We’re getting there…

An interesting…and long…week here at Capitol Hill Blue.

A week ago today our database server crashed under a heavy resource load and CHB was offline for seven hours. In today’s Internet news world, that’s a lifetime.

The culprit turned out to be code bloat caused Drupal the content management system (CMS) used by CHB over the past four years.

After looking at opinions, I decided to port the content over to WordPress, a system originally aimed at running blogs but coming into its own as a full-fledged CMS.

After some startup glitches, we seem to be running smoothly.

My thanks to readers for their suggestions, support and understanding during the past week. We still have some tweaking to finish up the switchover but the transition is — for the most part — complete.

My thanks also to Warren for supplying a new favicon for use by CHB and to many others for their offers of help and suggestions for improving the product.

As I finish up the tweaking, I’d like to hear your suggestions on what still needs to be done or what features you would like to see or not see as part of the new Capitol Hill Blue.

I think we have a good product here but you can help make it better.

Just let me know.

30 Responses to "We’re getting there…"

  1. Carl Nemo  February 25, 2010 at 1:10 pm

    Thanks Doug for the opportunity to comment about the new system.

    Will the accounts feature be reestablished where a member can see a list of articles to which they’ve made commentary over time?

    Will there be an attempt to retrieve the CHB archives that existed prior to this CMS crisis allowing us to refer to earlier posts made to this site?

    Can the Google search feature for strictly this site be reestablished which was handy for searching past commentary from members?

    Will the the “edit” feature be reestablished where a member can delete a post, amend it etc. in the event they detect an error once posting it to the site?

    Carl Nemo **==

    • Doug Thompson  February 25, 2010 at 3:20 pm

      Carl:

      To try and answer your questions:

      Will the accounts feature be reestablished where a member can see a list of articles to which they’ve made commentary over time?

      I don’t know if I can or will set up a new accounts feature. The old accounts files were corrupted in the database crash and could not be retrieved. I would have to set up a new one and maintaining user accounts is time consuming and takes away from my writing and editing time for the site.

      Will there be an attempt to retrieve the CHB archives that existed prior to this CMS crisis allowing us to refer to earlier posts made to this site?

      The entire article archive was ported to the new system along with all the original URLs. All previous comments are also in place.

      Can the Google search feature for strictly this site be reestablished which was handy for searching past commentary from members?

      It doesn’t have to be re-established. The Google customer search engine at the top of the right-hand column on the home page searches Capitol Hill Blue exclusively. You can expand the search if you want from the results page.

      Will the the “edit” feature be reestablished where a member can delete a post, amend it etc. in the event they detect an error once posting it to the site?

      That would require a new user registration system through WordPress. As I said earlier, I’m not sure at this time if I will do that or not.

  2. Carl Nemo  February 25, 2010 at 4:45 pm

    Thanks for the feedback Doug. Then all I can say is to take the route that makes it easiest on yourself over time. : )

    Carl Nemo **==

  3. b mcclellan  February 25, 2010 at 6:04 pm

    I’m still peeking out of the foxhole of thought and immediacy rules as age overtakes good judgment when knowing enough is too much.
    I continued to over extend a privilege, “blogs” and for my indiscretion I apologize to those offended by my continuous railing against the wars.

    From my indefensible position I will say, I did ask to be relegated to the ash bin and knocked off the front page by those here I know to be much more knowledgeable and articulate than I. Alas my heart and head cannot wrap around this pariah of war which led me to over post which was not my right. Please accept my apologies to all and thanks Doug again for this opportunity..BM..

    • griff  February 25, 2010 at 6:09 pm

      Your blogs were awesome, and since very few others used them, I’d say it was better to see a new one or two from you than ones that were days or weeks old. I always kick myself for not using them enough.

  4. b mcclellan  February 25, 2010 at 6:40 pm

    As they say Griff, and a work in progress is just that, progress..
    Without the work, be it the heart, will not progress.

    I enjoy immensely all the contributors here and read each and every projected thought with relish, especially the history lessons and Quotes you and others bring to the fore..

    Here’s to the Editor,
    a full stack and his favorite sausage at tomorrow mornings breakfast.

  5. Almandine  February 25, 2010 at 9:06 pm

    Looking good, Doug – almost all the nuance has been put back in – but still looking for the signature slogan on the masthead. Thanks for the solid effort.

  6. b mcclellan  February 26, 2010 at 12:01 am

    Whence we are grounded,
    we become conductive to dirt or voltage,
    take your pick.

    What separates we beast’s of banter, “civility”?

