Adding User-Defined Fields in Movable Type

Last month, when I was obviously distracted by something that seemed important at the time, Deane at Gadgetopia wrote an incredibly useful post entitled Adding User-Defined Fields in Movable Type.

Now I realize not everyone here uses the MovableType(MT) web logging tool, but for those of you, who like me, have customized MovableType into a content management system for your church website, Deane’s article offers that little bit extra you may need in the way of additional fields you need to get the job done.

Practicing what I preach, I decided to following Deane’s instructions and add some extra fields to blogs4God in the hopes of moving all the links under one MT roof. If successful, I could then double back and do the same for Redland where I am currently using the keywords field to associate several Scripture reference fields to each page/entry. Easier to do, but harder for others who don’t understand my system to maintain the pages. Deane’s solutions integrated with the current edit screen so new fields work and play just like the old ones, making complex entries easy as pie for even the most techophobic music minister.

My results? Well, for today, I only went after steps 1 through 4 and thirty minutes later, was 4 for 4 in the success department. Yes, I realize some of you are in shock it took me so long, but two things I offer in my defense. First, I added some steps to Deane’s, mainly backing up my data and the code modules. Second, a took step 3 one step further by modifying the entry preferences … that is a dialog box that allows me to select which fields I see on the MovableType entry screen. Which I messed-up on the first try, which was no problem, because I had a backup … you can too if you do this before you start:

cd $HOME/www/cgi-bin/mt
mkdir codebackup
cd codebackup
mysqldump -uUSERNAME -pPASSWORD –opt DBNAME > DBNAME.sql
cp ../lib/MT/Entry.pm Entry.pm
cp ../lib/MT/Template/Context.pm Context.pm
cp ../tmpl/cms/edit_entry.tmpl edit_entry.tmpl
cp ../tmpl/cms/entry_prefs.tmpl entry_prefs.tmpl

The above assumes that you have shell access to your system and that you’ve moved MovableType into the cgi-bin directory.

Other differences occured with where I placed some of my hacks. From Deane’s blog, it appears his line numbers may be a bit skewed due to prior hacks. My line numbers are based on the original files for MT version 2.64. Here they are:

  1. lib/MT/Template/Context.pm … my entry was placed on line 90
  2. lib/MT/Entry.pm, where Deane says line 17, my change occurs on line 22
  3. tmpl/cms/edit_entry.tmpl, Deane suggest line 433, my hack starts on line 400
  4. tmpl/cms/entry_prefs.tmpl, I have mods on line 116 and 152

As always, be aware, your mileage may vary. I entirely agree with Deane, these changes aren’t for the faint of heart.

I numbered the differences above because I want to show you the code for each of those hacks. First is my change to tmpl/cms/edit_entry.tmpl, or numero 3 on the list above.



Now onto a file named entry_prefs.tmpl. On line 116, you need to change the line that reads:

<td rowspan=”9″><img src=”<TMPL_VAR NAME=STATIC_URI>images/spacer.gif” width=”30″ height=”1″></td>

to

<td rowspan=”10“><img src=”<TMPL_VAR NAME=STATIC_URI>images/spacer.gif” width=”30″ height=”1″></td>

Then on line 152 of entry_prefs.tmpl, you add the following (don’t let the wordrap fool you):

<tr>
<td valign=”top”><font class=”title”><input type=”checkbox” name=”custom_prefs” value=”b4g_edit”<TMPL_IF NAME=DISP_PREFS_SHOW_B4G_EDIT> checked</TMPL_IF>> <MT_TRANS phrase=”blogs4God Link Editing”></font></td>
</tr>

Now all that is left to do is create another blog, port my data, modify the templates as per Deane’s most excellent instructions and viola, I’m done …

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15 Trends Taking Shape In Logo Design

Sometimes you don’t need to write alot, to say alot. That’s how I sum up a short comment made by Jordon Cooper on his blog that read:

Most church logos are embarrasingly bad and awful to look at. Here are 15 trends in logo design to help you leave that 70’s looking letterhead in the dust.

logo for Redland Baptist Church, Rockville Maryland

Jordon and I couldn’t disagree more when it comes to issues of politics … but there is no denying the immense volumes of truth he has uttered about church logos.

