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Who wants to play the Scenius game? Rebuilding The Long List as a micro-blog

All right, let’s play a little, shall we?

One of the things that came out of our little scenius on Thanksgiving (which continues through today) was a better way of handling the job I used to do with The Long List of Odysseus Medal nominees. I’ve been ignoring that chore since last Spring, a plausible clue that I just might end up ignoring it forevermore. Even so, it was a good idea, and I learned a lot of cool stuff from the code I wrote to manage The Long List scroller that used to live in our sidebar.

What I want to do for now is to implement another kind of sidebar scroller, this one more like a micro-blog of useful and informative posts — mostly marketing, but other matters of importance as well. There were people who used The Long List as their feed reader, and this should work even better in that regard.

You can see it in our sidebar right now. It’s the scroller box headed “SCENIUS: SWITCHED-ON MARKETING” — with links to 50 highly-relevant weblog posts.

If you want to play along with the development process, you can be a big help.

How?

Break this software:

<!-- BEGIN Scenius -->
<p><div style="display:block; width:95%;
height:320px; overflow:auto; padding-left:6px;
padding-right:6px; padding-top:3px;
border:1px solid #a9a9a9; ">
<?PHP $ch = curl_init();
curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_URL, 
"http://scenius.bloodhoundblog.net/");
curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_HEADER, 0);
curl_exec($ch); curl_close($ch); ?></div></p>
<!-- END Scenius -->

I’m serious. I want you to install that code in your sidebar and see if you can break it.

There are two ways we know of that you might be able to break it.

First, the PHP may not want to work for you. If that happens, I would love to see a screen shot in your email to me about what happened. So you know: I do not believe this will happen. We broke it every which way yesterday, and I think I have code that should work on any true Apache web server.

The second way that this code could fail is that it might not look right. It should come into your sidebar as a well-behaved citizen. It should inherit your sidebar’s style sheets, and it should scroll top to bottom but not left to right. If it looks weird to you, I will want to see it.

And what if you can’t break it?

Leave it in your sidebar. You’ll be giving a lot of link love to real estate webloggers who deserve it, and you’ll look much more dynamic to search engines going forward. That’s a win-win-win, a Bloodhound kind of solution.

There’s more to what we’re doing — more every day! — but most of it is arcane enough that we won’t be discussing it in depth until BloodhoundBlog Unchained. But it’s all like this: Good content plus good SEO plus good SEM plus good SMM plus good neighborliness.

That a lot of good — good for your readers, good for the writer’s you’re linking to and good or you. Plus which, it’s slicker than whale snot — and we’ll teach you a ton of ways to make the underlying technology even slicker.

If you don’t know how to get this into your sidebar, speak up. Otherwise, how about let’s see how this looks on your weblog?

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

Related posts:
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  • The Scenius.net scenes reader can tell if you’re working at your desktop web browser or on your iPhone…

  • 41 comments

    41 Comments so far

    1. Greg Swann November 29th, 2008 9:05 pm

      Tom Vanderwell found a way that won’t work. What he did was paste the code into a text widget in his sidebar. I know nothing about how to get WP to play nice with PHP when sidebar widgets are turned on, so others here will have to offer advice.

      What I would do, working without sidebar widgets, is edit sidebar.php for my current theme, then FTP that up to that theme’s folder on my file server. I know there are other ways of introducing PHP into the sidebar, but that’s the only way I know.

    2. Cheryl Johnson November 30th, 2008 4:31 am

      Here’s the the other way (The FTP-less Way):

      Copy the code in Greg’s post.

      Go to your WordPress Dashboard. Click Design->Theme Editor. Open sidebar.php. Paste the code in somewhere below the first .

      Depending on your theme, the sidebar.php file may contain a number of s for formatting and styling.

      You’ll want to experiment with where you place Greg’s code, above or below whichever , to be the most visually appealing.

      Note: It’s alway a good idea to copy and paste the original sidebar.php into a text file (Windows Notepad works fine) before starting any edits. If stuff doesn’t work, you can easily just copy and paste the original code back in place.

      Also to TypePad users: TypePad won’t run PHP or CURL. there are workarounds that unfortunately lose much of the SEO benefit, but the workarounds will get the widget to run.

    3. Cheryl Johnson November 30th, 2008 4:35 am

      Oops. I should have run the word <div> through the Proc Tool.