  7. Carl Nemo  February 26, 2010 at 12:40 am

    Doug, I’ve noticed problems with left hand justification as subsequent comments are posted to a particular topic. The first letters of one’s text aren’t clearly visible unless one spaces over a bit to start their text. Nothing major, but somewhat of an irritant when one isn’t sure whether their post is going to display properly etc. Thanks for your attention to this issue.

    Carl Nemo **==

    • Doug Thompson  February 26, 2010 at 5:28 am

      Carl:

      I can’t replicate that problem on either a Mac or a PC. What browser and version number are you using?

      • Carl Nemo  February 26, 2010 at 1:10 pm

        My computer is now eight years old; ie., an HP760n with a 1.8ghz processor and 1gb of RAM and a 120gb HD that only has about 10 gigs worth stored on it. I know it’s an antique by todays standards, but generally speaking it’s been a reliable PC with no hardware problems to date. I have Windows XP Home the initial release along with many years of upgrades from SP1 to SP2 and a zillion patches and downloads from MS. I’m not a power user, simply using the PC for surfing the web and as a wordprocessor. So for me its all that I need.

        I use IE6 with the last update that was available. I’ve tried to upgrade to IE7 and IE8, but then I start having issues as with most MS releases so I generally avoid upgrading with any of their new releases unless I absolutely must do so. I’ve used FireFox before, but thought it was too cumbersome; ie., too many bells and whistles that I didn’t need, also they didn’t have a desktop shortcut feature integrated into the program, but was offered as a separate download known as “Deskcuts”. Then they too came out with a newer generic and I lost the “deskcuts” feature with no add-on available. Soon, as of March 13th I’ll have to make a decision because YouTube and other sites aren’t providing support for IE6. I’ll probably try Google Chrome.

        Carl Nemo **==

        • woody188  February 26, 2010 at 2:33 pm

          Your system is fine for light web browsing and email. My netbook is spec’ed slightly lower and works fine. You might want to look into SP3 for XP.

          It’s probably the CSS implementation in IE6. It’s not written to standards. IE8 is supposedly written to standards. I recently moved most of my systems to IE8 but I do not use IE. But installing IE8 did not screw up anything else.

          I use Firefox and during installation there is a check-box to add a desktop shortcut. I’m not familiar with ‘deskcuts’ but it is an add-on to Firefox and is available here: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/66

          • Almandine  February 26, 2010 at 5:05 pm

            I use IE6, Firefox, and Opera, depending on the PC I’m on, without any problems. I’ve become pretty fond of Opera with its “Speed Dial” function for my favorite sites. However, I prefer Firefox when I need more security. None of these browsers presents any problems with CHB viewing.

          • Carl Nemo  February 26, 2010 at 5:29 pm

            Thanks Woody for the link to the current FireFox “deskcuts” add-on which is used for creating desktop shortcuts to an article when using FF. It’s a valuable feature for myself when doing article research etc. I’ve had FireFox 3.5 in my computer, but when I upgraded to 3.6 there was no immediate add-on for this feature so my existent deskcuts were useless. This prompted me to dump Firefox from my system and stick with IE6. It baffles me as to why the FireFox codewriters simply don’t include the feature as part of their download rather than users depending on post release add-ons. I imagine many other add-ons become unusable when upgrading their generics which is truly a pain in the butt.

            Carl Nemo **==

  8. woody188  February 26, 2010 at 4:02 pm

    I miss the comment tracking, something userid’s would fix too I’m sure. I used to visit the site 4-5 times a day to see what people were saying. That is much harder now without any indication per article on new posts versus read ones. I end up wasting my time trying to figure out which posts are new and which I’ve already read. My mind is already too full to cram more short-term items in the cranium. Result is I’m visiting the site less often and commenting even less.

    Sure miss my blog. If you have the data please email those articles to woody188 at yahoo dot com and I would very much appreciate it.

    The site feels a bit more ‘floaty’ which means there is a ton of white space and no boxes or anything separating the active content, like comments from news. I swear I can see some very light gray lines around items, and perhaps the CSS can be modified to darken that down from hex #EFEFEF to something like #424542 which is the titles color or perhaps another color altogether. But sometimes that just makes things worse.

    Work on making the site predominately 3 main colors would help. And perhaps override the default anchor tags (a:link, a:visited, a:hover, a:active) in your CSS to that color scheme. It currently is 5 colors (black, white, light blue, blue, red) if we include the anchor defaults.

    As with most CMS, a snappy graphic at the header can make all the difference. Perhaps even an animated one, but don’t over do it because then it becomes a distraction. Make sure the graphic follows your pre-defined color scheme.

    On the front page, some articles link to the rest of the article with ‘Full Article’ but some use a little arrow and the featured columnists link is ‘Read More.’ Pick one type of link and stick with it.

