Look and Feel Update, 9/23/11

So, yes, I’ve gone ahead and changed the blog theme here at Whatever, for two reasons. One, I was getting bored with the old theme, as I do about once every year. Two, the previous theme did not allow for some new functionality I thought it would be useful to have. And thus: New blog theme. This current theme is called “Minimum” and I imagine that barring some horrible implosion of something or other, I’ll keep it for about a year or so, until I get bored with it and move to something else. I suspect the look you see now (10pm Eastern, September 23, 2011) is going to be close to the final look; I may tweak things here and there but by and large this is it.

One new functionality that the theme offers is additional flexibility when signing on to make comments; now you may sign in to comment with WordPress, Twitter or Facebook IDs (as well as signing in the old fashioned way or just leaving your e-mail). This will undoubtedly make some of you happy. You’re welcome.

The minor drawback to this new theme as regards comments it that it doesn’t number the individual comments, which is a little annoying (this is because — I assume — the theme allows for threaded comments, which makes numbering the comments somewhat useless. I won’t be threading comments, incidentally). For those of you used to referring to previous comments by thread number, allow me to make another suggestion and refer to those previous comments by the time they were posted — so instead of say “John@75,” just write “john@3:34pm” instead. Same effective utility, slightly different referring number.

I had made mention a couple of posts ago that I was thinking of using IntenseDebate as a comment system; I haven’t yet done it primarily because I can’t figure out how to activate it. This is a WordPress VIP account, which means things have to be done slightly different than they could be with a freestanding WP install; I can’t just install any plugin I want. I may still try to figure out how to get it to work, but then I might also just decide to be a lazy-ass, as I so often do.

And that’s where we are at the moment.

89 Comments on “Look and Feel Update, 9/23/11”

  1. Comments at top, no numbering. Font difficult to read. OMG what has hapoened …. Oh well I will survive …. Wait, what! Four sign in tabs, plus email w/name. Choices, life has to many choices.

  2. Totally unacceptable. However, when you replace it with something else a year from now, I will defend this format to the death, and claim that its loss is a sign of the End Times.

  3. Larry:

    Only temporarily. I’ll be putting them back in soon.


    I think it’s better for people to be engaged in the whole conversation rather than just parts of it.

  4. Make all the changes you want as long as you don’t install a “captcha” box to make me prove I’m human, because I’m not.

  5. Oh good the books are coming back!! And By!! Athena. Can the picture at top be little larger? Will it change with the seasons? BTW here in Central Cali we are having a very nice lightening storm. And it’s 98 outside. Strange summer.

  6. Picture’s fine, but for some reason, the font is a bit harder to read than the old format. Whatever.

  7. I’m actually reading the sidebar now. Not sure what you did to make the sidebar more appealing, but it does work better. It’s very clean and functional. But what do I know? Maybe Facebook should learn from you.

  8. I like the sidebar as well. The title font bothers me, though. Perhaps because it is “stretched” vertically? I’m not sure. And the main post text seems harder to read. The font on these comments and on the sidebar feels far more readable than the post fonts, but I’m sure I’ll get used to them soon enough.

  9. Amended to add: On closer examination, they actually look like the same font, just different sizes. Perhaps the post-text is a little too large?

  10. It’s harder to read the posts than it was in the old format because of the color of the text and the color of the background. Less color contrast than before.

  11. This is one of those little changes that has me blinking for a minute or two. I’ve been glaring at FB for days, and watching people saying they’re leaving (and sending me email addresses as they go.)

    Still no preview?

  12. You’ve made me use a larger default font size.

    Middle age has nothing to do with this.

    Other than the teeny weeny print, which is a solved problem, looks good. Very clean and, you know, minimalist.

  13. I’ll have to adjust to the font, but otherwise nothing really erathshaking about the changes. But only one person has mentioned this so far: the link to comments is at the top. We went through this last time. It’s much better to be able to reach the comments from the end of the post. If you never wrote more than a couple of paragraphs, so that the whole post could be seen on screen at once, it wouldn’t be a big deal. But occasionally you have a lot to say and the Big Idea posts are also quite long and that means scrolling back to the top to comment. Not so good.

