a fresh development cycle than catch up on an existing one.

So I had one WordPress blog working as the CMS and as the SSAGO News Article System. Hopefully the partnership will be a fruitful one.