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Nathan Robinson
myArmoury Admin


myArmoury Admin

PostPosted: Fri 18 Nov, 2005 1:16 am    Post subject: Improved content organization         Reply with quote

I've spent the last few days coding a custom-created content management system (CMS) that is tailor-made to the needs of this site. What this means is that I have put all the site's pages into a database and have various bits of information attached to it. From there, I can build tools that improve the way it's presented and able to be found and accessed by you guys. I've also built in the ability for me to start gathering statistics in a very detailed manner and created a structure that will let me see what is popular and what is not. I can use this as feedback to make a better site with better content for all you guys.

While the back-end changes are drastic, the stuff that is visible to you guys is not. This is probably a good thing, because, well, I haven't heard a lot of people complain about how it was.

For now I've made some minor changes to how the Featured Content and Articles and Hands-on Reviews are organized and displayed. The site now lets you see which articles you've viewed in the past, and which ones are unread. It also automatically adds the "NEW" tag at the end of anything that is recently published. At some point, I'll add some user-preferences so that you all can change your viewing experience however you want, such as changing the amount of time something is marked as "NEW", how things are sorted, how much information you see, etc.

You'll notice that all or most of the articles are not marked as already been "read" even if you've been there before. This will be true until you actually go to those pages and check 'em out. The saving of this info didn't start until a couple days ago, so most things will be marked as unread to you.

You can also opt to look at the authors of each article right from these pages and then link to a page that shows you all the features or reviews that he has written for the site. It's all right there in one page. Kind of neat.

Further, if you go to an author's profile through the by-line credit in any article or their profile link on the forum, you can see a list of all that person's contributions to the site. See Patrick Kelly's Profile for an example.

What else? Well, you can go to the new page (linked from the About page) that shows all the Contributing Authors for the site, read their bios, see what they've had published, etc.

Please note that each article is only assigned one author, so if an author is a second-chair person, he won't show up this way.

Anyway, that doesn't seem like much, but the back-end technology I built really allows for a lot of flexiblity and power. I've got a lot of ideas in mind (when don't I?) that will add useful and interesting things for you guys. But most importantly, in my mind, I can now get a better indication of where to take the site based on the feedback I'll get from how it is currently being used that I wasn't easily able to get before. Now rather than interpreting a bunch of data, I can have the system do it for me exactly how I need it done and do it in a real-time way. I dig this a lot.

Regarding why I decided to make my own system rather than using an off-the-shelf product: Existing options are either very crippled or are so bloated that they end up using far too many resources and are often more trouble than they're worth. Further, there's a very particular set of needs on this site based on how I produce and publish the content, organize it, and wish to track it. I would have spent more time customizing and learning a new system than just making one from scratch.

The CMS I was using before was feature-rich, but was a resource hog. I have to find ways of reducing resource usage because I can't afford to most the site to a more expensive hosting solution. This is one of the most compelling reasons to put in this work. Also, many of the features of the old CMS were completely unuseful to me and the ones that I really, really wanted weren't in there. It was annoying so I built something myself.

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Thomas Hoogendam




Location: The Netherlands
Joined: 20 Jun 2004
Reading list: 8 books

Posts: 252

PostPosted: Fri 18 Nov, 2005 3:16 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hey Nathan.

I really like the new lay-out. Even though it's basicly the same, somehow it just seems a bit better organized. I like it a lot.
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William Goodwin




Location: Roanoke,Va
Joined: 17 Nov 2003
Likes: 1 page
Reading list: 20 books

Posts: 1,001

PostPosted: Fri 18 Nov, 2005 3:24 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Nathan,

Again you've out-done yourself. These changes are grand.

And again........a huge THANK YOU for all the work & effort that you put in to making this site
so amazing.

Cheers lad,

Bill

Roanoke Sword Guilde

roanokeswordguilde@live.com
"I was born for this" - Joan of Arc
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Kirk Lee Spencer




Location: Texas
Joined: 24 Oct 2003

Spotlight topics: 6
Posts: 820

PostPosted: Fri 18 Nov, 2005 6:47 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Nathan...

You are a true artist...

