Saturday, June 10, 2006

Just in time for your move to Canada ...

Can I interest you in some fabulous property in Nova Scotia? Sadly, Andrew the Super Nova Scotian, is selling his bed & breakfast. Gosh, maybe I'll be able to buy it with all the loot I'm gonna get from putting google ads on my dog blog.

Oh yeah, and while I'm engaging in shameless commerce, go buy Andrew's book The Papyrus Voice.

And speaking of that dog blog, it has forced me into some unwanted geekiness from which I'm still recovering. For several reasons, most of which have something to do with my inherent laziness, I decided to host the thing on Blogger. But Blogger lacks a couple of features that I needed for such an endeavor, namely the ability to sort posts into categories and the ability to make expandable posts (i.e., a post in which only a snippet appears on the main page and the reader must click "read more" or something to get the whole thing). But Blogger is really good about encouraging hacks and even including them in their "knowledge base" or pointing people toward where to find them. There is a ton of info available over at the Blogger Help Group at Google groups, so I figured I could cobble together some hacks to make my blog do what I wanted.

The problem is that I'm not really much of a geek. While I'm perfectly able to muck about with html and javascript, it's not a task I'm in love with. I like it well enough when everything works exactly the way it's supposed to, but when it doesn't I really hate the process of going back through all that code to figure out what I did wrong. (That's why I'm a print designer and not a web designer. Sure, it's more glamourous to be a web designer, but in print things just work better.)

Blogger is considering adding category functionality (they have a page where you can vote on proposed features, although they make it very hard to get to so most users probably don't know it exists). But meanwhile, I found this seemingly great hack for creating categories with Blogger using tags. It looked so elegant and simple. I followed all the directions carefully--they were clear and concise--and the whole thing was a snap. Except that it didn't work. I got a little "Categories" heading over in my sidebar, but none of my categories showed up. I decided to start over, so I replaced my template with a backup and carefully followed the directions again. Still nothing. Thinking that maybe there was a temporary issue accessing the tags, I decided to leave it and come back to it the next day. But then it still didn't work. This is where it becomes apparent that I'm not a geek. A geek would have risen to the challenge, maybe even relishing it, and started examining every line of code to figure out what was going wrong. She would have e-mailed her geek friends, posted to the Blogger group and other geek forums, and contacted the developer of the hack. Not me. I said fack it. Screw this stupid hack. Then I just went over to and grabbed the bit of code that lets you display "My tags" on your site and tossed it into my template. So there. I don't really like the way it looks, but it works, more or less.

The other problem was the expandable posts. I needed it for one immediate post in particular, my long-assed bit on trimming dog nails, but I know I'll need it often because I can ramble on and on when the topic is dogs. Blogger is nice enough to provide a hack for this in their help section, but it's really a half-assed hack. It puts a "read more" link on every single post, regardless of whether it actually "jumps" or not. They note that this is indeed a limitation, and wash their hands of it by saying "Modifying this feature is left as an exercise for the reader." In other words, "Yes, this hack sucks. Whatever, dudes." Fortunately, via the Blogger Help Group, I found Amit Upadhyay and his blog Anything Else, where he posts a hack that works. I didn't even have to try it twice. I just placed the code, wrote a quick test post and it worked! It worked! I did the pants dance!!

Geeks are wonderful. Oh yeah, and don't forget to go buy that property in Nova Scotia.


andrew said...

Thank you Lisa for the shout out for my house (and my book - you are a superstar.) I shall definitely go and link to your doggy bloggy asap.

I often wonder about the supposed glamor of the website designer when I am trolling through lines of code at 5am, trying to find the missing tag that is making my website crash in Netscape 10.z.

Lisa B. said...

Well, a lot of people are really impressed by web designers. When I tell people I do graphic design, they ofeten get excited and ask "Oh, do you design web pages?" I say no, I do print and their respose is usually a disappointed "oh."

Sarah said...

I think saying "screw this stupid hack" and finding a better one is a perfectly acceptable geek response to bad code. It works for me!

Lisa B. said...

Yeah, but I liked the way the first hack looked better ... at least on the sites where it actually worked!

phydeaux3 said...

Yeah, but why didn't you as ME to take a quick look if you wanted the "stupid hack" to work. I'm usually able to spot the problems pretty quickly. :-D

Oh well. Nice blog you got. Cheers!

Lisa B. said...

D'oh! Let me pry my foot out of my mouth ...

I didn't mean to call your hack stupid in the sense that it was, well actually stupid! I just meant in the way that anything is stupid when you can't make it work the right way. I actually though it handled the categories quite elegantly ... in YOUR blog! It's quite possible that I'm the stupid one for not being able to make it work.

And I didn't ask you because ... well who the hell am I, anyway? Some non-geek trying to put up a stupid blog! I figured you must have better things to do than look at my code and tell me what I'm doing wrong.

phydeaux3 said...

lisa -

Oh I understand completly. I hope my comment didn't come across as being 'angry' ... I highlighted the 'stupid hack' part just to have a little fun with ya!!! Not to make you feel bad.

I understand exactly what you meant..been there done that many times. I've got several t-shirts. :-D

And that's nice for not wanting to bother me, but I expect a little bit of it. I won't turn your blog inside out trying to figure out other people's problems, but I've usually been able to spot the errors fairly quickly. If you have a saved copy of the template with the 'not-quite-so-stupid-hack' implemented, if you put it up and give me a shout maybe I can spot the buggers.

Hmmm. now that I reread my prev comment, it doesn't come across as fun as I intended, it does read as if I'm a little miffed..heheee. My bad! :-D I shoulda put more smileys, smileys make everything fun. :-D :-D

So I wasn't mad at need to apologize. Take down that post calling yourself rotten!!! hehee. You seem like quite a nice person to me...and I can spot the stinkers right away! :-D

Lisa B. said...

You are a gentleman and a scholar, phydeaux3! I think I did save the template with the not-workingness, and when I get some spare moments today I'll dig it out, post it and ask for your infinitely patient help!

andrew said...

People, People! Let's not forget the higher purpose here? An altogether nobler cause:

Selling my house.

Lisa B. said...

thank you, Andrew. Sometimes I get distracted so easily.