Archive for the 'Blogging' Category


Now Pondering

Aug 09, 2011 by Steve Belt in Blogging

Beer along Mission Bay, San Diego

Very few people reading this will NOT know Jay Thompson, but on the off chance you don’t and don’t read The Phoenix Real Estate Guy, then you probably don’t know that Jay, after 6 years blogging on TPREG, recently created his own personal blog, Now Pondering.

My Side Door is exactly that for me.  It’s my personal blog.  The place I can share things personal to me, about me, things that I’m thinking about for the future, etc.  And I’ve had this blog since August 2007, so that’s 4 years now.  Dang, has it really been that long?  Anyway, it’s occurred to me more and more recently, that I’m not writing much (well, really not writing at all), and that it’s about time I started making the time to write here.  It’s good for the soul.

For content, I’ve always wanted this blog to have a focus on photos, which is why I chose the theme I chose.  Sunday morning, while listening to NPR on my way into Echo, there was a story about old snapshots taken in the 50’s and how families used to take down the  box from the closet and look at the old snapshots, reminisce, and then possibly note who/when/where.  This too is another thing I need to get back to.  The last 2 years, I’ve taken way too many photos that I never share.  They are just sitting in a memory card somewhere.  Will I remember who/what/when/where that photo came from?  Not if I don’t start making those notes now.

And so here it is.  I’m throwing down my own gauntlet.  Blogging and I shall become friends once again.  Talk with you again soon.

Does it make sense to close comments on older posts?

Feb 22, 2009 by Steve Belt in Blogging

My primary real estate blog, Phoenix Area Real Estate Blog, is starting to get a ridiculous number of spam comments lately.  I’m sure it’s nothing compared to the big boys, but for me, it’s a continual annoyance, with several hundred spam comments per week.  Fortunately, the anti-spam software is working, and none of those comments are being seen by the public.  I mean, if you saw what I see left, you’d probably get sick.  The porn, pills, and whatnot that’s out there is seemingly limitless.  But even though it doesn’t get to the live web site, it is still something I must manage on a continual basis, as occasionally, the software will mark as spam a comment that looks spammy, but was in fact legit.

With my problem framed, I’m considering the following solution:  Close comments to any post older than XYZ months.  Here’s why I’m thinking about doing this.  Most of the spam is on older posts.  Often posts that are very old…even older than a year.  If I close comments to older posts, then the spammers are just that little bit thwarted.  If I can cut the spam in half, I’d be elated.  Perhaps it’ll work.  Perhaps it won’t.  I really don’t know, but I’m annoyed enough to give it a shot.  The truth is, very few posts get a legitimate comment much after the first month or so.  There are a few “superstar” posts I probably wouldn’t lock, but posts that clearly have no business being commented on now, are what I’m thinking about locking.

The question is, how long would it make sense to leave comments open?  Could I hurt my community?  Would anyone notice?

Upgraded to WordPress 2.7

Dec 11, 2008 by Steve Belt in Blogging

Since this is my personal blog and most days only gets a couple of visitors, it’s also my alpha test blog.  With that in mind, I upgraded to WordPress 2.7, to get a feel for the changes.

So far, it’s working.  I think the majority of the changes are on to the blog admin area, which if you are reading this, you shouldn’t have access to.  I guess you could say this is a behind-the-scenes, type upgrade.  The admin area is completely different, however.  One thing I like is the way comments show up with the avatars on the Dashboard now.  WordPress news is also taking up far less real estate on the dashboard.  You can even publish a post from the dashboard, though I’m not doing that myself right now.

The top menu bar has been moved to a side navigation bar.  This looks cleaner than before, as the settings menu was ridiculous when you have a lot of plugins.  Overall, it’s a nice change on the admin side.  I’ll play with it for a while, and if I don’t find any flaws, probably upgrade all of the other blogs to 2.7.  That was easy-peasy, using subversion.  If I haven’t said so recently, I LOVE using subversion to upgrade the blog.

Newest version of the Dust Theme Applied

Sep 15, 2008 by Steve Belt in Blogging

The theme for this blog is called Dust.  It was written by miloIIIVII.  Version 3.17.4 was released in late August, and today I applied it.  This blog’s intent was always to feature photos I have taken that I find interesting, and thus why I chose a very dark black background theme.  Dust really shows off a photo well, I believe.

The new version improves the typography a bit over the older version, and adds a few bits to the sidebar.  I tweaked the header a tad from the default, and added elements to the sidebar I like, but otherwise it’s pretty close to vanilla.  Hope you enjoy it.

