Tweaking the horizontal hold again

I’m still mulling over design changes.  I think I just heard a couple people throw their hands up in despair.  The primary design is all fine but a number elements still elude me, like  banners for the tech midsection. I’ve run out of “WOW” ideas, hence the reason nothing has been altered.  That’s not really important, more a minor irritant.

The bigger itch is the single post pages.  The unutterable horror of the bland page is haunting me.  I can’t seem to break out of the design block I’ve hit.  As it is now, the single posts are tame and bloggy without a lot of personality.   I think it’s time to go cruising for fresh ideas and see if I can adopt something a bit more vibrant.  I’ve been experimenting with tailoring each sections single post page, but I’m not really sure that’s the path to take.

You may notice the odd little change here and there as I shift things around, test plugins etc. One of the issues I’m trying to improve is the flow to encourage readers to read more articles.  I have the traditional “here are some other articles I’ve written” on the right. I found a plugin that shows thumbnails, which breaks up the sidebar monotony (I’ll write about it later this week).  Another plugin, I’m testing Cresta Posts Box. If you look over -> there and down a bit, you’ll see a small slide out bar that suggests a page to read. I like the way it looks and will likely purchase the upgraded version so I can tweak the features to suit the site.

Beyond that, my brain is on idle.  There comes a time to step away from the design because it’s no longer possible to see the overall vision. Until I can come up with a solid idea, you’ll have to endure the bloggy style page and I’ll focus on throwing up content.



A sea of errors – or is it “I see errors”?

I’m about 3/4 way through checking the site for missing links, typos, miscategorised posts and, well, you know. All of this reminds me why I started casting around for a different platform and thinking of a web redesign. Joomla’s spell check was erratic at best.  I often type too quickly and try to get things posted a bit too fast and sometimes rely on spell check to catch the obvious typos. I’m embarrassed to admit, I don’t always get back to a close proofing. WP is far more efficient when it comes to spell check.

A number of clearly outdated articles on defunct software have been permanently binned.  I’ve archived a bunch of early articles and put them on hold  because I haven’t figured out what I want to do with them. They don’t actually fit into any category. Alas, I think I’ll end up deleting them. 

Another issue was Joomla’s failure to auto save drafts. I’d be working on something and hit the back space, which periodically caused the article to delete, and the entire article would be gone.  I got to the point I would write everything in Word and cut and paste it into the website later. Maddening!

I’m still chugging through all the page redirects, but those are going to be an ongoing project. Each time I think I have them all tackled, a new crop springs up. At least I’ll never be idle.

What else is there to do? Oof! I have to work on the next |previous links on single posts, adjust thumbnail sizes, need a banner on the Tech page, and maybe a new index page. Mind you, I kind of like the page, but it might get a bit out of control in a few months so, we’ll see.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading about SEO. I’ve used it in the past but never really wrapped myself around doing it efficiently. I think that’s the next big project. Ensuring everything ticks all the boxes as far as SEO is concerned. We’ll see if it makes a big difference. I feel like I’ve zeroed out the site and purged all outdated ideas. It’s now a big experiment to trace how the changes will affect readership. I’ll keep you posted.

Old blog | new design – Cheers!

Old blog | new design – Cheers!

The site has been off line for a couple of weeks, as I rethought what I want from it. I’m pleased with the content, just needed a few tweaks here and there.  But if you’ve followed my change log, you’ll know how unhappy I’ve been with the basic design. Most of the discontent stems from 2 areas. The first is my ideas about the website have evolved a great deal over the last year. The emphasis has moved more towards a Toronto centric and photo heavy site.  It’s been an interesting transformation and the old design suddenly felt generic and dated. The old blog just wasn’t cutting it.

The second reason is the continuous struggle with the software. I sat down in April and re-evaluated my website and realised I  spend far too much time struggling to make the site do what I want it to do, and not enough time actually writing. I’m a bit of a fusspot when it comes to my site. The problem is, I know what I want the site to look like, I just couldn’t seem to get there.  Joomla filled a bit of the gap, but it was becoming a bit clumsy.  I wanted a fresh site to help emphasis my change of focus and leave room for the Mapping Toronto project to come to life.

A friend tipped me off to a wonderful piece of software that works with WordPress called Divi from Elegant Themes. It pushes WP into a different stratosphere when it comes to design control. I really need to tip my hat to Corey. If it wasn’t for him, I’d still be mooning over the old design.  I played with Divi for a week and decided to just do it – tear the old site down and build it up from scratch.

All the old content transferred into WP with a few issues that were quickly sorted out. Alas, there will be 404 errors because I’ve also reorganised the content. I have a plugin that will help me redirect, but it will take a long time to get a handle on it. I’m still reconnecting some photos to articles, the import was a bit haphazard when it came to this. No fears though, I have all the photos, it’ll just take time.

I haven’t finished checking all the old content, but over the next week, I’ll tackle every article and fix it up. A scatterings of some of the oldest articles didn’t make the cut because the content was too dated or they simply didn’t fit into the format any longer. Oh and I’ve been spell checking everything. OMG the typos. Oh dear, oh dear. I’ll have to be far more careful. Mind you, that was one thing that started to drive me bonkers with Joomla – spell check worked sometimes.  Not that it’s Joomla’s responsibility to do my work, but you know what I mean.

Over the next few weeks, there will be a handful of changes to the design, most you likely won’t even notice. But, pages like the Index of articles may change substantially, I haven’t decided yet.

