Meta: Unfinished Blog Tweaks and Shortcuts

I love using GeneratePress (Premium + GenerateBlocks) for WordPress projects. I’m still relatively new to everything but after using Divi, I’m blown away by how versatile developer Tom Usborne’s products can be in replacing traditional page builders. It also works surprisingly well on an iPad. With the block editor gaining more traction, the future of WordPress development seems different to me. My ship for learning tons of code and hand building custom web pages has sailed. It never docked. But that’s okay. The people I build for are friends and small business owners and GeneratePress will get the job done perfectly.

But I’m keeping Among the Stones in Sami Keijonen’s theme Simppeli, for a long time probably. Like the name suggests, it’s simple and I love the bold headings, typefaces, and lack of a dropdown menu. It’s not for everyone, but it is for me.

In early iterations of Among the Stones, I tinkered much more than I wrote, usually without much knowledge on how to do it. So I would switch from Raam Dev’s Independent Publisher (a very good blog theme) to a thousand others, searching in vain for that desired look. Then switch back, change some things, become restless again, then go hunting on GitHub and WordPress’s themes directory once more. Repeat, repeat, repeat. I hated it.

Lately, I’ve tried to focus on writing more. I’ve used the space to journal, to link and comment on things around the internet, and to share photos and some ideas.

Now, and especially after seeing a nice blog redesign, I have a list of changes I want to make to the design of Among the Stones, all within a child theme of Simppeli.

Here’s the thing though. I’m trying to prioritize offline time after my classes, so some of this might get done, and others might not. I’ve sat down to finish up a shortcut or dive into a problem only to be pleasantly pulled away by a walk in the woods, or one of the unread books sitting on my nightstand. Most of these unfinished tasks are small tweaks, such as highlighting the tagline of the blog to break up the black and white. I also added a vertical line of the same faint yellow #fff9c0 to block quotes to better differentiate quotes. So here they are, to be done or not.

Blog Tweaks

SSL Certificate

Really the only thing I must figure out quickly is securing the blog with SSL. My knowledge of the backend is admittedly pretty shaky. I found my first host, Media Temple, through Mike Rockwell’s Initial Charge. I’ve since switched to a Digital Ocean droplet and this means the command line. I go to make a password on the droplet and it fails. Every time I’ve sat down to figure it out, my eyes glaze over and my short attention span (or undiagnosed ADHD) forces me to get up and go outside or read something about autochthonous forests or the history of emissaries.

Dark Mode

Automatic dark mode on iOS13 is something special. I have it set to sunset to sunrise. Most of the apps I use have a dark mode that defaults to the system now. And the web can also take advantage of @media (prefers-color-scheme: dark. I have a snippet that I’ve pieced together but it’s incomplete.

    @media (prefers-color-scheme: dark) {
  body {
    background-color: #333333;
      color: white;}
      p {color: white}
        a:link {color:#ffffff;}
    a:visited {color:#ffffff;}
    a:hover {color:#ffffff;}
    a:active {color:#ffffff}
        h1 {color:#ffffff;}
    h2 {color:#ffffff;}
    h3 {color:#ffffff;}
        h4 {color:#ffffff;}
        li {color:#ffffff;}
        tr {color:#ffffff;}

    #respond #commentform textarea {
    background-color: #404040;}
    #respond #commentform .text,
    #respond #commentform textarea {
    color: #ffffff !important;}
    }
}

The metadata below the post and the typeface color with highlights don’t switch, so I haven’t implemented it yet. Until then, the white background at midnight is a little jarring.

Square Search Bar

It’s proverbial low-hanging fruit but the search bar that appears in About and Archives is rounded, where every other text field is square. I want to change this to make it more consistent.

Better Archive

Simppeli doesn’t come with a great archive, so I’ve used short codes for recent posts and months with a search bar. I’d like to include post dates after recent posts’ titles, a smaller month and year view like kottke.org: use years and months in a line, include most-used tags with the number of posts next to them in a simple comma-separated list. I’m not a fan of tag clouds with each larger or smaller tags.

Minor Changes

  • Add image borders? I go back and forth between loving a thick black image border or not. Earlier, I used to upload photos with these included already. Have a thought on this? Let me know in the comments.
  • Remove the drop shadow from text boxes.
  • Customize Jetpack’s Related Posts feature to blend in better with the metadata and post.

Leveraging Shortcuts for A Better Blogging Routine

Alongside some aesthetic changes, I’d like to take advantage of more automation so I don’t have to fiddle inside the dashboard after publishing. I have not fully harnessed the power and time-saving capabilities of Shortcuts in my writing workflow. I have a ton of things to figure out to make more customized Publish to WordPress shortcut for markdown editors like iA Writer, my text editor of choice on iOS/iPadOS. I think most of this requires regular expressions, again, something akin to hieroglyphics.

Hashtags

iA Writer is also a very simple text editor app. With its main competitors, Ulysses and Drafts, moving to subscription price, iA Writer has intentionally stayed one price. I think I paid 4.99 USD for it in 2016 or 2017, but now it is 29.99. Only you can decide if it is worth it, but the amount of updates and ease of use suggests it might be for writers looking for just a blank page.

It utilizes iOS’s Files so you can see and move around your text files (not so with the two aforementioned apps). For organization, you can use Folders and hashtags. Hashtags are also used for titles H1-H6 in markdown. For instance, this section has three hashtags ###, a space, then the title Hashtags. To use iA Writer’s organizational hashtags, leave out the space. They will appear on the Library view at the bottom in alphabetical order. When you preview a filed with the keyboard shortcut ⌘+R, these do not appear.

What I’d like to do is add a few actions in Shortcuts to recognize these organizational hashtags (probably located at the bottom of a page) and use them as tags to be included in WordPress’s publish action, without them appearing in the finished post at the bottom of the page inside the body.

Utilizing iA Writer’s highlights

I like highlighting physical books and PDFs. I also like the look of them in posts to draw attention more than bold type. iA Writer recently added == as a way to bracket and highlight text inside the app rather than using HTML <mark> and </mark>. Unfortunately, WordPress does not recognize this. I need a few actions to find these, replace the beginning equals signs with the first HTML tag and the ending equals signs with the second.

Captions for Images in Markdown

If I use photos in posts, I run a shortcut that resizes and compresses it, uploads it to WordPress, and gives me a markdown URL, such as ![](amongthestones.com/...jpg). Theoretically captions go in the brackets, like any text that will turn into a link. While WordPress recognizes links, it does not render properly for captions. This means I have to go in to each publisher post, add the media manually and use HTML if I want to link to an image source that isn’t mine in the captions text box in the media library. It takes time and can be cumbersome from a phone or tablet, which is where I write.

Better Footnotes

I try to avoid footnotes, but for some posts, they could be helpful but I haven’t found a WordPress plugin or other solution that correctly emulates how markdown and iA Writer adds footnotes, which is simply [^text here] that automatically numbers them down at the bottom of a list. If you have any suggestions, let me know.

This one’s a bit meta and nerdy, but maybe I’ll find some solutions to these from someone reading this. The next post will be about Galician elections coming up on 12 July.

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