Happy Birthday

Today is cvillenews.com’s fourth birthday. After 1,066 news stories and 12,839 comments, I’ve decided that some upgrades and improvements are in order. The site is now powered by new software, has a strange (hopefully temporary) new design, and has new features galore. It’s a real step forward. You’ll need to log in anew in order to post. Details after the fold.

In the first year of cvillenews.com, it ran on a program called PHP-Nuke. It was awkward and buggy, but the best thing available. Then a new project was forked from that program, called PostNuke. Better, but still buggy, and it’s scarcely improved in the past three years. In the meantime, blogging software has come a long way.

So, the site now runs WordPress, which is my favorite of the two leading blogging software programs (the other being Movable Type). The result is that it’s way easier to create an account, and a whole bunch of bugs that made the old system a pain are now gone. There’s a raft of new features (subscription to individual discussions, pings/trackbacks, multiple categories, the URLs don’t suck any more, and lots of other standard bloggy things), and WordPress is a sufficiently active project that no doubt the features will continue to develop. Ooh, and comments are flat, not nested/threaded — I prefer threaded, but people have often asked that they be made flat, so there you go. My favorite bit of all of this is that WordPress makes it much easier to operate this site — it should be simpler than ever for me to make things happen here.

To Blog or Not to Blog
The move to blogging software is also symbolic, though. Long-time cvillenews.com folks know that I’ve long wrestled with the (admittedly minor) matter of what, exactly, the site is. On many occasions I’ve said that I’d rather it not just be “Waldo’s site,” but a community site, with many people influencing its content, ideally something from which I could cut myself out entirely and it would continue to happen. And while I still think that would be totally cool, it’s been four years and that hasn’t happened, so I can’t see why it would now. In using blog software, I’m surrendering and saying “yes, this is my site, filtered through my biases, and has all of those pluses and minuses that go with being a blog.” I would still love story submissions, I still want the same level of commenting, I’m not about to start ignoring suggestions, and so on — I just think it’s time that I ‘fessed up to the inherent weaknesses that accompany this site, which are best summed up by formally declaring it to be a blog.

I know the design is ugly and inefficient. I went with the default look. I intend to improve on it. But form follows function, and so I thought I’d start with the function and move along from there. Besides, the old site was pretty hideous, anyhow. (Brown and beige? Ugh.) I may add those nasty little icons again. In beta testing, nearly everybody said that they missed them. Shocking.

I’ve been working on this off and on for a month or two. I’ve tried to move everything over without any troubles. Please comment or e-mail me if you find any bugs — missing data, things looking funky, etc. All that I know of so far is the “Edit This Story” link on each story (useless if you can’t, in fact, edit the story, which you can’t) and the fact that you have to log in again on this system (which I’m not going to bother to fix, because it’s not a terribly hard thing to do). I want to get bugs squashed as soon as possible, so that I can spend my time just using the site.

11 thoughts on “Happy Birthday”

  1. It would have been good if I’d set somebody’s user level other than my own such that commenting is possible.


    Fixed now.

  2. Interesting. I’m not a fan of flat comments when it comes to engaging in multi-tiered discussions on a single topic, but I guess this is the prevailing format in blog land.

    I’m not complaining, though. I’ll adapt. :)

  3. Waldo, is there any concept of ‘User Preferences’ on WordPress, or an ability to see one’s comment history? If so, is this something you expect to implement?

  4. I’m with you on flat comments. I just plain don’t like ’em. But a number of people made some good points about the drawbacks threaded comments (not the least of which is that, on a dial-up, it’s cumbersome to click to reveal each child comment). In addition, I’ve found that flat discussions lead to more coherent discussions — people are forced to write more complete posts, so that it’s clear to what previous post that they’re responding.

    Regarding user preferences or a comment history, I’m not sure. I’ll add that to my to-do list, because, yeah, that sure would be useful.

  5. Woo hoo, WordPress. I’ll miss the nested comments myself, but the software is lovely. Just take my advice and take anti-comment-spam measures now, before it’s too late…

  6. I’m used to WordPress — I run my personal blog on it (along with a few other sites). That said, I don’t think I’m going to bother with anti-spam measures, since registration is required, which ought to keep away the comment spammers. I haven’t seen any spam bots trying to create accounts just yet. If that starts, though, I’ll add a captcha to the registration, and I imagine that’ll do the trick.

  7. WordPress…anti-spam…captcha…okay…

    All I want to do is say Happy Freaking Birthday!

  8. It’s easier on the eyes. And my iBook is happy displaying it.

    How involved was it to port over all the story and comment nodes from PostNuke? Is there off-the-shelf importing or did you have to do a lot of nasty SQL programming?

  9. How involved was it to port over all the story and comment nodes from PostNuke? Is there off-the-shelf importing or did you have to do a lot of nasty SQL programming?

    I had to do a lot of nasty SQL programming. :) It’s really nothing you couldn’t bang out in a couple of hours, though — both use the same basic no-brainer table structures (a users table, a posts table, a comments table, tied together with UIDs).

    However, because I had to do the conversion a good dozen times in beta testing, I packaged it all up into a little script. Once I put a little spit and polish on it, I’ll GPL it, in case anybody else has cause to do the same transition.

  10. Yes, happy birthday! Although your change to blog format seems (at least to me, a 50-year-old who knows whereof he speaks) like you’ve outgrown the Age of Reason, outlasted the Age of Discretion, and now embark on the final phase, the Age of Curmudgeon.

    I’d have preferred you go in the opposite direction. That is, toward more objectivity. Like an online community newspaper, various writers and photos, financially self-supported with classified ads. That seems to be the trend, as for instance Rockland, Maine’s “Knox County Village Soup” http://rockland.villagesoup.com/news/ Take away the cost of publishing, newsprint and distribution, and a local paper becomes viable again. There is by the way a place called Waldo, Maine, which I mention for no particular reason.

    But you have for four years provided an invaluable community service, given us a chance to respond to the local news, sometimes to correct misinformation, even scoop them on occassion. You have in other words, created a small electronic town square where people meet and converse, and for that all of us are grateful.

  11. I’d have preferred you go in the opposite direction. That is, toward more objectivity. Like an online community newspaper, various writers and photos, financially self-supported with classified ads.

    I agree, that would be totally great — I’d love that. My goal was to go in that direction (lots of writers, many viewpoints), but I’m only one man. I tried a few times to get guest writers or other people to write along with me, but it never panned out. Switching to blog software is my symbolic surrender to the fact that cvillenews.com will never be the site that I want it to be. I feel good about the existence of CvilleIndymedia and, of course, having a pair of weeklies.

    WordPress happily permits multiple posters. If some cvillenews.com veteran (who writes well) decided that they wanted to take a crack at contributing, I wouldn’t be shy about trying that out. It ain’t more objectivity, but it’s more subjectivity, and that’s something. :)

Comments are closed.