    The link bars at the top and bottom feel like they have been invaded by advertising. Perhaps the link bars could have their own background color and a separate embedded table could be used for the advertising? I think the result would be easier navigation.

    Are there any restricted HTML tags with the new commenting system?

    Please do consider user registration. It can be a pain but it does add tons more functionality. You might also want to consider plug-ins to the popular social networking sites as means of advertising for your site. I share things on Facebook all the time.

    I can complain all day long Doug, so just remember you asked for it. Nothing will please everyone but I think my suggestions would help the look and feel of the site and make it more uniform and easier to get around. Keep up the great work and never sell out to the partisan crowd!

    • Almandine  February 26, 2010 at 5:16 pm

      Good comments Woody, particularly regarding comment tracking and its ability to help point the way to new v. previous posts. I get lost in the shuffle. Running comment totals would also help in that regard.

      It also seems that “old hand” comments are fewer, with more drive-bys and new posters, which may be a function of instant accessibility v. user account sign-on. Perhaps it’s all the same folks with irregular nom de plume changes.

  9. Carl Nemo  February 27, 2010 at 3:07 am

    Hi Doug,

    Thanks for experimenting with this off white, to gray, to deeper gray bankground for text. I’ve been an advocate for such background shades in order to subdue the whitefield background “glare to text” ratio for years.

    It relieves eyestain for sure over time. There’s nothing more fatigueing for our eyes than trying to compete the reading of text against a glaring white background.

    Carl Nemo **==

    p.s. Warning: don’t go too dark. I like it, but it’s a bit too dark for the average reader.

  10. griff  February 27, 2010 at 11:37 pm

    Hey Doug looking pretty good. As a daily visitor I saw the transition and am not the least envious of the work you had to put in. I was actually logged in at the time of the crash writing a blog and by the time I finished, the site was down. I certainly hope I didn’t somehow aid in the problem. I usually write in Word then copy-paste.

    I see some good suggestions. I guess it’ll depend on how much work you want to make for yourself in what you do from here. I would only propose that you shrink the text for column headers, there’s a lot of space you could gain and neaten them up to one line.

  11. Carl Nemo  February 28, 2010 at 5:27 pm

    Hi Doug,

    I’m concerned about the front page of your site. Too much white! One has to scroll down to fill up the screen and everything seems to be left hand justified as far as CHB articles are concerned until one scrolls down a bit. One day the site will look great, then the next day…phutttt! When I click on a specific article then everything looks in order as far as the screen being filled with content and ads, but the front page looks sorry.

    You’ve also seemed to move away from your Capitol Hill Blue motto and roots that states…”No man’s life, liberty or property is safe as long as legislature is in session”.

    Although you no doubt have to bring up the bottom line dollarwise, the site is seemingly moving towards a commercialized look.

    Just as you wanted to change the site name to “American Newsreel” you seem to be slowly but surely moving CHB away from what it once was…big mistake! : |

    Again, as I warned concerning your “American Newsreel” concept, if CHB moves too far away from its roots then you’ll find that both the site as well as your efforts at expedient advertising will be for naught.

    You need to settle down with a format that appears right to the eye along with a balance in advertising. Daily format changes are irritating to say the least.

    I’ve been shopping for a new vacuum for the house. Your “Oreck Halo” ad happened to come along just at the right time. I’m going tomorrow to check out this vac at at local Oreck center that supposedly kills bacteria while vacuuming through the use of ultraviolet radiation emitted by quartz UV-C tubes underneath. Thanks. : )

    The advertising is getting through, but your content management along with cogent feedback from posters is becoming diffuse.

    Carl Nemo **==

    • Doug Thompson  March 1, 2010 at 7:09 am

      Carl:

      Sorry you’re having problems with our layout. Unfortunately, I can’t replicate what you describe after testing the home page on multiple browsers on either Mac or PC based platforms.

      As I’ve said before, the design of CHB is evolving as we complete the transition to a new CMS. I’ve had to make some changes to accommodate the differences between Drupal and WordPress and I’ve also used this process to try and implement some ideas I’ve had for the site.

      For example, our old home page contained 10-12 stories. The new one has 32.

      The time required to maintain the old site took up so much of my time that I did not have much left over for writing. I had to depend more on wire service stories and less on locally-produced copy. Now I have more time for writing and most of the stories are either developed or written by myself and those who help out around here.

      I felt the old layout was too jumbled and busy. The new home page, I believe, is cleaner and easier to navigate.

      Ads, unfortunately, are a necessity in helping finance the cost of keeping CHB on the web. The site has never made money and never will. I don’t like subscription models or charging readers for content.

      We will continue to evolve but please understand that the decisions I make are based on what system gives me more time for writing and requires less for maintenance.

