Site Notes

Launch of New 2.0 Site Layout

I just switched over our default theme to a new layout more fitting of 911blogger v2.0. The new layout may take a bit for some to get used to, but it should be a lot better than our previous theme for a good number of reasons. We will still be doing tweaks to the layout as needed, but I just didn't want to hold back any longer on this great new look for the site.

For users who do run into issues, please post useful and constructive feedback. We have tested the new layout on IE6, IE7, Firefox, Opera, and Safari, if you are having an issue then we will need some patience and your help. If for some reason the new layout is unusable for you you can switch back to the old theme by going to 'my account' and editing your profile to choose the previous theme '911bloggerCSS'. I would advise however that anyone not currently using the new theme switch over as I intend to stop supporting the old theme once everyone is good to go with the new layout.

Please post some useful feedback, and please remember these changes are intended to improve the site, and if you don't think they do then we need to understand your complaints.

An incredibly large thank you goes out to the designer of the new layout yh, one of our very generous and talented viewers.

Site Outages

Bah. The site was down for about 5 hours tonight. Unfortunately this was due to a glitch which was out of my control.. I do have a solution, but making use of that solution would cause a site outage for about 72 hours.. Right now I am going to keep my fingers crossed that my current host can keep us running through at least a week after 9/11, at that point I will make the necessary hosting changes. I am very sorry for the site outage, it is just really really bad timing.

In the mean time however.. We have a completely redesigned theme which will be going into affect in the coming days. I would appreciate it if some of our users could give it a test run. I personally have been using this new theme for a little over a day or so and I can't stand to look at the old site layout after using this new one. You can switch to this new theme by visiting 'My Account' and then editing your profile. Change your settings to make use of the 'TestTheme_DoNotUse' theme. Please try it out for a few hours before posting any feedback, you should find it a ton better to use once you get the hang of it. Please post some constructive feedback in the comments if you test it out, and unless something major comes up I would expect us to make the switch tomorrow night.

Sorry again for the outages, I wish it was something I could fix instantly. If anything these outages show how quickly this site is growing.

Best wishes.

dz back in da house

Been out of pocket for about the last 5 days (maybe 10?) because of a ton of other things I have going on in my personal life right now, but figured I would check in now that I am back in da house.

I mentioned in passing a week or so ago that I won't be headed to NYC as I had originally planed. I did want to try to contribute somehow though, so I made use of about $400 of our generous donations to get a banner made for the 5th anniversary events. Basically it is a 3ft by 20ft banner which simply states 'ASK QUESTIONS, DEMAND ANSWERS!'. It doesn't say anything about 9/11, and it doesn't have any web addresses, so it will probably serve little use anywhere but Ground Zero, so I have asked that it be given to the folks at NY911Truth for their weekly vigils. I've also shipped 16 sharpies along with the sign for people to sign in memorial of those that suffered from the events of 9/11.

Here is a quick shot of the banner all rolled up on my way to overnight it to NYC, all you can see in the photo is the '!', but it should give an idea as to its size:


big ole sign for NYC

Other than that I did little tonight other than post a couple of news entries, fix an issue with an extra div tag which was throwing off the footer, and work with one of our users on the new layout. I had mentioned that the new site was primarily a change for increased functionality and improved maintenance abilities for our team members. I said that the layout/design would be the next major step, but didn't see that coming anytime soon. Out of the blue I got an offer from an incredibly generous user to redesign the site, and I must say I am in love with the new theme he is working on.

Thursday night Site Notes

Switched over the website tonight from being in the /v2 folder to just being in the root as it should be. Unfortunately I am getting a bunch of errors in my logs from people still trying to hit the old site - at least the error message explains the switch and links to the homepage. One of the other issues is that some browsers have the index.html cached, which redirects to the /v2 folder. I deleted that index.html, but if it is cached it still might try to reroute you to the /v2 folder I suppose. So, if your having issues with things still referencing the /v2 folder be sure to click here to learn how to clear out your cache.

With that out of the way, here is the list for today:

  • Switched site from /v2 subfolder to the root of 911blogger.com
  • Added social networking images/links (digg, de.licio.us, etc.) to full page post view
  • Implemented throttle module to try to keep the 'CPU Quota' error from occurring
  • Reduced default # of comments to show from 300 back to 30 due to load issue, logged in users can still modify default

I tested the site out on Safari finally as well thanks to a website for webmasters wanting to test for Safari but without a Mac. Apparently the new site loads fine in Safari, but it was with version 2.0.4, so if you are using something older please be sure to update. If there are Safari issues for the latest version let me know, otherwise that means the new site should work fine now in Firefox, IE 6 and 7, Opera, and Safari 2.0+.

Site notes for Wednesday Night

I actually took a break for the first time in a few days tonight. Managed to grab a quick nap to catch up from all the late nights lately and even go out to dinner, w00t!

Did a couple things though:

  • Fixed issue with Opera browser missing 3rd column on homepage
  • Fixed issue with shoutbox displaying first XX entries instead of most recent XX entries
  • Added google Adsense advertising to raise money for future ads

I am in dire need to hear from any users that are still having any formatting issues. If you are having any such issues please let me know so I can get some details and knock out any such issues that still remain.

