This page is outdated as it relates to the last blog skin update in 2012. It will be updated soon to reflect the 2013 new look.

My dear Bagginses and Boffins, Tooks and Brandybucks, Grubbs, Chubbs, Hornblowers, Bolgers, Bracegirdles and Proudfoots, welcome to a new step in this blog’s sheepishly modest evolution. You might or not remember that a few weeks ago, I launched a new white-and-blue based blog skin. I had been blogging in the darks for too long, and even though dark tones remained ideal for showcasing photography, I decided to turn my back on darkness and ease into lighter tones again. I named the new template Whiteout. However, within a few days I realized that as much as I liked the new skin, it didn’t fit the bill – at least not for the direction I am taking this entire web site into. See, this all remains my portfolio and the main focus is photography. I want a visitor of the portfolio, i.e. the photo gallery pages, to click on the blog link and be taken seamlessly to a similar-looking blog.

So I designed another skin, much darker and moodier, unimaginatively called it Blackout and set it back as the blog-wide default. You most probably are viewing the blog through Blackout right now. Since I am also happy to showcase some design as part of my portfolio, I’ve decided to set the Whiteout template for a single category, Sketches. It will work well there since most drawings already have a pale background – and maybe this will help motivate me to draw…

So what’s new with these skins? First and foremost, you will have noticed the “Web 2.0” feel. Unless, that is, you don’t have a clue of what Web 2.0 is, in which case you are still part of a vast majority. Well, let me reassure you, Web 2.0 is not yet-another standard or a another programming language or set of rules. There is nothing hardcoded to be learned, no syntax to master. Instead, we are offered a tendency. A trend. A direction. Almost a philosophy. Web 2.0 simply is the emotional result of over 20 years of web evolution.

The term was first invented in 2004 to describe the emerging use of the World Wide Web and web design as creative and collaborative efforts. Computer users are currently experiencing a migration from their computer-based applications towards a web-based community where information sharing and communications are leading us into a new era. Social networking, wikis, blogs and photo sharing sites are at the heart of Web 2.0. It has become possible to work exclusively online through the use of webmail, messaging and web-based word processors, photo-editors, calendars and the like.

In addition, Web 2.0 marks the end of boring text-only browsing and the appearance of pretty online interfaces that mimic desktop applications, enhancing user-interaction and once again promoting a communication exchange. Surfing the web is now less about reading passively and more about participating and providing input and feedback, in real time.

Of course, to support such improvements, new technologies are being developed and my favorite is AJAX, or Asynchronous JavaScript And XML. To keep things simple, let’s just say that AJAX blurs the line between static web pages and a dynamic information exchange between server and visitor. It for instance allows you, as my visitor, to collapse and expend the right sidebar widgets, to open the top menu by sliding it down and to toggle the display of a post’s comments, all without the need for a full page reload. It saves you time and makes me popular by improving your experience and allowing for a pleasant visit. Go ahead, try it! It’s fun, and it’s very Web 2.0.

The second major characteristic of Web 2.0 is the emergence of new standards such as CSS 3 and HTML 5. I have begun implementing features that tap into these new standards since most new browsers are now compliant. The three major and most obvious improvements in styling are the ability to add drop shadows, rounded borders and gradients, and the skins make heavy use of these. On an old browser such as IE7, these will degrade gracefully and simply not be rendered, and you’ll have a totally functional blog with ugly square corners everywhere. On IE6 though, all bets are off. If you are still surfing on that dinosaur, I urge you to upgrade!

I have kept some of the core functionality of the previous template such as Shadowbox 3.0 for all slideshows, because once again it falls into the new trend and because it is just one of the best scripts out there.

Should this one not be your first choice, the Whiteout skin remains available site-wide via the sidebar. Once you select it, your browser will remember your preference via a cookie and the next time you visit, it should all be peachy. I have tried to streamline the page loading process and duration, and cut down a single page’s list to 8 entries. You should experience slightly faster loading times.

Any way, in the end, blogging is not about the envelope, is it? It’s about the content. Right. Well, this IS content, about the envelope. I hope you’ll enjoy both.