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Messages - The Holy Saint, Grand High Poobah, Master of Monkeys, Ehlers

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1
Everything Else / Galactibase 2.0
« on: February 13, 2010, 07:03:55 PM »
This is a much less ambitious project than the last one, and I expect to finish it in a couple weeks.

For those of you who don't know what on earth I'm talking about, Galactibase is the code I wrote to drive the website for The Fantastic Plastic Men.

It's nice and has most of the browsing functionality I wanted, but it's lacking a number of things. Notably comments.

It also has at least one security feature I want improved and is "expensive" in its use of the MySQL database.

So I'm rewriting it. The new version will be much more efficient with writing to the database, will be cleaner in what it sends to the database, will include comments, offer much more customization, and be something other people can use on their web sites without having to hack the source.

This morning I was making a list of functions that I need to include, basing it on how I like to be able to use comic web sites. But since I want it to be available for others to use, I want input on how other people like to see their web comics.

Things I want to have it do:
  • Front End
    • the landing page should have the comic on it. None of this stupid having to find the link to the current comic
    • when viewing the archive (or possibly even the landing page), have an option to display a week at a time or X number of comics at a time
    • archive display in a calendar format
    • archive display in a list format
    • archive grouped or sorted by storyline, theme, or character
    • show comments with each comic up to X number, with a link to display all
    • comments sorted chronologically or reverse-chronologically, with optional tree view
    • full dialog searchability
    • also searchable by character, theme, or storyline
    • show news items or commentary associated with a comic
    • show most recent news items
    • character page (with picture and description)
    • rss or subscribe by email options
    • descriptions of storyline or theme titles
  • Back End (administrative)
    • upload comics sans ftp
    • style sheet editor (mostly colors)
    • reminder of what characters have not been described in the character page
    • enter dialog, alt text, commentary in the upload page, but also editable later
    • add or update news items independent of comics
    • provide for multiple users updating/maintaining news and comics.
    • edit the names of characters, storylines, or themes, from the backend
  • maybe for 2.1:
    • WYSIWYG/rich text editor for news posts or comments
    • themes
    • button/banner editor, drag and drop front end design
    • user-customizable features (comic viewers choose to view features like comments automatically or not)

so let me know what you like and what you don't like when you visit a web comic, and I'll plan how to address those features in the programming.

I'll put some discussion of comic features (with live examples) I do or don't like here:

  • One thing I don't like is Comic Press. I've not seen a good implementation yet -- it mucks up the comic and non comic posts.
  • PA and CAD both do this one, and because of their success, other people think it's ok to do. They have a landing page, http://www.penny-arcade.com for example, that doesn't have the comic on it. I don't care who you are. I come to your site to read the comic, not to hear what you think about changes in the game industry. Don't LINK to the comic from the home page, SHOW me the comic.
  • also irritating, but I don't have example because I've stopped reading comics that do this to me, don't make me scroll to read any comics. Let me see it when I first get there. It doesn't have to be the highest thing on the page, but I need to see at least the first row of your comic.
  • likewise, no sideways scrolling.
  • intuitive navigation. Clicking on the image to see the next comic is fine, but give me arrows or words. And if it's arrows without text, make them clear. Don't go for nontraditional means that don't leap out at me. I'm looking at you, Apple Geeks.
  • You don't see it much anymore, and it's a darn shame, because with the hugeness of some webcomic archives, it would be really useful, but viewing a week at a time. Sluggy Freelance and Superosity still do it.
  • You know has a useful archive? Irregular Webcomic. Since he has several different "themes," or sets of characters -- you can go back through them by theme or by all themes. You can also view 5 at a time either way. Any comic that has multiple themes (crossover!) you can link to either chain. Very nice. I just don't like how the site looks.

2
Everything Else / Re: The Return of Bruno
« on: December 03, 2009, 01:49:51 PM »
This sounds like a very interesting idea, actually. As I said, I don't have time to actively promote TWG, but I can definitely edit/post a regular column.

