Thursday, September 14, 2006

Dave Bender gets on my blogroll – the hard way!

I very, very seldom laugh out loud at anything I see on my computer screen. It’s not that I’m humorless (although a lot of people would prefer me that way, I fear); it’s just that I’m not usually an “intense reactor” type.

But today I saw something that had me practically hysterical, right here at my day-job desk. It’s The Armageddon Flowchart, and the guy who steered me to it is Dave Bender, author of the Israel at Level Ground blog. The rest of his blog is excellent, too – and he has a link to On the Contrary, which makes it that much more special. (OK, Dave – now fix your sidebar so it shows up on the side instead of at the bottom!)


*          *          *

WARNING: Nerdy stuff of interest only to bloggers follows. Normal humans should quit now and find something better to read.

While I’m on the subject of blogrolls: I’ve come up with what I think is a fairly clever solution to an annoying blog-maintenance problem, which I will hereby share with whoever wants it.

Traditionally, a blogger lists his/her favorite blogs by editing the HTML of his blog template. This is tedious and time-consuming, and in my experience it’s all too easy to forget to keep your hard-coded HTML blogroll up to date. The advantage, though, is that you have full control over how your blogroll displays; in particular, you can create separate categories for the various blogs to which you link, making it much easier for the reader to navigate. (For an example of what I mean, see the Dry Bones Blog – Yaakov Kirschen has a very nicely organized HTML blogroll.)

To simplify the maintenance of blogrolls, a lot of bloggers – myself included – have chosen to use BlogRolling.com to maintain their blogrolls. BlogRolling lets you keep track of your blogroll without all that tedious mucking about in HTML; you just create an account (which doesn’t cost anything), insert some code in your template, and then use BlogRolling’s interface to add blogs to your list.

The problem, though, is that BlogRolling doesn’t offer a way of neatly categorizing the blogs on your blogroll. You can sort them alphabetically, or by length (for visual effect), or by “priority” – which is a number you assign to each blog on your list, from 1 to 99. But when you’ve got a whole bunch of blogs on your list, none of these approaches is really satisfactory – and all too often, BlogRolling blogrolls are so long that any particular blog – most importantly, my blog – gets lost in the crowd.

So here’s what I did, after long cogitation: I set up the following list of categories for my blogroll, each one with an associated “priority”:

Priority     Description                              
10             Israeli blogs
20             Jewish blogs from elsewhere
30             Arab / Moslem blogs
50             Political blogs (from outside Israel)
80             Everyone else

Then, I set up “dummy blog” entries in my BlogRolling.com blogroll to provide headings for each category. The idea was to add something to the list which would work like a section heading, even though BlogRolling doesn’t offer any such feature. The “dummy blogs” would have to display differently than “real” blogs, and if someone should happen to click on one, nothing should happen. Here’s an example of one of my “dummy blog” entries – with square brackets substituted for HTML angle-brackets so the tags will be visible:

Title:          [br/][font size=+1]Everyone else[/font]
          (larger font, with a blank line before)

URL:          #not_a_real_target
          (if user clicks on it, nothing happens)

Description:     blank
          (nothing appears when user “hovers” over the link)

Priority:     79
          (the heading comes immediately before the “Everyone else” blogs)

You can see the results on On the Contrary's main page. Cute, no?

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