Updated my “About” Page

I finally updated my “[About](” page here. It was blank for a long time, but now contains a bio and history – basically, a place for me to brag about some of the cool things I’ve done. πŸ™‚ Check it out!


Plugins I Used in the Feb. 2011 Redesign

Since a couple of people have asked, and since I like to “narrate my work”, here are the WordPress plugins (and theme) that I used when I redesigned the site yesterday. I have to admin, I really like it. I can’t stop looking at it. Thanks to everyone who posted a comment on the redesign.

The site is running WordPress 3.1, which was released yesterday. I’ve been a big fan and WordPress user for years, and the latest update continues to impress. The auto-update functionality in recent versions is killer – it’s so painless to stay up to date (and avoid security holes).

The theme is Twenty Ten, which is the new “default” theme in WordPress 3. I’ve disabled the header image, and I’m using a couple of sidebar and footer widgets. I especially like the 4 separate footer widget areas.


* [Akismet][1] – Been using this one for ages, it’s essential for spam control. Although now that I’m using Disqus (which uses my Akismet API key), I could probably disable this plugin.
* [Clicky for WordPress][2] – I’m an experimentalist, so even though I use and love Google Analytics, I wanted to try out Clicky since they’re local (Portland), and have a cool iOS app. They also provide some interesting metrics that Google doesn’t.
* [Disqus Comment System][3] – The plugin to integrate Disqus, letting it handle all commenting duties on your WordPress site.
* [Feedburner FeedSmith][4] – Handles the redirects to send subscribers to your FeedBurner feed (so you can get metrics) while still letting the FB spider get your feed content.
* [Google Analytics][5] – An easy way to include the GA script in all of your pages, so they can be measured. Funny note: I apparently forgot to configure this plugin when I did something on the site about 8 months ago, and wasn’t gathering any metrics data (I was watching Clicky instead). Oops.
* [Google XML Sitemaps][6] – Generates an XML sitemap so crawlers like Google know what’s on your site, what’s changed, and can generally crawl the site better. Aids in search performance.
* [Markdown for WordPress and bbPress][7] – I’m a huge fan of the Markdown language, and use it everywhere I can (I’m writing this post using Markdown).
* [PuSHPress][8] – Supports the PubSubHubbub protocol, which makes published posts appear in people’s feed readers faster.
* [Readability Widget][9] – Provides the “Read Now/Later” button you see in the sidebar. I had been doing this manually, with a code snippet, but I want to move away from editing any of my theme files. I’m also signed up as a Readability Publisher, so if any of you are paying Readability subscribers, and read my posts in Readability, I get a cut of your donation. Which so far, has been nothing, but it’s just an experiment. πŸ™‚
* [Twitter Tools][10] – I had been using this to generate a daily tweet digest post. Yesterday, I discontinued that, and switched to just displaying my most recent tweets as a sidebar widget.
* [Wordpress Connect][11] – This does a whole lot of Facebook integration, but I’m only using it for one thing – the “Like” button on each post. Again, this is easy to do with a snippet of script code, but this way, I don’t have to modify theme files.
* [WordPress Database Backup][12] – Does regular backups of my WP database and emails them to me.
* [WP-DBManager][13] – Does a whole lot more than I really use it for, but this blog is over seven years old, any my database is larger than average. It can periodically optimize the database. Not sure if this has any real impact on performance, but it’s not hurting anything.
* [WP Greet Box][14] – Displays a greeting box to new site visitors based on a staggering array of referrer URLs. Will suggest actions to new visitors based on where they came from (e.g. upvotes if from Reddit, subscribe to the feed if from Google, etc.).
* [WPtouch][15] – Provides a Mobile theme for visitors on smartphones (iPhone, Android, etc.). Very customizable (enter your Google Analytics code and AdSense affiliate ID, and it will track visitors and insert mobile ads if desired). I see a lot of sites using this plugin (or something very like it) to provide a nice mobile view for smartphone visitors.

