I just installed SmartyPants, a little plug-in for Moveable Type that automatically replaces a few text characters with more attractive and correct typographic entities. Double-quotes turn into "smart-quotes" (as do apostrophes), three full-stops turn into ellipses (...), and
--turns into an em-dash ( -- ). How lovely.
On a similar theme I really wanted to try out Gill Sans as a font for this site, inspired by Matt's and Aaron Swartz's new designs. This elegant font would only show up for people using Mac OS X, although this wouldn't be a problem, as CSS would just fall back to my second preference font for everyone else. However, compared to fonts such as Verdana, currently this site's default, Gill Sans is very narrow and also looks pretty small (a small x-height?). So any careful choice of font sizes and column widths (for example, the right-hand column's width) would only be correct for one of these fonts. To be honest, I wonder if Gill Sans is really a good font for bodytext on screen, despite its alluring elegance.
By the way, I'm not entirely convinced about my current choice of Verdana. I went off it some time ago, but recently read a site which I thought looked clean and readable, and then discovered it was set in Verdana. I think the site looks OK now -- I lack the vocabulary, but everything seems to hang together quite well. But I feel I'm committing some terrible faux pas and trendy typography buffs are probably sniggering at me.
- Movable Type is watching me…
I decided the people and places footnotes at Pepys' Diary needed space for annotations, just like the diary entries have. Some of the Victorian footnotes are less than useful. Previously, those pages were constructed using PHP, but I had the idea of using a second Movable Type weblog to store them. Then, each footnote could have its own comments and trackbacks. After I got my head round using MT as a content management tool for entries that aren't date-based, it was nice and easy.
Once the new pages were live, I just had to change the links in the first diary entry to point to the new MT-generated footnotes. As that entry rebuilt I realised it was pinging each of the pages it was linked to... my brain clicked slowly... each footnote page would now have a trackback link to this diary entry... this would happen every time I linked to a footnote from a diary entry. Now, thanks to Moveable Type and its auto-trackback mechanism, every item in the footnotes would automatically list links to the entries in which the item appears! This was something I'd thought of doing when first developing the site and gave up as too much manual labour. I'm stunned that something so incredibly useful has happened almost accidentally. Now I'm understanding why trackback is useful, and I'm in awe.
It's going to get, hm, interesting after a few thousand entries and trackbacks, but we'll see how it goes...
- More weblogging friends and Trackback confusion
When I first got online I only knew one other person in the world with email. Gradually this number increased until today when only a couple of people I know aren't online and I can barely keep in touch with them. Similarly, it seems like over the past year or two everyone who wasn't already weblogging is starting to. One anonymous friend has slowly started Sofaville and hopefully he'll keep it going (although he's anonymous I can reveal I've known him since the age of 7 when he told me he didn't like my tracksuit). Tim, with whom I had the pleasure of sharing a house some years ago, started his Bandwagon last year but I'm not sure if I'd noticed it until now.
I came across Tim's Bandwagon because he was experimenting with Trackback and pinged one of my posts. In one of those coincidences that should no longer be surprising Tom and I were playing with Trackback only yesterday because, like everyone else who's ever used it, he was trying to get his head round it. Trackback Makes No Sense. It's a wonderful idea but it's so complicated as to be useless by anyone but the most dedicated or lucky weblogger.
For example, at the end of this post you'll see the "Trackback URL." What is this for? I hunted through the Movable Type documentation while rewriting this site to figure out why I needed it. I assumed it must be important but I couldn't find anything that told me how to use it, or why this ugly URL bearing no relation to the URL of its associated post should be visible to the majority of readers who don't care. I now know that if you paste it into Movable Type's 'URLs to Ping' input field then you can put a link to your post on the site you got the URL from. Still with me?
