Experimenting with Tags

So, new versions of WordPress support “tags.” Which seem like an interesting way to categorize things – and handy, too. I’ve been able to go back and categorize all my posts on “REAL ID” with a tag so they can be quickly found. Although tagging is not 100% awesome – there are some quirks to it. And I’m still figuring them out, so bear with me – you may see my “tag cloud” on the sidebar change suddenly.

Again with the new theme

Once again, I have changed the theme of this blog… in terms of the visual style, anyway.

Once again, I have changed the theme of this blog… in terms of the visual style, anyway.

If you’ve seen some of the pictures in my Flickr sidebar lately, you would notice that I’ve got sort of a “red” theme going on in my office. Well, now my blog matches my office.

Is that wrong?

I’ve modified the theme a bit, of course. I’m a strong believer in having links be underlined… something that some people don’t do, in the name of style. I understand, of course, but I still think links should be underlined, so I hack any template I use to underline links. And to make sure that visited links have a different (and recognizable) color variation from unvisited links. Let’s just say I’ve read a thing or two on web usability and leave it at that.

Still, I like it. I think I’ll keep this one around for a while.

An unusual form of comment spam

My article from the other day attracted a lot of “trackback” spam. Weird.

My post yesterday about older games seems to have attracted some attention – but in this case, of the negative kind. This morning I logged on to find a bunch of new comments – except they all looked somehow… odd. Turns out they were all from throw-away blogs (fake blogs set up to increase search engine rankings) that had done a “trackback” to my article. Some of them quoted just a bit of it (to make it relevant in Google’s eyes, I suppose) and one even went so far as to try and look like a legitimate link – except they used the wrong name! (They said “I’d have to agree with this post by Kevin B.”)

Very strange – and this is the first time I’ve seen stuff like this show up in the comments. Has anyone else ever seen such comment spam? Is this a new phenominon, or is it just old stuff that I have been lucky enough to avoid thus far?

Yet Another New Theme

Another new blog them – how long will this one last?

Although the themes I use are often quite good (after I’ve tweaked them just so), none seem to really fit perfectly – and of course, my tastes change over time. Still, it’s a fair bit easier to tweak a theme than to write one from scratch.

So, we’ll see how long this theme lasts. I kind of like it – the colors are a departure from what I normally would use, and that’s a good thing. If you like it, or if you hate it – let me know!

On WordPress Sponsored Themes

There’s a debate raging in the WordPress community at the moment, regarding the idea of “Sponsored Themes.”

There’s a debate raging in the WordPress community at the moment. (In case you didn’t know, WordPress is the blog software used to run this and literally hundreds of thousands of other sites.) The debate centers around the idea of “Sponsored Themes.”

In a nutshell, a “Sponsored Theme” is one that has links in the footer to sites other than the author’s site (as in, neither the blog author or the theme author). Links like “Free web hosting” or “poker secrets” or what not. In other words, spam. Generally, sponsored themes say (although the legal ground for this is probably not valid) that you can’t remove these links if you want to use the theme. So what happens is, your (hopefully) popular blog starts using a nice new theme, and because you are a popular site with links to these other “sponsored” sites, you are effectively “giving” them a boost in search engine ranking. (You should read up on how Google’s PageRank works for more details on why this works.)

They’re called “sponsored” because the theme author is generally paid to make the theme and embed the links. (Alternatively, the sites being linked to will make the theme themselves and release it.) So there’s money involved. And we all know what happens when money gets involved… or more importantly, when money is the only thing involved.

However, the WordPress community has expressed its dislike of this trend. Not because of people making money – but because of people making money unscrupulously. In other words, the WordPress community is being moral about it. And that just warms my heart – because when money gets involved, typically morals (or moral judgments) go right out the window. But not in this case! Hurrah! Way to go, WordPress!

So, at the moment, it looks like all sponsored themes will be removed from the WordPress Theme Viewer – although people can still make and distribute sponsored themes, they just won’t be able to do so on the (free) WordPress Theme Viewer site. Which makes sense, in a moral way.

My personal take on all this is that I don’t like sponsored themes and I won’t use them. The only level of sponsorship I will accept is the requirement from a Creative Commons licensed work that requires attribution – which only applies to the author of the theme. As you can see on my site here, I leave the link to the original theme author’s site intact. (Depending on what theme I’m using at the moment, I may add text such as “modified by Keith M. Survell,” as I do sometimes heavily modify the themes I use.)

So all-in-all, I’m glad to see this happen. A good compromise between the drive for money (making sponsored themes) and the ethical considerations of surprising users with links to (sometimes shady) sites that they can’t remove (which causes Google to view their page as also somewhat shady).