Most of the widgets in the sidebar and footer of the site are either come from a plugin or are self explanatory. The exception to that would be the Facebook Activity Feed widget over there (called “Your Friends’ Activity). I could have used the WordPress Connect plugin to create a widget, but I wanted to experiment with creating my own directly from Facebook. It shows your friends’ activity on my site, without you having to log in (the data never hits my server – it’s all generated in your browser on your computer). I’ve also configured it to show recommended posts based on your Facebook friends. I think it’s pretty cool (and yes, it’s a little creepy. But only a little. πŸ™‚

Anything else I missed? Any questions about how I did anything? This isn’t super complicated, and like I said, I’m an experimentalist, so this is all subject to constant change and tinkering. I use this site as a place to get experience with all the tools and technologies out there, and I share what I do in case it’s helpful to my readers, or someone who stumbles across it in a search. Thanks for reading, and drop a comment with any feedback or suggestions you might have!


Blog Redesign: Cleaner, Simpler, More Facebook

I started messing around with a couple of things on my blog this morning, and one thing led to another. I’ve ended up with a new theme, new design, and some features I’ve been wanting to play with for a while. I wanted something cleaner and more elegant, and I have to say, I’m pretty happy with the result. The page also weighs a *lot* less, and loads much faster than before.

New features includes Disqus unified comments, Facebook “Like” buttons and the Activity Feed (over there in the sidebar – it shows what your Facebook friends have been doing on the site), and a few more tweaks. Under the covers, I updated to WordPress 3.1 this morning, and I’m really liking the Admin bar (though viewers won’t see it).

Everything is based on the new Twenty Ten WordPress theme and plugins – I wanted to get away from doing custom code/modification of theme files. I ran into several occasions during the past few years where I had to modify my theme (K2) to get exactly what I wanted.

If you’re reading this via a feed or elsewhere, consider dropping by, and letting me know what you think. This concludes the navel gazing for the day. πŸ™‚


Trying Disqus for Comments on

I’m going through a phase. I have a bunch of stuff I want to experiment with, so of course, here on is where I’m going to do it.

I had recently added Facebook Comments and “Like” buttons to my posts, but I didn’t like how fragmented it made everything look (one of the things on my list is a theme makeover that goes way back over on the side of simplicity and elegance). So I’m giving Disqus a try for comments.

If you’ve never heard of Disqus, I bet you’ve seen it. It’s a centralized comment system that lets you log in with your Facebook, Twitter, or other account (it supports a bunch of different logins) or no account at all. I like how it lets me track my comments across various sites (like RWW, people’s blogs, etc.), and I also really like how it nicely integrates stuff like “likes” and other sharing options right into the comment form. And it works with the WPTouch mobile theme I’m using, the 500 or so of you per month who come here on an iPhone will get to use it, too.

Do me a favor and help me try it out? Post a comment, like, and otherwise exercise what you see down below in the comments area, and let me know what you think, or if anything breaks. Thanks! πŸ™‚


Added a Readability Button to Posts on

Just a quick note that I’ve added a Readability button to posts here on Right now, it only shows up when you’re looking at a single post (permalink page). It looks like this:

What is Readability, you ask? It’s a service that strips a page down to just the good stuff – the text (and images) you want to read. It’s extremely clever about what to display, and it’s one of my new favorite things. I’m signed up as a “contributor”, which means I pay them a few bucks a month, and distribute that among the sites that write the articles I like to read. It integrates with Instapaper, another of my favorite things. Besides being elegant and beautiful, I love that Readability gives me a way to pay for the writing that I read and enjoy. In the spirit of transparency, you can see what I’m reading/contributing to here.

As an experiment, I’m signing up as a Publisher with Readability, so that means (theoretically) if you are a paying Contributor, and you read any of my posts with Readability, I’ll get a small slice of what you contribute. I don’t expect to see much, if anything, by way of money this way, but like I said, it’s an experiment. I’m fascinated by the way writing and journalism are changing because of the web, and being the consummate early adopter, I just had to toss my hat in the ring for this one. I’ll keep you updated on how it goes!

Update 2011-03-30: I removed the Readability button, as almost no one was clicking on it. Was a fun experiment, and it remains an awesome service. Just one that none of my readers use, apparently. πŸ™‚