Another Trackback oddity... Handily you often don't need to know this URL because Movable Type does magic things (that I'm not even going to attempt to describe) to handle Trackback for you when you link to a Trackback-enabled post on someone's site. However, if you link to a post on your own site it doesn't work. But you can use the weird "Trackback URL" to force a link to appear on the old post you wanted to Trackback to. If you got this far you're brave, or now have a glazed look on your face. It's a great idea but if a great idea is impossible to explain, or even demonstrate, understandably it needs to be simpler.
- Removing evil image links from Movable Type
When Stef first started using Movable Type he cursed the Trotts for making the menus out of images. Not only is it bad for accessibility but if you're addicted to Mozilla's Type Ahead Find feature it's even more annoying. (Type Ahead Find lets you type a few letters and the first text link on the page that starts with that sequence is highlighted; press Return and you follow the link. No more mouse!)
I never used the feature so I just laughed. Ha ha! But now I've started trying it and must agree those menus are hugely frustrating. So I did something about it and you can too. Go to the directory in which your Movable Type CGI scripts are stored. From there go to the tmpl/cms/ directory. The top-of-the-page menu is in logonav.tmpl, the left-hand menu is in mininav.tmpl. Back the files up. Then if you know HTML you can just remove the images and replace with text. You might want to add some cellpadding or spacing; mine ended up looking like this which is far more usable and downloads quicker. It might all be destroyed by an MT upgrade, but it's not a big deal to do again.
- The best thing about Movable Type 2.6
From the changelog:
Changed all visible instances of blog to weblog in the system and in the documentation.
I've hated the word "blog" since the day I first heard it.
Movable Type Pro sounds good too. Especially the bit about allowing users to log in for comments. Pepys' Diary uses huge numbers of comments (around 1,600 in six weeks) and anything that beefs this facility up will be a boon.
- I’m now available in French!
Well, my Introduction to weblog terms for weblog readers is anyway. Christophe Ducamp offered to translate it in order to make it available to a wider audience. Being translated is peculiarly pleasing!
- Changing Movable Type archive URLs
I've wanted to change the way Movable Type generates the URLs for Individual archive pages for some time. Although I was pleased with the dated directories, the numbered file was ugly and meaningless (eg, /phil/writing/2003/03/07/000456.php) unlike, for example, Tom's sensibly named files. But I didn't relish manually creating a .htaccess file to redirect users from the old URLs to the new pages.
- "New!" markers in Movable Type
Over on Pepys' Diary it's not unusual for each day's entry to have 20-30 comments posted to it. Because these discussions are currently all displayed by Movable Type there are none of those interface clues common to forum systems that indicate what a user has yet to read, or which entries (or topics, as they'd be on a forum) have the latest comments.
- That summer feeling
With British Summer Time looming this weekend I wondered whether I'd need to change the timezones of my Movable Type weblogs. I would, after all, now be in UTC+1. But, as Yoz describes quite wonderfully, it's best to leave well alone. Probably.
- Two reasons to avoid using Safari with Movable Type
- Movable Type time zones
I finally got round to playing with TypePad yesterday, which was fun; almost every page had me muttering, "ooh, that's nice!" But it did remind me of a problem I noticed with Movable Type some months ago.
- TrackBack problems at Pepys’ Diary
Over the past year I've been having big problems with TrackBack over at Pepys' Diary, due to the huge number of pings sent from diary entries to items in the Background Info section (for more on how it works, read 'Movable Type is Watching Me'). I posted a description of the problem to the Movable Type Support Forum, but here it is in case that disappears over time:
- Pepys TrackBack: fixing the problems and a new layout
- Upgrading to Movable Type 3 (or not)
I spent the afternoon upgrading my devlopment server to use Movable Type 3.1.0D, in preparation for using it on all my websites. The basic upgrade isn't too tricky if you're comfortable (and careful!) with FTPing and checking file permissions, etc. So it's possible to get your site using MT3, without any new features, without too much trouble. The MT screens do feel a lot more responsive and less clunky now.
- Movable Type 3 problems
Both problems have now been solved.
