Administrative note

I have just installed a new ‘plugin’ module to the WordPress content management system which I use to maintain Gruts. I have been using it on my Friends of Charles Darwin site for a few months now, and it makes my life a bit easier.

From a normal reader's point of view (if, indeed, there is such a thing as a normal Gruts reader), the only changes you are likely to notice are that you can now:

  • share Gruts posts on Twitter, Facecloth, etc., if you so wish, by clicking the appropriate icon at the bottom of each post;
  • use your personal Twitter, Facecloth, etc. accounts to fill in your personal details when adding a new comment to Gruts (although you don't have to—you can still fill in your details the old-fashioned way, manually).

In other words, nothing much has changed.

Gruts in a nutshell

I've just been analysing the 11,270 different Google search-strings that pointed visitors towards Gruts in the last 30 days. They make fascinating reading. Top of the list, obviously, comes ‘Alice Roberts’, whom, before her recent promotion to professor, I wisely tipped to lead Italy. Those idiot Italians must be kicking themselves for not snapping her up when they had the chance!

Far more illuminating reading, however, are some of the more unusual search requests which brought punters flocking this way. Here is a small selection:

  • gay dog
  • george clooney look alike
  • bored shitless
  • difference between kidney and liver
  • spoops
  • heart sausage
  • dick biscuit
  • mnmn
  • run over cat
  • monk fight
  • albatross hat
  • dead as a doorknob
  • fire breathing rubber duckies
  • pee too much
  • porpoise cake
  • scary duck
  • rate my stump
  • holding on to something that isn't there
  • owl communications
  • what is ectoplasm
  • you say france and i whistle angry men
  • fat man waving
  • perfect pubes
  • is fent a word
  • ginger tits
  • freddie mercury vacuum
  • she poo dogs
  • bare botty
  • anonymous helmet
  • nudist beauty pagents
  • evolution of genitals
  • coat hangers
  • my nurse uniform

Yes, I think that sums up Gruts pretty well.

Technical note

Thanks to a number of readers who emailed me to say that they were having problems accessing the Gruts website. Internet Explorer browser users were particularly badly hit. Yes, I know, serves them right—but, in this case, it looks as if it wasn't Internet Explorer's fault.

I believe I've fixed the problem. For the technically inclined amongst you, Keith, it looks as if it was down to a popular WordPress caching plugin which can end up writing to the .htaccess file. Totally uncoincidentally, I am sure, the plugin in question went through a major upgrade earlier today. I have now re-configured the plugin so that it doesn't write to the .htaccess file, and, touch-wood, normal disservice seems to have been restored.

Update 06-Dec-2011 18:45: Apparently, now the Gruts post permalinks aren't working properly. That'll be due to my 'fix'. I'm looking into it now. Fixed!

Fresh Gruts!

Did you feel those slight tremors between 07:02 and 09:11 this morning? I reckon they peaked at about 2.3 on the Rixter Scale. No, nothing to do with fracking tests near Blackpool; it was Gruts going through a major upgrade.

After many years loyal service, I have decided to put my home-grown content management system out to stud, and to migrate to WordPress. When I started Gruts over a decade ago, this simply wasn't an option. By the time that decent content management systems became available, however, there was so much crap content invested in Gruts, that changing to a new system was far too much of a headache. Such is often the case with ground-breaking technological innovations—remember all the grief the BBC had rescuing  the data from their Domesday Project?

Anyway, I have finally grasped the nettle by the horns, muscled down, and written lots of clever, one-off computer programs to convert all of the old Gruts content into WordPress format. This includes the post comments, the conversion of which alone required two bumper packets of Anadin Extra™. You wouldn't catch Murdoch showing such respect to his readers' contributions, mark my words (as I marked yours).

And the upshot of all this? Well, in short:

  • nearly all of the previous content is still available;
  • I did delete a few old posts, which I happened to notice depended entirely on links to other websites which aren't there any more;
  • all of your comments have been preserved for posterity. All of them. No matter how stupid;
  • the URLs (web addresses) of all of the posts and a lot of the other content have changed, but the old URLs still work. This is because I happen to believe that honouring existing external links to your website is a courtesy that every content provider should adopt, pain in the arse though it undoubtedly is;
  • one thing I haven't been able to incorporate into the upgrade is my bespoke comment avatars (those little pictures next to each person's comments). WordPress makes use (as did my old home-grown commenting system) of the external service. Under my old system, anyone who didn't use this service was assigned their own Gruts-specific avatar. This no longer happens. To set up your own avatar, therefore, check out my FAQ: How do I set/change my comments avatar? (Regular Gruts commenters who don't do this can expect to be badgered by yours truly: avatars make websites more friendly!)
  • if you are a new commenter (i.e. if you have not had two previously approved comments associated with the email address that you give), then any comments that you post will be held in a moderation queue prior to being approved/rejected by me. This is primarily to prevent comment spam. I haven't been able to test it, but I am pretty sure that any previous comments you made under the old system will be honoured in the calculation;
  • the borders around some of the images on the old posts don't look quite right, but it would have been too much hassle to fix them all. I'll probably fix certain individual ones manually, if they begin to irritate me unduly;
  • each post on Gruts can now be associated with one or more topics (or categories). I have been recording categories against posts for years, but you have never been able to see them before because it was too hard for me to program without a proper database running things behind the scenes. Some of the categorisations of old posts are, I freely admit, a bit rubbish, and the very old posts have no categories at all. I shall be trying to improve these categorisations retrospectively over the coming months;
  • I shall also be giving the About pages a long-overdue update pretty soon;
  • all Gruts content remains completely free. (I certainly won't be repeating my rival Murdoch's ridiculous mistake.)
  • a lot of the stuff in the sidebar has disappeared for the time being, but it will return in due course;
  • the site should now look pretty nifty on your smartphones;
  • I am now able to post updates from my own phone, so expect more roving reports in future.

Or, to summarise in five words:

  • same shit; slightly different format.

Spooky coincidence: WordPress informs me that this is the 1,965th post on Gruts. 1965 also happens to be the year in which I was born. This probably means something deeply significant, but I haven't been able to work out what it is yet.

1,965 posts. That's a serious load of nonsense.

Now with improved comments

[Please Note: This announcement has been superseded by the major upgrade to Gruts on 01-Dec-2011.]

I've just tweaked the Gruts commenting system. Those little pictures (avatars) which appear on the recent comments page alongside people's comments now also appear alongside the comments underneath each Gruts item. And, better still, you can now set up or change your own avatar.

Next, I shall be invading Poland.