Stupid Spammer

I may not get a lot of actual comments here, but I do get my fair share of comment spam. The point usually is to be able to place a link to some other site here in order to raise their search engine ranking. They don’t really care about this site, or conversation about it; they’re just using it to increase their PageRank. Others use the comment queue to send me messages, mostly about scummy ways to improve my own search engine standings*.

Some of them are just blatant about it, but others are a little more… circumspect? …devious? They consist of a couple of sentences of very generic comments, that often sound complimentary, but don’t really have any relationship to the subject at hand, in hopes that the spam will be accepted as an actual comment.

I moderate every comment. I get an email for every comment that the system doesn’t recognize as spam, read it, and either release it or mark it as spam. In addition, I look at my comment spam from time to time, and if I recognize patterns, I add them to the block list, which will automatically mark the comments as spam. From time to time I check the spam folder, and see something that the system marked automatically. I just saw a lulu.

This comment is a pipe-delimited list of generic comments – the spammer robot was supposed to only post one per comment, but pooped the whole thing into one posting. Here is is (stripped of the links they were trying to plant)

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*Note to spammers selling SEO services: I don’t give a rat’s ass about my search engine rankings. If my content isn’t good enough for the search engines to find it, it doesn’t deserve to be found.

New Year, New Look

Just in time for the new year, I’ve revamped the appearance of the site. This is something I’ve been wanting to do since I first set up the site, but I had the notion that I needed to create a whole new theme, and was very slowly working my way through a WordPress book.

As it turns out, that wasn’t necessary. WordPress supports child themes–it isn’t necessary to create a whole new theme, you can simply override the parts of an existing theme that you want to. In this case, I’m basing my theme on the default TwentyEleven theme I was already using.

I’d fallen in love with the theme’s header image feature, and had already created some really nice banners from some of my pictures. But I wanted more color, I wanted to play with web fonts, and I wanted an appearance that was mine.

Typography

The fonts I’m now using are Museo Slab for the titles and Museo Sans for the main body text. Right now, I’m using TypeKit to provide them. One thing I’m less than crazy about is that you need to add a script to bring them in, and they’re hosted by TypeKit. I need to look into self-hosting them.

Backgrounds

The main blue background is a PNG gradient applied to the HTML (root) element, with the “words” as a repeating PNG image applied to the BODY element. I’m of two minds about this background, from an accessibility standpoint. On the one hand, they’re meant to denote some of my interests, which would indicate that that some programmatically determinable method should be available. On the other hand, they’re meant to be decorative and kind of subliminal, and not to be really read. They’re not in a meaningful order, and in fact, you can’t see them all. They’re almost just texture. In the end, this is the line of thought I’ve followed.

The other gradients are created via CSS, using code based on ColorZilla’s Ultimate CSS Gradient Generator.

HTML Changes

Most of the generated HTML is still straight TwentyEleven. During development, I had to replace the stylesheet link with a hard coded link to my development site– WordPress is absolutely bloody-minded about using absolute links, which makes things needlessly complicated when you’re developing on a development domain. The one HTML change I’ve made so far is to add a little markup to facilitate the “posted on” calendar, which I implemented via a filter in my child theme.

One other change I want to implement in the future (hopefully, near future) is to provide alternative text for the header image. Surprisingly, the stock theme only provides an empty alt attribute with no easy way to add alternative text, and from what little I saw on the support forums last night, this was a design decision–I gather the feeling is that they regard the header image as being strictly decorative, and want to head off keyword stuffing. I can see that, but I can also see a site creating header images that include text, which would need alternative text. In my case, I’d like to add alternative text indicating what the header is a picture of, and it would even be nice to add a little visible caption with that information.

Browser Support

The site looks great in Safari, Opera, Chrome, and current Mozilla browsers like Firefox or Camino. I’ve looked at it in IE 7 and 8, and it looks good in those browsers too, though it’s missing some of the niceties like text embossing and rounded corners.  I haven’t seen it yet in IE 9. I am aware of an issue in older Mozilla browsers — the typography is missing, as is the gray background at the top, due to a bug in the way those browsers dealt with unknown elements. (The site uses some of the new HTML 5 features). The site is still readable, though, and the work-around– serving the site to Mozilla as text/xml– is risky, since one misplaced entity or malformed comment or post would blow the page out of the water. In the end, I’ve decided to accept that older Gecko based browsers won’t see as nice a presentation of the site. Fortunately, usage of these browsers is well under 1%.

Update 1/4/12:

I’ve now seen it in IE 9, and of course, IE Is Being IE. Earlier versions of Internet Explorer don’t support rounded corners, but IE 9 does. Unfortunately, since I was using an IE filter style to provide the top gray gradient, there were square corners poking out of the header. Apparently, it can’t clip the rounded corners when using older filter styles. I’ve replaced that gradient with an image; which took care of the problem.

Future Plans

As I stated above, I’d like to add alternative text/captioning to the header images, and I may add a little control to the home page enabling the user so rotate through the images without reloading the page. I also need to look into a widget to display tweets (I’m @ShutterAperture on Twitter). I will be adding an About page, and uploading and providing links to some of my older static pages that I was hosting either on Comcast when I was using them, or MobileMe. And in two weeks, I’ll be heading to Bonaire for a week of diving, and am looking forward to blogging about that.

Happy New Year, everyone.

 

Puttering Around

I’m finally starting to get some ideas of how I want this thing to look. I started messing around some in Photoshop and BBEdit tonight to play with an idea I had for the look of the site, which is rather different from the way I normally put a site together at work.

At work, I’m almost always handed a finished Photoshop document, and asked to make the site look as close to the Photoshop document as I can. With a static site, I can generally come pretty close, and do my best to execute the design as closely as I can. With a dynamic site, I do what I can, but the software often places constraints on what you can do– if the HTML structure output by the software, which is pre-written– doesn’t match the design, there’s not much you can do. It’s also been my experience that some designers include features that the software doesn’t support.

For this site, I’m starting to get a sense of what I want to look like, and I’m mocking it up statically on my local machine. Instead of creating the whole design in Photoshop, I’m just creating bits and bobs, then trying out the CSS directly in BBEdit, locally. There’s nothing here on the site to see yet.

The other consideration is making the thing work with WordPress. I have a lot of experience at work, skinning dynamic systems, but that has been on systems that I did a lot of work on myself, and in ColdFusion. I’m going to have to learn how to do things The WordPress Way, and I’m going to have to pick up a little PHP too. And part of the process is going to be to find out what kinds of goodies I have to play around with in this environment. But that’s part of the attraction too.