  14. THANK YOU for not threading comments! I find it much harder to keep up with a blog if I check back in and there are new comments plus additions to previous threads.

    DemetriosX @ 7:14 am, not sure what you mean about the comments. I’m commenting in a box at the end of the page. Maybe that got fixed after you wrote.

  15. Hmm. I like the new theme a lot…but now I have a problem – I’ve beeen commenting as “TomG”, but also have a Twitter account (and G+), on Facebook, and I use “duskfire” when in WordPress because that’s my blog’s name.

    So which one should I use ??

  16. @BW: The link to the comments on the main page posts are at the top, under the headline and next to the date. If you go straight to the post’s individual page, it’s not an issue, but I tend to read on the main page.

  17. Thanks for the explanation, Demetrius. I never read from the main page, so I didn’t get it.

    I still don’t like having avatars, but at least they’re smaller with this design and therefore slightly less visually distracting.

  18. The _theme_ allows you to log in as facebook or whichever?

    WordPress is _wierd_. (I’m used to Drupal, where the theme only decides how things display, not functionality.)

    Site looks good, though.

  19. The icons are very small. I expect that’s because they’re now at the top of the comments instead of beside them, and making them bigger would take up too much vertical space, but it does make them a little harder to recognize.

    Mine, of course, is less creepy at the smaller size. This is another drawback from my point of view! ☺

  20. Threading is great for discussions that gets excessively long or wide-ranging. You’ve do a good job training posters to keep things on-topic, and folks are good about replying ‘user@num,’ and this is scalzi, not slashdot. I’m therefore happier without threads here.

    That said, as always it’s your decision.

  21. John, will your comments show up in a lovely green background again? I found that a very appealing feature of the previous incarnation.


  22. I generally start from the main page, so having the “read comments” link at the top of the post is slightly inconvenient, but it probably won’t cause me irrevocable harm.

  23. Hmmm. On the icon front, I’ve never been able to figure out why mine don’t show here. That hasn’t changed at all, but I do miss my monkey.

  24. The fonts are weird (kinda washed out and very small) on FireFox 6 on Windows XP. And yes, I’ve got old (51) eyes.

  25. I’m afraid I have to agree with DemetriosX — I too usually see just the front page, and may want to opt-in to view (and in rare cases, add to) the comments for a particular posting. And having the link for that moved to the top rather than its “normal” location at the end of posts is difficult to work with.

    And what happens to those of us who were previously registered with Whatever but (like myself) won’t touch the standard popular social-engineering operations with a 10-foot pole (OR an 11-foot Slovak, for that matter)? Are we now merely “guests”, and there was no way to automatically import or convert the previous registrations? I tried the WordPress login button, and it rejected me as unknown.

  26. MikeB-Cda:

    I’m pretty sure the cookies still work and that you don’t have to re-register. Don’t get too caught up in the terminology the programmers use.

  27. Aww, where the handsome yet incredibly disturbing ghostly Scalzi face when I scroll past one of your comments, John? Where will I look to find my nightmare fuel now? At least until the black velvet painting of you and Brandon gets done.

  28. I’m not crazy about the article title font – it looks too tall and narrow to me. The article body font isn’t too bad. Otherwise things looks OK so far.

  29. John @ 1:54: You pic shows up fine here — or maybe you discovered another WP tweak/fix after you’d posted? Oh, and thanks for your earlier reply about registration — user-name and addy showed up just fine, already filled in, when I came back this time.

  30. Not crazy about the use of vertical space in the comments. Takes a lot of scrolling to read more than a few comments. And why is the font larger for the datestamp than the text someone wrote? the designer has visual, not functional priorities. For instance, “You are here: Home / Uncategorized / Look and Feel Update, 9/23/11” (and the white space above and below it) is a huge waste of space from my perspective. I always know how to get to Home on your site and I don’t generally care, if you are categorizing your posts, what category they’re in. That might be useful info at the bottom of the post, if one wants to go look at similar posts, but it shouldn’t come before the freaking title of the post.

