Small changes to this blog, big deal for me

I made a couple of changes to the blog recently. Readers will find these changes to be minor. But they’re a big deal for me.

Linked List

The first thing I did was install the Daring Fireball Style Linked List plugin for WordPress, by YJ Soon. The plugin is designed for link blogging — which is most of what I post here.

When I put up a post that’s primarily a link to something elsewhere — an article in the news, for instance — the DFLL plugin changes the title of the post so it links to the external article. Normal behavior on WordPress is for the title of the post to link to the post itself.

This solves the problem for me of having to figure out where to put the link when I write a link post. It’s a small decision, but eliminating it speeds up the blogging process and makes the process more pleasant.

Also, readers of this blog can more easily find the link to the external article.

And it means less of a need for me to reformat blog posts for posting to Facebook and Google+.

So it’s a nice little utility.

The DFLL plugin is designed to modify the RSS feed of the blog. To modify the Web pages, I had to learn to install a child theme on WordPress, which is simple — once you figure out how to do it. The author of the DFLL plugin provides pre-cooked child themes for the Twenty Ten and Twenty Eleven WordPress themes, but none for Twenty Fifteen, which is the one I used. So now I’m using the Twenty Eleven theme.

At some point, I may want to figure out how to modify WordPress themes more to my liking. I like a lighter theme. Examples: Manton.org, The Loop, 512 Pixels, and Hypertext.net. However, those blogs don’t run as many photos and images as I do, so maybe this blog is just going to be heavier and there’s nothing I can do about it without making unacceptable sacrifices.

Thanks to Benjamin Brooks for pointing out this nice little plugin, and for responding when I asked him if he is still using it, and it still works well despite no updates in years. (The answers of course were yes and yes.)

The name of the plugin — Daring Fireball-Style Linked List — comes from the blog Daring Fireball, which pioneered this style of blogging.

Hiding categories

I figured out how to hide categories so they don’t display on the website. I’ve been wanting to do this since I relaunched the blog in February, so while this is a small change externally it’s a bit of a triumph for me.

WordPress offers the option of assigning both categories and tags to posts. I have never figured out when to use categories and when to use tags. After doing some reading — for example, here and here — I have come to the conclusion that the reason WordPress supports both categories and tags is that categories came first and now some people like categories and some people like tags and some people like both.

Categories and tags seem redundant and confusing to me but as long as my blog displayed categories and tags I felt obliged to select both in a way that would be useful to readers.

Hiding categories is simple — once you figure out how to do it. You create a child theme, then go into the files content-single.php and content.php, navigate down to the sections for the blog entry footer, and delete everything that looks like a category listing.

On the home page, which is controlled by content.php, that code starts with something like “Posted in”

On single entries, controlled by the “content-single.php” file, the wording is slightly different.

Look to the public web pages of your own blog to find the exact wording, then go into content.php and content-single.php files to make the necessary changes.

And now that’s done and I no longer have to decide on a category for every blog post.

I may stop using tags too, but for now I’m sticking with them. I’m trying out the Strictly Auto Tags plugin to automate the process. I’m not sure how much help it actually is — it doesn’t usually seem to choose the tags I would have chosen. Perhaps I can fiddle with the settings and make it work.

Categories and tags are supposedly important for search engine optimization. SEO isn’t a priority for me on this blog. It’s desirable, but it’s not something I’ll go out of my way to do.

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