New blog layout – poll results and thoughts

Contemplating the blog layout…

On June 2nd, I blogged about this blogs new layout and asked for feedback directly or via a poll. As a week has now passed, I thought it time to provide an update on things.

The new layout is not without its problems (notably the banner image on every page), and some had issues I couldn’t easily replicate. My thanks to Richard, Sue W and JMB in particular for their feedback on specific issues, all of which helped me further tweak things – hopefully for the better.

Overall, of those who responded to the poll, most seemed in favour of the changes and the layout, and I’m growing accustomed to it. As such, it will be remaining for a the time being, so I’m not annoying everyone with what feels like a changing look and feel.

However, I’m still looking at options to get something which offers a similar level of functionality and allows plenty of room for images to appear in a decent size, but without having the huge banner image appear on individual articles and pages.

Sadly, while there are a fair few WordPress themes which avid the big banner on individual pages and offer things like a scrolling menu bar, etc., they tend to do so at the expense of text & images, which often get squeezed by an inordinate amount of left-side white space. So, I’ll keep looking.

In the meantime, thanks again to all who responded, be it with comments and / or via the poll.

Giving the blog a face-lift

The new banner – displayed on opening the blog, with latest posts displayed below it

It’s a bit hard to miss, but yes, I’ve made a change to the theme underpinning this blog. It’s by no means a permanent change – that depends on the feedback I get. However, there are a number of reasons why I wanted to change things a little, so I’m hoping readers will prefer the new layout.

  • A lot of effort has gone into the menu system, but it was always a pain to use with the “old” layout, as it was locked to the top of a page – scroll down too far and it would vanish off the top of the browser tab
  • Some readers stated they found the old layout difficult to follow, with the sidebar on the right seeming to “run into” the body text
  • It didn’t loan itself to viewing on mobile devices that well
  • I wanted to tweak the text a little and (hopefully) make it easier on the eye.

As the changes are template-based, it is possible some pages / images in this blog have gone a little sideways in places. I’m working through everything to double-check (unfortunately, the preview option in WordPress doesn’t entirely match the actual page layout, so I could only start checking things once I’d made the change to the new format. Ho hum). Please make allowances if you come across something that looks awkwardly formatted on a page in the meantime 🙂 .

The thing I’m hoping will prove most useful is the menu, which will now following you down a page as you scroll. Given I’ve put a fair amount of time in trying to categorise and track articles and pages in the blog via the menu, this will hopefully make it far more reader-friendly than has been the case in the past.

The menu bar should now move down / up the page as you scroll through this blog

I’ve also revised the default body and headings text font – again, my hope is this improves readability and comfort when browsing. Unfortunately, one thing WordPress won’t let me change is the use of block caps for headings; this is locked into a CSS I can’t access, but I how the use of caps in titles and headings isn’t overpowering.

Finally, this theme had a better set of style sheets for mobile devices. I’ve no idea how many people read this blog from the tablet, etc, but (with the possible exception of the menu, which is a bit “ugh!” on tablets, etc.), it should make for easier reading if you do.

As with the last major restructure to this blog – in 2012, can you believe?!), I’m offering a little feedback poll for those interested in letting me know quick thoughts on the layout

Poll closed – see the update here.

Thank you

When I started blogging, it was because I felt I needed to say something on a particular topic. Writing has always been a part of my life (although it can be somewhat slapdash in these pages as I try to get my head around multiple things!), and so I wasn’t too concerned about finding an audience, I simply wanted the means of expressing things I wanted to say on that subject.

  However, few things in life stay constant, and so it has been with my blogging and virtual worlds writing, something I’ve covered numerous times elsewhere in these pages.

Recently, Strawberry Singh ran a Monday Meme asking people to write about the things Second Life has encouraged them to learn or do. For me, the it’s been a circular thing: as my blogging slowly expanded, so it encouraged me to delve deeper into Second Life – exploring, visiting art exhibitions, learning about how the platform actually works, and learn about the company that brings us this platform on a daily basis – Linden Lab. In turn, all this encouraged me to blog more, and so the circle continued.

As I’ve gone through this cycle, I’ve been fortunate enough to find other people like to read what I have to write, and have always been grateful for the support people have shown in doing so.

Today, Sunday, March 1st, I discovered that I have received the 2015 Avi Choice Award for Favourite Entertainment  / Arts SL Blog or Website (and thank you, Tina, for poking me on Twtter about it!).

