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Among my very favourite reads on the Internet, AddThis always has something worth reading:

Tip 6: Freshen Up Your Feed

Brainstorm new types of content you haven’t tried in the past as a way to drive more engagement and reach new users via your social channels.

Here are some ideas to freshen your feed and boost engagement:&hellips;

I’d like to expand on this excellent bit of advice. Yes, you need to find ways to spark new creativity into your daily content. But let me suggest that another “feed” you need to refresh: the feed you feed your head. Spring is a great time to make sure that the things that are supposed to be inspiring you actually are:

RSS Feeds

This is a dying avenue, I know. But for those of you who, like me, cannot quite let go of your well-honed RSS feeds, now is the moment to undertake the grim work of seeing who’s news feeds have gone silent while you’ve been sleeping.

Other sites simply do not contribute the quality of content they once did. Just page after page of uninteresting promotions and grants. Gone is the excitement of the latest discovery. Even the discoveries aren’t written of with any enthusiasm.

Twitter Lists

Among the Eureka moments in my career as a social media personality was the moment I discovered the power of Twitter’s lists. Creating lists of accounts that you see as having a common bond – local feeds, topic feeds, influencer feeds – is a great way to survey an important component of your social network in-context. It is this ability to interact with your networks in such specific ways that I maintain is why content on Twitter is consistently better quality – even as compared to other social feeds of the same agent.

But people move on and feeds become less relevant than they promised to be. It’s not personal: yours may not be so hot, either. But spring may be time to start taking a long look at those accounts that are just taking up space on your lists.

The “Daily Scroll”:

We’ve all got one: that list of websites that, even when we know there won’t be more content, we still end up checking in bored moments throughout the day. Is yours working for you, or can you add some new stuff?

I’ve recently become fascinated by one of the most cerebral science news and thoughts sites I’ve ever read, Nautilus:

Could these people’s immune systems be converging because their microbiomes are adapting to their shared environment? The immune system must maintain a relationship with friendly microbes to keep them straight from the bad ones, so if partners are exposed to similar bacteria and viruses, that exposure could make their populations of immune cells more similar. The researchers point out that it’s already known that couples who live together have more similar microbiomes than strangers do, perhaps because they swap bacteria with each other or share lifestyle choices like smoking or drinking. “Some of these factors are likely to be even more shared after children,” says Adrian Liston, the senior author and a professor at University of Leuven in Belgium. “For example, children are likely to increase the exchange of gut bacteria by reducing the sterility of the household (to put it nicely).”

On top of fabulously-gross biology articles such as this one, Nautilus continues to surprise in it’s ability to describe the cutting edge of science in an understandable and engaging way without pandering to simple “wisdom.”

But other sites with whom I have “frequent flier miles” aren’t as inspiring right now. Maybe the core content has strayed from its mission, or just isn’t as sharp as it used to be. It may be time to move on.

It’s not personal, it’s inspiration:

A big part of me worries when I stop following someone. It’s silly, but it’s true. I know my support is just one set of eyeballs, but when content gets stale and I decide I need to move on, it feels like I’m letting someone down. Self-important, much?

But losing audience members has never been the end of the road for my writing career. It hurts, but only because you know you’re not inspiring people like you once did. But the answer to that is not to look on your former viewers with disappointment, but to look on their departure as a signal. The signal is: it’s time to get relevant, again.

If you’re like me, you like to have a fair amount of control in the way your websites look to the user. As you know, this is not always easy based on the way browers were meant to behave. Browsers were meant to allow differently-sized monitors and windows show the same content, and thus allow for a lot of proportional widths, with the page stretching and scaling to adjust to the different readers. But in these modern days, we can anticipate certain screen resolutions and many pages conform to a rigid width.

Keeping this width is actually quite important from design, usability and branding perspectives, as a matter of fact: my keeping pages a consistent width, we increase the chances that people recognize our pages as something unique (branding), we allow our users to be accustomed to the locations of key navigational components (usability) and we decrease the chances that something unexpected on the page will break the overall design (design).

However, there are very real problems with fixed-width pages that many novices encounter, making fixed width pages a real bear to deal with. I thought I’d take the time to discuss the reasons that – even in a fixed-width page – using proportional sizes has benefits to the designer.

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This is just a “public service announcement” for those web designers looking for a fast way to get a nice, even hanging indentation on their pages. That’s when the top line goes all the way to the margin and the text below it is what is indented. You might use them for a non-bulleted list such as those in the typical WordPress sidebar. It is a very simple fix, but I’ve been surprised by the lack of adequate answers in Google and figure someone out there might be looking for an answer would appreciate it.

So, the fix is: create a left margin of Xpx, then use text-indent with a -Xpx value. Ho! Is that easy, or what? And it works with IE and Firefox, both:

#blogwire ul {
margin-left: 15px;
}
#blogwire ul li {
text-indent: -15px;
}

There’s lots of information available on WordPress’s codex about how to create themes for your blog, all of it dealing with the filters and actions you can use to manipulate the active content on your blog in cool ways. It goes without saying that those are important pieces of information, and in fact there are some outstanding tutorials for putting together a theme that you should definitely check out. WPBits is one such resource.

But I’d like to talk about some concepts that happen before you get to the active content: the HTML, and how you go about designing a theme which has to exist in all those varying pieces yet all go together to create one cohesive whole. This is a very high-level tutorial, meaning that specific details will be omitted in order to introduce the most basic concepts. I’m writing more about the workflow than about the process, if you follow me!

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