tsn8 - A Work In Progress

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tsn8 - A Work In Progress

Postby Neo » 01/17/15, 2:25 pm

As you can tell by looking at the site, things don't quite look right. That's because I've upgraded the entire site to use phpbb 3.1.2, and in doing so, I broke everything that existed before: the forum templates, the work I was doing on tsn8 already, and the custom code that had existed since 2004.

I suppose it's a good thing: there were over 1000 bugfixes in the new version, and a lot of cool features were added. This also means I have the ability to update some of our own features to use the new stuff - and that's what you see going on before you.

To get everything back to normal, I have to recreate the My Spot page, including rewriting all of its modules (login, mini profile, the special report, newest posts, stats, mini forum index) and all without touching any of the core code (the stuff that makes the forums run). This way, future updates will go as smooth as possible.

To do this without touching the core code means that as I recreate the modules, I am also creating a phpbb extension for the first time, to control their settings - the basic stuff at first, like enable/disable visibility. As I add more modules and more features, I add more settings. With the introduction of this extension the scope of the project now not only requires a facelift to the theme (since tsn.7 was blown away with the upgrade) but additional coding involved for the extension.

My goal is to have everything done by around March/April of this year, to release the site fresh as it begins a new decade of existence in its current iteration (the era after the Great Crash of 2004).

If you're new to the site: Welcome, and feel free to help get conversations going in our new forums! If you're a returning member, you get access to a special set of forums - the old ones to view how things have changed (with the site, and with yourself) over the years, and also access to the new forums to start a whole new line of discussion on topics relevant to today.
[[Neo]]
"Because I choose to."

Re: tsn8 - A Work In Progress

Postby Neo » 01/28/15, 10:45 pm

A quick update - I finished creating the tsn8 phpBB extension, at least for now. It handles all the different modules on the My Spot page: allowing them to be toggled on/off, and making the necessary hooks into the new event system to get the queries and template information I need to make the custom things for tsn8 (like showing an "Online avatar" list instead of online usernames.

For anyone interested in how that all works, you can take a look at the extension over on github: https://github.com/neotsn/phpbb-ext-tsn8-mods

It's pretty basic, compared to what the example was doing...but it's my first extension, and I'm surprised it even works at all.

I'm slowly working on the Board Index restyling, trying not to touch the template (so I don't have to touch every single template on the site, as my previous tsn8 work required) and only making the changes via CSS. I've done the first iteration of the Board Index getting the crappy blue boxes off and replacing them with the tsn8_module style classes.

It turned out super white after this first iteration, so I'm not sure if that will stick - it's tough to deal in only 4 colors (three of them blue, one white), but it's what I've always done...I've just never done a theme that was primarily white with blue accents.

The work continues...
[[Neo]]
"Because I choose to."

Re: tsn8 - A Work In Progress

Postby Neo » 03/9/15, 11:42 am

I am learning quite a lot at my new job, especially in the front-end development part of things, and as I learn more there, I come back here to work on the site, and feel the need to implement some of the better methods. Unfortunately I don't fully understand all the new methods, and at times it requires me to revisit the layout of a page that I've already completed and moved on from. It makes for very slow progress.

However, I've talked with several people about the repurpose of the site, and all of them appear interested, at least in the idea. I just hope it's an idea that doesn't fall short when the site finally gets released. Right now I'm shooting for a mid-April date to coincide with the purchase of the-spot.net's domain name back in 2003. It'll also roughly coincide with the time when the concept for the site was initially created during my senior year of high school...to create something to connect all the college students on campus. That means it'll be a 15 year anniversary of the idea.

I still have a lot of work - and it's more difficult to get to it all these days than it was when I spent my time at home, and time at work developing the site.
[[Neo]]
"Because I choose to."

Re: tsn8 - A Work In Progress

Postby Neo » 03/15/15, 12:17 am

This might be the first week in a while where I have spent all but 1 day working on the site. I've done more work on it in the past couple days though than I did all the rest of the week.

I finally got tired of the My Spot page not working correctly when it came to layout, and went to research how we do it at work since I had discovered the documentation on a client's server earlier this week. Once I got everything figured out, getting things to line up and work in desktop, tablet, and mobile suddenly became a breeze, and I redid the layout for the My Spot, forum, topic, and post pages. It also allowed me to tweak the lesser-addressed features of the site (like the meta info at the bottom, and placement of the header/titles of pages) that had been bugging me and out of place since January.

I've knocked out quite a chunk of work in this past week and weekend, and even got to work on an announcement page for the big release.

UPS is also over at my place this weekend, and I'm trying to convince him to create a new comic, or a special release for the comic to coincide with the big release of the site. I think he's on board with the idea, but pulling him away from his Ingress gaming is going to be rough...as will finding the right kind of comic idea.

I did get his approval for the new designs for the Punix logo to bring them inline with the rest of the new logos for The-Spot.Network sites and will get those up tomorrow. There were also some changes he'd like to make to the Punix site to bring it current as well.