3
Everything Else / Re: The Return of Bruno
« on: November 06, 2009, 05:15:36 AM »
Thanks!

I'm going to be working as a technical writer for Serco on their long-term contract with the PBGC. Gonna be along the lines of things that interest me, but also looks like it will stretch me. I'm not going to pretend that I can get NaNo done let alone run this website while I'm learning my duties. and the new systems. I can do a little bit extracurricular, but not a tones.

4
Everything Else / Re: The Return of Bruno
« on: November 06, 2009, 01:29:21 AM »
i keep meaning to post here. I will be happy to post articles, but I can't corral people. I just accepted a job offer -- it was a lot shorter period of unemployment than I expected. I will set up some notification so I get an email when something is submitted, then I'll take care of it.

5
Webcomics & Free Stuff / Re: Review: The LEGO Digital Designer
« on: October 31, 2009, 03:50:03 PM »
version 3 was released. New interface, primarily, some really good additions

No new bricks, however, and I've found several that are missing

6
Everything Else / Re: The Return of Bruno
« on: October 29, 2009, 01:30:57 PM »
I'm variable on content focus. If it's of interest to sf/f nerds, then it's of interest to the site.

as for content, we do have our roots in down-home mormonism. I think that we should stay PG-13 rated.

7
Everything Else / Re: The Return of Bruno
« on: October 29, 2009, 02:07:45 AM »
ok, here's the thing. It's been a week. I have three people telling me they can provide occasional stuff, and one person thinking of a column subject. I don't think that's enough. I have no idea for what to do a column on. I can't buy comics enough to do Page 33 anymore. ... so... I'm not sure what I have to work on.

I mean, I could do serial fiction, but I can't promise it'll be any good.
There's the TW(i)G project. If there's anyone interested in that I could develop it further, if I had a clue on what direction people wanted.

So... uh... i'm still up for being the editor, but I don't have the resources to write content more than once every other week if it's game or movie related. Maybe if we got Jeffe back we could do a podcast. I still watch bad movies.

If people really want fiction, I have an idea for a radio play style podcast.

8
Everything Else / Re: masochism.
« on: October 28, 2009, 07:05:27 PM »
I think I just decided to table this. I'll print it out and file it in a folder with the other "some day" projects I have.

9
Everything Else / Re: masochism.
« on: October 27, 2009, 03:00:20 AM »
oh, and the internal theme editor
Partially i'm thinking in terms of the way WordPress has, where you can actually edit the theme files from the admin area (not the core files, just the themes and plugins). That's been very handy.
As for the WYSIWYG theme editor, I'm mostly thinking of drag and drop blocks of content. That would rewrite som CSS to pinpoint location of blocks. I also think this is beyond my current ability, unless there's something obvious I haven't thought of for how to do it. But I reckon I'll learn eventually.

10
Everything Else / Re: masochism.
« on: October 27, 2009, 01:12:31 AM »
Strider: Bloggo, sounds like a drain cleaner. You need a bacos, because everything is better with bacon.

You are more than correct. Bacon and Monkeys.
Bloggo was the steroidal result of my first PHP "Hello, World" program. The catch phrase for Bloggo was "You're Soaking In It."

Strider: Ahh, the good ole front page. You get into the trap of making it too configurable, and thus too database heavy since it has to 'create' the page for each request (which is fine if you want to stay small/cheap) or static (after each update, create a static page so all 'browsers' can view it w/o using any processor power. Or both, only display dynamic for signed in users. I'm sure this is all old news to you... just rambling.

A static page isn't bad if part of the posting process creates the page. But you'd need to create multiple pages -- one for each possible if users can turn off the visibility of modules as you suggest below (and I think it's a good suggestion). The other option, now that I think about it, is to just have WITHIN that dynamic page to turn off the visibility of modules based on user prefs.
Fortunately, database *reading* isn't that resource intensive. So unless I find someone using Spork for a high traffic site and they start having issues, I think I'll just to do the dynamic creation each time.

Strider: All seems pretty general. I would suggest making everything a template. RSS is pretty standard and just uses a different template than the general pages. This allows you to easily add rss feeds for comments, individual threads, or whole weblogs, etc.

