Blog Changes: New Themes, New Syntax Plugin, Several Plugins Deactivated

Since I’m reviving the blog, I decided to give it a good going-over, in terms of theme, plugins and other aesthetics / tools I’m using.

The most notable change: I’ve switched from Fluid Blue to F2, both by SriniG. I really like the straightforward, clean appearance of Srini’s templates; when it comes to Web design, I am decidedly minimalist.

I’m inclined to agree with Chris Brogan and Julien Smith, authors of Trust Agents, when they strongly suggest having a personalized blog template. Experience certainly tells me that packaging and logo is vital to building any brand.

Truth be told, I can’t make anything anywhere near as nice as F2, and I’m too cheap to hire someone who could. Maybe, someday, I’ll trade a Web designer, programming for design. If you’re interested, let me know. Anyway, I like the new look, which I’ve hacked a bit, mostly by keeping all the fonts sans-serif.

I’ve also turned off several plugins. As previously noted, WP-PostRatings was not very popular. AskApache Google 404 did not deliver the SEO optimization I expected, and is a bit too ugly out of the box for my taste; I didn’t want to invest the time it would take to make it look pretty.

Global Translator is really just some buttons to use various online translation services. It does provide a local caching mechanism, which is why I installed it in the first place: I wanted to have the search engines index my posts in multiple languages.

But I couldn’t get the cache to work properly, which caused all kinds of 404 errors (which, again, AskApache Google 404 didn’t really help to fix). To top it off, the translation services were translating my code blocks, rendering them useless. Again, I could hack these problems myself, but since visitors can use the same services Global Translator uses, I decided to simply scrap it.

I’ve been trying desperately to find a functional Facebook integration plugin and have tried several, but none seem to work the way I want. Specifically, I want the plugin to post links from my blog on my Facebook fan page’s Wall; and to post comments made on such links back to the blog entries’ comments.

WPBook worked to the extent that it put my blog on my Facebook fan page, but it does so in a “box,” not on the wall. And I simply couldn’t get Socialite, which does what I want done (and also posts to Twitter / MySpace) to work. At first, I couldn’t get Socialite to publish to my fan page’s Wall; once I did, after reinstalling it, Socialite would no longer retain my settings.

So, if anyone knows of a WordPress plugin that does what I want (it has to work with Pages, not profiles), please let me know; I’d be endlessly appreciative.

New to the blog is SyntaxHighlighter Evolved, the same plugin used at WordPress.com for syntax highlighting.

I’ve been using WP-Syntax (and will continue to do so for older posts), but I prefer the look and functionality of SyntaxHighlighter (who doesn’t?). The only reason I hadn’t used it sooner was the need to escape HTML entities; since SyntaxHighlighter Evolved does that automatically, I’ve decided to use it going forward.

My Google Analytics stats showed a fair amount of traffic coming from mobile devices, so I decided to install WordPress Mobile Pack, which includes mobile themes, a theme switcher (both automatic, based on the browser’s user agent string, and a manual link), tracking features to measure mobile device visits, automated listing assitance for mpexo (a directory of mobile-enabled blogs) and a QR code generator.

Instead of using the QR code generator included in the Mobile Pack, I opted to use QR Code Tag. In addition to working as a widget, QR Code Tag is highly customizable and can use either the Google Chart API or Y. Swetake’s QR Code Library, written in PHP.

That’s it for now. I may be tinkering with the blog more in upcoming days, but there shouldn’t be drastic changes from here on out.

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