Don’t believe me? Well just check out the globe-n-Cross, world-domination inset to the right. It’s an image of my own church’s logo created for us by a ‘professional graphic artist‘ back in 1998. Any wonder why I won’t include it on the Redland Baptist website? I mean, even if it wern’t so 70-ish, it’s too tall to effectively use online.

Now if I could just convince the staff over at Redland to make a change that would incorporate some of these trends.

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The Ten Most Violated Homepage Design Guidelines

It’s a toss-up between which two recent comments, that to me, reflect the reason why so many Christian web sites are so ineffective. One was by the owner of the site we reviewed yesterday in which he said “In my 1 1/2 years on, 1600 people on my mail list disagree with you.” Which was followed a bit later by an ‘enthusiastic’ fan of the former. She taunted me to review her site. When I said I would oblige, returned fire. “I don’t have time for your foolishness. Now I will get back to working on my site the way “I” want to do it!

What strikes me a bit odd here is that if I were a betting man, I would put large sums of money on that the owners of both sites are most likely conservative, possibly Pentecostal or Baptist, definitely law-abiding individuals … except for when it comes to the rules of the road that govern the Information Highway. Rules such as those espoused by World renowned usability expert Jakob Nielsen, who just yesterday alerted us with the Ten Most Violated Homepage Design Guidelines.

Guidelines based not upon the random opinion of his neighbor’s aunt, but from hard-cold frequency stat based on the numerous homepage reviews performed by his company. And while these findings are biased towards big companies that can afford the hefty Nielsen Norman Group’s $10,000 fee, I think most of them are worth reviewing, memorizing and putting into practice.

That said, I’m going to paraphrase these guidelines in my own words, geared towards those of us who barely have $100 to get our entire web presence online … as always … feel free to comment afterwards:

  1. Emphasize what makes your church unique, and why people should visit it.
  2. Make sure your page layout is all things to all browsers, at least take into consideration that not everyone sees the world through an 800×600 eyeglass.
  3. Hyperlinks should look and act like hyperlinks. So quit fiddling around with them.
  4. Graphics should reflect reality. Don’t put a picture of a steeple on your site, if your church doesn’t have one. If you’re going to use stock photos, keep it to family and kids as they are more likely to attend your church than super models.
  5. Avoid church-speak in your tagline. Make sure it conveys your church’s personality and purpose.
  6. Take the pains to put a search engine on your site. Add a site map. Make sure your menus reflect your information hierarchy.
  7. Let the user know where they are, use sub titles at the top, center of your compelling content.
  8. No need to restate the obvious, like a “search this site” title over your search box … hmmm … better go fix that on the Redland Baptist Site …
  9. Stock quotes? Your church lists stock quotes? Okay, here’s what we take away from Dr. Nielsen’s point about stock quotes. Don’t assume people understand your numbers, acronymns and other internal-speak. So explain them, or lose them.
  10. Don’t include an active link for the page you’re on … sorta like that old joke in school, how do you keep a moron occupied, turn page over … the other side reads … okay, you know what I mean

Now go read the good Dr.’s findings so you can understand the context in which they are presented. And remember, we’re called not only to be hearers of the word … but doers … which to me, since I’m compelled to do everything I do and say for the glory of the Lord, reminds me to apply the following as I seek to take every thougth captive:

1 My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, 2 for they will prolong your life many years and bring you prosperity. …5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:1-2, 5-6
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What’s in a name? Try Heaven’s Gate!

