A couple minor blog updates

I had some time over the weekend and tweaked a couple of things in the sidebar to take advantage of some capabilities within WordPress that I hadn’t used before (showing recent comments, for instance), shuffled the order of the sidebar to make more sense (at least to me), and then added a bit of jQuery goodness to allow a couple of the sidebar panels to be collapsed and expanded.

We’ve been incorporating jQuery into more and more of the apps we’re building at work and I’ve been amazed at the kinds of things that can be done in a matter of just a few lines of JavaScript. Adding the ability to collapse and expand those sidebar panels is a total of about 15 lines of code and the only change to the page layout was to add a the request to load the jQuery file itself in the page header and to add a CSS class or two to the elements that provide the collapsing/expanding and to those that get collapsed/expanded.

Anyone interested in learning jQuery should consider two books, both by Jonathon Chaffer and Karl Swedburg: Learning jQuery: Better Interaction Design and Web Development with Simple JavaScript Techniques and jQuery Reference Guide: A Comprehensive Exploration of the Popular JavaScript Library. Both are published by Packt Publishing, Ltd. It’s rare that I find technical books these days that I consider worth purchasing in lieu of or in addition to on-line references or tutorials, but these are two: well-written, actually readable, and they combine to provide a great introduction to what this amazing library can do and how to take advantage of its capabilities.

Upgraded WordPress

It had been a long time since I had paid any attention to what was going on with the WordPress blogging engine I use, so I wasn’t surprised a week or so ago when I saw that they were up to version 2.3.x. Just based on all the bug fixes present in the latest release, I figured it was time…

Being a bit paranoid about stuff like this, I decided that since I was updating from a version that was at least 18 months old, I ought to do a dry run on the update. That meant getting everything I needed installed, configured, and running on my local box with a backup of both the database and the blog from the server. Over the past week or so, I’ve squeezed enough time here and there for that to happen, as well as giving the stylesheet some much needed attention and cleanup.

As has always been the case for me, the upgrade went flawlessly on both my local version and here on the server. As a result, I’m now running against the latest version of WordPress. Hats off to the WP crew for the usual high quality of what I consider the best balanced blend of simplicity and capability in the blogging world.

Of course, now that I had the new version running, I wanted to upgrade my theme to support tagging… and that took another couple hours since I know just enough PHP to be dangerous. Now I just need to go back and start tagging past posts…

Comment Spam

With our adoption finally moving forward, and my desire to start posting information about our progress through this phase in a manner that would allow readers to comment on those posts, I finally took the plunge and turned on comments on a couple of posts here. I’ve read of the horrors of dealing with comment spam on blogs in several places, which was the primary reason I have never turned on comments in the past. Let’s just say that this has been interesting, informative, and encouraging…

I use WordPress for this blog, and I’ve know from the outset that it includes support for the Akismet plugin to help manage comment spam. I just never had a good reason to enable it. Having done so, I am amazed at how much spam even my blog gets. The upside is that so far Akismet has correctly flagged all of the spam, leaving the couple of legitimate comments for me to moderate. So far so good…

The other thing about never having turned on comments, I realized that I had some minor layout issues related to the comments capability in my theme that needed cleaning up for consistency in font sizing and text alignment. Whether or not anyone else ever notices those tweaks (deployed this morning) doesn’t really matter — I saw them and they bugged me.