Writing

From time to time, I feel inspired enough about something to write about it,
but don’t hold your breath.

New Domain, New Host, New Blogging Software, Oh, and a New Design

It's been awhile, almost a year to the day since I wrote my last blog entry of epic proportions stating how much things are going to change here. That clearly never happened. With the 4th version of chrisgriffin.org, or the blog formerly known as chriszgriffin.com, I am hoping to end my streak of meta-blog entries wherein I write about how I need to blog more. And with that, moving on.

Why the new domain?

Honestly, I never liked having my middle initial in my domain name, but being that Chris Griffin is a somewhat common and famous name, I had to settle for Chris Z. Griffin when I initially bought the domain in 2005. Sounds picky, I know, but I always thought it sounded out of place with my nickname, Chris, as middle initials are usually reserved for more formal purposes. So, you could imagine how giddy I was when I stumbled upon chrisgriffin.org while purchasing chrisgriffin.me last July, only 16 days in the wild after the previous owner abandoned it. When I moved to a new host I decided to go ahead and switch domains.

Boxcar

Beginning of this year, when I decided I wanted to move from the shared hosting environment I had over at Media Temple to a VPS, I decided to go with Boxcar. Beyond the fact that as an employee of Planet Argon, I get a free Boxcar, not to mention that if at any time I'm having any problems with my hosting I could literally throw my shoe at Alex's head. But seriously, I hear nothing but good things about it from Boxcar clients and our managed hosting clients. And yes, I'm a little bias.

Wordpress

if that wasn't enough, I decided that it was time to abandon the abandonware blogging application Simplelog. In my last post, I stated that I wanted a blogging application that ran on ruby on rails so I could get my hands dirty in ruby. That still stands true, but I came to the realization later that I just wanted a place, first and foremost, where I can just write. Writing and refactoring code should come secondary to that.

Enter Wordpress. I know it's PHP, it's bloated, and a bit ugly, but it has a decent UI, almost everything I needed in functionality, and what it lacked in functionality, there was bound to be a plugin to fill in the gaps. I won't go into any more details about Wordpress, as it's ubiquitous on the web and the upsides and downsides are well documented.

New Design

And lastly, the redesign. This redesign was a bit spontaneous, as my original plan was to migrate the old design to Wordpress and revisit the design later. Just as soon as the old design was completely migrated, the redesign bug hit, and I decided to go ahead with it. Migrating the old design first actually worked out for the better, as that was my first experience working with Wordpress and it's template system. The second time around, I had more of a grasp as to what I was doing.

With version 4, I decided to do something I've never done: light on dark. I've tried it a couple times in the past, but I ended up usually trashing it, as the dark design never felt right. This time around, I went with it and never looked back. I got through the design phase in about a week and a half of my spare time, which was pretty quick considering there were times I've spent month(s) on a design.

For the grid CSS framework, I rolled my own. It's based on 960 Grid System but I wanted to create something from scratch, as there were things I didn't need in 960 GS. What I came out with was something similar to the 960, but with two major differences:

  • No IE6 support: I like writing as efficient CSS as possible (as most developers do), and since I am not supporting IE6 in any way, this opens the door to a plethora of options for selectors and properties that most of us designers and front-end developers dream of using, but tend to avoid because it's not supported by IE6, such as :first-child and :last-child and the selectors that include class subsets (e.g. .main.link).

  • Less bloat: When CSS frameworks provide options to accommodate different grid systems, or better yet, all-in-one solutions such as typography styles, icons, etc, such as Blueprint provides, it also comes with extra baggage. This isn't a knock against 960, Blueprint or any other CSS framework, as these are built for a lower common denominator than what I needed, and for different uses such as prototyping.

Handy Wordpress Plugins

In addition to blog entries, I wanted to have a place where I can also post interesting links with commentary. Wordpress, plus the very simple wordpress linked list plugin allowed for me to go with a different format for this version of my blog. You will see blog entries and links styled in a similar fashion, and both will appear together in the RSS feed. I have plans to also include blog entries only and links only RSS feed, but for now, this should work just fine.

The archives page is probably the page I'm most proud of. I didn't want a typical archive that lists out years, months, or categories in a typical, not very useful format. I went digging around for a WordPress plugin that allowed me to display months by year. I found one that allowed me to do just that called Smart Archives Reloaded. I had to completely rewrite the HTML output, but the final result is exactly what I wanted. As for the category list by alphabetical order, I had to use Multi Column Category List. Again, this plugin required me to change almost all of the HTML output.

Conclusion

So there you have it. I think, for once, I'm completely satisfied with my blog set up and design, and who knows, I may write a blog post or two. Feel free to leave feedback via comments or the contact form.