I am weighing whether or not to disable the WYSIWYG editor.. it tends to cause some issues when it doesnt properly close its span tags.. does anyone use the WYSIWYG editor's features anyway?

Site Notes for Tuesday Night

Another day, another site notes posting..

  • New fixed width theme named '911bloggerCSS_1024fixed' 1
  • Fixed annoying bug where the main textbox for story/blog entries would go behind the side panels in Internet Explorer
  • Added Shoutbox 2
  • Updated '911blogger3col' theme 3
  • Fixed issue where upcoming events with same start and end date (but different times) would be listed in a from/to span instead of a single date

Detials:

  1. The first thing I got done tonight was a fixed width theme for our low resolution users. The new theme is named '911bloggerCSS_1024fixed' and as the name implies forces the site to a fixed width of 1024 (1000px actually). This theme also has a reduced comment font size as well. This theme should help out our low resolution users a bunch as they will now have a center column that is forced to be a reasonable size, and their comments text will be smaller so that they can see more comments and have less risk of the responses getting too thin to read.
  2. After seeing another comment today about missing the old haloscan comment I thought a bit about why some are not liking the new system. There are a couple reasons. First, people with low resolutions are getting small center columns which causes the comments to be squished, and responses even more so (this issue has been taken care of with the new fixed width theme mentioned above1). The other complaint is that when posting comments users now have to respond to a specific comment (or the initial post), and then have to scour the comments again later to find other responses to their post, in turn slowing down how quickly they can carry on a conversation via the comments sections. The thing I noted is that the comments section is intended to be comments about the initial post or blog entry, not for carrying on real time chat - the way it was used on haloscan. So, I figured that adding a Shoutbox window would allow users to have this semi-instant conversation, and keep the comments sections from becoming what they were on the old site. You should find the new Shoutbox on the right hand panel, give it a try.
  3. The '911blogger3col' theme is a table based theme (instead of CSS floating panels). This helps out a good bit for browsers which have issues with CSS, but is mostly available so I can access the site better from my mobile phone Wink

Got a good ways to go, but with the addition of the new fixed width theme there should be a viable solution for all users at the moment - except perhaps Safari users. If you are still having formatting issues (more than just opinions on the color scheme) please get me some details!

Don't forget to stay on top of the todo lists here:

 

Site Notes for Monday Night

Bug fixes and suggestions:

  • Spellchecker is fixed (and works quite nicely Smile)
  • URLs/Links posted into posts or comments are now automatically made into click-able links
  • Added 'multimedia' link to the site sections which links to 911podcasts
  • Moved 'Site Sections' panel to top of the left panel such that the home link 'Daily news' is always at the top
  • Tagged ~30 previous articles from this month

I just switched the theme to an updated one.. if you want to use the old one just go to your profile and choose '911bloggerCSS_initialLaunch' as your theme.

Theme related changes:

  • 'Submitted by' text now larger (was hard to read)
  • Panel links are now darker
  • Headlines are now more pronounced
  • Blog entry titles are no longer grey
  • Added 'home' link to the bottom of the page (the link home at the top is 'daily news' in the 'Site Sections' panel)

 

I also spent about an hour looking into making the main header image a click-able image to return home. I can do it no problem if I remove the upper left and upper right buttons, but if they stay I don't see a way to do it. I did actually get it working to where the buttons and the header image were all click-able, but once an image becomes click-able it can no longer re-size to be outside the visible layout. In other words, when I would re-size the window to be smaller and smaller the header image would drive more and more the right as the left edge of the image reached the boundary of the left border. I am hoping that there is some sort of javascript hack that can help me out, perhaps by listening for mouse-clicks and determining the location, or the top level panel which was clicked, or something similar. If I don't find a solution after another hour of research I may just put it off as this desire should be taken care of by creating a horizontal menu under the header image which includes all of the site sections.

Missing the Forest for the Trees - Notes About the New Site

Well, I'm happy to say that it has been 24 hours and the new site is still up and running. I am afraid that some people might be missing the point of the new site, or perhaps be reminiscing about the old site and how used to it they had gotten. I hope that this post will provide a bit more insight into our reasons for switching over to the new system, and I hope that it will also show that what you see now is just a step in the evolvement of 911blogger.com.

First off, it should be noted that this site is definitely in transition right now, in a sense this new site is in its infancy. Whereas the old site had basically stayed the exact same for the last 6+ months, this new site will be going through a period in which we knock out any bugs, improve on the usability, and add a bunch of new features which otherwise would have been impossible given the previous site's architecture. It is imperative that our users understand that we are working hard to make this new site many times better than the old site, but it will take some time and some constructive help from our users, so please be patient with us!

We have gotten a good bit of feedback posted in the comments and via email. I have been compiling lists of the suggestions and bugs and I will begin working on these starting tomorrow night. Just to give an idea of the things I have on my plate I have made public my following todo lists, please check them over and if you see something you think should be added then post some details in the comments:

(more after the jump..)

