Reverting to the old theme…

I’m reverting to the old theme to see if I can fit some of the new features in it.

I agree the new theme was too whitespace-heavy, and comment nesting was not working out as well as I’d hoped. I haven’t been able to figure out how to get rid of the huge right margin on comment lists, which is the misfeature that annoys me most. By contrast, the serif font would have been easy to fix.

A significant reason comment nesting wasn’t working for me is that the administrative page doesn’t do it even when the main theme does. Thus, when commenters reacted naturally to the nesting by leaving out quotes, I could no longer follow threads.

The main reason I changed themes was to be able to support modular theme widgets, which is the newfangled way in WordPress to lay out sidebars and footers. Also, I was beginning to fear that changes in the underlying WordPress engine would break my theme, which is a custom variation of an old one called “Steam” from the 2.x version. (I changed it to be flexible to the browser size rather than having a fixed bounding box and padding, a design style I hate for both practical and philosophical reasons.)

Now I’ll try retrofitting widget support into my old theme (I call it “Live Steam”; the new one was a stock WordPress theme called TwentyEleven). Or, I might try finding a theme that already supports widgets and has a similar look and feel. The management regrets any inconvenience.

27 thoughts on “Reverting to the old theme…

  1. Agreed. I was very happy to see the old theme back this morning. Kind of like April 2nd on many sites ;^).

  2. …Hat is still firmly held onto top of head…

    I don’t mind, even though this commenting-style requires some work from the reader to both identify the replied-to-comment and read other replies to the comment.

  3. The web is overrated, usenet is clearly the optimal platform for blogging: get a vanity newsgroup, make yourself the moderator, and don’t let anyone but you start new threads. Now *that’s* threaded-comment support.

    Bah humbug.

  4. Thank you.

    I suspect that frustration reading the extremely narrow comments may have added some of the vituperation in the last thread.

  5. The web is overrated, usenet is clearly the optimal platform for blogging: get a vanity newsgroup, make yourself the moderator, and don’t let anyone but you start new threads. Now *that’s* threaded-comment support.

    Usenet also has the advantage that it’s not patent-encumbered (yet, that we know of); the Web, er, is.

  6. I think this is a good move. The new theme was really starting to annoy me.

  7. Has anyone else noticed that in this so-called “reverting” from the so-called “new theme”, to the so-called “old theme”, that, at the top of the page, the sinister glowing blue Eric Conspiracy pyramid is DE-LINKED, i.e., NO LONGER LINKED? Do you think that this is a mere accident? Or, as seems far more likely, is it only meant to *appear* as if it is an accident? Can it be that one of the driving minds behind the Open-Source Software movement, with an IQ likely well in excess of 100, has overlooked such a seemingly subtle change? I THINK NOT! Thus, almost certainly, this de-liking must be intentional! This raises the obvious question: WHY? WHY?? WHY??? WHY has the pyramid been de-linked? Why indeed! Just what the bloody hell is going on? What nefarious intentions lie behind such seemingly subtle, yet obviously transparently opaque de-linking? And more alarmingly, what does it portend for the very future of mankind? Grave issues indeed. Discuss …

  8. >the sinister glowing blue Eric Conspiracy pyramid is DE-LINKED

    Ah, thanks for the bug report. This was indeed an accident, and has to do with some state that got lost while I was Ia! Ia! Cthulhu fhthagn! Ia! Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn!

  9. Another problem with the new theme was that everyone’s names were really small (at least in the latest version of Firefox).

  10. The one thing I’ll miss from the new theme is that the Armed And Dangerous title was a link to the home page.

  11. A question and an observation. First, the site appears in sans-serif on both the old and new themes on FF3.6; are people really seeing it in serif or are they just confused as to which it is? Note that when I turn off page style in the menu, I see it in serif on FF.

    Second, I learned something valuable from your experiment, about turning off page style. Even with this theme, it is an improvement – better text density (more lines per page), more readable font, and I get comment numbers which I had wished for in a comment over a year ago.

