The Geometry of Progress

Any expressive activity, whether it be writing or painting or acting, will invariably be influenced by our mental situation. Where we are in our lives, our hopes and fears, our broader concerns and specific needs, all feeds into the creative process. Blogging is no different and, perhaps, is even more influenced by these currents, these daily and weekly ebbs and flows as well as by grander movements.

My writing here follows these patterns intimately, in a fashion that is largely beyond my control. When I’m finding it difficult to make headway in my life, to get things done, I tend to write about what helps me to overcome those problems. When I’m working on big design projects, I detail some of my thinking behind them—even if I never say what I’m working on, or even that I’m working on anything at all.

So, accepting this—and accepting that my moods and internal trends mean I won’t be writing things that will please all of my readers (and especially myself) all of the time—here are a few thoughts about the continuing development of Tarski.

Cat thinks of Tarski as masculine, and I tend to agree, although I’m not sure I could quantify that. Certainly once I’d settled on the name, the design process became more focused, the ideas clearer, but of course most of the structure was already in place; it was simply a matter of tweaking. Nonetheless, identity often seems to reside in the details, so the fine-tuning it went through as I prepared it for release may have played a disproportionately large role in creating the final effect.

In a sense, choosing the name wasn’t a matter of forming the theme’s identity, but of finding the name that best reflected my sense of what the theme was about, which was structure, precision and clarity, but with its share of personal quirks. I tried to give Martin and Eric a fairly free hand in designing the header artwork, trusting them to pick up on theme’s sensibility.

Tarski isn’t like, say, K2—it’s not trying to be all things to all men. While we’re trying to integrate a broad range of popular plugins, it doesn’t seem controversial to say that Tarski is at its best when used by someone who writes reasonably substantial entries. Posts that consist of only a couple of sentences will invariably be overwhelmed by the structural elements—the header, the navigation, the horizontal rules, the big serif headers.

Due to the slightly idiosyncratic way the theme works, short posts or lots of sidebar content will push the comments down the page a long way, is also problematic. While I’m tempted to say “It’s not a bug, it’s a feature,” it seems likely that it’s a factor putting off a significant number of people. The trouble is, reworking the code to give an option of a more ‘inline’ comments display would be a hell of a lot of work. Probably too much, at this point, although I don’t rule it out entirely.

On a more positive note, Chris and I have plans to expand on some of the directions we took with the initial release. The problem with any theme that gets into widespread use is that all the blogs using it have a tendency to look the same, so we included three different header images, and happily they all seem to be in use, although Martin’s grey tree understandably predominates.

The solution to this difficulty seems obvious: give people more choices. Browsing through Technorati I’ve already noticed some modifications that range from new headers to swapping columns and colour scheme alterations. One of my major goals for the next major release is to make several colour schemes available. Kyle Neath’s pitch-perfect Hemingway is available in black and white, and while there are no plans for a dark version, being able to choose from a variety of styles without having to fiddle with the CSS strikes me as a great way to allow people to bring the design of their blog closer to the style of their content.

Any expansion of the colour scheme options will need to be accompanied by new header images, and we hope to bring the talents of more artists to bear. My own meagre artistic talents may also be making further appearances… stay tuned to this channel for updates.

Last updated 13th Jan 2009

3 responses

Thanks for the ping and your insightful comments. My feelings about Tarski as ‘masculine’ weren’t quantifiable either and that’s really why I mentioned them. As a “long writer,” I really love the theme and its functionality. Thanks for linking to some other variations. I will probably play with it and make my homepage more personal, but keep its essence the same.

~ Cat

Hrm, pingbacks don’t seem to be displaying as intended. WordPress does some funny stuff with track- and pingbacks, so our code to display them is a little less than elegant in places. Seems we’re going to have to tweak some more.

Looking forward to seeing the alterations you (and other people) come up with.

~ ionfish

As for the issue with the sidebar, I just removed my sidebar for single posts. I really like the look now, as it focuses your attention on the comments. If someone wants my sidebar, they can go back to the main page.

I look forward to more header options, although the ones now are great.

And I don’t think of Tarski as masculine. But I don’t really stick genders on my WordPress themes. =)

~ e