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Overcoming Obstacles

Overcoming Obstacles

May 3, 2008
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" It's all about keeping your brain engaged and staying mentally flexible and creative. "

It's no secret that the online adult entertainment industry has been characterized by change throughout its relatively short and stellar history. And while oftentimes difficult to adapt to, evolving with these changes and the challenges they present can be rewarding on levels other than the purely financial.

For some operators, the satisfaction of overcoming obstacles is a powerful motivator. These obstacles don't have to be insurmountable; as long as they're challenging enough to cause interest and require you to learn something new. It's all about keeping your brain engaged and staying mentally flexible and creative.

I learned this lesson from my dad, who has a morning ritual of doing the entire crossword puzzle in his newspaper — except I do it by writing and re-writing code — doing my best to understand various applications and what it takes to bend them to my will.

Lately, I've been playing with the popular WordPress blogging platform; seeing what's new in its latest version and tinkering around under its hood. While programmers won't find this to be daunting, I'm far from subtle at it — tearing through blocks of code like a maniac with a chainsaw rather than a surgeon with a scalpel — and I'm always pleased (and sometimes surprised) when I get a problem resolved.

The latest example of this ongoing learning process is something that a few of you might find helpful: I wanted to add a W3C-compliant, cross-browser, "bookmark us" link to a WordPress sidebar — which seems to be a reasonable task, and a smart idea, too.

Most bookmark scripts I've seen, however, will only work in IE or Firefox, but not both; try it with your existing link if you have one and check your own results.

Script repository and resource site DynamicDrive offers a free bookmark script that works with Firefox 1.x+, IE4+, NS4+ and Opera7+, which I've used on several websites before, making it the logical choice for this exercise.

All you need to do is to place a bit of JavaScript in your head file and add the appropriate "bookmark us" code to the sidebar template — and voila — a cross-browser bookmark link.

But it didn't work, displaying an "error on page" warning in the browser's status bar.

Was it an issue with the script paths? Was everything installed where it should be and given the right permissions? I've used this script before; there shouldn't be a problem…

Further testing revealed that the script worked in Firefox, which was comforting in that it showed everything was installed correctly; but why was it causing errors in IE and simply not working at all in Opera?

I do all my coding by hand, using EditPlus (but rarely using its automated HTML tools).

To check the accuracy of the code I write, I employ the World Wide Web Consortium's Validator as an indispensable tool for finding mistakes that I've made or correcting those made by others within the templates and scripts that I use — so my next step was to see if my valid page was still valid, now that this new code had been added.

Nope. The Validator didn't even want to run the page.

I worked through the possibilities, using the hints the Validator provides, and my best guess was that the comments within the bookmark code contained characters that were interfering with the UTF-coding, causing the page not to validate.

I wanted to eliminate the JavaScript from the validation process as it is an unnecessary stumbling block that might be causing my problems. I used CDATA escaping first, then transferred my script to an external JavaScript file, which produced the desired results.

I worked through the issues, relying on help from Google to expand my troubleshooting options and uncover background information on the processes at hand.

I finally got the page to validate but the bookmark script still didn't work in IE on the live website; though it worked fine in IE on static test pages on the same domain and in other browsers.

I was stumped. Then I noticed something; the simplest of little things really, yet it was an obvious clue as to what the source of trouble may be: the script uses the 'window.sidebar' declaration and it was being called from a div named 'sidebar.'

Changing the script caused it to fail in other browsers; so despite feeling that renaming the div might hurt some functionality that I wasn't yet using, I decided to change its name to 'rightbar' and updated the CSS accordingly.

The conflict was resolved and everything now works like a charm. I don't understand all of the technical details and surrounding issues — but I made it work and that's what's important.

Sure, as webmastering challenges go, this was a pretty minor affair; but it, along with the other template modifications I'm making, have caused me to look up quite a few things using Google and at the WordPress Codex site — all of which has led to further tinkering.

It's the need for a constant expansion of skills and knowledge and the various benefits that this provides that I find so engaging about webmastering in general and the online adult entertainment marketspace in particular.

By overcoming obstacles and continuing to grow your skill set, regardless of what those skills entail, you will be better able to meet the challenges of webmastering and beyond. Spend a little time studying up on your tools and technologies and perhaps you'll be able to solve a long-troublesome problem — and gain some personal satisfaction in the process.


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