With an awesome new job on the horizon, one that not only encourages but demands regular reflection via blogging, I decided to take this weekend and get my digital house in order.
When I started building my portfolio last spring, I expected to run both that and my blog off my RyanBrazell.net. After a few months of living with the two intertwined, I realized that the theme I’d picked did lots of great things for the portfolio, but I didn’t like how it was treating my blog. So, I moved my portfolio off onto its own subdomain. I plan to keep it updated a couple of times each year with new projects, but for now it’s not my focus. I’m not 100% comfortable with asking visitors to my sites to navigate two completely different themes — it seems unnecessarily burdensome for visitors to figure out two different navigation schemes — so I will likely revisit this in the future.
Once the portfolio was moved, my next structural consideration was: how would I juggle contributing to two professional blogs, one at RyanBrazell.net, and one at LanguageLabUnleashed.org? In the spirit of taking ownership of my digital identity, it’s important for me to do the bulk of my blogging in my own digital space. But LLU is a really important space to me; I’ve been thinking and playing and putzing on that site since 2005 and it makes me really happy to work collaboratively with other really smart edtech folks in that space. I’m not willing to give that participation up.
Fortunately I don’t have to. I decided that all of my blogging will take place on RyanBrazell.net, but that I will syndicate posts to LLU. To do this, I’m using FeedWordPress to pull just those posts I tag in a certain way over to LLU. I also used FWP to turn off commenting on the syndicated post that appears on LLU. That way, discussions aren’t fractured by different visitors commenting in different places. In practice this setup should be pretty automatic now that it’s configured; this post will (er, should) be the first officially syndicated post from RyanBrazell.net to LLU. The one downside to using RSS for syndication is that I couldn’t make featured images work on the syndicated post. So I can either decide I don’t care about having my featured images on LLU, or I can just go and manually add the featured image to LLU each time I publish a post.
After syndication was set up, I started looking for a new theme for my blog, and came across Pinboard, based on Pinterest‘s user interface. I really like the way it handles featured images, that it’s responsive to browser width, and that it’s less linear than most WordPress themes. There are a couple of things I want to tweak; for instance, the excerpts on the front page don’t tell you when a post was published or whether there are any comments on a post (which perhaps is a good thing, given how infrequently I have posted in this space). But Pinboard comes with a series of formats for posts (standard, aside, gallery, link, image, etc) that I’m interested to explore, and perhaps I’ll wait to add metadata to the front page until I actually have some decent metadata to display
The last step in this weekend’s major infrastructure overhaul was finding a new theme for LLU. Barbara and I had been discussing how the current theme (we were using Arras) wasn’t really working for us, and that we were ready for a change, but neither of us had had time to do anything about it. So when I showed Barbara my new blog theme, she liked it, and we set out to find one that was similar but with a few more bells and whistles. We found another theme called Pinboard, also based on the Pinterest user interface, but with added features great for multi-author blogs (like gravatar hovercards and post metadata display on the front page), as well as the ability to change practically anything about the theme from the Dashboard (no theme hacking necessary!). Given how often we (well, one of us) like to change things up on that site, not having to worry about our changes being erased during a theme upgrade makes me rest a little easier as a site admin.
Lastly but not leastly, Barbara found an awesome and public domain barking dog icon on The Noun Project, and we decided to make it our new LLU “brand,” although it makes me feel a little gross to describe it in that way. Those of you who have followed LLU for a while know that we have always incorporated a dog (or dogs) into our theme; you may even remember the image of Large Marge that used to adorn our site back in the ’00s. We removed Marge from our site’s banner a while ago, but she was still on the LLU twitter feed. No more! This new pup is now our Twitter profile image, our favicon, and even hangs out at the bottom of the LLU homepage to greet anybody who makes it that far.
So! Two sites, both with new digs for a new season. I’m pretty excited about these changes, and am looking forward to blogging more regularly this spring and summer. Take a look around both RyanBrazell.net and LanguageLabUnleashed.org and let me know what you think — I’ll be interested to hear any thoughts you have about either space!