engineering, humor, philosophy

How My Blog Became Phone-Friendly

The tweetable answer is that I switched to the Satellite theme.  There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in Twitter’s philosophy (and I don’t tweet anyway), so U can get a wry take on the sometimes quirky path of progress by reading the rest of this post.

When I started blogging, I wanted a genuinely uncluttered theme that would leave me free to concentrate on content and decide whether I wanted to continue, w/o paying upfront with $ (for a premium membership) and with time (spent customizing).  I wanted black text in a sans serif font on a white background, with lines long enough and vertically separated enough for a readable brief essay w/o too much scrolling.  I also wanted something that was (and still is?) rare among uncustomized themes: I can print out a preview of a draft, get hard copy that looks very much like what the browser displays, and scribble notes about revisions.  Yes, I am that old.

Browsing the theme catalog was a dreary experience, and I found that the only good way to see what my own stuff would really look like was to adopt a theme temporarily and hope nobody was turned off by how ugly my blog was before I found and switched to something better.  After several false starts, I settled on Academica.

A post on Horizon Feedback on 2015-09-14 asked users to beta test changes to “the” WordPress.com editor (the “Beep-beep-boop” editor reached from the WordPress interface with a blue top bar).  Tho I usually used the other editor (the “Classic” editor reached from the WordPress interface with a black top bar), I decided to help out a little.  If the blue interface gets a really good editor, I will be able to use it more and enjoy the nice colors.

I started drafting a post, observed the result of clicking the [Preview] button, and submitted a comment including the complaint that

What comes up … is horizontally truncated, with the 1st letter of each line flush against a sky blue border on the left and the last few letters of each line hidden under a vertical scroll bar for the frame containing the draft purportedly being previewed.

Sheri at WordPress looked into the problem promptly and found that it was 2-fold.

  1. The preview was coming up in tablet mode, with no provision for changing the mode to either desktop/laptop or phone.
  2. My theme was not responsive to the kind of device (desktop/laptop, tablet, or phone?) in use.

Sheri and friends fixed #1 soon after, adding buttons that would let a blogger working at (say) a desktop/laptop see how the previewed post would look on (say) a phone:

PreviewButtons

Fixing #2 by switching to a responsive theme would of course be my responsibility, and now I could see how utterly unreadable my posts were to anybody browsing on a phone rather than a real computer.  Remembering how dreary theme shopping was, my initial reaction was curmudgeonly.  I was writing for people who use real computers, not people who surf while standing in line at Starbucks, so I would stay with Academica.

On the other hand, I can remember when the only real computers filled rooms with refrigerator-sized boxes and ran up huge electric bills for power and cooling.  I have also been a frequent visitor to a nursing home and noticed that the aides could sometimes get a brief respite from their jobs by enjoying things like cat videos on their phones.  However unlikely it was that an aide might want to read my blog on a quick break, they should not be forced to look elsewhere just because I am an old fart with an unresponsive theme.  So I resolved to fix #2.  Someday.

When someday finally came in 2016-04, I found that theme shopping is easier now, with a preview capability that lets me see how one of my own posts would look on a phone rather than just how a demo would look on a computer.  I also had plenty of my own posts to play with.  With some experience in blogging, I was willing to forego printed previews.  I could tolerate crappy printing and be content with a theme whose perversities in displayed pages either were minor enough to ignore or could be worked around by adding attributes to a few HTML tags.  (As a frugal Yankee, I still wanted to avoid paying for extensive customization unless I actually needed it.)  Several themes looked OK until I saw what they did to block quotes: they maimed them with an ugly distracting decoration.  I was a big user of block quotes and did not know how to work around this sin.  I did know how to work around Satellite’s sin of using an absurdly light font color for block quotes, and I can bypass the use of a similar font color for my tag line by not having a tag line.

So I switched to Satellite and went over all my posts, retrofitting them with a few workarounds, a few small unrelated updates I had been intending to do someday, and a few small wording changes to make the flow of text around narrow images look good on all devices.  Only 1 post required nontrivial rearranging to look good on a phone.  The whole process took roughly 4 times longer than I had expected, as is common in software engineering.

MenuButton

There is a great virtue of Satellite that should be mentioned: the retractable sidebar.  Apart from the click-me-for-a-menu button at the top, the retracted sidebar is an unobtrusive black band along the left side of the post.  Clicking that button reveals widgets like the [Follow] button and the Search box.

SearchGreenFuzz

Press the [Enter] key after entering a few words, and U will get a display of that search’s hits.  There is just 1 hit for the specific words illustrated here:

TrojanHorse

Clicking on the title of that search’s single hit will visit a whimsical introduction to one of the 20-th century’s epistemological earthquakes.  It’s OK if U don’t give a rat’s ass for epistemology; the secret revealed at the end is useful in daily life and does not depend on anything else in the post.  Even if U skip the post’s mental exercise, please do consider why I displayed a screen shot with the search words instead of putting them in the text of this post.  Extra credit for all who can explain how the answer to that question relates to the earthquake.

