New Daily Progress Website

The Daily Progress has a new website, and it’s a big improvement for them. It looks like they’ve abandoned the beastly, totally insecure old content management system that they were using. Articles now have big-boy URLs. At long, long, long last, they have RSS feeds. Stories have tags. The search engine works. There appear to be lots of new features like integrated video, photo galleries, audio, etc. So the good news is very good.

New Daily Progress Website

But the bad news is very bad. Their archives are gone. Years of news have simply disappeared. Every link to every Daily Progress article from (and anywhere else) 404s, even links from just this morning. (WINA used to have a mind-blowingly great site, because they had news stories going back over a decade; it was a treasure trove. That all disappeared two years ago, apparently forever.) The RSS feed exists only in the abstract — it doesn’t actually work, and the fact that the layout has changed drastically means that my screen-scraped RSS feed is broken. So those of y’all who, like me, read the Progress primarily via RSS are out of luck.

The feed should be easily fixable, but the loss of the archives is a real bummer. There’s just no need to lose all of these articles when upgrading to a new CMS. The improvements, though, are great, and I’m impressed. For more about the changes, see the article by the paper’s web guy, Matt Rosenberg.

37 thoughts on “New Daily Progress Website”

  1. Great. But the loss of the archives is a huge, huge loss (as it is to my blog as well).

    The best design without the functionality that works – RSS and archives – just plain stinks.

    FWIW – the RSS does seem to work for me – and I like how they’ve broken them down by area/columnist/politics/etc.

  2. Ya know advancement in technology is actually 2 steps backwards. So many people have lost the human touch that it is scary. It’s hard to believe that kids can’t graduate from college withoutout a computer. Tell me one that can. This generation is fast becoming socially dead. They have to stare at a computer, or have some hand held electronic machine in their hand or they are lost. Its’ the ones that are able to communicatiate without all the stupid electronics that are gonna be most successful in the long run. If terrorist’s really want to cause problems, they should destroy the infranstructure of blackberries, cell phones and computers. If this were to happen, this country would fold and people would be looking for the nearest bridge to jump off of…JC

  3. I don’t like it. It took creative backtracking from a local headline story to get the local news area – which itself was sparce.

    though that isn’t news………..

  4. From the perspective of someone who doesn’t understand all the behind-the-scenes technology, who focuses on what the site looks like on the top level…I don’t like it. It’s not like the previous version was prize pig or anything, but I don’t like how this version shoves the links to the stories further down the page. The ads dominate the page and marginalize the journalistic content (such as it is). On my browser using a Mac, the font for the story links is teensy. And as you scroll down….there’s crap everywhere!!! So much crap! What’s wrong with looking like the NY Times — you know, as if you actually care about the journalism?

    I know, I should send this to the DP instead of kvetching here.

  5. Different RSS readers are more or less tolerant of errors. None of mine (NetNewsWire, NewsFire, and FeedWordPress) can make heads or tails of it, but I don’t doubt that some others can overcome the malformation.

  6. Hello to all,

    Thanks Waldo for doing a write-up on the new site.

    Our hopefully sleepy little day to launch the site and stamp out the remaining bugs turned into a real crazy one. It was my decision to go ahead and launch despite the bugs for one major reason, it is fast, which really helps on a day like yesterday and maybe today. Our old system could take as much as a half-hour to post. I am not sorry to see it go.

    The archive is something we are working on. Unfortunately, all of it is not coming back. I beleive in institutional memory as much as you but there are limits to what is feasibly accomplished in this migration. We have a list of the most popular incoming links to articles and we are going to port those over to the new system and redirect the old links.

    Thank you all for your input.


  7. I’m not a fan. The website certainly needed a speed upgrade, but the other technological advancements do not impact me in any way. In fact, the site appears to be down at the moment.

    As a former Charlottesville resident of 7 months, I liked to use the DP website as a quick glance to see what was going on in town from day to day. The old format was not the prettiest, and it was rather simplistic. Howeve, it presented the top local news items in a manner that was easy to locate, and quick to browse.

    I spent the last ten minutes or so browsing the new site, and I find it too cluttered, too advertisement driven, and not enough focus on the local news (see the national feeds that dominate the bottom 1/3 to 2/5 of the page). If I want national news, I’m going to visitn or Drudge.

    In the end, flashier is not always better.

