A Whole New Dented Reality

Back in April, this blog celebrated 10 years of existence, and it’s been almost five years since the theme on this site changed. Yesterday I decided to just go ahead and flip the switch on something I’ve been working on here and there since late last year. It’s a complete new, very experimental theme that I call “Homeroom“.

There are some specific things driving what I was aiming for with Homeroom:

  1. First and foremost, a lot of the decisions are based around the intention that it would use Keyring and the Social Importers to pull in my content from all over the web. With that much data being collected and displayed here, I realized I couldn’t go exactly with a traditional blog layout, and had to get a bit creative with some types of data.
  2. It’s intentionally heavily integrated with Jetpack (although it works without it). Jetpack powers the comments, infinite scroll, sharing buttons and more. I’ve taken care to try to make that integration feel as native as possible (although I know there’s more to be done there).
  3. Homeroom started out as an _s-based theme, although it’s been pretty radically modified from there.
  4. I’m using a technique that I’ll call “post lookahead” when going through the loop to check the next post, and do some things like collapse sequential posts if they’re the sam type of thing.
  5. I wanted something with a bit of a timeline feel, since it’s now collecting some much data, and it’s all sequential; I wanted to show the relationship of different things along that sequence of time.

It’s not particularly beautiful because, well, I’m not a designer ๐Ÿ™‚ In the near future I’ll be talking to some friends who are though, so hopefully I can get some advice on improving things there. I’ve been mainly focused on getting it working the way that I wanted it to. Here are some other bits that might be interesting:

  • Allows custom Header and Backgrounds via wp-admin
  • Options (currently defined in a file, because I haven’t built a UI) to control some preferences around stuff like hiding Foursquare check-ins until a set amount of time after they happened (to help avoid the creepers!).
  • Heavy use of Post Formats
  • Ability to hide Twitter replies, which you probably don’t want showing up on your site.
  • There’s the beginnings of a front-end post box (partially inspired by o2), although it doesn’t actually work yet
  • Handles Foursquare checkins differently. Rather than showing them all as individual posts, it “collects” them and shows a single, multi-point map at the end of each day.
  • Shows a map automatically on any post using the WordPress-recommended postmeta fields.
  • Using the new taxonomy introduced in Keyring Social Importers 1.4, allows you to easily filter your display based on where posts were imported from.
  • Includes a custom icon font from IcoMoon to display social icons indicating where things were imported from.
  • Search results use a Masonry-based layout so that you can quickly scan the results. Unfortunately something is broken with the search mechanism on this site right now, so that’s not working ๐Ÿ™
  • Automatically lists out child-pages when you view a Page that has them, for example my Projects page.
  • Dynamic heading re-writes: format your posts for individual viewing, and the H1 etc tags are automatically “stepped down” on listing pages to maintain hierarchy
  • Has some fun mapping stuff for TripIt in particular, which draws out a “flight path” between airports. Check it it out in my TripIt section. Here’s a fun one.
  • Uses Photon to apply some effects to images in places
  • Borrows liberally from the styling of sites like Instapaper and Readability.

There’s still aย lot of work to go, both on the theme itself and the importers that power a lot of the content. I wanted to get this online because I knew that’d motivate me to spend more time on it. I’m also hoping that other folks might be interested and/or have some ideas on ways to improve the theme. I haven’t got all of my content imported yet (that takes a while ๐Ÿ™‚ ), but you’ll see more and more things fill in over the coming week hopefully.

If you’ve got any ideas for improvements, I’d love to hear them down in the comments!

  1. julien51 said:

    This is really a big change ๐Ÿ™‚ My main “hum” point is the home page. I think it does not make sense to agregate *all* of your data in there as the main list. Or maybe you could hightlit more the most recent actual blog post up there and then put the list of all social activities.

    I also honestly don’t know if people click on tags clouds anymore and accessing to comments directly does not make much sense to me in terms of UI.

    Finally, I like the fact that you give a lot of importance to ‘subscriptions’ by email. I think it’s a fundamental aspect of self hosting your content and something that’s been lacking in the current implementations compared to what silos offers. Now, though, I wish it was not just by email. Have you checked https://www.subtome.com/#/ ? Would it make sense to add such a button too?

    • Beau said:

      Yeah, the homepage is a really tricky on. One one hand I like the idea of it really being everything, but on the other it seems like too much, and as you said, drowns out my “quality content” (Posts) more than is desirable. Definitely still playing around.

      Having a more visual indicator of comments (and spending some time on them in general) is on my list. I want to beef up my importers so that they pull in comments/Likes where possible from other services as well.

      Not sure about tag clouds either — I was really just playing around with the widgets that are in WordPress. Now that I’m aggregating content from all over the place, tags actually start becoming a more interesting way of navigating content. The blend of images, links, etc that you can find on some tags is really interesting.

      The email subscription thing is just a widget in Jetpack, so I get that “for free” :). I think most people who are using a feed reader of some sort probably have their own preferred (or supported) way of adding content to that reader, so probably won’t be trying to add a generic button like SubToMe. That being said, anyone else could easily add that via a widget in the sidebar I imagine.

      • Congratulations on Homeroom Beau, it’s pretty cool! I think you and Julien are really onto some important ideas in this comment thread. I love WordPress because my site is mine (barring a phone call from an aide in Senator “Liberman”s office issuing a blockade against me, DDOS, etc, but anyway, as “mine” as anything can be in this mortal life)

        But there’s no denying that to be a participant in culture you have to visit the Town Square, The Pub, etc etc… that means you’re putting content on Twitter, FB, comments on other peeps sites, etc… Beau, your idea of accreting in a searchable database all of your work and ideas across cyberspace is really awesome. But I’m with Julien that a zillion tweets can drown out a substantive post you put together a couple of days ago. I opened a LiveJournal recently (been signing up for Russian social sites to support Pussy Riot) and clicked their “import twitter” option. It’s cool but it drowns out my occasional posts there.

        MemoLane was an interesting service recently (they got bought and shut down their public service) they let you filter your content in a variety of ways so you’d see only Video or only this custom filter, etc.

        It’s a lot of data you’re talking about and the potential for a mess is great. But you’re also trying to harvest what for me is the extraordinary power and promise of the net. I can’t deny that FB et al have done a lot to connect people. But they’ve also Balkanized our online lives into content pockets and friend subgroups. At least on the level of the individual user your Homeroom vision has the potential to reintegrate the ideas, passions, and hours we pour into online conversations.

    • Beau said:

      You’re the second person to ask ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ll try and get it up there this week probably. Need to make sure there’s nothing too horrific in there first ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Jeremy said:

        Make that three! I’ve been using Keyring and the Social Importers quite a lot in the past few months, and I’d love to see what you’ve done with each post format!

  2. Another issue is that now on my Feedly, your every tweet comes in as a new post sort of blowing up my feed. The “category” I have you in is called “WordPress” and because of all the tweets your feed is now crowding out the other WordPress sources. It seems like my choices are:
    1. Create a “Beau Lebens” category and move you there
    2. Stop following you
    3. Actually look around your site and see if there’s a feed for just the posts without the twitter stream

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