Tag Archives: blog

Changing the Blog Template

If you are a regular reader of the blog, firstly, thank you.  Second, you will have noticed that the style has changed a bit.  I have been using the same WordPress theme since starting the blog.  I wasn’t desperate for a change but I was motivated to do something by a Facebook issue.  It used to be that I could put the link to a blog post in to Facebook and it would include the link and an image from the post – usually the first one.  The first image is usually my favorite for illustrating the topic so it gets the prime slot on the post.  However, something happened in the Facebook algorithms.  I would put in the link, the page would auto populate beneath the text with the right image and then I would hit post and it defaulted to the banner image from the theme rather than my actual image.

As a result of this, I had taken to deleting the link after it auto populated and then pasted in the main image manually.  This was a pin and it also seemed to reduce the number of people actually clicking on the post rather than just looking at the picture on Facebook.  I decided to try going to a more recent theme design to see if this fixed the issue.  I looked at a variety of them.  Some seemed okay but others were more business focused.  I selected a slightly newer theme but it still had a simple look to it which I liked.  I tested the change over and configured it as I wanted before switching.  I like the look and it now behaves better with Facebook so the whole exercise seems to have been worthwhile.

WordPress Editor Has Been Broken

You’ll often hear the phrase “If it isn’t broken, why fix it?”. In the case of WordPress, this definitely seems to be relevant. I have been using WordPress since the blog started and with good reason. It is a simple and straightforward editing tool that allows new posts to be created easily and quickly. I prepare the images in Lightroom and export them directly to the blog and text is generally – including this – created in Word and then pasted into the blog editor.

WordPress rolled out a new editor form with blocks for elements of each post. I don’t doubt that the intent of this was to create a more flexible editing environment and one that probably achieves things that previously required plugins. However, the result does not seem to have been very well tested or not be a wide enough group of users with differing requirements. Here are some of the shortcomings I have experienced.

The biggest issue is speed. The new format is unbelievably sluggish. When I am making edits, sections of the page seem to be really slow and when it decides to auto save the latest work, it seems to be stuck doing so forever. Then, there are some familiar sections now in new formats at the side. Collections is still there but clicking on it seems to require tons of time to think about stuff before it shows up – if it does!

Collections might be slow but tagging is now horrible. I create my tags in Word and paste them into the field but this no longer can be relied on to work. Sometimes they just vanish. Other times they disappear and then reappear. I can write some in to the box directly and then they vanish in front of my eyes. I often ignore this section and add the tags later in the Quick Edit view of the post lists.

Adding media is no longer so simple, While the new blocks for images and galleries have some nice elements they are slow to create. Now you have to select the source each time rather than defaulting to the media gallery. This extra click each time gets annoying fast. Also, in the old editor, if you scrolled down the media page to get to the shots you wanted, adding another image would bring you back to the same spot so you didn’t have to scroll again. That is gone. Media is added as a new block. There is no obvious way to add a block at the bottom of your post. Instead you add one and see where it shows up and then move it down as required. Meanwhile, at the bottom of the page there is a Sharing box which seems to do little other than get in the way.

Even editing the publishing date is a pain. They have moved that around a bit in keeping with the other changes but now, when you tab between fields, your cursor is at the end o the current data. Previously, tabbing would move you to the next box and select it. This facilitated rapid changes to the entries. Now you have to manually delete each entry and then type a new one. One more step for each entry which is not a big deal initially but soon becomes a nuisance.

The legacy editor is still available. However, it isn’t hard to imagine that, over time, this will become obsolete and won’t provide functionality until it is deleted so I am working with the new format to see what I can do to get to grips with it. However, it is testing my patience. It has significantly slowed down my process and made post creation more difficult than it used to be. I have got the hang of bits of it but getting used to something does not make it useful. Pull your finger out WordPress and sort this out. There are so many users of the system, it is important that it works or they will soon migrate to another platform.

