The Blog Slouches Towards Bethehem

I haven’t talked about the transition to WordPress in a while because the transition is pretty much complete. I had hoped to have this Celestial Waste of Bandwidth complete by the time my new iPhone book came out, but I can’t say that I’ve reached the “Golden Master” stage yet.

The stages of project development are as follows:

  1. Recognize how much better your world would be if [state your desired result].
  2. Define your desires in terms of an articulated goal.
  3. Break down a series of steps that you can complete, in sequence, to realize said goal.
  4. Explore the tools that you’ll need to complete each step.
  5. Successful proof-of-concept, confirming that all of your preceding choices are sound ones.
  6. Developmental deployment.
  7. Project achieves functional stability.
  8. Private beta deployment.
  9. Project is feature-complete, but still awaiting fine-tuning and incorporation of as-yet-unknown bugfixes and new features.
  10. Assemble input from beta group; evaluate data collected thus final re-evaluation of what defines “success” in this deployment and what’s required to get there.
  11. Widening from a private beta deployment to a public beta deployment.
  12. Official public release.

I am currently at Step 8. The Celestial Waste of Bandwidth isn’t finished yet, but I’m tempted to get out a Sharpie, jot a simple phrase on a Post-It note, and slap it down over Stages 9-12.

That phrase is “**** it; let’s just go with what we’ve got and add things as we go.”

If the Linux community had a company store, you could buy pads with that phrase pre-printed for your convenience.

Here are the major Action Items that are still open:

I still need to wire up a navigation bar under the header.

Ranking: Critical.

I’ve been playing with Tigra Menus and I think that’s going to be my solution. I was hoping I could find plug-in that would reduce this thing to an utter no-brainer. I mean, to my delight, I’ve found that this is usually the case. I’m about to crack my knuckles and rock out some JavaScript or PHP, but nope…all I actually need to do is download some scripts and copy them into a directory.

That is, there are indeed some WordPress horizontal navigation thingies. But none of them seem to be as simple to use or as flexible as just pasting Tigra’s mostly-JavaScript mojo into the theme templates.

I need to commit to a structure for the whole site.

Ranking: Critical. 

I do want the Celestial Waste of Bandwidth to have various sections, and based on things that are happening right now and things that’ll be happening soon, I know what some of those sections are going to be. But if I make sloppy choices early on, a year from now I’ll have a navigation menu that contains about 40 sub-items. And the menu next to it will contain just “About This Site…” and “This site: About it.”

Alas, this is a critical part of product development. It costs nothing to sit down and figure out the answer to the question “What is this thing supposed to do?” but there’s nothing more expensive than a wrong answer.

I need to retool CWOB.COM as a “magazine cover” for IHNATKO.COM.

Ranking: Important.

I’ve been mulling over the problem of choosing an “official” domain for the new site. When I first set it up, I used “ihnatko.com” because I wasn’t actually using it for anything else. I bought the domain years ago chiefly just to take if off the playing field. I get so much email addressed to “Andy Inkato” and “Andy Inhatko” and “Andy Ikanato” that I never had the slightest inclination to use it as an official domain or email address.

Now that the site has been up for a few months, I must say that I rather like seeing my name in the URL. You can’t buy publicity like that, you know?

But from a practical standpoint, CWOB is a much better name. If you hear CWOB.COM in a podcast or somewhere, you’re 97% sure to type it in correctly; that goes up to 99.99% (I have research; excutive privilege prevents me from releasing it to the public) if you hear the name of the site, too.

Plus, I’ve been going back and forth about what people should see first. A big “Welcome to the frabjous land of Andrew Fillmore James Ihnatko” page with some sample content and a link to the blog? Or just dive people right into the corn crib of delights known as the Celestial Waste of Bandwidth?

So, two birds with one stone: CWOB.com will be the “front page” of IHNATKO.COM. Which makes sense. The folks who are the most likely to type CWOB into their browsers are people who have just heard me mention the site in a podcast, so they’d be the most interested in learning just what the hell any of this is actually about.

Come up with a custom site theme.

Ranking: Need to get to it eventually.

Meanwhile, I’ve made practically no progress in building a wizzo custom site theme. I’ve started learning the basics but haven’t written a scrap of code.

Clearly it’s gonna have to happen sometime but it doesn’t look like I’m going to have enough free time to really work on this. So I’ll stick with what I’ve got an keep modding its built-in stylesheets as desired.

I do wish I hadn’t been so hasty about choosing a layout format. The final version needs to be wider, methinks. I still don’t know if I wanna go with two columns or three.

My resistance to using a whole lotta columns is that I’m regularly shocked (seriously: afterwards, I can’t feed or bathe myself) by the sight of incredibly popular blogs that are buried in multi-column clutter. And these sites are making lots of dough! They can afford to pay someone to make it look nice, right?

It’s taken a while to figure out how I’d use a third column. Left gutter would be stuff related to me (my upcoming appearances, my books, my Twitter and Flickr feeds, etc.) Right gutter is for stuff related to the blog (calendar, search, popular tags, RSS links).

But to make that happen, I’d have to make a bunch of changes. It seems like the sort of thing that will either take twenty minutes (five minutes to select a new layout from the theme menu, fifteen minutes to make whatever little tweaks are necessary to make it look nice) or twenty days. And I won’t have time for anything ambitious until the end of next month, y’know?

If I were thinking “wide layout” earlier on, I also would have designed a wider masthead. So back to Photoshop for a few hours to figure out what to do with the extra space.

(A masthead redesign would give me a chance to fix something that’s been bugging me for weeks: the top of my head should poke up above the rest of the masthead, shouldn’t it?)

Anyway. So there’s where we are right now. I’m still 100% convinced that WordPress was the right choice. It’s a great system to work with and (here’s the dealbreaker) it’s clear that if my needs ever outgrow WordPress, then clearly it’d be a time for me to hire professionals to design and build a site for me.

and until the end of January at