The portfolio and blog of David Bennett

Category: Wordpress

Site Revisions

After some time running this site under Joomla! with the blog being handled by WordPress, I’ve finally switched over to only use WordPress. Although I like the features of a full-fledged content management system and Joomla! has some great features, it was both a little more heavy-weight than I needed and the maintenance tasks to keep it up-to-date were taking away from other work that I wanted to do. In particular, even though I’m using the excellent Now Reading Reloaded plugin to manage my library (after switching from the original Now Reading plugin), it’s no longer being updated and there are some features that I’d really like it to have. Unfortunately, the way the plugin is architected, I’ve come to conclusion that I’d be better off writing a new plugin, particularly if I wanted a less hacked-together way to store authors as separate entities in their own database table. My library has also grown to a size that I’d like to better be able to paginate results and other things like that.

Meanwhile, I’ve temporarily removed some pages, so if you’ve come looking for them, my apologies. I’ll be adding things back along with more things besides in the coming weeks. If you notice something missing and care to offer constructive feedback, I’d be happy to hear from you!

Reader’s Advisories and Books I Read

A few questions that come up sporadically from friends and co-workers are what books do you like to read, where do you find new books and new authors, and can you recommend a few. Since I know how much tastes differ and having rather strong tastes myself, those are difficult questions. What I like to read varies from month to month, though I have a solid set of favorites that rarely changes. I find new things to read through a combination of my local library, perusing shelves at local bookstores and online through new release listings. I also read authors’ blogs and read their recommendations on the work of other authors.

As far as my list being a reader’s advisory, I’d say it’s highly suspect. I read a number of different books for a number of different reasons. Some are out-and-out junk that I read purely for entertainment and because they don’t tax my brain. Others I read in pursuit of a line of research or just because I’m interested in a given topic. Some are career-related or are part of my professional development. And there are certain authors whose new work I almost always read, no matter when it comes out, interrupting all my other reading. When I get around to tagging and generally categorizing my books, readers might be able to see a few common themes and interests.

I’m leveraging a no-longer-maintained WordPress plugin called Now Reading, though I’ve installed the updated version that works better with WP 2.7+ with a few customizations of my own. I really like it as a jumping off point since it saved me a bunch of grunt work in creating a plugin from scratch, but there are other changes I’d like to make. Amazon search is rather primitive (at first blush, it appears to be a simple screen-scraper) and I’d like to do something more like LinkedIn’s reading list widget leveraging the Amazon Product Advertising API. None of the books are tagged, so that’s next on my list. I’d also like to have small-sized and large-sized images that are stored locally rather than pulling them in from Amazon every time. This is in part because the Amazon links aren’t necessarily to the copies of the book I’d prefer and the out-of-print books I have in my library may not have cover images online. After that, I’d also like to add long reviews to the books in addition to the short descriptions on my main library page, particularly for my favorite books.

There were some plugins for Joomla! including one called JCollection that offered a little more versatility with the flexibility to create individual listings of movies, music, books or whatever else. But customizing the front-end was almost incomprehensible and the back-end was a little more primitive than I wanted with no way, for example, to easily integrate musical genres in the way that I wanted. It was also 1.5 legacy at the time I was considering it, though there’s now a 1.5 native version as an alpha. So I’ll be keeping an eye on it and other plugins that might offer interesting functionality.

So my library is very much a work in progress, but it’s a start.

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