Backup Strategy for the Blog Has Changed

Since I first started the blog using WordPress, I have been looking for something sensible for backing up the blog data.  I can use FileZilla to copy off everything on the blog periodically but that is a process that requires me to do something on a regular basis and it isn’t very convenient.  I had set up a plugin that was supposed to back up everything to a Dropbox account but I was never successful in getting too much of it to actually backup properly.  It always seemed to be stalled.  Consequently, I was concerned that I was vulnerable to a data loss.  Given how much effort goes into the backup strategy for my photos and documents, having the blog relatively unprotected didn’t seem to make much sense.

Then I came across an alternative approach.  This uses a plugin called UpdraftPlus.  I read a detailed article online about how to use this plugin to back up to a Google Drive account.  Since I already have one of those that doesn’t currently get used for anything else, I was interested.  The base account I have comes with 15 GB of storage so that seemed like plenty to cover what I needed.  The full article on how to set everything up is at https://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/how-to-backup-your-wordpress-site-to-google-drive/ if you want to check it out.  It is not the simplest process and the interface appears to have been tweaked since it was written but I got to where I needed to be and have everything setup now.  It backs up on a daily basis so I now have a couple of previous backups at any one time should they be needed.  If you are wondering about backup strategies yourself, maybe this will be a useful approach to consider.

Blog Image Upload Using WP/LR Sync

Providing a review on something you haven’t had a lot of use of doesn’t seem like a good plan. This is something I have been using for a while and, now I have had a bit of time with it, I thought I would share what it is like. Uploading images to the blog is obviously a big part of the preparation of posts since, at the end of the day, this is primarily a photographic blog. When I first started out, I would create the images I wanted and then upload them manually. That was time consuming but was soon superseded by an alternative.

I started using the LR/Blog plugin to Lightroom. This would create a version of the file including any formatting, borders and conversion to the right color space and would then upload it to the blog. This worked okay for a long time but it had one significant limitation. If I tried to upload too many shots at once, it would fail and then lock me out of the blog for a while. I started searching for an alternative when my efforts to solve this problem went nowhere fast.

If you Google this topic, almost everything brings you to LR/Blog. However, recently I came across WP/LR Sync. It is a Lightroom plug in that makes use of the Publish services in Lightroom. Rather than uploading the images one time, you add the files to a collection that is then published to your blog. If you change the image, you can have the online version amended in sync with the original. If you go to http://apps.meow.fr/wplr-sync/ you can read more about it.

I decided to give this a go. However, in the guidance, Jordy provides a piece of information for people like me who have problems uploading lots of images. Apparently, my hosting service treats too many upload attempts in a short time as an attack and you get locked out. This was what was happening before. WP/LR Sync has a field that allows a small time delay between images which, if set just long enough, will prevent you getting treated as an attack. Something like this would also cure my LR/Blog issues I guess but that ship has sailed.

I am very happy with the new plug in. It works well and allows the same edits of the image before uploading as before. A benefit is that, if you drag images to the sync collection and they were already in there, you don’t end up with duplication on the blog. The one you previously uploaded is there. You just might have to scroll down a bit to try and find it. If you want to have a go with this add on to Lightroom, visit http://apps.meow.fr/wplr-sync/ and check it out.

Changing the Blog Link to Facebook

Putting links to the blog on Facebook is a big part of getting anyone to know about the latest blog activity. When I first started the blog, there wasn’t such a clear way to get an automatic post to Facebook when a new blog post went live. I ended up using a service called Networked Blogs to identify the new posts and automatically put them on Facebook. This worked well. However, it had the same screen capture off the blog that it used each time which meant that, other than the title, no one knew anything about the post.

I wanted to have something more specific so decided to change to the inbuilt functionality in WordPress. This now allows you to link the blog to your Facebook account and automatically post something when new material comes live. I have had mixed results with this. It puts some text from the blog post up on Facebook along with some images. However, sometimes it puts a clear link to the blog itself that anyone can click on to see the post. Other times, it samples the text and images but doesn’t provide a link. That means that no one has access to the rest of the post without having to manually go to the page.

This behavior is erratic so I am having a hard time diagnosing what the cause is. One friend has pointed me at some diagnostic tools in Facebook but they seem to suggest everything should work. For the time being, I have to put up with it. If you ever see something without a link, don’t assume that is all there is. There might be something more detailed lurking just out of sight!