      This sentence should read:

      Depending on your theme, the sidebar.php file may contain a number of <div>s for formatting and styling.

      And this one should read:

      You’ll want to experiment with where you place Greg’s code, above or below whichever <div>, to be the most visually appealing.

    4. Cheryl Johnson November 30th, 2008 4:49 am

      P.S. Tom may be on a WordPress.COM blog, so he may not have access to the theme files.

    5. Greg Swann November 30th, 2008 7:27 am

      Tom is using the sidebar widgets feature of his theme. That means that if he manually edits sidebar.php, he’ll have to rebuild everything the widgets are doing for him now. (I think this is so. I don’t live in the widgets world.)

      What I think he has to do is add a plug-in that will allow him to run PHO in the widgetized sidebar. Here are three I’ve found that night work:

      Exec-PHP — General purpose PHP plug-in; will allow PHP anywhere i’s now forbidden, as in posts.

      Samsarin.

      Widgetize Anything.

      I have no experience with any of these, but I’ll be curious to hear about how they work for others.

      We’ll probably be talking about a lot of PHP going forward, so it can’t hurt to find out what works in your environment.

    6. Chris Johnson November 30th, 2008 7:32 am

      I want a badge. I want to have a badge saying my blog is Bloodhound Approved, and I’m keeping up.

    7. Greg Swann November 30th, 2008 8:28 am

      > I want a badge. I want to have a badge saying my blog is Bloodhound Approved, and I’m keeping up.

      ;)

      That badge pulls around 30,000 backlinks, all of them wasted. Shortbus SEO has about nine flat tires. The widget throws off no links at all. The selected sites are linked from one page only — where they seem to be entirely hidden from search engine spiders behind a Javascript wall. I would say they’re trying very hard to take the worst kind of miserly SEO advice, except they’ve made a bonehead 301 error from day one.

      Here’s where the bullet hits the bone: Compare Carson Coots, who has a presence all over the net, with Teri Lussier, whose renown is more localized.

      We’re not in the SEO business, and we’re not in the traffic business, but we are in the getting-things-right business…

    8. Cheryl Johnson November 30th, 2008 8:40 am

      “manually edits sidebar.php”

      If you are on WordPress.COM, I don’t think there’s any way you can get to the sidebar.php file, either by FTP or by editing online.

      At least, not any way I can see in the WordPress.COM account I opened up for testing. And you can’t upload plugins, either. :-(

    9. Greg Swann November 30th, 2008 8:45 am

      Good grief, look at this: Best foot forward versus one hand tied behind my back. (It’s unfair to use our home domain, because we get help from all over. This one comes and goes (O, Fortuna! Sicut Luna, semper crescis et decrescis!), but we’ll get to 100K eventually. For reference, Shortbus and buzzkill.

    10. Tom Vanderwell November 30th, 2008 9:10 am

      Cheryl,

      I used to be on wordpress.com, but about a month ago, I switched to wordpress.org.

      Greg – I’ll try one of those plugins later today. Got my daughter’s birthday party today, so time is limited.

      Thanks all!

      Tom

    11. Tom Vanderwell November 30th, 2008 1:48 pm

      Okay, I installed the exec-php and now it works, but it puts all of the widgets at the bottom….

      Help?

      Tom

    12. Greg Swann November 30th, 2008 2:10 pm

      > I installed the exec-php and now it works, but it puts all of the widgets at the bottom….

      It’s working right in Safari for the Mac and Firefox for the Mac, but that sidebar column is so narrow and the type sizes in your sidebar’s style shets are so large that it’s blowing the available width. Same deal in Explorer Windows. IOW, it’s not a coding issue, it’s a CSS problem.

      This will work in your theme:

      <!-- BEGIN Scenius -->
      <p><div style="display:block; width:95%;
      height:320px; overflow:auto; padding-left:6px;
      padding-right:6px; padding-top:3px;
      font:10px/12px Verdana, Arial, sans-serif;
      border:1px solid #a9a9a9; ">
      <?PHP $ch = curl_init();
      curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_URL, 
      "http://scenius.bloodhoundblog.net/");
      curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_HEADER, 0);
      curl_exec($ch); curl_close($ch);?></div></p>
      <!-- END Scenius -->

      The H2 is still going to be huge. CJ, do you know how to fix that in an inline Style declaration?

    13. Cheryl Johnson November 30th, 2008 4:00 pm

      Thanks to FIREBUG for Firefox https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/1843 I think I can answer.

