Debian Admininistration Site Update

Posted by Steve on Sat 30 Apr 2005 at 14:15

This is the first real site update in quite some time, telling readers what I expect to be happening in the short term and what I'm doing with the site along with some statistics.

First of all the good news, the site seems to be attracting increasing attention, and readership.

On an average day we seem to get around 4500 hits on the syndication feeds along with approximately 2500 article views.

In addition to this site itself several of the articles have been translated into other languages and now appear on the following sites;

Perhaps predictably it seems like most people will hit the feeds and then view only one article. I assume this is because the synopsis or title that I've chosen doesn't do enough to attract them to read other pieces there and then.

Now the bad news. In some places the code that runs this site is pretty inefficient. To be fair some of this efficiency loss is due to changes I've made to it.

(Incidently you can view the site's code here)

There are also a few missing features which I'm very keen on adding, such as:

  • Comments on polls - this is probably the single thing I miss the most.
  • A scratchpad showing what articles were being worked on.
    • For example right now I have a bunch of topics that I'd like to write about, each of which is "half-finished". It'd be nice to allow people who were keen on assisting, or just curious to see these "incomplete" pieces.
  • Some users have complained about the adverts, others praise them:
    • I personally believe that the relevence of the adverts I've seen and their low annoyance factor is a good thing, the monetary gain is useful in offsetting bandwidth and time costs, although the income isn't amazing.
    • Some people have asked to be able to remain logged in and still choose to view them.
    • Two companies have asked to show their banner adverts, I declined when they insisted that these be large animated gifs.

I can think of other things that I'd like to investigate changing if I had the time to work on them. For example the code could be simplified if it made use of some useful Perl modules, such as CGI::Application instead of replicating similar functionality itself - but not in such a flexible manner.

That aside I've not had any major complaints about the way the site looks, or feels, for some time. Personally I sometimes think the leftbar is a little crowded. I think splitting things so that some items are on the left and some on the right might work - but that would mean I'd need to find a new location for the adverts. (Is that an argument against having them?)

As always user/reader feedback is encouraged either as comments, or if you wish you may mail me direct.

 

 


Posted by Kellen (68.15.xx.xx) on Sat 30 Apr 2005 at 16:19
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Moving the login box to the top of the right column or into the header would probably help. Also doing fewer of the previous headlines would help balance out the sidebars.

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Posted by Steve (82.41.xx.xx) on Sat 30 Apr 2005 at 17:03
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Into the header I think would be too crowded, because it makes sense for the "Edit Info", etc, links to replace the login box. In the future there might be more such links and that would crowd the header..

When it comes to moving the login box to the right, then the question then becomes should it be above or below the "recent news" / "adverts"?

I think in the short-term I'll make 'previous headlines', and 'random headlines' optional - perhaps even polls.

That will allow anybody who is distracted by them to remove them - and might balance things out too.

Steve
-- Steve.org.uk

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Posted by Serge (213.119.xx.xx) on Sat 30 Apr 2005 at 19:28
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Hi Steve,

I discovered your site several months ago, maybe longer, don't recall. Fact is, it's part of the daily sites I check out, along with Slashdot and OSNews. The only thing that's too bad, is that it gets updated less often. But then again, the quality is definitely superior, so that's not really an issue.

Commenting on the stuff you mention:
- Did you have polls? Damn, I need to check out the home page more often instead of only looking through the RSS feed.
- The Scratch Pad idea is definitely an A+ one. I have been thinking a lot to write down some articles, but never got the balls to make the necessary work - altough I'm working on a piece on Disaster Recovery I hope to show off some time coming - but helping out on small convenient ways might indeed help a lot!
- You're viewpoint on ads proves to me how much you have clue. Although I appreciate to avoid ads, I wouldn't mind having "Google style" ads. 'nuf said.

All in all I appreciate how besides making a helpfull website about Debian, you also manage to make it in a Debian way!

Kind regards,


Serge van Ginderachter


--

Serge van Ginderachter

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Posted by Steve (82.41.xx.xx) on Sun 1 May 2005 at 03:22
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Well your user page seems to think you joined in December, so that's a few months at least.

Polls I guess are a bit of an oddity in the sense that they don't show up on the feeds - just on the front page. There is a poll topic, but that's mostly for people to contribute new poll suggestions rather than viewing them and so far it hasn't been used yet. All being well I'll turn on the poll comment code tomorrow - it seems to be mostly working now. Maybe just a little bit more testing first

I think right now that the number of people who hit the site from a feed rather than the front page is something like 5:1 - so I can imagine a few people have missed them. (The front page is also the easiest way to view the news, which is updated periodically).