Heaven's Gate Kitchy Rainbow Colored Keyhole LogoWhat is the first thing you think of when I say Heaven’s Gate? If you’re like me, the phrase “suicide cult” leaps to mind, as Heaven’s Gate was the brand-name for a cult who literally killed themselves in an effort to obtain eternal life. Which is rather sad when you think about it, as the Bible clearly proclaims Christ the final sacrifice, dying once and for all for our imperfections, rising from the dead, and now serving as our advocate when it comes time for the final judgment. Alas, to some, such thinking is too “old age” … so instead they dressed themselves in black, slipped into their Nike’s and drank a fatal brew … perhaps even reciting another infamous ‘sui-cider’s’ fatal incantation of … “Let’s get gone.

With this horrible image in mind, why-o-why would ANY ministry in it’s right mind name itself “Heaven’s Gates?” Yet sure enough, through the miracle of the Internet, a site bearing a pluralized version of this name dedicated to sharing Christian poetry and prayer requests exists. Yes, I realize the “s” on the end of this para-church ministry site’s name probably makes all the difference in the world to its owner, but not to search engines, and certainly not to visitors hearing or reading the name for the first time.

Of course it also doesn’t help that there is nary a clue as to what this site is about until after you click on the unlabeled mouseover animation of the not-so-intuitive, takes forever to load, cheap imitation of Thomas Kinkade splash page. A link which in turn takes you to yet another not-so-intuitive, takes forever to load, cheap imitation of Thomas Kinkade splash page. Which in turn offers the easy-to-distinguish choices of “Index” and “Home.” The former leading you to a site map containing links to the poems, the latter taking you back to the original not-so-intuitive, takes forever to load, cheap imitation of Thomas Kinkade splash page.

Further down there is also a link to a guestbook one almost misses because graphics are used to represent text … dark graphics against a dark background … which you miss because because between this, and the embedded MIDI files, and the kitchy artwork, you’ve got your hands over your eyes and are screaming “Enough with the Jesus Junk! … Where did I put my purple Koolaidtm?

Heavenly histrionics aside, if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it at least 13 times, don’t hide your ministry’s light under a bowl. In other words, anything that gets in the way of your ministry’s personality and purpose should ‘get gone’ on your web site.

So what would I do to help this site shine before men as a bright glowing star? First I’d get a different name. Then I would get a domain name and open up a TypePad account. Using that account, I would post the poetry under a category entitled “Poetry.” Then under a category named “Prayers” I might post concerns and allow people to issue comments. No, it’s not the same as a guestbook, but I noticed the guestbook is getting a bit spammed lately.

But if I could only change one thing … it would be the name … that horrible name. And if given an hour and no budget, I’d at least move my poems over to a Blogger account and hyperlink over to a more robust and customizable free guestbook, until I figured out which content management solution was best for me.

And then people wonder why I refer to so much of the Body online as “that great cloud of witlessness.

For more information on the Heaven’s Gate cult, may I suggest a short article by Gretchen Passantino at Answers.org or a longer series of links and articles by Rick Ross?

12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. – Hebrews 10:12-14
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Church Sign Generator

Church Sign Generatorclick here and generate your own sign from God
Here is a link to a little bit of Friday Fun, the Church Sign Generator. You enter text into four fields, press the ‘Go’ buttona and PRESTO … it re-draws a picture of a First Baptist roadside sign-from-God with your own compelling ‘n’ kitchy come-to-church slogans … sorta like the ones the author of the program lists on his own blog.

How is this miracle of web wizardry achieved? I suspect the coder behind this fun read some sort of book or article on how to “Create graphics on the fly using PHP,” … or at least read the Image Functions section of the PHP manual.

Man-o-man … does this give me a funny idea …

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Scratchy – An Apache Log Parser and HTML Report Generator in Python

I’m in a situation where I need some custom parsing of a rather large Apache log file, a.k.a. to some of you as access_log. I’ve got some homespun Perl for the job, but was curious to see what was out there. One free/open source application that caught my eye was Scratchy – The Apache Log Parser and HTML Report Generator for Python.

