What’s up the the css Zen Garden? So reads the plethora of messages I get when the server goes down for a day. But lately I’m getting email of similar subject matter for a different reason: there haven’t been any updates for a long, long time.
Through 2006, publishing slowed down as my attention went elsewhere. Then I redesigned mezzoblue late last year. The Zen Garden support pages continued to live on this site (for historical reasons, explained here if you really want to know why), but under the old template. Due to the way I built the publishing system, moving those pages to the new template would have required some sleeves-rolled-to-the-elbow tinkering and a free month. That, as they say, didn’t happen.
Submissions continued to roll in to a frustrating backlog, guilt accumulated, and 2007 progressed. It would be a shame to kill the thing, so I didn’t, but I also haven’t been able to deal with the increasingly messy situation. Until now. You may have noticed a long-dormant RSS feed show signs of life this morning. Two new designs have been posted, both submitted some time in March, 2006. And I’ve started cracking away at the backlog, with more on the way.
What changed? I made things easier for myself. When I built the Zen Garden publishing system a few years ago, I created the capability to categorize designs by many different criteria; sounded like a good idea for the sake of the archives, but the time investment to do so wasn’t really something I carefully considered. Sure, evaluating a single design takes all of 2 minutes, but when I get 30 at once from a whole class somewhere in Tennessee, it adds up.
That actually hints at the bigger issue. When I first started this thing almost 5(!) years ago, the ratio of quality designs to those I didn’t think were strong enough to publish was pretty high, maybe 1 to 3. It’s always been about quality over quantity to me; strong and/or clever design work was added as an “Official Design”, everything else went to the “All Designs” list. I maintained that second list so I could publish everyone who contributed, something that’s always been important to me. But it’s also the root of the problem; submission quality has fantailed, and these days that ratio is looking more like 1 to 30. It’s great there’s so much enthusiasm still, after all this time, so many years later, but it just didn’t scale.
So. The big change: it’s now yes or no. You either get published or you don’t. The archive contains only what were formerly known as Official Designs. The rest, sorry, thanks for trying, keep submitting ideas if you like. (The previous All Designs is available as a historical archive, complete with old site design.) Yeah, I know it’s not ideal, and not everyone will be a fan of the new system. I’m not big on it myself. But it’s the only way the site will continue to be maintained, so it is what it is.
By making it a binary decision, I can actually reasonably hope to clear up the backlog and start processing new ones. I’m going to work at it from both ends; new stuff and old stuff alike will be published, regardless of original submission date, so if you have something to send in (or re-submit), please do.
And, one final question to address: why bother? The css Zen Garden had a good run, does it really need to keep going now, in 2007? I addressed this once upon a time (see “Is it still relevant?”), but here’s why I’m doing this: there are hundreds and hundreds of designs in the submission queue. New ones keep coming in almost every day. People ask me all the time when I’m going to update it next. After all this time, there’s still interest.
To many, the site long ago accomplished its original purpose. But others are stumbling across it for the first time, even now. They’re getting excited, and creating submissions of their own. Some of those are great, and I think great design ought to have an audience. So those are the ones I want to keep publishing.