Category Archives: blog

Shall I turn them off?


Since I wrote this, WordPress have switched to using a different version of the popups. They now ignore the settings I was using for turning them on and off for individual links, and personally I find the new ones ugly and annoying, so I’ve now turned them off for the entire blog.

Snapshots (snap previews)

I’m still debating whether to turn off the so-called snapshots on my blog, now that I’ve discovered how to customize them a bit. Some people like them, some hate them, and I like them when I want them and not when I don’t.

As a tryout, here are two versions of my blogroll. One has the snapshots which pop up when you hover over a link, and the other has hover text (for the links where I’ve written any). Please try out the behaviour and then vote in the poll. It would be really helpful to have as many people’s feedback on this as possible.

Hover over these links



Give your feedback

I can either have snapshots pop up for all links, none, or selected ones. Some of these options are harder work than others.

If you think snapshots should pop up just for some links, then please tell me which ones (tick as many as you like, and add more in “Other” if you want):

By the way, the reason you can’t view the results of the second poll isn’t that I don’t want you to see them, but that they drop off the bottom of the background image and end up as white text on a white background and I don’t want to go through the other 18 appearance styles offered by Polldaddy looking for the one that behaves itself. If people do vote, I’ll let you know the result in a future post.

Taming the snapshots


Snapshots in WordPress are popups which appear when you hover over a link. They’re meant to preview a site so you can decide whether to visit.

Sometimes they’re useful: I use them to check which blogs in my blogroll have been updated, so I can visit just the ones with new material. At other times they’re downright annoying: for example when one pops up over a picture I’m viewing.

At least for the theme I’m using, WordPress settings only let you turn all snapshots on or off. There isn’t a setting, say, to turns them off just for pictures, or show them only for external links.

Mine are currently turned on. So I can demonstrate, with a link to the brilliant comic xkcd. Hover over the link below and you’ll see that

  • this is what happens.

(It took me a while to realise that you’re then supposed to click the link in the snapshot, not the one in the text; I was trying to chase the snapshot out of the way in order to get at the link in the text and click that.)


  • what if you’re rather it did this
  • or even just this?

Gaining some control

Opera 9.6 has some nice features to analyse displayed web pages and see what’s going on. A rummage through a page of my blog revealed the existence of some likely-looking classes (categories which can be applied to HTML tags) with names like snap_preview and snap_noshots. So I tried these out in some test posts and now have what I think is the solution. It works for my blog, at least. (I suspect there may be some variation depending which WordPress theme you’re using; mine is Cutline with some changes I’ve made to the appearance.)

This is what I found:

Turn off all snapshots throughout the blog, overriding any settings made in individual posts
Go to Appearance ⇒ Extras and untick the box.
If you want any snapshots at all
Leave the box in Appearance ⇒ Extras ticked.
Turn off snapshots for an individual link
Include class="snap_noshots" in its tag.
Example: <a href="" class="snap_noshots">
Turn off snapshots for a section of a post
Put <div class="snap_noshots"></div> around the section concerned.
Caution: it’s tempting to do this for the More tag. But this doesn’t work properly, since when the post’s introduction is displayed alone, it has the opening <div> tag but no closing </div> tag. Similarly, if you decide to put <div class="snap_noshots"></div> around the entire post, you’ll have to avoid using the More tag in it.
Override this to turn snapshots on for an individual link
Include <class="snap_preview"> in the link’s tag.
Example: <a href="" class="snap_preview">
Turn snapshots back on for part of a section where they’re turned off
put <div class="snap_preview"></div> around the part where you want them.
Add hover text to a link
Include title="the text you want" in the tag.
Example: <a href="" class="snap_noshots" title="Link to a web comic I  enjoy">


  • I’ve been cautious in those instructions and only used  <a> and <div> tags. That’s because those are the only ones I’ve tried. Presumably you could add the class= settings to other tags  too, e.g. <ul class="snap_noshots"> to remove snapshots from a list of links. But I’ve not checked.
  • I’m not sure how universal it is for browsers to turn title="sometext" into hover text; all I can say is that Internet Explorer and Opera 9.6 both do it. If you know what other  browsers do please tell me, and I’ll add the information to this post.
  • There appear to be circumstances where turning snapshots off in Appearance ⇒ Extras only turns some of them off. I suspect it might vary from theme to theme. Any more information on that welcome too.

A search Wordle

WordPress provides a wealth of statistics about who clicked what to get to a blog, what they clicked when they were there, and so on (all unidentifiable; don’t worry!). You can get paranoid in them for hours.

A particularly interesting one is the list of search terms which people used to find the page, but it’s also quite hard to digest. You just get a list of the terms and how many times they were used.

I was pondering my list of searches, trying to make sense of it, and then I remembered Wordle, the addictive website where you feed some text in and out comes a “word cloud” in which the size of each word is determined by how many times it occurs.

Ideal! I copied my list of search terms, put them in and played around with the settings for a while, and out came:

Word cloud of search engine terms

Image created at
Click to see full size

which is much easier to visualise. Because it’s, er, visual. And, I might add, the brain has a lot of processing power devoted to visual information. (I wonder what an audio equivalent would be? Now that might be fun!)

Actually that particular wordle isn’t 100% accurate, because in my eagerness I forgot that some of the terms (e.g. the impressive pluto planet dwarf plutoid plutino) had been used twice and should have been pasted in twice. Or maybe it is accurate, if it was the same person returning? Who knows? (Answer: the person who used it. OK, point taken.)

Now I’m wondering: does Wordle translate the number of times a word is used into the total size of the word, taking into account how many letters it has, or does it merely translate it into the font size? Hmmm . . . OK, OK, in theory I could work that out by counting the words myself and looking at the result, but that seems like a lot of work at 12:50 am, so I’ll be content not to know for now.

Poll results

This probably isn’t of great interest, but several people did use the poll to give feedback about their preferences for the front page so here are the results. I’ve excluded my own real vote, and the vote I did to test the Other option. Five votes is hardly a statistically significant sample, but never mind. It tells me what five people thought, at least.

What would you prefer
to see on this page?

Full posts, all the time 3
Full posts only if short 1
Other 1
Just introductions 0
No preference 0

So I’ll do what I originally thought: show full posts, but maybe very occasionally just an introduction if the post is a particularly specialist one or if I’m keen to keep an earlier one easily visible.

The one person who voted Other asked to see recent comments—meaning, I think, the actual text of comments left on the blog, as opposed to just a list of who’s commented. But I haven’t managed to find any way to do that, so if you know of one, please let me know.

Beautiful bird photos

Sometimes when someone comments on your blog and you follow the link to their home page, you get a good surprise.

Yesterday, Little Brown Job, aka Paul, commented on my recent post about Dabr. (In case you’re wondering, little brown job is a birdwatcher’s name for a small, unidentified bird.) I followed the link to his blog, where I discovered that Paul is a bird photographer and takes pictures like this:

Goldfinch ©

Goldfinch ©

I occasionally dabble in photography but haven’t done for quite a while. I’d love be able to take this kind of photo. I enjoy photographs of nature, but mine tend to be of things like trees, which have the big advantage that they don’t run away when they hear you coming—and of being big enough not to need a particularly long-focus lens.

The other photos on his site are equally stunning and I do urge you to visit it at The site really is too good to miss. Visit and enjoy!