If posting has seemed a little less frequent here lately, that’s because I’ve been adding some new indexing features to the site, trying to improve access to the voluminous Via Negativa archives. Some of these changes will be obvious to anyone who’s visted the site regularly. First, I reorganized the way I link to favorite posts. Now there’s a box in the sidebar with links to ten random “Best of Via Negativa” posts that change everytime you refresh the page, with a link below to a complete archive of favorites in reverse chronological order. It took a while to tag all those old posts, but I think this is a big improvement over the former system, where direct links to favorite posts were two clicks away in yearly compendiums.
Second, I’ve just substituted paged navigation for the default “Next” and “Previous” links at the bottoms of pages. This not only helps one move more rapidly through the various types of archives, it also removes the confusion about whether “next” means “older” or “newer.” The need to avoid such confusion was especially urgent because of my implementation of a third feature: a new way of indexing and displaying series that includes archival pages in proper chronological order, so one can read through a series of posts in the order they were written. At present, I’m using a sidebar box to display links to series, too (in the future, I might simply link to a series index page).
These changes have involved a lot of editing of old posts to add new tags — a very easy but also very time-consuming thing to do. I also finished putting all my old “Words on the Street” cartoons into the sub-category of the same name (under Humor). The only problem there is that some of the oldest cartoons have disappeared, because I hosted them on ImageShack, which apparently cleans out its servers every few years. I have copies of all the cartoons on my hard drive, but I never kept records of which ones I posted on which dates.
If anyone’s interested in the plugins behind these changes, I’ve just updated the Credits page. I learned about the Organize Series plugin from a review at Weblog Tools Collection last week and downloaded it immediately. The possibility of a third taxonomy in addition to tags and categories was pretty exciting, and it works O.K. out of the box, but if you’re interested in using it on your own self-hosted WordPress blog, beware that changing the styling is very much a hands-on operation. And depending on your theme, the series index page (which I’m not using here yet) may not display properly; it didn’t for me. Major fenagling with PHP files was required to make that part of it work.
There are a couple other, minor problems with the plugin, too, but its approach to the problem of organizing and presenting series is revolutionary, and I’m sure with all the attention it’s receiving, the developer will get a lot of help in ironing out the rough spots. I’m certainly hoping for its mass adoption as an indispensible plugin, because that’s really the only way to ensure that a given plugin will still be around and compatible with the latest versions of WordPress five years from now. If not, future readers of the Via Negativa archives will probably wonder what the hell I was so excited about.
Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave’s writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the “share alike” provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).