I Switched Themes: LISNews Got A Redesign!

If you're one of the many people who only view LISNews through your feed reader, you'll never notice LISNews now looks completely different.

I've recently grown to dislike the way LISNews looked and operated using the Drupal theme I chose during the switchover to Drupal last year. I'm 110% happy with Drupal, but was much less satisfied with the way the site looked.. Today I've decided to flip the switch and changed back over to the default Drupal theme. Easy theme switching is just one of the many reason I've grown to love Drupal over the past year or so. My call for a custom theme and log got no responses at all, so we'll go with the unoriginal but very functional "Garland" theme until we can come up with something better.

Though I rarely ever get any, feedback is always welcome.


Help Redesign LISNews and Win Up To $200

You may or may not know we recently switched from Slashcode to Drupal here at LISNews, and I now think I made a bad decision when I chose the theme. Drupal makes it very easy to change how everything looks, and I'd like to do just that.

But to make sure I get it right this time I need your help. I'm willing to pay up to $150 for an original theme that we can all agree on. If you can't create a brand new theme from scratch, you can just pick one of the many prebuilt themes. I'll enter everyone who chooses an already available theme in a drawing for $25. Hit the Form, leave a comment, or Contact Me and let me know what you think we should look like. If you want to be able to win the $25 I need your email address. We'll narrow it down to our favorite 10 sometime next month, and you'll ALL have a chance to vote for the final design.

If you'd like to hunt for a theme, here are 4 places to get started:

If you're thinking of trying to design a theme, read on below for ideas.

I'd like to stick with the "old" LISNews colors, Orange and Blue (Orignally ff9900 and 000099). That's not a requirement, but just a preference.

Think modern, cool, original, easy to read, and librarian. Maybe round edges. Easy to scan, easy on the eyes.

You don't need to make a logo, I don't really have one, but if you DO make a logo, and we choose it I'll give you an additional $50, or just $50 if we choose your logo but not your theme.

Just because you make a theme doesn't mean I or anyone else will like it, I make no promises that if you waste a week of your time building what you thought was the perfect them you'll win anything. Ultimately you have to "win" this is a contest and will be open for voting by anyone who reads the site.
The theme should be complete and I should have to do very little if any work to it.
It needs to work on small monitors.
Extra credit for standards compliant and accessible.

Got questions, let me know: Hit the Form, leave a comment, or Contact Me.

SO to summarize: If you can't create a theme, pick out one or two you like and let me know. You could win $25 for doing just that. If you can design a theme you'll need to put it someplace we can all see it, or send it along and I'll drop it in here. I'm not paying you UNLESS it wins the final voting. I also won't use it unless it wins. If you're a talented logo designer and make just a logo and we use it that's worth $50. So if you design a logo and a theme we use, you'll get $200. I'll clear up any questions as you have them.

LISNEWS in History

Take a look at this. Archive of September 11th includes LISNEWS.


Stuff To Do @ Your LISNews Part 3: "Customizing"

This is part 3 of an occasional series I've been writing to showoff all the new features @LISNews. In Stuff To Do @ Your LISNews, Part 1: Reading I covered the feeds and other pages that can give you views of the LISNews content you won't see on the homepage. In Part 2: Writing I covered how you can help us create interesting content by writing comments, on your blog and suggesting stories. The full series will cover "reading," "writing," "playing," "networking," "customizing," "finding" and whatever else I can come up with as I go along. Here in part 3 I'll cover all the options listed on your "My Account" link you'll see over on the left hand side when you're logged in. With these options, you can change how LISNews looks, how your blog looks, how to track and subscribe to threads, and even send messages to other LISNews users.

After running on Slashcode for several years LISNews is now using Drupal. Drupal is an infinitely flexible Content Management System. It allows administrators (like me) a nearly unlimited selection of modules that extend the core functionality. These modules add an amazing number of options for users (like you) to customize what they see on their site. One thing to keep in mind as you read this, everything requires you to login to your LISNews account. You're just an anonymous loser unless you're logged in. I'll start this list with all the options listed behind your "My Account" link you'll see over on the left hand side when you're logged in. With these options, you can change how LISNews looks, track and subscribe to threads, and even send messages to other LISNews users.

You'll first see an option to "Write a private message." Private Messages are just what you would think they might be, little messages you can send to other LISNews users. The "To:" field does an automatic lookup as you type so you won't make any spelling errors. If this sounds too creepy, you are able to opt your account out of this feature.