Increase in Frequency

There seem to have been a lot of things that have made their way on to the blog recently.  I certainly can’t complain since I guess it means there have been lots of fun things going on for me to do.  The result is that the blog has got a bit backed up with posts getting scheduled to go out quite a long way off as a result of the number of things ahead of them.

Consequently, I am going to experiment with increasing the rate of posts for a while.  Instead of every other day, they are going to be daily for a while.  We shall see whether this gets the backlog down a bit in which case I might take the frequency back down a bit or whether I can sustain this number of posts.  Who knows but for a while, expect a few more posts than before.  Don’t count on the quality improving – just the quantity!

New Gallery Presentation

For those of you that click through the pictures, you may have noticed a change. My blog has a plug-in that opens up the main pictures in a floating window above the normal page. Mistakenly, I had believed that the same thing happened to the pictures in the gallery at the bottom of a post. However, Nancy told me that she was having a hard time with those pictures since they opened in another page and did not always reflect the order in which they appeared in the gallery sometimes jumping to another post entirely.

First of all, my apologies to anyone who was frustrated by this. Second, I have experimented with another plug-in that makes the galleries open in a more useful way. Time will tell whether this works better for everyone but if you have any feedback on how it performs, please comment below so I can make changes based on everyone’s experience. Thanks!

The Blog Has a Birthday

The other day I was thinking about a few things related to this blog when it occurred to me that I must be getting close the the first anniversary of the blog starting.  I had been posting about things that I had done the previous year and hadn’t been blogged about before so knew it was still in the first year but figured it must be getting close.

A quick look back through the complete listing of posts showed me that the first posting went up on March 14th 2011 – a year ago today!  So, happy birthday to the blog.  (Sad to say, I haven’t bought it a present…)

So, what has the first year taught me?  Well, I have been able to consistently put new information up on the blog.  I seriously wondered how well I would do at finding new things all of the time and not having gaping holes in the timeline.   A little figuring out of things in advance along with keeping some of the more complex topics in manageable chunks has certainly helped.  It has been easy enough to drop time sensitive stuff in when necessary but it isn’t a problem to space out postings when required.  Anyone who was there might wonder about the timing but I doubt many other people notice.

It has also helped me to think about the way I write stuff.  The work I have been doing for other outlets always helps but the format of the blog has tempted me to think about other writing outlets.  Nothing to report on that at the moment but, as things develop, you know where the first information will become available!

Thanks for reading.  I know how many people visit the blog and I am glad that it has an interest for some people out there.   It certainly does for me and I am glad that some want to share in that too.  Cheers!

The Spam Has Evolved!

I previously wrote about how I would get spam comments on this blog.  Since I wrote that piece, my spammers have moved on.  Some times they leave me alone completely.  Nothing for a day or so.  I get quite perplexed by what must have gone wrong.  However, they always show up again.

I wonder whether they read the previous piece on spam since I get a lot less spam for the bio image they used to use.  Maybe they track responses to spam and lay off those that are not any use.  I do still get some, though, so it can’t be that entirely.

Now I am getting some far more varied spam efforts.  They pick on any post and they come in three categories.  The first are the weirdos that have huge messages about everything from movie downloads to fake passports.  They are so obvious, I can’t imagine why anyone would accept them.

The next group are the SEO crowd.  I get so many messages from people who are offering to improve my website from a search engine optimization point of view.  They all come with similar templates so whether I actually need their help or not, I have no idea.  I don’t want it anyway!

The others are brand sellers.  Right now I am getting a ton of Ugg merchandise sites showing up and have started to get NFL jerseys now the season is underway.  Again, since the title of their comment is the website, they are not too hard to spot!  I sometimes read the contents and that can be hilarious.  They write something that is designed to sound like they have read the post and found it the most inspiring piece of work ever.  Fantastic stuff.

What I am hoping for today is to see whether I can get a nice dose of irony and get some of them to comment on this post.  We shall see!  Meanwhile, congratulations to the one spammer that described my site as awful!  Originality is appreciated.