I really like the changes. Whenever I enter the website I have the same feeling I have when I walk into one of those fine hardwood paneled libraries with beautiful and comfortable furniture containing shelves and shelves of facinating information.

Oh... and filled with some of the best people.

Thanks so much for the vision and all the hard work... It really shows!

ks

Two swords
Lit in Edenís flame
One of iron and one of ink
To place within a bloody hand
One of God or one of man
Our souls to one of
Two eternities
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Nathan Robinson
myArmoury Admin


myArmoury Admin

PostPosted: Sat 19 Nov, 2005 7:33 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I've drastically changed the layout of our Home Page. Not only does it look different, it loads 5 times faster and does 5 times as many things in the background. This means it's using far less resources than the old way of doing things and hopefully will ease some burden on the server. Obviously, the home page is an often access paged, so having the resource cut should me dramatically helpful to the system.

There's a ton of info on there. I personally like the way it's organized. It took a few minutes to get used to it, but now that I've been staring at it for a day and a half (this is how long it took me to make the back-end stuff for it), I started to hate the way the old one looked.

This is just the first step to some of the other changes that will take place. Almost all of them will be invisible, or barely visible, to you guys. But the back-end stuff is drastically different. Notice, already, that the home page lists the number of featured articles and hands-on reviews. It is able to calculate this number because all the pages are sitting in a database and getting stats off them is easy now.

That's just the minor stuff. There's a lot of potential for more interesting things, but the real reason I'm doing this is to make my life easier. I'm only developer that myArmoury.com has. While I have a team of very good contributing authors, I don't have any assistance on the production, development, or tech side of things. That's all me. I've needed to make it easier on me so these are the firsts steps to making a more powerful site.

Cheers.

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Benjamin McCracken





Joined: 26 Feb 2004

Posts: 83

PostPosted: Sat 19 Nov, 2005 8:32 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Looks nice. I thought I was at the wrong place for a moment though.
"Your sword is your shield!"
Christian Henry Tobler
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Jean Thibodeau




Location: Montreal,Quebec,Canada
Joined: 15 Mar 2004
Likes: 50 pages
Reading list: 1 book

Spotlight topics: 5
Posts: 8,178

PostPosted: Sat 19 Nov, 2005 11:10 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

First impression .......... WHAAAAAAAAT ........... 30 seconds later I'm used to it and like the look and new information.
You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!


Last edited by Jean Thibodeau on Sun 20 Nov, 2005 1:25 am; edited 1 time in total
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Jonathon Janusz





Joined: 20 Nov 2003

Posts: 467

PostPosted: Sun 20 Nov, 2005 1:11 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Maybe it will just take a little while to get used to the new vertical layout, but it just seems to me like the home page looks too "busy" - I really don't want to use the word "cluttered" but the old page just seemed to visually flow a bit better for me. Maybe part of it is the lack of negative space as compared to the previous version; maybe you could "open things up" a bit on the new one to isolate independent elements on the page. Without heavier/structured frames and miscellaneous dressing, I think you need the empty space to keep the page from looking like just one solid block of text.

Not trying to take a jab, just trying to help Happy
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Nathan Robinson
myArmoury Admin


myArmoury Admin

PostPosted: Sun 20 Nov, 2005 1:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jonathon Janusz wrote:
Not trying to take a jab, just trying to help

I don't see you taking a jab in any way, shape, or form. Your input is appreciated, man. A man deaf to the words of others cannot grow.

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Jean Thibodeau




Location: Montreal,Quebec,Canada
Joined: 15 Mar 2004
Likes: 50 pages
Reading list: 1 book

Spotlight topics: 5
Posts: 8,178

PostPosted: Sun 20 Nov, 2005 1:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Cluttered: Maybe ? My impression was more content rich than cluttered, but opening things up very subtlety is worth considering just to see if it would be better. Maybe yes maybe not.
You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!
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Greyson Brown




Location: Windsor, Colorado
Joined: 22 Nov 2004
Reading list: 15 books

Posts: 790

PostPosted: Sun 20 Nov, 2005 6:31 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Maybe I just missed it 'cause I'm not used to this layout, but the previous version of the homepage had a sign-in area on the homepage. Since I use public computers a lot, I find that to be very convenient, and would like to see it kept (as opposed to (or in addition to) the sign-in link at the top of the page). Other than that, I like it a lot. I'm really excited about the Contributing Authors page (and not just because my name is there) and other resources for finding or organizing information. Great job, as always, Nathan!