According to the ‘About Page,’ Scratchy is a set of Python scripts to parse Apache web server log files and extract useful information. Scratchy can use this extraced data to create HTML reports so website administrators can easily view the digest their audience, trends and possible attacks. Extensibility being a primary goal of the project, the report appearance can be easily modified by tweaking a single config file.

I think it was the extensibility thingie that really got my attention. By modifying the relatively straight-forward configuration file, I can then automate nightly log processing that fits my specific needs. For those of you new to this site, such automation on a Linux system is accomplished by making an entry in the CRONTAB. Microsot IIS users should use the scheduler control panel, once they’ve installed Python.

The other thing that interested me about this project, is that I’ve been meaning to ‘Dive into Python.’ It seems many disenfranchised PHP users are headed that direction, and since I already understand access_logs and regular expressions, I figured this would be a good real-world example to examine.

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Surrending Bandwidth at Appomattox

If I was smart, I’d hold this article until April 9, the anniversary of the date in which Lee’s Army was ‘bagged’ by elements of Grant’s army at Appomattox. But things on the web change, hopefully one of them being the web site for Liberty Baptist Church of Appomattox Virginia (LBC).

A quick visit to our good friends at the WebPageAnalyzer indicate that the home page of LBC takes a whopping 40.22 seconds to download via a 56kb modem … about fourteen and a half seconds for those of us on a DSL line. Much of this due to the inclusion of two HUGE images, which once again, are ‘look’ smaller on the web page, but are unfortunately NOT physically reduced by reducing the height and width arguments of the HTML <IMG> tag.

If what I just said seems like greek, then please read my articles “Father Flanders’ Sermon for Sunday, July 13, 2003” and Optimal Image Sizes, both of which which explain why you need to know how to physically reduce the size of the image using a graphic editor. Employing such techniques would greatly reduce the bandwidth one is required to surrender for pages such as the bio of the senior pastor … which includes a 1meg image that could easily be reduced to 20k.

I realize part of the problem with LBC’s site is the use of FrontPage. Now as we all know, FrontPage doesn’t kill church web sites … bad templates do. So if there is a shortage of geek talent in the congregation, then I would suggest the church investing $25 to $35 in a reasonable FrontPage Template into which they can plug-n-play their compelling content. This in combination with a FREE image reducing tool such as IrfanView would go a long way into giving an online seeker a great impression of what I suspect is a great church.

Some other nickle-n-dime issues (that add up) I’d fix if I had 10 minutes would be to employ a bit of mod_rewrite wizardry so that all the pages appear to come from the easy-to-remember http://LibertyBC.com/ instead of the cumbersome http://home.nesbeonline.com/~libertybaptistchurch/.

Also on my quick fix list, the <TITLE> tags … however to fix this means getting rid of the totally unnecessary use of frames by this site. First, it means no unique title tags on each page to tell a search engine what you’ve got. Second, since the frames are only delivering a single page each, why not just toss this dated technology altogether?

What about you? See anything you could fix in a few minutes? If so, leave a comment.

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A reminder to check your listserv policies and permissions

This morning I woke up to a surpise, a listserv I had set up for the Men’s Saturday Morning Breakfast ministry had been spammed. Here’s how it happened. On the frontpage of Redland Baptist, we have a link to a listserv for general information. This link takes you to a form. If you nibble back the URL, you come upon a list of all of RBC’s listservs. Once the spammer has this list, they subscribe to the list, reply to the confirmation email, spam the list, then unsubscribe.

How do I prevent this in the future? First thing is I block known spammers. Second, not only now does and individual have to confirm an email to join the list, but they must wait for me to approve them. I’m also going to deny inline HTML, attachments and other junk. I’m also doing a few other insidious things … including setting up a list that is engineered to catch future spammers.

My advice to you? Take a few minutes this weekend to check the permissions and policies before the same happens to you. Unfortunately these people are without shame or conscience.

In the meantime, I want to thank the following spammers for making me aware of this issue. I hope that my well index blog brings you all the attention you hoped you would garner from spamming one of my church’s listserv:

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