    This goes for the sidebar as well. I miss having the WHATEVERETTES high enough that I’ll see them. Unless you have a really long post, with the current design, I’m rarely going to scroll down that far. And the calendar access panel and archive selector has, I suspect, limited usefulness to most of your regular readers. it shouldn’t be what’s pushing WHATEVERETTES below the fold.

  31. I’m not seeing the ghost Scalzi face. I’m sure I used to, but only if I adjusted my monitor…but I can’t remember how. I’ve tried several adjustments and no go.

  32. John: still not seeing it. Maybe it’s a Chrome issue? Lemme check Firefox…

    OK, so I don’t have Firefox installed on this machine. I did try… *shudder*… Internet Explorer. Yes, I feel dirty, hush now. Still no ghost face. Maybe it’s my monitor settings…

    Nope, nuthin’. Weird, oh well. I still have my memories. My haunted, dreadful memories…

  33. GaryG, only superficially. If John ever converges with BoingBoing, he’ll set up his comment system so you can only find a comment thread for a few hours after the intial post goes up, and otherwise go out of his way to discourage ongoing conversations. I predict John will never do this; he’s more likely to shut off commenting entirely than do something so cruelly hypocritical to his commenting community.

    Me? No, I’m not bitter.

  34. My large small issue with the new theme?

    There is no link to the previous post or the next post at the top of the page.
    There is no link to the previous post or the next post at the bottom of the page.
    The only place these seem to be now is under the bottom of the post, on top of the comments. Which means I can’t easily move to top of page or bottom of page to find them, after I’m done reading another wonderful comment thread; I have to scroll down hunting for the bottom of the actual post, before I can go on to the next post. Or go over to the calendar, click to get to all the posts for that day, and pick the next one, but that’s crazy talk. (There’s a return-to-top-of-page link at the bottom of the page, but that’s not helpful in this case…)

    Add us some back and next links in the easy places, and I can get back to catching up on bacon and SF and politics and movies…


  35. Er, what Dave at number…arrgh. I mean, at 10:59p on Sept 24 ’11 said. Currently the last comment, but thanks to recently breaking my arm I’ve become a very slow typist so who knows.

    My personal jury of one is still out on whether the lack of comment numbers is worse than the location of the previous and next post links. I’ve been rereading posts from 3 years ago (shortly after I started reading here and before I was familiar with the quirks of the various regulars, so it’s rather like rereading the beginning of a series and seeing the characters in a more complete light) and both of these aggravate. Since it sounds like the numbers are not currently an option, is there any hope for the repositioning of the post links? I admit that it’s bugging me more than it might if it weren’t my right arm which is strapped to my torso; it’s just an extra annoyance to reach the various navigation keys with my left hand, and that being my nondominant hand I’m not that good with the touchpad either. Sigh.

    On the plus side, my copy of Android’s Dream, with its exceptionally well-named key character, is broken in enough to allow me to read it one-handed. Although maybe not the best choice of reading matter for someone still mildly in horrified shock at the fact of actually breaking a limb.

  36. Okay, apologies for the double post, but it wasn’t until some time later that I actually tried using page up/page down for scrolling and found totally misc pages loading instead of the expected result. Well, maybe not random; pgup might’ve been acting as “back”.

    Though that’s not nearly as weird as my text in this here comment box spontaneously deleting itself as I type. Seriously, it’s like someone is hitting the backspace at random times. If I just leave it alone the cursor backspaces every few seconds on its own. Someone tell me it’s not just me… it does seem to be this site specifically.

  37. I like the airier look; as a regular browser of ‘Random Whatever’, I’m less keen on the number-of-comments button now being at the top (I use that indicator as a guide to whether to read the comments or not) and the link to the previous/next posts being at the bottom of the post. To my mind, these should be the other way round. But it’s not my site !

  38. Robin
    I just left my cursor alone at the end of a sentence for a couple minutes, and it didn’t do the backspace thing you mentioned. Not sure what that could be, but maybe someone who knows more about this stuff than I do can give you a better idea. Hopefully there isn’t something wrong with your keyboard.

