Dave\’s Blog

Because my handwriting is awful

Tags on wordpress.com 21 Sep 2005

Filed under: essays,this-blog,wordpress,wordpress.com — David House @ 4:52 pm

You may remember that I talked a few days ago about not having an explicit category structure set up. I also hinted that a nice substitution would be a tagging plugin, as I’d still like to use some kind of categorisation. Well, I sent some feedback off to Matt about the possibility of including some plugins like tagging plugins on wordpress.com blogs. His reply pointed out the fact that WordPress can now add categories from the write post screen via. some lovely little ajax, so tags are a bit pointless.

I hadn’t really thought about using categories in this way before. I suppose being able to add new categories on the fly is one step toward true tagging functionality built into WordPress. I’ve started tagging my posts in this way so we’ll see how this develops. Keep in mind it’s not really a full tagging solution: with the numerous tagging plugins, you often ‘type and forget’; that is, your tags aren’t remembered. Using categories stores your categories as a list in the database, and you have to use checkboxes to indicate which tags you’re applying to the post. Whether this is a good idea or not is debateable, but I could forsee it as a problem for a blogger with a very wide subject spectrum.

People have their different reasons to use tags but my personal favourite is to keep the spectrum of content as wide as possible here. Having an explicit category structure tends to limit me to posting in those categories, which directly goes against the spontaneity which I’ve found is key to blogging. In other words, I’d previously not bother writing a post because it didn’t fit into my set-in-stone category structure, which meant that as my interests in certain disciplines waxed and waned I eventually stopped writing altogether.

Hence my desposition toward tags. Tags, as specifically the on the fly category/tag creation system allows me to create categories to fit the posts, rather than the other way round. This allows me to keep my fingers typing and keep the content coming out.

So for anyone looking to avoid restricting their content, try using tags instead of categories.

Update: just noticed that the category base on wordpress.com is /tag/. Obviously someone was there before me! 


How to get involved with WordPress development 18 Sep 2005

Filed under: how-tos,wordpress,wordpress.com — David House @ 2:47 pm

I’ve been an active member of the WordPress community for a while now, but have only recently found a meaningful way to contribute. So, I thought I’d aggregate a few tips on how to get involved with developing the WordPress core. So, here you go, in handy 10-numbered-steps format:

  1. Before you do anything else, get yourself a WordPress weblog. A wordpress.com one is okay, but I’d say get your own web space. That way, you can actually open up, poke at and hack the code that’s running your blog. That will be essential.
  2. Blog. Get familiar with the concepts and terminology that pertains to blogging.
  3. Subscribe to the blogs of a few key players in the WordPress community. I’d recommend reading both Ryan‘s and Matt‘s wordpress.com blogs to keep up to date with cool things that are happening in the community and with the code.
  4. Subscribe to wp-hackers. This is the list where all discussion on WordPress development and direction takes place. If you want to partake in discussions which will be key to WordPress’s future, post to or at least lurk on wp-hackers. It will give you a key understanding of the design goals.
  5. Hang out in #wordpress on freenode. A whole bunch of experienced WordPress people hang out there.
  6. Make a special effort to get along to the weekly IRC meetups. They happen at 9pm GMT every wednesday in #wordpress-meetup, again on Freenode. These are the best places to catch up on the very latest WordPress information. Matt always makes these meetings, Ryan most of the time as well. If you don’t manage to to make it to the meetings themselves, Codex has logs.
  7. Get familiar with the codebase. Check out a copy of the WordPress trunk from the subversion repository, and play with it. Read some development articles on Codex and get familiar with what goes where, when and depending on what.
  8. Answer support questions from the forums and/or #wordpress. This will get you looking at code that you yourself don’t use, like (say) blog-by-email, the XMLRPC interface, the user structure and so on.
  9. Bookmark Trac. Trac is WordPress development central. Read the timeline for up to date information on commits.
  10. Bugs on trac: write patches for bugs that need it, or offer your views on the bugs that need a second opinion. Find your own bugs (these don’t necessarily have to be actual bugs, they could be feature requests or ways things could be done better), and write patches for them. Be sure to give your bugs a keyword of bg|has-patch. Patches are the best way to get your code committed into the core.

At the end of that, you should be pretty involved with the community itself and will hopefully be writing high quality code that makes it into the core. Anyone else got any ideas or suggestions for those looking to get involved?


Future of this blog 14 Sep 2005

Filed under: thoughts,wordpress.com — David House @ 6:39 pm

I’d just like to say what a great tool the ‘Top Posts from around WordPress.com’ and ‘Latest Posts’ sections are. They’re simply fantastic when you’re looking for something interesting to read. As an example, I just came across a post detailing the exact same problem I’m facing: now I have two blogs, how do I divide up the content between them?

To begin with, I’d like to point out that if it does nothing else, david.wordpress.com has spurred me into writing again. I’m getting into the frame of mind where whenever I read anything, I’m thinking in the back of my mind, ‘Can I blog that?’. Although my reasons for not doing this previously have been a decrease in my signal to noise ratio, I now realise that it’s important to Keep Blogigng or you’ll Stop Blogging.

I’m still keeping my options open for david.wordpress.com. You may notice that there are as of yet no categories here: that’s deliberate, as I want to keep the spectrum of what I consider ‘valid’ content as wide as possible. That means not shoehorning everything into a list of certain categories. Of course, I’ll eventually set up some form of categorisation here. Ideally, Matt would let us enable plugins and I’d get a tagging plugin set up🙂

Hmm, actually, having a sample set of plugins isn’t a bad idea. I’ll send that off as feedback🙂

Anyway, here’s a list of what david.wordpress.com might eventually turn out to be:

  • A notepad
  • Inspiration for xmouse articles
  • Simply a platform for keeping up with the latest and greatest WordPress version
  • A second publishing platform, perhaps just for my asides

And so on.


