Beginning in late 2009, a few website problems pushed me to the first major upgrade of this site in several years. Primarily the need for improved support of text content (large written works as opposed to mostly photos). Also photo search timeouts, outdated client video codec requirements, and poor navigation and searches. Having a few weeks available during hibernating season, I undertook implementation of an idealized system I've been planning for many years. Synergizing my experience with advanced content management systems, publishing, epistemology and library science, and practical user interface design, into a deceptively simple appearing, conceptually elegant unified design. Though originally based on existing prior system, this version is so much smaller as to be a near rewrite. This notes present the major features:|
Conversion to database.
Tens of thousands of items have been converted to database records, and the base content management system fundamentally upgraded. This obsoletes all formerly distinct flatfile data type handlers, most static content, and unifies searches. Only the extremely complex events calendar system remains distinct. This changes the very nature of the site's structure, navigation and contents. Additional benefits include improved remote maintenance, extensibility, centralized rendering, and inherent structure. Also implements automatic substitutions of common text, dynamic data, or even external programs. This conversion has been in planning for years, but I only recently resolved that web databases are reliable enough.
Conversion to path-based content access.
Many URLs formerly included complex arguments, can now be simplified to intuitive shortcuts. URLs may be exact, or are automatically interpreted, or searched. Aliases can be configured to forward, or embed, or query and view, etc. A fundamental benefit is there is never a page not found; worst case gives search suggestions. All former arguments still work and can be added for fine control, and obsoleted programs and pages are aliased.
Powerful cross-reference navigation.
Any content item can have multiple alternates and aliases, with varying appearance control. This is in addition to typical category and keyword based content access, which give queried sets but don't define structure. Like Unix inodes, this allows any given item to appear at multiple spots in a sitemap, and allows any page to offer maximally useful links to related content, even offsite. Most fundamentally, it makes all navigation links auto-generated.
New streaming media features.
The entire inventory of hundreds of videos can now be played in place in the new streaming video flash client. MANY THANKS to Dubi Kaufmann! The system now also automatically renders MP4 format of each video which can be directly played on iPhone and similar devices from web links. Audio files (such as my music performance history) now also open embedded using a system media player where possible, and can be directly played from web links on SmartPhones. Sharing knowledge and as skills demo, see my article on preparation of videos for iPhone/iPod/MP4 playback using the "ffmpeg" transcoder.
Automatic location and datetime info on photos.
Uses GPS location and datetime taken extended info when available such as from iPhone photos. Sharing knowledge and as skills demo, see my article on map linking and embedding for iPhone photos using extended GPS location info in JPG files from PHP.
The membership/social system has been closed, all former logins, photos and bios (except family) dropped.
Much former ChicagoFunNews.com content which never got used has been dropped, such as charities, volunteers, affiliates, radio, webcams, most forums...
FaceBook events feed is now integrated in listings and searches.
SHARE/COMMENT block added automatically to every page for FaceBook, Digg, feedback, etc.
Other enhancements too numerous to list here.
This is my tenth major site software upgrade in a history going back to the birth of the web (mid 90s). The prior endured well (4+ years), and I similarly expect this one to be worth the time invested. This project began in early November when I found my software inadequate for growing bike related content, and problems such as search timeouts. The elegant approach in this version requires significantly less source code, but vastly better meets my publication needs. Some of the conceptual work (and debugging) were as hard as I've ever faced, but enriching. Blessfully, my work and friends and income and lifestyle allowed me to pour a month into coding. With infrastructure now working and core content converted, I'm grateful it didn't take longer.
Users may notice little obvious visual change, but the extremely improved usability is high value and hopefully greatly influences return use.
Behind the scenes, the search capability is infinitely better. Familiar users will find it faster, with much more content exposed through links, and better mobile access. To those following any of this, thanks for caring.
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