  39. Without numbered comments, I guess we won’t be able to play “Guess what number John/Athena/Krissy” is thinking to win a $PRIZE. Otherwise, I guess I’ll probably get used to it right before you change it again.

  40. See now that Scalzi’s fiddled around successfully with an over-the-counter software package like WordPress he’s going to start saying he has a background in Computer Science… ;)

  41. It doesn’t inexplicably default to grey text on a white background when I view it from my phone, so I like it.

  42. Looks good. Had a couple of glitches of the page (from I go directly to where I last read a comment thread) not rendering properly. But that seems to have been resolved judging by my last couple of visits.

    The default font size seems a little on the small side to my aging eyes, but I will adjust things on my end, if this setup is the most stable.

  43. (sigh) Now I have to actually follow your new books list on Twitter, since it no longer appears here. Could you at least add a link to it? I’ve forgotten the Twitter handle…

    I also miss your links to articles on other blogs/websites – will you be adding that back in? – it’s interesting to see what you’re reading online.

  44. Lighter, cleaner look, and the comments typeface is great. Like your logo/pix bar.

    I zoomed in a couple of zooms so I could read The Blatherings of Others…I really wish the default text was Verdana-and-relations, as I enjoy the Blatherings as much as the original posts. Perhaps the Graphics Gods would reconsider? Is there an oblation to be made?

  45. As others have stated, it’s your sandbox. I’m just happy to be able to play here!

    Also, what Dave (9/26/11 @ 4:39) said. Serif fonts are harder to read, especially for those of us who have eyes so much older than our teeth. (You’ll see this yourself, Herr Scalzi, as your eyes continue to age, they don’t much like serif fonts)

    Interesting that the typeface here in the “Speak Your Mind” box (love that title) is a form of sans serif (tahoma? verdana? help me font gods, i dunno…). And when you post, you get something Times New Roman-esque-ish.

  46. John, I think the new theme looks very nice. Clean, crisp, and it doesn’t get in the way. I’m also really hoping you can swing by and leave a comment somewhere on the site every day at a round, oh, say, 3:14? It’d make the replies to you more entertaining :-)

  47. Paul @ 12:16 —

    Been there [earlier thread], said that [verse joke, only 3:16 — which was all over the place at my cousin’s on Sunday, which I took as a sign, but who am I to argue with an Angel].

    Unrepentant. :>)


  48. On Firefox 6 for XP, the fonts are light (as in weight). On Firefox 6 for Win7 (i’m literally doing a side-by-side right now) they are heavier. On the former, my screen resolution is 1600 x 900 and on the latter it’s 1360 x 768. I think this makes a difference in what people are seeing.

  49. For those of you used to referring to previous comments by thread number, allow me to make another suggestion and refer to those previous comments by the time they were posted — so instead of say “John@75,” just write “john@3:34pm” instead. Same effective utility, slightly different referring number.

    Speaking as one who reads (listens) far more than I comment (talk), which means that I’m primarily interested in following the existing conversation: after only a few posts, I already know that this is going to be an ineffective utility.

    The good conversations last more than 24 hours. 3:34 pm of which day?

    More than that: it’s easy and fast to scan a comment thread looking for a specific number. If the last comment is #100, and I want #75, I know I need to scan about a quarter of the way up the page, allowing for variable length of comment. I’ll find my target very quickly, pick up the thread of discussion, then get back to where I was.

    3:34 pm? Hmmm. Long thread. How long ago was the initial post? How many people post, how quickly? How far up the thread should I jump before I start scrolling slowly, hunting something close to the right numbers, numbers which are no longer as conveniently easy to spot? Whoops, a six-hour gap in posts followed a rapid-fire exchange. Whoops, now I’ve overshot and it’s the previous day, or maybe the previous week.

    That change in referring method has replaced an easy, quick system with a nightmarishly awkward one. Are you sure there’s no way to get back the ability to number comments?

  50. I am glad I have Stylish, because reading the text here, due to the grey on grey colours, feels like reading through the fog, and I don’t actually have a squinting fetish.

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