Sunday, June 28, 2009

Increase (Doctor Andy Speaks) version level by 0.1

I did a bit of code spelunking yesterday. The web log templates that Blogger offers are provided with updates here and there, so I like to go browsing in case something new has been added. From among the code that had changed since my last peek, I selected two new "widgets"- small utilities built into the website to increase functionality.

First, I incorporated an additional search box in the right-hand column. There's always been the basic one provided in the "Blogger Navigation Bar". That's the black strip that runs across the top of the page. It's hardwired into every Blogger blog. The new search, helpfully labeled "Search this blog" offers some additional functionality. When a search is begun, the results will helpfully appear in the column of blog entries, meaning the currently viewed page will not be lost.

The search results also have their own Close box, which will return the page to ordinary viewing. Additionally, it seems to be able to search in other sites that I've linked to and in the pages of my friend's blogs (under "Other Points of View").

Related to the "Other Points of View", I cleaned up the list of my friends' currently-active blogs. The previous list (which actually vanished somewhere along the line) contained some long-outdated links, as well as links to people who'd actually ended their blogs. The current list contains blogs which have posted an entry within the last twelve calendar months. If I've missed anyone, just let me know.

The second code alteration is the addition of what Blogger refers to as "Reaction" buttons. These buttons allow the reader quick feedback on a particular entry. I've included four moods, which may or may not be obvious. There are the standard agree and disagree buttons, which can be used to indicate support or abhorrence of whatever the entry is about.

The two remaining buttons may not be so obvious. "Shrug?" is intended to be equivalent to "don't know" or "not sure" or "what in the world is the author thinking?" I put a little thought into the punctuation of each reaction, hoping that would provide a further clue. Finally, "Meh" has become a popular utterance indicating a lack of interest or apathy. It is a complete opposite to the 19th century compliment of having "fixed opinions", i.e. a thought-out stance on any issue. "Meh" indicates a total lack of opinion.

I'm not a fan of "meh" in conversation, but I've included it here because I consider it perfectly designed for instant feedback. Appropriately, that's the same reason I consider it useless and frustrating when used in answers. One friend uses it close to 50% of the time when responding to questions on opinions or values. If I could properly convey how much this frustrates me in conversation, I would be hailed with a Pulitzer Prize and acclaimed as a true communicator.

The reactions are intended to be quick, painless, and fun. My hope is that they'll provide me (and other readers) with a bit of feedback on what you (the reader) thinks about whatever it is I'm blathering on about. They are not scientific; one's vote is switchable as long as one hasn't left the page. Return visits seem to allow for more selections. Unlike written comments, I receive no notification of these choices. Delving into the archive and randomly "shrugging" at posts probably won't be noticed until someone happens to visit the page again. In contrast, I receive email notification for each written comment added to any entry on the site. So if you truly wish to make your feelings known to me, comments are still the way to go.

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