So, lots of work happening, and lots of work still to do. The upside is that it's getting easier to do it now, and the downside is that I still really only have interest from some of the founders for this reboot effort. But I think once we get word of mouth going again, and invite our new friends - and as many of the old ones as we can reach - we'll have ourselves back up and running in no time!
[[Neo]]
"Because I choose to."

Re: tsn8 - A Work In Progress

Postby Neo » 03/17/15, 11:53 pm

There was a bit of a rough patch today. I learned a hard lesson...again...about making mistakes when your only development environment is the live server.

I was moving my IDE environment from one folder to another, putting it into Dropbox so it would sync between my desktop and my mac. Then I decided to change the folder name while in the IDE... :roll: my IDE decided "hey, brah...I see you're changing the folders - let me sync that up for ya." and deleted everything on the server. However, I didn't have a full copy on my Mac of what was on the Server...so it only uploaded SOME of the stuff, and then complained when I tried to load the site.

The entire afternoon was spent trying to upload what I could port over from my desktop via Hamachi, and deal with the wireless network at work cutting out between 1 and 4000 files uploaded, requiring me to start over....and over...and over.

I finally did it all from my desktop when I got home, and fortunately everything was easily brought back up.

I now have my desktop and mac both running from the same synchronized Dropbox folder - and the code on the server is backed up to Github, with the security in knowing what was on my desktop was all that it took to bring the server back up - which is now the version that is in Dropbox, and has always been the version that is in Github.

I spent the rest of the evening trying to get the New Post page looking and working like it used to, and I got about 33% of it finished up. Fortunately this time it didn't put too much of a hit on the Private Messages page, and that still looks reasonable...but the whole tabbed-page, tabbed-menu thing needs some work. There are other parts of the New Post page that pop in and out depending on what buttons are clicked (like load draft, unglobalize a post, etc) that I still need to test, the "topic Review" section below the new post message, and the tabbed poll/options stuff at the bottom of the page all need to be addressed as well.

I'm just happy I didn't have to rebuild the server from scratch like I did in January after the update. Worst case, I toss up a fresh copy of phpBB and upload what I had on the desktop over top of it.

I'm also still struggling with the look and feel of some of the UI - like the buttons. The post tools and search buttons look very nice, and are from the prosilver theme - but there is not a complete enough set to use throughout the site. And the original New Post toolbar buttons looked like crap - as did the sort/filter thread/forum option buttons. I've gone with the jquery UI buttons with the light blue theme like I originally had, and hopefully I can make it all look right. It looks fine when all the buttons on a page are the same type, it's only when they start mixing that it becomes an issue - at least for me.
[[Neo]]
"Because I choose to."

Re: tsn8 - A Work In Progress

Postby Neo » 03/24/15, 9:46 pm

I have gotten the major features of the site taken care of at this point...the my spot page, forum indexes, topic views and the posting page. Now I only have some clean up to do the ansiliary pages like member lists and the profile page. Personally I can't believe they let the profile page in the default theme actually make the cut. I feel the same way about the post author section in the view topic pages as well... They were just terrible.

I have been spending the last couple days working on the profile page and had to finally go back to how I did things in the early days, and draw a mockup...but this time I used Paper by 53 app on the iPad instead of carrying around my little red notebook. It works out so much better to be able to simply erase or undo, and to have a lot of different visual cues available that just aren't there with a notepad. When it's all done, I will post some of the digital sketches to the tsnBlog.

I also changed up the forum ranks, to give them a little more of a "gamification" feel. As your post count increases, the ranks are similar to the progression a new user faces starting off in Durotar in World of Warcraft, and then deviates wildly from there...even past the normal 300 cutoff (where you can still request your special rank), all the way up to the LEGENDARY status, which requires more posts than even *I* have as the top all-time poster.

Anyway, after the touch-up work, I will spend a good portion of the remaining time until release fixing any bugs, but mostly figuring out how I am going to get in touch with 269 people who may not even use the same email they registered with all those years ago. Fortunately I do still have some level of contact with the majority of those members who were active, and the spirit of the site back in the day...I just hope everyone will see the same benefit to the reboot of the site that so many of the people I have mentioned it to (members and non-members alike) have seen.

Here's to the release day, only 3 weeks away!
[[Neo]]
"Because I choose to."

Re: tsn8 - A Work In Progress

Postby Neo » 04/7/15, 10:46 pm

The last several days have been spent putting the finishing touches on the things I intended to get to for the release. There are still some things I'd like to address, but they aren't very important aspects of the site, and time is short.

For the majority of last week, I spent every night working on the email announcement. It's tough work crafting a marketing email as a person who hates to send out marketing emails. I have to find the right balance of [hopefully] enticing language and relevant facts and concise explanations to convey the features I want to announce, the emotion I want to arouse and the call to action that will actually bring someone into the site. I think I went through 5 iterations of the announcement - from blog post, to website, to 3 email variations.

By sending this email, I'm going to break one of my rules for only the 2nd time - the rule that I wouldn't use the email for spams. I think both times I've done it have been to send out an important announcement related to the site - it's never been about daily digests or even marketing really. After I send the email out, I'll be removing the list from the mailer after all the emails have either been delivered or bounced back.

