Summer 2008

Well, my goodness, we don’t usually fall behind this far in updating What’s New. For Summitlake news and new articles across all our “departments”, we do rely on “At a Glance – Last Modified” on our home index page. We hope you do too.

We have new articles this summer in Commentary, Computers, La Parola, Miscellany, and Writing Notes. I’m mining all this from “At A Glance”. The menus in those departments show all the most recent postings.

Swan is still sending his delightful photo compositions in Photo Notes. I have a few new photos there too, including a couple of Washington state’s celebrated Mt. St. Helens. Fred Leeds has posted 10 more chapters as he wraps up Mutual I, in Writing. Oddly, I haven’t posted anything in my own My Notes since June – much of what I’m writing relates to what I’m reading, so that has all been going into Writing Notes instead.

Our index page counter seems to be stuck on 1,780,738 site visits (Feb 7). There is always something new to maintain on the site. We’ll do our best to keep those articles coming too. Cheers!

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Additions and Updates

Under the hood, we’ve been busy. We’re starting conversion of Computers & Technology. As with other departments, this is an intensely manual process, one page at a time. We’re proceeding more or less alphabetically, and have a nebulous goal of completing even the Writing department by the end of 2008.

Schema: Generally, old HTML web pages of “about a page or so” length get converted into a WordPress “post”, sorted by original publication date. Indexing is done on the department page itself, by “Category”, “most recent”, “Tag clouds”, or the ever-popular Search field.

Old multi-page HTML “books” (framesets linking several related pages in a major or feature article) do not get converted. Instead, links to them are provided within WordPress as “Pages” in the right-hand menu.

“Tag Clouds” are features that exploit a WordPress  function allowing the author to assign descriptive “tags” to articles. They can be much more specific than “Categories”, functioning more like “keywords” to assist in categorizing and searching for articles in related topics, like “audio”, “disasters”, “dubious spokespersons”, and so forth. Each Department has its own set of Tags and Categories, and functions independently from other departments. Tag collections are called “Clouds” because more frequently used tags are presented in a larger font. Rarely-used Tags are presented in a small font.

Not all departments will use Tags;  Tags don’t make a lot of sense for “What’s New” for example as “Categories” are more than specific enough. We started using Tags in “Photo Notes”. We found it really useful for finding photos by topic – especially since photo postings don’t have a lot of searchable text!

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‘Miscellany’ Converting to WordPress

We weren’t going to add a ninth WordPress department, but I’ve been eying several objectionable issues with fancy old HTML features. Finally, it seemed easier to convert Miscellany than fix the old pages.

At this writing (Saturday December 15), all HTML Miscellany pages have been converted to WordPress in the new Miscellany. Links have been converted. If you do find links to the old Miscellany index page, they are being redirected to the new page. The old pages will go away soon as part of normal housekeeping.

Let’s review how you can locate a WordPress page in any department. The Miscellany link above is constructed so that it will open a new browser window. You can read this and practice with the new Miscellany page at the same time. Click the link.

Under Pages (right hand menu), find:

  • Articles
  • Recent Posts

Articles lists all WordPress articles for this department. It is broken out by category. Recent Posts usually shows only the last five of those.

Under Archives, WordPress has compiled listings for posts by month and year. Let’s say you read a wacky article on making a Squirrel Detector. You don’t remember the article name and can’t figure out how one would categorize this one. But you do remember reading it in about May of 2005. You could find Home-Made Squirrel Detector this way.

Under Category, we made WordPress break out listings by how we categorized our posts. Click the link for Puzzles to see all the puzzles we’ve posted to Miscellany. Click the link to Tobaccos to see all the experiments we’ve posted on custom pipe tobacco blends.

Astronomy Department

Astronomy was created anew as a WordPress department some time ago. New posts are all done in WordPress. We are converting the older HTML content to WordPress. Their indexing will start to appear in the WordPress Astronomy page. As this occurs, you will find older pages showing up in WordPress with categories and older Archive dates going back to 2003. Some pages (like the exposure calculation tables) show up as “Pages” links in the menu. When we’re done, there will be no more HTML indexes, and we can finally remove the blue button that lists HTML pages in hybrid HTML/WordPress departments.

Retro-conversion of other departments will probably take years, but the result should be a more consistent and easier to navigate site. The nifty cgi HTML page auto-lists will largely become a thing of the past, but in exchange, you’re getting listings that not only give you file names, but dates and article excerpts to better help browse

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