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13 thoughts on “How My Blog Became Phone-Friendly

  1. I like your new theme. The little icon on the top right for the retractable sidebar is a cool feature. I like the self-referential haiku in your other post and the secret for avoiding gr–n f-zz. I’m not sure of the screen shot / earthquake connection, though. I think I may have some gr–n f-zz between my ears.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for going to the trouble of thinking about the connection between Gödel’s earthquake and my use of a screen shot. Suppose I had just said (in the draft for the post about being phone-friendly) that searching for “gr–n f-zz” in my blog would have only 1 hit. The 1-hit assertion would have been true when typed into the draft and would have become false as soon I clicked on [Publish], with both “Trojan Horse …” and “How My Blog …” being hits now. Yet another pitfall of self-referential language.

      I replaced vowels by hyphens in your comment and this reply after discovering that the search box looks at comments as well as the body of a post, contrary to what I had believed after an oversimplified test. That should have made my 1-hit assertion true again (even tho “gr–n f-zz” appears in the displayed excerpt of “Trojan Horse …”) because a more careful test showed that the search box does not look at such excerpts. Quantum weirdness is not the only kind!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It took me a moment, but I do get it now you’ve explained it for me. It’s a bit like my writing “Xenodochial is a word I have never used in my life” in a comment recently, knowing that, strictly speaking, my sentence couldn’t be true.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Academia is a theme that even sounds like you — such a good home for an uncluttered, brilliant mind, Mel. I love the streamlined design, and the search field — everything in its place. It’s so you. I’ll visit your other post late tonight. I just wanted to say Congrats on your new home — I love it! xo

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Glad U like the new Satellite theme. The name at the bottom is so faint that it is almost invisible. The old theme Academica had similarly silly font color choices. The huge difference comes when I preview what a post would look like a phone. No comparison. Satellite does look a little better in most respects on my real computer also.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Although aesthetics plays a definite role in writing and reading, I would enjoy your work in Palatino Linotype using a font size 4 requiring a magnifying glass. Your writing is refreshingly novel requiring acute focus and a willingness to spend a little time thinking through the labyrinth of material you write about. With that said, I agree with your fellow readers that the new presentation is pleasing to the eye.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I agree with the Doc, Mel. Labyrinth is an understatement. Reading this post while waiting in line at Starbucks, I realized I had to re-read several sections. (I was somewhat distracted, slightly, by the new Caramel Waffle Cone Crème Frappuccino® Blended Crème flavor for May.) I imagine one could make a flow diagram of this, and most of your posts. Which is a good thing. Because while reading this one I would find myself, when getting a bit fuzzy with the comprehension, backing up the flow line a few branches, grasping the concept a little more firmly, then proceeding back along the path to my original departure point. And I did this many times. Not because of the lack of clarity, but rather the depth of the subject matter. Logic is an immensely interesting subject and one in which my desire to comprehend exceeds my brains ability.

    I have noticed something interesting in this post that caused me to scroll through some of your previous ones I had not read. Which also, by the way, allowed me to appreciate Satellite. (I do agree with the others, it is becoming.) At first, I had thought your use of “U” when meaning “you” must have some kind of significance. I had thought it was a term or symbol used in Logic or Computer Coding. But after a “short” Google/Wikipedia search during which I learned how to type “this” (alt-34, alt-116, alt-104, alt-105, alt-115, alt-34) using alt codes, I came to the conclusion there were no significant symbols, in either, using the “U”. So, maybe I’ve missed something. I certainly wouldn’t have gotten the extra credit question. Even so, the net result was a fascinating journey through wonderful haiku’s, beautiful pictures of flowers, and interesting commentary.

    By the way, “short” Google/Wikipedia search reminded me of this:

    https://xkcd.com/214/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the thoughtful and wryly humorous comments. Glad U like the new theme and hope my posts go well with Frappuccino®. Thanks also for the link to one of xkcd’s many hilarious insights. I made the mistake of looking around on the xkcd site and found yet another instance of playful paradox with self-referential language (http://xkcd.com/688/), so now I am hooked.

      My reason for using “U” rather than “you” is prosaic. I like the similarity of “U” to the standard 1st person singular pronoun “I” in written English. Both are uppercase letters that are left-right symmetric (or very nearly so, in some fonts). Both have names (when reciting the alphabet) just like the pronouns in spoken English. What begins as a typing shortcut used by texters sometimes becomes common in casual prose (as with “LOL”), and I believe “U” is so neat and self-explanatory that it will eventually replace “you” in formal prose.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I like this layout. As a frequent non-computer-monitor reader (phone and tablet are usually closer to hand), and also as a person who is sensitive to the diverse access needs of people with disabilities, I appreciate sites that are easily navigable and responsive.

    One thing bloggers often don’t consider (besides the blockquote conundrum – I am SO with you on that) is threaded/nested comments, and how easily readable they are on various devices. Your new theme makes the comments just as accessible as the posts. Two thumbs up! 🙂

    Overall it’s a clean, uncluttered, easily navigable motif. I like it. (For what it’s worth.)

    And now I’m wondering what all this caramel waffle frapp business is all about…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad U like the new theme. I was pleasantly surprised by how well the responsive themes squeeze posts down to phone size. 🙂

      Regarding those kinky kinds of coffee: they ain’t for me, but I won’t hassle consenting adults.

      Like

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