I didn't express it specifically, that's what I was thinking. Most of it, other than that pages specific content, is pretty much from one source.

Strider: As mentioned earlier, might be good to make a module that 'creates' static pages. This would help lessen the load on commonly hit pages. You can also have a grim reaper module that 'kills' old threads and converts them to static pages. This way there's no information lost and people can't raise the dead.

Yeah, the module would create static pages, so the user doesn't have to do anything but put in the unique info.
I could call the module "whitenoise."
The grim reaper module sounds fun in the sense that it uses "grim reaper" in its name. But it seems redundant. It occurs to me that in a forum, you could just have a function that locks old threads. If we're talking about comments on a post, well, my personal feeling is there's no need to lock it. But i suppose if SOMEONE wants it it's worth having. It could just be an admin switch to say "don't make commenting available on post more than X seconds old (using, of course, standard Unix time stamps)

Strider: Recent posts sounds like the same thing as the homepage. A chatterbox might be fun, depending on your tastes. Most sites show online users at the bottom of the page in a footer of some sort, so you might just want to keep them there. The tag cloud/categories/search/calendar are all good.

Something else I haven't said specifically is that the front page will default to just "blurbs" or a short outtake, with a "read more" link. The recent posts would be more of a list of just titles as links, in smaller print.

I do like the idea of a chatterbox at least being available.
and there area few variations on it, like user tweets, that bear considerations.

But yeah, when I say sidebar, I kind of mean, that it's interchangeable between the header, side, and footer

Strider: Games that give points that are tied to your title might be fun. It would definitely encourage people to spend time on your site. The problem is getting/creating the games. Also, make the website/links field expandable. It's annoying when a site only has a couple options, but forgets a site I like. (In this case, nanowrimo user page would be a site relevant to these forums)


Wow, there's a whole section that I forgot to put in there. I want to make it a site capable of hosting RPGs, so it could store character stats and adventure information. The actual rp would happen over Skype or chats or in forums, but the dice and records could be in the site. But now that you say it, on site games, like scavenger hunts. It bears thinking.

yeah, need to be able to add on additional sites, with labels, good thinking.

Strider: Another system that I've seen work well is a rank/power system. The users who post the most can moderate the system (temporary until approved by a real mod.) This helps quickly remove dangerous links to viruses, child porn, etc. Of course, this power can be revoked by the gods if abused. :)


Admin undoable user moderation. Nice. Yeah, I can put that in.

Strider: And javascript to move pages around similar to the photo gallery. In fact, if you could make the system react just like a gallery, that would be awesome. I get annoyed when I'm reading a comic that has been around for a while and after each comic I need to search for the "next"/"Prev" link... if I could just hit the left/right arrow on they keyboard and continue reading, that would be awesome. Alt-Text is somewhat annoying since some browsers don't display the whole string, some people don't even know it's there, and it vanishes quickly. As much as I love XKCD, I wish they just displayed the text as a caption.

Yeah, i can see that. JS navigation is something that bears thinking. My comic site had rather large navigation arrows, so it was hard to miss, but so many people use different options, so that could be useful

Alt-Text is pretty much somethign that needs to be in. So many webcomics artists use it, to good effect. In addition to XKCD, Dr. McNinja, Dinosaur Comics and Overcompensating all immediately come to mind. It's common enough that when I bump into a new comic one of the first things I do is check for mouseovers. And when they're present, it makes me feel like I just found a little easter egg.

Strider: One thing I'm working on with my webpage is making a system for each major category. For example, I have three section: Blog, Writing, and Programming. I want it to show a personal theme for my blog, a fantasy theme for writing, and a techy/coding theme for programming. I think it would bring personality to each page. As for person tags, how do you decide where it goes? Does each user get the option? Also, the ability to export the page would be good too. Allows you to do custom backups or move to another system later on if you wish (blasphemy!)

So it's one site, but looks like three. Hrm... I have considered different specific features, like variations on the headers and stuff, but still fitting within the general theme. But making it possible to use multiple themes, that's probably as easily doable as user preferred themes.