-Grey

"So long as I can keep the path of honor I am well content."
-Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The White Company
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Nathan Robinson
myArmoury Admin


myArmoury Admin

PostPosted: Sun 20 Nov, 2005 12:17 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Greyson Brown wrote:
Maybe I just missed it 'cause I'm not used to this layout, but the previous version of the homepage had a sign-in area on the homepage. Since I use public computers a lot, I find that to be very convenient, and would like to see it kept (as opposed to (or in addition to) the sign-in link at the top of the page). Other than that, I like it a lot. I'm really excited about the Contributing Authors page (and not just because my name is there) and other resources for finding or organizing information. Great job, as always, Nathan!

-Grey


There's a login/logout button right at the top right corner on the home page just like on the forums. This will be incorporated onto every page as soon as I can migrade all 500 pages to the new content management system. Happy I know you've seen this (you mention that above). Personally, I think this is enough, but it does move login a click away from where it was on the home page.

But there is also a sign-in link at the bottom of each page on the site for users who are not logged in. This form only shows up for those who are not logged in. It's way at the bottom of the page.

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Patrick Kelly




Location: Wichita, Kansas
Joined: 17 Aug 2003
Reading list: 42 books

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Posts: 5,686

PostPosted: Sun 20 Nov, 2005 8:06 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm not that excited about extra twigets and gizmos, nor do I get overly picky about the basic look of the site since I've been pretty happy with it from the outset. (Nathan's always been good at that so it's not as if it stank before.) What I do like is the streamlining of the resources. Anything that saves us space and makes the bosses life easier is great by me.
"In valor there is hope.".................. Tacitus
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Greyson Brown




Location: Windsor, Colorado
Joined: 22 Nov 2004
Reading list: 15 books

Posts: 790

PostPosted: Mon 21 Nov, 2005 5:42 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Now that I was expecting it, I wasn't bothered at all by clicking the log in button. The truth is that before, I had to scroll down and click in the box; now, I have to scroll to the side (depending on what computer I'm using), and click on the button. The current system isn't any more or less efficient from the user end, it just wasn't the motions I had trained myself to use. Give me a couple of days, and I won't even remember how it used to be set up.

-Grey

"So long as I can keep the path of honor I am well content."
-Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The White Company
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Glen A Cleeton




Location: Nipmuc USA
Joined: 21 Aug 2003

Posts: 1,836

PostPosted: Mon 21 Nov, 2005 1:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bear with me but then feel free to laugh.

Something about the thread page views on this site incurs a lot of data transer. My primary browser of choice balks at more than 1 mb of data (jurassic WebTV). While I'm impressed with the functionality of this site with this browser, something about the thread page views is bloated. I'm posting this blind because I can't even get to the last reply.

Old UBB boards are less intensive (ala NetSword) and some VB boards let me select down to five posts per page. SFI lets me turn off imaging, signatures etc but I still run out of room there on text intensive threads, so there is something about VB that requires a lot of cache.

I don't know that much about it but VB seems to be a real bandwidth hog. I have no trouble at all with the rest of the site.

Woe is me;) I'll just have to go fire up the pc until this thread gets to page two.

I'm continually impressed with the content here and have to shuffle some dough between a few sites but I hope to be able to contribute to the cause (I just can't bear to shut the Higgins off entirely)

Cheers

GC
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Nathan Robinson
myArmoury Admin


myArmoury Admin

PostPosted: Mon 21 Nov, 2005 1:59 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Glen A Cleeton wrote:
Something about the thread page views on this site incurs a lot of data transer. My primary browser of choice balks at more than 1 mb of data (jurassic WebTV). While I'm impressed with the functionality of this site with this browser, something about the thread page views is bloated. I'm posting this blind because I can't even get to the last reply.

Old UBB boards are less intensive (ala NetSword) and some VB boards let me select down to five posts per page. SFI lets me turn off imaging, signatures etc but I still run out of room there on text intensive threads, so there is something about VB that requires a lot of cache.