      In Tom’s stylesheet, style.css, that left sidebar is designated body div.sidebar, and the width is formatted at width:15em. OK.

      However, look at the div class=”textwidget” code in this screenshot image http://www.bob-taylor.la/tomvanderwell.jpg (clicking on the image should enlarge it)

      The stylesheet is formatting a textwidget to be 40% of the column width.

      I’d click Design->Theme Editor and open up the stylesheet, style.css. Be sure to make a copy of the entire file before you change anything. :-)

      Search (CTRL F) for the word textwidget, then, in that section where you see width: 40%; …. change that to width:95%;

      Click update file and see what happens.

      Crossing my fingers.

    14. Cheryl Johnson November 30th, 2008 4:18 pm

      Thanks to FIREBUG for Firefox, https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/1843, I can try to answer part of that question.

      In Tom’s theme the left sidebar is designated as body div.sidebar, and it is formatted with a width of 15em. OK.

      But, take a look at this screen shot image showing the stylesheet formatting for div class=textwidget http://www.bob-taylor.la/tomvanderwell.jpg

      The stylesheet is formatting the textwidget to be 40% of the column width.

      To change that, at your WordPress dashboard, click Design -> Theme Editor, then click on the stylesheet, style.css, to open it up.

      First, copy and paste a copy of the entire stylesheet into a text file for safekeeping, just in case you need to change it back to the original.

      Search (CTRL F) for the word textwidget. Then look where the formatting says width: 40%; …. and change that to width: 90%; (or 95%)

      Click Update file and see what happens.

      Crossing my fingers.

      I gotta think about the H2 issue for a bit. :-)

    15. Tom Vanderwell November 30th, 2008 5:01 pm

      Cheryl,

      Went in to Design, Theme editor, and can’t find anything in the style sheet that says 40 or textwidget…..

      Would it work better to talk it through tomorrow? I can call you some time?

      Tom

    16. Geno Petro November 30th, 2008 5:04 pm

      Greg,

      I dropped the code in my sidebar at

      http://genopetroche.blogspot.com/ (Blogger)

      under ‘Bloodhound Blog Posts.’ Its just a blank box. I left it there so you can take a look. Maybe it’s my black background.

      Thnx,

      G.

    17. Cheryl Johnson November 30th, 2008 5:04 pm

      Tom, can you give me the name of the theme, so I can download it and see what’s what first? Thanks.

    18. Tom Vanderwell November 30th, 2008 5:19 pm

      barthelme

      Does that make sense?
      http://wordpress.org/extend/themes/barthelme

      Thanks for all your help!

      Tom

    19. Greg Swann November 30th, 2008 5:43 pm

      > Its just a blank box. I left it there so you can take a look. Maybe it’s my black background.

      No, it’s Blogger, Geno. I should have been more specific. The stuff we’re playing with will only work directly on WordPress.org weblogs.

      I’m glad I went your blog, though. I read by feed, but the experience isn’t the same.

    20. Cheryl Johnson November 30th, 2008 6:15 pm

      Tom, could you live with something like this? http://www.nelanews.info/
      (NelaNews is currently simply a testing site) I widened the sidebar and pushed the content container a little further over to the right.

      The scenius widget seems to prefer living outside the dynamic sidebar code.

    21. Tom Vanderwell November 30th, 2008 6:26 pm

      Cheryl,

      That would work good. I’d like to keep my “pages” first on the top (because that’s got the info about my book and mortgage rates) but then this could go next?

      I’d also like to know how you did some of the formatting in terms of the titles on the side. It looks a lot nicer than mine.

      Let me know what, when, how and I really appreciate the help.

      Tom

    22. Cheryl Johnson November 30th, 2008 6:52 pm

      Tom,

      Only two changes in the stylesheet

      This line: body div#container{float:right;margin:0 0 5em -16em;width:100%;}

      To this: body div#container{float:right;margin:0 0 5em -15em;width:85%;}

      And this line: body div.sidebar{float:left;overflow:hidden;width:15em;}

      To this: body div.sidebar{float:left;overflow:hidden;width:28em;}

      I didn’t make any changes to the fonts. Maybe they just look better with a little more elbow room? :-)

      It shouldn’t be too hard to find a good spot to end the dynamic sidebar code, plug in Scenius, and restart the code.

      But I’m all coded out for the moment. I’ll work on that one tomorrow.