Microformats from a programmer 12 Sep 2005

Filed under: comfort,development,essays,microformats — David House @ 8:29 pm

If you’re interested in structured data or writing parsers for commonly occuring publishments on the web like blog posts, calendars, contact details and so on, then you should check out microformats. Specifically, download the MP3 of the microformats discussion at BarCamp. It serves as a great introduction to mircroformats from two people that really know what they’re talking about, Ryan King and Kevin Marks.

Even though I’d heard of microformats before, I still think I learned a lot from listening through the 70 minutes of audio. They talked a lot about the principles for microformat design, which make a lot of sense when explained well. Microformats are a good idea from a producer/publishers point of view because they’re designed to be easy to read and write, and to fit into the already existing software.

However, I’m not really a producer or publisher; I definately fit into the programmer category. What makes microformats really cool for programmers, though, is the fact that they’re standardising problems that every blogger solves every day in his or her own way. They’re saying (for example), ‘If you’re marking up a series of events, do it this way’. This convergence of implicit structure built on convention to explicit structure built on a formal specification is really exciting. If support for microformats really gets rolling, that means that everyone is marking up their events in the same way. As microformats are also designed to be machine-parseable, that means that everyone’s events are suddenly machine readable and, more excitingly, aggregatable. Just think through the cool things that could be built on a tool that crawls web pages for hCalendar snippets and aggregates them into a centralised list. And that’s just a single microformat. There are so many more. Score one for the openness of the web as a generic publishing platform.

You probably don’t know, but I’m working on a generic compound microformat parser, Comfort. The current release does fairly well at parsing the basic hCalendar spat out by Comfort’s parent project, bCal, however I’m working on it to be a more useful parser. I’ll be throwing a lot of data at it because I want this to grow into a really powerful parser. Microformats aren’t exactly easy to parse (as they’re designed for humans first, all the trade-offs and comprimises that are a natural part of specification design make microformats that bit more difficult to parse), but I think there’s a real need for a generalised compound microformat parser. It would have to be easy to extend, as the microformat project is and hopefully will continue to grow as unbelievable rates.

If you’ve never seen microformats before, do check out microformats.org and specifically read the introduction on their wiki. Whether you’re just Average Joe blogger or are interested in building tools that can pull from the biggest database of all, microformats should be the way of the future. Lets just hope they aren’t crushed by the corporate weight of the W3C and its Semantic Web.


xmouse restructure 10 Sep 2005

Filed under: notes,xmouse — David House @ 5:50 pm

One of my ongoing projects is a planned restructure of my primary weblog, xmouse. The justification is pretty simple: I don’t write to it any more. I haven’t written a proper essay to the site in a really long time, and that was the initial purpose. And so, here’s the plan.

There will be three sections. I’ll keep the old essays around, they’ll keep their URIs (xmouse.ithium.net/essays/blah), as the structure is date-agnostic (desirable for essays, which shouldn’t IMO be organised chronologically), short and generally works pretty well.

The second section will be the asides. I guess these will vary in length from a single sentence to a few paragraphs. I’ll probably organise them by date, and naturally the URI structure will reflect this (I’m thinking xmouse.ithium.net/[year]/[month]/blah). I’ll probably give each a short title, this will just help when going through archives. I may also explore things like syndicating links from my del.icio.us. In terms of implementing the asides, the general consensus seems to be that a dedicated Asides category is the best way to go. Although this has its ugly sides, I’ll give it a try and see where I get.

Thirdly, my wiki. This will be a catch-all service for my half-baked ideas (explore ways of posting mind-maps/outlines?), formal specifications and documentation for my projects. In the long term, I’d like to move everything off my current solution, Mediawiki, and onto WordPress. This has a few advantages: sexier and unified (with my blog) UI, the WordPress plugins, a single DB. I’d like to write a few plugins to make the WordPress Pages feature more wiki-like: I’m thinking an edit-in-place plugin to make Pages really easy to edit (wikis are meant to be fast), and possibly one to show a message along the lines of ‘A page with this name doesn’t exist yet’ instead of a 404 when a non-existant Page is requested.

Thoughts on that structure?


First invite sent

Filed under: wordpress.com — David House @ 5:30 pm

I just sent my first invite. It went to my lifelong friend, a guy called Steve Richmond (whose only online presence currently is on our cell’s site). In case he’s going through one of those lazy periods where he takes ages to check his email and even longer to do anything about the emails he recieves, let me tell you a bit about him:

First off, read that link in the previous paragraph. That should give you an idea of his character, and personally the less said about that the better😉 No, seriously, you just need to get used to the fact that he threatens to blow large land masses up on a pretty regular basis. He’s got a good heart really.🙂 He’s insanely talented at two things:

  1. Drawing things. His speciality is large, chaotic scenes involving lots of people killing each other in humourous ways (completely out of character, don’t you think? ;))
  2. Photoshopping. He’s one of those people that can turn any image into anything, limited by his imagine alone (and that’s not really much of a limitation, trust me!). I’ll get him to upload some of his portfolio work when he accepts the invite.🙂

Anyway, he’s a fantastic person, I hope he gets blogging soon.

Update: he’s taken steve.wordpress.com (another first name blog, i wander how long these will last) and begun blogging.


Morning all

Filed under: wordpress.com — David House @ 3:56 pm

Well, I finally found someone with a wordpress.com invite! Thanks go out to Lastnode, and strike one for the power of asking random things in #wordpress.

So, what’s going to be on this site? The easy answer is that I have no idea. We’ll see.

Oh, and I got david.wordpress.com. Strange that for such a common first name, I’m the first one! We’ll see how valuable this domain becomes in future times😉