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The post-launch tweaks…

July 5, 2012, 9:15 PM

So the launch of The Schumin Web under WordPress is now five days in the past.  And now that it’s all in production, that’s when things start to come out.  Since the launch on Sunday, I have fixed a few errors in the Stuarts Draft High School photo set, I have changed the way I present RSS feeds on the site, I’ve connected all the various feeds to Facebook, and the comment system is a little different than when it launched.

On that last point, I am also slowly but surely getting used to the concept of comments and how to handle them.  For one thing, since comments are moderated, I get notified on my phone when comments come through so that I can review and approve them wherever I happen to be.  So now I have two notification tones.  I have this tone for regular text messages and such, which I’ve had on three different phones since 2008.  Now I also have this sound for comments through the Disqus app.  And I’ll bet that a lot of people are not surprised at all that I would have that for the comments tone (if you haven’t listened to it yet, I’ll wait).  Considering what it is, though, it certainly has great comedic potential around friends.  First time it went off was for some test comments that I threw at the site to see what would happen.  But then the first time that it went off “for real” while I was out and about was on Monday night.  I was leaving the pool and walking towards the car, and it went off.  Felt like real Power Ranger right there.  It was a comment, but with that kind of sound, it could have been a monster attacking Angel Grove (or at least a few putties).  You never know with these things.  But I’m slowly but surely getting used to it.

A few folks have questioned why I’m locking down my comments to the extent that I am.  Realize that right now, registration is required through one of a choice of six different services (Facebook, the Twitter, etc.), and all comments require approval before they’re visible.  As I see it, since the comment system is brand new right now, I’m taking a very cautious approach to things starting out.  Realize that, outside of my old discussion forums, the last time I allowed people to post on Schumin Web was about nine years ago.  I used to have a guest book on my site, and it eventually became more of a hassle than it was worth.  I spent far too much time removing rude and uncivil comments from my guest book that people posted there.  So on April 16, 2003, I locked the guest books down, and then removed them.  I do not regret that decision.  The memory of that incident four months before the Journal launched, along with my inability to program such a thing on the old site, led me to not include comments on the Journal when I started that in August 2003.  Now, though, the Internet has changed, and I think I can allow commenting directly on the site once again.  Why let a group of morons derail good “Web 2.0” discussion, right?  The discussion guidelines lay out the ground rules, and anything that falls below the guidelines won’t be allowed through.  Additionally, I am not allowing anonymous comments in an attempt to bring some civility and prevent the abuses that happened with the old guestbooks, since the names and emails on the abusive posts were fake, and just as mean-spirited as the comments themselves.  So the idea there is that people have to associate their comments with an already established identity on a third party’s site.  Thus you have to throw a reputation of some sort behind your posts.  I’m not worried so much about whether it’s a person’s real name or not, because regardless of whether you’re posting as “John Smith” or “Unsuck DC Metro”, you’re not using my site to establish a brand for yourself.

In any case, though, I hope that this commenting thing succeeds.  And depending on where things go, who knows – I might lift the moderation requirement one day and let things go live immediately.  But first let’s see where it goes.

So now that the site is launched, with the comments on and all, it feels more community-based than it did before, even though it looks the same and has several shiny new features on it.  And I want to know what you think about the site.  There will probably be many more tweaks to be made to things before I’m done.  And in making tweaks to fit the new engine that powers the site, I’m also quickly realizing that the current design is about at the end of its useful life.  Realize that the genesis of the current layout came from work done in October 2004.  That was about eight years three site builds ago.  The only major changes were the introduction of the Photo Feature in 2005, the introduction of the squares in 2008, and periodic changes to the section header graphics.  Now it’s time for a top-to-bottom overhaul.  But I have no idea what it’s going to look like, since part of the reason the current design has stuck around for as long as it has was because it works so well.  But now it looks dated.  Realize that the first comment on the site was from Alex Beauchamp, saying that I should dump the squares.  Yeah, it’s time.

But I’m having problems coming up with something that satisfies.  I want to do it all, too.  I want to replace my 13-year-old logo with something fresher, and also refresh the design with something new and more modern.  Among other things, I want to put my picture back on the Main Page.  The reason it’s not there now is because of 9/11.  No, really.  Stop laughing.  See, back in September 2001, the week after 9/11, I ran a quote article on the Main Page about 9/11.  And owing to the design of the Main Page at that time, right there next to that very serious quote article was a photo of me grinning like an idiot.  The photo of me was moved to the splash page, where it existed there for about ten years.  Now, though, the splash page is gone, and the Splash Photo is on the Welcome page (for now).  And with the quote article gone for about seven years now, replaced with the Photo Feature, I don’t think I will necessarily need that separation anymore.  However, I believe that a good design will make the two of them work well together.

I’m also looking for some concept art for the redesign.  Please note: this does not require any technical knowledge on your part.  Leave the coding to me, you see.  So put your computer and your Photoshop away, grab a piece of paper and a pencil, and start doodling.  And if scanning your drawings scares you, mail it to me (contact me for an address if you really want to mail it).

Web site: Personal Websites: 25 Examples for Your Design Inspiration

Postscript: So I've said a lot about a lot of website-related things. Leave your suggestions in the comments below.

Categories: Schumin Web meta