    23. Doug Quance November 30th, 2008 10:06 pm

      I dropped it in at the bottom of the sidebar.php file just before all the div’s. It formatted fairly well for me, though the title text is a little clunky.

      I could use the link love. Google dropped me from PR 5 to a PR 4. I guess I need to post more. :)

    24. Greg Swann November 30th, 2008 10:22 pm

      > It formatted fairly well for me, though the title text is a little clunky.

      It looks good in there. That headline is controlled by the H2 in your CSS file, so you can change it to match your H1 or H3 or whatever.

    25. Doug Quance November 30th, 2008 11:16 pm

      I am thankful I got it that far…

      It’s good enough for me. :)

      Hell, I just updated WordPress without screwing it up… so I’m leaving well enough alone!

      :lol:

    26. Cheryl Johnson December 1st, 2008 4:47 am

      Oops. I missed documenting this third change yesterday afternoon:

      This line: body.home div#content div.post-container,body.archive div#content div.post-container,body.search div#content div.post-container{float:right;margin:0 0 4em -11.5em;width:100%;

      To this: body.home div#content div.post-container,body.archive div#content div.post-container,body.search div#content div.post-container{float:right;margin:0 0 4em -28.5em;width:100%;

      The change being in the right margin styling from -11.5em to -28.5 em — in effect pushing the left edge of the post container a little further right.

      And this morning it was really bothering me that the blue title banner strip had inherited the 85% styling and stopping before the right hand edge of the screen. So to fix that, open up the header.php file.

      See this snippet of code: <div id=”header” onclick=”location.href=’/';”>
      <a href=”/” title=”">

      Select it, cut it, and paste it ABOVE this line:

      Done.

    27. Cheryl Johnson December 1st, 2008 4:49 am

      Above this line <div id=”wrapper”>

    28. Greg Swann December 1st, 2008 5:17 am

      Utterly amazing, Cheryl. My hat is off to you.

    29. Cheryl Johnson December 1st, 2008 8:01 pm

      Thank you, sir.

    30. Cheryl Johnson December 2nd, 2008 6:21 am

      Just occurred to me: “textwidget” didn’t appear in Tom’s stylesheet, because the textwidget style code was being generated by the exec-php plugin. I wonder if editing the plugin would have solved Tom’s initial issue. Hmmm.

    31. [...] SCENIUS BLOGS [...]

    32. Kevin Sandridge December 7th, 2008 12:46 am

      Hey Greg – loaded the PHP into my sidebar and the dang thing looks pretty good! Check it out!

    33. Greg Swann December 7th, 2008 7:29 am

      Very nice. Good on ya. I love your tag cloud, too.

    34. Tom Vanderwell December 7th, 2008 1:18 pm

      Cheryl,

      After a really busy week, I’m back to trying to play with this some more. Is there a way to get it to work without rewriting my whole blog?

      Any chance I can put it on a separate page?

      One other question/thought. After playing around with this last weekend, my rss feed numbers (subscriptions) went way down. Any idea if something we did messed that up?

      Tom

    35. Greg Swann December 7th, 2008 1:48 pm

      > After playing around with this last weekend, my rss feed numbers (subscriptions) went way down. Any idea if something we did messed that up?

      Complete coincidence. We’re not doing anything with that.

      FWIW, that pop-op form is very likely to make Google hate you.

    36. Tom Vanderwell December 7th, 2008 2:47 pm

      I wondered if it was a coincidence…..

      I haven’t noticed any google rating issues at this point and subscriptions to my newsletter are growing by 3 to 5% per week…..

      Hmmmm…..

      Tom

    37. [...] read all the posts about Scenius several times and I don’t know what it is yet. I think it is a pretty cool piece of code and [...]

    38. [...] SCENIUS SCENES [...]

    39. Carson Coots December 23rd, 2008 11:28 am

      Greg,

      I haven’t participated (out of pure laziness) with any ‘badge program’ quite yet – I don’t know why my links were brought up in this conversation. ?

    40. Greg Swann December 23rd, 2008 1:43 pm

      > I don’t know why my links were brought up in this conversation. ?

      Just using your relative performance as an example, that’s all.

      Merry Christmas to you!

    41. [...] or something I go to the chiropractor to get put back in place. I’ve read all the posts about Scenius several times and I don’t know what it is yet. I think it is a pretty cool piece of code and when [...]