Sprucing Up The PlaceAfter Friday’s entry regarding Plugins and how to tweak MT, I couldn’t help but do a little tweaking myself. That coupled with the comments from my review at The Weblog Review, I thought of a few things that I could do to kind of spruce up the place. There’s a saying that you’re never truly done with a website. There are always things you find that you can do to tweak it just a little bit more. Well, this weblog is no exception and here’s a rundown of what I did.

Add A Description
The first thing I needed to address was the issue of describing what my weblog is about. The name “mashby.com” doesn’t really tell you much if you don’t know me already, so I added a description to the upper right corner of the main weblog. I’m a big fan of introduction statements on a web page, so I can’t imagine how I missed this one.

Display Category Per Entry
The next tweak was to include the category of an entry in each post. In ODATT’s review, he makes the comment that there’s a wide range of topics that I cover. I would imagine that having a bunch of entries thrown at you involving different subjects could be a bit confusing, so my solution was to include the category in the post so that you would have some kind of “signpost” to refer to. The bottom of the post is already at the maximum width I’m comfortable with, so I inserted it in the header of each entry. I chose a low contrast color so that it wouldn’t detract too much from the title itself. I also made the category title a link so that if you’re interested in that particular subject, you can find more entries related to it.

Related Entries Plugin
Speaking of related topics, one of the Plugins I came across while I was writing Friday’s entry was the Related Entries SQL Plugin. This is a bit more involved than a typical Plugin, but it installed very quickly and within 20 minutes I had it working. What the Plugin does, it perform a broad ranging comparison of all your articles, run it through an algorithm and then choose the top entries that seem most related to the current entry. These related articles can then be added to your individual archive. I inserted this new section just above the Comments section. I don’t know that it’s a dead on match for every entry, but it seems to be fairly accurate for many of the entries.

Break Up Long Stories
With the “Related Articles” section on the individual archives page and the fact that many of my entries – like this one – can be a bit long winded, I decided to include the “Extended Entry” feature built into MT. What this does is provide a break in your entry on the main index page and insert a “Continue Reading” link that leads the reader to the remainder of the entry.

I had been thinking of implementing this since the review of my weblog came out. I do tend to write very long entries and not everyone wants to read the whole thing. By breaking up the entry and including a “Continue Reading” link keeps from overwhelming the reader on the home page. At least that’s what I hope it does. My fear is that it could also be perceived as more difficult to read. What do you think? If you’ve read this far then that means that you tend to read my long entries, so do you mind having to click a link to continue reading?

A Few More Plugins
Once I had the Related Entries SQL Plugin installed, I decided to also install the SmartyPants Plugin. It’s a small little plugin that easily translates plain ASCII punctuation characters into “smart” typographic punctuation HTML entities. It’s simlar to the Amputator Plugin and just goes to show that my snobbery is not limited to just HTML, but to all typography as well.

I also installed the New Technorati Plugin, but I’ll discuss that more in the next section.

Having Fun With Directories
The last thing that I played with I actually stumbled upon on accident. I was looking for a button for another site I’m working on and I stumbled upon the Directories section of Steal These Buttons. I was curious about what all these websites were, so I followed a few links to see where they would take me. Out of all the sites I visited, there were a handful that caught my eye.

Technorati – is a great way to find people who are linking to you. Not everyone uses Trackbacks, so Technorati helps fill in the gap. I created a profile, but the Technorati spiders haven’t made it to my site yet to verify that I do indeed own this weblog. In the meantime, I installed the New Technorati Plugin which allows me to show who’s linking to my website. I don’t have a lot of people linking back to me at this point, so I decided just to include the “Last 10 Inbound Links” at the bottom of my Links page.

BlogStreet – There are a lot of weblog directories, such as Blogarama, Blogwise and DayPop. However, the one that stood out from the rest is BlogStreet. In addition to basic reviews, Blogstreet shows where your weblog fits into a “neighborhood”. A good example of this is Mike Rohde’s weblog. If you look at his profile.

GeoURL – The last directory I played with was GeoURL. What this directory does is associate GPS coordinates with your URL. This allows you to see what other domains are close in proximity to yours. For example if you take a look at my entry in the database you can see that there’s quite a few domains near me. This web site will definitely give you a different perspecitve of the Internet

Ta Da!
So there you have it, an exhaustive overview of everything that I did to tweak the site. Although it may seem like a lot, it really only ate up about 2 hours of my time over the past week. Like I’ve said before, tweaking MovableType is not all that difficult and new features, such as Plugin, can be implemented rather quick and easy. My hope is that something in this entry will inspire to tweak your own weblog and provide something new and interesting for your readers.

Speaking of reader interest, I’d also like to hear what you think of the changes that I’ve made. Let me know what you like and/or dislike by posting a comment to this entry.