New Theme: Comments

We're customizing a new theme. Feel free to add your constructive feedback, positive or negative, to the comments below!

In case you're interested, the theme I'm tweaking is Hueman by Alexander Agnarson, and he has released it (in exchange for acts of kindness) under the commendable WTF Public License.


In the coming days, we'll be revisiting our venerable logo to make it larger and jauntier in the new theme. We'll also be making minor refinements and major changes as we discover things not to our liking. Feel free to add your thoughts by commenting!

Glitch in the matrix

Traffic during the past 48 hours

Traffic during the past 48 hours

After 4 hours, the server came back to life. The ISP's customer service representative sent a note to explain that (a) they could not find a problem and didn't know what we were on about, and (b) they fixed it and were glad to help.

Hold that thought…

Simple comment bookmarking!

Thanks to lurker (and friend of the 'hat) Tony H. for providing a handy Javascript utility that allows readers of the site to mark their place among the comments and resume reading at that juncture. Tony rolled it for his own use, but was kind enough to share.

In the lower-right corner of each comment, you'll see a pushpin icon. If you click it, the browser will silently set a cookie remembering your place. Next time you visit that page of comments, look for the corresponding pushpin right at the top of the Comments section. Click it, and you'll scroll right down to the comment you previously marked (if it's on the present page).

That should allow you to pay attention to more weighty matters, such as correcting whoever's wrong on the internet!

I have altered the blog

Pray that I alter it further.

In the meantime, be sure to express your opinion in the comment field enhancement post.

I have implemented the following features for now:

  • A preview pane that appears below the comment field as you type and shows you how your comment will appear after you submit it.
  • A 5-minute timeout allowing you to edit your comment in case the preview pane betrays you.
  • New HTML tags, including <table> and <tr> and <td> and <ul> and <li>.
  • Clearer explanatory text below the comment field.
  • Top Commenters by Volume (as measured in decibels) in the sidebar.

Next Time You Are Unexpectedly Banned

Dear y'all,

We're using WordPress. From time to time, we have tinkered with caching software. At the moment, we're using none because we enjoy our banning software more, and cache seldom plays nicely with ban. Our server also offers caching for interpreted php modules, but we've turned that off. None of the other plugins we employ makes conspicuous use of caching, and we're presently not (knowingly) relying on a CDN. (The server bills at a flat rate, not by the mile.)

Nevertheless, folks occasionally report that they're encountering a ban notice on the front page or on a given post. Typically, these are not folks we've banned (whether directly or by ip range). So far, the false ban message seems to affect only, say, 5 visitors in 20k.

In every case, we've asked these victims of technology to clear their browser's cache and to revisit the site. In every case, this has worked.

We're currently investigating whether the hosting provider employs a pagespeed or caching module in their preconfigured, managed web server. We're also probing the logs to see whether the false bans happen to follow closely on attempted visits from folks actually banned. Meanwhile, if you suddenly find yourself banned and have no reason to think you deserve it, then go ahead and force a reload (CTRL + F5 on Windows; Apple+R or AzaleaBlossom+R on Mac; F5 or CTRL+F5 or meta+F5 on Linux) and see whether that fixes the problem. More aggressively, go to your browser's settings and explicitly delete your local web cache (Option+AzaleaBlossom E on Mac).

Once we're done troubleshooting and making this annoyance go away, I'll report back. And of course, if you're comfortable with the Dreamhost/Debian/Apache/Wordpress stack, feel free to make troubleshooting suggestions in the comments below!

Rethinking the blogroll

We're rethinking and reworking the blogroll to your left. It's a work in progress. Right now the categories are utterly borked. I'll post more when I'm closer to done.

State of the Hat

It's been more than six months since we re-launched Popehat and I decided to make a more serious effort at it by making blogging my primary hobby. I would have enjoyed it even if we had gotten no traffic; the daily writing exercise is fun and challenging (with occasional exceptions when it seems like a chore) and good training. The camaraderie with my co-bloggers is also well worth the effort.

However, we have substantially increased traffic. This weekend we passed 1000 people who had signed up for our RSS feed. More than 500 of those have signed up in the last two months alone. I have no idea how many of those are actually reading the damn thing, but the could if they wanted. We're routinely getting 500 – 800 visits per day on weekdays and 300 – 400 on weekends. Some of those are people visiting multiple times and not filtered by our software, but it's still well more than a handful. Our visitors have come from 82 different countries in the last month. An increasing number are coming here for the first time through referring links from a wider variety of blogs and forums, and more and more are coming through varied and increasingly bizarre searches.

Why does this matter? That's a good question. There's certainly a strong element of ego. It's easier to stay up another hour at night making sure you have a few posts in the can for the next day if you know hundreds of people will be checking to see if you wrote anything new. But there's also a community element. Incoming links lead me to new sites that will provide fodder for interesting posts in the future. New people bring interesting new perspectives, both on the front page and in the forums. And as more people read, more people send us links and stories for the front page, which are always appreciated.

In short, I think we're making a real go of it, and growing from a personal blog that only a dozen people read to a modest blog with a community. I appreciate the contributions of my co-bloggers, which include both front page posts and substantial help on the technical side of things.

More Regarding Octopus Overlords

This post is intended to act as a sort of sonar ping into the web rather than to provide substantive information, but members of the Octopus Overlords forum and community who are interested in its fate should visit the site.  It isn't back up yet, but there is an update on the front page which is highly encouraging of a return to operation in a very short time.  It appears Rip has resolved his server problems, and only database transfer remains.

More encouraging news comes from Zack in our forum, who had sites with the same provider.  Zack informs us that both of his sites are back online.