I fell down a rabbit hole today — originally I was looking for a blog widget for my linkedin account.  The Linkedin blog has a few they are testing and the site itself has some very plain ones — but none were quite right.  At 300 px for a blog sidebar badge, the test ones aren’t going to work. However, this quest got me thinking about my blog theme — 3 columns seems a bit much.  I tend to use my blog as a testing ground, but over the past year it was resembling not so much a blog as the Las Vegas strip.

So I started the quest for a unique WordPress blog theme – widget-ready, 2 columns, reasonable level of customisation.  I ended up finding inexpensive software that allowed me to create my own.

artisteer

Artisteer (http://www.artisteer.com), created by Extensoft (http://extensoft.com) , allowed me to create a standards-compliant WordPress theme with a drag and drop interface that was fun and really easy to use. At this writing, the software cost $US50 for a home/educational version for one user (you can use on one desktop and one laptop computer).  It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of the standard version, but will certainly do the trick for me.  Pros can buy the full version for $125 and they company is planning to release an editor for Joomla and Drupal along with Blogger, Sharepoint and other CMS packages. I had to do a bit of tweaking once I’d uploaded the theme — for me, I have to have the RSS/subscribe info at the top of the page.  I’d also have liked to add my sub page names to the editor and do tweaking on the sub page template, but it’s early days and I can use the theme editor in WordPress to upload header images for sub pages. This could be a real time saver for you pro-CSS coders – I know that for a complete CSS n00b like me, it has saved me literally DAYS of time.  Even searching for free themes costs time — so this little baby has paid for itself on the first blog for me. And in the interest of full disclosure — no, I do NOT get a kickback from the company and the links I am providing are NOT via any affiliate program. All in all – I’m very, very happy with my ROI.
There are so many people who have contributed to my learning this year — in person and online. My nominations for the 2008 Edublog awards are:
16. August 2008 · Comments Off on Why don’t I feel like bloggin? · Categories: Blogging, Second Life, Technologies, Web sites · Tags:
So many ideas for great blog posts – so little ambition. From a rant about the LOUD family living next door – to mulling over McD’s new virtual space for kids and the joys of Twittering — I just don’t feel like writing lately. Not sure why, but I’ve decied to try a video blog instead. Here’s a link to an MP4 file if you’re following via RSS: http://blip.tv/file/get/KerryJ-BlogPostLight244.mp4 If you’re here on my blog, here’s the embedded video:
Video thumbnail. Click to play
10. July 2008 · Comments Off on Google Lively – browser-based chat goes 3-D · Categories: Second Life, Technologies, Web sites · Tags:
Being the Second Life officianado I am, I was looking forward to trying out Google Lively – http://www.lively.com.  Everyone seems to be looking for the “SL killer” — so I wondered, was this it? I was able to create an account fairly easily and within minutes was styling my new avatar. Hairstyle, haircolour, and a few different outfits to get me started.  Next, off to look at the popular “rooms”.  One I went into had a YouTube video playing.  Over and over and over.  The quality was great.  The repetition and volume made me want to scream. And the dance animation wouldn’t turn off. The next room I visited had a winter theme with sound effects.  It was really nice – until a male avatar started punching a female avatar repeatedly while laughing.  I left. Two more rooms and people much like myself wandering around getting a feel for the interface.  Some Second Lifers, some World of Warcraft gamers — all with a wait and see attitude, but thinking it was more of a lightweight chatroom interface. The last room I visited reminded me of the ewok tree city in the third Star Wars (or is it the 6th?). The people there were saying they felt Lively had elements of the Sims (in terms of the controls), Everquest and World of Warcraft in terms of looks — but didn’t seem to offer that much to actually interact with or to have a clear purpose. At this point I don’t think this is a Second Life replacement.  For me it lacks control — in Lively, the automatic animations like my avatar screeching Hi-yeee when I type the word Hi or laughing hysterically when I type LOL (see video) really irritated me. The range of avatars and styles was annoying for me – a cartoon piggy, a realistic woman, a stereotyped 1970s fro-wearing dude – they seemed out of place and made the experience jarring for me.  I haven’t tried building as yet so don’t know if I can build or just pick pre-built items from inventory. I’ve never been a chat room fan – the lack of control over whom I have to interact with has always turned me off, so don’t see where making it 3-D makes it better.  If that’s all Second Life were to me, I wouldn’t have gotten involved. So, I’ve got an avatar, I might create a room — but don’t think I’ll invest a lot more time in Lively just yet. Here is the short video I spliced together from the last room I visited:
10. June 2008 · Comments Off on Want a free mobi site? · Categories: mobile technologies, My personal learning journey, Web sites
Every 15 seconds another mobile account is added to the more than 3 billion existing ones according to an April 2008 press release from the GSM Association. So when I saw a web site promising me the ability to create a mobile compatible web site in minutes just after lunch today — I thought I’d check it out. I signed up for mobisitegalore.com and was really impressed by the user interface. They were a bit short on specs and measurements however — when I got to the step where I had to upload my logo, I had NO idea what size to choose and had to use a FireFox tool to get the size of their example. You can import a feed from your existing blog — so you don’t have to worry about having ANOTHER blog to update, you can feed your headlines straight into the mobile version. Other options include payment systems, a feedback/contact form that was easy as pie to implement, an HTML editor, choice of HTML, ASP or PHP pages, ability to customise templates and the ability to get free hosting and a domain name or use one of your own. I thought their free domain name a bit long — http://myname.websiteforever.mobi. At least, it is to thumb it into my phone the first time — though with my keyboard, that’s no longer a problem for me. I published it there and it worked a treat. I then published to my own server, and no go. An hour and a half of investigation later, I discovered the problem. When using their publisher, folder permissions on our Apache server were set to something different for the home page (776) than the rest of the pages (644). Re-setting this fixed the problem. Still, if I were after a quickie site for say — a conference for geeks, a learning activity for students involving the use of mobile phones or an event personal or professional – this tool would be handy and people could live with the longish address. Especially people under 35 or so. ; ) I host the site myself on kerryj.mobi — let me know what you think!