Visitors to Via Negativa in the last few hours may have noticed some differences. I’m experimenting with a new theme (that’s the design template, for you non-WordPressers) which, though very similar to the old theme in looks, differs substantially under the hood. If you use an iPad, netbook, Kindle, iPhone, Android, or other small-screened computer-like thing, you should find that the site scales down without making you scroll horizontally. I can only simulate the effect by shrinking the window on my desktop, but here’s what happens: the sidebar content shifts down below the main content, and more impressively, the header image and all other images and videos shrink proportionally. Impressive, eh? This is called responsive design, and it is a step beyond the flexible designs of yesteryear, which tended to result in overlapping or squashed images (which is why I always went for fixed-width themes). I’d be interested in any and all feedback on this from those of you who actually browse the web on these newfangled mobile devices.
In other news, for those who missed my note on Facebook this morning, the photoblog is back at the old address with a new name, Woodrat photohaiku, and a new photo to celebrate. I decided to move it to WordPress.com, which means that the four main sites on the Via Negativa network are all back online, split between three different webhosts. Never again will I put all my eggs in one basket.
I also feel I’m a lot closer to diagnosing and thus solving the problems that caused me to get shut down repeatedly at my old hosting company, thanks to the excellent documentation at Dreamhost, where Via Negativa now resides. Turns out that even with top-of-the-line page-caching and spam-stopping plugins, a blizzard of comment and trackback spam can still cause CPU usage to go through the roof, because every time someone (or some bot) enters a comment, it refreshes the cache. I don’t know if this was the whole of my problem, but it certainly might explain those mysterious CPU spikes at 2:00 in the morning. So I’ve turned off all trackbacks, turned off comments on posts older than one month (which really pains me), and am experimenting with new plugins that cache things differently.
The funny thing is, I almost miss those 1.8 million spam comments that had accumulated in Via Negativa’s old database. I had always felt a perverse sense of accomplishment seeing the numbers mount on my dashboard, figuring that since Aksimet caught 99.9% of them, they were a harmless, occasionally amusing annoyance. If only I’d known.
Sorry for all the WordPress-related stuff here lately, by the way, but I don’t want you all to think that I’ve been idle! The truth is, I was mulling over switching to a responsive design a week ago, just before disaster struck, so making these changes makes me feel as if a week of poor sleeping and flailing around like a weak swimmer in a sea of code has been redeemed.