  8. EDIT: Perhaps I should proof before I post.

    I meant to convey that I haven’t lived in Charlottesville the past 7 months, not that I only lived there for 7 months. I probably lived there about a decade, thus my continued interest in the area.

    It also appears that the national news feeds are found on the news pages, and not the home page. But the bottom 2/3 or so of the home page has nothing to do with Central Va news (pictures, calendars, sign up for RSS, etc).

    I’m also not a fan of the rotating headlines. What I’d like is my news presented in a straightforward, no frills format like the old site, or something similar to Drudge despite its political biases.

  9. Matt –

    Thanks for addressing the archives issue. After thinking more about it, I do think that the DP’s archives are almost a part of the public archive and a corresponding public service. To remove those from the public “record” is a huge loss.

    While the attempt to recover the “most popular” articles is somewhat laudable, the loss is significant. I’d rather have the old site with the archives and Waldo’s scraped RSS than have a new one that doesn’t have the years of archives.

    Quite honestly, now it will be that much harder to keep public officials accountable for what they said last year or three years ago – and that is a huge loss.

  10. I just tried to check out the news from my iPhone while out and about and, unfortunately, it doesn’t work at all. The phone is just redirected to a special mobile version of the site — no matter what URL you visit — which is blank. Bummer.

  11. I see from the screen shot that I am not the only one that has the “Daily Progress” words jumbled with a few other links on the left hand side of the image.

    I liked the old (no unnecessary bells and whistles) format better.

  12. I left Charlottesville in August, 2007, but love to check out the ‘events’ and I hate…absolutely hate this new website. I kept trying to click on the sniper story and before I could, the screen changed.


    I want the old website back or at the very least, I want to be able to click on a story/ picture (example – the note left on the car by the parents) before the screen changes to a baseball picture/story.

    There are some bugs the Daily Progress needs to work out.

  13. Thanks to Matt for all his hard work. Unfortunately though, I’ve been having a dickens of a time using the new site. Have had the same problem Left has with the stories changing to sports etc, while I’m still blundering about and squinting, trying to select which local news link I’m going to click on.

    Have also crashed twice on the site in as many days, and that very rarely ever happens to my computer. In case it helps with the debugging, I’m running Firefox 2.00.13 on a Mac OS 10.3.9

    Agree heartily with Jim Duncan on the importance of the archives. If it means losing some bells or whistles in order to retain them in their entirety, then maybe most folks in C’ville wouldn’t mind losing a “feature” or two.

  14. I have found the local news, so I’m okay with the navigation. Of course, the archives are integral to understanding future articles and are a must-keep.

  15. Waldo, I am so jealous. Work bought me a Blackberry for which I am very grateful, but it ain’t no iPhone.

    So tomorrow begins bug squashing week. Hopefully I will be able to address a lot of the issues discussed here, including the archive. I agree with Jim about the archives being a valuable asset to the community. I will keep you updated on how that goes.

    The section that keeps changing on you guys and gals is called the “Rotating Panels” here in MG land. What would you rather have, the section not rotate at all, or rotate much more slowly? If the section doesn’t rotate at all you will have to use the navigation buttons to see the other sections.

    Keep the suggestions coming and I will do my best to make the site as user friendly as possible.


  16. Matt, many thanks for the explanation.

    Stupid question here: Does the rotating slow things down any? If so, then my personal preference would be non-rotating. But I’m probably stuck back in the Jurassic age.

    While I appreciate Flash for certain sites (artsy stuff, photos, etc), I like my news presented in as straightforward a fashion as possible. It’s cool to see a list of headlines, maybe a wee synopsis under each one, and just be able to click on the story(ies) you want to read. Don’t have much of a desire to navigate through stuff to get to other stuff. That’s probably not the answer a talented designer would like to hear though! :-)

  17. Matt, KISS. The new site appears to me to be entirely ad driven and that’s o.k. as long as I can navigate from story to story without waiting all day. Also, the pictures take forever to download and then I only get the top half of them. What gives? Also, can you post comments to articles in a way that we can read the comments without having to log in. Perhaps a comments link at the end of each story where we can click on comments and go directly to comments wihtout logging in. Something similar to the G&M newspaper.

  18. Consider having an OnMouseOver event on the rotating stories panel that will prevent further rotation. Then if somebody has demonstrated interest (by virtue of moving their mouse into the region) their interest won’t be suddenly terminated by taking away the very thing that interested them.

    Also, check out the home page on a reasonably-sized (say, 1025×768) browser window. I see just three stories above the fold, one of them being “The Commute.” That’s just not much news.

