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Sunday, May 08, 2016

A Little Help For Those Who Squint At This Page

This isn't a post about Masonry, but I wanted to address an issue that several folks have complained about, especially in recent years. Some readers apparently have trouble viewing posts on this blog because of the white type on a black background. 

I understand.

In all fairness, I made this formatting decision back when a lot of people felt that a darker background with lighter type was easier on the eyes. Alice still uses the ancient blue background/white type screen option on Microsoft Word because white screens with dark type give her migraines, and even set off old epilepsy symptoms. However, many others seem to disagree. (Just as a casual observation, the mobile application of the Internet Movie Database uses almost my same exact color formatting choices, so not everybody thinks white backgrounds are the 'bomb.')

I know that loads of blog authors have moved off of Google's free Blogger platform to Wordpress. I have looked into it, but I have to admit to being a little confused by Wordpress' CSS and PHP formatting details. Blogger is old style HTML, and I just haven't kept up with the technology - mostly because I just don't do anything else on a regular basis that deals with CSS and PHP. But I do still understand HTML, and I can actually fix code when it breaks things. I intensely dislike the era in which we live where software interfaces require just fumbling around like a drunk hunting his car keys until you finally stumble on a solution or a hidden menu item, instead of just making it intuitive, labeling things, or - God forbid - actually writing documentation. (Try to navigate Google+ sometime. Best of luck on that expedition.) Sorry, but that's just bad design.

The much bigger problem is that with over 2,500 posts across a 10 year span, the decision I made way back in 2006 about the blog's formatting has now totally hamstrung me. When I exerpt clips from some online news articles these days, they don't format correctly and I'm forced to change the type background to black and the letters to white just to make them look right here. The unfortunate result is now a massive backlog of posts that can't easily be fixed if I change to black type on white by exporting all of this buried formatting code to a new platform. 

In addition, I can move the blog articles over to Wordpress if I absolutely have to, but there's no way to take the comments that people have posted over the decade with them. Unfortunately, I have spoken with too many other blog authors who have done this, only to discover the comments had vanished.  I really don't want to lose them, because there is often lots of good followup information within them. 

So, I'm kind of stuck with this, at least until Google makes the corporate decision to toss Blogger in the bin entirely and forces me to confront the problem more seriously.

In the meantime, if your eyes just can't take this kind of high contrast page design, Brother John Ruark has a simple suggestion. Subscribe to this page using an RSS (Rich Site Summary) feed reader, such as Feedly.com. There are others, but Feedly is pretty simple to use. Create a new account, then once you do, enter the URL for this page - http://freemasonsfordummies.blogspot.com . When the small preview box opens, click the green plus sign to subscribe my posts to your Feedly page. That way, when you view the blog through the Feedly site from now on, the articles will be black type on a white background, and the photos will be there properly. You can also click the photos within the articles to enlarge them, just as you can here on my page. And if you find a story that you need to print, it will work much better there than trying to print from this page. Think of all the black ink you'll save. (The only downside to an RSS reader like Feedly is, again, the comments don't export. So if you want to read the followups, you have to come back here.)

If you are a happy Apple owner who uses Safari as your MacOS desktop or laptop web browser, you already have an instant solution anyway. Click the headline of any of the stories to open any post by itself. Then go up to the left hand edge of the address bar and click the four little horizontal lines icon. You'll know it when you see it, and the address line changes to say 'Show Reader View.' That will instantly switch the post over to black type on white in a decent sized font that's eminently readable, any photos will appear, and links will work properly, as well.

If you have an iPhone or iPad, the iOS version of Safari has this feature as well. Click on a story headline on this blogsite, and when the article loads, the same little hash lines are up in the address lines. Hit that and it converts the article. Unfortunately, the comments don't appear with either the MacOS or iOS version, but you can't have everything I suppose. The upside of the Safari Reader View is that it also strips out any online advertising from stories (you won't find any here, but it's nice elsewhere), and it even seems to get past some sites' full screen paywall blocking notices so you can still read a story. Don't look for Google Chrome to offer that anytime soon, since they have no intention of deliberately blocking anybody's advertising easily.

Hopefully, this will assist those of you who get a headache reading the blog (the actual content of the stories, notwithstanding). I apologize, but hope this helps. 

I looked at the stats a few days ago, and at some point this year I noticed that the page has been viewed over 6 million times since Blogger started keeping track in 2010. That's astonishing to me. To everyone who reads the site on a regular basis, please accept my deepest gratitude. I appreciate your ongoing patronage. Many, many thanks.


  1. I went from Blogger to Wordpress because I liked the various formatting options, but the move failed to import many of the comments. Also, in a switch from a self-hosted to the Wordpress hosting, I broke a lot of links and after a while just gave up on trying to hunt them all down.

    That said, what *I* hate is the recent style design to put light gray text on a white or light background. Yes, it looks all airy and cool and stuff, but on a mobile device it's a huge PITA to read.

    I used to read blogs on the old Good RSS Reader, but since Google dropped support for it, I switched to Feedly. It's a much easier solution, especially for mobile reading.

    1. I agree with everything you said about the light gray text on light background. It's horrible.

  2. FWIW, If you have an Apple device, whether OS X or iOS, in Accessibility, you can simply "Invert Colours".

    1. If you use Safari on MacOS or iOS devices, a 'Show Reader View' option is built right in. I just updated this post to tell folks about it.

  3. Light type on a dark background rules. When I had Word Perfect years ago, I had amber on black, which was perfect.


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