Do you mean like the admin exporting the pictures to an XML file? or quick exporting the whole database to a file? I never think of things like that because I tend to do my backups just using phpmyadmin, which makes it quick and easy.

Strider: Zoom, option to save image, mark offensive (depending on who is allowed to post).. or even just moderation ability.

yeah, the obvious features I should have thought of quickly

Strider: Ugh, I had to make a shopping cart system for my Masters Project... and it was a pain in the ass. Make sure you have a module system here so they can add the type of cart they want to use (paypal/google checkout/yahoo checkout/msn checkout/local credit card system/etc). Don't forget: User Ratings, Comments, Price, Sale Price, quantity, etc.

Yeah, it's clear I haven't thought through the merch section very quickly. Shopping carts irritate me. I don't think i've ever finished one.

Strider: Modules should supply user searchable database rows with friendly names.

Yeah, I don't think the searches will be difficult to write. Just hitting the right fields for near matches.

Strider: A theme editor is hard to write. Ideally, it should just be adding/removing modules and editing CSS. I'm not sure creating a WYSIWYG editor for themes is very efficient if it'll just be used by the site administrators. If users can create their own themes, it might be worth the effort though. Also, (as much as I hate saying this) you might want to include a Advertising section. Need to recoup operating costs somewhere. Alternatively, a donation center. Donate for no ads?

Strider: Allow the user to hide/block modules. Some people won't care to see the comic or to play the games. Privacy settings as well. Allow them to choose how much information is displayed, who it's displayed to, etc. Friends lists, or even friend groups.

This is where I start thinking in terms of putting things in "blocks" like Xoops does. I was thinking you could mark them with tags when you put them in the bars, and then depending on how you've marked the users, they show or not. But if you did them in blocks, that could just be an option for the block. Ads would be a switch only the admin could change, but modules would be changeable by users for themselves.

11
Everything Else / Re: masochism.
« on: October 26, 2009, 09:41:10 PM »
I've decided to call it Spork (note that all of this is before I've even decided to make it). I have names for some of the modules too. The Sidebar is Salad. The blog recycles the title for my old blog: Bloggo. The comic one remains at Galactibase. The gallery I'm thinking of calling Revue.

Note that this is more or less a first brain storm. If you think of other stuff it needs, suggest them.

Front page:
5-10 most recent posts (defaults to comic, announcements, blog posts, media, important forum posts, configurable)

Site Wide:
Universal appearance for all features, one style source
Once user table for all modules
SEO/Mod-rewrite features built in.
RSS subscription abilities built in.
WYSIWYG editor/code view editor for all posts
Next/prev/first/last posts within module
Digit, stumbleupon, etc links.
Related links (inter- or intra-module) (match on tags, storyline, people)
link to login/register/administer options
captcha for registration
age-based topic/comment locking
module-based themes.

"Static" pages
made from templates
Dynamic links builder
dynamic FAQ builder
About page

Sidebar:
Can be moved from side to side or on top
Menu
Tag cloud (by module or site wide)
Categories
Search
Hot/popular topics by module or overall
Recent posts
Online users
Calendar showing recent posts (or posts for era if in archive)
chatterbox
custom blocks (for short HTML/PHP bits of code that can be moved like other sidebar blocks)

Users:
Display name separate from login
Real name
Email
IM contacts (MSN, Yahoo!, AIM, Skype)
 additional fields for other IMs
Photo
Avatar (Gravatar compatible)
Location
Bio
Interests
Birthday
Position (admin, moderator, editor, etc)
Class/level system like TWG
Modules interested in
Gender
Websites (blog, homepage, facebook, myspace, LJ, twitter, last.fm, nanowrimo)
 additional spaces for other social network sites
Site clans?
Games
Posted items
Favorite posts