  12. @William B Swift, using Chrome’s element inspector, the computed style for text on Windows was “Times New Roman.” On the reverted theme, the font-family is “‘Bitstream Vera Sans’, ‘Lucida Grande’, Verdana, Arial, sans-serif,” which I’m guessing devolves to Verdana for most Windows users. I assure you I can tell the difference between a seriffed font and the opposite, and I know what TNR looks like vice Verdana. :)

  13. >and I get comment numbers which I had wished for in a comment over a year ago.

    WTF? That must mean the CSS is actually suppressing them. I will investigate.

  14. @William B Swift

    First, the site appears in sans-serif on both the old and new themes on FF3.6; are people really seeing it in serif or are they just confused as to which it is?

    Usually I use Safari, and in that browser the new theme certainly had some sort of sans-serif font. I then opened it up in Chrome (where I am using a javascript-suppressing extension) and the font had serifs (Times, I think). I am therefore wondering whether the theme was (for some unknown reason) using javascript to change the font.

  15. @esr

    WTF? That must mean the CSS is actually suppressing them.

    I don’t see how. If you look at the page source there are no comment numbers. As far as I know CSS can make page content not display, but it can’t actually remove it from the HTML.

    Or am I wrong?

  16. Ah.

    I see what’s happening. The CSS in question is:

    .commentlist li
    {
    margin: 15px 0 3px;
    padding: 5px 10px 3px;
    list-style: none;
    }

    list-style: none

    The ‘comment numbers’ we see without the CSS are actually popping up because each comment is a list item in a numbered list. Usually list items are numbered, but this is being suppressed with “list-style: none;”

  17. >The ‘comment numbers’ we see without the CSS are actually popping up because each comment is a list item in a numbered list.

    Sad. I don’t think that’s a solution. The problem is that I sometimes do delete comments, so references to these numbers could become invalid. What we need is a persistent per-comment sequence number.

    The most common case of this is when someone makes a markup error and notes that fact in a followup comment. I’ll often fix the markup, then delete the followup.

    Another common case is when someone notes that akismet has binned a comment they submitted. My usual policy is to approve the comment and delete the note.

    (I also, occasionally, fix obvious typos. That wouldn’t affect comment numbering.)

  18. @esr

    Sad. I don’t think that’s a solution. The problem is that I sometimes do delete comments, so references to these numbers could become invalid. What we need is a persistent per-comment sequence number.

    Yeah, it’s not robust.

    There *are* actually comment numbers, but they are not revealed in the HTML. The number of your last comment is 371271, for example. The comment numbers appear to be chronological across all your blog posts, not just within a single post.

    I have no real experience with PHP or WordPress, but it should be possible to change the template in such a way as to make the numbers visible.

  19. Move the “Meta” box above the home bar? Then expand the text, replies, etc space leftward?

  20. It is trivial to include the comment ID in the HTML, if the global comment ID is acceptable. The WP tag is comment_ID(); it’s already in use to create the anchor portion of the URL link to individual comments.

    WordPress doesn’t have per-post comment IDs, though, so that’d take writing a plugin.

  21. also, the email follow-up notifications suffer from most of the same problems, and look terrible on phones. see e.g. a recent once as displayed on my iPhone. all the same stuff—enormous margins, bad typography, etc., made worse by mobile constraints: the tiny font (.8 em, if i’m reading the CSS correctly) is almost unreadable; the margins waste extremely valuable screen space, the bloated header and footer waste more space and slow down the reception of the mail considerably, there are multiple images (!) involved in rendering the email, etc.

  22. >Sad. I don’t think that’s a solution. The problem is that I sometimes do delete comments, so references to these numbers could become invalid. What we need is a persistent per-comment sequence number.

    It’s good enough for what I wanted, just a quick way to locate where I stopped reading in the comments when I come back to them.

    Since the list would be dynamically re-numbered (from what little I know of html), wouldn’t the numbering stay the same if you just inserted a dummy comment when you delete one?

  23. >wouldn’t the numbering stay the same if you just inserted a dummy comment when you delete one?

    The whole point of deleting the comments is to get obtrusive junk out of the stream. And you want me to put it back in?

  24. @William B. Swift

    Since the list would be dynamically re-numbered (from what little I know of html), wouldn’t the numbering stay the same if you just inserted a dummy comment when you delete one?

    Pretty ugly.

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