      • Carl Nemo  March 1, 2010 at 4:13 pm

        Thanks for the feedback Doug. The only page that looks abnormal to me is the “Home” page. All the others are fine as far as layout is concerned. I called a friend of mine and had them check to see if they view a large rectangular amount of white space only on the Home page and they said no. They see all the articles in the center of the screen from top to bottom with a two inch wide black margin running down each side of the articles to the bottom of the page?

        In my case the articles appear extreme left hand justified for a bit with all white to the right until one scrolls down to the bottom of the “Progressive Insurance” ad to the extreme left. I won’t belabor the point, but that’s what I’m viewing.

        Does anyone else reading this commentary see a similar manifestation concerning the home page only? There was no problem as of early Friday last week. The person that I had check this is not a CHB member or regular viewer of the site. They are running Vista with IE8.

        I won’t belabor the point, but thought it was worth mentioning again. Maybe you could have a friend of yours in town or somewhere off prem view the “Home” page and see if they are witnessing this white field or black margin field effect? Possibly the black margins are what one should be seeing per your design efforts.

        Best regards,

        Carl Nemo **==

        • griff  March 1, 2010 at 5:51 pm

          Yeah there are still a few layout issues. As some one that has dabbled in web development, I would tell you that the number one priority – especially when faced with Doug’s predicament of having to develop and integrate on the fly – is to get the backend and the site logic worked out. Tweaking the layout and graphics come last.

          I don’t see any thing you describe on the home page. I would recommend you reset all browser preferences to default and see if that clears it up. I normally use IE 7 but have noticed the site looks better, particularly the homepage, with Firefox.

        • Carl Nemo  March 1, 2010 at 7:26 pm

          Thanks Griff for the input. It’s time for me to try FireFox again due to many sites dropping support for IE6 as of March 13th. I’ve had a bellyful of ‘Internet Exploder’ anyway. : )

          Carl Nemo **==

          • woody188  March 1, 2010 at 7:50 pm

            Firefox with Adblock Plus makes CHB look awesome and run better too. Those lousy flash ads kept crashing my browser so I was left with no other choice. I’ll send Doug some more money when I have it. :)

  12. Carl Nemo  March 1, 2010 at 10:33 pm

    Thanks Doug for your patience and Griff for your recommendation to cut over to FF3.6. I’ve done so and the site looks perfect. Also, thanks Woody for the current Deskcut download. : )

    Carl Nemo **==

  13. Carl Nemo  March 5, 2010 at 10:55 pm

    Wow, what a Friday evening treat to see the new, evolving image of CHB along with a return of the “site motto”.

    Beautiful webpage-smithing Doug, very nice indeed. : )

    Carl Nemo **==.

  14. Almandine  March 6, 2010 at 9:11 am

    I agree Doug. Very, very nice. It’s got the old feel with a new pizzazz. Great job.

  15. Warren  March 6, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    Hey, Doug, good work. Make it what you want it to be. I’m impressed with what you’ve been able to do with WordPress.

    I’d vote, if I had one, for two of the old features to be implemented; comment tracking and editing of submitted posts. And, one new feature.

    The comment tracking is very useful for quickly checking for responses to recent posts.

    Editing of submitted posts helps us insomniacs fix spelling and grammar errors that should have been caught before hitting the ‘submit’ button, but weren’t.

    The new feature I’d love to see is the ability to insert <img> tags. Yeah, I know, that might get dicey with copyright issues.

    —W—

  16. Doug Thompson  March 6, 2010 at 5:20 pm

    Appreciate the kind comments. We’re almost where I want to be with the redesign and direction.

    Warren, tracking coments and editing posts would require implementing a registered user system which I may do down the line but prefer not to do at this time. The problems we had with the Drupal-powered site almost always went back to the user database and registration system and just managing it took a lot of time and resources.

    In the three weeks that we’ve had the open commenting system I’ve found the debate more free-flowing and lively and not just confined to a few registered users. That could change in the future but for the moment I’d like to leave it the way it is.

    Allowing tags is also a resource issues. That too may change but let’s see where we go from here.

    Doug

  17. Warren  March 7, 2010 at 9:43 pm

    I hope you’ll tolerate just a bit more brain-storming. I was just reading through the thread on “You say you want a revolution?” and several people posted comments to the effect “Just follow the Constitution we have.” My immediate reaction was, “Which one?” Every time the Supreme Court issues a verdict it changes the Constitution just a little bit through establishing precedent.

    So, here’s the suggestion. You already have categories for “White House” and “Congress”. How about one for “Courts”? With a bit of coverage of what the Supremes and federal circuit courts are doing?

    —W—

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