Like Buttering An Ocelot

It’s not much of a title but it’s the best I can come up with after the past two or three hours. I wound up doing some productive goofing off tonight, though I use the term “productive” advisedly. If the purpose was to put off doing actual, paying work, then put me in a flightsuit and hang a “Mission Accomplished” banner in the background as I stroll out to meet the cameras. If I was truly hoping that any of the WordPress-ey things I researched and installed would actually work, though…not so much, no.

I’m doing lot of research and that always involves a certain amount of outright stealing. “Hey, a ‘Most Popular Posts’ thingamabob in the sidebar!” I think, after drifting across a support page for something or other. “Cool, I’ll have that.”

So I look for a WordPress plugin and wind up installing the OWA Most Popular widget, which seems to be just the thing. Failure. Oh, right…I bet you need to install Open Weblog Analytics to make it work. Download and install OWA…and now the whole site’s spitting out fireball-like errors.

“Drat and blast,” said I, and I meant it. Were I a properly-licenced Londoner I would have added “With knobs on” for maximum effect.

Once again, I’ve been skeezixed by tool that claims to be zero-configuration, but isn’t. Some other night I might have time to figure out precisely what’s going wrong, but it seems as though I can score a cheap but very real victory by simply deactivating those new plugins but a win’s a win. I depart from the Admin page garlanded with glory.

It was dumb to consider OWA to begin with…my host has an analytics package already installed. I actually hadn’t ever used it before. I opened the correct URL and gorblimey! Despite my having published the URL to this test blog absolutely nowhere, lots of you seem to be finding the place all right. If Pets.com were getting these numbers, then the sock puppet wouldn’t be battling Gary Coleman for dumpster scraps behind the iHOP.

I’ve never had blog stats before. There were ways of figuring out how much traffic my AppleScript blog was pulling, but I was never interested in seeing the data. It seemed that if the numbers were too low or too high, it’d affect the experiment, so to speak.

But I can see that I’ve been missing out. Someone typed “philosophers are morons” into a search engine, and they landed here. I’m also pleased to learn that there are apparently a large number of Swedes reading this.

Howdy, Swedes! I don’t feel that there are enough people out there sucking up to your fine nation and soliciting your patronage. Allow me to correct that immediately. The next paragraph contains a valuable tip that will increase the performance of any PC or Mac by a minimum of 40%, via a simple four-minute installation of a component that can be purchased at any corner store for less than three dollars:

You will not be able to read the above text unless your IP address resolves to a .se domain.

Moving onward: I downloaded a WordPress plugin that’s supposed to work with my analytics package and no, that didn’t work either.

The rest of the evening was spent in matters of philosophy. A message board continues to be a good idea, but I might have to talk to the admin of my server to get that up and running because the instructions for installing bbPress (for example) make the whole procedure look like home dentistry.

But I think I need to start looking hard at what’s out there and settling on a board app because the more I think about it the better this idea sounds. I think an Ihnatko board would attract dozens of posts a month rather than hundreds or thousands, but it would make me feel good to know that I have message threads set up for people who want to get support for my books or have other kinds of interactions that can only clumsily be handled via podcasts, blogs, and emails.

And then I revisited the hoary First Page question. I think I’ve settled on a layout for this here blog. I have it all drawn up on a sheet of notebook paper and everything.

But it’s the same question I asked at the very beginning: when someone types “ihnatko.com” or “cwob.com” into a browser, do I want them to wind up right here? Or should I establish a sort of “lobby” that would appeal to first-timer visitors?

I’ve been leaning against the lobby (and told to move along by hotel security; apparently they have a serious “no riff-raff” policy). But while I was loitering there I’d sort of concluded that a separate front page would be a waste of space.

But tonight I saw some of the awesome design work being done by Mule Design Studio and it’s kind of turned me around on the idea. A front page like that — and the front page like the one they designed for All Things Digital — really sells the idea of having a powerful answer to the question “Just who the hell are you people anyway?” You see it and you want to come on in and look around.

Hmm. Yeah, a front page with a quick bio, a highlighted blog post, column, podcast, and Flickr photo, a promo for one or two of my books. That could work. But at this stage I dunno how that page would roll. Would I have to keep updating it manually, or would I have to build some PHP scripts to generate it automatically? Either way, that’s work. More work than not having a front page, anyway.

Okay, well, I’ve managed to waste even more time by blogging about how I’m wasting time. It’s amazing that I continue to claim that this blog is only in beta because it seems to me like it’s just passed the only credible test for a functioning blog.

Still, miles to go, miles to go.

7 thoughts on “Like Buttering An Ocelot”

  1. I like the Blob-O-Topics.
    I think every plugin has a different outcome on different WP sites.
    There is no list of the 10 best… for WP Plugins. After having installed the same plugins on different WP sites I can attest to that.
    I tried to get the Twitterfeed going but to no avail. Perhaps on another site it may be fine.
    I have a bunch of plugins that I install and them some fallback plugins that are more stable on a broader range of site structures.

    I have a theory to explain your astute thoughts on the “Front Page” thing.
    Is a blog like a book (with a cover), or is it a discussion (like a forum/message board)?
    Most people drift towards the book analogy when they write a blog but prefer the forum analogy when they read. Daring Fireball perhaps is the ultimate expression of the latter.
    Perhaps it all comes back to the page design that may provide the best of both worlds.

    Thanks again for the blog anyways Andy.

  2. When there’s a site with many different features on it, I imagine that users come to treat it like a big mall. The very first time they visit, they come through the big front atrium, with the water feature and the information kiosk and the moving video wall and such. But soon they wind up parking in front of the East Entrance, which puts you right across from the Apple Store.

    I think it’ll come down to how much PHP-fu I’m able to muster up. If I can build a “front page” that runs itself, then this makes sense. But I suspect that if it’s something that I have to update manually I’ll keep up a brave effort for the first month and a half and then lose interest. :)

  3. Yeah, I’m really digging this. Every time I crack my knuckles and sit down to bash out some JavaScript or something to add in a content module or something, I discover that (hey, cool) someone’s already built a “cloud” plugin or whatever.

  4. One thing you might consider is something like what Wil Wheaton did at his blog. He has a link at the top that reads “First time here? Then you’ll probably want to read /this/”, which went to a nice description of “Yeah, I used to be on Star Trek:The Next Generation”, and now he’s all grown up. I suspect you could set a cookie when people visit, and only display the link for people who don’t have the cookie.

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