Welcome to the New 911Blogger.com v2.0!

Welcome to the new home of 911Blogger.com!

I hope that you will find yourself at home on the new site. You should find most of what you are used to in the same place as before, but with a little bit more functionality and content here and there. While this is the official launch of v2.0, it is really just a glimpse of what is yet to come.

With any luck you should find all 1600+ posts and 50,000+ comments successfully brought over from the old site, but we have kept the old site intact for anyone linking to our content. All of our RSS feeds should be updated as well except for those that directly accessed blogger's atom.xml - you can update your RSS feeds if necessary by checking out the 'RSS Feeds' block on the right panel.

So what's new? Well, for starters there is a whole new set of Site+Features, start there to see what is now available. Aside from that you probably will want to go ahead and register a new account to make use of these new features - but don't fret, we still allow anonymous comments without the need to register - at least for now.

Here is a quick listing of the new Site Features and a few other improvements in v2.0:

  • No longer dependent on blogger.com or haloscan.com
  • Team+Members now have much easier methods of updating site content
  • Large posts will now show a preview
  • Hierarchical commenting system
  • Category tags
  • WYSIWYG editor
  • User blogs and other user submitted content
  • Better Upcoming Events section
  • Random quotes panel returns!
  • User Polls
  • Content pages
  • Extreme flexibility for future functionality

Along with the new features there are sure to be numerous bugs, but it was in my opinion that the new abilities would easily outweigh any issues that might popup. We have our fingers crossed that the site is at least stable enough for the switch, and hope that the transition will be as painless as possible. We would appreciate your help in tracking down any issues that might exist, so please post in the comments if you find any, and please be patient with us during this transition!

Comments Disabled Due to Site Transition

I am switching the site over to the new v2.0 site this morning. As such the ability to add comments has been removed so that I can be sure to get all of the existing comments switched over. Once the new site has launched you should be able to pick up where you left off.

Please keep your fingers crossed for me this morning as I do my best to transition all of the posts and comments from this site to the new one. If we run into any major pitfalls we will of course be able to revert back until we can address them.

In the mean time you can still access all old posts and comments, but no further entries can be made on this old site.
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Site Work for Wednesday Night

don't you hate it when you work on something for a few hours and when your done you feel you have nothing to show for it? i know i do.. in any event, i spent a bit of time tonight trying to figure out the moderation and voting systems that are out there for drupal.. i've just been playing around with them on my local machine though as the implementation will probably be a bit more complex than the stuff i've been adding to the live site.. i'm guessing at this point that user based voting systems will not be in place at the initial launch - which is fine by me.. my main goals are to get the comments sections user moderated (comments with a 10% or less approval rate will be automatically deleted), and news story submissions user moderated (news stories with a 65% or higher approval rate will be automatically published to the front page).. of course these are just general ideas at the moment, there definately will be a period of fine tuning in the first few weeks after the new site launches.. in any event, i did get a couple of things done asside from the research..

  • setup new feedback pages for submitting news, comments, and contacting individual Team+Members
  • fixed issue where '9/11 Related Music' and '9/11 Related Videos' header buttons weren't working in FireFox

thats really it.. i spent a bit of time also playing around with little icons next to things like 'add comment', 'comments', and the category tags.. it actually looked pretty cool, but the icon for tags would show even if there werent any tags entered.. i'll probably come back to this at some point once all the functionality is in place and i can add some more swank to the layout.. oh, and i also played around a bit with getting the news page (home) to list date headers like on the current site, and to make the archive show an entire month at once.. hopefully these two things can get done tommorrow night.. still gunna plan on doing the switch on saturday morning, my only concern right now is whether the server overhead will be more or less.. we shall see..

Site Work for Monday and Tuesday Night..

Ended up wasting a couple hours having to write a nice letter to someone who screwed up on some wedding stuff I had ordered, only to end up wasting about another hour or so with a glitch in the profiles for the WYSIWYG editor.. but I did get a few things done..

  • WYSIWYG editor now has seperate profiles for Team Members and standard users - keeps users from doing certain things that might cause issues
  • Setup 'tags' site section - Shows a 'tag cloud'.. basically it shows all the tags/categories associated with posts. it isn't much now, but once all 1600+ posts are brought over and tagged it should be quite handy
  • Setup 'quotes' site section and panel - Users can now enter in quotes which after vetting will appear in the 'quotes' section and in the new 'Random Quote' panel.
  • Added a slight color and border to the nodes formatting so that all the posts don't just run together

Here are a few things I got done last night:

  • Fixed favicon not showing
  • Updated footer
  • Fixed issue with relative URLS in panel blocks (i hope)
  • Setup 'events' site section and panel - Users can now enter in upcoming events which after vetting will appear in the 'events' calendar and in the 'Upcoming Events' panel.

I'm definately looking foward to building out a resources section.. Basically allow users to submit flyers, links to buy shirts, books, movies, etc. etc. as well as general information on forms of activism.. Not exactly sure how we're gunna handle this yet.. probably gotta figure out content ratings and moderation a bit better first..