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Preview: All in the head

All in the head

Ponderings and code by Drew McLellan


Using Gravatar as a Spam Indicator

Tue, 03 Jan 2017 08:58:00 +0000

One of the necessary evils of running a website that includes user comments is eventually sifting through spam. Even if you have a good anti-spam filter like Akismet in place, you still need to occasionally wade through the comments to check for false positives.

Today, I’ve been updating the Perch Blog add-on to make it compatible with the upcoming Perch 3, and one of the pages I’ve been tackling is comments listing page. The listings API in Perch 3 has the option of including a Gravatar alongside any email address column. On adding this to my comments...

Keeping Your Content Classy

Mon, 21 Mar 2016 15:51:00 +0000

In User Generated Content in a Classy World Snook muses on the problems of keeping tight control over styling (and by extension, markup) without either embedding too much presentation into your stored content or having to write janky CSS that becomes hard to manage.

In an ideal world, a CMS would allow you to define and embed “objects” inside the content. An object has some complexity to it. For example, a pull quote might have a byline. A photo might have a caption and a credit. Or maybe it’s even more complex than that.

A little over a year...

Creating Custom Short URLs in Perch Runway

Wed, 23 Dec 2015 15:53:00 +0000

One of the nice little features we’ve had in the 24 ways site for a few years is custom short URLs. As full article URLs contain a sometimes lengthy slug based on the article title, it’s useful to have a shorter version to use in tweets and our ebooks.

Our publishing schedule dictates that we post once per day, and only 24 articles a year, so the short URLs are based on the date alone. For example, today’s article is the following:

That’s the year 2015, followed by the day number, 23. Tomorrow will be 201524 and...

Progressive Versioning

Mon, 14 Dec 2015 17:05:00 +0000

When you run a software-as-a-service web app, one thing you don’t need to think too hard about is software version numbers. You can roll out new functionality and fixes as soon as they’re ready, and as customers don’t need to make a conscious decision about updating. They’re just always on the latest version.

With desktop apps or on-premise software like Perch the version numbers take on a bit of a dual purpose. Primarily they’re a technical signifier of the code version, but secondarily they perform a marketing function. In order to encourage users to update (and perhaps pay to update)...

Ad Blocking and the Future of Web Analytics

Thu, 17 Sep 2015 11:00:00 +0100

This morning I caved and installed an ad blocker in my primary browser. I’d resisted for years, believing that advertising was paying for the sites I enjoyed, so subverting that advertising was tantamount to stealing. I also both run a site that sometimes gets support from advertisers, and pay to advertise our business on other people’s sites. So I’m culpable, and blocking felt at best hypocritical. But enough is enough.

Large parts of the commercial web have become unusable due to advertising. Diminishing revenues have resulted in more ads per page, and ridiculous over-pagination of content, resulting in less...

Recording Conference Audio

Sat, 12 Sep 2015 14:37:00 +0100

When preparing for the first dConstruct conference back in 2005, organiser Andy Budd sent an email to a few friends enquiring as to what he’d need to do to record then audio of the presentations for later release as a podcast series. Having a fair idea what was involved (sound engineering was my career path before I got distracted by the Web), I began writing a fairly lengthy description in reply. At the end of the email, fearing that my notes would completely put him off the idea, I offered to come along to the conference and help out. And...

Riding London

Sun, 23 Aug 2015 20:13:00 +0100

As regular readers will be aware, last year I crashed out of the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 cycling event in the middle of a tropical rain storm. Unsatisfied with that outcome, I attempted the event again in 2015. For the sake of completeness, here’s how I got on.

From the moment I knew enough about my injuries to know I would be fine to get back on a bike, I was resolute that I wanted to return and complete what I’d set out to achieve. As such, I filled out the ballot for a place, sent it off and waited. Being...

Moving to Perch Runway

Sat, 22 Aug 2015 11:34:00 +0100

Anyone who had read my previous post about crashing my bike, followed by about a year of silence, could reasonably conclude that I suffered some sort of underlying and undetected injury which crept up and took me from this world in the night shortly thereafter. The reality is far less dramatic, and is, as most things that trouble me are, entirely down to software. As gauche as it may be to blog about your blog, indulge me for a moment or two while I do just that.

When I launched this site in March 2003, it was on a

Crashing Out

Sat, 16 Aug 2014 23:11:00 +0100


Then it all went black. Had you asked me if I’d lost consciousness, I would have assured you I had not, but neither could I account for the time between being on my bike and where I was now; on the ground.

It had started months before. Rachel had had a ballot place for the inaugural 2013 RideLondon 100 mile cycling event, and had deferred due to injury. This had meant she would be riding in the 2014 event instead, and so I also entered the ballot hoping that we could ride it together.

In March...

Why is Progressive Enhancement so unpopular?

Mon, 27 Jan 2014 16:03:00 +0000

A little earlier today, having read how Sky broadband had blocked the jQuery CDN I tweeted

To which many responded this is why we don’t rely on CDNs and how you can (shock, horror) even host your own JavaScript fallback and how you make a hole at each end of the shell and suck with a straw. In order to clarify the problem, I followed up with