I created a brand new custom theme

Jun 20, 2008 by Steve Belt in Blogging

For my newest blog, Scottsdale Real Estate Blog, I went crazy and created a brand new custom theme. I know…crazy, huh? With so many free themes out there, why would I bother to create a new theme. Well, I wanted what I wanted, and I couldn’t find exactly what I wanted, so I set about creating it.

It started with the vision of a photograph in my head. I hadn’t taken the photo, but I knew what the photo was going to be. I would shoot the McDowell Mountains from the top of my office building, and that would be the banner photo. This beautiful blue sky and mountains would be the basis for my inspiration for the theme.

I installed Dreamweaver, a tool I had never used before, and pieced together a complete theme, with all of the rough elements: Header, sidebar, content, and footer. At this point, I actually took the photo that was in my head. I would need it to complete the header, and really stylize what I had in mind. Photoshopping skills, I apparently have a little, but I’m continually amazed at how difficult it is for me to do what I feel should be easier. Eh…I suppose when I stop taking photos will be the day I declare myself a Photoshop master.


At this point, with so many php elements in the theme, and not much content to play with, Dreamweaver ceased being very useful, and I just installed it all on the live blog, and made my final edits from the WordPress admin panel. Honestly, it’s painfully slow, but since it’s my theme, I wasn’t hunting around wondering where to change what. Actually, the toughest part was getting the cForms plug-in and it’s style to agree with my style. I wanted that plug-in to go narrower than it is built to go by default, and adjusting cForms style to do that was very time consuming. And of course, it’s style and my theme’s style clashed, but that was fine…it caused me to clean up my style.

As themes go, it’s relatively basic. There aren’t as many style elements as the bigger themes, but at least I know it’s unique (or unique enough…I mean, how unique is a header, sidebar, content, and footer?). This exact format won’t be found elsewhere, and that itself is reason enough to have bitten off the task.

I’m naming the theme onScottsdale, for lack of a better name, and I’m sure I’ll add to the theme over time, but doing this project has given me a much better sense for what I see when I look at a theme, and what’s style/theme versus content. I don’t think I had fully distinguished the two well enough in the past.

All blogs upgraded to 2.5.1

May 12, 2008 by Steve Belt in Blogging

Saturday afternoon I upgraded every blog to 2.5.1. That includes the Phoenix Area Real Estate Blog, Scottsdale and Phoenix Homes for Sale, and my newest single property website: 3121 W Mescal. Of course, I also upgraded My Side Door from 2.5.0 to 2.5.1.

Another thing I did at the same time, was switch all blogs to use Subversion to get the latest version of WordPress directly from Automattic, rather than using the normal upgrade path. Upgrading via Subversion saves an FTP step, which wasn’t really a big deal, but if you can save a step, why not?

I had used Subversion to get the trunk (latest and greatest) before 2.5.1 was released, while I was testing out and setting up my first attempt at a single property website and found it was faster and easier than the standard FTP approach. So when I decided to jump to 2.5.1, it was a no-brainer to begin using Subversion for all future blog upgrades.

If you are considering using Subversion to track WordPress development, or upgrade your blog, here’s the link Upgrading WordPress using Subversion. Naturally, in order to do this, you will need Subversion installed on your server, and you’ll need access to run Subversion from that server.

Galleries and PHP5 in WordPress 2.5

Apr 21, 2008 by Steve Belt in Blogging

Today, I decided to try to create a template for single property web sites. I wanted to have a nice template, that featured a photo gallery, and all of the other property information that made sense. Working with some old listings, I set out on the first task, which was having a photo gallery. WordPress 2.5 seemed like the ideal version for this, as photo galleries are now supposed to be a standard feature. As well, the Options theme, by Justin Tadlock also seemed like a good choice, as it too has a pretty slick featured photos “option”, as one of it’s many theme options.

So, I set up a new domain, installed WP 2.5, installed Options, and quickly did some crude test posts. I was able to get the Featured photos option working correctly, but the gallery was giving me trouble. I kept struggling with it, and struggling with it, sure that I was doing something wrong. I searched via Google for any reference that the gallery doesn’t display for some people, and could find nothing. Searching the WordPress forums revealed no help. Finally I decided to read the code. Sometimes being a developer has its advantages, though I resist going that route when at all possible. I finally found the offending bit of code. The query that returns the images for the gallery was failing. Looking at the query, I couldn’t figure out how it would work for anyone, let alone most people, but I digress.

Digging in yet deeper, I found that there was indeed a bug logged against this problem in Trac. It’s fixed as of now, and slated for Version 2.5.1. That’s sweet. Accordingly, I’ve decided to install the version of WordPress at the bleeding edge of development, so that I can download this fix and ensure it does indeed fix my problem, the way it would appear to.