Forum: (Simple Machines)
Karma system
Unread posts
Recent posts
Stat tracking
Ban by user/ip/email/address
Keyword and user searches
Categories for subforums
Move posts
Move threads
Move subforums
Delete posts
Spoiler warning/protection
Hide/ignore users
Favorite users
Subscription by subforum/thread
Group/clan threads or subforums
admin undoable user moderation (most experienced posters can do moderation that can be approved or undone later)

Comics: (Galactibase)
View one at a time or by week
Posting comic creates forum thread (date/title of comic is default name)
News items related to comics appear below ("news item" may be commentary) may or may not be a blog post
Custom alt text
Space for site wide announcements
Track date written and edited
Story arcs, categories (for multiple topic comics)
Keyword tags
People tags
Characters can have user pages, their posts features will like to their comics
MUST BE CURRENT COMIC LANDING LINK
Record dialog
JS based arrow key navigation

Blog: (WordPress)
Multiple blogs mark fiction/journal/article
Mutli-tier categories (inherit properties)
Keyword tags
People tags (link to their profile, FB, twitter, whatever)
Mark author, date written, date edited
Choose ordering for each category
posting blog creates a forum thread with post name as default thread title
automatic trackbacks
fiction posts have storyline too

Gallery: (Gallery 2)
Configurable number of items per page
Keyword tags
People tags
Sort by date, tags, size, type
Edit: rotate, resize, add text, add watermark, zoom, download, print, moderate

Wiki module:
Like Wikipedia, user editable only however

Merch:
Use gallery elements, related items
Item thumbs and larger view (auto generate thumbs)
Item description
Shopping cart.
use any pay system (paypal, etc)
user ratings
coments, price, sale prices, quantity

Archives:
Sorted by tags, date, cats, author, storyline; ascending or descending
By module, whole site, or set of modules
Month calendars

Search:
Integrated or separated, multi-module search

Site Admin Configs:
Turn on/off modules
Order sidebar (drag and drop)
Turn on/off headers/footers/left bar/ right bar
Themes
   Built in theme editor, both WYSIWYG and code
   WYSIWYG drag and drop elements, click element to chose color
Turn on/off any type of optional links
Create, edit, administer posts (click post and then choose module, or click module then click post/edit/administer)
Administer users
Stats

User Configs:
Choose theme
Choose default landing page
Default search options
Default archive options
More/less archive links for their post views.

12
Everything Else / Re: masochism.
« on: October 26, 2009, 07:41:24 PM »
ah, yes, that looks like it will be VERY helpful. Thank you muchly!

13
Everything Else / Re: masochism.
« on: October 26, 2009, 07:16:41 PM »
lol, so you can empathize with my plight, but don't feel it :D

more power to you, if you can get stuff for free. Getting kit for free is what TWG is founded on.

I've not solidified my list yet, but I've started looking for the easiest solutions. I don't relish the idea of interpreting Gallery and WordPress and SMF so that I can bridge them seamlessly, but once I've figured them out, it'd probably go faster than building on just one and building the rest. Xoops would be a good option, if there was any sort of comunity doing anything with it but redsigning the xoops site. The last xoops-wordpress bridge was written like, 3 years ago. There is no Xoops-SMF bridge, but it looks like they do have a recent forum plugin from more recently. Their gallery plugins leave either much to be desired or are of ancient date. And I don't really want to write a comic plugin from scratch for Xoops. So much potential, so little delivery. (They claimed a couple years to be rewriting from scratch to create "XoopSphere, but that seems dead like everything elses.

90% of developers working on WordPress are worried only about advertising revenue and SEO. While those are big issues, it doesn't contribute much to a complete site.

Developers at SMF seem more diverse of interest but don't want to work on anything but the forums

I haven't met any Gallery developers.

Maybe I should poke Jordo and we can develop one and sell it.

14
Everything Else / Re: masochism.
« on: October 26, 2009, 01:26:38 PM »
woah
I checked pricing. $100? Wow. plus $50 more for *forums*? It'd be easier to use Xoops than it would to spend 150 for software that I can never use for a profit making site. That's insane.

15
Everything Else / Re: masochism.
« on: October 26, 2009, 01:22:53 PM »
but I'm
a) unemployed
and b) cheap.

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