Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Case of the Vanishing Sidebar, Or, a Three-Pipe Problem

“No, Madam,” my friend said peremptorily. “Your problem has nothing to do with your template. Rather, it’s the code of your last post but two that is deforming the layout of your blog page.”

The great detective had risen from his chair before the fire when our visitors entered the sitting room at 221B Baker Street. Only one who knew Sherlock Holmes as I did would see the ennui masked by his correct demeanor.

“But Mr. Holmes, it can’t be. I never add code to my posts.”

“Nonetheless, Madam. Your husband’s problem, on the other hand, lies with the curious way he has inserted his photographs into his blog.”

Holmes turned to address the man, who was cradling his right forearm in his left hand.

“If you can refrain from inserting these images by dragging and dropping them into your blog, it will paginate normally. Click the ‘insert image button, man!”

The man opened his mouth with astonishment. “How on earth——?” he began.

“Your settings notwithstanding, your blog is only showing one post per page because the images are encoded using the unusual ‘Base-64’ method.”

Holmes turned again to the woman. “Blogger’s own remarkable clockwork sometimes produces errors that push the display of your sidebar elements to the bottom of the page. These errors reside in individual blog posts, not template code.”

“If you open your erring post for editing, Blogger can repair this damage for you. Simply toggle between ‘compose’ and ‘html’ modes several times and revise the post.”

“But Mr. Holmes, how did you identify the post with the error?” asked the woman.

“Mrs. Atherly, that is an elementary problem. The flaw is clearly located within a post that on the main blog page. I thus opened the individual post pages of each. The one with the missing sidebar was obvious.”

Mr. Atherly spoke next. “I hit upon that drag-and-drop method last year. How the devil did you know I was using it?”

“Drag and drop, and also inserting an image from the Web, have been linked to Base-64 encoding, though this is mostly a thing of the past,” Holmes replied. “I am sorry to learn from you that we have not seen the last of it.”

“Base 64 is such a bulky format that it exhausts your limited page-size allowance and triggers automatic pagination of your blog,” Holmes said.

“Premature pagination is your complaint, and the way you favor your right arm betrays a predilection for dragging and dropping,” he concluded. “I shall refer you to this gentleman for instructions on how to fix your problem.”

As the door closed behind the grateful couple Holmes sank wearily to his chair, his mask abandoned.

“Watson,” he said with disgust, “no more! Spare me these ridiculous petty inquiries. Are there no problems worthy of my talents?” He stared gloomily into the dying fire.

“Well, Holmes,” I said as sought to revive the embers with poker and bellows, “A lot of people would like to know why on earth Blogger scrapped its old user interface for one that violates every settled principle of web design.”

As the flames rose in the hearth, I was rewarded by an answering spark kindled in my friend’s eyes. He rose and fetched his tobacco from the mantle.

“A three-pipe problem at least, Watson,” he said with some satisfaction.

Sidney Paget's wonderful illustrations, first published in the Strand Magazine, are in the public domain.


  1. Love it!

    BTW, is it just me, or have Blogger subtly added some more contrast to the new interface? I have a feeling that things aren't quite as hard to see as they were, but I cannot put my finger on anything that has changed.

    1. Mary, I have been using DarkUFO's clever css fix for the blogger UI. It's not perfect, but I find it to be a big improvement.

      Planning a post on it and other tricks for those of us who miss the old ways.