Basic Maths for Invisible Inkling

Believe it or not, I’ve redesigned this blog, yet again.

Well, sort of.

Ahem, more accurate:

Believe it or not, I purchased the Basic Maths WordPress theme by Khoi Vinh and Allan Cole.

So here’s the deal. I’m tired of redesigning this blog. For more than five years, yes, it’s been my primary — albeit periodic — sandbox to learn and practice my thin layer of front-end skills. But that process also became an excuse not to write.

“Oh, yes, I’ll definitely get back to blogging lots as soon as I finish the redesign! It’s going to be awesome!”

No. It might have been “awesome” in some theoretical corner of my mind, but what it would never be was “finished.”

So rather than fool myself yet again, as I had started to do with a modified Twenty-Ten theme that I was not nimble enough to set up as a child theme, leading to the tearing of garments and gnashing of the teeth when a recent WordPress update included updates to Twenty-Ten’s stylesheet… I have opted to drop a really small number of dollars for a wildly valuable and handsome theme.

Which I have already begun to customize, but not much. And as a child theme. Lesson learned.

For those of you too lazy to click through from Google Reader, a glance:

There are still plenty of tweaks I want to make, one at a time, over my morning coffee, for the most part, but I like where this is going.

I have a rough notion of how to use WordPress/PressThis/Asides/widgets to produce an interesting stream of the sort of short link-and-comment posts that I’ve used Delicious/Publish2/Instapaper for over the last several years, so stay tuned for a barrage of little things along those lines.

And honest, more actual writing.

With any luck, this blog post is the first in a series on some stuff I’m doing as 2011 starts, to reduce the amount of guilt I let orbit around my skull and the Internets. Actually, it’s the second post in the series, which includes the bit about shutting down ReportingOn.

Minor redesign of this here blog

I’ve been whittling away at this at random hours in between 642 other small projects, so feel free to click through and have a look at my handiwork.

Major goals of this minor redesign included:

  • Play with the header graphic. (Done.)
  • Fix the FriendFeed stream and make it useful. (Done.)
  • Clean things up, remove some widget bloat, figure out a better way to present that sort of thing. (Sort of done.)
  • Do all this in Django for fun and sport. (Not even close. Still WordPress, which I still enjoy, and built on the Sandbox theme as it has been for years now.)

There’s also a bit of BIGness to everything, much of which I advise you to blame on Wilson Miner, though I haven’t a fraction of his skill at this sort of thing.

I’m sure I’ll continue to fiddle with the sidebar and bottom bits for days to come, so don’t grow accustomed to any of this if you’re some sort of person who often reads this thing in a manner that doesn’t involve your RSS reader or phone.  No idea who you people are.

On print redesigns

Brothers and sisters in the print design world, you know I love you.

You bust your collective ass day after day to dress up content that may or may not be as award-winning as your design work, and in the end, you usually just get laid off for your troubles.  Because when management looks around that newsroom and sees you drawing pretty pictures, they usually don’t quite understand the importance of your work, compared to, say, an education reporter. (Your mileage may vary, of course.)

All this is just to say, hey, redesign away.  Make beautiful pages.  I lust after your hot L and your reverse-type flags.  I wish every paper looked as cool as yours.

But try not to mistake fresh design for fresh content.

A print redesign — or an online one, for that matter — needs to be accompanied by training for the whole newsroom, especially if you’re designing using different story forms.

If you’re going chart-crazy, make sure you train reporters on how to format data for different types of charts.  If lists are your thing, give the news staff some good examples of A1 lists to follow.  Putting a set of briefs in rail?  Try training the copydesk to distill stories down to the right word count in a hurry.

This should be obvious, but is it?  You tell me.

Keep an eye on print design here:


I’ve been quietly working up a redesign for this blog at random moments a few minutes at a time. I was due to make a change — the last iteration lasted more than eight months.

You’ll find the usual bells and whistles and links down low, past a few recent posts.

Differences and details:

  • Bluer. Cleaner. Typographical. Light on images.
  • An emphasis on words, not “content.”
  • “In Other News” is now served by my Google Reader linkblog.
  • “Elsewhere” is delicious.
  • Inspiration included Daring Fireball, and the iA theme Zac Echola has been using, plus the theme Daniel Sato switched to not too long ago.
  • Also crucial: Compose to a vertical rhythm.
  • Built in WordPress 2.3+ on top of Sandbox 1.0, with the markup adjusted in quite a few places to serve my needs and cater to my obsessions regarding lists and divs.

I made a conscious effort to make this look a little more like a blog and a little less like a news site. And it was fun. You’ll find more posts on the homepage, which makes me happier about posting more often. We’ll see how that works out.

There are, as usual, a few unfinished bits, such as the navigation that points to about and work pages. I’ll get to that.

Is the type too small? Is anything out of place in IE6? Why are you using IE6? Stop doing that, right now.

