Seven years of blogging, and a redesign

This blog began in 2003, though the website goes back to 2000, and I now see little difference between what is now a blog, and what in 2000 was a more painful process of authoring web content, especially with the decline of RSS readers. Still, my first blogging efforts were powered by a now-defunct project called bblog. I modified this heavily to add features and cope with comment spam – almost non-existent in 2003 – and then in 2006 accepted that I would be better off with a mainstream blog engine and selected WordPress, which has exceeded my expectations.

When I moved to WordPress I picked a theme which met my requirements, then modified it to tidy up the layout and to support non-intrusive advertising. I found myself to some extent boxed in once again, since I could not change or upgrade the theme without losing my modifications. This also meant I was missing out on newer features of WordPress. Widget support is a breakthrough feature, letting you add features to the site through a simple drag-and-drop admin page, but I could not use them. I also wanted to support gravatars, which show an image chosen by the author alongside their comments, and to add a ratings system.

Ratings are a lot of fun, though not really reliable as a gauge of quality. If your article extolling the merits of the Xbox 360 gets linked by a PlayStation fan site, or your article critical of Apple gets linked by an Apple fan site, there is little chance of a fair rating. Some readers also find it difficult to separate what they think about the subject matter from what they think about the quality of reporting. Even so, ratings are always interesting and I’d like to include a list of best-rated posts.

It has taken me some time to find a theme that looked right for my needs, but I have now settled on Atahualpa from BytesForAll. It is a popular theme, so my blog will look similar to many others, but it is flexible and I’ve been able to add the most important features by modifying settings rather than editing the raw PHP, a critical issue for upgradability. I’ve also added rating support with GD Star Rating.

As ever, it is work in progress, and I expect to modify the design and add features as time allows. Although it may not look much improved yet, it is much easier to modify in a maintainable fashion, so expect more changes soon.

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