I think I'm pretty sold on the idea of a scratchpad. Right now my thoughts are to have a per-user pad, where arbitary text can be inserted. But I'm still a little hazy on how it should work!

Thanks again for your nice comments, I don't think its your first time!

Steve
-- Steve.org.uk

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Posted by Steve (82.41.xx.xx) on Sun 1 May 2005 at 16:09
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OK poll comments are now live, and I'll be keeping an eye on them to make sure they work properly now.

Steve
-- Steve.org.uk

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Posted by Kellen (68.15.xx.xx) on Sun 8 May 2005 at 00:39
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It might be useful is to add the topics to a menu bar at the top of the site, underneath the main menu, such that you could easily browse between old articles in different categories (w/o having to go to the topics page in between).

Also an option to show all old articles on one page would be nice for new users who want a quick browse w/o paging. This is by no means critical though =)

Oh, and comment editing!

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Posted by Steve (82.41.xx.xx) on Sun 8 May 2005 at 01:47
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The topic suggestion is an interesting one, something that I'd honestly not considered. It does make a lot of sense. The only problem I see is that it makes it completely obvious that only a few topics have been used significantly so far :S

Regarding comment editting, I'm pretty much set against this. It makes it too easy to change meaning mid-argument, etc.

I can see the argument for it, but I think the closest I'm going to come is to allow users to delete their comments - I think that's a good compromise, as it will allow people to re-post a corrected version if they wish. (To fix typos, broken URLs etc).

This follows other systems like Livejournal, Slashdot, etc. If there's a real strong feeling I might be persuaded but my initial reaction are a strong 'no'.

Finally - the idea of a page with all the articles. I thought this might be a good idea myself and wrote up a bit of code to do it. The problem I found was that if I displayed more than around 20 articles a page it looked too crowded.

If the 'all articles' page has to be broken up to show only 20 or so pieces at a time it makes it redundent - as the front page allows that already. (I will be setting up more complete user preferences shortly; amongst other thing s they will allow you to choose how many articles you see on the front page, or in any section).

I haven't got a great solution for that, I guess the obvious thing to do is to improve the site-search functionality which is a little bit hit and miss at the moment.

Thanks for the comments - feedback is useful, and I hope I'm not too strongly biased!

Steve
-- Steve.org.uk

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Posted by Steve (82.41.xx.xx) on Mon 9 May 2005 at 23:14
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Topic lists are now available on the lefthand side-bar - Putting them on the top looked too crowded. So I'm going to leave it at that for the moment.

Steve
-- Steve.org.ukfoo

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Posted by Kellen (68.15.xx.xx) on Tue 10 May 2005 at 00:42
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Yay. Don't see it yet, but I'm patient =)

I did notice that while browsing within a particular topic, the topic gets "lost" when you click on "Previous 10 Articles." If you append e.g. &topic=Newbies you'll get just the appropriate articles.

Appending the topic does not fix the number of articles left to browse to, this is still based on the total number of articles (e.g. "Previous 1 article" when there are no more newbies articles).

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Posted by Kellen (68.15.xx.xx) on Tue 10 May 2005 at 00:48
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Checked my user prefs -- showing topics was turned off by default, so I turned it on. Looks good.

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Posted by Steve (82.41.xx.xx) on Tue 10 May 2005 at 01:34
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To avoid confusion, and suprises, I setup the initial state of the preferences to match what was previously hardwired.

The preferences will grow somewhat over the next few days - I've got a few more things I wish to allow users to tweak.

Steve
-- Steve.org.ukfoo

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Posted by Steve (82.41.xx.xx) on Tue 10 May 2005 at 01:35
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Hmm you're correct. It's a bug.

Thanks for letting me know, I'll try and get it fixed as soon as possible.

Steve
-- Steve.org.ukfoo

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Posted by systems (213.152.xx.xx) on Sun 15 May 2005 at 06:53
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It's probably my screen setting, but, on windows, using firefox 1.0.4 or IE, I can hardly read the top par of the screen where it says

Debian-Administration.org
System Administration Tips and Resources

Cause it's black on very dark blue, try other shades of beige like on the left column, where we can see the poll and such, or maybe you should give the site a pinkish theme like the debian logo!

[ Parent | Reply to this comment ]

Posted by Steve (82.41.xx.xx) on Sun 15 May 2005 at 14:34
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I've changed the top bar to a redish/pinkish colour now.

In the past I thought that was too garish and the blue was nicer to look at and perfectly readable. Still this is the second time it's been raised, so it's obviously an issue for some people.

I hope this is better?

Steve
-- Steve.org.uk

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