I’ve removed all the ads. They were more an experiment than anything, but they slow the site down and detract from the content. From here on, I’m going to push for subscriptions, donations and sponsorships. I already have 2 donations and a subscriber (who’s awful lonely over at Patreon). I’m working through some new donation and subscriber perks, they’ll be coming over the next 2 months. Finish the site first; then sort the perks. I’m now taking Brave donations for anyone using Brave browser, plus PayPal and of course Patreon. You can find out more on the support page

All in all, the change has gone a bit better than anticipated. Hopefully I can tie up all the little loose ends in the next two weeks and move on to focus on the subscription benefits and kick off the Mapping TO project.

Lurking around Toronto with my camera & misc thoughts

Lurking around Toronto with my camera & misc thoughts

I’ve been wandering around Toronto in my spare time, testing out routes for the Mapping Toronto project.  After doing a few test runs in a couple of neighbourhoods, I realized some will take multiple trips just to scratch the surface. As well, the sheer volume of photos started to make the logistics of posting and editing a monumental task. I’ve rearranged and relabeled the files about 4 times as I grapple with staying organized.

Some areas have so much to look at, it’s difficult to figure out what to leave out. I was in Cabbagetown recently and realized I could do one series of photos just documenting the historic plaques.  I could spend another day photographing people along Parliament and another on the architecture. During summer months, Cabbagetown is stunning so that means another exclusively on the flower.  Couple that with the trips to the library for historical info on each area, well, there you have it – years worth of work.

I’ve figured out a way of addressing the irritating issue of setting up routes.  Plot a route is an AMAZING website that calls up detailed maps that include topographical details, distances, timers and the ability to upload photos to any given route.  After setting up a route, you can download it for printing or upload it to a GPS or a smartphone. The site allows users to post unlimited public routes, but if you want to keep your route private, you have to pay a nominal fee ($22 US a year).

After playing around with Plot a route, I had a brainstorm. I’m going to add the routes as part of the Patreon perks. Subscribers will have full access to all the routes that will have photos attached to the map.  I’ll also offer access to one time donations that hit a certain amount.  I’ve been casting around looking for interesting perks to offer and this one struck me as a great idea. I’ll be revamping my Patreon account in the next few days (oh and YEA … I have my first Patreon supporter as of yesterday) that will focus strongly on the Mapping Toronto project.

Here’s a test route I’ve been playing with:

Lurking around the neigbhourhood - Map of St Clair Yonge proposed route that likely won't make the cut

It’s based on a little walk I like to take occasionally around the neighborhood. I can adjust the various points on the map to emphasis spots to photograph (or cafes with decent espresso and desserts).  Once completed, I will upload photos and notes so the user can enjoy the route.  I’m excited about this. It dropped the final piece of the project into place so this spring I’ll begin.

If you want to support this project look to the right-> and use either the yellow button for a one-time donation or the orange button to become a subscriber.


A contest? Really? Stay tuned for details

A contest? Really? Stay tuned for details

I’m thinking of running a small contest to help us get through the rest of winter.  I played with the idea of “Win Crap from my Closet” but common sense prevailed. This is a wiser choice:

Photo of black over shoulder slingbag

It’s a small shoulder sling bag, big enough to hold a phone, id, change and maybe a small camera. Lots of zippered pockets to squirrel things away. It came from one of those online order companies that flash by on FB. I ordered a couple of things to see if the products were as good looking as they appeared.  I was surprised the overall quality. Well made, lightweight and perfect for outings where you don’t want to lug something heavy around.

I’m sorting out details on how to make sure the draw is random – first, no friends, relatives or relatives of friends will be eligible.  I’m testing a few randomizers out, mostly because I don’t want to collect email addresses and need an easy way to make sure the draw is fair. I also need to think about how to smack away the asinine spammers.

Initially, I thought it would be open to Toronto residents only because the bulk of the site is about Toronto. But I’m wavering on that. I’ll look into the logistics of shipping it abroad and let you know, plus how to enter (of course).

I’ll post better photos when I’ve sorted stuff out. Stay tuned for details.


I’m back baby & excuses, excuses, excuses

Time has not been kind lately. Between work and helping someone through cancer treatment and surgery, there just hasn’t been as much time as I wanted to post here. But … things are on the upswing and my friend is now safely at Bridgepoint rehab to gain their strength back and being prepared for home.  Bitter Grounds had to be put aside for awhile because there are some things that are more important than writing.

As of this week, I’ll be back on a partial posting schedule so look for new content. I have a ton of photos to share, I’ve begun plotting out the first Mapping Toronto field trip and I have been writing a number of articles in my little book so – I have content!

So what’s coming? Here’s a short list:

  • Review of the many new extensions showing up for Edge browser
  • A few Android app reviews
  • Review of Grammarly for Word
  • Meanderings about helping my friend during the last year.
  • Photos, photos, photos. I lugged the camera around much of the last month and was able to get some smashing ahora. Just sorting through them. You can wander over to my Instagram or Facebook page (link on the right) to see some of the photos
  • Going to restart posts about interesting finds at upcoming stamp auctions
  • Re-editing Dear Donna – I’ve finished the novel and redid a few chapters

If you look that way -> you’ll see a sight unseen by readers –  the real me. It was time to retire the venerable cat icon and give the magazine a far more personal feel.  It’s an older photo, but that’s one my friends will instantly recognize.  One day I’ll pop for a real haircut and stop shearing it off myself, but don’t hold your breath.  And no, that’s a good English ale in my hands, not an espresso.  Even I can’t handle that much caffeine.

Back in a day or two with new posts.