Minor Tweaks and Minimal Tweets

Yeah, this blog has pretty much been a wasteland lately – no new posts of any great shakes, and a whole lot of “weekly tweets” auto-posts… BOR-RRING! So based on something ***Dave said the other day, clearly it seemed like a good time to look at getting a better process for doing more actual blog posts here, even if they might be shorter.

This all stems from the change in my ability to blog from work during “slow time” or times when I’m not busy and just waiting for an incoming call. As I think I’ve blogged earlier it’s really cut down on the volume AND QUALITY of posts; and leaving it all for the weekend or the evenings just hasn’t been working that well.

Although I was initially excited by the advent of the Express App for the iPhone, which works with the WooTumblog plugin, I quickly discovered it was lacking a couple of features.

The first one was the lack of a bookmarklet, to make it behave a bit like Press This Reloaded so that I could pick  up a link and a quote from a given page.

The second was that when I managed to implement the WooTumblog plugin, the “quote” template had a “source” field that to my mind was clearly meant for a URL to cite, but actually it was just a link to the post title URL… of the post the reader was… already reading.

So I put the attractive, easy to use Express App button on a lower page on my iPhone, and went back to trying to get the occasional link to work with Press This Reloaded (which works fine on the iPad, but barely or not at all on the iPhone due to weird things that happen to URLs on the mobile phone).

I’d occasionally go looking for solutions, and run across posts like this one where clearly, I was not the only one longing for a kick-ass bookmarklet for WordPress from the iPhone (and you’ll notice I don’t mention using the official WordPress app, which is… pretty telling, don’t you think?).

When Matt Mullenweg announced the live version of WordPress 3.1, he said, “There’s a bucket of candy for developers as well, including our new Post Formats support which makes it easy for themes to create portable tumblelogs with different styling for different types of posts…”

And there are some really promising Themes ready to carry out that task, including Wumblr, Lightbright, and from WooThemes,  Auld, each of which do a great job of taking advantage of this new post format feature. Auld distinguishes itself already by taking advantage of a slew of “Tumblog” utilities that WooThemes has provided for some time now, including Express App for iPhone, extensive multimedia support, and their advanced QuickPress funtionality that is built into the theme.

The good folks at WooThemes have made their Tumblog Plugin available to everyone. And their documentation on what to do to make your blog tumblog read is extensive. So, you can tune any theme to take advantage of the power of the new WordPress 3.1 features. The Tumblog plugin automatically enables their QuickPress widget. Combine that with their Express App and you’ve just taken a huge leap toward the ease of use that distinguishes platforms like Tumblr and Posterous.

Here’s the problem. Something is missing.

All of that is excellent, but  the main reason why I’ve been excited for the release of WordPress 3.1 is the hope that it wouldn’t require me to run to so many different sources for plugins and widgets to get to this kind of functionality. The problem? Something is still missing. It’s a better bookmarklet.

And then in my feed I ran across a reference to a new, paid WordPress theme from WooThemes called Canvas (their stuff does look nice, for all that most of the themes are pay and not free). This new theme was newly updated to work with the Express App/Woo Tumblog plugin out of the box, and I started thinking that maybe it might be time to do a revamp on the site a little.

Canvas is highly customizable and has a very simple process for changing  style elements and post types on the fly. Even a skilled webslinger finds it’s flexible enough to work with on a complex project. There are a number of “how to customize Canvas” videos that made it look quite easy and even fun to customize the appearance and make it “your own.”

So then I signed up for a 2 week “trial play period” at WooThemes and set up a test blog using Canvas, and realized “Oh, right, that thing that bothered me about Express App/WooTumblog still bothers me.”

After tinkering with the look of the test blog, I started realizing that I could probably make a theme with Canvas look pretty much like the current theme does here, probably also with the image rotator from my “best in show” Flickr set.

This made me really ponder the $70 purchase price (it includes two free themes) and think it might be worth it anyway, but just in case there was a chance of getting something better working, I sent a query via the Express App website, mentioning my two suggestions.

Much to my surprise yesterday (the Saturday of a holiday weekend no less), I got this reply back within an hour:
Hi Ginny, I’m sorry you have issues with Express, but we’re here to help so let me answer your questions.

1. By bookmarklet, do you mean one for your desktop browser, or one for Safari on the iPhone? For the later, I plan on adding something like similar in the future, but I don’t know when.

2. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to add a link to a quote from Express. I plan on adding it soon though. The ‘source’ field is actually for the author. What I can do, if you don’t need the author field, is to make a custom version of the WooTumblog plugin (just for you), that uses the ‘source’ field for the URL, until I release an update of Express that supports the quote URL. Would you be okay with this? Oli Kenobi Studios

I replied back with more information, examples, and a link to that “better bookmarklet is needed” blogpost, and earlier today (on a SUNDAY morning, even) I had a custom WooTumblog plugin (Oli is the programmer) that behaves more like a “quote/cite URL” template the way I wanted it. He cautioned me not to update the plugin after it was installed (my husband David, who’s written a plugin himself, installed it).

And… ta DAH, it’s working! This makes the Express App much more of a viable option for those times during the day when I want to grab a quick link AND a quote and blog it without too much fuss. I don’t mind that there’s currently no tagging or categories, but I’m told that this has a higher priority than my other “wish,” which was an easy 1-button bookmarklet. As it is, I have a two-stage process that’s simpler and easier than struggling with WordPress with Press This Reloaded, which only shows me my quicktag and HTML tab (which is okay) but rarely formats the URL AND the quote correctly.

I can work with this, I can blog more.

Now as for other kinds of content, I’ve got a big backlog of photos from our Washington State trip to upload to Flickr, and I’ll be able to blog some of them pretty easily too – and videos now and then, too.

Hooray for Express App… and maybe sometime soon, hooray for a revamped Blogula Rasa with a spiffy new WooThemes look.

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