  19. I almost forgot: Matthew, where do you want people to e-mail with suggestions, questions, etc? Presumably posting a comment to isn’t the best way to pass along such things. :)

  20. Matt – thank you for being responsive to comments!

    Please put more local news on – I never seem to find more the 3 and I am NEVER going to use this site for non local information. If it’s really 3 and “here are our ads and other media gen content”, I’m honestly going to drop checking-in every morning all together.

    WINA, 29, etc do a better job v. the new site of serving their mission – presenting local news to their community.

    I’m sure these decisions are not all yours, so hopefully our words will make the rounds where it matters.

    Thanks again and good luck!

  21. I’m with phonypony — make local news headlines larger, provide more of them, give them more space on the page, move that space further up the screen (above the fold, so to speak). It’s supposed to be the local newspaper but local news is marginalized in the new layout.

    I vote for no rotation; people know how to click on navigation buttons to get from Sports to Local. There’s no need for stuff on the site to move around.

  22. Yes, we must have the archives back in their entirety. Agree with all prior posts on this specific topic.

    By removing them, you have done all incumbent politicians a great service and all of the community a tremendous disservice.

    Would it be helpful to contact McGregor McCance or Lawrence O’Connell directly with this request?

  23. Sweet Lord — the new Daily Progress home page is 1.3MB. It took a shade under 10 seconds to load here at UVa, where everything is basically instant. I can see making a site home page a bit over 100kb, if the audience for the site tends strongly to have broadband. 1,000% times that is pretty punishing. Helping nothing, the JavaScript isn’t compressed and the server explicitly disables caching (so the whole page must be loaded every time, even images, CSS, and JavaScript that never changes).

    The good news is that the whole affair is served up by Apache 2 with PHP 5, so it’s got a solid foundation.

  24. Unforuntaley, I do not have much control over the page weight. The goal of this conversion was to get off of our old content management system before it died. Little birdies have told me that a revision is coming that should reduce the page weight and help speed things up. I have no ETA on that as developers are working on converting other sites.

    An update on RSS. It seems the feeds do not validate due to a bug in communication between IE7 and the Newsgator widget used to pull in content from other sites.

    If people want to contact me directly rather than comment here they can email me:

    mrosenberg at dailyprogress dot com

    I will also keep checking here for suggestions / found bugs.
    Thank you all for your input.

  25. I’m sorry for the disjointed replies.

    On commenting:

    Registration for commenting was a decision made on high and is here to stay. Thank spammers.

    The pictures this morning were not uploaded correctly but should now be displaying properly. Let me know if you see otherwise. The roads article has also been fixed. It takes time for the staff to get used to the changes as well our readers.


  26. Matt, local news, local sports and obituaries are about all I care about from the DP web site or the hard copy paper. All the other stuff to me is just fluff. Just my .02.

  27. 1.3MB is a lot for dial-up to handle, but, with cable, I’ve found the DP to load so much faster than the City’s new and dreadful real-time bus site. I noticed the DP site improving each day and I thank Mr. Rosenburg and his co-workers for it. The City’s site needs a complete re-design. Navigating that visually poor map is enough to cause a dead man to scream.

  28. The other problem appears to be the load time of the HTML from the server. I used ApacheBench to make 10 queries, downloading only the HTML of the index page, and that required an average of 1.873 seconds, which is a pretty significant delay. For comparison, VQR’s site (Matt:Daily Progress::Waldo:VQR) loads in 191 milliseconds. On the other hand, takes a lousy 1.852 seconds to load the index page, so perhaps I shouldn’t be casting any stones. :)

  29. A little update for you.

    Our developers have been working hard converting other sites to the new system but have graciously worked on our archive in between projects. We now have over a years worth of articles imported into the new website system.

    Once all of the sites have been converted I will push to get even more imported.

    Right now there is still a problem with the search function and articles imported from the old system are not searchable. Obviously this reduces their value. The search issue will be fixed, but it may take a few more weeks as the developers are busy with conversion projects.

    So a bit of a mixed bag for now but progress (no pun) is being made. In the mean time, if there is a particular article that you are looking for, please contact me and I will do my best to chase it down for you.

  30. I forgot to mention that I also slowed the rotation of the panels on the home page to a minute so that should give you plenty of time to scan the headlines and select a link. If you want to scroll through them faster you can always use the navigation buttons.

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