I would be lying if I said I was unaware that I’d been nominated. For one thing, Arkad Baxton IM’d me to ask if he might nominate me, which was flattering enough (and again, thank you, Arkad for doing so); for another, I did receive word from the organisers as well.

However, actually winning an award was genuinely unexpected. As such, I would like to offer my sincere thanks to everyone who voted. I’d also like to thank all of you who continue to show your support for these pages by reading them and commenting on them daily, and for your support through the SL Feeds, Twitter, Plurk and so on.

Your support has, and remains, deeply appreciated, and remains the motivation for me to keep writing and covering all I can about Second Life and virtual worlds.

My congratulations also go to all of the nominees and winners in all of the Avi Choice categories.

Related Links

My word, what a year!

Pinoy Hideout, Lions Hill; Inara Pey, May 2014, on FlickrPinoy Hideout, Lions Hill, November 2014 (Flickr) – blog post

So 2014 draws to a close. I’ve already given a detailed review of the year as I saw it and reported on it through these pages; but before the year closes, I wanted to offer something a little more personal.

This year has been incredible for me. In terms of raw figures (for whatever they’re worth), I’ve published 950+ posts, passed through 3,000 published in total, seen the blog pass through one million page views and, at least according to WordPress, these pages (intentionally or otherwise) have been viewed from 194 countries (hello, Iran and North Korea. Oh wait, you’re not listening 🙂 ).

Jacob's Pond, End of Time February 2014The Pines at Jacobs Pond End of Time, February 2014 (Flickr) – blog post

But more particularly, the year has offered me the opportunity to visit over 100 regions and blog on them (some more than once), and to experience 136 art exhibitions, installations and performances that I’ve actually manage to document (57 sponsored by the LEA and 79 non-LEA events) – my apologies to those I missed / didn’t manage to get written-up.

Where art is concerned, I’ve been particularly privileged to be asked to join the UWA jury for Transcending Borders  – thank you, Jayjay and FreeWee, and to have also witnessed Paradise Lost: he Story of Adam and Eve’s Original Sin, which I still believe to be an outstanding masterpiece of performance art in a virtual world, and the jewel in the crown of my enjoyment of a fabulous year for art in SL. I’ve also met many more talented people in SL.

H2O - Walt Ireton (Jay Evers)
Walt Ireton was one of several artists I was fortunate enough to meet in-world and become friends with during 2014. His real-life photography exhibited in SL in shows such as H2O is amazing – blog post

As regular readers know, I’ve attempted to stay up-to-speed on technical developments, but have also found time to move house, expand my sailing and flying activities, and continue tracking Curiosity’s progress on Mars, as well as look at other “spacey” things.

I’ve also tried to improve my photographic technique and also started to get my head around image editing with GIMP (PhotoShop still has me hiding under the desk). I’ve even managed to get into “proper” machinima, something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, and have received a lot of support and advice in my efforts – thank you to everyone concerned.

2014 saw my interest in, and enjoyment of, flying and sailing increase
2014 saw my interest in, and enjoyment of, flying and sailing increase

I really don’t want to go on at great length here; suffice it to say, the year has had its moments at times, but for the most part has been a huge amount of fun, discovery and learning. It has also been immensely rewarding simply because I see so many people returning to these pages again and again, reading, offering “likes” and feedback, providing suggestions and pointing out things of interest or providing hints and support.

So what I really want to say is, thank you to all of you for all your support through the year; and thank you for all the Tweets, re-tweets, Plurks, re-plurks, location suggestions via social media or via e-mail, comments via e-mail and in-world IMs. It may sound trite, but the reality is, without your support and feedback, this blog would simply be a collection of dry electronic pages, and I’d be without any stars to steer by.

Thank you, everyone, and I’ll see you in 2015!

Fastnet Rock, Blake Sea Crows Nest; Inara Pey, December 2014, on Flickr

Eight years on

Still enjoying SL: my island home with my toys: Catalina, MD-900, E-Tech cruiser and Loonetta-31
Still enjoying SL: my island home with my toys: Catalina, MD-900, E-Tech cruiser and Loonetta-31

December 5th. Another day in SL. My 2,922nd being a small part of Second Life; eight years. Blimey.

It’s been an interesting year – one I’ll doubtless delve into in some detail my end-of-year review;  but in that time we’ve been through some interesting times. We’ve seen a change of hands at the the top of Linden Lab, the promise of a new, cutting edge virtual world platform in the near(ish) future. There’s been a huge amount of work improving, through things like the completion of Project Shining, the arrival of the CDN, HTTP pipelining, and a lot of viewer updates and added functionality such as the new photographic capabilities, group bans, better group chat, improvements to region crossings, and so on, all of which have largely helped improve things for most of us, even with the odd hiccup for so here and there.

