In a recent post, I wanted to break out a paragraph into a callout or sidebar -- a little box of goodness inset into the body of my post. This proved rather more difficult than I'd planned.
Initially, I crafted the callout by hand, using a DIV for the box, and two DIVs within that for the title and body. I putzed with the CSS for a while to get it looking the way I wanted, and when I finally got it looking the way I wanted, I pulled the styles out and coded them in my blog's stylesheet.
So far, so good. This was shaping up to be a minor pain, but nothing I couldn't handle. The first big hiccup happened when I realized that the styles for my DIVs weren't showing up in Google Reader for my RSS feed (you may have noticed this).
Diagnosing this problem turned out to be a much bigger rathole than I expected. Initially, I thought that perhaps my feed just wasn't referencing my stylesheet, so I started playing with this. Before long, I ended up writing a simple WordPress plugin to add a stylesheet reference to my feed. No matter which event I hooked, though, I couldn't get the feed to do what I wanted it to do. After way too many attempts to fix this, I finally stumbled on some blogs that pointed out the root problem here: feed readers generally don't use stylesheets.
[callout title=Feed readers - FAIL]Needless to say, when I found out that feed readers don't actually use stylesheets, I was floored. Not only that, but this appears to be a problem almost across the board. There's a clear opportunity here for someone to step up and lead the way on this issue - someone, please carry this ball forward![/callout]
So, the real solution, it appears, is to have the styles embedded in the DIV definitions. This is ugly for all sorts of reasons that are probably obvious to you, but it's the only way I can see to solve this problem if I want styles in my feed (which I do).
Given that constraint, I elected to make another plugin -- this time, to let me use quicktag-style encoding to type my callout into my post and translate this into appropriately-styled DIVs for display. As evidenced by the callout in this post, this is progressing nicely. I've checked this plugin into the WordPress plugin repository, though I'm sure there's still some fine-tuning to come.
When have you extended a system that didn't quite do what you wanted it to?
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