New Blog Design Progressing Sideways

Ambitions are skyrocketing here at the Hut as the new blog starts to take shape. Too bad you can’t see most of it. But I’d like to ask two things:

1) When you wander over there, can you tell me what you see? I’ve got some of the same CSS that kills Internet Explorer over here at work over there as well, but I think I have things constrained so that the poor software can handle it.

2) Do you see a really dumb animated header? If not, what do you see?

Behind the scenes, that dumb header is grabbing haiku from a database using XML. The perfect storm of tech and art. Best of all, some of those haiku were written in a spreadsheet.

Which, now that I think of it, leads me to another way someone can help. All the old poems in the rotation are image files. Now I need them as text. Anyone want to transcribe them? It would be a big help! Just need a nice table (or spreadsheet!) with poem, author, comment, and link, if applicable. Surely someone out there is looking for a way to contribute to the arts.

So there we have it. My head is in such a technical realm right now that I can’t even watch cartoons. I amused myself tonight with wine and the ActionScript 3.0 documentation, with brief forays into php and WordPress APIs, thinking all the while about how to tackle a page count memory leak in Jer’s Novel Writer. Yeah, I know how to party on a Saturday night.

Moving the Blog!

Yesterday I was hacking at some code, fixing a problem with the way the site looks on the Opera browser. I use iBlog right now, a platform with some cool features and some pretty obvious warts. It was designed to work on servers where the blogger had no control over the server at all (say, Apple’s .mac servers), and therefore the way it did some things was… unusual. Without going into too much detail, iBlog does some things that have unpredictable results on some browsers, including the latest Opera. In addition, the company that made it stopped working on it some time ago and even the discussion forums are gone now.

I fixed the most obvious problem, but there were others, and once again I was faced with the choice of spending my time cobbling together the old system or shifting to a more robust platform. Sooner or later I’m going to have to move, so I decided not to spend any more time tweaking this one.

I’ve been looking into various blogging and content management packages, without finding one that matched the features of iBlog. A couple came close, however, and that’s going to have to do. I will be moving to WordPress sometime this spring. I should be able to make it do what I want, as long as I don’t mind getting my hands dirty. Looks like I’ll be learning a bit of php.

Here’s where you come in: I’ve got a test blog up and running, and out of the box it looks… boring. Slick and professional and all that, but not really me. I Browsed through the bazillion other options people have already created and, well, they’re not very good either – either stodgy or designed by illiterates for illiterates. “Oh, you want to read the text? Dang, I never considered that…”

I takes only a glance around here for you to to see that my design skills are no better; but now I’m going to be doing a ground-up redesign of the site, even if I want to keep it looking the same. I have some thoughts about some fairly ambitious things I’d like to try, but before I get carried away I’d like to know what you guys think of the way things look right now. What do you like? What don’t you like? Layout? Colors? Content? Too much in the sidebar? Not enough whatnot?

One idea I just had: a page with links to all my stories, with a way for people to rate them. The favorites would rise to the top. Yeah, I suspect that feature’s not coming soon. But maybe your crazy idea will work! Leave a comment! Go nuts!