Next in the series of follow-ups to this past week’s redesign is a look at some of the technical changes for the new mezzoblue.
Meta data is now showing up in the right-hand sidebar on pages where it feels appropriate. Each individual article has a special yellow “Context” box that informs the reader of what they’re looking at in plain English. These auto-generated pseudo-summaries are mainly for the sake of those coming in off Google, but I’ll be interested in seeing how valuable I find them myself when I hunt back through the archives for older entries. (I have to use this site too, after all).
The extended-sidebar concept is continued on monthly archive pages, where the space is used to host the calendar, entry list, and previous month listing. The old structure saw them cramped into the content area as a kludge and left unresolved for entirely too long. Problem now solved, and the new category archives continue the paradigm. I’ve been diligently categorizing each article for a year and a half; finally there’s a front end for viewing past articles this way.
Of course we’ve been over the new comment highlighting system which has seen some tweaking, and will no doubt continue to improve. The other change to comments on this site involved moving them away from the main article onto their own page. There are still a few technical issues to figure out to make this system work properly; at the moment posting a new comment dumps you back onto the article page and not the comments page as you’d expect, and I’m still working out how to use my standard templating given Movable Type’s reliance on .cgi pages for previewing and comment errors. (Shaun Inman and “M. Perakis” have suggested solutions which may lend themselves to this problem.)
But these are details, and this isn’t an experiment — I’m choosing to keep a degree of separation between the original article and the comments that go along with it. This is no bandwidth issue, it’s about perception and managability. Though I’m not opposed to a gentle shift off-topic provided there’s value in the discussion, when a web standards primer aiming to wean absolute beginners off of tables starts bandying about the phrase ‘MIME type’, we have a problem; one example, but more exist.
This is my way of allowing myself to care less, which means ultimately I’m placing more responsibility in your hands to keep the discussions relevant. If the comment pages become a typical message forum wasteland of inanity they will just go away.
I’ll go into the CSS changes in the next article but there are a couple of browser support issues to highlight here. While I tested widely, the fringe cases popped up anyway. Win/IE5.5 renders properly, Win/IE5.0 is a mess. My testing in Opera 7.x checked out, but the menus didn’t function. This is an acceptable degradation, but some have pointed out they do work though not as expected. I don’t know why I continue to write code that Opera interprets differently than everything else, including IE6, but this is my curse. There should be a solution (indeed, one has been suggested) so a bit more testing should resolve this issue.
And then there are the IE6 problems. The first reared its head after commenters pasted long URIs into their comments. It has since been fixed.
overflow: hidden isn’t an ideal solution, but it’s effective. The second came as a result of my effort to allow the top menu
:hovers to function in IE. Since I didn’t need the whole IE7 suite for this I grabbed Peter Nederlof’s whatever:hover hack and after tying it into the style sheet, didn’t need to do anything else to get them working. But it seems the hack needs to parse the entire style sheet on each page load. Given my large CSS files the slowdown is unacceptable so we’re back to square one. No menus for IE users.
The site is still running Movable Type and I’ve even upgraded to 3.0. During the redesign process (well before the MT fallout [large page load, may crash browser]) I began a conversion to WordPress. It’s way easier to say “me too” after the fact, but the more I use open source the more I want to use open source. (Not to mention the convenience of having the lead developer on my iChat list)
Figuring out my new templates and learning a new templating system at the same time proved to be too much of an uphill battle, so it fell by the wayside. Something has to be done sooner or later though, all’s not well. I’m unable to re-build archives past a certain point due to errors, and going back too far in the archives leads to breakage in both Radar and Proton thanks to an inability to propogate the new structure.
Whether this is a template error, a Movable Type error, a server error, or whatever else, I simply don’t know. Either I figure it out, I pay someone to figure it out, or I switch tools. Purely circumstantial: our intranet runs on MySQL (which is fast, I’m told), and the main weblog has upwards of 1100 posts. Posting a new comment takes 30 seconds to a minute, but other weblogs run by the same installation of MT are far quicker. It appears MT has growth issues, perhaps the 330 posts and 4750+ comments on this site are causing it to choke. Perhaps not. I simply don’t know.
Next up: CSS features, functionality, and tweaks.