At the weekend I finally upgraded to Movable Type 3.11, and it is indeed nice and shiny and lovely. However, I'm having a couple of problems with it, which I'm posting here on the off-chance anyone reading this can solve them. I link to my posts on the MT support forum where I describe them more fully.
- Movable Type 3 problems solved
Mainly so that anyone Googling for solutions to these problems is satisfied, those handy folk on the Movable Type support forum have solved the problems I was having.
- Moving virtual house
Just over a week ago I moved my four websites (this one, Pepys' Diary, Byliner and Overmorgen) to a new server. It seemed to go OK, without anything going horrendously wrong. There are a couple of outstanding problems however:
- 46,000 junk TrackBacks a week
My frequently cranky installation of Movable Type began throwing up even more Internal Server Errors than usual at the weekend. They seemed to appear instead of any admin screen that would show some TrackBacks. So I poked around in the database and realised the number of junk TrackBacks received by the system had rocketed recently, as made obvious by this graph:
- Movable Type’s over-enthusiastic sanitisation
Here's one for anyone from the future who Googles for Movable Type, MT, Convert Line Breaks, comments, comment, formatting, sanitize, santise, GlobalSanitizeSpec, line breaks, paragraphs, etc.
At the weekend I did an awful lot of messing around on this site, and around the same time annotations on Pepys' Diary started looking very wonky. For some reason comments were no longer formatted with
<p></p>tags. Then I realised it was the same across all sites on my MT installation. Strange.
- Goodbye TrackBacks
They've tried my patience before, but I'm finally switching off TrackBacks on all my weblogs. Including the Encyclopedia section of Pepys' Diary which relied on them for listing the dates when a person or place or thing was mentioned in the diary. I'll now have to write a script to laboriously extract links from diary entries and insert the appropriate TrackBacks into the Movable Type database.
- BBC Innovation Labs website
Over recent months I haven't produced much work that has been visible in public. The HTML/CSS I did for Ning has been pretty much the only example you could see, and much of that has already been re-worked. It's hard to keep up. But last week my new website for BBC Innovation Labs went live.
- Category Archives with MTMultiBlog
This is mainly for anyone Googling for how to get MTMultiBlog to display a list of entries in their Movable Type Category Archive pages. I spent a while Googling for an answer this week, finding only questions. So here's what I've done.
- Movable Type 4.2
Just a quick one for anyone using Movable Type who has yet to upgrade to version 4.2: Don’t. Despite more than two months of public beta testing I’d wait for the next round of bug fixes (I should have learned this by now).
- Stopping Movable Type from truncating long templates
This one goes out to all those fickle fans who stumble here via Google.
If you use Movable Type 4 and have any very long templates you may have encountered a problem where saving the template in MT’s editor results in the end of your template being cut off.
- DBD::mysql on Leopard with _mysql_init errors
It was over four years ago that I first had problems installing the DBD::mysql Perl module on Mac OS X 10.3 Panther. Some things don’t change for the better and I spent most of this afternoon struggling to get up and running DBD::mysql on Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard.
- Webloggery organisation
Over the past few months, while paid website-making work has been thin on the ground, I’ve been using my free time to churn through my to do lists and am now slowly crossing off items from the “Someday” list that I thought I’d never get round to. The latest, and lengthiest, has been to re-build my site. This is now done and it hopefully looks no different.
- Annoyingly slippery
In my previous post I wrote about re-writing my site with one of the aims being to get to grips with Movable Type 4. Although I’ve been using MT for years I haven’t had a chance to delve into the most recent versions so I’ve felt a bit behind on all the new stuff.
- Publishing with old dates in Movable Type
Jon Udell recently posted about trying to get a WordPress.com blog working well with content that has historical dates. This reminded me that I’ve been meaning to write up how I got Movable Type working well with the 17th century dates of The Diary of Samuel Pepys.
- Decades-long projects
As I wrote last week the Diary of Samuel Pepys project has kicked off again for another almost-decade of daily publishing. What’s wrong with me? Or, more practically, what did I think about when starting a ten-year project all over again?