The bleeding edge version of WordPress does indeed fix the gallery problem, although there are still issues with galleries and IE 7 and even galleries and Firefox, dealing with adding photos to the gallery. I’ve developed a workaround, which requires me to use both browsers to do my first gallery. The gallery display problem seems to be a problem that PHP5 and/or MySQL 5.0 reveal, that earlier versions either mask, or simply don’t expose.

Not quite liking the gallery display functionality, I also decided to write my first WordPress plugin. The plugin is very simple. It adds the text “Next Image” & “Previous Image” below the navigation photos. I can understand why it’s not in the code normally, as it creates a language problem, but needing to write a plugin to address it, and being unable to use either a theme or css solution was rather annoying. Clearly there’s some more work needed in the future of galleries for WordPress.

The gallery also required the Options Theme to be modified to some extent. Most notably, Options doesn’t include any theme support for the attachment viewing of a Gallery, but copying the default PHP for that from WordPress got me pretty close. I’m going to continue to keep this blog around as my #1 test blog for evaluating new releases of WordPress, tracking bugs, and evaluating fixes. Now that I have it set up, there’s no cost and it’s easy to do.

If you are curious, its

Upgraded my side door to wordpress 2.5

Apr 04, 2008 by Steve Belt in Blogging, General

What better blog to be the guinea pig for WordPress 2.5, then my personal blog that I know almost no one reads. Out of the box, I love the new interaction with plug-ins. In 2.3, we got notification that plug-ins were out-of-date. Now with 2.5, we get a way to download and install plug-ins that are out-of-date, directly from the admin panel. This was awesome!

I’m using Windows Live Writer to compose this message, and then I’ll see if I can save as draft and edit online, just as I was before.

===save draft and finish editing online===

Yep, that works well. There is a problem in the online editor…it seems the editing window is too wide, and it’s covering up the publish button that should be the right of this editor window. I suspect that has to do with my variable width CSS, and possibly one of my editing plug-ins that hasn’t updated to 2.5 yet. Switching to the HTML view fixes it, but it’s annoying none-the-less.

Now I’ll add a picture online, even though I suspect I’ll always do that from Live Writer in the future, just to see if it’s different. Well, that’s not going to work. I can upload a picture, but I can’t seem to get the picture to want to go into the post. This was supposed to be one of the premier features of 2.5, so that’s not a good result, and it’s unacceptable that picture insertion doesn’t work…completely unacceptable.

Another thing that’s always annoyed me, and is no different now, the Preview button doesn’t save before it previews. What’s up with that?

Hmm, my verdict: I love the plug-in change, but the pictures not working is a deal breaker.

UPDATE: In Firefox images load and are managed perfectly…so it’s something with IE. I should have guessed. In Trac for WordPress, defect 6502 is noted with the same symptoms I’m having, so I added a note to the defect that I’m experiencing it too.

Just Discovered: Windows Live Writer

Mar 19, 2008 by Steve Belt in Blogging

Last night, on my home PC, Windows Messenger needed to be updated to a newer version.  I relented, and did the install.  Along the way, an option to install Windows Live Writer was pushed in front of me, so I decided what the heck and installed it.


After getting it installed, I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to compose a new blog post.  I did a test post, and saved it in draft mode.  The post was easily seen online, just the way I had written it, saved as a draft.  That post included a picture, like this one, and the picture was uploaded exactly where it should have been.

Above, you can click on the screen shot to see how Live Writer is a true WYSIWYG editor.  The style of my blog is coming through perfectly to the editor, which the normal editor for my blog doesn’t do nearly as well.

As a further test, I just wrote and published this post about selling a Phoenix home, using Live Writer.

So far, this tool is darned near ideal.  Another huge bonus, is that I now get real time feedback about misspelled words.  I’ll freely admit, I need spelling support.  I can’t find any downsides so far, so I’m going to keep using it until I do.

There is a bit of a drawback, however.  Tagging and SEO tools aren’t able to be managed from Live Writer, as they are admin plug-ins.  So, I’ll always need to save each post as a draft, and then publish from the blog, after doing those final activities.  I much prefer the WYSIWYG editor for composition, and when ready to publish, there’s an option to save the draft and edit online.  That works perfectly for doing any additional plug-in required tasks before publishing.

Launched the new last weekend

Mar 18, 2008 by Steve Belt in Blogging, Real Estate

Saturday, I announced the re-launch of the new website.  The old website was a static web 1.0 style site, that was really underperforming for me.  I made very few, if any, clients from it, and with the success of, I knew it had to go.

So, I found a website template that I liked, and then I had that template customized for my needs.  And what you see at Scottsdale and Phoenix Homes For Sale is the result. 

I hope you check it out.  If you do, let me know what you think.