Obligatory post explaining the redesign of this site

Yeah, so the Submit button on the comments is out of place in a few browsers, and there are still a few oddities in IE6, but the redesign of this site has just about topped out for now.

I launched the first iteration of Invisible Inkling in September 2006, ending the Ryan Sholin’s J-School Blog era, which had itself transitioned from Blogspot to Blogsome to a WordPress blog hosted on my own little slice of the Web sitting in a box somewhere on the East Coast.

For those of you keeping score at home, this is the sixth different design I’ve used, if we start keeping track back at Blogspot in 2005.

Anyway, on to the details:





  • Practice CSS using a WordPress theme that was as bare as possible of any design, and craft it to match my own vision.
  • Present content in a styled, structured way while avoiding certain conventions.
  • Separate news from olds.



  • Start with a blank page and code my own WordPress theme.


And now, I’ll move on to my next redesign project, which thankfully is not my blog. I’ll give these pages a rest for awhile.

im in ur filez, redezning ur websitez

I’m starting to peel back the layers of plugins and turn on some new stuff, so don’t be alarmed, dear readers (both of you), if things break around here for parts of tonight and tomorrow.

So, why not go look at some cute cats instead of reading the usual hand-wringing, eh?

(Five minutes later…)

…Well that wasn’t that hard. Upgraded to WordPress 2.1. Now I need to tweak a couple file paths in the css, tweak the settings on a couple plugins, and we’ll be golden.

(Ten minutes later…)

…Fixed some css stuff. Still need to clean up what’s going on down below the fold in the last few bits. And I do appear to be missing quite a few buttons on the wysiwig editor… I blame a certain video plugin. Seems fine now, actually. Not sure what was breaking there.

More work on this in the morning. If it’s the morning where you are and things still look broken, cut me some slack, aight?

(The next morning…)

…ah, the birds chirp, bees buzz, I get called into work early, and this site looks pretty funky in IE6. I’ll see what I can do about that, um, later. For now, feel free to use a better browser. It looks right in IE7 and Firefox for everything, last I checked. Safari fixes to comment form coming, um, “later” too.

(Plugin issues…)

My Google Sitemaps plugin just threw some serious errors when I posted that last update. I deactivated it.

(Later still…)

And then there’s the search results page, which I completely forgot. I’ll get to it “soon.” It’ll end up looking like the category and tag pages. Done.

Hmm. It looks like I left the trackbacks that show up directly below the comments on a post unstyled. (That was easy enough to fix.) I’ll probably just look into rolling those right into the comments instead of showing up under a separate heading.

(Comment form fixed?)

I touched up the comment form, and it’s working in IE6, FWIW. BTW, here’s a good place to get a standalone copy of IE6 to run if you’ve already installed IE7 (good for you!), but you need to find out what all this stuff you’ve been developing looks like in an outdated browser.

So is it working in Safari?

(Playing nice with IE6)

Fine, Microsoft, I’ll be sure to set both the top and left attributes when I’m positioning things absolutely from now on, just to make sure you understand what I meant when I said absolute.

The ‘meta’ post info on the left near the title should be getting better in IE6. Still some wonkiness in the colors of a couple things. Is ‘display: block’ a problem or a solution? We’ll see. Probably just needs colors set on more attributes because it gets all confused in the cascade.

Good night.

(More fun with the comment form)

Okay, I’ve absolutely positioned the crap out of that comment form, so I’m really hoping it’s working in Safari now.  Is it?  I’ll find out in the morning.  The margins around the submit button are pretty screwy in IE6/7.

Unexpected browser/resolution combinations

I’ve been tweaking the design of this site, doing less and less testing in IE6, but yesterday I saw something I hadn’t thought of. Wish I had a picture, but you’ll have to imagine it for now:

Some editors and page designers keep their monitors oriented vertically, instead of horizontally. Combine that with IE6, and the third column of this site does a quick disappearing act.

Maybe next week I’ll get around to doing some repair work on the site, but not right now.

So to all those in newsrooms wondering why I think I know how to design a page when mine doesn’t work for you — I’ll get to it. Thanks.

Get more email from me

You can now subscribe to this blog by email, if you’re into that sort of thing. All of you glued-to-your-inbox types can shift your gaze over to the sidebar, enter your address, and off you go.

RSS readers are more than welcome to switch over to the new version of my feed, which might do some cool tricks like tell you (in your reader) how many comments there are on a post or how many links to it from other blogs. Or you stick with the default feed if you like. Plenty of options here…

Header graphic nostalgia

New header graphic and a couple other visual tweaks here today.

The image is Somewhere East of Albuquerque, and I took it while driving a U-Haul truck full of all my worldly things, probably on September 3rd or 4th, 2001. It was a little less than five years ago that I met the woman who would become my wife. I’ve been thinking about that summer a lot lately, listening to the music we listened to then, daydreaming about a vacation back to New Mexico.

And so, there it is at the top of the screen. U-Haul with yellow flowers.