The rest of last week was spent working on the new Punix-GT.com splash page, and theme updates. I am hoping UraniumPoppySeed, aka Punix, will get a new comic up in time for the release.

I've also been working on the new splash page for tsn. Currently it's set to redirect the user straight into the blog. But because the Blog is such a confusing place, I want to bring them back out a level like before and give them a splash page. The challenge with these new splash pages is to keep them in style with the site on the other side, but also to make them mobile/responsive. I've paired down the information about them considerably compared to the previous versions to direct the user where we want them to go, and keep them within The-Spot.Network instead of giving them links out.

And at this point, I think we're ready. I've got a week left to start drumming up some gossip or noise, or whatever it's called, and then the email will go out.

As far as development goes, once everything is live, I'll set up a development environment so my changes aren't reflected live on the server immediately. I've already taken down the server once with my mistakes, I don't want to do it when people are actually visiting the site.

I guess it's time to schedule the email and give it one more test.
[[Neo]]
"Because I choose to."

Re: tsn8 - A Work In Progress

Postby Neo » 04/15/15, 10:26 pm

So, you might notice some things changing even now after the site has gone live.

There's nothing like a release to bring back even a small handful of people who will go places on the site you never thought anyone cared to go. And of course, there are places on the site that were never touched by any code changes, and assumed to be working, but ended up not working as well as you'd think.

To this end, I have been working on fixing bugs, *trying* to optimize the server's response time (though difficult without full control over the server, since it's hosted) and make the site work better (and in some cases, at all).

If you notice something isn't right, or takes a long time, let me know so I can take a look at it.
[[Neo]]
"Because I choose to."

Re: tsn8 - A Work In Progress

Postby Neo » 04/15/15, 10:34 pm

So far, I've enabled Keep-Alive connections (because apparently they weren't) which means your browser won't have to make a new connection for every resource it needs to download.

And to that, I've enabled a minimum of 1-day cacheing on things. So, if you come online one day and something doesn't look quite right, clear your browser cache and try again (or load it up in a Private Browsing tab) to see if that fixes it. It would usually mean I made an update that involved changing something that was cached. Once things get more solidified in the style/design, there will need to be less frequent updates, and the browser cache will be more helpful and last longer.

These two changes brought the site from a near F-rating, to a B-rating on http://gtmetrix.com/ - there are still some things it recommends, but some of them start messing with the phpbb core files, and I try not to do that.
[[Neo]]
"Because I choose to."

Re: tsn8 - A Work In Progress

Postby Neo » 04/16/15, 8:33 pm

I've made some updates tonight.

You can find a full list of the changes/fixes since launch on the tsn8 github and the tsn8 phpbb Extension that actually powers the key features of the site that make it "the-spot.net". You'll also be able to see what is on the list of things to do for tsn8 in the Issues list - like fixing the design of the Private Messages area.

Tonight I made the Online Now avatar list clickable to the profile representing the avatar.
I also fixed the forum list so you can hover the avatar and see the user's name, and click through to the profile of the last post author.
[[Neo]]
"Because I choose to."
Yay, you have no idea how many times I've tried clicking an avatar in the Online Now section. Even after it failing multiple tries, I still keep doing it out of habit.
-D$
:ninja:
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DMoney
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Re: tsn8 - A Work In Progress

Postby Neo » 04/17/15, 7:28 pm

In trying to use the site more on my mobile phone, I finally have a lot of content to have to navigate from on the My Spot page. It has made it painfully obvious that the Newest Posts section needs to be more mobile friendly - and in general, more intuitive. So tonight, I will be working on that, and it may look weird briefly, but don't worry, it'll work itself out. If things don't look right, you can use the Quick Links menu in the upper left corner to view the New Posts list.
[[Neo]]
"Because I choose to."
I like this. I've been thinking it could use some work, but I know nothing about design so I would have had no suggestions to give with that.
-D$
:ninja:
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DMoney
Level 15 - Forum Raider
Posts: 1502

Re: tsn8 - A Work In Progress

Postby Neo » 04/17/15, 10:04 pm

There are many things I wish worked better in mobile, but without active users I have to make a bunch of test posts and then make sure I don't actually read them or it kills my ability to test. And then there is the inherent need to actually use the site once people post, so it's an evolving thing.

There are also some styling things I want to address. I thought I would like the jquery buttons, but I am liking them less and less. I will probably replace them eventually with something that looks nicer.

I did get this feature finished, not quite to what the comp showed, but close...but now the server won't let me upload file saying it's out of disk space. This happened the day of release as well - someone is dicking around with their account on the server.
[[Neo]]
"Because I choose to."

Re: tsn8 - A Work In Progress

Postby Neo » 04/18/15, 10:56 am

At some point this morning, the sever people are going to migrate the site to another server. They should have done it 1.5 hours ago. So if your posts between 9:30 and the next time you look at the site are gone, just site tight, and don't post anything. I'll be trying to update everything. Also, I'll take the board offline when I get word that the new site is up.
[[Neo]]
"Because I choose to."

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