I don't know that much about it but VB seems to be a real bandwidth hog. I have no trouble at all with the rest of the site.

Woe is me;) I'll just have to go fire up the pc until this thread gets to page two.

I'm continually impressed with the content here and have to shuffle some dough between a few sites but I hope to be able to contribute to the cause (I just can't bear to shut the Higgins off entirely)


Hey Glen, thanks for the reply. Let me get a few things out of the way first:

We don't use VB. This is based on a heavily-modified version of phpBB. Really, it's its own thing at this point as it's so customized.

As far as the 1mb of data limit: No page on the site uses more than 1mb of data. Even the forum pages when completely filled with text are less than that. The only exception are those that are heavily filled with attachments that users have posted. Users aren't particularily versed at saving small-sized graphics Happy If I were to lower the limit of "max size" for attachments, more people would complain than would thank me.

No forum software, based on the software alone, is a bandwidth hog. None. It's all about how you design the layout and has nothing to do with a forum software. It doesn't seem that your issue is with bandwidth usage, but rather with screen real estate usage. These are very different things, of course.

I'm sorry that you use WebTV. I really am Happy You're definitely lower than my lowest common denomonator. Frankly, WebTV isn't a viable choice for Web surfing for a great majority of the Web. While it's somewhat viable to use a computer with 800x600, I aim at 1024x768 resolution as the lowest target res. A video card that can do this costs $12 at CompUSA, so very nearly any computer can go there.

If you'd like to browse a very, very sripped down version, check out our MOBILE VERSION, intended for cell phones and what not. Someday i'll put some more time into this and make it better. But nobody uses it and so it's way down on my list of things to do.


Now that the bad news is out of the way, the good news is that I have a lot for you in store. You'll be able to customize the home page as you see fit very soon. But as far as dumbing down the forums, I'm not going to do that beyond the mobile version linked above. Hopefully that presents at least some choices for you? I hope so!

Cheers!

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Nathan Robinson
myArmoury Admin


myArmoury Admin

PostPosted: Mon 21 Nov, 2005 3:35 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Glen, I just added the ability for each member to specify the number of posts per page they want visible on each topic. Go to your profile to change that option.

Right now, I set you up at 5! Everybody else is at 20.

I did it quickly. I don't know if it will work or if I broke anything. Hope it works. D'oh.

Later, I may add a "topcis per page" and an option to make attachments show "in-line" or as links.

I hope you let me tease you for a second by saying: For Web browsing, WebTV offers fewer options and far less compatibility than even my Cell Phone PDA . And I'm being literal about that. Wink Razz

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Glen A Cleeton




Location: Nipmuc USA
Joined: 21 Aug 2003

Posts: 1,836

PostPosted: Mon 21 Nov, 2005 3:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Whoo Hoo! thanks for the mobile access link (how did I miss that?)
I just discovered another work around too. I can read backwards from the reply screen.

Believe it or not, this webbie accounts for most of my surfing and reasearch/writing. I don't mind getting teased about it. Yes, even watches have more memory that this thing these days Wink Eevn with a fairly up to date PC right next to me, I like my pic in pic and screen size (watching a movie while I type).

Hey what do I know about systems and formats, the next would be my first. Don't change a thing on my account, really. I'm going to ride this 1994 technology until they pull the plug (actually a pretty good newsreader). It emulates IE 2.0, or something like that.

Anyway, thanks for the mobile hint and forget about whiners like me, full steam ahead.

Cheers

GC
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Glen A Cleeton




Location: Nipmuc USA
Joined: 21 Aug 2003

Posts: 1,836

PostPosted: Mon 21 Nov, 2005 3:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Cool beans Nathan,

I don't mean to be the squeaky wheel. It may help out some older dial up pcs as well for the image intensive stuff.

Thanks Santa, works perfectly

GC
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Nathan Robinson
myArmoury Admin


myArmoury Admin

PostPosted: Mon 21 Nov, 2005 3:58 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Glen A Cleeton wrote:
Whoo Hoo! thanks for the mobile access link (how did I miss that?)

Haha, I don't think I really told anyone about it. It's sort of feature-poor and badly made. I thought it was cool for a few hours and then never looked at it again Happy

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