Next up, you'll see Edit. Clicking on the "Edit" tab allows you to change some important options. You can first change your email or password. I won't go into my big rant on passwords here, but you should never use an important password on random sites like LISNews. You're also able to enter your twitter account settings here if you'd like to cross-post to Twitter. If you fill out the Twitter settings LISNews will spit your Blog and Story posts into you Twitter account. Further down the page you are also able to configure the Theme, Blocks, and control who can send you messages.

Themes change what LISNews look like. I currently have about a dozen themes installed. Choosing a new theme will change how you see the site, and how everyone else sees your blog. When you change the theme you see on the site your blog will look different to everyone, regardless of whether or not you're logged in.

Making This List Gives Me Stress

So how does this "Blogs To Read" list happen, you ask?

Once again this year I started by looking back at last year's choices to see how our choices looked. The good news is I think we did pretty good. They're mostly still active, and they're all still writing some interesting stuff. In '06 I was happy with 9 out of 10, and last year I'll call it at 9 out of 10 again. I hope if you followed those blogs for the year you were happy with what you read. If you weren't, I'd love to hear from you. First, a bit about the votes.

It felt like I got a million suggestions. In reality, I got about 30 from the comments on the site, and about another 60 via email. Getting feedback from 2 people on something is above average, getting feed back from almost 100 is just overwhelming. I had grand plans of listing all the nominated sites and adding those links to this post. The best laid plans... I will finish that list at some point, let's just say it's loooooong. The total number of links was well over 100 and I looked at every single site I wasn't already following.

I put the top 2 vote getters on the final list. The Annoyed Librarian and Library Stuff received far more votes than the next bunch of nominees put together, so they were the easy choices. Nothing about the final 8 was easy. The next top 10(ish) in the top 10(ish) voter getters (assuming that's a word) were separated by only a few votes. That is to say, there were 2 sites that were very popular, another 8 or 9 that were popular, and then another large group.

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Can You Comment On This Story?

Apparently LISNews is having some Captcha issues. I changed the Captchas to image, but since I was unable to reproduce the errors with the math Captchas I'd like to Hear From Anyone who can't comment still. What's a Captcha you ask?
Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart. A test that is designed to be easy for a human to do, but be difficult to automate. It's that little image down near the comment form.


Stuff To Do @ Your LISNews, Part 2: Writing

This is part 2 in our ongoing series of things you can do @LISNews: "Writing."

Part one covered reading. In part one you learned you can read LISNews content via your favorite RSS Reader (, email ( , or even Twitter ( I'll be covering "reading," "writing," "playing," "networking," "customizing," "finding" and whatever else I can come up with in this series. Here in part 2 you'll learn how you can help us create interesting content!

Adding your voice to LISNews is quite simple. There are currently 3 main ways to "write" at LISNews:
2. Your Blog
3. Story Suggestions

1. Comments are the quickest and easiest way to add your voice to LISNews. Every story and blog post should be open to comments. Since authors have the ability to close comments, you may not always be able to shoot your mouth off, but in general you can comment on most everything you read. You'll notice all comment forms do have a "captcha" you'll need to answer. Without that, we'd be deleting spam all day. You're only required to login when you want to write in your blog, for now, at least, anyone can leave a comment without going through the hassle of registering and logging in. Comments get read. Stories with comments are generally read about 3 times more than those without, so the LISNews readership is interested in reading comments. If just leaving a comment isn't enough, be sure to check out your blog.


Some Thoughts On LISNews Topics And Readership

I sent an email to the super secret and exciting Authors-Only list this morning and I thought it might make a somewhat interesting blog post as well. I've been told several times over the years LISNews is great because you never know what you'll see next. That's why I like it so much as well. If this was Blake Carver's LISNews I would've gotten bored years ago.

LISNews is a bit of an oddity because of the way it's run and what it runs on. We're a collaborative blog where everyone is welcome, so you never know what you're going to get. Most blogs are one person shows. We have user blogs, we have tons of subjects and many feeds. To make matters worse we've been doing this for over 8 years and we're currently on our 4th content management system. Which means we have legacy feeds going back years that are still used. I was looking at the stats ( this morning when I should've been doing something more productive and got to thinking about how people are reading the site. Based on the current Pages Viewed numbers, most people are viewing LISNews through a feed reader.

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