Tag Archives: CSS

accessibility Ajax delicio.us digg Flash Javascript listserv mailing list mobile web mp4 php privacy social-bookmarking spyware streaming video web-development Web Design web standards XHTML

WordPress Keeps Switching Back to the Default Theme? Here’s a Fix.

I recently started updating my blog again, including a spiffy new theme.  Within a day, my blog had reverted back.  I double-checked my settings and switched the theme to the new one again, and the same thing happened.

If this is happening to you, it might be a file permissions issue on your server.  WordPress tries to be maybe a little too helpful in this case – it has a function called validate_current_theme() that tries to make sure required files for the theme exist and if not, reverts to the default theme that function uses the PHP function file_exists().

You may be able to fix the issue by using an FTP client or SSHing to your server and changing the file permissions of the theme’s style.css and index.php.

If that’s not helping, you can always change the name of the template dir to “default” – WordPress doesn’t do the switch if it thinks you are already using the default theme.

A Scary, but Fascinating Idea – Javascript and CSS hack to see where your users have been

Invasion of Segway infantry!

I just ran across this post on Aza Raskin’s blog about a technique used to cut down the number of social bookmarking links displayed to users.  I’m sure you’ve seen them–the 20 or so colorful buttons that have popped up at the bottom of every blog post on the web, for Digg, Del.icio.us and similar sites.  On my blog they are hidden behind the ShareThis Widget but Raskin had a better idea – why not just display the ones each user actually uses?

Impossible?  Not so fast – think about what happens when you visit a site.  After your visit any links to the site will change, usually from blue to purple.  We can put up links to each social bookmarking site and then use Javascript and CSS to check to see if each link has been visited.  If so, display the button, and if not, hide it.

This is a very cool way to manage buttons but the technique has wider privacy implications.  I could, for example, put links to…  questionable sites, and then use some Ajax to collect that information about users.  If I had other information about you (say you logged into my site or otherwise gave me an email address) I could link it together and build a database.

On the other hand, it’s not like I can grab your entire browsing history or follow you around after you leave my site – I have to specifically create a link and check it for every site I want to know about.  And unlike your browser history this info is cleared every time you close your browser.  So it’s not spyware or anything as intrusive as, say, the Alexa toolbar.

I can think of a bunch of cool ways to apply this technique, but I’m not sharing until I implement one.  Feel free to post any ideas (or misgivings) in the comments below.

Weekly listserv journal – Web standards on news sites

As part of a class project I’ve been reading the Online-News mailing list and responding to some of the issues and discussion brought up there.

A huge thread which began last week on the 15th but I didn’t read until now is about what kind of standards sites are using in their code.  The original poster is trying to use XHTML and CSS, but noticed that no other news sites he looked at validated as XHTML.  His question was why.  A few ideas came up-if you use CSS for page layout, anyone using an older browser will lose all of your layout and most likely just see a bunch of text.  Someone else pointed out that this could actually be a good thing-users with disabilities, for example, who surf the web with text-reading software, won’t see your layout anyway and a bunch of text is more useful for them.  Ditto for Palm users and people surfing on tiny displays.

I think the real reason people aren’t using valid XHTML and CSS is that it’s a lot of work to set up and get working exactly right.  Most places are not putting money into things like that, they’re laying people off and hiring people who will do data-entry type tasks on the cheap as opposed to building a system.  Plus a lot of places spent tons of money on their current systems just 3 or 4 years ago.

Another issue brought up was standards for delivering streaming video.  One poster recommended using Flash, which is something I read somewhere else before, and it does sound like a great idea.  Flash can serve mp4 video, doesn’t pop up with ads or offers for a pro version like RealPlayer and QuickTime, and is already installed in most browsers.  A lot of posters in the group are not big Flash fans, because it’s a semi-closed proprietary standard, but there doesn’t seem to be a better alternative to streaming video over the web.  One poster offered a few places where Flash was just about the only tool that could do what the site designers wanted it to do, but one in particular (http://www.msnbc.com/modules/yip02/) made some posters scoff.

Also, no matter what standard you decide on using, there’s some browser that doesn’t work the same way the others work.  And standards constantly change.  The question came down to how much should content be separated from presentation (so that different presentations are available for different devices), and how much should presentation be standardized (so that the same presentation will work to some degree on different devices)?  There was an interesting article here: http://www.adaptivepath.com/publications/essays/archives/000266.php.