Yes, there have been some disappointments. The ToS situation wasn’t sorted out in the way many of us were hoping to see; words were played with, but frankly, what we’ve been left with is still ambiguous in its interpretation. Then the changes to the Gaming Policy, although not something the Lab could have avoided, haven’t perhaps been as handled as clearly as might have been the case, lacking information on fees, etc. But, on the whole, it’s been a pretty positive year.

Inara Pey: then and now
Inara Pey: then and now

On a personal level, the last year has been fun. There’s been more than enough to keep me busy on the blogging front, I’ve been able to visit and write about some stunning regions, art installations, galleries and performances, as well as trying to keep astride of all the news. All of this has meant that this blog has grown by nigh-on another 1,000 posts over the course of twelve months, and hit the 1,000,000 page views mark. Admittedly, some of the articles have been on topics away from SL and virtual worlds; my love of astronomy and space exploration has played a part in pushing up the number of posts, and of course, there’s been VR and AR to watch as well.

I’m still enjoying flying and sailing in SL; if anything, I’m doing somewhat more of both – my Loonetta 31, Exotix 2 sees a fair amount of use and has carried me far and wide across Blake Sea and beyond. Equally, G-NARA, my PBY-6A Catalina has seen a lot of use, and has also drawn a lot of compliments thanks to its distinctive colour scheme courtesy of the marvellous Josh Noonan.

The Catalina was actually responsible for my biggest personal change for the year: moving back on to a private island of my own, just so I could have a place to leave it sitting out in the sunshine, as seen on the right in the picture at the top of this piece. Truth be told, I’m pretty comfortable in the house, and continue to tweak the island here and there.

I am perhaps a little disappointed that it’s another year and no cake from the Lab. But still, can’t have everything – even if NASA did delay the Orion launch by 24 hours so it would launch on my rezday! 😀 .

Orion EFT-1 lifts-off exactly on time, 12:05 UTC, on Friday, December 5th, 2014. A nice rezday treat for me! :)
Orion EFT-1 lifts-off exactly on time, 12:05 UTC, on Friday, December 5th, 2014. A nice rezday treat for me! 🙂

As to the future – there is the new VW platform from LL, there’s also High Fidelity, and we’ll doubtless hear of others. Oculus Rift will eventually appear in a consumer version, and it’ll be sitting there with the likes of Magic Leap and castAR, and probably other systems and clones as well, which will allow us to enjoy environments – and maybe express ourselves – in ways we’re not even aware of. All of these things do inevitably mean challenges for Second Life; but the Lab remains committed to the platform, supporting it, improving it, and providing tools and capabilities to those of us who enjoy it.

Which may well mean that in another 12 months, I’ll be writing about nine years of involvement in SL!

One million and rising

SLCP-1I’ve been blogging since 2007; from then through 2009, it was purely a personal thing on Blogger (or was it Blogspot? Truth be told, I can’t remember now). In 2009 I moved everything to WordPress, but was still very much a sporadic blogger. It wasn’t until the middle of 2011 that I really started blogging “seriously” (and by that I mean making a conscious effort to regularly blog, and about things people might find interesting!).

WordPress provide their bloggers with a range of statistics, and through these I’ve tended to note certain events, such as hitting my 2,000th post in November 2013, (having taken three years to initially hit the 1,000 mark in August 2012, and I’m already fast approaching 3K posts). However, in poking at the stats page late on August 26th, 2014, I found I’d reached what (for me) is another milestone.

I’ve passed one million page views (by a thousand, in fact…)!

OK, so page views aren’t the same as visitors, but that’s still a figure which boggles my little brain. What’s more, it boggles it on all four cylinders, particularly given the vast majority of views have taken place in the  three years between January 2012 and today.


Out of curiosity, and allowing for the fact WordPress have only been providing figures on unique visitors since December 2012, I decided to try to average-out the approximate number of individual visits that one million represents. And, in rough terms, it seems to work out at 533,135, or 1.87 page views per visitor (well, the calculation actually worked out to 533,134.715, but I rounded whoever that .715 was to a whole person; my apologies if it happened to be a Tiny! 🙂 ). That’s another number which boggles my brain.

So, thank you to all of you who take the time to come read my ramblings, and to those of you who take the time to like and / or comment, and to all those who have subscribed. Your continued support really does mean a lot to me.